What Is the Soul? Is It Different from the Spirit?
Religious or not, most people believe they have some form of a soul. Whether they loosely believe in a concept like “the human spirit,” or they believe part of them will live on when their body expires, these beliefs about body, spirit, and soul all come from somewhere. You might be surprised to learn that much of what people believe about the soul or spirit doesn’t come from the Bible.
The Bible doesn’t neatly define the concepts of spirit and soul for us, so in order to know what it’s saying, we need to piece together all the clues it gives us. In his online systematic theology course, Dr. Wayne Grudem has done just that to reveal how the Bible answers, “What is the soul?” and “What is the spirit?”
The following post is adapted from Grudem’s course.
[Common Places] Reading Notes: The Soul
While Christianity is by no means the only faith—nor theology the only discipline—concerned to know the soul, it is because the Christian church confesses the goodness of creation, the incarnation, and the resurrection of the dead that her enquiry is vitally concerned to know the soul as the soul of the embodied saint seeking eternal communion with God as part of the body of Christ. Much of the church’s discussion takes the form of critiques of Greek and Hellenistic conceptions of the soul, though these critiques often remain appreciative in their dissents, recognizing their debts to the Greek and Hellenistic conceptions at a number of points. Here are some key sources for entering into the…
"Perhaps the fundamental obstacle in embracing the biblical understanding of what happens beyond death, in particular what is traditionally called “hell,” is the rhetorical powers of misguided Christians who have exploited hell to persuade people to escape it."
So begins the new series Beyond the Abyss by Scot McKnight (author of The Blue Parakeet) which uses the book Razing Hell as a springboard for discussing the Biblical and historical understanding of one of the Scripture's most distressing doctrines.
It seems that over the past few years the discussion over Hell, which at one point seemed a rather non-debatable issue outside of a few details, has gained significant steam with many now challenging the traditional understanding.
Because of the nature of the question, tempers tend to run high on both sides. However it is, for a variety of reasons, an important question especially to many of the younger people in our churches.
It simply will not do to brush it aside casually.
Commentary and Discussion with Craig Blomberg
Over the next five weeks, Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell will be blogging through the book of James. Their commentary, the first in the ZECNT series, will release at the ETS and SBL annual meetings, beginning Nov. 19. This first post by Craig looks at James 1:5-7.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do” (James 1:5-7).
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormonism, describes in his autobiography that it was this passage that led him as a teenager to ask God which Christian denomination he should join. He claims that he received the answer, “none of them,” but was instructed to await further divine revelation. The “prosperity gospel” regularly appeals to this text to support its “name it and claim it” approach to prayer, especially in the areas of health and wealth. What about all of those who don’t receive what they ask for in prayer? The text of James gives them the debilitating reply: “you just didn’t have enough faith.” The average Christian intuitively recognizes that these applications of the passage are probably wrong, though he or she might not always be able to explain conclusively why. But many believers count on these promises for “routine” prayer. Yet they are troubled because it can sound like James is requiring them to know in advance how God will answer their prayers if they are to have sufficient faith, without doubting. What exactly is James teaching here?
To begin with, it is important to note that James is talking about asking for wisdom. Not health, not wealth, not even a job or a spouse or a car or a child or any other specific “thing” we might wish we had. He promises to give us wisdom, to guide us, to help us apply the large body of truth in his revealed word to our current circumstances.
What then is the doubt that we are to avoid?