Finding Balancing: Embracing Unity of the Body and Soul

Finding Balance: Embracing Unity of the Body and Soul 
By Pastor Alexander Redd
July 1, 2023

I am somewhat fascinated by Greek philosophy, especially during my early studies of philosophy in international politics at UW-Madison, Wisconsin, because of Greek philosophers' stern efforts to understand human wholeness and the metaphysical world. Some Greek thinkers' reasoning about the human body and spirit/soul is quite exciting, but they missed what the Bible teaches about human wholeness.

The Greek philosophers who wrote that the human soul is separate from the human body and that caring more about the human soul is more important than the human body include Plato and his student, Aristotle.

Plato believed that the soul was immortal and pre-existed the body. He argued that the soul was the seat of reason, morality, and knowledge and that the ultimate goal of human life was to achieve harmony and balance among the different parts of the soul. Plato believed that the body was a temporary vessel that housed the immortal soul and that caring for the soul was more important than caring for the body.

Aristotle also believed in the distinction between the body and the soul, although he had a different conception of the soul. He believed that the soul was the animating principle that gave life to the body and that there were three different types of souls: the nutritive, sensitive, and rational. Aristotle believed the rational soul was the most important, responsible for higher intellectual functions such as reasoning and understanding.

The ideas of Plato and Aristotle about the separation of the soul from the body and the importance of the soul over the body significantly influenced later philosophical and religious traditions, including Christianity.

But the Bible presents a different perspective on the interconnectedness and disconnectedness of the human soul or spirit and the physical body compared to Greek philosophers. While Greek philosophy often emphasized a separation between the soul and the body, the Bible portrays a more holistic view of human nature, where the soul and the body are intricately connected.
In the biblical worldview, human beings are seen as integrated entities, with the body and soul/spirit being inseparable aspects of a person's existence. The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word "nephesh" to refer to the whole person, encompassing both the physical and immaterial aspects. Similarly, the New Testament often uses the Greek word "psyche" to denote the entire person.

Several biblical references highlight the interconnectedness of the body and soul/spirit. For instance, in Genesis 2:7, it is stated that God formed man from the dust of the ground (referring to the physical body) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (referring to the soul/spirit). This passage suggests that both the physical and immaterial aspects are essential components of human existence.

Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the apostle Paul writes, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies." This verse emphasizes the significance of the physical body as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, highlighting the inseparable connection between the body and the spiritual aspect of a believer.

Believers in the Bible should grapple with and understand this dynamic philosophical reality of life by recognizing the importance of caring for both the body and the soul/spirit. While the soul/spirit is considered eternal and of utmost significance, the Bible also teaches that the body is a gift from God and should be treated with reverence and respect.

Christians are encouraged to live holistic lives that honor God in both body and spirit. This involves practicing self-discipline, pursuing moral integrity, and engaging in service and love toward others. Understanding that the body and soul/spirit are interconnected can lead believers to follow a balanced life approach that values physical well-being and spiritual growth.

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