I always feel that it is too artificial to try to dissect the human person, as if the interior life is so easily divided. Even if there are distinct inward parts of the psyche (body, soul, spirit, etc.), do we all really agree on what they are?
On the other hand, there are Biblical terms that cannot be ignored. To gain a better understanding of humanity, it may be helpful to explore the use of these terms in isolation, even if they are much more difficult to separate in reality.
What is the soul? To attempt to answer this question, I’m drawing from both fields of Psychology and Theology. Psychology is the study of the soul, psyche being the ancient Greek word for soul.
i. Adam: Soul
The breath (or spirit) existed in Adam before the soul. Because of the spirit’s existence, “man became a living soul” (Genesis 2.7). One commentary called the Targum refers to the living soul as, “‘a speaking spirit;’ viz. a personality endowed with the faculty of thinking and expressing his thoughts in speech.” Larry Crabb agrees, but adds, “the Bible uses various words to describe the personal character of who I am such as soul, mind, heart, and will.”
Adam is capable of receiving stimuli through the senses, and processing that into emotional experiences in the soul. The first hint of this is in the use of the word Eden to describe the garden. “The Hebrew word means ‘delight.’” Adam and Eve experience pleasure from their environment. Furthermore, Genesis 2.9 states, “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” Although the trees and food are external stimuli, they are catalysts for internal emotions.
Adam exhibits cognitive functioning in his abilities to process emotions, to produce behavior, to hear the word of God, to speak and name the animals, and to dress and keep the garden. These are activities, occurring in the brain, and guided by the soul.
ii. Adam’s Fall: from a Living to a Condemned Soul
In Genesis 3.4, the serpent lies to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” He also deceives her into believing that she is less than she could be. “We all have a rather predictable tendency to deceive ourselves and others, and often attempt to deceive our Creator.”
After the soul is deceived and the sin is committed, the couple flees from God’s presence out of fear (Genesis 3.10). “Human anxiety relates to the fact that people are in a state of condemnation.”
The only way to overcome condemnation and the soul’s fear of God is through a blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9.22). In Genesis 3.15, the Messiah’s sacrifice is predicted. In Genesis 3.21, the first blood sacrifice occurs when God kills an animal to cover the couple’s nakedness.
iii. The 2nd Adam: from a Condemned to a Regenerated Soul
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26.28). The blood is the cleansing agent, which brings the soul back into alignment with God. Where the fear of God separated man, the blood of Christ unifies man with God.
“Union with God is a theme of Scripture, but nowhere are we taught that we cease being ourselves in the process of this union.” At salvation the self or soul is regenerated, and man is capable of becoming all that our Father intended him to be.
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Questions to Consider:
1) How does your church teach the salvation process? For instance, there may be different opinions as to how/when regeneration occurs, but I think we all agree that it needs to occur. Your congregation may even subscribe to a particular ordo salutis, order of salvation.
2) Why is it important to develop an understanding of how God originally made us, what the Fall took away, and what the blood of Jesus restores? If we develop this understanding, how does this help us to share our faith?
3) What do you think of the minor concept in this piece – that through salvation the Father once again enables man to be all he was intended to be? Do you think we sometimes live below God’s hopes for us? What would it be like to be fully alive or fully human?
Footnotes: Jared V. Ingle, “Nine Biblical Factors of Personality, Abnormality, and Change in the Creation Account,” (paper presented in Interpersonal Techniques in Helping Relationships, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO, December 9, 2003).
Amazon: Pentateuch and Haftorahs
Amazon: The Marriage Builder  Hertz, 7.  Stanton Jones and Richard Butman, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 50.
Amazon: Modern Psychotherapies
Amazon: Integration of Psychology and Theology  Jones and Butman, 43.  John A. Ingram, “Psychological Aspects of the Filling of the Holy Spirit: A Preliminary Model of Post-Redemptive Personality Functioning,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 24, no. 2 (1996), 110.