Man IS his physical person. His body is the entirety of his “self”. Even consciousness is not the root of man’s self. His body is. Man is his body, and all the attributes which are qualified and quantified regarding him are wholly and derivative of the singularity of his body. Any sin which can be considered “objective” (acceptable and logical for mass concession and integration) violates the body–and the Ten Commandments are an excellent illustration of this–they are not violations of the spirit. They are not violations of “consciousness” or even violations of “will” (though, those are violations, and we cannot of course ever minimize the ability of man to reason and to will). They are violations of man’s physical self and his physical property and the physical selves and property of his family. Adultery, theft, envy, murder…these are considered “objective” sins because they are sins against what man is (not necessarily who he is…that is, what he thinks or feels or wills or chooses). And of course God makes no distinction between what man is physically and what he owns and earns (shout out to John Locke).
It is interesting to note that the Ten Commandments were written personally by God, Himself. Given that, we should take serious the explicit attention paid towards man’s physical self. Man’s “spirit’ or his “consciousness” is never mentioned in the Ten Commandments. But his body and property are. In the case of “mother and father” honoring, there is a title mentioned, but that is nothing more than a narrowing down of the scope of actual physical PEOPLE so that we can more precisely understand the subjects of this particular directive. Mom and dad, the human beings, are to be honored…there is no separate distinction made of their “spirit” or or their “soul” or their “consciousness”. Mom and dad are those two people that you can see and touch right over there…those two bodies, from which is derived their consciousness and reason and will. One in the really bad argyle sweater and the other in the really bad Christmas sweater. They are to be honored.
Also as the bible says: “The life is in the blood“. (Emphasis mine.)
The neo-reformed crowed love explaining how man’s sickness is a “spiritual” one. There is no such thing. There is no such actual thing, I submit, as the “spirit” of man. That is, there is no separate existential “self” to man. His body is who he is.
But making sanctimonious and loquacious appeals to man’s need for “spiritual” healing obscures the purpose of this doctrine: to, once again, remove man from himself. If the “true” self is extricated from the human being…the body essentially removed from man, and man becomes the substance of some nebulous, vapid, undefinable, mutually exclusive “spirit”…or rather, some strange third-party combination of spirit and body… then the body can be exploited in service to the “true” self (and so can the “spirit”, but the spirit isn’t tangible, so the body takes the brunt). The body can be violated. And the body can never have any grounds for legitimate remonstrance or any reasonable demand for justice for itself because it doesn’t really matter. Because it, itself, isn’t part of the equation. YOU are not really YOU because humanity, as this irreconcilable amalgam, cannot really be defined. At best you are a “mixture” of spirit and body…which again is just a way of saying that YOU can never actually be defined. You are both and neither, together and at the same time mutually exclusive. You cannot define YOU because you are constantly the sum of two substances and forces which can neither be described, defined, nor integrated in a coherent, consistent, quantifiable KNOWABLE way. You are the product of two absolutes, physical and spiritual, which are infinite in their theoretical natures and so by definition cannot be reconciled without being contradictory.
And yet, here it is in our common American Christian orthodoxy. You don’t really know who you are, because the “spirit” is beyond you. You don’t get a say then, in what happens to you, because all that you see and do and think has nothing to do with the “spirit” which has a much claim to right of ownership of you as your own physical consciousness does. So sit back, kneel before your divinely appointed gnostic Calvinist, reformed local church overlords and let THEM deal with your body (and your money…because they also understand that really, what is the difference?) so you can be left to trust that in the end, your “spirit”, the true you–because it is the “incorruptible” you–can be approved by God. Your pain and bodily destruction then is the sole observable physical manifestation that your spirit is purified. This is why when you complain about abuse, or illness, either physical or mental, they laugh in your face and tell you to stop being an idolator. To decide that you actually deserve to have physical needs met, to be able to acquire property and your own will is an affront to the “sound doctrine” which declares that the body can no more be useful to God and “truth” than you can hope to ever do something “good” on your own. You can’t do good because you can’t KNOW good because good belongs to the “spirit” which belongs to God. Pain and exploitation of the body then forces you to understand that what you think you want and what you think you feel aren’t really real at all. The spirit is what matters…and that is of course beyond you. Appeals to physical comfort and personal respect and human dignity is a blasphemy against the pure and good “spirit”. Which, of course belongs to God, and has nothing to do with you anyway.
And this is precisely why pastors make destructive “counselors” for those with emotional and mental afflictions. They see the human being not as a singular being but as an irreconcilable amalgam of opposing and exclusive realities. Physical and spiritual. It is nothing more than the typical gnostic dualistic idea of the material verses the heavenly. Depravity and “grace”. Mutually exclusive absolutes which put man in the unenviable position of not actually existing at all.
And this is the jumping off point for most Christian counseling. And we wonder why the outcomes of this kind of approach to psychological concerns can be quantified by a value of emotional and physical body bags.
And this was my point to LT, a commenter over at the Wartburg Watch blog, who, in the thread concerning psychology and psychiatry and the role of pastoral “counseling”, he was constantly asserting the difficulty of poor little pastors needing to treat the “whole” person, who was an “undefinable mix of both spirit and body; often, we cannot tell which one”.
But the fact that it is impossible to treat a “whole person” when you, by your own admission cannot even DEFINE a “whole person”…well, this seems to have been lost on LT.
So I wrote:
“LT’s problem is common in neo reformed interpretive assumptions. The physical and the spiritual are two mutually exclusive realities fighting for dominance within a single person. It is one or the other, or both; but in this case “both” simply means that at any given moment it could be one or the other, and it isn’t always possible to tell which.
The problem is, again, that the “whole” person isn’t really a whole person at all, but an amalgamation of competing forces attempting to define an impossible singular reality in a single person who cannot possibly exist. This is the Gnosticism implicit in the false theology. Remember, to these people you are never you. That is their root assumption.
Never forget this. EVERY doctrinal view they have is rooted in idea that YOU are purely a mirage. You have no self. You are a dream-like bystander to your life. You are merely the functional extension of powers which have already determine your outcome. Thus, nothing about YOU really matters. There is no psychology. There is depravity and “grace”. That’s it. Neither have anything to do with YOU. LT’s lip service to “medicine” is nothing more than Calvin’s false moral dualism.
A person is one physical being. There is no actual distinction between physical and spiritual. When you base your understanding of human beings on irreconcilable notions of two separates equaling one IS, you destroy people. People’s lives are illusions. This makes it virtually impossible to empathize.”
And LT said: “I don’t know anyone who believes that”.
(Yeah, I get this all the time. Calvinists don’t believe that Christians are totally depraved…for instance. Sigh. It appears that no one EVER believes in the inevitable and direct logical conclusions of their assumptions. This is usually an effect of lazy thinking and/or willful ignorance.)
And I also wrote:
“What you think does not necessarily define the true nature of the ideas you assume. You have stated the separation of body and spirit clearly. I have not misquoted you. These are clearly exclusive notions. That they exist in a person must make the person a bystander to his/her self. The only way to reconcile man then is to assume he is a contradiction. For how do you explain what man is, then as a singularity? You cannot. He is ever a “mixture” of spirit and body. This is an impossible position for him to be in
Or, we agree that man is one. In which case, spirit and soul are merely qualifications of how man moves (acts, thinks, etc). This makes man an objective individual self, driven fully by his own ability.
When we can see clearly to accept this, we can begin to make real and effective treatments for what ails him/him. There is no ACTUAL dichotomy of man in spirit and body (though there may be one metaphorically). All issues are physical issues because man is physical.
2 thoughts on “Body and Spirit Do Not Co-Exist, Except Metaphorically: Response to Wartburg commenter “LT” concerning his/her assumption of the mutually exclusive spirit/body dualism in human beings”
Hi Argo –
Thinking on some of what you wrote here and have some random thoughts to express. As I consider Jesus, it seems to me that his physical being was of the utmost importance. He came to earth as a physical being — not as a spiritual being. He entered our world as we have to exist in this world (physical). He could have come in a different form, his God form, but didn’t. He chose not to minimize the physical reality that man exists in, but instead seems to have attrubuted much importance to it.
Just as important, Jesus went about healing people, mind and body, and raising the dead. This seems to confirm the importance of the physical being. Jesus did not minimize the physical, but cared for the body as he invited people to believe in, and follow, him. He certainly didn’t demean man’s physical being and tell them “p’shaw with the body, it doesn’t matter, go on to the afterlife.” He came to give life — life abundantly!
Along with the above, when we consider the OT and the Law, I think of how much of the Law was concerned with the physical health of God’s people. God valued/values the health and safety of his children, as you also touched on with the ten commandments.
These observations seem to be contrary to so much of what we hear today about “the spiritual man” being of supreme importance to the detriment of the physical being of man. Maybe this is a case of taking some of Paul’s exhortations to the extreme?
What a wonderful comment. Yes…I think you have the issue pretty well organized, even despite your claim that your thoughts are “random”. LOL That was actually pretty concise.
Funny thing…on the drive home from the TANC 2013 conference yesterday I had very similar thoughts. I began to consider Jesus, the “God man” and I thought…”well, how do we reconcile his physical self with his deified self”. And then I realized pretty much what you concluded: that there is really no need to reconcile them because there is NOTHING to reconcile.
Who was Jesus? Jesus was what He was. He wasn’t in a fleshly “form”—that would have made His sacrifice UN-efficacious. In order for his sacrifice to be effective in removing the unattainable EXTERNAL standard of “evil and good” and make us morally innocent before God (which is our true nature, in Adam, contrary to what the reformers say) His body needed to be FULLY God, Himself. There is no contradiction because there was nothing more to Jesus than His body and mind. THAT incorporated all the deity He had.
We constantly make the distinction between what is “real”– that is observable to our (insufficient) senses–and the “spirit” realm that exists somewhere out in the ether in some other dimension, exclusive to us and which contains all the ACTUAL TRUTH of all things. And because we cannot see it or comprehend it, TRUTH always eludes us. This kind of thinking, in the hands of despots and tyrants like the neo-Calvinist leadership, is obviously very effective in controlling and exploiting the masses. By making a stark distinction between body and spirit, once again “true” man is outside the observable “fleshly” man. Thus, you are never in a position to declare anything, judge anything, or do anything effective for yourself or for God because the true you isn’t you at all; it is some abstract “spirit” self.
This is utterly Platonic thinking and has nothing to do with Jewish understanding of metaphysics. The body is the person is the spirit is the soul. Jesus is One; meaning His physical body IS what was God standing before the disciples. His perfection didn’t lay in His Spirit…His perfection was His moral innocence; just as Adam was morally perfect before the fall, and just as we are morally perfect now in Christ, which is why there is no Law under which we must still be compelled or judged. We can do good, know good, and BE good because WE ourselves, in our physical body and physical mind are morally perfect once again; just as Adam was in the beginning. We please God because we exist, and by extension, what we DO pleases God.
Your last paragraph hits it right on. The emphasis on “spirit” is rather the conscious, purposeful splitting of man into two mutually exclusive parts which can never be reconciled rationally. This, once again, removes man from himself…and again, once that happens, you become nothing more than a means to an abstract idea…as John Immel puts it “the Utopian Ideal Dream”. This can be the “fatherland” or the “motherland”, or the Workers Paradise, or the Altruistic Collective, or, as we see now-heavily-the “local church”, or the “body”. YOU are nothing more than whatever can be sacrificed and fleeced in service to this utterly abstract, theoretical and mutually exclusive non-existent IDEA. Once you deny it, or leave it, or are booted out of it, or are burned at the stake or Iron-Maidened, you are dead to it. This is why so many people who have left SGM never again hear from their “friends” who were once so close or their pastors who “cared” so much for them. As is the case with me and my family. They are hypocrites, and they are evil.