The spirit a third component of human persons?


#1

Hello friends.
I want to ask a question that, to me, goes beyond the realm of traditional apologetics. Then again I might very well be wrong! Let me preface by saying that, it seems to me at least, Catholic apologetics has the “basic” issues pretty well covered. Any Catholic who does 1 hour of homework can explain, convincingly, our doctrine of justification or why we pray to Mary or why we have the Eucharist. The basic objections against Catholicism are ultimately easily refuted once you “get” the logic you are trying to explain. Again, this is what it seems to me. Now obviously, the person one is talking to may or may not be open to what you are trying to say. If they ARE open, these basic apologetics go over quite well. If not, I’ve noticed in my short experience that the argument just goes in circles, with each of us repeating the party line with ever more clarity or examples. At that point, the best thing to do is part ways with kind words and exhortations to be open and never stop seeking truth.

So all that leads up to my question: I’ve been in discussions lately with Protestant ministers and students that quite frankly just leave me shocked. The specific issue I want to ask you all about is the nature of the human person. A Protestant I know insists, based on the line from 1 Thessalonians 5 and especially Hebrews 4, that a human being is a composite of a body (fleshly nature), a soul (mind, intellect, will), and a SPIRIT. This third part is the most important part of the person, the part that was saved when he was born again (he actually says “when my spirit was born again”), the part that sits mystically at the right of Jesus (he says “now I am in Christ and can never lose the status of being ‘in Christ’ - not by sin, at least”), and the part that guarantees his salvation. In this life, he can go on sinning, but he believes his spirit will talk to God’s spirit and eventually renew his mind and his flesh and he will be truly walking according to the Spirit.

You have no idea how frustrating it is talking to him about this. “The bible isn’t a book of biology!” I say, and “not all books of the Bible are created equal . . . what Paul says is important but he is not God, therefore, since Jesus never talks about our ‘spirit’ Paul must have just been trying to explain things theologically!” All to no avail. He is convinced that the spirit is the really real part of him, and he thinks that all books of the Bible are equally important (except the OT, which may as well not matter anymore since we are not under the Law in Christ. He actually believes that Jesus’ ministry before his death was incomplete, because, since Jesus ministered in the time of the Old Covenant to those under the Law, what he spoke about does not always apply to Christians since, when he died and rose, a new order was created!! So what Jesus said before he died has to be filtered through our New Covenant lenses and discarded or manipulated as necessary).

This notion of spirit undergirds this man’s entire Christianity, and I cannot even get through the basic teachings of the Catholic church without always coming back to this. Do you have any suggestions or ideas or solutions for this dilemma?? It just seems like so many Protestants aren’t going to hear our basic apologetics because they are operating out of an entirely different worldview! Thanks for your help and God bless your ministry.


#2

Well, the bible is not really a book intended to teach human ontology or philosophical psychology.

Certainly the idea of ‘spirit’ as a component of human nature has long been established within Catholic thought. And it’s undeniable that all humans have bodies.

But Catholic philosophy views intellect and will as aspects of our non-material component–that is, our spirit.

‘Soul’ is considered the life-principle of any living being. For animals, ‘soul’ is material, for humans ‘soul’ is spirit, and is also that faculty by which we exercise our intellect and free will.


#3

St. Thomas Aquinas commenting on the phrase, “and may your spirit and soul and body . . .” in Thessalonians says:

On account of these words, certain people maintained that the spirit in man is one element and the soul another, thus positing two souls in man, that is, one which animates the body and another which carries on the function of reasoning. These opinions are rejected in the Church’s teaching. For it should be realized that these two elements [which are really one] do not differ essentially, but only by reason of the powers present in them. There are certain powers in our soul which are linked to bodily organs, such as the powers of the sensitive part of the soul. And there are other powers which are not linked to bodily organs, but function apart from the body, insofar as they are the powers of the intellectual part of the soul. The latter powers are regarded as spiritual powers in that they are immaterial and separated in some manner from the body in that they are not functions of the body but are referred to as the mind. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Eph. 4:23). Yet it is called the soul insofar as it animates the body, for this is proper to it. Paul speaks here in a specific sense.


#4

This probably doesn’t address your question, but I loved reading Frank Sheed’s Theology for Beginners because he teaches that a soul is the life-force, so that even animals have a soul, but WE have a spiritual soul by virtue of God breathing into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. Breath of God = Spirit of God. It is in this way that we are in the image and likeness of God, we have a spirit. A soul like no other creature.

Part of this wonderful book is online at books.google.com/books?id=Du8T-iKfou0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=theology+for+beginners&as_brr=3&sig=v3Wk5ruSJ8j3CdeGYIcnnqQN6dQ

See chapter VIII, The Nature of Man.


#5

Thanks for the replies, folks. The St. Thomas quote was especially helpful. I guess I’m trying to convince my friend that the “spirit” which Paul speaks of in a specific sense is perhaps our “spiritual capacity.” What I’m getting from your answers so far is that “spirit” and “soul” are interchangeable. It’s important to me that each principle is defined because it is the most foundational piece of my friend’s theology, that his spirit was born again when he was “saved” and is both the guarantee of his salvation and the primary avenue that God uses to communicate to the rest of his person.


#6

My understanding of the Biblical view of the human person is this:

the human person is body and soul, but when body and soul are united in life, they cooperate so closely that the effect is spirit: the cooperation of body and soul in life. Thus spirit is not a third thing in addition to body and soul, but a result of body and soul working together.

In the more modern view, this idea is still found, for example in the concepts of heart (which is more than the physical heart) and mind (which is more than the physical brain).


#7

If you are reading the scholastic tradition of Catholic thought the spirit, soul, and body all have unique aspects. For example, when your read the Living Flame of Love by St John of the Cross, it is important to remember he uses Soul and Spirit as separate parts of a person.

In today’s world we have generally merged the two together.

Body and soul or Body,soul and spirit are both right. You need to know what you want the terms to mean so you can intellegently discuss them.

Soul contains the intellect, the will, and the memory.
Spirit contains some other 3 things that I have forgotten.

So when you discuss with your protestant friend, if he uses these terms, he is right. If you do not, you are right. But until you can agree on what makes something a soul and what a spirit, you aren’t able to reach a meeting of the minds.


#8

The Church teaches, and so does Thomistic Philosophy, that the human soul is not only the principle of life, but is rational and immortal. As such, soul and spirit are so intertwined as to be inseparable. Any attribute you give to humans stems from the rational, immortal soul which is the principle of life. We in our fallen nature can mess it up. That however does not give it a distinction.
Deacon Ed B


#9

This third part is the most important part of the person, the part that was saved when he was born again (he actually says “when my spirit was born again”), the part that sits mystically at the right of Jesus (he says “now I am in Christ and can never lose the status of being ‘in Christ’ - not by sin, at least”), and the part that guarantees his salvation. In this life, he can go on sinning, but he believes his spirit will talk to God’s spirit and eventually renew his mind and his flesh and he will be truly walking according to the Spirit.

This notion of spirit undergirds this man’s entire Christianity, and I cannot even get through the basic teachings of the Catholic church without always coming back to this. Do you have any suggestions or ideas or solutions for this dilemma?? It just seems like so many Protestants aren’t going to hear our basic apologetics because they are operating out of an entirely different worldview! Thanks for your help and God bless your ministry.

My first suggestion is to talk to a VERY SPIRITUAL PRIEST.
There are very well informed priests on EWTN, and I would contact Father Pacwa, or Father Benedict Groeschel, or Father Corapi. I would try to contact them in a private way, because when they are on live TV, they usually can’t spend too much time on one question, and sometimes they skim over it.
One thing I can say is this: If a person takes One verse, and that verse is not totally explained in its essence, if he uses that verse to the exclusion of all others, he is decieving himself with knowledge of his sin. I have been having an argument of sorts with a Pantheist. All she seems able to do is quote verses from the Bible that are obviously taken out of context. I can say that it is giving me a good Theological and Catachism lesson. I have to research my answers to her. My point is, the problem with many protestants, in my experience, is that they choose to decide for themselves what a Bible verse means, then find a few others who can believe it means the same thing…contrary to what the rest of the Bible says, and you have a new denomination born.

“he says “now I am in Christ and can never lose the status of being ‘in Christ’ - not by sin, at least”), and the part that guarantees his salvation. In this life, he can go on sinning, but he believes his spirit will talk to God’s spirit and eventually renew his mind and his flesh and he will be truly walking according to the Spirit.”

This part, I believe I can answer because the Holy Trinity is so benevolent.
Thesolonians 5 talks about how we must be vigilant, and not be asleep to be taken by the thief who comes in the night. That those who live in darkness are asleep, while Christians live in light and don’t sleep.
1 Thes. 5:9-10 states "For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with Him."
The explanation is this…at least, I believe so, and it goes with the rest of what we as Christians know.
Once we know Jesus, and have recieved salvation by Jesus, with the Holy Spirit within us, we know Jesus. We have experienced His love through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we fall asleep (into sin), we recognize our having stepped away from Christ Jesus, Whose Presence we had previously recieved and felt, and feel an urgent need to confess our sins, repent, and amend our life in order not to offend or lose the grace of Jesus again. We should rush back to Him as soon as possible to be close to Him again. We are deeply sorry for having offended Him.
Then, if death takes us like a thief in the night, and we had fallen into the state of sin(fallen asleep)…though not mortal sin…we will not burn in the fires of eternal damnation. Jesus will know us through our living, intimate relationship with Him, and in His Divine Mercy will understand that we had fallen, though not out of love with Him. We will then have to be purified in the fires of Purgutory

However, if one is foolish enough to believe that once he has been Baptized by the Holy Spirit, he can do nothing…commit no sin…live a life opposite of the way that Jesus taught us to, not repent…for why repent when he is going to go to Heaven anyway…and believe that he will still get to Heaven when he dies, without having had a personal relationship with Christ Jesus and done his best to live life according to the will of God…then he is decieving himself. And it is a deadly deception. And I fear that if he is teaching others to believe in the same manner, he will be held accountable to God for that.

It is way late. I hope I have helped at least a little. And if not, thanks for the opportunity to give me a reason for more studying.

May the Most Holy Trinity bless you all.
Cherie


#10

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