Monday, December 24, 2007

"Mind, Body, and Spirit" -> What We're Made Of (Part I)

If you look at the heading on this blog, you will see that it celebrates the triune nature of man. My view is in the minority and not commonly held. In fact, I believe in a view that I might term a Conditional Unity Of Triuneness (with apologies to Erickson and his conditional unity).

To understand the triune nature of man, you must first understand the context of the debate, which normally revolves around just man being 1 or 2 parts.

This classic split is either dualism or monism (sometimes with a bit of trichotomy mixed in). The dualist believes that the essence of "self" is the soul. The soul is the blend of both Spirit and conscious. What is import to note in the dualist view is that there is only two pieces: the body and the soul.

This is seen all the time in literature and popular culture. In this idea, if the soul leaves the body, the soul that is released from the body has some or all of the memories and often similar or the same form as the deceased person.

This is often referred as "your ghost." The form of the ghost varies. We all know Casper the Friendly Ghost. The only vestige of the child nature is the shortness of the ghost. If Casper thinks hard, he can remember some of his previous life. However, many times, the Ghost (or Spirit) part can remember everything. In the famous movie "Ghost," Patrick Swayze, after he is dead, sees his spiritual self as the same as the physical self, only he can do things like walk through walls. This view of a soul is not unique to western culture.

It is hard to find a culture that is much more different than the west than to look at the Japanese. In the Japanese manga and anime "Bleach," when a soul leaves the body the only sign of being a spirit is having a "soul chain" hanging from one's chest. Regardless of the culture, there is an idea of the "essence" of man separate from the body.


In the picture from Bleach, we have the soul being separated from the body. The soul looks just like the body. It then goes on to function much like the body.

In contrast to this, the monist believes that all is wrapped up in the body. The mind dies with the cessation of the body. If you are an atheist, this is generally your belief. The conscious mind is nothing more than the synaptic brain that we all have. I think we all know who is the classic monist. He is the scientist of the day. He is the skeptic. He is the atheist. The branch of ideology that this person often espouses is the positivism viewpoint. The positivist believes that what we see is what we see, and the only real data is data that we can sense.

In the fight between dualism and monism, the monist can point out that the evidence points to the physical mind also being the conscious mind.

The most famous example of this was Phineas Gage, a railroad worker that was involved in an unfortunate accident. The accident involve having a piece of steel driven through his head. While it looked as if Gage was going to die, he made a full recovery. Almost.



There was a change in Gage. The man before the accident was not the man after the accident. The man after the accident was crude with poor language and a temper. His emotions had turned completely to a new path.

The point is that having your brains scrambled changes you personality. From John Gage, to lobotomies, to Alzheimer's disease, all the evidence is that your physical brain is your emotion. If you modify the brain, your personality changes. If you cut out part of your brain, your memory vanishes.

The intersection of the mind and brain has been laid out in popular culture by V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of San Diego, who has written several popular books on the brain. Ramachandraneven had a patient that had a separate left and right hemispheres of their brain, which is normally connected side to side. Although this extremely uncommon, it is not unheard of. One side of your brain can actually communicate with the outside world, while the other side can also communicate to the outside world. For example, one side of your brain may control the speech functions, while the second side might have access to motor skills. Thus if you want to communicate to either side, you should ask a question and depending on the written answer or the verbal answer, you would be talking to two sides of the brain.

In this case, Ramachandran asked one side of the brain if it believed in God. The answer was yes. Then he asked the same question to the other side of the brain. The answer was no.

He brought up this story at a conference, and he used this as an example of how man must not have a soul. He then asked, "if this man dies and goes to the afterworld, is he going to hell or going to heaven?" To Ramachandran and his peers, if the brain was driving by the soul, both sides would be in unity. Obviously, to him man could not be dualist based on the data that he had seen with the patients that he treated and worked with.

The idea of dualism is not a modern idea. Indeed, the formal idea of dualism goes all the way back to Greeks, and Plato talked about it in his writings. Plato pointed out that although cups many come in many shapes and sizes, we always recognize that each cup is still a cup. So, he supposed that each cup in this world must reflect an idea from another world. There was a perfect spirit world, with perfect cups. All cups reflected this perfect cup idea. The idealized cup was always perfect, while the earthly cup was imperfect.

This idea of the "perfect" was reflected in Platonic thought. Some have claimed that this philosophy has found it way into Christian thought in the idea of Grace vs Nature. Grace is where we should strive for the better and more perfect calling of Grace in our lives. The natural man is bad. The Spiritual man is good.

There is now one other movement that generally comes out of the charismatic movement, although some roots of this movement go back to Clement of Alexandria and Origen. This is one of Trichotomy.

In this view, humans have three parts:

1. The body
2. The will and emotions (soul)
3. Something that relates to God (Spirit)

Now, this viewpoint is similar to the dichotomous view of man, only it seeks to neatly divide the human experience into three buckets. Why is this popular for charismatics? Because of the gift of tongues.

See, charismatics would like to make out that the Spirit exists outside of the soul. Therefore, when you speak in "spirit tongues" you leave the mind and the will behind. You are constantly trying to look inside for the spirit and subjugate the will and the body. I would agree with those that argue that the trait of this movement tends to be anti-intellectualism. The brain is actually bad, and the spirit needs to lead in all cases.

I want to suggest that all of these views are wrong (monism, dualism, and trichotomous) because they are not Biblical, and a careful reading of the Bible would suggest a third way. To understand the third way, we must understand what "Life" is.

I believe that man is a mixture of at least two parts: Spirit and Body. For the vast majority of humans, these two parts result in a third part, which is commonly called the mind and self consciousness. All of these three parts operate together in a seamless whole, and if you don't have a body, you don't have life. If you don't have a spirit, you don't have life. Since the vast majority of us have a functioning body with a functioning brain and spirit, we then also have a mind.

I call this Conditional Triuness. Once we die, to return fully to life, we must be reunited with a body. The Bible refers to our bodies as tents. A person without a tent is not a home. On the other hand, an empty tent, without a person, is not a home. It is the combination that creates a home.

Now, my wife and I have lived in many places. Once we have moved to a new city, and we have found our house, we make our home. When we are standing on the steet together, we don't have a home. Quite frankly, I alway love it when I get home.

When the Bible talks about life, it doesn't mean it just in a breathing way. We see this from the beginning. Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. I believe that they did die in that day. Their spirits fell out of fellowship with God, and when their Spirit lost clarity, they became broken. The broken man was a dead man. As Paul tells us, through Adam, death (spiritual) was introduced into the world. To be alive means that you have a spirit that is clean before God. However, just having a spirit does not mean that you are alive.

To be truly alive, you also need a functioning body! The scripture reiterates on multiple occasions that Christians will be bodily resurrected. See a spirit without a body is dead. A body without a spirit is dead. The mind (and I'd rather say mind, since soul is so polluted as a term) is the intersection of these two things.

Strictly speaking, this makes me sound as a dualist, and in some sense I am. However, I think that the "appearance" of the mind is so important that it should and must be called out as a separate thing for most people. This is why I prefer Triuness.

When our Lord was asked what was the greatest of all the commandments, he repeated what was said in the Old Testament: We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In a couple of instances, in the Bible, we have just three of these things noted. However, if you read carefully, you will see that regardless of if we see it as three items or four items that we must love the Lord with something other than our spirit or our body.

The Spirit part is separate from the mind, yet it makes up the mind. The body is separate from the mind (and is fallen), and it also makes up the mind.

Paul describes just this in Romans chapter 8:

6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

In what may be the most insightful section of scripture about the relationship of mind in relationship to both the body and the spirit, Paul calls out that the mind is trapped, as it were, between the old sinful nature (that is our bodies) and our Spirit.

See the brain is intrinsically tied to the body and generally it is the body that drives poor behavior. For example, most meth addicts don't want to be on the drug. However, due to the way the brain is receiving dopamine, they find themselves pulled to the drug. Most people don't want to be overweight, yet the hypothalamus silently drives them to eat. Cigarette smokers want to give up, but the brain gets addicted to the nicotine. This is the sinful nature of man being driven to live according to the body.

Yet, there is a part of being a Christian that rejects all of this. A desire to be faithful to ones spouse. A desire to feed the poor. A desire to put our selfish desires behind us. This is the Spirit's influence in our bodies.

Since the body brings the bad, and the Spirit the good, it is tempting to "only" live by the spirit. However, this is like trying to make yellow with just one primary color. You can't.

However, the body does die. And there does appear to be a gap between the resurrection, and death. Can the spirit function at all separate from the Spirit?

To this, I have no idea, and I don't believe the scripture is clear. In cases like this, I simply say, "if it isn't clear, probably isn't worth debating." Generally, however, I think the Spirit can have a form of conscious thought without the body.

The mind is the intersection of the Spirit and the Body. It is not the body, and it is not the Spirit. It is the result of both of them. If you mix red and green together you get yellow. If you want yellow, you need to have two colors in equal amounts.

Without the body, you have no mind. Without the spirit, you will have no consciousness.

You can have a human that was born that may be missing most of its brain. Our brain is made up of multiple structures, and if the brain stem and the base reptilian brain exists, a personal may have the ability to continue to breath. In this case, the mind that is left has no mixture of color. It is simply flecks of red and green mixed together.

In Christian theology, this person has life because it has both a body and a spirit. Now, the mind is weak or non-existent, but the person is alive. While we are made up of three things, all evangelical agree that having just a body and a spirit does create life. The first life was created by God when he put a spirit into a clump of dust to create Adam.

This is why there is such a gap in culture over abortion. To those without belief in Spirit, the aborted baby is not a person. Why? Because there is no intelligence. Until there is intelligence, there is no person.

One believes that there is life. The other doesn't.

If the the soul and body can exist without a brain, the question becomes "can a body and brain exist without a soul." The answer is yes, for Christians. I think that most people would recognize that their dog can be highly intelligent, but certainly does not have a soul.

The question can a creature look like a man, but have no soul?

The answer, surprisingly enough, is yes. And this is the only way that we can understand the Bible.

Details to follow.

No comments: