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The Duality of Man

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 4, 2024 12:01 am

The Duality of Man

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 4, 2024 12:01 am

What makes up the "real" you? Your soul? What about your body? Today, R.C. Sproul explores the relationship between body and soul to deepen our understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God.

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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R.C. Sproul

For the Greek anti-physical viewpoint, redemption ultimately is redemption from the body.

Plato called the body the prison house of the soul, and so the highest hope for man would be the disintegration and destruction of the body so that the soul could be released to live in pure contemplation, unencumbered by any influences of that which is physical. Christianity teaches redemption of the body, that in heaven we will have glorified bodies, but we will still be creatures who are body and soul. You and I are made in the image of God.

It's why all people have dignity. But how does our body relate to the image of God? Are we suggesting that God has a body? Because we do, and we're made in His image, and how should we treat our bodies? You're listening to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. As we seek to answer the question, who am I, or what does it mean to be human, we must address the body and the relationship between body and soul. The world has gone to the extreme of thinking that through mutilating the body, they can actually change the answer to the question of one's identity. But many wrong views of the body and the soul have also crept into the church. That's why this series, A Shattered Image, and Dr. Sproul's book, The Hunger for Significance, are needed today to help bring clarity.

You can request both at So what is the relationship between body and soul, and what is the biblical view of the body? Here's Dr. Sproul. In the last night of Jesus' life, when He gathered with His friends in the upper room to celebrate the Passover, you remember in the course of that discussion, Philip turned to Jesus and said, show us the Father, and suffice it thus. In other words, Jesus, if you'll just let us see who God is, then every yearning, every desire, every heartbeat of our lives will be satisfied.

Just show us once. So do you remember Jesus' response to that? If there was ever a time that we could almost sense frustration in the words of Jesus to His friends, it's there.

It's like He said, Philip, how long have I been with you and you didn't know Me? He who has seen Me, Jesus said, has seen the Father. One of the most important aspects of the Christology of the New Testament is the motif that we see here and there through the gospels and then developed more and more by the Apostle Paul of Jesus as being the new Adam, as Jesus fulfilling what it means to be the perfect man, the perfect image of God. I mean, not only do we have to do with Jesus touching His deity, but the humanity of Christ shows us what the human race was supposed to be.

This has restored mankind. This is the image of God in its fullest manifestation in the life and in the person of Jesus, so much so that even in His humanity Jesus could be properly theologically correct to say, He who has seen Me has seen the Father. I don't mean to suggest that He's denying His humanity there or only speaking of His humanity there, but I'm saying that if Jesus' humanity is a perfect humanity and He is in the image of God in its fullest sense, then to look at that is to behold the glory of the Creator, because that's what an image does. It reflects.

It mirrors. It shows a likeness, a similitude of the original. Now, I said in our last session that there is this theological dispute over whether or not the word's image and likeness refer to one thing or two different things, and I said that historic Roman Catholicism located in two aspects and Protestantism tends to disagree, but Protestantism is still left with this difficult question. As I mentioned earlier, are we still in the image of God, and if so, to what degree? And I went to Genesis 9 and showed that even fallen man in the days of Noah, as corrupt as the human race had become by then, is still considered creatures bearing the image of God. So, historic Protestantism has made a distinction. We always make distinctions in theology between the image of God in the narrow sense and the image of God in the wider sense.

Some make this a distinction between the image in the formal sense and the image in the material sense, but those are words meaning basically the same thing. To be the image of God in the wider sense simply means that after we have fallen, after sin has had its influence upon us, that we still retain our humanness. Your mind has been affected by sin. Your body has been affected by sin. We age. We grow ill. We die. Our faculties have been weakened.

We've become addicted and enslaved by certain passions in a sense of bondage where we were made with a kind of volitional freedom originally that was not affected before the fall and so on. We still have those faculties, however. We can still think.

We can still choose. We still have bodies. We're still alive. We're still human. With the loss of our innocence, we have not lost our humanity, but what has been lost is what the theologians call conformitas. We have lost obedience, and as disobedient creatures, we have besmirched and fogged the mirror that was made to reflect the holiness of God so that now when the animals and the rest of nature looks at us, those of us who are still thinking, breathing, feeling images of God, they see people whose behavior does not conform to the character of God. And that's what has been lost, and that's what we call in the simplest terms sin. And that's what I'm going to deal with in the second half of this series is what this loss of conformity means.

How seriously have we been affected by the fall? How deep does the sinful corruption of our humanity penetrate? We're going to look at that. But now I want to touch on one other thing and expand on it from what we talked about in our last session. I just mentioned in passing that the Mormons believe that God has a physical body. In fact, in some of the crasser views of it, they believe that Jesus was born out of the result of a sexual union between God and Mary, a physical union there. And the argument being, as I say, that since we're made in the image of God and we're physical, that must mean that God is physical. Now, over against that idea, historic Christianity, Catholic and Protestant alike, has insisted that God does not have a body, that God is a spirit, and so we must locate for the most part those aspects that distinguish us as being in the image of God as a resemblance to God in terms of His spiritual qualities. Again, God can reflect, He can think, He can choose. God is a moral being, and we are moral beings. God is an intelligent being, we are intelligent beings. God is a volitional being, we are volitional beings. However, as important as those non-physical dimensions are to our understanding of what it means to be in the image of God, we would be platonic rather than Hebrew to assume that our bodies have nothing whatsoever to do with being made in the image of God. Because when God made us human, He didn't just make disembodied souls.

He didn't just set loose some minds or wills or feelings, but He made creatures and fashioned them with bodies. And if we look carefully at the biblical understanding of man from Genesis to Revelation, we see that the whole drama of redemption is not concerned in isolation simply with the soul. If you say the Apostles' Creed, for example, in your church, you know that there's a statement in the Apostles' Creed that goes like this, I believe in the resurrection of the body. How many of you have that in your creeds? The old phrase was resurrectionis carnus. I believe in the resurrection of the body. That does not mean that we are saying I believe in the resurrection of the body of Jesus. That's also in the creed.

I mean, the church does believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but what that phrase, I believe in the resurrection of the body, points to is the church's confession that we believe that our bodies will be raised. In other words, at the heart of Judeo-Christian theology is a notion that when God creates man, He creates him, soul and body, and when He redeems man, He redeems him, soul and body. There's a tremendous amount of literature in the Bible that is devoted to the concerns to man's physical welfare. Now, I stress that because there's been enormous influence in the history of Christianity where alien strands of thought have invaded the church and have tried to communicate the idea that there's something evil about anything physical and that it's somehow beneath the dignity of God or of Christian religion to be concerned about man's material welfare.

But the Jesus who walked along the shores of Galilee and was clothed in a human body was very much concerned about people who were hungry being fed, and people who were without shelter being covered, and people who were thirsty being given to drink. Yes, He was concerned about their eternal souls, but He was also concerned about their bodies. And so from beginning to end, we see that to be a creature in the image of God is to have our bodies included in it, because for me to conform to the will of God and to display His character, His holiness, requires that my body's involved in this process. I mean, there have been people who say, if I say my prayers and maintain a contemplative dimension to my life for six hours a day, I can do anything with my body, the rest of it I, because who cares? All God cares about is the soul. Now you can't even a cursory reading the New Testament sees that so much of the law of God is directed to how we use our bodies. And so even though God does not have a body and our bodies are not part of the image in the sense that we are revealing to the world that God is physical, but because what it means to be in the image of God ultimately is to mirror and reflect the character of God, we do that mirroring, we do that reflecting, we do the works of obedience with our bodies as well as our souls. So in that dimension, the body is an integral part of what it means to be in the image of God.

Now what happens historically so often is that the physical suffers a severe devaluation among religious people. One of the most ancient of heresies, which antedated Christianity of course, came in through Manichaeism and through various forms of Oriental thought, Oriental dualism, and even Plato. Plato's concept of the Greeks.

Plato, for example, developed a philosophy called the theory of ideas. It's subsequently called an idealist, and if you want to really get an eccentric headache, Plato's also called a realist. That's really strange to our ears because in this day and age we distinguish between idealists and realists, right? We say a realist is a person who doesn't have his head in the clouds. He's not entertaining fantasies, visions of grandeur, but he sees things the way they are.

He's honest appraisal. He's a realist. Whereas the idealist, he has these lovely grandiose visions of what life can be, and he sort of looks at life through rose-colored glasses. But when we're talking in philosophy, we're not using those terms that way. Plato is called an idealist for this reason. He's called an idealist because Plato believed that the highest order of reality is not physical but, here's the word, ideal. That is, ideas.

The perfect man is found in the perfect idea of man, and that any specific human being is merely a cheap imitation of the perfect idea of God. Now, there's a lot of heavy ideas in that concept. I'm going to just walk over here. I'm going to walk right out of the camera here for a second. Here's a chair. Is that a chair? Ma'am, do you recognize that as a chair? Would you stand up and let me see your chair for a second? Would you donate that for this cause here? Could you do that for just a second, please?

If you don't mind sitting in your husband's lap or whoever so you can let the camera take a look at these, thank you. We have two objects up here, both of which this dear friend here has identified by a single word, chair. Now, can you see the difference between these objects?

I mean, we see similarities. They have four legs. This one's metal.

Listen to the sound of it. This is padded and wooden, beautiful, ornate, and yet they're both identified as chairs. Now, how is it, in spite of the differences, that somebody could look at these two objects and use the same word for both of them? Well, Plato said that's because everybody has in their mind the perfect idea of chairness. This woman came to this lecture tonight with an eternal understanding of perfect chairness. And so when I asked her to identify this, she could see the approximation of this imperfect copy of the ideal chair and put it in that category. She saw this as even more imperfect of the ideal chair because the ideal chair obviously is nicer than this. Right now this is coming close to the ideal.

You can have that, and we'll stick this away. But Plato said that the physical he called the receptacle of the idea. And insofar as any imitation is less than perfect, there's something lacking. And so for Plato and for the Greeks, for the whole generations, the idea of anything physical was seen as being less valuable, less perfect, indeed intrinsically marred and imperfect, and that made a profound influence in the early Christian church. Blends or amalgamations between Oriental philosophy, Platonism, Gnosticism, married up with Christianity and intruded into the church the idea that the body is bad and the soul is good. Other extremes are that we begin to call bad what God has called good. Now, the whole reaction that our generation has to sexuality, for example, is influenced and informed by this history of anti-physical thinking. We forget that when God made man and made woman, He made sex, He made food, He made creature comforts, He made all of these things and pronounced His benediction on them saying, that's good. But with that benediction came His rule, His regulation saying this is good as man and wife become one flesh and cleave to each other. But outside of this context where I have ordained the physical relationship, it is not good.

So it's not the thing in itself that is bad, it's how it is used and so on. Now we come to the place where we have people thinking that anything that is physical is therefore evil, and that of course is a distortion of the Christian view. In summary, let me say that for the Greek anti-physical viewpoint, redemption ultimately is redemption from the body. Plato called the body the prison house of the soul. And so the highest hope for man would be the disintegration and destruction of the body so that the soul could be released to live in pure contemplation, unencumbered by any influences of that which is physical. Christianity teaches redemption of the body, that in heaven we will have glorified bodies, but we will still be creatures who are body and soul.

Now my time's running out on this, but I want to say a couple things very quickly. Here's another distinction I want you to keep in your mind. Christianity does not teach dualism with respect to man. Dualism is an idea that says that there is a constant conflict between equal and opposite forces that cannot be reconciled. When we say that man is body and soul, we do not mean that the body and the soul are in constant competition or tension. Rather, Christianity, rather than teaching a dualism, teaches a duality. That is, man is a harmonic unity composed of two aspects, the physical and the non-physical.

There is duality but no dualism. Final point, this is one of the reasons why very, very old heresy has made an enormous comeback in the 20th century, very popular particularly among evangelical Christians, called trichotomy, where it teaches that our humanity is composed of three distinctive aspects, body, soul, and spirit. It's not by accident that one of the vehicles through which this re-emergence of the ancient view came to be was through Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelical who sprinkled a whole lot of oriental thinking with his Christian thought and reintroduced the idea of trichotomy, and it's found elsewhere. Trichotomy was condemned in the 4th century as a heresy because of its roots in this Greek dualism concept. And the reason how trichotomy came into being in the first place was this, real quickly, the underlying assumption of the trichotomist, trichotomy meaning there were three distinct essences, was that because the body and the soul are in irreconcilable conflict, the only way they can be reconciled is through a third party, a mediator, and the mediator being the Spirit. Biblical justification was sought for it in Paul's letters to the Thessalonians where at the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul says in his benediction, may God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are the positive, there's proof positive that the Bible teaches there were three parts, body, soul, and spirit. If you look at that carefully throughout the Scripture, you know, at other times Paul will talk about the heart, the mind, the spirit, the bowels, and so on. And if you want to just take every aspect that is ever mentioned in Scripture, you're going to have to have an octomony rather than a trichotomy because there are several, and here is no justification for producing a whole anthropology distinguishing between soul, body, and spirit.

It's like I say to you, I want you to work body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, will, the whole thing. But theologically we recognize that maybe the Holy Spirit can distinguish between spirits and souls and minds and consciences and all of that. But to simplify it, the churches said there's a physical dimension to our life and a non-physical. The generic term for the non-physical in the Bible is the soul. It includes the mind, the will, and we can make some distinctions and so on. But we need to be very, very careful about trying to set up a three-concept of man because invariably it is associated and tied to some other distortion of redemption as if what God has to do in His redemption is to redeem you one step at a time. You know, it's the soul and the spirit and the body.

That's inevitably what happens. Okay, I'm going to stop at that point and say that in our next discussion we're going to look at the extent of the fall of man. That was R.C. Sproul from his series, A Shattered Image.

You're listening to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind as we spend several weekends considering the important question of what it means to be human, a question that needs a clear answer amid the confusion of our day. You can own this complete series. Plus, we'll send you R.C. Sproul's book, The Hunger for Significance, when you give a gift of any amount in support of Renewing Your Mind and the global outreach of Ligonier Ministries. You can make your donation at And when you do, this resource package will be yours as our way of saying thank you.

Use this series and book to be better equipped to provide answers to your neighbors, your children, or perhaps even your grandchildren. Give your gift today at As we heard today, we are made in the image of God, and each of us has dignity. But we're also fallen. We're also sinners. That'll be Dr. Sproul's topic next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-04 02:57:58 / 2024-05-04 03:06:27 / 8

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