Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 2 - Spirit

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 2 on 6th August 2006

God created us in His image and likeness with the purpose that we will be like Him. To enable men to be like God, Christ became man to show us the way to live. He said we are to imitate Him.

From the first chapter to the last chapter of the New Testament, we see God's eternal purpose is that we might become like Him. Colossians says we have been created for God, and all things have been made for men. This is a very profound wisdom.

If we do not know God, it is meaningless no matter how intelligent and knowledgeable we might be. The true wisdom is the wisdom to live a human life. The greatest wisdom is the wisdom of God. If we can understand God's Word and allow it become a part of our lives, it will become our greatest heritage.
All things in the world are passing away so no matter how much we accumulate it will not matter. There many things that men value which are abominable in God's eyes.

If God is the original Image of all images, and all images are just duplicates of His images, then there must be a link between all the images to the original Image.

The Bible says God is Spirit. This declaration shows that God's image cannot be understood in material or physical terms. The Scriptures says God is Light, Spirit and Truth. This is not just mere attributes, but essence. The Scriptures also says that God is Love. This is also not a question of attribute, but of essence.

Would Spirit have a spiritual image then? We need to see from God's Revelation. God is the Truth Himself. So if God refuses to reveal we cannot know anything.

The Bible is God's Special Revelation. But even the most fundamental human knowledge is from God's revelation, like 2+2=4. Reformed theology divides God's revelation into two parts: general and special revelation. So all other knowledge in the world are also part of God's revelation (general revelation). All truth is God's truth. As God has not revealed to animals, they do not understand biology, chemistry, art, etc.

To understand what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, there are two questions we want to deal with.

The first question is how then do we understand “God is Spirit”?

The second question is, are there differences between image and likeness?
If they are the same why does the Bible use two terms? Is this just a matter of language style? If they are different, are there other biblical references? Either stand we take, there are biblical difficulties.

Jesus only said to imitate His likeness, not image. Paul said we are to wear our new self made in the image of God; he does not use the term likeness. There seems to be differences.

Genesis 1 uses both in describing how God created man. Both image and likeness become important essence of human make-up.

Personally, I (Rev.Tong) believe that image is more about potential. Likeness is more like an objective to achieve. We have the image of God so we can be like Him. When God created us, He created us in His image and likeness. And God called us to become like Christ.

Likeness of Christ is our ultimate goal. It means as we look back to our past and look forward to the future we have the direction of pursuit. When a person has a comprehensive value of his past and future the quality of his life will be elevated.

As God is Spirit, we must have been created with spirit within us. God used the dirt in the ground to create our body and then breathe into us and we become living being. We are made of two different parts, our body and our spirit.

But there are two theories regarding the make-up of human nature, dichotomy (man is made up of two parts, body and soul or spirit) and trichotomy (body, soul and spirit).

Since the first two centuries of Christianity, other than the teaching of the Apostles, there are also false gospels from the Gnostics. The Gnostics divide human being into 3 parts: body, soul and spirit.

The Gnostics believe that there are 3 kinds of people, i.e. those who live in the center of their body, their soul or their spirit. But Paul only divides into two kinds of lives, i.e. life according to the flesh or to the spirit.

Before a person is saved, soul is the center of his life. When a person is saved, he has the Holy Spirit within him. He can still listen to the flesh but can choose to listen to the spirit. This is the basic trichotomic explanation of Gnosticism.

But does that teaching truly have biblical backing? The Bible does not record God putting 3 parts of human beings together. We have a physical body made of dust and a spirit breathed by God.

Watchman Nee wrote the book on the Spiritual Man that talked about trichotomy. His theory influences many Chinese till today. Watchman Nee believes that God create human body from the dust. Then God give a spirit by breathing into his nostrils. And the combination of body and spirit produces a soul. It sounds very creative but this is the emergence theory of the soul. That means human soul is not created but emerges.

How can we explain death then? According to the trichotomists, when spirit leaves the body, soul disappears since the soul does not exist originally. But there is no biblical backing.

Trichotomy is also often used to explain the fundamental differences between animals and human being. Animals and humans both have body and soul, but animals do not have a spirit. So animals are living beings because they have a soul. But humans are different from animals as humans are made in the image of God, and since God is Spirit, humans also have a spirit.

The theory seems right and easy to understand, but there are a lot of difficulties with it.

Since animals have no spirit, where would the soul of animals come from if the soul of man comes from the combination between the body and spirit? Maybe God gives souls only to animals, but for human beings soul emerges and is not created.

However, Ecclesiastes 3 records a verse that say, “Who knows that the soul of animals descend while the spirit of man ascends?” This shows the difference between human spirit and animal souls. But the Hebrew word used for both is the same in Hebrew which means ‘spirit’. This is the only time in the Bible where the animals to be said to have a spirit.

How would the trichotomists explain the constituents of human body, soul and spirit then? What is human body made of? What is soul made of? And what is spirit made of?

To know about our physical body, it is better to ask a doctor than a theologian as the knowledge is part of general revelation.

As for the soul, Watchman Nee explains it as constituting of 3 parts: reason, emotions and will. Therefore, man can rely on his soul to live. When he talks about the spirit, it consists of two parts: conscience that controls our ethical direction and the part that enables us to worship God.

So the function of the body is world consciousness. British empiricism believes that knowledge of the world comes from our senses. The function of the soul is self consciousness while the function of the spirit is God-consciousness.

Is this true?

If emotions, will and reason are function of the soul, then understanding of the truth might not part of the spirit. Does that mean there are no emotion, will and reason in the spirit?

Is God Spirit or soul?

If God is Spirit and not soul, does God have reason? God is Truth. The Spirit is Truth. Therefore the Spirit not only can reason, but is the Truth. How can reason be confined in the soul?

Does God have emotion? God is love. It is the greatest emotion and it is in the Spirit. Jesus loves righteousness and hates evil. And the Holy Spirit will be jealous if we sin against God. How can emotions be confined in the soul?

Does God have will? Not only does He have a will, He is the Source of all wills and giver of all wills. The whole creation come into being because of His will. He is the highest of all will. How then can the will be confined in the soul?

Reformed theology teaches that human beings receive the spirit that is made in the image of God. When God made man, He made man in His image and likeness, so our spirit has God's image and likeness. He is Spirit and not material, so we cannot attempt to understand the image and likeness of God in physical way. The duplicate of God's image and likeness in us can only be understood in the human spirituality.

We must understand the meaning of the image and likeness of God in this manner in order to understand the dignity and honor in which we are created. Psalms 8 says that God crowns man with honor and glory, not from the physical sense, as we are so small compared to all other things He has created, but from our value in spiritual sense.

Physical body can deteriorate and grow old, but the honor of humanity is not affected by physical decay. And conversely, it is possible to be a beautiful movie star but not living an honorable life.

We need to return to the revealed Word of God. May the Lord help us that we not only understand what it means to be made in His image and likeness, but that we will also walk our lives in His likeness.


At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Benjamin Ho said...

hi mejlina, hope you are doing well. thanks for all the efforts in transcribing=)

At 8:54 PM, Blogger vincit omnia veritas said...

Hi Sister in Christ,


Remember Vincent Chia from Gethsemane Bible Presbyterian church?

Didn't realize you are busy transcirbing sermons from Newton Life.

Are you worshipping there now? Ivy (my wife) and myself do think of you now and then. How are you?

Do keep in touch!

Vincent Chia

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... interesting explanation on body, soul and/or spirit.
In Indonesia, I believe most Christian (including me) hold on the trichotomy.

Explanation on dichotomy only suitable for a person who believes in Christ. But didn't clearly explain about 'animal world' and 'human clones'.

If I understood it correctly from this exposition, the animal only have physical entity. When in the future, biotech could successfully clones human, does it means that the clones only have physical entity ? (we don't believe a new spirit was created or splitted during cloning process, do we ?)

If the 'human clones' only have physical entity. Then we have some interesting possibilities:
(1) Does it mean the clones do not have the responsibility to God ? (since he do not have spirit).
Then the clones could commit sins without eternal consequences.

(2) Thinking further, could it be possible that not all the human being in the world have spirit ? (i.e. only have physical entity like animal or 'clones').
(2).a. Animal who kill fellow animal will not go to hell. But a human who tried to live the best he could but never heard on gospel or have capabilities to believe in it will go to hell ?
(2).b. Could it be that human embryos that were destined to be aborted do not actually have spirit ?
(how could a human embryos being saved by Gospel before their existence were ended in operation
room ?)

(3) the lists could go on and on...

At 4:26 AM, Anonymous dave said...

There's no ethical dilemma unique to a clone as compared to natural clones - identical twins.

My clone is basically my genetic twin - sharing the same dna info in my body - but he is a different individual just as identical twins are.

i have seen identical twins before and they seem to have different personalities sometimes.

So whether dicho or tricho, it is a non-issue :)

But i oppose cloning only on grounds that the technology today is risky (how many embryos need to be destroyed?) and when it is abused for unethical reasons like being killed as organ donor

At 4:48 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks for the response, Dave.

Personally I am not absolute about dicho or tricho (though looking at overall principles, I tend towards dichotomy). I think the Scriptures have references to both, and are not too explicit about it.

On cloning, I think that's too dangerous and opens up to a lot of ethical concerns.

At 12:31 AM, Anonymous wismin said...

Yeah, remember the movie: "The Island" in 2004. It's about clones which were raised for different reasons. Like a professional athlete who need spare parts. Or woman who don't want to endure the pain of pregnancy (have the clone did it for her. then kill the clone). But somehow the technology not so good, the clones still have 'conscious'.

Are we Christian afraid that clones will have the have 'emotions, will and reasons' like natural clones ?
(in movie 'The Island' that is the case for the 'first generation'. On later generations they manage to remove the 'conscious' completely).

Then this will be a big blow to Christianity.

If the answer is technology not advance enough. Do we agree with cloning if there's no killing, and merely used as means of reproduction. (e.g. for the homosexual ?)

On the other hand, if we Christian are absolutely sure, these clones won't have spirit (no 'emotions,will and reasons'), we should encourage them to do that. Which will prove that we Christians are right.
(of course not using tax money /Federal fund in US).

Do we have that kind of confidence ? Or our discussion are only for 'internal' only. (not for external consumption).

If the clones do not have spirit, then it's just like animal (which somehow look like us.)
We do kill animal for food, what's wrong with killing clones for spare parts if it doesn't have spirit (just like animal)?



At 2:48 PM, Blogger Adi said...

This article may be useful.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Timothy said...

In response to cloning:
One step at time. Don't jump too far. And we need to be clear before God why we choose to do certain things. For God? or for self-satisfaction?

This way we are not carried away by science fiction.


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