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Letters on Soul, Spirit,
and Knowing God

The following letters are commenting on my two-part article Soul, Spirit, and Knowing God.

Dear Gary Zeolla: Yes, you may use my article in Darkness to Light…. I have been continually blessed by the ministry of DTL. Your recent correspondence on the Internet has been most enlightening.

I was delighted to see an article on trichotomy; but I am not sure if I agree with all your conclusions. Certainly I disagree with Watchman Nee when he teaches that, "God is not apprehended by our thoughts, feelings or intentions, for He can only be known directly in our spirits…."

This of course denies Romans 12 which links the transforming process of sanctification to the MIND. Watchman Nee's confusion does not DISPROVE trichotomy, though (no more than Greek dualism doesn't prove dichotomy is wrong).

I have thought that many Reformed people are anti-trichotomists. Yet it seems to me to be a simple matter of HOW you categorize the immaterial part of man. Calvin taught the soul is composed of three parts: mind, will, affections. If this definition is accepted, there MUST be more to the immaterial part of man, and it seems logical to me to categorize these parts under man's sprit: Innate conscience, sense of purpose in life, etc.…

It is important to assert, of course, that man is ESSENTIALLY A UNITY. This is why God does not communicate to our spirit apart from our mind, and so forth. But when Watchman Nee makes heretical statements, shouldn't we be attacking his anti-intellectualism?

What I mean to say is, I do not think all trichotomists have to be anti-intellectual. These are just some initial thoughts I have. I am anxious to see the rest of your article.

Yours in Christ,
Joel;
Carnegie, PA

Response: The article Joel is kindly giving me permission to use is Acquaint Yourself with God. Many thanks to him for this article.

As regards his remarks on my article "Soul, Spirit, and Knowing God" - as indicated, he wrote this letter after Part One was published. I was aware at that time there are other forms of trichotomy than the version promoted by Nee and the other trichotomists I quote in the article. I was planning on including a discussion on these different versions in Part One. But I had to omit it for one simple reason - space.

One of the biggest struggles I always have in publishing Darkness to Light newsletter (where this two-part article originally appeared) is trying to fit everything in I want to. And, inevitably, I always have to leave something out I would like to have included. And even when converting articles for this Web site I still have to be careful about the length of articles. I have found the attention spans of people "surfing the 'Net" is generally rather short! So it was an "editorial decision" to forgo a discussion of different forms of trichotomy and just discuss only one.

But Joel was the second person to write me on this aspect of the article. So I did mention in Part Two about another version of trichotomy other than the kind Nee taught.

Dear Gary: I was surprised to see how you struggled to get around the "proof texts" for Trichotomy. I thought that a Trinitarian would have no real difficulty in seeing man, "created in the image of God," being also a Tripartite being.

A foetus is soul and body because it has emotions and feelings. It is not a living soul until God gives it the breathe (spirit) of life. And it seems that the wicked dead are only soul and body.

If the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord (Prov 20:27) and the spirit shall return to the God who gave it (Eccl 12:7), then all souls return to God at death.

Obviously, this is not so. Therefore, the soul may go to its own place, while the spirit returns to God. Because the lost suffer the second death, they are not raised complete, for the spirit is absent.

DovesFor the righteous, God sends forth His Sprit and they are created again. When Jesus died, He went to paradise. He also committed His spirit unto God, by which he was raised again.

If you believe that Jesus went to Hades in the interim between His death and His resurrection, then He is in one place, and His spirit is in another. Please consider again the arguments for Trichotomy.

Best wishes,
Yours in Christ,
Bill;
Beach Lake, PA

Response: I will leave it up to the reader to decide for yourself if I "struggled to get around the 'proof texts' for Trichotomy" or whether I properly interpreted the verses.

As for Bill's other arguments, the teaching that people are created in the image of God occurs in Genesis chapter One. Meanwhile, the full revelation of the triune nature of God did not come forth until New Testament times. So there is no way the original readers of Genesis would have taken the image of God in people to mean we are tripartite beings. And nowhere in either the Old or the New Testaments is this connection made.

However, the New Testament does teach that we are to "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:24). And we are to, "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col 3:10). So it appears the image of God in people refers to moral and intellectual qualities.

As for his comments about spirits going to God, I believe he is referring to the trichotomist idea that a person is "naturally" only soul and body but receives a spirit at regeneration.

But Eccl 3:21 states, "Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?" So it appears animals have spirits.

Thus, if the trichotomist position is correct, animals and "saved" people have spirits, but unsaved people do not. I think this idea is highly unlikely.

Looking further at Eccl 3:21, it says the spirits of animals go downwards but human spirits go upward. I believe the idea here is, humans, being morally responsible due to being created in the image of God, will go to God TO BE JUDGED (Heb 9:27). Whereas animals, not being created in God's image and thus not morally responsible, do not go to God to be judged.

Lastly, when Jesus committed His spirit to God, it doesn't mean His spirit was going immediately to heaven (see John 20:27). It simply means He was committing Himself to the care of God the Father.

Dear Gary: Another excellent newsletter. - Thank you. The subject of soul and spirit was one that became a topic of discussion between some friends at Menard [Correctional Center] and myself a while back.

In light of your articles in the last two issues it seems they were right and I was wrong - oh well, can't win them all. Thanks for the knowledge, I guess I needed it….

Now I'm at Statesville which to me seems spiritually desolate compared to Menard. I haven't been allowed to go to church in months. "Allowed" - in a nation with religious freedom! I don't think people out there realize what can go on in these places. They probably think we can go to church, fellowship, go to a library for books or talk to a chaplain for spiritual guidance. Wrong. It's not happening.Prison bars

In 3 months of deadlock the chaplain has scouted by twice. Prior to deadlock the priest threw up his hands and walked out in a fit because of the way he was being treated. It's a long story: Shakedowns to search for holy wafers. It's incredible.

Much prayer is needed; probably some lawsuits, too. Anyway, people don't realize this. And I want to thank you for your care of prisoners. I get your newsletters and they're really helpful…. Sincerely, S.E.; Joliet, IL

Dear Brother Gary: Greetings, and peace to you in the Name of the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

I am writing to let you know that I really enjoyed your article on the Spirit and Soul. I thought it was very well written and your logic and conclusions were very convincing. I plan on sharing this with other brothers and sisters because I think most of them believe (as I once did) in the trichotomy position.

Of course, the LORD blessed you to be able to use the Scriptures for your reasons on this matter, which is something that you don't see enough of nowadays.

One thing I did notice was when you quoted 1Cor 15:45 [in Part Two] you used (as you almost always do) the NKJV, which changes the word "soul" (KJV) into "living being." Then in brackets you say "literally - soul."

This is one of my points about "other' versions. If the literal meaning is actually "soul" then why did the NKJV change it at all? This makes no sense whatsoever. This is common in many modern versions today. They will change the KJV word only to add a note saying that the KJV word was the more "literal." It kind of boggles the mind.

Thank you once again for your service to the LORD. Here, there, or in the air. May all be done for HIS glory... Num 6:25. Sincerely, G.A.; Muskegon, MI

Response: The writer is correct that in 1Cor 15:45 the NKJV is not as literal as it could or should be. But later I quote the more literal rendering of the MODERN King James Version (MKJV). And such differences between even generally reliable versions is why I advocate comparing more than one version.

For more on my position on this subject, see the articles listed at Bible Versions Controversy.

Notes: The MKJV can be ordered from the book clubs listed at Christian Books and Software Sites.

See Questions on Human Nature for another follow-up to Soul, Spirit, and Knowing God.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

The above letters were published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site in 1996.

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