“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.”- 1Th 5:23
Most Christians tend to be dichotomists with regard to the human composition. That is, they think humans have a body and a soul.
Personally, I tend to lean towards a “Conditional Tri-Unity” view of humanity. Even though it’s generally seen to be a precarious construct...
By “Conditional Tru-Unity” I mean that we humans are made in the image of God as a triune entity. That is; our body, spirit, and soul mirrors Father, Spirit, and Son (It’s not that our body mirrors the Father. I just mean the human composition mirrors the Trinity as a whole). Our soul, in particular, is also made in the image of God in that it mirrors the Persons of the Trinity. So, our soul provides us with cognition, volition, free will, identity, etc. While the spirit is the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7).
Our body, spirit, and soul were designed by God to operate in perfect unison, but only if everything is functioning right, i.e. no sin. Therefore, only Adam and Eve have experienced this perfect unity. But after the Fall, when sin entered into the world, the unity was damaged as Adam and Eve’s spirits died to God (Gen 2:17) and came alive to sin (Eph 2:2) [their bodies and souls also became enslaved to sin (Jhn 8:34)]. But even after the Fall, the unity wasn’t completely destroyed. That’s why it’s very difficult to distinguish mental states (products of the soul) from brain states (products of the body).
After the Fall, humans are born spiritually alive to God but their body and soul are enslaved to sin (Exd 21:4). But when we sin, which is our natural inclination (1Co 2:14) as slaves to sin, our spirit dies to God and becomes alive to sin.
This view has the benefit of having a lot of explanatory scope regarding the teachings in the Bible:
First, it explains why the Lord Jesus says we must be "born again".
Again is the key word because we were already born alive but have since died to God and must now die to sin and become alive (born) again to God. That explains how Paul can say, “Once I was alive…” in Rom 7:9.
Second, it explains how humans are responsible for sin entering into the world (Rom 5:12). Since our souls are made in the image of God, we bear the ability of Agent Causation. We can create “ex nihilo” like God (obviously not to same grand scale). But, we can create “ex nihilo” within ourselves desires and decisions in accordance with who we are as a person. This is how Adam and Eve could and would sin without God creating that desire for them. They created the desire and decision to disobey God within themselves, thus causing sin to come alive in them and in this world.
Third, it explains our bondage to sin, continued struggle with sin after being born again and how we will be victorious over sin as expressed in Romans chapters 5-8. Because after being born again we become spiritually alive to God and our soul is set free from its bondage to sin (Luk 4:18). Therefore, we are now able to choose the things of God. But our body is still enslaved to sin and still in need of redemption (this is why Paul exhorts against being “fleshly”). Which will happen at the final resurrection. (see Rom 8:23, Eph 1:14, Phi 3:20,21, 1Th 4:14-17, and 1Jo 3:2). But until then, we are exhorted not to allow sin to reign in our body (Rom 6:12) and to don the armor of God (Eph 6:13-17) and resist our old master, Sin [whose champion is Satan] (Jam 4:7, 1Pe 5:8,9).
What do you think about the human composition? Do you think we are just physical beings or do you think we only have a soul. Or perhaps you think the spirit and the soul are the same thing? Let us know!
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (p. 256). Eerdmans Publishing Co - A. Kindle Edition.
Bruce, F. F. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical Commentary series (p. 130). Waco: Word Books, 1982.