A Triune Model of Humanity

Dear David,

I don’t particularly object to the “Unity” model, but I’d like to put in a good word for the “Triune being” model that includes distinctions between “Body, Soul, and Spirit.”

First, the reason that I don’t use a “Unity” model myself is because there is obviously something non-physical that is involved in our makeup.

1. My fingers move on the keys… but why?

2. Because the tendons pull on them because muscles behind them moved.. but why?

3. Because my brain or spinal cord send nerve signals to “instruct” them… but how?

4. Because neurons inside my brain were firing? But, this brings us to the last part….

5. How do those neurons fire? What makes them do that? What tripped this mousetrap?

There is something non-physical involved in our makeup that enables us to live, to think, to act, that makes all the difference of whether we are alive or dead, and also whether we have free will, or if we are just

machines that produce a fixed output for every fixed input (modified by even slight random chances.)

I also am not adverse to using terms like “Body” and “Soul” and “Spirit” (or even ghost) because these are words that my Bible uses. Granted, it does not use a term like “Triune being”

This model is compatible with what we observe around us in science, including biology and information technology:

1) A person can be rendered into a comatose or vegetative state, and be physically “alive” yet not really “alive.” Someone who is “brain dead” definitely has a body (Body) and it is breathing (Spirit of Life.) However, the part that is self “Soul” seems to be rendered useless, and for this reason they could be considered as being effectively dead.

2) Likewise, someone can be thinking and alert up until the moment their Spirit gives out (people sometimes just “Die” even if their body is otherwise all right.)

3) Of course, if someone is chopped up, or bled, or otherwise their body is damaged, they also die.

From the perspective of information technology, the computer is a model that can be likened to a living person (albeit without free will – it truly is a machine.) It too has a “body” and “soul” and “spirit.”

1) Anything physical about the machine is properly its “body.”

2) But the computer is more than physical parts. Pass a strong magnet over it’s hard disk and you’ll have a vegetative computer in mere moments. It consists of information and programming which are the sum of its experiences and its “character.”

This is the true “computer” which can be restored or resurrected, even with a better incorruptible “body” if something were to happen to any of its parts, or the machine as a whole.

3) And also, this machine requires a “spirit” to “live.” Without a power supply, it cannot live. This is not a “personal spirit” – but it is a spirit common to all machines, from the Lowly Electric Iron to the highest powered Cray Computer. If I may quote a verse from “the Programmer:”

“But the Cray Computer hath no Preeminence above the Iron. What befalleth the Iron befalleth the Computer, and they both turn into the Rust. Who knoweth if the spirit of the Iron returns to the Ground, and the Spirit of the Cray will be restored?”

(Please pardon the liberal paraphrase of “The Preacher.”)

But in this case, if the Iron were to break, we would not “resurrect it.” If the Cray Supercomputer were to break, we’d have its “Soul” backed up on Optical Disk and we would certainly restore it in “The Resurrection.”

I hope that analogy demonstrates how “Body + Soul + Spirit” in now way requires a presumption of an “Immortal Soul” any more than it requires an “Immortal Body” or an “Immortal Spirit.” My computer requires all three or it won’t function at all! So, in a way even the computer could be viewed as a “Unity” – but it is not the only working model.

If I were asked to “define” what I have read by these terms, I would say:

1) The “Body” is what we can see and hear and put on a scale and weigh. It does not have a “free will” but is best likened to a machine with programmable reflexes. If you cut off your right arm, you are still “you.”

2) The “Soul” is sometimes what we are. Sometimes this is used for the “Unity” because this our most important component. We can be resurrected even if our bodies are rendered to dust.

Even people that suffer brain damage are still “them” – so the brain is not the soul… the brain seems to act like a complex piece of interface hardware. Just as our computers have hard drives which store information, the hard drive itself is not the information.

You could think of the “information” as being little tiny magnets lined up as “1?s and “0?s but that’s not even information… it only represents information. Information is not physical!

Just like DNA itself is not “information” but it “represents information.” (This is a distinction recognized by some of the apologetic defenders of Creation vs. Evolution.)

In the English language, there is a differentiation between “man” and “beast” to where “soul” is applied to that which will be resurrected to judgment, and “creature” is that which shall not be resurrected. When you hear of a ship sinking with “88 souls on board” they are not counting the cattle or the rats.

(There was another example of “soul” being used in modern English as the “person!” Even the old signal of S.O.S. for “Save Our Souls” is used in this way!)

3) “Spirit” can usually be substituted with “Life” with the connotation of “electric”. Even animals have spirit (so says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes). You often hear terms like “Spirit of Life” or “Breath of Life” which lends flavor to this term.

However, I’d say that there is sometimes splash over between these “categories” and we shouldn’t presume to apply strict dissections based on how these terms are used. I recognize (and appreciate) how a “Unity” model tries to avoid these “splash over difficulties.”

Yet, if I was asked to give only one reason why I think that we need to be able to use both models I’d quote when Jesus said that we should not fear those which can kill the body, but He which can destroy both soul and body in hell. Jesus used the distinction, and if for no other reason our model needs to be able to explain this verse.

There are too many places that use “soul” and “spirit” together, or “body” and “soul” – and I think it is a mistake to use a “biased translators” argument … as Henry Constable noted, under Queen Elizabeth England removed the law enforcing the “Immortal Soul” in the Church of England.

I also haven’t yet found anything in the writing of King James I that supports an “Immortal Soul” (but I have found him speaking out against the Calvinist “Immortal Soul + No Free Will” combination as being most likely to cause people to rebel against God!) I’m still looking… but I think I even found a few places in Daemonologie that seem to hint at “mortal soul…”

For example, he flat out rejected the notion that a Samuel was really summoned by the witch of Endor and said that no sensible religion acknowledged that as legitimate! I’d love to do more research on this sometime. Yet that is exactly what is often claimed as “actual” when people are clutching at straws to “prove” the “conscious immortal soul.” In other words, King James I sounded compatible with “soul sleep” (which is “conditional immortality.) .

As you might have noticed, I’m not being dogmatic about this… but I have no problem with being able to enter an already established turf that is familiar with a Triune Model of Man… just remind him that “These Three are One” and that none of these functions without the other.

1) What good is a programmed computer without electricity? (No Spirit)

2) Will you computer still “think” if you break its motherboard in two? (No Body)

3) How well does your computer function with a blank hard drive? (No Soul)

In all of these, the most important part of the computer is the Soul – if I back up the Soul on a flash drive or optical disk or spool of tape, then everything else is transient and can be replaced. If I truly destroy both “soul and body” there’s no restoring that computer ever again.

But an optical disk that stores a “soul” does not think, and it is not conscious, and it does not feel pain, or boredom, or hatred, or envy. It is at rest, until it is re-installed.

Andrew

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