The subtitle, A Study in Biblical Psychology, follows the precedent of book titles such as A System of Biblical Psychology (Franz Delitzsch) and Biblical Psychology (Oswald Chambers). Upon closer examination, the subject matter of man’s material and immaterial makeup looks more like biblical anthropology. However, the titles just mentioned dealt with this same subject matter, so–hopefully–the reader will allow the following pages to relate to biblical psychology as well. A second reason for the “psychology” designation is that the book’s primary application in part two relates to Christian counseling.
Some who venture to read this material will do so to strengthen their belief that we are spirit, soul, and body. Trichotomy is assumed or taught in much devotional literature, evangelical preaching, and Christian counseling. It is hoped that this book will help confirm and clarify these convictions and provide some further evidence and rationale to defend them.
Others who will venture a closer look at the following chapters will be studying theology formally and are interested in the topic of man’s constitutional makeup. Since this subject relates to each of us as people, the content seems relevant enough. However, teachers and students of theology will likely have read volumes of systematic theology authored by scholars whose academic careers and intellectual gifts far surpass this writer’s. Nevertheless, upon closer examination, many dichotomist theologians have basically restated conclusions from others in this field who have bypassed the trichotomy of man. Simply put, there were bigger fish to fry! The issue of the parts of man may have appeared to be of minor significance in this “queen of sciences.”
This writer did not expect to re-examine biblical psychology/anthropology following his formal theological training. Yet, when this project of studying trichotomy got under way, it became obvious that a book length treatment of this important topic was long overdue. It seems that books such as Franz Delitzch’s (1867) and John Heard’s (1875) had no contemporary counterpart, and those two books have been out of print.
To offer further incentive for the reader to examine the following chapters, consider these questions about the makeup of man. What was the view of the early church? What did Martin Luther believe? Was Delitzsch (of the Keil-Delitzsch commentary fame) only a functional trichotomist? How has the lack of the adjective “soulish” or “soulical” in English obscured some of the biblical testimony for trichotomy? How can objections by other doctrinal viewpoints be answered? What practical difference does one’s model of man make in understanding the Christian life? These topics are addressed in this book.
One last comment is due for those inquisitive enough to read an introduction. There will be a temptation for the theological student of another persuasion to glance through this material just to get some “grist for the mill” of academic debate. The plea is given here to take a higher road.
A sincere attempt has been made to respect the scholarship, motives, and intelligence of those holding alternate viewpoints. The conclusion reached in this study calls for an adjustment on the part of classical trichotomists that could help bridge the gap between contradictory perspectives. “Holistic trichotomy,” at first glance, may appear to validate other viewpoints and thus detract from this book’s main thesis: namely, that the soul and spirit of man are ontologically distinct (distinct in being). At the risk of alienating some classical trichotomists, the view of holistic trichotomy does not emphasize the compartmentalization of man; rather, his personhood is unified. The statement that “man is a spirit, who has a soul, and lives in a body” makes a greater separation than is needed or warranted by Scripture.
Each prominent viewpoint of man’s constitutional makeup has an aspect of truth to it. This should invite more of a consensus, rather than permit each to run to his doctrinal corner. A human being is one in personhood (as in monism). He/she has two separable elements—the material and the immaterial (as in dichotomy). But, as this book contends, the immaterial side of man has two ontologically distinct parts even as the biblical tabernacle and temple had two rooms. The soul and spirit are distinct, but never exist separately (nor did the rooms of the tabernacle and temple exist separately).
Is this discussion and terminology just semantics? The patient reader will discover how holistic trichotomy gives greater insights into redemption history, especially personal sanctification. One might go so far as to assert that the meaning Romans chapters 5-8 will remain illusive until the relevant terminology, parts, and faculties of man are clarified.
The reader is given permission to skip or scan the chapter on word studies if it seems too tedious. Yet, the chapter’s summary and vocabulary lists (appendix A) will be useful in regard to the Hebrew and Greek biblical terms mentioned in this book.
This writer hopes that theological scholars will verify the holistic trichotomy model and expand upon the preliminary implications that are delineated in this study.