One Being: Body, Mind and Soul

By Keith Miller | May 4, 2010

Keith, why has there been so much emphasis in your work about living for Christ on things like relationships, feelings, the problems people have in trying to love God and other people, and in receiving love? In my day we dealt with the great theological ideas and doctrines of the faith.  Don’t you think the “mind” and the doctrines have important places anymore?

Yes, I certainly do think training the mind and trying to understand what you believe are both important.  But for over 350 years (since the work of French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who died in 1650) many of the scientists, philosophers and psychologists dealing with “man” separated human beings into two distinct parts—mind and body—as if the body and mind did not continually affect each other, either consciously or unconsciously.  This was particularly true in the West where scientific determinism[1]has controlled so much of the development of modern medicine. We have practically worshipped abstractions and numbers and doctrines, and theories we consider to be logical but do not come from our experience and are verified by abstract logic.  Many theologians brought this separation of the mind and body into their study of Christianity.  But the writers of the New Testament did not make this separation.  The after life was not a spiritual departure from the separation of the mind from the body.  It was the resurrection of the body, mind included.

Both medicine and psychology have since developed a growing conviction that the separation of mind and body does not fit the data.  And we know that anxiety can produce stomach ulcers and headaches, etc.  It seems that a person’s relationships, feelings, and the sometimes baffling problems of loving and receiving love profoundly affect his or her physical and spiritual health and well-being.  Humankind, it seems, does not have a separate mind that “decides” what he or she will believe and then can dictate to the body how he or she will act.  One’s entire personality, mind and body, must be in agreement concerning his or her decisions and behavior, or that person may find that the body rebels—he or she cannot sleep, or gets diarrhea, or a knotted stomach, heart trouble or one of a hundred other ailments.

There were many of us who were committed to Jesus’ God who came to believe that this rejection of the separation of the mind and body constituted a great reawakening, since the biblical view of humankind is also that a person is one and not a spirit or mind that inhabits the body.  The whole idea of the resurrection of the body seems to be saying that we cannot be “divided” into mind and body separately.

And since Jesus said again and again that our integrity, our behavior in relationships and not our words will truly tell others what we believe, I think that the emphasis on how we Christians live our ideas and doctrines in our relationships is really a return to basic Christianity.

In other words, I think the super emphasis on intellectualized doctrine in the Christian Community that was so prevalent in the early part of the Twentieth century was partly a result of the error of the Descartes split.  People thought that if the knew the correct doctrines concerning God and the historical life of Jesus and believed that Jesus died for their sins, they were good Christians.  But again and again, Jesus, Paul and the other major players in the gospel story said in different ways that a good Christian is one who puts into practice in his/her life and relationships the love that the scriptures and doctrines describe.  And if one claims he is a Christian, but doesn’t love his brothers and sisters, he has missed true Christianity.

I hope that this split is being healed so that we can, under God, become people who can feel and love again as we are in the process of learning to know the content of our Lord’s message.

Thank you for raising this question.  Doctrine is important, and I believe either the emphasis on ideas and doctrine on the one hand or feeling and behavior without the other is only a half truth.

Dear Lord, Thank you for the marvelous way you knit each individual together, body, mind and soul.  Even as I study Your word, help me to gain knowledge not only of theological ideas and doctrine, but also of how to give and receive love, as you commanded us to do.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love.

1 Jn. 4:7-10, The Message

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

1 Cor. 13:1-2, The Message


[1] The philosophical view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by prior events.

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on One Being: Body, Mind and Soul
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