So I’ve been pondering a question lately that I have very little experience/knowledge about, but I’m enjoying turning it over and over in my mind to see what comes of it. At one level, it’s a very simplisitic, basic question. At another, it’s not simple at all.
And before we get into it, let me say right now that I understand I’m in subject matter that is way over my head. I understand I’m getting into a bit of speculation, and what follows is not unshakeable truth by any means. In fact, I rather expect to change my mind a lot as I continue to explore this question.
Here it is: What is the human soul?
I ask, because I was reading in Oden’s Word of Life for our Bible study. Oden made a statement that I’ve probably heard before, and initially didn’t think anything about; he stated that when Jesus became incarnate, He took on a human soul.
I have no problem with the (Biblically true) assertion that Jesus became literally, 100% human in every sense of the word. He didn’t just inhabit a body; he became a Man with a body. Becoming a human being requires more than walking around in skin. I’m fine with that.
But, I got to thinking of the classic definition of a “human soul”, the one that I’m assuming Oden is working with. I’m not sure where this definition originated; I just know that I’ve heard it preached at me a lot through my entire life. According to popular theological thought, the soul consists of the mind, will, and emotions.
If this is an accurate definiton of a soul, what of this would Jesus have to take upon Himself to become truly human? Every verse I’ve seen used to substantiate His human soul-ness cites places in Scripture where we see Him express emotion. But He has had emotion from the very beginning. Before He took on flesh, He was a thinking, feeling, willful being. So what else did He need to acquire in order to be a bona fide human? And if He took on a human soul in addition to His divine soul (if I may call it that), wouldn’t that essentially be adding a new personality into His being? I’m not so sure I agree with that idea.
This started me to wondering if “soul” really equals “mind, will, and emotions”. I think it’s fair to have separate terms for the soul and body — but it’s not like our body is a shell that houses the “real” us, our soul. What happens in our soul affects our body, and to a degree, the reverse is true as well. All the same, I appreciate being able to talk about the soul by itself in order to discuss and validate some of the non-tangible stuff that goes on inside of us. But I wonder if we’ve over-thought and over-segregated the soul into some kind of spacey, mysterious “thing”, when in reality, all it means is that we are intelligent, emotional, autonomous beings. Thus it would not be an object or entity that Christ would have to “take on,” but rather a description of how He functions that He already met. I’m beginning to suspect that what we classify as our soul is a key part of our “made-in-the-image-of-God-ness”.
So please feel free to leave a comment if you have thoughts on this. I am quite prepared to be very wrong, and you are at completel liberty to tell me so. The topic is intriguing me a lot and I’d love to hear thoughts from those with a little more grounding in this area than me. 🙂