by Matt Slick

Man is the direct creation of God.  In the Garden of Eden, God made man good.  He made Man as both male and female.

"Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:26-27; see also, Gen 2:7, 21-23).

Because Adam was made in the image of God and we are his descendants, we are different from the animals.  Adam had the breath of life breathed into him, whereas the animals did not (Gen. 2:7).  Also, Adam was given dominion over the animals.   Additionally, being made in the image of God means that we have value.  All people have value because of this.

Being made in God's image means that we have a soul, that we can reason, know God, worship Him, and love Him.  Animals cannot.  We have moral values and abstract conceptual capability.  The human is a wonderful creation of God.

God is concerned with man.  Man is the object of God's creative and redemptive work.  God loves us (John 3:16), provides for us (Matt. 5:43-47), and has provided redemption for us through His Son (John 3:16).

However, originally Adam and Eve were pure and sinless.  But, because they rebelled against God, they became sinners.  As a result, their offspring inherited their sinful nature.  Many Christians today do not accept the teaching that we have sinful natures, but it is true.  We are by nature sinners worthy of damnation (Eph. 2:3).  Of course, we are not as sinful as we can be, but we are all touched by sin.  Consider the following scriptures concerning human nature:

  • Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9).
  • We are full of evil (Mark 7:21-23).
  • We love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
  • We are unrighteous, do not understand, do not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12).
  • We are helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
  • We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).
  • We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
  • We cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).

But, thanks to God and His redemption in Christ, we are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).  Because of the indwelling Spirit of God, we are able to understand spiritual things, seek for God, and are no longer ungodly.  This is the benefit of God's redemptive work in us.  So, though we were dead in our sins, we are alive in Christ.  Though we did not want God, now we do.

Dichotomy or Trichotomy

Are we made of two parts (body and soul) or three parts (body, soul, and spirit)?  Theologians have debated the issue for centuries, and there has never been a decisive orthodox declaration of which is true.

Dichotomy is a term which signifies a division into two parts: Body and Soul.  The words "spirit" and "soul" are often used interchangeably; therefore, the dichotomous position holds that man is comprised of two parts.  Note the following verses used to support this position:

  • "Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.'" (Luke 1:46-47).
  • "My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you . . . " (Isaiah 26:9).
  • For the term "Body and Soul" see Matt. 6:25; 10:28.
  • For the term "Body and Spirit" see 1 Cor. 5:3, 5.

Trichotomy is a term which signifies a division into 3 parts: Body, Soul, and Spirit.  With the following verses, "spirit" and "soul" seem to be different.

  • "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." (1 Thess. 5:23).
  • "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Heb. 4:12).

Does it matter if you believe in dichotomy or trichotomy?  No.  However, a word of caution. There are churches that teach it is possible for Christians to be demon-possessed.  These groups hold the trichotomous position.  They maintain that it is possible for one part of a person to be possessed but not the other.  For example, they might claim that the spirit of a person can be possessed, but the soul cannot.  Others reverse it and state that the soul of a person can be possessed but not the spirit.  This is problematic because there are no accounts in Scripture of Christians having demons cast out of them.  Besides, how can a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit also be indwelt by a demon?

Nevertheless, this does not mean that the trichotomous position is wrong.  There are many great scholars on both sides of the issue in spite of the error of Christian demon-possession.

In conclusion, it is a wondrous thing that God would create a universe, populate it with people, and then love us so much that He would die to save us and bring us to Himself.  But that is the great God we serve and love.


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About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.