A Celtic Christian Worldview (8)
Every creature then is either spiritual or corporeal but because the spiritual creation consist of spirits with understanding which are not contained in flesh and the souls of human beings which are contained in flesh, mention must first be made of the separate ranks of heavenly spirits, whose ranks, as it were of a species, are understood from the divine Scriptures to be nine: namely, seraphim and cherubim, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, archangels and angels.
- The Book of the Order of Creation II.1
But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
- Hebrews 1.13, 14
The writer turns now to discuss God’s creation, taking his subjects in chronological order, and working toward chapter XII and the nature, role, and place of man in the world.
The writer begins, therefore, with those creatures that are spiritual in nature, and therefore, not normally visible to human sight. With the angels (of various kinds and ranks), the writer of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum rightly lists the souls of men, which are truly and entirely spiritual creations. They differ from the angels, as the writer notes, because they are “contained in flesh,” that is, within the human body of each person.
As mentioned, the Liber will not get to the nature of man until chapter XII, since man comes last in the order of creation, and everything else is put in place before him and for him. At this point, however, we should reflect a bit on the nature of the soul, as a spiritual creation, since in mentioning it here, the writer points to its importance in the order of creatures.
The origin of the soul has been a matter of some controversy over the centuries, some saying it is inherited from the parents, and transmitted through the blood, while others maintaining that each soul is uniquely created, at the moment of conception, by God. I think this makes the most sense, and seems to be in line with such Scriptures as Zechariah 12.1, Psalm 33.15, and Psalm 139.13-16.
God creates each soul, and stamps His image and likeness on it. Though each soul is created pristine, it is immediately made subject to sinful flesh. And while the image of God in the soul, and the knowledge of God it contains, is never entirely eradicated, it can be buried under the detritus of unbelief and sinful habits, developed over a lifetime (Rom. 1.18-23).
And in our day, an extraordinary amount of human effort is spent on burying the knowledge of God which the soul conveys.
It is the declared policy of American public education, and much of the higher education community, to deny that anything like a soul or self even exists. The worldview of public education is reductionist, materialist, and narcissistic. Young people who are told, directly and indirectly, that we are nothing more than molecules and atoms, combined randomly into a higher form of animal life, are not likely to listen to the voice within them that seeks to remind them they are the image-bearers of God. Pop culture exacerbates this situation by urging us on to indulge the inclinations of the flesh, and to ignore or deny the tug of transcendence and moral uprightness. Nor is our political culture hospitable to the soul, but only to that which can be manipulated by force or harnessed for economic productivity. The neuroscientific community is working overtime to deny the soul and reduce all human activities to chemical and electrical impulses.
Thus, in all the primary arenas of life in our society, the soul is ignored, denied, and mocked by those who are shaping the worldview of our secular age.
But denying the soul does not make the soul go away. It is the highest of God’s spiritual creatures, because it has the potential to know, love, and delight in Him, and to direct the body to good works of self-denial and love.
The human soul, like its Creator, is tripartite: mind, heart, and conscience. The mind manages thoughts and memory; the heart houses and deploys the various affections; and the conscience stands guard over baseline values and default choices. All the components of the soul interact and overlap, and only work as God intends to the extent that the Spirit of God shines the light of His Word upon, within, and through them.
Fools deny God and the soul, and fools neglect to understand and care for their souls in the way God intends. Daily, the world washes its mechanistic, naturalistic, materialistic, and narcissistic message over the souls of all people. If we do not take steps to resist this tsunami of lies and nurture and strengthen our souls, allowing them to play their God-intended role in our lives, then our confession of faith in God will be meaningless.
Only strong souls can carry strong bodies into daily obedience for Jesus Christ. Celtic Christians understood this, and made the care of the soul one of their primary concerns. Our minds are intended to be used to think the thoughts of Christ and His Spirit (1 Cor. 2.16; Rom. 8.5-9). Our hearts are made for loving God and our neighbors (Ezek. 36.26, 27; Matt. 22.34-40). And our consciences function rightly according to the priorities of God’s Law and all His Word (Rom. 2.14, 15).
Everything in creation exists to encourage strong souls to know, love, and serve the Lord. Make sure you are nurturing your soul each day, guarding it every moment, and devoting it entirely to the Lord and His pleasure.
Questions for Reflection
1. How can Christians resist the worldview that denies the soul and encourages us to think of ourselves first and foremost?
2. How confident are you that you are nurturing all the components of your soul according to God’s plan?
Psalm 33.13-19 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
God from His throne looks down on men; He knows our works and made our hearts.
Let not Your Church, let none depend on strength or skill or human arts.
God watches those who fear His Name, who hope upon His grace and love;
He keeps their souls from death and shame who trust in Him Who reigns above.
Lord, what a precious gift is my soul! Help me to care for and nurture my soul according to Your will, so that…
For a closer look at what is involved in daily strengthening your soul, download our free PDF study, “Strong Souls,” by clicking here.
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Davies, p. 3