The Soul

The world denies it, but the soul is the center of the person.

Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Unseen Things (2)

“You shall love the LORD with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6.5

The campaign to eliminate God
Adherents to a secular worldview are embarked upon an all-out, no compromise effort to reduce all of human experience to material causes and effects. 

This is not a new effort. It has been under way since at least the latter part of the 18thcentury, when French encyclopedists published their compendium of all human knowledge in a deliberate attempt to write God out of human experience.

That effort has continued and grown within the intricate labs and from behind the white coats, mystical language, and impressive results of the modern scientific enterprise. Increasingly, scientists in a wide range of disciplines are working to deepen and extend our understanding of the cosmos and its creatures without any resort to God or spiritual realities whatsoever. In so doing, the modern scientific enterprise unmoored itself from its Christian and Biblical origins, and set sail on a course of defining a brave, new world apart from God. 

Of course, they cannot deny the existence of religion. The vast majority of the world’s people hold to one form of religion or another. Instead, scientists catalog religion under either philosophy or psychology – or indeed, psychosis – and explain it in purely naturalistic terms.

And they are largely succeeding. Look at the schools. Consider the curricula of our institutions of higher learning. Observe where governments invest their research dollars (in the billions annually). God and spiritual realities don’t count, aren’t necessary, and are explained away as mere fabrications of unenlightened imaginations.

We do not deny the validity or value of science; nor do we fail to appreciate its many great achievements – all of which are indications of the unfathomable common grace of God toward even those who deny Him.

Yet we insist that science, or any endeavor, which denies the existence of God and the unseen realities of human life and the cosmos sets a course that cannot achieve goals for science, humankind, and the cosmos which are uniformly good and true.

The denial of unseen things reaches with drastic effects into the everyday life of every human being. For, led by scan-infatuated neuroscientists, modern science is set on eliminating the soul as a necessary condition of human existence. In the modern catalog of what must be known, no place exists for the soul, person, mind, heart, conscience, or will. All our behaviors are determined by material factors, originating both within us and outside us. “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be,” chirped the late Carl Sagan, thus codifying in a slogan the secular belief that all that is and matters can be seen, felt, tasted, heard, held, touched, and – most importantly – controlled and shaped by human beings.

The soul in God’s Law
The Law of God teaches otherwise. Every human being has a soul, and if the pattern established in Genesis 2 still holds, the soul of every human being is created by God at the moment they become living persons – the moment of conception (cf. Pss. 139.13; 33.15; Zech. 12.1; Lk. 11.39, 40). All that is truly human begins in the soul, where the heartmanages and improves our affections, the mindreceives and analyzes information, and the consciencecurates our values, and gives guidance to and arbitrates between our feelings and thoughts. 

When God commands His people to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind, He is saying that such components exist, that each person is in possession of these, and that we must learn to discipline these unseen aspects of our lives so that they are shaped and grow on the cornerstone and within the framework of total, uncompromised, increasing love for God.

Our text indicates that mind, heart, and soul truly exist. We must not try to force God into our way of thinking, or we will consider that mind and heart are separate from soul, and no such thing as conscience exists. Scripture does not always think the way we do. Mind and heart exist, since God clearly and often refers to them, or their functions (thinking, desiring, fearing, considering, learning, and the like). “Soul” in this context functions as a catch-all, a single term encompassing all that makes up the soul. The conscience is more assumed than acknowledged in the Law of God. We see its acknowledgement in the many passages demanding that the people of God rule in their affections, reorganize their thinking, make decisions in line with God’s will, and hold priorities (such as keeping the Lord’s Day) that are important simply because God says they are.

The soul is the driving force in human life. It is where the image of God is lodged, which enables us to know, fear, commune with, love, and obey God; and which thus serves as the animating power for the motions of our bodies, whether by words or deeds.

The neglect of the soul, every Christian understands, can cause us to stray from the good and true way of the Lord, so that we miss the blessings of righteousness, peace, and joy He intends for us. How much more damage is being done in the world because of the secular world’s denial that the soul even exists?

Know the soul, know the Lord
The more we understand about the unseen aspect of the human life – the soul – the better able we will be to know the Lord, Who gives His Law and holds out the promises which obedience to that Law brings within our grasp.

As we shall see, God not only speaks His Law to our souls, but He instructs His people concerning how they must engage the different aspects of their souls with Him, training and disciplining, shaping and improving their affections, thinking, and priorities to seek the Lord and His promises above everything else. 

Unless we first gain mastery over the inward, unseen parts of our lives, we will never enjoy the abundant blessings God holds out to us in His precious and very great promises. 

But the Law of God ultimately points our soul beyond itself, to the full realization of the Law and the promises in our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1.4; 2 Cor. 1.20). On our own, apart from the regenerating work of God’s Spirit, we have no heart for God or His promises, much less for His Law. We cannot think about God and His will, for we are in rebellion against Him. And in place of the divine priorities of the Law of God and all His Word, we will pollute our souls with our own best ideas about what’s good for us. 

Israel’s experience under the Law of God, apart from the work of the Spirit of God, would be frustrating and disastrous, for they lacked the heart and soul for God which only the Spirit can give (Deut. 30.1-10).Only as we come to know Jesus Christ, cling to Him, and seek His Kingdom and righteousness, in the power of His Spirit, are our souls renewed and transformed, so that the righteousness of God’s Law and the full and abundant life of God’s promises begin to be ours. 

For reflection
1. Why would those who hold to a secular worldview want to do away with the soul? What do they put in place of the soul as determining human action?

2. The soul consists of three interacting and often overlapping spiritual components: mind, heart, and conscience. How do you understand the function of each of these?

3. Why is it important that we learn from God how to grow and improve our soul? What can happen if we don’t?

Next steps – Transformation: How do you experience growth in your soul? Can you think of one way each of the components of your soul has grown lately? Share this exercise with a Christian friend.

The Christian worldview focuses on Jesus. Do you know Him? Our book, 
To Know Him, can help you answer that question confidently, and equip you to tell others about Jesus as well. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.