66: The Soul vs. The Spirit


What You'll Discover in this Episode:

​The Soul vs. the Spirit

​Understanding the Nature of Man

​What is the difference between the Soul and the Spirit?  How does a Biblical understanding of the nature of man differ from Psychology?

On this week’s episode, Jeff Christianson helps us understand the nature of man. Pastor Jeff helps us understand the basic meaning of psychology which is the study of or knowledge of the psyche. Most people have had a lot of psychological influence from the culture. Our culture regards highly educated psychological professionals with prestige. Freudian theories teach that inner struggles are based on things that happened to us in our past and that you can change by uncovering what is in the subconscious. The Bible on the other hand tells us that we need to renew our mind. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). In order for someone’s mind to be renewed they must first be born again and must immerse themselves in the Bible. When someone has a renewed mind they can begin to see things from a biblical perspective. Psychology vs. Biblical Counseling is not matter of preference, but of life and death, true vs. false, natural vs. divine. We must replace our way of thinking with Christ’s way of thinking.

In this podcast Pastor Jeff helps us understand the two prominent theological positions on the nature of man, the Dichotomist and Trichotomist views. Likely, Biblical Counselors tend to be Dichotomists because the integrationists are Trichotomists and they want to get away from that view. However, being a Trichotomist does not make you an Integrationist. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 12:4). There is room for Biblical Counselors to have differing views on the nature of man, but there are important nuances to consider as well.

​Want to learn more from Pastor Jeff? Listen to this podcast to hear Pastor Jeff address:

  • ​The foundations and principles of counseling within the life of the church
  • ​Church life, COVID-19, and loving others through challenging times
  • ​1 John 4:7 and how biblical counseling draws upon divine love in order to minister to

    others within the body of Christ

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  • Josh says:

    Adam was created from the dust of the earth and became a living soul. Everything that is of the earth is unsteady and changeable. Through the soul (senses and feelings) we are in contact with everything on earth. The earthly things will pass away and are temporal, but the heavenly things are eternal and unchanging. Matthew 6:19-2.

    Salvation in Christ is meant to change us to spiritual and heavenly instead of just soul earthly. Through the spirit, we are in contact with God. The result is a life of faith instead of a life according to human understanding.

    The intention is that our spirit is to be made alive so that God can speak to us; we should live for Him and for the heavenly things. Then we find true rest for our souls. When we live for God, we are free from sin and the unrest that comes from living to please the flesh. If we believe the Word and are obedient to it we enter into rest. We will experience God’s wisdom, wisdom that is from above, which we absorb through the spirit. we must live by faith and not according to our human reasoning

    All unrest, complaining, and anxiety stems from the soul. The spiritual man lives by faith in God’s Word.

    • jeffchristianson says:

      Hey Josh, thanks for writing in! Entering into His rest today, bro! Jeff

    • Johan Alarcon says:

      Reading Genesis 2:7, We see how God created Adam’s physical body before breathing a breath of life in his nostrils and that’s when he became a living being. For me, it wasn’t until God saved me and once again gave me new life, dead with the old and on with the new, (2nd Corinthians 5:17), to understand that life really began the moment I surrendered my will to Him. Within being a new creation in Christ, all I want to do is please Him not only in things that I do and things I say as an act of worship but even things I allow in my ear.

      • Jose Garcia says:

        Amen. Worship to God and only him is an entire life of faith and sanctification process. “Draw near to Him and He draws near to us.”

      • josh says:

        great point! I can relate to that! I had a similar experience as well. I agree with you, I have a very similar goal pursuit in life as well.

    • David Bowman says:

      Josh, I agree with you as to the unstable foundation that a soulish life provides. A life lived solely based on our senses and what we can learn with our finite minds is a frustratingly futile existence. Our rest is in Jesus and His finished work upon the Cross. Sometimes I wonder if there is another motivation behind soulish psychological teaching; a dependency upon the spiritual guru (pastor/teacher). If people need you for an emotional boost or motivational quote, they will continue to come to you. However, if we were to biblically disciple people, perhaps the people would learn to fish for themselves and that might not be good for “business”, so to speak. Consider this, doctors in the USA don’t get paid to keep people healthy, they get paid to treat the sick. Just a thought.

      • josh says:

        Thank you David, you word this well. I wonder the same at times too. very true, great point. I have also had the same thought and have come to the same conclusion as well. I am glad I’m not the only one.

    • Josh Sponring says:

      Amen Josh! I love how you pointed out that when we live for God we are free from sin and as we believe and obey the Word we enter into His rest!

  • Michelle R says:

    We all want to believe that we have the power to direct our paths and destiny in life. That we have it in us to live a life of positivity and to project that into the universe. This the lie of the ages told by the enemy. That we don’t need God. We can find the answers from a worldly perspective. This is the sin of pride.

    This false doctrine and teaching is convenient and keeps us from seeking out the will of God and from filling our minds with His wisdom and understanding. It gives us the false belief that we can control our lives and not give it over to our Heavenly Father, and let Him be the healer of our minds.

    When I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior the verse that spoke to me profoundly was Prov. 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” These verses brought comfort and peace to me, because it took the pressure off of having to rely on my on wisdom and understanding and not having to carrying the burden of selfishness. By trusting in God I knew that my life would change for the better.

    • jeffchristianson says:

      Proverb 3:5-6 are life changing, life-shaping verses for me too! Thanks for sharing! Jeff

    • Jose Garcia says:

      Amen. So thankful as His children he now leads us in righteousness. “A man in his heart plans his way, but God directs his steps.”

  • Johan Alarcon says:

    Thank you for this weeks podcast Pastor Jeff. The elaboration regarding the Holy Spirit regenerating the spirit of man and The difference between the soul and the spirit spoke volumes to me. As i was growing up, i had no idea there was a difference between the two. The word of God and the soul and spirit can be used synonymously but in many times they are spoken about as different. Hebrews 4, “shows the differentiations of the two, but yet they are interchangeable”. I like how you spoke of how the church and today’s day and age can be sensitive and is filled with soullessness in the American church. We need to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and phycology, for all it does is try to appease the flesh. And By God saying we need to know the difference between soul and spirit tells me that I still have to research and study more on this topic, and I hope to get a better understanding of it, as we get further and deeper in this course I know God will reveal so much more to me, and I am extremely excited. Putting the mind of Christ and putting the enemy to shame.

    • Ritter Savino says:

      Johan, the American church today is in trouble if they don’t wake up; God is serious about what He says, and today’s church is not even thinking about that, but about what makes them feel better. It is part of Satan’s plans because he came to kill and destroy. Pastor Frank says that churches today are not even teaching from the Bible and about Jesus. I believe that the only way the enemy can deceive us is when we are not putting the whole armor of God. 🙂

    • Michelle R says:

      Johan, I totally agree with you that we need to be in the word often to be able to understand the will of God in our lives. By being more intimate with Him we grow more sensitive to the spirit and this enables us to know when we are living the flesh and not the spirit. Thank you for your reminding me of this.

  • Mike says:

    This is a broad topic. One aspect: “Subconscious” sounds & looks like some sort of a multiple personality disorder blame shift. ‘Scary if you look at it in this manner since it would mean Doctors are teaching, pushing, & manipulating a multiple personality disorder onto people as a therapy. The term “subconscious” is a fake misnomer. What good or bad base doctrine your mind stands on is still your mind-not some secret or separate “unaware of” part of you. It’s just what’s at your mind’s foundation fruiting further actions. Most people do not dwell enough on the core principles they believe & put faith into. Emotions open up to allow this blame shift to events or people rather than addressing the issues of the heart & mind that were negatively built in their response to those events. This is why their minds fall apart. Flee & reject these things to replace them to build your mind’s doctrine for action on Jesus. Matthew 7:24-27 “Build on the Rock” promise to claim:
    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    Hopefully I stayed enough on topic, lol! My mind tends to “subconsciously” drift onto related rabbit trail concepts. You touched on many, many points in the podcast. Thanks & God bless!

  • Jose Garcia says:

    Thank you Pastor Jeff. I agree integration in creeping into the church today. Not only in psychology but also in worship. There is a movement within some churches, that have moved into the feel good, feed the flesh type of worship as well. One example, if you do a study on the Bethel church and music is moving towards a tantric style type of worship, almost demonic. Its definitely at enmity with God. Jesus said”if you wish to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me ( Matthew 16:24).” He was speaking to his disciples. We need to make a choice to die to self daily, die to the flesh and carnal wisdom, and live by the Spirit. “Walk by the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” “It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.” “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” “Know ye not, that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.For the temple of God is holy. Whose temple are you? (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).” “That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us (1 Corinthians 2:4-16).” We have the mind of Christ. Love it. Feed the Spirit, not the flesh.

    • Chase Malpede says:

      Hi Jose, my name is Chase. I have studied Biblical Counseling and am helping with some of the writing for the podcast. I appreciated your post and the scriptures that you quoted. We are truly dependent on God who empowers us to live the Christian life. By His grace in our lives we can follow Him, have a renewed mind, and live in victory.

      • jeffchristianson says:

        Hi Chase! Welcome to the community. Many thanks for helping write the emails and social media posts inviting people to listen to this latest “Soul verses the Spirit” podcast. Grateful that God brought you on to the team 🙂 Jeff

  • Ritter Savino says:

    Thank You, Pastor Jeff. When you said that a lot of churches run on emotions, or what feels good, is true and is very dangerous, and it makes me think that there is a need in their lives. They are looking for something to make them feel good about themselves; it is a self-center issue that they are encountering. I did this too when I first started coming to church as a teenager. Whatever made me feel good and not defeated I will welcome. I did this for a lot of years, and the result was that eventually, I left the Lord because I didn’t surrender to Him; I was just looking for satisfaction and not submission; a quick fix. After several years, I came back to God and this time was a real conversion. God showed me that it is not about my feelings, but about who God is, what He has done, and what He has for us as His children. He is the Giver of life and in Him we find completeness; there is nothing else. We are to think biblically in all situations of our lives having the mind of Christ which is thinking like Him. All of the other stuff such as the theory of psychology has no place in God’s plans for humanity. We as believers need to be careful to not be influenced from things that had happened to us in the past, or the culture, and to not welcome or believe on this theory of psychology; it is a trick of the devil and we are not to give in to his tricks. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 says that we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God so that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” These verses are clear about the difference between the psychological theory and the Word of God and the Spirit that is in us. God is all we need; He is our Helper in the time of need as Hebrews 13:6 states it. Thank you again, Pastor Jeff.

    • Anne Marie Maguire says:

      Thanks Ritter for your comment on emotions. It’s so true we should not let our emotions rule us instead we should “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”Colossians 3:16.
      At the moment life is hard with the covid crisis but I don’t dwell on this. I dwell on the word and I am thankful for each day God gives me. I truly now am not worrying about tomorrow like Jesus said: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”Matthew 6:33-34.

    • David Bowman says:

      Ritter, I really enjoyed your comment. Especially this quote, “I was just looking for satisfaction and not submission; a quick fix. ” I believe that many are looking for a quick solution to a spiritual problem. We live in a fast-paced world of lists for self-improvement and that runs counter to biblical discipleship, which is the goal of biblical counseling. This can make the early sessions of counseling difficult, as you unravel the false teaching that the counselee has trusted in, and begin to lay Christ and His Word as the solid foundation. 1 Corinthians 2:10 is offensive to those that believe that it is through study and rigorous mental pursuit that we come to the deep truths about God, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” A Spirit-led believer will understand the deep things of God, but a soulish or carnal believer will strive to understand what only the Spirit can reveal.

      • Ritter Savino says:

        We can be very selfish people, and looking for quick solutions would make sense, but we will miss out on what God has for us who believe. Thank you, David.

    • Johan Alarcon says:

      In one of the podcasts I commented on in the past I mentioned this, and that is, that i truly believe people are always trying to label, categorize things, or diagnose others so they can have a sense of control. If they can’t put a name to it, then to them now they are stepping into the unknown. We as believers may not know how the day will play out in detail but we know that God is great and He will not forsake us, period. when things may seem unknown we cast our burdens unto Him, for He knows, and that’s all we have to know.

    • Margaret Deherrera says:

      Thanks for sharing your input on the pod cast, I do understand when you say how we look to self for completion instead being submissive and looking at who Christ is. I lived like that also for many years just attended church to say I did. It wasn’t until I changed my ways and gave my heart to God that I started looking at things differantly and allowing God to minister and work on my heart. It is so easy to get distracted and caught up in self and things of the past and allow that to try and control us. We need to always be in the Word and keeping at truth to avoid the schemes of the devil

  • This was a very informative podcast, pastor Jeff. What I gathered from the topic you presented tells this biblical counselor that psychology does not belong in the Christian church. Also the topic you presented tells me how the church has allowed psychological counseling in the church. When we talk with a pastor about offering biblical counseling in the church; some pastors think of psychological counseling, then biblical counseling. It like pastors know nothing about biblical counseling.

    Dr. C. Kirk

    • Margaret Deherrera says:

      I agree with you Carolyn pastors don’t know much about biblical counseling in the area where I live I only know of 1. I think its just their minds are set on psychological ways so they concentrate on psychological ways instead of concentrating on biblical truth. through the scriptures. I wish more churches would be open to biblical counseling, and teachings through the Spirit versus trying to get into someones mind and figure things out psychologically

  • Kristie Gallagher says:

    This is a very important podcast for people, especially those in counseling, to listen to. We should not believe that we are led by our subconscious mind as believers. We have been transformed and now have the mind of Christ and should be helping others to know what that is and how to live by it. This can only be done by presenting and meditating on God’s word. My father-in-law who had his doctorate degree in human psychology, he passed away 20 years ago. When he retired and stepped out of counseling, he didn’t like where psychology was going. Psychology started introducing people to their subconscious mind and taking them back to relive past pain and trauma. He knew that in order for minds to heal they needed to move forward, not to go back and dwell on hurt. Even as a secular psychologist, he knew that people should not dwell in the subconscious mind but move forward with their lives. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13 “One thing I do forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” We are made up body, soul and spirit. When we are born again we are to be led by the Spirit, not by the body or the soul. As a Biblical counselor we should want to help people to be led by the Spirit, that can only be done by the renewing of the mind through scripture and trusting on God’s promises and the Spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.”

    • Michelle R says:

      Hi Kristie
      Thank you for sharing about your father-in-law. It is encouraging to see that there are secular psychologists that are able to see the truth about false teachings and methods of seeking out the subconscious mind for healing. This is something that church should always be aware of that dwelling on the past hurts can only lead us down a very destructive path.

    • Ritter Savino says:

      We should not be led by our subconscious mind as you said especially as believers; it wouldn’t make any sense. I believe that when believers are letting themselves be led by their subconscious mind, is because they are not spending enough time with the Wonderful Counselor who is telling them that as His children, they have His mind. I’m not being judgemental, but I said that because I experienced that. I pray that God will open our eyes wide to see the deceitfulness that this psychology theory brings. Thank you, Kristie!

  • Kyle Fox says:

    Romans 8:6-8 was the key scriptural takeaway for me from this podcast; 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    This is a matter of life and death and its a subject that we all really need to wrestle with. Christian counseling is an important and needed ministry within the church, but we have got to be careful that we don’t allow worldly influences.

    It was an interesting point that Pastor Jeff brought up about the prestige of Psychology today, especially if the results are no better than that of a witchdoctor. Most psychological theories do focus on self. This is likely one of the reasons that it is held in such esteem in the world.

    Watchman Nee wrote a book called “Spiritual Man” in which he went into painstaking detail to differentiate the body, soul and spirit. There is a great deal of confusion between man’s spirit and soul. There are many people who believe that they are very spiritual, but in reality, they are spiritually dead, but their soul is active. It is certainly worth out time to wrestle over the definitions of these three parts of the human being.

  • Anne Marie Maguire says:

    Powerful message Jeff. Especially about Christians having the mind of Christ not a subconscious mind. Many years ago I was living in fear because of the theory of the subconscious mind, the fear that somehow the subconscious was controlling me against my will. It made me fearful. It’s a demonic theory. But when I was saved the Holy Spirit brought to my attention the mind of Christ verses in Philippians 2:5-8

    “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!”

    I felt like God was calling me to follow Christ’s example of humility, servanthood, death to self.

  • Margaret Deherrera says:

    Very interesting pod cast pastor Jeff, Through working through many things in my life I have seen where renewing my mind. and changing my way of thinking and replacing it to Christ way of thinking has really helped me to step out of self and not be lead by my feeling and emotions but also allows the Holy Spirit to guide me and using the Word to counsel me in truth verses when I saw a psychologist and all they wanted to do was try and get inside my head. I have battled along time with anxiety and renewing my mind according to scripture has really helped me to get passed all that to where I know longer need to take meds. It is sad to see how churches know a days go based on feelings and emotions and psychological views instead of basing it on Scripture, the church I attend is one of very few that have biblical counselors on staff. Others have Christian counselors based on psychological views.

    • David Bowman says:

      Margaret, thank you for being transparent and sharing your personal experience. I am glad to hear that you no longer need those meds because of the renewing of your mind through the Scriptures. It boggles my mind that imperfect, fallible, and corrupted men and women believe that they have the answers for what plagues mankind. It makes sense to listen to the words/teachings of the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ. Romans 12:2 states our need for transforming of the mind, not delving into the past or the subconscious for answers. However, the attractiveness of this kind of soulish teaching is undeniable. People like to feel empowered and motivated, not convicted, and guilty. Nevertheless, we must continue to teach/instruct so that people can experience true transformation and not a temporary feeling of euphoria.

    • Anne Marie Maguire says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Margaret very encouraging! Your story gives hope to those who suffer from anxiety that they could overcome by placing their trust in Christ and renewing the mind. I overcame anxiety myself by putting my trust in Christ and realizing that he is in control, sovereign over all that happens in our world. This fact lead to a deeper trust and peace in God.

  • David Bowman says:

    I found this episode helpful and controversial. Helpful, in that it clarified the meaning of psychology (the study of the mind, emotions, personality). I do believe in the trichotomy of man (body, soul, spirit). The Word of God according to Hebrews 4:12 is able to discern between the soul and spirit. We are supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit and not by our soulish preferences or desires. This is a subtle deception that is easy to miss among the majority of churches in the USA. American Christianity has interwoven psychology with Christian theology. This makes those who adhere to the Bible as the sole source of truth for man seem backward or inflexible. Integrationists can seem progressive and innovative, however, according to the Word, we are called to have our minds renewed by the Word and through the power of His Spirit alone.

    I did find it interesting that Zig Ziglar was mentioned because I have read quite a few people’s Facebook posts that quote him and his teachings. I will pay more attention next time to the content of these quotes and compare them to the Scriptures.

    • Josh Sponring says:

      David, I agree that this was a controversial episode. It is subtle how trusting in psychology can lead to a distrust in God’s Word and it’s suffiency. I do think it is important how we wield God’s Word when counseling, rather than just giving people a chapter and verse number it’s important to truly listen and understand to be able to speak into people’s lives.

  • Josh Sponring says:

    This is a very helpful podcast in pointing out that there is the a trichotomy and the clarity that man is both (soul, spirit, and mind). The Word of God tells us to mortify the flesh, whereas much of psychology calls on people to embrace their soul life. The Word of God doesn’t teach integration, it teaches what it means to be dominated by the Spirit. Romans says the carnal mind is enmity of God. We need the spiritual teaching of God’s Word more than the “religion” of psychology. People have worshipped the ideas of the subconscious mind. I think there is power in what we set our minds upon. We are called to set our minds upon Christ and the truth of His Word. That is what truly will transform us. The idea of what we meditate on has spoken to me a lot lately, that what we set our minds on will affect us. Romans also says in Romans 8:6, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” We are called as Christians to have our minds filled with the Word of God and the truth of who God is.

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