The Trichotomy of Man in the Writings of C.S. Lewis

CS_LewisClive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. Lewis wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. C. S. Lewis’s most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere ChristianityOut of the Silent PlanetThe Great DivorceThe Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics in The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.”[1]

Leanne Payne was a C.S. Lewis scholar at Wheaton College and founder Pastoral Care Ministries. Her book, Real Presence is an exploration of C.S. Lewis’ view of the relationship between God and man. Payne gives this summary of Lewis’ view of the three aspects of man:

“Like St. Paul, Lewis describes man as consisting of spirit (pneuma), soul (psyche), and body (soma). Both Plato and Aristotle also understood man as tripartite, but in their systems the
mind (nous, the principle of intellectual life, reason, and contemplation) is the immortal or spiritual element and the psyche is merely the animal soul (the principle of nutritive and sense
life), while the soma is the material principle in man. There is no equivalent of spirit (pneuma) in St. Paul’s sense in their [Greek] systems, and therefore they differ radically from both [the Apostle] Paul and Lewis, who understand the spirit to be the highest element in man, rather than the mind or intellect.

“In the Christian view the primacy of the spirit is of great importance, as we shall continue to see. Man’s spirit answers to the Spirit (Pneuma) of God, and when touched by His Spirit becomes
from our perspective the Higher Self or the New Man [Eph. 4:24], and from the other perspective (that of the Spirit of God), the Christ formed in us. This highest element in man is thus distinguished from the psyche (soul), which Lewis understands to include both the rational soul (the mind, conscious and unconscious, the will, the emotions, the feelings, the imagination, the intuitive faculty), and the animal soul (the instinctual and sensory faculties, etc.). Both spirit and soul are then distinguished from the animal body, the soma (the body as part of the material world). These three united make up the composite being called man.

“Soma, psyche, and pneuma each point to a realm of truth, only one of which is effectually acknowledged in higher education today–and that is the truth of soma or material nature. This is
the realm of the scientist’s truth, empirical truth, that can be discerned and measured by the senses. Because this kind of truth is today often understood to be the only one, the present view of man and mind is often reduced to a biological and chemical one.” [2]

Dr. Louis Markos wrote Lewis Angonistes. He describes Lewis’ view of man’s original design before the Fall:

[Alluding to Genesis 2:7] “…once our body is fused with a God breathed spirit, we become a living soul (an ‘I’) with the power to make judgments, to perceive beauty, and to know God in an intimate, relational way. While in this primal state, all is unified and effortless. Our soul directs our body, and our mind is free from any type of phobia or neurosis that would stifle or misdirect it… The animals recognize us as their natural lords and pay us homage, even as we care for them and draw out their potential… We gracefully surrender ourselves and our wills to our Creator. Obedience comes to us naturally…” [3]

Dr. Markos gives Lewis’ description of the spiritual aspect of man: “There is some thing deeper than our subconscious, something within us that yearns for a supernatural glory, a divine beauty, a spiritual light that our world cannot supply. It is that yearning that tells us most of what we know about heaven, and yet, that yearning must not be interpreted … as the origin of heaven. Quite to the contrary, our yearnings are but echoes of the greater heavenly reality we have never seen. They are, writes Lewis, in ‘The Weight of Glory,’ ‘the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.’… We experience that yearning throughout our lives; it comes to us in glimpses that Lewis calls joy.” [4]

Dr. Markos contrasts man’s original state with the tragic consequences of the Fall as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. “[In our fallen state ] … we selfishly chose to call our soul our own … having rejected God’s higher laws, we immediately fall prey to the lower laws of nature originally created to control the animals. Our soul ceased to be the lord of our body and became its prisoner instead. As a result, our bodies, fell sway to base and destructive appetites and the suffering and pain that naturally ensue when our lusts are given the upper hand. Even our mind, once free of all phobias, fell sway to material, psychological forces…. ‘A new species’ writes Lewis, ‘never made by God, had sinned itself into existence.’ [5]

Leanne Payne gives Lewis’ view of regeneration through the gospel: “The redeemed man is, in one sense, no different from the unregenerate man in that he still consists of the same number of parts or elements—he is still spirit, soul, and body. Yet, united with that Reality beyond any and all nature, he is altogether different now that each part or element is redirected and revitalized. … the regenerate man is totally different from the unregenerate, for the regenerate life, the Christ that is formed in him, transforms every part of him: in it his spirit, soul and body will all be reborn. [Lewis, Miracles, p. 178]  [6]

However the distinction between the material and immaterial sides of man does not imply an inferiority of the physical body (as in classical Greek thought). Dr. Markos observes Lewis’ view of the dignity of the  body: “The Bible tells us to discipline our bodies, not so that we may cast them off when we get to heaven as things alien to the soul, but that we may be better prepared to wear and enjoy those glorious resurrection bodies that God has in store for us. [7]

The Times Literary Supplement praised Lewis as having “a quite unique power of making theology an attractive, exciting and (one might almost say) an uproariously fascinating quest” (21 October 1944). These qualities have continued to attract a wide audience of both Christian and nonChristian readers.[8]

C. S. Lewis’ discernment of man as spirit, soul and body provided a biblical model of man that enhanced his influential books.



[2] Leanne Payne, Real Presence: The Glory of Christ With Us and Within Us (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 47.

[3] Louis Markos, Lewis Agonistes: How C.S. Lewis Can Train Us To Wrestle With The Modern and Postmodern World (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 100-101.

[4] Markos, Lewis Agonistes, 166,167.

[5] Markos, Lewis Agonistes, 102-103.

[6] Payne, Real Presence, 49.

[7] Markos, Lewis Agonistes, 169.

[8] Mere Christianity Discussion Guide, p. 2 at

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G. Campbell Morgan: Man as Body, Soul and Spirit

Reverend Doctor George Campbell Morgan D.D. (1863–1945) was a British evangelist, preacher, a leading Bible teacher, and a prolific author…He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, pausing for 14 years to teach at Biola in Los Angeles, and returning to the Chapel from 1933 to 1943 when he handed over the pastorate to the renowned Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after having shared it with him and mentored him since 1939. From 1911 to 1914 he was the president of Cheshunt College, Cambridge.”[1]

Ministry (an International Journal for Pastors) published an article with this commendation: “Campbell Morgan … was eventually acclaimed ‘the most outstanding preacher this country (the United States) has heard.’  Between 1886 and his Diamond Jubilee, he preached some 23,390 times and wrote over seventy books. He was an ideal husband and father, whose four sons followed him into the ministry (what higher tribute could be paid to a preacher?). No breath of scandal ever touched his life.[2]

In his book, Life Problems, chapter one addresses the topic of “Self.” After considering the dignity of man through an exposition of Psalm 8, Morgan turned to the New Testament to examine man’s makeup. His explanation of the tripartite makeup of man is quite detailed and is worth quoting here in full.

Now I propose finding my definition [of the nature of man] in the New Testament, and I shall only trouble you to look at it in order to remember the phrase. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in the last chapter and the 23d verse, he makes use of a phrase of infinite meaning, as I believe, giving us in his own clear, lucid way a definition which answers the question propounded in this psalm of olden times — “The God of peace sanctify you wholly “; and then he proceeds to give us an exposition of his own phrase “wholly.” What does he mean when he says that sanctification has to be wholly complete? “May your spirit, soul, and body be preserved entire, with-out blame, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I am not discussing this text; I am simply lifting out of it— in order that we may study the problem that faces us — that one phrase, “your spirit, soul, and body.” And upon this occasion the original words are used most carefully; and that is why I take this phrase and ask you to look at it for a moment or two. Spirit, soul, and body. That is man. Shall we take each of these and consider them briefly, only for the purpose of our argument; and that we may follow the line of thought we shall not take them in the apostle’s order, but we shall, reversing the order, take first body, then soul, and then spirit.

Body. “What is man?” We have too long answered the question carelessly, and have said body and soul, and too long been misusing a word by talking about saving the soul. Now what a man needs to have saved in that evangelical sense of the word, is not the soul, but the spirit. Let the spirit be regenerated, and then soul and body alike are saved; but it is important that we should look at this vision and consider these words — body, soul, and spirit. The body is of the earth, and therefore earthy, and yet it is the highest form of earth-life. Let us be very simple and childlike as we think about that lowest form of human personality — physical power. It was the psalmist who said we are ”fearfully and wonderfully made,” and yet how few of us realize that that is true; how few have set themselves, quietly and thoughtfully, to think of the marvellous and matchless mechanism of their own frames! This is the day of invention and of progress, when man is engaged in a continuous whirl of discovery; and according to the very latest book by Mr. Bellamy, ”Equality,” the time is coming when we shall not work, but press a button and everything will be done for us. May I be dead before the day comes! That is all I wish. But we are discovering everywhere, and men are perpetually inventing new forms of machinery. But the mechanism of my hand has never been equalized in the dream of any inventor; and what is true of me is true of every one. Take the hand, and you will find that the thumb faces every finger so that I can pick from the ground the smallest thing that my hand can lift, and also grasp the lever that moves great masses of matter. You remember when you had those first visions of physiology that so en- tranced some of you that you never left the study, and finally mastered it, and entered upon a profession that has served humanity and is always an adornment. Some saw the vision and were afraid, and drew back. Think of it for a moment, the body of man, and remember there is no flower that blossoms upon the sod so fair; no tree that grows in the wood so wondrous in its powers of endurance. “Oh,” but you say, “there are trees growing to-day that were old when we began to be”; but they have never faced such storms as you have. All the wind that blows, the rain that splashes, and the changes of atmosphere that tell upon the oak, are child’s play compared to the mental anguish and heart-break that have swept across your life; and yet you have endured. With God a thousand years are as a day; and with man, as compared to the oak, a thousand years are as a day. One day has in it of force and meaning more than all the life the plant or the tree lives in its long succession of the seasons. So if you think of the material side of man’s existence, he is more wonderful in his strength, as in his beauty, than anything else God has made. And yet what is this frame of mine ? It is the carbon upon which the light of God is to play and have its work. As is the carbon to the electric light, so is the body of man to the spirit of man. Only that, nothing more! It is the basis of life, that upon which the rest manifests itself for the time being, and only for the time being. This body of mine, surpassing in its wonder all human understanding, is for to-day, not to-morrow. In God’s great to-morrow, I must have a body of another form — no longer the earthly and material, but the heavenly and the spiritual. This is the tabernacle for the spirit in the day of its probation. More marvellous in its mechanism, as we have said, than sun, stars, tree, or plant, or any other form of matter; and yet being but the lowest stratum in the complex life of man.

Soul. — This word “soul” — the Greek word — is a word that always refers to the animal life of man, the conscious force, that within which feels pain or joy. You will agree that the animal life in man far exceeds, in every way, all other forms of animal life. Remember that man, as an animal, without any reference to the great crowning glory, is capable of art, and music, and literature, and imagination. All these things may flourish even though a man be spiritually dead. I want to save that phrase now, because it is on your mind. I may forget to correct it. Some one says, “Do you mean to say that these may all find full play in an unspiritual man? ” By no means. I say the best art the world has ever known has been inspired, and under the dominion of spirit. The finest poetry that men have ever penned has been written when the life was under the dominion of the highest form of its complex nature — spirit. But this I do say, within the mental range of the soul life there may be art, music, literature, and imagination, all the while the spirit of man is dead in trespasses and sins. This is no new story or theory. If you trace your way back to Genesis you will find how Enoch was the seventh from Adam through Seth; and of Enoch it was said, “he walked with God.” Lamech lived about the same time, he being the seventh from Adam through Cain; and you study his times and find how there was industry, and art, and the enfranchisement of woman — all without God. And that old story has been repeated ever since. A man can be an artist, a poet, a literary genius, a messenger to his fellow-men on high moral lines, even though the spirit is dead. But, so far, we have only touched upon the body and soul. What next?

Spirit. — That which is divine; the free breath of God. Divine in its possibilities and powers, the supreme glory of every human life, unheard of by any form of lower life than man — the spirit. If I meet a man in the road, I meet first of all his bodily presence. That appeals to me through the avenue of my sight. But when presently we pause and hold converse, I reach his soul — the mental side of the man — through the avenue of his speech; but when I have lived with him and tabernacled with him, I shall reach, if it be alive and prospering there, his spirit, not through the avenue of sight or speech, but through the avenue of the influence he will exert upon me. Thus the easiest thing which I can come in contact with is his body, the physical side of his nature, fearful, wonderful, majestic. More difficult to realize is brotherhood in the region of the mind; but most subtle and hard to reach is the kindred touch of spirit that is the crowning glory of every human being. What is man? Less than the heavens, and yet so wondrous in himself that God is mindful of him and visits him. Man is body — of the earth ; he is soul — the highest form of animal life; he is spirit— offspring of God, created not only by Him, but in His image.

“What is man?” He is the union of the spiritual and the material. He is the crown of all nature, and in man nature blossoms into God. You may have your evolutionary theory at this point, if you like; you may take your lowest form of life back to what scientists speak of as protoplasm. Ruskin said it would spoil a good deal of the scientific aspect of things if the words of the teachers were explained. Protoplasm means, “first stuck together.” It may be well to remember that. Go back to them, because I should like to know what was stuck together, and who stuck them. But get back to your “first stuck together,” and watch it upward, if you like. I am not going to quarrel with it. I don’t know enough to say whether it is true; but whether it is true or not, one thing is certain, that behind all is God. Let me travel up through every point of beauty, growing grander and grander until it is lost in man, and in man all nature touches God. For in man there is the Divine spark, the Divine nature; and every man, woman, and child is a part of God, created in His image, and touched with His life and spirit. Nature touches God nowhere but in man, in that sense there is nothing of the Divine on the earth save man; and in the heaven that lies above us and the light that is beyond the shadow, there is nothing, so far as we know, of earth but man. So man becomes the strangest and grandest of the works of God, in his own being marrying earth and heaven, linking matter to spirit, and being in himself at once of the earth and of the heavens — the strangest and most marvellous combination of the skill and work of the Divine.

If man sin, then all nature will go down with him, trees, and flowers — on all will be the chill of man’s sin. Well does the writer of the New Testament say that ‘*the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now” [Rom. 8:22]. Then, when spirit is dominant in man, he is at his best. Spirit is supreme; and soul and body are subservient to spirit. And when spirit is supreme, man has dominion, as the psalmist says, and the writer of the Hebrews repeats ”over all things.”

Then if man be spirit in his complex and essential being, he is immortal, and there is no death.  “Oh,” you say, “but there is death. Men have died through all the ages.” My friends, that is not a part of our study. ”What is man?” I do not ask what he is in his fall. Remember, ‘the wages of sin is death.’ Death came in because of sin in man himself; in the essential glory of the Divine creation there is no death, transition rather. This life is a probation, a time of testing and trial, in which all the magnificence of his own being comes before his own vision. Then, when the testing time is over, and the work is done, comes the change — the transition, that leaves behind the process of probation, and takes up new work in the Kingdom of the Eternal, fulfilling the purpose of God, and stepping out to unknown regions of which man in all his dreams can say nothing, for God has hidden these things. “What is man?” Body, soul, and spirit. [3]

Since G.. Campbell Morgan earned great respect as a Bible Expositor, preacher and author, we implore those who are dogmatic in their views of dichotomy to acknowledge that holistic trichotomy be recognized as a legitimate, reasonable interpretation of relevant Scriptures and within in the scope of doctrinal orthodoxy.


A previous post documented Morgan teaching on this theme in his book, Christian Principles.


[3] Rev. G. CAMPBELL MORGAN, Life Problems New York, Chicago, Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899, pp. 18-29.


Transformation Prayer: Restoring the Soul

Dr. Ed Smith has been developing and deploying a model of therapeutic prayer since 1995. Originally termed “Theophostic Prayer (theophostic, from the Greek: “God is light”), it is now known as Transformation Prayer. After extensive dialogue and clarifications, Dr. Smith has differentiated this model from some misunderstandings and misuse.

In an earlier edition of the training manual, Smith explained the nature of soul transformation by discerning the spirit, soul, and body distinctions in man.

“Transformed living and freedom from emotional pain is a natural byproduct of the word of Truth being “implanted” in the mind [sometimes used interchangeably with “soul”]. James 1:21: [“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.]

The mind is made new through the end planting of God’s truth resulting in “soul” salvation [deliverance from the influence of sin and deception].

The salvation of the “soul” is not referring to spiritual rebirth in this passage [James 1:21], otherwise, this verse would imply, “works salvation.” [see Romans 4:1-5].

Our true identity is uncovered by the renewal of the mind. Rom. 12:2

Our complete salvation comes in several stages. “May the God of peace sanctify you entirely in spirit, soul, and body” 1 Thess. 5:23

[Illustrated this way in the workbook]

  • Spirit man: “If anyone be in Christ they are a new creature.” 2 Cor. 5:17
  • Mind/soul: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2).
  • Body/flesh and blood: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” 1 Cor. 15:30 [The body will be redeemed through being raised and glorified, Rom. 8:23; Phil. 3:20.]

Smith continues to use these distinctions with a concentric circles diagram (of spirit in the soul, which is in the body).[1]

Having gone through three of his seminars, I sense this spirit, soul, body model and been beneficial in the development of Transformation Prayer. In a more recent book Smith refers to restoring the soul this way:

“The lie-based beliefs we hold in our hearts hinder us from knowing the reality of who we are in Christ and the fullness of His sufficiency. Until the Spirit persuades us of the truth, these lies will dictate how we view our needs, and disappointment will follow. If we believe [in the soul] we are unloved, rejected, empty, overlooked, lacking, deprived, unimportant, and worthless, etc., we will be blinded to the truth and continue to look to others to fulfill us. The truth is that we are already made full in Christ [spiritually] whether this feels true or not. He has provided all we need of love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit.”[2]

For free resources on this model of healing prayer, see See


[1] Ed M. Smith, Beyond Tolerable Recovery (Basic seminar workbook), (1999) pp. 28, 29
[2] Ed M. Smith and Joshua A. Smith, Effortless Forgiveness, (2018) p. 129

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A.J. Gordon: Union with Christ

A_J_GordonA. J.”Gordon (1836–1895) was an American Baptist preacher, writer, composer, and founder of Gordon College and Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary. In his book In Christ: The  Believer’s Union with His Lord, he described the whole nature of man as spirit, soul, and body.

The significance of this in unsaved man’s depravity:

“The whole course of the divine life is from Christ to self, and not from self to Christ. To begin an expiation in one’s own sufferings, hoping that it may end in fellowship and union with Christ’s sufferings, is not only to transpose, but completely to vitiate the order of grace. There is nothing of ours, soul, body, or spirit, that is without blemish.” (p. 41)

The significance of this in appreciating the believer’s union with Christ:

“Our high endeavor is not to shape our actual life in the flesh into conformity to an ideal life that is set before us in Him. It is rather to reduce our true life now hid in Christ, to an actual life in ourself. And so the summons of the gospel is, not that we behold what is possible for us in Christ, and reach forth to it ; but rather that we behold what is accomplished for us in Christ, and appropriate it and live in it. Risen with Christ, the first-fruits of our spirits already carried up with Him into glory, our life hid with Him in God, how shall not our heart [our affections] be where our treasure is? (pp.64,65)

The significance of this in the believer’s hope of bodily resurrection:

“As our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, died in Adam, so must our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit, be made alive in Christ before our blessedness can be complete. And if we are in the Lord, our physical restitution is assured to us with equal certainty with our spiritual. For not only is it true that “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” but equally that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” [1 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:30] (p. 85)

In Christ: The  Believer’s Union with His Lord  (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872).

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Adoniram Judson “A. J.” Gordon (1836–1895) was an American Baptist preacher, writer, composer, and founder of Gordon College and Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary. He pastored churches in Massachusetts, wrote 16 books and was a  speaker in D.L. Moody’s Northfield conventions.

Adrian Rogers: Three Dimensions of Marriage

Pastor Adrian Rogers’ biblical peaching has been highly regarded and continues to bear fruit through the radio ministry of Love Worth Finding. In 1989 he preached a message titled: “Marriage: The Real Thing.” The primary Biblical text was 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

The sermon outline was:
1. Union of Bodies
2. Union of Souls
3. Union of Spirits

This is an example of how discerning the three aspects of man’s makeup can have, and should have, practical implications. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Rogers’ message:

“When God made us, He made us in His image. And, God is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … And there are three parts to your nature: you’r e body, soul, and spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 [quoted].
For a long time, I didn’t know the difference between spirit, soul, and body. I knew the difference between body and spirit, but I didn’t know the difference between spirit and soul. I thought they were basically the same thing – just an invisible part of a man, maybe synonymous … But, the Bible teaches there is a difference between spirit and soul … The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is quick and powerful… and the divides between soul and spirit. What is the difference? …  With your body, you have physical life and physical relationships;… With our soul, we have psychological life. The Greek word for soul is psyche; it is the word we get psychology from and so, with your soul, you have psychological life … Our spirit is that part of our nature that truly makes us in the image of God, for the Bible says “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). And with our spirit, we have spiritual relationships.  We know God through the spirit. The Bible says that when we get saved, God’s Spirit [bears] witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). And, the Spirit of God dwells in Christians, The Holy Spirit in the human spirit – that’s what makes us a Christian.
Now plants… have a body, but they don’t have a soul. Animals have a body and soul, but they don’t have a spirit. Only man has a spirit–and woman, of course… What does this have to do with marriage?… You are to be one, physically, one psychologically, and one spiritually….”[1]

This is another example of a prominent preacher affirming the biblical doctrine of man as spirit, soul, and body and applying it to the Christian life…in this case, Christ-centered marriage.

[1] From the Adrian Rogers Legacy Collection, Resources for Pastors. 
Under 1 Thessalonians 5:23


The New Self

Sometimes those who are dogmatic in rejecting trichotomy imply that the view of man as spirit, soul, and body is naive or symptomatic of a lack of higher education.

Consider Dr. Ken Boa, President of Reflections Ministries.

“Kenneth (Ken) Boa is engaged in a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He holds a BS from Case Institute of Technology, a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, a PhD from New York University, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford in England. He leads four weekly Bible studies in the Atlanta area, including two men’s fellowships and one at Christ Church of Atlanta.”[1]

In his exposition of Colossians, he teaches on “The New Self” in chapter 3.

In minutes 13-17 Dr. Boa explains the new self with the illustration from Hebrews 4:12. What the marrow is to the bone, the human spirit is to the soul. He agrees with the ontological distinction of spirit and soul.

Dr. Boa is the author of a dozen books, including Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Zondervan).


Clarence Larkin Charts

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess. 5:23 “Larkin was born October 28, 1850, in Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Clarence Larkin was an American Baptist pastor, Bible teacher, and writer. Larkin was converted to Christ at the age of 19 and then felt called to the Gospel ministry. The Clarence Larkin Books and  Clarence Larkin Charts have been extremely helpful resources for Christians since they were first published.  … During the last five years of his life, Larkin’s books became in great demand and and that made it necessary for him to give up the pastorate and devote his full time to writing. Some of the more detailed are books in themselves. They reveal Larkin’s vast knowledge of the Bible and phenomenal insight into prophecy.” [] This is his chart on the design of man: c59 [ For more on pastor Larkin, see A full set of downloadable diagrams is at

The Brain: Marvel and Metaphor

God has created us with amazing brains (which hopefully our minds use quite a bit). It is marvelous. (However, an examination of the physical aspects of the brain, its amazing design (such as the the right and left hemispheres) and functionality is a separate study.)

Material and immaterial aspects: brain and mind

The physical brain is obviously in the material aspect of a person, yet the mind comprises the immaterial side.

A materialistic worldview denies the spiritual aspect of life. Yet even scientific research shows the inadequacy of materialism. Heather Zeiger observed,

“The results of experiments with OCD, phobias, depression, and the placebo effect do not make sense to materialists because the mind seems to affect the physical brain. However, we know from Scripture that the mind, or the soul, is an essential part of our being. James 2:26 and Luke 8:55 show us that when the soul leaves, the body is dead, and when the soul returns, the body is alive. Also, passages such as Matthew 26:41 and Romans 8:10 and 11 tell us that our spirit can affect what our bodies do and keep us from sinning. Passages about the resurrection such as in 1 Corinthians 15 discuss the distinction between our spirit and our physical body.” [1]

Non-physical aspects of man

In a more precise understanding of how we are made, the immaterial aspect of man has two distinguishable parts–soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23).

The human spirit is distinct from the soul. Note the need for spiritual revelation in addition to the natural mind: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 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 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 [literally, “soulish 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” (1 Cor 2:11 -14).

Hebrews 4:12 affirms, “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, and of joints and marrow…”  In the immaterial side of a person, the human spirit can be conceived as “in” –yet distinct from–the soul. Similarly, the marrow is in the bone, yet not all bone is marrow.

In the passage about the proper use of spiritual gifts the apostle Paul states, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:4). In this scenario, the human spirit is engaged in speaking an unlearned language that is not intelligible in the natural (soulical) mind.

Illustrations of material and immaterial aspects of man

Although no analysis or illustration completely describes the nature of man, illustrations can be useful. The most familiar one is that the believer is compared to the Old Testament Temple–God’s dwelling place. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The Tabernacle and (later) Temple had an outer court, Holy Place and Holy of Holies. These illustrate the human body, soul and spirit respectively. See the section of devoted to the symbolism of the Tabernacle.

A contemporary illustration of body, soul and spirit is the design and function of the “brain machine” known as a computer.

The physical brain is like a computer’s hardware Humanity has used their brains to invent an inferior brain-like machine, the computer, that has become a huge part of modern life.

The soul is like a computer’s software.  The machine is useless without installed programming–software. Software is similar to the the human soul (made, will, and emotions).

The human spirit is like electricity.  Without electricity the hardware and software have no “life.” As electricity is distinct from the computer’s software, likewise, the human spirit is distinct from the soul.

A science course observes, “Both [a computer and the brain] use electrical signals to send messages. The brain uses chemicals to transmit information; the computer uses electricity. Even though electrical signals travel at high speeds in the nervous system, they travel even faster through the wires in a computer. Both transmit information.”[2]

Christian psychiatrist and Bible teacher, Dr. Tim Jennings, uses this computer analogy (hardware, software and electricity) to illustrate the distinctions of body, soul and spirit.[3]

The human brain is a marvel. 

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14 NKJV).

The brain is also a metaphor when compared to a computer, and the computer can illustrate the interdependent (yet distinct) body, soul and spirit.

by John Woodward

[1] The Spiritual Brain” by Heather Zeiger, July 5, 2008

[2] (secular}

[3] Cited from Dr. Jennings seminar, “God and Your Brain.” See

For More on the marvels of the brain, see Cross-Wired Mind: A Study for Finding a Right Relationship with God through the Mind He Intended Us to Have, by Mary Kay Thomas at

Interchangeable Terms: An Explanation and Defense

One of the criticisms of the view of the trichotomous nature of man is that sometimes soul and spirit are used interchangeably. Although there is a consensus that the connotation of man’s “spirit” relates to God (who is Spirit) and soul connotes the psychological aspect (as indicated by the English term “psychology”), there is resistance to believing that man’s spirit and soul are ontologically distinct. Note that the primary use of these terms as nouns in Scripture (pneuma and psuche is consistent with their familiar use as English adverbs and adjectives.

The dichotomist view is that the nouns spirit and soul are merely synonyms. There is a difference in emphasis and function of man’s immaterial side. One of the main reasons for this view (that became mainstream after Augustine) is that sometimes these terms seem to be used in a synonymous or interchangeable manner.

The Reason for overlapping usage of spirit and soul

The reason for occasional overlapping of these terms is that, conceptually, just as the immaterial aspect of man is “in” the body, so the human spirit is “in” the soul. This model can be illustrated by concentric circles.

So, if a reference that may be expected to use the term “spirit” may use “soul” instead, this would not contradict a more precise meaning of these terms.

A biblical illustration of the subtle distinction of spirit and soul is the Old Testament Tabernacle (and later, the Temple).

The Tabernacle was one building, yet with two distinct rooms. Only a curtain separated them. Similarly, the believer, who is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19) has two aspects of his immaterial being–soul and spirit. The whole Tabernacle would be considered The Holy Place, yet the innermost room was distinct as The Holy of Holies.[1]

A Defense of Trichotomy in light of some overlapping of terms

In another post (Sept. 4, 2022), Lehman Strauss made the case for man as spirit, soul and body by noting that he is made in God’s image. God is three-in-one, the Trinity. Now we consider a parallel between our biblical evidence for God being Triune and man as a triune being created in His image.[2]

If some interchangeable use of soul and spirit disproves man as trichotomous, the same argument could be used to dispute the doctrine of the Trinity (and we accept the biblical view of God as triune). Consider these theological basics.

God is one: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4).

The first person of the Godhead is the Father (John 5:16-45). The Father and the Son are distinct ontologically, yet are one God (Heb 1:1-3; John 11:1,14).

The Father and the Son are ontologically distinct from the Holy Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16,17).

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons in the Godhead. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16; see Acts 1:4,5).

Now we observe that the names of the Godhead are sometimes used interchangeably.

The Son is prophetically called “The Everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6. In John 10:30 “Jesus declared ‘I and My Father are one.'” John 14:8,9 records, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”‘?”

God the Father is “spirit” and “holy.” “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). “Holy Father…” (John 17:11).

The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Christ. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet 1:10,11).
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:9,10)
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal 4:6. See Gal. 2:20).

The Son is described as life-giving spirit. “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam [Jesus, Son of God] became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).

Although the names of the Godhead are sometimes used interchangeably, God’s unity is maintained: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).


Since the occasional interchangeable use of the terms Father, Son (Christ) and Holy Spirit does not disprove God’s triune nature (the Trinity doctrine), even so, some interchangeable use of soul and spirit does not disprove man as triune (ontologically spirit, soul and body). [3]


[1] For more on the symbolism of the Tabernacle and sample quotations from five authors, see this blog site’s heading–“The Tabernacle.”

[2] The three aspects of man need not require a de-emphasis of his fundamental unity. We maintain that man is one in personhood, with two separable sides, yet three distinguishable aspects — holistic trichotomy. Just as the dichotomist can emphasize the holistic nature of man while accepting the biblical teaching that he has a material side and immaterial side (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:8), so the trichotomist can and should be holistic as well.

[3] This conclusion is based on inductive biblical theology, the testimony of expositors, and is consistent with the view of the early church (before Augustine).

Man is Made in the Image of the Triune God

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 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).

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground [material aspect], and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [spiritual aspect]; and man became a living being [psychological aspect]” (Gen. 2:7). Yet man is considered one in personhood.

One of the implicit evidences of man as spirit, soul and body is that he/she is made in the image of God, who is triune. Dr. Lehman Strauss included this reasoning in his series about “Dead and Afterward.” He affirmed:

Man is a triune being because he is created in the image of God. “God said, Let us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). We know that God is a Trinity. The Holy Trinity is clearly set forth in the Apostle Paul’s benediction that closed his Second Corinthian Epistle: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14). Our Lord Himself said, in what we call “The Great Commission”: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). Created in the image of God, man is likewise a trinity. He has a spiritual nature that is separate and distinct from the body in which it dwells.

The two following passages from the Bible clearly establish the fact that man is a triune being composed of spirit, soul, and body:

I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

In spite of the erroneous teaching of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and of other false sects that “no man has a soul,” the Bible states emphatically that man was created a trinity of spirit, soul, and body even as the eternal God is Himself a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The trinity of man is an essential part of the image relationship between him and God. Life is not ultimately physical and the body is not the whole man. And we might add that neither the body in itself, nor the soul in itself, nor the spirit in itself makes up the whole man, but he is “spirit and soul and body.” This must be seriously considered and definitely agreed to before we can comprehend with any accuracy the subject of life after death…[1]

Although God’s three-in-one nature is not conclusive proof of man’s triunity, it should be considered supporting evidence in favor of holistic trichotomy.

[1] Lehman Strauss, an excerpt from “Man A Trinity (Spirit, Soul, Body)”

Lehman Strauss (1911-1997) taught Old Testament history for eight years at Philadelphia Bible Institute, and for 18 years served as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Bristol, Pennsylvania.