March 2022 A.D.
Letters to the Editor
Often times I receive good theological questions via email, but unlike the good questions I get in Bible class, only the emailer has the benefit of the discussion. I plan to make an effort going forward to include in the newsletter these types of questions (or my summary of the question) that I receive, along with my reply—with the name of the sender redacted, of course. Below is one question I received recently:
In your sermon, you quoted Hebrews 4:12 which says that the Word of God penetrates between soul and spirit. In a commentary on Genesis I read last year it pointed out this distinction, stating that animals had a temporal soul, while humans have a temporal soul and an immortal spirit. Is this a correct distinction between soul and spirit? If not, is there a correct distinction or am I splitting hairs?
Good question. Yes, you are splitting hairs, but these hairs have been split by theologians for centuries. Basically, there are those who hold to a two-fold view of man (body and soul) and others three (body, soul, and spirit). There are good arguments for each view, but I tend to hold to the former. There aren’t dogmatic problems holding either view, so you are free to go either way on this open question. A problem would occur if you said that man was only a bunch of cells, like an animal, a la Charles Darwin, and denied the existence of the soul.
I’ve included some resources below that will give you a taste for the “splitting-hairs-argument”:
First, this is an article from my seminary professor, which is more academic than anecdotal:
Second, this is just an article from an LCMS church in CO. I liked this point in the article the best:
“Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 when talking to the lawyer, to “love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”. These verses seem to me to emphasize the wholeness of a person. If division was the focus, then we could derive five or even six parts in man: body, soul, spirit, mind, strength, heart. I don’t believe Jesus was dissecting the man but rather teaching us that our love for God must flow out of every part of our being, all of our parts, whatever we call them.” https://www.wrlutheran.org/projectfaith/body-soul-spirit/
Third, here is an article and video from Pastor Woelfmuller, whom you are probably familiar with [He is on Issues, etc.] and his answer to the question, drawing a bit from Luther.
Finally, here is the Wisconsin Synod’s answer–they keep it short:)
P.S. I also received a question asking if the Old Testament is Law and the New Testament is Gospel. My answer is that God speaks Law and Gospel in both the Old and New Testaments; and the entire Bible is about Jesus. I also included this link: https://wolfmueller.co/gospel-old-testament-martin-luther-traces-golden-thread-promise-christ-preface-new-testament/
P.P.S. If you have a question/topic that you’d like me to consider for a newsletter spot, please let me know.
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