Issues of the Soul Part 1: What is the Soul?

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are passages that talk about the soul. For example: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…” (Psalms 42:1-2, 5 NASB). Another favorite is Psalms 103 that reads, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (vs. 1-2, NASB). The New Testament talks about the soul as well. The Gospel of Matthew says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (16:26, NASB). We read about the soul in these verses, but what is it? How would you define the soul if someone asked you? This series of posts will deal with the issues and questions regarding the human soul.

Understanding the Soul
The soul is the immaterial (non-physical) element of our nature. It is the aspect of us that relates to God and is immortal. This means that it does not die, but rather survives the death of the physical body (Genesis 35:18, Psalms 31:5; 103:1, Luke 1:46, Philippians 1:23-24, Hebrews 12:23, Revelation 6:9). The soul is also the substance in which our rational faculties (will, intellect and emotions) are grounded.

The Rational Faculties
The intellect is the faculty of the soul that knows, considers and agrees to what it knows. The will, on the other hand, is the desirous power of a spiritual being. For instance, the intellect knows thing A, but the will has the appetite or want for it. Finally, emotions are essentially an unplanned movement or response to a specific, understood thing.

In the following installments of this series we will discuss where the soul comes from and whether the soul is a separate entity from the spirit.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology; An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Lewis, Kevin. Personal notes from Essential Christian Doctrine Lectures. Biola University; La Mirada, CA, 2013.
Shedd, William G.T. Dogmatic Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003.

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