Question #18: Is man bipartite or a trichotomy or something else? Provide a biblical defense for your answer.

"Physical death is described as the separation of body and spirit."
“Physical death is described as the separation of body and spirit.”

Answer: I use to hold to a trichotomous concept.  But now I believe man is bipartite, one part material and another part, immaterial.  “Within the material exists a variety of features—arteries, brain, muscles, hair, etc., and within the immaterial we also find a variety—soul, spirit, heart, will, conscience, etc. But without the unity of man’s being, this diversity could not function” (Basic Theology, 223).

If we go the route of trichotomy, then should we add the “heart” aspect, too?  How about “will” or “conscience”?  Then we should view it not only three but six, right?  It would be difficult to ascertain what parts belong to the soul or what belongs to the spirit, wouldn’t it?  Ryrie concludes, “That man is bipartite in nature is undebatable.  Man is a material and nonmaterial entity, the two aspects being distinguishable. Physical death is described as the separation of body and spirit (Jas 2:26).”  From Gen 2:7, we find out that “man became a living soul.”  This teaches that sometimes spirit and soul are interchangeable.  Therefore, there is only the material part and immaterial that consist the dichotomous nature of man.


One-Minute Theology with Chaplain T features the question and answer portions of the Systematic Theology courses that were part of my seminary work at Piedmont Baptist Graduate School. I will be posting one Q & A everyday until my ordination council meeting set for February 2014.

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