Soul?

Art:

I completed this Acrylic in February.  Like last week, this week’s Art is an interpretation of Jerry Yarnell’s Project Eight, Volume One: Painting Basics, titled ‘Desert Glory’. 

I picked it because of the colors from the desert as a new day begins.  I imagine an ancient time when water possibly covered the lower parts in this landscape. Even now there might be an underground stream somewhere.  Either one may call to mind our Thought—Soul?.

Thought:

What happened to Soul?

WHEN DID YOU last use the word ‘Soul’ in conversation?  In written form?  Probably not too recent, right? It’s been around a long time. Perhaps due to that, it has been affected by cultures so much that its root meaning takes digging to uncover.

Today one may find it in the cultural consciousness and pride among people of African heritage: Soul music, Soul food or Soul brother.  Walt Disney and Pixar’s 2020 animated movie ‘Soul’ expresses another cultural adaptation of the word. But in contemporary context you may hear very little about the soul in Christian groups of whatever kind in the Western world. Some conservative and evangelical churches sometimes talk about saving the soul. But this language is used much less than used to be the case. And once the soul is “safe” it is usually treated as needing no further attention.

What does ‘Soul’ mean?

WHERE MIGHT one go to define ‘Soul’? Two thoughts come to mind: the English dictionary and the Bible.  The Hebrew word transliterated nepse and the Greek word transliterated psyche appear in their original texts a total of 859 times.  Notice the different ways the same words are translated[1] in the English Bible (NIV):

Hebrew  nepse: (total of 757 times in O.T.),  life (129 times), soul (105 times), lives (36 times)

Greek  psyche: (total of 102 times in N.T.),  life (32 times), soul (19 times) souls (6 times), lives (5 times), heart (4 times)   

It is easy to see a strong correlation between the 202 times these are translated into a form of English ‘life’ and 129 times as ‘soul’.  What might we make of this?

An English dictionary definition of soul is “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.

Soul = Person (Life)?

“WHILE THE BRAIN has its role in emotions, intellect, and will, and while people’s bodies are essential, we must always remember that the person is the ultimate unit of analysis:  you  and me. Thought, feeling, action (involving the ego, as well as relations to others) are ultimately dimensions of the person.  And it is the soul that combines all the dimensions of the person to form one life. It is like a computer system, which runs an entire commercial operation.

“When it is broken you have to attend to it—and in fact only God can repair it: He restoreth my soul [Psalm 23:3].  Law and disciplines can also help heal the soul, but grace—God doing in my life what I cannot do for myself—is the first and last word.  And yet law and disciplines are inseparable from grace as they do their part.” [2]

Soul = Life-center?

“THE SOUL IS that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self.  It is the life-center of the human being.   It regulates whatever is occurring in each of those dimensions and how they intersect with each other and respond to surrounding events in the overall governance of your life. The soul is “deep” in the sense of being basic or foundational and also in the sense that it lies almost totally beyond conscious awareness.” [3]

Soul Care = Spirit (life) Care?

“GOD MADE US: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else.  Now, God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits [souls] were designed to burn, or the food our spirits [souls] were designed to feed on. There is no other.”[4]

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29


[1] I have only shown the primary ways each word is translated.  Each is also translated by other English words many times, generally less than 4 times.

[2] Renewing the Christian Mind, Dallas Willard, p. 159

[3] Renovation of the Heart , Dallas Willard,  p. 199

[4] Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, p. 39  [words in italics added]

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