Understanding the existence and importance of the human soul has a profound impact on a person’s worldview.
Whether you are engaged in a conversation regarding the existence of God, explaining the intrinsic value of your friend’s life during a difficult time, or perhaps taking a stand for the protection of the unborn, conveying the concept of the human soul provides helpful and relevant insight into the theology that forms the Christian worldview.
While there are many pertinent verses in Scripture that deal with the soul, it may be necessary to first establish that belief in the concept of the human soul is a reasonable and, in fact, logical outcome of several key observations.
Talking through the following concepts can allow you to simultaneously expose a person to an understanding of what the soul is and help them arrive at the correct conclusion that they indeed have one (or more accurately are one).
Every person, whether an atheist, Buddhist, or Christian has a deeply held understanding of their own identity. Pivoting off of this basic point you can begin to examine important observations which reveal that this sense of identity cannot be tied to our material bodies or even our immaterial consciousness, but is a product of the human soul.
Observation 1: Our Identity is Not in our Possessions or Position
Even the most worldly of individuals would be quick to agree that who we are is not determined by what we possess. Similarly, our true identity cannot be found in our profession or other status symbol. Although many people sadly live as though this were not true, it is easy to see that even a person who is stripped of material goods and status still maintains their identity as a unique individual.
Though their outward circumstances have been changed, they remain the same person. Our personal identity cannot be linked to our jobs, wealth, friends, or any other worldly possession.
Observation 2: Our Identity is Not in our Physical Bodies
Think about the following: We are always moving forward in time; with each passing second we are getting older. It is natural to reflect on our current selves and conclude that “this is who I am.”
Questions of identity are typically answered by referencing our current physical, mental, environmental, and/or emotional status. Keep in mind, however, that this moment is fleeting. You were once younger, and will very soon be older than you are now. Were you still “you” when you were 8 years old?
Certainly you are the same person, and a 30-year-old man would be quite correct in identifying their childhood self as also being “them.” If the person you’re speaking with lives another 20 years, will they still be the same person? Of course.
Your friend will maintain their identity throughout their lives, because it is not tied to a solitary moment (or even entire phase) of life.
So what does this have to do with our soul? Consider the fact that nearly every cell in the human body is regenerated every seven years. Does this change in the very building blocks of our material bodies alter in any way who we are as individuals? No, it does not.
A person whose cells have “changed out” is not a different person. Even on a more macro level, the physical characteristics of a person are vastly different when comparing their 5-year-old and 50-year-old selves. It is clear that our personal identity cannot be considered to be a product of our ever-changing physical bodies.
Observation 3: Our Identity is Not in our Minds
One possible response to the previous observation is that our identity is not made up of our physical bodies, but by the experiences we have accumulated throughout our lives.
In essence, this would be to claim that our identity is based in our minds; our personal and unique consciousness defines who we are.
On the surface, this reasoning seems to satisfy what is lacking in the physical body’s ability to be the core of our personal identities. The mind is something that travels with us from infancy through old age, so it may be believed that we are the product of the experiences that we have had and the knowledge we have acquired.
However, this explanation also falls short. Think of those who for one reason or another lose their mental capacity or have their memories taken away due to a disease such as Alzheimers. Are they still the same human person? Such individuals still maintain their identity, despite a lack of cognizance regarding their accumulated experiences and knowledge.
Our identity can not be tied to our immaterial mental consciousness because we remain our unique selves even if this is reduced or completely taken away. The human soul is distinct from our hearts and minds (MT 22:37).
All people have an understanding that they possess a unique identity. By processing the above observations it becomes clear that this identity cannot be attributed to our possessions, physical bodies, or our unique minds.
Instead, our identity is found elsewhere: our eternal soul. While the above conversation points are not intended to paint a more detailed picture of the God of Scripture and the nature of our sinful souls in need of salvation, they can go a long way in introducing a person to the concept of their true identity as a spiritual being.
The majority of our daily thoughts are dedicated to relatively trivial matters, but a conversation which turns to the above points can force us to engage with the bigger questions in life.
Sincerely questioning “Who am I?” begins a deep philosophical and theological examination of our own identity. So what are the consequences of reaching the conclusion that you, and all people, are an eternal soul?
Such a revelation can lead a person to seek answers to several important questions, including:
- How it is that we came to be indwelled with such a spiritual component?
- If our souls are not tied to our physical bodies, what happens to our identity when we die?
- If every person is an eternal, valuable soul, how then should we live in society?
Such questions have profound impact on how we live our lives, seek after God, and interact with those around us. Understanding that we can only link our true identity to our God-given souls is an important step on the journey of faith.