Does the body have a soul? Let’s talk about that. As we continue learning about embodiment during this fourth week of Advent, while we’re focusing on our physical or material side, what about the spiritual or immaterial side of humanity? Religion tends to emphasize the spiritual side. What we’ve been learning, though, is that Christians see our bodies as vitally important. Because God came to us in human form, which is what we celebrate at Christmas through the birth of Christ as a human baby, we are gravely mistaken if we think it is the spiritual side of our bodies that is most important. Both the human body and the human soul are equally important. So we must treat our body and our soul as equally important.
This is exactly why Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
This is why we practice healthy eating, exercise, and why we avoid those habits and addictions that would do damage to our body. Moderation is a virtue for the body. These are also pro-life, which we talked about in the previous post.
At this point some might be wondering that it seems I’ve talked quite a lot about bodies. You might be wondering, “Aren’t you over-emphasizing the body? Shouldn’t you also talk about the soul? How do we care for our soul?” Good point. How do we care for our soul?
First of all, what is the soul? Pixar is set to release their next animated movie, Soul, this week, and I’m looking forward to how they describe the soul. There are Christian theologians who have misgivings about the immaterial or spiritual part of life. Is the soul just our thoughts? Is the soul just the inner part of what it means to be human, but not necessarily a separate spiritual being?
There are many ways theologians have attempted to answer these questions. We probably won’t know the real answer until we pass on to heaven. But what seems to be true, not matter how you describe it, is that we humans are both material and immaterial, we are both physical and spiritual, and every part of us is important. I don’t know if our immaterial part is body and thoughts, or body and soul, or body and soul and spirit. None of us know for sure. You are entitled to your opinion.
What I do know for sure, though, is that God the Son, who was spirit, took on human flesh and was born as a human baby with a body. We call that incarnation, which is a fancy word that means “to take on a body” or “to take on flesh.” God, when Jesus was growing as a baby inside his mother Mary’s womb, now had skin and bones just like us. It is a dramatic miraculous moment.
Think about how God identifies with us at that moment. What had only been a creator-and-created relationship was now totally different. The creator became like the created so that he could know our human experience.
That brings us back to the question of how we care for our soul. I would suggest that we cannot care for the soul, as if it is disembodied. We can’t separate the spiritual part from the physical part. They are intimately linked.
What you do in your body affects your soul and spirit. And vice-versa. If you do not care for your body, to the point where your body is affected negatively, you will automatically be affecting your spiritual side negatively too. You cannot affect one without affecting the other. Likewise, if you do not tend to your soul, to the point where your soul is affected negatively, you will automatically be affecting your physical body as well. We are embodied souls!
So how can we care for body and soul? Check back in to tomorrow’s post, as we’ll look at some practical suggestions.