Psychology and the Bible
The Just Shall Live By Faith!
What is Psychology?
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
Words of the Soul
There is only one basic meaning of the word psychology and this is where we must begin. Psychology is composed of two Greek words. The first word is psych. Psych is from the Greek word psuche (ψυχη) which means soul. Psuche is found many times in the Greek New Testament, and is normally translated soul in our English Bible. However, psyche is sometimes also translated life, heart, and mind. The second word in psychology is logos from the Greek (λογος). Logos simply means word. This is where we get our -logy endings on English words. Sometimes, we say this ending means “the study of.” Thus, psychology could be referred to as “the study of the soul.” Yet, the basic meaning of logos is word. A more precise definition of psychology is “a word about the soul”, or perhaps, “words concerning the soul.” Therefore, this important discipline has to do with words pertaining to our understanding of the soul. The specialized study of psychology deals with words which give understanding about our souls. The “inner man” or the “inner being” is also referred to as our life, our heart, and our mind. These words all pertain to spiritual matters, to the issues of life. There is no other proper place to find words about the soul and about life than in the Bible. Let's take a look at a few verses and we'll quickly see why.
A Living Soul
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7
God is the Maker of man. He is the reason we exist. Genesis is the book of beginnings. In the above verse we see how man was formed. Man is a physical being and he is also a spiritual being. God shaped, or formed, the first man, Adam. The Lord made Adam from the dust of the ground. This is from where Adam's physical body came, from the Earth. This was God's way and it was a good way. Even so, the Lord included another dimension to mankind. God gave him a spirit. God breathed into the first man's nostrils the breath of life. This life came from God who is the source of life. It is not until that breath of life was in Adam that the Bible tells us man became a living soul. Here the word soul refers to all that man is. Man is physical, he has a body. Man is also spiritual, he has a spirit. The New Testament concurs with the creation of man when it says: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul (ψυχη).” (1 Corinthians 15:45a). The word soul is used in this way to refer to the whole person. We do the same thing when we say something such as: “Seventy souls went down with the ship.” This statement is saying that seventy people died when the ship sank. Yet, even when the word soul is referring to the whole person, it includes the spiritual aspect of that person. For example, we would not refer to a dead man lying in a casket at a funeral as a “living soul.” That would not be fitting. Everybody knows what a living soul is. A living soul is one who is alive. A body without the spirit is not living. It is not a living soul. In one use of the term soul it refers to the whole person, to one who is alive. The book of Genesis is the oldest book in the world that speaks of a soul. This is one good reason to begin with the Bible for our study about psychology. Genesis repeatedly speaks of the soul. In fact, the entire Old Testament is replete with the word soul. Soul is used over and over again throughout the entire Bible. We can trust the Bible to tell us the truth when it comes evaluating the claims and practices of psychology. The Bible is our trustworthy source to find God’s words about the soul.
Body, Soul, and Spirit
The New Testament explains even more about the soul. This enlightening verse speaks of three parts of man: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) Again, the human body is mentioned. We already know the first man's body was formed from the dust of the ground. We could say that the Lord made us from dirt. We all have a physical body. But now, there are two nonphysical aspects named; the soul and the spirit. Man is composed of a body, a soul, and a spirit. Sometimes it may be easier for us to understand that we have been designed with a physical part and a spiritual part. But, our spiritual part evidently has two aspects to it; a soul and a spirit. It may be that our immaterial soul is what we use to relate to other people (to other souls). And, our spirit may be our immaterial part which relates to God (since God is a Spirit, John 4:24). We are both physical and spiritual beings.
Death is separation. Death does not mean nonexistence. When a person dies, his spiritual part becomes separated from his physical part (Eccl. 12:7). We do not witness this separation happening, but we can immediately see the results when this separation does come about. Anyone can tell when someone still has his spiritual part within him. That person is a living soul. We all can also discern when someone's spiritual part has left his body. He is no longer alive, but has died. Whether used in a general way or in a specific sense, the word soul refers to the immaterial part of man. Therefore, we rightly conclude, that the soul refers to the spiritual part of man.
The correct definition of psychology is “words about the soul.” We could also say psychology is the “study of the soul.” In either case, psychology concerns spiritual matters. Psychology is a field of study that is occupied with spiritual things. Psychology is not primarily concerned with the body. Research regarding the composition, structure, and function of the body falls under other disciplines of study. Some of those disciplines are chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. If we want words about the soul, about spiritual things, we must look to the Bible. The Bible is our definitive source when it comes to understanding words about the soul, about psychology. However, it would not be wise to study the soul only and neglect to study the body. The spiritual and the physical are intricately related (Genesis 2:7; I Thessalonians 5:23). These two are so elaborately connected that we are often unable to determine where one ends and the other begins, although God can (Hebrews 4:12). Since it is spiritual, we cannot physically detect the soul. No one but God can know for certain how the soul of man is connected to his body. We can see the body, whether it still has its soul or not. But, none of us can see the spiritual part of man. That makes psychology very special. How does one go about studying the soul? How do we know when there are problems with the soul? If there are problems with one’s soul, how do we determine what the remedies are? What happens when a person’s soul departs from his body? The very definition of psychology makes it a spiritual study. Psychology is a study of spiritual things.
The Bible was given by our Lord to explain to us things which we cannot see. Much of the Bible speaks to us about the natural world such as the Earth, the sun, stars, water, plants, and animals. A very significant portion of the Bible, however, tells us about things we cannot see. These spiritual things which we cannot see are just as real as the things we can see. The Bible explains all we need to know about the spiritual part of man. Since God is the creator of the physical, we can trust what he has to say about the spiritual. People are naturally curious about spiritual things. People, especially psychologists, can get spiritual things very mixed up if they get wrong information about the soul from non-trustworthy sources. The Bible gives us accurate information. At this point we need to ask ourselves: “What does the Bible say about psychology?” “What does the Bible say about the soul?”
What two words make up the word psychology?
Why is psychology called the study of the soul?
Is the soul physical or spiritual?
By definition, is psychology chiefly concerned with physical or spiritual matters?
Why does the Bible have the final say when it comes to psychology?
This is a study of psychology and counseling from the Bible's perspective.
It is not advice for your counseling decisions.
© James Utter 2020
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