Paul’s Spiritual Dualism – Issue of the Mind?

Paul’s dualism is the human is separated into 2 beings: spirit person & physical being. In his writings, from what I can surmise, is these 2 beings are at ‘war‘ with one another. What can also be assumed is the physical being is ‘evil‘ and the spirit being ‘good‘.

That’s a good 101 summary of Paul’s epistles/letters

A few examples/quotes from Paul:

 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Romans 7:18)

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another...” (Galatians 5:17)

My questions

  • Does Paul’s spirit person include/exclude the mind?
  • Is it the physical nature that includes the mind?
  • Is the mind separate from the body? Are they 2 different things?
  • Is the mind the spirit? Or are they 2 different things?

It seems with Paul the mind thinks only two ways – on the spirit realm and on the physical one – and this is the root of ‘good and evil‘. However, why is physicality evil? If you think about it, this is a core problem for Christianity to decipher since this world will always be seen as evil if that is the case – with nothing good to offer. The world is tainted in Paul’s theology of the planet.

But think about it – is birth bad? What about eating? How about sex? Sleep? Kissing? Etc.

However, Paul’s theology is based on the very idea these things are ‘bad‘ being physical in nature. In fact, if you read him with this lens you can see I am at the core of what he believes about the human being. I think  he’s wrong or at best, very narrow sighted in regards to how the mind, emotions, spirit, and body intertwine in this dance we call reality.

4 thoughts on “Paul’s Spiritual Dualism – Issue of the Mind?

  1. Yep! One of the things that led me out of Christianity is the common insistence that there is nothing good about us. I once heard from the pulpit, “The only thing good about you is Jesus.” I know that there is a lot of Christianity that does not think like that, but it was very common in my circles.

  2. I think there is some confusion here. I do not believe “flesh” as Paul uses it is the same as “body”. Having a physical body is not of itself “bad”. Nor is eating, sleeping, etc. The “Flesh” that Paul talks about are the desires for pleasure, ego gratification and the like that do challenge God for authority in our lives.

    Even someone who is not a believer knows that self-control is a necessity in life. Otherwise you would become a dangerous person. Paul is merely stating the obvious that these desires cannot accomplish God’s will

  3. “I think there is some confusion here. I do not believe “flesh” as Paul uses it is the same as “body”” (Debra)

    I think he is using it that way – a very common them for him and would be based on common philosophy of the day concerning good and evil. Flesh as word cannot be more directly linked to the idea of ‘body’ than any single other word I can think (except for hair or nails maybe).

    But since you do not believe – I’ll check again – maybe Paul is using it allegorically as you suggest.

    Romans 7:5 “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” – pretty direct if you ask me.

    Colossians 2:11 “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;” – actually defends your point Debra

    I guess it might be more allegorical in nature – but it is also literal – since the Christian view is Jesus died for our sins – which he bore in the suffering of his ‘body’…which is kind of strange if the ‘flesh’ is only an allegorical idea (why have the sins attached to the ‘flesh’ at all?).

  4. “Even someone who is not a believer knows that self-control is a necessity in life” (Debra)

    Oh I agree – I think that is his main concern here. I am just trying to get down to what Paul seemed to think about the human condition in his philosophy about humanity and relation to God.

    I still do think Paul seen the flesh/body as ‘bad’ (check all the words he used about this) and the spirit as ‘good’. I think he see’s a war happening in the person between the 2 – and one will win over the other.

    I also think this is a philosophy and open to challenge – which I am doing.

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