Body, Soul & Spirit: An Alternate View

2 December 2011, 06:00



If you spend much time listening to Bill Gothard, it doesn’t take long for him to bring up one of his favorite beliefs: Body, Soul, & Spirit. Bill claims human beings are comprised of these three elements and each element serves a distinct function. This approach is technically called trichotomy in systematic theology terms.

Over and over, Gothard keeps coming back to this trichotomist view as a basis for how humans work in relation to the world around them. Through most of his material, Gothard assumes this view as fact. However, is it? Does the Bible support the idea that we are three parts? Body, Soul, & Spirit? I believe that when one looks at the scriptural data, Gothard’s view is largely lacking in evidence.

In this article, I intend to demonstrate that the Bible uses the words “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably. Bottom line: if these two words are merely two ways of saying the same thing, then how can Gothard separate them? (Or worse, fabricate definitions and functions for each of them and then construct a system of Christian growth largely dependent upon them?) I would commend five arguments in favor

1. Scripture Uses “Soul” and “Spirit” Interchangeably.

In John 12:27, Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled.” One chapter later, in a similar context, Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). Similarly, Mary says in Luke 1:46–47, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This is a prime example of Hebrew parallelism – when two different words are used to mean the same thing (simply for poetical reasons). Why is it 1 Peter 3:19 describes those in the afterlife as “spirits” while Revelation 6:9 calls them “souls”?

 2. At Death, Scripture Says Either That the “Soul” Departs or the “Spirit” Departs.

The Bible is comfortable describing the experience of death as either the “soul” departing or the “spirit” departing. It never mentions both departing in a single passage – showing that they didn’t view them separately and that it really didn’t matter which word the biblical author used. When Rachel died, Scripture says, “Her soul was departing (for she died)” (Gen. 35:18). Other verses using “soul” include: 1 Kings 17:21, Isa. 53:12, and Luke 12:20. On the other hand, David prays, in words later quoted by Jesus on the cross, “Into your hand I commit my spirit” (Ps. 31:5 and Luke 23:46). Other verses using “spirit” include: Eccl. 12:7, John 19:30, and Acts 7:59.

3. Man Is Usually Said to Be Two Parts, “Body and Soul” or “Body and Spirit.”

Jesus told us not to fear those who “kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” (Matt. 10:28). In this context, “soul” clearly means that part of us which exists after death. Jesus doesn’t mention a spirit anywhere in this context. Either, He forgot or He simply assumes that “soul” and “spirit” are the same thing. Paul makes a similar statement, picturing humans as two parts: physical and non-physical. He wants the church to hand over a wayward believer to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). Other examples of this two part system include: James 2:26, 1 Cor. 7:34, and 2 Corinthians 7:1.

 4. The “Soul” Can Sin or the “Spirit” Can Sin.

Bill Gothard teaches that the soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. As such, he has no problem stating that the soul can sin – and this is confirmed in the scriptures (1 Peter 1:22 &Rev. 18:14). But Bill also teaches that our spirit is dead until we are saved and at that point, our spirit becomes alive and is the means by which we hear God’s promptings. The underlying idea is the spirit is more pure and less tainted by sin – if at all. However, Paul has no problem stating that there is sin in our spirits: “Every defilement of body and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1). He also mentions the woman who is concerned with how to be holy “in body and spirit” (1 Cor. 7:34). Other verses stating the same idea include: Deut. 2:30, Ps. 78:8, Prov. 16:18, Eccl. 7:8, Isa. 29:24, Dan. 5:20). Proverbs 16:32 approves of one “who rules his spirit”. This signifies that our spirits are not just the part of us which communes with God and is thus, pure. No, we must control its desires and bring it under God’s control. This makes sense if the Bible treats the soul and the spirit synonymously.

5. Everything That the Soul Is Said to Do, the Spirit Is Also Said to Do, and Vice Versa.

Gothard claims a distinction between soul and spirit – with each part having a unique function. However, scripture does not support the separation of these functions. Thinking, feeling, and deciding things are not said to be done by our souls only. Our spirits can also experience emotions, for example, as when Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16), or when Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). Another function which Gothard claims to be a function of the soul, thinking or knowing, is also said to be done by our spirits in the scriptures. Mark 2:8 speaks of Jesus “perceiving [Gk. epiginōskō, ‘knowing’] in his spirit”. Romans 8:16 says that the Holy Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. How can we know that we know without some form of thinking? (Which Gothard attributes to the soul, yet Paul attributes to the Spirit?)

On the other hand, Gothard claims that our spirits are what relate to God most directly. But the Scriptures constantly attribute spiritual activity to the soul as well. “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Ps. 103:1). “Praise the LORD, O my soul!” (Ps. 146:1). “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). For other examples, see: Ps. 25:1, Ps. 62:1, 1 Sam. 1:15, Deut. 6:5, Ps. 42:1, 2, Ps. 42:5, Ps. 35:9, Ps. 119:20, Ps. 119:167.


I hope that this initial survey has been helpful and has urged you to call into question Gothard’s Body, Soul, & Spirit trichotomy. Here’s my point, if Gothard gets it wrong on this, what about all the other teachings he bases upon this trichotomy?

Click here to read Part Two: Body, Soul & Spirit

The content of this article was based primarily on the work of Wayne Grudem. I would encourage you to purchase a copy of his Systematic Theology for your own reference on this and many other subjects concerning the Christian Faith.
All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.


  1. Bob Maas December 2, 2011 Reply

    The body of a person is tangible so we can examine and clearly define the terms associated with its parts. However, the moment we start to talk about the soul and/or spirit of a person, we enter into the metaphysical realm and who can say if one is right or wrong because there is no way to tangibly prove the truth or error of a person's view on the subject. While the Bible does use the words "soul" and "spirit" interchangeably there are also two verses in particular that use the words distinctly (1 Thessalonians 5:23 & Hebrews 4:12). I personally believe in the trichotomy view of a person but I do not believe that the spiritual part is dead. It is very much alive as evidenced by the new age movement and hundreds of religions that claim spirituality. Christianity teaches clearly that when a person is born again they become a new creation which enables them to be connected to God in a way that nothing else can be unless they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Only God can do this when a person humbles himself and comes to faith in Jesus Christ. I have put together a crude illustration of what I am talking about and you can view it by going to my web site listed in my profile (

    For your information, I have also been impacted by Bill Gothard and raised three of my children following his instruction. We did not become involved in the ATI program but we did attend the basic and advanced seminars. I have also been to one seminar for ministers in Indianapolis and found it to be beneficial. I would agree with you that "legalism" is dangerous but I would also say that I have learned many things from IBLP that have been of great benefit to me. I am very sorry that so many people have been hurt by their involvement in the IBLP and ATI ministry. I do hope and pray that they can forgive Bill Gothard and move on with there lives.

    • MatthewS December 5, 2011 Reply

      Bob, your link gives a 404 error. I'd be curious to see your diagram.

      FWIW, I did not write this piece but I'm largely in agreement with it. I am of the opinion that if you try to organize all the things attributed to soul and spirit, you get too much overlap to make a clean division, and then if you try to figure out where everything related to the heart fits, any diagram becomes a hopeless mess.

    • MatthewS December 5, 2011 Reply

      (Sorry to spam. I thought it best to break this out into a separate comment)

      I've been thinking about your comment all weekend, about how you benefited from Gothard's teachings and you hope others can just forgive and move on. I don't doubt that some folks took some ideas from Gothardism and used those in their own way and benefited from them. It may be hard to imagine from your perspective how someone could claim they were damaged by Gothard's teachings. I found that the closer in I got, and the longer my family imbibed his ethos, the more it became a spiritually abusive system where someone "in authority" has carte blanche to damage those "under authority" with impunity. This seems to line up with some of the discussion I've been reading recently in "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse."

      I'm guessing that a happy, healthy family could stir some Gothardism into the mix and not have a problem with it. Unfortunately, many families that perhaps already had some dangerous tendencies ended up worse, not better. I am aware that the leaders at Recovering Grace are in touch with literally hundreds of ex-ATI students who report major struggles with the ill effects of spiritual abuse (and many also report physical, verbal, emotional abuse. It has been heart-wrenching to learn that many students in ATI families were also sexually abused). Some of these problems were systemic: the system itself either hid problems or contributed to problems. When there is so much damage caused by a system, and when it becomes clear that a system is in effect preaching legalism instead of the gospel of grace, it becomes time to step up with the apostle Paul and denounce it.

      Many people suggest that the former students should simply forgive and move on, but it seems to me (this is my own unscientific opinion) that most of those folks either believe that Gothard did not really do anything wrong, which is denial, or else they have walked away from religion entirely and believe that whatever is wrong with Gothard is wrong with religion in general and they are done with all of it. It seems to me that some of the ones who feel most compelled to speak out about grace vis-a-vis Gothardism are the ones who continue to hang on to Christianity and have found some serious discrepancies between Gothardism and God's gospel of grace as revealed in Scripture.

      I don't mean that in any way to be a slam against either side, I'm just trying to give an idea of where I see this claim being situated in the landscape of opinions about Gothardism. I apologize if I sound rude. I am trying to give an idea why "forgive and move one" may not be the ideal game plan for some.

      • Another Hannah July 7, 2012 Reply

        Very well put, Matthew.

        I agree with this, coming from a ultra-IBLP/ATI family background, but still a dedicated Christian.

  2. SaraJ December 2, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for this post. So many deeply-embedded teachings to reevaluate.

    This body-soul-spirit teaching was also used for music. Gothard says that we correspond to music like this:

    Body = Rhythm
    Soul = Harmony
    Spirit = Melody

    Therefore, if the rhythm is too driving or "out of balance," then it signifies someone who is controlled by the appetites of the flesh (insert proof-text here). All music should have a dominate melody, because that's Spiritual.

    An interesting perspective. But you could just as easily say that rhythm is what supports and undergirds the harmony and melody, and is therefore analogous to the Spirit. The melody, being the part we can hear easily, represents the physical (body). So the less pronounced rhythm a song has, the closer to spiritual death it is.

    See, that's a interesting perspective, too. But I don't call mine God's word.

  3. Will Hunsucker December 3, 2011 Reply

    Bottom Line:

    "...that's a interesting perspective, too. But I don't call mine God's word."

    Thanks Sara!

    As far as BG goes, IMHO, that one line is THE essence of what people need to understand about him and the whole iblp/ati organization.

  4. Glenn E. Chatfield December 3, 2011 Reply

    As terrible as Bill Gothard's hermeneutics are, this is not an area in which he is alone. Even though he messes up the teaching of trichotomy, that doesn't make the idea erroneous.

    There have been scholars debating trichotomy vs dichotomy for centuries, and for you to dogmatically claim trichotomy is wrong is, in my opinion, a bad idea.

    There is indeed support for a trichotomous view (personally, I'm ambivalent and can accept either view, not finding it something to be dogmatic about).

    Yes, there are many passages which use soul and spirit as synonymous, however you can't deny that Heb. 4:!2 gives a definite division between soul an spirit.

    I suggest you not use trichotomy vs dichotomy as something to demonstrate the false nature of Gothard's teachings.

    • David December 4, 2011 Reply

      I didn't see the author making a dogmatic claim about how the tri position is wrong. Instead his position seems to be that there is no basis for dogmatically claiming (as Mr Gothard does) that the tri position is the correct Scriptural view.

      • Glenn E. Chatfield December 5, 2011 Reply

        But MANY scholars dogmatically claim trichotomy is the correct view, and that is my point. Since many solid biblical scholars do so, to make this an issue with Gothard is wrong. In this case he is no different than these many scholars. What I thought the issue with Gothard was is his poor hermeneutics, legalism and cultic teachings, as well and the cult-like operations in his academies/schools. The problem with Gothard is that he doesn't represent orthodoxy, while the trichotomous view does.

        • MatthewS December 5, 2011

          Glenn, I am partly in agreement with you, in terms of trichotomoy-vs-dichotomy not being the main thing. I personally believe that we have a material part and an immaterial part and there is too much mystery about the immaterial part to diagram it out neatly.

          I would be curious to see a list of those many scholars who are dogmatic about trichotomy. Your claim that "MANY scholars dogmatically claim trichotomy is the correct view" is a surprise to me. I'm not wanting to debate, don't worry, I was just curious to see a list of the scholars you had in mind.

  5. Glenn E. Chatfield December 6, 2011 Reply

    Well, Matthew, I have been studying theology for almost 40 years and never kept lists of who said what, so I can't give you one.

    • MatthewS December 6, 2011 Reply

      Glenn, I sympathize with not being able to immediately pull one item out of the body of accumulated knowledge.

      The reason I was asking is that I am under the impression that it is not easy to find scholars (as opposed to popular-level authors) who believe the trichotomist position, let alone push it. Wayne Grudem and Millard Erickson are well-known theologians, just as a quick example of the sort of names I had in mind. If there are many scholars who are dogmatic about trichotomy, I was hoping to know who they are. I would need to correct a claim I've been making for some years now that most scholars just aren't there.

      Erickson, for example, points out that "heart, soul, mind, and strength" are four entities which do not map well to the three entities named in 1 Thess 5:23. Anyway, not to debate it... I was just hoping to round out my knowledge. If there are scholars of renown who push for trichotomy, I would truly benefit from knowing more about who they are.

      But thanks anyway, sir! May God bless and give you another 40 years fuller than the last :-)

      • Dave Orrison December 6, 2011 Reply

        Matthew, I'm with Glenn on this one. Because the theological discussion of the nature of man is so filled with mystery, it seems less than helpful either to assert or to deny a certain combination without admitting that there is much that we do not and cannot understand. There is a Scriptural distinction between spirit and soul, that would be difficult to deny. However, how that works, how each part functions, is the mystery. Gothard errs in so many ways, including this tendency to take areas of mystery and base prescriptive teachings on them.

        I would consider myself to be a trichotomist simply because the plain sense of Scripture makes a distinction between soul and spirit. In fact, there may be more parts to humanness than these three. One of the primary reasons theologians have reduced the discussion to two parts, material and immaterial, is that the immaterial is so difficult to discern. But being difficult to discern does not mean that it is untrue.

        Yes, it is challenging to find contemporary theologians who are other than dichotomist. This is one area where the influence of Augustine is seen very strongly. Prior to Augustine, most church fathers acknowledged the distinction between spirit and soul. In more recent history, I would suggest Luther, Delitzsch, Thiessen, and Chafer as representatives of trichotomy.

        So, while I find much with which I disagree in Gothard's teaching, the fact that he comes out of a certain branch of theological teaching shared by many indicts neither him nor the teaching.

        • MatthewS December 6, 2011

          Thanks for these good points, Dave.

          I think Augustine deserves a lot of credit, actually, for so successfully swimming against the Gnostic tide of his day. I believe that trichotomists need to be careful not to step into Gnostic-ish potholes along the way. But that's a whole other rabbit trail! I would tend to speak more in favor of Augustine that some of the other guys here at RG, but that's certainly not the dividing line.

          I do not personally believe that one must be a dichotomist in order to "get" grace, and I think we find a major point of agreement with each other there. I have friends who are trichotomists who have been an immense help to me in my walk with the Lord.

          Where I see you and Glenn perhaps not completely agreeing was Glenn's claim that many scholars are dogmatic about trichotomy. My understanding is more like what you said, "it is challenging to find contemporary theologians who are other than dichotomist". (and your point was not that this makes it wrong or right, just that it is the state of affairs)

  6. David December 6, 2011 Reply

    I am also interested in knowing of any scholar who dogmatically holds to the tri position. As of yet I have been unable to find any and would like to see their reasoning.

    As to the soul/spirit distinction, even if one grants that they are used distinctly in certain passages, they are *functionally* indistinct in Scripture. That is, if you were to go through Scripture and ask the question "What is true of the soul that isn't also true of the spirit, and vice versa?" the answer would have to be "nothing". So, even if one firmly believe in the tri position, there is no way to make the soul and spirit distinct in ones understanding or teaching. Certainly not dogmatically. Scripturally, any soul/spirit distinction is purely theoretical since they perform the same functions and have the same characteristics.

    Which is Mr Gothards error. He makes specific and dogmatic claims about the functions and natures of the soul and spirit and then proceeds to create teachings, analogies and instructions based on these claimed distinctions. He doesn't just believe we are of three natures (a position which at least has some Scriptural basis), he goes much further and makes claims for the nature and function of the soul and spirit which are unsupportable from Scripture.

    • MatthewS December 6, 2011 Reply

      David, you are pointing out my main point of agreement with the author of the parent post as well. That is, Gothard does not hold trichotomy loosely. Gothard's theology tends to be like a row of dominoes: knock one over and the whole thing goes down. Trichotomy is a bedrock foundational truth to Gothard's system.

      Intellectual fairness would require one to acknowledge that there are reasonable claims made for dichotomy. If Gothard were to allow dichotomy, too many of his diagrams would implode.

      So this is the problem as I see it: not that Gothard is trichotomist, but that he holds with with a death-grip and cannot allow the dichotomist position at all.

      • David December 6, 2011 Reply

        Agreed. And to that I would also bring out that he adds his own personal takes on the soul/spirit as if they were sound Scriptural propositions. For instance, the claim that the soul is composed of the mind, will and emotions - its an interesting theory (and not unreasonable, if one is a trichotomist), but Gothard treats it as Scriptural fact and then provides teachings using this basis. Its just another case of Gothard conflating personal ideas with Scriptural teaching.

  7. Dave Orrison December 6, 2011 Reply

    Matthew, there are many scholars who would be dogmatic about trichotomy, depending on who you consider scholars. Certainly, many preachers and teachers continue the idea. With popular backing from people such as Lewis Sperry Chafer, Oswald Chambers, T. Austin-Sparks, Herbert Lockyer, and a host of well-known preachers, the teaching is probably far more popular among the general Christian constituency than it is among theologians. But I still don't think we can be dogmatic to the point of building prescriptive teaching on this kind of doctrine.

    I, too, have deep appreciation for Augustine. I am convinced that he was a man who understood grace and had a real relationship with the Lord. I don't think history would see him as a strong force against Gnosticism as much as against Pelagianism, a doctrine which comes much closer to the teachings of Gothard, et al.

    From my perspective, trichotomy answers more questions and fits with observable reality better than dichotomy. It is certainly a deep and long discussion, but an interesting one. The primary questions are these: What died in Adam? and: What came alive in Christ? Obviously the new believer does not experience a rebirth of body and much of the soulish (psychic) aspects of life remain the same after conversion, so what has changed? The death of the human spirit and the re-creation of a new spirit within the believer seems to best answer these questions.

    This may not be the place for such a discussion, of course. But this is the type of discussion the article ought to prompt. If nothing else, I would certainly want to point out that these are deep mysteries.

    • Bob December 7, 2011 Reply

      Dave, It's interesting how Wayne Grudem answers your question above. ("What died in Adam? What came alive in Christ?")

      "Does Our Spirit Come Alive at Regeneration? The human spirit is not something that is dead in an unbeliever but comes to life when someone trusts in Christ, because the Bible talks about unbelievers having a spirit that is obviously alive but is in rebellion against God—whether Sihon, King of Heshbon (Deut. 2:30: the Lord “hardened his spirit”), or Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 5:20: “his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly”), or the unfaithful people of Israel (Ps. 78:8: their “spirit was not faithful to God”). When Paul says, “Your spirits are alive because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10), he apparently means “alive to God,” but he does not imply that our spirits were completely “dead” before, only that they were living out of fellowship with God and were dead in that sense. In the same way, we as whole persons were “dead” in “trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), but we were made alive to God, and we now must consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God” (Rom. 6:11). It is not just that one part of us (called the spirit) has been made alive; we as whole persons are a “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

      • Dave Orrison December 7, 2011 Reply


        Grudem is a sharp guy and certainly represents the dichotomy position well (as he does with almost everything else). Without making this into a deeper theological discussion, I would just point out this interpretation requires a redefinition of a relatively simple concept - the state of being dead. Grudem may well be right, but the new definition of death then suggests activity, influence, reason, etc. I find that uncomfortable and this is part of the reason I seek a better answer. Have I found one? Who knows? Still in the realm of mystery.

        • "Hannah" December 7, 2011

          I don't know that I dare speak in the presence of such great minds, but I once had a pastor who defined death as "seperation". Physical death was a seperation of soul and body, spiritual death was a state of seperation from fellowship with God. The spirit did not cease to exist, but was seperated from something vital to it. Hell was a place of spiritual separation from God. The explanation always made sense to me.

        • Another Hannah July 7, 2012

          Hannah, I like what you said. :)

    • MatthewS December 10, 2011 Reply

      "I don't think history would see [Augustine] as a strong force against Gnosticism as much as against Pelagianism..."

      Yes, sorry, I was mixing some figures together in my mind. Irenaeus is one who is known for his push against Gnosticism. Augustine made significant contributions to the doctrine of the church and sacraments (vs. Donatism), the doctrine of grace (vs. Pelaganism) and the doctrine of the Trinity.

  8. Glenn E. Chatfield December 7, 2011 Reply

    Reviewing the comments, might I suggest that if the article had been written about the WAY Gothard holds to trichotomy and his outworkings of it rather than just charging him with holding a trichotomous view, perhaps the article would be better?

    I see nothing wrong with the trichotomous view in and of itself, and actually am partial to it because, in my opinion, it fits better with the overall condition of man. However, I don't discount the dichotomous view either. I would never make holding either view an issue which determines one's teachings to be true or false. Therefore, to use the trichotomous view in and of itself as being erroneous and another example of Gothard's poor hermeneutics, is a wrong way to go about exposing his teachings as wrong.

    • "Hannah" December 7, 2011 Reply

      Maybe I'm simple, but I thought that was exactly the point of the article.

      • Dave Orrison December 7, 2011 Reply

        "In this article, I intend to demonstrate that the Bible uses the words “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably. Bottom line: if these two words are merely two ways of saying the same thing, then how can Gothard separate them?"

        "Here’s my point, if Gothard gets it wrong on this, what about all the other teachings he bases upon this trichotomy?"

        Apparently the intent of the article is to discredit the Trichotomy idea and, through that discrediting, to reveal error in Gothard's teaching. I don't have a real problem with someone disagreeing with trichotomy, but I agree with Glenn that this article is ineffective in challenging Gothard - unless the author is ready to enter into the long and detailed theological discussion and claim that anyone who holds to trichotomy is charged with the same error.

      • Pamela March 27, 2014 Reply

        An old, cold discussion by now, but I hope you don't mind me affirming Glenn's comment about the WAY in which Gothard holds to his trichotomous view: it's the circle within a circle model that is really problematic. Really problematic, in fact, as we've seen in his sexual abuse and rock music literature.

        I prefer to think of man in Trinitarian language; the word "trichotomous" seems insufficient in that its nuance seems to acknowledge the concept "many" at the expense of honoring the concept of "one."

        As the image-bearers of God, we are equally will and mind, we are equally body and blood, and we are equally emotion and spirit. These "parts" are so equal and so closely entwined that one cannot be removed without causing some kind of death to the whole. Trauma to one is trauma to another. Healing in one brings healing to another.

        I would add to the article author's simple explanation of Hebrew parallelism: parallel words or concepts need not be an exact reiteration of each other. Rather, the second instance informs and builds on the previous, not merely for poetic reasons, but also for descriptive, and therefore theological, reasons. Therefore, spirit and soul need not mean exactly the same thing just because they show up in parallel.

        It is understandable that one would assume that, as both intangible soul and intangible spirit stand in contrast to the tangible body, they might be interpreted in Scripture without distinction. But without doing a thorough study on the matter, I'm not sure that this must be the case. After all, we can say that a person is troubled in his thoughts, or that he is emotionally conflicted. With the Trinity in mind, we would acknowledge that these two statements don't actually say the same thing, yet conclude that if soul and spirit are in harmony with each other, one may be safely assumed by the statement of the other.

        However, it is possible that one of these two intangibles of man's being may in some Bible passages be given descriptive priority over the others for theological reasons. I'm sure that far more highly educated people have already addressed this, but it seems like fertile ground for personal Bible study, anyway.

  9. Heather June 10, 2012 Reply

    Unh.. another area of my theology that I had no idea stemmed from Gothard. I am automatically inclined to dismiss everything he teaches, so perhaps this topic will be my next area of research. I want to know what the truth is. After all, I believe (I hope, correctly), that if one is determined to believe THE truth, one must be willing to believe whatever the truth IS, regardless of bias...

  10. Another Hannah July 7, 2012 Reply

    I grew up thinking Gothard's teaching on this area was the only way of looking at it...or more accurately, the only Christian was of looking at it. I thought that's what all Christians believe, and is clearly shown in the Bible...though I never really thought about it that much...just belived it, and so as this article mentions, I based all other related explanations/truths on this assumption ob the three-part person. It wasn't until just this year, actually, that I actually heard of the other view, and wondered about it, so began informally seeking an explanation. From what I have gathered, the way the church originally explained it to be was that a person is two-part: spirit and body. The soul, while in some ways distinct (Heb. 4:12 does divide between the two, but obviously implies that it is a difficult/unusual division, from which I gather that the distinction really isn't that great)...the soul is not actually a separate "third part" of a person. Rather the soul is the cross-over or connection between spirit and body. Something like the function of the spirit but which can only take place while the spirit is connected to the body. In other words, "soul" is a way of expressing the functions of the spirit (and therefore, soul is a reference to spirit) but in a more tangible, "physical" form.

    As for the three-part of the soul that Gothard teaches...I'm not even sure if other trichotomists teach that division. But mind will and emotions...the early church fathers, from what I've discovered so far, taught that the will is a human function of man, which is why one cannot "change their mind" about salvation once they die...meaning, once you die (when the spirit separates from the body), your will (which was a part of your human nature) no longer exists, and so your "fate is already sealed" either are or aren't a Christian, and you can't change that after death. This explanation makes sense to me, as it gives confirmation to why we must choose Christ BEFORE death.

    Therefore, if the will is part of the human body, as this theory presents, then the three-part soul isn't really right. And what is Gothard's theory on what happens to the soul? I've always wondered that...does he claim that the soul dies or what? Because we obviously still have emotions after death...(as taught in Revelation, etc.), but Gothard teaches that emotions are part of the soul, not spirit.

    In summary, this is a very interesting topic to me. And though someone's salvation, I'm sure, is not dependent on which view they have on this, I do think something as basic as this should be discussed, and there should be a "right answer", at least to some degree.

    On a more personal note, thanks for this article. Growing up all my life being taught this view as Bible truth, and never even considering there might be another viewpoint, it is very hard, in some ways, for me to think of things as any other way than Gothard teaches. But I'm just realizing even now, how this view really does affect many other teachings, especially where IBLP's teachings are concerned. Any change in how I view this takes concious effort on my part...

  11. Ginny September 19, 2013 Reply

    I do believe man can be said to be body soul and spirit just as I believe in God as shown the Trinity. But I do not believe Bill Gothard's way using it. Like almost every other illustration that he has used, it has been twisted in some way to create some work for grace mentality.

    • E. Stephen Burnett September 19, 2013 Reply

      The main reasons I oppose the trichotomy view (man is body, soul, and spirit), and even go so far as to write a comment about this normally "how many angels can dance on a pin's head"-style issue, are these:

      1) As this article clearly shows -- and which Christians should consider (rather than clinging to a spiritual-sounding tradition?) -- Scripture never advocates that view. The only passages used to support these are clearly speaking in metaphor to describe the whole person, or a verse like Hebrews 4:12, which says the Word of God is "piercing to the division of soul and of spirit," is employing vivid imagery to describe what we might have said is "splitting the atom." It's *that* sharp. But we do not treat all other similar passages this way. For instance, Jesus in Luke 10:27 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind …”, yet no one says that man is four parts: heart, soul, strength, and mind.

      2) Scripture only ever discusses the separation of man's soul/spirit from his body, being without a "tent" or "unclothed" as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 5. Man is meant to be a whole being, a unified soul/spirit and body. Of course some people will go so far as to insist on "soul sleep," because they say souls can't exist apart from a body. But Paul in 2 Cor. 5 describes a separation brought about by sin, and expects to be re-clothed, back at home, in his resurrection body. Again: only two human "parts."

      3) I've not seen any good application come from the trichotomy (man is body, soul, spirit) view. The worst beliefs associated with "charismatic" practice, for example, hold that the "spirit" of the human is the closest "part" to the Holy Spirit, and therefore the most "spiritual" practices "speak directly to the spirit" and bypass the mind and conscious thought.

      This is a very strange view, because after all, most charismatics would (rightly) criticize believers who say that worship shouldn't involve using the body (and that such use, like raising hands, are only "irreverent").

      Other bad applications, of course, include Gothard's ridiculous notions that further try to reduce the human nature to its supposed "parts." This is putting it delicately and even graciously; but if I were to go further I would describe how this is basically trying to reverse-engineer the human being. God never intended these notions. People are whole beings.

  12. Kirk January 29, 2014 Reply

    I am interested to find out how everyone's view of body/soul/spirit is related to their specific understanding of the Holy Spirit? If a person prays in tongues (with their spirit) does this mean they are praying with their soul?

  13. rob war June 19, 2014 Reply

    I went to my first IBYC conference in 1979. I remember when Bill Gothard covered this at the seminar and his ideas sounded like the book I was reading at the time by Watchman Nee called the "Spiritual Man" which broke man down similarly, body, soul and spirit. I though at the time that Bill Gothard took his ideas from Watchman Nee who wrote that book in 1928. Is anyone familiar with Watchman Nee and saw the same similarities? I was in High school at the time but saw the parallels.

    • Grace M February 2, 2015 Reply

      Rob, I went to the IBYC conference around the same time you did. I was required to go by my parents and our family was seriously damaged by the teachings.

      I subsequently got interested in the teachings of Watchman Nee and his coworker Witness Lee. These have by far helped me the most, of anything I have read, in my recovering from the damage that was done to my mind, and helped my relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ be healed and normalized.

      Watchman Nee does teach trichotomy. I read somewhere on the internet -- it may have been something by Ron Henzel -- that Bill Gothard got the teaching from Watchman Nee. I do not agree with how BG used this teaching in his ministry, which is far, far different from what Watchman Nee actually taught about trichotomy. The diagram is the same, but the application is far different. I definitely receive spiritual help and life from Watchman Nee's teaching.

      If you're interested in what Watchman Nee does teach, I would recommend the Living Stream Ministry website, They are publishers of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and they have hundreds of Nee's and Lee's titles posted in their entirety online to be read at no cost. Also, you can contact them directly through the phone number or the Contact Us link, and I am sure you would be able to speak with someone who can direct you to which titles would be the most informative on the subject of trichotomy. "The Spiritual Man" was one of Nee's earliest titles and there were many that succeeded that one.

      I hope this will help you out.

      • rob war February 5, 2015 Reply

        Hi Grace and thank-you for your thoughtful response. Watchman Nee was very popular and widely read in the 1970's in Charismatic circles especially in the shepherding movement. At that time, I read a number of his books, "Sit, Stand Walk", "Practical Issues of this Life" and I did read parts of "Spiritual Man" and yes at the time, I remember his books being helpful so I certainly understand how they were helpful to you. While I thought and now have confirmation that the trichotomy that Bill promoted in the seminar was very very similar to Watchman Nee and his books. I think Ron Herzel obtained Bill's master of divinity paper which listed Watchman Nee as one of Bill's sources and influence. Bill also used Watchman Nee's book "Spiritual Authority" as the basis for his teaching on authority and chain of command. Watchman Nee was also a Keswick influenced theologian and from my limited arm chair dabbling in theology, Keswick theology emphasizes a higher or deeper commitment. In other words, there are normal everyday Christians and then there are those that are really serious or really committed. This can lead to elitism in those that follow this thinking. I also understand that Bill's teaching on "rhemas" or words of wisdom or knowledge coming from Watchman Nee in some of his mystical teaching. I have not read "Spiritual Authority" and still trying to get my head around all of this. While I don't think Ron Herzel is sympathetic to the Charismatic movement or mystical theology, I think he did point out a source for a number of Bill's ideas and teaching. I consider Watchman Nee a genuine Christian martyr since he died in prison for his faith. I think Watchman Nee's influence on Bill should be discussed and noted because I think Bill hides this. I never bought the idea that Bill just came up with the system he did on his own prayer and fasting and meditation. He had sources and influences. I can understand how Watchman Nee teaching has been helpful to you. Maybe you can explain how you think Bill may have mis applied Watchman Nee especially on trichotomy.

    • Grace M February 6, 2015 Reply

      Hi Rob,
      I'm responding to your original post so my post won't be so skinny.

      Now I will thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with you that Watchman Nee was a genuine martyr for the faith. I have actually personally met a Chinese man who was quite a bit younger than he was and who was his cellmate in the Communist prison for a number of years, who Watchman Nee led to the Lord and personally shepherded in his growth in Christ. This man will testify to you with tears of the genuineness of Watchman Nee's faith and love for the Lord Jesus which he held until he died. When he died in the prison a note was found under his pillow testifying that Jesus is the Son of God who died to redeem sinners and that this is the greatest truth in the universe, and he said something like "I die for this truth."

      I haven't in any way studied BG's teachings on anything enough to be able to comment on how he misapplied the teachings on trichotomy and rhema. What I have done is read through quite a number of articles on the Recovering Grace website and seen just in passing others' comments on these misapplications, and I said to myself, that is not what Watchman Nee taught in any way, shape or form.

      I'm sorry I'm not able to articulate well what the difference is. What I can offer to this discussion is links to excerpts of a few of Watchman Nee's publications which are posted in their entirety on the website, which articulate these things in great detail. These are well worth the time spent to find them and to read them. The first three will give you an idea of what kind of man WN was, the fourth will address trichotomy, and the fifth addresses rhema.

      So here is the first one, from WN's own testimony. This part of the testimony talks about his own experiences with submitting to authority (a familiar word, right?)

      Here is another quote from WN's writings which gives a good idea of his views on authority.

      And here is another sample of his views on authority.

      Regarding trichotomy, the best person to expound on Watchman Nee's views is Witness Lee, who was his co-worker in China and who closely followed his teachings throughout his life. Unlike Watchman Nee, WL escaped from China at the time of the Communist takeover, and continued the ministry, first in Taiwan and later in the United States until his passing in 1997.

      I'm not able to link directly to the part I want to quote, so I'm linking to the index of the "online publications" section of the website. It is a little tricky to navigate.

      Go into the Online Publications Menu, choose Books A-Z, Choose the title The All-Inclusive Indwelling Spirit, and go to Chapter Three.

      The first section of this chapter is a wonderful explanation of the application of trichotomy, which is much better than what I am able to articulate, so I hope you will excuse the links rather than my explanation. It references Mary McDonough who may have been the originator of the three-concentric-circle diagram illustrating body, soul and spirit.

      Regarding rhema I am able to say a little bit. Watchman Nee uses the two Greek words (as does the Bible )"logos" and "rhema." Logos is the written word of God in black and white. Obviously we can read the Bible the way we would read a newspaper, just to get information, and it may not touch us at all. But if we take the word of God and pray it back to Him, the Spirit has a way to operate in our being, and the written word can suddenly become "spirit and life" to us (John 6:63). And that is rhema -- when the written word of God (logos) become the actual personal word of God being spoken to us personally in our spirit. I might be reading in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world," and suddenly I realize, "God so loved ME." It becomes real to me personally, and I contact the Lord in the word. This is rhema.

      For this excerpt, from the Online Publications Menu, (as in the instructions above), Choose "The Glorious Church", choose Chapter 3, and then click forward through the sections to get to Section 6.

      I hope you enjoy these excerpts as much as I have!


  14. rob war February 7, 2015 Reply

    Hi Grace and again thank-you for the links and answer. The most often quoted verse to prove Trichotomy or that man is tripartite is I Thes 5:3 with support from Heb 4:12. However, both verse, especially from I Thess does not necessarily teach or even mean that man is a tripartite as appose to bipartite. Scripture balances scripture and it can become dangerous to base or make a dogmatic teaching on a coupls of verse. Quoting Jesus in Luke 10:26-27, Jesus list 4 things which almost makes man a quadpartite. Likewise Matt 10:28 and Eccles 17:7 imply that man is bipartite and not tripartite.
    While a number of the earliest church fathers seemed to lean to a body/soul/spirit view. the Counsel of Constantinople did condemed the tripartite view. As the article did point out, soul and spirit are used interchangible in OT and NT. The soul is seen as spiritual and unlike Bill's splitting up of the soul into mind, emotions and will, the soul is seen as one and not in parts. Now why this matters is that if one has a faulty view of the nature of man, that can lead to a number of other errors as well. Bill used his tripartite view of man and extrapolated it into music which he used to condemn a number of musical forms as evil because of a beat. This also leads to Bill's anti-intellectualism because according to Bill, we can only know God with our spirit and God only speaks to our spirit, not our mind. That is not a historical Christian view at all. Bill's emphasis on the spirit over and above the body also plays into a number of his other unhealthy views which borders on gnostism.

    I think Bill read and was influenced quite a bit by Watchman Nee. His authority teaching and chain of command as well as authority being a covering is taken from him. I think Bill should be more honest of where he got his ideas from or mention his sources but I think Bill was a closet racist and to admit that a number of his teachings came from a devout Chinese man would be too much to admit.
    I know Watchman Nee was heavily used in the sheperding movement, that's how came to read a number of his books. I was encouraged to read them when I was involved. I also did read "The Normal Christian Life".
    While I obviously wouldn't agree with a number of his ideas, I know many people like yourself have found his books to be helpful and practical. He is a genuine Christian Martyr for the faith. He was faithful to the end of his life after being in prison for over 20 years. I'm sure it was very special to met a cell mate of his.
    Watchman Nee did focus mainly on St. Paul's letter to the Roman (Normal Christian Life) and Ephesians (Sit, Stand, Walk). Bill likewise followed suit in this as well, encouraging other to memorize Romans. I've read in some analysis that Watchman Nee bordered on Marcion errors who was an early heretic that focused on St. Paul's letter to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible (except Luke). You stated that Bill's chart of body,soul,spirit most likely came from Wachtman Nee. That almost sounds like palagerism to me.

    Sources matter. Where people come up with their teaching and ideas matter. They are not created in a vacuum. When I studied Kenneth Hagin in order to free my mind from WoF, I learned that he copied a man named Kenyon who was nearly a Christian Scientist in his teaching. In fact a number of Kenneth Hagin's booklets are nearly verbatim copies of Kenyon. Like Bill, both men claim or lead others to believe that God revealed these things to them in prayer and fasting but the real truth is that they took ideas of others to claim them as their own. That really isn't honest. One man (Kenneth Hagin) a pentacostal preacher used a Christian Scientist type spawning off the WoF movement. Another man, Bill Gothard, lily-white fundamentalist used a Chinese man and claimed it was just all revealed to him in prayer and fastings.

    • Grace M February 8, 2015 Reply

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for your careful explanations. This helps me get a better idea of the misapplications I was talking about. I am saying to myself at this point that I am no scholar and i am not qualified to take part in a scholarly theological discussion either with someone I agree with or with someone I don't agree with, so I won't even try to begin. I lean pretty much on the experiential side in the sense of where I spend most of my time --which is not to say that I think it's okay to interpret the Bible according to my experience. My understanding is that we interpret the Bible by the Bible, that we don't pick up a verse and apply our subjective response to it, but every interpretation must be backed up by at least one other verse.

      Of course we interpret the Bible under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but not in a subjective way. Maybe that's one misuse of WN's teachings right there -- saying that rhema means we can interpret the Bible in a subjective way --and further, apply it to others and ask them to comply with our interpretation and understanding. That's by no means what I understood WN to be saying in any page of any of his writings that I read.

      There was one thing you wrote that jumped off the screen at me, which I really want to address first of all, which is that BG got the chain of command from WN. That shocked me. I have to tell you my experience -- I was a teenager in a family where harsh authority was being exercised, and my parents took me to the IBYC seminar. When it got to that chain of command diagram with the hammer and chisel, I broke down in tears right in the middle of the stadium. It was as though my parents had brought me there just to hear that part, to try to bring me more under the hammer. I hated that teaching. To this day I have an allergy to abusive authority and I can sense it from 100 yards away, figuratively speaking.

      Well, I have read through Brother Nee's books on authority. One of his first books I read, over 20 years ago, was "Spiritual Authority." There was nothing of the chain of command teaching in there. If there had been I might have torn up the book. To the contrary, the experience I had was that reading it was like having healing waves of life flowing over me, releasing me and washing me, with the truth from the Bible, from the poison that had gotten into my system from the chain of command and related teachings. Brother Nee was not asserting human authority over anyone, nor telling anyone else to do that. His whole point is that authority comes from God alone and no human being has any right to assert his own authority, and anyone who does will suffer severe punishment in this age and in the age to come.

      Here is what I have learned from Watchman Nee and Witness Lee's ministry: There is deputy authority on the earth. If you were alive in Noah's day, Noah was the authority because he was the one walking with God, receiving the Lord's speaking, and building the ark according to God's speaking. If you wanted to approach God and be saved, your only choice was to stand with Noah in building and entering into the ark. Later Abraham was the one with God's speaking and the right to have authority on the earth.

      Moses at the age of 40 tried to exert authority over the Hebrews and he killed that Egyptian, which was according to his subjective concept and not God's way, and he ended up having to flee Egypt. 40 years later when Moses had given up all thought of being an authority or a deliverer, God called him, over his own objections, and even told him that "I will make you God to Pharoah" (Ex. 7:1) Surely Moses was the deputy authority in his time, not by his own choice but 100% by God's calling, and if you wanted to be delivered from Egypt and be in God's move at that time, you had no choice but to be with Moses. There was nowhere else to go. There was Samuel and Daniel in their time. Jesus was surely the Man exercising God's authority on earth in his time, and of course He was the Son of God, so He was much more than just a man like all the others. In Paul's time he was the authority, the one with the revelation and the speaking from God.

      I don't think we can say that in this age God has changed His mind and does not want to have deputy authority on the earth in this age as He always has in other ages. But if you look at every example from the Bible, you will see that the ones who exercise the deputy authority on the earth are the ones who are *absolutely* submitted to God's authority and who in no way use their authority to gain anything for themselves. Even Jesus who actually was God, said that He did nothing from Himself, but only spoke as the Father taught Him (John 8:28). Nothing! Absolutely nothing from himself! So He is surely the model and the pattern for all other deputy authority. "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)

      There is no such thing as a person deciding that he wants to be God's deputy authority on the earth, and telling other people they "heard something from God" and that other people should follow them. I mean, I know people try to do this, but in reality, in the truth, there is no such thing. If you are a person who is absolutely submitted to God and absolutely for God's will and not at all for yourself or your own will, the Lord *may* choose you to be a deputy authority, which is something that you then cannot reject, and that you should exercise with fear and trembling. Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3) Paul said he was "less than the least" (Eph. 3:8).

      I'm wondering if you read those excerpts on the subject of authority that I posted. My reason for posting them was to show that WN does not teach the chain of command but something completely opposite. You can read the whole text of the books they are taken from online.

      I would say that BG may have picked something up from WN's writing and twisted it into chain of command, but he didn't get chain of command from WN. I think WN's teachings have been twisted by a lot of people and misused.

      If BG has picked up WN's teaching, based on the Bible, that we need to listen to God's speaking in our spirit and obey it, and has twisted that into saying that a person who is a so-called authority can lord it over others based on his so-called rhemas, that is his error, not WN's.

      I even recall an anecdote from Watchman Nee's ministry that in the church where he was helping with the leadership, two young people wanted to get married, and others had some opinions and tried to interfere, and WN told them to back off and not interfere and to let the young people follow the leading of the Lord in their own spirit. He was not a controlling leader. If others chose to follow him because they saw he was a pattern in following the Lord and realized God was truly speaking through him, he did his best to lead the Lord. Not to himself in any way. That's it. If they chose not to follow him, he was not concerned.

      Well, I had other things to say about trichotomy and some other things you wrote, but I've made this post so long, I'm afraid to make it any longer. I hope I don't get chastised by the moderators for such a long post. This is obviously a subject close to my heart.

    • Don Rubottom February 9, 2015 Reply

      A concern I have will all tripartite, bipartite, etc., teaching is that it tends to neglect that we are complete creations of God. In His image moreover. We are and always will be bodily beings. People like gnostics, Christian Scientists and Gothard who belittle the body (BG often seemed to equate the body with "the flesh") miss the glorious restoring unifying power of Grace as explained in Ephesians which refers to the Church as "the body" of Christ, "bride" etc. Oneness demands integration not partition.
      "***partite" neglects oneness. My body will likely be buried in the ground, but the Word proclaims that it will be transformed into something glorious, spiritual, not left behind like a snake's skin. If my "new" body will be spiritual, where is the distinction between spirit and body?
      I am a bodily being and salvation extends to my whole person: body, mind, spirit, soul, emotions, will, senses, etc. All of me.
      If my body is some hopeless "part" of me, to be neglected and finally cast off, then, if I'm in the image of a triune God, why couldn't one "part" of God be similarly cast off? He is One. I am one. My oneness images His. With this in mind, I realize that my sanctification is going to involve much more than a few changes of my thinking or even practicing the mere "form" of Godliness. All of me must be transformed. In his creation, "man became a living spirit". I fear part of the alienation arising from Genesis 3 is man's alienation within his "parts", making them seem incompatible.

      • rob war February 9, 2015 Reply

        Unfortunately, your mono view isn't shared by a majority of theologians nor is even found in Greek philosophy and thinking. Yes, we are a whole person but we obviously have parts to our personhood. A body without a soul/spirit become a corpse, it is just a body. There is legitimate discussion between the bi-part view and a tri-part view of man. Holding on to a strict mono view can lead into questioning one of the corner stones of orthodox Christianity, the trinity. The trinitarian view of God is what separates us from groups like Mormons, Jehovah Witness, oneness Pentacostalism etc. All these unorthodox groups deny the trinity. Physical death is a separation obviously of our soul from our body. The resurrection of Jesus reunited His spirit with His physical body. It is a bodily resurrection. Thus the basis for a bi-part type view of man (and woman).

        • LynnCD February 10, 2015

          rob: "Holding on to a strict mono view can lead into questioning one of the corner stones of orthodox Christianity, the trinity. The trinitarian view of God is what separates us from groups like Mormons, Jehovah Witness, oneness Pentacostalism etc. All these unorthodox groups deny the trinity."

          I do not see this kind of a slippery slope going on in Don's writing. It appears to me that Don is saying "both/and" - ie, that we may make distinctions between the body and the soul (Jesus did) and also we are meant to be one person as a whole - but that one side gets too over emphasized. And he was giving a caution to not emphasize the splitting to where we don't see the composite whole.

          In truth, it is the fall of mankind that split us and made these divisions. We must die and exit these bodies, but we will be glorified in new bodies as eternal beings. Oh, well, Don will speak for himself, but that is how I interpreted what he said.

        • rob war February 10, 2015

          thank-you for sharing your view. I did not mean to imply that I thought Don would or is denying the trinity. I meant to state that a mono view could lead to that. A mono view of man is not supported in the Bible nor in Christian theology. No scripture verses were offered just a reaction and some thoughts. The issue isn't with me but Bill. Trying to understand these models of man is a step in the direction of why a tri-view of man as some weakness and how Bill used that as a springboard to other things that have been discussed on RG like music. Supporters of a tri-man view use the example of the trinity and that man is made in God image which is trinitarian. The converse of a mono view that Don proposed could be projected onto God in the reverse. It was to show the weakness of the argument. There is and has been give and take between tri and bi models. The mono isn't there. One isn't going to expose Bill's error by introducing other errors.

        • MatthewS February 11, 2015

          rob war, have you seen a "mono view of man" used in the past in problematic ways? This one seems like it might be hitting a button for you. Something I'm wondering is if there might be a gap between what Don has in mind and what you are concerned about.

        • Don Rubottom February 13, 2015

          Thanks, Lynn. You said it well.

      • GuyS February 9, 2015 Reply

        Don, thank you for your comment. I did not understand that your were denying parts to your personhood. I did not see you holding a strict mono view. I did not see you denying the trinity and alining yourself with Mormons, Jehovah Witness, oneness Pentecostalism etc. What I saw was an ex-ATI dad who is trying to reclaim balance in his life. Good for you. I love your imperfect posts. Fortunately for me, I get to read your imperfect thoughts, and benefit and get help for my balance needs. I know I do not have the intellectual horse-power to jump in this discussion, however I am smart enough to share your concerns, Don.

        Rob War, perhaps you misunderstood Don's imperfect comment. If so, it's OK. He has admitted he was in ATI and it really messed him up. Whereas you have only been to basic and advanced seminars, and not experienced the pain and devastation ATI brought. (I want to be clear that I am always happy someone missed out on ATI) Perhaps Don needs a safe place here on RG to express himself imperfectly, as he processes this theology.

        • rob war February 10, 2015

          Don expresses himself very well here and has had no problem in stating what he may agree or disagree with on articles and other's replies. There is a difference between having a place to "express oneself" and having a discussion which will have give or take of ideas and views. Recovering Grace in it's stated purpose and rules allow for differing views and ideas. This blog and forum isn't helped if we start to take swipes against each other personally or start to have some kind of litmus test or contest on who has been most damaged by Bill. The mono model view is not what is being discussed here and is generally not at all supported in Christian theology. There is debate between the 3 model of Bill and the 2 model which is generally been the view in orthodox Christian theology. Mentioning my lack of ATI involvement has nothing to do with the discussion at hand here. There is no need for personal swipes like this. I debated whether to ignore your reply or reply to it. I decided on the later because there usually is a lack of women standing up for themselves in Gothardism with it's emphasis on submission to men. I don't need an apology from you nor do I want one. I shouldn't have to defend my past experience to anyone and past experiences of people is not at issue here.

      • MatthewS February 11, 2015 Reply

        I think there is something to what Don is saying, even if he may be taking it farther than I would. I go with the bipartite, or two-part, idea. My understanding is that there is the material body and the immaterial soul/spirit/heart/stuff. The immaterial part is by definition spirit in the broad sense of the word; the nonphysical part of a person, spirit versus physical, immaterial versus material. God is spirit, meaning God is not bound by our physical constraints, he is nonphysical.

        We can lose something in the process of looking for divisions between our constituent parts. We can lose how unified of beings we are. The word "holistic" can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but in the basic meaning of the word, we are holistic beings. I can live without parts of my body, but I cannot live on this earth without my body itself. When trauma or delight happens to my immaterial part I feel it in my body (material part) as well, and when trauma or something delightful happens to my body (material part), I feel it in my immaterial part as well. I would challenge anyone to name an experience that happens entirely in the material or immaterial part, entirely separate from the other part. It's like trying to unscramble an egg or trying to laugh without smiling - it's all too mixed together to separate out. I believe that we can live apart from our body, "absent from the body, present with the Lord." But Paul did indeed talk about the body being sown and reaped, so I suspect that in our final state in eternity, we will be re-united with some version of our body.

        All of that to say that I see it as appropriate to consider not only the divisions between our constituent parts as best we can understand them but also the unifying aspects too, the ways in which we are holistic beings. (Again, I know that word "holistic" can make some people nervous, I don't mean it in any special loaded religious sense but merely in the sense of being deeply interconnected). I think we are right to be mindful of both the constituent parts as well as the whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Fearfully and wonderfully made!

        • rob war February 11, 2015

          Hi Matthew, I think you explained it very well. There is a very good blog done by a Catholic apologist Tim Stables, April 2013 that discussed is man a bi or tri part being. He does go into the different views and scripture verses used. He also goes into a discussion about what St. Paul meant in Romans and the struggle between flesh and spiritual desires. His blog can be found on Tim Stables link.
          Yes, maybe what Don might have been trying to say is that we are one being, lets not divide ourselves up. Yes, we are a whole being which includes our body and soul and death is the departure of our soul to eternal reward per say. I felt that is was a little strong and meant to shut down the conversation. I know it's seems esoteric and out there and "what's the point or difference" but in trying to deconstruct Bill's teaching, his ideas and even sources, it's important to understand the model of man that Bill used. It was a spring board into a number of Bill's other teachings which include but not limited to music, anti-intellectualism, anti-education, etc. I appreciate your point.

        • Don Rubottom February 13, 2015

          Rob, I never mean to shut down the conversation, but I can be too strong, offering bites sometimes too big to chew. I acknowledge this as a weakness of character, being too impressed with my own thoughts and disrespecting others. Forgive me for this. Pray for my growth.
          Matthew, thank you for always moving any discussion toward the plumb line. You are a gift to this community.

        • MatthewS February 13, 2015

          Don, thank you for your kind comments. If you could sit beside me when I type, you might would either laugh or cry at how many times I type-delete-type-pace-type-delete, grit my teeth, work through some emotions... LOL My wife will call in from the other room, "it will be OK" - I'm not even sure what I do that tips her off but apparently I think loudly enough to telegraph that I'm working through something.

          I was heavily influenced at an important juncture in my life by Scot McKnight's "Jesus Creed" idea. Always aiming at that as a plumb line, however imperfectly.

      • Don Rubottom February 13, 2015 Reply

        I thank each of the above responses for their generosity toward me. Guy, you get my mind, but Rob gets my heart. I don't feel "hurt" by ATI as much as disappointed in myself. My more recent focus on covenant and the Theology of the Body are the foundation for my reflections on our designed, individual wholeness. Again, we will have a "spiritual body", I Cor. 15. I am not a "trinity" in that I am one person, God is Three Persons. God is indivisible, I am indivisible by design, currently divisible by sin ("sin is the sting that results in death", and God Himself entered into that division at the Cross) but eternally one and eternally "spirit" (AND the Son "took on" flesh and human nature). So when I speak of our individual wholeness, I speak of our design and eternal destiny. When I reject the notion that my "material" part is to be separated and denied, I am trusting in the promise that, if not transformed at His coming, this body will be planted in the ground and become "glorious", an indivisible "part" of my person. I am a bodily being, I am not a spirit trapped in a worthless shell.
        Finally (I learn from John Paul II and Genesis 2), to rely on a tripartite description of the individual as the essential revelation of the Trinity of Persons is to miss the Revelation of marriage as the communion of persons, a communion which fruitfully yields a third, a trinity of persons into which each individual is born by nature in community with father and mother. Here our human nature reveals three persons. Here is the revelation of the Trinity of persons. NOT in my flesh, mind and soul/spirit (whatever they are given the dark glass through which I perceive spiritual things).
        One additional point is to distinguish created from material. The creation consists of both material and spiritual creatures and things. Satan, angels and demons are created spiritual beings. And there are also Spiritual Things and Persons that are from before creation: Father, Son, Spirit AND those objective attributes (Tabernacle, Most Holy Place, real things in heaven) mentioned in Hebrews 9:11-12, 23-24 ("not part of this created world"). We will become "like" these, spiritual, yet created. We will be the living eternal fruit of the eternal Communion of Persons, the Trinity: children of God. Yet, our bodies will not be abandoned but transformed. We are and always will be bodily beings. Any temporary division should not be confused with permanent severability any more than the death of Christ implies a deficiency of Unity in the Trinity. I believe the Bible teaches clearly that even in Hell, eternal bodily beings will experience torment ("their worm dieth not") along with Satan and his cohort of created rebel spirits.
        The ancients had a saying "meat for the belly and the belly for meat but the Lord will destroy both it and them". In I Cor. 6, Paul disputed that philosophy when he proclaimed that "the body is the Lord's". Praise be to Him from Whom all Blessings flow.
        I have no quarrel with exploring the parts of our design. My caution is to not neglect our designed unity as persons, bodily beings, made for community and communion with other persons, including literal feasting with the Son. "This is my Body, eat..."; commune in fullness and in wholeness.

  15. rob war February 9, 2015 Reply

    Again Grace, I appreciate your post, experience and insight. I am planning to read carefully all the links you have provided and maybe download WN book "Spiritual Authority" just so I have a grasp of what he actually taught so I understand how Bill Gothard either used or misused that book. Watchman Nee was very well read by those in the shepherding movement of the 1970's, that's how I came to read some of them and even attend IBYC. We probably are not going to agree on the trichotomy vs dictomony but I'm not here to argue with you or any one else. I am sorry about the kind of family you grew up in and the pain that you have had. It sounds like God has help you heal and has lead you down the road to wholeness in Him. I want to be fair so give a few days for review of all of the above so I can give an honest and fair response. Yes, we are both arm chair non-professional theologians and trying to understand and wrap our head around all of these things. I take St. Paul's "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" to apply to the study of all of this. Sources fascinate me and I believe that Bill Gothard did not come up with IBYC/IBLP in a vacuum.

    • Grace M February 9, 2015 Reply

      Hi Rob,

      Really, you attended IBYC partly because of reading Watchman Nee? I've never heard of the shepherding movement so I don't know what the dynamic of that was. Anyway I know that it's the truth that Watchman Nee got used in many ways in this country, and some of them were not according to his intention for sure.

      I'll have to warn you, Living Stream Ministry has designed that website to strongly discourage downloading. I don't know if you can do it or not, but they ask users of the site not to do it. They publish everything they can online at no cost, but they prefer people not do things such as download or copy and paste portions, and I'm pretty sure the reason has a lot to do with not wanting people to take portions of the books and, as we're discussing, use them out of context to support their own ideas. They prefer everyone who reads the materials to have the whole context. Just so you know.

      • rob war February 9, 2015 Reply

        Hi Grace, I am reading a number of the articles. I think what I meant by download was the kindle and ordering the book through kindle. But the web site is a very good presentation of the material. I am bouncing around different articles right now. I want to take my time.
        I attended IBYC through the shepherding/discipleship Charismatic church. I was reading New Wine magazine, Watchman Nee and was encourage to attend IBYC. They are all interrelated by emphasizing authority teaching which Watchman Nee has a a corner stone.

        • Grace M February 9, 2015


          Okay, I see what you meant by download. I was mainly just making sure you didn't try to download from LSM and get frustrated.

          I did a search and found another article on trichotomy. This is from a scholarly magazine (aimed at theologians) that is published by LSM. For me it's a little difficult to read because it's a bit above my level but you might like it. Here's the link.

        • Grace M February 9, 2015

          Also here is a link to the home page of that magazine, because I just realized that what I linked to just above is a PDF of one of the articles that doesn't link back to the home page.

        • Grace M February 18, 2015

          Hi Rob,
          I know I posted that link to the Affirmation and Critique article on trichotomy, and I know you haven't posted anything in the meantime, but I wanted to get back to the trichotomy issue and say something about my own personal experience. It has taken me a while to think of what I want to say about this.

          So here goes: I believe the Bible teaches that man is a three-part being. I thought about a lot of different verses. But mainly I don't want to write anything very theological, but I want to write about experience, because what I've learned from what I've read by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee is that not only is God triune for our experience of Him, but man is in three parts for experiencing the triune God. So I picked only two verses out of all the verses that talk about soul and spirit.

          The first one is Matthew 10:39 which, in the translation I read (The Recovery Version published by LSM), says "He who finds his soul-life shall lose it, and he who loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it." I do know that other translations render the word "life" that is here rendered "soul-life." My understanding is that the Greek word being translated is "psuche" and refers to the human soul and that's why it's translated "soul-life" in this translation.

          The second verse I'd like to refer to is Romans 8:4, which reads "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit."

          When I put those two verses together, I say to myself, in Matthew there is something we must "lose," reject, and in Romans there is something that we are supposed to "walk according to." These are opposing concepts -- we have to lose our soul and walk according to the spirit.

          Then in Romans 8:6 it says "...the mind set on the spirit is life and peace." That's a marvelous promise the Lord makes us, that if we walk according to the spirit and set our mind on the spirit, our mind will "be" life and peace.

          And it matches my experience. If I set my mind on the things of my soul, on the things of my "mind, will and emotion," my own feelings and my own thoughts and decisions, I definitely do not find life and peace and I do not find the Lord. It doesn't work. But if I set my mind on the spirit, and do this by praying and calling on the Lord and reading and praying the words in the Bible, then definitely I do find life and peace and I find the Lord Himself. So in my experience I find that there are two separate parts of my inward being, that in me that is deeper than my body -- one, the soul, which is deeper than the body, and two, the spirit, which is even deeper than the soul. The spirit is the part that actually contacts God.

          One thing I have to point out -- I remember you said something about trichotomy leading to anti-intellectualism. I don't see that in these verses at all. I also really appreciated that you quoted that verse "be transformed by the renewing of the mind." My understanding, and experience, is that when I reject my own mind and exercise the spirit to contact the Lord, what happens is not that my mind gets nullified but that it gets renewed, becomes available to be used for the Lord's purpose on earth rather than my individual and selfish purposes. My mind gets sharpened when I use it to exercise the spirit, not the other way around.

          I know when I was under the influence of BG's teachings in my young adult years, I went to college, but for a number of reasons I couldn't do well. Later on under the influence of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee's teachings, I went back to college and was able to get a B.A. and go on for graduate work. I never read nor experienced anything remotely resembling anti-intellectualism. Witness Lee used to tell the young people to get more than one PhD if that's what they felt the Lord wanted them to do, but then, not to use the education for their own purposes, but to consecrate their education to the Lord for His purpose. (And not in a controlling way! He was advising them to look to the Lord to choose their path in life, not to obey what any man said!)

          And by the way if you're interested in looking into the Recovery Version of the Bible, which is a study Bible and a fairly recent (really excellent) translation, here's a link. You can read the entire New Testament with over 9,000 footnotes and thousands of cross-references online, and there is also some introductory material explaining the background and the translation.

          You can also request a free printed copy of the New Testament Recovery Version at (Bibles For America, which distributes the free Bibles and other Christian literature.)

          These materials have been such a source of spiritual help and supply and enjoyment to me. This is what prompted me to decide to post on Recovering Grace, that I'm hoping others can benefit from these materials that have helped me so much.

  16. MatthewS February 18, 2015 Reply

    (replying here to avoid the comment being so squished to the right side)

    Grace M,

    "These materials have been such a source of spiritual help and supply and enjoyment to me. This is what prompted me to decide to post on Recovering Grace, that I'm hoping others can benefit from these materials that have helped me so much."

    It could sound like you've left off of personally interacting with the original post in favor of functioning as a missionary or a salesperson for Witness Lee, Living Stream Ministry, and the Recovery Version Bible. That group has attracted a significant amount of controversy as any google search for "Christianity Today and Living Stream Ministries" will reveal. That whole issue raises some red flags for me but it would also be off-topic for this site, seems to me.

    • Grace M February 18, 2015 Reply

      Hi Matt,
      Thanks for your response. I suppose I am acting as a bit of a missionary, hopefully in a way of offering something to people that they can either accept or reject, as they like. I was including my sources for what I had written about, and since I have profited so much from these things I went ahead and put in a plug for how helpful they've been to me.

      I don't feel like it's off-topic for the site since I am letting people know how much I as a damaged person (including significant damage from being raised under the teachings of BG) profited from these things. I personally really like the title "Recovering Grace" and I feel like this also matches my experience, that I received so much grace from the Lord to recover from the damage done to me by legalism, which was significant. I wouldn't want to even tell a lot of my story online, but you can be assured that my recovery has not been quick nor simple, nor is it complete.

      However, I would defer to the moderators as to whether anything I've written is off topic or not, and if so I apologize.

      In reply to what you wrote about any controversy regarding LSM, I noticed you didn't identify any specific controversy or concern, so I can't reply to that. I do hope while you are googling Living Stream Ministry (not Ministries) that you will look at their own home page, and also check out this site:

      This is not from LSM, it is from Christian Research Institute. They were one of the ones who decades ago raised concerns about Living Stream Ministry, but they recently did a thorough reevaluation of it and retracted all their concerns, so this article details their retraction.

      Here is a statement also from Fuller Theological Seminary:

      And, by the way, to bring this back to the topic of the thread, may I ask, what did you think of my contribution on the topic of trichotomy? Do you think it's on target?

    • GuyS February 18, 2015 Reply

      MatthewS, Thanks for the heads up. I did the google search. Nice to know. I use to read his stuff years ago.

      • MatthewS February 18, 2015 Reply

        Yeah, I did, too. Many years ago I enjoyed "Love Not The World" and I think I still benefit from some thoughts I took away from it. I have no idea how I would respond to it now; it's been a long time. I really haven't waded into the controversies that have followed that group, so I wouldn't want to make a big statement either for or against them - I just know that those discussions can quickly become the tail that wags the dog.

      • GuyS February 18, 2015 Reply

        I find it interesting that I have a apprehensive reaction, just revisiting old teachings (books, sermons and so on.) Somewhat vulnerable. Helps me understand those who do not want to reexamine the BG stuff here.

    • rob war February 20, 2015 Reply

      There is always a concern when a group comes up with there own Bible translation version which will support some of it's teaching and ideas. Jehovah Witnesses do this and retranslate some verses to support a non-trinitarian view of God. Emphasizing "spiritual experiences" over and above common sense is a concern. That is the danger of a trichotomy view of man. The spiritual needs to be reborn and one can only know God or the things of God spiritually above our own thinking and understanding. Many off base groups use this. That's is how Bill was able to mislead so many and lead people down the road and looking back they wonder how they got there when if they stuck to their own common sense and thinking clearly, they wouldn't have gone.

      • GuyS February 20, 2015 Reply

        Rob said, "Emphasizing "spiritual experiences" over and above common sense is a concern...That's is how Bill was able to mislead so many and lead people down the road and looking back they wonder how they got there when if they stuck to their own common sense and thinking clearly, they wouldn't have gone."

        Very good points about discarding common sense. I think you nailed it for many of us. You are correct Rob, that looking back I can see clearly the the folly of going down that road. It is embarrassing.

        For those new to this site, i recommend going back 3 months and reading
        The Principle of Self-Doubt by Michelle October 20, 2014. Her article goes into some detail how BG mislead her to abandon her "thoughts, emotions, or will" (common sense.)

        "But there was one verse, one principle that I unknowingly absorbed and lived out for ten years: “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Anyone familiar with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) knows how this verse is applied in their teachings. According to Gothard, it meant that I was so inherently sinful that I couldn’t trust myself—my thoughts, emotions, or will."

        Thank you Rob for your excellent summary. I know it has been hard for me to put into words how I discard my common sense. I am guessing for others also.

      • Grace M March 6, 2015 Reply

        Hi Rob,

        I stopped posting here for a while because I had a couple of posts stuck in moderation and I thought the moderators had deleted my posts for being off-topic. I don't know when it happened but I see now that my post replying to Matthew S on Feb. 18 is posted, so I'm going to come back and finish my thoughts here.

        I want to agree with you on one point. There truly is a concern if someone comes up with a new version of the Bible with the purpose of supporting their own teachings and ideas (and not God's! The very thought makes me choke). If someone dares to attempt a new translation of the Bible, they should have a good reason, and they should stick to very careful scholarship, and should never allow themselves to adjust one word in order to advance their own personal agenda, but should seek at all times to know what the Holy Spirit intended by His inspiration of the men who were used to write the Holy Scriptures.

        I'll tell you the most enlightening piece I ever read on the proper translation of the Bible, and that is the preface of the Recovery Version of the Bible. Here's a quote from that piece:

        "Throughout the centuries, translations of the Bible have steadily improved. In general, each new translation inherits from previous ones and opens the way for later ones. While a new translation derives help from its predecessors, it should go further. The Recovery Version of the New Testament, following the precedent set by the major authoritative English versions and taking these versions as reference, not only incorporates lessons learned from an examination of others' practices but also attempts to avoid biases and inaccurate judgments. This version, frequently guided by other versions, attempts to provide the best utterance for the revelation in the divine Word, that it may be expressed in the English language with the greatest accuracy."

        Here's the link to read the rest of it.

        One thing I can't agree with you at all is your statement that it's wrong to say "one can only know God or the things of God spiritually above our own thinking and understanding." It sounds to me like you are disagreeing with 1 Corinthians 2:14. And I went online and got three versions of this, NKJV, NASB, and Recovery Version. Here's the NASB:

        1 Corinthians 2:14New American Standard Bible (NASB)
        14 But [a]a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [b]appraised.

        Here's the NKJV:

        14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

        And here's the Recovery Version:

        14 But a soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually.

        • Grace M March 7, 2015

          Now I'm replying to myself because after writing about 1 Cor. 2:14, I realized that I need to add that I certainly don't see anywhere in the Bible where it says that anyone should ever say to another person that "I have spiritual discernment and you don't so you should listen to me because you can't receive God's speaking if you don't." I don't think Paul, who wrote 1 Corinthians, ever displayed any such attitude. Again, I think that BG picked this type of verse up and used it completely opposite from the intent of the Bible and applied it to all kinds of things that can't be scripturally supported. I ought to be really clear about this.

  17. rob war February 20, 2015 Reply

    Hello Grace M.,
    I took some time to reread some of the book links provided by you and I would say that Bill Gothard definitely used Watchman Nee as a basis for his own authority teaching and its application. I especially focused on the online book "Authority and and Submission" in which Watchman Nee does defines everything with an authority basis. In chapter seven "The God-established Systems of Authority" Watchman Nee makes the case that God establishes authority systems on the earth and we are to submit to those systems as to God, even if the authority is wrong or even abusive. Our submission to wrong or abusive authority is a sign that we trust God in dealing with that wrong or abusive authority. While I think Watchman Nee would be focussing government and governmental structures, there is implications for local Church structure (which the local Church movement stems from him) and Bill further took that to the family. Of course this blog isn't about Watchman Nee, the pros and cons about him but about Bill Gothard and his teaching and what it lead to. Watchman Nee's ideas was definitely the basis for Bill as stated by articles by Ron. Understanding someone's sources of ideas is important in understanding what is wrong about Bill's teaching. He didn't do this in a vacuum of prayer and fasting which is what he promoted in his seminars.

    • Grace M February 23, 2015 Reply

      Hi Rob,

      Sure, I always agreed with you that BG likely looked at WN's teaching on authority (and apparently a few other things) in coming up with his own erroneous teachings. My point is that he used them in a way that WN never intended, such as in a way of saying "I am the authority and you must obey me," which is a kind of attitude that WN specifically speaks against and even says it is "shameful and low" in that same chapter 7 you referenced. I went back and reread that chapter, and I'm just not seeing BG's ideas in there. I certainly can find echoes of WN's teaching in the little of BG's teaching that I'm familiar with.

      Anyway as has been mentioned by others we are getting way off into thread drift here and so I'm not going to go in detail into the differences as I see them. I'd be happy to continue the conversation in another venue if I could think of one to move to but I can't.


      • rob war February 25, 2015 Reply

        Yes, Watchman Nee did have a couple of chapters addressing the notion that those in an authority position are never to demand submission or they negate their own authority. I think Bill took these ideas on authority and submission and applies them to the family structure which I believe was not Watchman Nee's intent. Bill's teaching mostly focus on family life and structure and he made it out to be a military top down from the father authoritarian tree. Yes, I think that Bill used a number of Watchman Nee's ideas and teaching and extrapolated them in way that probably was not his intent or idea. I appreciate the exchange with you. Hopefully it clarifies Bill's sources for his ideas and how Bill used or misused them to come up with his own teachings.

  18. Moderator February 27, 2015 Reply

    A quick note from the moderators: please accept our apology if your comment from any time in the past couple weeks is stuck in moderation. It can be very frustrating when you comment and then are left to wonder why it was not approved. Several of you are experiencing this. It is not you, it is us. We should have this resolved over the weekend. Thank you for your patience, and hopefully you won't have to experience that kind of delay again!

    • Grace M February 28, 2015 Reply

      Thanks moderators. I did have a couple of posts that have been stuck in moderation for quite a number of days now and yes, I was wondering what the issue was. Actually I had concluded that you rejected the first one, since it didn't get posted, and I posted a revised version, which also got stuck in moderation, so now I'm wondering if either or both of them are going to be posted. It would be fine with me if you discard both of them and I can start over with a new version since there have been additional comments since then that I'd like to reply to.

  19. Grace M November 9, 2016 Reply

    I am coming back to this old discussion because I came across something that I think would contribute to it. The discussion was whether or not Watchman Nee's writings on authority contributed to Bill Gothard's very wrong teachings on authority. My feeling is that BG seemingly picked up WN's teachings and twisted, distorted and misused them, and that WN's teachings are actually very, very helpful and positive both to the individual and the corporate aspects of the Christian life.

    In support of this, I came across a list recently which consists solely of quotes from Watchman Nee's book "Authority and Submission." There are 41 quotes on the list, and I will post a link to access the entire list. I will also post a link to a place where you can read all of Watchman Nee's writings including "Authority and Submission."

    Here are a few of the quotes which I thought were very applicable to the topics discussed on Recovering Grace regarding the use and/or misuse of spiritual authority.

    "We must be a person who submits to authority before we can be a deputy authority ourselves." (p. 108)

    "It is a most ugly thing for anyone to speak for his own authority in order to establish authority for himself. No one can establish his own authority." (p. 120)

    "Those who vindicate themselves have no authority whatsoever." (p. 125)

    "The more a person thinks that he is an authority, the less it is likely that he is an authority." (p. 126)

    "Only that which issues from resurrection results in authority. Authority is based on resurrection, not on ourselves." (p. 151)

    "A man's authority is based on his ministry, and his ministry is based on resurrection. Without resurrection there is no ministry, and without ministry there is not authority."

    "A deputy authority should take a place before God that is equally low and humble as all the people of God." (p. 167)

    Here is a link to a document containing all 41 of the quotes. Please note that this document is four pages. The last two pages are the list of quotes from "Authority and Submission." The first two pages are the outline of an unrelated message that was recently given at the Living Stream Ministry. (It's unrelated but interesting in and of itself, I might add.) But I am linking to this document because it's the only place I know where this list is published online.

    Here is a link to the site where you can read the entire book, as well as many other titles by Watchman Nee, online.

  20. Jay Dion July 26, 2018 Reply

    Apologies as I am making this post in a hurry, but feel a need to, so I don't forget due to a crazy workload. My thoughts on the nature of man being either bichotomous or trichotomous, I believe, are well defined. I have not read Gothard's expositions or can claim to have covered much material (except maybe the Bible) relating to the subject.

    Here is a Reddit post I made earlier:

    It gives a basic understanding of how I've come to appreciate that man is tripartite.

    Of course the main contention is between the soul and spirit, as the body seems to be easily discernible. Like you rightly pointed out, these three words are used interchangeably, and correctly so; but I would say in a broad sense. As one attempts to narrow down their usage in the Bible, a more exact understanding of their meaning can become clearer.

    Very summarily, I will explain, using the analogy of an electronic device (e.g. TV, computer), how I understand these terms based on their Biblical usage.

    Body - Man's physical medium of existence; comparable to an unpowered electronic device

    Soul - The force of life in man; similar to the electrical force that powers the device

    Spirit - The force of intelligence in man; the signal source for the TV or operating system for the computer

    As is evident, the three come together to form the completely functional and complex man. I will go ahead to elaborate with some Biblical texts, which I failed to do in the Reddit post. Let me start with scriptures bothering on the soul.

    GENESIS 1:26, 27

    The first usage of "soul" appears in Gen. 1: 27; man becoming a living soul (KJV). The first thing one takes from here is that there was man, as the body, which then became a "living soul". So the lifeless body of man can be called a soul, a "dead soul". A TV, whether off or on, is called an electronic device, because it possesses the ability of a more active function when connected to some electrical source.

    Another lesson we can draw from this text is that although God created animals by giving them the breath of life also, it was not expressed in similar context. God "breathed" into man's nostrils the breath of life, which activates our non-corporeal constituents of life and intelligence. For me, this is God sharing His god-like nature with man, giving mankind dominion over His other earthly creatures.

    EZEKIEL 18:4, 20

    In this text, God stated categorically that 'the soul that sins shall die.' This means that the person that sins, will eventually, and in finality, lose his life or power of existence. Again, the semantic affinity between soul and life is easily established. Going further, to debunk the fallacy of an indestructible soul, David said; "The dead know not anything."

    MATTHEW 10:28

    Here, Jesus was teaching that God, unlike the devil, possesses the power of life. The power of life is both restorative and destructive. Even we as mere humans can be destructive and take someone else's life. The devil lies at the pinnacle of the anti-life hierarchy (John 10:10). But the power of life, as we know it is originally resident in God Almighty, which He then shared with Christ His Son (John 5:26).

    I will now progress into expatiating on the spirit of man.

    JOB 8:32

    This is the first text that gave me a deeper insight into what the spirit represents. First Elihu established that man possesses an inherent spirit. That is how God created man. This spirit is different from the Holy Spirit, resident in the Holy One; God Almighty. Next, he elaborates by saying that God can also knowledge to man's innate spirit. The inspiration of God is derived from the Holy Spirit, which empowers our own inner spirit and makes us act in line with the fruit(s) of God's spirit.


    I find the usage of spirit to describe God's power that He shares with His servants as the most explanatory of all analysis. Never does the Bible describe the attribute that (more of less) seals that grace of salvation in another context. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) There is no mention of a 'Holy Soul'; because the soul, though being the power of life, is not what compels or directs our actions. Rather it is the spirit.

    Please this does not discountenance all broad or figurative usage of the terms body, soul and spirit. It is just us trying to be more explicit or academic about the differences between these words - soul and spirit especially.

    Thanks. Would really love some feedback

    N.B. Really interesting you started this thread in 2011

    • Don Rubottom August 3, 2018 Reply

      Most Westerners would associate intelligence with "soul" and essence (life power) with spirit. If "living soul" in Genesis means there is/can be a dead soul, then by the same reasoning, when you say there is a "Holy Spirit" there must be an unholy Spirit.
      Since you ask for correction, I offer some: you neglect that Father, Son and Spirit are PERSONS. Not "powers" or "forces" or "intelligence". What we receive from God is not infusions of "life", "power" or "intelligence" but communication via relationship. Yes, that communication contains information that may be perceived through our intelligence, but it is not a transfer of intelligence.
      Finally, however you describe man's composition, man is one. One person, a bodily person, a soulish person, a spiritual person. Such a person is capable of communion with the Godhead through the seal and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is capable of eating with the Son and is capable of knowing the Father as Father. Anything inconsistent that you say sounds like gobbledygook to me.

      • Jay Dion August 7, 2018 Reply

        Don, thanks so much for your feedback. Like you rightly pointed out, since there is a Holy Spirit, there has to be also an unholy spirit; of course the ultimate source of which is the devil who constantly tries to mimic and demean God's role in our lives. He possesses powers to empower his followers with an evil force for destructive purposes, antithetical to the Holy Spirit which is a spirit of life.

        In expatiation, this brings me to another very salient issue, that of sinning against the Spirit; the unforgivable sin. It is one thing for a person to fall to the weaknesses of his own soul, thereby committing sins against the Son and the Father which are pardonable. But it is another to invite the influence or powers of the devil to align with the satanic cause and go on a head-on battle against God's purpose.

        Also, in agreement with you, of course the completely functional man is one in body, spirit and soul. That is how the Bible teaches that we were created. The body formed from dust; then God infusing the breath of life, IMO, therein resides the powers of life and intelligence, i.e. the soul and the spirit. The moment we lose these powers, man is essentially dead and the body gradually returns to dust. I think it is simple really.

        Lastly, as you might have presupposed, I consider the Father and Son to be persons, but not the Holy Spirit. The Son Jesus we know, he lived as a mortal human and there's more than enough historical proof to back this up.

        The Father we know because the Son said categorically that he derived life from His Father, being the firstborn of all creatures. The Son is also a split image of the Father (as is commonplace even among humans with imperfect physical bodies). But for the Holy Spirit, firstly there is no creative account. This is because it is a force inherent in the Holy One who is uncreated, The Father. Also, there is no account of the Holy Spirit appearing in a human-like form. Rather we have instances of it taking the form of wind, cloud, fire, dove, etc.

        When the Son was sent, as prophecies had foretold, he came in human form and people saw him until his death and ascension. Contrarily, when the Spirit was sent as Christ promised, it was not a human sent to preach and win souls like Christ did, rather it was a force that gave the apostle "power, love and a sound mind". The illustrations of the nature of the Holy spirit are numerous.

        I hope I sound less "gobbledygook" now...LOL. Thanks again.

        • rob war August 8, 2018

          Your views on God the Father as a "person" are heretical and are more in line with Mormonism which consider God the Father as a "person" and having an actual body. Not sure where you have gotten your beliefs from. I would suggest reading "Incarnation" by St. Athanasius to re-orient yourself to orthodox Christian teaching on the trinity and incarnation.

  21. rob war July 31, 2018 Reply

    Jay, what it looks like you are doing here is what is called "proof texting" where one takes different verses of scripture out of context to fit or try to support whatever their theory, ideas, teaching etc. are. It's very common practice and a big problem. If someone wanted to and had enough time to do, another can come along and use a bunch of different verses to prove you wrong. Actually the Bible is not exactly a clear between soul and spirit or that soul and spirit are as distinct as you are trying to make them be. What then happens is that the physical body is left behind in the dust in this debate and the soul/spirit becomes detached from our physical bodies. One can see this in the current "gender identity" debacle in our culture. So one's "gender" identity is based on what one feels inside or thinks they are instead of what they actually have as a body. You are claiming here is that you haven't read Bill's teaching on this (which is a direct take off of Watchman Nee's teaching). However, the "lessons" you have extrapolated from the different verses you have quoted here is really just like how Bill Gothard teaches and uses Bible verses and deriving "lessons" from them that if one really reads the verses in the context in the Bible does not teach and does not support.

    • Jay Dion August 7, 2018 Reply

      Hi Rob, I find your referencing my extrapolations to Gothard's teachings interesting. I'll appreciate some some links if you can share. Again, I haven't studied any of his materials. I have only tried to study Biblical texts and establish a common ground of reasoning that is consistent with several scriptural texts. This is different from proof-texting or eisegesis that lacks scriptural authority but a complete fabrication of one's own ideas or bias.

      It's quite strange you find the idea of the body being a different component from the soul and spirit, or at least the breath of life. That is a very basic lesson in Genesis - God formed a lifeless man from the dust and infused the breath of life into man. It is really not my teaching.

      Let's try to consider the Hebrew words in context:

      ruach: meaning wind, breath or spirit

      ruach hakodesh: spirit of God

      neshama: which can mean "soul" or "spirit"

      These are not my definitions but very simple translations of Hebrew texts.

      Man possesses a body and the breath of life, neshama. Animals were also given neshama, according to Biblical texts, not me. As is translated, it can mean either body or soul, IMO it also means both body and soul.

      The Father, who possesses ruach hakodesh, is the source of neshama, the breath of life. Looking at this translation more closely, the words used are breath and life. In the breath we see the spirit (also translated as breath) and then life(representing the soul as I have espoused with references); the spirit and the soul.

      I totally agree with you when you say the distinction in the Bible between spirit and soul are not as lucid as I am interpreting. That does not make me wrong. You underestimate the power of God and the outpouring of His knowledge in these times. The moment one considers scriptures as isolated texts without comparing, contrasting and arriving at a broader understanding of issues, then no one verse can actually be interpreted correctly.

      Biblical authors both from the Old and New Testaments used different words to describe the body, spirit and soul. In trying paint a grand story, one must apply different narratives in the right context and then come up with a general theorem that possesses truism across board. That is not proof-texting as you have suggested.

      In conclusion, with regards to the "gender identity" issue you raised, I do not consider the soul or spirit as non-corporeal entities but forces(as closely as I can define them). So in essence, they do not continue to exist outside of the body upon death. Using my analogy, the electrical force is not an electrical device and lacks the power of "coming alive" all by itself. It requires the medium and the information source to be functional.

      Kindly argue along these lines and don't be so bothered whether my ideas are original or not. Thanks.

  22. Jay Dion August 13, 2018 Reply

    Sorry it's me again Rob, I didn't get a reply link on your response so I thought I'd drop a short comment here.

    On your point about orthodoxy and heretics, I am guilty as charged! My views are definitely not mainstream and like I said earlier, that does not make them wrong. Christ himself was neither mainstream nor a part of the orthodoxy. A lot of what he preached was not just heretical, but also considered blasphemous by the religious leaders of his time.

    My little advise to all is that in searching for truth, we should move closer to God's word according to the Bible. Study widely, pray humbly and be ready to accept contrary but superior rationale that is line with the Bible without necessarily pandering to mainstream ideas (mormornism, catholicism, pentescotalism, "Gothardism", etc).

    Would love if you can share relevant Biblical texts and map a meaning for me as you seem to completely ignore my arguments but are more concerned about my sources. Regards.

    • rob war August 13, 2018 Reply

      I saw a meme that applies to you:

      "Heresy: that special moment when you have greater spiritual insight than the apostles, disciples, Apostolic fathers, the Church, the Magisterium because you have a bible that they wrote, complied and gave to you"

      You seem to be pretty proud of yourself and what you are calling "superior rationale". I guess everyone else is suppose to fall in line with it, not question you and be in awe. Your focus on original languages and words has caused you to miss it. You see the tree but not the forest. Being proud of what you have come up with which is pretty left field and out of the ball park should actually make you shudder instead of patting yourself on the back. There is another quote for you to ponder, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". You should ponder this.

      • Jay Dion August 15, 2018 Reply

        Hi Rob,

        A bit disappointed with your response. You went from questioning my sources to questioning my character, again totally ignoring arguments I have put forward.

        I only shared my thoughts here because I was really impressed with how the original post carefully picked out the inconsistencies in Gothard's teaching. It was not an ego thing but a careful analogy of important Christian doctrines. Other contributors to this page have maintained the same standards with a high level of civility. My putting up these ideas here was so that someone with a superior rationale would just tear down its logic completely.

        If you consider my attempt to be lucid, though very subjective, as pride, then it's a real pity. When one wants to compare matters of the Bible, the most ignorant argument should be mainstream ideas, which seem to satisfy you. You forget also that there is a lot of disagreement even in mainstream Christendom. If you are not aware of such inconsistencies then sorry, you must be ideologically naive.

        I'll pray for you, as I pray for myself. As it is said, 'the devil is in the details'. The road to hell mind you is never paved with good intentions; do not belittle yourself by attributing humane purposes to the devil's cause. Thanks.

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