Dualism - The Spiritual and the Worldly

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"Greek Dualism says that spirit and body are separate; one is material, the other non-material. This view is WRONG! Inaccurate! We are both at the same time."[1] - Dean Sherman.

"Our body is the temple of the holy spirit." - 1 Corinthians 6:19.

Platonic Worldview

Greek philosophers have shaped the mode of our thoughts.

Plato believed that behind what we see and experience is a reality of a higher order: every horse we see is an instance of the idea "horse" (see Theory of Forms, Allegory of the Cave). These ideas are immortal, you could compare them to a "design" or "building plan", that is implemented each time with small variations.

Early christians (esp. Augustine) liked these ideas and transfered it to the spiritual world of our belief. This also had the consequence that the spiritual received more interest and value than the "mere" material. That is why to care for my body was getting less important than to care for my soul and spirit.

Aristotelean Worldview

Aristotle extended the theory of Plato by stating that form (the idea) and matter (the concrete) interact: "What is higher shapes what is lower". His hierachy: The world (is shaped by) Humans (are shaped by) the Stars (are shaped by) the unmovable mover. "Things can move only if somebody move them." The ancient greeks believed that the stars were responsible for our destiny, and Aristotle postulated one unifying force behind them.

When the clergy rediscovered Aristotle in the 12th century, they equated the "unmovable mover" with God. This also had the consequence that imagining a God with emotions became impossible: because then men would be able to "move" God.

Even more, Aristotle shaped the way we teach. He always tried to define the subject first, coin specific terms in order to avoid ambiguity, and then use logic to build a system of propositions. In this way, he was the precursor of Logic as a discipline with clear rules.

Thomas of Aquin (13th century) tried to summarize and harmonize all theological knowledge into one system (the "Summa theologica" which the catholic church still uses as basis for theological education). But by rationalizing "understanding" into "facts and arguments" a part of it is lost (see Wesleyan Quadrilateral for different sources of knowledge).

Hebrew Worldview

"Western Thinking: I believe in the Great Commission, but I am not doing it. Jewish Thinking: Watch me, and you'll see."[2] - Dean Sherman.

"The Hebrew view of the world was grounded in the earthy, material reality in which they lived, and yet it was overshadowed at every point with spiritual truth."[3] - Nancy Scott.

Split Thinking

Secular vs. Sacred

"Our split thinking between the secular and sacred is probably more revealed in our thinking about the ecclesiastical order than any other domain. Today it is common among Christians to think that if you are really "spiritual," really "obedient" to God, you will be a pastor, missionary, or evangelist. Many Christians feel that all other vocations are less important. The end result is that the majority of Christians today are sitting in pews with no idea of what God has called them to do, expecting the pastor and church leadership to do everything. This was never God's intent. In God's design, every believer has a role to play in reaching and teaching the community. The "priestly" role was unique, specific, and just one of many roles.

God is not at war with His material world. Science is, of all the domains, the most limited because the scientist cannot discover anything that God has not created."[4] - Landa Cope.

  • We see a distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world, the natural and the supernatural.
  • Therefore, praying and evangelism is 'spiritual' where as washing the dishes is 'natural' and less important.
  • Many other cultures see the natural and spiritual as being intimately intertwined.

(Western Cultural Assumptions)

Personal Opinion/Discussion

IMO, the dangerous thing about this "split thinking" is that means to aspire to become more "spiritual", instead of more "human". We must not forget that Jesus was God and Man (interestingly he calls himself "Son of men" most of the time, while being called "Son of God" by his followers), the second Adam (=Man), the one who showed us how we can live in our human condition. See also debate about missional thinking and incarnational, and the thought-provoking book "The Jesus I never knew" by Philip Yancey, ISBN 031021923X.

Written by Pitpat (talk)

The big question is: can we learn from secular philosophy? Can a non-christian learn about how God is and how the world functions? If so, how can we adapt their teaching according to a biblical worldview? The catholic church was rather liberal in embracing new schools of thought. Some denominations try not to be influenced of secular thought by any price (e.g. Mennonite tradition). --Pitpat (talk) 17:45, 18 July 2014 (CEST)

Parody by Adrian Plass (Sacred Diary, ISBN 0310269121):

Mrs Flushpool described at great length how she had been converted from fleshly works and appetites since being washed in the blood, and how, in consequence, she was now able to turn her back to those things that she used to to in what she called 'the natural'. Everything she said had a certain dampness about it. She and her husband refused wine, saying that Christians should be ashamed to have it in the house, as it lead to carnal excess. [...] Coffee was also frowned upon as something that was wont to stimulate inappropriately in the natural. [...]

Quite glad when they got up to go at about 10 o'clock. [...] I said to Anne, "Well, what did you think?" [...] She said, "They have certain emetic quality. I'm going to bed - in the natural. Are you coming?" (p. 44)

When people enjoy what God has created, God's heart is pleased. But a lot of people think, If I want to be spiritual, I have to avoid sin – and the best way to avoid sin is to get rid of desire altogether. If I just didn't want relationships or money or food or success or popularity, I'd be really spiritual because then I wouldn't sin. But then you wouldn't be human, either. A slab of cement doesn't have to worry about weeds – but it'll never be a garden. (John Ortberg, "The Me I want to be" (teen edition), p. 58)


  1. Sherman's Relationship Notes.
  2. Sherman's Relationship Notes.
  3. http://www.mckenziestudycenter.org/philosophy/articles/dualism.html by Nancy Scott.
  4. Book Report: Old Testament Template by Landa Cope.