William Andrew Dillard
TERMS MUST DISCRIMINATE
Surely the title of this article is elementary. If terms did not precisely identify mental ideas and/or discriminately identify people, places, things, then language would be meaningless, and civilization could not advance from what would surely be a pool of constant confusion. Even in an advanced society, the inadequacy of language, and/or the pollution of terminology continually hinders many efforts, giving rise to lawsuits in attempts to pinpoint precise ideas that weakened language sets forth.
It is of little surprise then that religious heresy, and many misunderstandings arise from failures to use terms of language more discriminately. Illustrating this point one need only to ask any number of people to define major doctrinal terms of the Bible such as salvation, baptism, church, etc. The degree of misunderstanding is staggering. Another such common usage error is the term “soul.” It is used indiscriminately in pulpit and pew, most often to convey the idea of the spirit of man. However, the trinity of man is soul (psyche, mind life), body, and spirit. I Thess. 5:23. Precise terms for each of these are used in the scriptures. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that the soul is the spirit of man. The soul is conscious life. Conscious life exists as a combination of the trinity of man, but it also exists without the body.
But wherein lies any danger in failure to use these terms discriminately? Well, to use “soul” to mean “spirit” fosters powerful, erroneous ideas. For instance, both the Bible and God’s people promote evangelism with the goal being the initial bringing of men to Christ, or the new birth. But the clear teaching of the scripture is that being born from above is an event affecting the spirit of man for both time and eternity. Upon that foundation one may embark on a lifetime of winning his own soul by which life is disciplined into conformity to Bible doctrine. But when soul is substituted for spirit, the idea is inferred that the soul is complete in its salvation at the point of the new birth. Is it any wonder then that non-bible reading Christians easily sleep in fundamental error fostered by indiscriminate terminology? Moreover, that will cost them dearly, and forever at the judgment seat of Christ.
It must be understood that salvation for mankind is threefold. The spirit of man is saved and sealed in repentance of sin, and placement of trust in Christ Jesus as one’s personal Savior. The mind-life (consciousness) is being saved progressively as one disciplines him/herself in conformity to God’s Word. Physical salvation will not come until the resurrection or rapture. Until then, it behooves all men to be discriminatory in the use of terminology lest destructive ideas find root and blossom into a successful undermining of one’s faith, or worse, into full blown heresy, affecting great numbers of people.