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The apostle Paul writes:

2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (NAS).

Based on this duality, is the human body merely a receptacle for the spirit, a biochemical machine, while the "inner man" constitutes our spirit or conscious being?

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The physical body is decaying now, but it will be restored in an incorruptible state:

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Cor 15:53-54)

The word rendered "incorruptible" is ἀφθαρσία (from ἄφθαρτος), which connotes: indestructible, imperishable, undecaying, unending existence. (see here & here)

If a resurrected body later decayed, were discarded, or ceased to exist, it wouldn’t be incorruptible. This indicates the body is very important--if not, why should it be redeemed for all eternity?

Paul himself acknowledge the significant importance God places on the bodies He has created for us:

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

The physical human body is a biochemical machine animated by spirit (see Genesis 2:7); it is also a very important part of who we are and who we will be in eternity. It was after spirit and body came together that Adam was described as a "living soul".

Body & spirit are certainly often in competition for our attention and priority; I believe that's part of the self-mastery we are here to learn (see 1 Cor. 9:25). The body is lifeless without the spirit, but we are incomplete without both.


See also my thoughts here on why countering Docetism (rooted in a disdain of the physical body) was so important to early Christians.

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  • Just as you suggest, Genesis, tells us that Adam's body was first created, God breathed the spirit in and he became as you say. The reason I asked this is, it seems to me, our bodies are extraordinarily sophisticated machines. I'm not convinced that our spiritual bodies will look the same at all (they might). Some suggest that we'll be resurrected flesh and blood: that's impossible. Our current bodies are polluted with trillions of germ cells. I've made the point: "There will be no toilets in heaven." That's disgusting and not the word that leaps to mind in a discussion of Heaven. – Xeno May 5 at 4:52
  • If angels eat physical food, how then can you claim we will not excrete? The very fact that a body is required, natural or supernatural means waste exists. To interact with the natural, one MUST possess a body whether natural or SUPERnatural. But a body nonetheless. – Nihil Sine Deo May 5 at 11:30
  • @Nihil That is sort of my point. It seems to me, a very carnal view of heaven to suggest that we will possess flesh and blood in paradise: 1 Cor. 15:43: "[We are] sown in dishonor [filth, germ-ridden, toilets], [raised] in glory;" So, you think that you'll possess essentially the same pitiful body that we all now have? 1 Cor. 2:9: "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." If this is not true, no one will be impressed. This life is pathetic; ultimately, our desires are ever satisfied. – Xeno May 6 at 7:37
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    There is a difference between flesh and blood and flesh and bone. Jesus had a body with flesh and bone after resurrection and yet He had a heavenly body. – Nihil Sine Deo May 6 at 11:00
  • @Xeno if it is of interest, section 2 of my post here evaluates the flesh & bone statement in Luke contra the flesh & blood statement by Paul. – Hold To The Rod May 7 at 1:59
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Is the physical human body merely a "biochemical machine" based on 2 Corinthians 4:16? (Other terms besides "biochemical" might be electrochemical, biomechanical, and so forth.)

2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."

This may often be missed when glossing over the passage, because Paul is telling us that although our body is decaying and will die, our spirit (in Christ) is growing ever stronger every day. And, indeed, it will reach its full potential in paradise. Here, we might consider how God created the first man, Adam:

Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Note the passage is actually three separate clauses each separated by delimiter (comma or semicolon). Therefore, if we break things down into its constituents:

1. “The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground,” – this is the first clause. God did not create death; he created a perfect, inanimate, human body from the dust of the ground.

2. “[And] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;” – this is the second clause. After God created the man’s physical body, He breathed into the man’s nostrils “the breath of life”.

3. “[And] man became a living being.” – the third clause finally tells us the man became a living being.

[ The “breath of life” that God breathed into Adam was the man's alone. He (Adam) then became a "living soul" (nephesh). Nowhere are we told that God appropriated Eve's soul (or breath) from Adam. We each possess our own soul (perhaps meaning the unification of the body and spirit?). Eve was indeed physically sculpted from Adam's rib, but there is no mention of her being animated by Adam's spirit. This should be obvious: We do not share our spirits despite the purely carnal reference: "they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, Mk. 10:8, Eph. 5:31).]

If we critically analyze our physical makeup, I propose that it becomes increasingly evident that fundamentally, we are fantastically-engineered machines. Some may reject this idea. I can empathize with their sentiments. After all, we intimately identify with our bodies both spiritually and psychologically. But consider the following points:

1. Our physical makeup largely functions autonomically. Most vital bodily operations occur unconsciously such as heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration, metabolism, digestion, waste disposal, as well as certain reflex actions like coughing, sneezing, swallowing, among others. There is a vast, integrated assembly of immeasurably small molecular machines (proteins) operating throughout our entire makeup to sustain us from one moment to the next.

2. Many have erroneously suggested: “We only use 10% of our brain.” This is a myth that has been perpetuated for decades. Scientists have found no part of the brain, that if injured, does not manifest itself significantly.

3. Naturally, through exercise (or atrophy) we can and do consciously alter some of our bodily functions. While most autonomic activities are involuntary, they occasionally work in conjunction with other parts of the nervous system to allows for some amount of voluntary control.

4. One scientist from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) has stated: “The pumping system of the body is the most efficient of all pumping systems.

5. The same scientist from the NIH claims: “The body’s computer, the brain, is by far the most sophisticated, the finest constructed, the most efficient computer that has ever been or ever will be designed.

6. And again, this same medical professional suggests that “The thermostat which is located in the brain is adjusted to such a fine degree that the temperature remains constant almost at all times unless something interferes with the function of the machine.

7. Another specialist suggested: “The human body is one of the most efficient chemical factories in the world.

8. Our bodies consist of many fine-tuned, highly sophisticated mechanistic systems. And from this perspective, physically we are little more than biochemical beings, constructed by God.

9. The claims that life emerged from a lifeless “chemical soup of amino acids” ignores the fact inorganic molecules are ever going to yield organic life.

Physically, we are the machines we have discussed, but most of us never pause to reflect on such realities from that perspective. There are at least two reasons for this:

1. We are too spiritually and psychologically invested in our bodies as all we are, and,
2. We are oblivious to the profound array of processes that are relentlessly at work to keep us alive.

Because the body is so integral to our being, we are convinced from an early age that we are our bodies – and little else. However, to date, no one has explained consciousness – an obvious non-material essence. Most believe that our minds are merely the result of chemical processes in the brain. But that assertion is unfounded. Despite many claims otherwise, no one has shown how electro-chemical processes result in the “emergent property” that is the Mind.

That which makes us truly human is the unification of our body and our spirit as we can see from Genesis 2:7. It is the human spirit, or in more tangible terms, our mind or consciousness that animates the body. As the Lord's brother explains:

James 2:26: "[The] body without the spirit is dead..."

Interestingly, when we see something like a tree, the light from that image is transmitted to our brain through the optic nerve, one connected to our visual receptors (the eyes). Bits of the image are stored around the brain upon entry, but the interesting fact is there is no single part of the brain that contains an image of a tree. Rather, tiny bits of information are stored over many disparate locations in neurons across the brain, many of them otherwise entirely unrelated. It is our mind, our spirit that draws all of this stored information together to reconstruct the image of the tree that we then mentally visualize.

Our brain is incapable of “seeing” anything without the immaterial mind. As previously observed, we can think of our brain as the computer – both memory circuits (neurons, or nerve cells) and a database (neurochemical “storage”), while our spirit is the software that deciphers the vast information extracted from the database to give us a meaningful perspective of the world. It seems very much as though physically, we really are biochemical or electromechanical machines after all.

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  • I think we almost have a similar-ish understanding of the makeup of ‘man’ - but we arrive at that ‘view’ via very different paths. It’s the ‘third’ part of man, the ‘you’ - aka ‘soul’ - man’s ’consciousness’ [memory], mind, reasoning, that I include. I see Man is ‘tripartite’ - 3 distinct separate parts. (Body/soul/spirit). That is, The ‘brain’ is merely a physical organ the allows the [physical] body to interact with the soul. But that’s my personal ‘view’, and I accept it’s not universal. – Dave Jun 13 at 2:22
  • @Dave I agree with that, that the brain interacts (somehow) with the spirit. I look at the brain as analogous to a computer, with complex functionality including CPU, memory (short and long term), etc. It's very interesting that when we see a tree, that image is stored all across the brain in disparate "memory circuits" (neural networks). None of these "bits" of information with all the others have any meaning until the mind (part of our spirit) draws all of the meaning together to form the image of a tree. – Xeno Jun 13 at 2:32
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  • I believe the life we live today is the most real part of our existence.
  • We have been given a body with abilities (sometimes disabilities) + the soul(breath of God/ Spirit of God)
  • In this life we do 2 things
    a. Fulfill the purpose God has for us and live by the laws he gave us
    b. We come closer to God or move away from God based on how we align with the laws and the spirit of God within us
    5. Once this mortal life is over, the body returns to dust, the soul back to God
    6. On the day of redemption, we are judged for the good & bad we did
  • The Good spend eternity in the presence of God, Bad aere given a chance to get their act right else ...
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  • I respectfully disagree. This world yields only the illusion of happiness. None of our innermost desires will ever be satiated in this world. Do not confuse this world mired in every form of revulsion with the next: the one that God has in store for us. It will be a paradise of wonder and delight far beyond human imagination: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). Everyone has seen, heard and imagined this one, and it is not pretty. – Xeno May 6 at 7:46
  • I think you endorsed my point #1 about "most real-life" what is more real than to experience God in an imperfect world. Anyone can enjoy god in heaven But if you are able to experience God in this world and make it a bit more heaven-like for your family and others, I think you have fulfilled your purpose on this world rather than treating this life as decaying terminal cancer. – Yeddu May 6 at 8:02
  • I suppose I dwell quite a bit on John 12:25: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. I do not think that "Anyone can enjoy God in heaven" because Matthew 7:13 tell us: ""Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." This is a terribly unfortunate truth; I suppose we all struggle with it to some extent. But your point about family and others is well-taken. – Xeno May 6 at 8:24
  • I meant anyone can enjoy god in heaven once they get to Heaven off course. -- But how does one get to heaven? -- By doing the will of God. -- What is the will of God, -- To Honor God and Love our neighbors. -- What happens when we Honor God and Love our Neibghours -- We can experience heaven on this earth. God Bless. How did you bold some words. I am new to this tool – Yeddu May 6 at 8:30
  • Yes, I know what you're getting at: good advice. To learn some of the markup language check out his link. You may want to bookmark it for a while. I had to go through the same learning curve beginning 30 days ago. I seem to recall their is an "Expand all" near the bottom of the examples to learn much more. Then, try pasting text from Notepad (or whatever) into an Answer window and you'll see your results (not to be submitted, of course). – Xeno May 6 at 8:36

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