“The essence of the human is not the body, but the soul. It is the soul alone that God made in his own image and the soul that he loves….For the sake of the soul…the Son of God came into the world….” (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 25, Ancient Christian Devotional, Oden and Crosby, p. 153) In Biblical thought, the body is inert matter organized and vitalized by the soul. A human life then, is a soul fully embedded within a body.
The noblest part of the soul is spirit (the heart). The two essential properties of spirit that distinguish it from matter are intellect and will—---the capacity for knowledge and moral choice. Spirit is immortal, self-aware, free and linked to intelligence, imagination, sensitivity, self-consciousness, reflection and the capacity for truth and moral goodness. Hence spirit can will and think and is freely responsible for what it chooses to think, will, speak and do.
Because spirit is free of matter it allows man to spiritually transcend the natural or material dimension in order to access the supernatural dimension, thereby allowing man to enter into a personal relationship with the Spirit of God. Through this relationship, the spirit is quickened and conscience is cleansed over time, thus enabling man to more perfectly orient the manner of his existence in this world in preparation for eternity.
A person is a soul/spirit and spirit is uniquely free because only spirit can transcend matter to access the supernatural dimension as Paul affirms:
“Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17)
To live in relationship with the Spirit of God is to live spiritually, and to live spiritually is to live morally---to be not self-absorbed and self-righteous but humble and righteous, to have a heart for the ideals of truth and goodness.
When a majority of a civilization’s people live spiritually, the result will be a good, rightly-ordered society grounded in self-control and properly oriented toward life, family, respect, decency, and justice. A good society makes it easy to be good. Correlatively, a good society is one that makes it easy to be free. To live spiritually is to be free, because only spirit is free, matter is not.
But when the majority of a society’s people have turned away from the living, supernatural God, as is the case here in post-Christian, post-modern America, society as a whole is bound by a spiritual darkness marked by polluted conscience and wills turned to self-absorption, self-expression, self-actualization, and self-gratification. Truth and morality melt into ever-changing expressions of feelings, disordered passions and sexual perversions, of self-centered desires and cold-blooded envy.
Around the turn of the century, humanists dedicated to an agenda of evil put processes in place that would over time undermine and destroy America's Biblical-based foundations, causing it fall headlong into spiritual darkness. It's with today's self-absorbed post-modern generation that this is most apparent, for this generation is in bondage to a particular kind of evil,
"...an evil which is almost ubiquitous in the decadent, postmodern west," said Christian writer Fred Hutchinson. "That evil is narcissism. They do not have a monopoly on narcissism, of course. One can find narcissists in every nook and cranny of this self-indulgent society." (Narcissism and the culture war, Renew America,Feb. 8, 2004)
Narcissism is an inflated self-love, especially as expressed in a fetish of self-absorption, self-expression, self-admiration, self-celebration, self-gratification and self-actualization. The spirit of the narcissist is inward-and-downward turned. Its conscience is polluted, it's mind disordered and its' soul materialized. It is spiritually dead.
In his book, "Born Liberal, Raised Right," retired pastor Reb Bradley notes that as every generation is the product of those who raised them, then today's post-modern generation is the product of parents who themselves lack self-control. They failed to train and discipline their children because they cannot pass on what they do not have.
Most parents are preoccupied with making life 'fun' 'entertaining,' abnormally 'safe' and 'stimulating' for their children. Life is all about self-esteem, excitement and happiness. But such kids,
"...do not develop self-control, but remain full of the opposite---self-indulgence. They grow up to believe that it is their right to have their way in life, and will pursue their own personal happiness at the expense of others...." (Bradley, p. 8)
Principles mean unchanging truth, moral absolutes, the “thou shall and shall nots” and “He made them male and female.” These are the unchanging foundations beneath the fallen nature of man–--the source of tumultuous winds of change—of feelings, passions, and desires. But moral principles are always dreadfully complicated, if not impossible, to the self-absorbed man who has no principles.
And is not today's self-absorbed man the spiritually dark individual who is out of control, who cannot say 'no' to himself because he is the slave of his libidinous compulsions, disordered passions, boredom, covetousness, urges, itchings and other gnawing appetites necessitating unending distractions, ear-splitting music, parties, drugs, entertainment, fun, and Dick, Jane, and Sally type 'thinking' since he cannot focus his mind for more than a moment?
Is this not the perspective of a thief, be he parent, teen, president, secretary of state, congressman, 'gay,' union boss, pastor, reverend, bishop, teacher, or law-maker who thinks he is more important and entitled than the rightful owner of the property-- the one whose hard work earned him the property?
Is this not the perspective of everyone who wants the endless buffet and fun-filled festival but not the pot-luck and work of setting the festival up? And said Bradley, is this not the outlook,
"...of a murderer who violates another's right to life? If a society is out of control, it is because its citizens were raised by parents who failed to give them self-control. If children who have been allowed to elevate self-gratification and who lack moral temperance grow up to vote or assume political office, should we not expect that their approach to government will reflect the bent of their outlook on life?" (p. 8)
A spiritually dark society, such as America is today, denies moral absolutes, unchanging truth and even “He made them male and female.”
Philosophically, this is called moral relativism. In his “A Refutation of Moral Relativism,” Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King’s College (Empire State Building), warns us that:
“(the) issue of moral relativism is merely the single most important issue of our age, for no society in all of human history has ever survived without rejecting the philosophy that I am about to refute. There has never been a society of relativists. Therefore, our society will do one of three things: either disprove one of the most universally established laws of all history; or repent of its relativism and survive; or persist in its relativism and perish.” (peterkreeft.com)
C.S.Lewis defines moral relativism as subjectivism and in “The Poison of Subjectivism,” warns that relativism,
“…will certainly end our species and damn our souls.”
As a Christian, Lewis agrees with the fundamental teaching of his savior, Jesus Christ, as well as the Old Testament prophets that salvation presupposes,
“…repentance, and repentance presupposes an objectively real moral law. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus trivializes repentance, thus imperils salvation.” (Kreeft)
Lewis sees farther than most, thus he speaks of the end of our species rather than the end of Western civilization. This is because Lewis saw that the entire human race is becoming increasingly Westernized, therefore relativized. In his novel, “That Hideous Strength” Lewis writes that this poison was concocted right in the heart of Christendom during the time of the Enlightenment and today has been spewed over the entire planet.
A great black wing covers all of Telus, said Lewis through his character Ransom, and so our age is an eerie time in which the things that everyone really knows to be true, good, decent, and right, are treated as unheard of, as intolerant, hateful, bigoted, unfair, racist, unscientific, and homophobic.
So ominously strange is our age that most of us have even forgotten or outright deny our own souls. Today it is the scientifically informed opinion of society at large that souls, spirits, hell, and the living, supernatural God no longer exist. Only the scientifically ignorant believe in them say the spiritually dead.
Spirit is immortal, self-aware and free, matter is not. A people who have fallen out of relationship with the Spirit of God are spiritually dead. Their souls are materialized. They are less than animals. Paul speaks of them as beasts. They are no longer free but in bondage to sin.
Yet at least for a while longer it still lies within our power to humble ourselves, repent and turn back to our Creator.