Sunday, July 7, 2013

Man: Triune in Nature

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23


In the following we will discuss in broad terms the makeup of the individual human being living in the world today. The Bible reveals God as Triune, i.e., Father and Son and Holy Spirit. When God said, “Let Us make man in Our own image” He really meant it. Being Triune God is the original One and Many, the General and the Particular, Unity in Diversity paradigm. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Father of the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Yet the three are one God. However, keep in mind that God is not made up of three parts. Rather each of the three persons interpenetrates the others. Man, the image and likeness of God, has three interpenetrating aspects: spirit and soul and body.

Military Healthcare

Whether consciously or not the Military cares for each of the three interconnected aspects of man. In general terms the Chaplain ministers to the spirit, the psychologist/psychiatrist attends to the soul (or mind), and the doctor works on the body. Working towards the healing of the individual works best when the Chaplain and the Psychologist/Psychiatrist and the Doctor compare notes on the individual member’s progress. A broken leg can have a diverse effect on the spirit and the soul!

The Chaplain, the Psych and the Doctor

The Doctor perhaps has the easier task of the three in helping to mend a broken soldier. Again, in general terms, unlike the Chaplain and the Psych, the Doctor works with the visible. In an effort to simplify things let us say for argument’s sake that a broken leg, e.g., is attended to more easily than a broken spirit or a troubled soul/mind. The latter two ailments manifest themselves only through the member’s behaviour and his/her verbal communications. It is far easier to mask or hide a mental or a spiritual problem than a damaged or broken limb! In the Military context a member may be afraid to reveal mental health problems on account of a real or perceived fear that it may lead to an early discharge. Thus some member’s mental problems may remain undetected for an extended and unhealthy period without available treatment. This is why it is imperative that the trinity of Chaplain, Psych and Doctor regularly compare with each other (what they can) about an individual’s state of wellbeing.

 Moral Injury

Since “Moral Injury” (MI) is a spiritual problem it comes under the domain of the Chaplain’s area of expertise. MI is a problem of the conscience. The conscience is the moral centre or moral compass of a human being. The Chaplain can work to help the member silence or mitigate an accusing conscience by helping the member be reconciled to God through His Mediator, i.e., Jesus Christ. God’s forgiveness translates into self-forgiveness. Whenever the member is ready to forgive him/herself then the Moral Injury is ready to be healed. Healing comes through trusting in God that He has really forgiven you on account of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. The Holy Spirit (working with God’s Word) does the actual convincing. Thus the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, work together (through the instrument of the Chaplain) to heal the member.


Immediately it can be seen that the Chaplain, because he is dealing with a tortured conscience, is encroaching on the area of expertise delegated to the Psych. The conscience is an aspect of the soul or mind. This encroachment is to be expected on account of the makeup of a human being being spirit and soul and body. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been defined as, “A sub-conscious reactive dysfunction where the normal fear suppression processes that get linked and integrated into coherent memory are not in place.” Thus, there is turmoil in the member’s innermost being (the soul or mind). Certain aspects of the soul or mind are out of sync with each other. The member experiences emotions connected with fear and is unable consciously to control them because of a disconnect with the normal process of memory. We do not want to trivialise the emotions experienced by the sufferer of PTSD but, by way of simplistic example, most of us have experienced some panic when we cannot remember the exact spot where parked our car or if we turned off the stove before we left for work. Did we lock the house when we left? We rack our brains trying to remember. We go through the process of remembering step by step while keeping the whole thing in perspective – “It’s only a car…”, “We have house insurance…” However, the PTSD sufferer may have unexpected panic and anxiety attacks with no means controlling them which in turn ratchets-up the episode and totally loses perspective.

Physical Ailment

Moral Injury and PTSD may at times have a detrimental effect on the member’s physical health. Again, this is because the spirit and the soul and the body are one integrated whole. As mental exercises and stimulation are to PTSD’s coping strategies, so diet and exercise are important components of physical wellbeing. A healthy body will more readily cope with and heal a physical ailment. However, at first blush it would seem that a healthy body may not assist in mitigating any of the pain of those suffering from the symptoms of PTSD and/or Moral Injury. However, if we keep in mind that the spirit and the soul and the body interpenetrate each other, we must conclude that there must be some, albeit perhaps small, benefit to maintaining, as far as the member is able, physical fitness. The old adage “Healthy body, healthy mind” does have something going for it.


Human beings are triune by nature. They are not three parts because God, in whose image they are made, is not three parts. Rather as each aspect of the Godhead (Father and Son and Holy Spirit) interpenetrates the Others, so the human being’s body and soul and spirit interpenetrate each other. Thus total healing is healing of the body and the soul and the spirit.


Moral Injury is to have your own conscience accuse you and blame you for some action you did or failed to do. Notice what the Apostle Paul says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. God will completely sanctify those who have been reconciled to Him by and through Jesus Christ. This means that God will work in you to repair you – body and soul and spirit! He will wholly transform you. He will preserve you “blameless,” which is to say that God will hold you blameless on Judgment Day on account of what Jesus has done for you and the Holy Spirit has done to you. Our healing comes through faith alone. If we believe that God has forgiven us our sins then we must stop blaming ourselves for them! Moral Injury is cured by trusting that God has forgiven you and it is behaving as if you really believe this good news!

Monday, July 1, 2013


Ever since being told by a doctor that I was this close to being obese, I have been in the habit of running for three kilometres every morning except (like the good Presbyterian I am), Sundays. Rain or shine I’m out there pounding the pavement. I know that three kilometres is not far when you’re young and fit, but I’ll be fifty seven on my next birthday. Anyway, if you must know, I chose three kilometres because I’m Trinitarian! I’ve shed fourteen kilograms and keep it off by doing fifty sit-ups and thirty push-ups as well as my run. No, six months ago I thought that you’d never catch me doing this every day! But there you go.  

As I run I often think of that line from the Chariots of Fire movie, spoken by the Scottish Eric Liddell (who was born in China) that goes something like, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” I must admit to sometimes feeling my aches and pains far more than His pleasure! However, there is a joy in perseverance. I like it when I get a rhythm going between my breathing and my footfalls. I like it even better when I am conscious of God’s presence!

What did that champion of the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell, mean by feeling God’s pleasure when he runs? I suppose a wee bit of background might help us to understand this. Whether factual or not but in the movie, like any good Christian, Eric Liddell refused to race on Sunday. He had to withdraw from the 100 metres, his speciality event. Instead, he switched to a non-Sabbath event, the 400 metres. He wasn’t expected to do well. At the starting blocks an American slipped a piece of paper into his hand. It had the following a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honour Me I will honour.” Liddell tore round the track with that wee piece of paper in his hand. He won the race and broke the existing world record!

I can see that Liddell kept at least the first five of the Ten Commandments. 1. He put God first. 2. He didn’t form an idol out of his running. 3. He didn’t take the Lord’s name in vain by ignoring Him just for a Sunday run. 4. He remembered the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. 5. He honoured his heavenly Father! I’m sure he kept the rest of the Commandments too but the bottom line is that his running was all about God and not Eric Liddell. I wish I could be like that! But I find myself running for vanity! I ran to lose weight! I continue to run to keep the pounds off! I run because of my job! I run for all the wrong reasons! “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25. Sorry about that but when you ask yourself why you do a thing and then think about it in relation to God and His Law then you realise what a wretch you really are! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” Anyway, back to feeling God’s pleasure when you run.

This morning, after a wet weekend, the sun poked his head out from behind a cloud. I saw this as my cue to get out there and do my morning run. It was windy. As I ran I was thinking about the words of that hymn, “Breathe on me Breath of God.” In the Bible the Hebrew and the Greek use words that are, depending on context, translated into the English as spirit/wind/breath. As I breathed in time with my footfalls I could feel the wind blowing on my face. Then I felt it on my back as it/He pushed me along! In the confines of my mind, now focussed upon God, I thought, “I’m listening, Lord. You’re with me. I feel Your pleasure!” Oh there was an extra spring in my step, more so than when I was a younger man running past the lassies! I was running for God!

It started to rain. My head got wet! Like a good Presbyterian I thought of baptism and His promise, (Point to note here. As I picked it up to look up this verse my Bible just fell open at the correct page! Anyway), “So shall He sprinkle many nations…” Isaiah 52:15a. I used to follow the baptismal “immersionist” line. But then I came to see that what John the Baptiser was doing with water was representative of what Jesus would do with the Spirit. John says, “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John 1:33. The Sprit descends from the Father to the Son. The Father and the Son pour out, like rain, like the sprinkling of Christ’s shed blood, the Spirit upon believers. Thus, Jesus baptises by pouring or sprinkling!

With the breath of God breathing on me, with His wind at my back, with the Spirit upon me, lifting me, anointing me with water, baptising me, urging me on I began to really feel His pleasure. What joy! As I round the bend towards my home I usually raise the pace and sprint to the finish line. As I did so the sign of His Everlasting Covenant appeared in the sky at the end of my street – the rainbow in the rainclouds that were baptising the earth and me!

If you haven’t already, try it! Run! Run for Him! Feel His pleasure!