What Makes a Person?

Intellect, emotion, and will
0% (0 votes)
Intellect, emotion, will, creativity
0% (0 votes)
Intellect, emotion, will, a spiritual nature
57% (4 votes)
Intellect, emotion, will, a spiritual nature and creavitiy
0% (0 votes)
Some or all of the above plus language
14% (1 vote)
Other
29% (2 votes)
Total votes: 7
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There are 16 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Most of us would agree that there are three types of persons in the universe: God (Who is 3 Persons), angels (elect and evil), and humans (male and female).

It is obvious that some animals have a "personality" of sorts. Dogs, for instance, show great variation in personally and seem to have emotions. Yet they are not (theologically) persons.

If we use the definition of "intellect, emotion, and will" it seems that dogs have all three.

So what makes a person? Is it a matter of degree of those three elements or is it more? And how does the "image of God" relate? Are angels also in the image of God?

So our discussion here can run in at least two directions: what makes a person and how does the image of God relate to the issue. For that matter, we can even get into what we mean when we say men are "in the image of God."

"The Midrash Detective"

Jim's picture

The problem I have with using intellect, emotion, and will in the personhood conversation pertains to the comatose. They are persons but have no apparent intellects, emotions or wills.

Thus they are "non-persons" and this leads to the euthanasia discussion.

Jim's picture

Why not make it simple and say a person has body and spirit?!

-----
On pets and "personality": We have three cats. Over the years we have had 6. Three are in "kitty heaven". Well maybe one of them is in "kitty hell" (he was a bad cat!)

Of the three living - and I suggest that unless one has multiple cats at once the personality thing may not be obvious - one loves vistors. Old "Blue" will saunter out, jump on the couch and head butt a visitor - "pet me!". Our biggest cat runs for the basement and hides. Another cat loves being under the covers. All have personality but are not persons in a Biblical sense.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Body and soul. The human spirit is a congenitally dead and must be resurrected via faith in Christ so I would rule that out with respect to qualifying someone as a human.

Alex, I believe that man is spiritually dead in relationship to God, but the fact that lost men are religious evidences that they are spiritual beings. They just do not want the true God until they are regenerate.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
The problem I have with using intellect, emotion, and will in the personhood conversation pertains to the comatose. They are persons but have no apparent intellects, emotions or wills.

Thus they are "non-persons" and this leads to the euthanasia discussion.

I see your point. In that case, though, I would say they are persons because they belong to a race of beings that is characterized by intellect, spiritual nature, emotions will (and, in my view, creativity and language). Still,I see the dangers in my viewpoint.

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Body and soul. The human spirit is a congenitally dead and must be resurrected via faith in Christ so I would rule that out with respect to qualifying someone as a human.

Alex, I believe that man is spiritually dead in relationship to God, but the fact that lost men are religious evidences that they are spiritual beings. They just do not want the true God until they are regenerate.


First I do reject the view that regeneration precedes faith but that is another issue altogether. So to your premise that because someone is religious they are spiritual.

There are two views or definitions of what is spiritual:

A. What the Bible calls spiritual
B. What the world calls spiritual

A. What the Bible calls spiritual

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 is quite explicit:

Quote:
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them ], because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

The reference for natural man is psuchikos de anthrōpos (psuchikos is with reference to man's soul) something all men have. And it is being used in direct contrast with he that is spiritual which comes from pneumatikos, which is a dimension and classification not afforded the natural man.

Secondly, one must consider regeneration itself. Regeneration palingenesia, composed of palin (again) and genesis (birth) begs the question, what is being made alive again? In other words it clearly is not simply being made alive or born but born again or made alive again, so what is being made alive again? It cannot be the body or the soul since they are both alive and accepted as existing in the 1 Corinthians as a descriptor of the natural man?

The one thing left (without the treatise) is man's spiritual property which clearly is what is given new life upon one's rebirth. This is the property the natural man lacks, he cannot be spiritual but when he believes on Christ he is spiritually resurrected and given the nature of God he lost in his original sin, his spiritual property or nature through which he communes with God.

B. What the world calls spiritual

The world, on the other hand, is free to call anything spiritual. What it does tend to do is classify anything immaterial and esoteric as spiritual. However the Bible makes a clear distinction between the two immaterial properties of humans, the soul and the spirit. I suspect that what the world suffers from, of course, is what is rather plain and that is it does not restrict its use of the word spiritual to its only real meaning and it employs it in a broad sense. While the world may give whatever meaning to its words those meanings, when they conflict with divine determinations, simply have to be rejected. So even if people are religious, this is not deemed "spiritual" by the Sciptures, though it might be "soulish" or "psuchikos", hence stemming from the immaterial part of man but still, it is not spiritual. And I believe this distinction with respect exegetical and theological integrity must be maintained.

Charlie's picture

Boethius: Naturæ rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature)

Thomas Aquinas: Therefore also the individuals of the rational nature have a special name even among other substances; and this name is "person." Thus the term "individual substance" is placed in the definition of person, as signifying the singular in the genus of substance; and the term "rational nature" is added, as signifying the singular in rational substances.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Charlie wrote:
Boethius: Naturæ rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature)

Thomas Aquinas: Therefore also the individuals of the rational nature have a special name even among other substances; and this name is "person." Thus the term "individual substance" is placed in the definition of person, as signifying the singular in the genus of substance; and the term "rational nature" is added, as signifying the singular in rational substances.

But even there "rational" needs definition. For example, is a dog rational? Why or why not?

"The Midrash Detective"

Richard Pajak's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
The problem I have with using intellect, emotion, and will in the personhood conversation pertains to the comatose. They are persons but have no apparent intellects, emotions or wills.

Thus they are "non-persons" and this leads to the euthanasia discussion.

Though they are comatose they still have these attributes but in that state they are not being used or manifested. Also when you are asleep you are not using your will, intellect or emotions (though if dreaming these may be operational to some degree in your dreams) but that does not make you less of a person, simply a person asleep...take some of your congregation for example. Though they might be asleep in your sermon they are not using those faculties of intellect emotion or wills but they are still persons just as much as the one listening to every word you say.

Richard Pajak

Ed Vasicek's picture

Richard Pajak wrote:

Though they are comatose they still have these attributes but in that state they are not being used or manifested. Also when you are asleep you are not using your will, intellect or emotions (though if dreaming these may be operational to some degree in your dreams) but that does not make you less of a person, simply a person asleep...take some of your congregation for example. Though they might be asleep in your sermon they are not using those faculties of intellect emotion or wills but they are still persons just as much as the one listening to every word you say.

Wished I would have thought of that, Richard. That's why we need Sharper Iron!

"The Midrash Detective"

Charlie's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

But even there "rational" needs definition. For example, is a dog rational? Why or why not?

Well, I can give you the classic Aristotelian divison. "Animal" comes from "anima," which is usually translated "soul," but that is a bit misleading because Aristotle believes there are different kinds of souls. The "animal soul" is distinguished from plant life by being 1) self-motive, 2) having sensory perception, and 3) having some amount of memory. So, the human "rational" soul includes all this, but transcends it by have "reason" or "intellect" properly called, all the mental/emotional/psychological faculties that transcend mere sense perception and record of and reaction to sense perception.

Augustine will follow the same basic premise: "The only difference between you and an animal is understanding (intellectus).... So where does your superiority come from? From the image of God. Where is the image of God? In the mind, in the intelligence" (Homilies on John's Gospel 3, 4).

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Charlie wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:

But even there "rational" needs definition. For example, is a dog rational? Why or why not?

Well, I can give you the classic Aristotelian divison. "Animal" comes from "anima," which is usually translated "soul," but that is a bit misleading because Aristotle believes there are different kinds of souls. The "animal soul" is distinguished from plant life by being 1) self-motive, 2) having sensory perception, and 3) having some amount of memory. So, the human "rational" soul includes all this, but transcends it by have "reason" or "intellect" properly called, all the mental/emotional/psychological faculties that transcend mere sense perception and record of and reaction to sense perception.

Augustine will follow the same basic premise: "The only difference between you and an animal is understanding (intellectus).... So where does your superiority come from? From the image of God. Where is the image of God? In the mind, in the intelligence" (Homilies on John's Gospel 3, 4).

But Charlie, if you use that reasoning, then one is a person to the degree one is intelligent. Therefor a dog is more a person than a turkey, and a dolphin is more a person than a dog. Since some dolphins are more intelligent than some mentally handicapped humans, the dolphin is thus more of a person that the human. That doesn't seem to work.

"The Midrash Detective"

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Of course, there must necessarily be an even further distinction of persons from animals, since some of the higher animals do indeed have more brain function than simply "mental/emotional/psychological faculties that transcend mere sense perception and record of and reaction to sense perception." So while the Aristotelian division is helpful, it's not sufficient to deal with what we currently know about the understanding of some animals. What else is in "the image of God" that distinguishes humans from ALL animals? Interesting discussion.

Dave Barnhart

Charlie's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

But Charlie, if you use that reasoning, then one is a person to the degree one is intelligent. Therefor a dog is more a person than a turkey, and a dolphin is more a person than a dog. Since some dolphins are more intelligent than some mentally handicapped humans, the dolphin is thus more of a person that the human. That doesn't seem to work.

Not exactly. For Aristotle to the early moderns, animals are not less intelligent, they are unintelligent. "Intelligence" is a distinctly human (and angelic and divine) faculty. None of the things that animals do qualify for them as intelligent. Intelligence (among other functions) extracts the intelligible form from the perception and thereby gains knowledge of essence through contact with universals. By the way, for medievals, there are 3 kinds of persons: human, angelic, and divine. So, the definition has to be broad enough to cover all of them. Human persons are distinguished from the others by having discursive intellects. Angels, it was presumed, have a pure intellectus, a non-discursive understanding of what they know, from direct but limited participation in the divine mind.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Caleb S's picture

It appears to be a danger to already come to Scripture with our preconceptions of "personhood". Is there anything explicit in Scripture that provides us with the proper categories of understanding for the idea of "person". Is this concept just a category that people just read into their understanding of Scripture? Certainly, man was created a living "soul", and man was made in the image/likeness of God, but I struggle to find an explicit mention of the category of "person".

I can agree that there are instances of passages where man is described as exercising a mind, will, emotion; but I do not see Scripture making the connection of these elements to the category "person". Must we first assume "person" and then read the passages as supporting the a-priori conception of "person," or can be establish "person" from the text itself?

My question is born mostly from a growing realization that people all too often just read their ideas of personhood into the text rather than letting the text shape their understanding of themselves. I voted "other" for this reason.