“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”  Proverbs 20:27

The theory of temperament is a means for us to understand the inner workings of man (the temperament) and to shine like a light in a dark place. Many authors and theologians have spent countless hours writing hundreds of books, theses and dissertations in an attempt to clarify the mystery concerning the inner man.

trivsdiThis is a very complex subject, and anyone who attempts to explain it is usually accused of oversimplifying or over-complicating the subject. Nevertheless, the mystery of man’s soul and spirit is quite significant in the theory of temperament. Two major schools of thought or theological doctrines concerning the inner man are the Dichotomists and the Trichotomists.


Dichotomists believe there are only two essential elements in the constitution or makeup (the natural state of body or mind) of man.

  • The body—formed from the dust of the earth.
  • The soul —or principle of life. Genesis 2:7

They believe the soul to be the origin or source of the whole life (whether that life is man or beast) and that it is the principle of all life: physical, intellectual, moral, religious. That is, there is not one substance, the soul, which feels and remembers and another substance, the spirit, that has conscience and the knowledge of God.

Dichotomists believe and teach that man is made up of two distinct parts: the body, which, of course, is the physical, and the soul, which includes the inner man in his entirety, i.e., will, emotions, intellect, etc. They believe that the spirit is simply the higher order or part of man’s soul. The dividing factor between man and animal is that an animal has ONLY a lower soul, whereas man has both a lower soul and a higher soul.

“Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”  Ecclesiastes 3:21


In support of their belief that man is a triune being, Trichotomists quote,

“The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame unto the coming of the Lord.” I Thessalonians 5:23

They believe there are three parts or essential elements of man.

  • The body is the material (physical) part of man.
  • The soul is the principle of animal life (man possesses it in common with animals), and to it belongs simple understanding, emotion, and sensibility.
  • The spirit is the mind, the principle of man’s rational and immortal life, the possessor of reason, will and conscience.

God created man by enlivening lifeless matter that He formed into a body, and then creating a rational spirit and infusing it into the body (Genesis 2:7). At death the body returns to the dust of the earth from which it came and the spirit returns unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The soul of life, in the instance of the animal, is only the animal soul, which is physical and material in its nature, but perishes with the body in which it is the vital principle. However, the difference in the instance of man is that the soul is a higher principle, the rational soul, which was breathed by the Creator and made in His image.

Redeemed Man

redeemedThere is, however, another school of thought that harmonizes with both the Dichotomist’s and Trichotomist’s interpretation of the natural and spiritual (I Corinthians 15:44). This school of thought refers to the redeemed (resurrected) body which will not be marked by the qualities of ordinary animal life (even if they are presently right and proper).

The redeemed life will be opposed to everything carnal and is characterized by qualities that belong to the Spirit-led man. It refers to possession and control by the
Holy Spirit as contrasted with the domination of the flesh (I Corinthians 3:1).

“For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him. Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” I Corinthians 2:11

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” I Corinthians 2:12

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I Corinthians 2:13

Thus, a spiritual body, when contrasted with a natural body, is a body free from fleshly lusts and is elevated above the physical passions and appetites which are characteristic of the natural man. The spiritual body is in union with the Spirit of God and marked by the qualities which characterize the Spirit-led man.

“For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12


The way a man perceives himself, his world and God will determine how he will behave. These perceptions are founded in the temperament. Therefore, on the basis of this premise, the temperament is the determining factor of who we are. However, our environment and our relationship with God determine who we will become.

Taken from “CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE: A Course in Human Behavior: A Christian Perspective” by Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno, p. 8-11




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