This is another issue which I had no idea about. Until recently I had heard some arguments for both sides of this issue (dichotomy and Trichotomy) which were good, but none of them on their own were convincing. I new that I needed to study what the Bible taught on this issue before deciding anything. It was clear that only one view could be correct.
I will note that this issue is far from important. It does not matter if you believe dichottomy or trichotomy as it is definitely not something essential to the faith and our salvation and the Bible does not explicitely state that we are made up of two or three parts (although it clear says that we are not made up of only one part). But I found through my studies that the Bible does show that only one interpretation is correct (which one I found and now believe I'll show later). The following pages show my studies of this topic and how I came to my conclusions.
The differences between these two doctrines are minor and have now immediate affect at all on important doctrines. But I found in my studies that the consequences of which belief system you hold can be important. But both systems agree that we are made up of two distinct 'parts'. The material part (body) and the immaterial part. It is on this immaterial part about which the two systems disagree. Trichotomy says that this part is composed of two distinct parts - soul and spirit. Dichotomy says that these two are the same.
This is the belief that we are composed only of body and soul-spirit (hyphenated for simplicity). Soul and spirit are different names for the immaterial part of our natures. Although they are two names for the same thing, soul and spirit have different meanings and thus describe different functions of the one. Soul is basically describing the earthward focus of our soul-spirit, the earthly aspects of our being and relationships. Spirit is basically the heavenward focus of our soul-spirit. Despite the distinction between the meanings, they are the same thing.
This is the belief that we are composed of three 'parts' - body, soul and spirit. Our immaterial self is divided into two distinct parts, the soul and the spirit. These two parts have distinct natures and functions. What these are are generally agreed upon by all Trichotomists, but there are slight disagreements among some. Basically the soul is earthward, and the spirit is heavenward. A better and more detailed of this will be explained later on.
Are you willing to proceed further into the abyss of yet another controversial subject? I hope in my studies I can accurately show what the Bible teaches and come to an accurate conclusion.
Di- Or Trichotomy?
only one can be correct - not both.
DTL: http://www.dtl.org/subject/problematic.htm#Human%20Nature - notes of done
CARM: http://www.carm.org/bible/man.htm - notes of done
spirit and soul used interchangably v 'made in image of God' - trinity
is our immaterial part composed of one or two parts - soul and spirit?
http://www.alliancenet.org/pub/mr/mr95/1995.04.JulAug/mr9504.kr.trichotomy.html - notes of done.
http://www.endtimesnetwork.com/ant_chp8e.html - unnecessary almost
Does it matter if you believe in dichotomy or trichotomy? No. However, a word of caution. There are churches that teach it is possible for Christians to be demon possessed. These groups hold the trichotomous position. They maintain that it is possible for one part of a person to be possessed but not the other. For example, they might claim that the spirit of a person can be possessed but the soul cannot. Others reverse it and state that the soul of a person can be possessed but not the spirit. This is problematic because there are no accounts in Scripture of Christians having demons cast out of them. Besides, how can a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit also be indwelt by a demon? Nevertheless, this does not mean that the trichotomous position is wrong. There are many great scholars on both sides of the issue in spite of the error of Christian demon possession.- http://www.carm.org/bible/man.htm
http://www.dmea.net/~charisma/holyspirit.html - notes of done