John Ortberg believes many people today have a soul problem. In his new book, “Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You,” says we “live on the planet of lost souls” in which live dis-integrated lives. The secret to remedying this problem begins with recognizing what he calls the nine needs of the soul.
Ortberg is a credible voice on the matter as pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian and the prolific author of such modern classics as “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” and “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” (He is the father of RNS’ own Laura Ortberg Turner, which is his real claim to fame.) Here, we discuss how we people can cultivate healthier souls.
RNS: How do you define the soul? Is it different from our “selves” or our “spirits”?
JO: The soul is what integrates separate functions into a single, organic, whole creature. That’s why the search for harmony and integration and connectedness is a “soul” function. The soul is the deepest dimension of our existence. It captures the reality of life before God in a way that the word “self” does not. Think of the difference between the words “soul-ish” and “selfish.”
“Spirit” refers more generally to the power or energy that comes from our wills. This difference is still reflected in current language; we might speak of a “spirited” horse but we would talk about a “soulful” artist—not the other way round.
RNS: What does the Bible say about our souls?