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Where Does the Soul Come from?

Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

Three Theories

When a baby is born, we know the body is composed of the DNA of the mother and the father. The semen of the father units with the egg in the mother to form the body and physical characteristics of the child. But, what is the origin of the human soul? Where does the soul come from? In this article we will look at three options and discuss the pros and cons of each view. One of the challenges to this topic is the Bible is silent. We do not know exactly when the soul is created. The best we can do is to take the information we have in the Bible, and try to reason.

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1) Preexistence or the "Well of Souls"

This view believes when God created Adam, He had already created all the souls of all the people who would ever be born. These souls are stored in a sleep-state until their body is available. In the case of Adam and Eve, when God made them, their souls were united with their adult bodies. In the case of babies, when they are conceived in the womb, their souls are then united with their bodies.

The theory can quickly be put to rest when we look at the creation of Adam in the book of Genesis.

“ Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

A pre-made soul did not unit with the body of Adam. God breathed into the body of Adam and a soul was made.

where-does-the-soul-come-from

2) Creationism ("Continual Creation")

Roman Catholic Catechism:

“The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not “produced” by the parents—and also that it is immortal: It does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.” (1)

Charles Hodge observes:

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“Creationism does not necessarily suppose that there is any other exercise of the immediate power of God in the production of the human soul, than such as takes place in the production of life in other cases. It only denies that the soul is capable of division, that all mankind are composed of numerically the same essence and that Christ assumed numerically the same essence that sinned in Adam.” (2)

The Soul of Eve

Adam was formed from the dust of the earth. God breathed into Adam and made him a living soul. Eve was created from the rib of Adam. It raises the question as to where Eve’s souls came from. Did God create it when He made her? Given that it was still on the sixth day, then it is reasonable to assume God created her soul. But, if God continues to create souls as babies are conceive, then he does not truly “rest” on the seventh day. On the seventh day, creation would not have cease but God would have resumed creating on the eighth day. There is a second challenge to this position. This position has God creating a pure soul- untainted with sin- and that soul becoming corrupt through its contact with the physical body.

where-does-the-soul-come-from

3) Traduction (Literally: “vine layer”)

Traducianism is the idea by which the soul is spontaneously generated at conception. The whole man, material and immaterial, is created in the womb. Turtillian (date)was the first to postulate this theory, It was later adopted by Luther and the Lutheran Church. The theory was rejected by Peter Lumbard and Thomas Aquinas.

Traducianism offers a simple explanation for the imputation of the sin of the parent to the child, so that we can trace the Fallen nature of each person back to the original parent of all humanity, Adam. If the soul, just like the body, is made through propagation, then it is easy to explain the inheritance of a sin nature. The body and soul of the baby come from the parents. Which is why they are born with a nature inclined to sin.

Charles Hodge:

“If traducianism teaches that the soul admits of abscission or division; or that the human race are constituted of numerically the same substance; or that the Son of God assumed into personal union with himself the same numerical substance which sinned and fell in Adam; then it is to be rejected as both false and dangerous. But if, without pretending to explain everything, it simply asserts that the human race is propagated in accordance with the general law which secures that like begets like; that the child derives its nature from its parents through the operation of physical laws, attended and controlled by the agency of God, whether directive or creative, as in all other cases of the propagation of living creatures, it may be regarded as an open question, or matter of indifference."(3)

Footnotes

(1) Roman Catholic Church, CCC 362-368

(2) Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, p.530

(3) ibid.

© 2022 Barry G Carpenter

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