Back to Theology page Back to Home
Where does man get his soul?
Where does man get his soul?
Where does man get his soul? Most people do not think about this subject very often, much less consider it to be controversial. But it is. This controversy seeks to answer, Biblically, the origin of man's soul. The Christian might well reply, "From God." In this he would be correct. However, how does the soul get into man?
Basically, there are three main viewpoints. The first is that of pre-existence. This teaching is primarily held by cults. It usually dictates that God created, at some point in the eternal state, all souls that will ever exist. The teachings vary a little from here, but all basically state that God put them in a "soul bank" as it were, and as each person was born, stuck each individual soul into the body. It is notable that reincarnation allows for this. Biblically, this is not supported but by a few, out-of-context passages. Jeremiah 1:5, which states that "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." This only establishes the sovereignty of God upon each one of our lives! This does not focus on man, or the existence of man. Furthermore, the focus is on God's knowledge of Jeremiah. Nowhere is it even hinted at that this is reciporacal. The problem arises when we read human attributes into God's methods. Our knowledge of something might necessitate its present existence, since we cannot know the future. God's knowledge is not so limited. Not only does He know the future, but He ordains it (Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 46:10-11)!
There are two other views, both well represented in Biblical Christianity today. The first of these is called creationism. Creationism teaches that God creates each individual soul. Most of the arguments are logical in nature. For instance, a proponent may argue, nothing can exist that God did not bring about. This is definitely true. Also, it is argued that God created man's soul in the first place, so we should expect this to continue on. They contend also that this is the only way that Jesus Christ could have been born as a human and also not had a sin nature imputed to Him; God created His soul. Isaiah 49:5 presents a Biblical argument for the creationist, since God clearly "formed" Isaiah. Revelation 4:11 gives not just physical creation, but spiritual creation in view of the purpose of God's creation.
The view of creationism, however, is not without its own set of problems. Logically, the question of the sin nature must be raised. How is it that sin nature is imputed unto each man? The fact that it is imputed is indisputable, from Romans 5:12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" In fact, verses 13 and 14 detail that it is not merely talking about the act of sin, or missing God's mark, as much as it is the fleshly nature on each man. There must be a mark to miss; sin can only be imputed when there is knowledge of God's law. Yet verse 14 states that "nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression...." If God creates each soul, then one of two possibilities are presented. Either a) God creates each soul already sinful, or b) God creates each soul to be immediately sinful at conception. Both are Biblically untenable. The first proposition is blasphemous, since everything God creates is good (Genesis 1:31, Ephesians 4:24). The second proposition is logically impossible, since the soul is created at conception, after conception, or before conception. We have already discussed why pre-existence is Biblically faulty (before conception). It cannot be created after conception either, since Psalm 51:5 details that "in sin did my mother conceive me." Sin nature was there at conception. So if God creates the soul and creates it perfect, yet simultaneously it is sinful, we have a violation of the law of noncontradiction. Briefly, this law basically states that two opposite propositions presented at the same time cannot both be true. Either one is true and the other false or they can both be false. Logically, then, creationism can be shown to be demonstrably untenable.
What of creationism's claim of Jesus Christ? That this is the only way He could have avoided the sin nature? This actually leads us into the third view, and the second in the accepted views amongst Christians. It is called traduceanism.
This view teaches that God created the first souls (Adam and Eve) and then, just as it is with our phsyical bodies, we get our souls transmitted from our parents. Some teach it is both mother and father, while some specifically teach that the soul is only transmitted from the father. I believe that traduceanism from the father alone is the most Biblical and logical viewpoint.
We should begin with Jesus Christ, since that is the subject that introduced us to this area. Traduceanism is the only one of the three positions that allows for and partially explains the virgin birth. Rephrased, it is the only view that holds the virgin birth had a point. If Christ had not been virgin born and creationism was true, then God still could have created His soul and made Him to be without a sin nature. (Prophecy would have been violated but that prophecy, according to this line of thinking, would not have been prophesied since it was unnecessary) If Christ had not been virgin born and traduceanism was true, then Christ would have had a sin nature imputed to Him from His earthly father, Joseph. In other words, a virgin birth was necessary to avoid the imputation of a sin nature!
Logically speaking, paternal transmission of the soul makes sense, since this is how we get our bodies. Yet no Christian would say that God has not created us individually. Biblically, this also answers questions. The aforementioned Romans 5, for example. How is it that "death reigned" over even "them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression"? Adam's transgression was willful disobedience. We often refer to this as rebellion. Isn't that what all sin is? Here is the point: if traduceanism is true, we now understand how exactly a sin nature gets to a person, even if they have not necessarily performed a sin act yet. If traduceanism is not true, Romans 5 is a complete mystery, incapable of being understood.
Hebrews 7:10 also provides an interesting look concerning Levi paying tithes in Abraham. "For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him." This clearly demonstrates that Levi was regarded to have paid tithes, even though he clearly did not yet exist. But all the components necessary for the descendant (physical, spiritual) were present in the ancestor. Furthermore, when God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, they did so. They reproduced children with physical bodies and with souls. God is not said to have created (directly) these souls.
Traduceanism clearly accounts for the spiritual condition of man, the virgin birth of Christ, logical and Biblical arguments. The souls of man are passed on by the father--this is the reason all of mankind needs a Savior. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3:10)
Back to Theology page Back to Home