Now that we have an understanding of what the soul is, we must turn our attention to the question of where the soul comes from? This is an interesting river to swim in, and there are three veins of thought on the subject. These are Pre-Existentianism, Creationism and Traducianism. However, only Creationism and Traducianism are viable Christian perspectives. So, let’s turn our attention first to Pre-Existentianism.
This is the belief that our souls exist prior to the creation of the material body. So on this view, not only are souls immortal, but they are eternal. The one pesky problem with this understanding is that there is no Scriptural support for it. In fact, God’s eternality is one of his incommunicable attributes, or one that we, in our limited nature, do not share in. This view would be compatible with the Mormon teaching on “spirit children,” but is not accepted by orthodox Christianity.
That leads us to our next two categories, Creationism and Traducianism. This is one of those issues that we can’t know for sure, but we do our best to grapple with it instead of not thinking about it at all. There are sincere Christians in both of these camps, and it is certainly not an issue to carve a line in the cement over. The first step should be to understand both views and then decide which you find more convincing.
On this view, the soul “is an immediate and direct creation of God.” (Lewis, Class Notes, 2013). Therefore, it is created pure and sinless. Creationists would use the following verses in support of their position: Genesis 2:7, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Isaiah 42:5, Zechariah 12:1, Hebrews 12:9, Psalms 104:30.
First of all it seems to explain the original creation account in Genesis 2:7 where the body was a separate creation from the soul. Second, some argue that this view explains the sinlessness of Christ’s human nature.
First, it doesn’t account for original sin. Is the soul created in a depraved condition? How is that reconcilable to God? Didn’t he create Adam and Eve holy, and their disobedience brought corruption? On the other hand, perhaps the physical body corrupts the soul? However, that would seem to make the material world evil. Additionally, this view doesn’t account for inherited traits. Think about the non-physical traits in families such as mannerisms, sense of humor, inclinations – this view offers very little in the way of explaining those realities. Finally, Creationism doesn’t seem compatible with Genesis 2:2 where God ceased his creative work. If every soul is a direct creation from God, then God is still actively creating.
On this view, the soul of man is generated in the same way the physical body is produced. The one holding this view would look to verses like: Genesis 1:28; 2:7; 2:21-23, 1 Corinthians 11:8, Genesis 2:2; 46:26, and Hebrews 7:9-10.
First, this view understands God to have breathed into man one time in Genesis 2:7. The Traducianists would argue that since there’s nothing said about Eve’s soul being created, the creation of the human soul was a one-time event with Adam. Second, unlike Creationism, this view is compatible with God ceasing from his creative work after Adam (Genesis 2:2). Traducianism would also explain why future descendants are said to be in the loins of their fathers (Hebrews 7:10), and it also accounts for inherited spiritual depravity. Finally, it provides an explanation for non-physical family traits (mannerisms, humor and inclinations).
First, it leaves the questions of if parents create the soul? Also, if the soul is present in the physical seed of parents, would that result in materialism? Second, if one embraces this view as a result of eliminating Creationism over God ceasing all creative works, then how do we account for the “new creation” of regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Finally, if every depraved soul comes directly from Adam, then Christ must have been depraved because he was fully human… right? Or, did the involvement of the Holy Spirit somehow sanctify his human nature since his birth was a miracle?
Both of these views have pros and cons. They both answer some questions and create others. However, when we grapple with these questions it makes us more aware of the subject matter. It forces us to search Scripture. So, even if there is no absolute certainty these endeavors bring, we are still the better for the study.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology; An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Lewis, Kevin. Personal notes from Essential Christian Doctrine Lectures. Biola University; La Mirada, CA, 2013.
Shedd, William G.T. Dogmatic Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003.