Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: January 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Basic Positions On the Origin of the Soul

In light  of the rise of discussion regarding abortion rights, it is important for Christians to understand the various positions on the subject  by different people involved in the discussion.  Most Bible believers take a Traducian, or Procreation, view of origins of the soul.

Three Basic Positions On the Origin of the Soul

1. All souls are eternal and pre-existent.

          There are two basic positions on pre-existence:

A. Transmigration: This is the position behind reincarnation formulated during the 9th century BC in the composition of the Brahmana writings.  After someone (animal or human) dies, the soul transmigrates from one body to another.  The common word for the core of human existence in the Eastern Religions is the Atman or Purusha.  There are many various beliefs regarding transmigration within Buddhism, Jainism, Chinese Taoism and Hinduism. 
B. Greek Platonism: This position believed all souls pre-existed in a Celestial World and fell into human bodies due to sin.  In order to be liberated from the bondage of the material world (the body), the soul needed to be purified through various stages of reincarnation in order to return to a pure form of existence.  Neo-Platonism (beginning during the 3rd century A.D.) was formed by the integration of Hindu and Platonian philosophies.

          Reincarnation is merely a “rebirth” of a pre-existing soul into a new life or new body.  The Soul (Atman or Purusha) is the true and continuing essence of individuality often referred to as the Higher or True Self, the Divine Spark or the I.  The last stage of reincarnation is known by many different terms; Nirvana, Enlightenment and Self Actualization to name a few.  Most New Age Christians integrate various forms or degrees of these beliefs into Christianity.

2. Creation: all souls and spirits are created by God either before time (pre-temporal) or at birth
3. Propagation: (Traducian) the soul and spirit are generated at conception as part of procreation.

          Scriptural evidences can substantiate only these latter two theories in anyway.  We find the first Scriptural mention of the soul in the creation account in Genesis. 

          The word translated “soul” in Genesis 2:7 is the Hebrew word nephesh (neh'-fesh).  The word simply means a breathing creature.  God “formed man” out of “the dust of the ground.”  This refers to man’s material being and chemical construction.  Then we are told that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  This is apparently unique to man.  We are not told that God breathed life into any other breathing creature although there are thousands of species of breathing creatures.  This act of God is what caused man to become “a living soul.”  Although other breathing species have life, nowhere is it said they have a soul.

          The word “living” is translated from the Hebrew word chay (khah'-ee), which simply means alive or living.  It was this act of God “breathing” into this lifeless mass of physical/material chemicals that caused this thing to become a distinct, unique entity with the ability to think, formulate ideas, develop personality, and make personal decisions of the will.  These two words “living soul” would be the result of God’s Spirit/Life uniting with human form producing an eternal soul since the Life of God is eternal Life.  

          It is obvious from Genesis 2:7 that the spirit and soul are distinct from one another but closely related.  I believe they are really inseparable from one another.  Soul connotes that the immaterial part of man which is related to life, action, emotion.  Spirit is that part within related to worship, communion, divine influence.” (Chafer’s Systematic Theology; Volume VII, page 291)  The terms are so closely related they are often used interchangeably throughout the Word of God.  That does not mean they are synonymous.  In the fall of man, the Soul is lost and man became spiritually dead.  

It would seem that the Soul of man is the essence or intelligent composite of his sensuality (sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste) creating memory and physical awareness.  It would seem that the Spirit of man is the essence or intelligent composite of his link to his spiritual existence (emotions, worship, communion, imagination, reason, and divine influence) creating conscience and spiritual awareness. 

          For instance, in I Corinthians 2:14-15 the Scripture refers to both the “natural man” and the “spiritual man.” 

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:6-15).

The word “natural” in I Corinthians 2:14 is from the Greek word psuchikos (psoo-khee-kos').  It means sensitive.  It was used of the human senses as they act upon the animate, material world.  Therefore, the Soul of man is said to be “lost.”  The word “lost” is never used of the Spirit of man.  The word “lost” in the New Testament books is translated from the Greek word apollumi (ap-ol’-loo-mee).  It refers to something ruined or destroyed.  Man was created to bring God glory.  That purpose was ruined/destroyed by humanity’s fall into sin.  In this destruction/ruin of the Soul, man also lost his connection to the spiritual realm of his existence.  Humanity was “blinded” to the spiritual and became “dead in trespasses and sins.”  Humanity was not only separated from God’s existence (“dead”), he became completely ignorant of God and What God is because of the ruin/destruction of his Soul.

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

          Salvation is much more than a Fire Escape from Hell.  Salvation is the restoration of a fallen Soul to God in fellowship, worship, and service.  In salvation, the sensual (Soul) is reconnected to the spiritual (Spirit) and the restoration of communion/fellowship between God and the saved individual is restored. 

          How does this help us decide whether souls are created or propagated (procreated)?  If souls, after the original creation, are created by God upon birth or conception, then we must conclude that those souls were created by God as “lost” souls.  David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  This makes God the creator of sinners.  

The idea that a child receives his/her soul upon birth was actually a part of the transmigration theory.  In this theory, a divine Being created all souls.  These souls are introduced into the Karma by birth over and over again until they achieve Enlightenment.  There is really no Scriptural evidence that God created all souls before time or that He creates a soul for each new baby born/conceived into this world.  If God creates a new soul for each new baby when that baby is conceived/born, then creation is an ongoing process.  This would be a contradiction against the statement of Scripture in Genesis 2:1-3.

          The intent of these verses is that God ceased in His work of creation ending His creative work on the “seventh day” by blessing the seventh day (7 is the number of completion) and setting that day apart for Him.  This act of sanctifying the seventh day was intent upon bringing the creation into a living and harmonious relationship with the Creator.  The main emphasis of the text is that creation ended on the sixth day after which the creation was self-propagating; i.e., everything produced after its own kind. 

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:20-28).

          The intent of these Scriptures is to show that God created a continuum.  That continuum was through propagation/procreation.  Every species was created with the ability to reproduce itself through propagation/procreation.  All that a species is exists within its genetic makeup, and reproduces itself in the process of procreation.  

          Propagation/procreation as well answers the question of when life begins.  Life began when God created life.  Life continues to be generated through the process of procreation.  Therefore, life continues to be propagated at conception in the fertilization of an egg by male sperm.  Since all species are monogenetic (produce after their own kind), at the moment of conception a new life begins.  In the human species, the fertilized egg is immediately body, soul, and spirit.  Although that child will grow for nine months in the womb before birth and grow for many years until adult maturity, all that this person will be is there in the egg in the genetic merging of the parents.  Therefore, God indirectly creates all souls through His continuum of procreation. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.