About the Origin of the Soul

From Lynden, Washington we received the following questions concerning the origin of the soul: 

“Do we receive or inherit our souls from our natural parents? If so, from father, or mother, or both? That would seem to pose some difficulties. If not, is each individual soul an immediate creative act of God? Consequently, is God still creating? 

Allow me, first of all, to apologize for the delay in answering this and other questions that have been sent in to the Question Box. Various other duties, such as spending nine weeks in Bradenton, Florida, have kept me occupied, so that the questions had to wait. I appreciate the patience of those who sent in questions and assure you that, D.V., I will answer the questions on hand in the near future. 

The question that is raised about the origin of the soul is, indeed, interesting. The individual who sent the question mentioned in his letter that he was acquainted with the terms Creationism and Traducianism. To refresh our memories, the term Creationism has been used ever since Aristotle and the early church to designate the theory that God creates the soul of every individual at the time of conception. It was used in the latter part of the 19th century to oppose the evolution theory. As the questioner remarks, this would be an on-going creation. In that case, the human body comes from the parents, but the soul in each instance is created by God. Traducianism is the theory that the soul as well as the body comes from the parents. As is evident from the liberal theology of our day, that raises the question whether man evolves from a lower animal, or even whether God has anything at all to do with the origin of the soul, or if this is merely a natural process. 

The first question that must be answered is, what do we understand by the “soul”? Does man consist of two separate parts, soul and body? Did God create man’s body from the dust of the earth, and then add a soul, or a spirit? Or is the soul an integral part of man’s being, so that soul and body are intimately related and essentially one? 

In Genesis 2:7 we are told, “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.” Obviously, this is not two separate creative acts, as if God first formed a human body and then added a soul. But this is two aspects of one divinely creative act. God made man a human being, with a nature that is different from that of the animals. This human nature has a physical and a psychical, or spiritual side. Man came forth from the hand of the Creator as a rational, moral creature, capable of thinking, willing, speaking, and acting. He is a natural being of the earth earthy, yet at the same time he is a spiritual being who stands as an accountable creature before the living God. According to his creation, he was an image bearer of God, with a mind that was capable of knowing God, a heart that was capable of loving God, and a will that could direct his entire being in the service of God. He stood in relationship to God as Gods friend-servant to devote himself in covenant fellowship to the living God.

Man’s “soul” therefore also has a twofold aspect. On the one hand, man is capable of seeing, hearing, feeling, speaking, thinking, willing, planning, and carrying out a conscious, deliberate work. On the other hand, man’s soul stands in relation to God as knowing that God is God, aware that God’s law is the rule of life, and that he is responsible to God for all his desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. He can never lose that spiritual, moral consciousness, even after the fall. Therefore also at death his “soul” from that spiritual aspect (or spirit, as Scripture refers to it), leaves the body to enter into eternity, either in heaven or in hell. 

What helps us to understand the origin of the soul is the wonder of the incarnation. The person of the Son of God joined His complete divine nature to a complete human nature which He took from the virgin Mary. Christ had a complete, yet impersonal human nature, for the divine person of the Son of God took on our flesh, completely God and at the same time completely flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, both as to body and soul. 

This gives us certain definite directives as to the origin of the human soul. At conception not merely the body is called into existence, but a personal being, consisting of body and soul. God creates a new individual, a new person with individual gifts and talents. Therefore, the soul and body are brought into existence from the parents, the person is from God. God brings about each conception, creating at the moment of conception a new person which must serve his or her unique purpose with the particular gifts and talents, personality and character traits, as God has determined from eternity. 

I hope that this may be of some help to understand the origin of the soul.