Undertaking to write on this subject, we are very conscious of the fact that when we have finished, there will be much that was left unsaid concerning this subject, and that it will be far from us to have written the final word about the origin of the soul. Only we desire to review a few ideas concerning the souks origin and then meek to trace in few words the line of thought we believe will give us somewhat of a conception on this subject.
At the outset we may mention the fact that there are predominantly three theories concerning the origin of the soul. The first theory is called Creationism. This name is self-explanatory, in so far that it suggest to us the idea of creation. The soul is created. Not only the original soul of Adam is thus created by God, but every soul of every mortal that ever has lived or ever shall live upon earth, is created by God almighty. And that creation of every soul did not take place in the beginning of time, or at the time Adam was created, but the creation of each soul takes place at the time of generation and birth of the individual. There are various opinions as to the exact time of this creation, whether at the time of generation or later at the further development of the child. But the main point of this theory is that the soul is created separately during that time. Also, according to this theory, God is the creator of that soul. He creates a new soul whenever a new body has been generated. And He unites that newly created soul with that newly generated body. Such is the idea contained in the theory of creationism, and this theory has been mainly believed by Reformed people, although there were also some who could not find themselves in this explanation of the origin of the soul.
Secondly, there is the theory of Traducianism. This view sets forth the idea that the soul is not a new creation of God, but rather is the fruit of generation. Accordingly, there is no direct act of God taking place at the time of the birth of a child, even though this all takes place under the predestinated course of God’s counsel. But God does not create the soul in distinction from the body which is generated by the parents. The soul also is generated with the body and thus both body and soul are products of the act of the parents. There is nothing especially divine in the matter of the soul. This theory is believed mostly by the Lutherans, although there were also some from Reformed circles who believed in this idea concerning the origin of the soul.
The third theory is called Pre-existentianism, which claims that God created every soul of man in the beginning of time. In other words, when God made the heavens and earth in the beginning, including man, He also created all souls, then and there. Thus the soul was created for you and me previous to our existence, long before we ever were generated or born, yea, in the very beginning of time. There were, according to this view billions upon billions of souls created by God in the beginning and being reserved for the individuals for which they were intended, were each one placed in the body of such a person at the time of his or her birth. Though this view seems very absurd, yet it claimed its followers throughout the history of the church. Howbeit the first two views were the generally accepted views of the Christian world, and they will claim the most of our discussion.
If we were forced to choose between Creationism and Traducianism, we too would choose Creationism, if for no other reason than that view claims that the spiritual element of man comes exclusively from God, and not from man. It certainly must be held fast to, that God lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John 1:9vv. And even though it is true that the image of God in man has spiritually-ethically changed into its opposite, nevertheless it is exactly in that opposite that reveals that man is also the product directly of God the Creator. Man definitely bears, though it be in but a formal way, the stamp of God upon him, and this stamp is never erased. It marks man as the image bearer of God, with God’s light shining upon him, even though the darkness which enshrouds man, cannot comprehend that light of God. And that light is surely born primarily in the soul of man. So that in Creationism man is upheld as the creature of God, not only in the beginning, but also today and throughout the history of man.
However to hold to Creationism exclusively and deny any of the elements contained in Traducianism, would not do justice to what is revealed to us in Holy Scripture either. The view that man generates and produces both soul and body in his offspring, has much that appeals and contains certain elements that cannot be denied. For instance the traits of character of a parent visible in the child, cannot merely be explained as physical, i.e. in the body only. For not only does one see physical likenesses in the child but certainly also psychical, likenesses in. the soul. In fact even the moral-ethical side of a parent is generally revealed also in the offspring. This is even corroborated by the Scriptures when it teaches us in Matt. 7:16 that men do not gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles. Like produces like. Mental and moral, as well as physical qualities appear in the offspring, even though these various qualities are often rather curiously distributed. Sometimes these qualities concentrate in one of the offspring, and sometimes these qualities are distributed to many of the offspring. In fact this distribution of the qualities of parents in the offspring is so apparent, that oftentimes the ancestral quality leaps as it were over one or more generation and reappears in a distant relative. Certainly there is something to the view that the soul of man is generated in the child, and thus we cannot entirely overlook the theory of Traducianism.
To obtain a somewhat independent conception of the subject matter, we would submit first of all a short study of the creation of man according to Genesis 2:7, where we read: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”. First of all it is plain from this text that man was created very distinctively, that is, man was formed by God in distinction from the animal which was created by God also but so that the earth brought forth the animal. See Gen. 1:24. So that it is first of all plain that God formed the whole nature of man with an act of His own hand, thereby revealing that man was made in God’s own image. Secondly it is equally plain from the text that God (did not merely create from the dust of the ground a molded form of a man, such as a piece of dead clay formed to look like a man, but that instead God created a complete man, a complete living organism or nature. Thirdly, when we read then that God blew into him the breath of life, this cannot mean that God blew into man a soul, but that God gave another element to man, which is distinct from the animal, in that man is, by that breath of God, a distinct, spiritual, personal nature fit and able to live the life of God in a creaturely way. So that we may conclude that man was created entirely different from any other creature, in that God formed him from the dust of the ground, breathing at the same time into him the breath of life, and that this whole process of creation was directly worked by the hand of God. A complete man was formed from the dust of the ground, and God breathed in that man the breath of life enabling that man to be the perfect image bearer of God in this world.
In the light of the foregoing, it is not so difficult to regard the origin of our soul somewhat differently than both Creationism and Traducianism conceive of it. If man brings forth a complete person, then he brings forth a man as God created it and formed it with His hand. Man does not then bring forth merely a dead form of a man wherein God creates a soul every time a man child is begotten. But man brings forth a human nature, complete as to body and soul. On the other band man is not the only active party in begetting and giving birth to a child. God too operates with His Spirit in that complete: human nature at the same time, and makes of that human nature a personal nature and a spiritual nature. This act of God makes of each human being a personal, spiritual, responsible being before God, without detracting in the least from the organic unity man sustains to his parents and for that matter to the whole human race as created in Adam.
The above stated view also can be maintained with a view to the birth of Christ, who assumed the whole complete human nature and was in all things like unto us, with the exception of sin. When we read in Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee (Mary) and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God”, this refers not to that act of God whereby the person of the Son came from heaven and assumed the human nature, but it refers to the complete, human nature which was born in the virgin Mary and brought forth from her, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary the virgin, brought forth the complete human nature, as to body and soul, perfectly like unto us in all things, only by the power of the Holy Spirit that complete, human nature, as to both body and soul, was kept holy by the Holy Spirit. But that human nature, brought forth by Mary, became personalized by the fact that the person of the Son of God came down and assumed that complete human nature.
In like manner now parents produce their likeness, as to both body and soul, while at the same time God works in that otherwise impersonal and unspiritual nature, a spiritual, personal being. Thereby this offspring reveals that he is not as the beast of the field, nor a product of evolution merely, but a product of God, a complete human being, personal, spiritual, and responsible to God for all his acts, whether they were good or evil. O true, there is also that organic unity which makes him a part of the whole human organism and makes him co-responsible with others, in the calling wherewith he is called. He has therefore responsibilities and duties to perform toward his fellow man also, and especially toward those who brought him forth, namely, his parents. And the parents in turn have a calling toward their offspring. For the sins of the parents will be visited upon the children, even unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, says God in His Holy Law. And it is surely true that we can see plainly the marks of the parents, and the inherited traits in the children. The looks not only, but also the behavior of the parents are easily discernable in the children. It is for that reason that good, upright, God-fearing parents, training their children in the way in which they shall go, have the joy and comfort at their decease, that the children will not depart from these ways of the Lord. It is also for that reason that all training is home-centered and the home will be reflected in the school and the church and in all other spheres of life. Like produces like, even as like seeks like. We with our children are a marvel of God’s creation, and it is God’s eternal good pleasure to bring forth His adopted and blessed children, from our children.