Reasons to Believe

The Origin of the Human Soul, Part 4 (of 4)

What is the best explanation for how the human soul comes into being?

The Bible presents human beings as a unity of body and soul (Matthew 10:28). But just how did God bring about the origin of the human soul? Is there a specific position on this issue that holds greater explanatory power than another? Or is this profound topic an inexplicable mystery?

In part three of this series I explored the position of traducianism, the view that human beings derive both their bodies and souls from their parents through procreation. In this final article I will examine the viewpoint known as creationism.

What is Creationism?
Not to be confused with the doctrine of how God brought about the origin of the cosmos, creationism (or creatianism) is the view that each individual human soul is directly created by God
ex nihilo (out of nothing) before being united with the body. This perspective postulates that the soul is created pure but is subsequently corrupted along with the body through the process of conception. The exact timing of the soul’s implantation in the body is debated, though many would argue in favor of the time of physical conception.
Biblical and Theological Support for Creationism

As I mentioned in my previous discussion of traducianism, Scripture does not address the topic of the soul’s origin in any formal or explicit way. Therefore, inferences and implications from Scripture must be drawn carefully and weighed accordingly.

• Scripture appears to distinguish between the origin of man’s soul and body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 12:9).

• The position of creationism seems more in keeping with the pure spiritual nature of the soul.

• One of creationism’s strongest appeals is that it also preserves the soul as a simple, indivisible substance.

• The creationism view seems to safeguard the sinless nature of Jesus Christ’s human soul better than does traducianism.

Concerns and Criticisms of Creationism

• None of the biblical arguments are clinching or determinative in their support of creationism.

• Creationism seems to have a much harder time explaining the transmission of original sin among humanity than does traducianism.

• The position of creationism may serve to detract from man’s unity of body and soul.

In evaluating the positions of traducianism and creationism, important theological issues, such as the image of God and original sin, certainly impact the analysis.

Though creationism stands as the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, historic Christianity has never collectively issued an official orthodox position concerning the human soul’s origin. Believers would do well to carefully put all aspects of the Christian worldview to the test.

For a discussion of the human soul and the various positions concerning its origin, see the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), s.v. “Soul.”

For more about the historic Christian view of human nature, see my book, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test, especially chapter 10.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Subjects: Christian Life

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.