Posted By Thomas Perez. August 4, 2010 at 8:49pm. Copyright 2010.
Question 1: “How are human souls created?”
Answer: There are two biblical plausible views on how the human soul is created. Traducianism is the theory that a soul is generated by the physical parents along with the physical body. Support for Traducianism is as follows: (A) In Genesis 2:7, God breathed the breath of life into Adam, causing Adam to become a “living soul.” Scripture nowhere records God performing this action again. (B) Adam had a son in his own likeness (Genesis 5:3). Adam’s descendants seem to be “living souls” without God breathing into them. (C) Genesis 2:2-3 seems to indicate that God ceased His creative work. (D) Adam’s sin affects all men—both physically and spiritually—this makes sense if the body and soul both come from the parents. The weakness of Traducianism is that it is unclear how an immaterial soul can be generated through an entirely physical process. Traducianism can only be true if the body and soul are inextricably connected.
Creationism is the view that God creates a new soul when a human being is conceived. Creationism was held by many early church fathers and also has scriptural support. First, Scripture differentiates the origin of the soul from the origin of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 12:9). Second, if God creates each individual soul at the moment it is needed, the separation of soul and body is held firm. The weakness of Creationism is that it has God continually creating new human souls, while Genesis 2:2-3 indicates that God ceased creating. Also, since the entire human existence—body, soul, and spirit—are infected by sin and God creates a new soul for every human being, how is that soul then infected with sin?
A third view, but one that lacks biblical support, is the concept that God created all human souls at the same time, and “attaches” a soul to a human being at the moment of conception. This view holds that there is sort of a “warehouse of souls” in heaven where God stores souls that await a human body to be attached to. Again, this view has no biblical support, and is usually held by those of a “new age” or reincarnation mindset.
Whether the Traducianist view or the Creationist view is correct, both agree that the soul does not exist prior to conception. This seems to be the clear teaching of the Bible. Whether God creates a new human soul at the moment of conception, or whether God designed the human reproductive process to also reproduce a soul, God is ultimately responsible for the creation of each and every human soul.
Recommended Resource: In His Image by Brand & Yancey.
Question 2: “Do we have two or three parts? Body, soul, and spirit? Dichotomy or trichotomy?”
Answer: Genesis 1:26-27 indicates that there is something that makes humanity distinct from all the other creations. Human beings were intended to have a relationship with God, and as such, God created us with both material and immaterial parts. The material is obviously that which is tangible: the physical body, bones, organs, etc., and exists as long as the person is alive. The immaterial aspects are those which are intangible: soul, spirit, intellect, will, conscience, etc. These exist beyond the physical lifespan of the individual.
All human beings possess both material and immaterial characteristics. It is clear that all mankind has a body containing flesh, blood, bones, organs, and cells. However, it is the intangible qualities of mankind that are often debated. What does Scripture say about these? Genesis 2:7 states that man was created as a living soul. Numbers 16:22 names God as the “God of the spirits” that are possessed by all mankind. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” indicating that the heart is central to man’s will and emotions. Acts 23:1 says, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” Here Paul refers to the conscience, that part of the mind that convicts us of right and wrong. Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” These verses, and numerous others, refer to the various aspects of the immaterial part of humanity. We all share both material and immaterial qualities.
So, Scripture outlines far more than just soul and spirit. Somehow, the soul, spirit, heart, conscience, and mind are connected and interrelated. The soul and spirit, though, definitely are the primary aspects of humanity. They likely comprise the other aspects. With this is mind, is humanity dichotomous (cut in two, body-soul/spirit), or trichotomous (cut in three, body/soul/spirit). It is impossible to be dogmatic. There are good arguments for both views. A key verse is Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This verse tells us at least two things about this debate. The soul and spirit can be divided, and the division of soul and spirit is something that only God can discern. Rather than focusing on something we cannot know for sure, it is better to focus on the Creator, who has made us “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14).