How Does God Create Souls?

Seth asked

Tim, one question I have. One Christian I know asserted that Christians believe that God creates the soul ex nihilo at conception.

Is this true? Or is it just his view, or his church’s?

There are two major views within Historic Christianity on the creation of the soul that I’m aware of:

  1. The soul is created ex nihilo (by proxy of God or related to the natural act of conception. Just as your physical body is a combination of your parents physical traits, so too is your soul.)
  2. Souls are in Heaven waiting for bodies. (sounds familiar I’m sure)

#1 is by far the more popular view.  There is VERY little discussion of how souls are created. I could probably count the number of times I’ve heard some one bring it up on one hand and have two fingers left. I think if there were more discussion you’d see an even more overwhelming acceptance of #1.  While in High School I assumed #2.  Later, in college I heard a philosopher talk more about what the soul is and is not and adopted #1.

I’ve revised my thoughts slightly.  Please see my first comment below.

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About Tim

Evangelical Christian living in Southern California. I live with my wife and whatever foster children happen to be in our home at this moment. I love photography, baseball, movies and I'm fascinated by Mormonism.

9 thoughts on “How Does God Create Souls?

  1. “Ex nihilo” is tricky since a definitive affirmation of ex nihilo creation as we conceptualize it would require knowledge that nobody on earth apparently has.

    However, for practical purposes, “ex nihilo” is pretty dang close.

  2. you’re right.

    As I think about it #1 is not ex-nihilo, it’s a some combination of 2 previously existing souls. Just as new bodies are not created ex-nihilo but by a combination of existing DNA.

    The souls in #2 are created ex-nihilo and whether they are “waiting” for bodies or are created by God at the moment of conception could be up for debate.

  3. But in any case, the Bible certainly does not provide an unequivocal answer to this. At the same time, it doesn’t give much support for the idea that souls exist before birth, so most of Christianity has historically gone with that.

    I do want to add that the more I explore Christianity, the more I realize how significant it is that we are created beings, that came into existence by God’s will and action. There’s a fundamental difference in what human beings are, with all kinds of implications, when you take Christianity’s insistence that we were created, and contrast it with Mormonism’s insistence that we were born spiritually as well as physically, and that we have an eternal idenity that is independent from God.

  4. Isn’t there also a distinction between creation of the soul, i.e. God making it come into existence, or propagation of the soul, (traducism) where the soul is produced by the actual action of conception (which is what Tim seems to be talking about)?

    Mormon scripture (pearl of great price) and the teaching of Joseph Smith seem to indicate that souls were created by God through some sort of propagation where something called “intelligences” became “spirits” and these spirits unite with the body at some point (possibly conception or later) to become a “soul”.

    I think the Mormon ideas appeal to the intuition that many have that this life was not the beginning of our existence. The doctrine of uncreated spirits is perhaps the most radical and distinct doctrine of Mormonism within Christianity. Although the intuition and the common belief among many believers is that souls are in heaven and sent down to earth, the idea is completely rejected by most “orthodox” theologians.

    As a missionary I was very quick to notice that many (if not most) people I spoke to about the issue seemed to believe there was a pre-existence but none of the churches they grew-up in taught this doctrine.

  5. Creation vs. Propagation:

    Sorry, I guess Tim brought out the distinction in his original post. Is there a consensus on this point amongst Evangelicals?

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