Friday, October 26, 2007

The Creation of the Soul: The Image of God In Us

I have recently read an excellent book entitled The Language of God by Francis S. Collins. Dr. Collins is an unapologetic evangelical Christian and the scientist in charge of the United States Human Genome Project which resulted in a complete DNA genetic blueprint of man - what some are now calling the most significant scientific discovery in the history of mankind.

I do not agree with all that Dr. Collins writes in his book about evolution, the age of the universe, etc . . . but I do appreciate the reverance he displays for God and the love in his heart for God's Son. There is, however, one thing that Dr. Collins suggests in his book that I wholeheartedly affirm. Dr. Collins believes the genus-differentia (what makes man different from animals) is the imprint of God in the soul of a man.

Many Southern Baptists and evangelical Christians err, in my opinion, on the subject of the origin of the soul. Most have the opinion that the souls of men are ex traduce, or generated by and derived from their parents with their bodies. This concept of the natural generation of the soul has led to the often used statement by evangelicals 'life begins at conception.' However, biological life existed in the egg, as well as the sperm, prior to conception, so when most evangelicals say, "life begins at conception," they mean "human life (i.e. the soul) exists at conception because it is traduced from the parents when the sperm and the egg unite."

This, however, is not what Scripture teaches. The apostle makes a distinction between "the fathers of our flesh" and "the Father of spirits" (Heb. 12:9). God speaks of man's souls as "The souls that I have made" (Isaiah 57:6). Zechariah the prophet said God "forms the spirit of man within him" (Zech. 12:1). Job declared "The breath of the Almight hath given me life" (Job 33:4). In other words, the souls of man are God's immediate creation; the making of them God claims absolutely for himself.

Dr. John Gill, the 18th Century Baptist theologian, Hebrew and Greek linguist, and the most renowned Baptist scholar of the English speaking world in his day agrees:

"The soul of man comes immediately from the hand of God, and is the image of God . . . Man only generates the body . . Souls are created one by one, when their bodies are prepared to receive them; they are not created without the body, and then put into it; but they are formed in it by God. When the embryo is fit to receive it, it is created by God, and united to it; but how is united, and what is the bond of that union, we must be content to be ignorant of. (John Gill; A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity; The Baptist Standard Bearer, Paris, Arkansas; pages 272-273).

The implications of this Biblical truth are enormous in our modern age. Let me give a few of them for your consideration:

(1). Human life begins when God uniquely and sovereignly forms the soul of man within the generated embryo that has been traduced by the union of a man and a woman. However, in some cases in our modern day, the embryo is formed by means other than the sexual union of a man and a woman (i.e. "test tube babies," "cloning," "in vitro fertilization," etc . . .). Scientists no more have the capability of creating the human soul in a test tube, by cloning, or by genetic fusion than parents have in creating the soul of their infant through sexual union. The soul of man is formed by God alone.

(2). When God forms the soul of a man is a mystery. Some evangelicals may choose to say God forms the soul at conception. Spontaneous abortion, which is the loss of a pregnancy without outside intervention before 20 weeks' gestation, affects up to 20 percent of recognized pregnancies. Many pregnancies, some estimates as high as 31% are lost spontaneously before a woman even recognizes that she is pregnant, and the clinical signs of miscarriage are mistaken for a heavy or late menses. Think through the practical implications of the natural flushing of fertilized eggs through the mother's system without her knowledge. IF the souls of children are traduced from the parents at conception, then many Christian parents will have dozens of children in heaven - children they don't even know exist. But if God chooses to form the soul at a time later than biological conception, when the embryo is formed to receive the soul - say around the time of quickening - then there will be no surprises in heaven.

(3). Since God forms the soul within the prepared embryo at the time of His choice, then abortion should be opposed not so much on the basis of the quaint phrase "life begins at conception," (because nobody really knows when God forms the soul within a body), but rather, "fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28). In other words, instead of attempting to be moralistic and quaint in our opposition to abortion, we ought to be be spiritual and serious. Example: "Do you realize that you and the man you had sex with have formed the child's body that God is now preparing to form the soul within? What does God think of your desire for an abortion? How would you feel if somebody interrupted your very special and creative work? Oh? You don't care? All you care about is your fear that you can't care for the child? You fear your family and their rejection? You are afraid that no other man will ever desire you again? So fear is driving you? You should not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot kill the soul (i.e other people), but rather you should fear him who can destroy both your soul and your body in hell (God)." Of course, in our modern day of pragmatic moralism we have lost sight of the eternal.

(4). Since God forms the soul - and the soul is the very image of God - and the soul is formed within the body, then male and female characteristics are physical not soulish, for the soul is without gender. The Bruce Willis/Russell Crowe macho-warriors and the Nicole Kidman/Meg Ryan goddess stereotypes are insufficient models for a God-being. Culture, the age in which we live, and male/female physicial characteristics drive most of our understanding of the value and worth of human beings, but in the economy of God, what makes a person valuable is his or her soul - created in the image of God. Therefore, the body may be deformed, the male or female may have differing roles in culture, but in the economy of God there is neither male or female because each of His children contains His image.

(5). What makes a person complete is when the soul, created by God, is united with Jesus Christ by faith and spiritual union. The life of God in the soul of man, which occurs at spiritual regeneration, vivifies the soul toward God. The body with the soul alive to God learns the importance of soul talk, soul health, soul life. Spiritual things transcend the physical. A relationship with God becomes the source of happiness instead of relationships with others. The soul is immortal. Upon death, the body returns to the earth, and the soul to its maker. If you are spending more time on caring for your body than your soul you are a blind fool. We are to measure our days and get our house in order. The time is coming when the God who formed our souls within our bodies will "untie the silver cord" and we will find ourselves in the presence of our Creator.

It is my desire, as Larry Crabb says, to develop SoulTalk in our church. We must get to the place where we get beneath the surface of life in general. No more petty talk in Sunday School. No more 'nice weather' or 'how's the golf game' conversation among fellow Christians. It's time we took seriously the Biblical truth that God created our souls and stamped His image within, but without the life-giving power of Jesus Christ, our soul rots and corrupts because of the sin of Adam and our own desires to live after the things of the flesh rather than the things of the Spirit.

How's the health of your soul today?

Wade Burleson


Chad Kaminski said...

Fascinating, but if the soul is created on demand, when does it inherit the fallen nature, does God create it in his image perfectly or in a marred image, etc. Very interesting. said...


This difficulty (how the soul coming immediately from God is corrupted with original sin) is easily answered. Original sin is passed from Adam to his descendents via procreation. The corruption of the soul occurs when, in whatever capacity, and in whatever mysterious manner, God forms the soul in the body of a person and "ties" it with what Solomon calls "the silver cord." What this cord is I do not know, but death is the separation of the body with the soul or "untying the silver cord."

So, any descendent of Adam would have a corrupt soul because original sin somehow taints the soul when the Lord creates that soul within the Adamic body.

Of course, the soul of our Lord was untainted for He was born of a Virgin. The body of our Lord Jesus, just like the body of the first Adam was directly created by God - and not traduced from procreation. This is why Jesus Christ is called 'the Last Adam.' There will be no other direct creations of the human body by God. By the way, this is THE biggest argument I have against the evolution of man - it is theological in nature, and if you are a Christian and believe that evolution is true (and I don't believe it is) - then you must hold that the 'humans' that existed prior to the unique creation of ADAM were 'like humans' but did not have the image of God. If you don't see Adam as the first man created in God's image, then the Biblical doctrines of original sin, the substitutionary atonement of the Last Adam, and all other cardinal salvific doctrines of Scripture are meaningless.

Hope that answers your question. said...

In short Chad, God creates the soul perfectly. Original sin mars the soul.

Unknown said...

What difference, if any, does this theology create in your opinion of stem-cell research & human cloning? I don't ask to start an argument, I'm genuinely curious. Sen. Orrin Hatch, for instance, supports stem-cell research because his Mormon theology says particular things about when the soul is created.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting subject. But perhaps God uniquely creates the soul at the time of conception.

I have had a long-time involvement in pro-life work. Anecdotally, I would guess more that Southern Baptists believe that God causes the formation of the soul SOMEHOW at conception. Traducianism, or not, God is still in control and the Author of life.

Even if the soul is not formed at conception, I doubt it is as late as "quickening". Brain waves, heartbeat, and separate blood supply occur much earlier than quickening. Some would make an argument that the Old Testament verse of "the life is in the blood" links creation of the soul to the formation of the separate blood supply.
Some try to say abortion is ok because Adam drew the breath of life and became a living soul. Therefore, they speciously argue that a baby in the womb has no soul until it draws in air at birth.
You hear a lot of things out there when you are at a booth passing out information!

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, would you argue that there is a time in which a human embryo is not a human being as it lacks the image of God?

Chad Kaminski said...

Thanks Wade, I need to take a look at that "silver cord." I've heard of it, but haven't studied it. So the soul is created perfect but is taken to a fallen state when mysteriously tied to flesh, the Adamic body being the soul's source of the sin nature.

The last part of your statement seems to be suggesting that since the second Adam died literally to provide atonement, the the first Adam must have fell literally to create the need of atonement.

Wayne Smith said...


"Art is a reflection of God's creativity, an evidence that we are made in the image of God."

— Francis Schaeffer

In His Name

Bart Barber said...

I've never read any pro-life leader tying "life at conception" to traducianism. I don't claim to have read exhaustively the sentiments of pro-life leaders. Have you read writings or heard speeches in which pro-life leaders have expressly affirmed traducianism and linked it with the idea of life beginning at conception?

Bart Barber said...

Because here, for example, is a "life from conception" group explicitly decrying traducianism as a doctrinal defect rejected more than 7 centuries ago.

Tim G said...

How do you fit into this what David said about the fact that God knew him before he was formed? To know him he had to have had a soul to know.

Also, time is nothing to God. God is outside of time therefore no human time constraint can be put on the creation of a soul.

I think the thoughts expressed by Dr. Collins are still lacking theologically IMHO. I would also question the discussion with a lady or couple about to abort a baby. If the soul is not present, why would they care if they obviously do not care when the soul may be already present in their thinking? From years of severing on Boards of Pregnancy Centers that one is a tough sale to say the least.

RKSOKC66 said...


Your post opens up a whole new vista to me regarding the possible differentiation of "soul" vis. a vis. "body" starting at conception and going until birth.

I'm going to have to look into this; specifically do some reading on "traducianism", which up until now I've never even heard of.

I'm going to look at the writings of the early church fathers (Polycarp) and also Augustine and some of the theologians of the reformation (Calvin) to see what, if anything, they say.

I am not aware of anybody in SBC life in the last 50 years discussing this issue one way or the other.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City said...


I think that your questions about stem-cell research and cloning are good ones. I have not yet made up my mind on these two subjects, but when I do, it will be for reasons other than the belief that scientist can create the soul by cloning. I happen to believe if the Lord allows, in His Providence, clones to be made, He intends to form the soul within the clone at the time of His choosing - just as He does in the embryo, and just as He does through in vitro fertilization. Scientists cannot 'clone' real human life. They can only 'clone' the body. said...


I appreciate your pro-life work in Oklahoma. I have worked for two years as Chairman of the Christain Life Committee, and have been in charge of Rose Day at the Capital on a couple of occasions. I, too, have heard many statements made by women justifying abortions.

None of them make sense. said...


I agree that there are evangelicals that believe that God creates the soul at conception and that soul is not 'traduced' by man, but is directly created by God. I am just pointing out that the Bible does not specifically say 'when' the soul is formed in the body by God. If evangelicals wish to say it is at conception, I think it wise to admit this is simply an opinion and cannot be based on Scripture. said...


Are you saying David's soul existed before his body was formed? This was the teaching of Plato, but I think it contradicts the explicit statements of Scripture that God forms the soul within man.

Anonymous said...


How does your view fit with Psalm 51:5 where David says he was sinful from the time his mother conceived him? said...

To everyone: I freely admit that I do not know when God forms the soul. My point of this post is to simply remind evangelicals that it is God who forms the soul, and no scientist, no laboratory exercise, no genetic engineering can generate what God alone creates. Man can only fiddle with the physical.

DL said...

Fascinating post. It'll take me three weeks to sort through this one. I do agree that whatever the answer is, it can only go as far as Scripture allows. said...


Any human body conceived through procreation is conceived in sin through the impartation of Adam's sin. When God forms the soul in man, the soul is tainted, corrupted, and destroyed by the sin within man. IF, and I use the word if intentionally, the Lord chooses to not form the soul within an embryo at the time of conception - and the embryo is spontaneously aborted without implantation in the woman's uterus - then the embryo that is aborted is not a 'living soul.' Again, my point is simply that God alone forms the soul. said...

To All,

I shall be out of town Saturday and will be unable to respond to comments. I appreciate the questions and the dialogue and know that we can all discuss this very important subject with respect for differing opinions.

kehrsam said...

A few quick points on topics which require much time and thought.

1. The moral issue with the health of the clone(s) created, nothing more. Nature creates clones all the time, without any moral hiccups. For instance, I am myself a clone, in that I am an identical twin. Despite this, I am reasonably certain that I am in possession of a soul. ;-)

2. The timing of the joining of the soul to the body is one of the great unanswered questions -- and well may be unanswerable. If we go by mental states, the best evidence is that newborns do not begin to develop a sense of self until several weeks after birth.

With reagrd to the issue of abortion, I personally prefer to adopt conception just to be sure I'm on the safe side, but one could make a reckless argument in favor of unlimited abortion, and even early infanticide. I personally wouldn't go there, but the argument is valid, if unappealing.

3. It is certainly possible that God took an evolved human animal and planted a soul within him. All Genesis claims is that God made the Man out of dust; it doesn't say if there were intermediate steps involved. So evolution is not necessarily inconsistent with a fairly literal reading of Genesis (you still have to give a metaphorical interpretation on the "Days," however).

As I said, lots of meat here, and we are unlikely to solve questions which very smart people have been debating for the last 2000 years. Peace to all, and Good Night!

In His blessings,

Kurt A. Ehrsam

Anonymous said...

I admire Francis Collins and his very public commitment to Christ. All by itself this has probably opened the door for many intellectuals to be reached for Christ.

I am curious when you think God created the souls of the first man and woman.

Rex Ray said...

The score is tied, bottom of the ninth, your team has the bases loaded, no outs, and the next three guys strike out.

That’s what Friday’s post did for me.

Let’s see:
1. Monday—SWBTS trustees show weakness of supporting Patterson by over use of ‘exclamation points.’

2. Tuesday—If Christ were in charge of our convention: would never deceive our numbers, would not exalt Baptist identity over Christian identity, would be more interested in the kingdom of Christ vs. the kingdom of Baptists, less interested in power and more interested in being faithful to Christ, and we would treat people whom we disagree with respect.

3. Wednesday—the ridiculous 153 page email of Corbaley demanding Wade to be removed from the IMB.

4. Thursday—comment by Chuck Andrews: “Worse than a busybody church member is a preacher who uses the pulpit and position as a license to be an “omnipotent moral busybody’ with the authority of God to correct, condemn, and censure anyone who disagrees with him/her. I know; I use to be one. It’s the way I was taught and trained to be a SBC pastor. Incidentally, I was taught and trained by some of those in SBC leadership today.”

5. Friday—Does anyone care how preachers are being trained? No; we’re trying to figure out what God chose not to tell us, and if we knew, how would that lift Jesus up?

hopelesslyhuman said...


Not sure I would use the word "quaint" to describe the phrase, "life begins at conception." It's alive, and as Ronald Reagan once asked, "If it's not human life, what kind of life is it?"

Anonymous said...

The subject of the soul is a fascinating one, and one that has been keeping philosphers and theologians busy for centuries. One of my hobbies is studying philosophy, particularly philosphy of mind, so I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this issue. (Yes, I know I need to get out more. My wife tells me that all the time. :) )

The first thing we have to remember when we're discussing the soul from a Biblical perspective is this: we were created as physical beings, and our eternal destiny involves a _physical_ resurrection and a physical existence. We do no spend eternity as disembodied souls.

Unfortunately most Christians are gnostics and don't even know it. The ideas that spirit is good and flesh is evil, that souls inhabit (some would say are imprisoned in) bodies, that death is the release of the soul from its fleshly prison are all purely gnostic ideas. This conception of the soul made its way into orthodox Christianity via Augustine, who got it from the neoplatonism of Plotinus, who got it from Plato.

This conception of the soul is also reflected in the substance dualism of Descartes, i.e. the body and soul are two completely different separable substances with independent ontology. One of the greatest disasters in modern philosphy was the widespread acceptance of Descartes differentiation between the res extensa (the extended or material thing) and the res cogitans (the thinking thing). This acceptance perpetuated the dualistic thought that pervades western thought and Christianity to this day.

The problem is that the Bible nowhere teaches this dualistic view of the body and soul. A soul separate from a body is not a man, and a body separate from a soul is not a man. Thomas Aquinas, follow Aristotle, says that thee soul is the form of the body, individualized by the matter it informs; it is not a complete substance in its own right, but soul and body togther make up a complete substance, a man. Duns Scotus said that the soul in the state of separation from the body is not, properly speaking, a person, and that the soul is united to the body for the perfection of the whole man, who consists of soul and body. The best statement of the idea, I think, comes from contemporary philosopher James K.A. Smith, who said, "We do not inhabit flesh and blood; we are flesh and blood."

The Biblical evidence for this is clear: God created us as physical beings with a soul, and our eternal destiny is to be physical beings with a soul.

Which leads to the question, what happens between the time we die and our bodily resurrection? Here's what I believe. To use a metapor from computer science, God will run us on his hardware until he gives us our own new hardware at our resurrection. We will have a disembodied existence in Heaven, but that will only be a temporary state.

At this point in my study of the Bible, theology, and philosphy, I've come to reject both substance dualism and property dualism as descriptions of the world and the nature of human beings. I find both nonreductive physicalism and the constitution view of persons to be plausible, but I'll have to do more study to make a decision between them.

If you're really interested in the subject of the nature of the soul, I highly recommend _In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem_ edited by Joel B. Green & Stuart L. Palmer. The four authors of the book present the four views I listed above, and each author gets to respond to all of the others.

KK in NC

RKSOKC66 said...


Your are always expanding our brain with the subjects you bring up.

I looked through my (not too vast) collection of Theology books and I don't see any mention of traducianism. The subject has been touched upon by some early church fathers as well as Augustine.

I don't think, even in principal, it is possible for us to determine the exact timing and mechanism God uses to place our soul into our body. Ostensibily this would happen sometime between conception and birth.

Tim, you mention the verse regarding God knowing David prior to conception. If as you say, this implies that David had a "soul" prior to conception then I guess the outworking of this idea is that God has our "souls" on a shelf in a storeroom in heaven and installs them into our physical body sometime at or after birth.

This whole discussion for me is getting close to arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I can't see any practical outworking resulting from taking any of several views regarding exactly when the soul joins up with the body.

Specifically, no matter where you come down on this you have not made a case for abortion. Unless you argue that even after many weeks or months after conception (when abortions generally take place) that the soul is still not present with the body of the unborn child.

Bob Cleveland said...


I take a similar view toward this as I do toward healing. I challenge my SS class to invent a substance that will simply heal itself when you smash it or cut it or burn it, yet the human body does that very thing. So healing in ANY form must be from God and not man's invention.

If you think about it, every medicine doesn't work the same every time for everybody, so my assumption is God is behind what happens in man anyway. We try to teach He's intimately involved in our lives, so why do we ignore that part?

Likewise, try to figure out a way of mixing a couple chemicals and have them grow into a human being. And like the story I saw about God challenging man to make man out of dirt, get your own dirt when you try; don't use God's and claim it's yours.

God is in charge of human development all the way, every second. I have no clue when the soul comes in, nor do I care. We make the distinction of death with or without, or before or after, the soul's being there; I'm not sure God does.

Chad Kaminski said...

I wonder if God knowing David before conception could be interpreted the way I think Armenians interpret that verse in Romans 8 which mentions God's foreknowing of us.

Tim G said...

I was just simply pointing out that David said God knew him before he was born.

You did not answer any of the other questions though?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I agree with you that God alone forms the soul. I interpret Psalm 51:5 as a strong indication that conception is the time at which God forms the soul.

Your interpretation also seems credible and may very well be correct.

Tina Boyer said...

Fascinating post. I thank you. Amy

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

Long time since my last comment on your post. While I see your direction and your argument that it is God's choosing as to when He places a soul with the body, I am confused. Are you saying that God does not place the soul and the body together at once? Or are you saying that the Bible does not tell us?

It seems if you are only saying the first, then I would agree. It is God's choosing and in His state of consistency, He has consistently done so at the time of conception. If you are saying the later also, then I would merely ask that you look at Psalm 139:13-17. In verse 13 it speaks about God's forming of the center of emotions and of moral sensitivity. IOW, the part that God examines when He searches a person. In v. 15 the Psalmist speaks about God forming the body. As we know in writing it is different than in speaking. The writer, it seems, places all of this together at the conception of a human.

Also, you seem to be saying that we as humans create other humans. I am not sure that is what you are saying but it seems to be. I thought God told us to "procreate" not create. Brother Wade, you really do seem to be giving an opening for someone to abort their child, not their embryo, just because they would not be killing God's creation, but one of their own. Help me understand if I have missed something here. But you truly do seem to be missing the mark on this one.


Anonymous said...

I have the same concerns as Tim.

What would your church's youth dept., or a 15 year old boy, do with this teaching? I believe some would immediately switch from life-begins-at-conception to people-begin-some-weeks/months-after-conception, leaving plenty of moral room for abortion.

As for more Spirit/soul talk and less small talk in our churches, amen and amen!

This ensoulment argument is uncomfortably like the legal/philosophical argument debate over who is a "person" entitled to Constitutional and legal protections.

Unknown said...

Tim (and anonymous),

Psalm 139 only suggests that ensoulment happens while in the mother's womb. I don't see how you can conclude from this passage that ensoulment begins at the moment of conception. It seems to me that scripture is strangely silent as to the exact moment that ensoulment happens. I agree with Wade-- it's a mystery.

So if ensoulment happens at a moment later than conception, it remains possible to abort at a time later than conception and not be killing an unborn child. I realize that this is deeply uncomfortable to some. But we must remain true to scripture-- not deep emotions that we have on a subject. And I think this is the primary point of Wade's point. He has compellingly argued that we do *not* know when human life begins because scripture doesn't tell us when we receive that which differentiates us from being a mere animal- a soul. Since we must be dogmatic where scripture is dogmatic and humble where scripture is less clear, this reality calls us to hold our position on abortion with humility and to exercise grace when we interface with those who differ from us.

Tim-- wade is arguing that men *cannot* create human life, only God can because only God creates the soul.


david b mclaughlin said...

"Life" in the biological sense clearly begins at conception.

Since it is impossible to know when we are "ensouled" we cannot know when an abortion kills a soul. Therefore it is always better to err on the side of caution.

btw, Grudem discusses traducianism in his Systematic Theology textbook. I cant remember which chapter. My memory (faulty at best) was that it was a minority view.

Anonymous said...

It is also thought that those fertilized eggs that didn't implant already had something wrong with them, and that's why they didn't implant. So maybe souls ARE created at conception, in the babies that will implant... and not in those that are already destined to fail.
Of course, some fertilized eggs fail to implant b/c of unnatural hormones (the pill) that affect the uterine lining. I would say God still created a soul in them.
I think life is begun by God, and the soul as well, regardless of whether science is helping (test tube) or not.

Anonymous said...

To me, ensoulment sometime in the womb (not sure about this, my knowledge of Scripture is not good enough) doesn't make much difference on abortion.

Could it really be that by quickly aborting we can preempt ensoulment, thereby determining whether souls (people?) are formed or not?

I'm not going from emotion to Scripture or trying to be dogmatic, I just don't understand this.

Unknown said...


I appreciate the fact that you are thinking about these kinds of issues. For me, the importance of 'ensoulment' as it relates to abortion is that the fact that we have a soul is the very thing that differentiates us from animals,plants, etc.

The implications of the fact that men and woman have souls are endless. For example, killing a cow so that we can eat beef is very different than killing a person and eating him/her. The reason that these two events are morally different is that we have souls and animals do not.

So in the abortion debate, if a fetus is aborted that has a soul, that fetus is a human being and thus abortion is equivalent to murder. But if the fetus does not have a soul, then abortion is morally equivalent to killing a cow so that we can have some nice roast beef.


Rex Ray said...

“Don’t get involved in arguing over unanswerable questions…(Titus 3: 9 Living)

“Steer clear of foolish discussions…” “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish arguments…” (2 Timothy 2: 16, 23 Living)

”Don’t let people waste time in endless speculation…For these things only cause arguments; they don’t help people live a life of faith in God.” (1 Timothy 1:4 New Living)

“…spend their time arguing and talking foolishness. They want to become famous as teachers…” (1 Timothy 1:6-7 Living)

Maybe—a little out of context, but there’s a point in there somewhere.

greg.w.h said...

I believe the study of philosophy can result in good questions. The fact that we cannot answer all of the good questions is a cause for more trust and faith...and patience. God will answer many of our questions in time.

But he may never answer some of them: that's because he's God and we're not.

Greg Harvey

Anonymous said...

Thanks rex ray.

Let God be the sovereign God.

Deborah S. Reece said...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.

His higher ways as the Creator God, that mystery which belabors our mortal minds vainly....I think it is these very mysteries that help to keep us in awe of the Lord Almighty.

And as a mom, I've been blessed with 4 beautiful souls to nurture and train in following after the Lord. Praise the Lord, for He is good!

Sometimes not knowing the how & why of God's creation just makes it that much more precious.

Bart Barber said...


Thanks for acknowledging that one can embrace life beginning at conception without embracing traducianism—even for acknowledging not only that this is possible, but that many people actually hold this combination of beliefs.

Now that we both agree that some people do NOT link traducianism and the concept of life beginning at conception, can you direct me to those who have articulated the idea of "ensoulment takes place at conception because of traducianism"? I think it would be fascinating material to tuck away and use in class to show the present-day relevance of such theological concepts to present-day ideas. I could persist with Google, of course, but since you've already done the research…

By the way, you've certainly undone my observation earlier this week that you've been posting the same thing over and over!

Anonymous said...

I've pondered this a bit more and I don't think it matters that some eggs are fertilized and do not implant. So what if ensoulment happens at the point of fertilization and some of those are passed w/o knowing their existence? Why does it matter that parents could have children in heaven they don't know about?
I'm not getting how WHEN it formed has anything to do with WHO formed it.
Just read this at "The fourth week marks the beginning of the embryonic period, when the baby's brain, spinal cord, heart, and other organs begin to form."
The fourth week is just 2 weeks after fertilization, one week after implantation, and usually when you get a positive test.

BB said...

I'm a bonafide sometime lurker, first time commenter. I didn't know if you knew that Dr. Francis Collins used to make annual trips to Nigeria to work with IMB missionaries there when IMB still had medical missionaries appointed to work in hospitals there. When he would come he would talk about how he enjoyed getting in touch with patients on the field and actually practicing medicine as opposed to the research aspect of the genome project.

david b mclaughlin said...

In my previous post I inadvertently said "we cannot know when an abortion kills a soul."

Abortion kills a life. Not a soul.

Either way-we should err on the side of caution.

Anonymous said...

To all, and Wade:

1) The importance of such a discussion is clear.

Many have commented, both here and elsewhere, about the perceived unimportance of such conversations as this, but I am afraid that they have mistaken doctrinal difficulty with doctrinal irrelevancy. It seems that we have lost the courage of the early church fathers to be willing to vigorously discuss such doctrines, while realizing, as Martin Luther said, that our aim should be "Peace if possible; truth at any rate." The discussion of the 'ensoulment' of man is not "vain babble" or an exercise in philosophical rhetoric - but it is of paramount importance to how we view an entire spectrum of issues from humanity, sin, and death, to abortion and the sanctity of human life in general.

2)The effects of Wade Burleson's ensoulment argument MUST be examined in light of Scripture; and not just taken at face value.

Wade, what you are saying here is not just that you don't believe that the soul is given to us at conception. The theological implications (as is evident in a few of the previous comments)of your stance are vast, and undeniable. Anecdotes of unknown children in heaven, and percentages of pregnancy loss are unhelpful, and don't even begin to scratch the surface of what it means that there is a point after conception and before (your idea of) ensoulment, that we are not 'what we are to become'. Scripture speaks often and at length of the doctrine of man - and at NO time does it speak of a point that man is not all that man will become (in terms of body and soul).

3) One immediate implication of your argument - What are we concieving, if not a child?

Coming from the pro-life movement myself, I've come to the firm biblical understanding that children are to be "begotten, not made". Unfortunately today, there are many scientists that do fertilize 'in vitro' (or "under glass"). But, as your assertion of the mode of ensoulment compels you to, you must assert that what is "made" by scientists in fertility laboratories is not "real human life", rather it is a human shell at best, or a clump of cells at worst. For you to deny this understanding would be to deny your very own assertions. And in following your own logic and theological flow, Jim (in commenting) brought this ideology to its dispicable end, in stating:

"But if the fetus does not have a soul, then abortion is morally equivalent to killing a cow so that we can have some nice roast beef."

You may not agree with the statement, but it is where your argument logically arrives. Now, I'm certain you are not intending to convince us that these pre-"real humans" in your doctrine are no more significant than a slaughtered cow, but if we are not conceiving "real humans" - what on earth are we conceiving? a soul-less human?

4) This idea of "creationism" as pertaining to the soul, effectively and deceivingly devalues human life.

Again Wade, I don't believe you have some hidden motives in saying these things - but you must understand that you are the one here that is approaching this issue from "emotion" rather than a biblical worldview. You say that you are trying to be biblical, but no biblical ethic will bring us where your argument has and will. You are attempting to overlay the belief of the Sovereignty of God (which I absolutely agree with) onto a faulty framework of non-conception ensoulment. Because you can not fathom that a high percentage of abortions occur naturally in pregnancy, you then assert that those embryos cannot be human. Because fertility specialists are "making babies" in their labs, you claim that they cannot be "real humans" or God would lose his sovereignty. In trying to defend a right view of God, you have unwittingly devalued the very life which God himself creates. God does create us. He knits everyone of us in the womb, from the very first 'stitch'.

But we must also understand that...
What scientists make in the lab are indeed "real humans" -- That is why it is such a wretched practice. What the morning after pill destroys is indeed a "real human" -- That is why it is so morally reprehensible. And what a man and woman produce from their sexual union is indeed made in the "image of God", and is ensouled at the very moment of creation/conception; and that is why AND WHEN it is worthy of protection.

Denying God ensouled humanity to any person begotten of man, at ANY TIME in their life is not a right or privilege that mankind has been given - it is one that has been presumptiously usurped.

W. Hank Balch

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented before on this, and it is probably too late now for anyone to notice but. . . .

This whole line of reasoning is, as Rex Ray suggested, on the verge of becoming a endless argument because the issues are unanswerable, at least on this side of heaven. We are talking things that Scripture simply does not address, because we are involved with technology that did not exist 100 years ago, much less 2000. And if it was not an issue when Scripture was written, then Scripture writers, even though inspired, would neither have understood what they were writing nor had an audience to whom they would write. I suppose one could argue that God knew, but I cannot recall an instance in Scripture where an ethical issue such as this was addressed with the caveat that it would not apply for 2000+ years (yes, there are prophecies about Christ but that is a different thing altogether, and His coming was anticipated across those years).

Finally, I seem to recall that the Old Testament view is that a person IS a living soul, not that a person HAS a soul. From semnary, I seem to recall that "ensoulment" is more a view from Greek philosophy which was attached to Christian theology fairly early than a strictly Biblical view. Of course, it may be correct, but can we ever know that, at least (again) this side of heaven?

John Fariss said...

W. Hank Balch,

Thank you for your gracious and measured response to my post. Allow me just one kind rebuttal:

You say:
Wade, what you are saying here is not just that you don't believe that the soul is given to us at conception.

That is NOT what I am saying. I am saying that the Bible is emphatic that GOD ALONE forms the soul - and nobody knows when He forms it.

You then say:

(Y)ou must understand that you are the one here that is approaching this issue from "emotion" rather than a biblical worldview.

No sir, YOU are approaching this subject with emotion. I am saying GOD ALONE forms the soul - and He does not tell us WHEN He forms it. I am ANTI-ABORTION to the MAXIMUM - but it is based on what is in the heart of the MOTHER - the murder of that which is being formed by God to be her child. I accept Scripture at face value, but you argue for YOUR position based on emotion - not Scripture.

You say:

But if we are not conceiving "real humans" - what on earth are we conceiving? a soul-less human?

We are conceiving exactly what the Bible says we are conceiving - FLESH. We cannot traduce the soul which is a unique creation of God.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your response brother.

And allow me, if you will, another comment on this.

I agree that God forms the soul, and orthodox Traducianism does not teach any different. The perspectives differ on the time and manner of ensoulment. Maybe this will help: Scripture teaches unequivocally that God forms the body (Ps. 139), correct? And when does that process begin? At conception. So why do you assume that the ensoulment process is any different?

The disconnect, and apparent emotional appeal on your part is the assumption that God works in a different way in forming the body than he does the soul. Because you cannot see the soul forming in the same way as a fertilized embryo under a microscope, you assume that it must not be present. But that is all that it is: an unbiblical assumption. Your argument that mankind begets soul-less offspring is unproven and biblically unsound. Nothing in Scripture even alludes to this dualistic separation. If anything, Scripture gives a holistic assumption that God "uniquely" works through procreation to create a "real human" (body and soul).

The way in which you have framed this debate to make it seem like the burden of proof is on anyone but yourself is just not Scripturally valid. Again, your argument is the one making the unfounded assumptions, so you should be the one providing the convincing proof(s).

Whether you understand or will admit it, you are endangering the very lives that you are claiming to protect. Once you undermine "real human" life at its earliest stages, as your theology will inevitably do, your personal pro-life stance becomes a moot point. All you are doing here is giving liberal theologians more fuel for their pro-choice fires.

It must be understood:
Conception does NOT give us a "child to be" - it gives us a complete child - worth protecting -- because it is a real human, with a real soul, made in the real image of God.


RonSpross said...

Exodus 21: [22] "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
[23] If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,
[24] eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
[25] burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

It would appear that the Bible regards the inadvertent killing of baby in the womb as worthy merely of a fine; whereas the harm done to the adult mother is more significant ("life for life", etc.). This in a patriarchal society where women were often treated more like property than persons.

Perhaps "life begins at conception" is not a biblical concept?

Strong Tower said...

Bizarre, truly bizarre-

No one knows when God creates the soul, granted.

But know one knows when the soul is united with the body, but it must be after the body is formed? Why? Why not simultaneous? And it it not true that God creator now, and not a semi-Deistical God, who is watching from afar the physical universe transpire according to natural law alone, or is it true that God is present, omnicient and upholding all things by the power of his might? Then isn't it true that God is the creator, and there is no other. That as he controls the rain, the stars, all material in the universe, just as he made the mud and then from the mud made man, that he is now creating by that means he has always done, the sperm and the egg that will transduce and become what he is making. And, then your entire premise is your emotional commitment running over the Genesis description of the creation of man. It is God, not the man, and not the woman who creates the individual, they are merely vessels. Just as it was in the beginning. To say that the body must precede the soul's uniting with it is simply a matter of your predjudice. You know very well that it could, and does happen simultaneously. Genesis' account does not necessitate that the soul was breathed in. Only that the man began to breath. You have no idea wheather or not the man was created with soul intact. It is just a phony assertion. It is that old arguement that a child is not human until it breathes. So, which is it, was the ruach in God's breath, or was life?

Anonymous said...

I realize this discussion is old, but just two thoughts:

1. So even if human bodies do receive their souls at some unknown point, we differentiate from animals in that we WILL receive a soul. If a human body is formed in the womb and is growing, it is destined to receive a soul. No baby has ever been born without one... you can see ultrasounds of a four month fetus rolling, kicking, sucking it's thumb, etc. Comforts, enjoyment, all by a fetus. A soul is there. So the fact that a soul is coming differentiates us from animals and should be reason enough not to try to preemptively abort a non-souled human. Just as wrong as killing a souled one.

2. What's so wrong with having dozens of children in heaven we never knew on earth? That would be a great surprise to me! Children are a blessing, blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. I don't see that as a strong argument against the soul coming at conception. It's comforting thought to all of us women who have suffered a miscarriage to think we will know that child one day.