Where does the soul come from? In previous weeks we have talked about the ideas of Traducianism and pre-existence. The last theory to discuss is that of creationism. Creationism, sometimes referred to as special creationism, is the belief that every soul is created by God sometime at or after conception and is placed into the human fetus.
In an effort to avoid confusion between this idea and the more common definition of creationism – that God created the universe – we will refer to it as special creationism. Why should you care? What you believe about the origin of the soul impacts the way you look at social issues and defend the faith.
Scripture used to Support Special Creationism
- Ecclesiastes 12:7
- Isaiah 57:16
- Zechariah 12:1
- Psalm 139:13-14
- Jeremiah 1:5
Challenges of Special Creationism
- The special creationist is faced with the question of exactly when the soul is created. Is it at conception, or days/weeks later? In both pre-existence and special creationism, there may be a point at which the fetus has not had its soul infused into its body. If that is the case, the special creationist is faced with the possibility that the fetus at some point is not a human being and therefore lacks any intrinsic rights. The implications of this within the right to life movement are obvious.
- Special creationism has limited explanatory power when it comes to the transmission of our sinful nature. It almost forces a view that sinfulness is centralized within the body, a view that can easily lead to Gnosticism or other negative views of the material world.
- Special creationism potentially places God in the awkward position of actively creating fallen souls or creating perfect souls knowing that they will immediately be fallen once placed into a body. This view appears to make God responsible for the continued sinfulness of mankind.
- The Scripture used to support special creationism could just as easily be used to explain God’s creation of the original human soul (see traducianism).
Proponents of Special Creationism
This is not an exhaustive list but merely a quick reference of others who have supported the idea of special creationism.
- Saint Jerome (c. 347 – 430)
- Pelagius (c. 390-418)
- Peter Lombard (c. 1096 – 1160)
- “in creating, God pours in the soul, and in pouring, He creates”
- Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
- “It is heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted by process of generation.”
- John Calvin (1509–1564)
- Gregory of Valencia (c. 1550 – 1603)
- Francis Turretin (1623-1687)
- Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878)
- A. Hodge (1823-1886)
- Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957)
- Oliver Buswell, Jr. (1895-1977)
Special Creationism versus Traducianism – Undecided
Since Scripture does not give enough clear information to make a perfect case for either special creationism or Traducianism, there are many who have decided not to take a stance on the issue either way.
Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1096 – 1141) (leaned toward creationism)
Alexander of Hales (c. 1185 – 1245) (leaned toward creationism)
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)
Wayne Grudem (1948 – ) “Even if we say that God is the Father of spirits and the Creator of every human soul, just as he is the Maker and Creator of each of us, we must still also affirm that God carries out this creative activity through the amazing process of human procreation. Whether God involves the human mother and father to some degree in the process of the creation of a soul as well as of a physical body, is impossible for us to say. It is something that occurs in the invisible realm of the spirit, which we do not have information about except from Scripture. And on this point Scripture simply does not give us enough information to decide.”
Now that you have a small introduction to these three ideas on the origin of the soul, you probably have more information than you thought you ever needed. No matter which of these ideas you hold, you should be able to confidently tell your children and those who ask, “God is the author of the human soul.”
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 484-485.