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Wondering about the concept of Souls
03-09-2010, 04:40 PM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2010 04:54 PM by ewb432.)
Post: #1
Wondering about the concept of Souls
I’m interested in a conundrum I see in relating certain scientific facts to the religious concept of the soul, and by religious I mean primarily Christian concepts as I (imperfectly) understand them.
Firstly, my understanding is most Christians believe the soul is created at the point of conception. Certainly I think this is true of Catholics and most fundamentalists, and is a key rationale behind the rejection of abortion at any time after conception. Watching a recent documentary on how human fertilization and subsequent fetal development and birth occur, I was somewhat surprised to learn that only about 40% of eggs successfully fertilized by sperm ever make it to becoming full term births.
The remaining 60% are not so much the result of abortion or natural miscarriage, but more simply something as innocuous as the fertilized egg does not successfully attach to the wall of the uterus, and is flushed out within a few days of conception. At this point the fertilized egg has begun the process of cell division, and has all the DNA required to “construct” the final new unique individual, but is only up to about 16 cells when it leaves the fallopian tube, nothing even remotely close to a final human being.
Under Christian doctrine what happens to this soul? If the statistic is any where near correct, that means there have been about 2 ½ times as many such “souls” that never were born, as there have been people in the world. And while not all, many would be nothing more than a handful of cells. At a minimum according to fundamentalism (again as I understand), a hand full of cells cannot accept Jesus as its savior, and achieve everlasting life, or by Catholic doctrine be baptized to achieve the same. And if it could, what exactly would that mean for this “life form”?
Relatedly, unless a Christian is an absolute believer in the whole God created Adam story, when does the soul enter human development? Animals don’t have souls, and at some point in evolution we became humans, not animals. From a non religious point of view the distinction is meaningless, as it is a continuum, and human can be defined by any variety of physical or social characteristics. But for a soul to exist there must be a definitive characterization-I guess by God.
So suddenly two “animals” have an offspring, and it is now human, with a soul? And when that now human individual eventually mates with an animal, does the resulting offspring inherit the existence of a soul like the one parent? Eventually that capacity to have a soul, almost like a specific gene, spreads throughout all humanity?
Just wondering how believers in the concept of the soul view such issues.
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03-09-2010, 05:53 PM
Post: #2
RE: Wondering about the concept of Souls
(03-09-2010 04:40 PM)ewb432 Wrote:  ...Under Christian doctrine what happens to this soul?...

The Bible does not say anything about when the soul is created--it could be at conception, or implantation, or at some later time. I think Christians have become accustomed to saying that the soul is created at conception because that is the only discrete, discontinuous, humanly measurable watershed point between potential life and actual life (and we want to err on the safe side, so that there is no possibility that a person might be murdered inside the womb). But the reality is that only God knows for sure when the soul is created.

Jesus' incarnation, life, death, and resurrection provide sufficient atonement for all persons. God is not willing that any should perish, so if anyone goes to hell, it will be by their own, deliberate choices and actions. The Judge of All the Earth will do what is right for each person.


(03-09-2010 04:40 PM)ewb432 Wrote:  ...when does the soul enter human development?...

The soul entered human development by direct Divine intervention. All we can do is speculate, but it seems reasonable to assume that God created souls and gave them to our first human ancestral pair. The chances of ensouled human persons mating with animals and actually producing offspring seems remote, but if it ever happened or were to happen in the future (genetic manipulation, cloning, or what have you) I'm sure God would be able to sort things out. God is not obligated to provide a soul to hybrid creatures, though if he did they would be capable (under normal circumstances) of reason and free will.

I should also point out that some Christians speculate that the Garden of Eden may have involved some sort of alternate reality; after the first pair were banished from the Garden, they found themselves in this reality, on this earth. Other Christians interpret the creation story as more of "a tale of everyman," so to speak--that is, all humans choose to disobey God, and so all are naturally subject to the deathly consequences of human sin.

http://www.biblicaltraining.org/ --- http://www.ntwrightpage.com/
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