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Table of Contents


Chapter  1

Part I
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Part II
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Part I: Embodiment — and The Incarnation

Chapter 8

How Did I Come to be Me?

The Origin of the Human Spirit

     We know that we receive our body from our parents by an act of procreation: but whence comes the other half, the spirit.
     There are really only four views: (1) by Reincarnation, (2) by direct Creation, (3) by inheritance from our parents much as we receive our bodies, termed Traducianism, and (4) by Evolution. We will examine each of these very briefly noting something of what is the meaning and evidence for each, and some
of the problems each view creates.

          (1) By REINCARNATION. Broadly speaking, reincarnation means that a soul passes through a succession of bodies, each of which becomes a temporary means for the expression of its condition until perfection is reached by experience. At this point the soul either passes into the total rest of immersion in the
sum of "cosmic consciousness" and is finally freed from the burden of personal identity, or becomes one with God — perhaps without loss of that personal identity. Many people find the cost of individualism is too high and prefer to be "lost in the     

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crowd." Final absorption in something much bigger than self seems a very happy solution to such people.
     The Jewish people gave considerable thought to the idea of reincarnation and crystallized their ideas about it during the Middle Ages in a work referred to as The Cabala or Kabbala. Their thinking was strongly influenced by gnosticism which viewed embodiment as degrading to the spirit and reincarnation
undesirable accordingly.
     In this view, all souls were created at the beginning and perfectly content without bodies. Such souls were androgynous by nature. When subsequently, as a punishment, souls were embodied, each was divided into male or female so that they now seek reunification with themselves by marriage.
(68) Since embodiment was a penalty, a strong leaning towards asceticism naturally developed.
     Nicodemus probably had in the back of his mind some kind of reincarnation when he asked the Lord whether a man could enter into his mother's womb a second time and be re-born (John 3:4).
    The possibility that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matthew 16:14) is another illustration that the idea was quite familiar to them, though not yet logically formulated.
     Later, Origen (185—254) was to develop the concept much more fully and subsequently to be roundly condemned as a heretic for his pains by the Western Church.
(69) However, he still continued to be recognized as the first of the systematic theologians and as an intensely creative writer. His works became a
veritable watershed of original ideas.
     As to the evidence, it was then what it still is, anecdotal in nature. It is a common experience for many people at one time or another to come upon a scene or to meet a stranger, and experience a strong but odd feeling of having been there before (deja vu) or having met previously. There are a few cases on
record of individuals who described a place in great detail as though it were quite familiar which they had not however actually visited: and their description

68. See The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by Samuel M. Jackson, Grand Rapids, Baker reprint, 1949, vol.II, p.328.
69. Origen: condemned particularly for 2 works on reincarnation, Symposium and De Resurrectione [in his De Principiis, Book 4, chapter I, 23 in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Cleveland Coxe, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, vol. IV, p.372f.]. See also New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1974, under Origenism, p.734.

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has proved to be remarkably accurate.
     Those within the framework of Judaeo-Christian philosophy, have limited reincarnation to the human spirit. Other religious communities outside of this tradition have been quite willing to concede that man might in the next reincarnation be an animal or an insect or even a plant, and correspondingly any
animal might be reincarnated as a human being. Origen felt that the problem of man's sinful nature was best explained by some prior existence in a less than perfect state.
     The concept of reincarnation really provides no solution to the origin of the soul or spirit. It merely proposes a history of what happens to the soul once created. We are still left with the problem of where the soul originated and in what form.
     Is there some kind of reservoir which, like water, can be fragmented into droplets and allowed to fall into bodies as they are appropriated? Or is there a store of individually created souls predestined to fit each body when the time is ripe? And in that case, in view of the steady increase in the world's population and the number of bodies needing ensoulment, are there multitudes of souls on a kind of waiting list? Or are they created as needed?
     Granted that with each death there is a soul free to serve somewhere else, the fact remains that births exceed deaths so that there are always more new vessels to be filled than old ones just vacated.
     It seems that by and large the biblical data do not support the concept of reincarnation, especially since, for the redeemed at least, death does not leave a soul homeless but frees it for immediate union with its newly resurrected body.

          (2) By Direct CREATION. This is the belief that the soul is, in each individual case, a direct work of God.
     Many passages of Scripture can hardly be understood

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in any other way. We have already referred to some of them in another context. It will not be amiss
to repeat a few here to complete the record in this new context.

The spirit is given by God, not derived from man                Ecclesiastes 12:7
       The spirit is formed within the individual by God                   Zechariah 12:1
The spirit (or soul) is made by God (Heb. 'asah)                       Isaiah 57:16
God is the Father of all spirits                                                  Hebrews 12:9

     If it is God who has designed and created our spirit, suiting it to our body (whether male or female, introvert or extrovert, practical or philosophical, artistic or unimaginative, creative or merely appreciative, etc.), it is quite natural that it should return to Him when it leaves this body. Here in God's hands it is
preserved in its identity, to be infused into the new resurrected body which we receive at the instant of our relinquishing the present one. This resurrected body will match the character of its perfected spirit, thus entirely reconstituting a soul.
     The spirit is only one half of our personal identity, and because it is of divine origin, the dissolution of the body which houses it in no way signifies that the spirit ceases to exist. It is a creation of God designed to last for ever, not an accidental and temporary by-product of a blind evolutionary process. God is able to reconstitute the whole man by the resurrection of his body in some identifiable form and by the re-infusion of the spirit into it. Such a destiny for man is entirely outside the purview or competence of evolutionary philosophy.
     Logically, the evolutionists must of necessity reject any concept of direct creation of any essential component of man's constitution, such as his spirit: and especially any concept which demands continuous creation upon billions of occasions to meet the requirements of an ever growing world population.

          (3) By TRADUCIANISM. This is the belief that the soul or spirit is procreated by the parents, along with

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the body. The word Traducianism is derived from a Latin verb traducere which means "to transmit." The term was originated to convey the idea that in Adam and Eve a soul was directly created to form an inexhaustible reservoir of soul-stuff for their children. Derivation of all future souls did not diminish theirs, any more than the lighting of a second candle or a hundred candles from a first one diminishes the prime source. All "soul substance" was invested by one act of creation in Adam and Eve. Our souls are derived from that investment.
     The great advantage of this concept is that it so nicely accounts for our inheritance of Adam's acquired sinful nature and guilt. There are some problems which this otherwise attractive thesis raises.
     First, there is no unequivocal biblical evidence for such an origin of the human soul or spirit. The only passage which might seem to qualify as such is John 3:6, "That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of Spirit (or spirit?) is spirit."
     If we use a lower case letter for Spirit to make it read as "that which is born of spirit is spirit," we might seem to have a strong basis for Traducianism. But the context clearly indicates that the word 'Spirit' has reference to the Holy Spirit and that the birth spoken of is a re-birth. "Marvel not that I said, You must
be born again."
     This has been recognized tacitly in the great majority of modern versions, including the RV, RSV, NASB, TEV, NIV, NKJV, Berkeley, Young, Williams, Jerusalem, Wuest, New American (RC), Fenton, Smith and Goodspeed, Rieu, and the Vulgate. Very few have used the lower case 's' (i.e., spirit). These
include NEB, Rotherham, Barclay, and Phillips. Admittedly, majority opinion does not settle such matters, but it is noteworthy that when Adam first set eyes on Eve he did not exclaim, "This is now soul of my soul and flesh of my flesh" but "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). There is no

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suggestion in this that Eve derived her soul or spirit from Adam as well as her body.
     Again, while God Himself is spoken of as "the Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9), Adam is never so described. Yet certainly such a title would have been particularly appropriate in his case if Traducianism had been true.
     There is one further reason for rejecting the Traducianist position, namely, that it had found its way into the Early Church as a result of the influence of early Greek philosophers, chiefly Zeno (c. 450 BC) and Cleanthes (301—252 BC), both of the School of Stoics.
(70) Such a source for the doctrine would
not commend itself to most students of Scripture since Greek philosophy is hardly a promising basis for a biblical theology.
     Nevertheless, there were a number among the Early Church Fathers who did adopt it simply because it explained so nicely how one man's sinful nature could become universal by propagation, and not by example as Pelagius had argued. Tertullian was strongly in favour of it.
(71) To quote his words: "Our first parent contained within himself the undeveloped germ of all mankind, and his soul was the fountainhead of all souls; all varieties of individual human nature are but different modifications of that one spiritual essence. Therefore the whole of nature became corrupt in the original father of the race and so sinfulness is propagated together with souls." It is an attractive alternative, but not a biblical one. (72)
     However, if Traducianism is true and we assume our soul as having been received jointly from both parents, then the Lord's soul was not a creation but was received from both parents, the two parents being the Holy Spirit and Mary. Thus, half of the Lord's soul is traceable to Mary, and though the other half
is traceable to the Holy Spirit, the Marian half is corrupted. This half would corrupt the whole, and thus the absolute sinlessness of the Lord's spirit must be called in question — unless we accept the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception which arose

70. Zeno & Cleanthes: see Tertullian, De Anima, in Latin Christianity, edited by Cleveland Coxe in Ante-Nicene fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918, vol. III, p.185, col. a.
71. Tertullian: F. R. Tennant, The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin, New York, Schocken Books, 1968, p.332.
72. A fact admitted by the Traducinists themselves. See The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by Samuel M. Jackson, Grand Rapids, Baker reprint, 1950, vol.XI, p.13, col.b.

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to deal with this very problem.
     It has been suggested that Luther adopted Traducianism in order to place his position at one further remove from Roman Catholic doctrine. But the evidence seems to show that, like Augustine (who greatly influenced his thinking), even Luther himself was never completely settled in his own mind on the
matter, wavering back and forth between Traducianism and Creationism. Those who followed him were clear enough and came out on the side of Traducianism, but Luther himself remained equivocal.
     It is not unnatural that Christians who favour the evolution of man's body and therefore see no discontinuities in the processes of nature, tend to find Traducianism more acceptable since it, too, avoids even the discontinuity that direct creation of the spirit introduces.

          4. By EVOLUTION. Such a view cannot be reconciled with the introduction of anything metaphysical. Creationism is accordingly ruled out because it is a metaphysical, not a scientific, concept. Even Traducianism is ruled out for the same reason since, although once introduced it could conceivably fit into an evolutionary pattern, creation ex nihilo is still required to start the process off.
     Thus mind or will or consciousness is viewed as a misinterpretation of the evidence. These things do not exist in their own right but are merely a spin-off from electrochemical processes. Behaviourism is really the only acceptable form of psychology for the strictly scientific mind. J. B. Watson, the founder of the Behaviourist School, long ago said that the time had come to eliminate consciousness altogether from the vocabulary of the psychologist!
     The present trend is thus to convert the responding person into a mere reacting thing, and so to categorize all behaviour as reflex. Man has to all intents and purposes been annihilated. Soul or spirit simply do not exist as separate realities.
     Bruno Bettelheim has recently published a book dealing

73. Luther: see Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, Philadelphi, Fortress Press, 1975, p.160.
74. Watson, J. B., Psychological Review, vol. 20, 1913, p.158f.

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with the concept of soul in Freud's psychology. *  He shows that while Freud unashamedly employed the word for soul (die seele) throughout his works, his American translators avoided the word soul like a plague, using circumlocutions such as "mental personality." Bettelheim suggests the reason for this was that the psychologists felt Freud's ideas would be more readily accepted within the scientific community if the concept of soul was entirely eliminated! (75)
     We are, in their view, merely a piece of biological machinery. If the reactions of the machinery of the body can be called 'soul,' then soul is nothing more than an epiphenomenon, a secondary effect which has no existence in its own right and exerts no influence on the object which gives rise to it, any more
than the babbling of the brook influences the movement of the water which babbles. . . .  There is no ghost in the machine.
     The strictly logical evolutionist must either adopt panpsychism, the doctrine that consciousness was a characteristic of matter from the start so that there is no such thing as unconscious or inanimate matter; or he must admit it suddenly emerged out of the blue without antecedents, thereby creating a discontinuity in nature.** Neither position is felt to be tenable, so the "horns" of this dilemma are simply swept under the carpet and no longer discussed.
     It is interesting to note that the idea that all matter must be considered as already animated was favoured by Zeno who wrote in his work Concerning the Nature of the Gods, "Nothing that is without a soul and reason can generate of itself anything endowed with life and reason; the world however generates
beings with soul and reason; therefore the world is itself living and possessed of mind."

* Bettelheim, Bruno, Freud and Man's Soul, Knopf, New York, 1983.
75. Review of Bettelheim's book by William A. Henry, Discover, vol.4, February, 1983, p.105.
**A discussion of this question in the light of modern research will be found in the author's The Mysterious Matter of Mind, written for Probe Ministries, Dallas, and published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1980.
76. Zeno: De Nature Deorum, Bk. 2, ch. 22, edited by A. S. Pease, II, Harvard University Press, 1958, p.601, 602.

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      This was written nearly 400 years BC! In man's way of reasoning little has changed since then. The July issue of Science Digest (1981) has an article entitled "Is the Cosmos Alive?" Both are really inspired by the same problem: Whence came man's soul? Where did consciousness come from? The evolutionary concept of gradualism without any discontinuities seems to demand that consciousness is a property of all matter and has co-existed with it from the very first.
     But this alternative, that matter generated consciousness, really does not solve the problem. It merely shifts it one step further back, since matter itself has to be accounted for, and the eternity of matter is no more conceivable than that it had a beginning at some point in time. Carl von Weiszacker tried to resolve the difficulty by arguing that matter and spirit are really one and the same thing.
(77) The Christian who believes that God created both matter and spirit really has no problem with this concept, because matter simply becomes an epiphenomenon of spirit rather than the reverse! As Hebrews 11:3 puts it, "By faith we understand that the . . . things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." For the fact is that both visible and invisible things are made by God who Himself is invisible (Colossians 1:15,16).

     So we have these four alternatives with regard to the origin of the soul in each individual. First, it is a reincarnation of a soul already in existence. The soul has thus passed from life to life in a process of purification and ultimate absorption into some state of rest which relieves it of further embodiment. This is
really not an account of its origin but only of its subsequent history. Secondly, that each soul is a separate creation of God, infused into the procreated body at some appropriate instant. Thirdly, that it is generated by the parents as the body is generated, each parent contributing their soul-stuff. Lastly, that it is a kind of "static noise" emanating from the electrochemical

77. Weizsacker, Carl F. von, in Beyond Reductionism, edited by Arthur Koestler & J. R. Smythies, London, Hutclin'son, 1969, p. 434.

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activities of the brain and has therefore no separate existence.
     "Reincarnation" solves no problems of origin but only suggests a destiny. "Creation" creates problems for anyone who cannot accept the concept of discontinuity but demands an unbroken "great chain of being." "Traducianism" still leaves the matter of the origin of soul-stuff unanswered.
     Meanwhile "Evolution" has to deny that my self has any real existence. I may deny this for others: to deny it for oneself seems to me to be virtually impossible in a normal mind. Descartes' "proof" is pretty compelling. Translated freely, he argued thus: "If I doubt, then I must exist just to entertain such
a doubt"! Therefore my personal existence cannot be called in question.
    The best that Julian Huxley could do was to admit frankly that the origin of mindedness is a "glorious paradox,"
(78) and since it can hardly be denied, it serves only to prove how marvellous the evolutionary process really is because it can do such incredible things! One cannot rationally come to grips with
circular reasoning such as this. . . .     
     If the law of parsimony is allowed to govern our thinking in the matter, we ought perhaps to admit that direct creation is the simplest explanation and has greater explicit support from the New Testament than any other alternative.
     The evolutionary concept leaves us on the horns of a dilemma. Either soul-stuff belongs to all matter or it appeared suddenly and thus forms a discontinuity in the scheme of things. While panpsychism seems absurd, any discontinuity is equally unacceptable. One has to make a choice between two unallowables!

78. Huxley, Julian, quoted by Douglas Dewar, "Dr. Julian Huxley's 'Glorious Paradox,'" from Huxley's article on "Natural Selection" in The Rationalist Annual, 1946, p.87.


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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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