I blog on request occasionally. And I work for tips, so long as they’re directed to Kiva the micro-lending agency. And recently I have had a few requests piling up in the queue so I’ll be dealing with a few of them over the next few days. First up is a soulful question emailed to me by Shawn:
“When is the soul “created”? I don’t mean exactly what stage of cell division, but is it more or less at conception or before/after this time? Does your God choose which souls go into which mothers, or is it a lucky dip out of a pool of pre-existing souls?”
Let’s deal with the last question first. The doctrine of preexistentism according to which souls preexist their incarnation in bodies was proposed by Origen and has made a belated appearance in Mormon doctrine, but it is has no part in Christian doctrine. Christian theologians have generally proposed either creationism (the view that God creates the soul and superadds it to the body in a miraculous act, probably at conception though different periods have been proposed) or traducianism (according to which souls emerge naturally as the body gains functional complexity).
The problem with Shawn’s question however is that Christian doctrine is not essentially connected to a substance dualist view of the human person at all. Many Christian theologians and philosophers today are materialists who believe that the soul merely is what exists in virtue of a body living. And this brings us back to an underlying point that the essential Christian doctrine of eschatological anthropology (that is, the future destiny of human beings) is rooted not in the immortality or origin of the soul but rather the resurrection of the person, a point Paul argued at length in 1 Corinthians 15.
As a result while Christian theologians like myself may be dualists, being a dualist is not essential to Christian conviction.