Considering Souls of the Past for today: Soul Origins, Anthropology, and Contemporary Theology

and Joshua R. Farris


Due to the rise in philosophical anthropology and the philosophy of mind there is a need to re-consider afresh the theological debate surrounding the origin of the soul. I address this particular issue in the context of the recent philosophical and theological literature that is also conversant with Ecclesiastical literature surrounding the topic by suggesting that there are, at least, three distinct options within the theology of origins. I proceed in two sections. First, I lay out the variety of positions on the soul within the philosophy of mind literature often called substance dualism. In this section, I suggest there are broadly three variations of substance dualism. These include pure substance dualism, composite or compound substance dualism, and emergent substance dualism. I compare and contrast these variations, discuss the particular problems related to each, and argue that each ‘naturally’ coheres with a particular view of origins based on the metaphysical relationship between the body and soul. Second, I lay out the three positions on the soul’s origin in the remainder of the paper. I put forth that there is not only traducianism and creationism the two most obvious positions within Ecclesiastical history, but also emergent substance dualism with materialist origins deserving further consideration in the theological literature. Furthermore, within the positions, excluding emergent substance dualism with materialist origins, there is variation within each yet still naturally falling under the particular said category. This, then, contributes to literature not only by drawing from recent philosophical literature in the fortification of the Christian view on origins, but, additionally, by putting forth one relatively new position that has not been systematized in the theological literature. Finally, I offer that theologians will benefit in three specific ways from the discussion over substance dualism and the theology of the soul’s origin.

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The journal examines the exciting dialogue between Lutheran-Reformed theology and philosophy in the broadest sense, seeks to keep open a breadth of responsible thought in the controversial issue of contemporary theology, and offers a variety of ways to formulate questions. Through its international editorial board, it guarantees an exchange of theological research in German and English.