For humans, existence progresses through six stages; these stages are as follows:
- judgement, and
While it can be debated (with logical and Scriptural support for a number of positions) as to just when a particular human soul is created, such debate has little impact on theology and the practical application of theology1. Nevertheless, it remains a stage in human existence and warrants some attention. The possible creation points for the human soul are as follows:
- prior to conception,
- at conception, and
- subsequent to conception.
Naturally, the first and third possibilities are broad categories (and so we’ll refer to all three interchangeably as “categories” or as “possibilities”), moreover, taken together, these three categories encompass all possibilities.
Logically, the important, possible, more-specific creation points under the first category are:
- prior to the creation of the Universe,
- simultaneously with the creation of the Universe, and
- at some point after the creation of the Universe, but prior to conception.
While the third possible creation point (i.e., subsequent to conception) encompasses a number of possible creation points, these are more limited than those under option one and must, at any rate, occur prior to the person in question achieving full sentience2.
It is worth noting that the foregoing deals with creation of the soul, not ensoulment. Ensoulment is a separate matter, even if it does largely mirror much of the creation point argument. This article does not address ensoulment in any meaningful way.
In essence, embodiment is the foil of ensoulment, but from the more salient point of view (i.e., that of the soul). At some point, the soul is placed into a body3. The body then becomes the vessel of that soul through life and until death4.
Everything that happens to the soul while he is embodied constitutes the “life” of that soul. Theoretically, this would include housing of the soul in alternative vessels (e.g., advanced robotics, computer simulations). In essence, this stage encompasses all that occurs between embodiment and death (i.e., the totality of the soul’s experience while physically present in the Universe).
Whereas embodiment is the placement of the soul into a vessel, death is the disembodiment of the soul. While most Christian sects believe in a second embodiment of the soul (i.e., “the resurrection of the body”), such second embodiment is fundamentally different from the first as it involves a perfect, eternal vessel (and is thus linked to stage six) instead of the imperfect, fallen, mortal vessel from which the soul escapes at death.
Immediately5 after death of the vessel, the soul proceeds to Judgement. Standing before God, the soul is called to answer for its actions in life. Those who have accepted Christ are spared Judgement as Christ took their place upon the Cross. The faithful enter into eternity in Heaven and the faithless enter into eternity6 in Hell.
Heaven of Hell. Souls are sent on to their final destinations after the Judgment. No soul in Heaven will ever fall, but souls in Hell are not necessarily precluded from ascending (more in a subsequent article). This is the final stage for all souls.
- Arguably, such impacts are almost entirely limited to arguments at least tangentially related to pregnancy (e.g., abortion, the storing and later use of genetic material, and the use of artificial wombs). ↩
- The idea of a ‘soulless’ adult is patently absurd. ↩
- While it is conceivable that God could create souls that would never be embodied, this seems unlikely for a number of reasons (e.g., God’s Omniscience). ↩
- Unless, of course, scientific advancements (e.g., robotics, virtual reality) make bodies unnecessary. ↩
- Insofar as the concept of time has any applicability in this sequence of events. ↩
- Hell may or many not be actually eternal; more on this in a subsequent article. ↩