Do only humans have souls/how were humans ensouled in an evolutionary process?

I like to think that all life has a soul of sorts, which evolves as the body evolves. I came to this conclusion after wondering how and when God gave evolved humans the soul. It seems like the only rational conclusion to me. Furthermore, the Hebrew word ‘Nephesh’ (soul) is given both to humans and animals.

What do you think?

I think from a scientific perspective, nobody can actually and measure a ‘soul’ so to speak. That would be very easy if we could just simply measure a certain property directly of animals but we would need to know what property we are trying to measure. However, as you might imagine, if you asked ten different people to describe a soul, you will likely get ten different answers so we are not off to the best start! So your tag of ‘theology/philosophy’ is certainly appropriate on this one :grinning:

I believe this touches loosely upon some of the topics also explored in this post from the main site:


Any perspective, actually.


Middleton describes my view in a recent essay.

His own summary of the article:
It has been a common (though not universal) assumption in the history of Christian thought that humans were created immortal, and only lost their immortality with the entrance of death as the consequence for sin. This is, however, a misreading of the biblical data, which suggests that humans were created mortal with the possibility of attaining eternal life—a possibility that was lost through sin and is now realized in Jesus Christ.

He also has some additional thoughts on his recent blog post about it:

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I don’t know if I can easily answer that question, but I do think there are things that can be addressed about that.

I think there is s clear distinction between the two. There is an entire book written for humans, and nothing for animals…Humans were image bearers, animals were not.

We were created to care for the animals and the earth. Subdue/rule the earth and the animals. We were not instructed to rule over other humans though.

It says of how much more valuable we are than flowers or sparrows. Jesus was incarnated as a human.

Why does one need a soul? What value is one? What is a soul?

I think a soul or a spirit, is that which lives in us, that which will never perish. I think when animals or flowers or stars are gone, they are gone, they having nothing everlasting in them, they serve their purpose, and are no more. The spirit or soul is a blessing bestowed to us, it allows us to live above our biological impulses, doing things greater than the flesh.

This has come to be my thoughts too. Why would God create a tree of life if we already were immortal, and if we were immortal, how was it taken from us (immortality cannot be taken away, or it is not immortal), we must not have been created immortal.

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@pevaquark, @Theology/Philosophy, @Reggie_O_Donoghue ,@Deborah Haarsma,@open forum
I would have to say “no.” However, I must say that we do not define the word “soul” correctly. The English word in the Hebrew Bible is nephesh. It simply means a living being. Genesis 2:7 tells us this. The Hebrews believed that human beings have a body and a spirit. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says: Then shall the dust (nephesh, soul or body) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. The concept you are using is from Greek philosophy, especially Plato. So, what happens at death for the human? The spirit leaves the nephesh and goes to paradise with God and lives. The nephesh (soul) is dead until the Second Coming of Christ when the nephesh and spirit are reunited. The nephesh or body is glorifed to live on the new earth. That is what Paul meant when he wrote about a spiritual body, i.e., a glorified physical body. Now as for animals, they have a nephesh, i.e., body. The question is this: Does the animal’s spirit go to paradise until some type of resurrection for them? That is hard to say. Ecclesiastes 4: 21 asks: Who knows if the spirit of man goes upward, and the spirit of the animal goes downward to the earth, i.e., grave or she’ol. The Holy Bible is a progressive revelation, and we will live after the Second Coming on a new earth: Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 21. Therefore, I believe that if we love an animal so much that its resurrected nephesh reunited with its spirit will live on the new earth. Everything has a nephesh, i.e. a bodily being. Remember that we are not Greek philosophers. The spirit and the dead nephesh or being will reunite one day. Therefore, human beings have a nephesh (soul or body) and animals have the same. The Hebrew Bible knows nothing of the immortality of the soul as the Greek philosophers taught. When one speaks of a nephesh, i.e., soul evolving, that person is talking about a body and not the spiritual nature. The spiritual nature comes from God and does not evolve. Remember that evolution is about bodily change and not spiritual development. Even Pope Francis says that. Also, I am Protestant and believe the Pope is right. You may find what I have said about the spirit in Ecclesiastes 12:7. Theistic Evolution has to do with physical bodies and not the spiritual natures of souls or beings. I recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised.

Some years ago I read a book by Jurgen Moltman (I think it was “God in Creation”) in which he speculated that since God loved all creation then at least some of what had evolved prior to humanity and representatives of all life in all epochs would in some way be everlastingly preserved becuuse it was part of God’s eternal glory. What is loved will exist in God eternally.

I recently adopted property dualism. So id say we all defenitly could have a soul. But IMO it cant work without the substance. (My body)

Juergen Moltmann believed in instantaneous resurrection and not in the Greek immortality of the soul. Do I agree with him? No longer. I am now a dichotomist. I can see that you and I are actually talking about different things it would seem; however, I thought I would mention this as well. God bless.

When God said in Genesis 1:26 “Let us create man in our image…”, I believe this means with the soul and the capacity to make moral decisions. I don’t believe the Trinity physically looks like us as they are spirits.

In Francis Collins book, The Language of God, he states that humans are they only animal capable of altruism, which is a de-evolutionary traight as we are capable of making decisions that benefit others to our detriment, which may favor the passing of another’s DNA to the next generation over our own.

One great impact of Darwin’s work was to show how closely related we are to the rest of creation. At the time many believed animals were more of living mechanisms, even incapable of feeling pain. This changed, thankfully, with the theory of evolution.

Anyone who has spent time around animals know that they are like us, they have emotions and they even dream. I don’t believe they have the capacity to understand the concept of a diety or to make moral decisions, therefore they cannot be held responsible.

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The human spirit is in the image of God in that it can reason, think deep thoughts, and have feelings. It also can commune with the Triune God. The soul in the Old Testament is not the eternal spirit; on the contrary, it is the total person. As I said before, the word soul is a translation of the Hebrew word nephesh. That is why the New International Version translates the OT word soul (nephesh) as being. When God created Adam, he made a living being (NIV ) and KJV (soul). I will give you an example. There were sixteen souls that died in the train accident last year. Did their spirits die? No, they either went to heaven or hell until the Second Coming when the bodies and spirits will be reunited. Then they will be living beings (souls) again. Have a good Sunday and God bless. Oh, the idea of the immortality of the soul came from Plato and Greek philosophy. That concept influenced Rabbinic Judaism and Catholicism nearly 2,000 years ago. Have you ever heard of the Apocryphal Book of the Wisdom of Solomon? The spirits of my parents are in heaven until the Second Coming. Then they will come back and reunite with their bodies and rise from the dead. They will have perfect bodies to live on the new earth with God and will be complete living souls (living beings again).

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I heard someone once say ( can’t remember who ) …
" Animals have an automated soul , humans have a living soul "

The impression I got from it was that , we have a conscious connection to God through our thinking and growing minds .

We BECAME living souls through God’s action

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Whether one takes a dualist soul approach to an eventual afterlife, or an instantaneous re-embodied resurrection approach I would still hope that something of all of God’s creation from every epoch in cosmic history will be present in that future existence.

I profess to being agnostic about what kind of future by soul/personhood/embodiment will take in that future. Whatever that state of glory is I would hope to see all life that has ever existed to be there. I say that because having been a “birdwhatcher” and nature lover all my life I cannot concieve of a future exiistence without something of their colourful and majestic glory. Natural life is good and part of Christ’s present glory as the Creative Word and Energised life from the Spirit. Since it is good and from that divine love and goodness something of it I hope to see forever. The only difference will be there will be no violent deaths and no fear for any creature and wolves and lambs, eagles and sparrows will share the same happy existence with us.

These are four images I put together a year or so ago… trying to capture my thoughts on the self… the soul… the cosmic… the divine…

[ This first image shows a ruffled sheet representing the fabric of the conscious field… the more rippled and ruffled, the more significant is the conscious entity embedded in the field… in the Cosmos. ]


[ I’m not particularly happy with this image … but the point is that the more vertically deformed the fabric of the conscious field… the more powerful the mind … and the closer to its destination it reaches. ]



I’m interested in adopting a dog and that got me thinking: Is there a philosophical shelter where you can pick out your own mind-body metaphysical model? Is it a ‘no-kill’ shelter or do they euthanize metaphysical strays that nobody adopts or are too aggressive? [totally tongue-in-cheek here…]



Since the title of this thread: “Do only humans have souls? / How were humans ensouled in an evolutionary process?” involves questions of Metaphysics, the answer will vary from denomination to denomination, and even from person to person.

Metaphysics, or literally “Beyond Physics” or “After Physics”, touches on topics that cannot be verified with science.

So the only way to answer such questions is to either visit the afterlife and come back with a report, or to imagine how Christian theology affects one’s concept for how things work.

For example, does God literally construct one’s soul, and then connects it to your body?
If so, when does he do that? - - while you are still in the womb, or at the moment of birth, or at some later time?
If you have a really strong view of such matters, how would you prove it? Or how would you at least say you have a “clue” for why you hold to one idea/version versus a different one held by a friend?

In a different thread, I got into a discussion about whether or not a person “sleeps until the End of Days” - - to be re-activated during the drama of the General Resurrection? The alternative scenario was that the recently departed person, at least temporarily, exists (and is awake at least most of each day), without a material body until the drama of the General Resurrection.

It immediately descended into a person viewpoint that didn’t seem to be connected to any particular evidence … other than how Hebrew words are defined.

There’s no way to know for sure it seems. And the same goes on the question of the possession of a “soul” or not.

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, considerable progress can be made if you agree that God makes each person’s soul. Do you support that idea? Or do you think the “soul” is naturally created, through natural processes, even if there wasn’t a Yahweh to do it?

Depending on how you answer will significantly influence the answers that can be offered you.


Two potential answers:

  1. YHWH makes each being with it’s own soul.
  2. YHWH makes the first life forms with a soul, this soul evolves through it’s own process of evolution.
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Should i not use adopt? If thats not your point it flew right over my head. Sorry.

My bad. Just making a bad pun / play on words.

“Adopt” is perfectly fine.

Oh sorry, I didn’t get that! lol
I don’t have a big sense of humor. :smile: