Systematic Theology - Vol. 2

By Charles Hodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.

THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL.

§ 1. Theory of Preëxistence.

THREE theories have been advanced as to the origin of the soul. First, that of the Preëxistence of the soul; secondly, that of Traduction, or the doctrine that the soul of the child is derived from the soul of the parent ; thirdly, that of immediate Creation, or the doctrine that the soul is not derived as the body is, but owes its existence to the creative power of God.

The doctrine of the preëxistence of the soul has been presented in two forms. Plato held that ideas are eternal in the divine mind; that these ideas are not mere thoughts, but living entities; that they constitute the essence and life of all external things ; the universe and all it contains are these ideas realized, clothed in matter, and developed in history. There was thus an ideal, or intelligible world, anterior to the world as actually existing in time. What Plato called ideas, Aristotle called forms. He denied that the ideal was anterior to the actual. Matter is eternal, and all things consist of matter and form — by form being meant that which gives character, or determines the nature of individual things. As in other respects, so also in this, the Platonic, or Aristo-Platonic philosophy, had much influence on Christian Theology. And some of the fathers and of the schoolmen approached more or less nearly to this doctrine of the preëxistence, not only of the soul, but of all things in this ideal world. St. Bernard, in his strenuous opposition to nominalism, adopted the Platonic doctrine of ideas, which he identified with genera and species. These ideas, he taught, were eternal, although posterior to God, as an effect is in the order of nature after its cause. Providence applies the idea to matter, which becomes animated and takes form, and thus ("du monde intelligible est sorti le monde sensible") "ex mundo intelligibili mundus sensibilis perfectus natus est ex perfecto." 1 Among modern writers, Delitzsch comes nearest to this Platonic doctrine. He says, "Es giebt nach der Schrift eine Präexistenz

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1
Cousin, Fragments Philosophiques, pp. 172-176.

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