Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-1-2010


Is “human life” strictly a biological phenomenon measured from the moment when sperm and egg combine? Or does “human life” not actually begin until the immaterial aspect known as “the soul” appears at some indeterminate point? This essay examines the views held by various adherents of the Christian faith regarding the concepts of “conception” and “ensoulment” and the relation of these views to contemporary ethical issues having to do with abortion, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and stem cell research. The essay discusses the fact that Christians historically have been characterized by a marked lack of unity concerning the teachings of the Bible and tradition on these issues. The paper concludes with a discussion of how Pre-existentianists, Traducianists, and Creationists might or might not be troubled by contraceptive and abortive procedures, depending upon their varying convictions regarding ensoulment.


Originally published in:

Poston, Larry and Lindsey Disney. “When Does Human Life Begin? Conception and Ensoulment,” in Christian Ethics Today, 15:3 (Fall 2009).