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I'm agnostic, and there is is a specific symmetry in the timeline of life, when looking at it over all time.

To me, a person does not exist before it is born, and does not exist after it died. During the lifetime, there is a period of growth, and a period of decay.

Looking at it from the beginning of time to the end of time, this has a symmetry that has a certain beauty in it, I almost feel the symmetry is spiritual.

Whether time is finite or not does not matter for it.

It would be interesting whether it is seen that a person exists between conception and birth, but does not fundamentally change the question.

Is there a concept comparable to this in any Christian denomination?

The important and beautiful aspect is the symmetry in spacetime.

  • Do you mean before birth or before conception or some stage in between? – curiousdannii Jan 15 at 11:01
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    Well the between conception and birth answer is easy and I wouldn't have thought it would need to be asked, it's well known almost all Christians are opposed to abortion. – curiousdannii Jan 15 at 11:08
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    In biology labs we dissected fetal pigs and sharks, not undifferentiated fetal tissue. Embryonic humanity is no less a stage of human development than adolescence and a fetus is not a disparate creature, even as the first zygote. – Mike Borden Jan 15 at 11:45
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    I am trying to get a grip on how this quesiton's scope can be improved; there are many Christian denominations and faith teachings. From which faith tradition's perspective are you asking this question? (though honestly, it might be a better question to ask which Christian denomination does not teach that a person exists between conception and birth). – KorvinStarmast Jan 15 at 14:25
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    @Mike Borden - Thanks, but this question is about as clear as mud. One denomination I know believes humans pre-exist as spirit creatures before coming to earth to be born as humans. Another denomination I know believes humans do not exist after death, not even the soul, until they are physically resurrected back to life as humans again. I agree with you that the human perception of time is not the same as the higher symmetry of time as created by God (who is outside of our perception of linear time). What then, does this question have to do with Christianity? – Lesley Jan 16 at 9:10
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I'm not sure if you'd include Mormonism as a Christian denomination, but the Mormon church definitely believes this. They believe that people were "Heavenly Father's" spirit children in heaven, who are now in the flesh on earth: Spirit Children of Heavenly Parents.

  • But they do not say that humans exist prior to conception only that the spirit does. Humans are physical beings and cannot exist until a cellular structure commences the sequence of divisions that lead to embryonic development. – Kris Jan 17 at 21:53
  • @Kris I would rather agree with C.S. Lewis that humans are amphibians: Quote – Daniel Stein Jan 19 at 2:54
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To my knowledge there are no Christian denominations that teach the pre-existence of humans except (as Daniel Stein has pointed out) the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

Every denomination apart from them teaches that humans begin to exist at conception (which is technically before birth but I assume the question wasn't about that), and become human at conception or some time between conception and birth. That certainly applies to Catholic, Orthodox and all Protestant groups that I am aware of.

There are many scriptures that testify to the continued existence of people after death, but none of the mainstream scriptures teach of existence before conception. Jeremiah 1:5, which could be taken like that, is taken to mean that God foreknows of a person's existence - i.e. God knows of their existence before it happens.

  • Maybe it's even the more natural way to see it. Our universe has a beginning, and there is no reason it should have an end. There may be other universes, but the spacetime we live in did not exist before the universe. (In terms of our spacetime, that means there is no before, and never was) – Volker Siegel Jan 17 at 14:56
  • @DJClayworth The word 'knew' in Jeremiah 1:5 is the same as "Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived" so it is possible that Jeremiah was personally and relationaly known by God before he was formed in the womb. God's perspective is radically different from ours. – Mike Borden Jan 17 at 16:56
  • @VolkerSiegel To nitpick: when physicists say that "spacetime did not exist" they're saying that they cannot reason about what came before the universe, and not making a strong claim that there was nothing. – wizzwizz4 Jan 17 at 21:00
  • @wizzwizz4 That's a valid objection! In your sentence "cannot reason about what came before the universe", with the word "before" you explicitly refer to the time dimension of the spacetime of our universe. My assumption is that space did not exist in our universe before the big bang, and not that the big bang is the result of a collapse that happened earlier. (the universe does not cyclically expand and collapse). There are possibly regions of space with time behaving just like for us that are not in our universe. – Volker Siegel Jan 17 at 21:18
  • @VolkerSiegel So long as it's clear that that's an assumption, it's fine. Our instruments aren't (yet) powerful enough to tell either way, and our observations of the sky are being disrupted by StarLink so it's unlikely we'll find out more any time before the James Webb Space Telescope launches. – wizzwizz4 Jan 17 at 21:28
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A The pre-existence of the soul is a cornerstone of all ideas of reincarnation, so all religions that espouse reincarnation believe in it, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Some religions teach pre-existence but not reincanation. That includes Zoroastrianism, some sects of Judaism, especially those that accept the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. For example, in The Book of Wisdom it says:

As a child I was naturally gifted, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body. (Wisdom 8:19,20 NRSV)

The Books of Esdras and Enoch are similarly cited, for example, by Mormons.

The Greek Philosopher Plato taught the idea of the pre-existence of the soul. Some scholars believe this idea influenced later Jewish beliefs, such as the Medieval kabbalists. See: The idea that the soul is the human instrument of spirituality became more prominent over the course of Jewish history.

The only thing that all Christians would agree on is the pre-existence of Jesus' soul. This article gives a summary for many denominations: Compare Religions: Pre-Mortal Existence of Man

These denominations affirm belief in pre-existence:

  • Christian Science
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

These denominations have no formal statement and leave it up to the individual:

  • Disciple of Christ
  • Presbyterian
  • Quakers
  • United Church of Christ

Some Early church fathers believed in the pre-existence of souls, such as Origen of Alexandria, a neo-platonist. For additional discussion of that topic, see: Did any other early church fathers besides Origen teach the pre-existence of souls?

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