This Freakonomics podcast had an interesting discussion about a guy who challenged an atheist to sell his soul. The guy who bought claimed to be a Christian. The trope, of course, goes back a long way - its not called a Faustian bargain for nothing.

The question, however, is this. Is a man's soul something that belongs to him in the first place? Leaving aside for a minute that of the redeemed--namely those "bought by the blood of Christ," I wonder if the unsaved actually have possession of their own soul, and if so, if they would have rights to transfer it to another.

If not, then it would beg the question, what right does God have to redeem it. Own it, I could understand, since he made it--but how could he transfer it from someone else?

If a person does own their own soul, what is the mechanism by which it can be transferred? How would one know? What rights would adhere thereto?

In other words, does Faust actually make sense in Christian framework?

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    I think a definition of "soul selling" is necessary. Maybe that's done in the context of Freakonomics (with which I am unfamiliar). But to me, it's always been considered a metaphor for "giving complete devotion to something." In that sense, anyone can sell their soul--and a Christian has sold their soul to Christ.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 2:50
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    Did you try asking Hemant Mehta?
    – TRiG
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 15:59

4 Answers 4


I'm going to make an assertion here (and I would be very happy to be shown wrong, in which case I'll readily delete this): there is no Biblical support at all for the concept of soul selling (or indeed of any other kind of explicit pact). The entire notion is a non-scriptural invention, along with such things (now generally denounced) as limbo for non-baptised children.

Without any scriptural support, all that is left is human invention, exaggeration and fancifulness (bites tongue hard to avoid obvious additional comment). In the absence of any scriptural basis to an answer, one would have to assume

there is no basis to believe that anyone can sell their soul, or that any being is interested in purchasing it

(for the Christian meaning of "soul"). Any other answer would be pure speculation, or building upon traditions that are themselves based on pure speculation.

  • Note: in the above I am focusing on the literal, Faustian meaning of soul-selling, not "devotion" (see Flimzy's comment on the question) Commented May 10, 2012 at 14:15
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    @Eric it would have been admirable if I had resisted the urge to note my constraint, which left pretty much the same effect as had I exercised no restraint at all (except maybe a few less angry downvotes). But! (and this is where it gets delicious) - maybe, speaking as a heathen... perhaps I am placed here entirely to undermine the belief in risk to one's soul among the religious. Maybe I am that very thing which I deny in the answer ;p (k, head hurting now, and for the record: no, not me guv) Commented May 10, 2012 at 15:05
  • My thoughts exactly. "As it happens, I have this bridge..."
    – Benjol
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 11:52
  • "unforgivable sin" in Matthew 12:31-32 could be taken by some people to relate to soul selling Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 13:11

To sell something (legally), we have to own it. I believe that we have no ownership over our souls, disregarding of our religion beliefs. I beleave that we, our souls belongs to God, our Creator:

Ezekiel 18:4(NIV):
For everyone belongs to Me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to Me.

This opinion has confirmation in one of known purposes of our creation:

Colossians 1:16(NIV):
For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Also, Jesus Christ saved our souls from upon authority of sin and death:

Romans 6:20-23 (NIV):
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As a slaves (or servants) we cannot sell ourselves. While we are belonging to God, we have a choice of the way we want to live our lives, so it is similar to renting. I believe we are renting our soul or, rather, our Lord gave us our souls to rule temporarly, the same way as in parable about talents ( Matthew 25:14-30 (NIV)) or parable about mines (Luke 19:12-27 (NIV)), see also wiki article.

While we cannot sell our soul, but we can destroy it by sins and by rejecting God.

Revelation 21:8 (NIV):
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Also, the other point of view on soul selling is living for the sake of wealth, serving to the Mammon:

Matthew 6:24 (NIV):
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

  • Now this is what I was getting towards - do we own our souls? Commented May 12, 2012 at 18:40

What does it mean to "sell your soul"? It's not like I can hand someone my soul in a box in exchange for $20.

What does it mean to "own your soul"? The soul is generally understood to mean your true self, your mind, your personality. Do you "own your mind"? As opposed to what?

It's like saying that you offer to "sell your country". A traitor could give away valuable military secrets in wartime in exchange for cash. In that sense you could "sell your country".

From a Christian point of view, a Faustian deal to sell your soul to the Devil is possible in the sense that someone could make a deal with the Devil that he will not accept Christ in exchange for money, sex, etc in this life. I don't know if the Devil actually appears to people and literally makes such an offer, but clearly many people make exactly such a "deal" in a non-literal sense. Plenty of people reject Christ because they don't want to give up their sins. They say, "Hey, I like the pleasure I get from promiscous sex and drugs, I enjoy the money that I get from cheating and robbing people, etc. Accepting Christ would mean turning my back on that lifestyle, so no way am I going to accept this Christ stuff."

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    The assumption that someone rejects Christ because "they don't want to give up their sins" is highly, highly dubious and assumes much. Frankly, I think that is harmful to you, simply because you are deeply misunderstanding people's motivation. The most direct comparison I can think of there is: choosing not to believe in Santa Clause, because they obviously don't want to have to be nice! It is orthogonal and ad hominem. Commented May 10, 2012 at 8:56
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    @MarcGravell Jay's assumption is not incorrect. Your conclusion that it is, is based on the assumption that sin is (at least mostly) the same as the things considered bad by the society. That assumption is wrong, thus your conclusion is wrong. Many things that are considered bad by the society is not sin and many things that are considered good by the society is sin, because the society has turned from God and therefore it cannot (completely) distinguish real bad (sin) from real good.
    – Shathur
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 12:02
  • @Shathur I am unclear on what you are trying to say there, although I guess it depends on the meaning of the phrase "reject Christ". I didn't mention anything about what is accepted by society. Commented May 10, 2012 at 12:39
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    @Marc I assume nothing except that people mean what they say. I didn't say that the only possible reason for rejecting Christianity is that one doesn't want to give up things that Christianity calls sin. I said "many people" and "plenty of people". Surely you do not deny that that is among the reasons. I've often heard people explicitly say, "I could never be a part of a religion that condemns me for X". For X fill in "drinking", "living with my girlfriend", "being a homosexual", or many other things.
    – Jay
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 6:53
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    @Jay thank you for clarifying; I understand where you are coming from now. Note that in many of those cases, the disagreement may be less about the personal benefit, and more about philosophically deeply disagreeing with the morality of the rule, causing one to question its validity, and by association the validity of the source. Murder is rarely contested, but I too (to take an example) would not accept anything that condemned someone for (say) being homosexual. This is nothing to do with my own benefit, because I'm not homosexual. As an example. Commented May 11, 2012 at 6:59

Answered in reference with deals with the devil

cf. Renewal of Baptismal Promises | Easter of the Resurrection of the LORD | Daily Roman Missal | According to the Roman Missal, Third edition


Priest: Do you renounce Satan?

All: I do.

Priest: And all his works?

All: I do.

Priest: And all his empty show [promises]?

All: I do.


cf. also The Fall, and the Temptations of Jesus

It is not far-fetched that one can enter into a quid pro quo dialogue with, not only the devil, but with anyone else willing, as the question shows, and perhaps as we may have observed in the workplace.

Whether there is an actual binding transaction depends on the rightful owners [God first and foremost].

In the case of the devil, one may seem to get ahead for a while but it is a snare and a trap. Just ask the fallen angels and our first parents.

No need to go that far back. See @user14079: the promises of secret societies. There is increasing evidence that that's how some Nations are set up (cf.Ps 2: the collusion between the princes [fallen angels] and rulers).

The devil promises far more than he can deliver [our own experience shows], just as the priest reminds us, his promises are all empty.

Please see also the answer to Can a Person make a Pact with the Devil? by exorcist Fr. Fortea.

This should be chilling:

Pope Leo XIII’s Vision in 1884

Satan said, “I could destroy Your Church if I had the time, and more power over those who give themselves over to my service.” And then Pope Leo heard Christ to answer (sic), “You have the power, you have the time: 100 years.”

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