Saturday, June 21, 2008

Position Paper: Objections By Boyce

Objections by Boyce

Due to the length of Boyce’s section on the origin of the soul, I will not be able to interact with everything he has to say. Boyce first critiques Traducianism and then gives a positive argument for Creationism. In his positive argument for his position he still manages to make arguments against Traducianism, which I will attempt to interact with here.

The first objection Boyce raises is the Traducianist’s argument that Genesis 5:1-3 teaches that Adam had begotten Seth in his own image, which would have included both body and soul.[1] Boyce contends that John 3:6 teaches explicitly that flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit. Boyce equivocates flesh as being the body. Therefore men only reproduce after their kind the physical body.

My answer to this objection is that even a Creationist such as Roger Nicole shows that this objection has no weight. Nicole argues that the immediate context is speaking of the natural man giving birth to the natural man.[2] In order for a natural man to see the Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit must give the natural man new birth. Nicole also argues that 1 Corinthians 15 uses this same kind of language when referring to the natural body verses spiritual body. To see 1 Corinthians 15 in the same way Boyce sees John 3:6 would literally overthrow the meaning of the resurrection. Another verse from Luke 3:6 states, “AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.” Does this term “flesh” [sarx], which often means body, only refer to the body in this text? Of course it does not.

In Boyce’s 4th objection he states,

“Traducianism receives strong support from the transmission of the mental and moral characteristics of men from parent to child. These become equally fixed and permanent with those of the body.”[3]
To which Boyce cites support from Dr. Hodge,
“That the mind is greatly influenced by the body cannot be denied. And a body having the physical peculiarities belonging to any race, nation, or family, may determine within certain limits the character of the soul. Sys. Theol., vol. 2, p.70.”[4]

This answer is a strong one as for the inherited characteristics are concerned. However, this does not answer all of them. No reason is offered as to why a soul is made sinful at its union with the body. Neither Boyce nor Turretin offer any explanation for how God creates sinful souls. This is important since the doctrine of Original Sin not only teaches that Adam’s sin is imputed to all of his posterity thereby leaving all men guilty, but that Adam may only give to his posterity what he has, which would be his corrupt nature and death.

A major objection to Traducianism is raised when Boyce writes,

“The chief, and almost the only objection to this theory of any weight, is that the idea of propagation of souls involves their materiality.”[5]
Dr. Francis Turretin states the argument this way,
“The same thing is proved by arguments from reason. The soul is propagated by generation, either from both parents or from one only; either as to its totality or only as to a part. But neither can be said. Not the former because thus two souls would coalesce into one and be mingled. Not the latter, for if from one (either the father or the mother only) no reason can be given why it should be propagated by the one rather than by the other (since both parents are equally the principle of generation). If the whole is propagated, then the parents will be without it and so will be deprived of life. If a part, it will be divisible and consequently material and mortal. Nor can it be reasonably replied here that neither the whole soul nor a part of it is propagated, but a certain substance born of the soul and (as it were) an immortal seed of the soul. For it is taken for granted that there is a seed of the soul by which it either generates or is generated; yet such a seed cannot be granted (which does not fall from the soul), and therefore proves it to be material and divisible.”[6]

This argument may in fact be the strongest. Science has been of great assistance as to how the body propagates, but the soul remains a mystery. It is still my opinion at this point that there is such a bond between body and soul, that where the body exists, so does the soul. Simply because time and space and matter separate persons does not mean one does not conclude logically that the soul must be divisible. Pro-Lifers often teach that human beings are fully human at conception. Yet is there not a time between parent and offspring that the divisible parts (egg and sperm) are not fully human? Some things are mysterious and the propagation of the soul is no less. Speaking of the divisibility of the soul Turretin states, “If a part, it will be divisible and consequently material and mortal.” This argument has no weight. It assumes to the nature of the soul something Traducianists do not. There is no division in God yet there are three Persons. Perhaps in a similar way God has made man. A plurality within a unity seems to be the most consistent explanation of the texts cited above such as Genesis 1:27-28.

Due to space the last objection I’d like to interact with is Boyce’s citation of Hodge’s view that God creates the soul directly with Scriptural proofs.

“The more prevalent theory as to the origin of souls is known as Creationism. It maintains that the soul of each man is directly created by God at the time of its union with its body.

The arguments in its favor are thus presented by Dr. Hodge.

(1.) ‘That it is more consistent with the prevailing representations of the Scriptures. In the original account of the creation there is a marked distinction made between the body and the soul. The one is from the earth, the other from God. This distinction is kept up throughout the Bible. Body and soul are not only represented as different substances, but also as having different origins. The body shall return to dust, says the wise man, and the spirit to God who gave it. Here the origin of the soul is represented as different from, and higher than that of the body. The former is from God in a sense in which the latter is not. In like manner God is said to form 'the spirit of man within him,' Zech. 12:1; to give 'breath unto the people upon it,' 'and spirit to them that walk therein,' Isa. 42:5. This language nearly agrees with the account of the original creation, in which God is said to have breathed into man the breath of life to indicate that the soul is not earthy or material, but had its origin immediately from God. Hence he is called 'God of the spirits of all flesh,' Num. 16:22. It could not well be said that he is God of the bodies of all men. The relation in which the soul stands to God, as its God and Creator, is very different from that in which the body stands to him. And hence in Heb. 12:9, it is said, 'We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?' The obvious antithesis here presented is between those who are fathers of our bodies and him who is the Father of our spirits.’”[7]

This objection only shows that man is a duality. To argue that every soul must come from God directly would be to argue that every body must come directly from Adam. The Scriptures plainly teach that Adam is our father according to the flesh. Even if we maintain that this only refers to the body and not the soul, only supports that the ultimate source of the body is from the earth formed by God. So when a man dies, his body goes back to its source while the soul goes back to its source. Just as my current body did not come directly from the ground but back through Adam to the ground, so my soul, which has come down through natural propagation will go back to God.

A counter-objection would be that I am reading my understanding of Genesis 1:27 into the verses cited above. Why could not Boyce’s understanding of the verses that Hodge cites as the framework that interprets Genesis 1:27? In other words, with whose presuppositions should we start? This is the debate at hand. It is up to the reader to see which method best interprets all of Scripture and is most consistent with the doctrine of Original Sin.

[1] Boyce, Systematic Theology, 203.

[2] Lecture notes from Roger Nicole.

[3] Boyce, Systematic Theology, 203.

[4] Ibid, 204.

[5] Boyce, Systematic Theology, 205.

[6] Francis Turretin, “Creationism or Traducianism?,”

[7] Boyce, Systematic Theology, 207.

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