Thursday, June 19, 2008

Position Paper: Thesis


The origin of the soul has been a debated issue among Christians for centuries. It must be understood from the outset that although the historically favorable position is that of Creationism, this is an in-house debate among brothers in Christ. Historically, theological giants such as St. Athanasius, John Calvin, John Owen, Hodge, B.B. Warfield and Francis Turretin have held the Creationist view of the soul. Many Reformers and their descendants have held the Traducianist view such as Luther and Lutheran Theologians, William Shedd, A. H. Strong and G.C. Berkhower. Robert Reymond, who authored one of the textbooks for the class, also takes the Traducianist position.[1] One of the greatest church fathers, St. Augustine never firmly took a stand for either position, showing this to be a difficult question.[2] Nevertheless, the Traducian position that men are propagated through the normal means of procreation is the position that is most consistent with the Scriptural evidence. It is also the position that is able to give better answers to the creationist’s objections. It will also be shown that Traducianism is more consistent with the doctrine of Original Sin.

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology defines the two positions in this way.

Creationism is the view that God creates a new soul for each person and sends it to that person’s body sometime between conception and birth. Traducianism, on the other hand, holds that the soul as well as the body of a child are inherited from the baby’s mother and father at the time of conception.”[3]
Creationists are basically arguing that each soul comes directly from God. This must be the case according to their view since man is a spiritual creature made in the image of God. The idea that man’s soul is tied to the body in such a way as to make it divisible and material becomes an obstacle for Creationists.

It is my understanding that man is a creature and is to propagate like any other creature. We are not each a new spiritual human race with a common physical ancestry. Man is indeed united in both body and soul, as we will see from the Scriptural arguments. However, due to the extreme difficulty of a couple of the Creationists objections, I must agree to some extent with Reymond’s statement,

“…Scripture does not give us sufficient data to conclude decisively either way, and also that neither view helps us understand the nature of man in a way that the other does not…”[4]
Therefore, although, it might be difficult to be dogmatic about such a doctrine, to say each soul is a direct creation from God seems to go against the unity of mankind in general. Men are seen all throughout Scripture as one in Adam. Robert Reymond writes in defense of the unity of body and soul in propagation,
“It appears to be everywhere assumed by Scripture that through conception human parents ‘father’ and ‘mother’ not just a physical body but the entire offspring, body and soul. When Charles Hodge, himself a staunch creationist, to avoid the conclusion that God creates sinful souls, declares: ‘we do not know how the agency of God is connected with the operation of second causes, how far that agency is mediate, and how far it is immediate,’ and then admits in his later discussion of original sin: ‘It is moreover a historical fact universally admitted, that character, within certain limits, is transmissible from parents to children. Every nation, separate tribe, and even every extended family of men, has its physical, mental, social, and moral peculiarities which are propagated from generation to generation,’ he has abandoned his creationism, for if God does immediately create souls at conception or at birth, the mental and moral characteristics of parents cannot be propagated.”[5]

[1] The list of names was given in the lecture notes from Roger Nicole’s 29th lecture.

[2] Personal notes from Roger Nicole’s lecture

[3] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 484.

[4] Reymond, Systematic Theology, 424.

[5] Reymond, Systematic Theology, 424.

1 comment:

Howard Fisher said...

I didn't state what lectures by Roger Nicole the foot notes are referring to. Sorry, but I am too tired of messing with this to fix it right now.