The Question of the Incarnate Christ
What do we do with Christ’s human soul in this matter of transmission? Do we commit the Apollinarian heresy of the Early Church, which says Christ had a human body but a divine soul? Or are we to fall into the Eutychian heresy, where Christ was said to have had a human body mixed with the divine soul? Those are not orthodox positions. But there are certain passages which speak to this doctrine and must be clarified. What is one to do with these texts?
For instance, Romans 1:3 says,
Concerning his Son, who was descended (who was born) from David according to the flesh.
Whether one is a creationist or a traducianist, there is no getting around the need for the miraculous when it comes to the birth of Christ. The creationist may point to the logic of Christ’s human soul being newly created by the Father at conception, but the traducian realist will ask how that soul remained sinless in a sinful mother, and will again call attention to the implication that if the human body does not stain the soul the only other road open to the creationist is to say that God makes each new soul sinful (all except Christ that is).
In place of this miracle the traducian view will say that although the soul may be passed on through the female, the absence of a human father could account for why the sin nature was not passed on to Jesus. If this conclusion seems unsatisfactory the alternative is to say that God protected Christ’s soul from the stain of sin. Either way, the realist position has less explaining to do than the creationist – federalist view.
In his great volume on Sin, the Dutch theologian G. C. Berkouwer spends many pages evaluating both the realist (traducian) position and the federalist (creationist) position. His problems with the traducian position basically boil down to the imputation of guilt (something which will have to be taken up elsewhere). But it should be noted that many theologians, both in the early church and after the Reformation, did not tie in the imputation of guilt with the imputation of sin.
Berkouwer’s problems with federalism are more numerous and severe. They can be summed up in his statement about the double-meaning of imputation as guilt accounted because of our sinning, and ‘alien guilt’ foisted upon us by God’s ordinance (458-459). He continues,
Realism has done us the service of sharpening our insights concerning the meaning of imputatio. Is [this] concept at odds with the very nature of his justice? Does it contradict the statement of Ezekiel [ch.18:4, 20, 25-26] concerning the activity of God? Surely the “rule of Ezekiel” underscores the correlation of guilt and punishment in a very unambiguous way. (460).
Certain passages of Scripture clearly imply realism rather than mere federal representation. Surely John 1:14 designates the human nature of Christ, body and soul? And what is one to do with Hebrews 7:9-10?
One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
If Creationism is true this statement would be untrue. In fact, it would be nonsense.
This genealogical passage in the early chapters of Genesis should also feature in the debate:
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:1-3
Regarding the image of God, is this passage just talking about Seth’s physical body and not also talking about his soul? If only Seth’s body is under consideration then surely ‘likeness and image’ in Genesis 5:3 refers just to the physical makeup? But if we allow that interpretation we must allow it as the right interpretation of ‘image and likeness’ in Genesis 1:26-27. Of course, no Creationist would wish to assent to that!
What about the great proof text for Creationism:
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? – Hebrews 12:9
Straight away the antenors go up, for the verse seems hardly to be asserting that God the Father is responsible for implanting new spirits within newly conceived human beings.
As Robert Culver says:
Is this contrasting human males as fathers of our material nature and God as Father of our immaterial nature? Quite to the contrary! Note it is not said that God is Father of our spirits, but simply of spirits. The argument is from the less to the greater to encourage reverence toward God. So the author is arguing that if we revere the lesser earthly parents of our humanity, we surely should revere the greater universal heavenly Father, God of all spirits. The manner of generating parts of human nature is not even under consideration. – Systematic Theology, 279. (more…)