The Transmission of the Soul (Pt.2)

This is a transcript of a lecture taken from the course on “The Doctrine of Man and Sin” at Telos Biblical Institute

Part One

Problems with Creationism’s view of God creating new souls in individual bodies:

1. What about sin?

·         If God is creating new souls in each individual body then how does that soul become sinful? Or are we back to the old Platonic view that the body is sinful and that somehow by contact with the material body, the soul becomes sinful?

That gets us back into Greek philosophy. Actually this seems to be what some creationists at least say!  They say that because the flesh, the body, is polluted, and they believe that the Greek term sarx means ‘the human flesh’ in some contexts, that just by contact with the sinful body the soul becomes sinful.

Now, quite how that happens I have yet to discover.  How does immaterial sin pollute a material body?  How does sin get from the material body to the immaterial soul?  Needless to say, most creationists don’t go there.  But what is left to them?  The only other solution left to them is the view that God must create sinful souls within each of us (because we’re sinners aren’t we?). 

Certainly, we are sinners from the womb according to Psalm 51:5.  If that is the case, how does each individual person become a sinner?  In creationism God has to create the sinner, and that is not a very palatable doctrine.  There are reasons that many creationists hold to it, but the fact of the matter is that would be enough for most people to have nothing to do with the doctrine.  The remedy appears to be even worse than the cure!

2. What about our relationship to Adam?

·         Is the only relationship that we bear to Adam a physical-biological relationship?  Do we derive only our bodies from Adam, but not our souls?  If that is the case, then what is the connection between Adam’s immaterial nature and personality (which sinned and fell), and our personality?  Or we might ask the question this way: what is the connection between the image of God in Adam and the image of God in ourselves?

The answer soul-creationists give is that there is no actual connection at all.  Any connection is made in the same way that there is a connection in a car plant where you are making the same kind of car, but none of the cars are really related to each other, they just look the same because they are made the same. Our relationship to one another and to our first parents would be similar; we’re just another type of the model “human being,” but we’re not really connected to Adam other than materially.  Spiritually, soul-creationism teaches there is no realistic tie to Adam.  This plays into the federal idea.  Enter Romans 5: 

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. – Romans 5:12

All Bible believers hold that when Adam sinned we all sinned.  We’re all part of that transgression, but does that necessitate that we are also participants in Adam’s guilt?  That is a question for another day, but it does overlap somewhat with the present topic. One must ask how we are guilty if we did not actually (personally) participate in Adam’s sin?   Remember, according to creationism, we did not participate in Adam’s sin because our souls were not created until some time after we were conceived.  As we shall see, with the third option; “Traducianism,” just as our physical makeup comes from our first parents, so our soulish makeup comes from our first parents.  And because that is passed down to us, so is the sin nature within that soulish makeup.  In creationism however, one can’t have that.  In creationism you just have the propagation of the body, not the propagation of the soul. So, how on earth are we considered guilty of Adam’s transgression?

Well, how did we sin?

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:15-21

How were we made sinners if we didn’t participate in Adam’s disobedience?  We can only be made sinners if there is a soulish cum spiritual connection between us and Adam (which traducianism teaches).  How can sin reign (verse 21), in death if we are not connected with Adam’s sin in any way apart from federally, wherein God designates Adam our representative?  As Tertullian said many centuries ago, “the transmission of sin involves the transmission of the soul.”  Or, to cite Shedd:

The imputation of the first sin of Adam to all his posterity as a culpable act is best explained and defended upon the traducian basis. The Augustinian and Calvinistic anthropologies affirm that the act by which sin came into the world of mankind was a self-determined and guilty act and it is just rechargeable upon every individual man, equally and alike. But this requires that the posterity of Adam and Eve should in some way or other, participate in it. Participation is the ground of merited imputation, though not of unmerited or gratuitous imputation. –

W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Gomes edition), 444

Sin is imputed to us because we deserve it.  We are all sinners!  But grace is imputed to us, not because we deserve it, but because God is gracious. Creationists believe that imputation of sin in Adam is the same as imputation of grace and life in Christ, and they balance it out that way.  But that cannot be the case, as even Romans 5:12-21 tells us.  Again, here is Shedd:

But a transgression supposes a transgressor, and a transgressor in this instance must be the ‘all’ who sinned spoken of in Romans 5:12. The doctrine of the specific unity of Adam and his posterity removes the great difficulties connected with the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity that arise from the injustice of punishing a person for a sin in which he had no kind of participation. – Ibid, 445

And of course, that is exactly what creationists have to teach!  They teach even though we did not sin in Adam, that God, because of some voluntaristic decree, decided that we did, and that we are guilty for it, even though we weren’t in Adam when he did it (since there is no connection between the soul of Adam that sinned and our souls). 

Now, creationists will come back and say, “Well, what you’re saying is that Adam had the complete contents of humanity’s Soul within him, and that Soul was somehow divided up into his offspring and into the millions of people who came from them.” But t5his is to commit the fallacy of a false conception.  Yes, Some traducianists have taught something like that, but it is not at all necessary to think of “Soul” in quantitative terms.  We certainly do not have to conceive of this one “Soul” as if it were somehow part of the gene pool.  

More to come…


5 thoughts on “The Transmission of the Soul (Pt.2)”

  1. Good stuff. I have come to similar conclusions in my own study. Creationism never sat well with me because it would mean that God would have had to create sinful, flawed souls. I don’t think that God continuously creates. He seems to have created, and now sustains His creation (Col. 1; Heb. 1). I don’t know of Christian theologian who says that God creates each person’s bodies. Rather, most say that people from the contribution of the father and mother. If we are embodied creatures, why would not our souls also be passed on from our parents as well?

  2. “Participation is the ground of merited imputation.” How do we reconcile this with Old Testament stories such as the sin of Achan. It seems that he federally represented Israel and therefore the nation as a whole (not to mention his children) was punished because of his sin. I know Hodge makes this argument.

    1. A good question. The argument hangs on whether or not Achan was actually federally representing Israel. I think this is mistaken, and for these reasons:

      1. Although Israel were under covenant (i.e. Sinai – Josh. 7:11) there is nothing in the episode which designates anyone as a representative under that covenant. I know not all federalists appeal to “the covenant,” but most do (including Hodge).

      2. It may be assumed that Joshua was careful to make it well known that Jericho was under a ban (6:17-19), and that Achan knew this (7:20-21), and that the punishment that was metered out was his responsibility. Whatever we say about the family of Achan also being executed (perhaps they were complicit?), the text does not permit us to conclude that he stood for Israel. Indeed, his animals were even destroyed (7:24-25), which rather suggests that God expunged a house from among the number of Israel. Can we infer that Achan federally represented the livestock? I don’t think so. They were his; that is the point.

      3. There is no hint in the story that God simply designated the transgressor in the creationist sense. People died because of Achan’s greed and high-handed sin. Although 7:11 says “Israel has sinned…” we must not try to derive a doctrine of federal representation from what appears to be a pronouncement against some persons within Israel. Here one must remember the sanctity of God’s ban and the importance of every Israelite respecting God’s orders. Achan was made an example of.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Paul H.

  3. If a unique soul enters at conception, what occurs with identical twins? Two souls stuck in the zygote, so it splits into twins?

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