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.
And in their lengthy treatment of the subject, Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest conclude:
The derivation of all persons from Adam and Eve accounts for the unity of the entire human population (Acts 17:26). The unity of human beings is not merely physical but also moral and spiritual. Humanity is not a company of individually created spirits, such as the angels are. The fact that human persons comprise a single race is crucial theologically, as well as socially and politically (Rom. 5:12-14)… Jesus explicitly attributes the fleshly nature of children to parents. The characteristics of the evil heart (Matt. 15:18-19) or sinful nature (Eph. 2:3) can hardly be the creation of a God who is of purer eyes can look with favor upon sin (Hab. 1:13)… A Traducian view does not contradict divine justice in condemning all mankind for the one act of Adam (Rom. 5:16, 18). On this view Adam is not merely the legal or federal representative of the race as Creationists maintain. God may have made a covenant of works with Adam as the legal head of the race, the biblical evidence for this is minimal. If we were not in some sense in Adam generically, physically, and spiritually, however, the covenant of works appears to be a legal fiction without basis in reality. From a Traducian perspective, with or without the covenant of works, God can justly regard the race generically in Adam. So “in Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22), for in Adam all “sinned” (Rom. 5:12, Greek aorist tense). Hence a Traducian view of the origin of the soul provides the more coherent position with the fewer difficulties. The difficulty of explaining how the soul originates is less than explaining how a holy God can create depraved souls. – Integrative Theology, 2.171.
Creationists teach that there is a direct correlation between Christ’s act of representation in redemption and Adam’s act of representation in sin. But W.G.T. Shedd demolished this inference long ago.
In criticizing the federalist representative view Shedd commented:
“In the first place, Christ suffered freely and voluntarily for the sin of man, but Adam’s posterity suffer necessarily and involuntarily for the sin of Adam… They do not, like Christ, volunteer and agree to suffer, but are compelled to suffer; and their suffering, unlike that of Christ, is accompanied with the sense of ill dessert…
Second, Christ was undeservedly punished when He suffered for the sin of man. But Adam’s posterity are not undeservedly punished when they suffer for the sin of Adam…
Third, Christ was a substitute when He suffered, but Adam’s posterity are the principals. They do not suffer in the place of sinners when they suffer for Adam’s sin, but they suffer as sinners. They are not vicarious sufferers, As Christ was. They suffer for themselves…
Fourth, the purpose of Christ’s suffering is expiatory; that of the suffering of Adam’s posterity is retributive. Christ endured penalty in order for the remission and removal of sin; but Adam’s posterity endure penalty solely for the satisfaction of justice. Their suffering obtains neither the remission nor the removal of sin.
Fifth, the guilt of Adam’s sin did not rest upon Christ as it does upon Adam’s posterity and hence, he could voluntarily consent and agree to endure its penalty without being under obligation to do so. Christ was free from the guilt of Adam’s sin, both in the sense of [culpability] and [punishment]. But the posterity are obligated by both. Christ therefore suffers as an innocent person to expiate a sin in which he did not participate; but Adam’s posterity suffer as guilty persons to satisfy the law for a sin in which they did participate. – Dogmatic Theology, (3rd edition), 461-462.
The question of participation in regard to guilt is not before us at present. Shedd, as a covenant theologian, argued for original guilt as well as for original sin. Not everyone has linked the two together as Shedd did. But the arguments he set forth against creationism are not blunted either way. As he wrote a little further on,
…to argue that if gratuitous imputation is not true in the case of Adam’s sin it is not true in the case of Christ’s righteousness is like arguing that if God is not the author of sin by direct efficiency he is not the author of holiness by direct efficiency. – Ibid, 464.
You don’t need Creationism to be a covenant theologian, Shedd, Dabney, and Reymond are examples of covenant theologians who were traducianists. But creationism certainly fits in with covenant theology, and that is why covenant theologians tend to be Creationists.
Calvin it appears was not a Creationist. There is a quotation from the Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 7, which seems to clearly indicate that he believed that a ‘contagion’ was imparted from Adam to us. That would put him closer to Traducianism than to Creationism.
It is often thought that this subject is unimportant. But it is not unimportant; it is needful that we establish that we have a direct relationship with Adam, not just physically, but also spiritually. And it is essential that we do not create trouble for the justice and goodness of Almighty God due to the seeming logic of our theological precommitments.