The Transmission of the Soul (Pt. 3)

This is the belated third installment of a series I started last year on the topic.  I do apologize for dropping the ball on this one.  The material is taken from a lecture from the course, “The Doctrine of Man & Sin” at Telos Biblical Institute.

Part Two

The Traducianist Position: Traducianism (from a word meaning ‘to sprout’), holds that both the material-bodily substance of a person, and the soulish part of a person is passed on from parent to child through all generations, and because of this, the sin nature is passed on through all generations. This involves what is called a realistic view of the impartation of sin, within the transmission of the soulWhy “realistic?”  Because it actually happens; it is not something whereby guilt is just decreed, but because we participate in sin by sinning according to the fallen nature which we inherit from Adam.

As W.G.T. Shedd writes,

Sin cannot be transmitted along absolute nonentity; neither can it be transmitted by merely physical substance. If each individual soul never had any other than an individual existence and were created ex nihilo in every instance, nothing mental could pass from Adam to his posterity; there could be the transmission of only bodily and physical traits. There would be a chasm of 6000 years between an individual soul of this generation and the individual soul of Adam, across which original sin or moral corruption could not go by natural generation. –  W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology,446

I myself am drawn to the Traducianist view for the following reasons:

     1.   It appears to be everywhere assumed by Scripture that through conception via our human parents, we inherit sin natures, and not just physical bodies.  So the psalmist says, “…in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5b). 

     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 the agency is mediate and how far it is immediate’, and then admits in his later discussion of Original Sin that, “it is, moreover, a historical fact universally admitted, that character within certain limits is transmissible from parents to children; every nation and every tribe and every extended family of man has its physical, mental, social, and moral peculiarities which are propagated from generation to generation”, he has effectively 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.

2.      Creationism allows for only the physical or corporeal connection between Adam and his offspring, and has to explain how human souls, immediately created by God, with no soulish connection to their parents, become evil.  Whereas Traducianism has a ready answer for why the individual is guilty in Adam and is thus corrupt (see e.g. Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 424-425).

 Lewis and Demarest add,

Neither do we find adequate evidence to support the view that spirits are individually created at conception or birth. The passages teaching that spirits come from God can be interpreted providentially and ultimately, rather than miraculously and approximately. Creationists raise the problem of how Christ could be without sin if souls are derived from parents along with bodies. The point is irrelevant to normal conceptions however, because the conception of Jesus was miraculous! The conception of Jesus by a virgin, involved both a biological miracle and a moral miracle, so that Mary’s sinful nature was not transmitted to Jesus and he was holy…(Lk 1:35). The major problem with a Creationist hypothesis is that for all normally born persons, the Holy One allegedly directly creates their souls with sinful dispositions. Scriptural teaching traces sinfulness not to the body but to the inner soul or spirit…(Jer.17:9). The “flesh” refers in moral contexts only secondarily to the body as the instrument of the fallen spirit; primarily the flesh is the sinful nature conceived at conception. Since throughout Scripture God is the source of good and not of moral rebellion against Himself, it seems unthinkable that He, the Holy One, should specifically create each human soul with a bent toward disbelieving and disobeying him.” – Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Integrated Theology, Vol. 2. 170

To this I add the comment of Robert Culver:

It seems to this writer that it takes some shading of evidence from sincere convictions drawn from another quarter of doctrine to suppose that adam and anthropos whence ‘anthropology’, ever means just man’s body to the exclusion of his soul. – Robert Culver, Systematic Theology, 279

But that is what Creationists must teach.  So, how do Creationists say that we are sinners and we are guilty of Adam’s transgression if we didn’t participate in it, and really we had nothing to do with it? They say that it is because God imputes his sin to us in the same way as God imputes righteousness in Christ to us. Well, we understand why God has to impute the righteousness of Christ to us: because we’re not in ourselves connected to the righteousness of God in Christ. But we also understand that we are connected to Adam!

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. – I Corinthians 15:22

Why Do We Die?

Why do we die? Because we are “in Adam.”  We need to get into Christ to be made alive. But how do we get into Christ? By a new birth.  We have to be joined to Christ, and we are joined to Him through adoption and the new birth by the Holy Spirit.  That is when His righteousness is imputed to us. But why do we need Adam’s sin and guilt heaped on us?  

As Shedd says, “to make the eternal damnation of a human soul depend upon vicarious [i.e. “in our place”] sin, contradicts the profound convictions of the human conscience.”

To say that because Adam sinned we’re damned, just because that’s the way God decides it, and not because of any relationship we bear to Adam, would be unjust.  Calling on God’s freedom to do as He wants to validate such a thing amounts to redefining God’s desires along voluntarist and nominalist lines.  This is a card played all too often by some theologians. 

Arguing against Traducianism and for Creationism, Herman Bavinck introduced covenant theology to bolster his doctrine.  He wrote:  

The so-called realism, say of Shedd, is inadequate both as an explanation of Adam’s sin, and as an explanation of righteousness by faith in Christ.  Needed among human beings is another kind of unity, one that causes them to act unitedly as a moral body, organically-connected as well as ethically-united, and that is a federal unity, that is a covenant unity. Now on the basis of a physical unity an ethical unity has to be constructed; Adam as our ancestor is not enough, he must also be the covenant head of the human race just as Christ, although he is not our common ancestor in a physical sense, is still able as covenant head to bestow righteousness and blessedness upon his church. Now this moral unity of the human race can only be maintained on the basis of Creationism, for it has a character of its own, is distinct from that of animals, as well as that of the angels, and therefore also comes into being in its own way; both by physical descendent [Adam] and by a created act of God [Creationism], the two of them in conjunction with each other. – Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2.586

Of course, Traducianism is not inadequate for an explanation of Adam’s sin, because we are connected to him spiritually.  As the Bible clearly declares, God created the whole person:

The Creation of Eve So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.Genesis 2:21-22

Did God just bring a body to the man, or did he bring a person, body and a soul?  There is nothing here to say that God breathed a soul into Eve like he did with Adam in verse 7.  Here, God just takes the material as it were – the substance, the essence of the man – from the man and creates a woman, body and soul.  In the Old Testament the words for  ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ (especially the former), designates more often than not the whole person.

More to come…

Dispensationalism and TULIP – Total Depravity


In this series of posts I will try to answer the question as to whether Dispensational Theology (DT) can be assimilated with TULIP.  It is important to note that the definitions of the 5 points I have in mind are those associated with the classic Confessions of Reformed theology and reproduced in the standard works.  I have decided I shall limit my Reformed sources to the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the Westminster Confession, the Canons of Dordt, and one or two authoritative voices like John Murray, R. C. Sproul, the book by Steele and Thomas, etc.  I shall avail myself of the help of “Scriptures On The Doctrines of Grace” from Monergism.

I shall be looking at the passages used through the Grid of Category Formulations as follows:

C1 = doctrinal formulation via a straightforward quotation of Scripture (e.g. special creation)

C2 = a strong inference from the witness of several C1 passages (e.g. the Trinity)

C3 = a possible inference based on the text of scripture (e.g. the pre-trib rapture)

C4 = an theological inference usually based on another inference (e.g. infant baptism)

Dispensationalists who found their views on literal interpretation ought not to traffic in C4 formulations since they are not linked to the plain sense of Scripture and have to take advantage of a theological hermeneutics at variance with the system.

For this reason I think DT and TULIP are odd bedfellows (I also agree with 5 point Calvinists that 4 pointers who assent to four of the five formulations of TULIP are inconsistent).

What I am concerned with in these posts is the question of whether or not the kind of interpretative approach which persuades a person to be a dispensationalist works just as well in persuading them of the Five Points of Calvinism.  I might put it another way: will ones reasons for holding to dispensationalism suffice to bring them to embrace TULIP?

1. A Reformed Definition of Total Depravity [with clear references supplied]:

Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead [Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1], blind [2 Cor. 4:4], and deaf [to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt [Jer. 17:9]. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature [Rom. 1:18-22, 3:10-18; Jn. 3:19-21] therefore, he will not–indeed he cannot–choose good over evil in the spiritual realm [Gen. 8:21; Jer. 13:23]. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ–it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation–it is God’s gift to the sinner [Phil. 1:29?], not the sinner’s gift to God.
(Genesis 2:15-17, Romans 5:12, Psalm 51:5, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 3:10-18, Jeremiah 17:9, John 6:44, Ephesians 2:1-10) – David N. Steele & Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (1963), 16.

I have underlined the parts in these statements that I think are difficult to establish from a plain reading of Scripture without the imposition of a theologized hermeneutics (i.e. a C4 formulation).  Before I engage these statements (and the verses used to support them) I shall outline my understanding of Total Depravity.

2. Total Depravity: A Summary of My Position:

A good place to start is Genesis 8:21, where even after the Flood and with only eight people alive, God assesses the state of the human heart.

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. – Genesis 8:21

God sustains this post-flood world while knowing that in doing so He must put up with sin in every person’s heart (“heart” (leb/cardia) in Scripture includes our drives and reasonings as well as our emotions).  Notice it is man’s “intention” or inclination to perpetrate evil, even while young.  This “evil” is that which is contrary to God and His righteous purpose for man.  Man is not inclined to good because he is not inclined to God.

We “drink up iniquity like we drink water” (Job 15:16).  Therefore, Joshua’s indictment of Israel holds true for us all; we cannot serve God (Josh. 24:19).  But that suits the sinner, since,  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).  Thus, we are all the subjects of the prophet’s remark: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isa.59:2).  These “iniquities” remember, come from a heart that is always manufacturing them.  That is the default setting of the natural heart.   

The OT never veers from this course.  The God who sees into every man’s heart is unambiguous in His opinion of it (e.g. Psa. 44:21; 90:8; Jer. 2:22).  The texts are unanimous and very clear.  Just as no leopard can ever change its spots, so human beings can never do what God can count “good” seeing we are accustomed to do evil (Jer. 13:23).

The NT supplies us with more information.  Jesus calls the human heart “evil” – even the hearts of His disciples (Matt. 7:11).  In another post I wrote this (btw, I really need to finish that series!):

The Truth about fallen man is this: he is a hater of God (Rom. 1:30), counting God as his enemy (Rom. 5:10), failing to give Him glory or thanks (Rom.1:21).  The sin within fallen man is pervasive, coloring everything he does.  Therefore, he does not like to retain God in his thoughts (Rom. 1:28), preferring to exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:26).  Man is at enmity with his Maker (Rom. 8:7).  Although made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), and originally made upright, man has actively sought out many wicked calculations (Eccles. 7:29).  He tells himself lies – sometimes very elaborate ones – which he uses to deny the rights of God, and even the very existence of God (Rom. 1:22-23, 25).  Yet, according to the Bible, man has this nagging awareness that he will be judged (Rom. 1:32), which makes his rebellious response all the more an insult.  He is evil (Matt. 7:11), having his understanding darkened and his heart blinded (Eph. 4:18).  In short, he is reigned over by sin (Rom. 5:21a).  On top of all this, mankind is so morally perverse as to believe that, if he needs redemption, he can have a hand in it himself!

Hence, I would agree with every passage cited under Total Depravity in the list I have linked to provided by Monergism.  All of them could be classified as C1 or C2 texts and could be inserted into a doctrinal formulation without much or any explanation.  That is, every passage with the exception of Jn. 3:3, 14:16 and 2 Cor. 1:9.  Let me explain my reservations on the use of these. Continue reading “Dispensationalism and TULIP – Total Depravity”