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.
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 soul. Why “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…