Origin of the Soul: Creationism or Traducianism?


theology-mattersCreationism: “the soul is not conceived in the womb, nor is formed and produced at the time that the body is molded, but is impressed from outside on the infant before his complete vitality but after the process of childbirth”

Traducianism: “both the soul and the body come into existence by the procreative act of the parents”

I have sat in much thought over these two positions over the origin of the soul and on the surface I can understand points for both creationism and traducianism. Neither view is flawless. Therefore, at first glance I considered landing in Augustine’s camp by pleading ignorance. Like Augustine, I see where a creationist would find support in the creation of Adam as God “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). One could easily interpret this as God placing the soul into the body at a later time than when the body was created. The body is from the dust of the ground while the soul comes directly from God. From this, the creationist could see “that the soul is not conceived in the womb, nor is formed and produced at the time that the body is molded, but is impressed from outside on the infant before his complete vitality but after the process of childbirth.” As far as my studies are concerned (not exhaustive or beyond correction by any means), I see in Scripture much more biblical support for traducianism than creationism, although there is definitely some for both. And both views have been supported by various figures throughout the history of the church.

 

With that said, I stand as follows. It is clear and indisputable that God created man in his own image (Gen. 1:27). Man was then commanded to procreate (Gen. 1:28). It is interesting to note that from God creating Adam in his likeness, Adam also bore a son who was in his likeness: “When Adam lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen. 5:3). The implication can thus be made that Seth retained both body and soul (or spirit) in the likeness of his father, Adam. This support for the traducianism view of the origin of the soul cleared it up for me. There is no reason to believe that the soul of Seth came from outside of Adam while the body of Seth alone came from Adam–and both coming at different times. I believe that since Seth was fathered in his father’s likeness, he would receive both soul and body from God through the agents of his parents.

 

Therefore, I agree more with traducianism which states that “both the soul and the body come into existence by the procreative act of the parents”. I agree with Tertullian who said “the two are no doubt produced by human parents of two substances, but not at two different periods; rather they are so entirely one that neither is before the other in point of time.” And this is the question at hand. When did God create both soul and body? What we can agree on is that God indeed is the Creator–and this is a glorious point of agreement! From here the views differ as creationists claim the soul is created sometime between conception and birth while traducianists claim the soul is created with the body at conception.

 

Again, I find Scriptural support for this view in the Psalms. In praising God for his sovereign knowledge and creativity, David cries out: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret” (Psalm 139:13-15). I see in this that God formed David–all of David, both soul and body (see “inward parts” and “frame”). When did he do this? In his mother’s womb. With Tertullian, I agree that life begins at conception and this can only be supported from a traducianism standpoint. This is where, practically and logically I agree with traducianism. From a creationism point of view it would be logically consistent to support abortion and it would be difficult to argue against abortion since there is merely body mass at conception and life is not breathed into the body until a later time. There are many practical difficulties I find with this view whereas with traducianism I do not find such problems. Traducianism is a strong theological base from which to defend the unborn and fight the horrid injustice of abortion.

 

Even when looking at Jeremiah 1:5, which seems to support creationism, I would argue that it doesn’t. In the context of Jeremiah 1, I interpret this knowledge of Jeremiah to refer to God’s divine foreknowledge with specific reference to God’s calling and election (see also Eph. 1:3-5).

 

To wrap up this post, I agree with traducianism because of the listed biblical support as well as the practical implications this view warrants.

[Quotes taken from Greg Allison’s Historical Theology]

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