Origin of the Soul: A Defense of Paternal Traducianism

Also posted at SBC Open Forum.
By Ken Hamrick
Was your soul newly created for you by God, or was it passed down to you from the previous generations, much like your DNA was, and originally came from Adam? This may seem an obscure question, but it is actually foundational to most of theology. Whether or not you have ever considered the question before, the theology that you hold has built much of its doctrinal understanding upon an assumed answer to this question—and most have assumed that the soul is newly created by God in every case. The paper that follows is an excerpt of the current draft of a much larger work in progress, entitled, Mechanics of Atonement: Restoring Reality to Imputation. There is heavy emphasis on Turretin, since I have not found a more thorough argument than his. [Note: Although early theologians, such as Turretin, refer to the “soul,” it is in a dichotomistic way that is interchangeable with “spirit.” Early tradition used the term, “soul,” almost exclusively to refer to the immaterial component of a man, reserving the term, “spirit,” for the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this was to avoid confusion between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit. The Bible does use “spirit” as well as “soul” when referring to man’s immaterial component or nature (the inner man as opposed to the outer man). Both words are used interchangeably throughout this paper, except where otherwise specified.]

[20,000 words] The spirit is what make us most like God, and makes us everlasting beings. “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” The spirit is the image of God in man, unlike the animals who have no spirit and do not worship or rebel against God. The spirit was breathed into Adam by God in Gen. 2:7. But the human spirit was never meant to exist without a body. The body was designed for the spirit’s habitation, and it has a brain fitting for use by that spirit. It is here, where the physical and spiritual meet that we find the mind of a man. And it is the mind that is most closely represented by the idea of a soul. Although the soul often is used of Scripture to refer to the whole man, it is by metonymy (using a part to refer to the whole). The soul being the mind, which both worships God and controls bodily systems, is the conjunction of the physical and spiritual in a man, and encompasses all that we are as an individual personality, including all of the memories of our experiences in life, stored in the cells of our brain.

At physical death, the immaterial part of the soul (which includes the spirit) will depart the body until the resurrection. The imperfections of the body that weighed on our mind will be left behind—there will be no memory recall problems, no chemical imbalances affecting mood, etc. Nevertheless, the man will not be whole until his soul is back at home in his resurrected body (which itself will be perfect at that time).

Heb. 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The soul encompasses the spirit, in that it is a mind possessed by a spirit. But that mind has differing degrees of physicality to it that are not spiritual. For example, when the spirit wants to praise God, it does so through the use of the mind, registering and activating in the appropriate synapses and brain cells. It was the will of the spirit to worship, but that will was expressed through the physicality of the mind. Even those thought processes that are seemingly immaterial are not necessarily so. The spirit is either seeking and worshiping God or seeking and worshiping self (sin). All rationalizations, calculations, and other mental work are functions of the mind. Admittedly, that line is mysterious. But it is not mysterious that moral will and comprehension are seated in the spirit.

The spirit that is in rebellion toward God and truth will express that in the mind through rationalization or even irrationalization in originating thought processes designed to protect the spirit from having to face that hated truth or face God. The inner man builds up many such defenses. This is why the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing: it is not an honest assessment by those objectively weighing the gospel, but a dishonest assessment by those whose spirits already reject God’s truth and seek to avoid facing it any further. Here is where Heb. 4:12 comes into the picture. The Word of God can “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit,” piercing those mental defenses to reach the spirit and confront it with the truth. Such divine confrontations result in either repentance or strong rejection. Both Peter and Stephen preached sermons where the Word of God pierced in such a way that those present were “cut to the heart.” The former group all repented, while the latter group tore their clothes, gnashed their teeth and stoned the preacher.

In any view of the union in Adam that sees the progeny as truly culpable for Adam’s sin, a shared essence in Adam is implied and required. To whatever degree that the “potential” essence of the progeny is held to be distinct from the personal essence of Adam, the responsibility for his sin is correspondingly removed from them. It was Adam alone, as a man, who sinned. If Adam’s sin was all men’s sin, then Adam is in every man, and thus, all men can be said to have been in Adam.

It is not my intention to construct anything new here, philosophically. Rather, the best course is to adhere to the facts as indicated in Scripture, such as the fact that human beings are propagated, and set out what necessarily follows from those facts, stripping away any philosophical excesses and inconsistencies—and there are many on both sides. While this method does leave some questions unanswered and open to objection, it is best to acknowledge the inscrutable mystery of the precise mechanics of spiritual propagation. Such a mystery is ultimately accepted by faith, based on the witness of the Spirit illuminating the Scriptures. It can be neither proved nor disproved through reason and philosophy alone. But as we shall see, that does not leave us entirely in the dark, either.

1. Arguments from Scripture

Unlike all the other creatures, man was made in the likeness and image of God. Yet, like all the other creatures, God created man as a propagative being—a being that could “multiply and fill the earth.”

Genesis 2:7-8 ESV
7then the LORD 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. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.

This is God’s supernatural creation of Adam. Here, we see how it was that God made Adam in His image. He breathed the breath of life into Adam, and Adam became a living soul. This is a startling picture of personal contact, completely unlike the creation of everything else. The breath of life can also be translated, “spirit [or, soul] of lives.”[28] By breathing the breath of life into Adam, God was breathing the very spirit of Adam from out of God and into Adam. God created Adam’s spirit out of nothing and breathed it into him from out of Himself. Unlike all other creatures, who were strictly material like the waters, man was made to be like the Creator, whose Spirit hovered over those waters; and because man was a spiritual being, he was also a moral being.

Genesis 5:1-3 ESV
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.

God created man in His image. The spirit is the substance of that image. The qualities that are often referred to as the image of God, that man is a moral, rational and relational being, are spiritual qualities that are only possible because man has a spirit. Here, the propagative nature of that image is revealed. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” How unexpected it is that Seth is said to have been begotten in the image and likeness of Adam, rather than in the image and likeness of God. The spirit that God had breathed into Adam—Adam’s spirit—was propagated to his son, Seth. Since Seth is the first mention in the genealogy, and the first begotten man whose birth is accompanied by such an explanation, his mention provides the pattern by which all men are begotten. Generation after countless generation, the spirit of the child comes from out of his father’s spirit, through all forefathers back to Adam—and back to that breath of life that God breathed into Adam. From father to son—purposely designed so that Christ could be born of a virgin and still be who He was rather than being the spiritual son of Mary.

Turretin denies that the image of Adam in which Seth was propagated referred to the soul, fifth topic, thirteenth question, section XIV (T5, Q13, §XIV):

Adam can be said to have begotten man after his own image, although he did not produce the soul. The cause of the similitude is not the propagation of the soul, but the production of bodies of the same temperament with the parents. For from the different temperament and humors of the body, different propensities and affections are also born in our souls.

Nothing from the text indicates that the word, image, has a different meaning when it’s God’s image than when it’s Adam’s image. The image of God in Adam was not Adam’s body or “temperament and humors of the body,” but Adam’s spirit, and the moral nature of that spirit; so it follows that Adam’s image in Seth is also spiritual, not physical. Turretin seems to contradict this earlier statement when addressing the propagation of depravity (T9, Q10, §VIII):

Second, the same thing is proved [there is… inherent depravity (called original sin) propagated from Adam to all his posterity springing from him by natural generation] from Gen 5:3 where Adam is said to have begotten Seth “after his image” (i.e., a corrupt one begat the same). Now he could not be corrupted in generation in any other way than by contracting original corruption. Here we must notice the antithesis between the image of God (after which Adam was formed, spoken of in Gen. 5:1) and the image of Adam (after which Seth was formed). As therefore the former morally designated both wisdom of mind and holiness of will, so from the opposition the image of Adam ought to denote the inherent and hereditary corruption of his mind as well as of his will… In no other way ought the image (after which Adam begat his children) to be understood than in that in which it is taken when man is said to have been made after the image of God, not physically, but morally…

This seeming contradiction reveals the necessary tendency of creationists to see the body as the medium of transmission of moral corruption from parent to child. However, as we will address in section II.B.2., morality has its seat in the soul, not the body. Compare what Samuel Baird says of this passage, which he holds to have “a distinct and unequivocal statement as to the origin of the soul of Seth”:

…If Adam’s whole image, corporeal and spiritual, was reproduced in Seth, it follows that Seth, in his entire being, was begotten by Adam. This conclusion no ingenuity can evade. But the testimony is yet more explicit than this. It points with emphasis to the image of God in which Adam was created; and, with a mournful significance, contrasts that of Seth with it. “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;” “and Adam begat a son in his own likeness.” No one will pretend that Adam’s likeness to God was any thing short of a moral likeness dwelling in his soul. It is then Seth’s moral likeness to Adam that is here especially meant; and, the begetting being expressly predicated of that in which the likeness lay, the conclusion is unavoidable, that, if Seth was begotten at all, his soul proceeded from his parents, as well as his body. [29]

Seth was begotten in the image of his father, Adam. Since that image was spiritual, it was propagated to Seth in the same moral condition as in Adam. Charles Hodge contends that nothing is proven by this passage:

…That Adam begat a son in his own likeness, and after his own image, and called his name Seth, only asserts that Seth was like his father. It sheds no light on the mysterious process of generation, and does not teach how the likeness of the child to the parent is secured by physical causes. When Job asks, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” and when our Lord says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” the fact is asserted that like begets like; that a corrupt nature is transmitted from parent to child. But that this can be done only by the transmission of numerically the same substance is a gratuitous assumption…[30]

The propagation of the soul is not “secured by physical causes.” The material does not propagate the immaterial any more than the immaterial propagates the material. Since it is acknowledged that the corrupt nature is “transmitted from parent to child,” then the conclusion is unavoidable, even if disliked. Baird continues:

Says Job, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.”—Job 14: 4. The sentiment is repeated by Eliphaz, and re-affirmed by Bildad. “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”—Job 15: 14. “How can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?”—Job 25: 4… These patriarchs, unanimously, and with the emphasis of the interrogatory form, assert the doctrine that like begets like. They predicate uncleanness and sin of man. That the soul is here implicated, no one will question. Of this defilement, it is further asserted, that it is consequent upon the fact of our origin from a defiled source. In other words, they declare the unholy child to derive,—not its defilement only, but that which is defiled,—its moral being,—from its apostate parents. The same remarks apply to the language of David:—“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”—Psalm 51: 5.[31]

Creationists overlook the law of propagation, which is everywhere evident, and should be obvious from the Scripture. The natural sense of the Genesis account is that God had made man, and every other creature, as propagative beings, able to multiply after their own kind. Like begets like, as is the way of all living creatures from amoeba to man, and God no longer creates them supernaturally out of nothing. This principle and fact of propagation is such a part of our thinking that we miss the significance. God created at the beginning, but He designed into His creatures the abilities and natures necessary to propagate each species and “fill the earth” without any further supernatural creation by God. This is not to say that God withdraws from His creation and remains aloof, but it simply tells us that God’s original creating was all that was necessary to accomplish His creative purposes. Robert Culver points out the plain reading of the Genesis account.

The creation of mankind climaxes a narrative wherein every living thing in the waters was to reproduce ‘after their kind.’ In each case no one doubts the whole living creature in each offspring was to be completely the procreated offspring of its parents. Creation first of man, male, then of man, female, comes precisely at the climax of that movement of the narrative, with the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ It would be assumed by anyone who reads on that the same would be the case, notice to the contrary lacking. The same fully ‘after their kind’ in every respect would be assumed to be the case when in obedience to the command to be fruitful, it is said ‘And [connecting with previous narrative] Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain’ (Gen. 4:1 KJV). It is plain Eve was aware that God was the effecting power of the procreation (mediate creation), for she said, ‘I have gotten a man from the LORD’ (KJV). Genesis 5:1-3 carries the plain fact further when it says that God created man (generic, adham) ‘in the likeness of God,’ and that they, male and female, were called man (adham, generic man), and then that ‘When Adam had lived for 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness.’ Should we suppose that what Adam and Eve brought forth was half created de novo by God, utterly apart from their own procreative powers implanted in the first place by their Creator, God? I think not.[32]

There is in Scripture no separate origin for the spirit and the body, unless we go looking for that with the presupposition that there is. In the beginning, God supernaturally created both Adam’s body and his spirit. Scripture establishes that man, originally created by God, is thereafter a propagative being—and this principle of propagation is “borne out” in proven experience and universally understood. Nothing further is needed to justify the inference that man is propagated as a whole, in all his components. Adam’s spirit and body both came from God’s own creative hand; and since man was thereafter propagative, what justification would we have to introduce a distinction of origins, insisting that only the body is propagated—especially when the Scripture makes no such distinction?

Turretin (T5, Q13, §IV):

[We endorse the creation of the soul]… from the testimony of Scripture, in which God is spoken of as the author and Creator of the soul in a peculiar manner distinct from the body: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecc. 12:7). Here a manifest difference is marked between the origin and the destruction of the body and the soul. The one is said to return to the dust (whence it was taken); the other, however, to return unto God (who gave it). Therefore since the body returns thither whence it had its origin, so also the soul. This is more clearly confirmed by the fact that God is said to “give the spirit” (which cannot be understood of the common giving by concourse with second causes). For he also gives the body itself no less than the soul because he is the first cause of both (nor would he well be said by antithesis [kat’antithesin] to have given the spirit). Rather this is understood concerning the proper and peculiar mode of origin (which does not belong to the body). Nor ought it to be said that this is to be referred to the first creation of Adam. The scope, the words and circumstances of the text prove that it treats of the ordinary birth and destruction of men. Accordingly their bodies return to the dust (i.e., to the earth) whence they were taken, while their spirits return unto God, the judge, who gave them (either for glory or for punishment).

Human flesh has not been made from the dust since God created the body of Adam. All other human flesh has been derived—propagated—from the flesh of Adam. When any man dies, his flesh returns to the dust from which it was ultimately taken at Adam’s creation. And it is with this same creation in mind, in which God breathed the spirit of lives into Adam, that the author refers to man’s spirit returning to the God who gave it. The body came from the dust when God formed Adam’s body from the dust, and the spirit came from Him when He breathed into Adam—and because these two things—body and spirit—are passed down through the generations to us, then the Bible here tells us that at physical death the body returns to the dust from which it came and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Augustine agrees:

…Nay, it rather favours those who think that all souls are derived from one; for they say that, as the dust returns to the earth as it was, and yet the body of which this is said returns not to the man from whom it was derived, but to the earth from which the first man was made, the spirit in like manner, though derived from the spirit of the first man, does not return to him but to the Lord, by whom it was given to our first parent.[33]

Turretin (T5, Q13, §V):

“The word of the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). Whence a multiple argument is drawn for the creation against the birth of the soul (psychogonian). (1) He is said to form the spirit of man within him; therefore he ought to produce it immediately without the intervention of man. (2) The formation of the spirit is joined with the stretching out of the heavens and the founding of the earth, as of the same order and grade. Therefore since the former two are works of omnipotence, made immediately by God and without second causes, so the last ought to be also. Nor can this be referred to the mediate production of God because thus man would be admitted to a participation of causality, which the text does not allow (since it asserts the production of the soul as well as that of the heaven and earth to be peculiar to God). However, this is falsely restricted to the first production of man since it ought to be extended equally to all. Hence when it speaks of the production of the soul elsewhere, the Scripture does not use the singular (as if referring to the one soul of Adam), but the plural (Ps. 33:15; Is. 57:16). But man here is not taken individually for Adam, but specifically for any man.

When did these three great divine acts occur? Does God daily stretch forth the heavens? Does He continually lay the foundation of the earth? Undeniably, these first two acts occurred at creation—and yet all three are in the same tense, as happening together. Those who would see the first two acts as continual are reading into the text their assumptions regarding the third act.

Psalm 102:25 (ESV)
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Isaiah 48:13 (ESV)
13My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.
Zech. 12:1 (ESV)
The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

Further, these acts are put forth as of the same magnitude. Forming the spirit within man is just as great a creative act as stretching forth the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth. But why would such a routine task, happening hundreds of times per day, be so great? The great creative act to which is here referred was the act of God breathing the spirit of lives into Adam. And that spirit formed within Adam has been propagated to all mankind, according to the command, “Be fruitful and multiply…” It is also a fact, overlooked by creationists, that this verse could validly be rendered, “…and forms the spirit of Adam within him,” since adam is the Hebrew word for man (cf. Hos. 6:7).

Addressing this verse, William Shedd points out that the verb, “formeth,” “favors the traduction of the soul,” because it means to fashion or form, as from existent material [like a potter forming the pot from clay], and does not necessarily mean to create out of nothing.[34] Augustine also noted this as important:

Let it not be said to me that we ought to receive as supporting this opinion the words of Scripture in Zechariah, “He formeth the spirit of man within him,” and in the book of Psalms, “He formeth their hearts severally.” We must seek for the strongest and most indisputable proof, that we may not be compelled to believe that God is a judge who condemns any soul which has no fault. For to create signifies either as much or, probably, more than to form [fingere]; nevertheless it is written, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” and yet it cannot be supposed that a soul here expresses a desire to be made before it has begun to exist. Therefore, as it is a soul already existing which is created by being renewed in righteousness, so it is a soul already existing which is formed by the moulding power of doctrine.[35]

Baird explains the flaw in looking to such passages for proof of God’s creation of the soul when so many more attribute the creation of the body, as well, to Him:

…the question is not whether God is the Creator; but whether in the creation of the soul his agency is immediate, and without the instrumentality of a second cause. Hence, quotations to prove God the soul’s creator, are entirely aside of the mark. Yet such are the texts above cited. They do not even seem to have any bearing on the real question… It is on all hands agreed, that the bodies of men derive their being through generation; and yet the Scriptures speak of the creative agency of God in this case, with a particularity and minuteness of detail, such as has no parallel in reference to the soul… It would be acknowledged preposterous to conclude, from these expressions, that the bodies of men are created immediately by God, without generation. Why, then, should such an interpretation be forced upon expressions in regard to the soul, which it cannot be pretended are more emphatic and unequivocal than these?[36]

If the passages that speak of God as the Maker of the soul are taken as proof that the soul is the immediate creation of God, then those passages that speak of God as the Maker of the body (which are more in number and greater in detail and emphasis) must be taken as proof that the body is also the immediate creation of God. Baird continues:

…it must be evident to any candid interpreter, that the scriptures which merely declare God to be the maker of the soul, are no more conclusive to the purpose for which they are usually cited on this subject, than would be the addition of those which speak with at least equal emphasis of the body, to prove that both body and soul are the immediate workmanship of God, and that the human species is not propagated by generation at all![37]

Baird’s point is unanswerable.

Turretin (T5, Q13, §VI):

We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9). And Peter calls him in a peculiar manner a “faithful Creator of souls” (I Pet. 4:19). In Num. 16:22, God is called ‘the God of the spirits of all flesh.’ So too Is. 57:16: “For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” Now why should God be called “the Father of spirits” in contradistinction to “the fathers of the flesh” unless the origin of each was different? And yet if souls are propagated, the parents of the body and the soul should be the same. Indeed “the flesh” here cannot signify the old man or inborn corruption because then it would not be opposed to spirits (pneuniasi) in the plural, but to spirit (pneumatic) in the singular. Rather it designates the body, and they are called “fathers of the flesh” who generate the flesh. So the word “spirit” ought not to be referred to spiritual gifts (which are not treated of here), but to the other part of man opposed to the body. Nor can the omission of the pronoun hamon (with respect to the flesh) be a hindrance because it is to be repeated apo koinou (since he speaks about the same according to the principles and origin of the diverse parts). Hence in Num. 16:22, he is called “the father of the spirits of all flesh” (i.e., of all men). Again he cannot be called “the Father of spirits” mediately, as he is called “the father of the rain” (Job 38:28) because he is its author (although not immediately). Thus the antithesis between the fathers of the flesh and the father of spirits would not stand, and the force of the apostolic exhortation to afford greater obedience to God than to earthly fathers would fall. Nor if the concourse of God is not excluded from the production of the flesh (although attributed to earthly fathers because he is the universal first cause), ought the concourse of man in the production of the spirit to be excluded (because he is the particular second cause).

Shedd answers this well:

…This text [Heb. 12:9] is quoted by the creationist to prove that man is the father of the body only, God being the father of the soul. There are two objections to this explanation. (1) God is not called the “Father of our spirits,” which would be the required antithesis to “fathers of our flesh.” He is denominated “the Father of spirits” generally, not of human spirits in particular. The omission of hemon [of our] with pneumaton [of spirits] shows that the fatherhood is universal—relating to men and angels. God is the heavenly Father in distinction from an earthly father. (2) Had the writer intended to set the human spirit in contrast with the human body, as the creationist interpretation supposes, he would have said “the Father of our spirit” (tou pneumatos hemon) instead of “the Father of spirits” (ton pneumaton)…[38]

Shedd goes on to argue that sarx [flesh] “comprehends the whole man, soul and body,” and does not refer to the body only. I will not go so far as to agree, but Shedd’s point about God being the Father of spirits in general, including angels, stands.
Gordon H. Clark offers another excellent rebuttal:

Hebrews 12:9, which [Louis] Berkhof next cites, speaks of God as “the Father of spirits.” How can one get creationism out of this? He quotes “Delitzsch, though a traducianist [as saying] ‘There can hardly be a more classical proof text for creationism.’” One cannot but wonder whether Delitzsch was speaking sarcastically, for if this is the best text creationists can find, traducianists need have no fear. In ancient Jewish society, and sometimes in American English, the term father does not mean a boy’s immediate parent. Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers….” The Jews regularly referred to Abraham as their father (John 8:39). If the verse has any reference at all to the origin of souls, it suggests traducianism, not creationism. Berkhof really gives his case away by adding to the verse in Hebrews 12:9, Numbers 16:22, which says merely that God is the God of the spirits of all flesh. Well, of course; God is the God of all the universe.[39]

As for 1 Pet. 4:19, it does not refer to God as “Creator of souls,” but simply as the “faithful Creator” to whom those who are suffering should “entrust their souls.”

Traducianism is paternal: the spirit of the child is propagated from the father. Seth was begotten in the image of Adam the individual, not “Adam” as a term for both Adam and Eve, as some conclude. Adam is clearly spoken of as an individual in Gen. 5:3-5. While Adam and Eve shared the date of creation, it would be unreasonable to conclude that they both died in the same year. The entire genealogy of Adam, in this chapter, is paternal. For every generation listed, a single male is named, and the chronological details of his life are noted. This would be the same for the first as for any other. “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years…” (ESV). Thus, in the previous verse, it was this same Adam who fathered Seth in his image: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (ESV).

The fact that all the genealogies in the Bible are paternal weighs in favor of a paternal traducianism, as does the importance of paternal lineage that is found throughout. People groups are named after their male progenitor. Israel the nation is named after Israel the progenitor, as are many such examples in Scripture. Even mankind is named (in Hebrew) after Adam. It is often concluded that Adam was given a generic name for “mankind” to symbolically indicate that he was the embodiment of the human race. What is overlooked by such a conclusion is the consistent pattern in the Old Testament of people groups being named for their progenitor. Since Adam was the first man, the language would have naturally developed around him, so that whatever his name might have been, it would have become the word for mankind. Had Adam been named Cain, then “cain” would have become the word for mankind.

Along with language developing around Adam, the entire human culture developed with Adam as its basis. The paternal orientation of human culture, and the importance of keeping accurate paternal genealogies can only have come from Adam himself, who was the patriarch of humanity for 930 years. The genealogies begin with him, and the unbroken chain of information must have resulted from his emphasis on its importance. The unimportance of the genealogical information of females is significant. Even to this day, the most ubiquitous of people groups, the family, is named after the father in almost all cultures.

In Heb. 7:9-10, where Levi is said to have been “still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him,” it is implied that Levi was in Abraham in a complete way, rather than only one-eighth of Levi being in Abraham (who was only one of eight great-grandparents). Scripture consistently presents the parental relation of the father in this manner. In Gen. 35:11, Jacob is told that Kings would come out of his loins: “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins…” Again, in Gen. 46:26, “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six…” The souls that came with Jacob into Egypt are not spoken of in any way that would indicate a partial presence, such as would be expected under the shared origin of a bi-parental propagation of the soul. Such language is never used of any female progenitor.

Elisha cursed Gehazi and “all his descendants forever,” in 2 Kings 5:27: “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” Such a curse parallels the depravity that fell upon Adam and all his descendants. The fact that every descendant of Gehazi, no matter how many generations removed, bears the full curse of his leprosy, implies that every descendant was “in the loins of” Gehazi in a complete way that would only fit within a system of paternal traducianism.

In Deut. 5:9, God makes a startling statement about such generational consequences: “…I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…” Although the exact meaning of the phrase, “visiting the iniquity,” is unclear, the fact that it is the iniquity of the fathers and not of the mothers is clear and explicit. This verse is balanced by Ezek. 18:19-20:

Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Whatever God meant by “visiting the iniquity” in Deut. 5:9, He assures us here that it does not involve the everlasting condemnation and second death—and explains this to the Israelites who had misunderstood His justice. It is significant that, while God contradicts their charges of divine injustice, He does not contradict the idea that such a relation exists between the father and children. Nowhere in Scripture is there the idea of the children bearing the iniquity of the mother.

It may be objected that Ezek. 18:1-4 contradicts traducianism:

The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

However, the context shows that it was not the mode but the extreme to which it was taken that God disliked. It was not the principle of the sons reaping what was sown while in the loins of the fathers that God was contradicting, but rather, it was the mistaken idea that the sons were personally condemned for the actions of the fathers—as indicated by God’s answer throughout this chapter. “The soul who sinneth, it shall die.” The death spoken of in this chapter, which shall happen to the wicked but not to the righteous, can only be the second death, since all the righteous do in fact physically die.

Now consider our rebirth. Since Adam, every man has been born spiritually dead—except One, who was born of a virgin. We all were begotten of sinful, fallen fathers, and we are just like them. We need a New Father to give us a new image so we can be like Him. We need a new spiritual conception in which the Spirit of that New Father is begotten in us (see Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27; 37:14). Gal. 4:6-7, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” The Spirit of the Son in our hearts makes us a true son of the Father. The Son unites with us in such a way that we share His identity.

2. Arguments from the “Law of Creation”

Turretin (T5, Q13, §III):

… We endorse the creation of the soul…from the law of creation, because the origin of our souls ought to be the same as of the soul of Adam; not only because we ought to bear his image (1 Cor. 15:47, 48), but also because his creation (as the first individual of the whole species) is an example of the formation of all men (as the wedlock of our first parents was an example for the rest). But the soul of Adam was created immediately by God, since “he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). Thus it is evident his soul was not produced from potent material, but came to him extrinsically through creation and was infused into the body by the breath of God himself. Nor ought it to be objected that we cannot argue from Adam to ourselves because the same thing might be said of the origin of the body (which nevertheless is not the case, since ours is generated from seed, while that of Adam was created from the dust of the earth). Although there may be a disparity by reason of the efficient cause on account of the diversity of the subjects (because as the body is elementary and material, it can be produced by man through generation; but the soul, being immaterial and simple, cannot spring from any other source than God by creation), yet with respect to the material cause a comparison may rightly be made. For as the soul of Adam was created out of nothing, so also are the souls of his posterity; and as his body was formed of the dust of the earth, so also our bodies from seed (which itself also is earthly and material). Therefore the mode of action with respect to Adam was also singular, yet the nature of the thing is the same in both cases…
…Finally, if Adam’s soul and ours had a different origin, they could not be said to be of the same species because his was from nothing. Ours, however, would be from some preexisting material wholly dissimilar.

Turretin’s reasoning here is limited to the strength of the proposition that “the origin of our souls ought to be the same as of the soul of Adam.” Scripture does not tell us that this is the case. Adam’s image is not defined by his spirit’s creation out of nothing. Neither is Adam’s creation “an example of the formation of all men,” as Turretin asserts, since the creation of Adam was a singular and supernatural event; therefore, there is no such rule or analogy established. To insist that the substance out of which God supernaturally creates a thing determines the substance out of which it must always originate (dust for body, nothing for soul) is to contradict the omnipotence of God by denying His ability to create out of nothing that which is to propagate out of something. It is more reasonable to conclude that God chose to create Adam’s body out of the dust of the ground to illustrate the materiality rather than out of some necessity. Had God so chosen, He was just as able to create Adam’s body out of nothing, as his spirit. After all, God did create the dust of the ground out of nothing; and God created light out of nothing prior to creating the sun and stars, yet light now comes from material sources.

Turretin’s claim, “but the soul, being immaterial and simple, cannot spring from any other source than God by creation,” begs the question. It is true that an immaterial soul cannot spring from a material source, as if a soul could be made from a rock (or a body). However, it is not proven that a soul cannot spring from a soul. This question will be addressed in more detail in the arguments from reason.

Shall we deny God the ability to create man in such a way that children are propagated as whole beings, both material and immaterial? According to Turretin’s assumed rule, it would not be possible for God to do this without first creating some impersonal, spiritual substance—separate from both God and man—out of which to form the spirit of Adam. Turretin’s assumed rule reveals his materialistic approach to the human spirit, which is his error. Matter and spirit are not the same; and though spirit is spoken of in terms of substance, it is not to be thought of as spiritual material. The spirit is immaterial. On this point, Turretin seems to contradict himself within the same sentence (emphasis mine):

Although there may be a disparity by reason of the efficient cause on account of the diversity of the subjects (because as the body is elementary and material, it can be produced by man through generation; but the soul, being immaterial and simple, cannot spring from any other source than God by creation), yet with respect to the material cause a comparison may rightly be made.

A comparison with respect to the material cause cannot rightly be made regarding an immaterial soul. The validity of his desired comparison depends on both body and soul being treated as material (though of different types). Only that which is material can be defined according to its material cause. Turretin says that if Adam’s soul and ours had a different origin, then ours “would be from some preexisting material wholly dissimilar [to what Adam’s soul was from].” This is not the traducianist view, but rather, it is his view of the soul if traducianism is given as true, and it reinforces the fact that he has a materialistic approach to this argument.

Additionally, Turretin treats nothingness as if it were a material cause that must be duplicated in order to originate the same material. Nothingness is mere nonexistence. When God created the soul out of nothing, He brought it from complete nonexistence into existence. Nonexistence is not a material cause. The nature of what is brought into existence is not in any way characterized by its previous nonexistence. Nothing about nonexistence can be brought forward into the nature of what is created and now exists, in such a way as to identify the nature with creation ex nihilo. Adam’s soul at creation was no more related to nonexistence than to the dust of the earth. To treat nonexistence as if it were in the same category as material cause is to treat the supernatural as if it were a natural cause.

Turretin’s claim that if our souls had a different origin than that of Adam, then our souls would be a different species than that of Adam, confuses the natural with the supernatural. Adam’s spirit did not spring from nothing by way of some natural process. Rather, Adam’s spirit was created supernaturally by God. Only a naturally determined origin could define a species, so that only those individuals with the same natural origin would be part of the same species. To attempt to define a species according to its supernatural creation ex nihilo is nonsense. There is nothing in reason or Scripture to indicate that God does not have the power to create out of nothing the first members of a species that is designed to materially propagate; and neither is there any indication that God does not have the power to create the spirit of Adam out of nothing, with the built-in power to spiritually propagate.

Turretin’s materialistic approach is not justified by the facts or by the traducianist view. He seeks to defeat the traducianist view by showing that it logically leads to a materialistic view of the soul; however, rather than establish that traducianism results in such materialism, he assumes such materialism as his starting point.

Turretin (T5, Q13, §III):

…This is confirmed by the production of Eve herself whose origin as to the body is described as from a rib of Adam, but of the soul no mention is made. Hence it is plainly gathered that the origin of her soul was not different from that of the soul of Adam because otherwise Moses would not have passed it over in silence (his purpose being to describe the origin of all things). And Adam himself would have mentioned this origin, yea he would have declared it specially; he would have said not only “this is bone of my bones,” but “soul of my soul” (Gen. 2:23). This would have set forth more strongly the bond of wedlock, which should be not only in the bodies, but also in the souls…

This argument from silence can be made just as compellingly in support of traducianism, as Shedd demonstrates:

…Eve was derived out of Adam. “The man,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:8), “is not made out of (ek) the woman, but the woman out of (ex) the man.” And the entire woman, soul and body, was produced in this way. For Moses does not say that the body of Eve was first made out of Adam’s rib and then that her soul was separately created and breathed into it—as was the method when Adam’s body was made out of the dust of the ground—but represents the total Eve, soul and body, as formed out of a part of Adam: “The rib which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:22-23). That the total female was supernaturally produced from the male favors the traducian position that the total man is propagated; that the soul like the body may be derived. The same creative act which produced the body of Eve out of a rib of Adam produced her soul also…[40]

Traducianists maintain the distinction between the supernatural and the natural; and so we see a different “law of creation:” creation was finished in six days, and God rested on the seventh. Shedd explains:

Genesis 2:1-3 teaches that the work of creation was completed on the sixth day: “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God had created and made.” If the human soul has been a creation ex nihilo, daily and hourly, ever since Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, it could not be said that “on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made.”…[41]

Turretin (T5, Q13, §XI):

God is said to have rested from all his work (Gen. 2:2), not by retiring from the administration of things, but by ceasing from the creation of new species or individuals (which might be the principles of new species). Thus he works even now (Jn. 5:17) by administering the instituted nature and multiplying whatever was; not, however, by instituting what was not. Now the souls which he creates every day are new individuals of species already created.

Turretin blurs all distinction between the supernatural, immediate work and the natural, mediate work of God. In the latter, God works with, in and through nature; while in the former, God works miraculously in ways that transcend natural laws and limitations. In six days, God supernaturally created the heavens and the earth and all that are in it. Of course, He has continued to “administer” things, but He does so mediately, not supernaturally. Calling into existence that which is not cannot rightly be called “multiplying whatever was.” God multiplies “whatever was” mediately through the natural processes and mechanisms that He designed into His creatures. For God to continue to create supernaturally would directly contradict the idea of God resting from all His supernatural creative work.

Those who hold that God specially creates the soul cannot escape the contradiction of turning the miraculous into the mundane. Any time that God creates something out of nothing, it requires the supernatural, miraculous power of God. Such a divine creative act is above and beyond nature. However, if it is held that the soul is created in this way, then this presents the problem of putting what is above and beyond nature into nature itself, incorporating the miraculous into the natural processes that are constantly in operation.

Louis Berkhof defines miracles in the following way:

THE NATURE OF MIRACLES. A distinction is usually made between PROVIDENTIA ORDINARIA and PROVIDENTIA EXTRAORDINARIA. In the former God works through second causes in strict accordance with the laws of nature, though He may vary the results by different combinations. But in the latter He works immediately or without the mediation of second causes in their ordinary operation. Says McPherson: “A miracle is something done without recourse to the ordinary means of production, a result called forth directly by the first cause without the mediation, at least in the usual way, of second causes.” The distinctive thing in the miraculous deed is that it results from the exercise of the supernatural power of God. And this means, of course, that it is not brought about by secondary causes that operate according to the laws of nature. If it were, it would not be supernatural (above nature), that is, it would not be a miracle…[42]

Also, he defines creationism: “This view is to the effect that each individual soul is to be regarded as an immediate creation of God, owing its origin to a direct creative act, of which the time cannot be precisely determined…”[43] On the same page, he evaluates the following popular objection of traducianists to creationism:

…[Creationism] is not in harmony with God’s present relationship to the world and His manner of working in it, since it teaches a direct creative activity of God, and thus ignores the fact that God now works through secondary causes and ceased from His creative work. This is not a very serious objection for those who do not have a deistic conception of the world. It is a gratuitous assumption that God has ceased from all creative activity in the world.[44]

Not satisfied that his rebuttal of this objection is sufficient, Berkhof gives some tacit acknowledgement of the force of the objection, in his concluding thoughts: “…we are convinced that the creative activity of God in originating human souls must be conceived as being most closely connected with the natural process in the generation of new individuals…”[45] Yet, his attempt to mitigate the extraordinary nature of the providence involved in creating a new soul does not escape his own definition, shown above. The difference between ordinary providence and a miracle is “In the former God works through second causes in strict accordance with the laws of nature, though He may vary the results by different combinations. But in the latter He works immediately or without the mediation of second causes in their ordinary operation.” He acknowledges that that which “is not brought about by secondary causes” is “the exercise of the supernatural power of God.” He defines creationism as the view that the soul is “…an immediate creation of God” and “a direct creative act.” When responding to the objection that creationism “teaches a direct creative activity of God, and thus ignores the fact that God now works through secondary causes,” Berkhof does not deny that creationism teaches a direct creative activity of God, nor does he deny that such a creative activity does not work through secondary causes. Rather, he simply denies that God has ceased from such creative activity.

Even in the creationist view, it must be acknowledged that God performs (or provides) something in human creation that is above and beyond anything else that He does in His mundane sustaining of the world and its creatures. He is just as responsible for the conception of an ape as He is of a man. But as long as one holds to the Biblical view that men are more than physical creatures—more than mere animals—then it cannot be denied that God does something profoundly above and beyond in the conception of a man (in the creationist view). In every other case in which God creates new members of a species, the new member is created in its entirety by using the preexisting substance of the parents—no new substance is created out of nothing to produce the new member. But when God creates a child (in the creationist position), the child was not created in his entirety from out of the preexisting substance of the parents. God must provide a substance that does not exist until He creates it out of nothing—the soul of the child. Thus, creationism cannot avoid the resultant conclusion that God both works WITH nature in MEDIATELY creating the body and works ABOVE nature in IMMEDIATELY creating the soul.

Charles Hodge objects that, “…We do not know how the agency of God is connected with the operation of second causes, how far that agency is mediate, and how far it is immediate…”[46] By this statement he gives up the argument to the traducianist, as Gordon Clark noted.[47] Hodge further states, “Creationism does not necessarily suppose that there is any other exercise of the immediate power of God in the production of the human soul, than such as takes place in the production of life in other cases…”[48] This confusion of the natural with the supernatural, which is characteristic of the creationist view, strips the miraculous of all meaning. Baird explains:

The creation doctrine is exceptionable in subordinating the divine agency to the control of second causes. It must be admitted, that wherever the second cause is present, generation will take place. The conclusion is, that the creative power of the Almighty must wait in attendance on these finite agencies, to provide souls for the bodies thus produced. It does not obviate this objection to say that the whole matter is subject to the providential ordering and control of God. For however he may be recognised as providentially supreme, yet is his creative omnipotence placed in an attitude of inferiority. In the order of operation, it is supposed to follow and wait upon the action of the finite causes of generation. Again, this theory, by introducing miracles as an ordinary element in the common course of things, and placing them in undistinguishable combination with natural effects, destroys wholly the significance of miraculous occurrences; and thus sweeps away all means of information as to the existence of God and of communication with him…[49]

God’s supernatural creative power miraculously transcends nature and natural law; but, by the creationists’ argument, God’s supernatural power is incorporated into nature, subordinated to natural laws, and made part of the natural processes. This blurs the line between God’s transcendence and His immanence, and destroys the very concept of the miraculous. Was Christ’s birth miraculous?—Every birth is miraculous. Was Christ conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit?—Every child is conceived by such power, as God supernaturally creates the spirit within him.

Charles Hodge argues that “such an objection does not seem to have even plausibility:”

A miracle is not simply an event due to the immediate agency of God, for then every act of conversion would be a miracle. But it is an event, occurring in the external world, which involves the suspension or counteracting of some natural law, and which can be referred to nothing but the immediate power of God. The origination of life, therefore, is neither in nature nor design a miracle, in the proper sense of the word…[50]

The act of conversion does not involve creation out of nothing. Clark explains:

Now, it is true that the apostle speaks about a new man and even a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). But if the Greek word in these two verses be understood as bara is used in Genesis, there would have come into being, ex nihilo, another person. One must remember that regeneration, in the epistles, is usually called a resurrection. Resurrection allows the individual sinner to remain himself. Well, re-generation does so too. Creation ex nihilo produces someone else.[51]

Hodge’s contention that no miracle takes place unless there is a suspension of some natural law does not help his case. It is as much a natural law that something cannot be produced out of nothing as any other natural law. This attempt to categorize the supposed supernatural creation of the soul as being a work of God in cooperation with natural law rather than counteracting it merely begs the question, and is self-contradictory.

As Augustus Strong wrote, “God’s method is not the method of endless miracle.”

God works in nature through second causes. God does not create a new vital principle at the beginning of existence of each separate apple, and of each separate dog. Each of these is the result of a self-multiplying force, implanted once for all in the first of its race. To say, with Moxom (Baptist Review, 1881:278), that God is the immediate author of each new individual, is to deny second causes, and to merge nature in God.[52]

We will encounter this issue again when we address the propagation of sin, in a later section.

Though it initially sounds plausible, the conclusion that the soul must always be originated out of nothing, due to its original creation out of nothing, does not withstand close scrutiny. It is an inherently materialistic proposition and has been shown to destroy the concept of the miraculous. The strongest conclusion is that the soul is propagated from the parent, as the analogy of the propagation of the body from the parent would indicate.

3. Arguments on the Materiality and Divisibility of the Soul

For the sake of clarity, it is necessary to point out the philosophical excesses and errors associated with the traditional traducianist (or, realist) view—to point out what Biblical traducianism is not. Shedd is arguably the greatest advocate of traducianism, and the most philosophical, so we will confine most of our analysis to his view. He and the many traducianists like him viewed the union of mankind in Adam as a union of species—much like one would view the union of all frogs in the first created pair (supposing only one pair was originally created). Shedd:

Traducianism applies the idea of species to both body and soul. Upon the sixth day, God created two human individuals, one male and one female, and in them also created the specific psychico-physical nature from which all the subsequent individuals of the human family are procreated both psychically and physically.[53]

In this view, man is merely a species among many, though superior in every way. The species of man has certain characteristics of nature, just as all other species, and Shedd saw the spiritual aspect of man as just one more characteristic of the nature of our species. The species of man, then, propagates according to the entire nature of the species, just as any other species does; therefore, our species, like all others, can be said to be in union in the first created pair. This principle of union of species, called specific unity, misses an important truth, which is that the union in Adam was a union of spirit. Though it is true that the adamic union was also one of the material nature, since all human bodies were propagated from the original man, it is incorrect to elevate the idea of species above the idea of spirit. Shedd said, for example, “…An individual person cannot be morally different from the species to which he belongs… No individual can rise above his species and exhibit a character and conduct radically different from theirs.”[54] Shedd has assumed that the concept of species can encompass morality and moral character; but in what other species but man does morality have any relevance? Just as man is more than a mere physical creature, he is more than a mere member of a species. There are a myriad of created species on the earth, but only one in which the members are spiritual beings; and, there are three classes of spiritual beings (God, angels, and men), but only one can be rightly classed as a species. The concept of species is thus properly used only when referring to the material nature of creatures, while the concept of spirit transcends that of species. By inverting this order, Shedd (and those of his class) confused many things, and missed the parallel between spiritual union in Adam and spiritual union in Christ.

Shedd’s focus was excessively naturalistic. Although Shedd recognized the truth of spiritual propagation and continuity of spiritual substance, he did not squarely face the fact that spiritual substance is spiritual being. Continuity of spiritual substance is continuity of spiritual being—the two are one and the same. Since the spirit is immaterial, the term spiritual substance is somewhat misleading. The term is simply a convenient handle for the idea of spirit. It merely affirms that a spirit is a real thing even if intangible—it has certain properties and a certain nature. Shedd offers his definition:

In discussing either traducianism or creationism, it is important to define the idea of substance. The term, in this connection, does not imply either extension or figure. It is taken in its etymological and metaphysical sense to denote that entity which stands under phenomena and is the base for them. As in theology, the divine “substance” or nature is unextended and formless yet a real entity, so in anthropology, the human “substance” or nature is without extension and figure yet is a certain amount of real being with definite and distinguishable properties (Shedd, Theological Essays, 135-137). So far as the mental or psychical side of the human nature is concerned, when it is said that the “substance” of all individual souls was created in Adam, of course nothing extended and visible is implied. The substance in this case is a spiritual, rational, and immortal essence similar to the unextended essence of God, in whose image it was made ex nihilo[55]

Define spiritual substance (or, essence) and you will have defined spirit—and that spirit has being, as the two are inseparable. Notice that while Shedd seems to acknowledge this, he only attributes “a certain amount of real being” to the idea of substance. This is an error, since partial being is absurd. Where there is spiritual being, there is consciousness and moral agency. The idea of being in Shedd’s system falls behind that of the idea of nature. Rather than simply dealing with the spirit, he weaves a complexity around the “psychical” nature that is somewhat materialistic. A cause for this can be found in the unfortunate assumption, prevalent among traducianists across the centuries, that spiritual propagation is bi-parental. Once it is understood that traducianism is paternal, then the idea of continuity of being comes into much clearer focus, and the philosophical complexity built up around the ideas of species and nature becomes superfluous.

Shedd’s description of Adam and Eve is telling:

In and with [Adam and Eve] was also created the entire human species, namely, the invisible substance, both psychical and physical, of all their posterity. This one substance or “human nature” was to be transformed into millions of individuals by sexual propagation.[56]

The invisible substance of human nature as he sees it, was not merely created in the first pair, but also with them. He does not see this substance as propagated in the progeny, but “transformed into” them. This is a subtle but significant distinction, which will unfold as we look at more from Shedd, below. He does hold that “the individual man is propagated as an entire whole consisting of soul and body,” and that “man being a unity of body and soul is begotten and born as such a unity.”[57] However, this wholeness and unity are only being viewed in relation to the propagated individual, and not in relation to the parents. Because Shedd holds to a bi-parental traducianism, he cannot see that it is the whole of the psychical (spiritual) nature of Adam that is propagated. Thus, he is forced into a materialistic understanding. Shedd:

The individual, now a separate and distinct unit, was once a part of a greater whole. Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 16 asserts the commission of a common sin in the following terms: “All mankind, descending from Adam by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression.” This term mankind denotes here the human nature before it was individualized by propagation. This nature sinned. Human nature existing primarily as a unity in Adam and Eve and this same human nature as subsequently distributed and metamorphosed into the millions of individual men are two modes of the same thing.[58]

Adam was a singularity of human nature. He had only one body and one spirit. All mankind have been propagated out of that one body and one spirit. Human nature did not exist in Adam in any way that was separate from him as an individual. Neither is human nature a collective unity of all the members. Human nature is complete in every individual, and was completely individualized in Adam. Rather than Adam possessing some “quantity” of unindividualized spiritual nature that was individualized by propagation in his offspring, Adam possessed his own individual spirit that was re-individualized by propagation in his offspring. The same can be said of any male, as every man is the spiritual singularity of his future descendants.

Shedd explains specific and numerical unity:

Specific unity is of course the unity of a species; and this means that all the individuals are propagated from a common nature or substance… A numerical unity may or may not be a specific unity. In the instance of the persons of the Trinity, there is a numerical unity of nature or substance, but not a specific unity. A specific unity implies the possibility of the division of the one numerical substance among the propagated individuals of the species. But there is no possibility of a division of the divine essence among the trinitarian persons. Consequently, they constitute a numerical but not a specific unity. But in the instance of man, the unity is both numerical and specific. The human nature while in Adam is both numerically and specifically one. But when it is subdivided and individualized by propagation, it is no longer numerically one. The numerically one human nature becomes a multitude of individual persons, who are no longer the single numerical unity which they were at first. But they are still specifically one.[59]

To Shedd, mankind was specifically one in Adam (which was a term for both Adam and Eve together), and that this specific union is always present and composed of all members of humanity together. This is defective. The species perspective should be discarded. The significant fact was not that men were specifically one, but spiritually one—species had nothing to do with it. We were numerically one in Adam because Adam was numerically one—a single man with a single spirit. Men have been propagated from Adam, in both spirit and body. But what should be an obvious fact is that once a child is propagated, he is no longer in the loins of his father. The one became many. Genesis tells us plainly that God told men to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth—multiply, not divide. Propagation is multiplication. That which is whole and individual in the first one became whole and individual in every descendant. It is the same with any father or forefather: he is a spiritual singularity out of which his descendants are propagated; and until they are propagated they remain numerically one with their father.

Shedd does not see propagation of the whole but of a fractional part:

The individual Socrates was a fractional part of the human nature that “sinned in and fell with Adam in his first transgression” (Westminster Larger Catechism 22). Consequently, the commission, imputation, inherence, and propagation of original sin cleave indissolubly to the individualized part of the common nature, as they did to the unindividualized whole of it.[60]

Such a materialistic view regarding the immaterial soul is unreasonable, and has served to perpetuate the objections against traducianism. Propagation is not the taking of a fraction out of the whole, but rather, the whole multiplying by generating another whole. The human nature that sinned in Adam was reproduced in whole in the individual Socrates. One may conceive of a fractional part of a substance, but only of a material substance. Not only is the spirit an immaterial substance, but it is a spiritual being, and neither can be divided or exist in fractional form. Shedd’s error here is due to his focus on species, by which he sees the whole of human nature as consisting of the whole of the human race. As the human race consisted only of Adam and Eve at the beginning, then their sin was the sin of the whole human race (which he equates with the whole human nature). Since Socrates is only a fractional part of the whole human race, then Shedd sees him as only “a fractional part of the human nature that” sinned in Adam. He sees the entire species as one guilty entity, in which all the fractional individualizations share the guilt. Again, this focus on species is defective.

Subdivision is not propagation, just as division is not multiplication. Shedd seems so determined to contend for the philosophical concept of the universals of Platonic realism (as applied to the species) that he falls into a materialistic view of the immaterial, and misses the plain and simple reality that is reflected in Scripture. That which is immaterial can in no way be analogous to “a bit of clay is broken off from a larger mass.” Adam did not have “a large mass” of spirit, from which every man’s spirit has been broken off. Every man is a specimen of human nature in its entirety. The individual Peter and the individual John are separate individuals, but each is made of the same spiritual substance that composed Adam’s spirit—a substance that was multiplied, and not divided.

Shedd explains how the universal relates to these questions:

The question respecting the priority of the universal (the species) and the individual (res) arises here. Whether the universal is prior to the individuals depends upon what individuals are meant. If the first two individuals of a species are in mind, then the universal, that is, the species, is not prior, but simultaneous (universale in re [universal in the thing]). The instant God created the first pair of human individuals, he created the human nature or species in and with them. But if the individuals subsequent to the first pair are in mind, then the universal, that is, the species, is prior to the individuals (universale ante rem [universal before the thing]). God created the human nature in Adam and Eve before their posterity were produced out of it. Accordingly, the doctrine of universale ante rem is the true realism in case res denotes the individuals of the posterity. The species as a single nature is created and exists prior to its distribution by propagation. The universal as a species exists before the individuals (res) formed out of it. And the doctrine of universale in re is the true realism in case res denotes only the first pair of individuals. The specific nature as created and existing in these two primitive individuals (res) is not prior to them, but simultaneous with them.[61]

Platonic realism should not be used as a framework for understanding human propagation. It has served only to obscure the truth and provide a focal point for unnecessary objections against traducianism.

Turretin (T5, Q13, §VII):

…The same thing is proved by arguments from reason. The soul is propagated by generation, either from both parents or from one only; either as to its totality or only as to a part. But neither can be said. Not the former because thus two souls would coalesce into one and be mingled. Not the latter, for if from one (either the father or the mother only) no reason can be given why it should be propagated by the one rather than by the other (since both parents are equally the principle of generation). If the whole is propagated, then the parents will be without it and so will be deprived of life. If a part, it will be divisible and consequently material and mortal. Nor can it be reasonably replied here that neither the whole soul nor a part of it is propagated, but a certain substance born of the soul and (as it were) an immortal seed of the soul. For it is taken for granted that there is a seed of the soul by which it either generates or is generated; yet such a seed cannot be granted (which does not fall from the soul), and therefore proves it to be material and divisible.

The Biblical doctrine of traducianism is not materialistic, but Turretin’s objections are materialistic, as established earlier. His argument demands a materialistic explanation, and offers many reasons as to why the materialistic propagation of the spirit (soul) is impossible. But his objections fail to squarely address the possibility of the immaterial propagation of the spirit, because he fails to acknowledge the limits of man’s knowledge. Baird addresses this scholastic overconfidence:

…the arguments here set forth… are made up of dicta of the scholastic philosophy, which assume the thing to be proved, are any thing but self-evident, and are incapable of demonstration. Such are the propositions, that whatever is generable is corruptible; that the soul is something above nature, and therefore incapable of generation by a natural power; and that every exertion of the generative faculty is from a merely physical force. In fact, Turretin, with calm unconsciousness, states as an unquestionable proposition, and an element of his argument, the very thing which he had set out to prove, that “the soul, as being immaterial and simple, cannot arise otherwise than from the creative power of God.” …There are two propositions here assumed as true, each of which is demonstrably false, and each of which is fundamental to the whole argument and essential to the conclusion. These are,—that the phenomena of generation are so entirely within the reach of comprehension, that if we are unable to explain the mode in which a soul may be begotten, we by that confession of ignorance forfeit our cause; and,—that the process is purely physical. An air is assumed of intimate familiarity with the whole rationale of the matter;—a familiarity which is not only unattained, but unattainable…
Here we would call attention to a principle, which is variously asserted as an element of the argument,… that the souls of men must be products of immediate creative power, because it is impossible in the nature of things that they should be generated… No one can assign limits to the action of a cause, unless he understands the nature and operation of that cause; and therefore we, who must confess our ignorance on these points in regard to generation, are entirely incompetent to decide that it is not possible that souls should be so produced…[62]

As James Boyce points out, such objections stand on the certainty of an uncertain knowledge:

The chief, and almost the only objection to this theory of any weight, is that the idea of propagation of souls involves their materiality. If this be true the theory must be rejected, even if we are left without any satisfactory explanation…
But it may be questioned whether any such materialism is essential to a propagation of souls. It is claimed that extension belongs to matter alone, and that only through extension can there arise the capacity for increase in number. But this argues a knowledge of the nature of created spirits which we do not possess. The fact that the unity of nature and attributes in God as the Great Spirit, the Father of Spirits, involves actual simplicity in him, does not prove that the same is necessarily true of the spirits he has created. It is not certain that they may not have some kind of spiritual bodies. Is it not more than possible that he, who, though a simple spirit, can create spirit like himself, but not of his own substance, may be able to confer upon such spirits such a power of multiplication, that, what he does by direct agency in the first creation, he also may do through them in the mediate creations of other spirits? It is not affirmed that this is true, but is it possible to affirm that it cannot be true?[63]

Turretin allows for no mystery in the prospect of spiritual propagation, providing a set list of faulty materialistic options as if to declare that no other rational explanations of propagation can exist, and therefore, propagation of the spirit is disproven. But when it comes to points in his own doctrine, of which he is unable to remove all the mystery, he affords a less rationalistic confidence. Regarding the difficulties in explaining how sin is propagated, when the soul is not propagated (T9, Q12, §II), Turretin says, “Now although in a question of the highest difficulty all difficulties cannot be removed, still such things can be brought forward from the word of God as can satisfy the humble mind so that we may firmly and indubitably hold the thing, although we cannot fully and clearly understand the mode.” We apply this answer, aptly stated, to Turretin’s own rationalistic demands for a detailed explanation of the metaphysical mechanics of spiritual propagation—and point out his double standard, since it is the very denial of spiritual propagation that results in the mysterious difficulties of how sin is propagated to a child whose spirit is a new creation.

As for the reason why the spirit should be propagated from the father rather than from both, that was dealt with in the previous section (1. Arguments from Scripture).

Turretin (T5, Q13, §VIII):

Again, all modes of propagation are pressed by the most serious difficulties; nor can they be admitted without overthrowing the spirituality of the rational soul… Not the second, which is held by those who think the soul of the son to be from that of the father in a manner inscrutable and unknown… This entangles rather than unfolds the matter. For the father produces the son either from some preexistent matter or from none; not from none because he would thus create; not from some because either it would be the corporeal substance of a seed (which has just been proved to be false) or it would be a certain spiritual substance of the soul (which again cannot be said). This is true because that spiritual substance is made either from the whole soul of the father or from a part only. Not from the whole because thus the soul of the father would vanish and be converted into that spiritual seed. Not from a part because thus the soul of the father would be divisible into parts, and because that substance is corruptible and perishes in the very instant the soul is produced. But then it will no longer be a spiritual or incorruptible substance. Thus it would follow that there are two spirits in the begotten man: the soul of the son and the spiritual substance from which his soul was produced. Besides, it is repugnant to the nature of seed for it to remain after the generation of the thing (because it ought to be transmuted into what springs from the seed).

And from the next section (§IX):

Not the third even though it may seem preferable to others. They hold that it is said to be propagated not by alienation, but by communication (as when light is kindled from light without any division of the other). (1) But the communication made of one and the same thing and without any alienation occurs only in an infinite and not in a finite essence (in which the same numerical essence cannot be communicated to another, but a similar only is produced). (2) The soul of the son cannot be produced from that of the father; neither terminatively (because the terminus a quo perishes, the terminus ad quem being produced), nor decisively (because the soul is without parts [ameristos]), nor constitutively (because the soul of the father is not a constitutive part of the soul of the son). (3) The similitude of the light does not apply. Besides the fact that the flame and candle are corporeal substances (while here the subject is a spiritual), it is certain that light is produced from the potency of the material. Nor can it be kindled without a decision of fiery particles transmitted from the lighted to the extinguished torch (which cannot be said of the soul).

Again, Turretin is assuming a level of knowledge concerning the human spirit that is not available. Boyce continues:

Besides, we should be careful how we dogmatize as to what can and cannot be true of spirits, when we now know so much to be true which a priori we should have judged to be impossible. Thus we now know through the creation of man that spirit can be so associated with matter as to give it a fixed location in space; as to bring it into such contact with matter as to be able to act through it, and upon it; and, more than this, that it is so affected by the condition of the material organism with which it is connected, that the outward manifestation and exercise of its powers is weakened or strengthened through that organism and its moral faculties influenced towards sin or holiness. These, and many similar facts, we now know to be true, which, without experience and Scripture teaching, we should have denied to be possible because of the substantial differences of spirit and matter. Even in the Divine Spirit we are taught that forms of plurality exist, which, without the instructions of the Word of God, we might have denied to be compatible with his spirituality and simplicity, yet, which, as now revealed, are seen to be in no respect inconsistent with these necessary peculiarities of the One God. These facts are not sufficient to enable us to maintain this theory of Traducianism as true, but only as possible, but they at least suffice to keep us from asserting that descent of one spirit from another can only come through some material substance in the soul, and from accepting, as the only possible solution, any other theory which may be accompanied with objections equally insuperable.[64]

What Turretin has tried to do in these objections is to apply a kind of natural law to the human spirit, to set out what is possible and what is impossible. But as Boyce and Baird have cautioned, the knowledge necessary to declare any laws of nature regarding the spirit, and specifically, the possibility of immaterial propagation of the spirit, does not exist. The fact that one cannot scientifically explain such propagation to the satisfaction of objectors does nothing to disprove the possibility.

Since knowledge of the nature of the human spirit is insufficient, Turretin’s division of potential means of spiritual propagation cannot be relied on as accurate—much less declared as exhaustive. Even if it is acknowledged that the physical is analogous to the spiritual in propagation, Turretin has over simplified the analogy to mere division of material. This is inadequate, since propagation (even of the physical) is not production of the mass of the offspring out of the mass of the parent. Even in physical propagation, it is not mere material that is propagated. The material is used to communicate the principle of biological life (or, “life force”) and the necessary genetic information; but both of these are propagated in whole, not in part—and they remain whole in the parents. Also, both of these were created ex nihilo and added to the dust that composed Adam’s body.

The material of a human body is not what defines or identifies the body. Certainly, I have the same body with which I was born, over forty years ago; yet, not one molecule within me was present at my birth. In fact, it is a cycle by which old cells die and new cells replace the old, that completely renews the human body every ten years. Though the material is completely different, the definition and identity are the same—the same life force and the same genetic information. But how can the principle of biological life and the correlating genetic information be propagated in whole without, as Turretin reasons, leaving the parents devoid of these? His reductionism is inadequate even for physical propagation.

Shedd’s logic on this point is unassailable:

The propagation of the soul involves no greater difficulty than its creation. If creation may be associated with both spirit and matter without materializing the former, so may propagation. We do not argue that if spirit is created, it must be material because matter is created. And neither should we argue that if spirit is propagated, it must be material because matter is propagated. God creates matter as matter and mind as mind. And he propagates matter as matter and mind as mind.[65]

Even if such objections regarding what may be naturally possible of spirits were accurate (and we do not concede that they are), Turretin has missed the fact that supernatural creation can be out of a preexistent substance and does not have to be out of nothing. Even if proven that a spirit cannot propagate by natural means, it remains true that God can supernaturally create the spirit of the child from out of the substance of the spirit of the human father—and God is not limited by any natural laws as to what is possible or impossible. While the evidence from reason and Scripture weighs in favor of the mediate agency of God in spiritual propagation, we are content to accept the possibility of a supernatural traducianism; therefore, this entire line of objection from reason fails. Though natural propagation makes more sense (and has been the traditional argument for traducianism), a supernatural propagation suffices for traducianism, so that all the usual philosophical objections about what cannot be naturally possible regarding spiritual propagation are set aside. Those same objections can be made regarding the possibility of five loaves and two fish being multiplied to feed five thousand people—it is not the infiniteness of the substance that matters in this case, but the infiniteness of the Agent.

Turretin (T5, Q13, §X):

Since, therefore, the opinion of propagation labors under inextricable difficulties, and no reason drawn from any other source forces us to admit it, we deservedly embrace the option of creation as more consistent with Scripture and right reason. This was also evidently the opinion of most of the heathen philosophers themselves. Hence the following expression of Zoroaster according to Ficinum: “You must hasten to the sunlight and to the father’s sunbeams: thence a soul will be sent to you fully enslaved to mind” (…Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animorum 10 [1559], p. 160). Aristotle asserts that “the mind or intellect, and that alone enters from without, and is alone divine” (… Generation of Animals 2.3.27-28 [Loeb, 170-711]). Cicero says, “No origin of the soul can be found upon earth for there is nothing in the soul mixed and concrete that seems to be or born from the earth and made…. Thus whatever that is which perceives, knows, wishes and flourishes, is heavenly and divine and on that account must necessarily be eternal” (Tusculan Disputations 1.66 [Loeb, 76-791]).

As has been shown, there are no “inextricable difficulties” with traducianism. And now, Turretin has acknowledged the influence of heathen philosophy. The bias, if you will, that looks on matter as ignoble and unworthy of involvement in the production of so noble a substance as the spirit—and indeed, so ignoble that the body and soul must be viewed as modular components rather than as a strong conditional unity—came from such philosophy, and has been so ingrained into the Western mind as to become a hidden assumption. If so many heathen philosophers taught that “souls” come directly from God to the individuals, then one should pause to consider just how accurate such a philosophy is likely to be. Baird speaks of the proper place of philosophy in this matter:

Further, whilst philosophy is entitled to a most respectful hearing, in its own proper sphere, on the other hand, when the Spirit of God makes to us communications involving radical questions concerning the whole relation of man to God, and to the salvation of Christ, it is the business of philosophy to be silent; and the statements are to be interpreted solely by the assistance of their Author, speaking in other scriptures. The declarations of the Bible are indeed to be explained and understood in accordance with the established laws of language; but the meaning thus ascertained may not be set aside, or modified, out of respect to any other than a scriptural authority,—the result of an impartial and reverent comparison of spiritual things with spiritual, in accordance with the analogy of faith. This is especially true where the statements in question, as in the present case, involve important theological issues.[66]

Turretin (T5, Q13, §XVI):

Although Christ was no less in Abraham (according to the flesh) than Levi (who was tithed in his loins, Heb. 7:9-10), it does not follow that Levi was in him according to his soul (so that the soul of Levi was propagated and that a distinction may be preserved). Rather Levi (with respect to person) was in Abraham according to seminal mode and the natural powers of the father and mother (from whom he was to be born). But Christ was in him only as to the human nature with regard to the mother; not, however, as to his divine nature and person. Thus his person could not be tithed; but as a superior he tithed Abraham and blessed him in Melchizedek (his type), not as man, but as the Mediator, God-man (theanthropos), performing a kingly and priestly office.

If Levi was not in Abraham in an immaterial way (spiritual, rather than merely physical), then it could not rightly be said that Levi did anything while in Abraham, for it was not Levi, but only his physical nature. Shedd agrees:

…Levi and his descendants are said to have had an existence that was real, not fictitious, in Abraham. But it contradicts the context to confine this statement to the physical and irrational side of Levi and his descendants. The “paying of tithes” which led to the statement is a rational and moral act and implies a rational and moral nature as the basis of it.[67]

Nowhere does Scripture indicate or express that Christ was in Abraham (or any other human father). Since Christ was born of a virgin, there was no traducianistic link to previous generations. If Christ had been in Abraham, as Levi, and had paid tithes in Abraham, then it would also be true that in the same way, He sinned while in the loins of Adam. This will be addressed in detail further below (in section II.A.5).

Turretin (T5, Q13, §XVII):

Although the soul is not materially from Adam (as to substance), yet it is originally from him as to subsistence. And as man is rightly said to beget man (although he does not beget the soul), so an impure progenerates an impure, especially (the just judgment of God intervening) that by which it was established that what he had bestowed upon the first man, he should at the same time have and lose for himself as well as his posterity. Now although it is curious to inquire and rash to define why God infuses a soul tainted with sin and joins it to an impure body, it is certainly evident that God did not will (on account of the sin of man) to abolish the first sanction concerning the propagation of the human race by generation. Thus the order of the universe and the conservation of human nature demanded it.

To say that the spirit (soul) is not from Adam “as to substance…yet it is originally from him as to subsistence,” is overly scholastic obfuscation. Either the spirit is propagated from one generation to the next, or it is specially created out of nothing by God—there is no option between the two. Turretin wants to lean on the law of propagation when he says that “an impure progenerates an impure…” but such reasoning only makes sense when an impure is propagated out of an impure. However, this is not what he has in mind. It is not propagation that causes the progeny to be impure, but “the just judgment of God intervening…that by which it was established that what he had bestowed upon the first man, [Adam] should at the same time have and lose for himself as well as his posterity.” In other words, God “established” that if Adam should, by sinning, lose his original righteousness, then God—out of some “just judgment”—would specially create each of Adam’s descendants with a soul tainted with sin. Turretin does not tell us here just how such a judgment could be considered “just,” when he denies any spiritual presence, participation or union of those descendants within Adam (he explains this in his discussion on original sin, addressed below). In the creationists’ system, God is made to be a continual fountain of corruption, even creating the sinful taint on the spirits of the children that are conceived around the world daily. Furthermore, if God has created their corruption, then how can He justly condemn them for it? Unmerited salvation is grace, but unmerited condemnation is injustice by any intelligent standard. This also will be addressed below.

4. Arguments on the Human Nature of Christ

The error of seeing traducianism as bi-parental also adversely affects how the humanity of Christ is viewed. This has led to some strange conclusions by traducianists. Shedd goes so far as to posit that Christ’s human nature was sanctified, justified and redeemed prior to its assumption by the Logos:

Theologians have confined their attention mainly to the sanctification of Christ’s human nature, saying little about its justification. But a complete Christology must include the latter as well as the former. Any nature that requires sanctification requires justification, because sin is guilt as well as pollution. The Logos could not unite with a human nature taken from the virgin Mary and transmitted from Adam unless it had previously been delivered from both the condemnation and the corruption of sin. The idea of redemption also includes both justification and sanctification; and it is conceded that that portion of human nature which the Logos assumed into union with himself was redeemed. His own humanity was the “firstfruits” of his redemptive work: “Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s” (1 Cor. 15:23). Consequently, the doctrine is not fully constructed unless this side of it is presented. So far, then, as the guilt of Adam’s sin rested upon that unindividualized portion of the common fallen nature of Adam assumed by the Logos, it was expiated by the one sacrifice on Calvary…[68]

Such an error is astounding. One who is guilty and corrupt cannot redeem himself (not even “proleptically”), much less redeem multitudes. 1 Cor. 15:23 is speaking of physical resurrection and not spiritual redemption. Augustus Strong falters here as well:

If Christ had been born into the world by ordinary generation, he too would have had depravity, guilt, penalty. But he was not so born. In the womb of the Virgin, the human nature which he took was purged from its depravity. But this purging away of depravity did not take away guilt, or penalty. There was still left the just exposure to the penalty of violated law. Although Christ’s nature was purified, his obligation to suffer yet remained…
Notice, however, that this guilt which Christ took upon himself by his union with humanity was: (1) not the guilt of personal sin—such guilt as belongs to every adult member of the race; (2) not even the guilt of inherited depravity—such guilt as belongs to infants, and to those who have not come to moral consciousness; but (3) solely the guilt of Adam’s sin, which belongs, prior to personal transgression, and apart from inherited depravity, to every member of the race who has derived his life from Adam. This original sin and inherited guilt, but without the depravity that ordinarily accompanies them, Christ takes, and so takes away. He can justly bear penalty, because he inherits guilt. And since this guilt is not his personal guilt, but the guilt of that one sin in which “all sinned”—the guilt of the common transgression of the race in Adam, the guilt of the root-sin from which all other sins have sprung—he who is personally pure can vicariously bear the penalty due to the sin of all.[69]

Sanctification, or “purging away of depravity,” can never rewrite the history of a spirit that sinned in Adam in Eden. One who has sinned—even if only having sinned in one’s forefather, Adam—is thereby disqualified to be any man’s Savior. All who have sinned “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), whereas Christ’s glory was “as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
If the human spirit of Jesus sinned in Adam, then there is no just ground on which to intervene in the natural consequences of that sin (depravity) being passed on to Jesus. When Adam sinned, he spiritually died as both a righteous judgment and a natural consequence. God could not remain in spiritual union with a sinner prior to Christ’s purchase of redemption on the cross. As sin is repugnant to God, and light has no union with darkness, so God’s withdrawal from Adam and Eve was necessary and immediate. This termination of spiritual union with God was spiritual death. Since men are propagated as whole beings, including the spirit, then all men spiritually died when Adam spiritually died. A dead spirit can only propagate dead offspring. Men are born needing the regeneration that only a Savior can provide. That consequence cannot be removed without removing the cause, which is the corporate guilt. If the guilt remains, and the guilt is just, then it would be unjust to remove the consequences of that guilt, which include spiritual death and resulting depravity. If the guilt is corporate, having been imputed to the race at the time of Adam’s sin and while the race was still within him, then the guilt cannot be removed without removing it from the entire race.

John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet within the womb, but he was never more than a saved sinner—a depraved child of Adam who became a child of God. When Christ assumed human nature, He did not unite Himself with a spiritual heritage of sin. Christ said, in Jn. 8:23, “You are from below. I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world.” Was Jesus not born in this world the same as anyone else? He was not talking about the physical but the spiritual. His human spirit came from the creative hand of God in heaven, while ours came from our fathers right here on earth. And, again, in 3:13, “No one has ascended into heaven, except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” Jesus was the only one who spiritually descended from heaven. He is spiritually from above, while the rest of us are spiritually from below (right here on earth—but, of course, “above” and “below” as they apply to “heaven” and “earth” are just metaphors). Humanly speaking, Jesus was not a spiritual descendant of Adam—He is the Second Adam.

5. The Nature of the Union in Adam

A child is in a corporate spiritual existence with his father (or forefathers) until he is conceived as an individual. This applies to any child and any forefather. But this is only from the perspective of having the propagated individual in view. There is nothing about the spiritual existence or nature of the forefather that necessitates that any descendants be propagated. Any male has an unlimited potential for spiritual propagation, and there is no spiritual difference between a male who begets offspring and one who does not. The father is a spiritual singularity out of which is propagated the children. The mechanics of this propagation are admittedly mysterious, but not unreasonable.

Adam was a simple man with one body and one spirit. As a spiritual being, he had moral agency and responsibility. He sinned, and his spirit has been propagated to us, along with the history of corporately sinning in him and bearing the corporate responsibility. Since the spirit that has been propagated to us is our spirit and makes up our spiritual being, it is we who sinned corporately in Adam and bear the corporate responsibility. The word corporate is used because we did not sin as individuals, and yet there is a continuity of spiritual existence that cannot be dismissed; thus, the best way to describe a spiritual existence which is not individual is to use the term corporate.

When Levi was said to be in the loins of Abraham, this was an expression to convey that Levi was “in” the essence of Abraham. A child is in the essence of his father until he is conceived; and after conception, the child is “of” the essence of his father but no longer in it (though it can be said to now be in the child). There is a continuity of essence between the father and child, but only by propagation, such that the child’s essence came from the father’s essence but is disunited from the father by propagation. There is division of essence only in respect to the fact that the child is a separate entity from the father with no ongoing union of essence between them; but there is no division of essence within the father. In propagation, the essence of the father is mysteriously carried over beyond the person of the father to propagate a new person, separated in both personhood and essence from the father. Though the person of the father, and his individuality, are not propagated to the child, the essence of the father is propagated. Whereas in the Trinity, three Persons share one nature, essence and spiritual substance in one shared entity, in human propagation the person of the son and the person of the father share one nature, essence and spiritual substance in separate individual entities.

Prior to the conception of a son, only the person of the father exists. The person of the son does not exist until he is conceived; however, though the son did not personally exist in the father, he did spiritually exist in the father, since spirit and person are distinct. In all men except the first and Second Adam, human spiritual existence precedes human personal existence. This spiritual existence is impersonal only to those persons who will be propagated from it—it is not in any way impersonal to the individual in which it currently is. Adam had no “non individualized human nature” within him in the way that Shedd intends. Adam was a simple man, in all ways like every other man, in that he had a single human nature that was completely individualized to him. Like every other father, Adam’s nature was propagated to his children, and was individualized in them. Each child is his own individual person. Each child had a real, objective existence in Adam, but only as to Adam’s spirit and not as to Adam’s person or individuality which were not carried over to the children.

How long did Levi remain within the loins of Abraham? Levi was within the loins of Abraham until Isaac was conceived, at which point Levi was then within the loins of Isaac. After Levi was conceived, he was no longer within the loins of any father. So it is with mankind’s union in Adam. When Seth was conceived, all of Seth’s future descendants (all of mankind today) were no longer in the loins of Adam—no longer in a spiritual, traducianistic union in Adam—but were at that point in Seth. Shedd was incorrect to see a continuing specific unity in the form of the total members of the race viewed as a whole, and representationists are incorrect to see the race as still being “in Adam.” Mankind is no longer in union in Adam, because we have been propagated out of Adam.

The one became the many. When it is said that we sinned in Adam, it is “we” only from the perspective of the many. Adam did not contain the many, but rather, the many were propagated from the one. Since the spiritual existence of the many did not begin with their individual existence, but instead, started with the individual existence of Adam, then how best can the “we” state the fact that our existence, spiritually, began in Adam—if not by saying, “We existed in Adam”? What is not meant by this is that a plurality existed in Adam, but rather, that the spirit that exists in plurality now existed back then as a single spirit. Traducianists have consistently held that all men had a real presence in Adam and thus a real participation in his sin. This is not participation in the common sense, of plurality, but participation in the sense that the single man who sinned has now become many who cannot deny the spiritual presence within him when he sinned—not presence of plurality but of singularity. This singularity has most often been described such that we were “numerically one” with Adam. All sinned while in Adam…all sinned in Adam’s sin…all participated in Adam’s sin. Only that which has spiritual being can sin. If we had no spiritual being within Adam—or, if the spiritual being of Adam has not been propagated to us in such a way that our spiritual being was continuous with his so that we as progeny can look back with spiritual ownership on the deed of Adam—then it cannot be said that we sinned in Adam.

A spiritual being is a single person, but personhood is distinct from spiritual essence or substance. In the Trinity, one spiritual essence is shared by Three Persons. It is not the person of my father that I inherited, but his spirit. And of course, he still had his spirit after I was propagated, and he was spiritually distinct and separate from me after I was propagated. Most traducianists are not as clear on these points because they are encumbered by the bi-parental error, and see part of the mother’s spirit and part of the father’s spirit as being propagated to form the child’s spirit; but the principle is there.

It is important to understand that a man is more than a spirit. He is a spirit, a mind, and a body, with his own time and place in this world, his own memories, personality, and individuality. The acts of our fathers, including Adam, are only ours in the spiritual sense, corporately, and not ours in the physical or psychosomatic sense. What this means is that, basically, only the morality or spiritual significance of any particular act is involved when we say that one has done (or “participated in,” so to speak) something within the loins of his father(s). Adam’s eating of a piece of fruit was not what was passed on to us; rather it was his sin in the act that was passed on. Adam may have gotten fruit stuck in his teeth, but we cannot be said to have gotten fruit stuck in our teeth while in Adam. Only the spiritual is of any significance to future generations when it comes to the corporate, spiritual being “in the loins of” one’s father(s).

The main reason for the significance of the spiritual acts of our forefathers is that the spirit is the seat of the will regarding moral matters. The will with which you and I make moral decisions for which we are held accountable is the will of the spirit within, and that spirit—will included—was propagated from Adam. Animals have no moral relation because they have no spirit, and thus, neither moral comprehension nor moral will.

God sets the rules of identity and justice, and He has set it up so that damnation and salvation are strictly based on an individual’s life and deeds. This includes both sins that bring condemnation and faith that saves—neither are individually credited across generations. I as an individual did not sin in Eden, but we all certainly did while in Adam. As for salvation, it is not faith that actually saves, but God’s response to that faith (justification) that saves. God has said that He will save any individual man who believes; therefore, every man must believe for himself. Further, it is not a renewed condition of the Adamic spirit that saves the repentant sinner, but the indwelling Spirit of God, which is not propagated by human propagation. All spiritual life within the sinner who is saved and brought to life comes from the Holy Spirit within. The spirit of the one who believes has no life within itself to pass on by propagation.

Turretin describes the union in Adam in three ways: seminally (natural and physical), morally (political), and “as to origin of subsistence.” He states (T9, Q9, §XXIII): “Adam was the germ, root and head of the human race, not only in a physical sense and seminally, but morally and in a representative sense.” There is no way to jump from the “physical sense” to the moral and “representative sense” without jumping to the spiritual sense. Turretin habitually juxtaposes the physical with the moral, leaving out the spiritual. At least Turretin recognizes here that the physical cannot be the moral sense, but he leaves the obvious reality out of the picture. Spirits are moral or immoral. Moral representation has no moral basis without the spirit.

Turretin (T9, Q12, §XI):

Although souls were not in Adam as to origin of essence (because they are created by God), still they can rightly be said to have been in him as to origin of subsistence (inasmuch as they were to be joined with bodies as the constituent parts of those men who are the children of Adam and which in this respect are well considered guilty in Adam).

Men are said to be “well considered guilty in Adam” because they have been in Adam “as to origin of subsistence.” This scholastic language means that Adam was the first member of the species of humanity, which God designed to subsist in a human body joined with a human spirit, and instituted this species by the initial subsistence of Adam; and further, that Adam was the progenitor of all who have this human subsistence. From the perspective of the physical side of this subsistence, all have been derived from Adam; and from the perspective of the spiritual side of this subsistence, Adam was the first. Thus, not only is the human body derived and originated from Adam, but also, as Turretin sees it, the rules defining what makes up a complete human being (a human subsistence) also are derived and originated in Adam. And though we cannot rightly be said to have been in Adam in a spiritual sense (origin of essence), we can rightly be said to have been in him “as to origin of subsistence.” All of this amounts to nothing more than to say that Adam was the first human being, and therefore all who come after him “are well considered guilty” because of what he did, merely because he was the first. Baird critiques this reasoning:

In respect to the fact that, if the soul is an immediate creation, it was not in Adam, we are told that, “although the souls were not in Adam, as to origin of essence, because they are created by God, they are rightly said to have been in him, as to origin of subsistence, so far forth as they were to be joined to bodies as constituent parts of those persons who are sons of Adam, and who therefore in this respect are rightly accounted guilty in Adam.” That is to say, it was the design of God, at the time of the creation of Adam, to create a series of souls out of nothing by his own sole and immediate power, and cause them to dwell for a time in clay, which should hold a sort of vegetative relation to that in which the souls which apostatized in the garden dwelt. Therefore, it may be truly said that our souls were in those apostates, and sinned in them, and are now therefore guilty! Is such the idea which God’s word gives of the extent of our relation to Adam; and responsibility for his sin? Is this the doctrine of the Reformed confessions? That which saves the statement from self-convicted absurdity is the obscure terminology in which the doctrine is clothed. To say that we were not in Adam as to essence, but were so as to subsistence, has a sound which may pass for something more, if not too closely examined…[70]

Turretin (T8, Q3, §XI):

Man must be viewed under a double relation (schesei)—either as just or as the first. In the former respect, he had the power to perform the prescribed duty. Thus there arose the obligation of fulfilling it (which otherwise could not have had place since no one is bound to an absolute impossibility). In the latter, Adam in a certain manner included the whole human race, which was to spring from him, both as the root and the seminal principle from whom the whole human race was to descend (Acts 17:26); and as a public person and representative head, because he represented all men who were to spring naturally from him. Hence that covenant pertained not only to Adam, but to all his posterity in him… Now the foundation of this union arises from the twofold bond connecting men with Adam: the one natural, according to which he was the common father of all and they his sons; the other forensic, by which from the most wise providence of God he was constituted the chief and head of the human race, who should contract for himself and his, and hold or lose the goods bestowed upon him, as goods common to the whole of nature.

Turretin refers first to the reality, that “Adam in a certain manner included the whole human race, which was to spring from him, both as the root and the seminal principle from whom the whole human race was to descend… according to which he was the common father of all and they his sons…” This fact alone is enough to establish Adam as a public person whose actions were rightly considered the actions of the race yet within him. If the fullness of that reality is embraced, then no additional forensic or representative office need be superimposed. But if Adam is seen merely as the physical father of all, and the root and seminal principle only in respect to the body and not to the soul, then all soundness is removed from this half of the “twofold bond connecting men with Adam,” which Turretin offers as just ground for Adam’s representative office. What foundation is this that renders men responsible for the sin of a man with whom they have no deeper tie than the physical body? A bond “between men” that exists only in God’s mind does not exist between men, as it touches no man—it is a mere idea and not a bond, and it is not between men in reality but between men in God’s mind. This false phantom was invented to maintain the consequences of a real union while denying the substance thereof.

Ken Hamrick, 2014

[28] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906)
[29] Samuel J. Baird, The First Adam and the Second: The Elohim Revealed in the Creation and Redemption of Man, (Phila.: Parry & McMillan, 1860), p. 359
[30] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), Vol. II, p. 68
[31] Ibid., p. 360
[32] Robert Culver, Systematic Theology, (Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2006), p. 278
[33] Phillip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886), Series I Vol. 1, (St. Augustine, Letter CLXVI to Jerome), p. 531
[34] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, p. 444
[35] Schaff, p. 531
[36] Baird, p. 354
[37] Ibid., p. 384
[38] Shedd, p. 441
[39] Gordon H. Clark, The Atonement (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1987), p. 121
[40] Shedd, p. 439
[41] Ibid., p. 442
[42] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 176
[43] Ibid., p. 199
[44] Ibid.
[45] Ibid., p. 201
[46] Hodge, Vol. II, p. 69
[47] Clark, p. 116
[48] Hodge, Vol. II. p. 76
[49] Baird, p. 370
[50] Hodge, Vol. II, pp. 74-75
[51] Clark, p. 120
[52] Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Phila.: Judson, 1907), Vol. II. p. 495
[53] Shedd, p. 431
[54] Ibid., p. 437
[55] Ibid., pp. 433-434
[56] Ibid., p. 440
[57] Ibid., p. 443
[58] Ibid., p. 444
[59] Ibid., pp. 447-448
[60] Ibid., pp. 452-453
[61] Ibid., p. 471
[62] Baird, p. 346, 350
[63] James p. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, chap. XX, sect. IV, http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/boyce/aos/chapter20.htm
[64] Ibid.
[65] Shedd, pp. 477-478
[66] Baird, p. 378
[67] Shedd, pp. 441-442
[68] Ibid., pp. 475-476
[69] Strong, Vol. II, pp. 757-758
[70] Baird, p. 378

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