A Strong Argument for Traducianism

Traducianism is the belief that the immaterial nature (the spirit or soul) is propagated from one or both parents. Creationism is the only Christian alternative, the belief that the spirit is created out of nothing.

It is my contention that the biblical case for traducianism is strong, and it should not be avoided, as it sheds light on the Adam-Christ parallel. While no explanation of traducianism is without mystery, neither is the creationist view without equal mystery, since it is as difficult a problem to view God creating morally corrupt souls out of nothing as it is to view Him creating them out of the parents.

Traducianism from Scripture

Man was made in the likeness and image of God. Yet, 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.

God breathed the breath of life into Adam, and he became a living soul.

This is a startling picture of personal contact. The breath of life can also be translated, “spirit [or, ‘soul’] of lives.”[1] God created Adam’s spirit out of nothing and breathed it into him. Unlike all other creatures, who were strictly material, man was made to be like the Creator, a spiritual being; and because of this he was 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.

The spirit is the substance of God’s image in man. The qualities that are often referred to as the image of God, that man is a moral, rational and relational being, are qualities only possible because man has a spirit. Here, the propagative nature of that image is revealed. How unexpected it is that Seth is said to have been begotten in the image and likeness of Adam, rather than God! The spirit that God breathed into Adam was propagated to his son. Since Seth is 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.

The natural sense of the Genesis account is that God had made man and every other creature as propagative beings. Like begets like, as is the way of all living creatures. This is such a part of our thinking that we miss the significance. God created at the beginning, but He designed into His creatures the ability to propagate and “fill the earth” without any further supernatural creation. This is not to say that God remains aloof, but simply that God’s original creating was all that was necessary for His 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). […] 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.[2]

There is in Scripture no separate origin for the spirit and body, unless we start with that presupposition. God supernaturally created both Adam’s body and spirit. Man was thereafter propagative. Nothing further is needed to justify the inference that man is propagated as a whole. What would justify introducing a distinction, insisting that only the body is propagated?

Heb. 7:9-10 ESV

9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

When Levi is said to have been “still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him,” this is the same as all men having been in the loins of Adam when he sinned. 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.[3]

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 with a 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 the following:

Ezek. 18:19-20 NKJV

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

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 to me again, saying, 2 “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. 4 “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die (NKJV).

However, it was not the principle of the sons reaping what was sown while in the loins of their 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 sins 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.

Rom.5:12-15 ESV

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

All men die because death is in the world, and death came into the world through the one sin of the one man (v. 12). And so we die through the one man’s trespass (v. 15). But the text also says that “death spread to all men because all sinned…” Through whose sin then do we die? Considering that even the unborn die in some cases, and Rom. 9:11 affirms that they have done neither good nor evil, then their own sinning seems not to be the cause of death spreading to them. Also, considering the repeated emphasis in the context here, that the cause that has resulted in death and condemnation to all is, “one man’s trespass” (v. 15), “one man’s sin” and “one trespass” (v. 16), “one man’s trespass” (v. 17), “one trespass” (v. 18), the only reasonable conclusion is that the one man’s sin is the sin referred to by, “because all sinned” (v. 12). It is inescapable that death has spread to all men prior to the existence of any except Adam and Eve; and further, that at the moment when the one man sinned, all men sinned in his sin. This is the one sin that has caused it all—the one in which we all sinned in the one man.

Representationists (Federalists) believe that Paul is speaking figuratively when it is said that “death spread to all men because all sinned,” since this sinning (in their system) was long prior to any real existence of “all men.” In other words, God has chosen to view us as if we had sinned when Adam sinned, but in actuality, we did not yet sin. But how then can the result be literal if the cause is figurative? He does not view us as if we were subject to death, but instead, brings a real death upon us. The Realistic view is the most fitting way to understand this: (reality for reality) all men had a real existence in Adam, so that Adam’s sinning was the sinning of all of his descendants—a corporate participation as real as our corporate existence—and this is traducianism, whether affirmed or merely implied.

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. We need a New Father to give us a new image. 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. Now, I ask you: Is Christ in us in a real, substantial way?—or, is it merely that God chooses to view us as if Christ were in us?

Prooftexts Offered Against Traducianism

The first prooftext offered by creationists is Ecc. 12:7:

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.(ESV)

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. Because these two things are passed down through the generations, 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.[4]

The next prooftext is Zech. 12:1:

The oracle 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:(ESV)

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 occurred at creation—and yet all three are in the same tense, as happening together.

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.

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. 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.[5] Augustine also noted this as important.[6]

Another common prooftext is Heb. 12:9:

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?”

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)…[7]

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 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.[8]

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?[9]

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![10]

Baird’s point is unanswerable.

Arguments on the Supposed Materiality of the Soul

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.

Turretin’s objections demand a materialistic explanation, and offer many reasons as to why the materialistic propagation of the soul is impossible. But he fails to squarely address the possibility of the immaterial propagation, 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…[11]

As James Boyce points out, such objections stand on 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?[12]

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.

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.[13]

What Turretin has tried to do is 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 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 is insufficient, Turretin’s division of potential means of spiritual propagation cannot be relied on as accurate—much less exhaustive. Even if acknowledged that the physical is analogous to the spiritual, 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 fifty 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.[14]

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.

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.[15]

Where the Bible has revealed a matter, philosophy has lost its authority.

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. God is made to be a continual fountain of corruption, as children are conceived around the world daily. Furthermore, if God has created their corruption, then how can He justly condemn them for it?

Arguments from the Miraculous Nature of Special Creation

Traducianists maintain the distinction between the supernatural and the natural: 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.”…[16]

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.

God 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 animals, 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 a new member of a species, the offspring is created in its entirety by using the preexisting substance of the parents. But when God creates a child, he is not created in his entirety from out of the substance of the parents. God must provide a substance that does not yet exist—the soul of the child. Thus, creationism cannot avoid the 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…”[17] By this statement he gives up the argument to the traducianist, as Gordon Clark noted.[18] 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…”[19] This confusion of the natural with the supernatural, which is characteristic of the creationist view, strips the miraculous of all meaning.

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…[20]

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.[21]

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.

The Propagation of Sin

“Propagation,” says Shedd, “implies continuity of substance and immutability of properties. In the propagation of the body, there is continuity of substance and sameness of properties between the producing and the produced individuals, between the parents and the child. There is no creation ex nihilo of new substance and properties.”[22] Since Turretin’s view of the origin of the soul incorporates the supernatural creative power of God into nature, making supernatural creation an ordinary part of the natural processes, he is able to redefine propagation so that it includes creation ex nihilo. He calls it a “certain and immovable law” and “an established law of nature” that God would put a soul [specially created ex nihilo] into every human body. Turretin (T9, Q12, §XII):

Nor ought it to be considered unworthy of the divine goodness that the soul should be placed in a corrupt body. From the beginning, he sanctioned (by a certain and immovable law) that he would place a soul in every organized human body. This law ought not to have been abolished on account of the sin of man.

And in the next section (§XVIII):

Now in this way God cannot be considered the author, but the avenger of sin. He is the author of the union as his own work; but not of the sin (another’s fault). He unites the soul to the body to preserve the species; he joins the soul deprived of righteousness to a corrupt body for a punishment of sin. Nor is God the cause of the corruption, if in joining the soul to the body he carries out an established law of nature (from which man proceeds properly, but the sinner only accidentally).

Laws of nature are carried out by nature and need no divine intervention; otherwise, it is not natural law being carried out but supernatural acts. This confusion of the natural with the supernatural, as addressed earlier, is an error. Thus, Turretin has misappropriated the term propagation, using its normally understood meaning to lean on the idea of immaterial propagation without explicitly embracing the idea. He states (T9, Q10, §VI), “Rather the question is whether there is any inherent depravity (called original sin) propagated from Adam to all his posterity springing from him by natural generation. They deny; we affirm”; and (§VIII), “Second, the same thing is proved 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.” He clearly insists that depravity (corruption) is contracted, inherent and propagated by natural generation. The next section (§IX) is even more perplexing:

Third, from Job 14:4—”Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” Here purity is removed from all men (not even one being excepted), and uncleanness is ascribed to them (not simply external of the body, which can easily be taken away, but internal of the soul). The latter is inevitable, cannot be purged by nature and renders one liable to the judgment of God (Job 14:3); not actual only and transient, but permanent and hereditary, derived from the parent to the offspring (which can be no other than original sin, whatever is meant by the word tm’, whether “seed” or “man”).

Turretin affirms that this uncleanness is “internal of the soul,” and that it is “hereditary, derived from the parent to the offspring.” Job’s meaning is straightforward, with which Turretin agrees: the offspring are unclean because they are brought out of unclean parents. This requires that the thing in which the uncleanness inheres is the thing which has been brought out of the unclean parent. If it were the body that is referred to here as unclean, then it would mean that the unclean body of the child is brought out of the unclean body of the parent. Since Turretin rightly recognizes that the text is referring to the soul that is unclean, then his acknowledgement that the soul of the child is brought out of the soul of the parent is implied. Thus, he again leans on traducianism. Only by traducianism can such expressions as “contracted,” “hereditary,” and “derived from the parent to the offspring,” be used in their proper meaning to indicate the propagation of moral corruption. If God supernaturally creates (ex nihilo) the soul of the child in a condition of moral corruption, and does so according to the corruption that he sees in the parents, then the only thing derived from the parents is the idea and perception and not the corruption itself. Furthermore, since this corruption was created by God, it cannot be said to be contracted like a disease, unless it is contracted from God who is the only Source of the soul’s origin. Turretin (§XI):

Fifth, all are by nature “flesh and born of the flesh” (Jn. 3:5, 6). For “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Here is pointed out: (1) the necessity of a supernatural regeneration, which supposes natural generation to be corrupt; (2) the universality of corruption infecting all because all are flesh…

Turretin rightly acknowledges that supernatural regeneration is made necessary by the corruption of natural generation. However, since the moral corruption of the soul is in view, then the contrast is lost in his system, since both regeneration and generation are supernatural. Turretin (§XIV):

The common law that everything begotten is like the begetter; as much as to species as with regard to the accidents belonging to the species. Generation is the communication not only of essence, but also of the qualities and accidents belonging to the species (as therefore a man generates a man, so a sinner can generate no other than a sinner).

This “common law” cannot apply to the soul, which is, in Turretin’s view, specially created by God, in the same way that applies to the body (and to other species). Spiritually, man does not generate a man, but God generates the offspring out of nothing. There is no communication of spiritual essence, and therefore, no communication of qualities and accidents (such as moral corruption) is possible. Turretin’s reliance on this common law to support his view of propagated sin is another example of leaning on traducianism. (§ XIX):

Although sin is pardoned in the parents, still nonetheless it can be transmitted to their posterity because the guilt being remitted, the taint always remains; if not wholly, at least in part. Hence as a circumcised person begets an uncircumcised, so a believer and renewed man begets a corrupt and unrenewed. He does not generate by grace, but by nature (as from a grain cleared of chaff is produced a grain with the chaff).

(§§XXII and XXIII):

In the propagation of sin, an accident does not pass over from subject to subject. The immediate subject of sin is not the person, but human nature vitiated by the actual transgression of the person which, being communicated to posterity, this inherent corruption in it is also communicated. Therefore, as in Adam, the person corrupted the nature; so in his posterity, the nature corrupts the person.

Although the mode of the propagation of sin is obscure and difficult to explain, the propagation itself (which Scripture so clearly asserts and experience confirms) is not on that account to be denied.

Through what medium is this moral corruption and taint “transmitted” and “communicated?” It cannot be “transmitted” or “communicated” through the spiritual nature, since there is no continuity of substance between parent and child—the transmission would be broken. In the creationist system, the spiritual traits, qualities and accidents are transmitted (communicated) through God’s mind alone as the medium between parent and child. To transmit or communicate properly means to pass something through substantial reality. God’s mind is not a medium through which to transmit—His supernatural creative power is not an involuntary function or reflex. As such, the terms transmit and communicate are misappropriated, being used to lean on what is actually denied. If God chooses to create the soul of the child with the moral corruption of the parents (or of Adam), this is not transmission or communication, but rather, it is the exercise of the sovereign will of God to create in this way.

Even with these inconsistencies and misappropriated terms, creationists such as Turretin encounter great difficulty in explaining how moral corruption can be propagated. To attribute moral corruption to the body would be Gnostic error, as mere matter can have no moral taint. However, it would be just as unsatisfactory to hold that God specially creates these souls with moral corruption coming from God’s own creative hand.

Obfuscation by the Co-opting of Terms

Many terms and even ideas that were realistic in origin seem to have been co-opted (and redefined) by representationists. For example, John Murray asserts what seems to be agreement with the realists, in an effort to parry certain points of argument, claiming that representationists do not deny “community of nature” in Adam, that “natural union is involved in natural headship,” that “[…] this human nature which became corrupt in Adam is transmitted to posterity by natural generation.”[23] However, what he means by natural generation involves the whole of human propagation, which, to representationists, incorporates the divine creation ex nihilo of the immaterial side of that nature. So then, his ostensible agreement with the realists that human nature (with only the immaterial side in dispute) “is transmitted to posterity by natural generation,” sounds well and good, but it is really no agreement at all, since that aspect of the human nature that is at issue is not, in the representative scheme, naturally generated, but is supernaturally generated as a subsumed part of the “natural generation” process. Furthermore, the supposed “community of nature,” as it respects the immaterial side, exists (in the representative view) nowhere other than in the mind of God, even though it is called a union “in Adam.” On the other hand, the realists locate the union of nature literally within the man, Adam—the terms, “in Adam,” mean exactly that. And as for transmission of a corrupt nature to posterity, through what medium is it “transmitted?” If God creates the immaterial nature out of nothing, then there is no unbroken medium between generations through which to “transmit.” Again, the representationists have agreed to a realistic-sounding proposition only by depleting the proper substance from the meaning of its terms. They put much effort into shoring up their weak points by implicitly leaning on what is explicitly denied, adhering to the form of realistic language found in Reformed confessions while overlooking the substance.[24]

Ken Hamrick, 2019


[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906).

[2] Robert Culver, Systematic Theology, (Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2006), p. 278.

[3] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pp. 441-442.

[4] Augustine agrees: Phillip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886), Series I Vol. 1, (St. Augustine, Letter CLXVI to Jerome), p. 531

…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.

[5] Shedd, Ibid., p. 444.

[6] Schaff, p. 531, reports Augustine saying:

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.

[7] Shedd, p. 441.

[8] Gordon H. Clark, The Atonement (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1987), p. 121.

[9] Samuel J. Baird, The First Adam and the Second: The Elohim Revealed in the Creation and Redemption of Man, (Phila.: Parry & McMillan, 1860), p. 354.

[10] Ibid., p. 384.

[11] Ibid., p. 346, 350.

[12] James p. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, chap. XX, sect. IV, http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/boyce/aos/chapter20.htm

[13] Ibid.

[14] Shedd, pp. 477-478.

[15] Baird, p. 378.

[16] Shedd, p. 442.

[17] Hodge, Vol. II, p. 69.

[18] Clark, p. 116.

[19] Hodge, Vol. II. p. 76.

[20] Ibid., pp. 74-75.

[21] Clark, p. 120.

[22] Shedd, p. 478

[23] John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), pp. 26-27.

[24] Taken from “It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 7: Traducianism,” accessed at https://kenhamrick.com/2019/01/21/its-time-for-new-thinking-on-atonement-part-7-traducianism/
Much of this post was adapted from my article, “Origin of the Soul: A Defense of Paternal Traducianism,” accessed at https://kenhamrick.com/2014/10/11/origin-of-the-soul-a-defense-of-paternal-traducianism/

Some Thoughts on Covenant Continuity

While Abraham, Moses and Israel enjoyed ever more specific and progressive covenants with God, the rest of the world remained under the Covenant of Works given to Adam. Now, Gentiles who are saved by the New Covenant trace their covenantal roots not to Moses but directly to Abraham.

Rom. 4:8-12 (ESV)
…blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’ Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

All that took place, covenantally, between Abraham’s believing and Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant happened apart and distinct from the covenantal roots of Gentile believers. Abraham was the father of what would be two covenantal streams: those who are circumcised and walk in the footsteps of his faith; and those who would eventually believe without being circumcised. Abraham’s circumcision was the point where those two future covenantal streams were separated. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 8: Realistic Substitution

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

Leon Morris, in The Cross in the New Testament, was not optimistic regarding the possibility of a “full and final theory of atonement:”

…Our survey of the doctrine throughout the New Testament has uncovered a bewildering variety of ways of looking at Christ’s work. Redemption, for example, is a figure derived from the slave market or the freeing of prisoners of war. It has to do with setting the captive free on payment of the price. Justification is a legal metaphor. It interprets salvation through the law court and sees it as a verdict of acquittal. Reconciliation refers to the making up after a quarrel, the doing away of a state of hostilities. Propitiation has to do with anger. It reminds us of the wrath of God exercised towards every evil thing and also of the fact that Christ has removed that wrath. How are these figures to be gathered together under one theory? It cannot be done. […The] mind of man is not able to comprehend all the various facets of New Testament teaching on the atonement simultaneously. […The] fact is that it is too great in extent and too complex in character for us to comprehend it all in one theory…[47]

Though Morris does not think it is possible for the many sides of the atonement to be comprehended in a single theory, he does see it imperfectly gathered together by substitution:

[…While] the many-sidedness of the atonement must be borne in mind, substitution is at the heart of it. I do not mean that when we have said ‘substitution’ we have solved all our problems. […] But I do not think that we can escape substitution if we proceed on biblical premises. Thus, if we revert to the metaphors we were referring to a short while back, redemption is substitutionary, for it means that Christ paid that price that we could not pay, paid it in our stead, and we go free. Justification interprets our salvation judicially, and as the New Testament sees it Christ took our legal liability, took it in our stead. Reconciliation means the making of people to be at one by the taking away of the cause of hostility. In this case the cause is sin, and Christ removed that cause for us. We could not deal with sin. He could and did, and did it in such a way that it is reckoned to us. Propitiation points us to the removal of the divine wrath, and Christ has done this by bearing the wrath for us. It was our sin which drew it down; it was He who bore it. […Again] and again the key to the understanding of a particular way of viewing the cross is to see that Christ has stood in our place. […] Was there a price to be paid? He paid it. Was there a victory to be won? He won it. Was there a penalty to be borne? He bore it. Was there a judgment to be faced? He faced it…[48]

Morris also recognizes an important limitation:

An objection to this view arises from the intensely personal nature of guilt. My misdeeds are my own, and all the verbal juggling in the world cannot make them belong to someone else. […] If atonement consists simply in ignoring this, and putting the punishment arising from my yesterdays upon someone else, then a grave wrong has been done. Sin is not to be regarded as a detachable entity which may be removed from the sinner, parcelled up, and given to someone else. Sin is a personal affair. My guilt is my own. What are we to say then? In the first place that no one thinks of substitution as the whole story. Salvation is an exceedingly complex process with many facets, and, while substitution is a very helpful concept for bringing out some of the truth, it must be supplemented where other aspects are in question. Thus if it is true that salvation may helpfully be described in terms of Christ’s bearing of my penalty, it is also true that it is to be described further in terms of new birth (Jn. 3:3, 5, 7), in terms of my dying with Christ and rising with Him (Rom. 6:8; Col. 3:1-3), in terms of my becoming partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and in other ways. Substitution is not to be regarded as a magic key which unlocks all the doors. And substitution that leaves those substituted for exactly as they were, penalty apart, is not the biblical substitution.[49]

Morris’ assessment that no final theory will ever adequately comprehend all aspects is premature. The many figures by which atonement has been conveyed, when taken together, do seem to present an impossible complexity. However, the reason for this, as Morris seems to acknowledge, is because the full reality has not been understood:

…The position then is that all our theories seem to have a measure of truth in them, and none, taken by itself, is adequate. It is not unlike the situation in the world of physics where scientists are not agreed on the nature of light. The corpuscular theory and the wave theory both have their supporters. It is difficult to see how these two are to be reconciled with one another. Yet neither can be abandoned, for some of the facts support one view and some the other. The reality must transcend both, but so far we do not know what this reality is. So with the atonement…[50]

Reality has been taken out of view by the discarding of the realistic principle. By bringing reality back into view, we are able to find the missing key that transcends the complexity of atonement and gathers up into one all the various aspects—and does so with a satisfying simplicity. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 7: Traducianism

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

Traducianism is the belief that the immaterial nature (the spirit or soul) is propagated from one or both parents. Creationism is the only Christian alternative, the belief that the spirit is created out of nothing.

While one may hold an implicitly realistic view without affirming traducianism, (preferring to leave it to mystery), it is inescapably implied. A participative union implies common being in singularity of origin, and a propagation of individuals out of that common being. It is my contention that the biblical case for traducianism is strong, and it should not be avoided, as it sheds light on the Adam-Christ parallel. While no explanation of traducianism is without mystery, neither is the creationist view without equal mystery, since it is as difficult a problem to view God creating morally corrupt souls out of nothing as it is to view Him creating them out of the parents.

Traducianism from Scripture
Man was made in the likeness and image of God. Yet, 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.

God breathed the breath of life into Adam, and he became a living soul. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 6: The Realistic View of Adam

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

The parallel between Adam and Christ is striking, as evident in Rom. 5:12-21. Inadequacies in our understanding of how Adam’s sin ruined us may impede our understanding of how Christ saves us. But, if we find new depth in our view of Adam, we may find new depth in our understanding of the cross.

We’re all born sinners, spiritually dead, mortal, subject to the pains and evils of this world. But, why? How can God hold us responsible for what some man did six thousand years ago? Why didn’t we get the same chance he did, starting life in a perfect world with an unfallen nature? You may say that life isn’t fair, but even that fact is a consequence of Adam’s sin alone. Evangelicals (Baptists included) have generally answered these questions in one of two ways.

Most are familiar with Federal (or Covenant) Headship, also known as the representative view, in which God designated Adam our representative. Accordingly, God made a covenant with Adam, stipulating that the consequences of his success or failure (in his moral probationary period) would be inherited by us. Success would have meant that humanity would be blessed and righteous forever; but alas, his failure meant that we would be held responsible as if we had sinned Adam’s sin—born sinners, alienated from God, and subject to the miseries of mortality.

Less well known is the alternative: Realistic (or Natural, or Augustinian) Headship.[15] Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 5: Under Wrath Until Reconciled

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

A One-Sided Reconciliation?
The logic of a one-sided reconciliation, in which God is reconciled to us but we are not yet reconciled to Him, is like the sound of one hand clapping. Reconciliation is mutual or there is no reconciliation. God is not reconciled to us until we believe. This is why elect unbelievers remain under God’s wrath.

Eph. 2:3 ESV
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

John 3:36 ESV
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Rom. 1:18 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Rom. 2:4-5 ESV
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Rom. 4:15 ESV
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

God’s wrath is not removed from us until our sin is removed, and we remain in sin until we believe in Christ and His blood-sacrifice is applied to us. Continue reading

Unassailable: A Simple Faith in the Bible

file-3By Ken Hamrick

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:11 NASB).

“When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son […] and named him Seth […year 130…]
Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh […year 235…]
Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan […year 325…]
Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel […year 395…]
Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared […year 460…]
Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch […year 622…]
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah […year 687…]
Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech […year 874…]
Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of […] Noah […year 1056]

Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” […year 1556.] (Gen. 5:3-32 NASB).

Continue reading

The Role of the Holy Spirit in Justification

By Ken Hamrick

We are justified by faith in Christ. But is that justification a mere legal fiction, as the Catholics object? While many look for the answer in the analogies of marriage and adoption, there is a more explicit answer: it is the spiritual union of Christ in the believer, effected by the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit in justification is a badly neglected topic. To address this will require some review of history—and one that is not usually taught.

An Historical Overview
Over the course of the last several centuries, the importance of reality in Christian theology has been eclipsed by the importance of position. Imputation and justification have come to be seen as mere exercises within God’s mind. This eclipse has resulted from abandoning the idea of a real union of the moral nature of all men within Adam when he sinned, which was the realism that was implicitly contained in all the creeds and confessions of the early Reformed Church.

In this article, I will mostly be referring to Biblical realism—that Biblical principle of shared identity based on immaterial union, to which philosophical realism (with all its excesses) came to be applied. Biblical realism is the recognition of a shared personal identity, effected by immaterial (spiritual) union or singularity of immaterial origin, which is sufficient in itself to account for the headships of Adam and Christ. More broadly, Biblical realism is a paradigm from which God’s judgments and justice are dependent upon substantial reality—a reality which He may sovereignly change but cannot justly ignore. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 4: Union with the Substitute

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

Old Testament Pictures of Union with the Substitute
One vital principle of substitution is union with the substitute. How is one to justly die in the place of another, unless the two can be joined into one? We find this principle richly displayed in various themes in Scripture.

The first sacrifice was when God made clothing of animal skin to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, whose sin incurred their nakedness.

Gen. 3:10-11 ESV
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Gen. 3:21 ESV
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

This was such a beautiful picture of substitutionary sacrifice! Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 3: Unquantifiable & Nontransferable

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

The Unquantifiable Nature of Sin-Debt, Wrath, and Atonement
How many sins did Adam commit before he stood in need of a Savior? If Adam had died with just that one sin on his record, and God had intended to save Adam and no one else, would the ordeal of the cross have been abbreviated? No, even from the first sin, Adam needed the entirety of Christ’s suffering and death just to save him alone.

Sin is like that. One sin puts you under the whole wrath of God.

James 2:10 ESV
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

Rom. 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But atonement is just as immeasurable. That which is required to save the least of sinners is abundantly able to save the worst. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 2: Faith is Required

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam further developed and applied to Christ.

Old Testament Requirements for Atonement
As we have rightly looked to the Old Testament to define atonement, it is important to look there also for the requirements. The concept of substitutionary sacrifice for propitiating God’s wrath runs like blood throughout the body of Scripture. The idea originated when God sacrificed an animal to clothe the sinners in Eden with skins. As early as Cain and Abel, we find the principle that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). God required an acceptable sacrificial victim:

Gen. 4:3-5a ESV
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard…

As God prescribed in Lev. 10:3 (NKJV), “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy…” Before we can bring any other offering, our sin before a holy God must be acknowledged and dealt with on His terms. Continue reading

It’s Time for New Thinking on Atonement, Part 1: Definition

This eight-part series introduces the new perspective of Realistic Substitution, which unties the knots and answers the questions that previous theories could not. It is the ancient Realistic view of Adam[1] further developed and applied to Christ.

The Traditionalist contends that Jesus died for everyone. The Calvinist counters that since not all will be saved, not all were atoned for. Both assume that when Jesus died, atonement was—right then—made for sinners. Thus, the endless debate over whose sins were atoned for, and the contradiction of separating atonement from “application.” But this is not the biblical picture. Atonement is not in the shedding of blood, but in the application of the blood to the sinner.

1 John 1:7 ESV
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Rev. 7:14b ESV
14 …And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

When were your robes “washed in the blood of the Lamb?” What a vivid picture of spiritual realities! Our human spirit as our garment—our robe—as we stand before God. The stains of our guilt were evident. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” We come by faith to Christ, and His shed blood cleanses us from sin—making our robes white. This is atonement. But let’s expound it further… Continue reading

The Forgotten Theology of Rights & Revolution

Also published at SBC Voices.

By Ken Hamrick

Was the American Revolution a sinful undertaking? Were the “unalienable rights” written about in the Declaration of Independence not really “endowed by [our] Creator?” It seems to me that the Evangelical church may be forgetting the theological basis upon which our independent nation was established.

Triablogue featured a linked video of an interview of John MacArthur by Ben Shapiro, in which Rev. MacArthur denied that Christians ought ever to be involved in revolutions. Shapiro asks, (at 17:04), “…So, early on, you mentioned that you weren’t sure that the American Revolution is in consonance with biblical values. I was wondering if you could expound on that a little bit, ‘cause I think it’s an interesting idea.” MacArthur replied: Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Can a Loving God Determine to Save So Few?

By Ken Hamrick

This is the last post in this series, and concludes my attempt to provide a compelling articulation for the middle ground on which so many Southern Baptists stand—holding that God is the ultimate Determiner of destinies and that men have free will in the matter (but without going to the lengths of Calvinism or Traditionalism).


An important question, which goes to the heart of the Calvinism debate, was asked by Dr. Eric Hankins, at the 2017 Connect 316 Banquet:

On Calvinist principles, God could have foreordained the salvation of all just as easily, just as righteously, as He foreordained the salvation of only some. What else can such an act be called except “evil”? This is not a misrepresentation of Calvinism. I see no way around this implication. If there is one, Southern Baptists are going to need to hear it.[1]

There is a Biblical solution to this supposed implication, but it’s found only in the middle view. As we’ve already seen in this series, in issue after issue, Calvinists and Traditionalists have chosen a divisive simplicity over a deeper complexity. Any time that a doctrine is stripped of an inherent complexity by two opposing arguments, the dispute will not end until the complexity is restored. This issue is no different. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Unconditional Election is Not Restrictive

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

The posts in this series are not in any particular order; but it may be helpful, before reading this one, to read the following posts: “The 3rd Rail: Inability of the Will is Never Literal,” and, “The 3rd Rail: The Fallacy of a Restrictive Foreknowledge.”

As we have seen in previous posts in this series, God’s knowledge of all events from outside of time does not in any way restrict man’s freedom to freely act—that, in fact, we retroactively write God’s foreknowledge with every decision we make. Many may balk at this because it sounds so foreign to our linear, temporal thinking; but we cannot expect a timeless God to interact with our world in ways that we comfortably understand. If we dare to ask tough questions, then we ought not to be satisfied with pat answers, but should strive beyond comfort to glimpse the truth, even if it be unexpected. But this is not to say that God is not in control. Middlers affirm that God determines the destinies of men—we simply deny that He does this against or in spite of their free will. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: The Fallacy of a Restrictive Foreknowledge

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

One fallacy in the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists is the idea that God’s foreknowledge makes all events necessary. Such logic insists that, since God already knows what you will decide on a certain occasion, then it “would be impossible” for you to decide otherwise (since it is “impossible” for God’s foreknowledge to fail). Like most arguments provided by either side of this debate, it is overly simplistic and fails to consider the full reality.

God & Time

Time, like space, is part of the world that is transcended by its Creator. God is outside time—beyond its limitations and in full knowledge of events throughout the past and future. God created this world to be both temporal and spatial. Each moment is its own exclusive reality, but inseparable from the order and progression of events. In other words, the now of any moment is reality, past moments are no longer reality and future moments are not yet reality. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: God Does Good, Men Do Evil

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

It is possible to put so much emphasis on one Biblical principle that another equally important Biblical principle becomes obscured in the shadow, and eventually rejected. Baptist Centrists going all the way back to Andrew Fuller have recognized this problem in the teachings of our Necessarian (Calvinist) and Libertarian (Traditionalist & Arminian) brothers. This unbalanced emphasis is evident in how either side presents their support from Scripture. Fuller stated it well:

If I find two doctrines affirmed or implied in the Scriptures, which, to my feeble understanding, may seem to clash, I ought not to embrace the one and to reject the other because of their supposed inconsistency; for, on the same ground, another person might embrace that which I reject, and reject that which I embrace, and have equal Scriptural authority for his faith as I have for mine. Yet in this manner many have acted on both sides: some, taking the general precepts and invitations of Scripture for their standard, have rejected the doctrine of discriminating grace; others, taking the declarations of salvation as being a fruit of electing love for their standard, deny that sinners without distinction are called upon to believe for the salvation of their souls. Hence it is that we hear of Calvinistic and Arminian texts; as though these leaders had agreed to divide the Scriptures between them. The truth is, there are but two ways for us to take: one is to reject them both, and the Bible with them, on account of its inconsistencies; the other is to embrace them both, concluding that, as they are both revealed in the Scriptures, they are both true, and both consistent, and that it is owing to the darkness of our understandings that they do not appear so to us […][1]

Southern Baptists would do well to heed such wisdom. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Inability of the Will is Never Literal

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

We in the middle watch with dismay as justification for the extremes of one side is claimed to be based on the extremes of the other (in the ongoing Calvinism/Traditionalism debate). Why ignore the middle position? There are more than two choices here. In fact, both sides can actually come to near agreement on some issues, with a few minor adjustments—adjustments that bring them more in line with sound, Biblical truth. The issue of the inability of sinners is one in desperate need of common sense and Biblical clarity, which will provide some common ground for both sides—that is, for those who are willing to open their eyes and consider what the middle has to offer. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Exegetical Problems with Corporate Election

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

Dr. Eric Hankins, the leader of the Southern Baptist Traditionalist movement, sees election as strictly corporate:

The idea that God, in eternity past, elected certain individuals to salvation is a fundamental tenet of Calvinism and Arminianism. The interpretation of this biblical concept needs to be revised. Quite simply, when the Bible speaks of election in the context of God’s saving action, it is always referring to corporate election, God’s decision to have a people for Himself. When the election of individuals is raised in Scripture, it is always election to a purpose or calling within God’s plans for His people as a whole. In the OT, the writers understood election to be God’s choice of Israel, yet they also clearly taught that the benefits of corporate election could only be experienced by the individual Israelite (or the particular generation of Israelites) who responded faithfully to the covenant that had been offered to the whole nation. This trajectory within the OT is unassailable. It is reinforced in the intertestamental literature and is the basis for the way election is treated in the NT. The Bible, therefore, does not speak of God’s choice of certain individuals and not others for salvation. When the Bible does speak of the salvation of individuals, its central concept is “faith,” never “election.”[1]

He offers further, in a footnote, the following: Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: The Call to Believe is Not Without a Promise

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

Imagine how sinners would react if the gospel offered no promise of eternal life to those who believe. If there were no amazing grace, no opportunity for forgiveness, no loving heavenly Father to welcome us into His family, no Savior who gave His life to save us, but only a proclamation that God ought to be worshipped for who He is, and that sin must be punished, would anyone come to God in faith? If only hell awaited—even for believers—would any be willing to pray, “Not my will but Thine be done?” No one would come.

Why does God always provide a promise to go with a call to believe? Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Why the Middle View is Here to Stay

SBC Calvinianism-Arminianism Spectrum Chart Expanded

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

Calvinists and Traditionalists have been arguing, with varying degrees of amity and enmity, since the SBC was formed. But between these two (with slight overlap of both) is a less argumentative and more cooperative middle view. Because this middle view has commonalities with both Calvinism and Traditionalism, this group has little problem working with pastors and supporting missionaries from either end of the spectrum. However, this ability to cooperate leaves the middle position “out of sight and out of mind,” since we (I count myself among them) usually have little use for “in-house” theological debate*. When we encounter Calvinists who demand that God is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men, we give a hearty, “Amen!”–and Continue reading

Saved by the Blood of the Lamb

sbc-open-forum-avatar2Also published at SBC Voices

By Ken Hamrick

Throughout the Old Testament, a spotless animal was permitted to die in place of the sinner. Sin required death—either the death of the sinner or the death of an allowed substitute. No person in the Old Testament was qualified to be a sin sacrifice, as Jesus was, so animals were used as pictures to teach about the future Christ. These animals were, in various ways, pictured as being made one with the sinners in order to point to Christ being made one with believers. The first sacrifice was when God made clothing of animal skin to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, whose sin incurred their nakedness and need of clothing. This was such a beautiful picture of substitutionary sacrifice! Imagine them wearing the skin of this animal, which gave its life to pay for their sin. What a picture of union between sinner and sacrifice. The skin from the animal’s back was now on their back—they were walking around in its skin as if they had become the animal; while it had died for their sin as if it had become them. Continue reading

Realism & Retroactive Identity in Christ

By Ken Hamrick

John Murray’s treatment of sanctification, particularly his essay, “The Agency in Definitive Sanctification,” makes some surprising inroads toward grasping the believer’s retroactive, realistic identification with Christ.[1] He does not go as far as to acknowledge that the reality of the spiritual union of Christ in the believer brings a title to all that Christ accomplished just as if the believer had accomplished it. Instead, he prefers to call it a mysterious “divine constitution.” But he does recognize the “tension” between the historical objectivity of Christ dying and rising again, and the fact of the believer subjectively dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ—and that the two are often spoken of in the New Testament as if they were one and the same events. The believer did not die to sin until coming to Christ in faith; and yet, the power of that dying to sin is firmly grounded in the once-and-for-all quality of Christ’s death—as if the historically objective death of Christ somehow became an historically objective fact of the believer’s life once he came to Christ. Continue reading

Realism & The Fall: A Response to Steve Farish

KH Logo

By Ken Hamrick

The Winter 2017 issue of The Founders Journal contains a brief, informative article on Original Sin, by Steve Farish, entitled, “The Fall Brought Condemnation and Corruption.”[1] To his credit, he does not present only the representationist “party line,” but also tries to present the realist side and its problems. This is commendable. But as a realist, I would like to engage Mr. Farish on some of his points. The realist perspective has much more to offer than he has presented.

From the start, Mr. Farish defines the realistic view in a way that no realist would: “The Realistic View […] understands Paul in Romans 5:12 to mean that all human beings were physically present seminally in Adam at the time of his sin […], so that when Adam sinned, all human beings literally and physically sinned in him.” The terms, “physically present,” and, “physically sinned,” utterly miss the point of the realistic view.  Continue reading

Admonitions to a Disappointed Young-Earther

This article was also published at SBC Voices.

by Ken Hamrick

Recently, I came across a paper in the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry, written by Dr. Kenneth Keathley in 2013, entitled, “Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther.”[1] The piece is well done and gives an informative summary of the various arguments and supposed problems of the Young-Earth Creationism movement. After reading it, I must say that I’m just as disappointed as Dr. Keathley, but for different reasons. I’m disappointed that the enemy, who is delegitimizing the truth-claims of Christianity by undermining the authority of Scripture, is often met with so little resistance and so much well-meant, reasonable-sounding cooperation. I’m disappointed that not even the best among us are immune from a skeptical evidentialism. And I’m disappointed that one so capable of competent reason would falter in thinking that evidence has bearing on the question of a recent miraculous creation.

Continue reading

Shedding Light on the Length of Pre-Sun Creation Days: A Text-Based Approach

by Ken Hamrick

In the ongoing debate over the Genesis creation account, one supposed problem that seems particularly troublesome for many is the question of the length of a day prior to the creation of the sun (on Day 4). Since the sun is the means by which a day is usually measured, then it is objected by Old-Earthers that we are left without any sure understanding of what God might possibly mean by the term, “day,” when it is used to describe the first three days of creation. Here’s the text:

Genesis 1 ESV
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Continue reading

Racial Reconciliation: Why Most Whites Just Don’t Get it

by Ken Hamrick

There’s something insincere about any repentant admission that says, “Yes, I’m guilty—and so are you.” I do not admit to being a racist, and neither do I think most Americans—white or otherwise—are. Many are racists, but most—or even, all? Contrary to the popular Evangelical party line these days, that cannot be established. It is not enough to point out that racism is sin, and as such, it comes from the fall of man, which affects us all. All are sinners, but not all are racists.

Some good Christian black leader, whose article I’ve since lost track of, has explained that black people view things from a racial/ethnic solidarity—that when one is unjustly treated, all feel the pain. This, I think, illuminates the differences in thinking and explains why most white people just don’t get it when it comes to racial reconciliation. Continue reading

Unwillingness & Inability: A Summary of Andrew Fuller’s Solution

By Ken Hamrick

The theology of Andrew Fuller, as set out in his greatest work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, is centrally located between those Calvinists who see sinners as walking corpses—no more able to believe than a dead body is able to raise itself from the dead—and those of the other side who see sinners as fully enabled by God’s grace to choose (their will being the determining factor). To Fuller, men are able to believe, but will nonetheless remain unwilling until God does a supernatural work of grace to reverse their unwillingness.

Regeneration only causes a man to do what he otherwise could have and should have done but refused. This puts the feet of the universal gospel offer on much more Biblical ground, and removes much of the repugnance of the Calvinist doctrine. The gospel is to be preached to all men because all men do have the ability—and the warrant—to embrace it; and that gospel would save any who do—even the unelect if they would but be willing.

Continue reading

When Did the Wise Men Appear? A Christmas Chronology

From my archives…

by Ken Hamrick

The Wise Men are part of most nativity scenes, and many people assume that they arrived while Jesus was still in the manger, soon after His birth.  Many others, seeking a more accurate chronology, note that Herod killed baby boys who were two years old and under (according to the time that the wise men had told him), and conclude that they arrived two years after the birth of Jesus.  I suggest a different approach.  If we let the two gospel accounts, in Matthew and Luke, speak for themselves without any assumed contradictions, we can arrive at a precise, Biblical timeline of events.  This will require that we assume that the accounts in Matthew and Luke fit together, each supplying information that the other leaves out.  Let’s look at the Scripture. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Polygamist at Your Altar: What Will Your Counsel Be?

by Ken Hamrick

As soon as homosexual marriage becomes legalized and common-place in all fifty states, you can bet that challenges to anti-polygamy laws will shortly follow. Riding the momentum of the moral revolution, polygamy will be easier to legalize than homosexual marriage. Evangelicals, such as Southern Baptists, should take the time now to sort through this issue and be prepared. What would you say to a repentant, believing man at your altar, asking Christ to save him—and who just happens to have three wives (all by legal marriage)?

The common knee-jerk reaction is to tell him to divorce all but the first wife. But is that counsel Biblically sound? Continue reading

Helping Old-Earth Creationists Face the Supernatural Question

SBC Open Forum

by Ken Hamrick

Instead of arguing for or against the scientific evidence, or arguing the merits of possible exegetical ways to reconcile Scripture with a billions-of-years chronology, I propose that—for the sake of argument-–we eliminate the evidence question all together. We can do this by accepting all the scientific claims at face value, and still insisting on a recent supernatural creation out of nothing. In other words, we would not posit a young earth, but an old earth that was recently created by divine fiat. When God creates out of nothing, He is not limited to creating things “new.” God created Adam and Eve as physically mature adults and not as infants. He created mature, fruit-bearing trees for immediate food. “He made the stars also”—and made a universe with mature light-trails already existing so that the stars were already visible. All of these imply a time-consuming natural process that was well under way at the first moment of creation. God chose to create not at the beginning of these natural processes, but somewhere in the middle—as if these processes had been going on long before the moment of creation.

Why would God create the world in such a way as to leave no scientific evidence whatsoever of His creating, but leave plenty of evidence that natural processes predated the recent creation found in the natural reading of the Biblical account? Quite simply, God created in such a way that He would not be found by scientific evidence, but only by faith. This is not to say that the created world does not point to God and reveal a Creator to those who are willing to believe, but only that God and His creating cannot be established by any materialistic evidence. There are no “miracle particles” that science can measure to determine that creation by fiat occurred. Any unbelievers who insist on scientific evidence for God’s existence or His creating will find only natural processes. God requires faith. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles

An Addendum, incorporating the Rejoinder, was added, 11-25-2014.

by Ken Hamrick
[13,200 words…] The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.

Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,”[1] Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists.[2] As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding.

Continue reading

Does Your Anchor Hold Within the Veil?

Also posted at SBC Open Forum and at SBC Voices.
By Ken Hamrick
Heb. 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…” (NKJV)
Col. 1:27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (NKJV)
1 Cor. 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (NKJV)

To hear that someone we thought of as a brother in the Lord—a pastor, a teacher of sound doctrine and a contender for the faith—has now renounced his faith… well, it weighs on my soul, as I’m sure it does with many of you. So we bring this burden before the Lord, praying for this man’s salvation. But we can’t help asking with exasperation, how could this happen?!  Continue reading

Toward Theological Reconciliation: Atonement

Also posted at SBC Open Forum and at SBC Voices.

by Ken Hamrick

What you will find below is neither an argument for the Calvinist view nor one for the Traditionalist view of atonement. Both ends of the spectrum have been asking the wrong questions, and the best perspective transcends that old debate. By emphasizing that Christ stood in our place, the debate has perpetually turned on the question of whose place Christ stood in—all or only some? But what has been missed by such an emphasis is that Christ stands in us—and until He stands within a sinner through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, nothing that He did is considered to have been in that sinner’s place. Christ’s death was not an immediate transaction of atonement regarding the sins of those for whom His death was intended to atone, but is instead a universally suitable, one-for-one substitution that must be applied through spiritual union with Him by faith. Continue reading

Serious Reservations About the Global Faith Forum

Also posted at SBC Open Forum.

by Ken Hamrick

The 2013 Global Faith Forum (GFF) was concluded Nov. 16, and was held at the NorthWood Church in Keller, TX, where the senior pastor, Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., founded and leads the movement. I was unaware of such a forum until Dr. Joel Rainey, Director of Missions at Mid-Maryland Baptist Association and a panelist at the GFF, published his glowing support in a recent article on SBC Voices, entitled, “Talk With the World, Not Just About It: Reflections on the Global Faith Forum.” I found Dr. Rainey’s article to be somewhat troubling, and I registered my initial objections in the comments section. In the discussion that followed, I was driven to look further into this movement and its teachings.

Hoping to find that my misgivings were unjustified, I instead found them reinforced rather frequently as I watched many of the videos of the forum that are available Continue reading

Young Earth Creationism and Presuppositionalism: A Response to J.W. Wartick

by Ken Hamrick

“Young Earth” creationism (YEC), as part of the Christian faith, stands on certain presuppositions, such as the existence of God and the divine, verbal inspiration of Scripture. The kind of apologetic argument that acknowledges that such presuppositions are assumed, and does not attempt to prove them, is presuppositional apologetics. Continue reading

Compatibilism: A More Immanent Grace

by Ken Hamrick

Immanence is mostly forgotten as an attribute of God and a method by which He works in the world. Calvinists and Traditionalists argue over the limits of God’s transcendent acts of grace and the limits of men without such transcendent grace. Both sides, it seems, have a presupposed agreement to frame the debate around a transcendent grace, while the solution sits dust-covered in the theological closet. Continue reading

Insurmountable Problems with the Angel-Human Hybrid Theory of the Nephilim

This is an article from my archives of 2011.

Ordinarily, I would avoid topics such as this, which are a kind of “tabloid theology” for those obsessed with such things.  But this particular issue has grown in such popularity and its speculative errors are propagated with such tenacious authority that a voice of reason is desperately needed.  Continue reading

Who is Guilty of Adam’s Sin? A Centrist Response to Adam Harwood

Also posted at SBC Open Forum and at SBC Voices.

by Ken Hamrick

Adam Harwood spoke at the 2013 John 3:16 Conference, and the paper he presented there is available on the conference e-book at SBC Today. Like Dr. Harwood, I deny that anyone is born condemned for Adam’s sin; but unlike Dr. Harwood, I find in Scripture such a real union of mankind in Adam as to justify the inheriting of all the temporal penalties for Adam’s sin, including the spiritual death and depravity that all are born into Continue reading

Justification is Grounded on Union with Christ

The meaning of the word, justification, is clearly forensic (legal). But the deeper question remains: is that forensic verdict an accurate and true assessment of the believer when united to Christ, or is it a nominal and putative designation of a recategorization within God’s mind alone? The answer is found in our union with Christ. Continue reading

We’re Not ‘Sixers’

Overheard at a doctrinal debate near you: Continue reading

Perseverance of the Saints v Eternal Security

Also posted at SBC Open Forum.

The Baptist doctrine of Eternal Security is often confused with the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, especially since there are many Calvinist Baptists. While the two doctrines are similar and share the same end result, there are important differences. Eternal Security is the doctrine that affirms that once a sinner comes to genuine, repentant faith in Christ, God responds to that faith by doing that which irrevocably saves that one. God justifies the believer, and then seals the believer by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, indissolubly uniting the believer to Christ and forever identifying him with Christ’s righteous life and atoning death. While such irrevocable salvation does not depend on continuing works of righteousness and limitations on how far the believer may fall into sin, the reality of Christ within the believer will inevitably result in continuing good works and limitations on how far the believer will fall into sin.

Continue reading

Expanded SBC Calvinism-Arminianism Spectrum Chart

Expanded SBC Calvinism-Arminianism Spectrum Chart

  • The chart is intended to represent the spectrum, with those doctrines that are least likely to be held by Calvinists at the top, and those least likely to be held by Traditionalists at the bottom, but with incremental steps toward the middle mapped out. Continue reading

Why Do We Die?

The answer to the question of why we die is one of fundamental importance to Christianity. Death can only be correctly understood when traced to the first sin of man in the garden of Eden. Continue reading

God is Unavoidably in the Mix

It’s not as simple as God choosing men based on His foreknowledge of their choice to accept His grace and gospel. God’s foreknowledge of men’s choices and actions cannot be divorced from His own planned actions. Continue reading

What is a ‘Christian’ Nation?

Any nation begun by Christians as a Christian nation — even if founded firmly on “Christian” principles — will inevitably fall away from that Christian foundation and cease being a Christian nation within but a few generations. Continue reading

The Flesh of Christ and of Men

There is a subtle error, found in many believersand often zealously defended as if it were a test of orthodoxy. It is the belief that Christ did not have the same kind of mortal body that we have, but instead, had an immortal body even from birth Continue reading

Beyond Traditionalism: Reclaiming Southern Baptist Soteriology

Also Posted at SBC Open Forum.

By Ken Hamrick

[15,400 words…] In May of 2012, Eric Hankins published A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation[1]. It has created quite an uproar. The statement does not provide any real depth of argument, and my initial impression was that it was strongly leaning toward Arminianism, with the exception of eternal security. However, looking more closely into the views of Dr. Hankins, one finds that his earlier paper, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward a Baptist Soteriology[2], is the basis for the recent Statement. Continue reading

How Do We Know the Bible is True?

How do we know that the Bible is true? How do we know that God exists? Continue reading

The Biblical Argument for Age of Accountability

Revised 12/24/2012 to include an exegesis of Romans 5:12-21

Traditionally, the Baptist idea of an age of accountability has been denigrated as solely based on emotion and held in contradiction to the supposedly insurmountable scriptural evidence for inherited condemnation.  While I will not add anything, in the pages below, as to exactly how God redeems these little ones, my goal is to show the error of the audacious claim that Scripture is silent and devoid of any support for their salvation, and defeat the false claim that Scripture teaches their condemnation. It is surprising how much Scripture does have to say. Continue reading

The Good Shepherd and the Sheep of John 10

I decided to take a fresh look at John 10 and this sheep thing… What I found was surprising. Continue reading