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December 03, 2006 Q & A

Creationism vs. Traducianism

Question:

Does the OPC take a stand on the origin of the soul? I would like to know more about creationism versus traducianism. Thanks.

Answer:

Let's start with some definitions from Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology, II, 65-76: "The common doctrine of the Church, and especially of the Reformed theologians, has ... been [creationism, i.e.] that the soul of the child is not generated or derived from the parents, but that it is created by the immediate agency of God...." "Traducianists on the one hand deny that the soul is created; and on the other hand, they affirm that it is produced by the law of generation, being as truly derived from the parents as the body."

I do not believe there is an official position in the OPC. Louis Berkhof favored creationism as it seemed to have slightly better biblical support, and that it did not "endanger the sinlessness of Jesus" as much as traducianism. (See his Summary of Christian Doctrine, pg. 68-69.) Francis Turretin and Charles Hodge also favored creationism, whereas W.G.T. Shedd favored traducianism.

I personally could argue either side. As Berkhof points out, the Bible says nothing about the creation of Eve's soul. Furthermore, a good argument can be made that creationism would violate the principle that God has ceased creating. I would be more comfortable granting an exception to Christ's incarnation since he was conceived supernaturally (a new creation event) by the Holy Spirit as the Westminster Confession and Apostle's Creed affirm. (See Luke 2.)

In the end, I agree with Berkhof, that both points have their strengths and weaknesses. Most Reformed scholars will hold to creationism, but not all.

Please feel free to follow up if you wish.

 

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