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Traducianism

From Academic Kids

In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul, in one of the biblical uses of word to mean the immaterial aspect of man (Genesis 35:18, Matthew 10:28). Traducianism means that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of man. I.e. an individual's soul is derived from the souls of the individual's parents. This implies that only the souls of Adam and Eve were created directly by God, in contrast with creationism, which holds that all souls were so created.


Biblical support

While none of the Church fathers actively advocated Traducianism (i.e, the parental generation of souls), some of them -- most notably St. Augustine, at the outbreak of Pelagianism -- began to doubt the creation by god of individual souls. There was never any doubt among the Church fathers as to the created origin of the souls of Adam and Eve, and to incline to the opposite opinion, which seemed to facilitate the explanation of the transmission of original sin. Thus, writing to St. Jerome, St. Augustine said, "If that opinion of the creation of new souls is not opposed to this established article of faith let it be also mine; if it is, let it not be thine." Theodorus Abucara, Macarius, and Gregory of Nyssa favored this view.

Amongst the Scholastics there were no defenders of Traducianism. Hugh of St. Victor and Alexander of Hales alone characterize Creationism as the more probable opinion. All the other Schoolmen hold it as certain and differ only in regard to the censure that should be attached to the opposite error. Accordingly, Peter Lombard asserted, "The Catholic Church teaches that souls are created at their infusion into the body." St. Thomas is more emphatic: "It is heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted by process of generation."

There was a diversity of opinions among the remaining Scholastics. Some held that the soul of a child is produced by the soul of the parent just as the body is generated by the parent-body. Others maintained that all souls are created apart and are then united with their respective bodies, either by their own volition or by the command and action of God. Others again, declared that the soul in the moment of its creation is infused into the body. Though for a time these several views were upheld, and though it was doubtful which came nearest the truth, the Church subsequently condemned the first two and approved the third. Gregory of Valencia spoke of "Generationism" as "certainly erroneous." While there are no explicit definitions authoritatively put forth by the Catholic Church that would warrant calling the doctrine of creationism de fide, nevertheless, there can be no doubt as to which view has been favored by ecclesiastical authority.

That the soul sinned in its pre-existent state, and on that account was incarcerated in the body, the Catholic Church regards as a fiction which has been repeatedly condemned. Divested of this fiction, the theory that the soul exists prior to its infusion into the organism, while not explicitly reprobated, is obviously opposed to the doctrine of the Church, according to which souls are multiplied correspondingly with the multiplication of human organisms. But whether the rational soul is infused into the organism at conception, as the modern opinion holds, or some weeks subsequently, as the Scholastics suppose, is an open question with theologians.

Supporters of traducianism present arguments from the Bible such as the following"

  • Semitic Totality Concept: the Bible teaches that the body (the material aspect of man) and soul are a unity. Therefore then the body and soul of the individual must begin simultaneously.
  • Begetting includes the image and likeness of God (Genesis 5:3), but since God is spirit, this must mean the immaterial aspect of man.
  • Godís creation is finished (Genesis 2:2), thus no new souls are created directly, but are instead transmitted by natural generation just as the body is.
  • God created all things "very good" (Gen. 1:31), yet the Bible teaches that after the fall, all are sinful at birth (Job 14:1–4, 15:14, Psalm 58:3, John 3:6) and indeed from conception (Psalm 51:5). Since God would not have created something sinful, it follows that souls are not created directly but are generated.
  • Gen. 46:26 teaches that souls are already present in the loins.


Supporters

Traducianism was supported by Tertullian, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Gregory of Nyssa, many in the early Western church (but Roman Catholicism is creationist), the Lutheran Church, and some Reformed theologians such as Augustus H. Strong and William G.T. Shedd (although most Reformed theologians support creationism).

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