Traducianism, Soul Creationism and the Nature of Christ

One question that has perplexed the Christian church over the centuries has been the issue of how the rational soul is passed down from parent to child.

Starting with the assumption that human beings are in fact composed of a material body AND an immaterial, rational soul, two general positions have been suggested:

1) Soul Creationism – God creates a new soul for every new person conceived.

2) Traducianism – there is a mechanisms by which the newborn soul is derived from the soul of the parents in the same way as the body.

This question was further complicated by the idea of Original Sin: the fact that the fallen human condition, or depravity, has been passed down to us from Adam. If God creates a new soul for every individual, does He create that soul already fallen/depraved? If so, this would mean that God would be actively creating something evil.

But if the formation of human souls is passed down from Adam without further divine involvement, does this mean that Christ would also inherit a fallen soul?

Regardless of which approach was taken, one thing everyone agreed on: Christ’s humanity could not have inherited a depraved, fallen soul. Thus, if Soul Creationism was sided with, Christ’s soul had to be created altogether different than everyone else’s (except Adam and Eve). If Traducianism was sided with, then the Christ event had to be the one instance of Soul Creationism (a break from the typical transference of depraved souls from parent to child).

Other suggested possibilities seem not to have been taken very seriously:

Apollinarianism – the idea that Christ, unlike everyone else, did not have a human soul at all but that His divinity replaced the soul altogether and was connected instead directly to His physical body. This idea was declared as heresy at the first Council of Constantinople because it made Christ into only half human.

– The idea that each soul was created perfect but was defiled only by its connection with the body. This also seems not to have played a major part in the discussion, probably due to its Gnostic implications (another early heresy).

Thus, the discussion mainly revolved around Traducianism (as supported by church fathers like Augustine and later revived by the reformers,) and Soul Creationism (as supported by the Scholastics,) and has continued this way unto our day. Again, the one thing both sides agreed on, was that for Christ to have inherited an evil, depraved soul like the rest of us, would be absolute heresy.

With this background in mind, Walter Martin began researching the writings of the SDA church in the 1950’s for his upcoming book on cults. He was horrified to find that Adventists believed Jesus took upon Himself a Fallen nature. This clearly indicated to him that Adventists could not possibly be telling the truth regarding their belief in the divinity of Christ as no sane person would believe that the divine nature could be connected to a fallen/depraved/evil human soul.

He did however have the decency, unlike his predecessors, to contact the Adventist church directly and give them a chance to explain themselves. The Adventist representatives he met with, recognizing to some degree the seriousness of the matter from Martin’s perspective, assured him that Adventists did in fact fully accept Christ’s divinity and that the issue of the Nature of Christ was only a remnant of olden days and was being dealt with. They began to follow through with their assertion by publishing corrective statements in church publications. Other Adventists however saw in this an attempt to depart from foundational Adventist teachings in order to gain acceptance by the Evangelicals. And, a controversy ensued that has divided the church to this very day.

And this is a problem because today, two distinct versions of Adventism exist that are as fundamentally different as Protestantism and Catholicism. And, the reason the traditional church has been unable, and is still unable, to do anything about this new development, is because it has been divided over this and related issues for over 60 years.

However, one thing that no one seems to have recognized (not the historic Christian church, not Walter Martin, not his Evangelical counterparts since that time, not those Adventists holding to a historic view of the Nature of Christ nor those Adventists who believe in Christ’s unfallen nature,) is that this entire conundrum stems from one single unsubstantiated presupposition: that human beings are composed of a material body and an immaterial, rational soul.

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