Shedding traducianism: Oliver Crisp’s analysis of Shedd’s traducianism in light of Herman Bavinck 2018-06-14

Analysis of questions raised by Crisp using Herman Bavinck as a foil

  1. Ask Mr. Religion
    O'Donnell's paper is a cogent examination of important questions raised by Crisp and others in the creationism versus traducianism intramural debate within the Reformed theological tradition.

    I am at a loss to see how traducianism can provide a proper account, in Christian terms, for the origin of the soul.

    - the soul of a newborn preexists in its parents (metaphysical preexistence)

    - the newborn's soul is present potentially within normal reproductive capacities of the father or mother (material preexistence)

    - the parents somehow create the child's soul (smuggling in creationism by the parents)

    For example, how exactly does hereditary transmission of sin (a moral quality, not a substance) work with traducianism?

    From discussions of the topic, what appears to be getting lost among participants is, as Brakel and others aver—contrary to what is being implied by the God creates something not good cavils—that God does not first create a soul apart from the body in order then to introduce it into the body from without, but at the proper time and in a manner incomprehensible to us God elevates the existing psychic life to the level of a higher human spiritual life.

    As Bavinck argued, explicated in O'Donnell's paper, it is not that God creates a pure soul and imposes it upon an impure body, supposing that sin is a substance.
    It is rather to be understood, by the idea that the soul, though called into being as a rational spiritual entity by a creative activity of God, was nevertheless preformed in the psychic life of the fetus, that is, in the life of parents and ancestors, and thus receives its being, not from above or outside but under the conditions of, and amid, the sin-nexus that oppresses the human race." (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 584)​

    Further, the claim can be made that traducianism devolves into fatalism:

    "Physical descent alone would have resulted in a situation where the sin we received from Adam would be a deterministic fate, a process of nature, a sickness that had nothing to do with our will and hence did not imply any guilt on our part. That is not what sin is. Nor is the righteousness that Christ as the last Adam confers on us of that nature. Both the sin and the righteousness presuppose a federal relation between humanity as a whole and its heads.​

    "The world, the earth, humanity are one organic whole. They stand, they fall, they are raised up together. The traces of God (vestigia Dei) in creation and the image of God in humanity may be mangled and mutilated by the sin of the first Adam; but by the last Adam and his re-creating grace they are all the more resplendently restored to their destiny." (op.cit, pp. 587-588).​

    Given the distinct federal theology of the Reformed tradition, it is difficult to see how traducianism can be held within the federalistic view of the Reformed. Curiously, Shedd's work in support of traducianism is often cited as leading to a watershed moment for adopters of the view, despite the fact that Shedd was not a federal view proponent.

    The attached paper (do not ignore the footnotes) is worth reviewing and considering in light of the creationism versus traducianism debate.