Traducianism is one of two biblically plausible views on the origin of the human soul (immaterial nature, spirit) following God's initial creation and mankind's Fall. Traducianism is the theory that human beings are propagated as whole beings, both materially and immaterially (including both body and soul). Creationism, on the other hand, is the view that God specially creates a new soul ex nihilo when a human being is conceived. Both views have their strengths and weaknesses and both have been held by notable theologians of the past.
A third view, which lacks biblical support, proposes that God created all human souls at the same time, prior to Genesis 1, and attaches a soul to a human being at the moment of conception. In other words, all the souls that will ever be were created and pre-existent before Adam. This view is not generally accepted as an orthodox option.
"Traducianism was held by Tertullian and many Westerns; since the Reformation by Lutherans; also by the Eastern church. Roman Catholics and most Reformed theologians are creationists, though Shedd and Strong favor traducianism. Modern studies in heredity and psychosomatic unity are indecisive, but can easily be interpreted on the traducianist side."^^
Support for Traducianism is as follows:
- In Genesis 2:7, God breathed the breath of life into Adam, causing Adam to become a “living soul.” Scripture nowhere records God performing this action again.
- Adam had a son in his own likeness (Genesis 5:3). Adam’s descendants seem to be “living souls” without God breathing into them.
- Genesis 2:2-3 seems to indicate that God ceased His creative work.
- Adam's sin affects all men – both physically and spiritually – this makes sense if the body and soul both come from the parents.
The weakness of Traducianism is that it is unclear how an immaterial soul can be generated from another soul.
Notable proponents of the Traducionist view include: W. G. T. Shedd
Creationism was held by many early church fathers and also has scriptural support:
- Scripture differentiates the origin of the soul from the origin of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1; Hebrews 12:9).
- If God creates each individual soul at the moment it is needed, the separation of soul and body is maintained.
The weakness of Creationism is that it has God continually creating new human souls, while Genesis 2:2-3 indicates that God ceased creating. Also, since the entire human existence, body, soul, and spirit, are infected by sin – if God creates a new soul for every human being, how is that soul then infected with sin?
Notable proponents of the Creationist view include: A. A. Hodge
To be added
- Traducianism, by Gordon Clark
- Extent of Adam's Parental Relation, by Samuel J. Baird (a defense of the traducianist view)
- Creationism or Traducianism?, by Francis Turretin (a defense of the creationist view)
- Turretin on Traducianism, Refuted, by Ken Hamrick
- Pulling Traducianism out of the Shedd (PDF), by Oliver Crisp
- Traducianism (Catholic Encyclopedia)