« Prev 4. Concluding Remarks. Next »

§ 4. Concluding Remarks.

Such are the leading arguments on both sides of this question. In reference to this discussion it may be remarked, —

1. That while it is incumbent on us strenuously to resist any doctrine which assumes the divisibility, and consequent materiality, of the human soul, or which leads to the conclusion that the human 73nature of our blessed Lord was contaminated with sin, yet it does not become us to be wise above that which is written. We may confess that generation, the production of a new individual of the human race, is an inscrutable mystery. But this must be said of the transmission of life in all its forms. If theologians and philosophers would content themselves with simply denying the creation of the soul ex nihilo, without insisting on the division of the substance of the soul or the identity of essence in all human beings, the evil would not be so great. Some do attempt to be thus moderate, and say, with Frohschammer,9898Ueber den Ursprung der Seelen, Munich, 1854, p. 83, note 1.Generare ist nicht ein traducere, sondern ein secundäres, ein creatürliches creare.” They avail themselves of the analogy often referred to, “cum flamma accendit flammam, neque tota flamma accendens transit in accensam neque pars ejus in eam descendit: ita anima parentum generat animam filii, ei nihil de cedat.” It must be confessed, however, that in this view the theory loses all its value as a means of explaining the propagation of sin.

3. It is obviously most unreasonable and presumptuous, as well as dangerous, to make a theory as to the origin of the soul the ground of a doctrine so fundamental to the Christian system as that of original sin. Yet we see theologians, ancient and modern, boldly asserting that if their doctrine of derivation, and the consequent numerical sameness of substance in all men, be not admitted, then original sin is impossible. That is, that nothing can be true, no matter how plainly taught in the word of God, which they cannot explain. This is done even by those who protest against introducing philosophy into theology, utterly unconscious, as it would seem, that they themselves occupy, quoad hoc, the same ground with the rationalists. They will not believe in hereditary depravity unless they can explain the mode of its transmission. There can be no such thing, they say, as hereditary depravity unless the soul of the child is the same numerical substance as the soul of the parent. That is, the plain assertions of the Scriptures cannot be true unless the most obscure, unintelligible, and self-contradictory, and the least generally received philosophical theory as to the constitution of man and the propagation of the race be adopted. No man has a right to hang the millstone of his philosophy around the neck of the truth of God.

3. There is a third cautionary remark which must not be omitted. The whole theory of traducianism is founded on the assumption that God, since the original creation, operates only through means. Since the “sixth day the Creator has, in this world, exerted no 74strictly creative energy. He rested from the work of creation upon the seventh day, and still rests.”9999Shedd's History of Christian Doctrine, vol. ii. p. 13. The continued creation of souls is declared by Delitzsch100100Delitzsch's Biblische Psychologie, p. 79. 2 to be inconsistent with God's relation to the world. He now produces only mediately, i.e., through the operation of second causes. This is a near approach to the mechanical theory of the universe, which supposes that God, having created the world and endowed his creatures with certain faculties and properties, leaves it to the operation of these second causes. A continued superintendence of Providence may be admitted, but the direct exercise of the divine efficiency is denied. What, then, becomes of the doctrine of regeneration? The new birth is not the effect of second causes. It is not a natural effect produced by the influence of the truth or the energy of the human will. It is due to the immediate exercise of the almighty power of God. God's relation to the world is not that of a mechanist to a machine, nor such as limits Him to operating only through second causes. He is immanent in the world. He sustains and guides all causes. He works constantly through them, with them, and without them. As in the operations of writing or speaking there is with us the union and combined action of mechanical, chemical, and vital forces, controlled by the presiding power of mind; and as the mind, while thus guiding the operations of the body, constantly exercises its creative energy of thought, so God, as immanent in the world, constantly guides all the operations of second causes, and at the same time exercises uninterruptedly his creative energy. Life is not the product of physical causes. We know not that its origin is in any case due to any cause other than the immediate power of God. If life be the peculiar attribute of immaterial substance, it may be produced agreeably to a fixed plan by the creative energy of God whenever the conditions are present under which He has purposed it should begin to be. The organization of a seed, or of the embryo of an animal, so far as it consists of matter, may be due to the operation of material causes guided by the providential agency of God, while the vital principle itself is due to his creative power. There is nothing in this derogatory to the divine character. There is nothing in it contrary to the Scriptures. There is nothing in it out of analogy with the works and working of God. It is far preferable to the theory which either entirely banishes God from the world, or restricts his operations to a concursus with second causes. The objection to creationism that 75it does away with the doctrine of miracles, or that it supposes God to sanction every act with which his creative power is connected, does not seem to have even plausibility. A miracle is not simply an event due to the immediate agency of God, for then every act of conversion would be a miracle. But it is an event, occurring in the external world, which involves the suspension or counteracting of some natural law, and which can be referred to nothing but the immediate power of God. The origination of life, therefore, is neither in nature nor design a miracle, in the proper sense of the word. This exercise of God's creative energy, in connection with the agency of second causes, no more implies approbation than the fact that He gives and sustains the energy of the murderer proves that He sanctions murder.

4. Finally this doctrine of traducianism is held by those who contend for the old realistic doctrine that humanity is a generic substance or life. The two theories, however, do not seem to harmonize, and their combination produces great confusion and obscurity. According to the one theory the soul of the child is derived from the soul of its parents; according to the other theory there is no derivation. One magnet is not, or need not be derived from another; one Leyden jar is not derived from another; nor one galvanic battery from another. There is no derivation in the case. The general forces of magnetism, electricity and galvanism, are manifested in connection with given material combinations. And if a man be the manifestation of the general principle of humanity in connection with a given human body, his human nature is not derived from his immediate progenitors.

The object of this discussion is not to arrive at certainty as to what is not clearly revealed in Scripture, nor to explain what is, on all sides, admitted to be inscrutable, but to guard against the adoption of principles which are in opposition to plain and important doctrines of the word of God. If traducianism teaches that the soul admits of abscission or division; or that the human race are constituted of numerically the same substance; or that the Son of God assumed into personal union with himself the same numerical substance which sinned and fell in Adam; then it is to be rejected as both false and dangerous. But if, without pretending to explain everything, it simply asserts that the human race is propagated in accordance with the general law which secures that like begets like; that the child derives its nature from its parents through the operation of physical laws, attended and controlled by the agency of God, whether directive or creative, as in all other 76cases of the propagation of living creatures, it may be regarded as an open question, or matter of indifference. Creationism does not necessarily suppose that there is any other exercise of the immediate power of God in the production of the human soul, than such as takes place in the production of life in other cases. It only denies that the soul is capable of division, that all mankind are composed of numerically the same essence and that Christ assumed numerically the same essence that sinned in Adam.

77
« Prev 4. Concluding Remarks. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |