What does the statement “Like father like son” mean? Of course it means we are like our parents in some ways. We inherited something from mom and dad. What did we inherit? Perhaps our looks or the lack of looks. Mannerisms. Personality. I was in Cracker Barrel once and was reading some of the signs for sale. One read, “I child proofed the house, but they still got in.” Another read, “If it were not for coffee, I would not have any personality.”
We inherited our physical and immaterial soul from our parents. At least that is one view of three major views. The three major views are the preexistence of soul view: the creationist view which is not to be confused with the creationist view of the universe and man, and the traducianist view.
I. The Preexistence of the Soul View
Church father, Origen, believed these preexistent souls fell into sin and this is the reason for the differences in persons now. “Origen looks upon man’s present material existence with all its inequalities and irregularities, physical and moral, as a punishment for sins committed in a previous existence” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 196). A. H. Strong mentions Polanus’ teaching that God gives souls to boys at forty days and to girls at eighty days after conception (Strong, Systematic Theology, p.491). This view is similar to the reincarnation in Eastern religions. This view cannot be true because Rom. 5:12 teaches that sin began with Adam not preexistent souls. Otherwise these preexistent souls were not sinners. Also this view denies the doctrine of eternal punishment for individuals who die without Christ (Luke 16:19-31).
II. The Creationist View of the Soul
This is view commonly held to by Reformed theologians. Robert Reymond, who believes in Traduciansim, is an exception. This is Charles Hodge’s position. Here are some of Hodges arguments. This view is consistent with the Scriptures such as Ecc. 12:7 “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” In Isa. 57:16, God refers to “the souls which I made.” In the chastening passage of Heb. 12, the author writes: “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” Another argument from Hodge is that Christ’s sinlessness could only be true if His soul were created (Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, pp.70-76).
In response to Hodge’s first argument that these passages teach that God created souls, we would say that God created each person’s body and soul indirectly by means of parents. Even Wayne Grudem who advocates creationism says “that God usually acts through secondary causes. Even if we say that God is the ‘Father of spirits’ and the Creator of every human soul, just as he is the Maker and Creator of each of us, we must still also affirm that God carries out this creative activity through the amazing process of human procreation” (p. 485). In Psalm 139:13-14 David says God created him in his mother’s womb. How did God create David? Directly or indirectly? Not by forming David out of the dust of the ground but indirectly through his parents. When Isa. 57:16 says God made souls, He did so through parents.
Hodge’s second argument concerning the sinlessness of Christ as proof for creationism is simply answered by making Christ the exception. Christ is not only the exception of not inheriting a sinful soul from His mother but He is the exception in many areas. His birth was an exception. He did not have a human father. His sinless life was an exception. He had no sin nature. His physical resurrection was an exception. He arose never to die again.
A major objection to creationism is the idea that God creates directly or indirectly a sinful soul. Wayne Grudem, who believes in creationism of each individual soul, admits “that God gives each child a human soul that has tendencies to sin” (p. 485). Charles Hodge apparently seeing the difficulty of God creating a sinful soul stated: “It is moreover a historical fact universally admitted, that character, within certain limits, is transmissible from parents to children. Every nation, separate tribe, and even every extended family of men, has its physical, mental, social, and moral peculiarities which are propagated from generation to generation” (p. 253).
III. The Traducian View
Only once did God breathe into man’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). God created woman from the rib of Adam in Gen. 2:22. From Adam and Eve came the next person (Gen. 4:1). What is transmitted from parents to a child at conception and birth? Not just a physical resemblance or the material. But spiritual and moral tendencies: both good and bad.
The bad is inherited. “Heredity in God’s visiting of sin to the third and fourth generation” (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 496). This statement is based on Ex. 20:5: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” An example is Abraham’s weakness to lie was passed on to the fourth generation. Abraham lied in Gen. 12:13 about Sara being his wife two times in Gen.12:13 and 20:12 when he said “Sara is my sister.” Abraham’s son, Isaac carbon copies the lie in Gen. 26:7: Rebecca “is my sister.” Jacob, Isaac’s son, lies in Gen. 27:19: “I am Esau thy firstborn.” Jacob’s sons lie to Jacob about Joseph in Gen. 37. This is certainly a challenge to parents to check and correct sins in their lives lest those sins be repeated and punished in their children.
This subject has bearing on inherited sin and imputed sin. Inherited sin or our sin nature came from our parents but imputed sin came directly from Adam. There is a connection with the origin of the soul and inherited and imputed sin.
The Reformed view says that Adam was our representative and when he sinned God counted all people sinners not because we sinned in Adam but because our representative sinned. This is called the Federal Headship view or Representative view of original sin. Allegedly, this agreement was spelled out in the so-called Covenant of Work between Adam and God. Consequently, God creates each soul sinful because we were not present spiritually in Adam when he sinned.
The other view teaches that we actually sinned in Adam and therefore die because our sin. This view is called the Natural or Realistic Headship or Seminal view. God punishes each person with death not because of someone else’s sin, Adam our representative, but justly because we sinned in Adam. Because we sinned in Adam, each person is born with a sin nature inherited from our parents who inherited their sin nature from their parents all the way back to Adam.
Here is Strong’s statement of the Representative position. “With Adam as their representative God entered into covenant, agreeing to bestow upon them eternal life on condition of his obedience, but making the penalty of his disobedience to be the corruption and death of all his posterity. In accordance with the terms of this covenant, since Adam sinned, God accounts all his descendants as sinners, and condemns them because of Adam’s transgression. In execution of this sentence of condemnation, God immediately creates each soul of Adam’s posterity with a corrupt and depraved nature which infallibly leads to sin, and which is itself sin” (Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 612-613).
Millard Erickson also makes this connection. “The two major approaches see the relationship in terms of federal headship and natural headship. The approach that sees Adam’s connection with us in terms of a federal headship is generally related to the creationist view of the origin of the soul. This is the view that the human receives his physical nature by inheritance from his parents, but that the soul is specially created by God for each individual and united with the body at birth (or some other suitable moment). Thus, we were not present psychologically or spiritually in any of our ancestors, including Adam. Adam, however, was our representative. God ordained that Adam should act not only on his own behalf, but also on our behalf. The consequences of his actions have been passed on to his descendants as well. Adam was on probation for all of us as it were; and because Adam sinned all of us are treated as guilty and corrupted. Bound by the covenant between God and Adam, we are treated as if we have actually and personally done what he as our representative did….The other major approach sees Adam’s connection with us in terms of a natural (or realistic headship). This approach is related to the traducianist view of the origin of the soul, according to which we receive our souls by transmission from our parents, just as we do our physical natures. So we were present in germinal or seminal form in our ancestors; in a very real sense, we were there in Adam. This action was not merely that of one isolated individual, but of the entire human race. Although we were not there individually, we were nonetheless there. The human race sinned as a whole. Thus, there is nothing unfair or improper about our receiving a corrupted nature and guilt from Adam, for we are receiving the just results of our sin. This is the view of Augustine” (Erickson, Christian Theology, pp. 635-636).