Traducianism

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In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul (or synonymously, "spirit"), in one of the biblical uses of word to mean the immaterial aspect of human beings (Genesis 35:18, Matthew 10:28). Traducianism means that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of human beings. That is, an individual's soul is derived from the souls of the individual's parents.[1] This implies that only the soul of Adam was created directly by God (with Eve's substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam), in contrast with creationism (not to be confused with creationism as a belief about the origin of the material universe), which holds that all souls are created directly by God (with Eve's substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam).[2]

Contents

History of the doctrine

The Church Fathers universally agreed that the soul of Adam was directly created by God. Tertullian actively advocated traducianism (that is, the parental generation of souls), while some of the later Fathers — most notably Saint Augustine, at the outbreak of Pelagianism — began to question the creation by God of individual souls and to incline to the opposite opinion, which seemed to facilitate the explanation of the transmission of original sin. Thus, writing to St. Jerome, St. Augustine said, "If that opinion of the creation of new souls is not opposed to this established article of faith let it be also mine; if it is, let it not be thine." Theodorus Abucara, Macarius, and Gregory of Nyssa also favored this view.

Amongst the Scholastics there were no defenders of traducianism. Hugh of St. Victor and Alexander of Hales alone express doubt, and characterize creationism as the more probable opinion. All the other Schoolmen hold creationism as certain and differ only in regard to the censure that should be attached to the opposite error. Accordingly, Peter Lombard asserted, "The Catholic Church teaches that souls are created at their infusion into the body." St. Thomas is more emphatic: "It is heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted by process of generation."

There was a diversity of opinions among the remaining Scholastics. Some held that the soul of a child is produced by the soul of the parent just as the body is generated by the parent-body. Others maintained that all souls are created apart and are then united with their respective bodies, either by their own volition or by the command and action of God. Others again, declared that the soul in the moment of its creation is infused into the body. Though for a time these several views were upheld, and though it was doubtful which came nearest the truth, the Church subsequently condemned the first two and approved the third. Gregory of Valencia spoke of "Generationism" as "certainly erroneous." While there are no explicit definitions authoritatively put forth by the Catholic Church that would warrant calling the doctrine of creationism de fide, nevertheless, there can be no doubt as to which view has been favored by ecclesiastical authority.

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