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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Creationism

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or (in the German mode of spelling from a supposed adjective)

Creationism is a technical term (very common among German philosophers and divines, but not yet fully naturalized in English) for one of the three or four theories concerning the origin of the human soul. It derives not only the soul of Adam, but every rational soul, directly from God, though not by way of an emanation in a Gnostic or pantheistic sense, but by an act of creation; and supposes that the soul is united to the body at the moment of its generation or afterwards. It differs from traducianisnm or generationism, so called, which teaches that the soul is propagated, together with the body, through the process of generation from age to age, and from the theory of pre- existence, which assumes that each soul descends from another world, and a previous mode of existence, into the body, to leave it again at the close of its earthly pilgrimage. Creationism is traced back to Aristotle, who made an essential distinction between the animal soul (ψυχή ) and the rational principle (νοῦς ), and derived the former, together with the body, from generation, the latter from without or above, as a part or reflex of the general reason of God. Plato, on the other hand, taught the theory of pre- existence, which was introduced into Christian theology by Origen. Tertullian was the founder of traducianism. The whole question of the origin of the soul was first seriously discussed during the Pelagian controversy, in connection with the problem of hereditary sin and guilt. (See Schaff, Church History, 3, 830 sq.) Pelagius, and several Oriental fathers, held the creation theory, which fell in with his view of the complete innocency of every child that is born. Jerome was also a creationist, although he wrote against Pelagius. "Quotidie," he says, "Deus fabricatur animas, cujus velle fecisse est, et conditor esse non cessat." He appeals for this view to the unceasing creative activity of God, and to such passages as John 5:17; Zechariah 12; Psalms 33:15. Augustine frequently discussed the question, but never arrived at a satisfactory solution. He wavered between creationism and traducianism; but, on the whole, he was inclined to the latter, which best agreed with his doctrine of hereditary sin. "Where the Scripture," he says "renders no certain testimony, human inquiry must beware of deciding one way or the other. If it were necessary to salvation to know anything concerning it, Scripture would have said more." Among Augustinian divines traducianism has found more acceptance. But creationism has never been without supporters, among whom Leibnitz (in his Theodicy) occupies a prominent position. The great argument in favor of creationism is that it guards the dignity and spirituality of the rational soul, which differs in kind from the animal soul, and is the proper seat of the image of God. Traducianism is liable to the objection of materializing the soul. But creationism makes the union of body and soul accidental and mechanical, and does not account for the transmission of sin from generation to generation. It must either confine sin to the sensual sphere, which is not true (for unbelief, pride, profanity, blasphemy, are spiritual sins), or assume that each soul becomes sinful by contact with the naturally generated body; since, from the creative hands of God, it can only proceed free from sin and defect, like the soul of our first parents. These difficulties on both sides point to a theory which combines the truths of creationism and of traducianism, and avoids their errors. Every human being, both as to body and soul, is a child of its parents, and at the same time a creature of Almighty God.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Creationism'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/creationism.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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