The Doctrine of Man (part 8)

April 06, 2009     Time: 00:49:51

[Opening prayer]

Last week we completed an evaluation of dualism-interactionism. We had a really good time last week. I enjoyed that time as we looked at the mind-body problem and some of the arguments for dualism and difficulties or problems with physicalism – either reductive physicalism or non-reductive physicalism.

Now we want to turn to trichotomy and dichotomy. You will remember that when we looked at the biblical data concerning the nature of man we saw that sometimes the Scriptures speak of human beings as body-soul composites – a dualistic sort of view. But other passages sometimes spoke of spirit-soul-and-body – a trichotomous view of human being. So we want to ask: how should we understand our composition? Are we made up of a spiritual entity and a physical entity, or are we made up of two different spiritual entities – a spirit, a soul, and then the physical body?

Although this issue isn’t settled biblically per se, I think probably the dichotomy view is the more plausible of the two. I say that for a couple of reasons. For one thing, if you do try to separate the spirit and the soul as literally two different entities in a human being then you begin to proliferate all sorts of entities unnecessarily in human being because the Scripture not only speaks of spirit and soul, it also speaks of things like heart and mind. So if you take every vocabulary word that the Scripture uses to describe that immaterial spiritual side of man you will not only have soul and spirit but you will have mind, heart, and all sorts of other things as well. So it is simpler to simply think of these different words as different vocabulary for referring to that immaterial spiritual non-physical aspect of human being.

Also it would be very difficult to understand what the spirit could be in distinction from the soul. As we talked about last week, if the spirit is something different from the soul, is the spirit self-conscious? If it is then it would seem to be a different person than the person that the soul is. If you say that the spirit is not self-conscious then how is it something that relates to God? You seem to get too many people – too many persons – if you start saying both the spirit and the soul are self-conscious entities.

I think it is better to view the distinction between spirit and soul as different functions of the same immaterial constituent. Insofar as that immaterial aspect of our humanity functions in relation to God it can be referred to as spirit. Insofar as it functions as that which animates our body and gives us rationality and intercourse with other persons you can think of that as soul. So it is really the same immaterial entity but it has different roles or functions.[1] Insofar as it is in relation to God we call it spirit. Insofar as it carries out other functions you can think of it as soul. I think that would be a simpler view than proliferating all of these different constituents that go to make up human beings.

What about the origin of the soul? Here there have been traditionally three competing views as to the origin of the soul. One would be Creationism. This would be the view that God immediately creates the soul. This was the view, for example, of the church father Clement of Alexandria. Clement believed that God creates as a special act a particular soul for each human being that he brings into existence. The second view is Traducianism. This is the view that the soul is produced by the souls of the parents. The church father Tertullian held to a Traducian view. So the soul is not specially created by God ex nihilo or out of nothing. Rather just as the parents’ bodies engender the body of their offspring, so their souls engender the soul of their offspring. One soul is produced or generated by the parents’ souls. The third view would be the Preexistence view which is the view that souls preexisted their embodiment in human bodies. The church father Origen held this point of view which got him in trouble, by the way. This was a Platonic view that there is a realm of souls that exist prior to their incarnation in the world, and then God puts these souls in particular bodies.

Which of these views is the most plausible? Well, again, I think apart from the Preexistence view (which I think is clearly unbiblical), biblically there really is no way to tell whether you should be a Traducian or Creationist. But it seems to me that Creationism is more plausible than Traducianism because it is very difficult to see how the soul of the mother and the father can engender a soul in the offspring. We know that the physical body of the child is produced when the genetic material from the sperm and the egg are united to form a new embryo which has all the genetic material determining the physical body – hair color, eye color, basic size, and so forth. But how could souls produce a third soul? Are we to believe that among the millions and millions of sperm that are involved in intercourse that they are each carrying the soul of the father somehow to the soul of the mother connected with the egg, and that when the sperm and the egg merge together that somehow these souls merge together? That just doesn’t seem to make sense. How could all of these sperm be carrying the soul of the father which is a unity and so the one sperm that gets there somehow brings the spiritual substance of the father to the mother’s egg? It just doesn’t seem to make sense. So it would seem to make more sense to think of souls as special creations of God that he conjoins with the body of the offspring in the womb.

That raises of course the very interesting question – when does God place the soul in the body? At what point does he create the soul? That is a vital question because it touches on the whole issue of abortion. You may remember President Clinton one time saying that he thought that abortion would be alright in the early stages before the soul was conjoined with the body because then it is not really a human being, it is just basically an animal body. I think here we don’t really know when the soul is conjoined with the body. We know very early on – already by 43 days – there is brain wave activity in the fetus. So at least by then you know the soul is operative. But that is not to say that because the brain doesn’t exhibit brain wave activity that the soul isn’t present there yet.[2] Remember those of you who were here last week – the analogy that Sir John Eccles, the Nobel prize-winning neurologist, used for the relation between the soul and the body. He said it is like the relation between a musician and a piano. Just as the musician uses this piano as an instrument to produce music, so the soul uses the body as an instrument for thought. If the instrument is either impaired, or in this case not yet fully developed, the agent cannot fully express himself either musically or intellectually because the cognitive mechanisms aren’t in place yet. So just because there isn’t brain wave activity present prior to, say, 43 days doesn’t mean the soul isn’t present. So it would seem to me that one has to err on the side of caution in this case. We have to assume, I think, that the soul is there right from the moment of conception. Otherwise we could be killing fully human individuals in aborting these fetuses.

A good analogy for this that perhaps you’ve heard is if you were sitting at your desk and your little boy came up behind you and said, “Hey, Daddy, can I kill it?” What would you answer? Well, you would want to know what it is that he wants to kill. Is it the cockroach on the floor? Or is it his little sister? Nobody would say, “Oh, yeah, just go ahead” without knowing what it is. In exactly the same way, since we don’t know exactly when the soul is united with the body we cannot be presumptuous to say that it is not there and therefore it is alright to kill this individual. I think that we have to assume that this is a full human being – body and soul together.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The question was: For example, in the Old Testament . . . I think Paul uses this in the New Testament, he says A particular individual was still in the loins of his ancestor when Abraham met him. So he is credited for paying tithes. I don’t think that when he says that someone was in the loins of his ancestor and therefore gets credit that he is talking about how that person’s soul originates. That is probably talking more about a kind of corporate solidarity that a person has with his ancestors or with his progeny. This will actually be related more to the doctrine of original sin that we are going to look at in a moment. Are we in some way culpable or implicated in Adam’s sin so that when Adam sinned we sinned, too? I don’t think that that would have anything to do with how our soul originates. There is certainly a sense that the person was an offspring of Abraham, but there he is speaking physically I would say. I don’t think that that would be very good support for the Traducian view.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Again, I think that is expressing the idea of corporate solidarity just as in Adam all sinned so that I somehow am implicated in what Adam did. But that is not to say anything about how my soul came to exist. It is more of this idea of corporate responsibility or credit in this case, I think.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The question was: when I said that the dichotomous view is simpler than the trichotomous view, is that an application of Occam's Razor that you shouldn’t multiply causes beyond necessity. You are justified in positing those causes that are necessary to explain the phenomena.[3] I think it would be an application of that, yes. I think that would be Occam’s Razor at work. But also I want to say more than that as well. As I said, if you do say that there is a distinct thing called “the spirit” and “the soul” then why not “a mind” and “a heart” and all these other biblical terms that are used for that immaterial aspect. It is not just Occam’s Razor but it is also in a way the slippery slope argument. Once you open the door to one entity then all of a sudden you find yourself with all sorts of entities on your hands that you hadn’t reckoned on getting.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The question was about the heart when it is mentioned in Scripture. Often what our translations in English refer to are really the bowels or the kidneys. I think the King James calls it the reins. When we sometimes say “someone is moved in his heart” they would have said “he is moved in his kidneys.” That was where they thought the emotions were expressed or located. So, right, that would be a metaphorical use of the bowels. Those of you who remember reading the King James Version will remember phrases like “bowels of compassion.” That is what you are referring to. That would be a metaphorical use. I don’t think we’d want to posit that as a sort of constituent of human beings other than the physical part.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Yes, there is a lot of scriptural passages that talk about fetal life and about God knowing the person already in the womb. That is very clear. Obviously when brain wave activity is present, the soul is present – at 43 days. The question would be, what about earlier? Is the soul present already then, and I don’t know how you could answer that question from a creationist point of view. Maybe that would be one of the advantages of the Traducian view – the soul would be present right from conception because that is when it was produced by the souls of the parents. So the Traducian view would make it more evident even that abortion would be wrong than the creationist view because on the creationist view I don’t think you can really know exactly when God conjoins the soul with the body.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: He is raising a good question there about the presence of brain wave activity being indicative of the soul being present. I guess the reason I say that is because on a dualist-interactionist view the brain and the soul are intimately linked together. The brain is the instrument that the soul uses to think. So when you see brain wave activity being produced this would be a good indicator that the soul is present and working. We are talking here about human fetuses right? That would be in a human fetus. That would seem to indicate there is a functioning soul.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: But the piano doesn’t play by itself. We are not talking about a player-piano here right? We are talking about if the piano over here begins to all of a sudden play and the keys start to play, even if it is just chopsticks.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I grant you. I am not saying the fetus is already thinking or conscious or any of that sort. But if we do believe that the brain and the soul work together then this would seem to me, at least, a tip-off that there is a soul here that is beginning to function. I suppose you are right in the sense that you could say, no, at that point it is just electro-chemical activity going on in the nervous system so it wouldn’t be a kind of knockdown proof that the soul is there.[4] But I guess we would say in a normal sort of case I would think that this would be indicative that there is a soul present.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This gets into the question of whether animals have souls that we talked a little bit about last week. If you do have this view that life itself is a product of the soul then right from conception you would have the soul because it would be that which animates this organism and makes it alive rather than non-living.


Let’s go on to the next topic which is man as sinner. We now want to turn from looking at man as created in God’s image to talking about man as fallen and man as a sinner before God. So we want to look at some of the biblical data concerning the doctrine of the fall.

If you’ve got your Bible, let me invite you to take out your Bible and turn to Genesis 3:1-7. This is the narrative of the fall of man in the Old Testament.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’” And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die. For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

That is the story of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin in disobeying God’s command in the garden.

The most important New Testament reflection on this event is in Romans 5:12-21. This is Paul’s reflection upon the fall of man.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I almost feel like saying “amen” at the end of that![5]

The final passage is 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Here in just two verses Paul captures the fall and the atonement so perfectly. “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” That is a pithy summary of the doctrine of the fall and the atonement.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t know. I’ve wondered that, too. Evidently he is thinking of a different kind of offense but different in what sense? Because all sin is disobedience to God which is what Adam did. But I am not sure what that means.


Let’s try to systematize this a little bit by understanding different attempts to make sense of this biblical material.

First, what is the traditional view? The traditional view held by the Christian church is that man was created originally in a state of integrity. In this state of integrity man is what he was created to be. He is exactly what God wanted a human being to be. The state of integrity meant he is what he is created to be. Then comes the fall into sin. As a result of the fall, man now exists in a state of corruption. His nature is fallen. Man is no longer what he was created to be. Instead now man is in contradiction to what he was created to be. So the state of integrity and the state of corruption are opposed to each other, and it is the fall that puts humankind into this contradiction to the way God intended human beings to be.

In the state of integrity man was traditionally ascribed various perfections. First are the major perfections which are the perfections of the soul, and then there are minor perfections which are perfections of the body. Among the major perfections of the soul would be the knowledge of God. Man stands in relation to God. He knows God. Secondly, sanctity of the will. The will is not corrupted. It does spontaneously what God wants him to do. He obeys God cheerfully. Then there is purity and harmony of the desires. Man is not in a state of inner conflict or turmoil where his desires and lusts pull him in one direction and his conscience pulls him in another direction. So the soul has these major perfections in the state of integrity of knowledge of God, sanctity of the will, and the purity and harmony of its desires.

The body is also characterized by certain minor perfections. These would include things like immortality. It was traditionally thought that human mortality was introduced through the fall into sin.[6] Prior to that man was not naturally mortal. Freedom from harm. In the garden Adam would not experience natural evils like tripping over a root and cracking open his head when he fell on a rock. Or being victim to an avalanche or disease. The garden was a paradise and man would be preserved from harm in it. Thirdly, he would also have lordship over the Earth. He would have lordship over the creatures as well as over the cultivation of the soil. In the state of integrity, the body is also at harmony with nature around him. All of these perfections were conceived to be lost in the fall of man, and therefore absent now in the state of corruption.

Moreover, one of the most important differences between the state of integrity and the state of corruption has to do with our ability to not sin or to refrain from sin. The expression for man’s ability to refrain from sin in the state of integrity was posse non piccare. Posse means “can” or “to be able to.” We get our word “possibility” from that. Non is obviously “not.” Peccare means “to sin.” I suspect we get our word “peccadillo” from that Latin root, though peccadillos are not supposed to be serious sins but peccare means serious sins. So posse non peccare, in the state of integrity, man had the ability to not sin. He had the ability to refrain from sin. He had the ability to live without sin. By contrast, in the state of corruption man has lost his ability to refrain from sin. Now we say of man in the state of corruption non posse non peccare. He is not able to not sin. He has lost the freedom to refrain from sin. His nature is fallen and corrupted. Therefore, although he may be able to freely choose among various sins (he is not determined which sins to commit) because of the falleness of his will he is doomed to sin. He is free to sin, but he does not have the ability to refrain from sin. This distinction was enunciated by the great church father St. Augustine.

Finally, on the traditional view, the origin of sin was thought to come through creaturely freedom. Sin was not something that God had willed to happen in the sense that he produced sin in the world, that he made people sin. Rather, sin is the product of creaturely freedom, which is good. Creaturely freedom means the ability to obey God or to disobey God. Unfortunately creatures misused their freedom and sinned against God. These creatures would include not only man but Satan as well. Satan, as we saw when we looked at the origin of Satan and the demons, was originally thought to be an angelic being of great power and glory and magnificence who in some way or another sinned against God and with him other angels in this angelic fall producing Satan and the demons. Sin originates in the angelic realms through creaturely free will, and similarly in the human sphere, it originates through the free decision on the part of Adam and Eve who were the parents of all the human race to follow them. So freedom, which is a good and is created by God, ultimately is the origin of sin and evil in the world.

There is a view, however, that needs to be mentioned here called Supralapsarianism which says that God did will that this sin of man should occur or that the sin of creatures should occur.[7] To understand Supralapsarianism - “lapse” comes from the Latin meaning “fall.” We often speak of somebody lapsing – they fall. “Supra” means “above.” The idea here is that God’s decree is above the fall. The idea of Supralapsarianism means that God wanted to redeem humanity through the cross of Christ. In order to have them redeemed from something, he had to decree that they fall into sin. It isn’t as though God decreed the cross in light of the fact that they fell into sin. Rather, it is quite the opposite. He decreed the fall into sin in light of his desire to redeem humankind by the cross. The opposing view to Supralapsarianism is Infralapsarianism which would say that God decreed the cross in light of the fall. God did not want people to fall into sin. His will was that people would stay in the state of integrity, but given the unfortunate fact of the fall he decrees the cross in light of it in order to redeem people from the fall. So the debate between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism is which comes first? Does God decree the fall in order to achieve the cross, or does he decree the cross in light of the fall? If you are a Supralapsarian you really, in a sense, think that the fall is something that God has decreed to happen because he wants it to happen. He wants to redeem humankind and therefore he needs something to redeem them from. So he wants them to fall into sin. On Supralapsarianism, sin does originate from human freedom. God doesn’t make Adam and Eve fall into sin. But nevertheless he does decree a world willing that the creatures should fall into sin and wanting this to happen. This is a very interesting and peculiar debate with respect to sin’s origin between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Typically Arminians are Infralapsarians. An Arminian is someone who believes that man has significant freedom to resist God’s grace, and he is not predetermined by God. Usually Arminianism is thought of in contrast with Calvinism or Reformed theology which attributes everything that happens to God’s decree. This debate tends to be a debate more among Calvinists and Reformed theologians as to whether the cross is declared in light of the fall or whether the fall is declared in light of the cross. I think Arminians would tend to be Infralapsarians. They would say that God in no way wants the fall, but given that unfortunate fact he provides a means of escape.

But I don’t think an Arminian would have to say that. As I say, if God knows what every person would do freely in any set of circumstances he places him in then God could place Adam and Eve in the garden knowing that they would fall into sin but they would do so freely. He wouldn’t make them do it. I think you could marry Infralapsarianism with an Arminian view of freedom of the will so long as you ascribe to God knowledge of what every creature would freely do in any circumstances God placed him in. This is the theory of middle knowledge that we talked about when we talked about God’s omniscience. Middle knowledge was the brainchild of a Catholic counter-Reformer named Louis Molina who wanted to get away from the determinism of Luther and Calvin, but at the same time to affirm God’s sovereignty. So what Molina says is God knew exactly what any creature would freely do in any circumstances God places him in.[8] If God wanted the fall to occur, he could place Adam and Eve in these circumstances knowing they would freely eat from the fruit of the tree and would fall into sin. But they would do it freely. It is not as though they are predestined to do it or that he makes them do it.

Although Arminians tend to be Infralapsarians, I don’t think (given middle knowledge) that you would have to be. So I don’t think that either of these views is incompatible with free will.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I thought on the last day he said, And God looked at everything that was made and behold it was very good. Where is it missing?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: We don’t want to say that the creation of man wasn’t . . .

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This is still the state of integrity here.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think he did myself.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Her question was: how can Infralapsarianism and omniscience work together? This has to do not with God’s being ignorant of the fall. Infralapsarianism is not the idea that God says, OK, I am going to create man. I hope he does a good job. And then, Oh! He fell into sin! Now I’ve got to come up with a plan. That would be incompatible with omniscience because God foreknows everything, right? Even before he created man. That is not what Infralapsarianism is. The order here is just a logical order. The question is – does God decree the cross in order to rectify the fall, or does he decree the fall in order to bring about the cross? Which one is logically prior? Normally, I think most of us would think that the reason God decrees the cross is to solve this problem. God knows from the moment he creates human beings – he knows they will fall into sin – so he has predestined before the foundations of the world that he will send his Son to die to rectify that problem. That is Infralapsarianism. Supralapsarianism is different. It says God, in the council halls of eternity, says The greatest good that I could bring about would be sending my Son to die for humanity and redeeming this people for myself through Him. The cross is such a great good that this is my first desire. How am I going to bring about the cross? I need to have them fall. Otherwise I don’t have anything to redeem them from. Having decided to do the cross, he now decrees the fall in that light. You see the difference? It is just a different logical order. But both of the views affirm that God always foreknows what will happen. It is just a matter of which one has priority in his motivations.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t know the answer to the first question about when Supralapsarianism first appears on the scene in the history of Christian doctrine. It was certainly debated much in the post-Reformation period. But with respect to the second one, I think both of these views would be compatible with thinking of God as timeless. When I say that God orders creation, I mean that everything that happens happens by God’s providential decree. It doesn’t happen by accident. Again, I don’t want to imply that on either of these views that these things come as an afterthought in the sense of chronologically.[9] God’s decrees would be eternal, and even as God exists timelessly, he would have all of this worked out. So this isn’t a matter of chronology. This order is an order of a logical order, or an explanatory order. It is not a chronological order.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. Both views would be compatible with that.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That would be a good argument. Those who held to Supralapsarianism would sometimes refer to the fall of man in these words (which are paradoxical): o felix culpa (of Adam’s sin) – oh happy sin. Why? Because it was his sin that plunged us into corruption thereby necessitating Christ’s death and our redemption in Christ. So happy sin that Adam fell. If you find that offensive then you are probably an Infralapsarian!

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: You raise a very, very (I think) poignant question. At first I thought you were going in a different direction. You say the Supralapsarian view makes God more like the mean kid with the magnifying glass frying the ant. I was going to say “no” because the redemption in Christ is so glorious – it is so wonderful – that it is worth the fall to have the cross and the redemption in Christ. This is the greatest good he can bring to humanity. But then, as our friend reminds us here, what about all of those who don’t accept the cross and go to hell forever? You are saying that God really willed that first and foremost. What about all of those folks? That does raise a really difficult question. I suppose you could say the Supralapsarian would say . . . well, it depends on whether you believe in free will. If you believe in free will you could say that God wills their redemption, too. It is only their stubborn refusal to accept it that they perish. It is not God who is killing them. They are killing themselves. But Supralapsarianism tends to be associated with Reformed theology which would say that God has specified who the damned will be and who the righteous will be. It is his decree and that’s it. That kind of unilateralism would be, I think, more difficult to reconcile with the loving God.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think that what is really critical in these discussions would be your view of human freedom. It is not so much Supralapsarianism or Infralapsarianism which is going to be the source of the difficulty. As long as you have human freedom I think you could defend either view. It is really going to be whether or not you think that humans have significant freedom.


[1] 5:04

[2] 10:12

[3] 15:10

[4] 20:12

[5] 25:22

[6] 30:06

[7] 35:08

[8] 40:01

[9] 45:08

[10] Total Running Time: 49:51 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)