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History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325.
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§ 143. Man and the Fall.


It was the universal faith of the church that man was made in the image of God, pure and holy, and fell by his own guilt and the temptation of Satan who himself fell from his original state. But the extent of sin and the consequences of the fall were not fully discussed before the Pelagian controversy in the fifth century. The same is true of the metaphysical problem concerning the origin of the human soul. Yet three theories appear already in germ.

Tertullian is the author of traducianism,970970    From tradux, a branch for preparation, frequently used by Tertullian, Adv. Valent. c. 25, etc.70 which derives soul and body from the parents through the process of generation..971971    Tertullian, De Anima, c. 27: "Ex uno homine toti haec animarum redundantia." Cap. 36: "Anima in utero seminata pariter cum carne pariter cum ipsa sortitur et sexum, " i.e."the soul, being sown in the womb at the same time with the body, receives likewise along with it its sex;" and this takes place so simultaneously "that neither of the two substances can be alone regarded as the cause of the sex (ita pariter, ut in causa sexus neutra substantia teneatur)." In Tertullian this theory was connected with a somewhat materialistic or strongly realistic tendency of thought.71 It assumes that God’s creation de nihilo was finished on the sixth day, and that Adam’s soul was endowed with the power of reproducing itself in individual souls, just as the first created seed in the vegetable world has the power of reproduction in its own kind. Most Western divines followed Tertullian in this theory because it most easily explains the propagation of original sin by generation,972972    "Tradux aninae tradux peccati."72 but it materializes sin which originates in the mind. Adam had fallen inwardly by doubt and disobedience before he ate of the forbidden fruit.

The Aristotelian theory of creationism traces the origin of each individual soul to a direct agency of God and assumes a subsequent corruption of the soul by its contact with the body, but destroys the organic unity of soul and body, and derives sin from the material part. It was advocated by Eastern divines, and by Jerome in the West. Augustin wavered between the two theories, and the church has never decided the question.

The third theory, that of pre-existence, was taught by Origen, as before by Plato and Philo. It assumes the pre-historic existence and fall of every human being, and thus accounts for original sin and individual guilt; but as it has no support in scripture or human consciousness—except in an ideal sense—it was condemned under Justinian, as one of the Origenistic heresies. Nevertheless it has been revived from time to time as an isolated speculative opinion.973973    Notably in our century by one of the profoundest and soundest evangelical divines, Dr. Julius Mailer, in his masterly work on The Christian Doctrine of Sin. (Urwick’s translation, Edinb. 1868, vol. II. pp. 357 sqq, , Comp. pp. 73, 147, 397). He assumes that man in a transcendental, pre-temporal or extratemporal existence, by an act of free self-decision, fixed his moral character and fate for his present life. This conclusion, he thinks, reconciles the fact of the universalness of sin with that of individual guilt, and accords with the unfathomable depth of our consciousness of guilt and the mystery of that inextinguishable melancholy and sadness which is most profound in the noblest natures. But Müller found no response, and was opposed by Rothe, Dorner, and others. In America, the theory of pre-existence was independently advocated by Dr. Edward Beecher in his book: The Conflict of Ages. Boston, 1853.73

The cause of the Christian faith demanded the assertion both of man’s need of redemption, against Epicurean levity and Stoical self-sufficiency, and man’s capacity for redemption, against the Gnostic and Manichaean idea of the intrinsic evil of nature, and against every form of fatalism.

The Greek fathers, especially the Alexandrian, are very strenuous for the freedom of the will, as the ground of the accountability and the whole moral nature of man, and as indispensable to the distinction of virtue and vice. It was impaired and weakened by the fall, but not destroyed. In the case of Origen freedom of choice is the main pillar of his theological system. Irenaeus and Hippolytus cannot conceive of man without the two inseparable predicates of intelligence and freedom. And Tertullian asserts expressly, against Marcion and Hermogenes, free will as one of the innate properties of the soul,974974    Inesse nobis τὸ αὐτεξούσιονnaturaliter, jam et Marcioni ostendimus et Hermogeni"De Anima, c. 21. Comp. Adv. Marc. II. 5 sqq.74 like its derivation from God, immortality, instinct of dominion, and power of divination.975975    Definimus animam Dei flatu natam, immortalem, corporalem, effigiatam, sub stantia simplicem, de suo sapientem, varie procedentem, liberam arbitrii, accidentiis obnoxiam, per ingenia mutabilem, rationalem, dominatricem, divinatricem, ex una redundantem."De Anima, c. 22.75 On the other side, however, Irenaeus, by his Pauline doctrine of the casual connection of the original sin of Adam with the sinfulness of the whole race, and especially Tertullian, by his view of hereditary sin and its propagation by generation, looked towards the Augustinian system which the greatest of the Latin fathers developed in his controversy with the Pelagian heresy, and which exerted such a powerful influence upon the Reformers, but had no effect whatever on the Oriental church and was practically disowned in part by the church of Rome.976976    See vol. III. p. 783 sqq.76



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