Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. XIII


"Traducianism? Creationism? What Has An Ancient Debate To Do With The Modern Debate over Abortion?" by Ted Nelson

This essay examines Church Fathers’ positions on origin of the soul and relates their arguments to today’s debates over abortion and when the murder of a soul should be punishable by state law. The essay begins chronologically, starting with Origen, a third century theologian, and his idea of pre-existence of souls. Origen draws from Paul’s letter to the Romans and the Book of Jeremiah to explain that souls were not created by God, but rather had existed on an equal plane with God. This argument sets the stage for the two primary alternative beliefs: creationism and traducianism. Creationism is here defined as “the belief that God creates a soul for each body that is created.” Church Father St. Jerome advocated this belief while his correspondent, St. Augustine, seemed to have had questions regarding the souls of miscarried fetuses, questions which eventually led to Augustine’s acceptance of his ignorance on the workings of God. As traducianism began to dominate thought in the Western church, St. Thomas Aquinas reaffirmed the Catholic church’s position on creationism: at conception the sperm, which contains sensitive and and intellectual matter (a soul) into the ovum, which was the nutritive matter that makes up the fetus. Intellectual souls then, as Aquinas states, are created simultaneously with the body. Tertullian, on the other hand, promoted traducianism. Traducianism, is the belief that all humans stem from Adam, and as such, all humans inherit not only the flesh of the original man, but the soul and sin of the original man as well. Traducianism affirms that when God created everything, God also created souls and the ability of man to procreate and thus insert souls at conception. Martin Luther follows in the 1500’s and falls on the side of traducianism, affirming that the soul comes from one’s father. The essay concludes by explaining the pro-life tendency towards traducianism and the pro-choice uncertainty which relates better with creationism.

“Who is Jesus? New Monastic Perspectives” by Tori Newman

This essay is a discussion of Jesus’s political, economic, social, and theological implications in regards to the new monasticism movement. Newman begins by outlining the environment into which Jesus was born: a violent Empire and a genocide. Born by a virgin woman in a stable, surrounded by dirty shepherds, Jesus is immediately a social outcast. Named from his birth as the Messiah, and thus named as a threat to Caesar, Jesus is a refugee from the reigning political order. As he grows older, Jesus’ actions and teachings refute the political, economic, and social culture. He over turns the money changers’ tables, condemns the temple, and spends his time with radicals and prostitutes. Certain of Jesus’ explicitly quoted teachings concentrate on maintaining the dignity of all humans. His lessons and actions are the particular focus of new monasticism, as this new community strives to live lives based on who Jesus was when he lived. As a radically peaceful man who condemned the dominant form of rule, Jesus sets an example for the new monastics in contemporary America. The essay then moves into its second segment, which aims to show the contrasts between Jesus in first century Palestine and the image of Jesus and the Church in the modern day. Through individualism and mock separation of church and state, Jesus as a figure and a model for Christianity has become co-oped as a model for personal salvation and political validation. Finally, Newman examines the lifestyle of the new monastics, revealing their commitment to relationships (including relationships with the marginalized), economic redistribution, and prophetic action, revealing the political, social, and economic implication of Jesus to church communities who remain enculturated within American civil religion.

“Discovering the Tragic Sense of Life: an Examination of Philosophical Influence in Art and Self” by Jaime Arlene Zito

To enable readers to understand her examination, Zito begins her essay by situating readers in a position to understand Miguel de Unamuno’s work, The Tragic Sense of Life. A man has no purpose in the world, but is a purpose in and of himself. An individual is his own objective, and this holds true for all individuals, for everyone seeks the same understanding of himself and of others. Meaning comes from the journey to understanding, rather than from understanding in itself, for once understanding is gained, there can be nothing after. Humans have a desire to exist, which is why they continue struggling, knowing there is no full understanding at the end of their search. This is where Unamuno introduces religion into his philosophy. Just as existence is the motive for humans to live and wonder, so too does existence promote the desire for closeness with God. As an ever-present being, immortal with the ability to prolong the journey as an objective, God’s existence is that which humans desire. Next, the essay progressed to Unamuno’s philosophy which rests on the need to feel and accept feelings as legitimate sources of understanding, rather than concentrating solely on scientific thought and objective facts. Those who feel and who pay attention to their feelings are those who are content to struggle in a quest with no possible victory. These are the people who think and feel with every part of themselves, mind and soul alike. “The tragic sense of life” comes into play in this essay when the discussion of feeling evolves into the common grief felt by all. The unreasonable grief evoked by the tragic sense of life is what binds all men together in their search to know themselves in a truer sense. Zito’s essay end with a plea to reengage with feelings of love and grief and imagination in order to reach a better, but never complete, understanding of God.

“On Mothers and Husbandry: An Interpreter’s Guide to “you shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk,” by Josh Rager

The body of this essay is separated into two distinct subjects. Firstly, scholarly analyses of the passage and their socio-economic impact are evaluated, followed by Rager’s own theological perspectives on the subject. The first section of the essay begins with first-century philosopher, Philo, who believed that to boil a kid in its mother’s milk was a violation of the dietary laws forbidding the consumption of dairy and meat simultaneously. The segregation of opposites is referenced as well, including child and mother and meat and milk with life and death, Jew and Gentile. For a long time the practice was said to be forbidden because of its resemblance to pagan rituals, a theory later proven wrong. Along the same ritualistic line, the author discusses the possibility that it was not the dairy and meat which needed to be separated but rather the female from the male. Female presence in a religious ritual would have made it impure, and thus the practice was decreed illegal. The analyses continue, positing that the separation was necessary to diffuse any implied incest between a mother and her son. It was also possible, that the passage was a warning to not cheat a land owner, and particularly not Yahweh, out of the best offerings. To boil a kid was to make it appear and taste more tender than it was, thus fooling the recipient into believing he had received better than he had. Some believed that “milk” was meant to be “fat” which implied the death of the mother as well as the kid. The possibility of impure mother’s milk or milk with blood in it arose, but had little evidence to support it. The author then proposes new analyses, first suggesting that the practice was horrifically extravagant and a waste of resources. A second proposal is that the law was made out of respect and need for the mother figure. The author ends noting the fallibility of any of these conclusions, noting the impossibility of certainty on the matter.