Original Sin Returns 2 (RJS)

The scenario sketched in our previous post leads to a deep question for Christians. How should we understand the Fall and Original Sin? Is the Adamic fall history or myth – albeit myth conveying theological truth? Is Adam everyman or was the Fall a unique and personal event? If the fall was an historical event how is original sin and guilt inherited?

Henri Blocher, an evangelical theologian who has held positions at Faculté Libre de Théologie Évangélique in France and at Wheaton College in the US, explores just these questions in his book Original Sin. In the series preface to “Original Sin” D. A. Carson calls Blocher a theologian of the first rank, one who is steeped in the reformed tradition but not chained to it.Blocher is a proponent of the Framework interpretation of Genesis 1-3. His 1984 book “In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis” argues that the days of creation refer by analogy to God’s work and the account in Genesis is a literary framework describing God’s work in creation, not a literal historical account. Blocher does not hold to a young earth — or even a recent appearance of homo sapiens sapiens, admitting an age of 40,000 years or more for the human race. Blocher’s discussion of Original Sin then holds out hope for progress in thinking about this important doctrine of the faith. He thinks through this doctrine through scripture and with tradition. In his own words: “We treasure tradition not by servile adherence to it, but by, as it were, sitting on the shoulders of fathers and elder brothers who were giants indeed, and thus do we hope to be granted the grace of seeing even further and ever more clearly (p. 13).”

Blocher’s book is short, a scant 135 pages, but deep; the kind of book that requires much careful thought and discussion. Once through only scratches the surface of his thinking. In this book he discusses the scriptural basis for the sinfulness of man as universal, natural, inherited and Adamic. The key passages of Genesis 3 and Romans 5 are then discussed in much more detail. Finally Blocher presents a discussion of original sin as the key to human experience and original sin as propagated and broken. The final chapter proposes new ways of thinking about the propagation of original sin and the guilt of mankind from birth.
In his discussion of Genesis 3 and then Romans 5 Blocher defends the essential historicity of the Adamic fall, while recognizing that the story of Genesis 2:4-3:24 “makes use of pictorial, symbolic language as it recounts the story of origins, and this requires a departure from a rigid literal reading (p. 41).” Genesis 4 presents a non literal description of the consequence of sin and the establishment of human culture. Genesis 5 reflects not an historical genealogy, but a literary device to bring the story forward. The links represent a digest of history.

Blocher begins his discussion of the Adamic event with the observation: “The affirmation of the disobedience in Eden as a real event or occurrence at a specific moment in time has been part of the church dogma from the start; this could hardly be disputed. I submit that it is an essential part, which we would be wise to maintain (p. 37).” Given his view of the text of Genesis, why does Blocher defend the essential historicity of the Adamic fall? As far as I can see this position is defended for reasons based on both theology and scripture.

First – Blocher’s reasoning is not based on tradition as much as it is based on theology. The Adamic event is an essential part of church doctrine because it defines the problem as the willful rebellion of mankind against God. This rebellion results in guilt. The action of God through the atoning work of Christ is to wash away this real deserved guilt. If there is no Adamic event there is no rebellion and there is no need for the atoning work of Christ.

Second – the Adam/Christ link and the reality of the Adamic rebellion is embedded in the arguments of Paul and in the thinking of the Church. To deny the Adamic fall is to deny the authority of scripture. This is not a matter of genre or a matter of irrelevant detail. The Adamic rebellion is told in the form of story. To recognize the literary form of Genesis does not deny the inherent theological truth of deliberate rebellion initiated at a specific time by the initial humans created in the image of God.

Third – there is no real reason to dispute the existence of Adam as the first theological man and progenitor of modern humans. Science cannot disprove the existence of an original couple from whom all humans descend – even if this couple was embedded in a small community of beings similar in body – but not touched by God to be “created in the image of God.” The science can be consistent with just such a proposal, albeit some 100,000 years ago. Such a scenario also gets rid of such traditional conundrums as where did Cain (or any of the other children of Adam and Eve for that matter) find a wife?

What do you think? Is Blocher right – does Christian orthodoxy depend upon the historical reality of the rebellion of Adam and Eve? How should we understand this?

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    I can’t bring myself to say it really matters.
    I agree — its all history. It’s completely out of the reach of scientific verification.
    On the other hand, a great story describes our plight: we are broken, we need fixing, and we cannot fix ourselves.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    RJS,
    I’m enjoying these two series (and the accomanpying comments on Original Sin a great deal. I have one or two points to offer on the apparent three reasons for needing to enforce the Adamite-fall as scenario described.
    1. The key I too think here is rebellion. However, exactly what form this takes is ambiguous. to me it obviously has something to do with this “knowledge of good and evil” concept (aka morality). Now I would suggest that knowledge, or the ability to ‘determine what things are’ is the pinnacle of understanding. When humans chose to seek their own interpretaiton of right and wrong, independant of God – that was our act of rebellion. Examining Genesis in some further detail we note the first task (or ability?) that God gave to man – the job of naming the created order (or categorising it). God names the world into existence, man names creation into order, or he asserts his will over nature by determining it’s roles/ categories. However, the task of defining morality (good and evil) was expressely forbidden, yet humans chose to eat of that fruit. When we do this, we sever our chance forever of relying on God’s grace, because we become culpable for our morality. The solution, as offered by the Father, is in Christ (exact mechanism is another discussion!). So I would say point one does not necessitate a strict Adamite situation, but stil can be seen as representative of a “from the outset, humans have chosen to define their own morality independently of the revelations from God.
    2. As expressed in my last comment on the Evolution and Fundamentalism thread, i’m still not sure Paul REQUIRES an adamite fall. Paul seems to do more than Genesis one itself does. Strictly, Genesis one says that Sin entered through Eve, or at least through BOTH of the pair. Yet Paul argues that Sin entered through one man. Paul also is clear that without the law, sins are not held to account – yet death still regined pre-law. So there is, to my mind, some unexplained activity going on in Romans 5 that I cannot quite get my head around.
    3. At the moment there is no observable proof that a ‘first couple’ did not exist. The argument in favour of a first couple is enhanced further if we talk about this pair being representatives too perhaps even of a local community, as opposed to saying there were only two humans alive at that time.

  • Kyle

    Thanks phil,
    You basically said what I was thinking with better clarity than I probably would have. Good comment.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    Even as a myth is still tells the same truth as a historical fact:
    We are broken, we need to be fixed, and we can’t do it alone.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    RJS — does Blocher go so far as to say that Adam could be the first “theological man” within a community of biologically similar men? IMHO, this must be the way to go — thinking of the impartation of the imago dei and of the fall as spiritual events that are opaque to science. But I don’t recall Blocher moderating the traditional view on biological monogenism.

  • tim atwater

    reading Robert Weber’s Ancient Future Worship –
    he links ancient first century church and pomo understanding of worship with three words –
    Mystery, Symbol, Community.
    there isn’t necessarily any unresolvable contradiction between literal (what does that mean — at root — ?) and symbolic (are not words themselves symbols?)
    The bible often (i believe it would be foolish to say always or never) leaves issues of ‘literal’ and ‘symbolic’ (allegorical, parabolic, metaphoric) deliberately unsettled. Why?
    Isn’t it fairly obvious that we can’t comprehend God- Christ-HolySPirit or the things of the Spirit with words alone or with one dimensional knowledge (wisdom, discernment… etc)?
    grace and peace in the dialogue

  • tim atwater

    PS — on the necessity of fall for orthodox theology — i agree — but — see also CS Lewis’ Space trilogy — Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. IF Lewis is certain of the necessity of the fall for salvation history to be completed he sure does a great job of nuancing it into mystery deeper than i can grasp.
    And its a great read — i’ve read it at least three times and in spite of sexism etc in the last volume esp it’s magnificant.
    grace

  • http://triangularchristianity.wordpress.com/ Brian McLaughlin

    “Does Christian orthodoxy depend upon the historical reality of the rebellion of Adam and Eve?” In my opinion, absolutely. The reality of the fall goes beyond how we interpret Genesis, but it is foundational to the narrative of the Scriptures: creation, fall, redemption, consummation (of course Scot would add something about Israel in there I think…). Without the fall the narrative of scripture is destroyed. I don’t think I’m stating that too strongly.
    “How should we understand this?” Now THIS seems to be the question that RJS is primarily concerned about. In other words, given the reality of the fall, how do we explain how it happened? (i.e. through one couple 6,000 years ago or through evolution, etc). While I have my strong opinions, “how” becomes less important and not an issue of orthodoxy. People can explain it differently and still be orthodox. Two other examples may suffice: God as creator is orthodox…how he created is not. Atonement through Christ is orthodox…issues of limited/unlimited, extent, metaphors of atonement are not.

  • RJS

    dopderbeck,
    I’ll have to look again tonight at exactly what he says.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    does Christian orthodoxy depend upon the historical reality of the rebellion of Adam and Eve?
    Even if Gen 3 can be taken as somehow metaphorical, the NT use of it doesn’t seem to be in that sense. A real Christ is contrasted to a real Adam, real obedience to real disobedience. It’s not impossible, but I have a hard time seeing how the NT could be compatible with a non-literal Adamic fall.
    If the fall was an historical event how is original sin and guilt inherited?
    I guess it depends on your understanding of original sin. If you see this an in inborn tendency toward sin, genetics actually makes this work — whatever happened in the fall changed the human genome to include a propensity to rebel against God. That would then be passed down through the generations — and might speak to the need for a virgin birth.

  • Brad VW

    I’ve been all over the map on this issue but now I am intrigued by how Leron Shults talks about it in his book “Reforming Theological Anthropology” pg 192. He is explaining how the idea of “inherited sin” is a western theory.
    “Third, we must distinguish between ‘inherited’ and ‘original’ sin. Much of the debate is confused by mistaking these as synonyms. Original sin can be taken broadly to refer to the claim that all persons find themselves already and always bound by sin. It is original, radical, and basic to our agential relations. The theory of inherited sin (and guilt), as that which results from the fall of our first parents from paradise, is one attempt to explain this reality.”

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    Brad #11, I’m about to embark on a Shultz reading spree. Am looking forward to eading the very title you mentioned!

  • Brad VW

    Phil Style
    It’s been a while since I read his anthropology book and it was really my first read of Shults, which might explain why I found it the most difficult. I would highly recommend his Doctrine of God and the two he has written with Sandage.

  • http://www.divinesatisfaction.com Daniel

    “Such a scenario also gets rid of such traditional conundrums as where did Cain (or any of the other children of Adam and Eve for that matter) find a wife?”
    I chuckle to think that some still see that as a conundrum.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    I think that the story of the fall is absolutely foundational – it is the explanation we have been given to begin to conceive of our condition and our need for Jesus. I wouldn’t throw it away, minimize it or ignore it for anything. As a matter of fact, I think that it often gets short shrift in many churches as just an historical recording of disobedience. It’s so much more and deeper than that. I would love to see better teaching on many of the issues raised by the particulars of the story (what is the significance of “the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Why was it there to begin with? What was the nature of Adam’s relationship with God and nature?, etc).
    However, I do not think that it must refer to a literal event in order for everything else to hold up. Nor would I make too much of Paul’s references to Adam and Eve. It is entirely possible that he thought they were real people and spoke accordingly. Also, as phil style points out, Paul wasn’t being too literal, as he speaks of sin entering through one man which isn’t actually accurate. Besides, I in no way believe that the stories of creation in Genesis or the fall literally happened, but if I am discussing the theological implications of the stories, I refer to Adam and Eve as if they were real people – it’s awfully cumbersome silly to preface references to them with an explanation that you believe them to be symbolic or whatever.

  • Dana Ames

    The Shults quote by Brad #7 is very close to the EOrthodox view, which is, the rebellion was real. But what we inherit is death/disintegration, as persons turn from God, the source of life and love, to our own (supposed) all-sufficiency (“you shall be like God”). We don’t inherit Adam’s guilt; we get to have our own guilt.
    This article was what really got my attention, and began my turn toward EO:
    http://www.antiochian.org/assets/asset_manager/da42e6049df1d08bff1865c1ac19e759.pdf
    Dana

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Since Blocher is from Wheaton, BTW, folks might be interested in this report on Wheaton’s “Theories of Origins” course: http://www.asa3.org/asa/PSCF/2007/PSCF12-07Moshier.pdf — which I wish I could be there to take! (Has anyone here taken it?)

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    Rebeccat (#15),
    Sin absolutely entered through one man. Eve was deceived by the serpent. Adam was not deceived by the serpent. He ate in direct disobedience to what God had told him.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    Bob, weren’t you the one taking umbrage at RJS’s unilateral statements that the issue of the age of the earth was settled? Hmmmm . . . odd that. Sorry, but obviously this is an issue that I have spent a lot of time thinking, studying and praying about and I find your unilateral statement of “fact” entirely unenlightening and unconvincing.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    Bob #18, are you suggesting that deception is a defence for sin? If not, then according to the account in Genesis Eve did sin. In fact, the writer of 1 Timothy explicitly states “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived AND BECAME A SINNER”.
    Seems pretty conclusive to me.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    My Bible says, “…and she was in the transgression” in I Timothy chp 2. Genesis says that Adam was formed first. God spoke directly to Adam. *Then* (after speaking to Adam) God made Eve from Adam’s rib. Adam must have told Eve what God had said. Eve didn’t hear it from God; she heard it from Adam. Either Adam or Eve herself added “or touch it” (which God had *not* said). Eve’s understanding of the command was from Adam. Adam’s understanding of the command was from God. Therefore, yes, Eve *was* “in the transgression,” but Adam is the “one man” by whom sin entered the world.
    See how easy that was?

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Bob (#21) so the first sin was Adam not repeating God’s command correctly to Eve? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that one before. If that’s easy, I’d hate to see hard.
    In Gen. 3:3 Eve accurately responds to the serpent that God commanded not to eat the forbidden fruit upon pain of death, though she inaccurately adds an another restriction (not to touch the fruit). She believes the serpent’s lie in verse 4 that she will “not surely die” if she eats the fruit. In verse 5 she desires the fruit, and in verse 6 she eats and gives to her husband to eat. In verses 13 and 16 God specifically assigns blame and a curse to the woman, and verse 17 God assigns blame and a curse to Adam for listening to his wife.
    I don’t see how you can possibly get from this narrative to the notion that the woman is drawn “into the transgression” by an innocent (on her part) misunderstanding of the command from Adam. Clearly, God assigns blame to Eve, though she tries to pass the buck on to the serpent, and Adam, though he tries to pass the buck on to Eve, and on the serpent (who apparently doesn’t try to pass the buck).
    Aside from that, I don’t think the Greek of 1 Tim. 2 indicates that Eve was a passive recipient of the transgression. Let me first admit my absolute novice status at Biblical Greek, but here is my understanding:
    The verb gegonen (ginomai: to become, be, happen) is in the perfect active indiciative, which indicates an ongoing result of completed past action. So literally, it is “has come into the transgression.” This is of course altogether tricky and confusing in 1 Tim. 2 because it implies women should not speak in church because the daughters of Eve, so to speak, are in a continuing state of transgression.

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    Not only is it problematic in evolutionary terms to have an historical Fall event, and problematic in theological terms that such an event would have implications for all of mankind contemporaneous and subsequent to this original sinning individual, I don’t think it does justice to the source material as literature. We have all the characteristics of an ANE etiological mythology reworked to tell a theologically informed story, but we insist on an historical Adam…why?
    Because Paul seemed to think Adam was historical? Why should he, prior to the development of literary analysis and without access to comparable ANE literature, have known anything else? It must be noted that he never said, nor could it ever be reasoned as necessary, that the one man Christ’s work was only needed or only efficacious if people sin because of a single ancestor. Sin does enter the world every time one man, one woman, or one child acts sinfully. But Paul evidently took the view that all sin began with Adam’s one sin, and so feels it convenient and satisfying to put the genie back in a single bottle, to have one box to stuff all the wickedness that came out of Pandora’s box back into, and finds it in Christ. But such a symmetrical system, while rhetorically satisfying, is not necessary.
    The point of the Fall story was to account for humanity’s natural estrangement from God. In fact, it was very clearly intended to vindicate God and show man as a fallible being, subject to relentless self-interest and vulnerable to temptation. The Fall defines humanity: which other animal naturally, and with every individual born, develops within a couple years a sense of Otherness and a standard of morality which it is ironically incapable of holding itself to? The Fall story can be thought of as mirroring the sentience of humanity, which undoubtedly occurred gradually and in multiple places, slowly spreading throughout our early Homo ancestors’ gene pool. But it recapitulates itself every day, with new individuals from our species as they learn “right from wrong” and are unable to control their passions to hold themselves to that standard.

  • Phil

    Stephen (#23),
    “Because Paul seemed to think Adam was historical? Why should he, prior to the development of literary analysis and without access to comparable ANE literature, have known anything else?”
    Firstly – I think it a little strange to think that Paul was not aware of literary style and function. He would have had a much greater working knowledge of the scriptures with a much greater contextual understanding than we could hope to. I don’t think he would consider Ancient Near East mythology necessary to understand Jewish literature.
    Secondly – Paul claimed to have received his revelation directly from Jesus himself. More than that – the revelation he received was no less than the understanding of God’s unfolding plan of redemption. Yet he seems to continue to assume the historical reality of Adam and Eve as part of that revelation. His arguments in 1Tim 2:11-14 don’t make sense at all if Eve wasn’t real. Now perhaps in that particular passage we can claim societal context applies, but only to his instruction, not to his logic. If we critique his logic because he was just an ignorant 1st century believer then we should be able to do that to all his writings. Pah! He probably couldn’t even tell you what scientific method was!
    Thirdly – it’s not just Paul that assumed Genesis to be literal. Jude talks about the prophet Enoch being the 7th son of Adam. Luke lists Adam in his genealogy in ch 3. But most tellingly, Jesus himself spoke as if Gen was literal:
    Deut 9:10 – God himself wrote on the tablets that He created the world in 6 days. Jesus validates Moses teachings in several places (eg John 5:45–47)
    Psalm 33:6-9 – Jesus spoke the word and it was done.
    Mark 10:6 – from the beginning God created them male and female
    Luke 5:45-47 – Jesus places the death of the prophets (starting with Abel) close to the foundations of the earth.
    To quote from Scott:
    “To recognize the literary form of Genesis does not deny the inherent theological truth of deliberate rebellion initiated at a specific time by the initial humans created in the image of God”

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    Hi, Phil!

    I don’t think he would consider Ancient Near East mythology necessary to understand Jewish literature.

    My point exactly: I’m sure he didn’t think so, either. But he would have been wrong. There are undeniably mythological elements to the Genesis creation and garden narratives.

    Paul claimed to have received his revelation directly from Jesus himself.

    Would you mind referencing this claim? Paul never claimed direct revelation for everything he said or believed; he does make explicit claims of that sort on occasionally, of course, but not here. Regardless, there is doubtless divine revelation behind Paul’s contention that Jesus’ sacrifice provided the opportunity for all to be made alive; his argument that this paralleled Adam was meant to bolster and make this truth claim understandable. His arguments in 1 Tim 2.11-14, as you point out, was another attempt to make his teaching make sense by referencing the old, familiar stories in a way that, if taken as the literal truth of the situation, would not permit this passage to be read only in a culturally constrained manner.
    Your point 3) seems to be argued from a YEC point of view. That’s not pertinent to my comments or the OP, so for my comments, I’ll refer you to my site.

    “To recognize the literary form of Genesis does not deny the inherent theological truth of deliberate rebellion initiated at a specific time by the initial humans created in the image of God”

    I fail to see how this in any way takes Paul’s belief seriously: he quite clearly said “one man”, not “initial humans”. “One man” causing the sin of all humanity is at odds with evolutionary theory. One cannot straddle the fence on this one.

  • Phil

    Stephen (#25)

    Paul claimed to have received his revelation directly from Jesus himself.

    Would you mind referencing this claim?
    Gal 1:11-12 “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
    For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
    Eph 3:3-4 ” how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,
    by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”
    There is also the description in 2Cor 12 of him being caught up – which may or may not be the point at which he received such revelation. However, there is the pattern at various times in Paul’s life, beginning with his conversion, of Jesus directly communicating to him and revealing (what were previously) mysteries to him.
    I think it would be quibbling to try and say that the teaching in Rom 5 is unrelated to his revelation. For surely – if he has received such mysteries about the nature of salvation, then all his teaching would incorporate such revelations.
    Regarding the 1 Tim 2 teaching about women – I happen to agree that social context should not be applied here. However this seems to be a contentious issue and I am assuming, for the sake of unity, that churches (the majority of evangelical chuches it seems) have their reasons for a different practice. And I did not want to focus so much on the actual instruction he was given, rather that his instruction relied on the assumption that Eve was indeed a real person. My point is that Paul did assume Eve was real. If he thought Eve was a symbolic figure then his logic is severely flawed and his target audience would wonder what on earth he was going on about.
    I think we may have possible misunderstood each other (or been talking at cross purposes) about point 3 – because I agree that one man causing the sin of all humanity is at odds with evolutionary theory. Which is why I disagree with evolutionary theory. No straddling.

  • http://thewayofapilgrim.com/2008/10/25/weekly-meanderings-29/ Anonymous

    Weekly Meanderings « The Way of a Pilgrim

    [...] October 25, 2008 by TheWayofaPilgrim Here’s some stuff I came across this week… 1. Jesus Creed posted three excellent posts this week on original sin and evolution; the best of the bunch was the second post on evolution. 2. The Bible in a minute. 3. Study finds that with Pre-Natal Testing, 9 in 10 Down Syndrome Babies Aborted (although…you should consider the agenda of the source…). 4. Plague in the Grand Canyon. 5. Who’d’ve thought disposable diapers were better for the planet? 6. Stephen Hawking retires. 7. Greenspan speaks to flaw in his market ideology. 8. Aparently hoosiers wasted 90% of their naturally occurring gas during the Indiana Gas Boom (it was the lead article on wikipedia’s home page on Thursday). 9. Gorillas and drums are an awesome combination (watch until at least 1:00). If you need this explained go here…for more chocolate inspired fun go here. 10. That’s 58 million 6-packs. 11. Guess the Google. 12. Life size Pac-Man. 13. A Tolkien inspired fan film (coming in 2009). [...]

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    For surely – if he has received such mysteries about the nature of salvation, then all his teaching would incorporate such revelations.

    The passages you quoted were specifically dealing with the “mystery” of the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles (Eph 3) and the corollary removal of the specifically Jewish works of the Law (Gal 1). Paul did, of course, claim revelation on certain occasions, but that should suggest constraint on our part in claiming it where even he did not claim it.

    My point is that Paul did assume Eve was real. If he thought Eve was a symbolic figure then his logic is severely flawed and his target audience would wonder what on earth he was going on about.

    Precisely. I do believe Paul thought of Adam and Eve as historical; but I believe that he was mistaken.

    I think we may have possible misunderstood each other (or been talking at cross purposes) about point 3 – because I agree that one man causing the sin of all humanity is at odds with evolutionary theory. Which is why I disagree with evolutionary theory.

    I was actually arguing against your use of RJS’s point here. I thought it odd that you were quoting RJS for a point with which you apparently disagree.

  • Phil

    Stephen (#28),

    Precisely. I do believe Paul thought of Adam and Eve as historical; but I believe that he was mistaken.

    which is where it gets difficult, and why I think you are mistaken, not Paul.
    Consider 1Cor 15:20-22:

    But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
    For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive

    Which takes place in the context of teaching specifically about the resurrection of the dead. So the death he is talking about is physical death of the body.
    Then Rom 5:12

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

    It is plain that Paul is hanging nothing less than redemption on the premise that death entered the world through sin. So sin comes before death. If Adam was not literal then Paul’s chain of logic can not be trusted.
    If death was present before Adam (i.e. if there was no Adam) then Paul was wrong, and sin is not the problem he thought it was, and Jesus’ death was not the answer to sin that he hoped, and we – as Paul states in 1Cor 15:19 – “we are of all men the most pitiable”.

  • http://undeception.com Stephen Douglas

    Which takes place in the context of teaching specifically about the resurrection of the dead. So the death he is talking about is physical death of the body.

    I’m afraid I consider this begging the question. What made us think that the Resurrection was necessarily physical? Chiefly look at 1 Cor 15.42-44, 50, wherein Paul argues, at least, that the Resurrection should not constrained to the physical.

    If death was present before Adam (i.e. if there was no Adam) then Paul was wrong, and sin is not the problem he thought it was, and Jesus’ death was not the answer to sin that he hoped, and we – as Paul states in 1Cor 15:19 – “we are of all men the most pitiable”.

    You are stating the YEC viewpoint quite succinctly. All this presupposes that physical death was the death of the Fall. This is not even supported in a literal reading of Genesis 3: “On this day you will surely die.” I think that Paul understood this. I’d be surprised if you could find a passage in which Paul argues that physical death would be remedied in the future. In fact, Revelation pictures death as continuing even in the eschaton (Rev 14.13). And before you go to Rev 21.4 and argue that it’s talking about physical death, you might also cross-reference Rev 21.1-4 with Isaiah 65, especially verse 20.

  • Phil

    What made us think that the Resurrection was necessarily physical?

    You mean apart from the context and content of that chapter? The whole point of that chapter is to point out the resurrection is indeed of the body! “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”(vs 44). He was writing to address a false teaching that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies (eat, drink, be merry etc). His very point is that there is indeed a physical resurrection of the body – being sown a natural body and raised a spiritual body. The idea that you can separate the body from the spirit is one of the false teachings he is addressing.
    To try and read 1Cor 15 and make it mean something other than physical death (I am not say only physical – simply that it is at least physical) is the kind of stretch that you require when you start off assuming there was death before Adam and that Adam was only figurative. Too much of a stretch for me I am afraid.

  • RJS

    Stephen,
    I am not sure where you are going – but the physical Resurrection of Jesus first and of all of humanity eventually is one of the non-negotiables of orthodox Christianity. Without this we have no hope.
    The evidence for resurrection is convincing – it was a one-off unusual event whose reality is supported by the subsequent evidence in the writing of the witnesses, the writings of the early church father, and in the explosive growth of the church. Physical resurrection is supported by the evidence we have. While it is contrary to normal expectation – noone disputes this, least of all Christians. We can choose to believe and follow or to disbelieve.
    My dispute is with Phil’s claim that physical, biological death through sin is an essential piece of this doctrine. Blocher’s book doesn’t discuss this directly – so we won’t really deal with the issue in this thread. But it is worth consideration at a future date.

  • http://thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com Mike Beidler

    To deny the Adamic fall is to deny the authority of scripture. This is not a matter of genre or a matter of irrelevant detail. The Adamic rebellion is told in the form of story. To recognize the literary form of Genesis does not deny the inherent theological truth of deliberate rebellion initiated at a specific time by the initial humans created in the image of God.
    Like Stephen, I beg to differ. To reject the historicity of Adam’s fall is not to deny the authority of Scripture. To reject the universal sinfulness of mankind is. The story the Hebrews developed to explain humanity’s sinful nature is incidental to the theological truth that sentient humans beings, who alone of all God’s creatures possess the “image of God,” are and will always be in rebellion against God—at least this side of eternity.
    If there is no Adamic event there is no rebellion and there is no need for the atoning work of Christ.
    Also untrue. If it the theological fact that humanity is universally sinful is accepted, regardless of what/who caused our condition, Christ’s atoning work is still needed!

  • Phil

    If it the theological fact that humanity is universally sinful is accepted, regardless of what/who caused our condition, Christ’s atoning work is still needed

    You can’t divorce the condition from it’s explanation. Both the revelation of our condition and the explanation of both it’s cause and remedy come from the same source.

  • http://thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com Mike Beidler

    You can’t divorce the condition from it’s explanation.
    Sure you can. Let’s assume I had cancer. It was originally explained to me by my doctor that the cancer was likely caused by asbestos in my walls. However, when I had my DNA tested, it was discovered that I had the “cancer gene” and that my house, upon further examination, didn’t have asbestos in the walls to begin with. The explanation of my condition has changed, but the fact of my cancer has not.
    The same logic can be applied to humanity’s sinfulness. If Genesis 2-3 were never written, yet the Bible stated elsewhere that all of humanity was sinful from birth, the fact of man’s sinful condition could still be argued. You don’t need a literal Fall of Adam to “prove” man’s sinful nature.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    #34 Phil
    Sure we can. We just did.
    And for that matter, when one decides to take a passage as metaphor, symbol, or, even, myth, it is really a matter your perspective as to if those things violate the authority of Scripture or not.
    Did Paul believe in the historicity of the Garden and the Fall? It _looks_ like he did.
    Did Paul believe the earth was the center of the Universe? Well, can’t say for sure as he never made a comment on it, but he probably did. He probably believed a lot of things which we know today are just historically or scientifically correct. But, he still spoke the Truth.
    We are in the same boat as Paul.
    Before we start insisting that accepting the historicity of the Fall and pad-locking it to the authority of Scripture, we had better be careful. The implications of that carry beyond doctrine itself.
    #35 — You beat me to the punch !! Was still typing when yours arrived.

  • http://thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com Mike Beidler

    #36 – I live to serve. ;-)

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    sorry folks mean to write “scientifically or historically INCORRECT.”

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    Beautiful motto ..
    “I live to serve; and serve to live.” :D

  • Phil

    #36
    I guess if you decide you can cherry pick which parts of scripture we regard as inspired and which parts are not – down to cherry picking within the same chapter of an epistle – then you can do that. However at that point you have left the orthodox practice of Christianity and are blazing your own path. Interpreting is something that is done carefully and thoughtfully. It is hard and is meant to be hard – you make it sound too easy.

  • Phil

    And for that matter, when one decides to take a passage as metaphor, symbol, or, even, myth, it is really a matter your perspective as to if those things violate the authority of Scripture or not.

    What absolute rot. What a completely post-modern, live in isolation, me-centered non-sense. I am unsure if you are just baiting or if you are serious.
    So you really have no grasp of the historical context in which we live as Christians? Of the carefully considered debates that have taken place over the centuries? You have no more right to decide – based merely on you own perspective about what is inspired or not. It must be part of a conversation with the rest of the body.
    This thread is meant to contribute to that conversation but comments like that are basically another way of saying “I can decide for myself what is right”.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    #40
    Well, actually, that is what I was thinking about your presentation, but thought it not polite to put it that way.
    That aside, just how hard should it be to deal with God and life and Scripture? Is a high school education ok? How about if I can’t read? Perhaps a degree in theology is required to go to Heaven? So, we give IQ tests to enter the Assembly?
    My brother — yes, I consider you one — what’s hard and thoughtful are in the eye of the beholder. What I wrote to me a long, and thoughtful number of years to believe.
    Perhaps, its too simple for you! Praise God that you are so much smarter than me! ;)

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    Sorry I expose my lack of intelligence and proper spelling, that should read “What I wrote took me a long, and thoughtful number of years to believe.”

  • http://thecreationofanevolutionist.blogspot.com Mike Beidler

    Phil,
    Did I say anything about Genesis 1-11 NOT being inspired? I believe it is. At the same time, it’s historically and scientifically inaccurate. Which is NOT the same as saying it’s theologically inaccurate. Christians need to learn how to separate theological truths from the incidental vessels in which they’re found.
    For example, a 3-tiered universe in which the world is round and flat, with a hard firmament above it in which the sun, moon, and stars are housed, and through which the waters of heaven fall to earth as rain is taught THROUGHOUT the Old and New Testaments. It’s absolutely pervasive. The ancient Hebrews believed it and it’s reasonable to assume that Jesus and Paul believed it too. But does that affect in any way the authority of Scripture? Absolutely not.
    And my journey from YEC to evolutionary creationism was anything but easy. It was done carefully and thoughtfully, with much spiritual and intellectual agony. I resent your assertion that I’ve reached my beliefs on a whim. Feel free to visit my blog for an all-out description of how I became an evolutionary creationist.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    #41
    Sorry Phil, I think that your language is well a sign of insecurity.
    We have never called your views ‘rot’ (and actually we read them and respect them even though we disagree with them).
    If it’s not insecurity, it is an attempt to use ridicule to convince me. Neither will work on me.
    Bullying is very unchristian. Though, ironically given this thread, it is VERY human and a sign of the Fall.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    #44 Thanks again. You did a much better job saying what I wanted to say.
    I too did not find it at all a enjoyable thing to pass from a literal view to where I am now.
    I would hasten to add that I still read in the area and even have a friend who is writing (yet another) Creationist explanation of the Flood. He actually wants me to review it!! I find it totally fun to discuss when the people involved are convicted yet have the love of Christ clearly at their tongues and finger tips ;)

  • http://darrenbrett.wordpress.com/ Darren King

    It seems to me that what needs to be (obviously) stated is that many Christians assume that for the Bible to be inspired, and for revelation to have really taken place, every aspect of communication attested to in the Bible must be true – by any and every measure of what it means to be “true”.
    But why assume this? Why not assume, as others have pointed out, that God communicates the important theological truth without feeling the need to correct every misunderstanding around a particular worldview? Doesn’t the progressive understanding we as a species have gained over time, suggest that God is content to let us grow our own capacity to understand to greater and greater degrees, these other kinds of truths?
    At the end of the day, what really matters is an accurate communication of theological truth. The rest is important, but not essential. Besides, what’s the alternative, that God puts receivers of revelation into some sort of trance-like state, and then inputs data that has no place in that person’s worldview parameters? I think not.

  • Phil

    Well – I will apologize for my remark (#41). I read the original post badly because I was multi-tasking (yes – I am a man and shouldn’t try such things – I know) and in my hurry to read the post interpreted it mean “I can decide for myself what I want to take from scripture”. Reading it again more carefully I can see that “depends on your perspective” does not mean that at all. So sorry.
    However, I would make the same remarks to anyone who I thought was saying that. Not in anger or attempting to be a bully though (perhaps that is a sign of your own insecurity #45)? If I had have been in the room with you perhaps that would have been more evident.
    But anyway – apologies. I wasn’t trying to bully or intimidate – chastise would be closer to the mark.

  • Phil

    #47,

    But why assume this? Why not assume, as others have pointed out, that God communicates the important theological truth without feeling the need to correct every misunderstanding around a particular worldview?

    Well – I need something more than a “why not”. I need a really strong reason why. It goes against the grain. It goes against the faith I have received which seems so unsophisticated to many of you it seems.
    Insecure #45? No, but maybe a little defensive.

    At the end of the day, what really matters is an accurate communication of theological truth. The rest is important, but not essential

    I agree – but These blog posts specifically seem like a chance to examine these issues in depth. I don’t usually enter into debates about old earth vs. young earth (or even evolution) because I realize that so many Christians are quite comfortable with the two going together. But here is a discussion with those issues as their focus.
    I think I will sit back for a while and just read this discussion. I have been trying to defend a position that death before sin provides an insurmountable obstacle to the message of redemption. I believe this because I have never yet seen a thorough explanation dealing with this.
    Everyone agrees that it is “difficult”, and I read most of the recommended articles about this, but still this particular issue remains unresolved. I really do want to understand the perspective of the other side, and I have made my point, so I will stay quite for a while and hopefully learn something.
    Hopefully the topic will be given a thorough enough treatment here that I can relax about this and even if I choose to remain where I am in my theology, can at least understand and accept how a different theology makes sense – because it doesn’t make sense to me so far. And “why not” arguments are not strong enough to move me.

  • Jeremiah Daniels

    #49
    Now that’s more like a Christian ;)
    Everybody has insecurities to deal with despite our best efforts to be open and receptive.
    I appreciate your spirit brother! Your reasoning processes and presentation remind me a whole lot of my own spiritual mentor of my youth. While he and I disagree quite a bit now, I still love him for saving my soul and sanity in my teenage years.
    Clearly we both love the Scriptures and feel the desire to understand them (read for them for all their worth). Otherwise, I wouldn’t spend roughly 12 hours of my own time each week teaching from them for no pay!
    Though, I need to hasten that we are both experiencing the same problem as far as this topic.
    Having been raised in sect of Christians that was often very literal (though strangely not as literal as some traditions), I can understand your angst.
    Our problem is drawing lines.
    I am safe is assuming we both agree on the message of the Fall. I’m equally sure that if we talked about the consequences or precise doctrinal implications of the Fall, we’d probably diverge (my sect was more in line with Arminianism than Calvinism).
    Drawing lines can be difficult. In fact, centuries of theological thought have used various ways of trying to remove the need for drawing lines. (This is an area that this thread is now making me want to read more on this particular history.)
    To put it in a terminology from the 1800s, “when is a passage figurative?” (I’d say in my own words, “when is it a metaphor? when is it symbolic?”)
    Here’s a guide line from a _very_ orthodox hermeneutics text of the 1800s. Why use that? Well, just because the writer came from my own tradition of Christianity. Since we’re pointing our perspectives — might as well use somebody who formed the thinking of my grandfather and father.
    Rule 1. The sense of the context will indicate it.
    Rule 2. A word or sentence is figurative when the literal meaning involves an impossibility.
    Rule 3. The language of Scripture may be regarded as figurative, if the literal interpretation will cause one passage to contradict another.
    Rule 4. When the Scriptures are made to demand actions that are wrong or forbid those that are good, they are supposed to be figurative.
    Rule 5. When it is said to be figurative.
    Rule 6. When the definite is put for the indefinite.
    Rule 7. When said in mockery.
    Rule 8. Common sense.–Figures of speech sometimes occur when we have to depend on the things we know, in order to decide if the language is figurative or literal.
    I remember the first time I read this around the age of 15 or 16. Rules 2 & 8 jumped out at me because they it was immediately obvious that ‘impossibility’ and ‘common sense’ are subjective at best.
    I’m not holding these rules out as an authority! I am holding them out as an example of one way that one tradition tried to iron out the need for Christians to draw lines in their understanding of a text.
    Frankly, I feel while I AGREE with the original scholar, I do not think that he succeeded in providing a way for everybody to view scripture alike.
    So, what’s that have to do with Original Sin, the garden, the _snake_, Adam & Eve, etc?
    Well, it has EVERYTHING to do with it. Rule 2 & 8 allow me to view them non-literally. He leaves me a lot of room to re-interpret Scripture based on current knowledge without losing the message of Scripture.
    Do I think that the rest of you are bound to this somehow? Absolutely not. The point is .. this is not new territory for Christians.
    Now, I’m sure that many of your are going to protest that it breaks the hold redemption scheme.
    What broke it? Our insistence that there had to be a literal, talking snake? Or, was it that somehow us not making it work?

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    You all are punish-ed. –William Shakespeare

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    My comment #51 makes very little sense without the comment that preceded it that Scot deleted. I had spoken of Montagues and Capulets. You win a few, you lose a few.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    The point being (and having been made a bit too forcefully, perhaps) that while the M’s and C’s were busy hating one another, their children, who loved one another, were destroyed.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Bob,
    Once again, brother, comments have to make sense to everyone. And say what you are saying instead of playing with words and associations and making indirect comments. We enjoy (most of) your comments, know your personality a bit, but sometimes we just can’t make sense of your point.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    I thought I was being as direct, civil, and diplomatic as I could be. I used what I thought was very familiar imagery (like, worldwide) from Romeo and Juliet to speak in a parable about this thread. See Matthew 13:13.
    Too bad you don’t read more fiction, Scot.
    If you hadn’t deleted the first comment, some of the others might have understood. The creationists and evolutionists arguing on this thread are like the Montagues and Capulets, despising one another. We (yes, I say *we*) do so at the risk of losing our children, who are trying to love one another. Is that clear enough?

  • mariam

    56.
    I think that is an overstatement Bob. I certainly don’t despise you, even though I disagree with you on all the (what I consider) unimportant stuff. I even hold you in affection. People can disagree, even get cranky about it, without despising one another. However, I do agree that we need to keep our exchanges civil, try to see the other person’s point of view and apologize when we have overstepped the line from defending the logic of our point of view to personal attack. I am not sure who the children you are referring to are though.

  • mariam

    OOps. Bob in 55. That’s the trouble with deleted comments:)

  • http://www.gloria-deo.blogspot.com Daniel

    This may well have been mentioned by now but C.S. Lewis has a fascinating account in his book “The Problem of Pain” in which something very much like what we see in Gen. 3 is taken to have literally happened – but he describes the situation in language that will be more appealing to scientists and modern philosophers than a literalistic reading of the Genesis account. He believes the “Adam” was the pinnacle of evolution who lived in a kind of “mind over matter” state (so he is clearly distinguished from the young earth people) but I believe he holds that this Adam was not subject to death, until after his unique relationship with God was broken by his own sinful turn. You should all go read it for a very unique perspective.
    I also wonder how this discussion might look/relate to the Eastern Orthodox understanding of original sin, which is somewhat different from the Western/Catholic understanding that Luther and Calvin both re-affirmed.


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