Original Sin Returns 3 (RJS)

Chapter 3 of Henri Blocher’s book Original Sindeals with discerning the mind of Paul on the issue of Adam and the Fall. Any Christian discussion of the evolution life, the evolution of homo sapiens, and the doctrine of Original Sin must reckon with Paul and his contrast between Adam and Christ. As death came through one man so life comes through one man. Romans 5:12-19 and to a lesser extent 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45.First the texts:

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. (Ro 5:12-19)

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 all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22)

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor 15:45)

To deal with the question at hand we need to consider what these passages intend to teach about Adam, Original Sin, the transmission of sin, the nature of man, and role of Christ. Obviously we will not cover everything in one short post. But we can highlight some key points.

First – It is a non-negotiable for the orthodox Christian faith that Jesus Christ existed at a specific point in time in human history; that he was a unique individual who was crucified, dead, buried, and who rose again on the third day. We are saved, redeemed through the faith of Christ and through the act of Christ. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus effected a change in actual being or enabled a future change in actual being for those who call upon his name.

Second – Ro 5 supported by 1 Cor. 15 appear to also require that Adam existed as a unique individual and that the act of Adam in rebellion against God was a unique act localized at a specific point in time. Certainly Blocher dismisses the notion that Adam was not a unique individual alive at a specific point in time. According to Blocher the Barthian interpretation of Adam as Every Man or Cosmic Man misrepresents Paul and it misrepresents scripture. Blocher finds support here in Dunn’s commentary on Romans 1-8. Paul undoubtedly viewed Adam as an individual and his transgression as historical. I admit, I (RJS) am not convinced Adam was a unique individual or that it matters that Paul thought he was – but this is an issue I am still thinking on. (I don’t know what Scot thinks here.)

But there is another concept intertwined with consideration of the Fall. Clearly what Paul thought and taught about sin matters. Romans 5 suggests that the sin of Adam results in the guilt of all mankind. But is this the case – is Paul actually proposing that sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically from Adam to all mankind? In an attempt to wrestle with the teaching of Paul, Blocher works through several interpretations of Romans 5 acknowledging a fundamental difficulty here for reformed theology in general.

A looser interpretation of Romans 5 (Dunn, Cranfield…) admits Adam as historical in some sense while rejecting a tight analogy between Adam and Christ. Paul’s emphasis is not on Adam and one act constituting all men as sinners as much as it is on Adam and the introduction of sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All excepting Jesus have lived sinful lives in their own right and are condemned on the basis of inclination and act. Ro 5:13 is something of an enigma here however.

A tighter interpretation of Romans 5 considers the sin of Adam as imputed to all mankind as all were present in the loins of Adam. The sin of Adam changed the nature of mankind. His sin and guilt are transmitted and reckoned to the account of all – even to the babe who dies within minutes or seconds of birth. Augustinian thought along this line has permeated much of the western church.

A proposal Blocher suggests that both the looser and tighter options hold an unjustified assumption. Paul did not consider sin as existing without law – it was simply undefined. Thus Romans 5 does not really deal with Original Sin. Perhaps the best course here is simply to quote Blocher: “My hypothesis, then, is as follows: I submit that the role of Adam and of his sin in Romans 5 is to make possible the imputation, the judicial treatment, of human sins. His role thus brings about the condemnation of all, and its sequel, death. If persons are considered individually, they have no standing with God, no relationship to his judgment. They are as it were, floating in a vacuum. Sin cannot be imputed. But God sees them in Adam and through Adam, in the framework of the covenant of creation. (p. 77)”

Well this begins to get quite deep. Blocher considers Adam as an historical individual and the original sin an important event – but appears to remove Romans 5 from a primary role in developing the doctrine of Original Sin. He also removes – although he does not say so specifically – the problem of considering how the sin of Adam changed the nature of mankind. The latter is a particularly difficult concept to reconcile with evolution as God’s creative mechanism. We will interact with Blocher’s ideas on Original Sin more completely in the last post on this book.

What do you think? Does Romans 5 teach that the Adamic sin changed the very nature of mankind? That sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically to his descendents?

  • Phil

    Rom 8:19-22 seems to support the idea that not only the very nature of man was affected, but all of creation:

    The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

    Perhaps a sinful nature is not transmitted at all – perhaps it is simply unavoidable since we are part of a cursed creation.
    Maybe a useful analogy would be that of trying to make a wooden chair using a certain type of glue that does not react well to humidity. And you are making this chair in Arkansas in the middle of summer. OK, so it’s not that great an analogy, but hopefully you get my drift.
    (And I’m not trying to say anything bad about Arkansas either – I’m from New Zealand). :-)

  • mariam

    If we assume (or imagine) that God used evolution as his means of creating man, and even if we assume that Adam was not historical, but an archtype (Paul in the first passage actually refers to Adam as a type) I find no contradiction here with the theory of evolution. At some point during evolution man became sentient – this may have been sudden – God breathing spiritual life into one or a group of hominids, or it may have been gradual. This is the first Adam, and with this Adam sin enters the world and spiritual death (as well as a knowledge of physical death). Pre-sentient creatures died but there was not a spiritual death – because there was no God-breathed spirit in the first place. And there was no real awareness of death. Other mammals die and the most intelligent may even recognize death after a fashion but they cannot make sense of it. They don’t realize that they will die – therefore they do not fear it, except in an instinctual way. For them there is no death as humans understand it – just a return to the earth from where they came, which in return brings forth new life. As Paul says there was sin before there was the law – certainly pre-sentient and early sentient hominid behavior would not have been strikingly different from post-sentient hominids – but that sin was not imputed. Why? Because there was no law and therefore no means of knowing right and wrong actions.
    I disagree with Blocher that Adam’s role was to bring about the condemnation of man – the means by which God could justifiably condemn humans. I think Adam’s role was to take the next necessary step in human evolution – to come to an understanding of the consequence of disobeying God. Adam’s disobedience did not “wreck” creation. The notion is ludicrous – it implies a God that is either inept or deliberately and cruelly set a hapless creature up for failure. God’s actions in Eden were purposeful and I would even argue (agreeing with the Calvinists on this one) that God orchestrated “the Fall”. God was not surprised when Adam and Eve disobeyed – He knew it would happen. We had a taste of eternal life and living in God’s presence and we blew it. Yet it was necessary. They could not really make moral choices without the knowledge of good and evil. We cannot freely choose to do good without that knowledge. It was one of the tools God gives us, and yet we needed to disobey in order to get it. Just as remorse and guilt are necessary tools in our growth. Each time we stumble and get it wrong, God has anticipated our actions and provided us with a way back to the right path.
    I don’t think Paul is talking about original sin here, at least not in the way it has been refined to mean that we literally are condemned by Adam’s disobedience. It is true that Adam’s (or whatever original homo sapiens he represents) disobedience starts the whole process, but Paul says that although death entered the world through Adam’s disobedience, death spread BECAUSE ALL SINNED. We do not sin because Adam sinned. We sin because we are of the same type as Adam – creatures who have evolved to sentience, and therefore can predict and understand the consequences of our actions but who still carry the “mean genes”, the survival genes of our pre-sentient ancestors. Because we are sentient we have free will – we can choose not to sin. But as we are creatures who evolved we have difficulty doing so because of our desire to survive, our fear of death and avoidance of pain. So in some sense we do inherit both parts of our nature – sentience and our reptilian brain – the combination of which causes us to sin. And yet at any given time we can choose the right thing to do, no matter how difficult it is, and that is why we are condemned – not because of Adam’s sin but because of our own. Adam is then the beginning – where homo sapiens starts. “The first Adam became a life-giving soul”. Jesus is the perfection of God’s creation of homo sapien – the incarnation of the Creator into his creation, which has been from the beginning God’s plan. If Adam shows us where we started, Jesus shows us where God intends for us to end up. I don’t think Paul is really trying to explain original sin here – I think he is trying to show us God’s divine plan – the alpha and omega as it were.

  • http://gummer.co.nz Geoff

    [i]What do you think? Does Romans 5 teach that the Adamic sin changed the very nature of mankind? That sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically to his descendents?[/i]
    Without doubt.
    Transmitted is the wrong way of looking at it.
    What happened changed the very nature of Adam and Eve, and we are no longer the “tselem” (representative) of God, but the “tselem” of the changed Adam:
    [i]Gen 5:1 This is the record of the family line of Adam.
    When God created humankind, 3 he made them in the likeness of God. 5:2 He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named them “humankind.”
    5:3 When 6 Adam had lived 130 years he fathered a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and he named him Seth[/i]
    Adam –> likeness of God.
    Adam is changed.
    Seth –> Likeness of Adam.
    Think of it like this. Adam was in a close intimate right relationship with God – able to eat from the tree of eternal life – that is, by virtue of his relationship with God, Adam would live eternally.
    As a result of his action, Adam was removed from close intimate relationship with God, and thus no longer “eternal”. He is mortal, so to speak. Adam has had a fundamental change in his nature – eternal to mortal – he begins to decay.
    Therefore ALL humanity (descended from Seth–>Noah) has inherited disobedient Adam’s decaying mortal nature, not his “tselem of God” nature.
    Scripture is very clear on this right from the outset, and so is Paul. Admittedly Rom 5 is dealing with a specific aspect of it (the legal one), the root cause and effect does not change.
    Blocher’s book is excellent, also, should be staple reading for all :P
    I’m from NZ too, just in case you’re wondering, and no, I dont know Phil :P

  • mariam

    Phil
    The verse you quote is in figurative, even poetic language so I think we have to be careful about drawing any literal conclusion from it. It is true that our selfishness affects creation – even, apparently, to causing climate change – something that we couldn’t have imagined even 50 years ago. It is also true that God made us stewards of creation and we have done a fairly disastrous job of that. So yes, I would say the fate of the planet is tied in with our “becoming”. But this verse also reiterates the point I was making in my earlier comment – that God’s plan for us is to become like Jesus, the second Adam – that is sons of God. And creation waits in frustration as we stagger, ever so slowly, forward (and sometimes backwards)

  • Phil

    mariam,

    God’s plan for us is to become like Jesus, the second Adam – that is sons of God. And creation waits in frustration as we stagger, ever so slowly, forward

    Do I interpret this correctly to mean that you think the human race will eventually evolve to become like Christ? I ask purely out of interest – I have never heard that view before.
    As far as the rest of the comment goes – I don’t know that I agree. Your explanation seems to put a very modern interpretation on that (dare I say it – anachronistic). The verse I quoted from Rom 8 specifically says that “the whole of creation has been groaning in sin right up to the present time”. Your explanation of bad stewardship might make sense in a modern context of global warming and ravaging the earth’s resources – but it seems a bit of a stretch to push that back to it’s beginning, or even up to the point in time that Paul wrote it.

  • mariam

    Do I think that humans will eventually evolve to become like Christ. Well, sort of. I think this is what we can interpret from Paul saying “creation waits…for the sons of God to be revealed.” What do you think it means? I don’t think we do that without God’s plan, direction, and intervention, however which is what separates me from secular humanists. I think that is probably the natural extension of accepting evolution as God’s means of creating us. (which is going to have all the conservatives shaking their heads and saying “See!” :-)
    It’s true that I am putting a modern spin on bad stewardship but the same selfish actions which have put us in our current mess have been there from the beginning (think of Easter Island), but not quite so globally destructive because we didn’t have the means or the population before. I think that this is another case where the Bible can say something which was true to the generation it was first written for and also, but differently, true to us now. You won’t agree with me, no doubt, as I believe you are conservative and I am sort of liberal, or at least that’s the sheepfold where I find myself. I was a non-believer until fairly recently so I don’t have much theological baggage. I’m still thinking about it and working it out. Anyway, I appreciate your civility here.

  • Scott W

    The Augustinian interpretation of Rom. 5 was a novel one in the early church at the time. For an exegetical and theological treatment which expounds the earlier view, see the article, Paul and Original Sin, below by the late Fr. John Romanides:
    http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.10.en.original_sin_according_to_st._paul.01.htm

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    RJS,
    Great analysis as always.
    Re: I admit, I (RJS) am not convinced Adam was a unique individual or that it matters that Paul thought he was
    I’m in the same boat …
    re: Does Romans 5 teach that the Adamic sin changed the very nature of mankind? That sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically to his descendents?
    If you substitute “Did Paul think” for “Does Romans 5 teach”, then I think the answer is an an emphatic “yes” to question #1, but not necessarily to question #2.

  • http://triangularchristianity.wordpress.com/ BrianMcL

    “Does Romans 5 teach that the Adamic sin changed the very nature of mankind?” Let’s broaden the question…some people would have us ask “does the story of the Bible teach this?” In reading the story…from story of the fall in Gen. 3ff, to covering sin like Adam in Job 31:33, to Adam’s breaking of covenant in Hosea 6:7, to the genealogies that include Adam in 1 Chr. and Luke, to Paul, to Jude…it is clear and undeniable that this is the consistent message of the biblical story over all times and all contexts.
    “That sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically to his descendents?” None of the texts cited above even address this question in this manner.

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

    Phil (#1)and Geoff (#3). Another kiwi here too. . so is this where we all wind up?

  • Diane

    All humans have the capacity to sin and do sin, and yes, I would agree this is “inherited.” Although I’ve often heard Christianity condemned–how can Christians be so warped as to call an innocent, harmless little baby a sinner?– in fact, Christianity tells it like it is. That little baby (even Scot’s grandson!) has the capacity to do heinous things and undoubtedly will do some thing at some point outside of God’s will. So yes, we have all “inherited” the intellectual capacity in our DNA to choose between good and evil, we have inherited the potential and reality of sin. And clearly, if we all had eternal life before the fall and now all die, as we all do, yes, sin changed the very nature of mankind in a profound way.
    But here’s the main point: Paul in this passage, as I read it, isn’t primarily concerned sin. He’s only concerned with sin because it leads to death. His chief concerns are life and death and getting back to a state of eternal life, the pre-sin state. Sin to Paul is the block to life.
    When one of my sons was five, he asked me: Why are we born if we are just going to die? I was amazed. His young mind had seized on THE essential question of humankind. I told him everything we do as humans is about answering that question: art, philosophy, science, religion, all exist to try to solve that one fundamental problem. Our great sadness, our great wound, is the inevitability of physical death. Christianity –and Paul–have honed in on that question. To Paul, as I understand him, overcoming sin means overcoming physical death and getting back to a state where we do not die, where we do not have to ask the question why are we born if we’re just going to die. And this is where I have trouble with the overlay of science: nowhere, to my knowledge, has science ever found a time (or a place or a state) where things do not die. If Eden is a place without death, if “before the fall” means a state of never physically dying, then as far as science is concerned, there is no such place, there is no “pre-Fall” world, at least not as a physical construct. Science would say that before human sentience, humans still died. Humans might not have known they would die, but die they did, as did all things in creation, plants, animals, etc. Birth and death drive evolution. So how do we reconcile the two competing visions? Science has no evidence at all of deathless world; Christianity, through and through, rests on that the certainty that a deathless world has been and will be a reality. Christianity says if we can cure the problem of sin, we will have eternal physical life; for science, the problem of original sin should have no meaning, as we simply can’t have eternal life on this earth. So is science wrong? Is Christianity wrong?

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

    I think Blocher’s analysis is very helpful for what seems to be emerging as an Evangelical option concerning human evolution: that Adam was a particular representative individual, through whom at some spiritual level the image of God and the imputation of original sin (or of judgment for sin in Blocher’s view) were transmitted to all other humans, including Adam’s contemporaries. It’s interesting that Blocher is at Wheaton College and that Wheaton’s seminar on human origins apparently presents this is a viable option (though Blocher doesn’t teach in that course) (see: http://www.asa3.org/asa/PSCF/2007/PSCF12-07Moshier.pdf)
    I like it. I don’t know if it’s the “right answer,” but the alternative does seem to be a neoorthodox Barthian ahistorical view of the fall. What I’ve read of Barth, I like, but there seems to be a great divide between classical evangelicals and Barthians that determines where one falls on a host of interwoven questions. (Yes I know there are many evangelicals who more selectively incorporate Barth.) Anyway, this at least seems to carve out some breathing room for evangelicals to discuss the question of how Adam relates to the long history of hominid development, whether it is “evolutionary” or some sort of “punctuated special creation.” It is surprising how many scholars even at conservative evangelical schools are open to this view.

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

    Here we go again — but this time I respectfully abstain from inserting my opinion into the fray. No one cares what I think anyway (note to Phil: now *that’s* a martyr complex!).

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    I think it’s interesting that people who insist that Genesis MUST be taken literally will in turn insist that these verses do not literally mean what they clearly says: that Jesus’ gift of grace will have a more powerful and more universal effect than the sin of Adam. Since every person who has lived (besides Jesus, of course), whether they want it or not has inherited the sin of Adam, then a clear, literal reading of this verse would require that just as many humans will receive life through Jesus. Literalism for me but not for thee? IJS.

  • RJS

    Bob,
    If you have an opinion on the questions at the bottom, I for one am interested. There have been differing takes on these throughout church history – independent of any contentious discussion of origins.

  • http://www.mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    I’m fascinated by this line I never noticed before, “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.” Death reigned, because of Adam, regardless of the actual committed sins of any particular individual. Original sin isn’t about “Humanity is bad”. It’s about “Humanity has a problem, to which the death/resurrection of Jesus is the solution”.
    And as someone else pointed out, Paul specifically refers to Adam as “a type of” of Jesus. Does anybody know what the Greek is here?

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

    Rebbeccat (14) — I’m not sure the jump to universalism is so clear, literalism or not. Sin enters the world through Adam, and while it has universal effects, we each choose to participate in it. This is a big part of Blocher’s argument: the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all humanity does not excuse any individual from personal responsibility. Similarly, redemption enters the world through Christ, and it has universal effects, in that grace is generally active in culture (common grace) and is available universally to everyone (depending on one’s view of the “Limited” part of atonement in TULIP of course). Yet, not everyone will choose to participate (or be elected to participate — again, that pesky “L”). The universal availability of the atonement does not preclude the need for an individual response of faith, particularly when Romans 5 is set in the larger context of Paul’s theology.

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

    Travis,
    “Typos”

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

    Travis (#16): typos: “a die (as struck), i.e. (by implication) a stamp or scar; by analogy, a shape, i.e. a statue, (figuratively) style or resemblance; specially, a sampler (type), i.e. a model (for imitation) or instance (for warning)” See http://www.zhubert.com/word?word=τύπος&root=τύπος&number=673587

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    dopderbeck, so Adam’s work is so universal and powerful taht we cannot help but choose its inheritance, but Jesus’ work is of so little practical effect that large portions of humanity will refuse to choose it? That seems to be exactly the opposite of the literal meaning of these verses which draw a direct parallel between the power and universality of the effect of Adam’s work and the work of Jesus. Structurally it’s as clear as “if a does x then be will do x in reverse but even more completely and powerfully”. How can Adam’s work be universally chosen, often without our complete knowledge or intent, but Jesus’ work carries so little power that it is easily resisted? That doesn’t make much sense – particularly in light of these verses. But again, perhaps I’m just misapplying my literalism here.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    Sorry, one of my lines is unclear. It should read: Structurally it’s as clear as “if ‘a’ does ‘x’, then ‘b’ will do ‘x’ in reverse but even more completely and powerfully”. I would also add that if an essential component of “a” is that it is universally irresistible, than by the argument being made by Paul, “b” must also entail that same trait.
    OK, I’m done rabble-rousing now. :p

  • http://contemplativetraditions.blogspot.com/ C Grace

    “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam”
    I agree with Geoff’s comments #3 on the fact that the image of God was changed, (broken or darkened are words I often hear in referring to this.) I think that what is meant by here by “death reigning” is that since the soul is separated from God who is the source of it’s life and power, then it no longer has the power to freely will to love God and do God’s will as Adam did before the Fall.
    Think of this analogy — as the body starts to age and die it becomes harder and harder for the soul to move it until finally when death reigns completely in the body the soul cannot move it at all. Thus too, the soul, crippled and dying apart from God gradually looses any ability to respond to the Spirit and will of God. What is inherited then is not Adam’s guilt, but Adam’s corruption -and this corruption is a propensity to sin and a will to weak to overcome that propensity and a body that is subject to death and corruption.
    Traditionally the theolgians in the early church taught that Adam and Eve in paradise had incorruptible bodies not subject to pain or the conflicting emotions and turmoil of thoughts that we have, nor had it the same limitations (think of Christ’s body after the resurrection from the Gospel accounts.

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

    Rebeccat (#20) — honestly, I’m not sure what the “literal” sense of this whole passage is. It’s very confusing, even just on its face, because “the law” is also introduced into the equation, and there is the reference to “many transgressions” in verse 16, and the discussion of “the law” and the power of sin continues well into chapter 10. There is at least one explicit reference (chapter 8, verse 6-11) to the fact that some people do not have the “Spirit of Christ” and therefore are still “in the flesh” and cannot please God. And then chapters 9-11 follow this with an extended discussion of the relationship between the law, Israel, and the ingrafted Gentiles, with the stuff about predestination (double predestination, perhaps?) in chapter 9.
    Given all this, I don’t think a simple, “literal” reading of Paul in Romans leads to universalism by any stretch.

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

    I just want to get back to the notion that there was no death before the ‘fall’ event. Now, IF we assume that this state of non-death applied to all living creatures then it seems to me that the laws that governed that reality must have been vastly different indeed. Suppose Adam were to go walking and he stood on an ant, or spider? What happened to fruit when they fell from trees? Did old vegetation die and make room for new vegetation or was the world simply going to fill up with plants, and then their seeds would no longer produce new ones?
    It is my looseley held opinion that morailty is related to knowledge, and knowledge demands responsibility. Sometime in history,humans became ‘smart’ enough to start questioning their animal instincts and developing a moral code. This is when, to me, we received from God His likeness. We became moral agents. This is the point when God began to communicate His morality to humans. But for some reason or deception, we chose to rely on our animals instincts and ignored God’s morality. ‘Death’ was the result. I think this means the death of the God-connected part of us. Call it a Spirit, call it our Eikon, I don’t really know. Anyways, long story short, action from the Father Himslef (in Christ) was the mechanism for restoring that part of us (after “Law” and huamn kings had failed). This is the hope, re-connection with the father in this life and of resurrection.
    That’s my basic formula. It’s probably riddled with holes, an I’m not wedded to it. . .

  • http://contemplativetraditions.blogspot.com/ C Grace

    “Now, IF we assume that this state of non-death applied to all living creatures then it seems to me that the laws that governed that reality must have been vastly different indeed.”
    Well, actually this is exactly what I believe must have been the case. After all, does it make sense that entropy existed before the Fall if what the Fall introduced was death and corruption? I think part of our problem in dealing with all this is that we have bought into a secular and scientific understanding of reality that makes the natural laws as we have observed them the impersonal and unchangeable ruling force in the universe rather then seeing creation as ruled and directed each moment by God’s continuous will and action. A more Christian view I think is to see those laws of nature as being a manifestation of His goodness toward us. (He sends the rain on the just and the unjust) Miracles then become not a breaking of these impersonal laws but merely another manifestation of God’s will for us.

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

    C Grace,
    I’ve mused over such an interpretaion myself, and interestingly, what you say is almost exactly the view put forward by A.E. Wilder-Smith – “the laws operating at the beginning were different from those operating now …our ideas of entropy must be completely invalid during an act of creation where creation is concerned the laws of thermodynamics, as we know them, are turned upside down. Here the laws governing time do not function either.”
    However, this view is not witohut some serious problems of its own. See this essay by Randy Isaac http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/PSCF3-96Issac.html#The%20Bible%20and%20Science for a brief summary of these problems. Essentially,

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

    The “essentially” at the end of my last post should be ignored.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    doperdeck, sure there are a variety of issue intertwined into these verses in Romans. However, the clearest statements in the whole thing are direct parallels between sin brought into the world by Adam’s world and justification to life through the work of Christ. All of the other particulars seem primarily to be concerned with maintaining consistency about the history and mechanics of how things progressed with sin in the world (I have always taken this to be a reference to the idea that before the law, there was not sin when sin is described as breaking the law and perhaps an oblique reference to the “sons of God” who inhabited the Earth in the days when there weren’t enough human beings to procreate, fwiw.) However, on this one point, the verse is crystal clear: Jesus’ work will prove to be even more complete, powerful and universal than Adam’s. If we were reading this passage without the benefit of knowing theology or even the rest of scriptures, this idea would be the one thing any reader would take from the verse as being crystal clear. “Just like Adam’s work, only better”. “The work of Adam was a ‘typos’ of the work of Christ.” Given that one is undeniably universal (except for the people Paul seems to be referring to here prior to the law), it would make no sense to a reader not predisposed to think otherwise by theology to think that Christ’s would not also be universal. Now, the argument can (has) been made that Jesus has justified all to life, but not all will claim that justification. However, this still begs the question of why Adam’s work is so powerful that we cannot help but claim it, while Jesus’ is of so little effect that hoards of people will dismiss it as easily as they shoo off a housefly. Not very impressive, IMO. That’s just me and I don’t actually want to start an argument on universal salvation. But I do completely stand by my argument that a literal reading of these verses would require us to see Jesus’ work as being parallel to Adam’s in all ways, including being just as universal and irresistible as Adam’s. If anything, it’s the one perfectly clear message in this passage from Romans.

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

    RJS (#15), all right, if you insist. My opinions are YES and YES.
    C. Grace (#22), your analogy about the body and your application of it to the soul is just speculation. I have a 102-year-old friend who didn’t “become a Christian” until he was 74. And his son, who is in his late sixties or early seventies now, just “became a Christian” a few months ago, on the day after his mother’s funeral.
    Wanting to be reunited with loved ones in heaven and realizing you’re not going to be if you keep living the way you are now can apparently be a great motivator, regardless of age. It certainly was in the case of these two gentlemen. Where does that leave your statement that the soul gradually loses any ability to respond to the Spirit and will of God?

  • http://theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    dopderdeck, (sorry for messing up your moniker before)
    doesn’t it seem odd that this whole section of Romans provides “clear” evidence for universal salvation, Calvinism and Armenism according to each system’s adherents? If nothing else, this should make us a bit more humble about insisting that we are the ones who “get it”.
    And I do need to be more humble about this passage. I’ve been being a bit cheeky here, but quite obviously what to me is as clear as a the written word can possibly be, is not nearly so clear to everyone else. For other people, the absolute necessity of a literal reading of Genesis as the basis for the faith is just as clear, yet I can hardly begin to fathom that idea in the least. So, while it is good for us to talk about these things, it is also hard for us to do so without insisting that because something is perfectly clear to us that means we understand it properly or that it ought to be perfectly clear to everyone else as well.
    It is my opinion that the faith has been seriously damaged by centuries of believers insisting that certain understanding of scriptures is essential to a proper Christian faith and those who do not have their particular understanding must be unfaithful to God and His word. We make too much of ourselves and remove much of the mystery of God when we do this. Not to mention the blasphemous disunity which has torn the church apart as a result. But insisting that one person or the other has the only right, clear understanding of scripture when clearly people of faith and good will can come to many understandings, is an old habit. And one we will have to work hard and deliberately to break.
    So, in that spirit, I have offered my argument. I think it’s a good and well supported one, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the correct one. God will tell and really, if He wanted us to have all the right answers free, clear and uncomplicated, He probably would have left us a much more clearly written book! :)

  • http://contemplativetraditions.blogspot.com/ C Grace

    Bob,
    Trying to be brief in comments can leave things out. I was talking about the consequences of the fall, without taking consideration of what Christ has done. The whole story of Christ is that through Him this trend is reversed. He gives us hope of something better, he restores our faith in God which motivates us to fight against the powers of death. I see Romans as laying out a plan of salvation so to speak. In Chapt 1-2 Paul is convicting first the Gentiles and then the Jews of their sin and trying to get them to realize they have a problem. Chapt 3-5 is the theory of what Christ has done to fix that problem and then 6 is where he starts to lay out what we need to do to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.” Chapt 6-7 in particular lay out the need for struggle against the forces of sin and death in order to free ourselves from them. In this struggle our faith is perfected (James 2)and we start to live once again, not according to our own will or depending on our own life but once more growing in our dependence on and receptivity to God’s life and will.
    I think it is wonderful that these men became Christians but maybe it wasn’t just all of a sudden. Maybe there was a lot of ground work being laid already? I think it is so often the realization of the imperfection and temporal nature of this existence that leads us toward God. In this I think the Fall was God’s mercy — our very state of suffering the effects of sin causes us to turn back to God because we know that we were made for something better and in our heart of hearts we long for immortality

  • Dana Ames

    The text doesn’t say “guilt”. It says “death”: death entered the world, death spread to all mankind, death reigned, death came by a man. Yes, we are guilty of sin- our own, not Adam’s. My thought is consonant with much of what is expressed by mariam, Diane and Rebeccat.
    We have to look at the text first. There is nothing in the text to lead to the conclusion that sin and guilt are transmitted physically and biologically to Adam’s descendants. That idea coalesced in Augustine’s teaching and others later took it up, but it was just not pursued by the Greek-speaking eastern teachers reading and interpreting the Greek text.
    btw Phil#1&#5, God didn’t curse creation. He cursed the serpent, and he said the earth (land) would be cursed because of Adam- descriptive, not prescriptive. I don’t think we will “evolve” into being like Christ in terms of his essence as God; that’s simply not possible because he is uncreated and we are created. But nowhere in scripture is the humanness of humanity disparaged (“flesh”/sarx is not to be thought to have simply the same meaning as “human”). We are called to communion with God in our humanity (John 17), we are called to be perfect as God is perfect in self-giving love for the good of others (requiring choice, which we activate as human beings, eikons of God), we are told we will be like Jesus because we will see him as he is (that includes his humanity, which remains- he has a body and everything…), and we are given a vision of what it means, because of our participation in Christ, to be headed -as humans- toward somehow partaking of the divine nature (2Pet 1:3-11). I think these texts have to be reckoned with.
    Y’all might be interested in this, a less technical article than Fr. Romanides’ but covering much of the same ground:
    http://www.antiochian.org/assets/asset_manager/da42e6049df1d08bff1865c1ac19e759.pdf
    I came across it 3-4 years ago. This is the aspect of EOrthodoxy (*not* theosis) that really made me do a double-take and grabbed my attention and started me thinking about ramifications.
    Dana

  • mariam

    C Grace After all, does it make sense that entropy existed before the Fall if what the Fall introduced was death and corruption? No, that wouldn’t make sense, if we assume the Fall introduced death and corruption. But if there was no “fall” in the sense that Adam’s disobedience wrecked everything, then there things did not have to look completely different before Adam’s disobedience. There is a lot of reference to decay, but remember that out of death comes life. It is not as if everything just gradually rots into nothingness. Things die and out of that death, new life comes. God is continually recreating. It is hard to imagine a static deathless universe – it would seem, well, lifeless. Perhaps that is why God created mortals in the first place – to give Himself something to do:-) This view that God had finished and perfected creation and then Adam broke it suggests a serious design flaw and a weak or inept God. First of all Adam could not have been “perfect” if he disobeyed. Secondly, I don’t think God would put the “decay of creation” button in a the hands of such a hapless creature. I think God knew Adam and Eve would not be able to resist the apple and that he already had a plan in place for rescuing us from the negative consequences of that disobedient but necessary choice.
    I think part of our problem in dealing with all this is that we have bought into a secular and scientific understanding of reality that makes the natural laws as we have observed them the impersonal and unchangeable ruling force in the universe rather then seeing creation as ruled and directed each moment by God’s continuous will and action. There is a danger of seeing the universe in a completely mechanistic way, but I think the laws of nature are God’s laws, He uses them in creating and maintaining the universe. They are not impersonal, but a complex wonder, and a sign of God’s continuing presence in creating order from chaos and nothingness. I see no reason to believe that God would use a different set of rules prior to the introduction of sin. And I don’t actually see any strong biblical evidence that Adam and Eve were perfected finished creations or that there was not physical death prior to “the fall”.

  • Dana Ames

    p.s. Yes, I do think that Adamic sin changed something about creation. Rom 8 seems to indicate that. Too long for a blog comment. Read NT Wright’s Resurrection book, also for more re previous comment.
    Dana

  • mariam

    C.Grace In this I think the Fall was God’s mercy — our very state of suffering the effects of sin causes us to turn back to God because we know that we were made for something better and in our heart of hearts we long for immortality I heartily agree with you here.

  • mariam

    C.Grace In this I think the Fall was God’s mercy — our very state of suffering the effects of sin causes us to turn back to God because we know that we were made for something better and in our heart of hearts we long for immortality
    I heartily agree with you here.

  • http://contemplativetraditions.blogspot.com/ C Grace

    Mariam,
    “God is continually recreating. It is hard to imagine a static deathless universe – it would seem, well, lifeless.”
    God is now recreating, the original plan was to be continually creating. I don’t think that deathless = static. death and rebirth aren’t really change, growth is change. Death and rebirth is a kind of cycle that just repeats itself, but in entering into the death and resurrection of Christ, we are reborn not into the fallen cycle of death and rebirth but into the original plan of continual growth into God.
    “Out of death comes life.” Is the image of the healing power of the cross reflected in fallen creation, but “out of life comes more life” was the original plan. “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” Jn 10:10
    Just for the record, since I don’t often post here I am coming from a pretty typical Eastern Orthodox view of this issue. I believe Adam was created in the image of God and with the potential for an ever-growing likeness to God by participation in God. He lost that potential in the Fall, becoming separated from God by the choice of his own free will. What Christ then healed is this image so that we could then take hold of the original potential for growth we were created with. Because of the union of the divine nature and the human in Christ, there can be no second fall, no separation again like the first one.
    You said earlier that:
    “Adam’s disobedience did not “wreck” creation. The notion is ludicrous – it implies a God that is either inept or deliberately and cruelly set a hapless creature up for failure. God’s actions in Eden were purposeful and I would even argue (agreeing with the Calvinists on this one) that God orchestrated “the Fall”. God was not surprised when Adam and Eve disobeyed – He knew it would happen”
    I think that God certainly knew it could happen, but he did not set them up to fall. This would be saying He purposely set them up to suffer. What Calvin denies is human free will. God did not create robots, he created us for love and communion and love cannot be forced. The fact that creation fell along with Adam is not God “wrecking creation” as a purposeless or cruel act. Can you see how the fall of creation ties into what we were saying about how suffering brings us back to God?

  • http://gummer.co.nz Geoff

    C Grace seems to have a good handle on it.
    Think of it like this.
    Adam changed – the nature of his being changed as a CONSEQUENCE of his actions. The PUNISHMENT for his actions is death.
    People tend to confuse the 2 things.
    As a CONSEQUENCE of Adams actions, all his offspring are born outside of Eden (the place where (theologically) humans and God existed together in a right, intimate relationship).
    Adam is told that the punishment for his actions, should he eat of the fruit is to die.
    The CONSEQUENCES are outlined in gen 3:15-22:
    - purposelessness (toil)
    - “eyes opened”
    - knowledge of good and evil (ie, knowing a life of purposelessness)
    - no access to the tree that gives life
    - no access to Eden (God).
    I really dont see how people can get confused about it, I find it very clear and obvious.

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

    I agree with Mariam that the passages in question do not take us to “the doctrine of Original Sin” as it has been construed – especially in western Christian circles – for centuries.
    I think we should take these kinds of passages as an overview of God’s plan, and as a general description of the flow of events and connection points – without trying to discern too many specific details, and without turning it into some utterly neat, clear-cut mathematical equation. I think that to do that distorts the figurative nature of the language used.
    I would also caution that we as hearers/readers, coming from a western construct, tend to think in legal terms that really color how we read the text. I remember an Eastern Orthodox friend of mine pointing out that westerners tend to read passages about judgment, and about God as judge with fear; like, “Here comes the Judge to lay down the law”. The Eastern Orthodox, on the other hand, tend to think of a judge as an advocate, friend, counselor.

  • mariam

    C.Grace,
    We are actually pretty close in the meaning of Genesis, I think. I just don’t think that God had finished with humans – in other words I think “the fall” was, if not part of God’s plan exactly, something he knew would happen. And I think there was physical death prior to the fall – but not spiritual death and not an understanding of death.
    I see God as a parent. At some point we have to let our children make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences so that they will grow up. We regret that they will suffer for their mistakes, we sometimes we we could just do it for them so they won’t have to suffer, but we also know that some suffering and painful truths are necessary if they are to grow. So I don’t think that God was punishing Adam and Eve. He was allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions, which was that they were not ready to obtain eternal life. He told them what the consequence would be for eating the forbidden fruit and that is exactly what happened. Was God angry and disappointed? Perhaps, but surely not surprised. As we both agree, our very suffering is what turns our hearts back to God. And turning back to God is what is very best for us, so the suffering is in that sense kind rather than cruel. Adam was, and we are, not so far from our pre-sentient ancestors that we are able to learn in the absence of experience. For example, God says “in that day you will surely die.’ The serpent reiterates the idea – “you will not surely die”. What could that possibly mean to someone who had no knowledge of death. On that basis alone I would have to argue that there was some sort of death prior to the fall, otherwise the term would be meaningless, and it would have been even more cruel of God to punish them.
    It makes me a bit nervous thinking that God had an “original plan” but it didn’t work out because of some very predicable action on the part of Adam and Eve. I mean when you read Genesis and God says, “Now you can eat from every other tree, but don’t eat that really yummy looking fruit right there or you’ll die”, don’t you just know what is going to happen next? I have a hard time with the idea that God let Adam wreck everything because He really thought that maybe, MAYBE, Adam would pass the test. Or that Adam was perfect, or at least God thought he was, until that whole disobedience thing. It makes me wonder whether God really has a handle on everything. Maybe the earth will be struck and destroyed by an asteroid tomorrow and God will say, “whoops, I didn’t see that coming”. I would rather believe, and I don’t think I have to give up on scripture to do so, that God knows what He’s doing and what happened in Eden and what happened after Adam’s disobedience were part of His “original plan”, a plan which included his covenant with Abraham, the law of Moses, the example of Israel, the exhortations of the prophets and in time God’s incarnation in Christ and His victory over death. But first He needed to show us what we would be missing if we disobeyed so we would have that longing ever with us.

  • http://bobcharters.blogspot.com bob charters

    Here’s a take I don’t see very much on, but could shed some light. What about the impartation of the knowledge of good and evil (the name of the forbidden tree)?
    With the knowledge of good and evil, we gained our ability to judge others.
    Yeshua, in the Sermon on the Mount, and James (chapter 2), (And Paul makes reference in Romans 2), it’s when we judge that we come under judgement. Adam, in his first state, was incapable of judging good and evil, and therefore, exhempt from judgement.
    That sounds close to Paul saying that until the Law, sin wasn’t imputed. However the problem here is the 2000 year gap between the partaking of the fruit and the giving of the Torah.

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

    Bob (#41),
    I’ve been thinking similar thoughts. Part of this discussion must be about what sin, knowledge, good and evil mean.
    This also means we have to ask what the ‘tree of life’ means too. Is it an actual tree with real fruit that, upon its consuption renders the eater immortal? In that case, did all other living things 9outside the garden)obtain immortality too, even though they did not eat of the tree of life? or did they experience real physical death whilst the fruit-of-the-tree eaters did not?

  • mariam

    Don Miguel Ruiz has an interesting take on the the tree of knowledge in the Voice of Knowledge. He sees the story in Eden as symbolizing the abandonment of our “true self” for the construction of a “false self” rooted in ego. The knowledge that we gained from that tree was actually a false knowledge – the carefully constructed stories and lies we tell each ourselves and each other to build up an identify which we show the world. That false identity is fed by the conscious or unconscious stories and lies others tell us about who we are, starting with our parents. The serpent represents those lies, which seem good and true, but really aren’t. Our true self, the person God intended us to be, becomes buried under our ego and the judgment of others. Before eating the fruit Adam and Eve were happy with their true selves – they were naked and not ashamed. After eating the fruit they were ashamed and covered themselves. Our shame causes us to do all sorts of destructive things to maintain our false facade. I have often found that the worst actions people commit are not the initial instinct-based selfish actions, but the actions that follow in their attempt to rationalize or cover up their shame in order to preserve their ego. In Ruiz’ take, God was warning them off the tree because He knew it would destroy their true selves (the God-imaged self) and replace it with a false one. Our quest is then deconstructing the false self and recovering the true self – the inner eikon (which Ruiz sees as buried, rather than cracked). Ruiz is not making any sort of theological statement – he is using the Eden story as a metaphor for psychological constructs, but his take was interesting, useful to me, sort of refreshing in the context of this conversation. From a theological standpoint I don’t know if I agree that that is what happened. It seems to me that if God really didn’t want them to eat from the tree he wouldn’t have placed it in front of them. However, a reminder that when we stop focussing on the literalness of the story, there are many instructive ways in which it can be read.

  • Dianne P

    mariam #40,
    I so very much agree on the parental thing. Why would God create this parent-child relationship? So intricate, so layered, so dependent in the early years, then so “pushing apart” prior to adulthood. Our child is probably the only person that we would instinctively give our own lives to protect. While I very much do not want to slight those who are childless, I think that the incredible nature of that parent-child love was created by God so that we would have just a glimpse into how His love for us plays out.

  • Phil

    Bob (#41)

    However the problem here is the 2000 year gap between the partaking of the fruit and the giving of the Torah.

    The command by God to Adam, to leave the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was the law that was transgressed, with the consequence (as promised) being an imputation of death. The phrase is that death “reigned” and the word used (βασιλεύω) means to reign like a king. This represents that a law had indeed been broken in order for sin to have that rule – without the transgression death would have had no right to rule.
    Adam would surely have had to have an understanding, of some kind, of the “wrongness” of disobeying God’s command. Perhaps it is like that child-like faith that Jesus spoke about which trusts that God knows what is best without having to have everything nailed down. Perhaps even this very discussion is part of the consequence of mankind seeking after the knowledge of good and evil – the knowledge of why something “is” rather than the simple trust that it just is.

  • http://gummer.co.nz Geoff

    Knowledge of good and evil:
    If one wishes to understand this, one has to understand what the Preacher says “all is vanity and chasing after the wind”.
    I read an article on this a while ago where it is suggested that what the preacher is saying is that knowledge of good and evil is in fact, knowledge that life is purposeless (chasing after wind), and mortal.
    You see, Adam knew right from wrong, he knew it was right not to eat the fruit, and wrong to do so, so did Eve. Its not about knowing right and wrong, its experiential knowledge, knowing the difference between being in a right relationship with God, and having eternal life, and being outside a right relationship with God, and having earned death.
    Knowledge of good and evil is the knowledge that once one has disobeyed God, one has lost ones created purpose, has become mortal, and subject to the wrath of God.

  • mariam

    Dianne,
    We all carry around an picture of God in our heads. It’s not what God is but it helps us relate to Him. The Good Parent has always been my picture of God. And because I have children, who are just exiting their teenage years, so I know all about rebellion and “falls”, as well as a parent’s disappointments, hopes and grief, I tend to see that aspect of God in the Bible. He is both a perfect Mother with her unconditional love and willingness to do anything for her child and a perfect Father with expectations, challenges and encouragement. I know those are stereotypes and I am not trying to say anything about what women and men should be as parents – I think they should both try to be both.
    BTW, i had earlier read the article Dana links in 32, and today read the one Scott links in 7. Together they have given me a lot more insight into the EO perspective. In fact, it seems to me that CS Lewis’s perspective in the Narnia seires is quite similar. And it probably has similarities with the traditional Anglican perspective than although I think we tend to see Satan not as an actual person but as a personification of evil. And God, like a parent, does as much as He can, within the bounds of allowing us to be free creatures to keep us from the snares of evil. I found a similar theology when I attended the Salvation Army for a couple of years as a young person. They talked about SIN there as if it was personified. Someone who was caught up in sin was not to be judged but to be rescued. There was very much a sense of stumbling into sin, or being tricked or falling overboard, rather than sinning as a deliberate act of rebellion. This seems to be similar to EO notion that Satan sets traps for us but God is on our side, and will do what it takes to get us back.

  • RJS

    I have not stepped into this discussion – but it is fascinating. Several profitable directions for future posts…
    Bob (#41) Knowledge of Good and Evil is definitely an important concept to consider in this context of first Adam.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X