The Fall and Sin After Darwin 1 (RJS)

The book Theology After Darwin contains a series of essay centered around a simple question: What are the implications for Christian theology if Darwin was right? If we were to take a poll on this blog asking this question I venture to guess that the doctrines of sin and the Fall would top the list of concerns. After all, evolutionary creation calls into question the existence of Adam and Eve as historical individuals and this has serious consequences … or does it?

I have before me four essays or articles that deal with Adam, Eve, and the Fall in one way or another. The next chapter in Theology After Darwin is “Doctrines of the Fall and Sin After Darwin,”  written by John J. Bimson who teaches Old Testament at Trinity College Bristol. The recent theme issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (v. 62 no. 3 2010) Reading Genesis: The Historicity of Adam and Eve, Genomics, and Evolutionary Science contains three articles on related topics: “Adam and Eve as Historical People, and Why It Matters” by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science” by Daniel C. Harlow, Professor of Religion at Calvin College, and “Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins: An “Aesthetic Supralapsarianism.” by John R. Schneider also a Professor of Religion at Calvin College. These last three articles are available for download on the ASA PSCF Discussion blog.

I am going to post on all four of these essays over the next few weeks, but today I want to draw attention to a related video posted yesterday on BioLogos where Peter Enns discusses Adam, Eve, and the Culture Wars. This may help us frame the discussion as we consider the issues in the coming posts.

YouTube Preview Image

In this video Dr. Enns puts forth a suggestion that fear is a driving force in at least some of the conflict between science and faith – especially with respect to Adam and Eve. In fact he suggests that fear is the number one issue in his experience. Rather than theological debates  we have a conversation that is shaped and dominated by fearful arguments. People are frightened by the prospect that the science will undermine their entire Christian worldview.

While I do see fearful reaction at times, I am not convinced that fear is the driving force suggested in this video. I see a greater role for theological discussion -  on biblical grounds centered in the nature of inspiration and on anthropological grounds asking questions about the state of mankind. How did we get into this mess?

Dr. Enns concludes with a crucial point – and here I agree completely. As we consider these questions and work through the theological implications we need to keep the centrality of who Jesus is and of what he did fixed at the fore. We understand the gospel and the bible as a whole only when we read it with Christ at the center.

Christ at center means Adam is not. This figures quite high in my thinking about all of these issues these days. Adam is, when it comes right down to it, only an incidental part of our story – we could wipe Genesis 2-3 out of memory and it wouldn’t change anything of primary significance.  We still have human beings responsible for estrangement from God and God pursuing a covenantal relationship with his people. Mankind fails and falls repeatedly in the Old Testament. Paul’s presentation of the gospel in Romans 5 hinges on the sinfulness of mankind and on Christ and his role – it does not hinge on the historicity of Adam. Likewise the central theme of 1 Cor. 15 is not ancient history, but the pivotal event of the resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah. Now Adam may be historical, and there may be secondary issues of importance, but our foundation is Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection not Adam. We can step back and have the conversation and the debate.

What do you think? Is fear a driving force in the culture war conflict over evolution and common descent? If not, what do you see as the most significant issues?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

You can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • Rick

    Great post. Glad you are tackling this.

    My concern is that this is being treated like it (the emphasis on Adam) is a modern development.

    I agree with you that it is not as much a fear factor as it is a theological factor. Church history has included, at times, putting Adam on a higher level than just “an incidental part”, with Augustine’s views being a good example. Thefore, the concern that is being expressed comes with a history of a certain theology (I am not necessarily including EO theology), and a certain hermeneutic.

    Are we just to disregard those teachings on what was the Fall, where did it start, and what were the ramifications? I am all for building on previous teachings, or looking into other orthodox church traditions on the topic (such as the EO), but to just overturn centuries of tradition based on relatively new scientific views is something I would want to look at very cautiously.

  • http://peterpankindoflife@blogspot.com David Mosley

    I think there are still some issues with “losing” Adam and Eve and the story of the Fall. While you are right, we see people sinning pretty much continually after Genesis 3, however, Genesis 3 comes with both promises and curses essential to Christian doctrine.

    Without Genesis 3 we lose a sense of all of creation being cursed due to man’s sin; the first promise of the coming Messiah who will right all the wrongs of the very beginning of humanity; the place we are, in many ways, seeking to recover, Eden.

    Not being a scientist, I’m not sure how, but I think there must still be a way for an ultimate Fall to happen even within evolution. It may not have happened as it is expressly written in Genesis, but it must have happened which explains the falleness of all Creation, including humanity, especially humanity.

  • Justin

    “Adam is, when it comes right down to it, only an incidental part of our story – we could wipe Genesis 2-3 out of memory and it wouldn’t change anything of primary significance.”

    This is a great point. Aside from the first few chapters of Genesis, does Adam even play a role in the rest of the Old Testament? I may have missed it somewhere, but I don’t remember anyone blaming Israel’s idolatry on the Fall of Adam and Eve. I think there’s a reference to him in Isaiah (maybe?) but it doesn’t seem that Moses, Elijah, or the rest of the prophets seemed to place much emphasis on the first man, if at all.

  • scotmcknight

    I’d like to register a thought one more time. This comes to me every time the issue of the Fall comes up.

    The focus of the Bible is not on humans as sinners but on humas as sinning.

    The focus of Israel’s sacrificial system, the criticism of the Prophets, the preaching of John, the preaching of Jesus and the preaching of the early on the apostles was not to get humans to admit they were sinners/born in sin/corrupted, but to get them to see their sinful behaviors and to turn from them.

    So, in line with this biblical emphasis, the Fall in Gen 3 doesn’t speak of sin corrupting all humans — even if I myself believe in original sin — but of Adam and Eve choosing to sin. Then in Gen 4 with their sons sinning.

    Now to Romans 5. The crucial expression in Romans 5:12 is not “in whom we all sinned” but “because we all sinned.” The emphasis even here is on our behavior not our corrupted nature. The blame is not simply Adam, but all of us — why? for sinning.

  • Tim

    Rick,

    “but to just overturn centuries of tradition based on relatively new scientific views is something I would want to look at very cautiously.”

    The Theory of Evolution has been around now for 150 years. It’s not exactly all that new.

  • Rick

    Tim #5-

    I was speaking in relative terms. 2,000 years of church history v. 150 years of evolutionary studies.

  • Tim

    Rick,

    Well, in scientific terms, a 150 year old theory is relatively “old”. We accept myriads of theories far younger today as adequately established beyond any reasonable doubt. In terms of relating it to 2,000 years of Church history, just how “cautious” do you think we need to be then? Taking our time in that respect would certainly put us past your and my lifetimes. Perhaps our great, great, great…great grandchildren then could feel comfortable accepting it after a few hundred more years?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I must admit this whole view of people being corrupt and creation being fallen is very alien to me since I grew up thinking that we were to avoid sinning (as Scot says) because creation and us are temples of God! My (amateur) theology says that we are holy, his creation is holy, and these are all gifts to be enjoyed and we should continue to strive to bring his kingdom here and push all sin out!

    I view the whole fallen nature and corrupt people theme to be masochistic in the hope of it earning god’s favor. It is unhealthy to teach our children that they are bad people. It is unhealthy to think of the world as bad (fallen). Why should we teach our children that they are hopeless?

    So the fear is real because there is an entire world view that can be upset by this. It’s like Obama being in the Whitehouse. For many people their entire worldview was shattered. Most people do not instinctively like change. Change is to be resisted. Uncertainty causes fear and changing this world view.

    It is not a jab at anyone to say that there is fear. We must acknowledge what is going on so we can figure out the appropriate action to take. The appropriate response to fear is to have courage. The bible has much to say about courage. We are to be courageous. But my favorite is from Mark Twain (which I have framed on my desk):

    Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.

    I hope that was not preaching…

  • Rick

    Tim-

    From your response it sounds like I may not be communicating that clearly. I am not emphasizing or questioning evolution. Instead, I am emphasizing the history of a theology that places Adam higher than “an incidental part”.

    Was the Western wing of the church wrong about placing such an emphasis on Adam all this time? We need to be careful about overturning such a history.

  • Tim

    I completely agree DRT!

    Here’ what I don’t get about the logic of the fall as seen through an evolutionary perspective:

    (1) God creates humankind through his chosen process, evolution.

    (2) This creation process results in a species that is socially cooperative and even altruistic, but also selfish, lustful, aggressive, prideful, and oriented to self-determine their own culture.

    (3) (2) must have been God’s most ideal starting point for humanity given any practical limitations (if any) involved in God’s chosen process of evolution to create us.

    (4) Given this ideal (in so far as practically achievable) starting point for humanity as created by God, our species *surprise* follows their “rebellious” self-determining, proud, lustful, aggressive ways while also loving, caring, and functioning at least partially altruistically in societies. Yet given our nature, as created by God, what else was to be expected? Sure there is free will, but that mostly applies to the individual. When you average out each person’s free will (some choosing to be more good, some choosing to be more bad) you just really have a picture of overall human nature as mediated by their culture at that time.

    5) So based on (4), does our species become more degenerate over time as we keep “falling” despite the fact that such “falling” was essentially inevitable and in perfect keeping with our nature as created? If your ancestors are more sinful or rebellious, do you inherit those same further degenerate tendencies? Given the relevance of rebelliousness to salvation, how is this even remotely just? Is this not a form of punishing for sins of the father? And where is even the slightest bit of evidence that this has ever happened? Or is human nature relatively static, with culture mainly changing and mediating our expressions of such nature as a species? Are we the same people today as the first fully modern humans were?

    What are your thoughts?

  • Tim

    Rick,

    If you work through the evolutionary mechanisms for the origin of the human species, a literal Adam and Eve seems highly unlikely.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    “It’s like Obama being in the Whitehouse.”

    We finally agree.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Scot,

    When you say that Paul is talking not about our nature but about our actions in sinning, are you saying that we do not in fact have a depraved nature? Is inherent depravity unbiblical?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Per your argument Tim, I feel there is a difference in people dependent on the education of said people. If we teach everyone that they are depraved, they will more likely be depraved. If we teach them to be generous and upstanding, then we will have more of that.

    So I don’t believe we are always going to regress to the mean. Instead, I think we can bring the KoG here more and more.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Was man created (evolved) in a morally corrupt state, so that when he sinned against God he was merely doing what came naturally? That would seem to contradict Genesis 1, where after the creation of man, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Before the creation of man, the assessment about creation was that it was “good.” After the creation of man, the assessment about creation was that it was “very good.” If man was originally created (or evolved) in a morally corrupt state, I don’t think that could be called “very good.”

    It is in Genesis 2 and 3 that we learn that man, originally created as good and blessed, came under the sentence of death and plunged creation under curse. If man was originally corrupt and creation was originally cursed, there would be no point in depicting a fall. But inasmuch as Genesis 3 does portray a fall, it indicates that man and creation were corrupted from their original state, the one pronounced as “very good” in Genesis 1.

  • http://peterpankindoflife@blogspot.com David Mosley

    @ DRT

    You sound very much like moral theologian from the 5th century. His name was Pelagius. He too, upon reading Genesis 1 saw that man was made good and thought that man on his own was capable of overcoming sin, perhaps even never sinning, or at least choosing after baptism to never sin again.

    This cannot be. This world is imperfect and Scripture teaches it wasn’t always. We get sick; people are born with mental and physical defects; there is death and decay; thistles, mosquitoes, war it all points to falleness. If this is not because of a Fall (capital f) then why? Why is there sin? If it is because of evolution (God’s mode of creation) then it is God’s fault that we sin because we were created this via evolution. If, however, evolution is how we came to existance (by God) and then somone (or som pair) was first to disobey God and choose themselves over him and by result all Creation was affected then it is not God’s fault but humanity’s.

    Now, I am no Augustinian. I do not believe this world to be totally depraved incapable of any goodness. I do not believe that any are predestined to Heaven or Hell because of our fallen nature. I do believe that we can choose to follow Jesus, that we always need help and that the incarnation and resurrection are essential to our salvation, as well as the salvation of all Creation. Things are not as they should be and that is not entirely because of the sins of people but because of an initial sin, a first sin that tainted (though did not thoroughly destroy) everything.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff@15, perhaps you or someone else here can help me. In everyday language I would refer to my son as good, and my daughter as very good. I am not saying perfect and without flaw, but I am saying very good. Where does it say that very good means without flaw?

    Then, it would be much more compelling if after eating the fruit that god would say something like, you are no longer very good, you are now only good. Or whatever.

    But obviously he would not do that because gen 1 is written as one story and 2-3 is a different story.

    Again, why is very good = perfect?

    I see the gospel story where Jesus says no one is good but god, but is that the same word?

  • Rick

    Tim-

    “a literal Adam and Eve seems highly unlikely”.

    And that may be true, as RJS and other scholars have mentioned in the past. It looks like she will be addressing that again in this series as well.

    The question remains though: was the western church just far off base on Adam for all this time, or is there a compatible position that utilizes both scientific findings and some elements of the historic teachings?

  • Tim

    David,

    I think equating DRT with Pelagius is a little extreme. True, both DRT and Pelagius stressed mankind’s inherent worth and goodness, in contrast to a view of total depravity, but Pelagius (at least as commonly depicted and ridiculed) went a lot farther than this! I would be surprised if DRT didn’t think that it is by working with and through the grace of God that sin might eventually be overcome, whether in this world or in the next. Not outside of it.

    Personally, I don’t think mankind will ever get rid of sin in this world. But I think we can shape our culture to stress our most compassionate and noble traits, encouraging those for expression, while discouraging from expression the more vile and harmful traits we possess as a species. I don’t think this will get us to the “Kingdom of God”, but I do think it will get us to a place where we can be happy, contented, loved and loving, and at peace with ourselves and our place in this world. But beyond this, I think the “Kingdom of God” waits for us after this life.

    All of this said, I want do answer some of your questions:

    Why do we see the mental and physical defects?
    Evolution.
    Why do we see death and decay?
    Evolution.
    Why do we see sin (e.g., lust, aggression, etc.)?
    Evolution.
    I think that’s a perfectly adequate explanation to each one of your questions.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    David, thanks for the reply. I am not the pariah Pelagius, but I certainly do not think that it is a hallucination that in this moment I can chose to do a good act, or an evil act. That is a far cry from asserting that I can be perfect. But I can and should try to be perfect as god is perfect, as Jesus said. Was he wrong? No, people can chose to do good and evil. Note that I did not say “always” or “perfectly”.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    Your second paragraph — “It is in Genesis 2 and 3 …” This is certainly one interpretation of the text that is and has been common in the church. It is not the only interpretation or as far as I can tell the earliest interpretation (i.e. first several centuries). One of the questions I would like to address it the accuracy of this interpretation, not in a comment but in posts as we go on.

    I would like to hear from someone (actually several someone’s to get different takes) on the significance of the final “very good” in the Hebrew text. I don’t think it refers specifically to mankind or any special place for mankind – as “God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good.” It is the capstone to the passage with the whole of creation. But I still don’t think “very good” means idyllic perfection – creation was the beginning of a mission.

  • Tim

    Rick,

    My own answer to your question:

    The question remains though: was the western church just far off base on Adam for all this time…?”

    Yes. :)

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT @17, Genesis 1 cannot be divorced from Genesis 2-3 or else we end up with a distorted picture. The book of Genesis is not an anthology of diverse religious tales. It is all part of a larger narrative. That is how the Hebrews understood it; that is how the Church has understood it.

    When you say your child is good or very good, you are not speaking in the absolute sense, as if your child is perfect without flaw. You mean it in a relative way. But when God sees that all He created in Genesis 1 is “very good,” I don’t think that is a relative statement, except that it is relative to Him who created it. It would be a disconnect for God, who is good, to create a morally corrupt creature and call him “very good.”

    Inasmuch as God created man and blessed him, and saw everything He created as “very good” in Genesis 1, it is quite a contrast from Genesis 3, where man is under the curse of death and creation is cursed because of man’s moral corruption. The problem is not solved by removing Genesis 3 from the picture. Nor it is solved by moral equivocations. If we remove the Fall from the Bible, I think we will tend toward Pelagianism, and some of the comments in this thread seem to me to bear that out.

  • Tim

    Jeff,

    “If we remove the Fall from the Bible, I think we will tend toward Pelagianism”

    I don’t think arguing for the historicity of an event because you don’t like the theological implications of it’s not being true is a particularly compelling argument. I argue against the fall having ever happened due to our biological understanding of the evolution of life having pushed such a scenario out of what might be considered likely or plausible to a far more implausible/unlikely scenario.

  • Rick

    Tim-

    I appreciate your answer to my question :)

    “I argue against the fall having ever happened due to our biological understanding…”

    Are you saying you don’t believe in any type of “fall”, or just the one that came from the Augustinian line of thinking?

  • Tim

    Rick,

    I don’t see how any meaningful type of fall makes sense in light of the evolutionary origin of our species. A fall implies some better state, either in actuality or in potential, from which one “fell” from. The problem is, the evolutionary picture of our emergence as a species gives us every reason to doubt that a better state ever existed. And as far as some potential better state (the idea of God holding our a path for us which we rejected), our evolutionary beginnings would incline one to think that, as a species, we would have been ill-equipped indeed to pursue such a path.

  • rjs

    The conversation certainly suggests real theological questions – and I am sure these will come up in future posts on the four essays/articles. Several of the writers explicitly affirm the idea of a fall – although not necessarily one man, one woman, and a tree. C.S. Lewis in his discussion in The Problem of Pain – suggests one mechanism with a real Fall.

    Do we need the rebellion of mankind resulting in estrangement in relationship with God and each other or do we need a cosmic phase transition brought about by sin? I don’t think the “curses” reflect a cosmic phase transition from “very good” to “bad.”

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Tim@24, I am talking about the place the Fall has in the Bible and in Christian theology. The historicity of the Fall is a different question.

  • Tim

    Jeff,

    OK, got it. I’m not an expert on this as I’m not a theologian or biblical scholar. However, I think there is implicit support for the “fall” in Genesis, and there is explicit support for the “fall” in Paul’s writings. Whether or not one views such support along accomodationist lines is up to their interpretation. My own view is that the authors’ views in Genesis reflects bronze-age thinking on questions of why there appears to be a gulf between the creation and the creator, and it attempts to explain this gulf through a story depicting a rebellion and resulting corruption of a perfect state of harmony. I don’t know that the story was meant to be taken literally, but the idea that there was some such event(s) I think is implied in the text. Of course, Paul just comes out and says it – so that part is much firmer.

    So, is the “fall” a view expressed in the Bible? I think so. Is it wrong? I think so. Is it wrong because God’s revelation accommodates human erroneous viewpoints and perspectives? That’s up for each interpreter of the Bible to decide.

  • http://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com Justin Topp

    I think one concern that people have when we “get rid” of the historical notion of the Fall is that they believe we are then saying that God is not necessary for our redemption and that evolution can bring us into a better or more perfect state. As an ardent scientist who subscribes to evolution whole-heartedly, this just can’t be true. In the sense that the authors of Genesis were describing the human condition, evolution can’t make us more perfect. For my literalist brethren, it won’t bring us to a “pre-fall” state. There is still an absolute need for God to redeem us. We are both capable of doing very good things and capable of doing very evil things. May God bring us to the place where the former occurs more often than the latter.

    There are some that wed evolution and human redemption (Chardin comes to mind), but I don’t think this is an appropriate integration of science and theology. Do others?

  • Tim

    Justin,

    I agree with you in that evolution is not going to improve our moral state. I wasn’t familiar, however, with the notion that people were actually arguing that it could. That one’s new to me.

  • BradK

    Some would argue that Pelagius gets a bad rap…

    http://www.hereticalideas.com/?s=augustine+vs.+pelagius

    http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/pelagius_brit.htm

    That may or may not be true, but it is true that his name is used quite often to cut off discussions of human nature. “Why that’s Pelagianism!” is pretty much used to stifle debate by labeling certain views as heretical. And often the folks who do this don’t know who Pelagius was, what he believed, or why he was branded a heretic. Pelagius may have been been wrong, but merely labeling something as Pelagian is not engaging in a discussion. His chief opponent, Augustine, was definitely wrong about a few things, but simply labeling someone as Augustinian is not a valid argument.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I like rjs’ notion of the cosmic phase transition. When I started coming back to Christianity I would regularly read people who would say things like all of the cosmos changed on that day and quite frankly would think that was a silly idea for a couple of reasons. First, I have read Genesis and there isn’t anything in it that is remotely at that level with a plain reading of the text. Things are good and very good, not great let alone perfect. The author seems to go out of his (?) way to make it only good and not great or perfect, right?

    Second, it doesn’t say anything about the whole world changing. The most obvious interpretation in my view is that it was better *in* the garden. When they got thrown out they were no longer in the garden. It is not saying that the world and cosmos had some grand phase transition, it is saying they got kicked out of the garden.

    The story says that god has a great place for us but we are not ready for it. We sin. Isn’t it that simple? I think so, but what do I know?

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @RJS/DRT
    Without getting into what good and very good mean as far as perfection or not it seems that a plain reading of the text certainly supports some “silly idea” that earth (if not the cosmos) underwent changes such that things went from one to state to a worse state.

    Genesis 3 seems to say that hence the cursed ground, thorns and thistles, and harder work to grow food. Reading the text (ESV supplied) the ground was cursed because of Adam. Adam was disciplined by being removed from the garden so that suggests that the ground outside the garden was cursed (not just the ground of the garden which Adam could not get back to anyway).

    17 And to Adam he said,
    “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
    of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
    cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
    18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
    19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
    till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
    for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

    I know its not in Genesis but Romans 8 certainly says that creation (implication more than ground inside the garden) was put in a worse state than it started in. Creation was subjected to futility, corruption, groaning, and hoping for release.

    19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @DRT

    The story says that god has a great place for us but we are not ready for it. We sin. Isn’t it that simple?

    The story says that God gave us a great deal – a very good place to live, pleasurable work, and an ongoing relationship with Him. We chose to sin and rebel against God, seeking instead to be like Him rather than just have a relationship with Him. The result is a less than very good creation.

    The story does not end there – God graciously did not wipe us out however He did discipline us. He also lovingly provided us with a Savior! His blood and righteousness make us as ready as we can ever be for the “great place” that is our hope.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Justin@30, What do you mean by “redemption”? Redemption from what?

    BradK@32, I don’t bring up Pelagianism to try and stop debate. The question before us is how the doctrine of the Fall and sin is affected by Darwinism. My point in regard to that is, if we remove the doctrine of the Fall, we may very well tend toward a doctrine that the Church found to be heretical over 1500 years ago (i.e., Pelagianism).

  • BradK

    Mike #34, is creation in Romans 8 referring to the earth or the cosmos or to all human beings? Could Paul only be referring to people there? The rest of the NT usage of the word translated as creation three seems to indicate that he could be doing that.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Mike@34, Paul is referring to the whole of creation (see Romans 8:22). Also, note, “the creation” (v. 19, 20) waits for the “revealing of the sons of God.” And “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.”

  • BradK

    In #37 “three” should read “there.”

    Jeff, I didn’t mean to imply that you or anyone intended to do that, but that seems to be how it often goes.

    Maybe the original finding of Pelagianism as heresy was in error? I don’t want to be guilty of “theological amnesia” as far as the Church goes, but does it really matter if Pelagianism was found to be heretical 1500 years ago? Protestants at the time of the Reformation were/are quite content to chuck a lot of doctrine that was well establish for 1500+ years. The goal is to determine the truth, right? Reformed and always reforming?

    Note that I’m not saying it is or isn’t heresy. I just don’t think it is productive to slap a label on something rather than to actually discuss it.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Oops, my last post was directed to Brad@37

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    BradK@39, if we have to chuck the Fall and embrace Pelagianism in order to accommodate evolution ~ that would be a pretty big shift in Christian theology, don’t you think?

    Christians are constantly being assured that evolution is compatible with Christianity ~ but it usually looks like that means as long as Christians are willing to change their doctrines.

  • BradK

    Mike #38,

    I’m not sure that the use of the article there is relevant. For example, humanity is the creation of God.

    Also, compare Mark 16:15 where Jesus says to go and “preach the gospel to all creation.” That obviously refers to people and not the cosmos or earth, i.e. trees, rocks, oceans, and other things God created. In Colossians 1:23, the same word is translated creature instead of creation. “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” The KJV translates the same word as creature in Romans 8:19.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff@41, I don’t think anyone is saying to chuck the fall and embrace Pelagianism let alone have big shifts in Chrisitan theology. Comments like that stoke the fear cannon that Peter’s video was addressing. I think what we are doing is exploring and we should not let the fear of what we may find stop the exploration. Going down this path may shed light on another path, we don’t know where the end is.

    When you say “chuck the fall”, well, I think it is prudent to consider that there was not a physical cosmic change that happened when two people ate fruit after talking with a snake. The question is, what is the implication if that was not a physical event but a spiritual event in the evolution of mankind.

    It is the physical event that I am questioning.

  • BradK

    Jeff, there are a bunch of Christians who already embrace Pelagianism. Many Calvinists seem to think all Arminians are Pelagianists at heart. :-)

    But I don’t think I’ve tried to make a case that it’s necessary to “embrace Pelagianism.” I’m just saying that we shouldn’t dismiss everything Pelagius might have said out of hand just because he was considered a heretic 1500 years ago. If we want to claim that we must embrace a heresy to “accommodate evolution” we should actually show that what needs to be embraced actually is a heresy rather than just slapping the label of Pelagianism on it and dismissing it.

    I’ve seen no benefit to this discussion by Pelagius having been brought up at all. We should address the actual points being discussed rather than painting certain arguments with the brush of heresy by associating them with Pelagius. That’s all I’m saying.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @Brad.37

    In context it refers to the creation (cosomos) not people.
    The sons of God refer to those who are led by the Spirit (8:14) and are people who are fellow heirs and willing to suffer for Christ (8:17).

    And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons (8:23)

    In context it makes no sense for creation to refer to people as it is differentiated from people who also groan and wait for our freedom and release from bondage.

    Here is a list of all the NT occurrences of the noun “creation”. It almost always refers to the creation of all things (cosmos) rather than only the creation of people. It occasionally refers to our being a new creation. Also all of the other occurrences in Romans refer to the creation (not just people).

    http://net.bible.org/search.php?search=greek_strict_index:2937

  • BradK

    Oops, now you’ve got me doing it, Jeff. :-)

    My comment in #42 was directed at Jeff @38, not Mike. Sorry, Mike.

  • BradK

    Mike @45,

    Sorry, Mike, you may be right, but I’m not convinced by what you wrote here. In 8:23 the Greek word for creation is not actually used. A more literal translation would be “and not only this” as the NASB has it or “and not only they” as the KJV or “not only so” as in the TNIV.

    That list of occurrences you linked seems to support the reading I’m asking about more often than the one you are proposing. Specifically Mark 10:6, Gal 6:15, Col 1:15, 1Pe 2:13, Mark 16:15, 2Co 5:17, Heb 4:13 “And no *creature* is hidden from God”, Heb 9:11, 2Pe 3:4, Mark 13:19, Col 1:23, and Rev 3:14 could all be read in a similar way to what I am asking.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    The research I’ve done this afternoon supports Brad. Why would Paul starting talking about “Creation” as if it was alive and had feelings?

    And Brad is right in verse 23, it seems to me that creation is the gentiles. But who am I? Scot!

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    No worries Brad… :)

    I did look at the KJV translation and find it awkward as it seems to shift from creature (8:21) to creation (8:22) in that pericope. The NASB, ESV, NIV, NET, and NKJV all use creation.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    BradK@47, though creation is not in verse 23, the important point is that there is still a differentiation between the groaning of all creation and the groaning and “we ourselves.” If “all creation” in verse 22 included humanity, there would be no need to add “we ourselves” in 23.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    The translation of 8:23 posted in #45 was from the ESV. Duly noted that the actual Greek word for “creation” is not there.

    The NET version of 8:22-23

    For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

    But when read in context, the ESV translation is still correct – the creation groans (8:22) and we also groan (8:23). So it still stands that “creation” is held in contrast to the “we who have hte firstfruits of the Spirit”. Both creation and the children of God groan waiting for the day they are set free from bondage of corruption.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    MikeB@49, a “creature” is a created thing, whether it be animate or inanimate. What determines whether the Greek word (ktisis/i>) refers to animate or inanimate creations is the context.

  • BradK

    Jeff @50,

    You don’t think there is any need for Paul to distinguish between believers and the rest of humanity if he’s making reference humans in general as God’s creation?

    (also Mike @51)

    Consider this interpretation/translation…

    18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 All humanity waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For humanity was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected them, in hope 21 that it (humanity) will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

    22 We know that all humanity has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but also we Christians ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

    That seems to me to work without doing harm to the context. But maybe I’ve read too much N.T. Wright. :-)

  • David Mosley

    @DRT @Jeff

    My point in bringing up Pelagius was to show what can happen when we ignore the Fall. Pelagius ignored the Fall, said the Fall only affected Adam and the rest of us were only affected by having someone to imitate in sin. I did not say you were Pelagian or thought we could be perfect. I’m simply saying he used a similar line of thinking and it led to heresy.

    As for Genesis not saying anything about the fallenness of Creation: 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat of it
    all the days of your life.

    18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.

    19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

    This isn’t in reference to simple removal from the Eden. That certainly happened, but it seems that the ground was cursed because of Adam.

    Paul says in Romans 8: 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Creation was subjected to frustration, it isn’t currently how it should be.

    And Jeff, you say evolution is an answer to all of my questions, then does that not source the evils of this world in God? Death and decay are directly because of God. You even say sin is because of evolution and since evolution is how God chose to create the world, it is his fault that we sin. No one chose sin over obedience to God, therefore it was not our choice. If it was not by choice it was by necessity, if it was by necessity then God is the source and the causation of our sin.

    I fully agree that we are capable of choosing good and evil, but the reason we tend to choose evil and not good is because we are not as we should be. That was the purpose of the coming of Christ. And if evolution is the reason we exist and the reason for sin in the world and God used evolution then God is the reason for sin. If, on the other hand, sin is because of free will and our propensity for sin is because of the choice of the first humans to disobey God then God is only the source of our sin insofar as he created us with free will. That is a big difference.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @Brad.47

    That list of occurrences you linked seems to support the reading I’m asking about more often than the one you are proposing. Specifically Mark 10:6, Gal 6:15, Col 1:15, 1Pe 2:13, Mark 16:15, 2Co 5:17, Heb 4:13 “And no *creature* is hidden from God”, Heb 9:11, 2Pe 3:4, Mark 13:19, Col 1:23, and Rev 3:14 could all be read in a similar way to what I am asking.

    Not sure all the verses you cite support your reading as creation = people and not the world. The list it self does show that creation has broad meaning but I still maintain that it refers more often to creation of the world.

    Mark 10:6 – more refers to the creation of the world not people since it ties back to the Genesis account of creation. 2 Pet 2:34 likely fits here too. Not sure Heb 9:11, Mark 13:19, Col 1:23, or Rev 3:14 should be read as creation = people. All of these can be referring to the creation of the world.

    More importantly elsewhere in Romans where Paul uses the term creation it is to refer to the world not just people (1:20,25; 8:39) and this fact should help us determine what Paul may have meant in other verses in 8 since it is the same book (and chapter for 8:39). That coupled with context of 8:22-23 make for an interpretation of world.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @Brad.53

    Consider this interpretation/translation…

    19 All humanity waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For humanity was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected them, in hope 21 that it (humanity) will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

    22 We know that all humanity has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but also we Christians ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 2

    I assume that by “humanity” we mean all people regardless of whether they are Christian or not as 8:22 and 23 still contrast humanity with Christians. Since that is the case then this translation seems to have several problems. First not all humanity waits for the revealing of the sons of God with anticipation. In fact non-Christians don’t think there is a God for us to be sons of let alone a future in glory to anticipate. Second non-Christian humanity are hardly going to be liberated let alone glorified when Christ returns.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I don’t know about you all, but if Paul is talking about the creation being frustrated, and groaning etc then he is talking about an anthropomorphic creation. Not a literal creation. To me, that would mean that he considers the source to be allegory too.

    @David Mosley, when I read those same passages I don’t see any conflict in god meaning that the ground (that they will be living on) will be cursed because of them. I don’t think he has to say that.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Bradk@53, Will all humanity be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v. 21)? Is Paul here making a universalist statement, that all human beings will be saved? I don’t think so. To read ktisis as “humanity” here strains the context. That is why the NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, ESV, HSCB and other translations render it “creation” instead of “creature.”

    I don’t think you’ve read too much N.T. Wright but not enough of him. He, too, translates it as “creation” as speaks of it as the created, physical world, the one that man was given dominion over in the beginning (see his Romans: Part 1, in his Paul for Everyone series).

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    David Mosley@54, I was not the one who said that evolution is the answer to those questions. That was Tim@19. I believe that the Fall is the answer to those questions.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT@57, Paul is not speaking about an anthropomorphic creation instead of a literal physical creation. Rather, he is speaking about the literal physical creation in an anthropomorphic way.

    Seems like you are grabbing for straws. First you want it to be the Gentiles, now you want it to be allegory.

  • David Mosley

    @Jim59

    My apologies. I don’t comment on blogs often, my eyes jumped to the wrong place.

    @DRT57

    Just because Paul uses an anthropomorphism does not mean he considers the creation unreal and the story of the Fall allegorical. Scripture often uses anthropomorphism to describe things (especially God) but that does not mean that those things are unreal (otherwise we’d be saying there is no God).

  • David Mosley

    @Jeff59

    Again my apologies. Even when I try I can’t seem to get this right.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @DRT.57

    I don’t know about you all, but if Paul is talking about the creation being frustrated, and groaning etc then he is talking about an anthropomorphic creation. Not a literal creation. To me, that would mean that he considers the source to be allegory too.

    I think Paul is making the point that creation is currently not the way God intended since it was cursed at the Fall and that creation/world will be very different when Christ returns to reveal the children of God in glory.

    Not sure why this would make Gen 1-3 allegory any more so than Isaiah 55:12 which says trees clap hands would?

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    Jeff @ 60 – well said.

  • BradK

    Jeff @58,

    I think you trimmed the verse a little too thin by leaving out the part about the reason why it was subjected to frustration. “20 For humanity was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected them, *in hope* 21 that it (humanity) will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

    Is there no hope for humanity at large? Isn’t Jesus the hope of all humanity? The reading I proposed doesn’t necessarily imply universalism.

    To bring this discussion back around, I’m not saying that this interpretation is absolutely correct. I brought it up to counter Mike’s assertion that we know that the whole earth and cosmos changed as a result of Adam and Eve eating the fruit because “Romans 8 certainly says that creation (implication more than ground inside the garden) was put in a worse state than it started in.” I don’t think Romans 8 is *necessarily* good evidence of that. Even without translating the verses the way I proposed, it may be possible that Paul *means* humanity when he says “creation” in these verses. I just don’t see Romans 8 as *necessarily* strong evidence for a “cosmic phase transition” as RJS put it. There are alternative ways of understanding those verses.

  • David Mosley

    BradK@65

    I only did a quick read of Kittle and Danker (what I currently have on hand), but in both instances the term ktisis is used to refer to creation, not humanity. Kittle suggests it is anything made that isn’t “supernatural” (i.e. Satan, angels, etc.). He suggests that it better to speak of corrupted creation than fallen creation. Danker, suggests the term here is being used to refer to things lower than humanity. Now, I realize these are not definitive, perfect interpretations of the word, but still reputable. To me there is not enough evidence to say Paul meant humanity when he said creation. Paul had perfectly good word choices if had wanted to say humanity, that he chose this word instead says something. So far as I know it is not used as a synonym for anthropos or any other word referring to humanity as opposed to the rest of creation. It seems more likely, then, that what is in reference is either everything created (in reference to the physical world) or everything below humanity.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Let me somewhat recant. If he is not talking about a creation literally, then there is a good chance that he would be willing to acknowledge that other writings about creation are not literal. He is clearly not writing as if it all has to be literal.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    David, it seems that we can all agree that Paul was using some sort of poetic license in Romans 8. Therefore would it not be acceptable for that license to extend to man and creation?

    We have gone down a rabbit hole here that rjs clearly did not intend. Hopefully I will have enough self control to not do that in future iterations of this post.

  • David Mosley

    @DRT

    Yes, it could refer to both, but I don’t think it refers only to man.

    I’ve enjoyed our written tête à tête.

  • David

    Any of your stuff available on mp3?

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    BradK@65, the “hope” in verse 20 is confidence or expectation (which is what the biblical words for “hope” mean), and it will be fulfilled that in verse 21, when creation (“humanity” is merely your assumption) will be delivered from bondage into glorious liberty.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    David@70. I don’t know who you’re asking, but I do have some stuff on MP3 (and CD, too). http://www.walkingbarefoot.com/WBMmusic.htm

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @Brad.65

    I just don’t see Romans 8 as *necessarily* strong evidence for a “cosmic phase transition” as RJS put it. There are alternative ways of understanding those verses.

    While several possibilities have been offered for interpreting Romans 8 so far I haven’t seen any (other than creation = world) having stood up to both context and scrutiny in this current discussion.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @Brad.65

    Is there no hope for humanity at large? Isn’t Jesus the hope of all humanity? The reading I proposed doesn’t necessarily imply universalism.

    Jesus is the hope for humanity. But in Romans 8 the hope is the revealing of the sons of God and the freedom from corruption. Humanity without Christ (as already commented) does not have this hope nor does it anticipate future glory in Christ. That is why humanity does not fit into the context of Romans 8.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    On a different note is the book Theology After Darwin not available from Amazon? I could not find it?

    Thanks

  • rjs

    Mike B,

    It is not available from Amazon in the US – it is available from Amazon UK, of course then you have to pay overseas shipping as well. It is also available from Abebooks – and this is the link I have in the post.

    Apparently anthologies like this don’t sell well enough to justify pickup by a US publisher (or at least so one said when asked).

  • Rapha

    First, an admission: I didn’t read this entire thread of comments, primarily because it doesn’t look like anyone is addressing the sort of question I want to ask. If it’s been gone over in some other place, by all means point it out.

    This is going to sound like a loaded question, but please believe me when I say it’s not. I’m genuinely interested to hear what those who believe scientific understanding leads us to doubt the meaning/existence of Genesis 2-3 in this sense: How is it different to say “Science doesn’t support the creation account of Genesis 2-3, so we have to re-evaluate what it really means” and “Science doesn’t support that 5 loaves and 2 fish can feed 5,000 people so we have to re-evaluate what that text means” or worse, “Science doesn’t support that people can come back to life after they’re dead, so all Biblical instances of resurrection have to be re-evaluated?”

    I frankly don’t understand how they are different, and would love if someone (several someones, hopefully) could explain to me how they hold one of those concepts but not the other(s).

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    I think Enns is right on both the fear factor, and especially on starting with Jesus, and keeping him at the center and heart of the Story.And I think the latter will help people get past the former more than anything else. Though like Enns says, we need to question some of our longstanding assumptions.

  • rjs

    Rapha,

    I can give you my take on this question.

    (1) The reason to question a literal-historical reading of Genesis 1-3 does not start with science but with the text itself. It starts with the nature of the text, its relationship to other ANE literature, and the inherent contradictions in a literal-historical reading.

    (2) The text is of a time and a genre that the only way it could be literal-historical is if God dictated it to the writer. This is not the normal form of inspiration and the text gives no indication of such. Prophets had a word from God, but nothing directly within scripture suggests Genesis 1-3 as dictation.

    (3) The evidence from science in geology, paleontology, cosmology, and biology – which is evidence from God’s creation – is consistent with the idea that text isn’t literal-historical.

    Genesis 1-3 is inspired and from God – but truth in scripture comes in many forms, and it is not always literal-historical.

    None of this impacts the resurrection or the feeding of the 5000 as related in the NT. These are historical reports by contemporaries written down within a relatively short period of time after the events occurred. The evidence for them is historical, not scientific. The evidence is also seen in the rise of the church after the resurrection – the power of the Spirit.

    Science cannot address these directly – there is no physical evidence to investigate – except to say that these are not normal or natural. But none of us actually think that they were normal or natural.

    I see no problem holding to the NT as trustworthy reports, and Genesis 1-3 as inspired, but other than literal history.

  • BradK

    Mike @73,

    While several arguments have been offered for interpreting creation = world in Romans 8 so far I haven’t seen any having stood up to both context and scrutiny in this current discussion. :-)

    While I could offer a few more points of disagreement, the discussion of RJS’s post has probably bee derailed enough. Sorry, RJS. Didn’t mean to drag your topic down the rabbit hole.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    Actually not sure we derailed all that much. Didn’t RJS want to know what some of the most significant issues are? Certainly reading the whole of Scripture, using good hermeneutics, and identifying presuppositions are way up there. This comment thread certainly showed that. :)

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.blogspot.com MikeB

    @RJS.79

    (1) The reason to question a literal-historical reading of Genesis 1-3 does not start with science but with the text itself. It starts with the nature of the text, its relationship to other ANE literature, and the inherent contradictions in a literal-historical reading.

    What are the inherent contradictions in a literal-historical reading of Genesis 1-3?

  • rjs

    Mike B #82

    I’ll come back to that in future posts. This one has about run its course.

    And you’re right – this didn’t derail the conversation. Nature of inspiration, hermeneutic, and presuppositions are definitely key issues as the comment stream showed.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X