Evolutionary Creation 10 (RJS)

We’ve been working through Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution – a book that describes a way to move beyond the creation and evolutions debates. In Chapter 8 Dr. Lamoureux’s describes a Christian approach to human evolution proposing a way to reconcile scripture, Christian faith and doctrine, and what is known from science. The debates on science and faith hinge on issues that can be divided up into three basic categories (1) Sin and Death, (2) Sin and Accountability and (3) Atonement.

Mixed into the whole discussion is a view of scripture and the appropriate interpretation of scripture as the inspired word of God. The understanding of scripture is a serious issue, and I don’t want to minimize it, but I think it has become such a serious issue because of the impact a view of scripture can have on the more important theological questions. The inerrancy and infallibility of scripture has become a rallying cry because the alternative appears to be apostasy, denial of God, denial of the redeeming act of God in Jesus, reduction of Christian faith to demythologized universal moral platitudes and ‘social justice.’

The question for today then is a Christian approach to human evolution in the context of the message of faith contained in Gen 3, Rom 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 .  Dr. Lamoureux proposes that the question of Adam and of the fall is incidental to the message of scripture in general and to the message of Paul in particular. It is incidental because it is part of an ancient understanding of origins. The true impact of Paul’s message is Christ  looking forward, not his use of Adam or understanding of human origins.

Is it possible that Adam is incidental to the Christian story?

More importantly perhaps, is it possible that the fall is incidental to the Christian story?

What are the theological consequences?

Dr. Lamoureux frames his entire discussion in chapter 8 around the connection between sin and death. He argues for a baldly literal interpretation of Genesis implicit in Paul’s arguments in Romans 5. He argues for a completely literal intent in Genesis 2-3 by the original authors and editors. The incidental message of scripture is that sin and death entered through the sin of Adam. This incidental message is simply wrong – an ancient misconception of creation and the nature of the world. Perhaps the best way to look at Dr. Lamoureux’s approach is to quote the most significant passages.

A key to interpreting Paul’s sin-death passages is found in his theodicy. Stated precisely, he seamlessly interweaves the first revelatory stage of theodicy in Gen 3 with the New Testament fulfillment of theodicy by Jesus. To justify suffering and death in the world, he looks backward into the past sin of Adam. He has no choice but to accept the historicity of the events of Gen 3 since these were the historical facts-of-the-day for first century Jews. But more importantly, Paul focuses forward and views the harsh realities of life in the fulfilling light of Jesus. He introduces an eternal perspective on theodicy and justifies that “we may share in His [Christ’s] sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” (Rom 8:17; cf. 8:18; 2 Cor 4:16-17), and adds that “we rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3, italics added; cf. 8:24-25; see next subsection). Despite our struggles and pain, Paul concludes: “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). In other words, his view of theodicy is a combination of (1) the ancient history of Gen 3 and (2) the radical theological development in the New Testament that our afflictions have eternal meaning. (p. 325)

In the next paragraph:

The origin of suffering and death is cast in an ancient understanding of history with no correspondence to reality, while the fulfillment of these afflictions occurs in real history. Since this ancient history and theological development are tightly woven, it is quite natural for modern readers to link them and to view both as actual historical events. However, this conflates the ancient motif of a lost idyllic age with the most imporant event of history – the Incarnation. Christians today must separate the fulfillment of the biblical revelation on theodicy through Jesus from Paul’s ancient understanding of the origin of suffering and death through Adam. Failure to do so collapses incidental ancient categories with revealed eternal truths. (pp. 325-326).

This can be summed up:

To conclude, there is no sin-death problem. Adam never existed, and therefore suffering and death did not enter the world in divine judgment for his transgression. The origin of physical death presented in Gen 3 is rooted in ancient history and ancient science. Consequently, sin is not causally connected to death and no conflict exists between Gen 3 and the fossil record. To be sure, the solution proposed in this section is quite complex. But the divine revelation in Gen 3, Rom 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 is very simple: humans are sinners, God judges sin, and Jesus dies for sinful men and women. The sin-death problem is ultimately the product of a conceptual distance in the categories between inspired writers of Scripture and its modern readers. Christians today must identify the incidental ancient view of origins and separate it from the inerrant Message of Faith. Indeed sin entered the world, but not with Adam. (p. 329)

Dr. Lamoureux’s approach to the sin-death problem is summarized in the figure below:

And in conclusion Dr. Lamoureux recasts the famous statement of Galileo:

The Bible does not teach us how God made humans or how suffering and death entered the world, but that we were created in the Image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that He judges our sins, and that Jesus died on the Cross in order to forgive us. (p. 331)

Where does this leave us? I agree with Dr. Lamoureux that Adam, Eve, the snake, and ancient views of origins are incidental in the meaning of the text – the message of faith. But I have never found the connection between sin and death, especially all biological death to be persuasive. The idea of a cosmic fall and a change in the material nature of the world on account of such a fall is either incidental to the message – or a view resulting from a misreading of the text. It is not clear to me that Dr. Lamoureux’s insistence on a literal intent for the text of Genesis is quite right. Nor does this literalistic understanding of an idyllic age and a catastrophic fall seem quite fair to the range of ancient thought or to the range of thought in the first century.  In particular it does not seem consistent with the book of Job, also a part of the Hebrew scriptures.

The Sin-death connection is a problem to be discussed, but I don’t see it as the central problem in a discussion of evolutionary human origins. Sin and Accountability and consequently Atonement are the key theological issues. Dr. Lamoureux’s proposal for a Christian approach to human evolution does not answer these. We simply have sinfulness as a fact of life, presumably a part of the way we were created. It seems to me that part of the message of faith is that God created humans for relationship with him, for relationship with each other, that humans willfully rebelled, and that rebellion has consequences.  I don’t see where this fits in Dr. Lamoureux’s approach to Genesis or his approach to Paul.

The sin-accountability connection has consequences for the view of atonement. In Dr. Lamoureux’s approach we have the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection as facts – but it is not clear what was accomplished and why it was necessary.

This is an interesting book, a good step in thinking through the issues of scripture, theology, and human origins. In particular, the message-incident principle is a useful guide in thinking through the relationship between cultural assumptions and views of cosmology implicit in the text and scripture as inspired of God.

What do you think?

Is the fall – human culpability in rebellion – a part of the message of faith in Genesis and Romans?

Or is Dr. Lamoureux right, that scripture does not teach how sin and suffering entered the human experience?

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

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

For those who find the full book (400+ pages) somewhat daunting Dr. Lamoureux has condensed the book into a more accessible version, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. He also provides audio and slide summaries of each chapter of Evolutionary Creation online.

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  • Percival

    I also think we sometimes underestimate the sophistication of ancient people. For example we tend to think of idolatry as the worship of inanimate objects, but idolatry is actually the veneration of the spirit/idea behind the symbolic object. In the same way, the creation account is not merely about objects and events – snakes, dust, ribs, waters, greater and lesser light, etc. – it is about the spiritual realities and the arrangement of authority represented by these objects and events. I think that to assume the ANE people took everything literally is a bit arrogant.

  • Percival

    Maybe arrogant is too strong a word.

  • Dan

    “The origin of suffering and death is cast in an ancient understanding of history with no correspondence to reality, while the fulfillment of these afflictions occurs in real history.”

    To me that is simply intellectually schizophrenic. The “story” that identifies the problem has “no correspondence to reality” while the solution is “real history”. Why? Why accept one and deny the other? If naturalism rules then it would be consistent to reject both.

    If Paul was simply wrong, pre-scientific, about Adam and Genesis, the question has to be asked, what else was Paul wrong about and how do we know?

    We know from the uniformity of natural causes that virgins do not give birth and that men do not walk away from a tomb three days after a crucifixion. There are plenty of empirical observations to verify these facts. Perhaps Paul and the apostles only suggested a pre-scientific understanding of events?

    Perhaps Paul’s views on marriage, women in leadership, baptism, Christian responsibility to the state are every bit as “human” as his views of Adam. What is the exegetical or rational process one goes through to determine which “spiritual” truths are inspired in a text that is completely wrong about natural events?

    Do we really think the line of argument put forth by Dr. Lamoureux above is a more rational or intellectually fulfilling approach to faith? that it will be more palatable to the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of the world? I do not. Unless we are willing to say that the Creator is not bound by natural law it is simply impossible to read scripture in a consistent manner. If the resurrection and virgin birth occurred, then natural cause and effect do not explain all events in the real world. If natural law does not explain all, then there is no reason to reject out of hand supernatural causes in the origins debate.

    But to say Christ provides a “fulfillment” to a problem that is based on complete error seems like nonsense to most laypeople and seems only acceptable to academics.

  • Glenn Sunshine

    The concern I have with the framework suggested is methodological: how do we determine what is incidental and what is central? Is e.g. the virgin birth essential? What about the resurrection? Why not declare these incidental as well, as liberal theologians have done for decades? Why not dismiss them as part of an ancient worldview, since science says they’re impossible, and focus on something else as the core message?

  • Glenn Sunshine

    I was writing comment #4 while #3 posted–it’s redundant now. Sorry!

  • Dan, you make some good points, that I think demand a reply. Unfortunately I cannot do this.

    But I would like to offer one small distinction. To accept a literal fall/death event is in direct contravention of the data (biological, geological, genetic). To accept a single virgin birth, or resurrection event is not contrary to a known set of data. ie. we don’t have Jesus’ dead body to show that he was not bodily resurrected. If we did, then this would place the resurrection on similar ground to the evolutionary history of biology.

  • Scot McKnight

    Dan and Glenn,

    I have little at stake in this debate since I’m not a scientist. But let’s suppose something:

    Let’s suppose that the traditional view of sin and death is that one man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, together sinned in actual history. Let’s then suppose that God judged that sin by establishing an order that their sin is passed on (through procreation) to their progeny and that such sin leads to death. Let’s then suppose that Christ came to deal with that passed-on sin problem in its fullness.

    That is how I understand the traditional view of the sin-death problem.

    Now let’s suppose that science establishes (1) that there wasn’t an original couple as thought; (2) that death existed prior to their sin.

    Let’s also suppose that many scholars for a long, long time have wondered if that reading of Genesis 1-3 is overly theological and not consistent enough with ANE historical studies.

    What then? I see the struggling Christian scientist dealing with this collection of issues. It is fine to push what we see in Romans 5 — that’s what I see both of you doing. But at some point one has to deal with the scientific research as well as the ANE research and ask the sorts of questions that Lamoureux is asking.

    So, I ask only one question: Would you say that his conclusions are (1) against orthodoxy? (2) Against evangelical soteriology? (3) What?

  • Scot McKnight

    Glenn, maybe this doesn’t matter but Lamoureux’s categories are “incidental” and “message.” I don’t believe this is a methodological nightmare but attendant to every discussion of things like parables and apocalyptic prophecy and even a book like Job or Jonah, with the former possibly being staged theater while the latter being parabolic, or even Song of Solomon being staged love poetry. Judgment and discernment are at work, to be sure, but can we escape such?

  • I think the sin-death connection has been misconstrued to some extent, but not to the degree articulated above. In http://mattstone.blogs.com/christian/2010/12/dinosaurs-before-the-fall.html I argued that closer attention needs to be placed on the tree of life to adequately understand the choices being offered.

  • dopderbeck

    This obviously is very tricky ground. I personally do not like these stark categories of “incidental” and so on.

    I continue to believe that a “fall” in “history” is essential, not incidental, to historic orthodoxy and evangelical (and Biblical) soteriology, as well as to any coherent narrative reading of the story of scripture. Creation-Fall-Redemption is a widely stated paradigm because it does indeed broadly reflect the Biblical narrative.

    To me, the question as we wrestle with the scientific data is, how does that data shape our historically contingent understanding of what the “fall” entailed? I still have confidence in this basic premise of the evangelical theological method: if “all truth is God’s truth,” then we patiently work through the integration of truth rather than rashly discarding important truths.

    Clearly, the romantic vision of “Adam” as a sort of invulnerable Superman living in the recent past is misplaced. Clearly, the attribution of all biological death of any sort to “Adam” as a linear historical result of Adam’s sin is wrong.

    But science can say nothing at all about whether and when nascent humanity first began to relate to God. Science can say nothing at all about God’s covenant with nascent humanity or about the eschatological promise of that covenant. Science can say nothing at all about the world that would have been had “Adam” — nascent humanity — not sinned. This is the “data” of revelation.

    So I affirm that there was a “fall” in history, a “paradise lost.” The paradise lost was a proleptic eschatological vision of what “would have been” absent “Adam’s” sin. It was never realized but was lost at the very moment it could have been gained.

    There is a sense in which the “would have been” of this paradise lost was not a “could have been” because God knew “Adam” would sin and had planned for the redemption of the world through the preincarnate Christ even as the same Logos created the world.

    Thus, creation, fall, and redemption are in a sense all the same “event” in the life of the Triune God, who is timeless. Indeed, Ireneaus understood “Eden” to be a sort of dimension outside time — something not knowable in our present reality.

    This sort of thinking about “time” and “causation” and eschatological fulfillment is entirely consistent with Paul’s theology. Rather than focusing on the few verses in which he speaks apparently in terms of temporal causality between sin and death, bringing to those passages our modern preoccupation with empirical reality, focus on the big picture of Paul’s proleptic eschatological vision. It is not anachronistic at all to suggest that Paul’s use of “Adam” is not a treatise on historical anthropology — even an “ancient” and “mistaken” historical anthropology. The anachronism is to call what Paul was doing “ancient science.”

    Paul’s theological vision, the Bible’s theological vision, tells us the truth: we are fallen, the creation is fallen, because of sin, and “death” — separation, loss, abandonment — is the consequence.

  • Percival

    Dop #10,
    I had to look up “proleptic” before I got what you were trying to say. Interesting, but does the fact that we can coin a term for something, as in a “proleptic event”, mean that such a thing happened? No, if something is proleptic, it hasn’t happened. Once it happened, it is no longer proleptic. It seems you want a historical fall that never happened. Huh?

  • dopderbeck

    Percival — the “proleptic” part is the vision of paradise in Gen. 1-2. Paradise is pictured as fully realized but there is a sense in which it is not fully realized even when “Adam” is installed in the garden because (1) Adam is commanded to “fill the earth and subdue it”; and (2) there is evil in creation that must be overcome and avoided (the serpent). Neither I nor any modern theologian invented this idea — it is how the Eastern fathers often thought of Adam (e.g. Irenaeus).

    The “fall” is an “event in history” because it is nascent humanity’s decisive turn away from God and away from the realization of paradise.

    The incarnation of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, are also proleptic events because they are the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, which is only finally realized at the Parousia.

    Thus, all of salvation history is proleptic eschatology. Creation, fall, incarnation, redemption, and parousia all are wrapped up in when “God will be all in all.” The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning.

  • AHH

    Is it possible that Adam is incidental to the Christian story?
    More importantly perhaps, is it possible that the fall is incidental to the Christian story?

    While I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with the proposed solution, I think it is very helpful to make the distinction being made here.
    Our fallenness, the fact that we are cracked Eikons, is an essential part of the Christian story. Exactly how we ended up in this state is a different, separable, and secondary issue.
    For me, the mechanism of how our sinfulness originated or is transmitted does not seem important theologically, and it does not seem to be an important part of the message in Paul’s Christ-focused passages.

  • pds

    Scot #7,

    “Now let’s suppose that science establishes (1) that there wasn’t an original couple as thought; (2) that death existed prior to their sin.”

    The best historical science can produce is a “best explanation” for the data. All the discussion I have seen arguing for “no single couple” presumes that God did not intervene. Are you taking the a priori position that we can know that God did not intervene in early human history?

  • normbv

    Genesis literature is more sophisticated and nuanced than Denis L is portraying. Many have recognized that Paul has accepted that it is “spiritual death” under discussion in Genesis 3 and not physical death. Spiritual death is the manifestation of a loss of Covenant relationship with God and it is described through the metaphorical use of “Death” because that is how the Jew could relate with a loss of losing the blessings of God.

    Many do not realize it but Paul saw Adam as the beginning of the ancient church and not humanity at large and once one understands this perspective Paul begins to make theological and literal sense as does Genesis. It also needs to be pointed out that the Jews and thus Paul were not as ignorant as we like to suppose. A careful study of their literature indicates that they well understood that Adam was not the first human but they considered him the first of the lineage of Israel and essentially what we call the church.

    There are good indications that Adam is a historical figure who became embellished through the various myths arising out of the ANE world. The Jews set him up as the predecessor to all the surrounding nations not as a genetic father but as the first having relationship with YHWH. The account of the Nations splintering and scattering in Gen 10-11 is a stylized account explaining how the nations all went their own way theologically or religiously speaking. These stories are derived to explain the differences between the Nations and Israel yet are limited to theological context essentially and practically speaking. The overall goal of bringing the Nations back into the fold is in reality the reuniting of what was undone in ages past. Is it accurate historically? Not in the way we would describe historical accuracy but as an effective means of telling story then yes it is accurate in the big picture overview as seen through the lens of Israel theologically.

    So Adam was a historical beginning figure because the Jews believed their form of worshiping just One God begin with him. It is clear this is the case because Paul is presenting that the Law that was given to Adam in the Garden was the essence of Jews living under Law [Gentiles were not given law]. All the Nations were affected because worshiping the One True God is the only way and not their many gods, just as faith in Christ; God’s representative son is the only way now. All men are under Christ dispensation and so too was all under Adam’s dispensation of Law until Christ removed it according to Paul.

  • Dana Ames

    What David Opderbeck said.

    I would also say that “a change in the material nature of the world on account of such a fall” would be a misreading. The material nature of the world has not changed, but the purpose for which all was created (the “how” of that creation I do see to be “incidental”) has been diverted because of the choice nascent humanity made in its freedom. The story of the first chs of Genesis is ultimately about humanity. Fr. Thomas Hopko writes (http://www.oca.org/OCorthfaith.asp?SID=2, various passages):

    “The main doctrinal point about creation is that God alone is uncreated and ever-existing. Everything which exists besides God was created by Him. God, however, did not create everything individually and all at once, so to speak. He created the first foundations of existence, and then over periods of time (perhaps millions of years, see 2 Pet 3:8) this first foundation of existence-by the power which God had given to it — brought forth the other creatures of God…Thus, although God is certainly the creator of everything. He acts gradually in time and by means of things previously made by Him to which He has given life-producing potencies and powers.

    “Originally man was made to be the created image of God, to live in union with God’s divine life, and to rule over all creation. Man’s failure in this task is his sin which has also been called his fall.

    The “fall” of man means that man failed in his God-given vocation. This is the meaning of Gen 3. Man was seduced by evil (the serpent) into believing that he could be “like God” by his own will and effort.

    “In the Bible and in Orthodox theology these elements always go together: sin, evil, the devil, suffering and death. There is never one without the other, and all are the common result of man’s rebellion against God and his loss of communion with Him. This is the primary meaning of Gen 3 and the chapters which follow until the calling of Abraham. Sin begets still more sin and even greater evil. It brings cosmic disharmony, the ultimate corruption and death of everyone and everything. Man still remains the created image of God — this cannot be changed — but he fails to keep his image pure and to retain the divine likeness. He defiles his humanity with evil, perverts it and deforms it so that it cannot be the pure reflection of God that it was meant to be. The world also remains good, indeed “very good,” but it shares the sorry consequences of its created master’s sin and suffers with him in mortal agony and corruption.

    “The pre-history of salvation, the story of sin, is the original counter-symbol of salvation in Christ. The events of these first chapters of the Bible, before the calling of Abraham, find their proper interpretation in the saving events of the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the new and final covenant of God with His People.”

    In this view, there is no problem with whatever good evidence science offers. There is no problem of “death before the fall”. There’s no problem with deciding whether Adam and Eve were “historical people”, and no agony over what their not being “historical” or “literal” would mean wrt the inspiration of scripture.


  • Adam

    I like to say “Jesus is not Plan B”. The sin-death problem says that Adam and Eve were plan A, screwed up, so Jesus had to come fix it. I think Jesus is actually Plan A, that Jesus is what God had in mind when He said “Let us make man in our image”, and everything before Jesus is how the plan plays out in time.

  • Dana Ames

    well said – and with fewer words!



  • normbv


    I agree also, especially since Adam that you quoted is a plural application in Gen 1:26. Gen 2:5 is the begining of the playing out in time until Christ when it is completed.

  • DRT

    Yes, Adam. We are fallen (without a determinable incident or prior state) and are brought closer to God’s image through Jesus. Plan A.

  • Dan

    Scot #7

    Not an explicit denial of orthodoxy, soteriology but I think this approach does cut the support out from under it.

    1. By attributing error to Paul about temporal events, this view offers no credible reason, other than bald assertion, to believe Paul has any true knowledge about unseen realities. Can one still believe Paul when he speaks of spiritual or eschatological matters? Sure. Can one still believe what is taught in the Nicene Creed? Of course. But it is a leap of faith at that point, a mystical move, not a particularly reasonable one.

    2. Conversely, it is simply logically inconsistent say Paul was right about the resurrection (a supernatural event not explainable in terms of natural cause-effect) and then insist that genuine science can only search for natural causes to all events in origins science. Either naturalism as an approach to truth about events in our world is absolute or it is not.

    This viewpoing seems to me like an attempt to be a naturalist in the lab and a supernaturalist in the pew. I think the layfolks in the rank and file intuitively understand this inconsistency. They tend to either reject methodological naturalism (as opposed to rejecting science) and believe in some form of special creation, (science as valid but limited) despite the label of “anti-science” or “anti-intellectual” applied to them, or they reluctantly conclude Paul and the Biblical authors wrote a “human” book and give up their faith. Laypeople generally will not live with this schizophrenic hermeneutic.

  • dopderbeck

    Dan (#21) — I just don’t understand the logic of your point #1, at least not in this extreme form. Is there anybody you trust as generally a reliable authority on some subject but whom you know is sometimes wrong? If your auto mechanic expressed some mistaken ideas about quantum physics, would you refuse to take his advice about changing your brake rotors? I doubt it would matter. Would it then be a naked “leap of faith” to trust your mechanic about the brake rotors? Of course not. You don’t need or expect your auto mechanic to be a quantum physicist.

    As for your point #2, there’s no inconsistency at all, and indeed to insist that the same methods be used to investigate “natural” and “supernatural” events is a category mistake.

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    RJS, I’ve enjoyed your reviews and your insights on Evolutionary Creation. But I’m not entirely sure of a point you’re making in this installment. You reject Lamoureux’s view that the early readers of Genesis interpreted the text literally, in that that they believed that there was no death in the world before Adam sinned. Am I correct in assuming that you therefore believe that death in Genesis 2-3 refers to spiritual rather than physical death, and that is how the early readers of Genesis interpreted it as well?

    If so, I have a couple of concerns that I hope you would address. It’s easy for modern readers to accept a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, largely because we have alternative views of creation and evolution that were not available to earlier generations. It’s human nature to want to have concrete explanations for how the world came to be and why death and evil exist; if we believe that early people read Genesis metaphorically rather than literally, then did they have alternate concrete answers to these questions?

    I can see the attraction of believing that the death described in Genesis is spiritual rather than physical death, as it then opens up the possibility that there had been physical death in the world prior to Adam. And then it is no longer necessary to believe that Adam is supposed to be considered the first human being, but was instead a representative of the human race as a whole, perhaps separated by God from his fellows in order to be tested. Whereas if you believe that the death described in Genesis was intended to be considered actual physical death – that our first ancestor’s sin brought death into the world – then it’s much harder to accept that Adam was a real historical person unless you’re a hardline young earth creationist.

    Using Lamoureux’s approach, I find it easy to accept that the story of the fall would have been taken literally – that that was how the early readers would read it, at least – but that the specifics of the story are incidental to the central message that we are God’s creation, that we sin and are accountable to him. But if we believe that it was to be understood metaphorically, as a description of spiritual rather than physical death, then we can also easily believe that Adam was a real person. I wonder if Christians find comfort in the “spiritual death” interpretation because they can then continue to believe that the first chapters of Genesis describe historical events and real people. Seen that way it’s an attractive approach, but this interpretation may be more a means of satisfying our own need to read Genesis as a literally true narrative rather than respecting how it was read by its first audience.

    RJS, it’s clear to me that my understanding of the Bible and the ancient world is inferior to yours and that of many of the commenters, so I’d appreciate any patient correction if I’ve misinterpreted your views.

  • RJS states:
    “The Sin-death connection is a problem to be discussed, but I don’t see it as the central problem in a discussion of evolutionary human origins.”

    The reason that is the case is that you don’t do sci-rel for a living, like I do. You’re not getting it thrown in your face all the time like me. Every public lecture, and I mean, every lecture, this issue ALWAYS comes up.

    RJS then states:
    “Sin and Accountability and consequently Atonement are the key theological issues. Dr. Lamoureux’s proposal for a Christian approach to human evolution does not answer these. We simply have sinfulness as a fact of life, presumably a part of the way we were created. It seems to me that part of the message of faith is that God created humans for RELATIONSHIP with him, for RELATIONSHIP with each other, that humans willfully rebelled, and that rebellion has consequences. I don’t see where this fits in Dr. Lamoureux’s approach to Genesis or his approach to Paul.” My capitals

    What?!? Goodness gracious!!!

    Here’s what I wrote in the Preface p. xvi:
    This ancient history is a vessel that transports inerrant and infallible foundations of the Christian faith: the universe and life were made by the God of the Bible, the creation is very good, only men and women are created in the Image of God, the Lord intended us to be in RELATIONSHIPS with one another and in particular with Him, everyone has fallen into sin, God judges humans for their sinfulness, and He has chosen a special people through which to bless the entire world.

    Here is what I wrote in the conclusion to Gen 2 in Chapter 6, p. 202:
    Genesis 2 complements the Divine Theology in Gen 1 and asserts that humanity is a special and unique creation. We are the only creatures in a personal RELATIONSHIP with the Creator. This chapter also reveals that men and women were made to enjoy the mystery of marriage. So beautifully stated, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (v. 24). And most importantly, Gen 2 reveals that God sets limits on human freedom, and failure to respect these boundaries has serious consequences.

    Here is what I wrote in the second paragraph of the chapter in question, Chapter 8, p. 283:
    Despite the volatility of the issue of human origins, four theological principles unite all Christians. First and foremost, God created humanity. We are not an accident and merely the result of blind chance. It was the Lord’s plan and purpose to make people. Second, humans have been created in the Image of God. We are the only creatures that enjoy such a privileged status. This principle stands in sharp contrast to the atheistic belief that we are nothing but animals, and it commands us to respect both others and ourselves. Third, men and women are sinners. We have all rebelled against our Creator, sinned against other human beings, and even violated the creation. Everyone is responsible for their actions, and each is in control over their physical instincts and desires. On the day of judgment, God will call on us to give an account for our conduct. Finally, only Jesus offers redemption from sin. As Acts 4:12 states, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

    Finally check Fig 8-5.
    I wrote in this diagram: Jesus died for sinful humans, rose from the dead, fulfilled suffering and death. [Jesus offers the] Hope eternal life.

    Sorry to say RJS, your reporting of my book is inaccurate.

    Mildly irritated,

  • normbv


    It’s well established by the Jews through their literature that they were reading Genesis metaphorically for centuries before Paul came around. The book of Jubilees predates Paul by about 200 years and in it we find where Adam’s death is described as not living to the ripe old age of 1000 years and thus he didn’t complete the 1000 year metaphorical Day. If you remember in Revelation those in Christ live and reign with Him for a 1000 years. In other words these metaphors and symbols were well known by the writers for hundreds of years and what they stood for.

    Notice below that Adam didn’t live for the complete Day as he died during it.

    Jubilees 4:29 … Adam died, … And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.’ FOR THIS REASON HE DID NOT COMPLETE THE YEARS OF THIS DAY; FOR HE DIED DURING IT.

  • Dan

    Dopderbeck #22

    Regarding your mechanic illustration, I think you have it backwards. If your auto mechanic got the details of the brake rotors completely wrong, would you trust him regarding quantum physics? That’s the more appropriate analogy. We are asked to believe that Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expressing revelation from God, was completely wrong about the origin of humanity, about the origin of evil and the origin of death, very earthy and universal and relevant topics, but was somehow right about his experiential trip to the seventh heaven, and right about eternal spiritual matters completely out of the reach of any verification. I think that is a stretch too far.

    The central question still unanswered in my mind is ON WHAT BASIS should I trust Paul regarding non-cultural eternal truths about unseen realities if Paul is expressing merely cultural pre-scientific understandings of the human condition? It is not a question of WHETHER some do still find Paul’s theology of value, obviously many do. The question is WHY? How can I claim God “inspired” Paul accurately and clearly about my eternity when he was completely wrong about my past? How does eternal spiritual truth come out of what is portrayed as falsehood about such a vital question as where evil and suffering came from? Give me a reason WHY I should trust Paul if he was wrong about temporal reality? When he says “O Death where is thy victory” what does that mean if death is part of God’s method of perfecting species? When the New Testament tells us we are rescued from the cycle of sin and death, what does that mean if death is not related to sin? The connections are all severed. We are left with shards to “pick and choose” from.

    Second, regarding your objection about the methods used to investigate “natural” and “supernatural” events – it is not a category mistake if one simply reads the Old and New Testaments. The resurrection, as portrayed in the text, was a supernatural event that left temporal evidence – a living breathing Christ who ate fish and bade Thomas to touch him. The Biblical narrative does not separate the supernatural events from the ripples they cause in the natural world. Assuming for the moment that a few Biblical events actually happened, those present at the feeding of the 5000 ate real fish and real bread. Those present at the wedding of Cana drank real wine. These evidences could have been touched and tasted, measured and examined. The Israelites who gathered manna and were commanded to keep a portion of it for future generations were gathering physical evidence so that their children could connect a supernatural act to a natural phenomena. When Joshua crossed the Jordan and left a stone monument in the middle of the river, we are explicitly told the “evidence” was there for future generations to see. The actions of God were supernatural, as portrayed by the narrative, but the evidence left was completely natural, visible to observation, expressly for the purpose of helping future Generations connect to the saving acts of a supernatural God. In fact, the narrative almost begs the Israelites to make the connection – trust God because he led you out of Egypt, evidenced by the Manna, Aaron’s rod, etc. Trust God BECAUSE you can visit Joseph’s tomb, where his bones were brought back from Egypt as Joseph understood the fulfillment of a promise to Abraham.

    The fact that we cannot investigate those matters today is not because of a category mistake, only a lack of access to those particular evidences. We are limited, at present, to the eyewitness accounts of the apostles and the written texts of the Old and New Testaments. If those texts are faulty regarding the temporal truths they speak of, then by Jesus’ own words, we have little to hold onto. “If I speak to you of earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe me if I speak of heavenly things?” Laypeople get that simple connection between spiritual and temporal, expressed in simple straightforward language. They do not buy the hard separation between the spiritual and scientific realms. Truth is truth. God acts in history. Scripture is either true or it isn’t. Cut away their trust in Paul regarding earthly things and they see little reason to trust him regarding heavenly things. He is no longer expressing God’s ideas, he is bound by limited human understanding and that understanding is simply wrong on fairly central matters. He is the mechanic who could not fix the car but claims to be able to fix the cosmos. It just doesn’t compute.

  • dopderbeck

    Dan, I wouldn’t trust an auto mechanic regarding quantum physics no matter what he did with my brake rotors, because that isn’t his competence. And I wouldn’t trust a quantum physicist to fix my brakes.

    Likewise, I don’t expect Paul, a first-century Jew, to have known any of the details that modern physical anthropology has only uncovered in the past 50 or so years. God didn’t inspire Paul to write about what concerns modern physical anthropologists.

    With respect to the resurrection, you are now adding “history” to the methodological confusion between “science” and “theology.”

    Truth is truth, but we investigate different aspects or layers of reality using different methodological tools. The Resurrection, in fact, both encompasses and transcends every layer. You can properly investigate the Resurrection neither through history alone nor through science alone nor through theology alone because it is a singular event that indeed creates a new reality. So while you can point to historical evidence that substantiates the claim that Jesus rose, you can’t relegate that event to the category of mere history.

    I agree with you that this can be a problem for “laypeople,” but this is in no small part because of bad theology and sloppy epistemology that compresses all truth claims into empiricism.

  • rjs


    I know that sin-death comes up in some circles – and when I’ve discussed this in church etc. some (relatively small) percentage will find it a serious problem. One of my good friends for example.

    But the majority with whom I’ve spoken do not see the sin-death connection as the key problem and neither do I. In fact, despite being raised in a relatively conservative Christian family, this presentation of sin-death took me by surprise when I first heard it – in my 20’s.

    But Denis, as I read your book I was also mildly irritated frustrated, though finding much good in the book. You say that certain things are true – but they are true by assertion, not as part of a coherent story.

    Here is part of the problem. You say: Third, men and women are sinners. We have all rebelled against our Creator, sinned against other human beings, and even violated the creation. Everyone is responsible for their actions, and each is in control over their physical instincts and desires.

    As far as I can see there is no corporate aspect to this, no encompassing community. We are all in control, we all sin, we all need to be redeemed. Totally individualistic. I don’t think this is what scripture teaches and I don’t think this is what Paul teaches. It seems to me that there is a corporate rebellion of which we are all part – and we can’t be “in control” to triumph over it.

    Certainly you state that only Jesus offers redemption, but I don’t actually see any atonement theology other than the statement from scripture in consideration here. Again community, as in the community of all mankind, is important to understanding atonement, at least that is how it seems to me.

    So, I think that part of what Paul appeals to in his use of Adam is the community of all mankind.

    I don’t think my reporting is inaccurate, although it certainly is selective. The book is more than 400 pages and I’ve only done 10 posts on it, about 20 pages of text. People can and should read for themselves though – especially if seriously interested.

  • normbv


    I happen to agree with Denis that Adamic Death is a central componet of the Genesis and Paul discussion and it is critical to a roubust theological understanding. Most folks don’t get that far becasue they leave Genesis alone and don’t think about the connection. I would say in the theological scientific community it should be of paromount importance for those who want to examine Genesis properly.

    However I disagree with Denis’s conclusions that he arrives at and side more toward Denis Alexander’s view that it’s about spiritual death [seperation from God].

  • DRT

    I formed a concept to counter the “how can I trust person x if they get y wrong”.

    I have come to realize that people have radically different approaches to conceptualization and communication. My wife laughs at me since I tend to come up with a theme or trajectory, bring in corroborating evidence and then communicate it as a whole. As I understand it, many come up with the evidence, generalize to a conclusion and then come up with a method of presentation. I don’t think Paul did this.

    Instead, I would imagine that he received the concept from God/Jesus/HS which can be communicated quite easily, then he took from the surrounding culture and knowledge base to arrive at corroborating evidence and support for the idea.

    Paul was given given concept z, he provided support with y given the end point and then communicated it as he could.

    When I went through my undergrad work it was obvious who fit in each category. Those who understand the concept then derive the necessary support studied 10 hours for a test while those who learned the methods for solution and various supporting arguments that lead to conclusions studied 100 hours for tests. That is, imo, what is going on here.

    God did not give Paul all the details, he told him the truths.

  • normbv


    I think Paul was a well versed and trained Hebrew theologian first and foremost who studied and understood the literature. Through the insight of the HS which is the revelation of Christ the Messiah he grasped more robustly what the scriptures were describing but he wasn’t alone.

    Part of the problem is we don’t always understand what Paul understood which is why scholars are still busy. Each generation rediscovers or more fully recognize additional aspects of Paul’s. It’s a growing volume of understanding that IMO is still in its early stages of discovery. Too many false presupisitions have been added to the examination over the years and so one must rid themselves of that baggage to work in a clean environment so to speak.

  • dopderbeck

    DRT (#30) — I have an even simpler analogy here. Twenty years ago, my beautiful wife trusted me when we committed ourselves to each other in marriage. She knew then (and learned even more over the years, believe me!) that I’m not always right about everything. But I was trustworthy to her in what really mattered to that supremely important commitment she made to me. This is how human beings always make commitments.

  • Adam

    DRT (#30)

    The method you describe for conceptualizing and communicating is anathema to the scientific community. As you have presented the idea, you make your thesis and go looking for any evidence to support it. This means in short, you can never be wrong, because if the evidence doesn’t support it, you don’t have to use it or you may not even see the evidence because you aren’t looking for it.

    So, I would say Paul does it opposite from your method. He encountered this person named Jesus (road to Damascus) and from the evidence of Jesus being real, recreated his concept of God.

  • DRT

    I have to think more about the others, but

    Adam#33, I guess my method is actually generate a hypothesis and verify, it is the scientific method.

  • DRT

    dop#32, you look much younger than that in your picture. 20 years of marriage is usually a bit more stressful than that (as I can attest…).

    You are saying the covenant faithfulness is all that matters and you know you will continue with that into the future…much like Paul.

    All humor aside, yes, but I do think there were some tangible concepts communicated other than covenant faithfulness.., no?

  • DRT

    One more. Imagine that God said to you in unambiguous terms that the secret is that time goes backwards and you attempt to validate your results by your predictions (my goodness, would that be proleptic?).

    We would then understand why the lillies should not toil, that what goes around comes around etc…. There are truths that need to be told that are probably unable to be articulated with words and Paul was infiltrated with them..

    I say this more for fun thoughts than anything….but I can’t help but think there really is more going on than the arguments we have put forth. What did God reveal to Paul? His words are pointers to the concept..

  • There is no compatibility, philosophically, at the quantum
    level, between a view which actively excludes downward causation
    (positivistic mechanistic evolution) and one which includes it (the
    biblical creation story). HUGE American discussion on this
    topic>http://wp.me/pGQxY-4z Essay: “Desperately seeking
    Copernicus” The problem is that these are two highly developed
    paradigms (silos) which no longer question their own postulates,
    and point to the internal consistency (falsely) as proof of

  • DRT #30, and Adam #33

    DRT, what you are describing to me sounds like what Thomas Kuhn called abduction (as opposed to induction or dedcution.) Upon becoming acquainted with some data a gestalt happens … like with those connect the dot pictures when you get some the dots connected but are suddenly able to discern the whole picture without being finished. But then you have to go back and check the data and verify whether the gestalt is accurate or not.

    Kuhn said that contrary to formal scientific reports, which would lead you to believe that the scientist always develops a hypothesis, states a methodology, runs experiments, and then deduces implications, abduction frequently plays a critical role in scientific discovery.

    My dad did research in the desulfurization of coal. The particular process he was using wasn’t getting it done. But one day as he was going over data from one of the steps in a process when he inadvertently observed that the read out showed that iron sulfate was being created. As I understand it, you can more easily get at the iron out, so by getting the sulphur to attach to the iron you can more easily extract the sulphur. He didn’t discover this through hypothesis, experiment, and deduction. It came in an inadvertent gestalt as he worked with the data. He did indeed have to go back test all his perceptions about what was happening and document it. So I think what DRT is describing happens more in science than often is revealed in how scientist present their research.

  • Joel Chan

    Kruse #38

    I work in a research community that has done extensive work on scientific reasoning. Some key people in this field include Herbert Simon, Nancy Nersessian, Paul Thagard, Kevin Dunbar, David Klahr, and Christian Schunn. The gestalt idea is a little old and discredited, but the idea that scientists invariably go through the classical scientific method in their on-line reasoning is a poor fit to the reality of scientific practice (incidentally, it fits more with philosophy of science’s prior emphasis on the justification vs discovery of scientific theories). It is the case that abduction happens a lot – scientists get hunches, they play with the ideas in their head a little, talk a lot with colleagues, run some experiments, find results they didn’t predict, go back in and ruminate some more, run some more experiments, modify their theory, and then publish their final results and evolved theory in a journal paper in a “clean” story form.

    re: the criticism of Lemoreaux’s hermeneutic on methodological grounds – I too have wrestled with this and gotten into heated arguments with my dad about it. I firmly believe that Scripture was inspired to communicate spiritual truths, and that the Genesis account of creation was not intended/inspired to be a blow-by-blow scientific account of the world’s origins. However, a side (pragmatic?) question is raised by advocating a sophisticated hermeneutic that constantly seeks to separate the faith message wheat from the incidental chaff in every Scripture passage. Perhaps to an academic or trained theologian, the question of how to separate the wheat from the chaff is a non-issue – it isn’t easy, but neither is it intractable. However, from the perspective of a layperson without the benefit of years of studying ANE literature/genres, Hebrew and Greek, Roman history, etc., the task of knowing which parts of Paul’s or Peter’s or Jesus’s words to trust and take as the word of God and which to discard as chaff can seem overwhelming. Are we to expect every lay person to be able to put in the work to use this hermeneutic in their own reading, or be dependent on those who are able to? Or is it primarily the responsibility of the preachers and teachers of the word?

  • dopderbeck

    DRT (#35) — well into my 40’s, bro. When I was in my 20’s they used to call me “Doogie Howser, JD.” :-b

    Yes of course my wife relied on my overall trustworthiness and believed that various things I told her about myself were true. And if I had told her something important about my past that was fundamentally untrue — say, I lied about being a college graduate with a job who had prospects of supporting a family — that would have been a huge problem. But the point is, my wife invested her deepest trust in me knowing that, while I was fundamentally trustworthy, I was also fundamentally human. She was fully aware of the fact that I didn’t know everything, that I was often wrong about many things, that I had my own personal and cultural baggage, and so on.

    To acknowledge that someone is human is not to say that the person is therefore unworthy of trust. To acknowledge that the Bible is a human product, that someone like Paul was a real human being, is not to suggest that the Bible is unworthy of trust.

    BTW, I personally don’t think Paul was “wrong” about Adam in his letters. I think any effort to read scientific physical anthropology into Paul’s texts is fundamentally mistaken and misses his and the Holy Spirit’s communicative intent. I’m sure Paul’s letters reflect his humanity as a first century educated Jew, but I don’t think that detracts from their fundamental trustworthiness.

  • #40.
    David writes:
    “BTW, I personally don’t think Paul was “wrong” about Adam in his letters. I think any effort to read scientific physical anthropology into Paul’s texts is fundamentally mistaken and misses his and the Holy Spirit’s communicative intent. I’m sure Paul’s letters reflect his humanity as a first century educated Jew, but I don’t think that detracts from their fundamental trustworthiness.”

    Dear David,
    I appreciate your comments here, but I am not absolutely certain about your view of Adam.

    Question: Was there a real man, named Adam? And was he placed in a real garden called Eden? And did all of us (ie the entire human race) descend from him?


  • normbv


    Your question is based upon a literal reading and application and doesn’t take into consideration the metaphorical manner that it was written in and evaluated by Paul.

    Of course there was no physical Garden as it’s the same Garden we dwell in through faith in Christ. John in Revelation illustrates that the Garden has been reopened where God now dwells with man and there is no curse anymore. We are back in it. Look around and determine whether we are in a literal Garden now or is it a Spiritual Garden.

    Your predisposition to understanding the Garden literally is driving you to ask the wrong questions and thus give the wrong answers. Perhaps you may not think its literal in Genesis but you are forcing Paul to take it literally. Why? They understood the Genesis genre much better than you give them credit for. You are reading things like a modern dispensationalist and can’t separate your own theology from Paul’s revealed one. Just because you come from a modern movement that thinks Adam’s death was physical doesn’t mean that Paul bought into your theology.

  • #42

    Dear normbu,
    Is your name David?
    PS Trust me, don’t think for a second that you are introducing me to something new. If you would have read my book, you would know that I have dealt with the issue your have raised.

  • normbv


    Is this a public forum or not? If David hadn’t addressed you then I certainly feel the right to jump in although it would have been nice if he had responded first.

    I’ve read enough of your work from ASA on Romans 5 to know that it is not the best theology on Paul out there. If you want people to take your book seriously and decide to spend nearly $50 for it then invest in a worthwile article on ASA or Biologos detailing your understanding of Romans 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 is indeed worth the investment. Come up with a good argument that will hold water and challenges Denis Alexanders position of Gen 3 and Rom 5 as spiritual death. Your whole premise of Paul stands essentially on that one issue which you yourself says is highly important to those you interface with.

    Or how about just spelling it out here in a sustained dialogue and let us interface with you. I think you just haven’t allowed yourself to be challenged on a very suspect approach to Paul’s ideas about Genesis and the sin death issue.

  • 44.
    Sorry for this folks, but my time and patience is limited. This is why professors rarely waste time with know-it-alls on the internet.

    Not sure you if have these where you live, but in Canada we have libraries. So get off your . . .

    Regarding the cost of books, authors don’t control that. Go complain to the president of Wipf & Stock.

    Regarding ASA, I’ve hardly written anything on Rom 5-8 or 1 Cor 15. Maybe a couple paragraphs. So you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Denis Alexander had a fine career as a scientist. I had a fine career as a dentist. But there is a difference between us: 2 Masters & 1 PhD in theology, focusing on the hermeneutics of the origins debate. One of us takes academic theology seriously . . .


  • rjs


    Sitting back and claiming credentials will gets us nowhere in the church.

    Frankly we will never get anywhere without patient persistent interaction on the issues – authority won’t do it, persuasion will … eventually. Not with everyone, but with many.

    Challenging ideas and interacting – that is how we learn as scholars. Responding to questions and challenges is how we teach and persuade; it is part of the process.

  • RJS,
    I bet that if your chemistry papers were being critique by Norm, and he had not read them, you wouldn’t be writing such a self-righteous post like in #46.

    A chronic problem in the origins debate is scientists (like you and Alexander) stepping outside their field of expertise, and trying to be biblical exegetes and theologians. That’s call the misappropriation of academic authority. Moreover, since you are a professional academic, I finding it amazing that I have to explain this to you. I assumed that you would have more respect for the academy and the academic process.

    Bottom line: Norm is beaking off without having read my book. You as the moderator should have stepped in and ruled him out of order.


  • rjs


    As an academic and a scholar I read broadly and interact with ideas broadly. One of the things we emphasize, at least in this branch of academia, is interdisciplinarity, and connections. You can call it the arrogance of a physicist if you wish – some do … but while I do not know or understand everything today, I do think I am capable of learning, understanding, and interacting with all branches of knowledge. My goal here is not to defer to authority but to be continually and constantly interacting with ideas and learning more, gaining understanding; especially on topics that I find important.

    Of course I am trying to be a biblical exegete and a theologian, we are not compartmentalized Christians. More importantly we all learn by doing. I find it rather shocking that you think I shouldn’t be trying to be a biblical exegete and theologian. In fact, as a Christian, I find it necessary to take my approach to my faith as seriously as I take my approach to my science. This does not mean getting “credentialed” in all areas of interest – but thinking deeply and fairly, listening to all of the arguments and interacting with them.

    I found much within your book very interesting and enlightening – opening up new ways to think about various aspects of the problem. But I read it to interact with it – not as a repository of truth from an expert to simply accept and parrot back.

  • rjs


    If you still read this – here is the problem I have with what you’ve put forth. It isn’t a literal Adam – but a ‘literal’ rebellion.

    Does Genesis simply reflect the reality that all are sinful or does it teach that mankind (as community) rebelled against God?

    When Paul uses Adam as an individual it is because he had a view of human origins that was typical of his time and place. I have no real problem with that idea – it is the position I’ve put forth at other times/places on this blog. But is his use of the ideas in the Gen 2-3 story merely incidental or is the message of human rebellion a key part of the story?

    It seems to me that you are giving a position that sin just is. We were all created sinful and with the power to sin or resist sin – as isolated individuals. I don’t think this is right – rather community and corporate guilt plays a much larger role.

  • Tim

    Dennis & RJS,


    This is a public forum. When you enter into this forum, expect others, far less credentialed than you, to openly challenge your arguments. I know I’ve certainly done so in the past, and I in no way consider that inappropriate. Also, please understand that most of your arguments are not seen as representing any kind of theological consensus by RJS, Normbv, myself, and many others.

    Also, views in the academic theological community should certainly be taken seriously, but the views of any INDIVIDUAL theologian or Biblical scholar, if not buttressed by considerable expertise in a given area (thinking of how Walton leveraged his ANE expertise in his exegesis of Genesis 1), or if not considered compelling by fellow theologians in the relevant area of study, aren’t really worth a whole lot. There is a very diverse marketplace of ideas among theologians, and we as critical consumers of information have to weigh your ideas with respect to the rest among your peers.

    Also, please be aware that most people posting on these threads, whether agreeing with you or presenting challenges, will likely not have read your book. If in the course of this dialog, you present your case in a sufficiently convincing manner, we might well decide then to read your book. But Scot & RJS post books every couple days here, and we’re just not going to read them all. Sorry.


    I agree that Paul’s theology in Romans seems to express some communal/corporate responsibility with respect to sin. Outside the whole Adam/fall issue, you even have Paul expressing that Israel as a nation will experience a “hardening” against receiving the Gospel with the exception of a slim “remnant.” So, when one of those Israelite’s who have been “hardened” due to the spiritual rebellion of their ancestral countrymen goes to Hell rather than Heaven given their rejection of the Gospel message, they can think, “well, that’s just lovely, so glad I’m able to participate in this whole communal guilt thing as I suffer individually for all eternity.” So, I just happen to think that while I agree with you that Paul did argue for communal guilt, I personally believe that he happened to be wrong, mainly due to my conscience.

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    RJS, I’m curious about your distinction between sin as an individual and a community act. All sin is rebellion against God whether committed by one or as a group. In Genesis 2 we see two acts of sin – Eve responds to outside temptation which sparks her inner desire; Adam also acts as an individual although his sinful act occurs with less evident reflection because he has already seen another person sin and so joins in. It appears to me that sin is initially presented as an individual action, although of course later in the OT there are countless examples of entire populations united in sinful behavior, and indeed judged and punished as a group.

    But what about salvation – are we redeemed as individuals, or in community? If we’re redeemed by our faith as individuals, then it makes some sense to see our sin as an individual and unique choice to rebel against God.

    That said, I can’t say that I noticed that Lamoureux overemphasizes sin as an individual choice in his book; it seems that this particular debate is peripheral to the focus of his work.

  • normbv


    You are simply giving excuses for not interfacing on theological points. This issue isn’t as cut and dried as you want to let on. Besides I’ve listened to your ASA audio and PPT presentation from Waco 2009 and it gives your view there. I don’t really have to know much beyond your statement castigating those who hold to Gen 3 and Rom 5 as spiritual death to understand your position as I’ve been dealing with that argument for years.

    So do you not consider your Baylor 2009 ASA lecture topic representative enough for someone to grasp your theology of Paul on sin and Death?

    Denis O. Lamoureux, “The Sin-Death Problem: Toward an Evolutionary Creationist Solution”

    Yes it was sparse yet it laid out your foundational positions which is what I’m challenging your theology on.

    Also one doesn’t have to have a PhD in theology to have educated themselves well enough to understand when smoke is being blown their way.

    And yes I could get your book at a local library if I consider it worthy of digging deeper into but that’s not the point. The point is that you set yourself up above the debate by not thinking the community is worthy of your interfacing with them on the more difficult subjects. I’m not even going to say what I think of such an attitude.

    Tim, RJS, and Nancy: here is how one can postulate the corporate understanding of Sin in scriptures. Gross sin in scriptures appears to be the natural manifestation of all peoples whether they were Jew or Gentile. Yet the Jews as the corporate set aside faithful of God found they could not live in a relationship with God when it was presented to them in the Garden to remove them from sin. The Garden is the place of relationship and thus it was demonstrated by Paul in Romans 5-8 that no member of covenant Israel stemming from Adam could placate God through works of obedience to Law. Adam represents the individual beginning of Israel and all Israel is corporately bound up in Adam’s death as he was a microcosm of them. If one was born or circumcised into Israel then they were in Adam’s death and members thereof. Through faith in Christ the Jews and the Gentiles could now both approach God and become part of the corporate body of the church. [Body of Christ] as compared to the [Body of Israel sin/death]. There is a corporate body [group] but one must enter into it by faith or one is simply outside the corporate body. The body of Adam has been done away with because it was a means of knowing God through Law and Paul says it was destroyed. This only leaves one other group and that would be those outside the Body of Christ and is comprised of those who seek not God and remain in their natural sinful state. The Jews found that the Law only brought testimony to the futility of knowing God in that manner and it was discarded as a means for God’s people. Adam was all about Law as a means to knowing God and Christ is the new second Adam corporately.

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    Norm, how is it that Adam rather than Abraham is the “individual beginning of Israel”? It seems to me that you have ascribed to Adam the role that had been given specifically to Abraham. As a result Adam is no longer a representative figure of all of humanity, and the story of creation no longer has universal applicability. Am I interpreting your comments accurately?

  • normbv


    If we follow the clarification of the faith lineage then you are correct to a point but if you follow the origins of the Law and the Garden establishment it originates with Adam. Garden life was established with Adam and is continued with Christ the Second Adam who restores it [there was no Garden life through Abraham except through the promised “seed”]. Christ is not the second Abraham according to Paul. Think of Adam then as the beginning of the Old covenant church and Christ as the establishment of the new church. Paul makes that understanding explicit in his writings. Eve his mate is called the “mother of all the living” which is not a biological statement but a declaration of her as the origin of the “seed” namely Christ. Through her you can trace the lineage of the Jews whom Abraham is part of and yet Luke traces Christ back to Adam past Abraham.

    1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
    45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
    49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Christ].

    What Paul is saying is that all of those in Adam’s image are under the law and thus in sin death because of that heritage. Notice the solution of his conclusion to the problem of sin death [separation from God] is resolved through Christ who brings in the removal of Adam’s dispensation of Law by ushering in Grace.

    56 The sting of death is sin, and THE POWER OF SIN IS THE LAW. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Also one need to keep in mind that Paul says that ultimately it was not even the physical seed of Abraham who were true Israel [church] but the faithful including the Gentiles coming to Christ [Rom 9:6-8]. We can find that this goes all the way back to the time of Seth and Adam in Gen 4:26 when those from Eve’s good seed start calling on the name of YHWH. It is well noted that only Israel called on YHWH as their God.

    Nancy, yes you are correct that if we as the church are in Adam we are still under Law but that isn’t the case because of Christ. Those outside the church are not in Adam and never were because they are not adhering to the Law either unless you want to count the Jews who reject Christ yet they were cast back into outer darkness which is the arena of Pagan man. Adam lived around 6000 years ago and certainly is not our biological father. Sin was in the world well before Adam but when one is in the Garden Sin is not counted or attributed. That is the main gist of the story Paul is dealing with in Romans 5-8, is to demonstrate that we have been released from Adam’s bondage of the Law through Christ. Adam was the head of the old church and there are not two simultaneous churches in existence today.

    Rom 5:13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

  • normbv


    I should have also quoted Eph 2:15 which sums up my position.

    Eph 2:15 by abolishing THE LAW OF COMMANDMENTS EXPRESSED IN ORDINANCES, that he might create in himself ONE NEW MAN in place of THE TWO, so making peace,

  • 52.
    Norm writes:
    “So do you not consider your Baylor 2009 ASA lecture topic representative enough for someone to grasp your theology of Paul on sin and Death?”

    NOT AT ALL!!! It hardly scratches the surface. That was a popular splash.

    Norm it’s so comforting to know that you know more about my views than I do.

    Norm also wrote:
    “Also one doesn’t have to have a PhD in theology to have educated themselves well enough to understand when smoke is being blown their way.”

    Ahhh American evangelical protestant individualistic arrogance at its best. Papal and Magisterial authority all wrapped in each man who owns an NIV (the nearly inspired version)

    Norm, I bet you couldn’t even read my masters thesis. How’s your Punic? You do know what Punic is, right? Be honest, don’t go to the net.


  • 50
    Tim writes:
    “This is a public forum. etc etc etc”

    Trust me, I am more than aware of all you’ve said here. I’ve been in forums like this since 1994. My point is simple: Norm is beaking off about my work, and he really hasn’t got a clue. Is the Christian response to sit back and not say anything? Nonsense. The most Christian thing I can do is tell Norm he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  • normbv


    Ok, I apologize for challenging your theology and no I do not know what Punic represents. Please accept my apology for overstepping my place.

  • Dear Norm,
    I have absolutely no problem being challenged. In fact, that’s why I have just sent a two part paper on Darwin’s religious beliefs to a half dozen colleagues. I’m hoping that if I’ve screwed up, that it can be intercepted before it shows up in a journal.

    Now, if you want to read those papers, I’d be happy to send them to you. Contact me: dlamoure@ualberta.ca


  • normbv


    Thanks for the offer. Yes I know how important it is to have our works reviewed by others. I’ve helped authors before in their request and one never wants to have to correct something after publishing.

    I have ordered your book and will study it because I have always had the intention to do so. I think many of our goals are the same which is to help people understand Genesis in a way that is not detrimental to our culture. I know many others that agree with me about Romans and Genesis yet it is not the popular easy reading view that many accept.

    I’ll respond again in the future after I have gone through your book.


  • I enjoyed reading this piece about the book “Evolutionary Creation” and the comments that followed. I read Lamoureux’s book quite some time ago, and though I don’t know that I agree with all of it, I think it raised some very valid points. I have read many books dealing with science and religion, though usually more from the scientific rather than theologic side. I’ll surely be looking for more recommendations on similar works from this blog.

    I would like to say that while reading through the comments, I became disappointed with Lamoureux’s own comments, which came across in my opinion as downright rude at times and evasive. He stated he had no problem being challenged (comment 59) yet didn’t really respond much to anyone’s questions in the earlier comments other than to belittle them (“I bet you couldn’t even read my master’s thesis. How’s your Punic?”). Frankly, I feel that authors shouldn’t participate in such online discussions at all unless they are willing to be actively engaged and sincerely responsive.

    Does this necessarily diminish any of Lamoureux’s points in his book? No, but it probably won’t help win anyone over to his line of thinking either. I know I personally feel a little weird now about recommending the book to friends after reading this exchange.

    Norm took the high road for apologizing and agreeing to purchase the book. Kudos, Norm.