Adam, Sin, and Death … Oh My 2 (RJS)

The first post in this series, Adam, Sin, and Death … Oh My 1, opened with a question that asked how we learn to think about new challenges in a Christian manner. You could say how we think “biblically,” but that term often seems to be used for rules and prescriptions, extracting the commands from scripture and following them. When faced with new challenges, ones foreign to the original writers and original audience, rules and prescriptions are not enough.

The challenges raised by the age of the earth, evolutionary biology and common descent were not in play for the original audience. These are truly new issues. The original authors and audience had a different cosmology, a different understanding of biology, and a different understanding of human history. The text of scripture reflects the ancient near east cosmology, to a certain extent it reflects an ancient near east understanding of origins, but it takes that understanding to teach about the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, creator of heaven and earth. The question becomes identifying the dividing line between the incidental inclusion of an ancient understanding of the world and the revelation of God.

For many the most profound problems raised by evolution relate to Adam, the sin of Adam, and sinfulness in all of mankind. The issues are not raised by Genesis as much as they are raised by Paul. This issue was brought up again in the context of the post last week Test of Faith – Does Science Threaten Belief in God?.  The comment, slightly edited, is given below.

I still, however, have trouble with the method Christians who believe in evolution use to mesh science and faith. For instance, do any of you who accept evolution believe “Adam” was a real person, our first parent, from whom we all descend?

If not, then I see a real problem because

3. Paul certainly believed Adam was a real person in Romans 5 — as real as Christ.

4. The doctrine of original sin, and Paul’s main argument in Romans 5 are lost if we accept not that Adam is a real person.

5. Many would say it is heresy to deny any of scripture’s three imputations (a. the imputation of Adam’s sin to us. b. the imputation of our sin to Christ. c. the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.). In fact, they would say the Gospel is at stake on this issue. A literal Adam is essential, which I tend to agree with.

6. The whole Bible unfolds as a plan of redemption based on the Adam and Eve story. Serious issues are at stake if this story is called a myth.

So I guess my question is can you believe in a literal Adam whom we all descended from and still believe in evolution. If not, I find it virtually impossible not to reject evolution. Thanks again for all the thoughtful comments.

The question of Adam is a particularly important place to learn how to think about questions in a Christian manner. Theology plays a role that is more significant than in the question of the age of the earth and the presence of death in deep time raised in the post on Tuesday.

Are these serious problems – serious enough to warrant the rejection of evolution?

The points brought up by the commenter are good points – these are not issues of inerrancy or genre in scripture, these are issues of theology and anthropology and they impact some key doctrines of the church.  As we think through the problem we may in fact find that aspects of our understanding of sin in creation will have to adjust to new understandings of the world. Here is a place where science may force a rethinking of theology.

The idea that theology may need to be reshaped in response to what we learn about the world is something of a worrisome idea for many. The comment ends with a statement that reflects the sentiment of many. If evolution is not compatible with certain propositions or components of our theology then evolution must be rejected. The evidence for evolution is irrelevant. No evidence can possibly be sufficient because the issue is not God’s mechanism of creation, it is the rock bottom foundation of orthodox Christianity. Or so it seems. This leads to an ultimatum – either faith or science, Christianity or apostasy. The stakes are enormous and the questions can seem overwhelming.

There are still ways to think through the issues of Adam and sin. The most helpful involve considering carefully what is foundational and what is incidental to the biblical narrative and to our theology and doctrines. Here are three possible approaches to the question of Adam.

  • Paul teaches that sin entered through Adam, original sin poisoned the human race, and the sin of Adam is imputed to all making us (1) guilty before God in our own right and (2) guilty before God because we are human. Therefore Adam must have existed as a unique individual. The Genesis story is easiest to follow as history. Evolution is not true.

Or:

  • Paul teaches that sin entered through Adam, original sin poisoned the human race, and the sin of Adam is imputed to all making us (1) guilty before God in our own right and (2) guilty before God because we are human. Therefore Adam must have existed as a unique individual. Science demonstrates that man evolved in common descent with the rest of life. This also constitutes part of what we know of God’s work. Therefore one of the proposals put forth by people like John Stott, Denis Alexander, or Henri Blocher accommodating both evolution and Adam must be correct.

Or:

  • Adam did not exist as a unique individual, progenitor of the human race. The human population was never less than several thousand individuals. Therefore perhaps we misunderstand the nature of original sin and the imputation of Adam’s sin to all of mankind. These are not universal understandings in the church and we must reconsider and rethink our doctrine.

These approaches and variations on them represent those taken by many people in the conversation, both scientists and theologians. The are not exhaustive of all possibilities, nor are they intended to be.  The first approach starts with a doctrine, and understanding of the faith, and holds tight to that understanding rejecting evolutionary biology. The second starts with science and the doctrine of sin and looks for a solution accommodating both. In some way science must conform to the theology. The third approach starts with science and seeks to conform theology and doctrine to the science.

Which approach outlined above seems more appropriate? Why?

Is there some other approach you would suggest?

What is your starting point when asking questions and searching for answers?

I’ll come back to these questions and more in future posts. They are not simple questions with short, five point answers deliverable in a sermon, a lecture, or a blog post. But today I would just like to throw it open for comments.

If 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.

  • MatthewS

    I appreciate you posting this. The Adam-sin-death thing is a big deal for me.

    I see Paul’s discussion of sin and death as pointing to a literal Adam who was followed by the literal “last Adam.”

    Augustine developed thoughts along these lines, including the pear-stealing thing, not because he was hungry but because something in him liked doing the wrong thing BECAUSE it was the wrong thing.

    Pelagius rejected this Original Sin notion.

    But Luther drove himself crazy trying to be righteous before God while under Pelagian-ish thinking (through the Ockham or Occam line). Luther found peace after shifting back toward the Augustinian direction in terms of original sin.

    All this to agree with your statement that “these are issues of theology and anthropology and they impact some key doctrines of the church”.

  • Tim

    I know the approach you and others take RJS is highlighting theological methods to resolve the “conflict” between Science and Scripture that persons such as you quoted above don’t feel that they have to reject good science to be faithful and orthodox Christians.

    But does it occur to anyone that this type of thinking, that one is literally forced to reject overwhelmingly supported science until that day that a theological reconciliation is identified problematic? That somehow critical thinking has veered so far of course as to represent the type of insulation from reality that we see in cults? Granted, this seems limited only to science and scholarship among Fundamentalist or otherwise highly Biblicist Evangelicals, and by no means am I labeling such communities as cults. But with respect to total insulation from reality and maintenance of untenable ideas in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, there is similarity there.

    This type of thinking is destructive. But it is elevated as a sign of faithfulness to Christ by the Fundamentalist or highly Biblicist Evangelical. This is not OK. And I think it should be talked about in addition to the usual resolutions of the “conflict” between science and scripture.

  • DanS

    The comment correctly identified that the real Biblical problem is not with Genesis 1-3, it is with Romans 5, 1 Cor 15 and the genealogies.

    But I would suggest a different approach from the three mentioned.

    Science is a human endeavor where finite human beings gather data and draw conclusions about the physical universe. Modern science originated in the West because of the belief that God created a world that operates according to fixed laws. Many wonderful advances in technology, medicine and other fields have come from science. However science has limits. What we were told to eat or not to eat 25 years ago we are now told may not have been the best diet. Meteorology is fairly good at predicting the weather tomorrow but very poor at long range forecasts. We were warned of a coming ice age based on global cooling in the 70s and now global warming occupies the fears of many, with much dispute about the assumptions and the use of data. Geologic formations in the Pacific Northwest once believed to have been caused by glaciation are now understood by secular scientists to have been caused by a catastrophic regional flood during the last ice age. Cells that were once thought to be small blobs of gelatin are now known to be mind-bogglingly complex biological machines. What was recently believed to be “junk DNA” is not believed by many to have a profound impact on how genes operate. Finite beings working with finite amounts of data may not be able to accurately state what happened in the distant past.

    While the evidence for a very old universe is compelling and much evidence exists that seems to link species together in both body structure and genetic makeup, much evidence for common descent is also consistent with common design. Science is not infallible nor inerrant and rejection of evolution is not the same as rejection of science or reason. The attempt to mesh the Bible with current pronouncements of secular science steeped in methodological naturalism is unfair to both the scientists who are skeptical of naturalism and students of scripture who view “inspiration” of the text in a more traditional light. The “conversation” needs to be less insistent of the certainty of current scientific thought and more open to the possibility that the writers of scripture expressed truths that were not as bound by ancient cultural restrictions and some would suggest. Humility in our approach to origins science is at least as important as humility in our interpretation of scripture.

    Respectfully submitted for consideration.

  • Tim

    DanS,

    “much evidence for common descent is also consistent with common design.”

    Sure, like the evidence that we never find dramatically out of order fossils as per common descent, like a Precambrian rabbit. Or the genetic evidence of past Endogenous Retriviral infections in human DNA in orthologous positions with respect to Chimpanzee DNA.

    Read Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters by Donald Prothero, and Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA by Daniel Fairbanks and see how naturally that statement “much evidence for common descent is also consistent with common design” comes to you again.

  • http://seguewm.blogspot.com/ Wm

    Science threatened theology with Copernicanism. A geocentric view had permeated core theological notions. A heliocentric view required a major paradigmatic shift. The battle turned the church inside out, yet a more consistently God-exalting worldview emerged.

    As Jesus built his teaching parables around things unfamiliar to us today, so have bible writers leveraged the stories of their day as vehicles to express truths. The core of Christian thinking isn’t the myth-vehicle, but God. If we keep our eye on God through these discussions, rather than on attempting to preserve theological constructs, the pain of change will reap a beautiful harvest.

  • Andy W.

    From what I understand the Eastern Church does not hold to the doctrine of Original Sin, in fact they disagree with it. It may be worth looking at how they look at and handle these issues. Maybe Dana can chime in? I have 2 great friends that are EO and they say that belief in evolution is not an issue at all for EO. I find it interesting that EO does not seem to be challenged here and I bet we could learn something from them. I think this is part of the challenge that evangelicals have is that we are slow to look to other traditions to learn and maybe find a new way of looking at things.

  • http://kingdomroundtable.blogspot.com Dru Dodson

    Theologians in the Orthodox tradition have a completely different, non (pre?) Augustinian view of these things which might help us rethink our Western assumptions going into texts like Romans 5. Here’s a sample:

    The moralistic problem raised by St. Augustine concerning the transmission of death to the descendants of Adam as punishment for the one original transgression is foreign to Paul’s thoughts. The death of each man cannot be considered the outcome of personal guilt. St. Paul is not thinking as a philosophical moralist looking for the cause of the fall of humanity and creation in the breaking of objective rules of good behavior, which demands punishment from a God whose justice is in the image of the justice of this world. Paul is clearly thinking of the fall in terms of a personalistic warfare between God and Satan, in which Satan is not obliged to follow any sort of moral rules if he can help it. It is for this reason that St. Paul can say that the serpent “deceived Eve”[223] and that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”[224] Man was not punished by God, but taken captive by the devil.

    http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/frjr_sin.aspx

    Seems like provocative food for thought, and perhaps an alternative to our dilemma.

  • John W Frye

    DanS (#3),
    You wrote, [The current conversation needs to be] “more open to the possibility that the writers of scripture expressed truths that were not as bound by ancient cultural restrictions and(sic) as some would suggest.” How do you go about proposing and supporting this possibility regarding writers of Scripture? Are you suggesting that the Holy Spirit infused into the writers of Scripture Enlightenment categories of “history,” “science,” and “truth”?

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    “When faced with new challenges, ones foreign to the original writers and original audience, rules and prescriptions are not enough” nails the dilemma.

    It’s safe to assume a literal Adam. It’s a reality that science keeps adjusting the *theory* of biological transitions and long past time-frames.

    We know it part and proclaim it that way. So what do we do?

    We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    I’m fine hanging my hat somewhere between putting my hand to the plow and not looking back and not worrying about tomorrow since today has all the challenges I need.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    DanS#3 said “Science is not infallible nor inerrant and rejection of evolution is not the same as rejection of science or reason.”

    I believe that the correct analogy is that the universe is infallible and inerrant just as the bible is, but our interpretations of each is subject to error.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I find it ironic that the oldest forms of the Christian Church, EO and RCC both have no problem with evolution.

  • Andy W.

    Dru #7…

    Yes, that’s what I mean. There are some very different ways of looking at this that can really add some light to the conversation. Thanks for adding this.

  • http://www.gettingfree.wordpress.com T

    DRT,

    I think you raise a point that is worth talking about. Why is it exactly that that the RCC and EO have no issue with evolution? In a nutshell, the explanation seems to be that they view the Church as the pillar of truth so to speak, of which the scriptures are an ordained outgrowth, as opposed to the more typical evangelical approach which views the scriptures as really separate from and superior to the Church in terms of authority.

    It’s interesting, but there seems to be a bit of unreality to both the typical RCC view of it’s own authority and how it carries on to today’s Church, and in the typical evangelical ideas of the bible’s origins and intended role, especially vis a vis the Church.

    I know that RJS has patiently brought this up many times, but I can’t help but think that the theological questions she raises in this post may be at an impasse for the parts of Protestant Christianity whose ecclesiology (and pneumatology for that matter) is too weak to lean on while one examines alternate views of scripture.

  • EricW

    @6. and @7.

    The popular (and oft-repeated) idea that the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches “ancestral sin” versus “original sin” – i.e., something different from what the Western Church teaches – may be not be correct:

    http://razilazenje.blogspot.com/2006/03/original-sin-in-eastern-orthodox.html

  • rjs

    Eric W,

    I think it is more complex in the Eastern church – with a range of positions. But Peter Bouteneff’s book “In the Beginning” is written from an eastern perspective. He certainly thinks the eastern perspective on Original sin and Adam is different from much of the post Augustine western church.

  • EricW

    @15. rjs:

    I agree that there are a range of positions in the Eastern Church (I was Orthodox for ~3 years, if you include my inquirer & catechumen time). But I think the anti-Western bias that characterizes some of the Orthodox polemics, esp. in the popular literature written by or attractive to converts, may overstate some of the “East is east and West is west” differences, and unfortunately a lot of people buy and repeat them without examination.

  • Andy W.

    EricW #14,

    RJS is certainly correct. I’ve heard numerous talks and have read many books and this is a distinctive that EO make very clear…there is a difference between the western (Augustinian) view of original sin and the EO view. It is nuanced and they don’t explain things the way we do in the west, but the distinctive is important to their entire theology.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wyatt.roberts Wyatt Roberts

    Another option would be to recognize the fact that, notwithstanding some of Paul’s profound theological insights, his writings on human origins (Romans 5) are contradicted by science. So there is no direct causal relationship between sin and death, and there is no such thing as original sin, no “sinful nature.” This relieves the pressure to invent fanciful doctrines like infant damnation, infant election, and so on.

    Paul was interpreting the work of Jesus based on the prevailing ANE understanding of the cosmos, and he was simply wrong about the cause of Death (which is not to say he was incorrect about the need to save the world from sin).

    And yes, I am a Christian. I’ve struggled with these issues for the very reasons you address, and they have caused me to rethink how I read Paul. The first step to working through this, I think, is to recognize that the fact that although he was inspired, Paul was nonetheless a man with a limited understanding of the history of the world, and whose theology was formed out of that limited understanding.

  • Andy W.

    Eric#16…posted before your response…yes, I agree with this as well. EO does play up the east-west stuff. The point is that we can listen and learn from these different traditions, especially when it comes to these very challenging issues.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    How can the earth be infallible and inerrant with the presence of thorns and thistles, moth and rust?

  • normbv

    If the story of Adam is considered to be a dispensational one and He is primarily the forerunner of Israel’s story, then many of the problems disappear including Paul’s Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15 examination. This would be so because it could then be determined that Paul wasn’t concerned with a biological heritage as much as he was with a Covenantal one. This covenantal thinking of the ancients sends us moderns down many roads chasing rabbit trails that will often never pan out with modern concepts especially anthropology and evolution. We evangelicals are very prone to stumble into these traps because of our training to be literalist.

    One can recognize that these stories of origins of Nations and City States in the ANE essentially provided a framework of identity for a particular people. Israel like its neighbors considered themselves as a set aside people of God. We as Christians have been essentially folded into this covenant bound people also, comprising a special people. We need to keep some of these concepts in mind as we attempt to understand their mindset.

    The Genesis account was very likely written around the later part of the First Temple experience and so the stories of Adam and Noah were reworked ANE stories shaped to fit their worldview and gave meaning and understanding to Israel and their neighbors. Noah and the division of Nations in Gen 10 and 11 are just as problematic as the Adam story because we are certain that the Nations did not arise from the three sons of Noah. Instead these divisions of peoples after the flood shaped how Israel related theologically and organically with the various Nations they were living amongst during the exilic times. Their own covenantal origins stories were similar to their neighbors but were also framed to refute their neighbor’s origins stories.

    The strength of the evangelical mindset is our propensity to study the word for ourselves but it is also our weakness. This is because of our lack of training in ancient worldviews, which means a preacher isn’t very likely to be effective teaching the nuances of these issues from the pulpit. It will very likely require an evolving cultural adaptation as a people to free us of this literal propensity.

  • normbv

    I would also like to address Paul’s ideas about Adam’s death. It is certainly debatable whether Paul is inferring biological death in his concepts in Rom 5:12-14. Sin Death is considered separation from God and the restoration out of that “spiritual death” is the crux of the matter in bringing back eternal life to the faithful. Eph 2 highlights Paul’s thinking about such and his examination of sin and death throughout Rom 5-8 appears to be developed upon a similar foundation of “sin death” and not biological. We need to be careful to keep Paul in context with his overall theological points instead of pulling ideas out of his general context.

    Notice that Paul is declaring that they were spiritually “dead” not biologically yet.

    Eph 2:1-3 ESV And YOU WERE DEAD IN THE TRESPASSES AND SINS (2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– (3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

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

    Jeff #20,

    If we’re going to write of oxidation (rust), consumption (moths), plants with bit that humans don’t like to touch( thorns) and plants that don’t produce food humans like to eat which compete for space with plants that do (thistles ) then we’re left in a right pickle. consider the following list of things that also fall into these categories;

    1. digestion of eaten food
    2. natural soil production processes
    3. all metal tarnishing
    4. the effectiveness of many acids
    5. climbing plants (with hooks)
    6. fruit trees with bird deterrent spikes (many varieties of plums for example)
    7. most grasses
    8. smothering mosses and vines
    9. gorse plants

    the list goes on, and on….

  • Mark Z.

    Are these serious problems – serious enough to warrant the rejection of evolution?

    I find it very odd that the last word in that sentence is “evolution” and not “Paul”.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    “Are these serious problems – serious enough to warrant the rejection of evolution?” Yes.

  • rjs

    Peter G,

    Do you think the wisest choice is simply rejection – it can’t be right or is it enough to say that these aspects of Paul’s theology must play a role in reconciling all of the data? The simplest solution from a scientific standpoint may not be right because we have this added input.

    I am not sure I find the explanation of Denis Alexander or John Stott (or Tim Keller) right – they certainly are not the simplest interpretation of the natural scientific and historic data. But they do combine both Paul and our observation of the world into one story. Is this a reasonable approach?

  • http://thepangeablog.com Kurt

    Starting next monday, I will be doing a series of posts on these questions. I plan to write about a way forward for viewing Adam as historical in the first article. Then, the second article will talk about the biblical option of myth or historical parable for Adam. Finally, the third post will lean in on the option that I think may be the most helpful. Feel free to come by on monday, and thanks for this great series RJS!!!

  • Jorge L

    DRT, it is not correct to say that Eastern Orthodox and Catholics “have no problem with evolution.” I cannot speak for Orthodoxy, but the Catholic teaching, most recently re-enunciated in a 1994 address by John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences says, basically,

    1. there’s no problem with evolution as long as scientists understand that science by its own methods cannot speak one way or the other to the existence of the soul (which by theological definition is that aspect of humanness that is not empirically observable). That being so, it is bad science to make a claim that man evolved naturally from lower species, if man is understand as Christians understand man.

    Scientists can believe religiously that no such unmeasurable, non-empirical thing as a soul exists. If they are of this religious belief, then of course, they can go on to say that all that makes up humanness is empirically observable and thus man can be said to have evolved naturally from lower species. But to make that claim is already to have chosen to reject belief in a non-empirically observable human soul.

    Christian belief says God created man and did so by creating this thing called “soul.”

    Thus, an evolutionary theory that, as it ought to do, stops short of making any claim about the evolution of ensouled man from lower species, is “no problem” for Christians. But an evolutionary theory which claims to be able to assert, scientifically, that ensouled man evolved naturally from lower species, is incompatible with Christian belief and must be rejected by Christians. It’s also bad science, but JPII was not so rude as to say that.

    Many scientists, of course, do not make the claim that ensouled man evolved naturally from lower species because they already deny the existence of ensouled man. But any scientist who claims to be able to demonstrate scientifically that no such thing as ensouled man exists, is doing bad science. He’s making a religious claim but portraying as scientific and that’s bad science and bad religion/phillsophy.

    And that too must be rejected by Christians.

    So Catholics have “no problem” with evolution as it pertains to empirically observable stuff. They do have a big-time problem with pseudo-scientific evolutionary theories that claim to read from the fossil record evidence that man as we know man today evolved naturally from primates. Catholics are required as an article of faith to insist on the direct divine creation of the human soul, of human nature, of the first man.

  • Jorge L

    Polygenesis versus monogenesis, the subject of this thread, is different.

    St. Paul would seem to assume mono-genesis. So a Catholic theologian needs to take that seriously. But the bigger theological non-negotiable is a shared human nature. That’s an article of faith without which no Christianity can exist–because it underlies the claim that we are saved and deified by Christ’s hypostatic union with a single human nature, not human nature in general and in the abstract.

    If theologically one can work out an explanation of real shared human nature combined with polygenesis, Catholic theology would have no objection. I don’t know that anyone has worked that out and that is the theological challenge. But neither has science demonstrated polygenesis (in the formal, Aristotelian sense of the Posterior Analytics). That was part of the issue in Galileo’s case (not the whole issue): there was not yet any watertight demonstration of heliocentrism, only a preponderance of evidence. The demonstration only came around the time of World War I. So too with polygenesis. It may well be true, but science at this point certainly has not demonstrated it. Catholic theology is not scared of the prospect that it might some day be demonstrated. It’s a big theological challenge, to be sure, given St. Paul’s assumption of monogenesis and of the obvious “easy” grounding monogenesis gives for shared human nature. But I don’t think the problem posed by polygenesis to shared human nature is insurmountable. At the same time, I say to scientists, don’t claim more certainty than you have, scientifically, for your theories. Belief whatever you want to, you scientists, about philosophical and religious questions. But just don’t tell us something is true scientifically when it hasn’t yet been demonstrated or when the evidence is still partial and uncertain. Be honest about the level of proof. And then be honest about when you are crossing over into beliefs, e.g., believing in the non-existence of the soul.

    If scientists would be honest about their science and honest about their beliefs and about the lines between them, an awful lot of the conflict would disappear. For all the sins of Fundamentalists in attacking Big Science, scientists themselves have far more often cheated intellectually by claiming as science what is in fact philosophical or religious belief. And when they are called on their disingenuity, all too often they are the ones who storm off in a funk instead of calmly engaging the intellectual issues at stake.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jorge L#28, I have no problem just plainly stating that bad science is invalid science, therefore I see no conflict. A couple of quotes:

    The Catholic Church has always taught that “no real disagreement can exist between the theologian and the scientist provided each keeps within his own limits. . . . If nevertheless there is a disagreement . . . it should be remembered that the sacred writers, or more truly ‘the Spirit of God who spoke through them, did not wish to teach men such truths (as the inner structure of visible objects) which do not help anyone to salvation’; and that, for this reason, rather than trying to provide a scientific exposition of nature, they sometimes describe and treat these matters either in a somewhat figurative language or as the common manner of speech those times required, and indeed still requires nowadays in everyday life, even amongst most learned people” (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus 18).

    As the Catechism puts it, “Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are” (CCC 159). The Catholic Church has no fear of science or scientific discovery.

    Just as I have no problem saying that bad science is invalid science, I also think bad theology is invalid theology and it is bad theology to think that the bible has scientific explanations in it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jorge L#29, I agree that there are scientists who state their metaphysical presuppositions at times as fact, and that is most unfortunate.
    But there many more times when theologians express their metaphysical presuppositions as fact, e.g. creation, flood etc.

  • Jorge L

    Andy W.,

    While it is true that the Greek tradition and the Western tradition on original sin differ, the differences do not affect the issue here very much. They both agree about shared human nature and a shared original deleterious condition inherited as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. They disagree about whether to call that original inherited condition “sin” or not. The West calls it “sin” only with an asterisk.

    Augustine’s view on original sin were modified in the West and an asterisk, in effect, was added to the term “sin.” Original *sin is not the same as actual, freely willed, sin. The Greek objection to using the term “sin” was thus addressed, not by dropping use of the term, which was a possible way out, but by asterisking it. But whether the original condition is called “sin” or “mortality,” either way, a shared human nature is insisted on, both East and West.

    And thus shared human nature is the real issue and, on that, East and West agree. And both then form a common front vis-a-vis any (pseudo-) scientific theory of natural evolution of humans from lower species. Both face the question of polygenesis, in my view, more or less from a comman vantage-point.

  • Jorge L

    DRT, are you saying that metaphysical positions are non-factual? If so, you seem to be making a metaphysical claim and you seem to believe it to be a fact.

    Or did you mean by “fact” a “scientific fact”?

    See this is the problem. You appear to take for granted that “facts” are one thing and
    metaphysical/philosophical/religious beliefs are something else.

    This may be true, but it’s not proveable scientifically. It’s a belief.

    Now, if you are blaming theologians for claiming metaphysical beliefs to be SCIENTIFIC facts rather than metaphysical facts (fact applies to both, in fact), that would be a Very Bad Thing for theologians to do.

    But, in fact, I believe that this doesn’t happen (a fact is essentially a “happening,” from factum, participle of facio, to make, do, bring about) as often as you might fear. Where it does, I’ll join you in dogmatic condemnation.

    But there’s nothing wrong with claiming beliefs are facts. It would be wrong to claim that non-empirically observable facts are Scientific facts.

    But you failed to specify whether by “fact” you actually meant empirical fact. That only demonstrates my claim about the sloppy thinking that goes on in the science and religion debates. Far too often people assume that “fact” = science and nonfactual belief = religion or metaphysics.

    That might be at true statement but to believe it is true is to do metaphysics. To believe it is false is to do metaphysics. To believe it to be either true or false is not within the purview of science.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff#20 & phil style#23, Phil is right.

    Jeff, are the thorns of a rose bad? Or good? I think they just are, and are neither good nor bad.

    The universe is God’s good creation. It is a gift, and I hope more treat it that way. I would hate to see the conversation with St. Peter at the pearly gates when someone gets there and says “thank god I am off that terrible earth”, god will be sad that we did not enjoy it.

    As it says, it was good!

  • Rick

    Issues: Paul indicates all humans have been, and are
    connected in some way.

    Paul indicates all humans have been damaged by
    something (Fall, sin, etc…).

    Question: Does evolution eliminate either, or both, of
    those from being true?

  • Dana Ames

    AndyW,

    The link Eric gave was useful for hearing the range of nuance there is in discussing this issue, and that too often too much is made of the differences btw east and west. However, there is a real difference in inflection, and that can be apprehended as one reads through those quotes.

    As I understand it, Augustine posited that our human guilt is transmitted from Adam to the rest of us by means of sexual reproduction. There is no mention of this in the quotes by Ware and Alfeyev, but rather that since every human shares human nature, each distinct human person has a share in the consequenses of Adam’s sin; the consequences of that sin are not *limited* to guilt, which is to be seen in pretty much all the quotes.

    Orthodox “anthropology” does not posit a “sin nature” (misleading handling of the word sarx, “flesh” in the NT). Rather, human beings have a human nature/essence (just as God has a divine nature/essence) which is manifested in and through each distinct, unique human person (like the divine essence is manifest through the Persons of the Trinity) by means of each person’s “energies” – those qualities (in humans and in the Godhead) which other persons (both created and uncreated!) may apprehend and share; the way we can “know” God and one another is by means of our “energies”, since it is impossible to fathom the depths either of essence or even one person. Human nature has been infected by sin and all its consequences, but more stress is laid on the death & corruption aspects of those consequences on the level of nature/essence.

    Though that corruption has infected our human nature, it does not leave us in a state of “total depravity”; because the image of God in each person was not lost, we still have the ability to choose, hampered though it is by the infection in human nature. That is why people of any or no particular faith are capable of doing morally good acts: the ultimate issue is not morality per se. The Incarnation is the “flash point” of the healing of our nature, finished through the Cross and Resurrection as the end of ultimate death & corruption; so that we now have some very real help in beginning to recover the likeness of God as we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection and are indwelt by the very Spirit of God, poured out at Pentecost.

    Good series I’ve been reading as it’s been posted:
    http://frted.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/adam-and-sin-paradise-and-fasting/
    Links to the next in the series are at the bottom of each post. They’re short; it wouldn’t take a lot of time to read through the series. IIRC, the issue of patristic thought on whether there was death in the animal world before Adam’s sin is brought up, along with “Adam” as a “historical person”. The church fathers didn’t always agree. In O, where the church fathers don’t agree, we mostly take the view that the jury’s out and we shouldn’t get too worked up about the issue (though some do, unfortunately).

    Also relevant is this newly posted paper by N.T. Wright:
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_SCP_MindSpiritSoulBody.htm

    Dana

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jorge L, you are correct, I did mean empirical fact. Something for which we have objective evidence. I will try to be less sloppy on that.

    Having said that, anyone who claims something as a fact needs to state the basis for the belief. A theologion would at best be able to say, “according to biblical interpretation and church history this is a fact”.

    I think it is perfectly acceptable to speak of empirically justified facts as just plain facts in colloquial usage, but this conversation is clearly not colloquial.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    hmmmm, a thought while reading Dana’s response #36.

    If Jesus had not been crucified, would he have died? He was sinless after all.

  • Jorge L

    DRT,

    Some theological and metaphysical beliefs are based entirely on revelation (and interpretation of revelation). But not all. You still want to privilege some things as “factual” and relegate theology to second-class status.

    Some metaphysical and theological beliefs are grounded both in empirical observation and revelation. Christians believe that nothing in revelation contradicts empirical observation.

    Metaphysics and religious belief are not second class.

    While the belief in the One God’s direct creation of the human soul is based entirely on revelation, metaphysical belief that humans differ from animals because they have souls, free choice etc. is grounded both in revelation and in interpretation of observable facts of human behavior. One may, of course, deny the existence of a human soul or deny any distinction between animals and humans. But because the thing being denied is by definition not self-evident from empirical observation, when the materialist denies the soul’s existence he is not doing science but making a metaphysical claim based on his observation of himself and others. That is exactly what the believer in the human soul does, except that the Christian and Jewish believer does so also because of biblical revelation. But the non-believer in the soul makes his claim about the factual non-existence of the soul based additionally on whatever philosophical influences he’s experienced.

    You really need to face the fact that all fact-claims are always already a combination of empirical observation and metaphysical assumptions. In some fact-claims, empirical observations dominate, in others, metaphysical reasoning dominates, in still others, there’s a fairly balanced mixture. Religious believers have usually examined their assumptions and the interaction between empirical observation and metaphysical reasoning. Materialists often have not–under the pervasive influence of “if you can’t measure it it’s not factual” philosophy, they don’t even see the need to thematize this. They are actually far more blindly (unreflectedly) believing than religious believers.

    The only way a scientist can state that “the measurable (scientific) facts show that nothing non-measurable truly exists or is factual” is to a priori exclude from reality such non-measurable reality. But that exclusion is “factual” only in his belief. He’s perfectly free to make such a claim, to claim that only the empirical is factual. But the religious believer is just as legitimately free to claim that the non-empirical is very factual.

    Which is to say, “factuality” is always already a philosophic/religious claim.

    I’m just a tad tired of having religion and metaphysics relegated to epistemological dhimmitude, because those who do this are the sloppy thinkers but they look down their nose at us religious and metaphysical believers.

  • Dana Ames

    DRT,

    Jesus had to enter into death in order to free us from it; that which is not assumed is not healed (St Gregory Nazianzus). He went to the depths of humiliation and humility in his identification with humans and as a human being – in that day and age, it was crucifixion. The crucifixion wasn’t about Jesus’ sinlessness – it was about the demonstration of God’s mercy in swallowing up sin, and then entering death in order to vanquish it and remove its sting. Death is still the last enemy, but we live after D-day – and V-day is coming….

    Jesus’ sinlessness is about what it looks like for a human being to live in the fullness of his/her humanity as it was meant to be, in total union and communion with God. Though his sacrifice has to do with the Temple sacrifices, it is more the fulfillment of Passover and the ultimate freedom found therein.

    Dana

  • Jorge L

    For Dana,

    It’s misleading to reduce Catholic/Western thought on these matters to Augustine. Total depravity as a foil for Orthodoxy is particularly unfair–TD comes in with the Protestant Revolution. On original sin, as I noted, Augustine was rejected. Yes, Augustine had great influence on the West and the corrections on original sin were not always appropriated, esp. not at the grassroots level. But in the end, we are not so different on the rejection of Total Depravity, on the survival of an obscured and badly ennervated human nature in each individual post-Fall. The difference over mortality/sin is a terminological one, given that, as I understand it, Orthodox do believe that the inherited situation of “mortality” inevitably leads to actual sin???

    Orthodoxy’s real quarrel in the areas you cover is with the Reformers and Modernity.

    If it’s true that Orthodox believe that the post-Fall condition of mortality leads inexorably to actual sin, then we could perhaps focus more profitably on our shared belief in a shared human nature such that in some sense “Adam’s” Fall afflicts us all and Christ’s hypostatic union saves us all. That’s the issue raised by some evolution theories.

  • Edward Vos

    God gave us eyes to see His creation, and a mind to develop science so we can understand His creation. Science is an extension of God’s handy work so if we dismiss it we may inadvertently be dismissing God’s laws of nature.

    As to the critical question of there being a real Adam or that Eve came from Adam lies at the crux of how we read the literature of the first two chapters of Genesis. I am not so sure we can view these two chapters as symbolic and factual at the same time. They are either factual accounts of creation with real persons which would then make the truths discovered in science ill relevant, or they are symbolic stories that contain truths about God and His relationship with mankind. The later would allow the truths discovered in science to be accepted, and the truths about God and His plan for salvation to become real.

    This then leads us to obviously conclude that Adam & Eve are symbolic representations of what our relationship with God must have been like prior to our fall. The doctrine of original sin is still a truth but told in a story form with characters that that are symbolic representations of the current human spices.

    Just like the parables have truths Genesis does too. We don’t read the parables as factual stories so I am not so sure we should read certain chapters of Genesis the same way.

  • Andy W.

    Jorge L #32

    You’re right that the EO view doesn’t solve the problem or answer the questions here, but it does give us a different way of looking at these issues which is certainly different than the protestants approach. I find that helpful. Some might find it even more confusing.

  • R Hampton

    69. The current scientific debate about the mechanisms at work in evolution requires theological comment insofar as it sometimes implies a misunderstanding of the nature of divine causality. Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that, if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles….It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2).

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html

  • Dana Ames

    Jorge,
    my point about Augustine wrt to this string was his supposition as to how humanity’s guilt was transmitted. If I’m wrong, I’m open to correction. As for TD, most of the folks here are Protestant and that is part of their “wallpaper”.

    As I understand it, sin and mortality are definitely linked and feed upon one another: sin brought death and fear of death is what impels sin and keeps us enslaved to it, Hebrews 2.14-15. Christ’s hypostatic union is the beginning of the salvation which does indeed save all.

    I’m sure you see problems with some evolution theories in these terms. I’m not interested in fighting this kind of battle. I think scripture tells us that we were created and that God has a purpose in creation, and most especially for humans; it does not say exactly how that creation happened. The Fathers elucidate aspects of the meaning of creation for us through the lenses of the meaning of the Christ Event. They didn’t have evolutionary theory to appraise, but I don’t think any of them saw danger to Christianity because of scientific inquiry. I don’t have exhaustive knowledge of the Fathers, eastern or western; I may be wrong. Evolution is just not an issue for me, and I’m really happy to be in a church that doesn’t call one’s Christianity and integrity into question over it.

    Dana

  • Fish

    If we reject everything in science that Paul didn’t know or was mistaken about, what’s left?

    Paul had no conception of evolution — so what? He was a man, non-divine, non-omniscient, who lived 2000 years ago and who was educated to the level of that time. He probably believed that the sun revolved around the earth as well. The fact that his theology is grounded upon an inaccurate scientific view is not surprising. What is surprising is the notion that we ought to take his word on science as being the word of God.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    The issue that I have with the prejudiced arguments against science that are put forth by people like Jorge L is that I can’t understand where they draw the line. For example:

    If you eat food and feel better, that is science. You did something, got a result, then repeated it.

    If you fall and get hurt, you soon learn to stop falling. That is science.

    Given that these things are science, how can you make the blanket statement that science is somehow full of metaphysical presuppositions or some other statement? It is a question of degree, not kind.

    Jorge L’s statement “Materialists often have not–under the pervasive influence of “if you can’t measure it it’s not factual” philosophy, they don’t even see the need to thematize this. They are actually far more blindly (unreflectedly) believing than religious believers.”

    is nothing short of bigotry.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    R Hampton#44, my short summary of your longer article is:

    If God made it to work that way, then why do people have a problem with it? Don’t they understand that God is not constrained to doing things the way bronze age people understand?

  • DanS

    John Frye #9. “Are you suggesting that the Holy Spirit infused into the writers of Scripture Enlightenment categories of “history,” “science,” and “truth”?”

    Not at all. All I am suggesting is that the writer of Genesis did not need to have a modern knowledge of genetics, chemistry or modern methods of historical research to know the difference between Adam as a symbolic representation of a theological idea and Adam as a real person who lived in space and time.

    The prevailing notion seems to be that because the ancients did not know as much as we think we know, they had no sense of history at all. Seems to me the Hebrews were very concerned with heritage and ancestry. Would you suggest that Jewish concerns about Abraham or Moses were only theological and they were not concerned with whether either actually lived or whether the events of the Exodus happened?

    I seems to me those who parrot the phrase “Genesis is not a science book” use it as a pretext for saying the writer cared nothing at all about whether the events in Genesis 1-11 even happened. That, I think is a falsehood – but necessary if one wants to meld Evolution with Christian theology.

    If the text is “inspired” in any way, why could the Holy Spirit not communicate to an ancient man some concept of life as an ascending developing continuum in a way that the writer of Genesis could articulate? Why did the ancients need a story that was completely untrue to physical reality to understand a theological truth? It seems completely unnecessary to have a deep knowledge of science to comprehend a relationship to lower life forms if that is the unvarnished truth. But there is no hint of this in scripture. And if the writers were simply too simple minded to understand descent, on what basis do we think they are trustworthy regarding unseen spiritual realities?

  • Adam

    Ignoring the comments but here’s my thoughts:

    The problems that are brought up by the commenter rest on a presupposition that everything in the bible is absolutely factual. There is no room in the comments to understand the language as metaphorical. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that Paul refers to a metaphorical Adam and a definite Second Adam in the same sentence. We do it all the time, why can’t Paul do it too? The statement “3. Paul certainly believed Adam was a real person in Romans 5 — as real as Christ.” is not actually CERTAIN. The certainty of this comment can be brought into question.

    From there item 4 needs to be re-evaluated as well.

    Item 5 should actually follow item 6. I do not believe the whole bible unfolds as a plan of redemption. This is a very biased and simplistic view of what the bible actually is. This interpretation of the bible makes the whole thing about us humans. A better interpretation of the bible sees it as a human interpretation of what God is doing.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    This: “So Catholics have “no problem” with evolution as it pertains to empirically observable stuff. They do have a big-time problem with pseudo-scientific evolutionary theories that claim to read from the fossil record evidence that man as we know man today evolved naturally from primates. Catholics are required as an article of faith to insist on the direct divine creation of the human soul, of human nature, of the first man.”

    is not an accurate reflection of Catholic doctrine.

    This is: “For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.” (Pius XII, Humani Generis).

    Catechism of Catholic Church Section 159: “Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”

    From Communion and Stewarship (Imago Dei), it is also clear that the Church accepts commmon descent and common ancestry:

    “While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5-4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism.”

    Catholics are required to believe that God created each person’s soul. Acceptance of basic evolution is one permissible orthodox belief (as is young earth creationism and geocentricism).

  • Adam

    @Dan 49

    An example of the events in Genesis not meaning what we think they mean.

    In Genesis, we have a story of a flood that encompasses the whole world. Since the New World wasn’t discovered until thousands of years after that flood, it is perfectly feasible that the writers of Genesis experienced a flood of the Known World but called it the Whole World.

    Are we saying the flood never happened and Noah never existed? No! We’re saying Noah’s comprehension of the whole world caused him to say things that have very different implications for us.

  • Dana Ames

    Adam @50

    Indeed.

    My understanding of the bible went deeper when I heard a friend say that scripture is Jewish history as the Jews wrote it, with their own commentary on it.

    On an email list of which I’m a member, we have been discussing what it means to deal with the actual text of scripture and what the authors want us to “get” from its structure as well as the words. It’s been very enlightening. It’s about even more than whether some things are “metaphorical”.

    Again, the problems we have are hermeneutical ones.

    Dana

  • rjs

    Dan S (#50),

    I think that the author of Genesis had concern about historicity in a sense, but not in the way that we think about history. History in story form gets the point across – especially when it is “deep history” in a cultural context. These are stories with meaning, not on the scene eyewitness reports. Basically I think the cultural context inherent in the form of the text is incidental to the theological intent of the text.

    The tone changes when we move into the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Here we have the history of a specific called people of God. I still don’t think the text matches our idea of historical reporting (i.e. there is an element of stories about historical figures) but it is much more firmly rooted in history.

    I am more concerned with the theological significance of sin and the fall as discussed by Paul. This is where we have to think carefully about the theological intent, including the theological intent of Genesis 2-3. I am not going to rule out a historical Adam, but I don’t really think it is necessary either. On the other hand, I do lean to a historical fall – perhaps in the manner outlined to by CS Lewis in The Problem of Pain.

  • EricW

    James disagrees with Paul. Can’t we, too? :o

  • rjs

    To continue the thought in the previous comment, I lean toward a historical fall because I think the The whole bible unfolds as a plan of redemption and restoration based on the initial and repeated unfaithfulness of mankind to God and his mission. Jesus was the faithful Israelite and the faithful human. This is important.

    Unlike the commenter quoted in the post I don’t think this hinges on the historicity of Adam and Eve, but I do tend to think that it hinges on the historicity of the fall. I am certainly willing to listen to arguments to the contrary however.

  • AHH

    While I probably mostly agree with what Fish #46 was saying, I don’t care for this statement:
    The fact that [Paul's] theology is grounded upon an inaccurate scientific view is not surprising.

    I would say that Paul’s theology is not “grounded” on any sort of scientific view, accurate or inaccurate. Paul’s theology is grounded on the rock that is Jesus. In the passages in question, Jesus is the focus, with ideas about Adam that Paul inherited culturally being brought in to support what he was saying. I think the tail wags the dog if we try to make the mentions of Adam in Paul’s theology the main point.
    So I would amend the above statement to:
    The fact that inaccurate science is assumed in the background as Paul makes his points about Jesus is not surprising.

    I also commend the comment of Rick #35, who points out that the basic points being taught about humanity (we are all connected, we are all messed up) are not threatened by evolutionary explanations of our physical descent.

  • rjs

    Eric W,

    Where does James disagree with Paul?

  • Brian Considine

    Now, I find this enlightening as to where so many focus their attention on this blog. Scot today, in the same email I received that linked to yet another RJS post on this topic, offered a post on the importance of thinking about the resurrection life that we know, or at least we should know, is available to us in Christ. That post has 9 responses, the last time I checked. This post speculating about origins and evolution has 6 times as many. I’m sorry, but there is something terribly wrong with that picture.

    On the one hand we should be certain that Christ provides us with abundant and eternal life, or our faith is in vain. On the other hand, how we got to this point (special creation or theistic evolution) is a vain argument that matters not at all to the promise of that life. There is no need to reconsider Adam, sin and death, as whatever position we may decide upon pales in comparison to knowing Christ and His resurrected life.

    Perhaps it’s time to realize that pursuing answers we can only speculate about (and that’s all we can do given all the “evidence” science claims) is sin (missing the mark) when God invites us into so much more. Isn’t it time we get our priorities right, in light of the growing irrelavency of the Church in our culture. The evolutionist can offer our culture evolution, the Church needs to offer life and life to the full in the resurrected power of Christ. No one else can do that. But perhaps we don’t know Him in His death and resurrection as we ought?

  • rjs

    AHH,

    Exactly. Paul’s theology is grounded in his experience of Jesus, the experience of the eyewitness disciples, and the outpouring of the Spirit. This makes his observations here trustworthy and his cultural assumptions, if they are cultural assumptions, don’t impact the truth of his teaching. Jesus Christ, life, death, and resurrection … this is the central point.

  • rjs

    Brian,

    Scot posted an outline of a talk he gave … he didn’t pose a question or try to start a discussion. Of course the resurrection is central to the whole story – it is the only reason the discussion here is of any importance at all and the only reason I put my time and effort into it.

  • Brian Considine

    RJS, yes Scot posted an outline that could very well be discussed point by point, flushed out and reasoned about. No one is doing that. Instead, what we find here is more speculation on how God got us to the centrality of the whole story. But I’m sorry RJS I’m just not sure how discussing option 1,2 or 3 of your menu gets us to the centrality of life, the abundant, shalom life God has designed and made available for us in Christ or how that is illuminated by theistic evolution. Peace.

  • http://www.resaliens.com Lyn

    RJS,
    Assuming you’re open to an evolutionary explanation of our origins, when you refer to the historicity of the fall, are you describing a point in time when Homo Sapiens gained some spiritual maturity and the consciously rebelled against this enlightenment? How would this work?
    Lyn

  • Adam

    @RJS #54

    I’m not convinced that God’s ULTIMATE plan is redemption and restoration. I think more is going on here. I’ll try to explain.

    I do not believe that Jesus is Plan B. What I mean by that supposedly Adam was Plan A and then screwed it up, so God created Plan B and sent Jesus. And from this, we have the idea that the bible is all about God’s plan for redemption. But there is more in the bible than just a plan for redemption.

    Fall or no fall, I believe that Jesus still has to become human. Somehow, the only way for humanness to become what it is meant to become is that God incarnates humanness and sanctifies it. This has only happened with Jesus, as he is the only one who was both God and Man. In other words, Jesus is the only human who is really like God.

    So, in short. God’s original plan isn’t finished yet. The New Jerusalem is more than Eden. We’re not trying to go back but to move forward.

  • rjs

    Adam,

    When I say that the whole bible unfolds as a plan of redemption and restoration based on the initial and repeated unfaithfulness of mankind to God and his mission I don’t mean to say that Jesus was plan B to fix plan A gone awry. I don’t think this is what the bible teaches. Jesus was from the beginning and in, through, and for him everything was created. Colossians 1:15-20 is a powerful statement.

    But I do think that we corporately and individually fell, and from the very beginning. We are corporately fallen as humans created in the image of God (and this incorporates those who are very young and those who are disabled) and we are fallen as individuals. Without some sort of a fall, a conscious disobedience to God and his plan I don’t see how the whole of the story in scripture holds together.

    God knew we would fall, he knew we would need the incarnation, God with us in human form, he knew we would need redemption and restoration, this was plan A … but he did not create humans in his image already in rebellion or simply allow us to evolve with “natural” rebellious impulses. These ideas, however, require a great deal more elaboration and development.

    Oh, and I agree … “God’s original plan isn’t finished yet. The New Jerusalem is more than Eden. We’re not trying to go back but to move forward.”

  • rjs

    Lyn,

    I don’t know how this would work exactly. I like what CS Lewis wrote – but this is only one thought.

    Basically though I think the story of a couple, a tree, and a snake is a foundational story or myth about this rebellion, not a historical account of this rebellion.

  • EricW

    There are Jewish perspectives on the early chapters of Genesis that approach and mine the text in ways that are probably foreign to most Christians, yet are based on centuries’ old – and older – understandings. An amusing and enlightening exploration of these chapters, which will also introduce the reader to rabbinical methods of exegesis and exposition, is The Life Story of Adam and Havah: A New Targum of Genesis 1:26-5:5 by Shira Halevi:

    http://www.amazon.com/Life-Story-Adam-Havah-Genesis/dp/0765759624/

    Note: The above is the 1997 hardback edition (available from various Amazon associates in new and used condition for much less than the regular Amazon new price). After reading it, I also read the author’s 2009 paperback update and revision, Adam And Havah: A Targum Of Genesis 1:26-5:5:

    amazon.com/Adam-Havah-Targum-Genesis-26-5/dp/1441497846/

    I much prefer the original 1997 edition in which the author used a combative setting between the female Talmud student and a male student brought in specifically to challenge her Targum at every point. The dialogue and banter was very lively.

    In the 2009 revision, the two students are working together as a team, and Halevi has padded the discussion with distracting environmental and other current political topics. Plus, the 2009 revision is replete with typographical errors. YMMV.

  • Fish

    AHH (#57): Fair enough. Paul’s theology is grounded in Jesus Christ, not science, which is more the reason not to use it as science.

  • http://litl-luther.blogspot.com/ Triston Dyer

    Tim (#2) wrote: “Does it occur to anyone that this type of thinking, that one is literally forced to reject overwhelmingly supported science until that day that a theological reconciliation is identified problematic?”

    Tim, I am the commenter that RJS quoted in this article. And I see the same question you have, but in exact reverse. For Scripture is God’s infallible Word, and anything that contradicts what God says in Scripture, of necessity, has to be false. Of course, it is possible that we have misunderstood Scripture. Nevertheless, Scripture is the standard that judges everything else. You have it reversed. You make science the standard that judges Scripture. But the Truth is God’s Word stands above everything else.

  • http://www.activefaith.wordpress.com Stephen Enjaian

    I understand that the constraints of the original question for this discussion require a focus on Paul’s instruction regarding original sin and how that impinges on Adam’s historicity. But having read the post and many of the comments, I’m still wondering why there is no attention given to what Jesus said directly on the first humans in Matthew 19:4-6. After all, Jesus did affirm that “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” That would preclude any sort of gradual development and assumes historicity of Adam and Eve.

  • rjs

    Stephen,

    The first two points in the original comment quoted to begin this post referred to the reference you mention and to the genealogy of Jesus in Luke.

    I think, and have argued at length in the past, that those two references are easily dealt with when we consider genre and intent. They only become an issue with a specific definition of inerrancy. I did not want this thread to become bogged down by those references, so I didn’t introduce them into the conversation.

    The references here in Paul require us to think about theology and the nature of mankind. These are the tough ones to work through.

  • AHH

    Stephen @70,

    Huh? How does the fact that God’s human creations have always been male and female have any bearing on whether Adam and Eve are historic individuals? Or on whether God’s creation of humans was sudden or gradual? I have occasionally heard others cite this passage like you have, and frankly it seems like reading in things that are not at all there to support a preconceived position.

    On the Adam question, there are legitimate points of tension to be wrestled with between the scientific evidence and a couple of passages in Paul, and maybe with Genesis 3. But with reasonable interpretation Matt. 19 is not a problem, so I think RJS has chosen the right place to focus the discussion.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Triston Dyer#69 wrote “You make science the standard that judges Scripture. But the Truth is God’s Word stands above everything else.”

    Triston, I know I am not advocating that. What I am advocating is that Jesus does not portray a universe where god would make things into a lie and appear old and appear like evolution happened to trick us. I am, therefore, following the bible when I believe evolution.

  • http://litl-luther.blogspot.com/ Triston Dyer

    I’m not against old earth or evolution or big bang, for that matter. If that is how God chose to create the universe and every living thing, so be it. It does not and could not lessen my belief in Christ. But I will take God’s Word to be true and always true, and men (including scientists!) to be finite and fallible and always finite and fallible.

  • rjs

    Triston,

    God’s word is true. He is the foundation of truth – in his self revelation through interaction with his creatures (which is what we have in scripture) and in his revelation through the world he created.

    But we have to let scripture tell us what it means for the Bible to be God’s word or, as Paul says in Timothy, God breathed for a purpose. We need to read and interact with the text constantly across all books. We need to enter into relationship with God through interaction with the story and the stories. When we tear it apart into propositions we will almost always mess up.

  • http://litl-luther.blogspot.com/ Triston

    rjs: I’m sure there is a lot of truth in what you just wrote. But my love for systematic theology might prevent me from agreeing with you fully — that as well as the fact that sound doctrine is shown to be extremely important in the NT. And “a doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic.” (Grudem) Therefore, I think propositions have an important place, too. And as Piper points out sometimes “we see the danger of a “biblical-theological’ paradigm working to silence the particularity of a text’s meaning. It is not just ‘dogmatic categories’ that function this way. So do ruling paradigms in ‘biblical theology’. (Counted Righteous in Christ. p 74)

  • JST

    Is not science a revelation of God? Is not the study of His creation a holy task pleasing to Him? Science is as God-breathed as scripture.

  • rjs

    JST,

    The practice of science which involves interpretation, like the reading of scripture which involves interpretation, can mislead us at times.

    But I agree with your sentiment – the nature of the world around us is also a revelation of God, and we are no more likely to be deceived in our study of nature than in our study of scripture. This is why the majority of Christians in the sciences, including me, find it most reasonable to accept old earth and evolutionary biology including common descent.

  • http://www.activefaith.wordpress.com Stephen Enjaian

    RJS @71 and AHH @72,

    I will briefly explain my reasoning on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19 and will reserve the rest of my comments to the questions that RJS raised. I take the plain meaning of the text as the most reasonable unless the context points to a different one. Genesis 2, which Jesus quoted, presents Adam and Eve as fully human. Jesus affirms that as having occurred at the “beginning.” In this regard, Paul is simply following Jesus’ lead.
    I agree with Richard Dawkins who said in a March 16 interview, “I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution. I think they are deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity.” Dawkins is correct. If evolution is the proper explanation of reality, then we don’t need to rethink our theology. We need to chuck it, as Dawkins and many others have done.
    My first reason is theological. If Adam was not a real person whose sin did not curse the human race, then the plan of creation and redemption as presented in the Bible is incoherent. I will give one aspect as an example.
    In Genesis 1 God gave Adam the role of ruling the world under His authority. Adam’s rebellion subverted that role and prevented him from exercising it as intended. In Romans 1, Paul puts all mankind in the same category. In our rebellion we all suppress the truth of God as our creator and ruler. Though we are still to rule the world under God’s authority (Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2), our rebellion, like Adam’s, subverts our role. Our sin poisons our relationships, so we fail to rule society as intended or even ourselves. As the last Adam, Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and will fulfill the role abdicated by the first Adam and by us. That is, He will rule and judge the world, as assured by His resurrection (Acts 17:31). One part of the completion of God’s plan is the rule of the redeemed with Christ into eternity (II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; and especially Rev. 22:5). When that is realized, history will have returned to Eden.
    The plan of creation, fall and redemption comes apart unless each part is literally true. If Adam is merely a metaphor, the story does not work. A metaphor cannot be fulfilled.
    I also hold to an historical Adam because I believe that evolutionism fails as a scientific alternative. I won’t discuss this here since my focus is on the theological reason, except to say that evolutionism functions primarily as a metaphysical construct. It props up the materialistic worldview of the scientific elite, very much like what Paul described in Romans 1:18-20.

  • http://litl-luther.blogspot.com/ Triston

    Wayne Grudem got me to pretty much accept “old earth” in his systematic theology. I don’t see much danger in it. That and big bang are not that difficult to accept within Christian faith. But evolution raises much bigger theological questions, which makes it that much more difficult to come to terms with. Thus, you have hit the nail on the head in this post. The most significant questions to come to terms with are theological.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Fr. Rohr’s daily meditation is appropriate

    “For what can be known about God is perfectly plain, since God has made it plain: ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and divinity, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things that God has made.”

    ~ Romans 1:19-20

    Nature itself is the primary Bible; the world “as is” is the primary locus of the sacred.

    Notice that Paul is not saying that Revelation started when the Bible was written. No, revelation started at the moment of creation, what we now call the Big Bang; and the primary Bible is reality, what is! The written Bible has only existed in a nanosecond of geologic history, and a very small part of human history.

    Do you really think God had nothing to say until the last nanosecond—that God was completely quiet until we wrote the Bible? And we did. I’m not saying that it isn’t inspired, but we wrote it, so we are more at home with something we wrote than with what God wrote in creation.

    We are given a natural way to reconnect with God every day in creation. And it doesn’t depend on getting a degree in philosophy or theology. It depends on being present!

    I hope he does not mind my posting that here.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Stephen#79 wrote:

    In Genesis 1 God gave Adam the role of ruling the world under His authority. Adam’s rebellion subverted that role and prevented him from exercising it as intended. In Romans 1, Paul puts all mankind in the same category. In our rebellion we all suppress the truth of God as our creator and ruler. Though we are still to rule the world under God’s authority (Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2), our rebellion, like Adam’s, subverts our role. Our sin poisons our relationships, so we fail to rule society as intended or even ourselves. As the last Adam, Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and will fulfill the role abdicated by the first Adam and by us. That is, He will rule and judge the world, as assured by His resurrection (Acts 17:31). One part of the completion of God’s plan is the rule of the redeemed with Christ into eternity (II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; and especially Rev. 22:5). When that is realized, history will have returned to Eden.

    Stephen, it is interesting that you write this as an example of why a metaphor does not work. But I think I found a difference.

    When you write “The role of ruling the world under his authority” I think you have something quite incorrect in mind. Jesus, the King, showed us what that means. It means to serve others and help to bring god’s kingdom here on earth. Substitute the phrase, “bring god’s kingdom here on earth” into what you said, and you get something that exactly shows why we missed the boat.

    to wit:

    In Genesis 1 God gave Adam the role of bring god’s kingdom here on earth[ruling the world under His authority]. Adam’s rebellion subverted that role and prevented him from exercising it as intended. In Romans 1, Paul puts all mankind in the same category. In our rebellion we all suppress the truth of God as our creator and ruler. Though we are still to rule the world under God’s authority (Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2), our rebellion, like Adam’s, subverts our role. Our sin poisons our relationships, so we fail to rule society as intended or even ourselves. As the last Adam, Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and will fulfill the role abdicated by the first Adam and by us. That is, He will rule and judge the world, as assured by His resurrection (Acts 17:31). One part of the completion of God’s plan is the rule of the redeemed with Christ into eternity (II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; and especially Rev. 22:5). When that is realized, history will have returned to Eden.

  • http://www.activefaith.wordpress.com Stephen Enjaian

    DRT #82

    “It means to serve others and help to bring god’s kingdom here on earth.”

    I agree that is inclusive in ruling the world under God’s authority. But I think it means more than that also, as indicated by Revelation 22:5, at which point the Kingdom will be complete.

  • http://thepangeablog.com Kurt Willems

    RJS, today I just started a series on the subject: If Evolution is Right… Then What About Adam? You can check it out here: http://www.thepangeablog.com/2011/05/09/if-evolution-is-right%E2%80%A6-then-what-about-adam-option-1-adam-as-historical-1-of-3/

  • http://divinesalve.blogspot.com David K. Miller

    My new, brief blog post, “Regarding the Evangelical Kerfuffle about the Historicity of Adam and Eve”

    http://divinesalve.blogspot.com/2011/09/regarding-evangelical-kerfuffle.html


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X