Defending the Historical Adam & Eve of Genesis

Defending the Historical Adam & Eve of Genesis September 25, 2011

Adam and Eve Are Driven out of Eden (1866), by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


(9-25-11; rev. 1-6-22)


Words of Eric S. Giunta will be in blue.

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The encyclical I cited (Humani Generis) allows the possibility of evolution, but it states that one must believe in a literal first human pair (rejection of polygenism) and that God creates a human soul at each conception. So this doesn’t follow from evolution per se. It is two different, distinct issues.

All one has to do to harmonize Catholicism with (theistic) evolution is state that God gave Adam and Eve a soul, making them essentially different from the animals, and made in God’s image. They were the first human beings, however they came about physically. 

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We can try to reach audiences by speaking in terms they can understand, but we must not do so in a way that compromises Catholic dogma. We can’t play this particular “game” of holding that Adam and Eve weren’t literal, because it destroys original sin and because of that, also has consequences for soteriology (the theology of salvation). I think there is liberal influence here somewhere along the line.

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I disagree that we could speak of Adam as some sort of “symbol” or “figure” only, because of original sin. He fell, and we were in him when he did: the whole human race fell. That requires a real person.

There are elements in early Genesis that we need not take absolutely literally (the trees, the fruit, etc.), but Adam and Eve are not included in those. The New Testament casually assumes that they were real human beings, and the parents of humanity.

It’s not that we have to take everything in Genesis literally, but we have to take Adam and Eve literally, and the fall literally. It’s Catholic dogma and very plain in Holy Scripture.

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There is a spectrum between wooden fundamentalism and six-day creation (and now, neo-geocentrism), etc., on the one hand, and out-and-out modernism, which would hold Genesis to be complete ahistorical myth. Catholicism provides the “golden mean” and truth of the matter.

Many Catholic theologians today lean too much towards the modernistic interpretation, by questioning the historical Adam of Genesis. This inevitably lands one in all kinds of difficulties with New Testament exegesis, since the New Testament does not take that view. 

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My friend, Fr. Daniel G. Dozier recommended the following related papers, from the excellent Living Tradition website:

Evolution and the Truth About Man (John F. McCarthy) 

Did the Human Body Evolve Naturally? A Forgotten Papal Declaration (Brian W. Harrison) 

Is the Genesis Account of Creation Literally True? (John F. McCarthy) 

Did Woman Evolve from the Beasts?  A Defence of Traditional Catholic Doctrine (+ Part Two) (Brian W. Harrison) 

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I’m afraid you’re very behind in your apologetics on this matter.. The magisterium has moved well beyond the hesitations expressed by Pope Pius XII 61 years ago. The Church no longer insists on monogenism, she has said not an iota on this subject over the past 61 years, and to the extent any Pope or curial department has commented on the subject, the silence on the question is palpable. There is simply no scientist worth his salt — Catholic or not, conservative or leftist — who subscribes to monogenism, and the Church does not insist that Catholic scientists assume monogenism in their research.

That the orthodox ecclesastical climate in the Church today does not consider polygenism heretical, see the following documentation: [Link One] [Link Two]

And by the way, just because something might be “liberal” in its origin does not make it wrong ipso facto; we are, after all, Catholic Christians and not Fundamentalists: we’re supposed to see seeds of the Logos in all things. It’s not the case that Catholics will always (even institutionally) excel non-Catholics in all things and in every respect. It should not surprise us that theological or philosophical liberals would have trailblazed critical reflection on certain received wisdoms sooner than Catholics would, and their findings should be scrutinized on their own merits.The Church fathers, like the NT authors, assume the literal historicities of Adam and Eve; they did not have access to the resources (comparative mythology, along with developments in the natural sciences) we do today, and so quite frankly were not competent to address this issue to the extent we moderns are.

We need to be careful, as Catholics, about fundamentalist proof-texting and acting as if the Fathers were delphic oracles conveying divine dictations of revealed truth.

I see. So your position is that Jesus, Who was God, and omniscient, was wrong about Abel being historical and having his blood shed (Matt 23:35)? We know more than He did, because we are moderns? St. Paul was wrong, too, despite having been inspired by the Holy Spirit? Best wishes defending that.

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Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 417 Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”.

How could they have descendants if they weren’t actual historical persons? Sorry, it is serious error to deny that Adam and Eve were real persons, and the mother and father of the human race: contrary to Catholic teaching. This is separate from the evolution question. Anyone who denies it immediately has very serious problems with New Testament exegesis and with the doctrine (dogma) of original sin. 

Pope Benedict XVI (as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986):

In the Genesis story . . . Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. (“In the Beginning…” A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, translated by Boniface Ramsey, O.P., Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 89)

Not bad for a fictional non-historical character, to initiate the “history of sin” and original sin. I guess the Holy Father is a raving fundamentalist as well, huh Eric? Liberals say that the Adam of Genesis isn’t real and isn’t the guy Pope Pius XII was talking about. The pope says he is. Whose opinion do you think I’d be more inclined to follow, since they clash? 

Ratzinger (not “The Pope”) is speaking of sin as it is spoken of in the Genesis account, and not speaking to the supposed hyper-literal historicity of that account.

Obviously there had to be first human beings, first sinners, who set into motion the entire system of brokenness we inherit as human beings. Saying so does not mean that the Genesis accounts are not creation myths. To assert they are, you have to assume a rather unBiblical understanding of what inspiration is (divine dictation or infused knowledge of historical events).

There are also problems assuming that every assumption every Biblical writer brings with them to a text is infallible and inerrant. The way that the Biblical authors all presuppose a factually incorrect cosmology is well-documented, and undisputed by serious scholars of all religious and ideological persuasions.

Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

The First Man was Created by God. (De fide.) (p. 94)

[Ott presents this dogma independently of the creation/evolution question, reiterating that the Church allows either view as possibilities. He casually assumes that this first man is the Adam of the Genesis account]

The whole human race stems from one single human pair. (Sent. certa.) (p. 96)

. . . the Church teaches that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, are the progenitors of the whole human race (monogenism). The teaching of the unity of the human race is not, indeed, a dogma, but it is a necessary pre-supposition of the dogma of Original Sin and Redemption. According to a decision of the Bible Commission, the unity of the human race is to be reckoned among those facts which affect the foundations of the Christian religion, and which, on this account, are to be understood in their literal, historical sense (D 2123). The Encyclical ‘Humani Generis’ of Pius XII (1950) rejects polygenism on account of its incompatibility with the revealed doctrine of original sin (D 3028).

In English: Catholics are not at liberty to deny this belief. If they do, the dogmas of original sin and redemption go down along with the denial of the historical persons Adam and Eve. That is why this is supremely important to believe, and why I think it is equally important to correct a person who is teaching publicly, contrary to the Church’s doctrines.

Now we have people in this thread denying the doctrine; all the more reason for me to present and defend it as a required teaching of the Church. That’s what catechists and apologists do. I had already cited the Bible (including Jesus Himself) and the Catechism, but apparently that was insufficient. I guess nothing is sufficient as an authority if a person is intent on rejecting some tenet of the Catholic Church. This is why we have a huge problem of heterodoxy and dissidents and cafeteria Catholics in the Church today, and the consequent loss of faith of millions: for to reject one dogma of the Catholic Church is to lose the supernatural virtue of faith, per St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Henry Cardinal Newman. And that is a very frightening place to be. If I didn’t warn people to flee from such a state pronto, I wouldn’t be worth my salt as an apologist.

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Liberal hogwash, Eric. Pope Benedict clearly stated that Adam (the one in Genesis!) was historical, and the one from whom sin derives. That can’t be denied without it profoundly affecting New Testament exegesis and original sin, and with that, the soteriology of redemption itself, precisely as Ott just described, in the excerpt I posted a few minutes ago. You are on very dangerous ground to deny these things.

The biblical text is infallible (another Catholic dogma), not every assumption each writer brings.

Eric, you want to quibble about my citing the pope before he was pope? Very well, then, I’ll cite him as pope:

In today’s Catechesis we shall reflect on the relations between Adam and Christ, defined by St Paul in the well-known passage of the Letter to the Romans (5: 12-21) in which he gives the Church the essential outline of the doctrine on original sin. Indeed, Paul had already introduced the comparison between our first progenitor and Christ while addressing faith in the Resurrection in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…. “The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15: 22, 45). With Romans 5: 12-21, the comparison between Christ and Adam becomes more articulate and illuminating: Paul traces the history of salvation from Adam to the Law and from the latter to Christ. At the centre of the scene it is not so much Adam, with the consequences of his sin for humanity, who is found as much as it is Jesus Christ and the grace which was poured out on humanity in abundance through him. The repetition of the “all the more” with regard to Christ stresses that the gift received in him far surpasses Adam’s sin and its consequent effects on humanity, so that Paul could reach his conclusion: “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rm 5: 20). The comparison that Paul draws between Adam and Christ therefore sheds light on the inferiority of the first man compared to the prevalence of the second. (General Audience, 3 December 2008)

Once again, he (with Paul) assumes the historicity of the Adam in Genesis, and his centrality with regard to original sin. The Holy Father again:

Going out into the desert alone to remain there at length meant exposing himself willingly to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who brought about Adam’s fall and whose envy caused death to enter the world (cf. Wis 2: 24). (Homily on Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2010)

And again, just six weeks ago:

The biblical passage of the Book of Revelation, which we read in the liturgy of this Solemnity, speaks of a struggle between the woman and the dragon, between good and evil. St John seems to be presenting to us anew the very first pages of the Book of Genesis that recount the dark and tragic event of the sin of Adam and Eve. Our first parents were defeated by the Evil One; in the fullness of time, Jesus, the new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve, were to triumph over the enemy once and for all, and this is the joy of this day! With Jesus’ victory over evil, inner and physical death are also defeated.  (Angelus, 15 August 2011)


Because of Adam’s sin we too are born “blind” but in the baptismal font we are illumined by the grace of Christ. (Angelus, 3 April 2011)

Pope St. John Paul II taught the same:

Sacred Scripture teaches that at the dawn of history Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Abel was killed by Cain, his brother (cf. Gen 3-4). These were the first wrong choices, which were succeeded by countless others down the centuries. (Message for the World day of Peace, 2005)

It is extremely significant that already the same book of Genesis, in the long description of the creation of man, obliges man—the first man created (Adam)—to make a similar analysis. (General Audience, 6 December 1978

The fullness of grace is constituted by Christ himself. Mary of Nazareth receives Christ, and together with Christ and through Christ she receives the fullest participation in the eternal Mystery, in the interior life of God: of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This participation is the fullest of the whole of creation, it surpasses everything that separates man from God. It even excludes original sin: the inheritance of Adam. (Angelus, 8 December 1978)  

The Council of Trent solemnly expressed the Church’s faith concerning original sin. In the previous catechesis we considered that Council’s teaching in regard to the personal sin of our first parents. Now we wish to reflect on what the Council said about the consequences of that sin for humanity. In this regard the Tridentine decree states first of all:

Adam’s sin has passed to all his descendants, that is, to all men and women as descendants of our first parents, and their heirs, in human nature already deprived of God’s friendship.

The Tridentine decree (cf. DS 1512) explicitly states that Adam’s sin tainted not only himself but also all his descendants. Adam forfeited original justice and holiness not only for himself, but also “for us” (nobis etiam).

Therefore he transmitted to the whole human race not only bodily death and other penalties (consequences of sin), but also sin itself as the death of the soul (peccatum quod mors est animae).

Here the Council of Trent uses an observation of St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans. The Synod of Carthage had already referred to it, repeating a teaching already widespread in the Church.

1. Adam’s Sin Transmitted by Generation

In a modern translation the Pauline text reads as follows: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom 5:12). In the original Greek we read: eph o pantes emarton, an expression which was translated in the old Latin Vulgate as: in quo omnes peccaverunt, “in whom (a single man) all sinned.” But what the Vulgate translates as “in whom,” from the very beginning the Greeks clearly understood in the sense of “because” or “inasmuch.” This sense is now generally accepted by modern translations. However, this diversity of interpretations of the expression eph o does not change the basic truth in St. Paul’s text, namely, that Adam’s sin (the sin of our first parents) had consequences for all humanity. Moreover, in the same chapter of the Letter to the Romans the Apostle wrote: “By one man’s disobedience all became sinners” (Rom 5:19), and in the preceding verse: “One man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom 5:18). St. Paul connects the sinful situation of all humanity with the fault of Adam.

The Church’s Magisterium refers to these statements of St. Paul just quoted, which enlighten our faith on the consequences of Adam’s sin for all humanity. Catholic exegetes and theologians will always be guided by this teaching in evaluating, with the wisdom of faith, the explanations offered by science about the origins of the human race.

In particular, the words of Pope Paul VI to a symposium of theologians and scientists are valid and a stimulus for further research in this regard: “It is evident that the explanations of original sin given by some modern authors will appear to you as irreconcilable with genuine Catholic teaching. Such authors, starting from the unproved premise of polygenism, deny more or less clearly that the sin from which such a mass of evils has derived in humanity, was, above all, the disobedience of Adam ‘the first man,’ figure of that future one, which occurred at the beginning of history” [1].

The Tridentine decree contains another statement: Adam’s sin is transmitted to all his descendants by generation and not merely by way of bad example. The decree states: “This sin of Adam, which by origin is unique and transmitted by generation and not by way of imitation, is present in all as proper to each” (DS 1513).

Therefore original sin is transmitted by way of natural generation. This conviction of the Church is indicated also by the practice of infant baptism, to which the conciliar decree refers. Newborn infants are incapable of committing personal sin, yet in accordance with the Church’s centuries-old tradition, they are baptized shortly after birth for the remission of sin. The decree states: “They are truly baptized for the remission of sin, so that what they contracted in generation may be cleansed by regeneration” (DS 1514).

2. Reference to the Mystery of Redemption

In this context it is evident that original sin in Adam’s descendants does not have the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which has been diverted from its supernatural end through the fault of the first parents. It is a “sin of nature,” only analogically comparable to “personal sin.” In the state of original justice, before sin, sanctifying grace was like a supernatural “endowment” of human nature. The loss of grace is contained in the inner “logic” of sin, which is a rejection of the will of God, who bestows this gift. Sanctifying grace has ceased to constitute the supernatural enrichment of that nature which the first parents passed on to all their descendants in the state in which it existed when human generation began. Therefore man is conceived and born without sanctifying grace. It is precisely this “initial state” of man, linked to his origin, that constitutes the essence of original sin as a legacy (peccatum originale originatum, as it is usually called).

We cannot conclude this catechesis without emphasizing again what we said at the beginning of the present cycle, namely, that original sin must constantly be considered in reference to the mystery of the redemption carried out by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who “for us men and for our salvation became man.” This article of the creed on the salvific purpose of the Incarnation refers principally and fundamentally to original sin. Also the decree of the Council of Trent is entirely composed in reference to this finality, and is thus inserted into the teaching of the whole of Tradition. It has its point of departure in Sacred Scripture, and first of all in the so-called “proto-evangelium,” namely, in the promise of a future conqueror of Satan and liberator of man. This already appeared in the Book of Genesis (3:15) and later in so many other texts, until the fuller expression of this truth given to us by St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans. According to the Apostle, Adam is “a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14). “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom 5:15).

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men” (Rom 5:18).

The Council of Trent refers especially to the Pauline text of the Letter to the Romans (5:12) as the cornerstone of its teaching, seeing in it the affirmation of the universality of sin, but also the universality of redemption. The Council has recourse also to the practice of infant baptism, and does so because of the close connection of original sin — the universal legacy received with nature from the first parents — with the truth of the universal redemption in Jesus Christ.

[1] AAS, LVIII, 1966, 654

(General Audience, 1 October 1986, “Consequences of Original Sin for All Humanity” — complete) 

Original sin is a de fide dogma (Ott, p. 108; Denzinger 789-791) and was declared at the Council of Trent, tying it with the historical Adam and Eve:

1. If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema. 

2. If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema:–whereas he contradicts the apostle who says; By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. 

3. If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,–which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, –is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, santification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. Whence that voice; Behold the lamb of God behold him who taketh away the sins of the world; and that other; As many as have been baptized, have put on Christ. 

Fundamentalist proof-texting does not impress me; I could do the same and “prove” to you that the existence of the limbus infantum, Feenyism, and gocentrism are all nearly dogmas of the Faith.

I’ve already cited for you several approved theologians, a document of the International Theological Commission, along with a summation by the late John Paul II of normative bare-bones doctrinal essentials of a Catholic approach to this question (which glaringly omits monogenism), to show that the contemporary magisterium no longer considers polygenism to be heretical or even theologically suspect. In today’s Church this is a non-issue, and only pop-apologists who treat papal encyclicals as non-contextualized Delphic oracles fail to see this. 

There’s nothing “liberal” (in the sense of leftist, or Modernist) in the assertion that the first 11 chapters of Genesis constitute Israel’s creation myths; nor is it “liberal” to assert that myth does not mean “falsehood”; we know today, in a way the early Christian Fathers and even their rabbinical predecessors couldn’t, that mythology is a distinct literary genre whereby a pre-scientific people explains and transmits their foundational values through the telling of pre-history, and are doing so without the tools or even the expectations of modern historiography.

No scientist today worth his salt — Catholic or non-Catholic, conservative or leftist — subscribes to monogenism. This is fact, not opinion. If polygenism were the disastrous heresy you and other pop-apologists claim it is, the failure of the magisterium post-Paul VI to raise even an iota of an objection to it is a damnable offense of the worst order. The contemporary magisterium doesn’t consider this an issue; neither should you.

Suffice it to say that the existence of original sin is a dogma of the faith, as is the Fall; but the Church does not compel any Catholic to subscribe to a hyper-literal reading of the Genesis creation myths. She refers to “Adam and Eve” for the same reason you and I might refer to Dido and Anaeus: these are mythic characters who are indelibly imprinted on our historical consciousness. I don’t need to refer to them with a disclaimer every time I bring their names up. Whatever/whomever “Adam” and “Eve” signify, they are our first parents, and we have inherited a broken world from them. And of course they were created by God; let’s just not confuse primary with secondary causation.

I repeat: liberal hogwash. You think you know more than Jesus or Paul, who clearly regarded Adam and Abel as historical persons. You casually disregard what popes say over and over. You know better. And in your disdain, you have to make out that Catholic tradition is “fundamentalism” and “hyper-literal” and do the tired dichotomy of “pop apologists” vs. the scholars. I’m on the side of the Holy Father and the Church on this one, and am proud to be so, and if that entails being classified as some Neanderthal, then so be it.

Your view goes far beyond the issue of polygenism (or the question of evolution, which I have not made part of this: nor did Pope Pius XII). We are primarily discussing whether the Adam of Genesis was an actual person who fell and brought on original sin. The Catholic Church says that he was. You say no. I follow the Church. And I hope and pray that my readers will do the same, and not be led astray by every fashionable whim and fancy and postmodernist intellectual fad that comes along.

I’ve already documented for you the fact that the magisterium today no longer considers the factual historicity of Adam and Eve to be an issue: Catholic theologians, scientists, and the lay faithful may adopt whatever thesis of human origins they find most congenial to their knowledge of the historical and scientific facts, and believe accordingly. I repost the documentation here: [Link One] [Link Two] [Link Three]

Your approach to the Scriptures, and to magisterial pronouncements, is (in this particular instance) fundamentalistic, because you give no regard whatsoever to context. I have no problem claiming to know more than St Paul about the historical context of Genesis, or the Book of Jonah, or cosmology and human origins generally: after 2000 years of scientific development, we should hope to know more! We certainly cannot claim to know more than Jesus Christ, but His historic words in this regard are perfectly explainable as just another way that He accommodation Himself to human limitations, including limitations of what His hearers knew about natural science and history. Correcting factual errors in these regards was not on the salvific radar, and we do the Scriptures a dishonor when we pretend that they were divinely dictated a la the Koran.

As for citations, you gave us a Wikipedia article (very impressive) and a citation of Jimmy Akin (a pop apologist himself: which class you have just condescendingly disdained) that doesn’t refute anything I have contended for: both from a thread in a largely radical Catholic reactionary discussion forum. Then you cited one Jesuit writer.

I cited (including my previous paper) the Catechism, the Bible, Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., the Council of Trent, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Venerable Pope Pius XII, and Ludwig Ott (an expert on Catholic dogma), who in turn cites Denzinger: the standard source on Catholic dogma.

I did not cite a Wikipedia article qua Wikipedia. I gave you a number of approved theologians who openly and even in quasi-official publications (e.g., LOR) teach that polygenism is not contrary to the Faith, and who do so without an iota of censure. You also did not cite Pope Benedict XVI or John Paul II — I did cite the latter, and even the former via a document published by the ITC under his watch, and you’ve ignored them.

I cited them eight times, discussing that the Adam of Genesis was a real person who fell. Scroll up.

Citing the Council of Trent is so much fundamentalism, as it ignores historical and theological context: polygenism vs monogenism was not on the theological radar when the Tridentine fathers promulgated the canons they did; the same is true when Paul wrote his Epistles. You seem to subscribe to a divine-dictation/divine-rape theory of inspiration — and seem to think that Popes are delphic oracles –; this is the very definition of fundamentalism, and it is utterly unCatholic (when Catholics are at their best and not shunning critical reflection on the deposit of faith).

Okay, thanks for the honesty. You know more than St. Paul, who wrote in infallible words inspired by God that Adam was a real person who fell, and who was the analogous figure to Christ, the second Adam.

Now our Lord Jesus was merely condescending and engaging in anthropomorphism or anthropopathism when he referred to the blood of Abel as in a historical line with the blood of Zechariah. He starts with a mythical figure and ends with an historical one (or do you deny the historicity of Zechariah too?)

Where else was Jesus doing this sort of tactic, according to you, in all your modern wisdom that is so superior to that of the Bible writers?

Perhaps Sodom and its fall was mythical as well, so that Jesus referred to those and said that a myth “would have remained until this day” if its mythical inhabitants had repented (Matt 11:23-24)?

I suppose you think that the early persons mentioned in Hebrews 11 (the heroes of the faith) were mythical (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses), and on the same list with those who were actual historical persons (David, Samuel and the prophets)? Makes a lot of sense. This is only the beginning of the exegetical absurdities you will encounter.

But since you don’t seem to hold to biblical inspiration in the first place, it should matter little to you, as you pick and choose what you like and don’t like from Holy Scripture, just as you do with traditional Catholic doctrines and teachings. This is the modernist mentality.  

Let me ask you a question, Dave: How could the author(s) of Genesis possibly have had any historiographical knowledge of events occurring in pre-history, thousands of years removed from his writing? 

By the nature of inspiration. God makes sure that error is not recorded. It’s neither historiographical nor scientific writing as we know it today, yet it is preserved from error.

Shouldn’t this set of circumstances, not to mention everything we know about the genre from comparative mythology, be our first indication that these first 11 chapters (let alone the rest of Genesis) is not history writing as you and I know it? 

It is not straight history; it is a blended genre of imagery (the trees, fruit, etc.) and actual history (the literal creation by God, Adam and Eve, the fall). One doesn’t have to take a fundamentalist, six-day creation reading and take everything “hyper-literally” (your favorite word) in order to maintain that there is real history in the account, including the existence of Adam and Eve. The choice is not wooden Protestant fundamentalism vs. modernist skepticism where everything is relegated to non-historical myth. I don’t have to make that choice. You caricaturing my view does not make it my actual view. And the Church doesn’t make that dumb choice, and I follow her teaching, since she, too, is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit (infallibility).

Moreover, while similarities to other creation accounts (Epic of Gilgamesh et al) are always stressed by secular, nominalistic, and liberal writers, there is also a great uniqueness in the Genesis account that is commensurate with its inspiration. 

I subscribe to Biblical inspiration, and even inerrancy properly understood; I do not subscribe to divine dictation theories of the Bible. Any five year-old who knows how to read can tell the Bible is not divinely dictated: the human authors really are writing as human authors, in some mysterious manner assisted by God, and with human limitations. Any thinking man with two brain cells and a synapse can tell the difference between a book that purports to be dictated by God (e.g., the Koran) and the Bible.

You also did not answer my question.

I just answered your question. You have ignored most of mine, including most (if not all) about biblical exegesis. I don’t believe in the dictation theory. I wish you would cease and desist with the vapid rhetoric about what I supposedly believe and don’t believe. This has nothing to do with dictation . . . “Any thinking man with two brain cells and a synapse” could tell the difference between what I am saying (Catholic orthodoxy) and Protestant fundamentalism. But you can’t, so I conclude that you are simply not thinking through this and rationally reacting, since I assume in charity that you do indeed have brain cells and a synapse.

Mythology always contains a kernel of historical fact; this is as true of Israel’s creation myths as it is true of that of every other people across the planet. It is radically counterintuitive, and not at all logically followed from the doctrine of divine inspiration, to assert (as you at least implicitly do) that Israel was the only people on the planet not to have employed mythology to explain prehistoric origins whose factual details were beyond their epistemological capabilities.

Once again you distort my views (this gets wearisome). I didn’t deny that there were any “mythological elements.” I wrote a few entries above:

It is not straight history; it is a blended genre of imagery (the trees, fruit, etc.) and actual history (the literal creation by God, Adam and Eve, the fall). One doesn’t have to take a fundamentalist, six-day creation reading and take everything “hyper-literally” (your favorite word) in order to maintain that there is real history in the account, including the existence of Adam and Eve. 

Then you should know better than to cite pre-19th century sources (Patristic, Conciliar, Biblical, or otherwise) to support your contention that Catholics must believe that mankind has only two first parents. Since (taking you at your word), you’re no fundamentalist, you know better than to imagine that modern theories of polygenism (theories that have become the unanimous consensus among published scientists, including Catholic scientists, and with no ecclesiastical censure whatsoever) were on their minds when they referred to “Adam and Eve”.

Even the more modern sources you cite (Pius XII and Paul VI specifically) are cautious in their criticisms of polygenism, leaving the window open for a more moderate approach by the magisterium, an approach that is indeed embraced by that magisterium today, as I have documented.

* * * 
We know — fundamentalist claims notwithstanding — that inspiration and inerrancy do not preclude factual errors. The Bible is riddled with several of them, from factually errant assertions and presuppositions about cosmology to blatant factual contradictions between the Gospel writers that cannot be brushed away (with any intellectual honesty) as mere differences of emphasis. I admit the way we see ourselves out of this conundrum — reconciling inerrancy with obvious factual error — is something of a mystery — thank God my faith in Jesus Christ does not rest on it! My own tentative theory is that perhaps we need to distinguish between what the Biblical authors tend to affirm as materially relevant and what they simply presuppose or would have regarded as immaterial — perhaps immaterial factual errors should not be considered errors properly understood?

In any event, this is somewhat irrelevant as far as Genesis is concerned (but certainly not when considering Paul’s reception of Genesis). The authors are not intending to write literal history as we moderns understand it: such would have been impossible, and invoking inspiration as one’s catch-all solution only works if we appeal to the concept as some kind of divine dictation: God supernaturally infusing into the minds of the writers a videographic representation of ancient history they otherwise could not possibly have had any but the faintest historical recollection of.

Genesis 1 thru 11 belong squarely in the genre of myth. Myth does not mean “falsehood.” As myths — indeed, inspired and inerrant myths! — their moral and theological lessons are unfailingly true, but their details are not necessarily intended to be taken as factual (how the heck could the original mythmakers have known?!), and the Church does not bind Catholic historians or scientists to believe the unreasonable. You cannot site for me a single condemnation of polygenism, implicit or explicit, from the magisterium post-Paul VI. The Church has moved beyond this, just as she once moved beyond her condemnations of heliocentrism. It’s time Dave Armstrong did the same.

Since you have ignored my exegetical questions, I’ll repeat them [I reposted the biblical questions I asked about the consequences of his view]. If you ignore them again, I will ignore all the rest of your questions. [He did ignore them]

I don’t doubt — based on what I know of what Jews were thinking and believing in the 1st century A.D. on this question — that Paul presupposed the existence of two literal first parents when he penned his Epistles, just as I’m sure every other Biblical author presupposed that the FIRMament really was a solid dome and that the sun revolved around a stationary earth. But these factual (and errant) suppositions are immaterial to the authors’ point, in Paul’s case that Adam (whatever that means) finds “his” typological fulfillment in Christ. Adam (the first human[s]) sinned, introduced alienation into our world, and Christ recapitulates all things in Himself and counters that. Why does Adam need to be a literal first person in order for the typology to fit? This sounds a bit like arguing that Jesus could not have been the typological fulfillment of David because He was not a murderer or an adulterer.
Everything I have written is well within the near-universal theological and scientific mainstream, and is not the provenance of “progressives” and/or dissenters.

I fail to see what else I have to document. You guys wants to talk about polygenism. I am defending the historicity of the Adam of Genesis and the fall (from him). You can’t measure a soul. It is presupposed everywhere I look, including in Ott, in the creation sections. The present pope and the previous one presupposed it. You can’t find original sin in a microscope. You can’t take a sample of Jesus’ flesh, put it under a microscope, and figure out that He was God the Son. Likewise, original sin and the soul burdened by it are not scientific matters in the first place; therefore, the polygenism issue and the evolution / creation discussion are distinct from it in the sense that one thing deals with the physical, the other, the non-physical.

The Catechism presupposes that Adam was historical:

2259 In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” [my bolding]

This is a real person who had real blood and was killed (as Jesus referred to). His father wasn’t a myth; he was real. The Catechism treats Adam and Eve as historical persons, from whom original sin came:

404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”.By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.

417 Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”.

The CCC mentions Adam and Eve as literal persons at least eight times. It is the “sure norm of the faith.” You can thumb your nose at that if you like, and at Jesus and Paul and Benedict XVI and JPII and all the others who assume the same thing as a matter of course: historical Adam and Eve and original sin derived from them, and us in them.

You’re not really addressing my substantive points, just resorting to more proof-texting, and doing so very sloppily I might add.

The Catechism does not refer to Adam and Eve as literal, historical persons. It evades the entire question of mono- vs polygenism, and simply refers to “Adam and Eve” and refers to the historicity of the Fall, but is short otherwise on details.

And even if the Catechism were to necessarily refer to Adam and Eve in the manner you suggest, it is not the final word on Catholic theology. This is dogmatic theology 101 — the most we can say about the Catechism is that it reflects the “common teaching” of the Church c. 2001, not that every doctrine contained in it is defined dogma, such that dissent from it is heterodoxy. Every catechist and theologian worth his salt knows it, and I know you know it too.

Neither Benedict XVI nor John Paul II have insisted that Catholics may not subscribe to polygenism, and your claims to the contrary are at this point in the discussion either lies or willful ignorance. I’ve already cited for you several sources in this regard, and you have willfully ignored or otherwise failed to engage them. Put down the Fundamentalist koolaid, Mr Armstrong; it does not become your otherwise excellent work as an apologist.

I’ve documented again and again above (all ignored) how the Holy Father and Pope St. John Paul II thought Adam and Eve were historical. Here is one example, from John Paul II:

Sacred Scripture teaches that at the dawn of history Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Abel was killed by Cain, his brother (cf. Gen 3-4). These were the first wrong choices, which were succeeded by countless others down the centuries.” [my bolding]

Something that is a mere fictitious allegory can’t be said to be in “history” and to be the first of many such actions “down the centuries.” They obviously are included as part of human history, not mere (non-factual) myth. So if I am a raving fundamentalist dumbbell, I am right there with Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI (and very proud to be in their company). 

Eric above (I actually missed this) wrote: “Citing the Council of Trent is so much fundamentalism . . .”

I rest my case, folks. This is the essence of modernist and dissident garbage: casually dismissing Catholic dogmas, ecumenical councils, the Bible, Paul (as we actually saw above), the last two popes, the Catechism, . . . rationalizing away with flimsy, sophistical, arbitrary, groundless theories, the plain sayings of our Lord Jesus (such as His clearly historical reference to Abel) . . . it always comes down to that in theological liberalism. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. Nothing new under the sun. Always the same tactics, same mentality. Loss of supernatural faith, skepticism, etc. I will oppose it till my dying breath.

People adopt the false tenets of modernism to varying degrees, often unknowingly. I don’t condemn people (having believed many false things myself in the course of my life, mostly through relatively innocent ignorance that I was disabused of in due course), but I vigorously oppose false teaching, and detest theological error.

* * *
To say that “Adam and Eve” did such-n-such “at the dawn of history”, in and of itself, tells us nothing about the literal historicity of Adam and Eve. That sentence makes just as much sense when I regard Adam and Eve as mythological archetypes, and indeed those who do regard them as such speak and write in such ways all the time, myself included. According to your fundamentalist hermeneutic, anytime I compare an especially musical person to Orpheus, I must be intending to confirm the historical existence of both Orpheus and his mythology.

You are grossly misrepresenting both the current and the late Pope. I don’t give a damn what they believe(d) on this subject; I am content to know that they do not, as Dave Armstrong insists, bind the Catholic faithful to monogenism.

“The Church has not yet clarified the question of monogenism versus polygenism, though an International Theological Commission document on creation and evolution endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger (he was president of the Commission that produced the statement) from 2004 states: ‘While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens.’ This passage admits of both monogenetic and polygenetic interpretations, since it is unclear whether the “humanoid population” is to be regarded as the first humans, or the immediate ancestors of the first humans. And further: ‘The structures of the world can be seen as open to non-disruptive divine action in directly causing events in the world. Catholic theology affirms that that the emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) represents an event that is not susceptible of a purely natural explanation and which can appropriately be attributed to divine intervention. Acting indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, God prepared the way for what Pope John Paul II has called “an ontological leap . . . the moment of transition to the spiritual.'” Lastly, the document mentions Adam: ‘Every individual human being as well as the whole human community are created in the image of God. In its original unity – of which Adam is the symbol – the human race is made in the image of the divine Trinity.’ Most recently, in a January 16, 2006 article in L’Osservatore Romano, Fiorenzo Facchini states: ‘The spark of intelligence was lighted in one or more hominids when, where and in the ways God willed it.’ The Vatican has avoided making any recent explicit pronouncement on the question of the theological necessity of monogenism.”


And what about this?:

“Since his time many Catholic theologians have conjectured that there are ways in which polygenism can be reconciled with original sin (e.g., saying that Adam and Eve represent the early human community which as a whole turned away from God at the beginning of our history and thus committed original sin, passing it on to us). A number of years ago the German conference of bishops published ‘A Catholic Adult Catechism’ that was published in English back in 1987 by Ignatius Press. This catechism contained a section on evolution that said it was possible to reconcile polygenism with the Church’s teaching if certain points regarding original sin were maintained. I am also given to understand that this Catechism was also reviewed by the Vatican (after the debacle of the Dutch Catechism), which did not mandate a change in this section. It is further to be observed that, in John Paul II’s statements on evolution (such as the famous speech to the pontifical academy of the sciences) he is quick to reaffirm all of the things Pius XII said about the limits on how evolution is compatible with the Catholic faith except on the subject of polygenism, where John Paul II said nothing at all.”

Forget for the moment that these statements come from an old Wikipedia article and Jimmy Akin, respectively. Look instead at their factual content. The last two Popes do not consider monogenism to be the binding teaching of the Church the way Dave Armstrong does.

And another universal characteristic of modernism is to caricature Catholic orthodoxy as “fundamentalist” and troglodyte and behind-the-times, and “hyper-literal” and brain-dead and anti-science (and in my case, the derogatory description of “pop apologist” — sort of like how political liberals disdain what they call “populism”). We’ve amply seen that in this thread, haven’t we? But if Jesus and Paul and recent popes are those things (since I have shown over and over that they agree with what I am defending), then praise be to God, I will be too! Call me all the names you like . . . it’s never stopped me from believing or doing anything I think is true and right.

You are mischaracterizing my position and you know it.

Eric: “I don’t give a damn what they [Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II] believe(d) on this subject.” Exactly! Thank you again for your honesty and a startling display of the “rebellious adolescent” dissident mentality.

Thanks again for demonstrating your mastery of the art of proof-texting!

“The last two Popes do not consider monogenism to be the binding teaching of the Church the way Dave Armstrong does.”

As I have said many times now (and after this I am done with this ridiculous exchange, at least for tonight), my primary concern from the beginning was to defend the historicity of Adam and Eve, which you and he have denied. This is a far more troublesome and erroneous position than polygenism — which is mostly a matter of science, that has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of original sin, since the latter can’t be observed under a microscope or preserved in a test tube. God supernaturally creates each soul at conception.

But keep beating that dead horse. It’s all you got, I guess (along with the increasingly shrill name-calling, that won’t faze me one bit).

No relevant party to this discussion has denied the dogma of original sin. But I don’t need to know the answer to all the historical specifics to know that all men have inherited a broken world and that Christ by His incarnate life, passion, death, resurrection, and exaltation has reconciled all things to the Father and set into motion the recapitulation of all things in Him.
* * *

A theistic evolutionist would hold that human beings are still evolving; yet the Catholic cannot hold that a soul (a non-physical entity) evolves, and the soul is the most essential aspect of being human and in the image of God (so much so that we retain our identities in purgatory without bodies). In other words, a human being could not, it seems to me (in Catholic theology) evolve to something that is no longer human.

But the Catholic also (it seems to me) has to equate any notion of “Adam” or “the first man” with the Adam of Genesis, based on New Testament cross-references and the presupposition of an infallible, internally consistent Bible. The present discussion (despite the extraneous ubiquity of the word “polygenism” among a certain party) is about the denial of the historicity of the Genesis Adam, which I think is an impossible view, given the biblical data and dogmatic considerations. 

Evolution has never been an issue in this discussion (it’s a permissible opinion), as I have noted several times in this discussion. Pius XII presupposed that, so does Ott, so do I (that it is permissible for a Catholic to hold). 

* * *
The point, Dave, is that the doctrine of original sin does not necessarily depend of the existence of a literal Adam and a literal Eve. If you think it does, then perform this little thought experiment: If we were to invent a time machine, and take you back to whenever-it-was B.C. when the first human being(s) arose on the earth, and you saw for yourself that humanity did not originate from an original pair, and that the first human beings did not come about in Mesopotamia at all but, say, somewhere in Africa — IF you were somehow able to see all these things for yourself and know, definitively, that there was no literal Adam or literal Eve . . . from this knowledge alone, would you have to cease being a Catholic Christian, the way you obviously would have to cease being such if you, say, were by the same technique to discover that the Apostles stole the dead body of Jesus, or feasted on it over a bottle of A1?

Logically or necessarily in all possible worlds, no, it doesn’t (I agree). But it does have to be held in light of the tradition of the Church and the data in the New Testament that we have concerning Adam and very early human history (Catholicism being much more than mere philosophy). This is what you won’t touch with a ten-foot pole (because in my opinion the New Testament data is the biggest obstacle to your view: on that I think is insuperable, granting biblical inspiration). I challenged you once with a bunch of New Testament exegetical argumentation; you ignored it. I cited the same thing again. You ignored it a second time . . . unless you finally got to it in the new posts above that I am presently going through. I don’t expect to see it, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. :-)

* * * 
There’s no contradiction at all; once we stop treating these summations as delphic oracles and read them from within their historical context, we see that the questions we ask today (monogenism vs polygenism, i.e., whether Adam and Eve were a literal first pair or are rather mythological archetypes representing the first people) were nowhere on the theological radar. Reading modern debates into these statements is rank fundamentalism, because it forces our fore-bearers into answering questions they were not intending to.

This is the same error the Feenyites commit, when they engage in the same kind of proof-texting; ditto the neo-geocentrists.  

Again, the problem with treating the Popes as if they were delphic oracles, mindlessly blurting out revealed truths, and not distinguishing between levels of theological certainty or the doctrinal development (including development in the natural sciences) that has taken place since, say, 1950.

Even Pius XII’s words are much more guarded (“”Now it is in no way apparent”) than those of many of today’s pop-apologists.

I believe that God created the cosmos ex nihilo, and that He is in some special sense the creator of each individual human soul, but I am healthily agnostic as to the secondary processes built-in to nature by which He continues to bring things about.
I am not at all agnostic as to the Primary Cause of all that exists; what I am (I think healthily) agnostic on is all the innumerable secondary causes that bring about all that is around us. Creation myths do not concern themselves with secondary causes; this simply is not where the ancients placed their priorities.  
. . . fundamentalist proof-texting: it’s both immoral and intellectually dishonest! 
My knowledge of the ancient world is not infallible, . . . but I think I am adequately acquainted with both primary and secondary source material to arrive at an informed conclusion that the ancients did not have the same priorities we moderns do when they approached Ultimate Questions.  
* * *

Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam, Enoch, and Noah: quite a feat if Adam was merely a fictional, “literary” character! (Luke 3:23-38). The list goes from Adam all through historical persons whom no one denies are historical (Abraham, David), in the sense of lineage. This makes no sense if it starts in fiction and mere myth. That may be how Greek mythology works, but not Jewish historical thinking. Note also Jude 1:14:

It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads,

A regular commenter wrote:

Mr. Giunta attempted to make a point that the Church hasn’t issued any further monitions or condemnations of polygenism in 61 years — but you were able to document that monogenism and the historicity of Adam and Eve is still upheld by the Church at very high levels of magisterial teaching, including the Catechism and papal allocutions. The best Mr. Giunta could do was point to theological opinions and to documents of lesser authority and weight than a papal encyclical. He ought to consider that: 61 years ago the Church warned us that polygenism is irreconcilable with the Catholic Faith, and since then hasn’t said differently in any document or statement of equal or higher authority — and that’s the only way that one could justifiably conclude that that the Church no longer insists on monogenism.

One thing I noticed a few years ago is that the Catechism teaches monogenism as the basis for the doctrine that racism is a sin, citing St. Paul on Mars’ Hill.

I agree. Even in some of the material that Eric cited (including from my friend Jimmy Akin), the point was not that anything had definitively changed, but that the Church was recently silent or not disapproving of other perspectives. That may have some small degree of significance (I agree), but is essentially an argument from silence (always weak by nature), and, per your reasoning, doesn’t overcome existing magisterial statements. It only carries a lot of weight with those who frown upon Church statements of 61 years ago (younger than baby boomers), as ancient and antiquated and irrelevant. It’s the Lewisian “chronological snobbery” thing.

The same person elaborated:

I’ve also made note of the way the New Testament fulfills and builds upon Old Testament typology. First Adam, Second Adam (Christ), First Eve, Second Eve (Mary). The drama of Adam and Eve’s temptation and fall is enacted in a garden, the drama of Christ’s agony is also enacted in a garden (Gethsemane). God creates the Mother of All Living from Adam’s side — God causes Holy Mother Church to be born from the Second Adam’s side when the water and blood (Baptism and Eucharist) gush from Jesus’ side on the Cross. Noah’s Flood, St. Peter said, prefigures Baptism.

The problem with the liberal Protestant/Modernist approach to the Old Testament is that it leaves us with a New Testament that fulfills nothing — that is, the prefiguring events never really happened. The Church has always followed the teaching of the Apostles who said those things happened as examples and allegories for us, but now Christians deny that they happened at all. Needless to say, that is not the way the Church has seen things from Christ’s day down to our own. It’s not even the way Pope Benedict, obviously no fundamentalist and quite open to the points of view of modern historico-criticism, sees the Old Testament.

All mankind has salvation, has eternal life, through the Second Adam and the Second Eve His Mother. With polygenism, however, the First Adam and the First Eve are not the parents of all mankind — we do not all receive this temporary life through them as we all receive eternal life through Jesus and Mary. This discontinuity and contradiction is just one of the many ways that the liberal Protestant approach to Scripture (which has infected Catholic hermeneutics) severs the New Testament from the Old.

Superb analysis; thanks. I agree 110%.

* * *

A lot of what Catholics — especially conservative Catholics and especially pop-apologists — think is settled Catholic doctrine really isn’t, and they end up looking foolish and scandalizing a lot of the simple and ignorant when the Church moves beyond from teaching what these folks thought and claimed was dogmatic fact. The literal historicity of Adam and Eve is among these. The necessary eternity of Hell, the female diaconate, apostolic succession, etc. are just so many red herrings.

At the end of the day, even Dave has conceded that we do not need a literal Adam and Eve for the economy of salvation to make sense, . . . What I further demonstrated is that the Church long ago stopped insisting, as Pius XII did, that Catholics put their reason on the backburner and subscribe to monogenism.

But you are mentioning what I said and taking it out of its original context. In other words, you are prooftexting in a way that you falsely accuse me of doing. How ironic! I wrote:

Logically or necessarily in all possible worlds, no, it doesn’t (I agree). But it does have to be held in light of the tradition of the Church and the data in the New Testament that we have concerning Adam and very early human history (Catholicism being much more than mere philosophy).

That’s like saying that Jesus didn’t necessarily have to die on a cross or Mary necessarily have to be conceived immaculately in all possible worlds (which is perfectly orthodox to say). It doesn’t follow (except in illogical, faith-challenged theologically liberal minds) that Catholics are, therefore, at liberty to deny either, because dogma is not simply philosophy; it is a faith proposition: not opposed to reason, but not identical to it, either.

The Catholic magisterium is not a series of delphic oracles blurted out by Popes and Councils; the Church teaches, and permits teaching, as much by her prudent silence as by her anathemas. You’re certainly free to argue that Adam and Eve literally existed, just as you’re free to believe the earth is flat or that the sun revolved around it. But I don’t have to, and I’m not the less orthodox for it. That’s the only point I’ve made throughout this discussion.

. . . It is the task of the theologian (which I am not, I admit) to critically reflect on the content of the Faith, even the dogmas of the Faith, in light of new insights gained from philosophy and the natural sciences, to tease out the implications of what is already revealed, and to move the Church along in her own evangelical pruning. Also, to distinguish between the essential core of a dogma, and common teaching or other assumptions that are not essential to it.

. . . your (selectively) fundamentalistic hermeneutic is that embraced full-throatedly by the radical Catholic reactionaries that are our mutual bane: the Feenyites, the geocentrists, and every other species of fad-trad that claims Vatican II represents a complete and utter break with the Tradition of the Church.

I don’t see a need to deny where the science has led every single scientist who studies this subject: polygenism. And I am perfectly capable of conceiving of the Fall, and of first humans and first sinners, without having to posit a literal Adam. I am also perfectly capable of seeing a tribal confederation of Semites mythologizing these first people as “Adam and Eve”, and of Christ serving as the antitype to whatever and whomever it is Adam and Eve represent symbolically. Antitypes are always greater than their types, and this is just one more respect that Christ is “greater” than Adam.

. . . whatever it is we Catholics mean by inspiration and inerrancy, it does not preclude any and all factual errors from being affirmed by the Biblical authors. I replied the way I did specifically to counter Dave’s suggestion that because Paul (probably) believed Adam was a literal person, and this assumption found its way into the text, we therefore are bound by that same assumption. I’m unconvinced.
By the way, while I believe Paul was incorrect in his assumption that Adam was a real person, I believe this assumption is immaterial to the theological point he is making, and that if Paul were alive today he would say so, and still wouldn’t write any differently.

It doesn’t surprise me one bit that Eric has questioned or denied that hell is eternal. This is what happens when modernist assumptions are adopted, and when people thumb their nose at Holy Scripture and Catholic dogmas alike (while sophistically spinning that they are not doing so, in classic theologically liberal style).

I would have predicted it, and sure enough, here it is. Eric is on very dangerous ground, and could quite possibly jeopardize his faith if he continues, because the internal logic will (if followed) inevitably lead to more and more skepticism. We’ve seen it happen in many dissident individuals.

Eric’s exegetical arguments are ludicrous, and beyond further discussion, in my opinion. If someone “reasons” as he is doing with regard to the very words and arguments of our Lord Jesus and St. Paul: molding and distorting them however they wish to, they are beyond rational argument. I have shown why, which is my job. Continuing to beat the dead horse with a person who isn’t listening is futile.

But I greatly appreciate all the effort and solid thought you have put into your replies, Sean [Sean Hutton made a series of excellent in-depth analyses of Eric’s position, in the same original combox]. Many people are reading your posts, too, so they are quite valuable, no matter how much Eric casually dismisses them or calls them “fundamentalist” (as he has with mine).

This is the beauty of the Internet and one thing I love so much about it: futile arguments (that would otherwise have been merely between two people in isolation) can have educational and pedagogical value for hundreds or potentially thousands, and can possibly help others to combat the same sorts of errors in their own encounters.

This is one of the clearest examples of the modernist disdain for Scripture and Tradition that I have yet witnessed (which is saying something!). Thus, apologetically, the exchange has been an excellent one for the purpose of demonstration of one severely flawed way of thinking.

The structure of Eric’s arguments are (I don’t exaggerate at all) exactly like those of many atheists and/or former Christians that I have dialogued with. They used to reason like he does; they followed the internal logic of the skepticism and argued themselves right out of Christianity as a result.

Eric got even more extreme and ridiculous and insulting in the combox underneath this post:

When one’s ideas about God take him outside the Church — or cause him to think others outside of it — those ideas are idols. So-called “traditionalists” are some of the worst of these idolaters, and you’re approaching them, Dave, when you start casting aspersions on the orthodoxy of your betters because they know — as you do not — that the Church does not insist on what you claim she does.

You, Rick, Jordanes, and co. would have been among those calling for Galileo’s head, and doubtless Aquinas’s, Augustine’s, and every Father, doctor, and theologian down the centuries who critically reflected on the deposit of faith and challenged sacrosanct assumptions.

I’ll wait patiently for Dave to jump on the Feeneyite or geocentrist bandwagon. That should be amusing. (9-26-11)

Eric has already categorized my citation of Trent as “fundamentalistic prooftexting” or some such . . . he apparently thinks it is altogether antiquated (classic theological liberalism; so-called “progressivism”). 

Of course I affirm what Trent does, . . . and I do so fully aware that the Tridentine Fathers had no clue of the findings of the natural sciences since the 19th century, and were not gathered to debate the historical existence of Adam.

These are not delphic oracles, bro; they have to be read from within their context and their inherent limitations. The same goes for all the absolutist statements we read elsewhere about “no salvation outside the Church”, which the Feenyites tend to also decontextualize.

The Church has never dogmatically pronounced upon whether we must consider Adam to be a literal historical individual — but with the Tridentine Fathers I readily confess that whatever Adam means, we have inherited original sin from him. (9-26-11)

I don’t know if it is your age or your inherent mental capacity, but let me try to make clearer what I think already should be to a man of average intelligence and reading capability:

Accurately citing the canons of an Ecumenical Council is not fundamentalist proof-texting; citing said canons without regard to context, in order to make it appear that the Fathers had our questions in mind when they pronounced on issues they did — in this case, what they are pronouncing on is the dogma of inherited original sin, not the historical existence of Adam — is fundamentalist proof-texting.

I can approach the Bible in the same way and come away claiming we must believe in a flat-earth, a geocentrist cosmos, a solidly domed firmament, etc. (9-26-11)

By all means keep going, Eric; you’re on a roll. I wanna see how many more names I (and now several of my friends) can be called, and camps placed in before this thing is through. I think it’ll be very entertaining for my readers and perhaps cheer them up, while they are weeping over your various irrational, heterodox positions.

I think you could possibly become an atheist if you continue (I have not said how likely that is: only that I have seen very similar progressions many times), so I suppose it is natural that you will turn the tables and suggest that I am on the slippery slope to flat-earthdom, hell in the center of the earth, Feeneyism, geocentrism, sedevacantism, Holocaust denial, fascism, and who knows what else (maybe I’ll even end up a supporter of Ron Paul!).

Let me repeat my thought experiment to you: If we had the technological capability to travel back in time and instant-replay the evolutionary process, and we can to find that Adam and Eve, as literal historical persons, did not exist — what you have to cease being Catholic? (The way you would have to be if, say, we did the same experiment vis-a-vis the Resurrection and found that the Apostles stole the body of Christ?)

This discussion has long since ceased being either rational (based on reason) or a true dialogue (where both parties — not just one — actually interact with the opposing positions). I don’t waste my time with irrationality or non-dialogical farces. I played along for a while and made the points that I thought were important to make. But now there is nowhere else to go with this.

Also, this claim that I am reasoning my way to atheism is absurd. None of my premises are in the least bit leftist or atheistic. But again, this is typical of the Catholic Fundamentalist: he confuses himself with the Church . . .

Nice try. All I have noted was that I know many atheists who reason exactly as you do now. They were skeptical of various things, and kept on becoming more and more so, until Christianity itself and God Himself became targets of their ever-growing self-absorbed irrational skepticism (a process that usually takes many years). That is a matter of fact. The debates are online for all to see, as a matter of record.  

As I wrote on my blog combox: “I think you could possibly become an atheist if you continue (I have not said how likely that is: only that I have seen very similar progressions many times) . . .” Warning you to avoid that possible fate is an act of love and concern, but as is usual in such instances, it is misunderstood, and then a false straw man understanding of the warning blatantly rejected, with juvenile insults.

Oh, and I’ve not questioned the eternity of Hell per se; Sean’s referring to a discussion we once had over how the Eastern Churches (Catholic and Orthodox) often conceive of the afterlife, where Hell (or Gehenna) is not often distinguished as a separate “place” from Purgatory. That’s a whole other topic.

Fair enough. I’d like to see the exchange myself. 

You are free to believe in monogenism as you please, along with a flat earth and a geocentric cosmos. You’re also free to believe that mice spontaneously generate from wet hay.

What you may not do is proof-text fellow Catholics outside the Church by insisting that the Church insists they must posit what you do. As I have demonstrated, this is not the case.

I have not done so. I haven’t said anyone is out of the Church. What I have said is that your opinion in some areas is not in line with what the Church has magisterially taught. 

I do not believe Pius XII was a fundamentalist; fundamentalism is not subscription to any particular doctrine, but a hermeneutical approach to revealed truth. What may have seemed reasonable for Pius XII to say in 1950 is not necessarily reasonable in 2011; this is why the magisterium has moved beyond the parameters set by the late Pope 61 years ago. It’s also why Catholics today are free to reject geocentrism, in a way we weren’t just 400 years ago.


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