Must Genesis 1-3 be literally true? was Apologists and other salesmen

Daniel J. Berger (
Thu, 31 Oct 1996 13:32:20 -0500

I am running a bit short of time to debate this point (which I am beginning to
view as the classic rock/hard place problem), but it seems to me that we are
trying to impose a rather modern concept ("either literally true or totally false")
on literature which was written when that distinction was not common currency.

Again, Genesis 1-3 does not have to be literally true for David to realize that
"I am steeped in sin from my mother's womb" or for the realization of the blood-
guilt incurred by sin to take hold in the worship of Israel. The idea of original sin
does appear to be held more or less throughout the history of Israel and
Christendom (but the psalm cited could simply be poetic hyperbole, not a
doctrinal statement).

Original sin is *not* the doctrine of total depravity, redeemable only by the
predestined grace of God which he deliberately withholds from some that they
may be damned. This doctrine is something which is not universally accepted
even by Christians. However this is, I think, what some think of in
the term "original sin." (I apologize to hard-line Calvinists for stating the
doctrine in such bald and uncomplimentary terms.)

The more universally Christian sense of the term is that we all have a tendency
toward sin which is usually stronger than our wills, unless we freely ask for the
help and grace of God. This is IMO obvious to anyone who is both
introspective and honest.

My thanks, appreciation, and prayers go with all who over the 2000 years of
Christian history have struggled with this problem. Remember that Augustine
of Hippo, the Doctor of the Church in whose work many of the doctrines of the
Reformers are grounded, believed Genesis 1-5 to be allegorical. I don't claim
to be a better theologian than he, and am content that the presence or
absence of a literal acceptance of flat historicity of those verses won't affect
my relationship with my Savior.


Daniel J. Berger (419) 358-3379
Bluffton College
280 W. College Avenue
Bluffton OH 45817-1196