Re: Original sin (was Re: Human origins and doctrine ...)

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 16:58:38 EST

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    Adrian Teo wrote:

    > Hello George,
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: george murphy []
    > > Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2002 6:07 AM
    > > To: John W Burgeson
    > > Cc:;
    > > Subject: Original sin (was Re: Human origins and doctrine ...)
    > > The eastern tradition, represented by Irenaeus, sees
    > > humanity as
    > > having been created without sin but in an immature & childlike state.
    > > Humanity was intended to grow, to develop toward a final
    > > state of righteous
    > > maturity in union with God. The first sin then was not so
    > > much a matter of
    > > an abrupt "fall" but of getting off the proper road.
    > Side issue: I may be mistaken, but Irenaeus, as far as I can tell, has
    > always been listed as a western/Latin father. He was Bishop of Lyons,
    > France.

            Yes, he was Bishop of Lyons but was born in Asia Minor. Much of the
    "western church" - including Rome - was in fact Greek speaking until the mid-2d
    century. Irenaeus is generally considered one of the "Greek fathers."

    > [more stuff deleted]
    > _________________________________________________________
    > > But we can't simply think of the first humans as moral or
    > > intellectual blank slates who could just
    > > as well have avoided sin as sinned. What we know of
    > > evolution suggests that
    > > the first humans (however we choose to define them) would
    > > have inherited a
    > > heavy genetic &/or behavioral load inclining them toward
    > > behaviors that we
    > > would consider sinful - aggression, sexual promiscuity,
    > > theft, &c. These
    > > behaviors would not have been sin in their ancestors who were
    > > not moral
    > > agents, but would have been sinful in moral agents. & with
    > > those inherited
    > > tendencies it's very hard to see how those first moral agents
    > > could have
    > > avoided sin.
    > Yes, which brings up the question of how these creatures could have evolved
    > from amoral organisms to moral agents. A purely evolutionary account seems
    > unsatisfactory at this point, given our current state of knowledge.

            I responded to this point in a parallel post on "Human origins and

    > > We can still say that sin is not part of what
    > > constitutes proper
    > > human nature, but in the course of real evolutionary history
    > > sin could not be
    > > avoided. Sin is not "necessary" but it was "inevitable."
    > >
    > > In brief, I think an eastern metaphor of "taking the
    > > wrong road"
    > > (with the consequence of all humanity getting "lost in the
    > > woods") is better
    > > than the western metaphor of "the fall," especially if we are
    > > concerned to
    > > make theological sense of human evolution.
    > It seems that a further distinction need to be made in what you refer to as
    > the western view. Reformed theology and Catholic theology are quite
    > different on this issue, and the Catholic view is, IMO, (a little) closer to
    > the Eastern view.

               I did skip over some important points in trying to be brief. Roman,
    Reformed, and Lutheran views of original sin all follow the Augustinian
    tradition, though with varying degrees of modification.
    They all see human beings as being born in a condition which is itself sinful.
    RC theology sees some possibility of cooperation with grace, and thus is closer
    to the Orthodox idea of "synergy" which is
    rejected by classical Lutheran and Reformed theologies.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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