Re: Human origins and doctrine (was Definition of "Species")

From: george murphy (
Date: Wed Feb 27 2002 - 15:20:28 EST

  • Next message: Adrian Teo: "RE: Human origins and doctrine"

            There is another point that ought to be noted in this discussion. As
    Bob points out with citations below, the eastern tradition generally holds that
    the descendants of Adam did not inherit his guilt but were subjected to physical
    illness, death, & corruption because of Adam's sin. But the idea that our
    vulnerability to disease and our physical death are due to sin, and would not
    exist if sin had not been committed, seems very implausible in an evolutionary
    scenario. Certainly our prehuman ancestors, who couldn't sin because they
    weren't moral agents, died. Unless we want to say that the first humans were
    briefly gifted with immortality at the time they became (however it happened)
    genuinely human, they would have been as mortal as their biological ancestors.
            As I have pointed out here before, there is some hint in Athanasius that
    the first humans would have died even had they not sinned. His interpretation
    of Gen.2:17 in Greek, where the Hebrew "you shall surely die" is rendered "dying
    you shall die," is that there are two aspects of death. There is the "mere"
    biological death and then the corruption which is a result of sin. His language
    suggests, though he does not explicitly say, that humans would have been subject
    to the first aspect even if they hadn't sinned.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    Robert Schneider wrote:

    > Jonathan Clarke wrote:
    > > Hi Robert
    > >
    > > I have seen frequent allusions by various people in many places to the
    > eastern
    > > view of the fall, but never a clear exposition of it. Would you care to
    > > enlighten me (and us)? They sound interesting.
    > Jon
    > Hi, Jon,
    > This is a topic I know little about. Unfortunately, I have not been
    > able to find more than a couple of good sources of eastern Orthodox theology
    > from which to respond adequately to your wish. Most histories of theology
    > in my wife's and my library deal, outside of a nod to eastern Patristic
    > theologians, with western theology, and our Appalachian State University
    > library is very weak on eastern Christian sources.
    > There is a nice summary of Orthdox theology in _The Orthodox Way_ by Bp.
    > Kallistos Ware, 1979 (if you get "Research News and Opportunities" you've
    > noticed his picture on the front page of the Feb., 2002, issue as a
    > participant in the recent symposium at Windsor Castle on the God-World
    > relationship). I'll quote a couple of passages from it that show some
    > differences between Orthodox and Western notions about the fall and original
    > sin:
    > "The Orthodox tradition, without minimizing the effects of the fall,
    > does not however believe that it resulted in a 'total depravity', such as
    > the Calvinists assert in their more pessimistic moments. The divine image in
    > man was obscured but not obliterated. His free choice has been restricted
    > in its exercise but not destroyed. Even in a fallen world man is still
    > capable of generous self-sacrifice and loving compassion. Even in a fallen
    > world man still retains some knowledge of God and can enter by grace into
    > communion with him. There are many saints in the pages of the Old
    > Testament, men and women such as Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Moses, Elijah
    > and Jeremiah; and outside the Chosen People of Israel there are figures such
    > as Socrates who not only taught the truth but lived it. Yet it remains true
    > that human sin -- the original sin of Adam, compounded by the personal sins
    > of each succeeding generation -- has set a gulf between God and man such
    > that man by his own efforts could not bridge.
    > "For the Orthodox traditon, then, Adam's original sin affects the human
    > race in its entirety, and in its consequences both on the physical and the
    > moral level: it results not only in physical sickness and death but also in
    > moral weakness and paralysis. But does it also imply an inherited *guilt*?
    > Here Orthodoxy is more guarded. Original sin is not to be interpreted in
    > juridical or quasi-biological terms, as if it were some physical 'taint' of
    > guilt, transmitted through sexual intercourse. This picture, which normally
    > passes for the Augustinian view, is unacceptable to Orthodoxy. The doctrine
    > of original sin means rather that we are born into an environment where it
    > is easy to do evil and hard to do good; easy to hurt others, and hard to
    > heal their wounds; easy to arouse men's suspicions, and hard to win their
    > trust. It means that we are each of us conditioned by the solidarity of the
    > human race in its accumulated wrong-doing and wrong-thinking, and hence
    > wrong-being. And to this accumulation of wrong we ourselves have added by
    > our own deliberate acts of sin."
    > Bp. Ware goes on to say that because of the solidarity of the human race
    > "any action performed by any member of the human race, inevitably affects
    > all the other members. Even though we are not, in the strict sense, *guilty*
    > of the sins of others, yet we are somehow always *involved*." (p. 80-81)
    > Another source to check is Lars Thunberg's extensive study of Maximus
    > the Confessor (c. 580-662): _MICROCOSM AND MEDIATOR: The Theological
    > Anthropolgy of Maximus the Confessor_, 2nd edn., 1995. In skimming through
    > the book, one sees that in expounding on Maximus' theology, including his
    > theology of the fall and its consequences, Thunberg reviews his eastern
    > Patristic predecessors' views, particularly as they influenced M., so the
    > book serves as a fairly comprehensive survey of eastern Patristic thinking
    > on the subject.
    > When my Orthodox friends have said, then, that eastern Orthodoxy does
    > not have a doctrine of original sin, I gather from Bp. Ware's statements
    > that they mean it does not have an Augustinian doctrine. I think the
    > Irenaean tradition (also developed in Bp. Ware's book) which George Murphy
    > summarized in one of his notes, remains basic to Orthodoxy's views about the
    > relationship between God and humanity in a fallen world. In Orthodoxy some
    > theologians distinguish between "image" and "likeness," the former connoting
    > *potentiality* for life in God, the latter the *realization* of that
    > potentiality. The notion that with the Incarnation and Christ's act of
    > salvation we are able to move from the power of sin (the "image" tarnished
    > and obscured) toward perfection (the "image" restored) and the eventual
    > realization of the divine "likeness" (*theosis*), is a significant doctrine
    > in Orthodoxy that is hardly apparent in western Christian thought outside of
    > some interest by Anglican thinkers. I think one of the boldest statements
    > in all of theology is Athanasius': "The Logos became man in order that we
    > should become gods..." (_De incarnatione Verbi_, 54, quoted in Thunberg, p.
    > 428).
    > Grace and peace,
    > Bob Schneider

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