Re: Human origins and doctrine

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Feb 28 2002 - 09:41:21 EST

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    Keith B Miller wrote:

    > I wrote:
    > >> I also strongly lean toward the view that Adam was a
    > >> representative head (in a way parallel to Christ's headship
    > >> of the church)
    > >> and not the ancestor of all living humans.
    > Adrian responded:
    > >Which I disagree with. I have trouble reconciling this with Romans 5, for
    > >starters.
    > How is Christ's righteousness imputed to us? - by grace through faith.
    > There is some act of the will on my part involved. I must willingly accept
    > that offer of grace. What if we make a parallel with the transmission of
    > sin? When I am born I am innocent (I do not mean righteous). However, at
    > the first opportunity I choose to be disobedient - I sin and come under the
    > curse of Adam which is spiritual death. Thus, Adam's curse is imputed to
    > me by my sharing in his sin, just as Christ's righteousness is imputed to
    > me by faith. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man,
    > and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all
    > sinned" (Rom 5:12). My reading is that there are none who are without sin
    > except Christ, thus there are none who are morally righteous yet still
    > condemned by Adam's sin. We are condemned because we sin. Therefore I do
    > not understand that sin itself is something that is passed on thru direct
    > descent.
    > The question then is, why do we all sin? This is where my views get even
    > more speculative. It has been suggested by some that our physical desires
    > and drives, which were part of God's good creation enabling us to survive
    > and flourish as a species, became aspects of our humanity that God called
    > us to overcome as His image bearers. In other words, God desires that His
    > character be developed in us through our encounter with and overcoming of
    > temptation and trial (Gen 2:15-17; Gen 4:6-7). And He has not left us in
    > that process without providing us with His gracious power - if we choose to
    > accept it. This provides, I believe, a useful basis for working out a
    > theodicy of pain and suffering. I have found the book "Evil and the God of
    > Love" by John Hick to be very helpful to me in thinking through theodicy
    > issues.

            But the Augustinian understanding of original sin is not simply that
    the sin of Adam is imputed to us. It is that, because of the sin of Adam, we
    are born in a condition which is itself sinful and in which we cannot keep from
    sinning. I.e., there are 2 aspects to this.
            1) We start out our lives as sinners.
            2) We cannot avoid committing our own individual sins.

            Let me quote the Augsburg Confession, not just because it's Lutheran
    but because it sets out this view very well.
            "All men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers'
    wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God.
    Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to
    the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and
    the Holy Spirit."

            I.e., our original state is one in which we do not have "true fear of
    God and true faith in God." and is therefore sinful. Because of this we do not
    have the _will_ to avoid sin. The usual charge against this view is that it
    "denies free will." That's just the point! What is damaged in sinful human
    beings is precisely the will, insofar as matters pertaining to God are
            From the Augustinian (and, I would say, the Pauline) standpoint, the
    problem with denial of this view of original sin is that it considers sin only
    superficially. The basic problem isn't that we "have evil lust and
    inclinations" but precisely that we are unable to have genuine trust in the
    true God.

            Now in qualification:
            1) This doesn't imply a rigid determinism in everything. We can
    choose to be kind to other people, not commit adultery, have Raisin Bran
    instead of Wheaties, &c. It is only with regard to faith in God and its
    consequences that our will is "bound".
            2) & to get to Adrian's argument, the points I've emphasized do not
    require a view of original sin as hereditary in the strict sense. That is
    certainly the way that Augustine & the Augsburg Confession saw it, but that is
    an attempt to explain _why_ we are in the condition that's been described. We
    should start with the existential statement that "we are in bondage to sin and
    cannot free ourselves" as we say in the Brief Order for Confession and
    Forgiveness. Then we can start talking about the why of it. The traditional
    western view of a fall from perfection and hereditary transmission of sin is
    one explanation, but it is not the only or, IMO, the best, one.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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