From: <>
Date: Tue Apr 12 2005 - 12:27:15 EDT

In a message dated 4/12/05 10:05:44 AM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Bill,

These are excellent questions, and I do not believe you will find any
single answer that will be fully satisfactory. (This is in itself one of
the reasons why most conservative Christians do not accept evolution,
whether or not they accept an old earth and universe.) Some modern
theologians (an obvious example would be Arthur Peacocke) simply do not
accept the doctrine of the Fall in any sense at all--not only do they reject
it historically, they also reject the theological truth it conveys, namely
that we are all sinners in alienation from our creator and redeemer. A
number of Christian scientists and theologians have used evolution (which
they have equated with a nebulous idea of progress that is interpreted
specifically as moral perfectability) as justification for rejecting
original sin and redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus.
And one researcher has found that the evolutionary concepts in genesis
actually support the notion of an "original sin" that we all inherit and also
support the redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

There are however some Christian evolutionisits who are orthodox in their
acceptance of the Fall--either they actually hold to an historical fall, or
else they interpret the Fall as a true description of a universal human bent
to selfishnessness and rebellion against God. (I would place certain
neo-orthodox theologians in this camp and some others also.) To see an
interesting example of one such thinker, I recommend the essay on "Evolution
and Original Sin," by philosopher of religion/philosopher of science Robin
Collins, in Keith Miller's volume "Perspectives on an Evolving Creation."
You won't find this online anywhere, you'll have to buy or borrow a copy of
the book. But I do think you will find this essay helpful.

The fall did create the universal human bent to selfishness. The
"self-sacrifice" removes it.

IMO, the issue you are raising--the evolution of human nature and its
relationship to morality--is the single hardest theological issue to
struggle with in terms of evolution. I am not convinced that we have yet
found a good answer, and I am sympathetic with those who reject evolution
itself rather than accept an answer that seems unsatisfactory theologically.
Altruism has long interested the evolutionary biologists, and also the
theologians; the very liberal religious thinker Ralph Wendall Burhoe
(founding editor of Zygon) saw this as the cutting edge issue for
religion/science conversation as long as 50 years ago. His close friend,
Harvard geologist Kirtley Mather, wrote an essay on "The Natural History of
Righteousness" that I will be looking at closely over the next year or two.
I doubt I'll be happy with what I read.

These issues are addressed in my paper True Religion. Theologically, there
are no conflicts between evolution and genesis. Making the self sacrifice is an
act of pure altruism that removes ontological anxiety. The biologists study
altruism. The psychologists study ontological anxiety.

The closest I can get to a view I would accept, is that of Harry Emerson
Fosdick, who wrote many years ago, "Origins prove nothing in the realm of
values." An a priori rejection of sociobiology and evolutionary ethics, to
be sure, and a flat rejection rather than an argument. But Thomas Henry
Huxley pretty much said the same thing, and sometimes belief cannot argue
with unbelief; it can only preach to it.

The fall has nothing to do with specific morals or values. It only describes
a situation in which man must discover what is right since he doesn't know it
instinctively but must rely on making the right choice from among many
possible behaviors. The fall describes a discipline that can be used with any ethic

The paper is available upon request.

I wish you well as you explore this one,

Received on Tue Apr 12 12:29:26 2005

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