Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sun Aug 19 2007 - 18:48:01 EDT

I think there is a tendency to confusion in the first paragraph between
sin, nature or tendency, and sin, action. The classic statement has Adam
/posse non pecare/ (able not to sin) and /posse pecare/ (able to sin)
before the fall. But, after the fall, and for all his descendants, it's
/non posse non pecare/ (unable not to sin) because of the sinful nature.
From this follows the acts. Adam's acts are not our acts. The murder of
Abel was not Adam's sinful act, but Cain's.

On Sun, 19 Aug 2007 01:39:05 -0400 writes:

I can't give the kind of definite answer you want, but I have some
related thoughts that might help.

First, it has always interested me that the view of Adam especially in
reformed traditions seems to involve (or at least permit) some kind of
non-locality (space and time) for humanity in its relationship to the
Fall. When Adam sinned, all sinned. The minimalist view of this is that
Adam was "all" in the sense only that we just weren't there and so HE was
all humanity at that time. The maximalist view is that were were there
spiritually in Adam and somehow chose to sin when he sinned, hence when
he sinned "all" sinned meaning you and me and the rest of us. We
literally sinned when Adam sinned. I am not clear on this, but I think
there have been some minority streams in the Reformed tradition that take
this maximalist view of the Fall. If so, then this does tend to minimize
the need for an individual, literal Adam localized at one place and time,
while successfully keeping the theology of the Fall for all humanity.

Second, C.S. Lewis has written some things that tend toward this kind of
extra-temporal description of humanity. You have to read between the
lines to see it, but IMO it is clearly there. I know because I was
interested in this topic while reading Lewis and so I was very sensitive
to pick up the hints every time he dropped them. I would be hard pressed
to tell someone where to look, though! (One example is in a later
chapter of The Great Divorce where he has a vision of mankind standing
outside the chessboard, which represents Time, moving pieces on the
board, which represent themselves within time.)


-----Original Message-----
From: David Opderbeck <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 5:57 pm
Subject: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

I'm researching Christian theological perspectives in which a literal,
individual Adam is not central. Are there major streams of Christian
thought / confessional or denominational settings, and/or recognized
streams within broader traditions, in which affirming a literal Adam is
not an important concern? I'm aware of some of the specific articles in
publications such as PSCF, such as George Murphy's recent article, on
this question, but what I'm trying to suss out is the importance of a
literal Adam to the Christian tradition generally. Does the willingness
to suggest a non-literal Adam place one outside the flow of every major
branch of the tradition?

Ancillary to this, are there any scholars who could be classified as
"evangelical" who are willing to entertain a non-literal Adam? (I take
it from my own study and experience that mainstream evangelical
perspectives on scripture and hermeneutics, as well as evangelicalism's
generally Augustinian view of original sin, renders the possibility of a
non-literal Adam difficult).

AOL now offers free email to everyone. Find out more about what's free
from AOL at

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sun, 19 Aug 2007 15:48:01 -0700

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Aug 19 2007 - 19:19:45 EDT