Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 21:20:48 EDT

Since human evolution wasn't considered seriously by theologians until the 19th century, an understanding of original sin that takes evolution into account AS WELL AS being consistent with what scripture says about the human condition can't be found in any of the major theological traditions. The approach that I suggest is reasonably consistent with what the Orthodox tradition has said about the origin of human sinfulness (e.g., the creation of the 1st humans in an immature state from which they was intended to grow) but is in accord with the Augustinian - & in particular Lutheran - tradition about the seriousness of original sin &, in particular, the fact that it really is sin. Article 2 of the Augsburg Confession (which can be found at SAYS:

"Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost. They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason."
(The qualification "begotten in the natural way" was intended to exclude Christ. I think, however, that this should not be done. With the Eastern tradition - & with Barth - we should understand Christ to have been born in the same condition as ourselves, though he committed no sin. "God made him to be sin who knew no sin.")


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: George Murphy
  Cc: ; ;
  Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 8:29 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

  Ah, and George, this gets back to my original question: in what theological tradition does an approach like yours lie? Is it typically Lutheran? Or is it novel?

  On 8/20/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
    It seems very strange to me to call the idea that we were all "in Adam" a "realist" view. 1st, this language ultimately derives from the poor Latin translation of Rom.5 :12, in quo omnes peccaverunt, "in whom all sinned." 2d, the only way of making sense of this physically today is to understand original sin actually to be transmitted genetically, which runs into all kinds of problems. & that doesn't even take into account the problematic question of the historicity of a single Adam.

    Which is not to argue for "federal theory" - I already pointed out a basic problem with that. The best way to understand the situation is to see the sin of earlier generations as giving rise to a religious & moral environment which strongly discourages true faith in the true God. Again I refer to my PSCF article at .


      ----- Original Message -----
      Cc: ; ;
      Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 6:08 PM
      Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam


        Yet, if being "bent" towards sin is not a necessary condition of human existence, and is imputed to us because Adam in fact sinned rather than because of anything we have done ourselves; and, if being "bent" towards sin means we all will inevitably sin, without any possibility of not sinning; and, if even one sinful act alienates us from God for all eternity -- then it does seem that the deck is stacked rather unfairly, doesn't it?

      Hi David,

      (Sigh) this is the Federal view again, right? I'm a bit frustrated because I keep being asked to defend a view that I was not even talking about, and which I don't even claim to believe. Is it because I have not clearly explained the Augustinian view, which I was discussing, well enough to distinguish it from the Federal view? The Augustinian view attempts to answer the very questions you raise about the Federal view. So I'll try to say it again, but more clearly.

      Of course we all know the facts: we actually are sinners who inevitably sin. That is just as empirically sure as any theory in physics, and we sure don't want to create theories that go against the empirics. Rocks don't disobey gravity and children don't grow up sinless. So we have to accept that the deck really is stacked against us.

      As monotheists we believe that it was not stacked unfairly. So the only question here is to discover what was the fair set of events that stacked it against us.

      The Realist or Augustinian view says that you and I were actually "in" Adam when he sinned so that we really did "staple our feet to the starting line by our own free will" as you say. Put the emphasis on the word "really." Think of the Augustinian view as the analog of nonlocality in quantum mechanics. If subatomic particles can be entangled and indistinguishable and non-locally correlated, even behaving as though they anticipate things outside of the time sequence (in the delayed choice experiments), then perhaps, just perhaps, human souls might also be related in such atemporal and nonlocal ways. If so, then maybe our souls and Adam's soul were somehow together as one in the garden (or in whatever scenario from prehistory someone may think the garden symbolically represents).

      Here is a pithy way to oversimplify it. The Federal view says Adam sinned in our place; the Augustinian view says we sinned in his place. (i.e., in the garden)

      I'm not saying I believe that this Augustinian view is right, nor that the Federal view is right or wrong. I just think the Augustinian idea is interesting and might merit more thought.

      Also, think about the MWI interpretation of QM. In that view, there really are multiple versions of consciousness for each person. I don't tend to believe MWI, but who knows how strange reality actually is?


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Received on Mon Aug 20 21:22:14 2007

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