Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Thu Aug 23 2007 - 08:14:03 EDT

Phil said: * I don't see consciousness as being as fundamental as the
spirit, or the heart, which is beneath and behind and throughout our

These are interesting ideas. This part seems problematic to me, though.
Again, this conception of spirit or "soul" seems a bit more Platonic or
Buddhist than Hebraic-Christian. It also seems to hint at Mormon notions of
preexistence. When we die, for example, do our spirits once again lose the
connection to our individual persons, and rejoin a sort of collective

On 8/22/07, <> wrote:
> George, I just finished reading your paper. It was very beautifully
> researched and written, and it was a pleasure to read!
> I have a question. The first thing that struck me in reading your paper
> is that your view of the Fall seems to be entirely related to the physical
> part of humanity, that if humans have a spirit then it was affected merely
> as a secondary effect rather than as the essential causal agent in our
> original sin. Is this your view? Is mankind fallen in spirit? When and
> where did our spirits fall away from God? Is spiritual fallenness inherited
> as universal or do we each fall in spirit individually?
> Since Scripture indicates that there are spiritual (non-physical) beings
> that are sinners (e.g., Satan), then it must be possible for a
> creature's spirit to be fallen. Spirits themselves, and not just evolved
> organisms, can somehow be "coded" for sinful character. Creatures don't
> need DNA or neurons to be fallen. Surely fallen angels did not inherit
> sinful through DNA or from cocaine in their mothers' milk, and surely God
> did not make them evil in their creation. And yet their (spiritual)
> fallenness is just as bad as our (physical?) fallenness. So physical
> explanations for original sin aren't necessary a priori.
> Then, since Scriptures also talk about mankind, too, being spiritual
> beings and not merely physical, then it seems plausible that mankind's
> spirit might indeed be fallen, just as the fallen angels' spirits are.
> And, it seems to me that the real essence of fallenness is not in our
> behavior or our propensities due to human weakness or parental influence,
> but rather the deep-down-in-our-hearts (or spirit) turned-away-ness from
> relationship with God. All the behavior we see working out in our lives
> seems to be the result of that turned-away-ness. Indeed, I'd say that a
> pre-human hominid who kills his neighbor is not sinning precisely because
> there is no turned-away-ness in spirit behind the action. A human who has a
> mental illness may also do horrible acts but not sin, depending on their
> spirit rather than on their actions. And a fetus might become saved in the
> womb (like John the Baptist) because their spirit responded in faith to God
> even though their mind was unable to process conscious thoughts.
> This is also how I would reply to David O's post, too, in which he raised
> the excellent questions about the "germ" of humanity that was supposedly in
> Adam (per the Augustinian view), which could not have consciously sinned in
> Adam since it was not conscious. I don't see consciousness as being as
> fundamental as the spirit, or the heart, which is beneath and behind and
> throughout our consciousness. When I have been closest to God and repenting
> of sin, I have always felt that I truly own my spirit's state of being
> turned from God, though when or how it happened is deeper than I can
> understand.
> This belief in the spirit is what makes me so interested in the
> Augustinian view (or perhaps I should say an extension of that view). It
> provides that original fallenness could have affected our spirits and not
> merely our genetically selfish bodies.
> Phil
> -----Original Message-----
> From: George Murphy <>
> To:;
> Cc:;
> Sent: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 8:15 pm
> Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam
> 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
> .
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:*
> *To:*
> *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?
> Phil
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Received on Thu Aug 23 08:14:25 2007

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