Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

From: Keith Miller <kbmill@ksu.edu>
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 18:35:45 EDT

Here are some thoughts that I wrote several years ago that are
relevant to this thread.
The primary issue I was addressing was the "image of God," however
some of it is relevant
to the Fall.

Our physical and genetic continuity with the rest of the
creation in no way excludes an historical Adam (This issue should be
resolved by
other critieria). However, since there is a continuity of physical
form from modern
humans to our common ancestors with the other great apes, there are
no physical
criteria by which the appearance of the "image of God" could be
identified in the
fossil record.

With regard to the implications of human evolution for the "image of
God" I
will quote from an article that I wrote several years ago.

"We are the image of God in creation - that is why the command against
making graven images is so powerful. We stand in a unique position
within
creation - as God's representative, as His viceroy over the Earth. I
believe that the basis for that unique position is our dual nature. We
have at once a kinship with the rest of creation and with the Creator.
Genesis describes the origin of humankind in precisely the same
manner as
that of all other living things (Gen 2:7,9,19). The origin of our
physical
nature is not different from that of other creatures -- we are made
of the
same stuff. If God used and providentially controlled evolutionary
mechanisms in the creation of plants and animals, I see no reason to
reject
an evolutionary origin for humankind. In fact, the testimony of both
scripture and nature is that we share a oneness with the rest of
creation.
Our physical natures are inseparably connected to the rest of life on
Earth."

"While Genesis roots our physical origin in the stuff of the Earth,
it also
places us firmly in a unique position before God and creation. The
error
is to attribute unique status to our physical nature, as though our
exalted
position is founded on something other than God's grace. I believe
that it
is our relationship to God more than anything else which
distinguishes us.
>From the dust of the Earth God had raised up a creature and
imparted to it
a spiritually conscious soul. By this act of grace God elevated
humanity
to a special position of conscious and willing fellowship with Himself."

"An inseparable part of being created as images of God in the world
is the
authority delegated to us by God. We have been chosen out of
creation as
God's representatives, His stewards. God commissioned us to "Be
fruitful
and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the
fish
of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that
moves on the ground" (Genesis 1:28). Adam was placed in the garden "to
work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). Our ability to exercise
this
divine commission to rule and care for creation is, I believe, based
on our
dual nature. Our physical unity with the natural world is as vital
to our
appointed role as image bearers as is our spiritual apprehension of the
divine." (Keith B. Miller, 1993, Theological implications of an evolving
creation: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, vol. 45, p.
150-160)

Paul's comparison of Christ (the second Adam) with the first Adam
is, I believe quite helpful in sorting through the issues. Sin and
spiritual death "entered the world" through Adam, but life and
righteousness through Jesus Christ. It seems that both Adam and
Christ are
being presented as respresentative heads of the human race. We bear the
image of Christ in the same way that we formerly bore the image of Adam.
We are dealing here, I believe, not with physical realities but with
with
spiritual realities. Adam thus need not be the physical ancestor of all
humans, anymore than Jesus is the physical ancestor of all those who
believe in Him.

How was God's "image" imparted to humanity? I think that there are a
couple of options here. One common position is that God selected a
particular individual into whom God imparted a spiritually conscious
soul.
A more monist (as opposed to dualist) view might be that God revealed
himself to Adam thus bringing Adam into personal fellowship in a
state of
moral innocence. I am sure there are other approaches to this.

If Adam is not the genealogical ancestor of all humanity, then how
can we
understand the "image" to have been communicated to all humanity?
Firstly,
this is essentially the problem of the "pre-Adamites" which is hardly a
consequence of an evolutionary view of human origins. A straightforward
reading of the Biblical text itself seems to imply that Adam and his
immediate
descendants lived in an already populated world (Gen, 4:13-26).
Thus, these
questions have to be answered regardless of whether an evolutionary
origin
is accepted.

There are a number of issues here and I won't do justice to any of them.

One consideration is that the origin of the "Image of God" which is
associated with the creation of humankind in Genesis 1, is not the
focus of
the account of Adam in chapter 2 and following. The issue with Adam
is not
the origin of God-likeness but rather the origin of sin. In other words
the two accounts are dealing with different issues. The representative
headship of Adam has to do with sin and its consequence - spiritual
death.

I think that scripture allows us to view the "Image of God" as an act of
grace poured out on God's chosen creatures when those creatures had in
effect "come of age." Here the evolutionary origin of humanity provides
some helpful metaphors. Here's one way to think about it : God
providentially directed the evolutionary development of humans to the
point
at which they possessed the mental and emmotional capacity for conscious
fellowship with Him. At that point, God revealed Himself and
established a
covenant relationship, making them divine representatives to the rest of
creation.

I believe that Adam could have been selected out from the rest of
humanity
for a special covenant relationship. This would be entirely consistent
with the pattern of God's interaction with the human race revealed
throughout scripture. God selects a particular individual through
whom to
accomplish His redemptive will. There is first Adam, then Noah, Abram,
Joseph, Moses, and Jesus. God seems to repeatedly focus the entire
future
of His will for His chosen on the obedience of a single individual.

How is the sin condition (original sin) passed on? This question is
related to the question: 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.

As suggested by the above, I do not think that the "death" resulting
from
disobedience is fundamentally a physical death. In his book on
Genesis "In The
Beginning," Henri Blocher states: "In the bible, death is the reverse
of life -- it is not
  the reverse of existence. To die does not mean to cease to be, but
in biblical terms
  it means 'cut off from the land of the living,' henceforth unable
to act, and to enter
  another condition" (p. 171). However, Blocher does believes that
Adam would not have
  died physically if he had not sinned. I am not sure that I agree.
Jesus' references to
  "death' in his ministry rarely referred to physical death. But,
even if Adam was not
destined to die, there is no reason to presume that his physical
predecessors were
not subject to death. Whatever act of God was involved in making
Adam a fully spiritual
being capable of fellowship with Him, the new covenant relationship
may have provided
an eternal immortal existence for Adam had he not disobeyed.

I would also recommend the chapter in my edited volume "Perspectives
on an Evolving Creation" written by Robin Collins from Messiah
College. It is entitled "Evolution and Original Sin" and directly
addresses these issues.

All the best,

Keith

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Received on Thu Apr 24 18:39:08 2008

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