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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Fri Apr 25 2008 - 14:10:40 EDT

I think there is a jump here that is not warranted. First, we are in a
space-time continuum, but that does not mean that space and time are not
distinct. Time's dimension is imaginary in relativity theory. That spirit
is not in our space-time does not mean that it is timeless, for the
evidence is that it changes, which implies time. It also appears that
angels, ministering spirits, can act in time and space, though I have no
explanation of how. As to God, I would note that "transcends" is not
adequate, for he is outside of time and space. This is so much outside of
human experience that we have no vocabulary to deal with this apart from
negation. I consider this part of the reason why God is "described" as

As to Pinnock, what little I have read of him seems to me totally
misguided, for his view places God within time though he seems not to
realize it.
Dave (ASA)

On Fri, 25 Apr 2008 01:15:22 -0400 writes:

1. Theologians say that a spirit is something that has no extension in
space, right? When they say this, "space" refers to the ordinary space
of our physical universe.

2. If that's true, then (a la physics, because space and time are not
distinct), a spirit must also have no extension in time. That's not too
hard to accept: God transcends space and He transcends time, too, right?

3. Well, here's the rub. If humans have a spirit, which most
evangelical and reformed theologians believe (Catholics, too?), then that
means there is a part of us that has no extension in space **or time**.
If that's not true, then you and I don't really have spirits, or else
theologians must be wrong and indeed spirits have extension in space, or
else physics is wrong! But we don't believe any of that. So let's get
used to the idea that some part of humanity has no extension in time.

4. But these arguments about Adam commonly make the mistake in assuming
humanity is entirely extended in time. Consider how Pinnock assumes

"For if Adam is simply which stands for the truth about every person who
ever lived, **from the very beginning of that person's life,** what does
that mean? That means that sin is simply a part of what it means to be
human!" (emphasis mine)

He thinks that we have comprehensively examined a man when we look all
the way back through time to his beginning in time. Thus, he assumes the
entirety of humanity is extended in time. But on the contrary, if Adam
stands for the truth about every person who ever lived, including men's
spiritual aspect, which transcends time, then even when we look all the
way back to the beginning of their lives we have not seen every part of
them. There is the part of us beyond time that we have not looked at.
It is therefore possible that the fallenness we see in this universe is
not inherent to what it means to be human. The sin in the garden needn't
represent a temporal event to have theological meaning.

I suspect the problem with our theology around Adam is resolved by
considering this bigger picture of humanity including our spirits that
are not extended in spacetime. Adam as a "saga" or "myth" presents
mankind in a garden as if he were simply inside spacetime. But if the
true nature of mankind's Fall as a spiritual event is not extended in
spacetime, then it well may be impossible for us to comprehend it from
our view within spacetime. Only a story like that of Adam could possibly
communicate its theological truths to us. So I don't think the story of
Adam has any shortcomings, regardless what we may learn from science.

You may recall I've tried to communicate this general idea on this list
before by appealing to the "Augustinian" idea that mankind is "in Adam"
in a some kind of way that implies a spatially non-extended connection.
Hopefully I did a better job explaining the idea this go-round.

By the way, this was C.S. Lewis's view of mankind. He believes our
choice to sin or be saved is ultimately a spiritual decision from outside
time that we see played out as a projection onto the chessboard of
spacetime. He wrote that Time is the backwards telescope that narrows
the view so that we can see ourselves as the free moral agents that we
truly are. If we saw ourselves outside Time, we would not have such a
clear view of our own free moral agency.


-----Original Message-----
From: George Murphy <>
To: David Opderbeck <>; asa <>
Sent: Thu, 24 Apr 2008 1:10 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

There's a good deal of truth in what Pinnock says. However -

1) Scripture itself does not use the language of "fall" in connection
with the 1st human sin & we need not be tied either to that language or
(more importantly) to the image it conveys of an abrupt transition from a
"state of integrity" to depravity.

2) What I think a realistic picture of evolution will not let us do is
hold on to the idea of a "state of integrity" in the classical sense.

3) A more realistic picture is not that of "fall" but of the start of a
process of getting off the right track - i.e., the kind of historical
development God wanted. That process did start at the beginning of human
history & in that sense is "historical."

4) Gen.3 & other texts (Rom.5 &c) are theological statements about that
start but are not historical accounts of it.

5) The really essential; thing to maintain is the seriousness of our
"sin of origin," which is why reading Gen.3 as the story of
"everyman/woman" is necessary, though it doesn't exhaust the meaning of
that text.

6) At which I will again refer to my PSCF article at .

----- Original Message -----
From: David Opderbeck
To: asa
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 12:34 PM
Subject: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

Here is an article by a prof at Westminster Seminary California that I
think lays out the theological dilemma of accepting human evolution:

The author is right, isn't he, that one must either reject human
evolution and accept a traditional understanding of the fall, or accept
human evolution and accept a neoorthodox understanding of the fall? Much
as I've tried to find middle ground, I don't see it.

Clark Pinnock makes an effort towards such a middle ground in a
fascinating book that presages what has become known as the
"postconservative" movement in evangelicalism. Pinnock tries to take the
best of neoorthdoxy without compromising classical orthodoxy. Here is
what he says about the fall:

... it is important to interpret the Fall into sin as an event not a
myth. I do not mean that is an event witnessed and described for us by
those who were there. I recognize in the literary depiction of it a
mythical dimension. Nevertheless, it is important to see tha the Fall
maks the point in history when humankind turned aside from God and God's
purposes. It is more than a quant story of Everyman. "It is teh name
for that point in world history when, with human freedom already becoming
a reality, man began to act in a way disruptive of the historical
process, working against God's purposes for him and for the world and
thus acting in a manner destructive of his own being and welfare." The
actual event may not have been something that happened to a couple in a
garden just as described -- it may have happened in another way over a
period of generations perhaps. But it is important that the Fall into
sin predates history as we kno w it and determines its sinful character.
History has been spoiled and turned around. Salvation is not being
delivered from history; it is being delivered in and with it. In a
strong statement, . . . 'to regard the fall as myth rather than in some
sense genuine history shatters both the consistency and the meaning of
the Christian faith." (Pinnock, Tracking the Maze, at p. 195).

 Something about Pinnock's effort here is just not satisfying. So if you
accept human evolution, is your view of the fall historical or
neoorthodox? If it's historical, how does it square with your acceptance
of evolutionary science? If it's neoorthodox, how does it square with
scripture's emphasis on the effects of Adam's sin?

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Received on Fri Apr 25 14:35:22 2008

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