A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!


Uh-uh … Hohlenstein-Stadel is in Germany … But either way, Asia or Western Europe, it would be beyond the bounds of the Noah-centric flood story…

That was a joke. This statue is actually famous.

1 Like

Thanks GJDS for your interest in my work and your suggestions.
In order to discuss these coherently I would like to remember that I assume the following scenario for the Flood (see the thread “My theory about the Flood”):

  • Flood around 3000 BC.

  • 100,000 humans living near Noah in the Flood area. All of them were responsible to God’s law, capable of sinning, and “in need of Redemption”. And all perished in the Flood, except Noah and his family.

  • 14,000,000 humans living outside the flood area, spread all over the world, peopling even Australia and America. All these were neither responsible to God’s law, nor capable of sinning, nor in “need of Redemption”.

  • Immediately at the end of the Flood these 14,000,000 are endowed by God with free-will to become responsible to God’s law and capable of sinning.

If you accept this scenario, then it is obvious that a large part of these 14,000,000 new postdiluvian human persons (for instance those living in Australia and South America) could not have been “provided with an erroneous understanding of God” by Noah’s family (the only possible direct descendants from Adam and Eve). Consequently we have to accept that they have been generated as free-willed persons by God in the stage of “need of Redemption” (“stage of Original Sin”), immediately after the Flood.

If you don’t accept the scenario above, then please tell us which scenario you propose instead.

Thank you for your comment.

My suggestion initially focuses on understanding the teachings of Genesis regarding Adam and Eve. God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve in a particular manner (He created them male and female) and placed them in a setting that would have continued this special relationship. Once they were removed from that setting, they would continue with the knowledge of God, but also a separation from Him. This knowledge was made available to all who came in contact with Adam and Eve - but now also with the deceit they accepted from Satan (the snake). The Bible has many examples of prophets receiving words from God so they could admonish human populations (esp Israel), but the message was not accepted.

This to my outlook is profound and central to how we view human personhood and human attributes, and indeed human acts.

On the question of populations, this has been discussed at length, and whatever the particular opinions, modelling shows the current population can be shown to have grown from a recent common ancestor within the time frame that is indicated by artifacts, cave paintings and so on. In these settings we can detect a propensity to spiritual matters, although very different from Biblical teachings. It is possible to argue this is the result of deceit which has permeated humanity since Adam.

I think your comments may mean that large populations were removed from where Adam was located, so my guess is that you feel they could not have heard of God and deceit and separation from Adam. I understand that our verifiable knowledge of such ancient events would be very sketchy.

Regarding responsibility, and the Law, Paul speaks at length in Romans, and he even shows that when we become aware of the Law, we also realise that we have sinned - it is then we accept responsibility for our acts. God however, knows this for all time - so we are in need of redemption from the very beginning - we just realise this as individuals in our own time.

Genesis is certainly an account with deep theological meaning.
According to Genesis 3: 5, the temptation leading to the Fall seems to be the desire of “being like God”.

How do you relate this to your supposed “failure to grow beyond [Darwinian?] selfish instincts”?

The issue here is not how to interpret “the early chapters of Genesis” but “the pericopes of the New Testament referring to the early chapters of Genesis”, especially the words of Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27), and the Peter’s Epistles (2 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 3:20). And these imply that we cannot interpret the early chapters of Genesis “in a merely symbolic and allegorical way”. In particular: “the Flood story is an interpretation of an actual historical event retold in the rhetoric and theology of ancient Israel” [see BioLogos].

What happens is that Revelation is dynamic: the Revealed Truth contained in the Bible goes beyond the way how the materially written words (Scripture) can be understood at any particular epoch of human history. In this sense, today evolutionary science and quantum physics provide the “passwords” that allow us to decipher “encrypted” messages in the early Genesis narratives.

Dear George,

In my view the idea you are proposing is really serious and far reaching.

Here some first thoughts on my part:

Yes, I think this piece reveals sort of proto-religious awareness: Although much more evolved, it can be compared to ritual practices we are recently discovering in Chimps.

It does not reveal responsibility to God’s law and capability of sinning. It is rather a symbol for archaic religiosity, characteristic of humans which have not yet been endowed with free-will. I find very inspiring your idea that this could have been the kind of religious perception “of humanity beyond the realm of Noah’s flood”, in Germany but also in regions more far away like Australia and America.

Interestingly enough: In the perspective you propose, idolatry like in the episode of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32) could be interpreted as falling back into archaic proto-religious practices to evade responsibility to God’s law. Such a motivation might subconsciously determinate certain current atheistic beliefs as well.

I agree that transmission of Original Sin cannot be explained biologically.

However, Augustine’s view deserves closer attention.
It is well known that Augustine aimed to refute Pelagianism, a doctrine that overestimates the power of human will and considers humans capable of Salvation without the help of God’s Grace; according to Pelagius the bad influence of Adam on his descendants is that of bad example. Before Augustine the Church Father Irenaeus of Lyon had to struggle against Gnosticism, a doctrine that considers human nature completely depraved and human flesh inherently sinful; in this perspective human free-will becomes abolished in the end.

The scriptural basis for the teaching of “Original Sin” is: Psalm 51:7, John 3: 5, and St. Paul’s letters. On this basis the Greek Fathers with Irenaeus, and later Augustine basically highlighted two things:

  • All humans are in need of Redemption, even if they have not personally sinned.

  • Human will is really free and therefore the fact that each human person needs God’s Grace to be saved does not imply that each person has to sin.

For the sake of explanation Irenaeus coined the concept of “Original sin”. And Augustine elaborated further on it stating that Original Sin is transmitted by propagation and not by imitation (“bad example”).

Since at that time there was no ground to doubt the literal interpretation of the Genesis narrative that all humans are biologically descended from a single couple, Augustine’s explanation (“On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants-Book I”) became coupled to the biological reproduction and more recently to genetically transmission. In this line of thinking some awkward conclusion was derived, as for instance Thomas Aquinas’s claim that “if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would not contract original sin” (S.Th. I-II, q. 81, a.5).

So we have to distinguish four claims:

  • A): Each person is free NOT to sin.

  • B): The very fact of Redemption by Jesus Christ implies that each human person is generated in the stage of “being in need of Redemption through Jesus Christ’s Grace”.

  • C): The fact of “being in need of Redemption” (called “stage of Original Sin”) is caused by the first sin committed in human history.

  • D): The stage of “Original Sin” is linked to biological descent from a single couple.

A), B) and C) are the main assumptions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church (Greek Fathers, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas among others), and is the actual content of the Decree on Original Sin of the Council of Trent.

It is important to stress that the reason for C) is not that Augustine

C) is in fact a consequence of A) and B):
The stage of “being in need of Redemption” (“Original Sin”) can neither be explained by assuming that each person necessarily sins [against A)], nor through sins of other persons (ancestors or contemporaries) different from the first sin in human history.
The stage of “being in need of Redemption” cannot be explained invoking Adam’s “representation of mankind” either:

Such an explanation implies that if Adam (“God’s representative”) had not sinned and sin had arrived generations after Adam, humans would not have been in need of Redemption.

D) is an unhappy claim that actually is not implied by A), B), and C), and even Pope Pius XII claims that it has to be maintained only as far as one cannot explain A), B) and C) otherwise.

Evolution is teaching us that we have to give up D), and thereby is helping us to make better theology: We can maintain A), B) and C), and search for a suitable explanation. My proposal is that Romans 11:32 provides the key for achieving this.

After this discussion I would be thankful to know your position regarding the three Premises A), B) and C) above:
Do you accept or reject them?

As in other points your answer will surely help us to progress.

I see the nature of all flesh as coming short of the glory of God. Over the span of Evolution, hominids were already compromised.

The only thing that was left was achieving the threshold of Moral Agency. Whether it be awarded to the first qualified pair of hominids or it arrived as a natural consequence of God’s intentional evolution of the hominids.

Because of the imperfection of flesh and of the human mind, the arrival of moral agency automatically laid the foundation of the requirement for redemption.

As a Universalist, my basic presumption is that God will “checkmate” all humanity to sanctification, without violating human free will in any way.

In my mind, all these involved, erudite “explanations” of how ‘original sin’ is transmitted become unnecessary as soon as ‘original sin’ is replaced by ‘propensity to sin’, and that arises from the selfishness that is an intrinsic part the mechanism of evolution. The true selfishness that I refer to here cannot be applied to any creature that has no true sense of self. Thus the ‘programming’ of brain into Mind initiated self-consciousness, as well as conscience. It initiated morality and the possibility of moral sin. To be capable of sinning, one must possess the Homo sapiens brain which is potentially programmable into Mind. The Homo sapiens brain is inherited by biological reproduction, as noted by Ratzinger, but as far as we know (or believe), Jesus was the only human to have remained sinless.

Note: Some unorthodox Christians believe that Jesus’ truly human nature results from the fact that Joseph was his biological father, and that the story of his virginal birth was a much later addition to the NT to ‘compete’ with the virginal birth claims of many other famous persons (e.g. Alexander the Great). For those Christians, Jesus was born with the same propensity to sin as the rest of us, but, as noted in Mathew, Mark, & Luke, he was able to rise above the temptations that his evolved nature thrust upon him.
Al Leo

@AntoineSuarez as quotes by George @gbrooks9

A agree to some extent with A) Everyone is free not to sin, but also that everyone has a propensity to sin @aleo.

Sin is separation or alienation from God. We are separate from God since we are not God, but are limited, finite creatures. However we have the spiritual need to find our fulfillment, completion, perfection in God, as Augustine once said following Plato. The problem is that we much too often settle for something less than God as our object of worship and worship a false idol which results in sin.

Sin is relational. It is worshiping an idol made by God, but less than God. It is settling for a wrong Ultimate Concern. I am glad that Pope Benedict accepts the relational nature of sin, because it points to relational nature of humanity created in the Image of God and thus relational nature of God as Trinity.

B) The need for redemption by Jesus Christ means that sin is linked with humanity and not to nature. Redemption is being in right relationship to God. Nature and humanity were in right relationship with God until the Fall of Humanity or the first sin.

Sin is social and humans are social. Original Sin happened because humans uniquely have the ability to make conscious decisions, and they chose and continue to choose to worship things that are not God. That is most evident in our world today. We share this through our relational human social nature.

C) The need for Redemption is NOT caused by the Original Sin per se. The need to be in Christ is caused by our need to be in right relationship to God.

Gen 3 is like a chapter in a medical book which describes the disease of sin. It tells what it is and how it works in story form. What it does not include is its cure which is found only in Jesus Christ.

Antoine, I am in general agreement with the history of humankind that you present, but I believe that you, like so many others, have tried to give a primary role to the Flood Story. I believe it was a devastating but local event that has become a red herring in the efforts to reconstruct ancient history. I also believe, as you do, that God generated a relatively small number of free-willed persons out of a large population of Homo sapiens that roamed widely over the earth (how did you come up with the figure of 14 million?). Until such time as science finds an epigenetic mechanism for this, I like the analogy of a brain programmed to become Mind.

This Great Leap Forward occurred in Europe and the Mideast about 40K yrs ago, which appears to be much earlier than Homo sapiens are thought to have reached Australasia. My hypothesis, that modern humankind results from a ‘programming’ of brain into Mind, leads to the following speculations: 1) the GLF was "carried’ by later migrants and transmitted via language (perhaps not fully) to the earlier inhabitants; or 2) there was a second ‘programming’ of Homo sapiens brains in Australasia that left less cultural evidence (except for, perhaps, the Dream Time legends).

Today we tend to fault early explorers of Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego for questioning the true humanity of the aboriginal peoples they found there because of the crude culture they had developed. Darwin showed that three of these troubled spirits, York minster, Jemmy Button, Fuegia Basket, could adapt very quickly to modern English society. So, by that measure, they seemed to be ‘truly human’ and thus ‘in need of redemption’. However, when returned to their homeland, they quickly reverted to their previous way of life. Was that the work of the Devil?
Al Leo

Thanks George for this interesting clarification.

In the following I compare your explanation (please correct me if I misinterpret you) to my explanation:

Your explanation:
Shortness of God’s glory is inherent to Evolution and leads to flaws of flesh and mind (cruelty, deception, selfishness, illness, pain, catastrophes, etc.)
These evolutionary flaws contaminated automatically will and intellect of the “first qualified hominids” when they were endowed by God with Immortal Soul and became capable of Moral Agency.
Thereby these human persons “were necessarily in need of Redemption” from the very beginning of their existence.
Accordingly, “the requirement of Redemption” does not depend of a first sin on the part of the primeval humans with Immortal Soul.
If one defines (as I do) “Stage of Original Sin” = Stage of being in need of Redemption,
then your explanation amounts to state that there is “stage of Original Sin” even before the arrival of the first sin.

My explanation:
The glory of God shines in Evolution along with flaws of flesh and mind.
These flaws are planned by God for the sake of Redemption (see later).
When God endowed the “first qualified hominids” with Immortal Soul, He empowered their will and intellect in order they remain unaffected by evolutionary flaws of flesh and mind.
So these primeval humans capable of Moral Agency had unimpaired freedom of decision.
Nonetheless they preferred “to be like God despising Him”.
Instead of sending them to the “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), God mercifully decided to give them the possibility to repent. To this aim He decided that after the first sinners all new humans endowed with Immortal Soul come into existence in “the stage of need of Redemption” (according to Romans 11:32). And to further facilitate that human sinners are moved to repent, God permits they to be affected by the evolutionary flaws in flesh and mind, so that they realize “they are not like God”.

If this comparison is correct, it seems that we actually agree regarding “the stage of Original Sin” but disagree regarding “the stage of Original Grace”: Since you accept “the requirement of Redemption”, you accept “the stage of Original Sin” after all; however you don’t accept that this stage is the consequence of the loss of “the stage of Original Grace” through the first sin.

In summary, our explanations differ from each other only for the (possibly very short) period between the arrival of the first humans capable of Moral Agency and the arrival of the first sin they committed. As well for the time before this period, as for the time after it when “the need of Redemption through the grace by Jesus Christ” matters, our explanations are equivalent for all practical purposes.

Anyway, what I refer to as “Your explanation” above seems to me not only original but also more coherent than “Homo divinus” and “Relational damage”, and respects human free-will better than the explanation proposed by J. Richard Middleton. Accordingly it would be useful we go ahead discussing pros and cons of my assumption that the first humans endowed with Immortal Soul were also endowed with “Original Grace” by God.

The question of Universalism is certainly a very interesting one but, as far as I can see, it is not necessarily related to that of “Original Grace”. So I would like to suggest we discuss it separately afterwards.

In coming postings I will address the comments by Relates and aleo: I think they are also related to the question of “Original Grace” discussed here.


You will probably not agree with me about yet another point: I see Paul as a bit of a Gnostic! Gnostics consider imperfect flesh to be a kind of “prison of the soul” … and so, I do not find it strange to see the first humans as flawed simply for being mammals, rather than purely spiritual entities.

If we look at what Paul writes here:
Ephesians 6:12-13
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
[1] against principalities,
[2] against powers,
[3] against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
[4] against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

This list of principalities, powers and rulers of the darkness - - this is almost right out of a book of Egyptian metaphysics concerning pagan “Aeons” and “Emanations” that are in charge of the material world!

In fact, I would argue that even Adam and Eve had never been expelled from Eden, the two hominids in question were still in need of reconciliation with the Cosmic Divine.

It is almost universally believed that if Adam & Eve had been able to stay in Eden, it would have demonstrated their holy stature. But that’s just magical thinking! God makes it quite clear that immortality has nothing to do with being sin free.

After the couple touched the forbidden fruit, God was still so worried about them successfully living forever, that he had to put a flaming sword as a barrier. God does not equate the capacity for immortality - - immortality of the fleshly kind - - as equivalent to being holy.

Are you following what I mean here?

I would propose that God’s concern was in fact the necessity of morally educated humans of experiencing death of the flesh, or they would never be in a position to experience spiritual sanctification!

To follow this text by Paul:
Col 1:16
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
visible and invisible,
whether they be thrones,
or dominions,
or principalities,
or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him…"

Here’s some additional discussion about the gnostic viewpoint held by some of the early Christian “schools” - -

**Encyclopedias - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Aeon **

AEON [ e’-on ]
This word originally meant “duration,” “dispensation.” In the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle the word is Aion, from which this word is transliterated. In the Gnostic philosophy it has a special meaning and is there used to solve the problem of the world order.

In the infinite separation between God and the world, it was taught, there must of necessity be mediating powers. These powers are the eons and are the successive emanations from God from eternity. They are spiritual, existing as distinct entities.

. . . The idea of the eons in various forms may be found in nearly all oriental philosophy that attempted to deal with the problem of the world order. It appears in the writings of Philo . . .
[End Of Text]

More at this page:

PRINCIPALITY [ prin-si-pal’-i-ti ]

In the New Testament “principality” occurs for arche, “rule,” generally in the plural, referring
[a.] to men in authority (Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject (the King James Version; “in subjection,” the Revised Version (British and American)) to principalities (the King James Version; “rulers,” the Revised Version (British and American)), and powers” (the King James Version; “to authorities,” the Revised Version (British and American));

[b.] to superhuman agencies, angelic or demonic (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10,15). ****

“This dualism was objectified in Zoroastrianism, and among the Babylonians the several heavenly bodies were regarded as ruled by spirits, some good, some evil. The same belief, appropriated by the Jews during the captivity, appears also in Greek thought, as e.g. in Plato and later in the Stoics.”

“The higher spheres, which hold the even tenor of their way, were in general regarded as ruled by good spirits; but in the sublunar sphere [i.e. the world below the moon], to which the earth belongs, ill-regulated motions prevail, which must be due to evil spirits.”

Here the writer quibbles over what Paul intended by these words:
". . . While Paul clearly recognized a hierarchy of such powers (Colossians 1:16, “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”), it is not certain that he had elaborated a system of eons to serve the purposes of metaphysical theology and ethics, such as appears among the Gnostics, although they evidently believed they were developing his thought."

"In 1 Corinthians 2:6 he repudiates the wisdom of this world (aion) and of the rulers of this world aion), and declares (Ephesians 6:12) that the Paul was keenly sensible of the dualism of mind and body . . . "

". . . (Romans 7:14).Christian[s] [have] to contend with “the world-rulers of this darkness,” and proclaims the triumph of Christ over “the principalities and the powers” in the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 2:15). "

“The same personification of such agencies or powers appears also in another passage, where the rendering of English Versions of the Bible obscures it (Ephesians 1:20,21 “when he raised him (Christ) from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all (read “every”) rule . . . and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world (aion), but also in that which is to come”).”

"Not the least interesting passage is Ephesians 3:10, where the church is said to be the means of revealing to “the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places” “the manifold wisdom of God.”

“One naturally inquires what was the purpose of this revelation. Was it to effect a redemption and reconciliation of these demonic powers to God? To this question Paul supplies no answer.”
[End of Text]

I beg to disagree. The human body, mind, and spirit do not have flaws, but they do have limits, even the best of them.

We are limited, finite beings, therefore we are born and we die. We are flawed because of this, but we are flawed, that is sinful when we pretend that we are not limited, when we pretend that we are God, Who never makes mistakes and needs to say I’m sorry.

We modern folk seem to think that suffering is evil. Jesus knew better. He knew that He needed to suffer and die for others and this is good. We are called to do likewise. He used the suffering of the mother in child birth as an example of good suffering.

Because humans are limited we must work together for the common good. That is right except that many fail to do this. Because our minds are limited we must study and share information with others, which is good, except when we try to cheat. Because our spirits are limited we must love and be loved, except that many fail or do not know how to love.

The limits on our existence give us the reality of freedom of choice. Our mortality means that we are born into a family and community and have the ability to create our own family and community. These ate not flaws, but opportunities to fulfill our potential as those created in the Image of God.

Adam and Eve changed history when they choose selfishly to be like God and not be with and for God. They blamed others, failed to admit this failure, and fix the problem.


Roger, I don’t know anyone who would agree with you on that …


I understand that you and most people probably do not agree with me, so I took the time to explain why I take this position. Please read and criticize as needed.

If you think that limits are flaws, then you need to explain how a world of unlimited humans would function.


Ah… marvelous debate-jitsu !!!

You are characterizing humanity in a way that favors your analysis.

I see the “flaws” of Humanity as having very little to do with limits. Humans and many apes can no longer create their own vitamin C. Is this a limit? I suppose it is technically speaking. But of course, we can get vitamin C in other ways.

The emotionality of humanity is a terrible flaw … but we live with it and offer apologia for how sweet the good emotions are.

Would you use the term “limitations” to describe human greed, corruption and avarice? I would say these behaviors are limit-less !!!

Thank you for the response.

I hope that if you read my whole statement you would understand why we act selfishly.

We do because we act out of fear of our limits, rather than faith in God.

We act selfishly because we do not accept our limits, so our wants and emotions of fear are limitless.

P.S. this is not a fight or debate. If one rejects one alternative as false, one needs to show how another is true. That is what I have done. I am just asking you to do the same.

“Explanations” of “how ‘original sin’ is transmitted” aim actually to explain how “the stage of original sin” is transmitted.

If one assumes, as I do, that “the stage of original sin” means nothing other than “the stage of being in need of Redemption”, then my explanation works as follows:

The first creatures endowed by God with free will and moral sin (say Adam and Eve) were also endowed with Original Grace and had spiritual power to master the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution. In this “stage of Original Grace” Adam and Eve had no propensity to sin: Their sin (the Fall) was not prompted by the selfishness intrinsic to evolution but was a pure spiritual sin coming from pride, the delusion of wanting “to be like God despising Him”.

After the Fall (the first sin in human history) Adam and Eve lost the stage of Original Grace and fell into “the stage of need of Redemption” (“stage of Original Sin”) along with “propensity to sin”.
After the Fall, all new human persons come into existence lacking Original Grace, that is in “stage of Original Sin” with “propensity to sin”.

According to my explanation “the stage of being in need of Redemption” is caused by the first sin in human history and is possible thanks God’s mercy; and “Transmission of Original Sin” means transmission of the “lack of Original Grace”, and as a consequence transmission of “propensity to sin”.

If I understand well (please correct me otherwise) your explanation works as follows:

The first creatures endowed by God with free will and moral sin (say Adam and Eve) were NOT endowed with Original Grace and could NOT master the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution. Thereby Adam and Eve were in “the stage of need of Redemption”, that is in “stage of Original Sin”, and have a propensity to sin since the very first moment of their existence.

In this case “the stage of being in need of Redemption” (or “stage of original sin”) does not originate from any human sin committed before, but is caused entirely by God. And since there never was “a stage of Original Grace”, Original Grace never went lost. In other words as well Adam and Eve as the human persons coming into existence after them (Adam and Eve) are all created by God in the very same “stage of being in need of Redemption”, and hence there is no transmission of “lack of Original Grace”.

So, if I interpret you correctly, your explanation is basically the same that George proposes.

In summary, it seems that we are primarily debating not the question of “how Original Sin is transmitted” but rather whether Adam and Eve were created or not in the stage of “Original Grace” with perfect mastery of the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution.

1 Like

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.