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

(Albert Leo) #261

Antoine, from all our past discussions, it seems to me that you must be one of the more recent moderate voices from the Vatican that really would like to reconcile Catholic Faith with evolution, BUT the current powers in control are still the intrenched Fundamentalists. They evidently still want the average Catholic (not trained in philosophy) to believe that Adam was a single human being, created sinless and destined to remain that way if not operated upon by outside forces to rebel. This is how I interpret the passage from Humani Generis (#37) which, I presume, still remains operative in the current Catholic catechism:
.the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” .

I am certainly not going to live long enough to see your views taught to youngsters in first grade in St. George parochial school. In the meantime, I wish you the good Lord’s blessings in your work
Al Leo

(GJDS) #262

The capacity for sin is not under discussion and (I am not attributing this to you), if we go down the road of some type of capacity, or necessity, for sin, to enable grace to be given, we may go into the danger of saying let us sin so grace may abound - something totally condemned in the Gospel.

What I am saying is the setting and occasion of Adam and Eve, and the garden, removes the complexity of theodicy that often confounds us. There was no mechanism of capacity for sin intrinsic to Adam, nor an ecological setting that led to sin. They were asked to choose, and instead of listening to God, they listened to a “talking snake”.

Redemption is offered by the Grace of God, but we are always admonished to avoid sinning - thus the necessity of the Law. Paul shows a distinction between those who are taught the Law, and those who are not. The subject is lengthy and I prefer to end the discussion at this point.

(Antoine Suarez) #263


On my turn I think that this Eastern Orthodox teaching you refer to could be paraphrased with the two following points:

  • Before Adam and Eve sinned, they did not need Redemption.

  • Once Adam and Eve sinned, all humanity needs Redemption.

Do you agree?

(George Brooks) #264


I commend you for devising 2 concise questions that get to the heart of the matter for me … and that can distinguish between you and I.

I have to say, I don’t think the grammar of “Before Adam and Eve sinned, they did not need Redemption” is quite how I would say it. And what I would design to replace your first sentence probably won’t be viewed as a trivial difference by you (or by YECs).

I think that sentence should read:

“Before Adam and Eve sinned, God knew all humanity would need Redemption.”

To this sentence, I would add a few more - - not because they are so necessary to have, but to clarify what I mean with my new wording:

Clarification 1: “If Adam and Eve had not sinned with the Tree of Good/Evil, they would have sinned with something else.”

Clarification 2: "Adam and Eve didn’t break humanity by sinning; they demonstrated the moral frailty of humanity.

Clarification 3: “These considerations would be consistent with the mild form of gnosticism that even Paul himself acknolwedges in his understanding of the Gospel and the Early Church. All creation comes short of the glory of God.”

(Albert Leo) #265

IMHO the sections I have highlighted in your clarifications 2 & 3 point to the ‘mischief’ that has been handed down by the improper interpretation of the word, ‘Good’, in the creation story told in Genesis. We use the human criteria of what is Good and assume that is how the Creator judges it as well. Long before the dawn of monotheism, humans struggled with the problems of earthly existence: predation, drought, storms, volcanic eruptions, disease, etc. They had the choice of believing that their gods were more powerful than themselves but had human failings; OR that there was one God who was all powerful and, hopefully, all good. Being all good, then logically whatever He made must be equally good–again in what seems good to humans.

An alternate line of reasoning could be followed wherein God was NOT all good, and so must be held ultimately responsible for the ‘evil’ we see in the natural world. This reasoning took many forms, usually referred to as Gnosticism or Manichaeism. There seems to be a variety of world views possible under these headings, and, before they were declared blasphemous, they made some impact on early Christianity. Even though some of the Gnostic views seemingly had some merit, both (especially Manichaeism) were decidedly pessimistic.

I have often wondered if my view (following Chardin’s lead) of using evolutionary theory to replace Original Sin with Original Blessing might be the mild gnosticism that @gbrooks9 referred to, and that might be the basis for Chardin’s works being banned so long by the Catholic church. If so, then I think it important to point out that IMHO it is more optimistic than fundamentalist views of Christianity. If Paul says “all creation comes short of the glory of God” perhaps he sensed that God was inviting us humans to take a part in ongoing creation. It is unrealistic that humans will totally eliminate the perceived ‘evils’ listed above–e.g. animal predation, or disease–but we ought to try to ameliorate their unwanted effects.
Your opinion, @AntoineSuarez ?
Al Leo

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #266


Antoine and Al,

This is my relational take on the First Sin. It revolves around faith as found in Paul’s writings.

Before the Fall Adam and Eve has faith in God in that they did not eat from the Tree, however this faith was in a sense passive, because it was not tested. When it was tested by the words of the serpent, who of course represent Satan, the Accuser, their faith gave way and the trusted the words of the serpent, rather than the Word of God.

The story in Gen 3 represents real events, but it presented in such away that reveals the spiritual and psychological realities behind these events. The truth of the event/story is based primarily in the truth of these spiritual and psychological realities.

As indicated above, initially the First Humans (humans in terms of mind and spirit, not just genetically) were in harmony or right relationship with God (YHWH.) In this they were like God’s other creatures, but YHWH gave them one directive to guide their actions, not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They accepted this so they did know rationally the difference between Good and Evil, but since there was no sin, they did not know evil existentially.

When they moved from faith to distrust of God, and ate of the Fruit, they knew sin existentially. and felt shame and fear. They became separated from God and each other. Fear begets fear and they refused to acknowledge their responsibility for their sin and blamed others and indirectly YHWH. Through their estrangement from God they became estranged from nature, etc.

Humans are cr4eated in the Image of God, which makes it possible for us to sin and may be inevitable, but it is the same things that make it possible for humans to sin, that make it possible for them to be saved. They are relational beings, created in the Image of God as body, mind, and spirit, complex/one being who can recognize our sin, understand our need to change, and throw ourselves at the mercy of God. We cannot save ourselves, but we can be saved by the grace of God through faith.

(George Brooks) #267

I don’t see how anyone who supports an Evolutionary approach thinks anything “changed” in Adam, from when he had not yet sinned and after he had sinned.

His capability to do sin had not changed… it was always there. At some point, he acquires a “moral intelligence” so that he can suffer sinfulness… and that’s the only change.

People play word game schema with Adam needing atonement after but not before he sinned . . . but imply that this is some dramatic change in his state of being.

It is no more different than having a nice sweet toddler, that all of a sudden starts doing mean things to baby! It’s a change. It’s an upsetting change. But it doesn’t really change things for the toddler.

Or… if we move the time frame to puberty. We have a nice sweet kid … a 10 or 11 year old… and a few years later he or she is saying mean things about classmates, and knocking books out of their arms. That’s the same kind of change. And it’s disappointing.

Of course, not everyone goes through exactly these same steps. But we are talking about those who have children that have gone through these stages.

(Antoine Suarez) #268

The complete passage from Humani generis you quote is as follows:

“Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion [polygenism] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]”

So, on the one hand Pope Pius XII summarizes here the teaching of the Church about original sin referring to Romans 5:12-19 and the Council of Trent in Reference [12].

And on the other hand the Pope states that “it is in no way apparent” how this teaching of the Church can be reconciled with the opinion of “polygenism”, that is, the claim that “after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.”

This text does not close the door to the possibility that the teaching of the Church can be reconciled with “polygenism”. What is more, Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) noted as early as 1964: “With this text a door is in principle quite clearly opened”. As a matter of fact, after Humani generis neither a Pope nor the current Catechism of the Catholic Church has advocated that humanity is genetically or genealogically descended from a single individual.

So let us then look at what Humani generis, referring to the Council of Trent, declares to be the Teaching of the Church. In fact it is the same as you and I acknowledge when we state that:

  • Before the first humans sinned, they did not need Redemption.

  • Once the first humans sinned, all humanity needs Redemption.

And this amounts to stating that:

Anyone’s sin would have produced the stage of original sin, if this sin had been the first sin in human history, i.e.: if the sinner had been the first human sinner and the sinner’s sin his/her first sin.

This is in my view the very thrust of the Decree Concerning Original Sin of the Council of Trent, and the teaching of Humani generis as well.

(Albert Leo) #269

Let’s be practical, Antoine. As a well educated scholar, you (and hopefully a few others in the Vatican) can hold out hope that eventually the Church will fully embrace the concept of Original Blessing–that humans enter this world, not cursed with Sin, but blessed with a potential to become co-creators with God. It would be hard to deny that Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant branches, embraced the 'cursed version’ of humanity since Augustine won the debate and all of Pelagianism was declared heresy. Admittedly, it is easier to explain Christ’s sacrifice as necessary to remove this ‘curse’, but does that make it the truest explanation?

I am heartened that a scholar of your standing can accept a theology that emphasizes God’s blessing, rather than cursing, humanity. Isn’t it time that we preach this to the ‘people in the pews’ (PIP)?
Al Leo

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #270

As you note only Western Christianity teaches the curse of Adam and I do not see that we are worse off then Eastern Christianity and Islam. I do not see the curse is the problem, Sin is the problem.

If you want to teach the blessing of Adam, then you need to teach humans created in the Image of God. Sin is a poison that destroys millions that must be recognized as it is often is not. Jesus gave us the antidote of forgiveness (forgive us as we forgive others) that humans fail to use be3cause we think we do not have to or don’t want to.

(Antoine Suarez) #271

I agree with you as far as one accepts that Adam and Eve were free NOT to sin.

And this means that the scenario where Adam and Eve do not sin was also possible from God’s perspective.

Accordingly in God’s mind there are two possible parallel human histories:

  • One where Adam and Eve sin.

  • The other where Adam and Eve do not sin.

By sinning Adam and Eve chose to be in the first history. For this history God foresaw that “all humanity would need Redemption” (as you rightly say), and was ready to redeem.

From God’s perspective the two histories are equivalent: In either case God’s aim for creation is reached, although through different paths. And this aim is what matters in God’s eternal knowledge, and also what humans will know forever when they enter eternal life in God.

(George Brooks) #272

@No, @AntoineSuarez, that just doesn’t make any sense to me.

God knew that Adam & Eve would not be able to avoid some sin, somewhere, somehow.

It was inevitable. The question was always what sin would they be guilty of?..

And that’s under the best of circumstances. It is probably more correct to say that because sin was inevitable for Adam & Eve, god arranged for the most likely sin to be the one that involved the Tree of Good/Evil.

(Antoine Suarez) #273

This amounts to say that God programmed Adam & Eve to sin in some way and to be redeemed after they sinned.

But then it would have been wiser that Got programmed Adam & Eve to avoid any sin and put them directly in heaven without need of Redemption.

So the assumption that God only "knew that Adam and Eve would sin” seems to bear an absurdity, and it may be useful to explore my proposal more in detail.

I would be thankful to know the reason why you claim:

(George Brooks) #274


When you make an invention, does the fact it has any limitations at all mean you have programmed the invention to be limited?

To make the comparison more apt, let’s say the invention is a financial spreadsheet, which I know a great deal about making. I can make a file that collects thousands of data points and then gives you various important conclusions and proposals.

Or, I can make several spreadsheets that are intentionally limited in their goals and scope. Am I programming the file to be limited? No. I just don’t feel the additional scope and features are necessary.

When God makes his creation of the natural world, does the fact that he doesn’t make the natural world exactly like Heaven’s “nature” - - is he programming it? Or is that the ordinary result of what happens when a divine being creates something that is not divine?

(Antoine Suarez) #275

If I understand well you advocate that:

God created humans in a stage where they all had to sin, and redeems them after they sin to bring all of them to Heaven.

In my view this would have been nonsensical on the part of God because:

He could have reached the same aim by creating humans directly in the stage of the saints in heaven, that is, as limited human creatures who nevertheless do not sin.

To escape this oddity we can’t help accepting that even if Adam & Eve are “not divine” they were created by God in a stage where they were able to avoid sinning, i.e.: we have to reject that “it was inevitable” for them to sin.

But accepting this means that:

the history where Adam & Eve do not sin is also possible for God and therefore is also contained in His mind.

So, I am very interested to know the reason why you think that this conclusion “doesn’t make any sense to [you]”.

Thanks in advance.


First A&E had to be created capable of sinning. So the question is then why did they sin. We don’t have a lot of information in Genesis but I think as long as A&E had kept their trust in God, even if they had stumbled along the way, He would have maintained His presence with them in the garden. Just as we are offered forgiveness for our sins when we confess (trust in God). The fall, if you want to call it that, came when A&E no longer trusted God but trusted the nachash, or serpent. The question becomes why does it appear that humans always choose to not trust God? The animal side of our nature is the result of our evolutionary background, but we also have a spiritual side that comes from God. And the two sides are not happy with each other.

(George Brooks) #277


I think part of the problem is you reducing my position down to the phrase God created humans “where they all had to sin”.

I would think you already have the position that God knew that Adam and Eve would sin. And yet he created them just as He did anyway. For God to do this, there must be something necessary about making Humans the way they were made.

You no doubt hold to the view that God made divine persons (i.e. angels) that had free will like humans, and he knew THEY were capable of sinning as well, and that some definitely would even while human society was still in its infancy!

The problem is not that God made humans so that they had to sin - - the crux of the matter is that God had to create a natural world that fell short of the glory of the Divine. Why did he do that? I don’t think we will ever know the answer to that before we arrive in God’s presence (maybe not even then!).

You think “making humans that had to sin” sounds silly. And I think God making souls already guilty of sin committed by an ancestor is also silly. And I have millions of Eastern Orthodox Christians who have agreed with me for at least 15 centuries!

This is why I am a New England-style Unitarian Universalist. At least in my system, governed by the Grand Chess Master metaphor, everyone will eventually make the correct choices.

(Antoine Suarez) #278


You magnificently express what I also think:

A&E were created capable of sinning but also capable of avoiding sin: their “spiritual side” was not possessed neither by the “nachash” nor the “evolutionary background”, but remained free to trust God.

In my view this means that we cannot simply state:

“God knew that A&E would not be able to avoid sin”.

But we have to accept as well that the alternative story (A&E do not sin) is also a content of God’s knowledge. In other words, in God’s mind there are two parallel histories:

I. The one with sin.

II. The other without sin.

By sinning A&E freely chose to be in the first history, the history where we also are. Eventually other humans of the first community may have chosen not to sin.

From God’s perspective both histories I and II are equivalent: God’s aim for the creation is reached anyway, although through a different way.

If what I say is true, then the Multiverse hypothesis far from supporting atheism rather allows us to better understand the question of predestination, grace and free will (see Nature).

(Albert Leo) #279

Bill, am I the only one that sees these two quotes of yours as slightly contradictory with respect to timing? I accept the evidence that A&E marks the time when one or more Homo sapiens brains were (rather suddenly) transformed into minds that could comprehend that they were the products of a Creator but significantly different from the other animals that surrounded them. At that point in time they could NOT have had a trust in God to lose and thus fall from his grace. It took thousands of years and many generations before the ‘newly minted’ humankind could conceive of there being only One God who was responsible for all they witnessed on earth–and that One God wished to convanent with humankind, asking them to be co-creators with Him.

But as you note (as St. Paul did two millennia ago) our two natures–animal and spiritual–are at odds with each other. We want to heed God’s call to rise above our evolved animal roots, but we often fail, and by doing so, we often sin. It was not inevitable that humankind (as Homo sapiens sapiens) would sin, but, as Christians, we believe that Jesus was the only one to have avoided it. His life on earth shows us that we too can die (figuratively) to our selfish, animal natures, to be born again into a spiritual life which is our ultimate destination.

At least it makes sense to me, Bill, and it seems very close to what you have expressed.
Al Leo


We have always seemed to be very close in the way we view A&E.

I guess I should have said the point of the story was A&E placed their trust in the serpent. The story doesn’t give us all of the details we need to have a clear chronology of exactly what happened when. But then we don’t really need to know all of the details.