''Tis the season of pre-authorizations.
Here Irenaeus’ comments:
“The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death.”
“[…] And that this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God”.
In my view this teaching of Irenaeus, although it does not explicitly mention Infants Baptism, clearly lays the groundwork for this practice:
If infants “are born in sinfulness”, and Baptism means “new birth unto God” and “seal of eternal life”, then Christians should baptize their children.
This is exactly what the Orthodox Christian resource I quoted in a previous post states:
Nothing shows the nature of God’s grace more than infant baptism.
I fully agree to this.
I fully agree to this too:
“Original Sin” does not mean “born with sin ”, otherwise infants died without Baptism would go to hell, what is contrary to the teaching of the Church of all times: Fathers (in particular Augustine), Councils, and Popes.
“Original Sin” means “born lacking Original Grace”, that is: born “with strong propensity to sin” derived from strong selfish evolutionary mechanisms.
In any case Evolution is helping us to unravel the deep meaning hidden in Genesis passages that were not properly understood before.
In this respect the relationship between the Image of God and the Incarnation of God seems paramount to me.
I will be pleased receiving your comments. Let me highlight especially the following two Irenaeus’ quotes:
He prepared him a place better than this world, excelling in air, beauty, light, food, plants, fruit, water, and all other necessaries of life, and its name is Paradise . And so fair and good was this Paradise, that the Word of God continually resorted thither, and walked and talked with the man, figuring beforehand the things that should be in the future, (namely) that He should dwell with him and talk with him, and should be with men, teaching them righteousness.
And Adam and Eve—for that is the name of the woman—were naked, and were not ashamed; for there was in them an innocent and childlike mind, and it was not possible for them to conceive and understand anything of that which by wickedness through lusts and shameful desires is born in the soul.
As we see, Irenaeus endorses the view that God created humans in a state of Original Grace.
Why is this so important?
Suppose God had created humans delivered to the selfish Darwinian tendencies, that is, with strong propensity to sin. This amount to say that God created humans in the state of “need of Redemption”.
On the other hand, as Christians we acknowledge that God decided to send his Son to redeem humans from the state of submission to evolutionary selfishness by dying on the Cross.
Such a God looks like a “capricious God”, who creates humans in state of need of Redemption for the sake of redeeming them.
Irenaeus proposal is a different one:
God created the first humans humans in state of Original Grace.
These first humans (or some of them) sinned against God because they freely decide to reject God’s help.
God wants to redeem the sinners.
To this aim, after the first sin, God creates all humans in the state of need of Redemption.
The cause of this state is obviously the first human sin.
But this state is possible because of God’s redemptive will.
So the state of “need of Redemption” is “God’s happy invention” to give sinners time to atone.
Thank you for your note. I am sorry for the delay. Things did get a bit easier toward Thursday, but I still worked on some extracurricular activities and have been sleeping more because of a virus (on hte mend now!)
I am still puzzled. Why would God transmit a need for redemption to Adam and Eve’s descendants (or contemporaries)?
In Ezekiel, God says pretty clearly that parents would not eat sour grapes and set their children’s teeth on edge (18:2). While that is set in the land of Israel, it still is reasonable not to transmit a lost sense to descendants. It’s not a “felix culpa,” to my understanding.
Regarding the quotes from Irenaeus above, thank you. I have not read much till now.
From what I understand, there is genetic evidence that we are not likely to be genetic descendants (genealogical is possible, but still makes the ethics of moral transmission more unreasonable–for example, why would be consider a descendant of both Black slaves and White slaveowners to bear guilt for slavery? Genetic fallacy seems to be an operating word here). So, Irenaeus and I are operating from different paradigms.
I certainly would see, from being a father, that it is a joy to teach my children as they grow. There is nothing evil about immaturity. We are in a Sunday School class by Dennis Rainey called “The Art of Parenting,” and a good portion of the last session reminded us that a good portion of children’s behavior is simply being immature–crying, throwing tantrums, being imperfect–and does not require punishment. The leaders point out the nature of punishment, even when given, is corrective, not vindictive–followed by reminders (a hug, a vocalized reassurance) that we love them.
Many evangelicals point out that even one sin (which we sometimes mix up with imperfections) is not tolerated by a holy God–and thus, those that commit even one should be justly condemned to Hell for eternity. Yet, God is reputed to have transmitted that imperfection (and inability to avoid sin–for who has ever done so?) to every descendant of Adam.
Perhaps that is the difference between what you are saying (with Irenaeus) and the fundamentalists–that God recognizes the imperfections that we need to learn to leave behind, and that He works with us as a father does. In that case, the threat of eternal conscious torment from one failting seems much less.
If we consider evolutionary tendencies as “imperfections,” then if we have no choice over them, they are not sins–as undesirable as they are. --Or, at least, that’s the understanding I have.
In musing through this, I realize that I don’t know where sin and imperfections part. I don’t even know that we can prove we have free choice (whatever that is–for none of what we choose is done in a vacuum). The impression of responsibility and free choice is a very adaptive delusion, if that is indeed what it is. It seems, however, that in order for society to march on, we have to work with that axiom–that we understand at least some things, and can take enough responsibility to choose and bear consequences.
In doing so, we can at least recognize mitigating circumstances–the evolutionary tendencies that we all have. I should say that I have faith that we have responsibility and something that implies choice–but I don’t know where that is.
In regard to responsibility and repentance, I do appreciate the Catholic Church’s recognition, from what I understand, that God deals with us based on our knowledge and its limitations. That is in stark contrast to some sermons I have heard recently. Could you comment on that aspect, as well?
Regarding baptism–irenaeus does have a different position on this from my understanding. It was my understanding that baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change–though in my case, it was more of a commitment, because I could not say that there was any sort of miraculous change. It demonstrated my commitment to God through Christ, and symbolized the dying to sin. We had it at my church when I was 33 (there’s a long story behind why I was not baptized before, but I grew up on a mission field where that was not emphasized a great deal; my father had grown up, but no longer adhered to, strict “ultradispensationalism,” which said that baptism was for the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth only; but my parents left it up to us to decide when to be baptized).
In this point I fully agree with you. Ezekiel 18 is quite clear:
The sin of the parents is not transmitted to their children.
Notice that this is totally acknowledged by the traditional Christian teaching about “Original Sin” as well. Otherwise we would have been taught that infants who die after birth are damned to go to hell, something the Church Fathers never have claimed.
So the transmitted “Original sin” does not mean a “sin” I am accountable for like I am accountable for a transgression I personally do. It rather means a state of “lack of Grace” and therefore “strong propensity to sin”. Such a state means also “to be in need of Redemption”: You need Jesus Christ’s Grace in order to “growth” and reach the maturity necessary to enter eternal life.
Ezekiel 18 states:
23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
30 … I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Even after sin, God wants the sinner to repent. But this requires the sinner acknowledges himself as a sinner and asks for forgiveness.
Genesis 3 eloquently shows how difficult this is: Everyone refuses to acknowledge him/herself as responsible for the evil, and tries to pass the blame to the others.
If God had permitted that people on earth may think to be righteous, he would have provoked that everyone thinks to be unimpeachable, and stimulated the sinners to not repent, in contradiction with God’s declared redemptive will. For this reason:
God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:32).
This explains why the “state of need of Redemption” (unsuitably called “Original sin”) is really a “felix culpa” , a “happy invention” of God.
Randy, I will comment with pleasure.
But to do it suitably, I would be thankful to know what was asserted in “some sermons” you “have recently heard”.
Thank you for your note. I am sorry–I realized that I was rather critical of brothers in Christ in my note; I should re phrase that. I mainly want to say that I appreciate the Catholic Church’s attention to justice.
There is a good discussion between Randal Rauser and the Catholic apologist, Trent Horn, about that here, that reminds me of that. I appreciate your thoughts.
In my view Baptism is not supposed to produce a detectable “miraculous change”. We believe that Baptism is “ the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God”, because of Jesus Words, as Irenaeus states:
“His disciples, the witnesses of all His good deeds, and of His teachings and His sufferings and death and resurrection, and of His ascension into heaven after His bodily resurrection—these were the apostles, who after (receiving) the power of the Holy Spirit were sent forth by Him into all the world, and wrought the calling of the Gentiles, showing to mankind the way of life, to turn them from idols and fornication and covetousness, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit; which Holy Spirit they had received of the Lord, and they distributed and imparted It to them that believed; and thus they ordered and established the Churches.” [The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, points 3 and 41].
In my view, Darwinian evolution provides the most reasonable explanation for this strange question you pose: Creation, thru evolution, of new life with variety and complexity, involves random mutations (to some degree) with survival of the favorable ones dictated by the demands of a changing environment. This resulted in some species displaying behavior which the Creative Intellect (God) would view as mostly selfish and uncaring (good, in the sense of producing variety and complexity, but definitely NOT perfect). However, in a few species (more often the females) there were behaviors that could be considered truly loving and empathetic.
When, in one line of primates, Homo sapiens, a brain large and complex enough evolved that had the potential to become a Mind capable of discerning what behavior its Creator might prefer (i.e. a conscience and a sense of morality), He allowed that newly-minted human the freedom to achieve or to refuse the bright future potentially in store for their descendants–individuals and as a society. Puppets would not do. Choosing to rise above one’s evolutionary animal instincts is inherently difficult, and that is where the need for redemption arises. He sent His Son to show us the Way.
I appreciate this point of view. Mr Leo, and it makes much sense to me. It’s a bit at odds with the classical interpretation that we are born in sin (a devotional I read with my kids tonight) and the least sin puts us worthy of Hell–particularly if God ordained that these should be part of our genetic makeup. I guess the main quibble I have with this scenario is that the peaceable instincts appear to me to be equally evolved and adaptive–much as there is a wide variety of personality and temperaments (even ADD) across the human spectrum, probably in part to help the group survive, I wonder where God given rules really begin and end. At the same time I’m writing this, I realize I’m not communicating it well. I believe this is from Teilhard de Chardin’s work? Thanks.
The roots of my worldview (where it differs from orthodox Christianity) comes from Teilhard, but more from those who interpreted his works which can be quite opaque if French is not one’s mother-tongue. Perhaps the biggest difference between your worldview and mine is that you tend to think in terms of God given rules, while I think more in terms of God given opportunities.
I share what you say and dare to claim that one can even establish more precisely the time at which a human being appears, who is “capable of discerning what behavior its Creator might prefer”.
According to Genesis 9:5-6 the basic rule of morality is that each human being is accountable for the life of another human being, but humans are allowed to kill animals for the sake of food. And the reason for this is that God created humanity in the image of God.
This rule requires that it is possible for humans to clearly distinguish which creature is human and which is not, on the basis of observable data .
Hence, one can conclude that the sharp difference between human and apes we observe today is the same as the difference existing at the moment God declared that humans are his image.
According to recent data Denisovan may have mated with modern humans as recently as 15,000 years ago. This means that Denisovans as intermediate variety between modern humans and apes did disappear only after this date, which also corresponds to the disappearance of Flores man, another intermediate variety.
So it is save to conclude that the appearance of accountable human beings created by God in his Image (i.e.: “capable of discerning what behavior his Creator might prefer”) did not happen before 15,000 years ago.
I would like to complete this conclusion with the following argument:
Unquestionable signs demonstrating “ account-giving relationship” are the cuneiform tablet-writings with contracts between individuals and property distribution in a community, which are found in Sumer around 3,200 BC.
Thus on the basis of available date we are led to the more accurate conclusion that the appearance of the first accountable human beings created by God in his Image did happen between 13,000 BC (15,000 years ago) and 3,200 BC.
As basis for further theological reflection, it is save to take 3,200 BC as date marking God’s creation of the first accountable humans, that is, “capable of discerning what behavior [their] Creator might prefer”. This creation event should obviously be predated if signs are found that demonstrate convincingly sense of moral and legal responsibility before 3,200 BC.
I would like to stress that my argument is testable since it excludes such signs (and in particular writing) before 13,000 BC, the time when the gap between modern humans and chimps became shaped as it is today, subsequently to the disappearance of the latest intermediate varieties (Denisovan and Flores Man).
Antoine, you make a valid point that the invention of cuneiform writing seems to have been prompted by the need to record the social contracts that were so important in ‘humanizing’ Homo sapiens, and so the gift of conscience must have been in place significantly before 3,200 BC. I tend to view the need for contracts and law making as evidence of the final step in the acquisition of true morality.
But what about the sudden appearance of art and music much, much earlier (the Great Leap Forward)–perhaps by 40,000 BC in Europe? The ability for abstract thought, taken together with more frequent evidence for the loving care given to injured fellows, (empathy), should indicate that these folks were well on their way to becoming fully human–if not exactly Images of their Creator.
I have not read the whole thread, and I may someday.
I have one interesting question. To preface it, I would like to verify that at times Adam is meant to be figurative. Please tell me, this question has been asked already. If Adam can be taken as figurative, why does sin remain an object of reality? Sin is a concept of a condition that Paul claims happened to a literal human.
Why are we still trying to come to a consensus about a figurative story in which a literal “sin” having no means of transmission genetically or any other way is passed down from generation to generation?
I get accepting evolution. I get Adam as being figurative of all mankind. Why is sin still a literal thing like a disease having no genetic marker whatsoever?
Personally, getting the point of sin as just a non-essential item to worry about, will not put Adam back as a literal human, and the process of evolution accepted as starting on the 6th day of creation. It should allow humans to find a better thing to do than figuring out how a metaphorical concept introduced by the Apostle Paul to make a point has wasted millions of hours of time.
I would think that sin would have been the first thing to be considered metaphorical, not Adam.
An interesting topic is the soul though. I think it is a metaphorical place holder as well. The soul is not eternal. Like sin, it is just a metaphysical reaction of the physical brain and a spiritual connection with God. Only the spiritual part of the triad of who we are is eternal. We are the soul. The body is the physical shell. The spirit is the spiritual shell. It is probable, that when the physical body dies, the soul enters the spiritual shell. Before Christ spirits went to sheol. Both obedient and disobedient spirits. The obedient spirits were led free, during the resurrection of Christ. After Christ, Paul claims the soul, in the shell of the Spirit goes immediately with Christ and those pre-Christ spirits.
The Bible teaches that like God, in the complete image of God we mirror a triune God. Our physical shell mirrors all that Jesus is. Our spirit mirrors the Holy Spirit. (God lets us borrow the Holy Spirit in lieu of our loss of spirit because of Adam.) God is not a place holder, but in the act of God’s breath we became a living soul. The place holder of God as a physical being. God does not need a physical body, but the act was even in concept, God in the flesh and spirit on equal terms. Evidently Satan was not created in God’s image like the 6th day humans. We have been resented since that day.
Also to bring each individual to just a place holder in the vastness of the cosmos, I apologize if it is a discomfort. Are we just our ego?
The questions you pose indicate (to me) the futility of the belief that humankind (Adam) was created in a sinless state from which he FELL by committing Original Sin. Tim, you might profit by considering replacing Original Sin with Original Blessing. Adam was the first creature to be endowed with a Gift of Mind/Conscience and the freedom to choose to rise above the selfish animal nature of his forebears. The genetic legacy that Adam passes on to us modern humans is a gift, not a curse.
I have been hitting that brick wall (the evolution of humankind) most of my life. It is not really in my way though. It is human made so not that hard to move, like some mountains.
I would point out though, did humans believe or accept evolution before the 17th century? Is that like a physical law that has always been, but yet to be discovered?
The only argument I have is the point of having direct communication with God, how limited was one’s knowledge? Why do the 6th day humans have less knowledge than Knowing all in God? God claims not to know what sin and disobedience is. That sounds to me the only knowledge lacking to Adam and all of Humankind while Adam lived and obeyed God in all the knowledge of God afforded them. Which was 100%.
I would think there was no evil either. Not even physical death was evil or wrong, as death would be a natural and accepted physical phenomenon. Wisdom is not really a gift given to all. Wisdom comes from experience and logical reactions to experiences. That some humans obtain wisdom without experience is a special gift.
The Bible seems to clearly indicate that the only thing that changed for Adam was that he introduced the knowledge of sin and evil into human consciousness, and he lost his direct spiritual connection with God.
That anything else happened seems to be manufactured by humans via faulty logic in the last 200 or 300 years.
Parts of the Bible are not that clearly understood (see your quotes below), but you seem to have (in my view) correctly interpreted this section; that is, if the He refers to God and he refers to Adam. It just makes good sense to believe that until God (thru evolution) gifted Adam with a Mind/Conscience, there could be no such thing as morality or Sin; no such thing as Moral Evil. As you point out:
Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus, professed a belief in a kind of evolution, but Charles was the first to gather massive evidence in the 19 century that supported the theory of ‘common ancestry’. As you are well aware, additional scientific evidence, such as genetics & plate tectonics, have greatly solidified the theory to such an extent that to deny it now, one must cast aside any claim that one values science.
I find it difficult to interpret some other of your quotations. I assume they have some basis in Scripture, but perhaps you can clarify it for me.
Some of this seems self-contradictory and not very credible.
Humanity including Adam had a mind and conscience. That was accomplished when humans received the breath of life and became a living soul. I do not see the need to make two seperate creations of humans. In Genesis 1 on the 6th day God created humans both male and female. In Genesis 2 it tells us what happened in the perspective of one of those humans, Adam. Adam and those humans did not become figurative souls. They were souls with both a physical and spiritual form in one person, and the connection was in the mind.
Adam was the one who introduced the knowledge of good and evil, upon disobeying God and eating. Because of this knowledge Adam no longer had the means to directly communicate with God in a spiritual way. Adam had a mind and was able to think and converse with God and other beings in the full knowledge of God since his first breath. God has no knowledge of evil or sin, and once that knowledge is known by humans, the connection with God has to be broken. God is not the one introducing knowing good and evil. All humans had knowledge of good in God fully. Adam was the first human given the choice to obey or disobey.
I try not to be contradictory. I think taking Genesis 2 as figurative and applying to all humans at once is contradictory to the next few chapters. Now that good and evil and sin has become known to Adam, it caused all of humanity to be in a struggle with God. God said in Noah’s day that God’s Spirit would no longer strive with the spirit given to each human, because even their imaginations or thought life was in total disobedience to God. The spiritual part making us sons of God was the spiritual image of God incorporated in the human body. The soul was the mind and the connection point.
What we are not told except in a snipet that Adam’s offspring had married into the offspring of those humans created on the same day that Adam was. What happened to the original humans is never revealed, but their offspring and Adam’s offspring were in a struggle with God to the point there needed to be a change.
I think the Mesopotamian creation account Enuma Elish points to this struggle by stating “the offspring were making too much noise”.
Even the vedic writings some time later mention this struggle between humans and God as being a time of change.
Enter also the other host/planets of “heavens” including Satan. I think the Enuma Elish is the perspective of Satan and his part in this cosmic struggle.
I would consider scripture as that which honors God. If the Enuma Elish honors Satan, it would not be scripture. I think that God gave us the ability to figure out from human written accounts what happened. I do not think science is against God. If humans use science in a way that does not honor God or puts God in bad light, is it credible? I think when humans attempt to figure out the past and replace God, it is similar to all ancient ANE nations attempting to explain what happened before the Flood by their own means and interpretations. If God revealed to us a plan, we really do not need to figure out the past, but the future if given to God in honor and good stewardship seems a better use of science. I have doubts that humans will ever be in agreement about the past.
I do not think my “interpretation” is contradictory to what is in the Bible. I do not think that sin is an objective “thing”. Sin is the result of disobeying God. But we cannot disobey unless we have full knowledge of our actions and God. Adam was the exception, because neither he nor God knew what evil was, other than the point that once Jesus was born, then that knowledge would be actualized. But God cannot allow the result of disobedience, nor disobedience into the spiritual.
The fall of Satan is ongoing, because Satan cannot disobey God. But is the cause of constant rebellion against God. I think the final chance at the end will be given to Satan. The command to finally accept God or be destroyed for ever. I have no proof, but it makes sense to say that in forming the solar system, Satan and those like him were created at the same time and manor as humans. Humans were the sons of God with all that comes with being a child of God. Satan was not in God’s image but could never disobey God. I think this species of beings were placed on a twin earth, considered “morning star”. This being on the 6th day of the solar system. I not claiming any unknown knowledge. It just makes sense with looking at scripture and other ANE accounts.
After the Flood humans have attempted to figure out how to get back to being sons of God. God was not ready, but already had a plan in place.