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

Jesus is a human Person. We can be made like him in desires and behaviors to a degree now, and in perfect righteousness and like him bodily, later. That doesn’t make us him, the Son of God. We are already his younger siblings if we have been truly (and irrevocably) adopted by our heavenly Father.


Let us assume that this “some point in history” is in the Neolithic (as for instance Denis Alexander, @Kathryn_Applegate, and I myself suggest). At this moment the Homo sapiens population all over the earth amounts to several millions.

If I understand well, you claim that all this sapiens population changed state at some moment, and became accountable toward God. And this happened because:

Now two alternative explanations are possible:

  1. At this very moment, and by the very fact that God “reveals his will and initiates relationship” the evolved selfish urges they inherited changed into sinful propensities.

  2. The evolved selfish urges they inherited changed into sinful propensities only after “humanity’s transgression of God’s revealed will and breaking of relationship with God.”

It is not clear to me whether you are endorsing the explanation 1 or the explanation 2, and I would be thankful if you could clarify what is the case.

The second. And it is the moral judgment of “sinful” vs “innocent” that changed, not their natures per se. “Sin” is a judgment, it’s not an objective quality people possess. It only exists in relation to God’s will and law. I’m not personally interested in precisely identifying a moment or a mechanism as if it’s some kind of math problem. I think the whole thing is relational and we don’t know exactly how God was relating to individuals and populations when he began relating to them because we are given the story of one people and it is a story in pictures and metaphors not a list of empirical facts. I imagine there are other human stories from other places and peoples that are lost to us.


Actually, this is what I claim about Melchizedek on the basis of Hebrews 7:
He was not the Son of God but was truly (and irrevocably) adopted by out heavenly Father.

An this means:
Melchizedek is a truly human being, who was already in heaven when he appeared to Abraham. And for this reason he can be said to be “made like the Son of God”.

Even if you are correct about Melchizedek with respect to his being “already in heaven when he appeared to Abraham” (I don’t know what means), that doesn’t make him implicitly The Son of God and actually Jesus himself, unless you are endorsing Melchizedek as a preincarnate manifestation of Jesus.

I don’t think that changes anything I said:

This even works on an intuitive level for someone outside of Christianity. According to Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, recognition of moral significance —such as a duty- is immediate, like a gestalt. It isn’t something we reason to. So even for me, it is possible to feel fallen or damned if I ignore that apprehension to act for personal gain. “Sin” isn’t a word I would use but even the godless can feel worthless or desolate if we rationalize our way around a felt moral prohibition.


According to Robin Dunbar (see this article):

“the centrepiece of the Neolithic is not the invention of agriculture […] but the invention of mechanisms that allowed people to live together in cramped conditions without […] killing each other. By implication, the more conventional immersive [‘animist’] forms of religion were not sufficient for these purposes: something more robust was needed”

In line with this, I propose the following explanation:

God provided the “mechanism” that allowed people to live together without killing each other, by engraving the prohibition of homicide (Genesis 9:3,5-6) in the heart of each human person coming into existence, as a moral archetype, in the “collective unconscious-conscious” of humanity.

Robin Dunbar’s statement is another way to say that there is a universal divine revelation.

In my view, the same holds for Haidt’s claim about “immediate recognition of moral significance”.

The moral archetype referred to in Genesis 9:3,5-6 may explain the explosion of civilizations all around the world.

On the other hand, the rationalization of this moral archetype led to legal codes (like those of Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi), which are the very basis of civilization and explain the supremacy of Homo sapiens “made in the image of God”.

Thank you. There is much to think about here. There definitely seem to be trade offs between the immersive and doctrinal approaches to religions with the latter making extremely large group sizes though one has to wonder just what an optimal size would be. Very great human community sizes can lead to degradation of natural resources and leave too little room for viable populations of other creatures, ultimately turning the earth to a monoculture with all risks to stability that entails. Too large is not optimal. I also worry that the emphasis on doctrinal understanding cuts us off from internal checks and balances. The risks of immersive religiosity is offset by the risks of stagnation incurred by reliance on doctrine, and not just of personal understanding but also of human development. If religious experience is not transformational that is a great price to pay. If the degree of passivity required to live in huge populations is too great, there is a risk of many, many of us living in a state arrested development which poses its own risks through susceptibility to mob influence.

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Do tell!
Being a member of a herd has always been risky.

Screenshot_2021-05-13 wildebeest migration - Google Search

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Well it can be good protection but protection from predators isn’t really our issue any more. Now we have to worry more about each other and if you count nation states as our ‘group’ then that can mean hundreds of millions. I don’t think rhythmic dance or Bible study is going to do the trick.

A diplomatic answer, as always. :grinning: We agree on most things, and disagree on one thing – the nature of sin. I don’t think I’ll ever change your mind on that topic, but it won’t stop me from flapping my lips (via the keyboard). Just suspend your natural distrust of mansplaining and indulge me for a second:

Agree. That’s what a literary archetype represents – a universal pattern (the corporate) repeated by every individual. I wouldn’t call it “rebellion,” though. The word just reminds me too much of bad parenting books and Christian schools that treated every violation of the rules as “rebellion” that had to be stamped out of a child. I think it’s more like a move from innocence to independence. The problem is, adolescents grasp for independence before they are ready for it. They weigh the rules of society/parent/God against their own self-interest and personal morality. Is this an exception to the rule? Does the good outweigh the bad? Is the rule itself a good rule? This is what happens when a child begins to question the rules, as well as the motives of the rule-giver. It’s a sign of maturity, not of rebelliousness. I think the “fall” was more like the parable of the Prodigal Son than anything else. “Give me my inheritance” – i.e. independence.

Totally agree, with one caveat. (Of course!) Hearts and actions did not suddenly change at some point in the distant past. The historical change was moral accountability before God. Certain capacities must be developed (normally) before corporate humanity and every individual is capable of the “relationship” with God and others that we call “love.”

Think back to your statement that the corporate lesson is re-enacted by every human. Every human includes every human from every era. Every human born today doesn’t know God’s revealed will, nor does God directly reveal his will or initiate relationship with them. For the corporate lesson to be a universal pattern applicable to everyone, you can’t apply conditions that only apply to the first humans and no one else. The average child born in Tibet, for example, isn’t enculturated into Judeo-Christian values and doesn’t have a conscious “relationship” with God.

I’m simply suggesting that the command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge represents more than just the commands given to Israel. Human morality evolved from primitive roots, but all notions of morality include “rules for behavior” regarding things like violence, murder, theft, monogamy, etc. Outside of the rules governing worship of YHWH, the Decalogue reflects a generic “morality” that is present in every culture. Instead of God’s revealed will, every child absorbs the lessons of their culture’s rules of morality (norms of behavior) from birth. These learned rules form the conscience, in every child in every culture. If the “fall” is to be universal in scope, then the command not to eat from the tree must represent both the commands given to Israel by special revelation and the commands given to all people by general revelation.

Likewise, if the breaking of relationship with God is repeated in every individual’s life, then for that to be true God would have to initiate relationship with every individual. How would that happen? Does God appear to every individual and invite them into relationship?

I think the most you can say is along the lines of what Paul says in Romans 1 – that every individual has an “intuition” of God’s existence, to which they can respond positively or negatively. Such a relationship to God doesn’t require God to reveal himself to each and every one. The story of Gen. 2-3 is that humanity, both corporately and individually, turns its back on its nascent relationship with God (intuition of him) and chooses evil. I think that doesn’t violate your conception of God’s will and desire for relationship with humanity, as long as you’re willing to expand your notions of “revealed will” and “relationship” to include something broader than violation of a specific command or rejection of a specific revelation of God.

By this definition, many people alive today are sinless. I think I get where you’re coming from, which is pistis (faith) is essentially loyalty, so the opposite is disloyalty. But sin is the opposite of faith only for those in covenant with God. What of those not in covenant? Are they in covenant against their will or without their knowledge? Sin is disobedience to a known requirement, but it’s also more than that.

Agree that self-preservation didn’t have a sinful aspect to it at first, but human beings eventually learned to label selfish and evil behaviors as “sinful.” What is involved for God to call humans “to trust him for life and sustenance and live under his rule”? That’s a pious sentiment, but also a pretty specific requirement that I don’t think the text or common sense supports. Think back to my hypothetical child born in 2010 in Tibet. Is he/she aware of God’s call to trust him for life and sustenance and live under his rule? I could ask the same of a child born to atheist parents in the U.S. At what point is he/she made aware of God’s call to trust him and live under his rule? Does God appear to either of them and make clear his requirements? Obviously not.

What I’m trying to do is describe the transition from innocence to guilt in a way that makes sense both for corporate humanity and for every individual. I think you’d agree that a special revelation of God violates that principle.

Yes, I’ve said that many times. What I’m trying to explain is why that’s true. It’s a matter of knowledge.

Getting late here. I’ll come back to this and your thoughts on Melchizedek as soon as I’m able …

I think you tend to read the Eden story with a parenting/child development metaphor in mind and I read it with a king/subject metaphor in mind. I think the image bearing and stewardship and dominion commands merit the latter and Adam and Eve are picture more prominently as vice-rulers than children, though I do get how you see the coming of age theme. But I think I am predisposed to see things, including the depiction of sin, in terms of the king/subject relationship, not overall moral awareness and immorality.

I am not totally comfortable conflating morality in general with the accountability God called them to. I think they were accountable to God’s rule, not God’s moral code. God’s moral code is only a facet of God’s rule. Other facets involve acknowledging things about his person that don’t really relate to human morality. I think it is God’s will that he be worshiped as the one true God. But I don’t think it’s ‘immoral’ not to, especially if a person is ignorant of who God is.

That’s why I’m agnostic on the idea that the Adam and Eve narrative represents the “first humans” and the first relationship with God and the first “fall.” It’s Isreal’s origin story and ours by adoption into Israel’s history. I think similar stories of God’s personal revelation have existed throughout human history in different communities and there is corporate knowledge of God passed on from ancestors based not on some innate Romans 1 natural revelation but based on God personally revealing himself to individuals in the history of those communities. All cultures have some sources of true spiritual wisdom and I tend to believe that it comes from experience with God and God’s relating to people at some point in their history, not simply evolved capacities or innate generical moral awareness.

I agree morality evolves, but I don’t think sin is immorality, but you know that. It would be interesting to go through the Old Testament and see how the actions of the pagan nations are described compared to the actions of Israel. It’s my intuition, though I may be wrong, that the pagan nations are typically described in terms of “wickedness” - disregard for justice, morality, truth, virtue. But sin is often reserved for Israel and their breaches of God’s covenant and disregard for the law and the prophets.

I don’t think Adam and Eve is reenacted individually by breaking relationship with God, but by choosing self as the ruler. One can do that without knowing of God’s rightful rule. Then at any point in life when their is an opportunity for a relationship with God, any human can look back on their life and see how they have chosen to be their own god over and over again, even if they were ignorant at the time that they were choosing themselves over God.

This is treating sin as something people possess, not a judgment about a state. If you have not been judged, you aren’t necessarily innocent, but you aren’t yet living under that judgment. I would say that many people alive today have not yet been judged sinful by God. They might be wicked and immoral in the eyes of their selves and community and God, but their judgment as sinful is a future thing and I personally believe every individual will stand before God and have a choice to recognize his rule and receive grace or reject his rule and face consequences and that is the point our judgment as sinful or redeemed will matter. I think our moral development and the moral choices we make and the spiritual wisdom we acquire in this life affect the choice we will be able to make when we all stand before God and everyone is clear on the relationship they are being offered.

To avoid misunderstandings, I would like to better clarify my position as follows:

I totally agree with you in that:

  1. Melchizedek is NOT the Son of God.

  2. Melchizedek is NOT a preincarnate manifestation of Jesus.

On the basis of Hebrews 7 I further state:

  1. Melchizedek is a true human being and a High Priest.

  2. Melchizedek is “made like the Son of God”.

On the basis of 1 John 3:2, I accept:

  1. Those who are in heaven and can see the Son of God like he is, they are like the Son of God.

Please tell me whether or not we find common ground in these 5 premises.

From these 5 premises I deduce that, when Melchizedek appears to Abraham, he was a true human being made like the Son of God, because he could see the Son of God like he is, and therefore he must have been in heaven.

Consequently, the apparition of Melchizedek to Abraham can be compared to the apparition of Moses und Elijah at the side of Jesus on the mountain during the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3, Mark 9:2-4, Luke 9:28-31).

You’ve cleared up my major objection, which was here:

Phrased that way, anyone who is like the Son of God was the Son of God. If you had said, “…without being a son of God”, I would have had no issue.

Those say essentially the same thing, as would their converses, and I do not have a strong opinion either way.

Those would follow no matter which way you took 1. and 2. (and I have no problem with 5.).

I tend not to think of him as an apparition, so I am not fully convinced of your latter two conclusions. But again, I have no strong opinion.

A very thoughtful answer. Thanks.

Okay. I get where you’re coming from a bit better now. For myself, I see the kingly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 1, and the priestly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 2-3, although I flip-flop on how much ha’adam represents both priest and king. I’d just suggest that a vice-ruler is often a minor child invested with “the crown” but not yet mature enough to exercise that vocation. I’ll forego the scriptural examples.

You’re right that I keep the parent/child metaphor in mind when I read the story. I can’t help adopting Jesus’ perspective of God as Abba, and his nickname for the disciples was “children.” But I’m not one to say that scripture has only one “true” sense. I think scripture contains multiple meanings and metaphors. The primary metaphor of Gen. 1 for the original audience was Creation is a Temple, but that doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. Creation is also work, as you have pointed out elsewhere. In trying to think through the ramifications of “original sin” for past and present, I’ve found the metaphor of maturity more useful than the “kingly” metaphor.

True. God’s moral code is only a facet of God’s rule. But on this point I think the metaphor of kingship is causing you to import some ideas into the text. Just on a straightforward reading, the command is not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and the knowledge they gain when they eat the fruit is moral knowledge, not an understanding of God’s rule. What sort of accountability does God call everyone to?

Were the first humans “created in the image of God”? Yes. But don’t we say that every child is created in the image of God? Yet it’s obvious that not every child born into this world grows up with an understanding of God’s rule or God’s moral code. Nevertheless, God holds them accountable for something. Pulling all of that together, God’s call to A&E to “represent” him doesn’t require a conscious, specific understanding of what God requires of his “vice-regent,” just as God’s call to every child born into this world doesn’t require a conscious knowledge of God’s rule or his moral code. Everyone is accountable for what they learn and know, whether that includes knowledge of God or not; otherwise, how could God judge the world?

Coming back to the text, Gen. 2:7 relates God’s creation of ha’adam, which could be interpreted as God breathing his “image” into the human and bestowing the man with a “calling.” The priestly references begin with the description of Eden is a palace/temple complex, and the man is placed in the garden and given the task of guarding and tending it. These same verbs describe the priests’ service in the temple. What is the priestly task? To keep out what is evil and unclean. The man fails in his task, and the man and woman together gain the knowledge of evil. The priestly metaphor points back to evil and morality.

On the “relationship” front, what is the reason in the story for the woman’s creation? “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” The parade of animals weren’t suitable, so God created a partner for the man. What’s rarely pointed out is the fact that ha’adam wasn’t alone if God had an intimate relationship with him. For the man to be in need of companionship, he must have felt God’s daily absence much more than his presence. Like the rest of us.

I agree. My defense here is that even in early Genesis, the worship of YHWH appears among the other cultural developments in Gen. 4, and God’s specific “call” doesn’t occur until Abram is called out of the worship of “other gods” in Gen. 12. “Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods” Joshua 24:2.

Your second sentence is packed with possible meanings. Taking a stab at it, if a person is ignorant of the true God, is it immoral to worship the god(s) that they were enculturated to worship from childhood? Tough question. I’d say it’s not an immoral act within their culture, but does God view it as “sin”? On the one hand, their conscience would not condemn them, a la Paul in Romans 2. On the other, Isaiah practically equates idolatry with sin. Perhaps it’s a “sin of ignorance”? The Torah specifies sacrifices to “atone” for such sins. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I incline toward the notion that God judges those outside the covenant according to each person’s conscience and deeds (Rom. 2:12-16). If that’s true, I wouldn’t say it was immoral or sinful, unless human sacrifice was involved. But even if sins of ignorance aren’t held against people, that doesn’t mean their conscience doesn’t accuse them of other sinful deeds. Even when measured against the sliding scale of human morality, everyone knowingly violates the conscience sooner or later.

I’d say the A&E narrative is on one level a recapitulation of Israel’s history of violating the commandments and being expelled from their home. On another level, the narrative flow of Gen. 1-11 as a whole is a reply to ANE mythology and origin stories. I can’t locate it at the moment, but in one of Middleton’s essays he points out that in Gen. 1-3 Israel “universalized” its history onto human origins and creation itself. That’s another layer of meaning. No matter how sophisticated the interpretation, I personally can’t read the story and come away with anything other than the impression that it tells of the creation of the first humans.

I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m simply saying certain evolved capacities are required before spiritual wisdom can even be understood and appreciated. Now, I’m not saying that humanity had no experience of God in the past. Eden is the garden of God’s presence, and the only “real” consequence of the “fall” is banishment from the garden – God’s presence. (The rest are spiritual explanations for present realities. The classic definition of mythology.) It can’t be proven, but I’m optimistic enough to believe that God was present, in some form or fashion, on Earth and with humanity from its earliest beginnings. But when we collectively chose evil, he removed himself from the scene and let us have our own way.

Totally agree. Well said.

I agree sinfulness is a state. I think it propagates as cultural knowledge. And sure, everyone alive hasn’t yet been judged by God. I can appreciate your hopefulness. It strikes me as universalism, though. (Not that that’s a bad thing!) Once the answer key is passed out, everyone makes 100 on the test. haha. I lean toward annihilation, but I don’t think any of us will know for sure until the last day.

I apologize for the length! I started to reply yesterday and finished today and didn’t realize what I’d done until I hit send. Don’t feel obligated to reply to everything (or anything).

Sorry I punted another day, @AntoineSuarez. You’re my next priority.

It seems to me that you are stating in other words the very idea I try to convey:

The “Lebombo bone” evidences sapiens creatures that may be much smarter than chimps today. By contrast it does not evidence humankind made by God in the image of God, i.e. called and ordered to share eternal life in God (“divine beatitude”).

In my opinion, the historical fact that God transformed Homo sapiens into humankind in the image of God is clearly evidenced by signs revealing awareness of moral and legal accountability, as such signs point to creatures that can fulfill or transgress a law, and therefore freely accept or reject God’s will.

For the time being, such signs have been found only in the Neolithic, later than 12,000 BP.

Yes, but … :smile: Our difference is when you and I say awareness of moral accountability showed up in the creatures: You say later than 12,000 BP, when they were evolved enough to take to court, and I say no later than 44,000 BP, when the first creatures to disobey a simple command: “Don’t touch that” touched what they were told not to touch, i.e. when they had more moral awareness than a four-legged beast, but about as much as a two-year old two-legged human who chooses to do what he/she is told not to do without knowing the consequences of disobeying. .

In my view, the animals cannot in principle sin because they are not called by God to share eternal life: Animals neither sin nor have sinful propensities, and therefore are not “subject to the need of redemption”.

By contrast, after the first human sin, the infants are born within a sinful humanity, and for this reason they have sinful propensities. This implies that these infants are “in need of redemption”, even if they have not yet acquired “the knowledge of good and evil”, i.e.: are not yet aware of being morally accountable.

Nonetheless and most important:
If not-yet-conscious infants “in need of redemption” die, they are NOT damned to hell. By contrast, adults who consciously and freely sin become “subject to the need of redemption” in a radically different way: If they die without repenting, they damned themselves “to join the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25: 41).

5 posts were split to a new topic: Yet another discussion of universal salvation