Books and Culture Hosts Online Symposium on Adam and Eve | The BioLogos Forum

[quote=“Gregory, post:22, topic:2413”]
to allow historical theology, even orthodoxy its say, before they eventually do take a position consistent with the teachings of the ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic Church’.

Gregory, this is a succinct way to state the matter - if we begin with the premise that we are discussing Christian doctrine, we must commence with an agreed starting point - in this discussion, that starting point is clearly stated by all major Christian traditions, which deal with the first act of disobedience by Adam and Eve. This point makes the involvement of God with Adam and Eve central, and this is not contested or argued by any theologian.

If this point is avoided I cannot see how we can conduct a meaningful discussion.

Is it true, then, that to call my self a Christian I must believe that A&E’s sin was to go against God’s direct command and choose to act according to conscience? I would rather believe that they were given a conscience as a precious gift but often cast it aside to revert back to the selfish animal nature which evolution had formed. GJDS, if I don’t agree with your ‘starting point’, does that exclude me from the Christian family? I sincerely hope not.
Al Leo

Eddie, you (and some of the other responders) are the reason I am so happy to have discovered BioLogos. You are wrestling with the exact same problems I did, especially as I prepared some lessons for adult confirmation classes I presented for our Catholic parish. As you point out, Catholic dogma insists on a historical A&E whose sin is passed down to us. But it is also Catholic dogma that we are each going to answer for our actions on Judgement Day. Each of us must form a well-informed conscience and follow where it leads. And no matter how hard I tried to read Gen. 2 & 3, where ‘eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ was somehow sinful, I could not bring myself to believe it. I was following in the footsteps of Pierre Teilhard and Mathew Fox in seeing Original Blessing instead of Original Sin. As you know, the Vatican came down pretty hard on those two.

During the few years that I made these presentations to the confirmandi, there were several who said that I had finally made sense of their Faith. But yet I could see that the majority felt more comfortable with the Augustinian view of Original Sin, and perhaps they would lead better lives with that belief. Was Pilate that far wrong when he asked: “What is Truth?” For each of us seeking Truth, there may be a different balance between Scripture and Science.
Al Leo

The Christian family is made up of those who gather in Christ’s name - and what is more, it is those who show by deed and faith, they obey Christ and live by faith in God. The (good) humour to all this Aleo, is that this too is taught, so would you suggest it be modified to suit a more scientific outlook?

Thankfully the decision on who is in or out is made by the perfect Judge so I do not trouble myself with such matters (Obviously that Judge is God and not you or me). As for human nature (yours and mine) our decisions and way of life have a huge deal to do with that - if you think evolution has done it instead, you have a very different outlook to human agency, human freedom, and providence.

Evidently I did not make myself clear in earlier replies. I stated that I believe Darwinian evolution brought primates to the stage of archaic Homo sapiens, but the necessary step to make us truly human, the step that gave us a conscience (human agency) and human freedom, was post-evolution. I am in pretty good company here. The co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, and the current experts in the field of human origins, Ian Tattersall, and Simon Conway Morris, hold this view. This step also gives us the potential to make a better world–to be co-creators with the Almighty. God must have been disappointed in how we Christians went about it during the Crusades and Inquisition, and perhaps even more so with the radical Islamists of today.
Al Leo


The discussion has been focussed by me on how we as Christians understand the teachings of the faith as they relate to the involvement of God with Adam and Eve. I agree these discussions have become extremely diffuse and I cannot as yet detect any direct statement on the subject itself. It is obvious to me that non-positions are substituted with speculation that purports to be scientific but to a scientist like myself, is wildly speculative and avoids any theological discussion. As I said to Jim, you are all entitled to your opinions as long as you acknowledge that is all you provide.

I moved 8 posts to a new topic: What does “historical Adam” mean? And why is it important?

Please, would you explain why you couldn’t believe in this text? And I am sorry but, can we really choose what to believe and not to believe, in the Bible? Maybe there’s somewhere a verse where it is stated that we can take jumps on verses that we don’t like or understand. Cordially.

I interpreted ‘eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ as acquiring a conscience, and this implies that as true humans, Adam and Eve had risen above the animal nature from which they evolved. That seems to me to be a gift from God, not a reason for banishment from Eden. Is there any way to interpret it differently?
Al Leo

Thank you Aleo for your answer. I don’t want to begin here a whole new subject on the Tree of Knowledge of God. I was just wanting to know if there is a base in the Bible to take such jumps that permit you believe or not believe in some specific texts. I kindly ask you again for a biblical support for such a maneuver.


would you please show me where did I use the word “sin”.

Thank you.


English is not my mother language, so I am sure I misunderstood Al’s expression I copied above. That’s where I got my misunderstanding. Al intended to mean “I couldn’t persuade myself” but I understood it as “I couldn’t believe it”. That changes the whole sense of the expression. So, @Aleo, apologies for my confusion.

@piopio @eddie
I could have made it clearer. I meant I was not comfortable incorporating that passage into my ‘world outlook’ (Weltanschauung). Acquiring knowledge of any kind is never evil in itself; what you do with that knowledge can be, however. Example: In WWII the Manhatten project acquired the knowledge of how to harness atomic power. Now we wish we could ‘un-learn’ how to use that power to build bombs. Learning from the Bible (or the Koran) has helped millions of people to lead better lives, but misinterpreting its meaning has led to much harm.
Al Leo

Maybe Aleo’s problem arose from an overly-prescriptive interpretation of that verse within Catholic teaching (can’t say I’m qualified to know); but I do know that there was much fruitful discussion over the millennia about just what its implications are. To reject a failed interpretation is a different beast from seeking to reinterpret Scripture because its own interpretation is doubted.

Thirty years ago I remember being in a sermon-preparation group, and coming to the position that, in the context, a likely meaning was that the error in question from “eating the fruit” was deciding for oneself (apart from God) what was good and evil - this being practised in the very act of disobeying God by doing what he had said was harmful. More to do with damaging conscience than acquiring it.

Decades later John Walton’s position is that the phrase “good and evil” is almost certainly an ANE idiom for “wisdom”. That’s information older interpreters (like my group!) didn’t have, but it amounts to much the same - seeking to acquire wisdom (a good thing) apart from communion with God. That would square well with the common biblical theme that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, and with the skepticism about human wisdom is many OT and NT passages. In other words, such an interpretation doesn’t stand in isolation, but is in harmony with a major biblical theme - wisdom (= right living) with or without God. Moses was not simply being a jerk.

My point is that our difficulties arise from ignorance. If that drives us to the Anselmian ideal of “faith seeking understanding” we’ll often become enlightened, sometimes remain puzzled, but always remain patient and faithful. If we lose patience and start to judge the Scripture’s inspiration instead of our own ignorance, we act in a very different spirit. We don’t do much better if we wrest Scripture into compliance with whatever interpretation fits our current beliefs in other areas - especially science.

@Jon_Garvey @Eddie
As a ‘cradle Catholic’, the religious environment I was exposed to (if I understood it correctly) was: “The Bible is a holy, inspired book, but passages in the OT are especially easy to misinterpret. Nevertheless, you can rely on the wise Church Fathers to present to you the Truth that it contains in the form of Creeds and the catechism.” Of course when I reached adulthood and wanted to think for myself, I then realized that this attitude was too much like censorship and was an important motivation for the Reformation.

Having the OT and NT in print (and now online) and so readily available to every Christian did not solve the problem, of course. It did encourage lively and (most often, thoughtful) dialog, as the responses to this BioLogos blog can attest. In order to avoid sin, it seems logical to try to learn how sin entered into this world and Genesis is the obvious OT source. But even amongst recognized Scripture scholars there is wide disagreement. If we look too closely at the bark of one tree, are we missing the message that the entire forest has for us?

My amateurish search indicates that scholars appear to be in agreement that parts of Genesis were first conceived when Jewish theology was still in a relatively primitive stage (J for Javist) and that later documents, Elohist with modern theology, were blended in to produce the final written form sometime during (or shortly after) the Babylonian exile. Tenmant characterizes J’s conception of Jahveh as “possessing many purely human characteristics.” In matters of knowledge (the Tree of Life; the Tower of Babel) “He (Jahveh) is jealous of man’s encroachment on His prerogatives of knowledge and immortality.” At least science has provided us with a view of the universe that forces us to be more humble.

In view of this, I must ask: Can we be putting too much weight on ‘sola scriptura’? Did each of these (many) contributors to Genesis receive direct inspiration from God? How does their inspiration compare with folks today who strive to use Faith seeking Understanding? What was Solomon’s meaning in the passage, "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." Is this a prophesy intended for the Atomic Age we are living in? Oppenheimer: "In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose."
Al Leo