I have seen people frame the relationship between sin and evolution in a variety of ways. Here I categorize my impressions in three ways:
Some frame it as if mankind has to struggle against the sinful urges installed through the need for survival. It would then be equated with the earthly nature that Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
I call this interpretation of the relationship between sin and evolution Neoplatonic because it revives the allegory of the horse chariots that “reason” has to restrain “desires”. Then evolutionarily installed urges would be associated with the wild horse and reason / intellect with the noble horse.
However, it seems there’s at least as much (or even much more) to say for evolution being the driver of moral behavior.
- Cooperation, sacrificial love, faithfulness, honesty, and purity, all contribute to healthy communities. Basic emotions such as joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear can serve wholesome purposes (despite their potential for abuse). Given that evolution favors more stable configurations on the long term, God’s path to eternity would be a favored outcome.
- There are biblical texts indicating that morality is innate. For example, Romans 2:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
One kind of middle way would be the idea that human beings have evolved beyond the old, animal-like tendencies. The development of higher forms of morality would constitute a renewal of our nature. Then the sinfulness would have resulted from the human being rejecting this kind of higher morality in favor of the more primitive urges. This position seems to resolve some tensions. However, I have some serious problems with these ideas. In the Bible, an important teaching is that simplicity is favorable in God’s eyes… For example,
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
1 Corinthians 1:
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
A very destructive kind of sinfulness is that of human arrogance towards God, showing itself in human “wisdom”, “power”, et cetera (see Tower of Babel). Here, God seems to push towards a return to simplicity, return to being like a child. Children are usually considered to be more “primitive” than adults, more susceptible to their emotions et cetera. That seems to contradict the idea of human sinfulness of being only a return to more primitive tendencies. God prefers humility, simplicity, and childlikeness.
I still can’t accept any of these options wholeheartedly. What are your thoughts on all of this? Can you think of significant other possibilities? I probably missed out on some things. All perspectives are welcome, feel free to add some resources that you found helpful yourself.