Fairness and Adam's original sin

Continuing the discussion, narrowing the focus to fairness and original sin.

@jay thanks for these thoughts. Just got back from my quite time, in which I am reading the Old Testament, which got me thinking more about fairness/justice. @gbob interested to hear your thoughts on these questions, too:

Don’t lots of questions of lack of fairness arise in the Bible?
From our human perspective we could say that:

  • It isn’t fair that the Israelites were called out from among all the other peoples to be in a special relationship with God, which is different than that from the Gentiles

  • From a perspective of people who have compassion on animals, we could say that the ritual of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament was not fair. Why should animals die to cover human sin?

  • From a nonChristian perspective, we could say that it is not fair that Jesus teaches that belief in Him, His death and His resurrection is the only way to salvation and peace with God and eternal life in heaven

However, in spite of those things, as Christians we believe that God is all loving and completely just. There are great mysteries left in the scriptures, but by the scriptures we understand God’s character to be both loving and just. So I hear your concerns about the fairness/justice around the transmission of Original Sin in any young Adam model. I’m trying to sort that out in my own mind. However, taking in perspective how God can bring together both love and justice and solve the problem of evil at the Cross, in spite of many mysteries in the scriptures about fairness, I’m not sure that new Adam models need to be excluded from consideration. Couldn’t a genealogical transmission model be a powerful symbol of a greater spiritual/metaphysical reality? Perhaps the transmission of original sin fits into the realm of metaphysical/spiritual reality, like models for a “federal headship” or “priestly” role of Adam and Eve. The GAE model would fit nicely into those types of federal headship models. However the GAE model would simply add into the picture the truth that here is also a powerful symbolic physical reality that genealogical relationships show us that all people are related to one another and Adam is the universal ancestor of us all.

Thus, the GAE model might not be required to explain the physical transmission of sin. Instead, the GAE model could help, in that in showing the physical reality of Adam being a universal ancestor, it focuses us on the spiritual truth that all humanity has the same sin nature.

Edit 1 day later to add additional points of discussion: I’d like to hear what other’s on this forum think about these questions:
The Bible clearly tells us that we (all humanity) are all guilty and are held responsible for our own actions. I think that the Reformed view would point to a historical point in time when Mankind/Humans were given moral responsibilities, and were found to fall short in their ability behave in a perfectly moral way (However, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong). So people who believe in a literal first couple can easily point to a single point in time in history when humanity “fell” into “sin” as told in Genesis 3. Adding evolution into a conceptualization of The Fall clearly raises additional questions:

  • When did Sin (or Moral Culpability) originate?
  • Did Sin enter the entire population all at the same time, or did it spread in some way as people developed an ability for moral reasoning?
  • Did God endow people with that sense of morality, or did morality evolve into the population?
  • When did God start holding people responsible for their moral failings? Did God hold the entire population responsible all at once?

Edit a few days later to add an additional idea to ponder:
I appreciate this struggle that the concept of Original Sin could bring, that it is not fair for God to judge me for Adam’s (or anyone else’s) sin. This concern is clearly held by many, and so has got me thinking over the past couple of days…
What if we could look at it from an opposite point of view: Perhaps rather than thinking of Original Sin as being unfair, Original Sin is the great equalizer. Since the Fall, all of humanity is now in the same “state” such that no one person can claim to be better than another. We are all guilty of sin, we cannot earn our salvation by doing any number of good works or paying any amount of penance. We are all in the same boat. Thus, by holding to the doctrine of Original Sin, we are setting up the idea of equality between all people.

What I do appreciate in Paul’s writings are the sense of humility that faith in Jesus brings to a person. This humility comes from knowing that we are all sinners and thus we also experience incredible gratitude in knowing that God came into the world to pay the debt of our sin, that He loves us so much that died for us, because He wants a relationship with us.

Romans 3

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.

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I think we have to wait until Renaissance humanism at the earliest to encounter a rational concept of fairness, one without arbitrary divine Sovereignty. And then some. Pre-Victorian C19th ‘justice’ was still appalling. The myth of Adam’s original sin (not Eve’s?) poisoned the Jewish well for Christianity for 1500 years and more. Like up until this moment.

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Hi Michelle, I am going to self quote here from my book Foundation, Fall and Flood. It isn’t for sale anymore so this is not an ad. The problem with any concept that these guys or those guys might not be descended from Adam has a dark history in Christianity. WE dare not go this road again in any form. Dick Fischer has Adam as progenitor only of the Semites, which makes me lack the image and my wife and children have it. Swamidass would leave out some of the Andaman Islanders. While God can handle treating us differently, we humans can’t. Here is the tale.

The sun had just come over the horizon. The men pulled on the oars to propel the dingy from the ship to the beach. After the brief ceremony on the beach, claiming the land, a dark-sinned group of men emerged from the trees. The two groups of men stared at each other. One group was fair-skinned and dressed in the garb of 15th century Spaniards. The other group was dark-skinned and nearly naked. the Arawak Indians presented a dilemma to the theologians of Columbus’ day. This dilemma created a battle between two men of passion.
> .
> The problem was that Christians did not want to believe that physical morphology could change. This was long before Darwinism came on the scene-- three hundred and fifty years before. This implicit denial of evolution and morphological change has had tremendous implications for the subsequent history of the world.
> .
> Father Juan Gines de Sepulveda was an influential priest in Spain. He led the school of thought that said that the American Indians were not descended from the European Adam. He advanced several arguments in his favor. Adam’s children wore clothing. These people seemed comfortable without clothing.1 Adam’s children had ethics. Indians didn’t. According to Sepulveda, they were barbarous and committed crimes against natural law. They oppressed and killed innocent people, which meant that they had no conscience. He claimed that Indians were inferior to Spaniards as children are to adults or even as apes were to true men.
*> *
> .Sepulveda seriously questioned whether Christian ethics applied to them. He argued that Christians had no need to treat American Indians well. The pope and king, he said, had the right to subdue the Indians by war.3 Slavery was justified in order to teach the Indians about civilization.
> .
> Sepulveda also believed that it was useless to give the Gospel to these savages. These people had no knowledge of Jehovah or Jesus. Cosmas had clearly pointed out that the Gospel had gone into the whole world and the Gospel had clearly not gone to America. Because of this, it implied that the Indians were not subject to the Gospel. He also advanced an argument often heard today about fossil men only he applied it to the Indians. He said that they were not ‘inventive’ and thus were not like Europeans but were like children.
> .
> The point about separate Adams was particularly vexing. Sepulveda was advocating the polygenist (multiple origins of man) view. Stephen J. Gould writes,
*> *
*> "The harder argument abandoned scripture as allegorical and held that human races were separate biological species, the descendants of different Adams. As another form of life, blacks need not participate in the equality of man. Proponents of this argument were called polygenists."4 *
*> *
> These arguments applied to black men as well as to Indians. And it raised the question of how the Indians got to America. Everyone knew that the Atlantic was wide and no one thought that primitive peoples would be able to cross it. [As an aside it was an opponent of this view who first proposed the Bering Land Bridge idea of how Indians walked to America.] If the Indians were cut off from Adam’s race, then who were they?
> Father Bartolome de Las Casas argued strenuously against the view advocated by Sepulveda. He viewed all men as children of Adam. Since all men were degenerate, he believed that the racial differences were due to degeneracy with various races having degenerated different amounts. The question, in Las Casas view, was ‘Had they degenerated to the animal level?’ Las Casas said no. Gould writes
> .
> The softer argument again using some inappropriate definitions from modern perspectives upheld the scriptural unity of all peoples in the single creation of Adam and Eve. This view was called monogenism or origin from a single source. Human races are a product of degeneration from Eden’s perfection. Races have declined to different degrees, whites least and blacks most.
*> *
> The monogenists needed an explanation of how Indians arrived in America. Jose de Acosta proposed it in 1589.6 He simply said that Indians had walked from Asia to America. This suggestion was made 136 years before the discovery of the Bering Strait. And in a real sense it was a successful Biblical prediction based upon the presupposition that humanity was of one origin.
*> *
> However, even those who believed that Indians were descended from Adam often believed that they were children of Satan. The spiritism and magic of the Indians led many to believe this.7 Jonas Michaelius in 1628 wrote,
*> *
> .
*> “As to the natives of this country, I find them entirely savage and wild, strangers to all decency, yea, uncivil and stupid as garden stakes, proficient in all wickedness and ungodliness, devilish men who serve nobody but the devil, that is, the spirit which in their language they call Menetto [Manitou], under which title they comprehend everything that is subtle and crafty and beyond human skill and power. They have so much witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and wicked arts that they can hardly be held in by any bands or locks. They are as thievish and treacherous as they are tall, and in cruelty they are altogether inhuman, more than barbarous, far exceeding the Africans…”. Jonas Michaelius, 1628 “Attempts to Christianize the Indians,” The Annals of America, V.1. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976), p. 93
*> *
> Unfortunately, it was Sepulveda’s views, while not the official vies of the authorities, which were the operatives views of the Europeans entering the New World. At least three different Popes declared the Indians as human but they were ignored. The consequences of that continue until today.
> .
> What were the consequences? Indians and others, like Africans, could be taken into slavery. Their women could be raped. They could be killed. And most importantly, their gold could be stolen. Taking gold from Indians was no more unethical than taking gold from chickens.
> .
> The continuing historical consequences include Christians who do not want to believe that those who are different could be human with all the rights we enjoy. Las Casas, while trying to stop slavery among the Indians, suggested that Africans could be imported as slaves instead. This led directly to the slavery of African in the Americas. It eventually led to the U.S. civil war, and to the present racial tensions in the U. S. This encouraged the idea that racial mixing should not occur because Africans were somehow different from Europeans.
> .
> This aversion to racial mixing affected Christian missions. In the 1800s mission societies did not allow European missionaries to marry native women. This denied these people a most human and God-given right.9 Some missionaries were even forced to divorce their native wives by the very mission boards which supported them. Such beliefs arose from the denial of morphological change among human beings. There is a tremendous evidence for the morphological change among humans that we will now examine. I never thought I would write a chapter like this. My young-earth creationist background didn’t allow me to believe that man was able to change morphology drastically. Observational data forced me to change my view


There are configurations of G.A.E., written in the Evangelical context of Providential Natural Events, where even the Andaman Islanders are not left out. It does not require miraculous (i.e., super-natural events) - - it only requires a few shipwrecks with a survivor or two landing on the beach.

Since the whole realm of Trinitarian Christianity is filled with God working his wonders THROUGH NATURAL MEANS, this is not a contradictory problem.

[[ I myself do not understand why Joshua even suggests that anyone could be left out … humans are capable of going ANYWHERE on Earth … even if only accidentally. ]]

Everyone who lands on North Sentinel Island has gotten arrows through them by the dozens. The Natives have never liked outsiders as far back as records go in the Andaman Islands. the last place not taken is North Sentinel Island. Here is an account from the encounter further south, on a different island but the British response was to slaughter the natives.

"In the mid-1800s, when a British ship visited Little Andaman Island and sent a launch ashore, the native Onge captured some of the sailors, cut off their arms and legs, and then burned the still-living trunks on the beach before the eyes of those who had managed to escape back to the ship. The British reaped terrible revenge a year later. A group of soldiers went ashore and waited until the natives came onto the beach; they then opened fire and killed about seventy before returning to their vessel.
~ Luigi L. Cavalli-Sforza and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza, The Great Human Diaspora, (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1995), p. 20

I am going to take a break from Biologos. It seems my welcome among the moderators is about over. They just censored a post of mine which attacked no one but only ideas. It was a great satire and meant to stir up thought. It will be on my blog if anyone wants to see what was censored. I won’t link to my blog here but it can be found in my posts.

I was told I had been given huge latitude more than anyone else. to present my views as part of the reason. and I am grateful for the opportunity to present my views. But in fact, almost all of what I presented was standard geological science—with a Biblical twist. I guess people don’t like the implications of what geology says. That statement about huge latitude sounds to me like I am about to become persona non grata. I have chemo in two days so this is as good a time as any to take a break as I will be sick for a week. Yall have a good week.


Best wishes with your chemo. Bring back more teaching when you are done.

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@MOls, thank you for your kindly way of interacting on the discourse. I wonder if you have considered Pete Enns’ reading on the “Fall.” I’d appreciate your thoughts on that.

He has more scholarship on it at his site, but this is probably one of the best posts.



Take a nice long break to recover from your Chemo.

And reflect on just one question: how do you scientifically prove that “… everyone who lands on North Sentinel Island has gotten arrows through them…” Apparently you cannot even imagine someone landing at night … or someone capturing an islander on the open water, and developing a friendly connection with a tribe member who needed help settling a grudge with a different clan. Or maybe the kidnapped islander mating up a another man or woman off-islander, and returning with him or her to the island.

If you are a Trinitarian Christian, it is a matter of faith and conviction that God DOES pave the way for his will or not. And certainly you are inclined to think God does this without a lot of “woo woo” miraculous interventions (though I hate the word interventions for the purpose of these kinds of discussions).

And finally, I asked @swamidass to tell me more about his “official view” of the issues surrounding Andaman Island. I was told this:

"I do not suggest that those people would be left out. I show postive evidence that the Andaman Islanders were NOT left out. Glenn is simply wrong on the science he has researched."

Link #1:

Link #2:


I have to agree. That is a fine article on how Romans 5 was treated by Augustine - - treated poorly.

But, of course, there is no way NOW to convince the Evangelicals of this case. Some will be convinced … but not a lot … and not right away.

So, in the meantime, Romans 5 is provided for if we accept that God does some one-off miracles now and then - - without any intention of overthrowing the physical sciences behind evolution!

1] In a one-off miracle, God arranges the miraculous birth of the Son of God.

2] In a one-off miracle, God arranges the miraculous resurrection of Christ.

3] In a one-off miracle, God arranges the de novo creation of Adam, separate from the pre-Adamite population that evolved on Earth long before there was an Eden.

4] And at least one more one-off miracle, like [3], regarding the de novo creation of Eve.

And so - - with de novo creation of Adam and Eve, Original Sin can be treated in a traditional way without throwing Evolutionary evidences into the trash.

Maybe. Always having to look over my shoulder here

This piles assumption upon assumption. If someone landed at night (no record of it) and if someone made a friend (no record of it), and If they had a child who interbred with the natives (no record of it), then Swamidiss is right. Seems to me that is a pretty far our set of events for a group of people who seem very unfriendly to outsiders. In fact so unfreindly that this imaginary night time ship wreck person must have raped someone to make the natives not like outsiders.

Now Im gone. bye



It’s called providence. YECs LOVE providential thinking and providential scenarios. And you may have noticed that they are quite happy to pile assumption onto assumption.

I’m waiting for the flash bulb to go off with you @gbob… the GAE scenarios are designed to appeal to Christians who are particularly invested in a providential (and even miraculous) way of looking at the world.

If you don’t believe in providence, just say so. But don’t try to tie up a metaphysical scenario because you don’t like providence. Nobody can prove providence, right? That’s why it’s called FAITH.

Good for you! You asked how original sin and fairness fit into my view, but your enthusiasm for GAE took over the rest of your comments. I’d like to answer on both counts, but I’ll start a new topic to separate the two, since one has nothing to do with the other.

I’ll restrict my GAE-specific replies to this topic, and the other will be a GAE-free zone. Deal? I’ll come back and post the link after I write the OP. I’ll post a reply to your GAE questions later, maybe tomorrow.

Edit: Here’s the other topic:

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I guess for me I miss most of these complications because I don’t believe in original sin.

Sin has always been here.

Romans 5:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Later on it says God wrote the laws on our hearts.

Romans 2:15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.

So those who never heard the law, is judged by their conscience that convicts them on if they were good or not. Not good as in perfect, but good as in seeking fruit of the spirit. So I sort of see it like a manifestation of your honest self calling you out.


I feel the same. That’s why the serpent appears without warning in the garden. But I should reply to that kind of stuff in the other topic.

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Thanks for posting that, Randy, I’d really have to think about his interpretations more, because that is so different than the interpretations I have learned over the years

Is Enns a Universalist, then? It wasn’t entirely clear to me what his definition of salvation would be

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That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I doubt he’s the standard one. He writes,

I believe that what the Bible calls “sin” is real— and you don’t have to read about Hitler, Stalin, or George Steinbrenner to find examples. Each of us carries around an alarming ability to harm each other in a seemingly non-stop variety of new and inventive ways.”

His interpretation of Romans goes a bit along with Scot McKnight and Beverly Gaventa, where the main context of Romans is clarifying to the Judaizers and Gentiles of the Roman church that they don’t need to circumcise or conform to the outward trappings of the covenant. God always saved by repentance and forgiveness, even before the covenants, and circumcision was only an outward reminder of this. He writes more about this in Evolution of Adam. Actually, his views are not original, and from what I can read, most agree that Augustine did misunderstand the text. @Marshall can clarify better for me here, I think. However, the whole drift of Romans is more complex.

@Klax and @gbrooks9
Your exchange in the past 8 posts or so are all very off topic to the questions I have asked about how people understand God’s fairness/justice in regards to the Genesis 3 story seen from the context of evolution.

If possible, I’d request a moderator to move your conversation into an offline personal discussion so that this thread could stay on topic. Would that be possible @jpm ? Thanks!

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