Loren Haarsma | Four Approaches to Original Sin

Loren Haarsma lays out four different approaches to Original Sin in his book, When Did Sin Begin? and talks with us in the episode about the approaches, as well as the benefits and theological challenges of each approach.


I was interested in this discussion because I was intrigued by whether or not the process of evolution would be discussed in regard to sin entering into the world. The discussion made clear that animals are innocent of sin because they do not possess self’- aware consciousness. That, it seems to me, is the crucial element in understanding this topic. Scientists and most Theologians accept that God chose evolution as the way in which we were brought into existence. However, little was said about how that process affected human behavior. To gain insight, I will refer to Genesis Chapter 3. The text makes clear that Adam and Eve did not know the difference between right and wrong until after they ate the fruit. This is an inspired metaphor for the transition from animal consciousness to becoming self - aware human beings. The punishments for becoming self - aware were not really punishments at all, but the consequences of becoming aware of the pain of childbirth, the toil of hard work, and the reality of death. They were banned from the Garden not because of any disobedience, but because of the threat that if they ate from the tree of life, they would live forever.

One of the things that we have learned from the evolutionary development of the human brain is that it is accretive. The lowest level of the human brain is referred to as the hind brain and it controls the most basic functions that keep us alive such as respiration. It also controls other survival instincts which ensures that we will live long enough to have progeny through procreation. It is basic and selfish. We share that part of our brain with reptiles. When the reptile is introduced as the tempter in the story, we have always understood that it was an outer being. What we now understand is that is an inner presence.

As Christians, we need to focus on listening to the words of Jesus, and his mission to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth. His vision of peace, love and justice will only become a reality if we obey his commandments here on earth as they exist in Heaven. We can overcome our inherited selfishness of evolution if we follow Him.


I was wondering if Dr. Haarsma’s book included any consideration of Dr. Julian Jaynes’ theories regarding the fall and original sin in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind? Jaynes’ theory basically is that man’s original sin was an action by man which was in disobedient to God’s commands when mankind developed an independent concept of self which could act independently. Something worth considering. Personally, I wish the word “sin” would disappear from usage. Who talks about an archery term meaning “to miss the mark”? The original sin was disobedience, plain and simple.

I like Jim Stump’s comment that, to many people (myself included) efforts to maintain Adam & Eve as historic individuals in spite of the vast gulf between scientific truth and a naive reading of Genesis 2-3 are analogous to “epicycles”. We maybe should have realized long ago that this was a highly symbolic theological story that is telling us what sin is like rather than how sin got started (I think I am getting that last bit from Barth). Which corresponds to the way it is read by Jewish scholars, for whom the concept of a “Fall” is foreign. As Peter Enns might say, science can provide us with “genre calibration.” It says something about the captivity of the Evangelical church to Enlightenment ways of thinking that so many try to hang onto some sort of concordist interpretation, viewing truth communicated symbolically as inferior.

Loren’s comments near the end about God’s self-revelation in Jesus were interesting. It seems like he is thinking about the idea that God’s “good” creation does not mean a creation without sin, but a creation in which creatures would evolve who would be capable of reciprocating that self-sacrificing love. Which might not be possible without the creatures also being capable of sinning. This is similar to the line of reasoning in the thought-provoking book by Christian Barrigar, Freedom all the Way Up.


In 4 bullet points on an A5 card, what are they?

I can bet what they’re not.

original sin you know that is a great topic now one can take a look at Noah for instance in the belly of a whale for 4 days and 3 nights but those who truly know the whole and full story will listen to the truth and that is a hard pill to swallow might want to ask our brother John about that one because truth love and justice along with democracy can not deny that happened something was stolen from god as the way i can recall what really happened that was right before the whole big bank occurred on what the world said was that september day otherwise the person who wrote the song alan jackson could be wrong when he asked the same question to the survivours of 911 in the us where were you when the world stoped turning that september the lyrics to this song have helped me to recal many a memory

Was this post computer-generated?

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Four approaches? 1a 1b 2a 2b

  1. It didn’t count until God special revelation to an historical Adam and Eve (part of a larger population) around 10,000 years ago.
    a. Everyone accountable for their sins because Adam and Eve disobeyed.
    b. sin spread through culture or genetics.

  2. Our sinful nature is a choice made long ago in our evolutionary past.
    a. Adam and Eve’s story representing a compressed history.
    b. Adam and Eve being literary symbolic figures.


I am close to 1b culture, but I certainly wouldn’t say it like that. I would say it always counted but responsibility is commensurate with power and God’s communication gifted man with an a greatly increased power of mind with ideas which unlocked abilities never seen before. It represented life and consciousness on such a greater level and what went before was rather dim by comparison. In this there was a new start in which God could hope for considerably better choices in the use of the new powers which God had given them.

As you are aware, there is also another ongoing thread about original sin, ‘Reconciling evolution and original sin’. I do not know how many threads before these. The topic is influential and it is great that Haarsma wrote the book, so I guess it is natural that there have been multiple threads.

I liked the article by Denis Lamoureux posted in the other thread. Especially the observation that there seems to be an ongoing paradigm shift in the way how we interpret the biblical passages dealing with Adam and the ‘original’ sin, and also many other topics. My guess is that the old way to interpret the passages referring to the sin of Adam and Eve, prevailing since the writings of Augustine, will become a minority view, at least outside the largest churches. Unfortunately, Catholics cannot as easily change the interpretation as the Council of Carthage declared that other interpretations than that promoted by Augustine lead to anathema.

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where did sin begin hmm when i look and go back to original sin i am reminded of The apple tree a fruit bearing tree i am reminded about images of a child who played in the apple tree i am reminded of a talking snake which one often sees inside and outside of a military base don;t ask long story but ya the kid hisssed at me when i told her that she had a nicee bike and ran and told her mother lol her father was most likely inside marching off to war . Approach #1 . hmm The sin took place long before our time in fact it was told JESUS Died for that very sin so why keep holding a grudge and let it go you can not control another person’s behaviour that was GOD’s job as he was the parent of adam and eve so why then do others feel they can get involved with GODS PLAN perhaps the ministry and child services should have gotten invoved oh wait they did not exsist

Sin is a spiritual problem and is not contained
in sperm. according to GOD"S word that is a good approach and and also with that god teaches that he has already taken care of original sin

sin can not be passed from one person to another yet we can still sin and do the same sin as someone else yes i can steal we can all steal but here is something i have learned when Jesus said i will come like a thief in the night does it say which night he will come does it say who he will steal from does it say keep playing on repeat . oh wait jesus is the lesser light

  • “…one can take a look at Noah for instance in the belly of a whale for 4 days and 3 nights…”
  • Hmmm, … That’s a tough one.

Would you settle for “cock-up”?

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I don’t know what that is. Personally, I would prefer “self-centered rebellion” or just rebellion.

I also have read “The Origen of consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral mind” and the idea is that one side of the brain instructed the other side, in a God like way, in how to conduct itself in the world. Individuals had no true free will but only reacted to the will of the dominant hemisphere. This connection eventually broke down but some psychiatrists were drawn to the theory because many of their patients reported having very similar experiences.

Like an unconscious will?

No, the dominant side of the brain actually instructed, verbally, the other side in what to do. Persons heard a voice telling them to do things and they did them. That was the bicameral mind. It appealed to some psychiatrists because patients would tell them that they heard a voice, or voices, telling them what to do especially in very stressful situations. It was thought possible that in those times of extreme stress, some people reverted to the bicameral state of mind.

Sounds like an instruction that was unconsciously generated