The doctrine of original sin does not work with the evolutionary model

(Paul Allen) #1

Well Albert,
The doctrine of original sin teaches that people sin because we are sinners. It’s not that we are sinners because we sin, but rather, we sin because we are sinners; that is, since the fall of man, we have inherited a corrupted condition of sinfulness. We now have a sin nature. The New Testament says we are under sin; we have a disposition toward evil so that we all do, in fact, commit sins because it is our nature to commit sins. But that’s not the nature that was originally given to us by God. We were originally innocent, but now the human race plummeted into a state of corruption.

Unfortunately, BioLogos must dismiss aspects of New Testament teaching (as you have) in order to accommodate a particular interpretation of ‘directed evolution’ - to dismiss the Biblical understanding of sin and it’s origin, should make us worry as we will never be joyful.

Science supports creationism?

Paul let me ask you a few questions. Did Adam, as he was created, have a disposition to sin? Did he chose to sin without having a sinful nature?

Same questions for Lucifer, as he was created, did he have a disposition to sin?

How do you reconcile 3 creations that had no sin nature all managed to sin?

(Christy Hemphill) #3

“BioLogos” isn’t a person or a denomination and doesn’t have a single systematic theology. People who contribute to BioLogos hold a range of theological views on original sin, atonement, Adam and Eve, and interpreting Paul.

(Paul Allen) #4

Okay, perhaps some or even none, of those who support the ideas of Collins and or Biologos may or may not accommodate ‘directed evolution’ - which may or may not conflict with a conservation non-liberal biblical view of original sin. Is that better?

My only problem is I own and have read the book…that is Francis Collins.

(George Brooks) #5


I’ve never understood this concept of inheritance. It seems completely bogus.

It makes much more sense that Adam sinned because he was of mortal flesh from the very beginning.

Sin did not turn Adam mortal… Sin got him partitioned from the Tree of Life. Does God say that eating of the Tree of Life would be futile for Adam? No. In fact, the Tree of Life is still so capable of keeping Adam alive forever, God has to set up an angel and a flaming sword!

Humanity, like Adam, must atone for sin - - because it is the normal state of being for mortal flesh.

(Paul Allen) #6
  1. No
  2. Yes
  3. Free choice - rebelled - made higher than humanity - but had to serve man - chose not to - pride
  4. Free choice - after the Fall - no choice (Ephes 2) - two different concepts

(George Brooks) #7

Yes to what?
What does Free Choice have to do with anything I said?

(Christy Hemphill) #8

So you have read one person’s perspective and you don’t agree with Francis Collins’ take on everything. Neither do I.

There have been contributors to BioLogos from a whole spectrum of theological persuasions. They often disagree with one another on different theological points, as one would expect people from a variety of denominations to disagree. It is a dialogue. Often differing perspectives are presented in the same blog series. You can’t possibly agree with everything BioLogos posts, because people are in dialogue and are often offering mutually exclusive explanations.

The fact is some of our contributors definitely have “non-liberal” biblical views of original sin. John Walton of Wheaton and Tim Keller of the PCA come to mind.

Big Tents: how the Biologos/EC tent is different to the ID tent

So Adam, and by implication Eve, had a free choice when it came to sin, just as Lucifer did (that is what I meant in my last question). So two humans and many angles all managed to sin without having a sin nature. Looks like what Genesis is saying is all created beings have a free choice when it comes to sin. Those who chose to sin are subject to spiritual death.

(Paul Allen) #10

Bill, I answered each question - line by line.

Let’s talk about your phrase - ‘disposition’ from a theological position, if I may. It was St. Augustine who gave us a close analysis of the state of freedom that Adam enjoyed before the Fall. Augustine’s classic concept of freedom distinguished four possibilities.

In Latin, they are:

1. posse pecarre—referring to the ability to sin.
2. posse non-pecarre—referring to the ability not to sin, or to remain free from sin.
3. non-posse pecarre—referring to the inability to sin.
4. non-posse, non-pecarre—referring to the inability not to sin.

Considering Adam before the Fall, Augustine argued that Adam had possessed both the ability to sin (posse pecarre) and the ability not to sin (posse non-pecarre).

NB: Adam lacked the exalted state of the inability to sin that God enjoys (non-posse pecarre). God’s inability to sin is based not on an inner powerlessness of God to do what he wants, but rather on the fact that God has no inner desire to sin. Since the desire for sin is utterly absent from God, there is no reason for God to choose sin.

So, before the Fall Adam did not have the moral perfection of God; neither did Adam have the inability to refrain from sin (non-posse, non-pecarre).

During Adam’s time of “probation” in the garden, he had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He chose to exercise the ability to sin and thus plunged the race into ruin.

As a result, Adam’s first sin was passed on to all his descendants. Original sin refers not to the first sin but to God’s punishment of that first transgression.

No longer do we have the posse non-pecarre. In our fallen state our plight is found in our inability to keep from sinning (non-posse, non-pecarre).

Jonathon Edwards and Augustine both state - man is still free to choose; but if left to himself, man will never choose righteousness, precisely because he does not desire it. That is why we need the gospel.

Reference - J. Edwards / RC Sproul / Augustine.

(GJDS) #11

The nature of humans is to grow - this may be to grow in grace and knowledge, but this requires intent and understanding. Genesis shows us this was provided to Adam and Eve in the garden, and they were instructed by God. This capacity to grow indicates a lack at one time, and an acquiring through choice and intent as a progression. We need to get past a mechanical choice as an aspect of freedom, and instead look to intent, act, and judgement of outcome, as aspects of the human condition. The remarks re Augustine @Paul_Allen1 fall in this area.

Angels on the other hand, can only be what they were created. The sin of Lucifer was to imagine himself as greater than he was, and eventually imagine himself as equal to God - this made him an adversary, and we attribute the sin of pride to him. Thus theologically Lucifer through an act of will changed his nature into Satan.

The distinction should be clear - Adam was tempted, but Satan is the author of sin, and this is to cut himself of from God and to become, though his own will, the adversary. We refer to him as the author of sin and as such his nature is set. Humanity made a wrong choice and erred - so humanity can be saved from our error, and Christ is the way for this.

(George Brooks) #12


The only way to prevent the “magical interpretation” that somehow a decision by Adam can convey itself genetically to the next generation is if the genetic nature of Adam equates to the sinful disposition of all humanity.

Using the phrase “Original Sin” to refer to the Punishment, rather than to the “Sin” is the kind of metaphysical malarky that renders Genesis readings utterly worthless.


So Adam and Eve were created with an inner desire to sin? Kind of makes sin not their problem.

Since Adam as created had no ability to refrain from sin you are left with he had no choice but to sin.

So how does Adam’s sin have any impact on us? He was unable to refrain from sin just as we are.

(Jay Johnson) #14

The sinful nature was not necessarily inherited. The idea that Adam passed sinfulness to his descendants like an infection is one of the traditional metaphors in the doctrine of original sin (Tertullian, Anselm, Luther, Augsburg Confession). The problem with this conception is that it doesn’t take into account mankind’s voluntary disposition and responsibility (guilt) for sinning, which make it qualitatively different from sickness.

A second metaphor for the transmission of sin from Adam to his posterity is legal, drawn from Paul’s discussion in Romans 5. This is the “federal” view of Reformed theology, which pictures Adam as the representative of us all, and thus his guilt is imputed to us all. The strengths of this metaphor are that it does not rest on physical transmission of sin from Adam to his posterity, and it is more consistent with the language of Scripture. The problem is that it violates many people’s (including Christians) sense of justice: How could God declare us “guilty” on the basis of a choice we had nothing to do with?

The third common metaphor is one of privation, or lack. Catholic theology since Anselm has preferred this approach. The fall entailed the loss of original righteousness and other divine gifts. If Adam lost the gifts, obviously he could not pass them down to his descendants.

The French evangelical theologian Henri Blocher has an excellent book Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle, if you are interested in the topic.

(George Brooks) #15


I don’t know if I’m interpreting this third method - - “privation” - - as the Catholics would. I certainly think that what Adam and his descendants lacked was access to the Tree of Life.

God tells us that if they had access, they would be immortal. This breaks the connection between Sinfulness and Immortality. They have nothing to do with each other - - only except that Adam forced God to drive all of us out of reach of the provider of Immortality.

Notice that God doesn’t even suggest that Adam’s need to eat of the fruit to obtain immortality doesn’t significantly indicate a sub-divine nature of Adam. God says that if Adam eats of the tree … he will be like god(s).

Original Sin = the first sin? Yes. And I think this is consistent with Evolutionary theory as well.

Original Sin = inherited sin? No way.

Original Sin = the cause for exclusion from Eden? Yes.

Original Sin = the reason there is death? Only because God didn’t want humans to be both
a) immortal and
b) knowing of Good and Evil.

(Jon) #16

Actually I think that evolution is helping to tell you that the doctrine was never Biblical in the first place.

(Albert Leo) #17

Paul, you are certainly correct in stating that this is standard Christian dogma taught for some 2,000 years. However, you also state:

The opposite was true in my case. Even as a child I was uncomfortable with the belief in a God, who I was told was loving, but on the other hand who banished Adam and Eve (and all their descendants!!) because of a rather minor infraction. When I was old enough to read other sources (other than official Caltholic doctrine) I first encountered Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and then Mathew Fox who proposed replacing Original Sin with Original Blessing. Both these men were ordained Roman Catholic priests, and the Vatican reacted predictably to this alleged heresy: banishing Chardin to China and eventually defrocking Fox.

But for me, the concept of Original Blessing was a joyful liberation. Not only did it make a belief in a loving, caring God more believable, but now one could rationalize how God created our animal nature through evolution but separately created our souls, our spiritual nature, in His own image.

When we observe the Natural World, Paul, you will agree that our Creator God must love variety. And that probably applies to human psychology as well as physical appearance. So I hope that He accepts ‘mavericks’ like me as well as the ‘faithful’ like you and millions of evangelical Christians. At least I know my mother did. She once told me: “You may have descended from a monkey, but I certainly did not.” I did not think it wise to “sell her” on the scientific evidence for the evolution of humankind, nor do I think it wise to do so for you or the evangelicals who support BioLogos. I just want you to know that what you have always accepted as heresy does not prevent us from attaining a loving relationship–a Christian relationship–with our Creator.
Al Leo

(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #18

Paul Allen, I don’t believe you have explored all aspects of Original Sin and evolution. If you believe a soul is given at the moment of conception, then it is that which determines whether original sin can occur. A thinking primate may not have a soul–it is conferring a soul that determines humanity and the capacity for original sin. See my blog post "Did Neanderthals have a soul?" (Department of shameless self-promotion) and the fine article by Kenneth Kemp, “Science, Theology and Monogenesis”.

(George Brooks) #19


Prof., I love the image of the thoughtful Neanderthal !!! A perfect pose!

In your blog you write: “The evolutionary theory I have read suggests that new species arise not from one or two individuals, but from populations.”

Followed by
"Does genetic similarity between two species, and the possibility that interbreeding has occurred, imply that if members of one species possess a soul, so do members of the other?"

Interestingly, the implications of both thoughts come down to the mind of God, even with Evolution.

While the Bible literally speaks of a single person of each gender that sins … even in Evolution, if one speaks of morality and a creature’s capacity for moral agency, it is really only God that can define the moment when, in His eyes, that a creature can be considered “capable of morality/immorality” … or even if a creature can be considered “human” or “possessing” a soul.

So: Homo erectus? Did it have a soul like Homo sapiens? I would challenge any human observer to be able to know definitively. It would be God who is capable of making that distinction.

Similarly, when does a human infant reach a moral age? Various churches assign an arbitrary age. But it seems certain that only God would be able to identify when a growing and maturing person has achieved the age of morality/immorality, right?

When a toddler knocks another toddler down … is that an immoral act? Or must the child achieve some unknown mental benchmark before God (or any human) could confidently say that this is a moral being?

I think it is easy to see look at the story of Adam as the story of some first human out of a group of hundreds of hominids (whether male or female it shouldn’t really matter) … where God would say, this Man will be the first Man with true moral agency!

Any scientific theory of the evolution of morality would have the same benchmark. Even Atheists have to surmise that in a group of hominids, there will be a first that could be considered a moral entity (no matter how you define morality).

And it is also easy to see that even in such a population of hominids, that the nature of humanity is such where we are certain that each and every one would, achieving adulthood, will be guilty of some kind of immoral behavior.

Whether Creationist or Scientist, the universal nature of sinful behavior is clear and present. And the universal requirement for a FIRST MORAL BEING is also clear and present.

(Jon) #20

How about the idea that there’s no immortal soul at all? This whole “original sin” thing is a house of cards built on sand.