The Fall in Evolution

Where does the concept of The Fall and Original Sin fit in with Evolution if Adam and Eve weren’t literal people (they most likely weren’t.)

How do EC’s view this?

Thanks!

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Well I don’t believe in original sin. We are not born guilty of some sin Adam committed. It was originally brought up as a reason for infants to be baptized because they said we are all born guilty of sin before we actually sin and if you don’t baptized your baby when it dies it goes to hell or “purgatory”.

I personally believe in Adam and Eve. However, I don’t believe the creation account is literal. I believe that Adam and Eve were simply ambassadors picked by God. I see the same pattern with Noah, Abraham, Moses and eventually the 12 disciples. So I believe at some point a couple was picked by God and brought to a promised land and then they were taught the laws God gave them now making them accountable to it. Romans says that sin has always existed but we were not accountable to it until the laws were given.

I also don’t believe that the human soul is immortal. Only God is immortal. In the ahistorical tale found in genesis 1-3 we see that one of the reasons why they were drove from the garden was because of the worry over them eating fruit from the tree of life and would become immortal. If they were already immortal they would not need a tree that sustains immortality. They already could die. They already knew death existed.

I think a close reading of the Eden story fits well with what biology seems to show. For instance, Genesis 2–3 doesn’t answer the question of how evil enters the world. God creates this good place, and there in the middle of it is one of God’s creatures, the most subtle or wise one, and it’s rebelling. Without explanation, the snake just turns on God and leads the humans astray. Even before humans sin – before “the fall” – evil is not just in the world, but in Eden.

I take from this that evil is something inherent in creation. It isn’t created by God, but the potential for it is created by God – without apology. Whether one wants to connect this with some of the evolutionary baggage we’ve picked up over the long course of our prehistory, or whether one just keeps it in Pauline terms about “the flesh,” “the world,” “the elemental principles” and “the old man,” I think the message is much the same. In line with the early chapters of Genesis, evil grows with our intelligence: technology and civilization create ways to spread evil more efficiently. We have never been without baggage, and we’re hopeless to transcend our baggage on our own.

If someone wants to call that baggage “original sin,” more power to them. I don’t think original sin works as some fictive guilt for what a distant ancestor did. I also don’t think God changed human nature to add an inheritable moral defect due to Adam and Eve’s sin. Rather than Adam and Eve having a perfect nature, sinning, and giving us a fallen nature, I think they show us who we are. They show us human nature. We are Adam because we are human. We are able to be tempted, to sin, and to resist temptation just as Adam and Eve and Cain all were. There is no dramatic change in human ability to sin or not sin outside the garden.

Adam is the start of our story, but we’re called to a glorious future beyond Adam. We can’t get there naturally. It takes new creation through Christ, the radical breaking in of an unnatural order in which the greatest serve, the humble are honoured, and we can pursue others’ needs in the confidence that they are also seeking ours. As Paul says in Romans 5, we don’t have to stay in our past. Rather than continuing in the ways of Adam, we can shift our allegiance to Christ – moving from in Adam to in Christ – and receive all the benefits that come from that new identity.

Of course many ECs reach some similar conclusions while believing that Adam and Eve are historical people. But even in my case where I view them as symbolizing humanity at large and each person as well, I don’t lose the ability to speak about sin, evil, and the corruption within us and within our communities. Personally, I think it places these things on a stronger footing, and makes it harder for us to deny our complicity with them. The stories of early Genesis become more relevant when they show us ourselves, rather than showing us people quite unlike ourselves who doomed us from a distance.

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I found it helpful many years ago reading Paul Tillich to see the Garden of Eden stories as representations of who we are and what we prone to do. Gen 3 is about human refusal to hear the inner voice of the Spirit and instead go after what we want and pleases us, that then has many consequences.

I do not see a literal historical Fall in the story of evolution, but instead there is an actual failure to grow into the true life of our Intended Humanity in divine communion. We are estranged from our divinely intended nature, and this is what Genesis 3 shows, in what I think is parable rather than actual historical.

We have developed biologically physically and intellectually but not actually spiritually, and we have defective moral relations. We need that actual next step of growing into new people, New Being, New Creation, a New Humanity, and that is what Christ and the Spirit brings to us that we cannot do for ourselves.

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In Genesis God created a very good world [1:27]

Evolution tells the cruel story of eat or be eaten, death rules.

How is that “very good”?

I don’t get it.

We can see how a system like this is good elsewhere in Scripture:

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
[…]
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
[…]
These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. (Psalm 104:14–28)

Both plants and prey are provided by God to feed the creatures God makes. Both plants and prey are “good things” from God’s hand to fill up hungry creatures. Nothing in that psalm suggests that half of this food only became good after humans sinned.

We read in the same Word that before the Fall there was no cruel food chain (animals killing animals, man killing animals for food) but God gave man and animals every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. [2:29-30]

And we read that on the new Earth it will be the same [Isa 66:25], no cruel food chain any longer.

And so the questions are:

  1. Evolution doesn’t teach, not even imply, there was a period all animals were eating plants only.

  2. According to evolution God created a world were death was a necessity while death is called “the last enemy” [1 Cor 15:26].

Something is missing.

[I heavily edited this post to make it less of an essay and more of a conversation.]

If that passage means only plants could be eaten, does this one mean only fruits could be eaten?

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16–17)

If those verses don’t limit the diet to only fruit from trees, then do you see how verses saying “I’m giving you the plants to eat” doesn’t necessarily mean “You must only eat plants”? Further, what is your view of what fish were allowed to eat before the fall? They’re left off of the list of creatures given land plants to eat.

Also, when do you think the human and animal diet changed? After the fall, God’s words to Adam still seem focused on plants (Genesis 3:17–18), though again I wouldn’t read into that a limitation to only eating plants. Abel raised livestock and sacrificed “fat portions,” making it sound like he knew what to do with meat. Noah is described as knowing which animals were clean and unclean (7:2–3). When God tells Noah that “just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (9:3), could this be opening up the diet from just the clean animals to all animals, similar to how God gave them all plants? If this is instead the first time meat is put on the menu, it’s curious that a change in animal diet goes without mention, and also curious that the flood and not the fall prompted this change.

Yet at a time when God “will swallow up death for ever,” we read of “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear” (Isaiah 25:6–8). This may be symbolic imagery, and I’m sure God could make meat without killing animals just as Jesus made wine without crushing grapes, but still, the picture of the coming banquet includes steak!

Yes, but not animal death. Psalm 104, Job 38–39, and 1 Timothy 4:3–4 don’t describe predation and meat-eating as the last enemy, but as a good part of God’s creation.

After the Fall [Gen 9:3-4] everything is different, I was talking about before the Fall, when God created (a very good world) by evolution with death as a neccesity.

First of all, none of what you read here is an EC position. We fall into different camps which are not very clear cut. Some like myself and SkovandOfMitaze take the story in Genesis as essentially historical seeing sufficient reason to take some things symbolically in order to make this work with what science has discovered. Others like Marshall and cosmicscotus seek to reformulate Christian theology in a completely evolutionary framework. That sounds like replacing Christian theology with an new evolution TOE religion, which I think is going overboard. Frankly I think people have become so snake fascinated by genetics they have bought into the philosophically outrageous idea that this DNA chemistry is all we are… physically. I do not. Physically we are mind AND body… genetics and memetics… biology and psychology.

Atheists read the Bible telling the cruel story of a God who slaughters millions of people whenever He doesn’t get his way in the tiniest things. Are we to believe in a god that does not want us to have any knowledge of good and evil so we will simply commit genocide whenever he commands? Is the gospel simply a deal we are making to trade away our moral integrity for a promise of a get out of jail free card? To me this sounds like a devil and deal with the devil making cowardice a virtue and sniveling worms into saints. No thank you!

I see no reason to read the Bible in order to directly contradict scientific findings, but also see no need to make so much of scientific findings that we replace our thinking entirely with that worldview as if it were our new religion. There is plenty of room here for finding a balance between these two things.

Indeed! What is missing is the very clear fact that the Bible constantly speaks of two kinds of life and death. God said that on the day they “eat of the fruit” they would surely die. The snake said this was not true? So who is the liar, God or the devil? Did they die on that day or not?

Jesus said in Luke 9:60, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” But how can the dead bury the bodies of the dead unless we are speaking of two kinds of life and death? And Revelation 21:8 speaks of a second death… so it is right there in the Bible.

Adam and Eve did die on the day they ate of the fruit, but it was a spiritual death, so God did not lie.
Physical death is a part of life and it was a part of the story in Genesis from the beginning both in God’s commandment and the very fact of life where anybody eats anything.

Yes, and not physical death. Going to be with God is not the enemy.

THIS is a good world – a paradise! There is nothing wrong with the world or the universe. The only problem here is us people in it. We are the problem and accepting that is the essence of the gospel. Eternal life and salvation is not a cure to old age and eternal youth. Eternal life and salvation is a relationship with God!

You will find a wide range of views of what to make sense of the “Fall”
As for me, I take to the idea of a historical view of Adam and Eve as real people but not the only humans to be made. Adam and Eve stood in for humanity in the Garden which was a prototype of a temple within the Ancient Near Eastern context and thus in a federal headship type of way Adam and Eve stood in for humanity before God and in a gesture of disobedience humanity fell with Adam. The same is with Jesus Christ, though we are not related to Him, but through the perfect and finished work He did for us on the cross we can benefit from what He did.

They are just so stories that emerged in the evolution of culture. And A&E certainly weren’t real.

Mitchell and Quinn thank you for adding your thoughts. Allow me to rephrase in a different way.

We know that evolution is a story with death as a necessity, the Earth can not hold 100 billion people, an Earth without the dead of insects would be unlivable within a couple of months.

We also know that death is the result of…sin.

Is it therefore possible that when God started to create a world by evolution wherein death rules for every living creature because sin already made its entry?

There are pointers.

  1. We know about the satanic rebellion in heaven, could it be God created the Universe (and us) because of the satanic rebellion?

  2. Well, maybe later.

No, we do not know any such thing. I do not believe this speculative supposed event described in non-canonical texts ever happened. And I do not think rebellion is an accurate description of what went wrong with Adam and Eve either.

Exactly! Death is a perfectly natural and logical part of life. The Earth without death is a nonsensical absurdity.

Spiritual death, yes. Physical death, no.

Without spiritual death, physical death is more like a second birth… simply a move to a bigger and greater world to be with God.

Certainly that is the thinking of one of the two camps I have described above replacing the traditional Christian theology with an evolution TOE. I think that is an excessive imposition of science on theology. But clearly others here at Biologos think otherwise.

Now we are talking business although I am too new here to understand what you mean by the “two camps” here and what TOE stands for.

What I am saying is, God could have created a world without physical death as we know He will create a new world without physical death in the end (1 Cor 15:24-28). So why did He not from the start? I am pretty sure God has a good reason He did not and that’s what I am trying to understand.

This is described in my first post, right at the beginning.

theory of everything. It is a pretty common observation/criticism that people have gone a bit overboard in making evolution a theory to explain everything. But just because the theory of evolution is correct doesn’t mean it explains everything.

The most reasonable answer is that He DID create things in this way from the start. It is far more unreasonable to think that God transformed the whole universe to work in a completely different manner. It is just like the notion that God fabricated all the evidence coming to us from the Earth and sky to paint a false picture of how the universe and the species came to be as they are. This is no more reasonable that the idea than the idea that the universe was created this morning with all our memories as they are of a past which does not exist. It is unreasonable because it makes too much of life empty of meaning – so much so that would be preferable to believe what our memories and the evidence tells us regardless, and to label such empty suppositions as pointless.

I believe in original sin, but not that definition. I do not find biblical support for federal headship, and personally I think it impugns God’s character. I don’t think God charges us with Adam’s sin as if we committed it. However, I think the situation is actually much worse. I believe we inherited a sinful nature because Adam’s sin corrupted the human race’s moral DNA, a nature that makes it impossible, prior to regeneration, for us to do anything that pleases God. In this view, being charged with Adam’s sin is more or less moot. We are in rebellion and sining on our own from day 1.

Actually the bible does not say that everything God created was good. Even in the garden before the serpent and the fall we are told something is not good, namely that man was alone. (Gen 2:18)

Maybe, maybe not. It is quite consistent with the biblical text that spiritual death (and a consequence loss of eternal life ) is the consequence of sin. That might explain why God tells Adam on the day he eats from the tree he will surely die, (not “start the process of dying”, but die) yet after eating Adam breaths another 900+ years. Perhaps Adam did die on the day he ate, but it was a spiritual death. If that is the case, there there are no grounds to assert with certainty that physical death was a consequence of sin.

Of course, all theological opinions are mine alone, I speak for no one.

Yeah… inherited guilt? no way. Inherited responsibilities and obligations which go hand in hand with our inherited advantages? sure. Inherited consequences? Absolutely. Inherited habits and patterns of behavior? Most likely.

Nope. I don’t believe in that either. Sounds like an excuse. And I think it is a lie. Every habit we acquire from others is still something which we chose to imitate.

I hope you don’t mean a section of our DNA is responsible for our morality. But if you mean that more metaphorically, or to use Dawkins’ terminology… Adam corrupted the memetic inheritance we have from God through him.

Not impossible! Just highly unlikely that we would avoid all the bad habits of those who are an example to us. Many of us avoid some of these bad habits but nobody avoids them all. We were never meant to navigate the moral landscape of life without the guidance of God. That is the no-win scenario of this separation from God which the fall of man created.

No. I am only in rebellion against those using religion as a tool of power and manipulation by equating sin with disobedience. Disbelieving in the nonsense taught by most religions is NOT a rebellion against God. Neither are our mistakes or bad habits. It is not about rebellion but about a spiritual disease in the bad habits which destroy our potential, our capabilities, our awareness, and our free will.

Amen!

My issue with that view is that our flesh is no different from Adams flesh. He was tempted and sinned all the same. Our flesh is not any different then the flesh Jesus was born with who never sinned. The temptations of the flesh had always existed.

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Living organism do not grow without challenges. Only by overcoming challenges do we learn and grow. Only by asserting themselves over and against their environment do living organisms exist. So, I think these temptations of these “sins of the flesh” you speak of, much of which come from our biological heritage which is the environment of the mind plays a similar role.

But the self-destructive habits from the fall are different – we gain nothing from these anti-life habits which stand in the way of learning and growth. The most we can say is that the possibility of their existence is inherent in the free will of life itself.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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