The Serpent and the Trees: Trouble in the Garden of Eden | The BioLogos Forum

Original sin and the Fall of Adam and Eve pose major challenges to proponents of Evolutionary Creation, both at the level of theology and also at the level of biblical interpretation. BioLogos does not endorse any one response to those challenges: our view is that the church deserves a serious, pluralistic conversation about evolution and original sin. In an effort to help foster that conversation, we already provide numerous resources, among them these:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I welcome thoughtful comments and questions about this post.

I have really enjoyed this post series and can certainly accept the many of the arguments in this post. The ‘Cain married his sister’ argument always struck me as forced. Surely a truly plain reading of the text requires a population in addition to Adam and Eve. However, I hesitate when Collins wants to minimize the association of the serpent with Satan. He supports this argument by writing that:

How would Collins deal with the later verses that predict Eve’s son crushing the head of the serpent? This seems like a pretty strong inference to use that verse alongside Revelations 12:9 in order to identify the serpent as a figurative Satan.


The serpent and Satan are both symbolic of the human tendency to choose evil when given a choice. Treating either as a literal physical being takes away from this truth, and smacks of polytheism.


This has been the most helpful post in this series for me, in terms of my wrestling with how to reinterpret original sin, Genesis 3, etc. through the lens of evolutionary creation. Thanks for posting it.

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Thank you for expressing your appreciation. This is such an important topic, and I’m glad that Robin’s ideas are helpful.

You make a very good point, Jim. I don’t know whether Robin will be able to find time to respond, but I’ll forward your comment to him.


@Larry_Bunce Perhaps, but it seems like the more I learn in life the more I learn that I don’t know. In other words, I’m not comfortable drawing a hard line on the historical reality of either Satan or Satan-as-Serpent.


@TedDavis Gen 1 and 2 provides the setting for the entire Bible, in that God is understood as the Creator of all, and humanity was created by God in His image, and breathed by God the breath of Life, and man became a living soul – it is this dimension of spiritual life and communion with God that is central, and indeed, is the meaning of Genesis. The consequences of disobedience, and also of deceived by the Tempter, are spelled out from Adam and Eve, and to their offspring; Genesis provides a direct link from Adam to Abraham and from there to Christ.

I find it somewhat staggering that this central theme appears to be lost in discussions which are otherwise virtually irrelevant – in these the focus becomes that of Darwinian evolution. If we understand and accept, the central message of Gen1-2 (and what follows), surely information that may speak to the planet and its inhabitants is somewhat interesting, but not essential. The counter to this is from those who wish to change the central message, and instead of focussing on the spiritual character of human beings, instead seek to rationalise their doubts and conflicts with nonsense regarding primitive impulses and materialistic concerns. Christianity has identified the “works of the flesh” and the “fruits of the Spirit” in great detail – this is how we understand Gen1-2. I suggest that we should give up on so many attempts at a synthesis of Darwinian thinking and that of Biblical understanding. The material composition of all life forms on this planet may eventually be understood, and all similarities and differences eventually (some day, but not soon) may be articulated. Even if this were to eventuate, the message of Genesis, and the Bible, will remain the same.

Thank you, GJDS, for your civilized complaint about our decision to present Robin Collins’ view as one more voice in the conversation about Adam & Eve. You’re right, of course, that Collins isn’t dealing here with the larger theological and spiritual message of Genesis that you’ve outlined. Had he done so, however, it might not have been an essay focused on “evolution and original sin,” which is a very important topic to confront for any proponent of Evolutionary Creation–not to diminish its importance even apart from that context.

Before forming a final impression of his essay, however, I ask please that you wait until the end of the series. Collins has more to say, culminating in a “theological postlude” (his term) where he will (albeit briefly) “indicate[s] how it [his HI view] fits into an entire theology that takes evolution seriously.” As he will say, “My primary theological motivation for postulating that God guides the evolutionary process is that it puts God into a deeper interrelationship with creation, while still leaving room for creation to act on its own.” Quite possibly, you will find his overall position fully or partly satisfactory, once you see it. In any case, please hang on for another two months, after which you might still feel the same way–or, you might not. These are very tough issues that BL needs to address more fully, and we can’t do that without shaking a few leaves on the trees and looking at a lot of different trees.

Thanks so much for this series of thought provoking posts. I really appreciate Collins’ efforts and Biologos for posting it. I’m grateful for the attempts to take our evolutionary history seriously and to see the implications this might have for theology. While it will take some time to work this out, it is essential to explore possibilities and to try to come up with credible interpretations of the biblical text. Well done.

After working with Paul Ricoeur’s writings (cited in these articles by Collins several times) for a number of years, I believe his contribution to the discussion goes beyond The Symbolism of Evil, especially with his work on narrative and how that might be helpful for reading Genesis 1-3. If anyone reading this is interested, you might want to check out our recent publication: From Evolution to Eden. Making Sense of Early Genesis. available here:

I really have enjoyed Dr Collins series on Genesis and original sin. In seeing the serpent as not being satan, I am curious as to the take on Jesus temptation in the wilderness. Could satan represent the inner conflict between flesh vs God within Jesus as fully human overcoming adam & eves fall?? Also, somewhat connected, the reference to lucifer in Isaiah is commonly viewed as the fall of satan from heaven, but in the context isn’t the verse really referring to Nebuchadnezzar and other rulers of babylon?? Value the great discussion on here!!

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