Friday, September 26, 2014

Blaming Original Sin on Adam

The following lecture was presented at the July 2014 conference of the American Scientific Affiliation in Hamilton, Ontario.

Original Sin Revisited: An Inevitable Theological Paradigm Shift?
By Denis O. Lamoureux


"The doctrine of original sin has been a foundational belief of the Christian faith throughout most of church history. It is a complex doctrine that is intimately connected to the fall of humans as presented in Genesis 3 and later interpreted by the apostle Paul in Romans 5:12–21. The essence of the doctrine of original sin can be summarized by two basic tenets: (1) Original sin is the very first sin committed by the very first man created, whom the Bible identifies as Adam. (2) Original sin includes the notion that all humans who have ever lived descend from Adam and that the sin of Adam has been transferred through sexual reproduction to everyone as his own. Recent scientific findings in genetics have called into question the historicity of Adam, and by implication the historic doctrine of original sin. Remarkably, this discussion is even occurring within evangelical circles. For example, a landmark issue of Christianity Today in June 2011 featured a cover with a Neanderthal-looking male and the title “The Search for the Historical Adam: The State of the Debate.” The cover blurb commented, “Some scholars believe that genome science [i.e., genetics] casts doubt on the existence of the first man and first woman. Others say that the integrity of the faith requires it.” To be sure, rejecting the historicity of Adam will have resounding implications for the doctrine of original sin. If Adam did not exist, then he could never have committed the first sin. And if Adam never existed, then all of humanity did not descend from him and his sin could never have been passed on to every human being through sexual reproduction. Or to cast this problem in the form of a question: If indeed there was no Adam and as a consequence no original sin, is it inevitable that Christian theology will experience a theological paradigm shift, no different than those scientific paradigm shifts that have been seen in the history of science?

This paper unfolds in three parts. First, we will examine some of the most important documents in church history dealing with the doctrine of original sin in order to feel the weight of questioning the historicity of Adam and by implication the truthfulness of this foundational doctrine. Second, biblical passages by the apostle Paul related to original sin are presented to further intensify the gravity of this problem. Finally, I will offer one approach toward a possible solution of moving beyond the historicity of Adam and the traditional doctrine of original sin. I will assume an evolutionary creationist view of human origins as well as a nonconcordist hermeneutic of biblical passages dealing with the creation of the natural world. Furthermore, by embracing a biblically based approach to natural revelation (theology), I will attempt to cast human sinfulness within the framework of an evangelical Christian evolutionary psychology."--Denis O. Lamoureux

Dr. Lamoureaux does not explore the alternative to the Western view of original sin. The Eastern Church never speaks of sin being passed from Adam and Eve to their descendants. Instead, it is held that each person bears the guilt and shame of his or her own sin. What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is not guilt? It is not guilt that is passed on, but rather a condition, or more accurately, a disease. This disease results in corruption and death, which St. Paul also points to in I Corinthians 15:21. St. Cyril of Alexandria teaches that humanity became “diseased… through the sin of one." And if we attend to the Biblical text closely, that is the sin of Eve, by whose action of submitting her will to the will of a base creature, inverted the hierarchical order in creation, so that all of the creation is subjected to decay.

Related reading: St. John Chrysostom on Eve's SinOriginal Sin or Inheritance of Death?Adam and Eve: The Blood and the Birther; Answers to High Schoolers' Questions about Adam and Eve; Are Adam and Eve Real?; The First Verifiably Historical Persons in Genesis; The Biblical Meaning of Eve


Margaret said...

From what I have read, Original Sin is not an Early Church, Eastern or Orthodox Christian belief about The Fall, but has its genesis in the 4th century with St. Augustine's mistranslation of Romans 5:12. In this instance, the Greek words "ef ho," do not mean "through whom", but “because.” In Eastern Christianity sin entered the world because one man sinned; not "sin entered through one man who sinned" as has been translated in the West, leading to the Western doctrine of an "original" inherited sinful nature for humanity. The error is because in Greek "ef ho" is an idiom meaning "because," and Blessed Augustine translated "ef ho" into Latin literally: "through whom." In both the Judaism of the first century, and Eastern Christianity to this day, Humanity was created good and continues to be born good, but we all have the inclination to sin, and yet the free will to choose not to sin. In the East, not only humanity, but all creation, physically deteriorates and experiences physical death because of the fall.

Alice Linsley said...

Thanks, Margaret. The problem of translation between Greek and Latin has influenced theology in both East and West. We see this in the Nicene Creed: "of one substance with the Father" or "of one essence..."

Through disobedience, death entered, as God said, "For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." After death entered,then judgment. And the first emotion expressed by the Man and the Woman was fear. Because they feared God, they attempted to hide from their Creator.

Steve Finnell said...


The original proof-text for original sin is Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)

Was David a sinner at conception? No. Was David a guilty of sin at his birth? No. David was a sinner only after he broke God's commandments.

Psalm 51: 1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to your compassion blot out my transgressions. (NASB)

David asked God to blot out his transgressions. David did not asked God to blot out the guilt that he inherited from Adam. He did not ask God to block out the guilt of sins that he inherited from his mother and father.

Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. (NKJV)

David wanted to be cleansed from his sin. David did not ask God to cleanse him from original sin.

Psalm 51:3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. (NASB)

David did not transgress one of God's laws by being conceived. David did not commit sin by being born.

Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. (NKJV)

David did not do evil by being conceived and being born.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)

David was conceived in a sinful world. David was born into a world filled with sinner's. David was not guilty of the false teaching of original sin.

Psalms 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (NASB)

God formed David in his mothers womb. God did not create David guilty of Adam's sin nor guilty of anyones sin. God does not create sin. How could a sinner be wonderfully made?

Genesis 1:27 God created man in His own image , in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (NASB)

God created David in His own image. Is God's image that of a sinner? David was created innocent of sin just like every person that God creates today. All men are created in God's image.

Mark 10:14 ..."Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (NASB)

Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to children. Did Jesus mean the kingdom belongs to dirty little sinners who were guilty of Adam's sin at conception. Did Jesus mean that children who were sinners at birth belong in God's kingdom.
If the false doctrine of original sin is true how did these children have their sins wash away. Jesus gave this command after His death. Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved...). Small children and infants are not guilty of sin.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,(NASB)

Men will go hell because of the unforgiven sins they commit. Men will not go to hell because they were sinners at conception. Men will not go to hell because they were sinners at their birth.
Men will not go to hell because they are guilty of Adam's sin.
Men will not go to hell because they are guilty of a false sin.
The doctrine of original sin is a false doctrine invented by man and perpetuated by the uninformed.