Section 7: Human Origins and Adam’s Sin
Is the story of the sin of Adam and Eve historically Credible?
In Chapter 25 I concluded that analysis of genes has provided overwhelming evidence to support a common ancestry for humans, chimpanzees and other primates. If that is correct, then to deny it, even on the basis of theology, is to deny the truth. Without truth our theology fails anyway, and we are living in a fantasy. That was the mistake made by the church at the time of Columbus, when the existence of the Antipodes was a heresy to their doctrine, and again when Copernicus was deemed heretical because he said the earth went round the sun, and yet again when the slave trade was justified on the basis of genealogies in Genesis.
Genesis 3, however, contains a story that has been considered by many Christians to be at the very core of the Christian doctrine of salvation, the very reason for the incarnation and death of Jesus. That story is the one of the temptation and sin of Adam and Eve, and the curse that God placed on them. Traditionally this is the reason for the sin of every human being: they are ‘born in sin’ because they are descendants of Adam and Eve – the concept of ‘Original Sin’. Christ came to earth to die for the sins of mankind, which arise from the original sin of Adam and Eve. For Christians today this is harder to put aside, perhaps, than the question of whether the earth goes round the sun or vice versa.
To put it simply, the traditional interpretation of the theology is something like this:
In other words, Adam’s sin starts a chain reaction of consequences, which ends with our forgiveness through Christ’s death, and the promise of eternal life. A number of issues rear their heads immediately. Firstly, if humans have evolved from ape-like ancestors, how do we account for human sin and accountability before God? Secondly, how do we account for the apostle Paul’s attribution of sin (Romans 5) and death (1 Corinthians 15) to Adam? Thirdly, does an evolutionary origin of humans take away the reason for Christ’s death?
To answer these questions, I will start a bit further back and consider this story and the theology in the following two chapters as follows:
1. Is the story of Adam and Eve’s sin historically credible?
i. Is the story itself historical?
ii. Were Adam and Eve real people?
iii. Were Adam and Eve the parents of all humans?
These questions are key to the second layer of questions.
2. Did Adam and Eve’s sin cause sin and death for all?
i. Was Adam the originator of death – human, animal or plant?
ii. Was Adam the originator of human sin?
Finally we can come back to the questions that for Christians are common objections to the evolutionary development of humans.
3. Is the doctrine of Original Sin central to New Testament theology? (And if not what is?)
4. How did sin and evil arise in an evolutionary process?
The last question is by far the most difficult and least resolved – a big topic both for theology and philosophy. It is also one to which I can only give a brief and tentative answer as I am not an expert in the field.
Am I My Keeper’s Brother? pp 267-268. Order your copy of the book here.Previous Next Section