Monday, 15 January 2018

The Faith of an Evolutionary Creationist - 2

Arguably the main reason behind Christian opposition to evolution is that the doctrine of Original Sin as traditionally formulated requires universal human descent from two people in order for the guilt and/or consequences of Adam’s sin to be genetically inherited by the entire human race. The fossil and genetic evidence for human evolution of course makes this doctrine untenable as the human population has never been smaller than a few thousand people. For many, a theological resolution to this problem would be more emotionally satisfying. If one could show that Original Sin owes nothing substantive to the Bible and everything to post-apostolic speculation, that would take away a significant theological imperative to deny evolution. When you research the history of Original Sin, it quickly becomes apparent that it was absent for the first few centuries of the Christian era. Given this, one of the major theological barriers to accepting the fact of evolution vanishes.

So, what is Original Sin? [1] In short, it is the state of sin in which the human race is said to have been trapped since Adam’s transgression, with Romans 5v12-31 and 1 Cor 15:22 cited as the proof-texts for the doctrine. The doctrine as we know it was formulated by western Christianity. Ambrose, Tertullian, and Cyprian argued that the human race inherited the consequences of Adam’s sin as well as the sin itself. Augustine refined the doctrine, teaching that Adam’s guilt was transmitted to the human race by concupiscence, leaving human will badly damaged. In 529 CE, the Second Council of Orange made the doctrine largely as formulated by Augustine normative for Christianity.
Centuries later, medieval theologians such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas refined and modified the traditional Augustinian doctrine. Anselm defined it as a genetically transmitted privation of original righteousness. Aquinas differentiated between Adam’s pure nature prior to the fall, and supernatural gifts that he had at that time which were believed to allow him to perfect his nature. As a result of Original Sin, Adam lost these powers that allowed him to keep his nature under control. Aquinas’ view eventually became accepted by scholastic theologians; their view of Original sin defined it as a lack of original righteousness, downplayed the element of concupiscence and the guilt of original sin, with emphasis placed on its punitive consequences.
In the aftermath of the Reformation, Protestant and Catholic views on Origins Sin diverged, with Luther and Calvin taking a strong Augustinian view, equating it with concupiscence and declaring that Original Sin destroyed human liberty. Conversely, in the wake of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V endorsed Aquinas’ distinction between nature and supernature in Eden; disavowed any connection between concupiscence and Original Sin and conceded that the unbaptised could properly use their will.
In defence of conservative Evangelicals who refuse to accept the evidence, one needs to remember that those who take Original Sin seriously as a doctrine are obliged to defend universal human descent from a primal pair. As Davis Young notes:
 “At issue is the doctrine of original sin. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant confessional statements on original sin have incorporated the historic view that Adam and Eve were the very first human beings and the product of a special divine creation. Reflecting that view, the formulations of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, and Baptist churches repeatedly use such expressions as "first parents," "first man," "hereditary evil," "hereditary disease," "by propagation of a vicious nature," "derived or spread from our first parent unto us all," "our first father Adam," "posterity," "inherited damage," "by propagation, not by imitation, transfused into all." Perhaps the most explicit statement is that of Answer 16 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression." [2]
The inability to reconcile Original Sin as classically taught by the Christian world and what evolutionary biology has shown us about the origin of the human race is arguably the main reason behind the rejection of evolution by many Christians, particularly those in the Reformed tradition. The specific details of how Adam's sin affected the human race varies between the denominations [3] but there is broad agreement that the consequences of Adam's sin have been transmitted in a genetic way to the entire human race.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul". Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man". By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.

405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called "concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529) and at the Council of Trent (1546) [4]
The catechism’s reference to the Reformers’ assertion that original sin ‘radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom’ is clearly illustrated by chapter VI of the Westminster Confession of Faith, "Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof" which declares:
I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. [5]
The Westminster Larger Catechism reinforces this:
Question 25: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
Answer: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Question 26: How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
Answer: Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.[6]
It is hardly surprising that churches from the Reformed tradition are prominent in their rejection of evolution as their formulation of Original Sin requires the entire human race to be descended exclusively from Adam and Eve for them to inherit the guilt and consequence of Adam's sin

Paul and Original Sin

Romans 5 is frequently cited as evidence that the entire human race exclusively traces its ancestry from Adam and Eve. In particular, Rom 5:12 is regarded as teaching beyond doubt that human death began with Adam, implying that the entire human race first began with Adam:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.
Of course, the scientific evidence will force any intellectually honest observer to admit that whatever the theological message of Romans 5 may be, it simply cannot stand as an anthropologically accurate statement, and at the very least, what we have here is yet another example of Divine accommodation. However, such a brute-force approach to solving this problem is always going to leave some Christians uneasy. A more satisfying approach would be to show that interpreted in its own context, Romans 5 does not teach that the consequences of Adam's sin was genetically inherited by his descendants.
What we need to keep in mind here is that Rom 5v12 is not easy to understand, and naively reading this passage on the basis of a tradition-biased reading of an English translation (as with any other part of the Bible, needless to say) is not going to help. The United Bible Society Handbook on Romans observes:
This verse begins with a transitional formula (RSV “therefore”), which both commentators and translators find difficult to handle. The question is whether it relates back to verse 11 alone, or to 5:1–11, or to the entire section of 1:17–5.11. Most probably it is to be taken in relation to the passage immediately preceding, 5:1–11. [7]
The crux of this problem is the belief Rom 5v12 teaches human beings die because of Adam's sin, which of course is the motivation for universal human descent from Adam, in order for some genetic cause of death to be propagated to humanity. Once again, the UBS Handbook notes the problems inherent in this reading:
Paul indicates that Adam sinned, and as a result of his sin death came into the human race. However, it is important to realize that Paul does not make men guilty of Adam’s sin or indicate that all men die because of the sin of Adam. Paul says rather that death spread to the whole human race, because all men sinned. The verb rendered sinned in this passage is an aorist, and some few have tried to interpret this as meaning that when Adam sinned all of his physical descendants sinned along with him. It must be admitted that a meaning similar to this could be arrived at on the basis of verse 19, but that is not the meaning of the present passage. In this verse Paul is saying that death became a universal experience because all men sinned. (emphasis mine) [8]
The significance of this for the discussion cannot be overestimated. Far from Adam's sin being the cause of human death, it is the universality of human sin which causes death, and that negates the need for us to be physically descended from Adam in order to inherit any 'genetic' consequence of that sin. The universality of human sin needs no reminder, but as Paul notes, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Paul did not work in a vacuum, but against a long tradition of Jewish exegesis (Second Temple Judaism), and by examining this background, it is possible to understand how Adam was seen in that period. James Dunn notes in his commentary on Romans:
Paul here shows himself familiar with and indeed to be a participant in what was evidently a very vigorous strand of contemporary Jewish thinking about Adam and the origin of evil and death in the world. [9]
One finds in Second Temple Judaism considerable debate about the connection between Adam and the origin of sin and death. The pseudepigraphical work 2 Baruch likely post-dates Paul, so cannot be argued as being directly influential, but is representative of such Jewish thought on the subject:
Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, But each of us has been the Adam of his own soul [10]
The argument that Adam's sin directly affected only himself, but acted as the paradigm for all human sin was hardly alien to Paul's intellectual world. This does not mean that Paul did not believe in a historical Adam, but rather that his theology was not contingent on universal Adamic descent.

The evolution of Original Sin [11]

Given that Romans 5 does not provide the iron-clad support for original sin that has been traditionally claimed, it is obvious that the doctrine developed in the centuries between Paul and Augustine.

·      The Didache, an anonymous document dating to the late first century assumes adult baptism, which implies that its authors did not believe humans needed forgiveness at birth. [12]
·      In his Letter to the Corinthians, Clement of Rome assumes the universality of sin and the universal need for redemption, but doe not explain either.
·      The Shepherd of Hermas echoes ancient Judaism in asserting sin leads to death. His idea of sin was personal sin arising from individual choice. Infants therefore had no personal sin.
·      The Epistle of Barnabas states that children are born without sin, alludes to Gen 3, and argues that “the transgression was wrought in Eve through the serpent.”
·      Ignatius of Antioch took a Christological view of sin, namely Christ saved us from sin. He assumed the universality of sin without explicitly stating that it was an inherited condition.
·      Clement of Alexandria proposed that humanity inherited a bad example from Adam. He saw Adam’s sin as a refusal to be educated by God, rather than a disobeying of a command.
·      The pessimistic worldview of Gnosticism, which was obsessed with evil played a significant role in the development of original sin. Some Christian Gnostics argues that the sin of Gen 3 was cosmic in dimension. Once trapped in the material world, humans were inevitable sinners, so they needed liberation from this world through saving knowledge.
·      Clement of Alexandria, along with other Christians argued that by making sin inevitable, Gnostics made the concept of moral responsibility meaningless. Therefore, his idea of human freedom was rooted in a view similar to the Hebrew idea of the good desire and the bad desire, and that ultimately humans had the freedom to sin, or not to sin. Temptation could be resisted. The source of evil lay in the misuse of freedom. The remedy for sin was conversion to Christ.
·      Irenaeus of Lyon rejected the Gnostic reading of Gen 3 as a cosmic fall, seeing it rather as an act of disobedience, or an impulsive act of a child. He regarded sin as inevitable, but believed humans were responsible for sin. Human history therefore was a process of spiritual maturation, with paradise at the end of history, when humans achieved union with the divine. Christ, according to Irenaeus reversed the effect of Adam’s disobedience and restored the Divine plan of salvation.
·      Irenaeus differentiated between the ‘image of God’ and the ‘likeness to God’. The former, he argued referred to the human capacity for moral reasoning, and remained with Adam after his sin. The latter, he argued, referred to Adam’s spiritual similarity to God, which was lost after sin. Redemption in Irenaeus’ eyes was a restoring of what was lost by sin.  Adam’s sin factored in Irenaeus’ theology, but was not central; his main concern was with the pathway to divine union. Wiley observes that Original Sin was not a part of Christian faith except sin a general way.
·      One of the first major steps towards original sin was Justin Martyr’s assertion that infants needed baptism since they were born with ‘wayward inclinations’. However, he made no explicit reference to Adam and Eve. Justin Martyr accepted the universality of sin, the fact that sin separated people from God, and from this the need for forgiveness and redemption. He regarded the sin of Adam as a template for human sin – fundamentally, sin was disobedience to the divine will. Tatian and Theophilus, two 2nd century apologists likewise saw Adam’s act as nothing but a type of human disobedience.
·      Justin Martyrs views on sin and human nature were developed in opposition to Stoic views on the subject. The argued that human freedom simply meant the power to choose between alternatives without external compulsion. They took a deterministic view of human nature, making date and nature synonymous. Justin argued against this, emphasising human responsibility and the freedom to choose. He argued that neither human evil nor human goodness were fated, therefore humans were without excuse if they failed. Therefore, he placed the origin of sin in human free will Adam’s sin, Justin argued that sin weakened human freedom, but did not eradicate it. His view of the link between Adam’s sin and humanity is a doctrine of human corruption rather than human sin. The key difference is that how the universality of sin is explained, and the need to appeal to genetic inheritance. Significantly, supporters of Pelagius later turned to Justin Martyr to counter Augustine’s views.
·      Like Irenaeus, Tertullian rejected the cosmic fall theory of Gen 3 promulgated by the Gnostics. Rather, he saw two consequences of the fall, an alienation of human beings from God (historical) and a change of human state from blessedness to wretchedness (human nature). Tertullian’s advocacy of traducianist theory (generation of body and soul together at conception), and his idea that all humanity was linked to Adam because all human souls were contained within Adam’s soul marks the start of the idea of human solidarity in sin with Adam. He argued that Adam’s sin introduced an irrational element into human nature, which biased humanity towards sin. He did not see this however as an actual sin.
·      Origen coined the term ‘original sin’ and argued for infant baptism on the grounds that everyone was tainted wit the stain of original sin. He cited Gen 3 and Psa 51:5 as evidence that all were born with a stain on their soul, which needed removal. Baptism removed this defilement. Of note is that Origen still believed humans retained the ability to choose between good and evil even with the defilement of original sin.
·      Ancient Christian theories on how the human soul was created considerable insight into the evolution of Original Sin:

-     Traducianism – body and soul created at conception. As Adam’s sin was argued to cause a defect in human nature, the body and soul inherited from Adam were likewise defective. Use of this theory gave rise to a theory of original corruption, rather than original sin, and provided a mechanism whereby all human souls were ‘in Adam’. (Favoured by Tertullian)
-       Creationism – each soul individually created at conception. This theory was difficult to reconcile with Original Sin, as it implied God created a defective soul each time a human was created. It also did not allow a mechanism for the inheritance of Adam’s sin. (Favoured by Jerome)
-     Pre-existence – all souls created at the same time at the beginning of history. Sin occurred in the transcendent realm; the punishment for this was the banishment from the transcendent world into the material world, becoming defiled in the process. Baptism and rebirth through the spirit were the only ways in which the soul could begin its ascent to the transcendent world. (Favoured by Origen)

  • Origen’s view of Original Sin was not contingent on human solidarity in Adam, as the defilement of the soul was a function of poor choices made in the transcendent realm, prior to the fall to the historical realm. Origin argued however that the personal sin of humanity resulted from following Adam’s example.
  • Cyprian asserted that Adam’s sin was a contagion inherited by each person at conception, and cited Psa 51v5 as proof. As everyone was born with Adam’s sin, they all needed forgiveness. Baptism cleaned the stain of this contagion and gave divine forgiveness. Therefore, he argued that baptism should be done as soon as possible to remove this contagion
  • Gregory of Nazianus stated that the entire human race participated in Adams sin and fall. He defined the resultant weakness in Adam’s will ‘original sin’
  • Gregory of Nyssa regarded humanity as ‘diseased’, and believed that by sharing Adam’s fall, humans were therefore too weak to do that which is good. He argued that the Incarnation was needed in order to recreate the old order destroyed by Adam’s sin.
  • Theodore of Mopsuestia regarded Adam’s sin as the beginning of sin and death in the human race. He explicitly rejected Original Sin, claiming that only human nature could be inherited, not sin. In fact, his view has been called a theology of Original Death.
  • Ambrosiaster, an anonymous 4th century commentator derived original sin from his reading of Romans 5:12 which was based on the flawed Latin text he used, Modern translations render Romans 5:12

-    NRSV: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned. 
-    Douay-Rheims: Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

  • Ambrosiaster argued physical death and a tendency to sin were the two principal consequences of Adam’s sin. Therefore, for Ambrosiaster, Christ was the remedy for Original Sin.

One can see in this historical overview a trend towards original sin, but their fusion into the doctrine of Original Sin owed much to the genius of Augustine:
“These fragments of tradition, which Augustine unifies into a coherent theology, suggest again that the idea of original sin was always bound up with questions on other theological matters-God and evil, human nature, the reason and necessity for redemption, and the historical purpose of the church and its sacramental practices.”[13]

Augustine and Original Sin

The early church father Augustine of Hippo played a pivotal role in formulating the doctrine of Original Sin, one in which both his early life experiences and his later controversy with Pelagius were pivotal.
Although raised a Christian, Augustine left the Church early in his life and flirted with the Manichaean sect, a gnostic religion in which dualistic struggle between God and Satan and their respective worlds of light and dark featured strongly. Later, he was influenced by Neo-Platonism, which unlike the gnostic cults was not dualistic; evil was regarded as the absence of good, with sin being the cause of this absence of sin. Also playing a formative role was the marked unease he felt at his earlier life of sexual licentiousness. Fahlbusch and Bromiley in The Encyclopedia of Christianity note:
Augustine designates the loss of our freedom and capacity to do the good as original sin. This bondage to selfishness becomes the new state of human life. In a fateful and debatable move, Augustine connects self-love with sexual desire and then argues that original sin was passed from generation to generation by the natural process of procreation. [14]
His conflict with the Celtic monk Pelagius, who argued (or has had those arguments attributed to him) that human beings had the capacity and the will to do good. The power of Adam's sin over humanity was in setting a malign example to copy, rather than something which was passed from generation. Needless to say, Augustine (and other early fathers such as Jerome) fought this idea bitterly.
The fact that verses such as Rom 5v12 do not provide the support for the transmission of any consequences of Adam's sin, coupled with the recognition that Original Sin owes more to Augustine's novel theological musings than Paul have led many theologians to reconsider the doctrine. The Catholic theologian Jack Mahoney notes:
The formal teaching of the Council of Trent, then, is that Adam’s original sin is inherited by everyone through procreation and that its guilt is forgiven by the conferring of baptism, yet something of its results remains even in the baptized, experienced as concupiscence or sinful desires, fomenting or fueling sin in each of us. On this several comments can be offered, the first crucially relating to where it all starts, namely, to what Paul meant in Romans 5:12 when he used the Greek phrase eph’ hō relating to Adam’s action. Augustine and others, including the council fathers at Trent, relying on the Old Latin translation, took this to mean in Latin in quo, or “in whom,” with the clear implication that everyone had sinned in Adam. Most exegetes today understand this phrase as using the common Greek preposition epi to imply succession rather than inclusion, thus giving the meaning “since when” all have sinned rather than “in whom” all have sinned. We must conclude that if this is the original Pauline meaning, it removes from divine revelation any reference to Adam’s descendants being incorporated in solidarity “in him” (in quo), and as a result it dispenses with the conclusion that the whole of succeeding humanity has been condemned en masse as a sort of “condemned mass in Adam,” as Augustine and others explained. J. N. D. Kelly delivers his considered verdict in explaining how the Old Latin version of the New Testament (which had influence only in the West) gave “an exegesis of Rom 5, 12 which, though mistaken and based on a false reading, was to become the pivot of the doctrine of original sin.”
 As a consequence of this reflection, it follows that there is now no need for theology to find a method by which to explain how all Adam’s offspring inherit his original sin. Trent’s insistence that Adam’s original sin was transmitted among all subsequent human beings by propagation, or by generation, rather than simply by imitation (which Pelagius was considered to have maintained) was clearly due more to the theological polemic of Saint Augustine against Pelagius and his supporters than to Paul’s writing centuries earlier. The Council of Trent’s teaching on original sin (DS 1512) appealed to the sixth-century Second Council of Orange, which itself drew explicitly on Augustine’s views on original sin, including his quotation and his understanding of what he considered Paul’s in quo and what he considered its implications. (Emphasis mine) [15]
Original Sin therefore can arguably be said to owe more to Augustine, particularly his guilt at his early life of moral laxity, than Paul. As Mahoney notes:
Augustine’s insistence on original sin was, in fact, influenced by his implacable opposition to Pelagian claims for moral self-sufficiency, as well as by Augustine’s own humiliating struggle for chastity and his pessimistic theology of human sexuality. As I have commented elsewhere, it is not surprising that the troubled Augustine saw in human disruptive sexual experience “not only the terrible effects of original sin, but also the very channel through which that sin was transmitted from generation to generation.” [16]
Removing Augistine's influence from the debate, which still bears the impact of his use of the flawed Latin version of Romans is critical if we are going to understand what Paul really meant.
The other proof text used by those who insist that monogenism - the belief that the entire human race descends from two people -  is 1 Cor 15:45-49
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.  The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
The key is the reference to the 'last Adam' which provides the context for the first Adam. Christ most certainly was not the last human being created, so something else is on Paul's mind. If we look back earlier in the chapter, we see in v20-22:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Those who reject evolution and cite these verses as evidence are obliged to show how Paul's theology is contingent on Adam being the first human being who ever existed, rather than just the first human being to whom God revealed Himself, the first human being to sin, and the first human being to fall under the dominion of death as a punishment for sin, rather than the simple dissolution of the organic body when it reaches its use-by date.
Framed this way, these verses are not the knock-down evidence anti-evolutionists think they are. Jesus is obviously not the last Adam in a chronological sense, as 2000 years have passed since he was born. Rather, Jesus was the last Adam in the sense that Adam was the first - each being the end and beginning, respectively, of the narrative historical stream which began when Adam first sinned, and ended at the Cross, when Jesus ended the unchallenged reign of sin and death by showing how one can finally overcome. The first Adam brought death as a punishment for sin into the world. The last Adam showed how one could escape eternal death. The existence of human beings prior to Adam, or the fact that human ancestry stretches back millions of years into the past is simply irrelevant from the point of view of Paul's theology as we are talking about the introduction of eternal death as a punishment for sin. Prior to Adam, those who lived did so as the 'beasts that perish'.


Original Sin, the doctrine that claims that the physical consequences of Adam's sin were inherited by his descendants can no longer be defended rationally in the light of the fact that human molecular genetics has comprehensively shown that there was no narrow bottleneck occurring a few thousand years ago, as one would expect if Adam was the sole ancestor of the entire human race.
What those who take a high view of the Bible should recognise is that such a theological construction owes more to later theological novelty than the Biblical authors. What Paul is arguing in Romans 5 is that because all human beings sin, they will all die, assuming they do not repent and seek God. Paul is not arguing that the guilt and physical consequence of Adam's sin were genetically inherited by his descendants. Evolutionary biology therefore holds no essential problems for our theology. In fact, it poses an insuperable problem for Reformed, and to a lesser degree, Catholic teaching.

This post contains material that has appeared earlier (8th June 2013_


1.. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1202.
2. Young D.A. “The Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race RevisitedChristian Scholar's Review XXIV:4, 380-396 (May, 1995)
3. Unlike Catholic and Reformed Christianity, the Orthodox church is not troubled to the same extent by evolutionary biology as it does not believe in Original Sin as formulated by the Catholic and Reformed traditions: "This Eastern understanding of human origin and destiny is clearly distinct from the prevailing trends of Western thought as expressed in the Augustinian tradition, and later in  Scholasticism and the  Reformation. It does not involve a clear opposition between  nature and  grace, since human nature—our very existence—implies participation in God (i.e., in grace). Without communion with God, human beings lose their very humanity. Furthermore, the sin of  Adam and Eve is not interpreted as transmissible  guilt, requiring retribution. Rather, their rebellion resulted in their mortality and that of their children, as well as in a new cosmic situation in which the  serpent has usurped God’s power and human beings no longer enjoy full  freedom but have become dependent upon the requirements of a constant struggle for survival. Indeed, “death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam” (Rom. 5:14). Fallen humanity is an enslaved, rather than a guilty, humanity; in conditions of fallenness, however, sin becomes inevitable." See Encyclopedia of Christianity Volume 3 (Eerdmans 1999) p 863
5. The Westminster Confession of Faith (with proofs) Chapter VI "Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof"  
7. Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. 1973. A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Romans. UBS Handbook Series (102). United Bible Societies: New York
8. ibid, p 102
9. Dunn, J. D. G. 1998. Romans 1–8. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 38A (272). Word, Incorporated: Dallas
10. 2 Baruch 54:19
11. Wiley T Original Sin: Origins, Developments and Contemporary Meanings (2002: New York, Paulist Press) The following is adapted from and styled after Wiley.
12. Explaining infant baptism was one of the spurs for developing the doctrine of original sin. As infants clearly were incapable of committing personal sins, the question then arose as to for what sin their baptism was needed.
13. Wiley., op cit. Kindle Locations 685-686.
14. Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. 2008. The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Vol. 5 (20). Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill: Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands
15. Mahoney, Jack,  2011. Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration (pp. 55-56). Georgetown University Press. Kindle Edition.
16. ibid, p 56