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Faith after Literalism: An Interview with Michael Gungor

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August 11, 2014 Tags: Christian Unity, Creation & Origins, Worship & Arts
Faith after Literalism: An Interview with Michael Gungor

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team and features Michael Gungor. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Editor’s Note: Michael Gungor and his wife Lisa are Grammy-nominated musicians and co-leaders of the musical collective Gungor, which has released three studio albums and a live album. On August 2, World magazine published an article entitled "Gungor Drifts From Biblical Orthodoxy.” They reference a 2013 interview and several of Michael’s old blog posts, and accuse the band of slipping outside the bounds of biblical faith, particularly on issues of creation and biblical authority. World’s critique went viral on social media, prompting at least three concert cancellations as well as responses from Relevant magazine and Ken Ham. Michael responded last week in a widely read blog series entitled “I’m With You”. He agreed to talk with BioLogos about the controversy, as well as his support of evolutionary creation and his critique of biblical literalism.

Note: An earlier version of this interview included a statement by Gungor that a prominent Christian bookstore was pulling his music from their shelves. This information turns out to have been incorrect. Gungor posted the following retraction on Facebook:

I just found out that I received bad information about Lifeway pulling our music. I am SOOO very sorry to Lifeway for mentioning that among our other cancellations earlier!! I had just been receiving so much information about who was canceling what and who was mad at me, and I thought my sources in the Lifeway situation were reliable, but it appears that there was a misunderstanding. It was irresponsible of me to say something publicly without absolute confirmation from them directly. Again I apologize to Lifeway for this misunderstanding! I'm very embarrassed by this and will definitely learn from this mistake. And I also apologize to those of you who I may have angered with this rumor.

BioLogos: Were you surprised that a church cancelled your concert because of your views on Genesis?

Michael Gungor: Well, as of right now, we’ve had three concerts cancel and a few other promoters are thinking about canceling. Am I surprised? Not really. Though I was kind of surprised that so many people seemed so surprised about my position! I’ve been pretty clear about my stance on Genesis for years. But I am, of course, disappointed.

BL: World Magazine quoted part of your blog “What Do We Believe?” in which you seem to equate your ruined belief in a literal Adam and Eve with your ruined belief in Santa. Yet you still claim Genesis as Holy Scripture. How did your faith survive this process of deconstruction, and in what sense is Genesis still “God’s Word” for you?

MG: I had to go through a period of perspective shifting, which can be a very scary and even painful thing to go through. But the perspective that I moved to could be summed up like this: Is it possible for a myth to be beautiful, important, and even “true”? And I now absolutely believe that the answer to that question is yes. There is a beauty to a great symphony or piece of poetry, for example, that has nothing to do with the other elements of “truth” like historical accuracy. Is the truth that speaks to us through Shakespeare’s Hamlet any less truthful because Hamlet is not a historically accurate story? Is it any less of a story? Likewise, does believing that Adam (a name meaning “man”) and Eve were not actually two individual naked people in a garden 6,000 years ago having conversation with a snake make the idea that “the wages of sin is death” any less true? In fact, are there any truths other than historical accuracy that we can glean from those stories that are less “true” if those stories are myths and poems? I don’t see any.

[Related: Read more discussion about Adam and Eve]

BL: Your 2011 album “Ghosts Upon The Earth” began with four tracks drawn from Genesis. You also named your 2012 live album “A Creation Liturgy”. Why are you so passionate about creation, especially in the context of worship?

MG: The Church has always taught that creation is a sort of testament of God, just as the Bible is. For me, personally, my faith has often come alive in the most profound ways when I take the time to “consider the heavens” as the Psalmist said. I often feel closer to God lying on my back and looking at the stars, or gazing out at a seemingly endless ocean, than I do in some church services. And as a worshipper, I think church songwriters too often overlook this testament of God. There is just so much poetry waiting to be discovered in the waves, wind and trees of God’s masterpiece.

BL: In your blog “A Worshipping Evolutionist”, you contrast your “anti-evolution” childhood with your current belief that the early chapters of Genesis are poetic in nature, and evolution really happened. What were the factors that influenced this significant shift in your thinking?

MG: I started reading the science because I was trying to convince my “godless” professor that he was wrong about the age of the earth and how life came to be so diverse on this planet. Fortunately, I was raised in a way that valued good thinking, so I wasn’t afraid of what I would find...until I found it. Then it was terrifying. I thought that what I was seeing might disprove the whole Bible. What I realize now is that this rather common view of Scripture is a very reductionistic and unhealthy one that has been handed to us from modernity. There is no reason to create the sort of dichotomies that many fundamentalists create where one is forced to believe every nuance of one particular interpretation of Scripture OR reject the whole thing outright. I think these dichotomies are a big reason that so many young adults and college students choose the latter.

BL: In one of your recent blogs, you say that “science and rational thought” make it impossible for you to believe in a literal Noah’s Ark, even though you still believe in miracles, heaven, resurrection, etc. Unfortunately, science and faith have had a difficult time co-existing without attempting to steamroll each other. Why do you think harmony is so difficult? How can Christians show the way forward in creating harmony between faith and science?

MG: I have a four-year-old girl named Amelie. She wears princess dresses nearly every day and usually has a stethoscope around her neck because she considers herself a princess doctor. This works well for a four year old, but let’s be honest, I wouldn’t want Sleeping Beauty operating on me. Nor do I necessarily want my surgeon entering the room in a frilly pink dress believing that she is actually a magical princess who can use her powers during my surgery. Princesses and doctors both have their place in society, but they probably shouldn’t compete with one another very often. If two different teams try to play two different games on the same field against each other, it’s probably not going to go very well.

Good scientists have a very clear road that lays out what they are trying to do. They are generally using observation and experimentation to understand the physical universe. They focus on questions like, “How did life arise on planet earth?” Religious people are also trying to understand the world we live in, but it is a different sort of understanding. It is questions like, “Why did life arise on earth?” that belongs in the realm of a philosophical or religious discussion. I think the problems happen when the two perspectives infringe into the other discipline’s zone. The scientists try to be philosophers and the philosophers try to fudge the science. I think a way forward is to adopt the position of so many Christians throughout history: Let scientists do the science, and if that plainly contradicts something we read in Scripture, then re-interpret how we are reading Scripture. The Bible makes for a great religious text, but it is not such a great science book. And vice versa.

[Related: Read more about reconciling science and scripture]

BL: You titled your recent blog series “I’m With You” as a statement of solidarity with your critics. What do you mean by that? How can Christians dialogue more graciously on these important issues?

MG: I think that Christians need to realize that what we agree on is so much more important than what we disagree about. While this whole Genesis interpretation thing was boiling last week on social media, other Christians were being slaughtered in Iraq. While we were dividing over little interpretation issues, there are countless people still in need of clean water in the world. My point is that we have so much work to do, and any energy spent dividing and splintering is wasted energy. I wanted the fundamentalists that I see myself as being on the same team as them. I came from their ranks and in so far that their mission is to bring the life and hope of Jesus to the world, we are trying to do the exactly the same thing. So let’s have discussion. We can share a meal together and enjoy debating and philosophizing through the whole thing. But at the end of the day, let’s remember that we are in this together. And let us remember the prayer of the one who prayed in the garden before he was crucified: “May they be one as you and I are one.”

Michael Gungor is a Grammy-nominated musician and song-writer from Denver, Colorado. He and his wife have produced the albums “Beautiful Things”, “Ghosts Upon the Earth”, and the recent “I Am Mountain”, as well as a live album entitled “A Creation Liturgy”. With thought-provoking lyrics and wide-ranging musical styles, their songs celebrate creation and redemption in the midst of a painful and imperfect world.

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g kc - #86176

August 12th 2014

The interviewer asked MG:

“In one of your recent blogs, you say that “science and rational thought” make it impossible for you to believe in a literal Noah’s Ark, even though you still believe in miracles, heaven, resurrection, etc.”

I wish MG had explained how this could be. His response included “Let scientists do the science, and if that plainly contradicts something we read in Scripture, then re-interpret how we are reading Scripture.” But that doesn’t seem consistent with his belief in miracles.


MG said “I think that Christians need to realize that what we agree on is so much more important than what we disagree about.”

I wish MG had expanded on this further. MG obviously feels that beliefs about origins and about Scriptural understanding (“little interpretation issues”) are less important than other Christian beliefs. But while less important, he feels they’re not un-important. For otherwise, he’d easily abandon his views and adopt the view of the other side, if only to make peace, and “be one”.

All Christians (and probably most non-Christians) would like to see an end to the Iraq slaughter of Christians (or of anyone), the provision of clean water to all, and the solution of any number of humanitarian crises in the world. There is no division on these desires. However, the Church is not primarily a humanitarian relief organization. It is a very particular unification organization. Which makes Christ’s words all the more stunning:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”


“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

David Eckstrom - #86178

August 12th 2014

It’s just funny to me that World Magazine printed an article written by a banker criticizing a musician for presenting a theological position on a scientific issue.  Seems like there’s enough ignorance surrounding this particular kerfluffle that we should all just let it die and move on with our lives.

Having said that, I pray for the day when the last modernist evangelical leaves the planet so Christianity can stop fighting this costly battle over whether or not the universe is actually younger than some of the trees that are growing on Earth and move on with Jesus commission.

g kc - #86184

August 12th 2014


Great first sentence. And I can empathize with your last.


“… and move on with Jesus commission.”

Unfortunately, today, when many read His commission…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

… they’re quite likely not to commit. Perhaps because of uncertainty. How will they respond to the questions of potential recruits?

Example: Baptism: Is baptism really necessary? Is baptizing infants appropriate? What is the full meaning of baptism? Does anything spiritual really happen to the one being baptized? What is the ultimate effect, if any, of not being baptized?

Example: Commands: What does it mean to “observe” Christ’s commands? What are Christ commands? Does “all” the commands cover more than a somewhat generic “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”? Do Christ’s commands include following what his apostles command (e.g. Luke 10:16; 3 John 1:9)? What is the ultimate effect, if any, of not following, or not trying to follow, all of Christ’s commands?


The commission. Just two verses, yet so many questions. And apparently no one around to answer them definitively.


Jesus shouldn’t expect many to commit to his commission. After He ascended, apparently He left no one and no thing to carry on, to lead the sheep, until the end of time.


Jordan Fowler - #86179

August 12th 2014

Just did a re-reading of John H Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture as well as The Lost World of Genesis One. EXCELLENT thought provokers!

Also reflecting on innerrancy as defined by Dockery:

“When all the facts are known, the Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted in light of which culture and communication means had developed by the time of its composition will be shown to be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation” (David S. Dockery, Christian Scripture: An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority and Interpretation [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995]

The key phrase for me is “to the precision intended by the author.“Of course, that intent is extremely difficult to ascertain. If Genesis 1-3 was intended as poetry than its originator has less precision intended about the scientific method/timeline of creation. But MORE to say about the WHY of the Creation/Fall.If the ark was intended, without any degree of deception, to serve as a myth-story to teach us, again, MG gets more space to hold his belief. The difficulty is that the oral tradition originator isn’t around for us to ask, “Yo, did you mean your hearers to take this metaphorically and did they understand your intent?” (Not that I’d throw that Yo in there, just for effect here.)Because intent, like human motive, is difficult to pin down, the present debate exists.

Jordan Fowler - #86180

August 12th 2014

And I should edit a post that long for spelling/grammar but alas I didn’t.

Teal Tomato - #86182

August 12th 2014

I wish I could hug Michael Gungor.  His words and philosphy are an incredible comfort to me.  I am presently a closeted atheist—I’ve been a fundamenalist Christian and missionary my entire life.  The process of losing faith and entering unbelief has been incredibly painful to me.  I recently revealed my secret to my family—their reaction was perhaps the most painful experience I’ve had in my entire life.  Thank you for this interview.  You can read my story here: http://www.tealtomato.com

David Foreman - #86183

August 12th 2014

Right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals have long thought they owned “Christianity” when, in fact, there has always been a great many christianities.  The history of this train of thought is relatively new, and has been traced by people like Frank Schaeffer.Anyway, as a post-christian Jesus lover, I (and many many others) are standing right there with Gungor.The sad thing is, this (like incidents with Jars of Clay, Kristin Chenoweth, Rob Bell, et al.) shows that many/most fundies are indeed religious terrorists.  They say they believe in salvation by faith in Christ, but there actions prove they actually believe in salvation by “correct” theology.  They are bible worshipers, making a book on par with God.  Jesus would be turning over in his grave, were he still there.

Gregory - #86187

August 12th 2014

Hello Michael,

Though I appreciate your active testimony against YECism, fundamentalism, biblical literalism and anti-science in general (many more ‘evangelicals’ should do this in USA), might I suggest one oft-ignored clarification?

You don’t actually appear to qualify as an ‘evolutionist’ nor imo should you ever wish to be called that as a technical term. That would be going overboard.

Not everyone who accepts limited biological evolutionary theories, regardless of their theology or worldview, necessarily accepts the label ‘evolutionist’. Calling yourself a ‘worshipping evolutionist’ is therefore really unnecessary. My answer to the question on your blog about it is therefore: No.

As you may know, BioLogos is against ‘evolutionism’ (click on the “Common Questions” link above; it is addressed in the 1st question). As I see it, those who accept evolutionism may properly take the label ‘evolutionist’, while those who merely accept limited biological evolution do not and should not. That way, a clear distinction is made between evolutionism (ideology) and evolutionary theory (science). This clarification goes a long way in science, philosophy and theology/worldview conversations (though in USA, amongst evangelicals, most of whom have training neither in philosophy or [natural] science, it has not [yet] caught on).

In this light, the general introduction to this post is misleading because it uses two different meanings of ‘evolution’ in the same sentence: “the evolution [read: change or development] of his [Michael Gungor’s] views of evolution, science, and biblical authority.” One usage refers to a scientific theory, the other is imo just a sloppy and unnecessary (see alternatives above) use of ‘evolution’, seemingly as an attempt to be cool or hip or fashionable or something like that. Sure, that frivolous usage is rather common in the USA (often people put ‘evolution’ in scare quotes, without explaining the joke). But it really just serves to confuse things and create misunderstandings, rather than helping.

Oh, look, this message is simply ‘evolving’ as I type it?! No, it is not. I am thinking, creating & writing it. That’s something quite different than biological ‘evolution’ in the way written ‘change’ (i.e. any process of human making) occurs.

Let’s not contribute to confusing things with double entendres if we don’t have to and if it actually makes matters we share in common worse. Do you agree?

Hope that helps,


Dan Martin - #86188

August 12th 2014

Michael, in your 2nd answer, you assert that “the wages of sin is death” hasn’t lost it’s veracity even if Adam & Eve are not literal, historical individuals.  I find that impossible to resolve - if they were simply mythical beings, then the reality of our fallen nature is also a myth.  It took an act of sin, with real people to separate us from a real God.

paul.bruggink1 - #86192

August 13th 2014

Dan Martin,

G. K. Chesterton once noted that original sin is the one Christian doctrine that is empirically verifiable and validated by 3500 years of human history.  It didn’t take one act of sin by one ancient couple to separate us from the real God. There is nothing mythical about our fallen nature and our individual need for a savior to reconcile us with God. It is helpful to think of Genesis 1-11 as God teaching us theology, not history or science.

g kc - #86198

August 13th 2014


I don’t know if your entire paragraph or just the first sentence was meant to convey G.K. Chesterton’s thought on this matter. If it was the latter, I think you may have misread the man. He certainly seemed to hold to the traditional understandings of original sin.

“It is not a mere verbal coincidence that original thinkers believe in Original Sin. For really original thinkers like to think about origins… Nevertheless, I often feel that the original thinker is not quite original enough. I mean that he does not get quite so near to the truth as the old tradition could take him… I am often struck by the fact that original thinkers originate trains of thought, but do not finish them…

The worst things in man are only possible to man…There is thus another truth in the original conception of original sin, since even in sinning man originated something… But, roughly speaking, it is quite clear that he did manufacture out of the old mud or blood of material origins, with whatever mixture of more mysterious elements, a special and a mortal poison. That poison is his own recipe… You cannot explain that monstrous fruit by saying that our ancestors were arboreal; save, indeed, as an allegory of the Tree of Knowledge…But the poison itself has always been there. Indeed it is as old as any memory of man. Wherefore, we have to posit of it that it also was of the human source and fountain head, that it was in the beginning, or, as the old theology affirms, original.”



And getting back to the true primary subject of this article and this website, this great thinker and Catholic convert was no fan of evolution:

“Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even if you only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’ For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else.”

“An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one. The Greek witch may have turned sailors to swine with a stroke of the wand. But to see a naval gentleman of our acquaintance looking a little more like a pig every day, till he ended with four trotters and a curly tail, would not be any more soothing. It might be rather more creepy and uncanny.”

– G.K. Chesterton from The Everlasting Man

paul.bruggink1 - #86204

August 14th 2014

g kc,

Only the first sentence was meant to convey G.K. Chesterton’s thought on this matter.  The rest is my own.  I apologize for not making that clearer.

I think that Augustine got the doctrine of original sin wrong, and that Daryl Domning has a better explanation in his book “Original Selfishness: Original Sin And Evil in the Light of Evolution,” in which he suggests that sin (in the form of selfishness) is rooted in the farthest depths of evolutionary time and in the mechanics of the evolutionary process itself. Far from undermining the concept of original sin, therefore, the evolutionary perspective supports both the concept and its practical relevance as never before. Inherited evolutionary selfishness is the biological phenomenon that accounts for our theological need of grace and salvation.

Gregory - #86206

August 15th 2014

Domning’s book isn’t available in the library I’m currently using.

“mechanics of the evolutionary process itself” sounds so…ideologically mechanistic. Doesn’t it to you also, Paul?

Likewise, I’m not sure there is a single thing called “THE evolutionary perspective.” Pontifical Academy of Sciences speaks of evolutionary theories in plural for good reason. Theistic evolution & atheistic evolution or evolutionary creation and non-evolutionary creation are quite distinct views.

“Inherited evolutionary selfishness is the biological phenomenon that accounts for our theological need of grace and salvation.”

That sounds like biological determinism. Sin is a biological category according to Domning’s theistic biology, yet the vast majority of evolutionary biologists reject the notion of sin altogether. Who has Domning convinced with his work other than evolutionists (i.e. who hold the ideology of ‘evolutionism’)? What does biologising sin actually do to theology? Something similar to what biologising altruism has done to its humanistic roots?

paul.bruggink1 - #86207

August 15th 2014


We’re quickly getting above my theological pay grade (I am a retired chemical engineer). Perhaps it would be helpful to quote Daryl Domning’s own summary of his case, from p. 184 of “Original Selfishness”:

“To recapitulate the entire argument in a few words: Because God is selfless love, the world had to have its own autonomy, free of divine compulsion. For the world to be autonomous and capable of generating novelty, there had to be room for chance or accident. Because matter is made of parts, it is inherently breakable; this is the fundamental source of natural (physical) “evil.” Because errors in copying genetic material (mutations) are consequently unavoidable, natural selection has variation on which to work. Because selection automatically favors traits that promote self-preservation and self-replication, all organisms are necessarily selfish. Because our inherited evolutionary selfishness (= original selfishness or original “sin”) inclines us to favor ourselves over others, we (using the free will conferred by our evolved intelligence) often choose to sin; thus moral evil evolves out of physical “evil.” Because perfect unselfishness cannot arise through this natural process, we are all in need of supernatural grace to build on our evolved nature, and in need of a supernatural example to help us transcend what natural, Darwinian evolution can produce—that is, we need salvation by Christ. This universal human need for salvation, arising out of our biological nature, is what the Christian tradition has defined as original “sin.” Its evolutionary origins, and the inevitability of evil in a material creation, are now clear.”

Does this help?

Eddie - #86208

August 15th 2014


The linking of sin with biological selfishness (understood in a Darwinian way) has been around for a while.  I’ve seen the linkage in some TE writers—I think Giberson and/or Collins, but can’t remember offhand.  I don’t find it convincing.  In the Bible and theological tradition, sin has to do primarily not with our relationship with our competitors (animal or human) but with our relationship with God.  Further, sin is connected with acts of the will, acts of choice, acts of freedom, in a way that evolutionary “selfishness” is not.  (What “choice” do two T. Rexes exercise when they both go after the same Hadrosaurus for dinner?)  And if we say, with Paul, that death came into the world through sin, that hardly fits with an evolutionary account, in which death comes into the world with life itself, as an inseparable part of being an organism.  

It seems to me that the sin/biological selfishness parallel is a form of concordism—an attempt to read the Bible in such a way as to remove conflicts with modern science.  Sometimes concordism works without too much violence; e.g., we can imagine ways of reading the “days” of Genesis while accepting an old earth.  But in this case, the violence strikes me as too great; the Adam/Eve narrative from which the tradition derived “original sin” is just too far removed in character from the Darwinian evolutionary narrative for there to be any real fit.  

I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I’m not denying that God could have used some kind of evolutionary process to develop the physical body of the human being.  What I’m saying is that origin of “sin” has to be found elsewhere than in the evolutionary process.  It is not because we are all in competition for food and mates that we are “sinful” in the theological sense.

I agree with you that Genesis is interested in teaching theology rather than science, which is why I don’t insist on a literal-historical reading of the creation story.  Nonetheless, when people start employing evolutionary concepts to explain original sin, they are not doing science, but doing theology, dressed up in the jargon of science.

The same problem exists in “evolutionary ethics” which purports to ground ethics in the competitive Darwinian world of evolution.  It explains the higher in terms of the lower.

The main objection many people have had, since the beginning, to Darwinian evolution is that it seems to lower the dignity of man, make man into a creature that is not in the image of God but in the image of the lower realm of being whence he arose.  Evolutionary accounts of sin, evolutionary ethics, eugenics, etc. are examples of this line of thinking.  Indeed, William Jennings Bryan was far more offended by the implications of evolution for man’s soul and man’s social life than he was by the possibility that one creature evolved from another.  

I’m not defending any particular theologian’s conception of original sin, e.g., Augustine’s.  There is always room for debate within theology about such large and important matters.  But I do think that Augustine, with most pre-modern theologians, had the basic idea right, i.e., that sin is connected with our peculiar human nature, not with the lower part of our nature that we share with animals.  Traditional moral philosophy, coming to us from Greek sources, says something parallel to this.  Man is an animal, Aristotle and Plato grant, but the element that makes man specifically human is not an animal element.  Ethical and political discussion therefore must take this into account.  Thus, both theology and philosophy will necessarily resist incursions of evolutionary biology into the analysis of human affairs, where such incursions go too far.

In the end, I think that the attempt to link up sin with evolutionary selfishness is a form of scientism.  It may be an unconscious scientism, but it’s in the spirit of scientism.  Scientism regards science as the only truly reliable form of human knowledge and it continually tries to expand the territory of science to encompass everything, including things such as sin, ethic, human free will, etc.  I think that Christians should resist this expansion.


paul.bruggink1 - #86209

August 15th 2014


Thank you for your thoughtful response. I may have to reconsider my position.

Eddie - #86210

August 15th 2014

Let me thank you in turn, Paul, for your willingness to seriously consider my response.

Jon Garvey - #86211

August 16th 2014

Eddie, just to add for Paul that Augustine did not invent original sin, and it was the orthodox view right back to Irenaeus 2 centuries earlier (and he mentions it as foundationally orthodox in opposition to various heresies of his time). I did a piece on this in June here.

Domning seems to be channelling the usual way of explaining sin in evolutionary terms since the nineteenth century (turning the Fall into a Rise), and more recently a bunch of open-process TEs like Howard Van Till, John Haught and, as you say, some of the old guard of BioLogos. They all quote each other about Augustine, and seem to get their views on him secondhand from John Hick, since what they say has little to do with Augustine (or Irenaeus) and the tenor of his times.

It matters because it’s such a shaky reworking of an absolutely central Christian doctrine: misunderstand sin, and there isn’t a single page of the Bible that won’t be adversely affected.

Kenneth Padgett - #86218

August 18th 2014

“Original Sin” or an explanation of our “sin nature” and how it connects to Adam is, in my opinion, best understood in the theology revealed in the larger narrative of Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1 and 2, God orders disorder. Man and God/heaven and earth interact and interlock. Eden. Genesis 3, man chooses disorder (or his own order) over God’s order. aka, Sin. Man and God/heaven and earth are separated. Exile/Wilderness/Death. Genesis 4, offspring of Adam and Eve are born in the wilderness (outside of Eden…outside of order), into a place of disorder (exile/wilderness/death)...Cain naturally chooses/lives-out disorder. Genesis 4-11 is disorder begetting disorder…order rapidly spiraling into disorder. Only in Genesis 12 do we see the “history of redemption” (or the plan to fully reorder/reconnect heaven and earth…see Rev. 21) launched in the calling/covenant with Abram/Abraham.An analogy I like to think of is that of a child being born in Indonesia. When a child is born in Indonesia what will it be when it gets older? A Muslim. Is it born a Muslim? No. Is it born into a Muslim world? Yes. The child’s mind and worldview will be developed from day 1 in a Muslim-saturated culture/society. So, how is my sin connected to Adam? He’s the one who got humanity kicked out of Eden and into the wilderness. In this way, his sin is connected to all humanity’s sin. Now we are all born in a world disconnected from God, saturated in disorder.  Is the child in Indonesia biologically Muslim? No, no such thing as being biologically Muslim. Also, no such thing as a biological sinner. Explaining sin biologically is like studying the soil to find out how the ground is cursed. It’s creating unnecessary categories that aren’t helpful or fruitful in the end. Was I born in sin? Do we all have a sin nature? Are we sinful from the womb? Yes. But how? Biblically, I think we are supposed to think that it is because we are all born in the wilderness, outside of Eden, separated from God. We don’t need to over complicate it. It’s like the child born in Indonesia who will definitely become (or is becoming from birth) a Muslim. With this understanding of us being born and bred outside of Eden, all the connections to our sin and Adam’s sin in the Bible make sense, at least to me. Of course I’m a sinner (one living-out disorder), I was born into a sin-saturated world that is disconnected from God.  

4 final thoughts: 1. I know the Indonesia analogy breaks down (as all analogies do), but it’s an easy way to see how simple geography dramatically effects the worldview of a person. Our sinfulness is a result of our spiritual geography…outside of Eden. 2. I know that certain sinful tendencies can be biologically studied. But I’m just saying that that isn’t the point, and it isn’t a biblical way of understanding were sin comes from. 3. Sin as disorder (an undoing or creation order) and how it plays out in Genesis 3-11 perfectly sets up the Abrahamic covenant (aka, how God is going to fix everything). Jesus, the fulfiller of the promise to Abraham, brings order (aka, the Kingdom of God). He calls us out of exile and into Eden. We (the Church…the called out ones) will experience what Eden was supposed to become when Jesus returns, but are commissioned now to plant the seeds of Eden into the wilderness we live in. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus re-ordering our ethics (kingdom ethics). When we live-out order (by the power of the Spirit of course)...we cease to sin (think disorder), and heaven and earth begin to interact and interlock in those moments (order). Of course we aren’t perfect at this living-out order stuff as long as we are in this current state (we are still in the wilderness).    4. The historical existence of Adam or Eden or a “literal” reading of Genesis 1-11 isn’t necessary. In my current understanding Adam and Eden seem to function more as ancient literary devices/categories that God uses to reveal true, timeless theology. Is it possible that all those people and stories are historically true? I guess, but again, I think it’s the theology, not the science or history that is primary. I think for all generations, in all ages it is the theology of Genesis (and the Bible) that will stand. God intended the world to work one way, and we try to make it work another way…therefore we are at odds with God, lost rebels, guilty of treason…But God…you know the rest…(Eph. 2:1-10)


Phil McCurdy - #86197

August 13th 2014

So it would follow that you feel that if Adam and Eve is metaphorical, you would have not been separated from God?  I think what we can agree upon is your last statement.  It takes real sin with real people to separate us from God, and that sin is our own.

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