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Surprised by Jack, Part 3: Mere Depravity

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December 12, 2012 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's entry was written by David Williams. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Surprised by Jack, Part 3: Mere Depravity

Note: In part 2, Williams described how C.S. Lewis understood “myth” and how it could speak truth in ways that history and science fall short. Today, we examine how Lewis understood the doctrine of the Fall.

In his lengthiest treatment of the Christian doctrine of the Fall—the fifth chapter of his book The Problem of Pain—Lewis makes it quite clear that he takes the Eden story, as he takes the first chapter of Genesis, to be sacred “mythology.” It is worthy of reverence, contemplation, theological reflection, even, in a sense, belief, but is not, in his estimation, strictly historical. Genesis 2-3 narrates deep truths about the human condition but not necessarily historical facts about the first humans:

The story in Genesis is a story (full of the deepest suggestion) about a magic apple of knowledge; but in the developed doctrine [of the Fall] the inherent magic apple has quite dropped out of sight, and the story is simply one of disobedience. I have the deepest respect even for Pagan myths, still more for myths in Holy Scripture. I therefore do not doubt that the version which emphasises the magic apple, and brings together the trees of life and knowledge, contains a deeper and subtler truth than the version which makes the apple simply and solely a pledge of obedience. But I assume that the Holy Spirit would not have allowed the latter to grow up in the Church and win the assent of great doctors unless it also was true and useful so far as it went. It is this version which I am going to discuss, because, though I suspect the primitive version to be far more profound, I know that I, at any rate, cannot penetrate its profundities.1

Whatever its theological profundities, though, Lewis is clear that Genesis 2-3 is probably not a straightforward narrative of historical events. “What exactly happened when Man fell, we do not know,” he later writes. “We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish [to be our own masters] found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.”2

What, then, is of consequence for Lewis, we might ask? The real story of the Fall, says Lewis, is not the surface narrative about “the magic apple,” but rather what he refers to as “the developed doctrine” of the Fall, namely the doctrine of humankind’s depraved condition:

According to [the doctrine of the Fall], man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will. To my mind this is the sole function of the doctrine.3

The “sole function of the doctrine” for Lewis is to name the human condition for what it is, namely, shot through with corruption. Or, as Lewis put it in A Preface to “Paradise Lost,” “The Fall is simply and solely Disobedience—doing what you have been told not to do: and it results from Pride—from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God.” You might call this the “Mere Depravity” view of the Fall.

Throughout The Problem of Pain Lewis displays a remarkable degree of comfort with evolutionary theory, not least evolutionary accounts of human origins. A corollary of Lewis’s acceptance of evolutionary theory, of course, is that death pre-existed humanity. Lewis grasps this nettle in chapter IX of the book when he writes,

The origin of animal suffering could be traced, by earlier generations, to the Fall of man—the whole world was infected by the uncreated rebellion of Adam. This is now impossible, for we have good reason to believe that animals existed long before men. Carnivorousness, with all that it entails, is older than humanity.5

Here is not the place to go into Lewis’s postulation that Satan was responsible for animal predation. We need only note that he makes this suggestion precisely in order to show how a broadly Darwinian picture of natural history may be compatible with a broadly Christian view of the world. For some, severing the link between the Fall of man and death’s entry into the world, is anathema. But given Lewis’ mere depravity view of the Fall, this evolutionary understanding of natural history creates no real problem for Christian faith.

Moreover, for Lewis the evolutionary picture of the ascent of humankind presents no real objection to the Christian doctrine of the Fall, either:

Many people think that this proposition [that we are fallen creatures] has been proved false by modern science. “We now know,” it is said, “that so far from having fallen out of a primeval state of virtue and happiness, men have slowly risen from brutality and savagery.” There seems to me to be a complete confusion here…. If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection. But it does not follow that the further back you go the more brutal–in the sense of wicked or wretched–you will find man to be.6

Lewis goes on to note that the categories of virtue and vice simply do not apply to the animal kingdom–and therefore not to our pre-human ancestors either–because animals as such are not moral agents. Moreover, Prehistoric man is not to be presumed to be altogether reprobate simply on account of using only rudimentary tools, hunting and gathering, and the like. Primitivity ought not to be confused with sinfulness he argues. Thus, for Lewis, the discoveries of modern paleontology and archaeology can tell us nothing about when or whether our ancestors fell from a state of innocence, and so we are free to accept, as Lewis seems to have, man’s physical descent from animals without giving up the Christian doctrine of the Fall.

While Lewis may not have publically argued for the historicity of Adam and Eve, his private opinions might have been another matter. In his recent essay “Darwin in the Dock,” John G. West has argued that, regardless of what he said in print, Lewis privately “embraced the literal existence of Adam and Eve.”7 West chiefly bases his argument for Lewis’s private belief in a literal Adam and Eve on an anecdote involving one of Lewis’ Oxford colleagues, Helen Gardner, recounted in A.N. Wilson’s C.S. Lewis: A Biography.8 Upon being asked at a dinner party whom he would most like to meet after death, Lewis replied, “Oh, I have no difficulty in deciding…. I want to meet Adam.” Gardner, it is reported, replied by saying that “if there really were, historically, someone whom we could name as ‘the first man’, he would be a Neanderthal ape-like figure, whose conversation she could not conceive of finding interesting.”9 Lewis, we are told, gruffly responded, “I see we have a Darwinian in our midst” and never invited Gardner to dinner again.10

West takes this tense little interaction between Lewis and Gardner to indicate that Lewis’ belief in a literal historical Adam and Eve. However, it should be noted that such a conclusion seems somewhat overhasty in light of what Lewis says in The Problem of Pain, where he articulates a view rather similar to what Gardner said that evening:

I do not doubt that if the Paradisal man could now appear among us, we should regard him as an utter savage, a creature to be exploited or, at best, patronised. Only one or two, and those the holiest among us, would glance a second time at the naked, shaggy-bearded, slow spoken creature: but they, after a few minutes, would fall at his feet.11

Given that Lewis actually believed what he wrote here, the difference between Lewis and Gardner seems not to have been either the question of “whether man is physically descended from animals” (which, as we have seen, Lewis was willing to grant) or the question of whether Paradisal man would be a “naked, shaggy-bearded, slow spoken creature,” a “Neanderthal ape-like figure.” Rather they differed over whether “Paradisal man,” as Lewis puts it, would have been someone, however primitive, to be revered, or whether, as Gardner seemed to believe, a mere brute. Taking Lewis’ written statements at face-value, it would appear that his irritation with Gardner owed less to her acceptance of evolution than it did to her dismissive presumption that our forebears were but dull savages.

Finally, it should be noted that Lewis was not even committed to the most basic element of a belief in a literal Adam and Eve, namely, that it was precisely two humans who fell and from whence our species came. He writes, “We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell.”12 Lewis’s mere depravity view of the Fall and his belief in the mythical character of the Eden story gave him some latitude on the question of whether the Fall consisted of a historic first human pair going wrong at an easily identifiable moment. For Lewis, it was apparently quite possible that whole tribes of “Paradisal” Prehistoric humans could have gone about their business for generations—hunting, gathering, singing around the campfire, rearing children, painting in caves—before the spiritual and scientifically undetectable catastrophe of “the Fall” occurred. In other words, if Lewis were presented with the recent genomic evidence which suggests that our species arose from an initial population of several thousand rather than only two, it is doubtful that it would have flustered him. It simply makes no difference to Lewis’s argument how or how many humans initially “fell.” All that matters for Lewis is that God made humans (perhaps via evolution, perhaps not) and that we humans have gone quite wrong–so wrong, in fact, that it is beyond our powers to repair ourselves. Mere Christianity, for Lewis, does not logically depend on the historicity of the Adam and Eve story, but on the doctrine of our mere depravity.

In tomorrow's concluding post, we turn to C.S. Lewis' views on the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith.

Notes

1. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 63-64, my italics
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid, my italics
4. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), 70-71
5. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 119
6. Ibid, 64
7. West, “Darwin in the Dock,” in The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2012), 121. West’s volume takes a markedly different view of Lewis and Lewis’s legacy regarding debates about Christianity and evolution. I intend to write a thorough critical review of West’s book in the near future.
8. Ibid
9. A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990), 210
10. Ibid
11. Ibid
12. Ibid.


David Williams is the campus staff for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate & Faculty Ministries at NC State University, Meredith College and Campbell Law School in Raleigh, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, David earned his MAR from Westminster Theological Seminary and his ThM from Duke Divinity School. He has taught students from grade school to college at St. David's School and Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, respectively. In April 2012 David organized the symposium Biblical Faith in an Age of Science: Adam and Eve, Evolution, & Evangelicalism at NC State University, which was cosponsored by InterVarsity and Ratio Christi. As a part of his ministry, David works to encourage healthier and better-informed conversations about the Christian tradition and modern science in both the university and the local church. You can follow him on his blog at www.resurrectingraleigh.com.

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thedwill - #75212

December 12th 2012

So, in Lewis’s view, would there be really two defining events in the progression of man?

It seems that if Lewis is willing to grant descent from animals, then there must first be some point at which man attains the image of God - as Genesis describes man.  And then there subsequently would be the fall of man.  Is this your understanding of Lewis’s position?

Or is it that Lewis is willing to grant to possibility of descent from animals, but doesn’t feel the need to have an opinion on that point?  (I suppose tomorrow’s essay will help answer these questions.)


David Williams - #75221

December 12th 2012

Hi, thedwill, 

I think tomorrow’s post should clarify things a bit more.  It seems to me that Lewis does much more than acknowledge the mere possibility of human descent from animals: he acknowledges it as more or less a fact and articulates his theology in such a way as to take it into account.

But, yes, for Lewis 1) God made man through a process of evolution and 2) man fell through the misuse of his free will.  Man is made, formed, shaped in the divine image, which Lewis seems to identify with rationality, conscience, self-awareness, and aesthetic sensibility.  The key passage here is on page 68 of The Problem of Pain.  


Merv - #75225

December 12th 2012

...there must first be some point at which man attains the image of God…

By ‘point’ [in time] do you mean a geological ‘point’ or a look-at-my-watch-so-I-don’t-miss-it (or at least mark the day on the calendar) point?

This roughly parallels whether or not you take ‘man’ as a man named Adam, or as an archetype of humankind in general.  

It is typical for us to be more comfortable with well-defined (look-at-your-watch) chronologies which might explain why nebulous [geological-time] concepts got embodied in just such a seemingly straightforward ‘day on the calendar’ myth.  I like the model of deep truth becoming incarnated in accessible narrative form.

-Merv

p.s.  the whole exchange on ‘brute’ not equalling ‘wicked’ does seem to be an attempt to remove evil from the physical sphere, where it is later solidly placed by Jesus and O.T. laws prior in the instructions to physically care for the hungry and needy.  I can sympathize with Lewis’ point, but something here still needs working out.  It is fine to say they didn’t know any better ... didn’t recognize sin without the law, etc.   But we are not told that absence of knowledge = absence of sin.  Perhaps absence of ‘image-of-God’ = absence of sin?  In either case I wonder what Lewis might have expected to find so worshipful of early man?  We have animals today still in that amoral animal state.  We may find it fascinating or profitable to learn from, but hardly worthy of a desire to emulate.



Seenoevo - #75226

December 12th 2012

Why so much focus (e.g. three consecutive articles) on an evangelical website on the thought of C.S. Lewis, who according to the article author, is decidedly not evangelical?

Whatever evangelicalism is, is it not a departure and a separation from all the other flavors of Christianity of recent centuries? If not, why give it a new name (i.e. “evangelicalism”)?

So, if evangelicalism evolved, even progressed, from non-evangelical strains of Christianity, why then do evangelicals look back to find wisdom or affirmation or anything from a non-evangelical (e.g. C.S. Lewis)?

Two thousand years after Christ, is evangelical Christianity lacking something?


Seenoevo - #75227

December 12th 2012

C.S. Lewis: “The story in Genesis is a story (full of the deepest suggestion) about a magic apple of knowledge; but in the developed doctrine [of the Fall] the inherent magic apple has quite dropped out of sight…”

Did C.S. start his own myth? Where in Genesis is an apple, magic or otherwise, ever mentioned? Why couldn’t he just stick first with what was written?


Eddie - #75325

December 15th 2012

Seenoevo, have you ever encountered the word “pedantic”?


Seenoevo - #75228

December 12th 2012

C.S. Lewis: “The origin of animal suffering could be traced, by earlier generations, to the Fall of man—the whole world was infected by the uncreated rebellion of Adam. This is now impossible, for we have good reason to believe that animals existed long before men. Carnivorousness, with all that it entails, is older than humanity.”

Does C.S. Lewis’ statement need, at a minimum, some modification for the sake of logic and of humility?

 Without violating the rules of logic, how can one say that X is impossible simply because one thinks he has good reasons to believe that X did not happen?


David Williams - #75229

December 12th 2012

Seenoevo,

Whether Lewis was an Evangelical or not, he is much beloved and highly regarded by many American evangelicals and that’s why I thought it worthwhile to attempt to set the record straight on what the man actually said on some of the hot topics with which American evangelicals are currently grappling.  The essay is not necessarily to be read as an endorsement of Lewis’s views as much as a bare description of them.  You are, of course, free to disgree with Lewis on any of these topics.  In fact, I have some hesitations about some of his ideas myself.  But that’s really beside the point.


robynhood - #75278

December 13th 2012

Seenoevo, I think you have missed Lewis’ point. 

Lewis is not saying that X is impossible because we have good reason to believe X did not happen.  That is a silly logical error that a man as bright as Lewis would not likely make.  

The logic of his statement is something more like this:

If X did not occur, then it is impossible to draw conclusion Y if Y is contingent upon X having occurred.

True, the word “impossible” seems like an unfortunate choice for Lewis, but I think he uses it in a conversational way, rather than in a rigorously logical way.  Perhaps the word “unreasonable” would have worked better?

In any case, I believe he is simply claiming that if animal suffering preceded the Fall, then animal suffering was not caused by the Fall.


Merv - #75231

December 12th 2012

Seenoevo wrote:

Two thousand years after Christ, is evangelical Christianity lacking something?

Yes.  It needs more people who aren’t afraid of using their God-given minds.  In short, more people like C.S. Lewis.  

If Mr. Williams is shy about explicitly endorsing Lewis and what he stood for, I won’t be.  Even though I too don’t have complete agreement with Lewis on everything, I still soak up everything he said and profit by doing so.  Thanks, David, for reminding us and bringing Lewis’ thoughts to fresh light.  I only hope this wasn’t the final part and that more will come.

-Merv 



David Williams - #75241

December 12th 2012

Thanks, Merv.  It’s been my pleasure.  And, yes, I am a great admirer of Lewis too.  

The fourth and final post should go up tomorrow.


robynhood - #75246

December 12th 2012

Well said Merv!  You hit the nail on the head. 

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant Christian thinker and a wonderful example of a Christ-centered life.  I think it is a crime to try to put the man who wrote “Mere Christianity” in any theological box like ‘evangelical’ or ‘non-evangelical’.  He has extremely valuable things to say to anyone who would listen.

I too appriciate Mr. Williams efforts in writing these excellent essays!  They are a fantastic addition to the BioLogos forum.


2cortenfour - #75244

December 12th 2012

So, it seems like we can conclude that Lewis believed that “Man fell”, although all the details about how that took place are not clear. He also admits that it “might have concerned” the eating of a physical fruit, but that that’s not the most important issue - Man’s rebellion is.

Lewis also admits that although it is abundantly obvious to us now that Mankind is depraved,  this is “not because God made him so, but because he made himself so”.  This implies that Lewis believed Man was created in a non-rebellious state - believers in the historicity of Genesis might say “sinless” or “perfect”.  Then at some point, Man fell. The blame for sin rests squarely on mankind’s shoulders.

But Lewis’ apparent assent to the idea that Man descended from animals seems contradictory.
In evolution, our “sinful nature” is accounted for by pointing to our savage, selfish, bloodthirsty ancestors. Mankind is thought to have this savagery built in through the evolutionary process. There could have been no “Fall of Man” because Man had no perfect, innocent or sinless estate to fall from. Furthermore, if it is postulated that God Himself set the “laws” of evolution by genetic mutation and natural selection in place, and through these processes “created” Man, then it is through God’s action, not mankind’s, that we have come to our present sinful condition.

If evolution really happened, then even the abstract realities conveyed by Genesis 1-3 are false.
But if Genesis 1-3 is true in its portrayal of abstract realities, there is an excellent chance that it is true in other ways as well.


David Williams - #75254

December 13th 2012

Hi Jeff,

Lewis addresses the issues you raise by pointing out that animals are not moral agents and that, therefore, moral evaluations of their actions are inappropriate.  Animals may have rights, but they do not have responsibilities.  We don’t call a mantiss a murderer for eating her mate or call a lion a philanderer for empregnating every female in his pride.  Animals lack conscience, self-awareness, consciousness of God and the like.  They are not moral agents and, so, are not capable of sinning.  Mankind, however, has been made a race of moral agents with the twin responsibilities of loving God and neighbor.  We apparently shirked those responsibilities, falling into self-love instead, not too long after developing the capacities for moral agency.  This is Lewis’s idea of the Fall: the turn away from God towards self.

I think that if you keep it clear that sinfulness cannot be ascribed to mere animals (including our pre-human ancestors) because they are not moral agents, then the supposed difficulty with our pre-human ancestors acting like animals disappears.


2cortenfour - #75285

December 13th 2012

This line of reasoning seems to be based on the fact that “sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.”  (Romans 5:13b) If evolution is true, then human beings’ immediate ancestors were non-human creatures - animals - which were devoid of conscience, morality, etc. They were therefore incapable of sinning. But then the non-human creatures began to give birth somehow to human babies, as the evolutionary jump took place. This new race of human beings had the “capacity for moral agency”.  So the question is:  Does evolution allow for a period of sinlessness at the inception of humanity?  (Because that is one of the major abstract realities conveyed by the Genesis narrative. Man was created in fellowship with God, and that fellowship was subsequently broken through Man’s rebellion: Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God;your sins have hidden his face from you,so that he will not hear.”) I submit that it does not.
So the closest we can come to a “fall of Man” in the evolutionary paradigm is not a fall at all. Human beings would have continued to display their animal savagery which they inherited from their non-human ancestors. All you get with evolution is an enlightenment. Man came to the realization that what he was ALREADY ENGAGED IN was an offense to God. To be clear: If you want to hold that “Man fell”, it requires that Man have some status or position to FALL FROM. If you don’t have that, you are speaking illogically.
You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Evolution does not allow the theological, abstract reality of Man’s fall from a state of perfection or sinlessness, as portrayed in Genesis, to stand. One view excludes the other. 
The biblical view is given to us by Paul: (Romans 5:12-14)
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.


Seenoevo - #75249

December 12th 2012

Replaying some of Jeff Conklin - #75244: “Lewis also admits that although it is abundantly obvious to us now that Mankind is depraved, this is “not because God made him so, but because he made himself so”. This implies that Lewis believed Man was created in a non-rebellious state… But Lewis’ apparent assent to the idea that Man descended from animals seems contradictory… There could have been no “Fall of Man” because Man had no perfect, innocent or sinless estate to fall from.”

How might C.S. Lewis respond?


Seenoevo - #75250

December 12th 2012

Dave Williams: “Whether Lewis was an Evangelical or not, he is much beloved and highly regarded by many American evangelicals…”

Merv: “If Mr. Williams is shy about explicitly endorsing Lewis and what he stood for, I won’t be. Even though I too don’t have complete agreement with Lewis on everything…”

In considering the beliefs of Christian writers (e.g. of C.S. Lewis), on what basis does an evangelical decide what is worthy of “complete agreement” or of being “beloved and highly regarded”?


David Williams - #75252

December 13th 2012

Seenoevo,

American Evangelicalism is not like Roman Catholicism: it has no magisterium.  There is no evangelical accrediting agency that dispenses evangelical cards to Christians who can tick off the right boxes and withhold cards from those who can’t (though I can think of quite a few evangelical talking heads who’ve tried to volunteer for the job).  “Evangelical” is a broad, vague term that covers a variety of strains of Protestantism (though Evangelical Catholics do exist—I know a few!).  There are no agreed upon evangelical procedures for making theological decisions, evaluating authors, or even deciding who’s evangelical and who isn’t.  

Generally speaking, evangelicals’ primary theological source is the Bible, but that doesn’t tell us much.  Evangelicals disagree with one another about the nature, interpretation, and role of the Bible.  Is it infallible or inerrant or neither or both?  Should we take it as literally as possible, or practice grammatical-historical exegesis, or read the OT typologically, or should we deploy historical-critical interpretive methodologies?  Is Scripture above tradition, or should it be read alongside it or read through it?  Or is “tradition” just a sham?  Evangelicals disagree with one another on all of these issues.

All that’s to say that people have found lots of different reasons to love Lewis and there’s no one rubric whereby all evangelicals can be expected to evaluate him.  I’d be curious to know how much Lewis you’ve read.  You don’t seem very impressed by what you’ve seen in my essay.  But you should know that I really can’t do the man justice.  You need to read him yourself if you haven’t.


PNG - #75273

December 13th 2012

It seems to me that the focus of evangelicalism is there in the word, a focus on the simple gospel (evangel), the possibility and necessity for the individual to deal directly with God about sin, forgiveness and spiritual life and the incapacity of any institution to substitute for this process, as the essential center of Christianity. Hence the historical concern of evangelicals with revivalism, conversion and personal spiritual experience. I think C.S. Lewis shared this view, although he might have taken a dim view of some of the weirder excesses of revivalism. Lewis didn’t share some of the particular obsessions of American evangelicals (inerrancy and anti-evolutionism), but in this central sense I think one might rightly call Lewis an evangelical British Anglican. He remained an Anglican, but then so did John Wesley and John Stott, and they were both certainly evangelicals.


Seenoevo - #75283

December 13th 2012

“American Evangelicalism is not like Roman Catholicism: it has no magisterium. There is no evangelical accrediting agency… “Evangelical” is a broad, vague term that covers a variety of strains of Protestantism … There are no agreed upon evangelical procedures for making theological decisions, evaluating authors, or even deciding who’s evangelical and who isn’t…Generally speaking, evangelicals’ primary theological source is the Bible, but that doesn’t tell us much. Evangelicals disagree with one another about the nature, interpretation, and role of the Bible. Is it infallible or inerrant or neither or both? Should we take it as literally as possible, or practice grammatical-historical exegesis, or read the OT typologically, or should we deploy historical-critical interpretive methodologies? Is Scripture above tradition, or should it be read alongside it or read through it? Or is “tradition” just a sham? Evangelicals disagree with one another on all of these issues.”

 

How could one ask for any more freedom?

And with a Scriptural-sounding name, is it any wonder why Evangelicalism is so popular with so many?


Merv - #75317

December 14th 2012

Jeff Conklin I think raises a good point that needs more addressing.

To be clear: If you want to hold that “Man fell”, it requires that Man have some status or position to FALL FROM.

It is one thing to say that ‘pre-human’ animals are not responsible and quite another to then elevate this status to something idyllic as Lewis seems to hint at.  Being sinless and incapable of sin are two different things.  I don’t think I’ve seen any satisfactory answer given to this yet, but I feel the challenge is worth addressing, Jeff—even if you may intend such an argument to be the end of a conversation instead of the beginning of one.

-Merv


PNG - #75323

December 14th 2012

Merv,  I’ve been thinking about responding to this question, so here goes. The position has been taken here (by Mike Biedler and others) that the human propensity to sin can now be seen to have conferred by evolution, and hence the story of the fall is unnecessary. I have to disagree. I can’t get around the fact that a Fall is really necessary. While our biology provides the desires and impulses that can lead to sin, I think it is entirely plausible that a representative hominid could have been given whatever the image of God consists of, put in unique conditions (the Garden), with all his needs met, where innocence was possible, and a test of obedience applied as described in the Genesis story. I don’t think that our biological condition in itself equates to a “sin nature.” Jesus was born into the same biological state as the rest of us, “tempted like as we are,” and didn’t sin. The difference is that He came into the world in communion with God’s spirit, and we don’t, and that makes all the difference. I know the church has in the past resorted to a genetic interpretation of the virgin birth to account for Jesus not inheriting a sin nature, but I don’t really think that makes much sense. I doubt seriously there is a “sin gene” on the Y chromosome. The virgin birth signifies that God is Jesus’ father, not that sin somehow normally passes through the male. Contra Rome, I have no doubt that Mary was a sinner who needed saving like the rest of us.

On this account, the other people alive at the time of the Fall would have been given God’s image like Adam and suffered the consequences of their (and our) representative’s failure. If  the Fall occurred far enough back in time, not only Adam and Eve but every other individual alive at the time would have either have no direct descendents alive today (if their lines died out) or everyone alive today would be descended from them.

Regard these as tentative thoughts on an alternative account.


2cortenfour - #75331

December 15th 2012

PNG

You seem to be proposing a literal Adam and Eve in an evolutionary context. I like to think about the nuts-and-bolts of that type of scenario…

So, the “evolutionary jump” commences.  Non-human creatures begin to mate and produce human beings somehow - humans from non-humans.  Then God supernaturally intervenes in human history, taking one Man (Adam) and one Woman (Eve), placing them in the “Garden” - a place secluded somehow from the bloody battle for existence raging in the real world, where survival of the fittest is the law (maybe another dimension…?)  Outside the Garden, the other “homonids” continue to partake in their savage behavior, although they are unaware it’s wrong, since God is so far only communicating with His two chosen representatives. 

God gives them the law:  “Do not eat…” Then the Devil comes along asking Eve, “Has God really said…?”, and Adam is right there.  They end up failing the “test of obedience”, and God administers the consequences:  They die - first spiritually as their fellowship with God is broken, and ultimately physically. (All the while, outside the Garden, death has been rampaging through the natural world - Adam’s sin just maintained the status quo apparently)

And so Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden and back to the real world they go, where they will eat by the sweat of their brow, and thorns and thistles abound.

And there they might have had a chance to reunite with their non-human-creature parents, aunts and uncles.  And little Cain and Abel would have gotten to spend some quality time with their non-human-creature grandma and grandpa…. I guess some level of dysfunction in that family could be expected.

Could be possible I guess… but not according to Scripture.

1. Man was created out of the dust of the ground, in the image of God, separate from the rest of creation, which were created and subsequently reproduced “according to their kinds” (this is one of the truths expressed by Genesis which is proven to be false if evolution is true)

2. Woman was created from Man.  I know - sounds like a myth.  But that is one of the “abstract realities” conveyed by Genesis.  If evolution is true, this is not.

3.  “Jesus…was the son…   of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” Luke 3:23-37  There is no room here for Adam being the genetically mutated offspring of non-human creatures. He is said to be the son of God.

The Bible presents an account which is simple, yet sublime and profound.  Might as well stick with God’s eyewitness testimony revealed to His prophet Moses and see all of natural history through that lens.

 

 


2cortenfour - #75332

December 15th 2012

*separate from the rest of created living things…


PNG - #75357

December 16th 2012

The trouble with this is that you have to ignore/suppress the huge mass of evidence in your own DNA that we share ancestors with other primate species alive today. 


“According to their kinds” is less a profound teaching than the simple observation that dogs beget dogs and cats beget cats. The truth is that every baby born has 30-60 mutations that neither parent had and to that extent, like doesn’t beget exactly like, but close enough for ordinary purposes. If an individual in fact could not successfully breed in a hypothetical mating with one of its descendants 10,000 generations later, that doesn’t change the truth of “according to their kind,” but it does mean that speciation can and does happen.


I skipped over the creation of woman for simplicity, but if God did something extraordinary with one hominid, there is no reason He couldn’t make another in a cloning experiment, so to speak.


Luke says “son of God,” Genesis says “out of the dust.” That leaves quite a bit of leeway on the details. The point of the creation of mankind is the impartation of the “image of God” which I take to be what is necessary for men and women to relate to God. The Genesis account makes clear that the immediate loss (“in that day”) in the Fall was spiritual death, the breaking of the relationship, not physical death. Our problem is not some inherited defect in our genes - it is the fact that we are alienated from God from the start. Another apparent fact is that in the Genesis account the first couple emerges into a world that already had cities and other people in it. The usual speculation about Cain and Seth marrying sisters and having lots of offspring very quickly isn’t very convincing.


If the scenario I outlined is taken seriously, I think it requires the acquisition of the “image of God” by all those who are alive at the same time as the representative couple. Your assumption of gross savagery by the population in general isn’t necessarily true, as Lewis speculated. Their lives would be technologically primitive by our standards, but could have been as peaceful or more than Kalihari bushmen are reported to be today. “Survival of the fittest” is at this point an unfortunate expression which suggests a much more vicious existence than is necessarily the case.

The trouble with determining to see all of natural history through a YEC lens is that you either have to ignore the evidence completely or you end up having to conclude that God deliberately arranged the evidence to make it seem like the earth/universe is very old and evolution occurred, and I can’t see that kind of deception being compatible with His character.


2cortenfour - #75359

December 16th 2012

So who do you think Adam’s father and mother were then? You are talking about the dawn of the human race - the evolutionary jump from animal to Man is in its “genesis”.  Evolution posits the notion that non-human creatures mated, genetic mutations took place (MAJOR mutations resulting in speciation - the formation of a new species (human beings) from a non-human source) and human babies were produced.
How do you incorporate “according to their kinds”- reproduction into that scenario?
You don’t.
And similarities in genetic make-up across the spectrum of living things can just as easily be interpreted to indicate a common Designer who used a similar DNA blueprint when creating His good world as it can common descent. It all depends what assumptions you bring to the evidence.

Evolution does not fit in Genesis - period. You have to be an exegetical contortionist to make it work.


PNG - #75360

December 16th 2012

Don’t thunder at me. You aren’t the Pope. All you have to do is not read it in the wooden-headed way that literalists do and allow for the kind of considerations Lewis and later Biblical scholars have pointed out, e.g. the ancient Hebrews weren’t modern scientifically minded people and they had other things in mind than the modern YEC reader.

As far as the biology is concerned, it is likely that several speciation events occurred between the divergence from the chimp-human ancestor and the emergence of biologically modern humans ~200,000 years ago, but there is no necessity for a saltational (MAJOR in your terms) jump at any point. Biologically (anatomically) modern humans appeared quite a while before the appearance of the cultural artifacts that are associated with “modern” behavior (symbolic, artistic, etc.). I don’t see any reason to think the transition to “homo divinus” (the image of God) should have any biological sign or necessite any mutations at all. In other words mutations may be necessary to bring about some things like intelligence, upright posture and opposable thumbs that are necessary for humanness, but the essential thing would have no biological correlate at all, although it might be followed after a while by the appearance of cultural artifacts.

My point in putting forth this scenario is not to suggest that I or anyone else can resolve all questions at this point, but to say that common descent with primates doens’t necessarily mean no Adam and Eve or no Fall. A symbolic/mythological treatment is possible but it’s not the only possibility for thinking about what might have happened. 

And no/ the similarities, when you look at the details, can not be accounted for by common design. You would have to invoke intentional deception. There are countless sequences in the genome that have every sign that they came about not by design but by the same processes of mutation and transposition that we can see operating today in current mutations in the human genome and the mutational processes that are studied in cultured cells and experimental organisms. You have to look at the details, and the details say common descent. The assumption I bring to the data is that if all the details look like a duck, it’s a duck.


Merv - #75341

December 15th 2012

Thanks PNG and Jeff for continued discussion—sorry I am away this weekend and only grabbing internet time in snatches such as this one.

Jeff wrote:

...stick with God’s eyewitness testimony revealed to His prophet Moses and see all of natural history through that lens.

But you aren’t using the lenses of the original writers, Jeff.  You are using the very modernist (in fact very scientistic!) lens that YECs purport to be so suspicious of.  So many American creationists bought into a scientistic supposition that they should have held at arm’s length:  “truth must be first and foremost physical, empirical truth”.  Science taught us that any such thing as ‘mythology’ is an insult meaning ‘untrue’ and ‘unworthy of any more attention than superstitions’.  Creationists understandably interpret it this way now since that’s how some atheistic scientists intended it.  But Lewis wouldn’t put up with any of this scientistic nonsense because he recognizes the ignorance it reveals.  PNG, you and many TEs may still find a literal Adam in history defensible or theologically necessary, but Lewis spans even farther to the logical possibility that most of early Genesis is myth of the early ANE type injected incarnationally with the truth that God’s people need to know.  And that in fact this usage of myth even persists far into Genesis and even other history  beyond gradually crystallizing into clear historical account of Christ, the true focus of it all.     I know this is beyond the pale for you, Jeff; you have problems that a literal scenario attempted by PNG doesn’t quite match your interpretational expectations of Genesis 1-3.  Well, this allows for a whole lot of mythology all the way up to Abraham and then still mixtures of mythology in the whole narrative beyond that.  And this isn’t Lewis capitulating or making forced concessions at the hand of modern science.  (After all Lewis has no problem accepting miracles, including Christ conquering death.)  It is Lewis with a Spiritually tuned literary ear using a truer historical lens than modern science can ever hope to provide to apprehend God’s revealed truth inside its delivery vehicle.  And that vehicle according to Lewis includes mythology—the very same sort that invokes the sneers of some ignorant scientists today.  If the substance of God can take up flesh to the point of being found in the last place anybody expects to find such a thing:  pitifully hanging on a cross, then the Word of God can also be found in that seemingly most humble of places—in the culture-bound stories of the original audiences.  It behooves us to unpack and respect those cultures as the wrapping paper and the medium for the actual message that is vital for everybody universally.

I don’t expect you to have any sympathy for this at all, Jeff—your response might be something to the effect:  “Oh—so now Genesis and many other books with it turn out to be false so that they can carry truth.”  But such an objection would only demonstrate a failure to see what Lewis was getting at.    I’m not sure I’m exactly with Lewis on all his conclusions; but between Lewis and modernistic assumptions that literal-historical accuracy is the prerequisite demanded of all Truth teaching, I easily trust Lewis on this one.   For one thing, there is no good reason for any creationist to trust modern empiricists making [anti-] theological claims.  We should have known better.  But on the positive side, Lewis makes an excellent, lucid, and Scripturally-steeped case that is still permeated with humility that doesn’t pretend to have everything explained to the last detail.  Lewis isn’t infallible, of course, but time will tell which of these competing alignments is truer to the reality of God.

-Merv


Seenoevo - #75348

December 16th 2012

“In his lengthiest treatment of the Christian doctrine of the Fall—the fifth chapter of his book The Problem of Pain—Lewis makes it quite clear that he takes the Eden story, as he takes the first chapter of Genesis, to be sacred “mythology.””

 

Regarding the Problem of Pain, and Painful Discoveries …

From a WSJ article:

It has been his life’s work. Now, Russell Portenoy appears to be having second thoughts.

Two decades ago, the prominent New York pain-care specialist drove a movement to help people with chronic pain. He campaigned to rehabilitate a group of painkillers derived from the opium poppy that were long shunned by physicians because of their addictiveness.

Dr. Portenoy’s message was wildly successful. Today, drugs containing opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet are among the most widely prescribed pharmaceuticals in America.

Opioids are also behind the country’s deadliest drug epidemic. More than 16,500 people die of overdoses annually, more than all illegal drugs combined.

Now, Dr. Portenoy and other pain doctors who promoted the drugs say they erred by overstating the drugs’ benefits and glossing over risks. “Did I teach about pain management, specifically about opioid therapy, in a way that reflects misinformation? Well, against the standards of 2012, I guess I did,” Dr. Portenoy said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We didn’t know then what we know now.”

Recent research suggests a significantly higher risk of addiction than previously thought, and questions whether opioids are effective against long-term chronic pain.

The change of heart among former champions of opioid use has happened quietly, largely beyond the notice of many doctors. New York psychiatrist Joseph Carmody said he was “shocked” after attending a recent lecture outlining the latest findings on opioid risk.

“It goes in the face of everything you’ve learned,” he said. “You saw other doctors come around to it and saying, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing?’”

 

 

How disturbing must it be, to find or suspect your entire career was based on believing and promoting a falsehood?

What might some do in such as case?


PNG - #75358

December 16th 2012

I’m not at all sure what this has to do with the preceding topic, except to say that we should all remember, like the medieval bishop who upon arriving in heaven and learning that his theory on the ranks of the various angels was completely wrong, just had a good laugh, that any of our scenarios might well be wrong. I can however answer with a true anecdote from one of my pharmacology profs in med school, who was an expert in opiate pharmacology. He was severely injured in a car wreck and subsequently was on morphine for 6 months during his recovery. He said, yes, opiate addicition is tough and withdrawal was very unpleasant, but he said a psychologically normal person can handle it it and he was very thankful that the morphine had been available when he needed it.


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