Evolution and Original Sin by Robin Collins: Introduction

| By and (guest author) on Reading the Book of Nature

Intro by Ted Davis

Of all the theological and biblical challenges posed by Evolutionary Creation, none are bigger than those related to the Garden of Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The resulting “fall” from primitive perfection resulted in a permanent moral impediment for all descendants of Adam and Eve—every human being who has ever lived. How can evolution be held alongside the crucial Christian doctrine of original sin? For the next few months we will consider one possible answer, as we serialize a paper by philosopher Robin Collins, entitled “Evolution and Original Sin.” With expertise in both philosophy of religion and philosophy of science, Collins is highly qualified to handle this particular topic.

 
Evolution and Original Sin by Robin Collins: Introduction

God punishes Adam & Eve, from Master Bertram, the Grabow Altarpiece (1379-83), Kunsthalle Hamburg.

Intro by Ted Davis

Of all the theological and biblical challenges posed by Evolutionary Creation, none are bigger than those related to the Garden of Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The resulting “fall” from primitive perfection resulted in a permanent moral impediment for all descendants of Adam and Eve—every human being who has ever lived. How can evolution be held alongside the crucial Christian doctrine of original sin? For the next few months we will consider one possible answer, as we serialize a paper by philosopher Robin Collins, entitled “Evolution and Original Sin.” With expertise in both philosophy of religion and philosophy of science, Collins is highly qualified to handle this particular topic.

Introducing Robin Collins

Robin Collins is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College, where he has taught since 1994. I’ve had the distinct privilege of team teaching with him several times, a pleasure I will repeat again this coming spring term. A few years ago, we led a seminar on science and religion for Chinese philosophy professors and graduate students at Calvin College. Next summer, we will lead a study group on Christianity and science at the Center for Pastor Theologians in the Chicago area. Robin understands the history of science better than many other philosophers, and I have some training in philosophy of science, so we complement one another well.

Robin Collins headshot photoAs an undergraduate at Washington State University, Robin completed majors in physics, mathematics, and philosophy. Following two years of graduate study in physics at the University of Texas, he earned a doctorate in philosophy at Notre Dame. The composition of his dissertation committee was simply extraordinary, reflecting the equally extraordinary range of his competence: Alvin PlantingaBas Van FraassenArthur Fine, and the late Philip Quinn. He’s published extensively in science and religion, including such topics as philosophy of quantum mechanics, evolution and divine action, and the relation between the mind and the body. Some of his recent publications are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science, “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse?, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, “Modern Physics and the Energy-Conservation Objection to Mind-Body Dualism,” in the American Philosophical Quarterly, “The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and “Theism and Naturalism,” in The Routledge Companion to Theism. The paper we are excerpting here, “Evolution and Original Sin,” first appeared as a chapter in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, an excellent anthology edited by Kansas State University geologist Keith B. Miller, a prominent evangelical voice in the science-faith conversation.

“Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” coverThis book from Eerdmans is perhaps the very best collection of essays arguing for the Evolutionary Creation view. Any serious student of the origins controversy, regardless of their favorite view, should own a copy. In addition to Collins and Miller, contributors include (among others) several authors who have written columns for BioLogos—Ted Davis, Deborah HaarsmaLoren HaarsmaGeorge MurphyMark NollRobert John Russell, and Jennifer Wiseman.

Collins is widely regarded as one of the foremost proponents of the fine-tuning argument in cosmology. Indeed, he was the only small-college professor invited to participate in an elite international conference on the multiverse held at Stanford in 2003. He’s now finishing the first part of a multi-volume book on the fine-tuning of the cosmos called The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Science and Discoverability: The Scientific Evidence. His work in this area led to his inclusion in a popular book on evangelical apologetics by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, about which he was interviewed in this video clip. For a few years, he was a Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at The Discovery Institute, yet he’s also been a visiting fellow at Northwestern University and Notre Dame. In short, he’s an important voice who can speak at once to evangelical lay people, fellow academic philosophers, and world class scientists: of how many people can this genuinely be said?

Let’s hear what he has to say about evolution and original sin. The next words you read are his.

Evolution and Original Sin: Introduction

Probably the major area of perceived conflict between the theory of evolution and Christian theology centers on the Christian doctrine of original sin. As traditionally formulated, this doctrine has involved three claims: (1) the claim that there was a first human couple, Adam and Eve, who existed in a paradisal state of spiritual, moral, and intellectual rectitude, without corruption or sin, from which they fell by disobeying God; (2) the claim that our nature is fallen as a result of this sin, and thus bound over to evil; and finally, following Augustine, it has often been considered part of this doctrine that (3) all human beings are guilty of the sin of Adam, and hence everyone is deserving of eternal death. [Footnote: As stated in the new catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (which reflects the traditional teaching), Adam and Eve were created in “an original state of holiness and justice,” from which they fell (Article 375). Further, “this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. (Article 404).]

Addressing the question of original sin involves at least five different dimensions, that of scripture, theology, church tradition, science, and experience. In this paper, I will attempt to put all these dimensions together into a coherent view of original sin. The view I will suggest is what I call the historical/ideal (HI) view, and I will argue that this view is scripturally, theologically, experientially, and scientifically sound and retains the important theological core of the traditional idea. I will end by briefly indicating how this view fits into a coherent model of how God works within an evolving creation.

Looking Ahead

When we resume tomorrow, Collins defines the historical/ideal view.


Notes

Citations

MLA

Collins, Robin. "Evolution and Original Sin by Robin Collins: Introduction"
https://biologos.org/. N.p., 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 August 2018.

APA

Collins, R. (2014, December 3). Evolution and Original Sin by Robin Collins: Introduction
Retrieved August 16, 2018, from /blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/evolution-and-original-sin-by-robin-collins-introduction

References & Credits

Robin Collins’ chapter from Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, ed. Keith B. Miller (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), is reproduced by kind permission of the author and the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

About the Authors

Ted Davis

Ted Davis is Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. A former high school science teacher, Ted studied history and philosophy of science at Indiana University, where his mentor was the late Richard S. Westfall, author of the definitive biography of Isaac Newton. With the English historian Michael Hunter, Ted edited The Works of Robert Boyle, 14 vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000), but his interests include the whole 2000-year interaction of Christianity and science. Author of dozens of scholarly articles and essays, Ted is one of few historians who have written extensively about both the Scientific Revolution and modern America. He and his wife Kathy enjoy theater, music, and traveling to new places.

More posts by Ted Davis

Robin Collins

Professor Robin Collins, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy. He specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophical theology. He is well-versed in issues relating to science and religion, with graduate-level training in theoretical physics. He has written almost forty substantial articles and book chapters in these areas with some of the leading academic presses, such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Blackwell, and Routledge. He has also spoken on issues relating to God and the cosmos at many colleges and universities (including Oxford University, Cambridge University, Yale University, and Stanford University) and has appeared in the popular Christian and secular media – for example, in Christianity Today, Lee Strobel’s Case for the Creator, and Robert Kuhn’s PBS series Closer to the Truth.

More posts by Robin Collins

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