original sin essay

Done.

I really enjoyed the research on this one.  My continual struggle is starting early enough on an assignment so that I have time to drown myself in research and actually write the essay.  There are 34 items in the bibliography (dictionaries, commentaries, journal articles and some topical monographs), and I really only dipped into things.  Pretty late in the piece I was wow-ed by Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans 5:12, and really want to look into that more.

Anyway, hope it’s interesting reading (warning, it’s 4,000+ words)!

18 thoughts on “original sin essay”

  1. Interesting read, thanks for posting. Given theology doesn’t hold much weight with me I can’t really comment on that side of things. However a few things did leap to mind while reading which I might as well throw in for discussion:

    Firstly a light-hearted comment from the perspective of a lecturer: There is too much text in footnotes for such a short document! A brief count excluding main titles and references at the end gives the following split: 2440 words main text, 1790 words footnotes. (I mark a lot of essays and reports so I couldn’t help myself lol). I have seen worse but thats getting up there :)

    Secondly a couple of comments on the concept of monogenism.

    Firstly I struggle to see how this really fits in with your story, particularly in light of the concepts of mitochondrial eve/y-chromosomal adam. Sure they most likely lived quite a few millenia apart but aside from that the notion of monogenism is essentially supported by genetics isn’t it? (I may be missing something here)

    Another interesting aspect of monogenism pops up when you consider that all animals, plants, etc seem to share a common genetic path. One could arguably expect polygenism from the creation story of genesis. There would be no point in making their genetics common if you could make everything from scratch.

    Just a couple of thoughts.

  2. thanks sir,
    re footnotes: yes, I have a tendency for that anyway, and add to that the fact that i might well have been biting off a bit more than can be chewed in a 3000 word essay (which became 4000+, which thankfully the lecturer told us was fine)! I had originally thought I’d do creation, fall and redemption in evolutionary perspective, but even just focusing on the fall (and particularly the doctrine of original sin) proved to be too broad!? I also kind of like to throw in quotes from the sources for posterity, sort of? saves you having to look it up again – but yeah the footnotes/text ratio probably a bit high!

    As for monogenism, I think you’ll find that it is particularly the notion of all humans having a single pair of genetic ancestors. In other words, monogenism (as I understand it) would have to require mito-eve and chromo-adam to be the first human pair?

  3. Hi Dale,

    I am no theologian and I may be bias, since all I ever hear is anti-evolution theology, but I loved it. I couldn’t stop underlining statements that eloquently stated in a way that I could not what I have come to believe about original sin as a result of my conversion from YEC.

    My understanding of mito-eve and Y-Adam is that they were not contemporaries and neither was the first human. Rather they represent the earliest human from which we have all inherited out mt-DNA and Y-chromosome, respectively. There we other humans at the time (but their lineages no longer exist) and there were humans before them. As to their being a first “pair” of humans my thinking is not clear if that is a relevant evolutionary concept. It may be more correct to speak of a population of humans which had sufficiently diversified from other hominid populations so as to no longer significantly interbreed. This population may not have been large, such as in the thousands.

    “The dual conviction of the doctrine is that humanity has been covenantally sinful for as long as they have existed and that all subsequent humanity has shared this state.” – I absolutely agree

    Would you agree that there was NO fall, because there was no perfect state for us to fall from? – I would agree that there was a “fall” from the innocence of animals to the moral accountability of humans. In this regard original sin is an evolved characteristic.

    You argue for an historical aspect to the first humans falling into a state of covenantal sinfulness. Do you envisage this to be a single historical event or a gradual process throughout a period of time? It is difficult to envisage a “first humans”. Rather, I prefer to think of a gradual process by which humanity slowly and mysteriously became gradually more aware of there morality and hence culpability before God, who in turn gradually revealed more of Himself to these creatures. We thus became increasingly culpable for our natural and evolved nature. But this raises an issue. Evolution = God’s creative intent. Therefore, God always intended that we would be sinful creatures. Therefore, God created sin?

    Or did God take a bunch of hominids and supernaturally turn them into “humans’ in an instance? Perhaps the quote you give from NT Wright is helpful here.

    “For example, babies are born ‘in sin’ according to the covenant, but morally innocent until they develop moral self-awareness and become ‘guilty’ through their own sins.” – I agree. The church needs to give thew Augustinian notion of original sin the boot.

    The tension with Paul is indeed with his insistence upon “one man”. So was Paul incorrect in this assertion? I think we need to consider Paul’s Adam as a theological construct that represents mankind in our natural state and is the antithesis of mankind as its intended state in Christ.

    “The key difference in our restatement is that the Fall is not a ‘fall from perfection’ but rather to ‘fall short of perfection’.” – Excellent comment. We should reject an eschatology that looks “back” to the Garden. I think that we should not talk about restoration, we should rather be talking about “redemption” and “new creation” – as you say “Not merely a ‘return’ to Eden to bear again the image of Adam, but to bear the image of the Man from heaven (1 Cor. 15:49).

    Thanks for the interesting read Dale.

  4. As for monogenism, I think you’ll find that it is particularly the notion of all humans having a single pair of genetic ancestors. In other words, monogenism (as I understand it) would have to require mito-eve and chromo-adam to be the first human pair?

    I don’t really know the term is a new one to me. There most likely was a common ancestor male and a common ancestor female – they just almost inevitably never met. I suspect monogenism is just fancy talk for saying Adam & Eve were the first begat-ers :)

  5. my understanding is that the term comes from evolutionary anthropology, not from biblical studies (if that’s what you were implying?).

  6. Jonathan,
    Thanks for your comments as always,
    As for God ‘intending’ us to be sinful, I would want to distinguish between what was always going to be the case or what God permits/allows (sovereign plan) and what God desires (‘will’).

    I also agree that Paul’s theological juxtaposition of Adam and Christ is the whole point – and that had Paul written post-Darwin, he may have reached for other language to bring out the life-bringing significance of the Person/work of Jesus.

  7. 34 items in the Bibliography!? Show off ;) It only asked for 15.

    I can’t believe he said 4000 words was ok when 3000 words was given as the guide – I could have said heaps more in mine! I guess that’s the disadvantage of not being in classes to hear that stuff.

    That’s an excellent essay and in the face of that, my one on the humanity of Jesus will probably get a C… I hope. A pass would be good :D

  8. my understanding is that the term comes from evolutionary anthropology, not from biblical studies (if that’s what you were implying?).

    It is used in your essay in the context of a biblical issue that evolutionary theory creates problems for though. Another way to consider it: What would change if you replaced monogenism with adam-and-eve-literalism through out your essay?

  9. Frank,
    thanks, yeah, you know you want to come to more lectures ;) but thanks mate – turns out I got an ‘A’ (I presume for the level of engagement), but not without some very helpful (and critical – hey, it’s Myk!) feedback! Might have to redo it! :D

    Ian
    In the essay, monogenism is not used ‘in the context of a biblical issue’, but in the context of relating modern biological understanding (i.e. evolution, monogenism, genetics, etc.) to biblical interpretation and theological categories.

  10. I was basically responding to this sentence from your essay if it helps put my comments in context:

    Evolutionary biology, particularly the field of genetics, challenges monogenism (one common genetic ancestor), and thus also challenges the transmission of the sin or guilt of any singular, primal human.

  11. I can see the impression you’d get there – but yeah, in my understanding, ‘monogenism’ is not a term that originated in biblical studies, but rather in biology.

  12. Given that, how would you respond to my earlier question:

    What would change if you replaced monogenism with adam-and-eve-literalism through out your essay? (Other than becoming harder to read and generating a few more footnotes ;))

  13. whereas ‘monogenism’ is a technical/biological term which has plenty of non-pejorative uses, “literalism” is pejoratively used 99% of the time?

  14. Depends who you ask – proper bible literalists take it as a compliment I presume…

    Anyway I stand by my original comment that the term doesn’t seem to fit in the essay quite right but this point is semantics mostly so I’ll let it drop :)

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