Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Did Adam and Eve Exist? (Part II)

[Note: This is the third post in a multipart series. The Introduction is at this link, and Part I is at this link.]

In the previous post, we surveyed all the principal facts concerning the origins of the universe, sun, earth, life and mankind itself -- as science currently claims them to be. We contrasted them to the core religious facts of the Christian faith, and then asked the question whether the description of our origins in the early chapters of Genesis was factual, allegorical, or a blend of the two.

The core facts of the Christian faith include that Jesus was born, crucified to death, buried, and then resurrected from the dead. This last fact supposedly puts Christianity at odds with science, since the latter currently knows of no way that such a resurrection could happen. (We are not talking about just any "near-death" experience here, for which science might be able to blur the boundaries. Jesus was taken down from the cross on the basis that he was already dead -- as verified by veteran Roman soldiers, who had stabbed him in the side with a spear. He was laid in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, and enshrouded as one who was dead, to await the day after the Sabbath for further anointment. Some thirty to thirty-six hours later, his corpse vanished from under the shroud, the stone sealing the tomb was rolled away [to the consternation of the Roman troops keeping watch], and he was almost immediately experienced again as a living person, with no deleterious effects from his brutal scourging and crucifixion just a day and a half before. Science has no possible explanation for such facts.)

But science, fortunately, is not the final judge of Christianity. If the core facts of Christianity are not true, we have St. Paul himself to tell us that "our faith is then in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14) -- and this reassurance is from a man who had actually met the risen Christ a few years before. Nota bene, John Shelby Spong, et al.: one cannot be a follower of the Christian religion without believing its core facts -- otherwise, an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ testifies that without belief in the physical resurrection of Our Lord, one's faith is in vain.

Science is in no position to judge the truth of the core facts of Christianity, because the idea of God's incarnation as the Son, and the Son's subsequent resurrection, are events outside the realm of science. That does not mean they never happened, but only that science lacks the ability to deal with them. (And please do not misunderstand -- that is not a criticism of science, any more than saying that a screwdriver lacks the ability to deal with a rivet is a criticism of the screwdriver.)

Nevertheless, Christians must be on guard that in seeking to bring accounts in the Bible into harmony with the currently known facts of science, they do not abandon, betray or undermine the core religious facts of their faith. Christ's resurrection was the entire point and goal of creation: as he himself made clear, he came to fulfill the law -- and to save sinners by doing so. Any reading of Scripture which diminishes that core truth is unhelpful at best, and possibly much worse.

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and their subsequent fall, is one of the key pieces that gives Christ's death and resurrection a purpose, and thereby helps to explicate what he meant by coming "to fulfill the law." As St. Paul explains again, in chapter 5 of his Epistle to the Romans:

5:12 So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – 5:13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 5:14 Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed.5:15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. . . .

5:18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.

Note that Paul continuously speaks here of Adam as "one man", and contrasts him with another unique individual, Jesus. Paul identifies Adam as the vehicle by which sin entered into the world, and in doing so verifies Adam's historical, not mythological, status. He thus authenticates the Genesis story -- however it may have actually happened, Paul firmly believed, from the revelation he had received, that it was through a single, God-created individual that sin first entered the human world.

There are many other analytical reasons for regarding the Adam of Genesis as an historical person, but this is the chief theological one. Through Adam sin became universal among men, so that Christ Jesus could later come to save sinners. It will thus be necessary, in evaluating the various treatments of Genesis which I shall now discuss, to keep this point uppermost in mind.

As biology, anthropology and the science of genetics have all made their advances, those who try to apply their findings to the Genesis story have encountered what they view as increasing difficulties. Consider the case of Francis Collins, the well-known Christian geneticist who headed up the Human Genome Project. After the human genes had been fully mapped, Dr. Collins published The Language of God, in which he explained how the accumulated genetic evidence pointed to the emergence of "Anatomically Modern Humans" (in today's PC terminology) some 100,000 years ago, in a species whose population was on the order of 10,000 individuals. He noted that these findings cast some doubt on the miraculous story narrated in the first two chapters of Genesis, and suggested that the latter's account might rather be a "poetic and powerful allegory of God's plan for the entrance of the spiritual nature (the soul) and the Moral Law into humanity" (p. 207).

He followed this statement with the observation: "Since a supernatural God can carry out supernatural acts, both options [miraculous creation and poetic allegory] are intellectually tenable" (ibid.). Just four years later, however, he published his most recent book, The Language of Science and Faith (co-auhored with Karl Giberson), in which he asserted (p. 208; italics in original):
Literalist readings of Genesis imply that God specially created Adam and Eve, and that all humans are descended from these original parents. Such readings, unfortunately, do not fit the evidence, for several reasons. . . .
Perhaps the shift in emphasis here, from a belief in "supernatural acts" being "equally tenable" to a claim that any such acts "do not fit the evidence", is unintentional. Nevertheless, the dominance of (preference for) a science-based account over a faith-based account is inescapable, and may be observed elsewhere among scientists in these days who profess the Christian faith.

Francis Collins established the BioLogos Foundation in November 2007, and served as its president until being tapped by President Obama to head up the National Institutes of Health in August 2009. Other members joining the Foundation included Collins' co-author Karl Giberson, who earlier had written Saving Darwin, a book about how to be a Darwinian and a Christian at the same time; and Darrel Falk, a long-time professor of biology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and co-author (with Francis Collins) of Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology. (When Collins left to head up the NIH, Falk succeeded him as president of the BioLogos Foundation.)

With a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, BioLogos operates The BioLogos Forum, which "highlights the compatibility between modern science and traditional Christian beliefs." Though BioLogos takes no official position on whether or not Adam and Eve were historical persons, many articles published on the BioLogos Forum have entertained an allegorical, or at least "representative", view of the first couple. One such article is this one, written by Denis Alexander, who is Director of the Faraday Institute, an interdisciplinary enterprise under the aegis of St. Edmund's College, Cambridge. In it, he posits two models which are current among scientists who are professing Christians, and which may be used to harmonize the story told in Genesis with the latest genetic findings (as summarized in this article).

Dr. Alexander names the first view "the Retelling Model," and describes it in these words (footnotes are omitted; italics added):
The Retelling Model represents a gradualist protohistorical view, meaning that it is not historical in the usual sense of that word, but does refer to events that took place in particular times and locations. The model suggests that as anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa from 200,000 years ago, or during some period of linguistic and cultural development since then, there was a gradual growing awareness of God’s presence and calling upon their lives to which they responded in obedience and worship. The earliest spiritual stirrings of the human spirit were in the context of monotheism, and it was natural at the beginning for humans to turn to their Creator, in the same way that children today seem readily to believe in God almost as soon as they can speak. In this model, the early chapters of Genesis represent a re-telling of this early episode, or series of episodes, in our human history in a form that could be understood within the Middle Eastern culture of the Jewish people of that time. The model therefore presents the Genesis account of Adam and Eve as a myth in the technical sense of that word - a story or parable having the main purpose of teaching eternal truths - albeit one that refers to real putative events that took place over a prolonged period of time during the early history of humanity in Africa.
Under this view, the entry of sin into the world came as a result of a communal, and not individual, betrayal (italics again added):
In favor of the Retelling Model is the way in which the doctrine of Adam made in the image of God can be applied to a focused community of anatomically modern humans, all of whose descendants – the whole of humanity since that time – share in this privileged status in the sight of God. Likewise as this putative early human community turned their backs on the spiritual light that God had graciously bestowed upon them, so sin entered the world for the first time, and has contaminated humanity ever since. Such an interpretation is made possible by the fact that the very early human community within Africa would have been no more than a few hundred breeding pairs. If the Retelling Model is taken as applying to this very early stage of human evolution, prior to the time at which different human populations began to spread throughout different areas of Africa, then these putative events could have happened to the whole of humanity alive at that time.
In other words, we cannot say, on the basis of Genesis alone, that sin was introduced into the world through the act of just one or two chosen individuals. The story of Adam and Eve is a myth which is used to impart "eternal truths" -- but it probably is not factual.

Dr. Alexander names his second view of Genesis as "the Homo divinus model." According to this version,
God in his grace chose a couple of Neolithic farmers in the Near East, or maybe a community of farmers, to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself – so that they might know Him as the one true personal God. From now on there would be a community who would know that they were called to a holy enterprise, called to be stewards of God’s creation, called to know God personally. It is for this reason that this first couple, or community, have been termed Homo divinus, the divine humans, those who know the one true God, the Adam and Eve of the Genesis account. Being an anatomically modern human was necessary but not sufficient for being spiritually alive; as remains the case today. Homo divinus were the first humans who were truly spiritually alive in fellowship with God, providing the spiritual roots of the Jewish faith. Certainly religious beliefs existed before this time, as people sought after God or gods in different parts of the world, offering their own explanations for the meaning of their lives, but Homo divinus marked the time at which God chose to reveal himself and his purposes for humankind for the first time.

The Homo divinus model also draws attention to the representative nature of ‘the Adam’, ‘the man’, as suggested by the use of the definite article in the Genesis text as mentioned above. ‘The man’ is therefore viewed as the federal head of the whole of humanity alive at that time. This was the moment at which God decided to start his new spiritual family on earth, consisting of all those who put their trust in God by faith, expressed in obedience to his will. Adam and Eve, in this view, were real people, living in a particular historical era and geographical location, chosen by God to be the representatives of his new humanity on earth, not by virtue of anything that they had done, but simply by God’s grace. When Adam recognised Eve as ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’, he was not just recognising a fellow Homo sapiens – there were plenty of those around – but a fellow believer, one like him who had been called to share in the very life of God in obedience to his commands. The world population in Neolithic times is estimated to lie in the range 1–10 million, genetically just like Adam and Eve, but in this model it was these two farmers out of all those millions to whom God chose to reveal himself.

Just as I can go out on the streets of New York today and have no idea just by looking at people, all of them members of the species Homo sapiens, which ones are spiritually alive, so in this model there was no physical way of distinguishing between Adam and Eve and their contemporaries. It is a model about spiritual life and revealed commands and responsibilities, not about genetics.
The reader may find some rational basis on which to distinguish between these two models of Genesis; for the life of me, I cannot. While the Homo divinus model asserts that God first revealed himself to "two Neolithic farmers" (among many), it also allows for the revelation to have taken place with respect to "a community of farmers" -- it cannot say which version is correct. Instead of being isolated in the Garden of Eden, Adam is "the federal head of the whole of humanity alive at that time." (Italics added.) In other words, just as in the "Retelling" model, the events of Genesis causing the introduction of "original sin" happened for an entire community of people, all at the same time. And insofar as it holds that such a scenario explains the account in Genesis, I find it indistinguishable from the "Retelling model" sketched earlier. Both models seem to imply that sin (however defined) need not have entered the human race through a single primeval couple, but that Adam and Eve are symbolically representative of the first humans who strayed from God's path.

It is relatively easy, even for a non-scientist, to see just what is the stumbling-block here. The problem lies in the statistical DNA evidence which says that modern-day humans are all descended from an ancestor population which at its smallest comprised no less than about 7,000 individuals. Among such a population, what role is left for an individual couple? When, exactly, in human history did God choose to make Adam and Eve his candidates for eternal life in the Garden of Eden? And once they failed the test, how did it happen that all of the other evolved hominids at that point became corrupted with the sin of the original pair?

These are knotty questions, deserving of much thought. I, in the company (I am sure) of many like-minded Christians, have been pondering them for a long time. In doing so, I have always sought answers which did not require me to abandon altogether, or to mythologize out of historical reality, the account in Genesis chapters 2-4, for the reasons initially given by St. Paul. Communities of individuals do not arrive all at the same instant at a resolution to disobey God's command -- even in the Genesis account, Eve went first, followed shortly thereafter by Adam, by virtue of his intimate relationship with her.

(Somehow, I cannot envision a primitive Adam, rushing through the camp of his Homo divinus community, yelling: "Hey! You have got to taste this! Never mind that He said we must not taste it -- I tell you, I have done so, and you all have to, too!" Is the story of Genesis really as prosaic a stand-in for what happened as that? I don't think so.)

But before we can take on the questions directly, I think it best if we first try to understand the genetic science that is taking us in the direction of a relatively large initial community (of the species Homo divinus, if you will), as opposed to a single initial couple. And that topic will be the subject of the next post in this series.



17 comments:

  1. As am I. Although I must admit that the two "models" proposed by BioLogos fail to satisfy, if I may put it that way for the moment.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

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  2. Great article!

    The core of our Faith is the Resurrection which speaks of Why Jesus Christ came and Who He is. Darwinian materialists and the BioLogos group can't explain the meaning of the resurrection of the the Second Adam.

    My problem with the BioLogos crowd is that they claim to represent a biblical worldview but reject the biblical assertion of a fixed order in creation. Humans were created fully human or they were not. In biblical parlance Adam and Eve stand for the first human couple created by God. (We need to consider this in the cultural context of the people from whom we receive this story.)

    Genesis asserts that the order of creation is fixed and unchanging. This assertion must be understood before it can be either accepted or rejected. By fixed order the Bible means that God has established the order of creation with flexible but fixed boundaries. This means that there is change within species but not evolution from one species to a totally different species. This is why humans produce only humans and if there is something wrong with the genetic code, the fetus usually aborts. Plants produce plants. Animals produce animals and while bacteria can mutate, it is still bacteria.

    In the BioLogos view, "genetic precursors" of Man are not human in the biblical sense, that is, they were not created in the image of God and given life by God's breath (Heb: nephesh). Besides ignoring what the Bible asserts, this explanation lacks physical evidence for genetic precursors. Primate fossils can be classified as either human or ape if sufficient fossil remains are recovered, especially in cases where artifacts such as tools are found or there is evidence of cooking fires.

    In other words, evolution of humans from sub-humans lacks substantive physical evidence, as even evolutionists admit. The nearly complete skulls of people who lived 160,000 years ago are, in the words of paleontologist Tim White, "like modern-day humans in almost every feature." http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1295624

    The French geneticist Roux has stated "Evolutionary convergence at the molecular level is presumed to be widespread, but is poorly documented."
    http://www.pnas.org/content/95/20/11804.full

    The lack of documentation is because convergence evolution is an interpretation, not an unbiased presentation of data.

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  3. As far as I'm aware, there is no algorithm or any rule of thumb for how long it takes for one species to evolve from another, especially since this (again, as far as I'm aware but following the views of Behe et al) has never been observed. As a result, to say that modern man "evolved" 100,000 or 200,000 years ago is a very loosey-goosey assertion -- especially as questions are now being raised about whether this actually happened in Africa.

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  4. That's true, John. However, the context of the Genesis material is African (Nilotic/Kushitic) and that is an important factor in understanding what the material is telling us. Especially since Messainic expectation is traced to these ancestors of Abraham.

    http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2011/01/who-were-kushites.html

    It seems that the physical evidence of human existence on the Earth isn't conclusive, but the so-called "Apes of the South" were fully human. Even Mary Leakey admitted that. Some (where there is enough fossil evidence to speak definitively) Australopithecine fossils dating between 700,000 and 2.4 million years are recognized as "early human fossils", having human dentition, bipedalism and stone tools.

    When Jeremy DeSilva, a British anthropologist, compared the ankle joint, the tibia and the talus of fossil "hominins" between 4.12 million to 1.53 million years old, he discovered that all of the hominin ankle joints resembled those of modern humans rather than those of apes. Chimpanzees flex their ankles 45 degrees from normal resting position. This makes it possible for apes to climb trees with great ease. While walking, humans flex their ankles a maximum of 20 degrees. The human ankle quite distinct from that of apes.

    With DNA samples from 2400 individuals from more than 100 modern African populations, researchers have identified a panel of 1327 sites of genetic variation across the entire genome. Analysis of the data suggests that modern Africans are descended from 14 ancestral populations, which correlate with known linguistic groups. Comparative linguistics and genetics are moving to similar conclusions when it comes to the question of "change" among humans. The evidence in both fields indicates a limited amount of flux, but no essential change. Read Sarah Tishkoff's African gene study here:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17057-huge-gene-study-shines-new-light-on-african-history.html

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  5. I'm not sure why anyone is bringing evolution into this at all. The question of when homo sapiens "evolved" is related to what homo sapiens evolved from, and I don't think anyone has a good answer there. Even when I was in college in the 1960s, for instance, it was agreed that homo neanderthalis wasn't the candidate, if in fact it was a separate species (forensic reconstruction of neanderthals from skulls suggests they looked like Uncle Herb).

    The australopithecus is now regarded as a "proof of concept" that there were hominids from which homo sapiens could have evolved, but isn't regarded as the actual ancester (see the PBS page at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/l.html )

    All of this ankle bone correspondence business is pure speculation. As to whether Adam existed, I'm not sure anyone can say for sure. Certainly ancient oral traditions have proved to be more accurate than supposed, but in part aren't we in an Anglican dilemma here? There's no Anglican equivalent to the Roman catechism, which would settle a lot of this stuff and save a lot of time -- so everyone rolls his or her own. The Curmudgeon sees things one way, Bishop Spong another, and merrily we roll along.

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  6. Just be patient a bit, John -- I'll review what science says about the evolution of homo sapiens in the next post in this series. I think you'll find that there is a lot to say. If you want to read up on it on your own, you could start with this article.

    You sound almost annoyed that there is even a debate going on. And I'm not talking about Bishop Spong: since he denies the physical resurrection of Christ, he has no stake in this debate at all. His Christ did not come to save anyone's sins, so he has no need for an Adam who introduced sin into the world.

    Catechisms are intended to recite (and teach) the key doctrines of a faith. They do not say anything about science, because science keeps changing, while the central ideas of our faith do not change. So I'm not sure how the Roman Catholic catechism could help us on this issue.

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  7. This is a wonderful series! When you have finished posting this series I'll link to the segments at Just Genesis. This is the sort of presentation and discussion that many of my readers enjoy.

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  8. There is a degree to which I can accept a "homo divinus" sort of explanation. What would be critical to me in such a case is that God specifically appointed a couple to be the representative pair, whose actions would then affect the entire group that they represented.

    On the whole, however, the idea of a group of physically humans being given spiritual life and so recognizing God is not satisfying, if is in the gradual way that seems to be implied.

    If God can create, he can certainly make sure that his Adam and Eve generate a sufficient number of genetic variations to account for those we see now. Science can posit the existence of a necessary sized pool, but the Bible shows God as active throughout the creation, not simply once to get things rolling.

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  9. Charlie, could you give us an example of what you mean by this: "the Bible shows God as active throughout the creation, not simply once to get things rolling." Are you speaking of progressive creation?

    If so, how do we reconcile that with the creedal assertion that "through Him all things WERE made...?"

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  10. It does seem to me that in two long posts, you've basically spent a lot of photons to revisit what's at this site http://www.catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp

    It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

    In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: "When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own" (Humani Generis 37).

    My guess is that you're going to wind up here sooner or later. But why spend all that time and effort reinventing the wheel? And if you disagree, why not specify where now?

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  11. "Reinventing the wheel", John? The link you gave us (for some reason Blogger truncated it) expressly states: "It is outside the scope of this tract to look at the scientific evidence . . .", and what I am doing in this series is precisely that: looking at the most recent scientific evidence, and trying to square our current theological accounts with what science is now saying. If that exercise to you is just reinventing the wheel, then you might as well stop reading -- you will not find anything new here, because you already have a wheel on which your world rides, and you seem quite happy with it as is.

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  12. It's outside the scope to look at the scientific evidence for physical evolution. Nevertheless, there's a spiritual issue involving the problem of original sin, and that leads to a logical issue. The RC point of view doesn't know (and neither does St. Science) exactly how our physical bodies came about, but it does have a position on our spirituality. For reasons primarily of political expediency, the Church of England decided to finesse a great many of these questions, but that doesn't make them go away.

    The issue as I understand it is how did original sin get transmitted to the whole human race; there are subsidiary issues, such as the pretty plain scriptural assertion that Christ as one man atoned for the sin of Adam, another.

    Now, I'm not sure what you're going to argue here exactly: let's say that somehow 10,000 early humans "evolved". (Logically, you've got the problem of where those 10,000 came from, exactly -- why start there, after all? Did 20,000 almost homo sapiens suddenly reach the same evolutionary point at the same time and mate to produce 10,000 homo sapiens? Shouldn't there be an easier explanation?)

    But leaving that aside, let's say two of those 10,000 named Adam and Eve ate the apple and created Original Sin. What of the 9,800 who didn't? Why didn't they convoke some prelapsarian version of an ecumenical council (especially since they were still perfect and unfallen) and correct Adam and Eve? Or are you arguing that 5,000 of that group were Adam and 5,000 Eve, and 5,000 serpents chatted them up, and they had an apple-ducking contest all at once? That seems less credible than Genesis, frankly.

    Or are you just going to sorta-kinda your way around the whole set of logical problems here? This is still the Anglican dilemma: it basically has the creed, scripture, and a limited set of traditions which some Anglicans buy into and others don't. You can finesse how original sin came about (as it appears you're getting ready to do), and Bishop Spong finesses Christ's divinity, and you're both Anglicans. An attempt was made to hold Spong to account, and it failed -- so Spong's cool. But I'm not sure how your approach differs from his.

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  13. Now you are talking, John -- those are all excellent questions, and ones I have been wrestling with for quite some time. And I will answer them, I promise, in this series -- or if not answer them, provide a logical starting point for doing so. Because up until now, as far as I can tell, the logic has it all backwards -- with the resultant difficulties you so saliently point out.

    But in order to get there, I first have to develop my own argument logically. Part I gave an overview of the two systems of belief, and noted where they appeared to differ; Part II looked at what I could find of the best theological responses made to the problems date. (And as you, Martial Artist and others here have pointed out, these models fail to satisfy, because they all require some kind of mass transmission of "original sin" to multiple individuals at the same time.)

    As presently planned, Part III will take a look at the studies in population genetics which define the parameters of the interpretative task. And in Part IV, I will put forth my own suggestion for how to harmonize the account of Genesis with the science of genetics, which was unknown to any of the ancients, or to the Church fathers (or to Darwin, for that matter).

    So if you can stay the course, I would like to hear from you whether my idea is logically satisfactory -- and if not, why not. Thank you for your thought-provoking comments here, and I look forward to more of them.

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  14. OK, next -- and let me make it clear that I'm an Anglican/Anglo-Catholic in a parish that's making its way toward the Ordinariate, and thus taking a look at the Roman catechism for the first time. I was raised a Presbyterian and confirmed an Episcopalian in adulthood -- maybe a version of John Paul II's youth under totalitarianism giving him a better understanding of where they're coming from.

    My parish has been holding a weekly class/discussion session on C.S.Lewis's Screwtape Letters. One thing that's struck me in studying the RC catechism at the same time is the number of issues -- say, the position that humans have both a spiritual natue and a physical nature -- that's clearly covered in the catechism, but isn't really spelled out the same way in Anglican or other Protestant doctrine.

    In much of his writing, Lewis actually fills in the gaps in Anglican doctrine with Catholic material. Not only does he rely on the spiritual-physical explanation of the catechism, but he also relies on Catholic teaching on things like the Seven Capital Sins, the virtues, and so forth, which I don't believe you'll find at all in Anglican, Episcopalian, or other Protestant doctrine. But without them, you're up to questions like, "Gee, what was it that Cong. Weiner actually did wrong?" and you don't have much of an answer, other than "it's the lies".

    I gave Father K at St M, an ACA church, an outline of our exchange in the comments, and he pointed out that the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer was deliberately (in his documented view) reworded to minimize Adam's fall and Christ's role in atoning for it. In that case, you may certainly be granted an indulgence in not fully accounting for this spiritual event in your evolutionary thinking.

    Nevertheless, there are real spiritual issues here in addition to the logical ones. Lewis himself pulls something of a theological bait-and-switch in Screwtape and elsewhere, since he claims to be an Anglican but wherever Anglicanism fails him, he just reaches over to the RC catechism for what he needs. In that sense he is neither an "Anglican" thinker nor fully, 100 percent honest about what he's doing insofar as he represents himself as an Anglican.

    I would suggest again that trying to reinvent the wheel when two millennia of Christian thinking has been working through these logical and theological issues is not a good use of time.

    But also, my chat with Father K last night reminds me that the Episcopal Church (and the ACNA for that matter, which I believe you're affiliated with) relies on the 1979 prayer book, which, combined with scripture, reason, and pick-and-choose tradition, is pretty much the only available theological resource. A little like going camping with a book of matches and a raincoat, to my way of thinking. But suit yourself.

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  15. John,

    The spiritual 'problem' of original sin is an issue of interpretation of the writings of St. Augustine in the centuries after his death by Western Or Roman Catholic clergy. Their new dogma was carried into the Reformation. The Eastern Orthodox do not believe in original, inherited sin, but that humanity was created 'good' with a propensity to sin. If you eliminate the dogmatic error, than you are not burdened with certain types of questions concerning our relationship with God, and are able to fully embrace the path of deification or theosis given us by the Lord. We had shared in a death like Adam, but the new Adam gives eternal life.

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  16. @Margaret,

    If I am correctly understanding what you have written, you're assertion appears to be that the Orthodox believe the biblical story of Adam and Eve is inherently allegorical, rather than historical. I say this because the Book of Genesis says what it says, so the determination of whether a part of it is allegorical or literal is open to some interpretation.

    While I do not personally have a problem with the understanding that some parts of the Bible are not literal historical accounts, but were intended as didactic allegory, I do not think it is a necessarily easy task accurately to differentiate between the two.

    It seems to me that this series of articles is valuable in illuminating both the plausibility of there having been an actual Adam and Eve, but also in illustrating at least one logical approach to sorting out the historical from the allegorical.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

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