Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Original Sin and Evolution: How Do They Fit Together?


Last evening we had our annual faculties' convocation of the Washington Theological Consortium of Seminaries. The topic was science and faith. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the human genome mapping project, was the keynote speaker. Afterward, I attended a fascinating workshop with Dr. Joseph Wimmer and Dr. Daryl Domning on "Evolution and Original Sin." A very detailed free download on the topic written by the two of them is available on line in pdf format: click here. Many will find some of this helpful, and other parts provocative and problematic. Here are a few snipets from the 99-page guide:
  • The Darwinian laws (unpleasant to us)...are the only laws we know of that can assemble the living things we see. The Darwinian "messiness" epitomized in the sufferings of all living creatures, and the Creator's humility epitomized in the sufferings of Jesus, are two sides of the same coin.
  • The overt selfish acts that, in humans, demonstrate the reality of original sin (by manifesting it in the form of actual sin*) do indeed owe their universality among humans to natural descent from a common ancestor. But this ancestor, far from being the biblical Adam, must be found in the very remote past at the very origin of life itself. It was the common ancestor not only of all humans but of all other living things on Earth as well.
  • Human acts [of selfishness] themselves share a genealogical unity (the common origin of all life), but their sinfulness arises from a development that is logically and temporally separate from their common genealogical origin...our acquisition of free will and moral responsibility...which made the selfish acts sinful.
  • What I suggest is the somewhat paradoxical notion that the universe as it came from the hand of the Creator was both good and "fallen" at the same time. The world, while imperfect or unperfected, can be perfected with the help of grace. (Here we see once again the awkwardness of using the term "fallen" to describe something that has not in any meaningful sense "moved downward," but simply has yet to move further "upward.")
  • Suffering of all kinds...is even more intrinsically a part of the human condition than we ever suspected. We could dodge it only by not existing at all, and God could shield us from it only by not creating us at all.

2 Comments:

Blogger N T Wrong said...

So -- if we accept their proposals -- Christians can hold onto the doctrine of 'original sin', except for the fact that there was no 'sin' at the time? Now, that's not in the least bit tendentious...

I'm just amused by the attempts to fudge around the fact of divine responsibility, with the 'doublespeak' that the world is both imperfect and yet not 'fallen' (because we mustn't do anything to impugn the Creator of this 'messiness', mustn't we?). There's shades of Barth's double-mouthed 'darkness at the heart of God' nonsense here.

I suggest giving up on Original Sin and God's goodness. The attempts to defend the two doctrines are intellectually bankrupt if evolution is accepted. If only the Jews had simply adopted Zoroastrianism, instead of trying to blend it with their own legends...

Thu Oct 02, 01:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks for this! I've elevated it to a post for discussion. Great... ---SLC

Thu Oct 02, 08:38:00 AM GMT-5  

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