Response to N T Wrong
Finally, some debate on this blog! NT Wrong left the following comment on yesterday's post, which I am elevating up here in the hopes of stimulating more discussion:
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...
Let me play the devil's advocate and defend the position of Domning and Wimmer. First, you are right to observe that D. & W. do argue that at its earliest roots, original "sin" was not "sin." Before the advent of free-will, they would see "sin" as not yet sin but merely all those selfish behaviors and drives that are homologous between animals and humans. When sin did appear on earth, however, it automatically became "original" in the sense that all humans were already fully caught up in evolutionary mechanisms that would end up involving everyone in sin's power. I suppose that, as you say, this view of things may sound like fudging with the meaning of terms like "original." However, smart theologians have generally tended to take this term "original" as signifying universality rather than a reference to one historical starting point for sin in human history. I don't see any especially new fudging here, just a new way of working with a specialized and stipulated meaning of a term.
Second, you raise the question of divine responsibility for all the messiness and suffering of life on earth. I do not think that D. & W. try to protect God and absolve God of responsibility. To the contrary, this view takes away a lot of the responsibility for our fallen world that has traditionally been assigned to the rebellion of Adam and Eve. The world was a messy place full of suffering long before human sin arrived, so God (and logical neccessity) must bear responsibility.
Third, you suggest giving up on God's goodness. Actually, this new proposal of D. & W. tends to solve the problem of theodicy, not complicate it. Teilhard de Chardin observed long ago that theodicy is much, much more of an issue in the old static universe than it is in a universe that is constantly changing and evolving. He is probably quite right. For D. & W., anyway, evolution with all its messiness was the only tool at God's disposal to make a real, living world worth having, so God had to humbly accept that in launching the world there was no way to leave out the dark, horrible bits. Hence, we have the reference I quoted in yesterday's post to "the Creator's humility." And, oh, I don't think that you want to say that the idea of "original sin" is bankrupt, do you? The horrible fact of human "fallenness" is surely clear from the genocides and horrors of the 20th century, is it not? And, as for Zoroastrianism, I argue in a forthcoming article that its influence on the Hebrew Bible was not very great, and rightly so.