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Author Topic: Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve : NPR  (Read 2953 times)
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« on: August 25, 2011, 01:36:02 PM »

My son-in-law sent my wife and me this article which led to the following exchange between the two of us. As background, my SIL was born Lutheran but raised with a fundamentalist Christian stepfather and has great scepticism regarding religion.

quote: SIL
Here's an interesting article the two of you might enjoy.

It raises a thoroughly difficult question:  if Adam and Eve didn't literally exist (which human genome research says is very likely), does this dangerously negate (as some religious authorities suggest) the mission of Christ as outlined in the New Testament?  In other words, without an original sin motif, what exactly is Christ saving one from?  

The old Puritan saw, " In Adam's fall, we sinned all" may need a different narrative.  Judging by this article, the religious progressives don't seem too troubled by this, but it does bring up a perplexing problem.

quote: Me
I have to admit that I've not read much on human genome research but I also have to admit that the explanation of it in the article seems as far-fetched as the hypothesis it claims to refute. I have a hard time accepting the idea that human beings resulted from multiple pairings of other primates that somehow mutated into the same final form. That to me is even more illogical than the idea that we had multiple mutations to produce relatively little difference between human forms. It may indeed, however, argue for a much longer time frame for the evolution to take place than some people want to acknowledge. From a scientific standpoint though I take no position since I'm not privy enough to the research to be able to comment conclusively.

In the end though it is all irrelevant to me since I neither buy in strictly to the idea of "original sin" or to the "atonement theory" that permeates much--probably most--of Christianity. For me original sin is nothing more than our tendency toward seeking to be and have more than we are. I can't really buy into the idea that it is the result of a failure of individuals at some initial point since they would not have had this failure if they didn't have the tendency and ability to begin with. And while this would almost certainly be considered heresy by the Catholic Church, I do not believe that we have a need to be cleansed from this tendency through some sacramental ritual since we clearly are not cleansed of it and retain it even after the ritual. Whatever instantaneous cleansing of the "stain of sin" would occur would be immediately wiped out by our tendencies and movement toward satisfying our own desires. As such I do not see the work of Christ to somehow be involved in removing or mitigating original sin in any way. The Genesis myth is certainly an attempt to show how sin entered the world but I don't see it being a doctrinal statement and would agree that, like most myth, it is allegorical to a great extent.

Is his work then to be "savior" in some other form? My answer would be "yes" but not in the vision of atoning for our sins as some kind of "super sacrifice," Paul's letters notwithstanding. To me Jesus is the quintessential love letter from God, sent to give us the model of how to live what he referred to as the two great commandments: to love God completely and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is really just a living example of messages from the Old Testament that "what I want is mercy, not sacrifice." I see it as a way to get us away from the whole "thou shalt not" approach of thinking we can legislate people into love of God by itemizing every way they can sin until we take away all the loopholes. Instead we get away from needing sin police by using the positive attitude of working from a basic standpoint of living a life based on gratitude to, and love of, God from which each of us should then be able to stop persecuting each other since each of us is only a product of the mercy of God to begin with. His death is the hyperbole to show how far we should be willing to go in giving our bodies to be broken for the life of the world rather than reacting in vengeance and violence. It is the ultimate living of the sermon on the mount that if someone takes your cloak give him your tunic as well.

John Duns Scotus, the great Franciscan theologian of the 13th century, fully rejected atonement theory and explained that Jesus was always going to come simply to show the love of God for his people and I would whole-heartedly concur with that idea. The Church hasn't entirely figured out how to deal with that though they certainly don't deny it.

So there's what I expect is probably a much longer answer than you might have expected. What form Adam and Eve took doesn't matter to me since it doesn't impact at all my vision in why we had an incarnational God.

Now that is one interesting email!  Like you, as I'm not an evolutionary biologist, I'm not able to say anything definitively about genome research as it relates to human origins.  I guess it's safe to say that genome research is leading most researchers away from theorizing that two specific individuals gave birth to the human race, but beyond that I couldn't draw any specific conclusions without more information.

As you indicate, though, this isn't really the point for you.  I guess I've always naturally assumed that atonement theory was the "predicate" for the incarnation, but it's clear from your email that there are other possibilities as well.  The theologian you referenced offers one of the most progressive interpretations of Christ I've ever heard; it has the simultaneous effect of liberating both Christ and the Christian, doesn't it?

I was particularly intrigued by his closing statement about it having the simultaneous effect of liberating both Christ and the Christian.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
This is the effect of true charity, to be on good terms with all men, to consider no one your enemy, and to live at peace with those who hate peace.--Robert Bellarmine
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