Adam, Eve, Original Sin

August 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Dialogues


With the concept of original sin.

We have all heard the story of Adam & Eve. The story of mankind’s fall from grace and the emergence of original sin with Eve getting tricked, by the talking snake, into eating the apple is well known throughout the world. Now, with modern genetics ruling out the whole of mankind coming from two individuals how does Original Sin come into play? Is the story a metaphor for human nature? If it is a metaphor for base human nature, why would a perfectly good being allow such a thing to exist?

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  • Scott Maddox We have no way of knowing if God is perfectly good, because we don’t have the same morals that God does.
  • Tim Kesser I was using the perfectly good as it is what New Apologetics has been saying.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox We believe that God is perfectly good, and we are using the term “good” to mean “consistent with goodness as you understand it”. God’s goodness transcends our knowledge, but does not contradict it. We will be answering Tim’s question as soon as we can.
  • New Apologetics Tim Kesser You wrote: We have all heard the story of Adam & Eve. The story of mankind’s fall from grace and the emergence of original sin with Eve getting tricked, by the talking snake, into eating the apple is well known throughout the world. 

    We reply: Since you may not have heard: It is not offered as a literal description of the situation as if recorded on video. The literary form of the book in question is “myth.” It is inspired myth, though, as the author of Genesis was writing to “debunk” the other religions of the day. The author was not concerned about consistency, history, or science, but was trying to state key theological points contra the other belief systems.

    You wrote:
    Now, with modern genetics ruling out the whole of mankind coming from two individuals how does Original Sin come into play? 

    We reply: [As a side note] Could you refer us to the source for the conclusion on genetics? We are skeptical of the findings as it doesn’t seem that there could be enough data to warrant a conclusion that strong.

    Original sin comes into play in at least the following way:

    We are “born with” original sin because the sin of our first parents brought *disorder* into what God intended to be a well-ordered state of affairs. The introduction of disorder into an interconnected relational system thereby diminished *all* states of affairs in human experience; an event that never should have happened necessarily causes all subsequent events under its causal influence to occur in the wake of “that which should not be.”[Note that we are not saying that God didn’t know this was going to happen, and we will answer questions on that topic as you ask them. For now, let’s just take as an axiom that the introduction of disorder was contrary to the plan of God, and that there is a good explanation as to why he did not stop it from happening.] Thus (because of just *one* disorder in the human sphere), a disparity between “ought” and “is” therefore obtains in *all* of human experience. God (in his justice) has willed only that which is highest and best for us, but our situation (having been diminished by the introduction of events contrary to God’s order) cannot now correspond to this perfectly just well-ordered state which is the intent of the Creator. 

    Original sin has nothing to do with being blamed or punished by God for the sins of another. It simply means that we are *injured* by their sin. Because we are all interconnected, the disorder of an individual sin ripples out to affect everyone. 

    Unless we receive the *rescue* of God to restore to us what has been lost because of the injury we experience through this ripple effect of sin, then we will necessarily experience radical failure of the purpose for which we were created. We are very far removed from what God intended for us. The “rescue” needed is called the redemption. 

    Our salvation is not primarily from the *guilt* of our personal sins (as if God is blaming us and then changes his mind because of the atonement), but from the destiny-destroying effects of original sin. Original sin destroys human destiny because any disorder introduced into the intended harmony of the right order of creation (original justice) puts us all into a situation which broadly ought *not* to be. 

    There is very much more to say about this, but we will let you ask the questions.

    The second part of your question which concerns human nature will be addressed in our next comment.
  • New Apologetics Tim Kesser You wrote: “Is the story a metaphor for human nature? If it is a metaphor for base human nature, why would a perfectly good being allow such a thing to exist?”

    We reply: The story is not intended to be taken literally, but it is intended tocommunicate some definite, non-negotiable truths about human nature. We begin with a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI: 

    “Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without–from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are ‘present.’ Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives–themselves–only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event–sin–touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” –Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    Our human nature is good. Human beings were created for a situation in which all of their individual needs were met (original justice), but now (because of original sin) we live in a world of pain where our needs go unmet broadly. We were also created to be in total communion with others, and to be integral to the happiness of all other persons. Both of these aspects of human nature (the desire to meet our individual needs *and* to meet the needs of others) are inherited from our first parents. Now, though, when we cannot meet our needs in this disordered world, we are *driven* to try to meet them by our inherited nature. We can hate this drive towards selfishness and fight against it, but we are not made to fight ourselves, and so we will repeatedly give in to selfish behavior despite all resolutions to the contrary. All the while, the desire to be in total communion with others *remains*, because it, too, is inherited. Every person finds that they are in a state of perpetual conflict and frustration (torn between self and others). Some are so injured by this conflict that they are psychologically destroyed. Others cope through an intricate game of self-deception. There is no healthy natural response because the situation is intrinsically unhealthy and unnatural. The bottom line is that we are all looking for the justice that was lost, and this present state of affairs is a fiasco. God understands why we do what we do. He wants to save us from this *unjust* situation, not to inflict an unjust punishment because he blames us for a crime we didn’t commit.

    The irony is that the division within us comes from the fact that we are created *good.* We are created for a world of perfect justice, and we can’t fit into our present situation of injustice. We are created innocent, and we are simply *hurt* people who are looking for the peace of original justice without knowing how to find it. A sinner is someone who has tasted death and wants to *live* and not die. Not knowing what to do, we just do what we can to reduce our pain with whatever tools are available to us.

    Through the redemption, God has made a way for us to receive the fullness of justice we seek without having recourse to sin.

    So, the truths about human nature to be taken from the Adam and Eve story are at least the following:

    1) God created human nature good.
    2) God created human nature for a world of justice and right relationship.
    3) Sin has entered the human experience, and damaged the order.
    4) We are now inundated with sin and all kinds of disorder.

    The story doesn’t say that human nature is base or bad in any way.

    Consider that those who insist on a literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story (ignoring that the story is not even self-consistent and therefore cannot be literal) are those who *deny* the essential point of the story. They will argue that human nature is the *problem*, while the author of Genesis is arguing that human nature is good. We, God, and the Catholic Church agree with the author of Genesis on this.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox Did you post the link because you think it’s germane to the discussion?
  • Scott Maddox Yes, I thought it germane.
  • Scott Maddox If Eve didn’t have any knowledge of good & evil, then how can God expect her to do good and avoid evil?
  • Scott Maddox And how can a fruit contain knowledge? Doesn’t that require a magical explanation of some sort?
  • Scott Maddox For what reason did God create such a tree? For the fruit to turn rotten and fall to the ground and have its seeds grow more trees of knowledge?
  • Scott Maddox How does the Catholic Church know what parts to take literally and how do they determine how to interpret the figurative parts?
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox We will answer your questions, and we will also respond to the content of the link if you like. However, your questions suggest that you have not read either of our responses to Tim. Could you read them first?
  • Ankit Dhawan NA: I am horribly confused one more time…. if I read your response correctly (hopefully, I am wrong!), you just called Genesis a myth re: Adam and Even and the Serpent theory…. Are you saying that the story is a parable? I was lead to believe that …See More

  • Tim Kesser Modern Genetics rule out the Adam & Eve myth. Especially with the world being wiped out a dozen generations or so later with only 7 survivors.