Is the GAE model for transmission of Original Sin inherently unjust?

I have been having this conversation about GAE on another Forum. It seems that a lot of people find the GAE model for the transmission of Original Sin to be unjust, and even abhorrent (There is concern that the model sets up two “classes” of people, which sounds inherently unfair: Descendants of Adam and Eve, and People Outside the Garden. And there is concern that the model would mean that God is unjust towards towards the People Outside the Garden, who become guilty of sin due to their relationships with Adam, Eve and their descendants, or who are kept from relationship with God when they are not part of Adam and Eve’s descendants).

In musing on those criticisms one morning, I began to think to myself, and then post the thoughts below. I would like to hear what others on this site think. In particular, I would like to hear from Pastors and Theologians. Perhaps @dga471 @jongarvey @swamidass might care to weigh in, and suggest others on this Forum who might have thoughts to add.

Don’t lots of questions of lack of fairness arise in the Bible?
From our human perspective we could say that:

  • It isn’t fair that the Israelites were called out from among all the other peoples to be in a special relationship with God, which is different than that from the Gentiles
  • From a perspective of people who have compassion on animals, we could say that the ritual of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament was not fair. Why should animals die to cover human sin?
  • From a nonChristian perspective, we could say that it is not fair that Jesus teaches that belief in Him, His death and His resurrection is the only way to salvation and peace with God and eternal life in heaven

However, in spite of those things, as Christians we believe that God is all loving and completely just. There are great mysteries left in the scriptures, but by the scriptures we understand God’s character to be both loving and just. So I hear the concerns about the fairness/justice around the transmission of Original Sin in any young Adam model that includes evolution. I’m trying to sort that out in my own mind. However, taking in perspective how God can bring together both love and justice and solve the problem of evil at the Cross, in light of many mysteries in the scriptures about fairness, I’m not sure that new Adam models need to be excluded from consideration. Couldn’t a genealogical transmission model be a powerful symbol of a greater spiritual/metaphysical reality? Perhaps the transmission of original sin fits into the realm of metaphysical/spiritual reality, like models for a “federal headship” or “priestly” role of Adam and Eve. The GAE model would fit nicely into those types of federal headship models. However the GAE model would simply add into the picture the truth that *there is also a powerful, symbolic, physical reality that genealogical relationships show us that all people are related to one another and that Adam is the universal ancestor of us all.

Thus, the GAE model might not be required to explain the physical transmission of sin. Instead, the GAE model could help, in that by showing the physical reality of Adam being a universal ancestor, it focuses us on the spiritual truth that all humanity has the same sin nature.

If you are interested in how people on the other site responded, here is that thread:

[Edit 2 days later to add]: On that other Forum, one theologian wrote a few long threads to clarify some of the theology behind the concept of Original Sin. See post #58 & #60, for example. One clarification included calling out a distinction between:

  • Original Sin = corruption = the spiritual condition of humanity that has been our state since The Fall. This was NOT the first act of sin committed by Adam and Eve
  • sin = an act of transgression

Thanks for continuing the conversation.

It is first important to emphasize that there is no specific GAE model of sin transmission. Scientifically, we know that if AE exist, then we all descend from them.

Is that theologically important? Most people will say yes.

Why is that universal descent important? Most people will disagree with each other on this.

The GAE does not lock us into any answer.



Those are hilarious objections!

Creationists have not historically minded the injustice behind the slaughtering of the Moabites or Midianites, or Samuel’s orders to wipe out all the defeated.

So you will note that these objections are coming from those who see GAE as a rival solution to the Creationist problem … and not from the Creationists themselves!

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I think this is exactly correct. Much of the objections you are seeing from liberal Christians seems to do with general lack of appreciation of these tensions in theology. For many of them, they objected to orthodox Christian theology independent of evolution, and evolution ended up being a useful wedge to press their theological position.

Perhaps they are right, but I don’t think there reasoning is particularly strong at this time. Evolution does not rule out the traditional view. These tensions also have been grappled with for thousands of years.

As one example, there has long been questions about why God would create Adam if he knew that he would sin and corrupt us all. This paradox isn’t rejected in traditional theology, but embraced in the Felix culpa tradition:

In a lot of ways, most their objections are easily resolved with (1) dialogue with Christians the disagree with, (2) knowledge of historical theology, and (3) giving up on the agenda against traditional theology.

The way I see it, this is all strong evidence that the GAE is a recovery not a revision of traditionally theology. There is nothing new under sun here. I have not yet see a new tension or difficulty they’ve raised that applies to the GAE more than it already does to orthodox Christianity.


@Michelle, thinking over some of the objections you’ve received, it doesn’t even seem like they are all internally coherent.

Take the question of why God created Adam if he knew he would sin. Even if we do away with Adam and Eve, that is still a problem. One model put out in that thread by person making that objection is the idea that God created humanity and humanity sinned on their own. Well, why did God create humanity if he knew we would all screw it up and sin? The question does not go away, so it is a strange one to press.

Take the question about original sin being intrinsically unfair. Well, just before that they were complaining that it would not be fair if some people did not descend from Adam and Eve. Well, which is it? It cannot be unfair to get original sin from Adam and Eve if it is, somehow, unfair not to get it from them. With something that so thoroughly self-contradictory, it is hard to take these objections too seriously.



It is not a criticism pressed by Creationisms themselves … it is pressed by people taking cheap shots at the G.A.E. scenarios…


Your first bullet point shows the fallacy of making “unfairness” a new and powerful objection to GAE. The whole Bible revolves around grace - Israel is a clear case in point. Paul, 1800 years or so after Abraham’s call, points out to Gentile believers that before Jesus came (“just at the right time”) they were without God and without hope in the world. That’s not to say that God is unjust, but that his ways are not our ways.

But we needn’t stick to the Od Testament: the gospel universalised eternal life for all those who believe the gospel - and yet even now, 2000 years later, many have not heard the gospel, and there is no way that they could have done under God’s providence. The NT makes that difference radical - whoever is in Christ is a new creation in the Spirit… oh, pretty much same difference as that between Adam and “those outside the garden.”

The talk of unfairness by dragging “those outside the garden” into Adam’s sin seems a bit of a logical fallacy - the children of such unions are no more “those outside the garden” than I am still “non-Irish” because of my English ancestors, despite my Irish ones. To claim otherwise appears to me to play into that false racist narrative that the children of a mixed-race marriage are still “black,” as if they were not equally descended from their white parent.

Another thought that affects this arises from emphasising Adam’s entire heritage as the taint of sin. Though original sin is not essential to the GAE paradigm, it remains one way of accounting for the traditional Augustinian or Irenaean idea of ancestral sin (and those doctrines remain even without GAE). But more importantly, sin was only a side effect of the call of Adam, the central aim being to bring him into a living, new, eternal covenant relationship with God, and through him, to bring the whole race into such a covenant.

The whole drama of the Bible is the problem that the blessing brought a curse, and yet that God was able through Jesus to remove the curse and bring the blessing. If that’s not fair, then most of the Bible’s saving acts are not fair: Abraham was alone chosen to bless mankind: Moses was chosen and uniquely anointed to rescue Israel; David was “unfairly” appointed to head the Messianic royal dynasty; 12 apostles were chosen with special authority and responsibility to minister the gospel… it goes on and on. It’s called grace.


You don’t know scientifically if AE existed, then all humans are descend from AE. Science has no way of determining this. All you can say is that science doesn’t rule it out.

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That’s why I don’t recall ever hearing this complaint from Creationists themselves.

And so we should consider THE SOURCE of this kind of criticism … it comes from people who are trying to put the KABOSH on G.A.E. scenarios.

@Patrick, the scientific claim I made was conditional on knowing AE exist. So yes, we can’t know from science that AE exist, and I did not claim otherwise. Rather, I said, “if they exist, than we scientifically know…”

Even if A&E existed you won’t know if they were ancestors to everyone or no one.

11 posts were split to a new topic: Rumraket Asks About Original Sin