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