Morton’s Last Stand: Does Science Make the Biblical Doctrine of Original Sin Obsolete?

David, I am pretty much in agreement with you here. 5-million-year-old Adam seems like a really big stretch, which would be my biggest trouble with Glenn Morton’s proposal.

As to the “clickbaity” nature of the question, you would be amazed at how many people have latched onto the “science disproves original sin” narrative, that I have interacted with. Most of the folks who have gone that route that I know have a Roman Catholic background. I am not sure what to think about that.

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I have no view on how it’s supposedly transmitted, just that it’s supposedly transmitted to descendants of Adam, who is supposedly responsible for its existence. I’d say that anyone denying any of the supposedlys is rejecting the usual meaning and is heretical. What’s your description?

Are you willing to accept that Eden hasn’t existed since the Pliocene?

Also, if the original sin was eating the forbidden fruit, how could Adam and Eve be held accountable for that, since they did it before they had knowledge of good and evil? And wasn’t the separation from God a result of God’s choice, not directly from their sin?

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I have no view on how it’s supposedly transmitted, just that it’s supposedly transmitted to descendants of Adam, who is supposedly responsible for its existence. I’d say that anyone denying any of the supposedlys is rejecting the usual meaning and is heretical. What’s your description?

John: My description is pretty broad, as there is considerable debate as to how original sin is passed onto Adam’s descendants. I really do not know how the mechanism works. The Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans 5:12ff is fairly ambiguous on the details, but this does not seem to prevent theologians from diving in deep. The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human free will is pretty tricky business. Augustine had his own way of suggesting that all humans inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin, but a lot of scholars conclude that Augustine was not completely correct here. So, when you say “the usual meaning,” I am not sure what you mean. Obviously, you are objecting to something here. But I would be interested to know what that really is.

Are you willing to accept that Eden hasn’t existed since the Pliocene?

I think Glenn Morton would argue that Eden was destroyed during the Pliocene. Not sure if that makes much of any difference.

Also, if the original sin was eating the forbidden fruit, how could Adam and Eve be held accountable for that, since they did it before they had knowledge of good and evil? And wasn’t the separation from God a result of God’s choice, not directly from their sin?

Reasonable questions: but I do not really see how reading Genesis necessarily leads to those questions. God gave Adam & Eve a command, and they disobeyed it. Trust was broken That was their sin.

  1. Adam is responsible, and it’s a result of his action in disobeying God’s command.
  2. It’s transmitted in some fashion to all his descendants.

I don’t think there’s a way to make either of those propositions sensible. I have no opinion on whether they’re biblical.

It doesn’t, since it’s exactly what I said. My question is whether you’re willing to put Eden and the Fall as far back as the Pliocene.

Is it possible to sin without knowing what sin is? How would they know that disobeying God’s command was a sin?

Incidentally, was it a command or merely a warning that the fruit was poisonous?

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It is also worth mentioning that Original Sin is viewed skeptically by some Christian sects and is rejected by the vast majority of Jews. There are theological reasons to question Original Sin before we ever get to the scientific questions.

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Your dad had a heart of gold, for sure. I disagreed with some of his hermeneutical presuppositions, but I retain the deepest respect for his inquisitive pursuit of truth, in service of love for God.

Best,
Chris

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