Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Part I: Original sin, arguing with God, forgiveness, healing and a few other Big Hairy topics

The calamitous events of our world in recent weeks are many: the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman in Arizona and the murder of six people, floods in South America, an earthquake in Pakistan, war in Afghanistan, the death of friends.

The list begs many questions. Some of those questions are about public policy and democracy, and our response as human beings to the plight of other human beings.

Other questions are about God.

Why is it that our world is broken? Why does God put up with this? Where is God? Those are theological questions; many have proposed answers, none fully work.

For some, the answer is that we are being tested by God. Life is a big test, and for those who pass, there is a prize at the end in the here-beyond. That concept, however, seems to blame God for everything that goes wrong, and the logical extension of that is to give ourselves credit for everything that goes right. That seems backwards to me and not very satisfying.

The classic response of the Church is that the brokenness of the world reflects the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, as told in Genesis 2:4-3:24.

But I must confess that I’ve struggled with the concept of “original sin.” It has never made much sense to me. How would the “sin” of Adam and Eve be transmitted to me? Where is the “original sin” DNA located in the human genome?

And if our human species evolved from earlier primates, as I am certain beyond a reasonable doubt is factually true, just who is Adam and Eve? The fossil record shows our human ancestry to be far more complicated than the myth of two people who were created whole out of mud.

We’ve crossbred with other earlier hairy hominids (now called “hominins” by scientists). From which branch of the human species do Adam and Eve get and their “original sin”? And, even if there were an Adam and Eve, how would their sins be transmitted to me?

To put this another way, I don’t buy it, at least not the way much of Christianity has warped science to fit the concept of original sin.

I suspect those who hold to a “creationist” view of the Genesis biblical story do so not out of any genuine interest in scientific pursuit, but to defend the concept of “original sin” transmitted from Adam and Eve. A lot of sin-punishment-repentance-election-salvation theology hangs on that story being literally true. If the story goes away, the doctrinal edifice collapses, hence there are people willing to die in the ditch to defend the historical veracity of the Adam and Eve story.

Yet even of the story doesn’t go away, you don’t have to reach the New Testament to call into question human sin as the explanation for all that is wrong in the world. The sin-punishment etc. doctrine is picked to pieces in the Book of Job, and rather convincingly.

So we are back to the original question: How do we explain the brokenness of our world? Something is out of kilter, of that I am also certain. Science is not getting us off the hook either.

Recently, I’ve begun to see this original sin concept another way, and I hope you might go with me here. There is considerably more depth to this concept than meets the eye or the popular religionist’s lore.

I will say more about that tomorrow. Please join me then for Part II.

Illustrations: "The Creation of Adam," Sistine Chapel, by Michaelangelo; the fossil "Lucy," a 3.2 million year old hominid found in Ethiopia.


shadowlands said...

'Why is it that our world is broken? Why does God put up with this? Where is God? Those are theological questions; many have proposed answers, none fully work.'

He(Jesus) always said, that knowledge on earth would be imperfect.We only ever see, through a mirror lit dimly.
Why do you reckon my favourite guy on earth is C. S. Lewis? I've been to all the places he visited and prayed in faith, at the same. He is my hero, to be frank and I am a Catholic but dad introduced me to him, through the screwtape letters as a teenager.Shadowlands. We won't be judged on intellect, at the end of the final day. My good friend, an anglican convert, an exorcist to boot, a priest, preaches, each Sunday, on love. "How have you loved?"
This, he says, is how we shall be questioned on that terrible day.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Robert Hagedorn said...

Before we struggle with the concept of original sin we must first understand what exactly the original sin WAS. Please do a search: The First Scandal Adam and Eve.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Stay tuned. More to go on this topic.