Friday, October 07, 2005

Adam, The Fall, and The Nature of Sin

As Many of you know, I am committed to a view that sees the Genesis creation story as mythological. To me mythology doesn't mean "lie" or "worthless little fictional story." It's not a dirty word, it's just a way of making a point which speaks with power to the psyche without having to be filtered through literal history. For more on my concept of this and my view of Biblical revelation, please read this page:

Java raises a pretty good question: [i]if Adam and Eve are only mythological characters, how can humanity be fallen and in need of redemption?[/i]

I take my view about the fall from the great theologian Reinhold Neibhur, who in turn took his understanding from St. Agustine. Neibhur's view is Agustinian, "dusted off." as it were, for use in a modern liberal context. Neibhur's work [i]The Natuer and Destiny of Man[/i] vol I. presented a chapter on demythologizing the fall. I read that in seminary (in Dr. Carney's class) and that really revolutionized by whole view of the fall and of Biblical inspiration. I recommend it highly. Every readable and enjoyable book!

The idea is this: Adam and Eve are symbols for us all. The fall is distributed throughout history at ever moment. It is not a historical event, but an existential one; meaning we all experience it and live it anew at every moment. it's not that we magically inherited genes for sin through omissis form some action that Adam took (wired blend of sympathetic magic and LaMarkian evolution). But rather, we engage in the fall anytime our capacity for self transcendence causes to choose our own self interest above that of the other.

Humans are rooted in two concepts which are Augusta terms: height and depth. Height means our capacity for transcendence of the physical and the mundane, depth means our creatureliness, our "flesh" in a moral sense; our human frailty. These two situations stem from our self transcendence in nature. That is to say, we are able to remember the past and to calculate the future. We know or have a good idea of what will happen tomorrow based upon your experience of yesterday. This creates an initial existential insecurity. We seek to resolve this insecurity by feathering our own nests, and that means we often choose self interest over the good of the other. But freed by height, we are also capable of understudying and rejecting this process, and thus choosing the good of the other.

Redemption in Christ changes our nature in that it gives us a basic security that relives the tension of self transcendence and enables us to trust God and do the good. The divine nature, as we partake of it through spiritual communion (which is averrable to us through the rebirth in Christ) gives us the security and strength we need to change, to make decisions that forsake our self interest and work for the betterment of the neighbor.

Christ's position as "the first Adam" (Romans) is symbolic. There doesn't have to be a literal "first Adam" for Jesus to be second Adam, after all Jesus is one man, Yet he symbolizes us all.

I can hear the objections already, "O but this means God created our sin nature, or created us with sin nature from the beginning, even without a free will action such as eating the fruit." No, because that free will action is something we all experience wheat we gain majority. When we come into the fullness of our moral agency (what some call "age of accountability") we develop the capacity to be blame worthy. This is based upon our actions, nothing God does to use individually to make us guilty. Of course God created the raw materials out of which we produce sin, that goes without saying. If God had not created a world of humans there would be no sinners. But that's the price of having life. But we still have the choice in ourselves, and with God's grace the straight to make good on our choices


Anonymous said...

That was very good. But here's a question that relates to the Jesus myther question (in a round about way):

If what you are saying is true then what is your view, of Jesus' view? IOW, in the NT Jesus appears to affirm the historical literalness of the OT when he made statements like: "you don't believe Moses, why would you believe me" (paraphrase) and seems to affirm stories like Adam, Noah, Jonah.

J.L. Hinman said...

Jesus doesnt' really affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve anymore than some reference to the "days of King Arthur" would affirm the historicity of Arthur. But that's Evanglieical proof texting. To refur to the Torah as "moses" doesn't mean noe is saying MOses wis a real Guy. It's just a short hand reference, "Moses and prophests" means Torah and Tenock.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I see what you mean.

Nomad said...

Hi Meta

If I may ask, is it your position that there was never a time in which human beings existed without the "taint" of Original Sin? It would be helpful if you could offer your definition of Original Sin as well, as this might be the source of my misunderstanding of your view.

Perhaps we need to discuss this on your boards?


J.L. Hinman said...

that woudl be fine with me. Put it on the Bible and theology board.

I think there's a point of critical mass. We can't really say it was here in this year with these two people, but there was a time when we somehow went from being non human homanids to being singful humans. AT some point in there the ability to make moral decions resulted in sinful humanity.

As for Original sin, I guess the concept is meaningless without a littreal fall at a given point in time. My view would be not "orignial" sin but the capacity to sin.

Nomad said...

I have started a discussion at

J.L. Hinman said...

ok thanks Nomad