Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, October 16, 2009

Does Christianity fall without the fall

At the Meeting I attended presented by Jonathan Gallagher there was a point that was mentioned that very much reflected the following statement by Keafan (an atheist I assume) on the Spectrum blog. The idea is basically that without the literal Adam and Eve story Christianity falls apart.

[...]Anyway, I agree that christians who dismiss the recent creation event of Genesis cannot honestly claim that Jesus is still relevant without the literal Adam, Eve, Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, the introduction of sin by them, and our "fallen" state of that origins story. If they believe evolution over long periods of time what, EXACTLY, have we "fallen" from that would need a Savior?

Jesus compares the end of time as like the "days of Noah". John claims that Jesus IS the creator. Paul appeals to the actions of Adam to prove his Jesus. The whole Great Controversy theme Bevin seems to approve of is contingent on the Garden, Adam, and Eve actually existing as historical, literal things.

As Ross is quoted as saying: "If Adam and Eve aren't real people and the fall isn't a real event in history, then there's not a good reason to believe that Christ rose from the dead and every thing else."

Without the Fall the whole theory of salvation from the consequences of that Fall are ridiculous.

Posted by: keafan (not verified) | 30 September 2009 at 1:38

As I stated in the conversation at the meeting which Jonathan Gallagher held in Olympia Wa., (at some point they said they would post the talks, you can read the written presentations at: ) We are in trouble if our concept of God is dependent upon getting people to believe the Genesis story which is very scientifically untenable. Even before the advent of Darwin the Christian thinkers did not hold to the simplistic creation story of Genesis. Once people in the 1700’s began to look at the rocks and later the fossils in the rocks they realized that there are many layers of rocks, and different kinds of rocks. So they developed the theory known as Neptuneism, the idea being that there were a succession of many worldwide floods (related idea known as catastrophism) of which Noah’s flood is simply the most recent. Each succession as the water evaporated left a different type of rock strata. Ultimately with the different strata there were different fossils. Each time there was a worldwide flood God created life again and repopulated the world (successive creation). Thus was produced the special creation view that Darwin was taught and which with his observations of volcanism he determined not to be necessary. Further it took away the Natural theology aspects since without the need for special creation it took away the need for God’s interaction with the world. Nature was not so perfectly balanced, why did not God create rabbits in Australia since when they were brought there they did wonderfully? Natural selection saw a ruthless struggle for survival, so instead of the natural theology showing how wonderful the character of God is because of the beauty and harmony of creation we see a nature that uses chance and cruelty. Challenging God’s justice and love.

The idea of the fall to a world of chance and cruelty does not let God off the hook for making the world filled with chance and cruelty, because man sinned does not logically equate the creation of ripping and tearing teeth. Natural theology (as nature revealing the character of God) was never a reality, at best it was once a reality in a brief perfect world (if one accepted the story as literaly), but those who came up with the idea of natural theology were not looking at any kind of perfect world. So we really don’t do ourselves a lot of favors by positing everything upon some perfect unknown world. It leads to the simplistic sin changed the world perspective but then you have to ask what is sin that it can produce all this chance and cruelty? When we look at the natural world around us and then at what we think sin means: that is selfishness or rebellion or even the classics, missing the mark or sin is lawlessness none of those things would really effect the natural world. The thinking world yes because an attitude of sin may make thinking creatures behave in ways that could be described as chance and cruelty but they would not be genetic, they would not leave their records in the fossils and the rocks of the world. You would have to go to something a lot more powerful. Which in religion pretty much leaves you with a God or a devil? Biblically speaking there is no indication that the natural world is the result of some creation of the devil. The natural world is seen as the creation of God.

Those pointing to the literal young earth creation story of Genesis still have no real answers for the problems mentioned above. Faith is their answer, not faith in God but faith in their perceived interpretation of the Genesis stories. That God told people the stories and that God intended the people to forever and always hold the stories as literally historically true.

So as we deal with thinking people we can’t simply say this is what the Bible says, "yes it makes no sense but you need to believe it because the whole Christian world view depends on it". No it does not. The Christian view depends upon the reality that mankind is selfish, that we hurt each other and that we make stupid choices and if we could find ourselves some short cut to knowledge of good or of evil or power we would take it. The Adam and Eve story presents a reality of thought that requires no need for it to be actual history: no need to be a complete refutation of the reality that science demonstrates.

We all know stories can teach important lessons or ideas, they don’t have to be true, they don’t have to involve actual people and events to stimulate, inspire or teach something to the listener. We don’t have to have a literal Garden of Eden or a literal worldwide flood to point out the human condition, the tendency for humans to become destruction or wicked. The stories indicate that there is more to life than our wants and desires. That human beings have the capability to extend themselves to think higher, to live with better morals, to pursue better goals. That is where God comes into our thinking. The stories of Jesus present these ideas in the form of incarnate God living with us. However this is more than just stories because the witnesses to Jesus life actually shared what they had heard and seen and even under persecution never recanted their testimony. Jesus does not depend upon the story of Adam and Eve. It stands in the history of mankind, more than as some story handed down from some bygone age when the world was somehow perfect. It stands in historical time and in an historical place with actual historical people recording the points that the authors thought important or they best remembered. though clearly they were not written as simply historical accounts, history is often built upon whatever historical writings we can obtain.

Certainly the New Testament and Jesus referenced the Genesis stories. God as creator, with little attention to how God creates after all who can really explain how God can create. The stories are used just as every culture uses their stories…to teach or remind people of lessons or values. Adam and Eve become the symbol of marriage of a man and a woman. The Genesis story never says they were married but they become the perfect symbol man and woman meant to live together to create the family. Noah and the flood are mentioned again to make whatever point the author in the New Testament or Jesus was trying to make. A shared culture gives people shared stories and that commonality allows them to communicate quickly and efficiently. Noah and the flood tell of a world filled with people of violence and wickedness. The old stories don’t have to change either. For example in America at one time you could say Miami was the murder capital of the country, then later it is Detroit, or Washington D.C. Ancient shared culture stories don’t change, Noah and the wicked people who necessitated the flood are always linked together, deliverance from the wicked by God is always linked, the rainbow and the promise of are God linked. That is the power of a story.

Without the fall story are we in any different reality? No the reality is simply what is, the fall does not make our reality, it does not make our religion. It is a teaching tool of our religion. It is a powerful shared story that has cultural relevance in many ways. It was never meant to dictate our understanding of the natural world, the understanding of God (who was kind of mean in the story, break on rule and your banished) the understanding of creation and the universe. After all the God in the Genesis story is not too much like the God of the New Testament, neither is the God of much of the Old Testament too much like the God of the New Testament. God is progressively understood as we progressively assimilate knowledge. We simply can’t go back to the most primitive understanding and let it rule over our knowledge of years later with so many areas of increased knowledge. What we do is reinterpret the stories, because the stories still have that cultural familiarity; they still are capable of being used as teaching tools. But they don’t dictate our understanding they were never meant to do that and it is highly unlikely that they ever did that in either the Jewish or Christian religions (at least until fundamentalism).

We are at that uncomfortable place where we have to once again reinterpret our beliefs. Strangely enough it has happened so many times in human history and Christian history that we should be a little more used to it by now. No doubt if not for our love of tradition we would be better able to handle the changes but there always seems to be some who get comfortable with an idea or five and cling to them tenaciously.


Al said...

Is there any evidence that people have inhabited the earth for a very long time?

Was there a real first man and woman?

Is there a perfect future? How do you know?

Was there a perfect past? How do you know?

Is the present perfect? How do you know?

Ron Corson said...

Good questions:

Is there any evidence that people have inhabited the earth for a very long time?

Yes using current scientific measuring techniques it appears that Homo Sapiens have lived on earth for 400,000 to 200,000 years BCE

Was there a real first man and woman?

Not too sure what “real” means in this sentence but genetically there was likely a real first mating pair of any species and that would include Homo Sapiens.

Is there a perfect future? How do you know?

As Christians the Bible and our philosophy point to a hope of a perfect future. As a “hope” however it is not something we “know” it is something we believe in…hope for and dream of.

Was there a perfect past? How do you know?

What defines perfect? In this case does that mean ever a time without death. Again scientifically we see no evidence of a perfect past, we can look back at the first creatures the bacteria and we see massive death for them as they are found in rocks dating to 3 billion years old.

Is the present perfect? How do you know?

I think all would agree from experience that the present is not perfect.