Evil–what is it and from where did it come. Is evil foreign to human ontology? What causes humans to sin–something inherit in what it means to be human or something that changed causes humans to live as less than their intended design?
In part 6 of this series I outlined C. John Collins’ concern that Christians maintain a “worldview.” When Christian discuss Adam and Eve we are not debating one or two obscure passages. We are wrestling with how to interpret the canonical “beginning” of the Christian story and if historically accurate the “beginning” of the human story.
According to Collins, “Any telling of the Biblical story must include the notion of sin: humans are estranged from God and Israel is God’s means of bringing light into the world (pp. 41-42).” Sin is a foreign element in the biblical narrative, but it seems commonplace to an evolutionary model for human origins. Collins writes, “I agree with those who see the original task of man to have been to work outward from Eden, spreading Edenic blessings through the earth, turning the whole world into a sanctuary. Human sin interfered with man’s ability to carry this out, but did not deter God from holding fast to his plan (p. 44).” That plan included Abraham and his family, especially the crowning (and crowned) member–Jesus the Messiah.
Collins acknowledges that the current trend of philosophers and theologians seems to be that “evil” is an inherent part of being humans. He disagrees:
“Theologically, if we say being prone to human sin is inherit in being human with a free will, then we must say the Bible writers were wrong in describing atonement the way they did; and we must say that Jesus was wrong to describe his own death in these terms (e.g., Mark 10:45). Further, this approach makes nonsense of the joyful expectations of Christians that they will one day live in a glorified world from which sin and death have been banished (p. 47).”
For Collins the story moves from Creation to Fall to Redemption to New Creation. This “chiasm” if you will begins and ends with a pristine world designed by God for humans. If part one has been misunderstood by Christians what are we do do with the idea of humanity moving away from God starting with the sin of Adam as depicting in Genesis 3, argued in Romans 5, and (according to Collins) underlying the theology of much of Scripture–including Jesus himself in the Gospels! Redemption must be rethought and our eschatological expectations too! (We discussed this a bit in my recent post here.)
In Collins view,
“The Biblical authors therefore portray sin as an alien intruder into God’s good creation. The story of Adam and Eve, and their first disobedience, explains how this intruder first came into human experience, though it hardly pretends to explain how it is that rebellion against God–as expressed by the serpent’s speech–came about in the first place (p. 50).”
Can we reconcile the biblical narrative wherein humans are created as “good” with the evolutionary model of human origins? If so, how do we understand “evil” and “sin?” I welcome your thoughts!
[Note: C.S. Lewis’ solution has been mentioned a few times in our discussion: “For long centuries, God perfected the animal from which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated [. . .] Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past [. . .] We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. .. . But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods. We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence (The Problem of Pain. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, 72-76).” I’d welcome your thoughts on Lewis’ solution as well (which I’ve heard is partially adopted by Collins later in this book).]
* Page numbers will be updated later today.