The Diseased Imaginings of a Tainted Mind
One of the fascinating discussions that I’ve had recently (today in fact) is with Mark Clavier, Dean of Residential Training at St. Micheals College, Llandaff. As is often the case when you wander the halls of a theological college, you find yourself entering into discussions that have tremendous theological value. This one I found to personally valuable, and will look forward to reading Mark’s results when they are published (hopefully) later this year.
We were discussing his PhD thesis, which was based on the understanding of Delight in the writings of St. Augustine. (more…)
This is one of those problems that’s been bugging me since I began reading a blog post about why, theologically, we _need_ a literal Adam. Annoyingly I couldn’t find the blog post again in order to take the points individually, but the general debate is based on the problem outline by Peter Enns in a blog post about his new book.
The problem seems to be that without Adam, Sin looses it’s force. It’s something that is not transmitted to everyone in a physical way. Of course, for this idea, we have to thank Augustine, and the way in which he approached and outline the concept of Original Sin.
I have, elsewhere, spoken about how I find the concept of Original Sin as expounded by Augustine unhelpful,and in the modern world incomplete. It was only when confronted, theologically, with the idea that Evolution that I began to explore what this implication truly means.
For me, of course, Evolution doesn’t pose a theological problem in that way, and I hadn’t really explored what problems others had with evolution. It seems to be that the reason why some people deny, or have difficulties accepting Evolution is that it means that their understanding of Sin falls down without Adam.
Random question. Would a clone suffer from “Original Sin” Also, byextension, would it have a soul? – A Question I was asked by a friend. My Answer is below.Random question. Would a clone suffer from “Original Sin” Also, byextension, would it have a soul?
An interesting question. One I quess that by the time I’ve answered this, your going to wish you hadn’t asked.
First, we need to define “Original Sin”. To do that, I’m going to make a few assumptions. The first is that your talking about the popular understanding of “Original Sin”. This is the one that is taken primarily from the thought of St. Augustine. This is taking to assume that Original Sin begins with what is known as the “fall”narrative in Genesis 2:8-3:28, and talks about Eve being convinced by a snake to eat a piece of fruit from the tree. This brings about the loss of intimacy with God (they are thrown out of the Garden), and they are made to toil and suffer, and of course, death enters the world. St. Augustine explored this and found that it was through intercourse that the Man passed the “stain” of Original Sin onto his offspring. St. Augustine believed that sexual desire was “bad”,like many Christians of his time, but his influence is one that Christianity has struggled to throw off.
In his book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Bishop John Shelby Spong outlines many of the problems which he sees in modern-day Christianity. Though I agree with the statement, I’m not sure that I agree with his conclusions. Bishop Spong seems to want to remove the Theistic aspect from Christianity, which while I can see much good in his approach, I think the removal of Theism is currently unnecessary. That said, I very much agree that we should re-examine some of the baggage of Christianity with the full weight of modern theology, and strive to recover and reshape Christianity in a way that not only reflects our modern time, but also the beauty of the message of Christ.
In the book, Bishop Spong argues for the removal of the image of Jesus as a divine rescuer. This “Dead Wood” image, he feels falls too easily from the preachers lips, and has become nothing but empty homily to an assumed Theology of Original Sin which hangs around the neck of Christianity like mill stone, and will eventually drag Christianity down to it’s death.
Here’s an interesting thought… Genesis, as a psudo-literal story is a very irritating read. There are two trees in the Garden of Eden, one of Good and Evil, and one Life. When Eve touched the tree, she had disobeyed God (NRSV Genesis 3:3). So she may as well have eaten it.
Lets stop and rewind a little. At this point, Eve is a true innocent. She has no concept of punishment, because she does not know what is “Good”, and by extension, what is “Evil”. She cannot have any concept of what her actions were going to bring about. She knew that God had told her not too, but any kind of reasoning as to why He would do this, or that there could be a punishment is simply beyond here. When she is led by the Serpent to go and look at the tree, she noticed that it was good for food, and pretty, she also noticed that it was desired to make one wise.
So, she was seduced by the pretty shiny thing. She was thrown out of the Garden because of the Shiny.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate;” (NRSV: Genesis 3:4).
This leaves us with a few problems. Eve, according to the rest of the Bible, was meant to look after Adam. This presumably meant gathering the best food she could find. In the Garden Of Eden, the best fruit available was on the Tree Of Knowledge, or the Tree of Life. Admitedly, the serpent showed her the Tree Of Knowledge first, but presumably, eventually she would have found it, and seen that it was Good.
The second is that she desired knowledge. A woman, who wanted to know things. The Bible says that a woman should not seek knowledge on her own, she must be led by a men. Presumably, the Serpant was a man, so she was following the general feeling of the Bible. You have to remember, Eve had no idea that it was wrong, because she had no concept of the word. Had Eve not been a woman; had Adam found the tree, then presumably this would have been more desirable, because the REST of the O.T. does not condemn the search for knowledge, rather she (wisdom) is to be positively searched for. Wisdom is the most important thing a man can desire.
So what on earth are we to take away from this tale? On the surface, God is a parent who doesn’t really understand toddlers. Telling a toddler not to do something, and leaving it in a room with another Adult that says “Do this”. The toddler, who has no real concept of right and wrong, will follow what the adult tells it to do, it trusts the adult*.
What of Adam? His job, or at least, the job of Men as dictated by the Bible was to look after the women, and to ensure that they didn’t get themselves into trouble. If they did so, it was HIS fault. Where was Adam? Being a man, as usual. There was house-work to be done, gathering food, so he was, of course, unavailable.
So, what then, did we get thrown out for? This was the days of the wrathful God, so perhaps He’d had a bad day. My guess, is that the answer is a little further down. The Lord God comes to the Garden, and our newly clothed couple get afraid, and HIDE. The Lord calls to the them, “Where are you?” (NRSV: Genesis 3:9). Adam answers that he had heard God, and was afraid of being naked before God.
This, naturally upsets God. Now they know the knowledge of Good and Evil, they can no-longer remain in the Garden. Perhaps this is because they are no-longer immortal, the down-side to the knowledge is death. God, however, doesn’t just throw them out into the cold, harsh world. He stops and makes them clothes of skin to keep them warm.
Satan wanted us out of the Garden (according to apocraphyl sources), because he was Jelous. Because we had eaten of the tree of Knowledge before the tree of life, we were condemned to the world before we were fully armed. Now, armed with our knowledge, we are to seek the tree of life, so that we may show our pass to the Cherubim, and be re-admited.
Re-Interpreting the Bible.
* It trusts the Adult, providing it’s own experiences tell it otherwise. “Hot”, “Bad” etc. YMMV with this annalogy.