A Call to End Original Sin!

I finished reading Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam” and found it to be an engaging and persuasive argument for the end of a literal reading of Genesis 1-3.

In the book he gives two possible interpretations of the Adam story:

1) It was written as a response of the exile. It is the story of Israel and was a way of them understanding how they ended up in exile.

2) When read alongside Proverbs, the story is about the failure to fear God and attain wisdom. Rather then fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10) they follow the advice of the snake and try to achieve wisdom without God. The Adam story is then a story for all of us as we make decisions each day. Do we follow God or someone else?

I was listening to an “Unbelievable?” podcast today where they were discussing “the fall” and “original sin”. As a consequence to not believing in a historical Adam, I then do not believe in the idea that we are all born depraved. I find the concept that we are all guilty because of what two people did to be incredibly unjust. Rather I believe that we are born with the potential to be good or depraved based on the decisions that we make.

I believe that the Adam story can be read in this way.

We are all born into a culture. A culture has been defined by some as “the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of its self and its environment.”

Rather than seeing the serpent as ‘the devil”, I believe we can interpret it to be the voice of our culture. We can choose to follow the voices of our culture or we can choose to listen to God. Now, there are times where the voice of the culture echoes the voice of God but that will not always be the case and it is the work of each christian to develop maturity and wisdom by differentiating between the two voices.

What do you think? Does this alternative reading hold true?

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4 responses

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, my friend. I’m also diggin’ your movie reviews. Good stuff!
    I want to caution you regarding your comments about Original Sin. The view that all men are sort of ‘neutral’ from birth is a heresy called Pelagianism, condemned by Arminians and Calvinists alike. Enns denys Pelagianism near the end of chapter 5, mainly because of Paul’s theology. Paul is not a divine historian but his canonical writings are divine theology. His statements on the human condition are correct, and we tend to find hints of it in the OT too (Ps. 51:5).

    1. Thanks Jagarri and Mark

      I appreciate both of your responses to this.

      As I understand it, I cannot believe in the idea that we are born depraved and I think its only through an Augustinian lens that we find this idea through Paul. I’m interested to hear your points Mark tho. I believe that we all have the potential to live ‘sinless’ lives but I also understand that we never will because we do live in a ‘fallen’ world (i don’t mean that in the concept of ‘the fall’ because i don’t believe in a ‘free fall world’. I look at Jesus and how he lived a sinless life. He had the potential to sin but didn’t. Now yes we could use the ‘well he was god’ card but i don’t think that fits. He was fully human and so was tempted like we all are but he did not give in to that. We too have the same potential.

      Although i don’t believe in ‘original sin’ i can see a president in our culture and in the bible for ‘inherited sin’. by that I mean that we are paying for the fact that the people before us ‘sinned’ and the world is in the way it is because of those decisions.

      I don’t agree fully with the idea of pelagianism but I would allign myself more with that than ‘original sin’.

      1. where i disagree with the understanding of pelagianism is suggesting that we can live ‘rightly’ without god. the fear of god, as i said in the post, is the beginning of wisdom an just like jesus we need to follow god in order to live a sinless life. we cannot do it on our own.

  2. I’ll maybe reply more on my blog and send you the link, as I think this is an important issue, particularly for youth workers when so much of the work is spoken about in terms of “empowerment” and “on the young person’s agenda”, but as I said on Twitter, I think you’ve got original sin slightly wrong. Original Sin merely states that a person is sinful from birth. Whether that is because we are guilty of Adam’s sin or because our nature is sinful and we therefore cannot help but sin is not tied in with the doctrine. You’ll find people who both believe in original sin but disagree on imputed guilt.

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