Volume 44 - Issue 3

Adam and Sin as the Bane of Evolution? A Review of Finding Ourselves After Darwin

By Hans Madueme


The diverse essays in Stanley Rosenberg’s edited volume Finding Ourselves After Darwin: Conversations on the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018) offer a Christian analysis of the human person in light of evolutionary thinking. The recommendations to revise our understanding of original sin and theodicy raise particularly challenging questions. Traditional interpretations of Scripture, for instance, are often devalued in order to reduce tensions with our current scientific understanding. Additionally, the more radical arguments undercut doctrines that earlier Christians believed are pivotal to the biblical story. Overall, these noteworthy essays represent a wide range of creative possibilities for updating our theological anthropology in line with a post-Darwinian setting, but they are less convincing when justifying the theological cost for doing so.

There was a time when evangelical scholars argued over the age of the planet. Young and old earth creationists sparred over the length of the days in Genesis 1, they debated whether fossils provided evidence for deep time, and so on. The lines of the dispute placed evolutionary perspectives largely beyond the pale of evangelicalism. However, the anti-evolutionary rhetoric of mid-to-late 20th century evangelicalism does not tell the whole story. In fact, the original fundamentalists in the early decades of the 20th century did not oppose the idea of evolution. They were convinced that God’s two books of creation and Scripture would never contradict each other. As George Frederick Wright argued, “if it should be proved that species have developed from others of a lower order, as varieties are supposed to have done, it would strengthen rather than weaken the standard argument from design.”1 Other Calvinist evolutionists like James McCosh and Asa Gray concluded similarly that God used an evolutionary process as his providential mode of creation.2

Almost a century later, in some quarters, Christian evolution has once again become an acceptable option for evangelicals as the debate shifted to questions surrounding Adam and Eve (e.g., did they ever exist in our space-time history? Does Scripture support the Western idea of the fall? Should Christians retain the Augustinian doctrine of original sin?).3 For instance, in 2007 Francis Collins founded the BioLogos organization, which would become the mecca for evangelical reflection on evolution. In September 2010, the evangelical journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith ran a theme issue on the historicity of Adam and Eve in light of evolution and genetics. Some of the essays argued against the scientific and exegetical legitimacy of the traditional view of Adam and the fall.4 Roman Catholic and Protestant mainline scholars had already resolved these issues decades earlier, in light of their respective traditions. However, for North American evangelicalism, these early rumblings signaled a controversy brewing within their churches and institutions. Everyone had an opinion about Adam.5

1. A Big Book on Darwin and the Human Condition

What then is really at stake for Christians trying to make sense of it all? The new volume edited by Stanley Rosenberg has the potential to bring clarity to questions swirling around Adam: Finding Ourselves After Darwin: Conversations on the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018). Some years ago, I co-edited a volume covering similar topics and it suffered some of the symptoms of “anthologitis” (uneven chapters and key scientific areas unaddressed).6 Thanks to the skillful editorial hand of Stan Rosenberg, Finding Ourselves After Darwin did not contract that infection; it hangs together well, structurally and thematically.

Spanning a range of perspectives, this anthology was part of a Templeton research project based at Oxford University. The book opens with two introductory essays, and the remaining chapters probe the implications of evolution on three areas of theological anthropology: the image of God (five chapters); original sin (six chapters); and evil (seven chapters).7 Each group of essays has an introduction and conclusion that bring coherence to the contributions.

If, like me, you think evolutionary theory presents deep, perhaps insurmountable, problems for Christian theology, this book has the potential to relieve your central worries. I have reservations with recent attempts to rethink the doctrine of sin in light of evolution, so I was eager to read these essays. I will restrict my remarks to the chapters on evil and original sin, because I think the tension between evolution and Christian faith is most intensely felt there. Where then do we find ourselves after Darwin?

2. A Methodological Roadmap

The first chapter by Benno van den Toren makes a distinction between doctrine and theological theory. A doctrine is a church teaching about the faith, whereas a theological theory denotes “theories that theologians have developed to explain and make sense of these doctrines” (p. 13). One of his examples is the Eucharist, which Christians down the ages have explained in diverse ways, sometimes appealing to Aristotle’s metaphysics, sometimes to speech-act theory, and so on. The Eucharist as a core doctrine is unchanging, while our theological theories come and go. Doctrines are essential; theological theories, he says, are nonessential.

Van den Toren seeks to highlight the point that conflicts between science and faith are often the fault of theological theories, not essential doctrines. For example, even if modern neuroscience is hard to reconcile with supernatural souls, dualism is only one of many theological theories for the image of God. As van den Toren suggests,

The real or perceived dissonance between the Christian faith and scientific theories can cause severe faith-stress and thereby diminish Christian conviction and commitment, finally leading to a departure from the faith.… [T]he development of appropriate theological theories that help to coordinate Christian doctrine with modern science can be a significant part of the apologetic response that the Christian community provides. (p. 21)

This is an insightful chapter. Van den Toren lays the groundwork for the rest of the book and uses categories that are brimming with theological nuance and missiological wisdom.

Most of his argument is helpful and convincing, but I disagree with how he frames the fundamental issue as a distinction between doctrine and theological theory. For starters, appealing to Eucharistic debates only gets us so far. Christians in church history who disagreed over the meaning of doctrine rarely questioned the historicity of the underlying events; metaphysical significance was the thing. However, in van den Toren’s proposal the historicity of specific canonical persons and events, particularly related to Adam and Eve, becomes negotiable—adiaphora—a move that seems more modern than premodern.8

The doctrine-theory distinction ultimately begs the question. On what grounds do we determine that a particular theological interpretation is a (secondary) theological theory as opposed to a (primary) doctrinal position? People will disagree depending on the issue, which is my point. The doctrine-theory tool is too blunt, too convenient for theologians itching to revise tradition by the lights of current science.

In my view, a better approach draws the line between doctrine and Scripture, which then allows us to measure all our doctrinal formulations against the canonical rule. Some doctrines faithfully render the core affirmations of Scripture, others less so. The church has always operated with a concept of dogmatic rank that distinguishes between primary, secondary, and tertiary doctrines—all these doctrinal constructions warranted, to greater or lesser degrees, by the underlying exegetical support. Granted, van den Toren’s proposal draws on the same modes of thought. My concern, however, is that his doctrine-theory model encourages a kind of theological theorizing that is largely abstracted from relevant exegetical details, which potentially gives the reconstructed theological theory more plausibility than it deserves.9 But I’m getting ahead of myself: The remainder of the book takes up van den Toren’s methodological charter and puts it to work in interesting if sometimes problematic ways.

3. Evolution and Original Sin

In chapter 12, van den Toren himself uses evolutionary thinking to revise our theological theory of original sin. Recent studies in evolution have argued for a closer causal dependence of nature on culture in the evolutionary story. As he explains,

Culture is not an accessory to the species’ nature or a second layer added to a nature that exists independent of culture. Human nature as it currently presents itself never existed without culture. It cannot survive, let alone thrive, without its cultural form and embedding. The development of culture is the fruit of the unique evolution of human nature. (p. 177)

This predisposition to cultural formation is a mixed bag. We not only imitate our parents—and others in our social sphere—for good, but we also imitate them for evil. We learn from other people how to do evil to one another.

According to van den Toren, this cultural socialization helps explain the inheritance of sin. New insights from evolutionary biology suggest that we are “biologically hardwired” to imitate the practices of others (p. 182); this emphasis on innate dispositions strikes van den Toren as Augustinian rather than Pelagian. Furthermore, van den Toren warns that religious scholars who describe human aggressive, egotistical desires as original sin are unwittingly reviving the old heresy of Manicheanism; his proposal avoids Manicheanism, he says, because the egotistic desires we inherit are morally neutral and only become sinful if directed in self-serving ways.

There is too much to unravel here. To begin with, I am not convinced that van den Toren’s proposal should be construed as an Augustinian account. His proposal seems to accept a biological and cultural determinism that is ultimately anti-Augustinian. For example, it is difficult to see how Jesus Christ can be sinless. The implication of van den Toren’s analysis is that Jesus, being fully human, was hardwired biologically to imitate sinful practices, and cultural forces compelled him to imitate the sin of others around him—I say “compelled” because, according to van den Toren’s evolutionary proposal, sinfulness seems to be implicit in what it means to be human. As he puts it, “if nature and culture are as deeply intertwined as recent evolutionary theory suggests, we cannot inherit our nature from the community that births and raises us without inheriting its culture, including its sinful biases” (p. 184, my emphasis).

Happily, van den Toren’s position avoids the Christological problem by describing inherited egotistic desires as morally neutral (p. 184), but that move needs more justification than he provides in this essay. Scientific pressures aside, it is not obvious to me that he is right to normalize egotistic desires or to collapse them into the evolutionary process. He assumes that such desires are ontologically continuous with the “egotistic” instincts of nonhuman evolutionary ancestors, and thus morally neutral. I worry that this proposal ends up biologizing sin in ways that are difficult to square with Scripture, including passages like Ps 51:5 and Eph 2:3 that arguably imply a moral culpability associated with our natures quite apart from any conscious willing.

But my broader concern is methodological. At the start of the chapter, van den Toren defines the doctrine of original sin as follows: “every human in the world as we currently know it is born with a sinful disposition, a tendency to sin and an inability not to sin. The sinfulness of humankind means not only that humans do sinful actions but also that every human born in this world is bound to or enslaved by sin” (p. 176). I like his definition, but in this chapter it is largely abstracted from the wider biblical warrants (e.g., the scriptural witness to Adam and Eve, their historicity, their connection to the rest of humanity, the origin of sin, and so on), which lends a certain artificiality to his constructive proposal. Canonically speaking, human sinfulness does not make sense apart from the Adamic, biblical-theological matrix. Consistent with his doctrine-theory model, then, he takes this lean doctrine of original sin to serve as the foundation on which he builds his new theological theory. In my judgment, van den Toren’s theological theory is far less plausible when assessed in light of the wider exegetical basis for original sin. However, readers who take the standard evolutionary picture for granted will likely find his proposal compelling.

In another chapter on original sin, chapter 8, Gijsbert van den Brink asks us to “recontextualize” rather than abandon Augustine’s ancient doctrine. He summarizes the traditional core of the doctrine as an inclination to sin, a tendency that begins from birth, affects all human beings, pervades every facet of our lives, and is the wellspring of all actual sins we commit. All of these features, he thinks, are consistent with an evolutionary picture and make unnecessary the radical proposals by Denis Lamoureux and others who reject original sin in the name of evolution.10

Nonetheless, van den Brink does outline key changes to the traditional doctrine of original sin. He jettisons Augustine’s theory of original guilt and sexual transmission as lacking biblical support. In his judgment, science has ruled out monogenesis, therefore humanity did not arise from an original couple. He hypothesizes that when moral consciousness emerged from the early hominids, God instructed the first humans to live a life of obedience.

My main reaction to van den Brink’s proposal is that it is overly sanguine about its theological price tag. In the first place, many Christians will find his rejection of monogenesis unpersuasive; he too quickly dismisses the exegetical and theological rationale for monogenesis, and he too quickly accepts the scientific consensus against it.11 In the second place, Christian evolutionists who are physicalists and who adopt his version of original sin will be left, ironically, without a viable concept of sin. If moral consciousness arose naturally in the human community, and if human beings do not have immaterial souls, the concept of moral responsibility collapses and you lose the very idea of sin.12 When scientific conclusions play such a pivotal role in doctrinal construction and development, the results can be surprising and even alarming.

That worry loomed large as I read Christopher Hays’s essay, the most lucid chapter in the book.13 He dismisses the historicity of Adam and Eve—and the entirety of Genesis 2–3—for hermeneutical and scientific reasons. While admitting that the apostle Paul believed Adam was historical, Hays assures us that we don’t have to since the New Testament is “accommodated” to a first century Jewish view of the world. Since Paul was not defending the historicity of Adam, we don’t have to either. Hays rejects original guilt and roots human moral corruption in “the confluence of biological, sociological, cultural-evolutionary, spiritual, and even supernatural factors”—just not in a historical fall (p. 200).

These conclusions reflect a defective doctrine of revelation and an implausible concept of accommodation. The principle of accommodation was standard procedure throughout church history, but Hays’s version seems reckless. He thinks any biblical claim is non-binding if it is shared by the biblical writer’s contemporaries and negated by our current scientific understanding. Really? If that were true, then Christians should dismiss the scriptural teaching on heaven, hell, the devil, prophecy, miracles, and much else besides. Those beliefs are hardly consonant with modern science, as commonly understood, yet they were sober truth for contemporaries of the biblical writers. In fairness, Hays might reply that we have no scientific evidence against heaven, hell, the devil, and so on, and indeed, that such evidence might be impossible in principle, since the fact that scientists have not observed the devil hardly counts against his existence (the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence!). And yet, we do have genetic evidence against a historical Adam—thus, Hays might say, my critique misfires. For my part, however, I question whether the genetic evidence is as airtight as he thinks;14 more broadly, my own view is that scientific evidence is often more ambiguous than he lets on.

To his credit, Hays applies his notion of accommodation inconsistently since he accepts a supernatural fall of angels (p. 202). Nevertheless, his use of Scripture seems unstable. That comes out in his handling of Romans 5:12–21. Hays argues that Paul’s contrast between Adam and Christ does not depend on a historical Adam, much like Jesus’s teaching in the Parable of the Good Samaritan does not depend on an underlying historical event (pp. 198–99). But there’s a relevant difference between the two cases, since Jesus intended his parable to be non-historical, whereas Paul assumes the historicity of both protagonists, Jesus and Adam. His acceptance of evolution and his rejection of a historical fall leaves Hays with an extremely fragile doctrine of original sin. In his words,

Insofar as humans emerged through the process of natural selection, these same impulses (violence, selfishness, sexual concupiscence) ostensibly contributed to our emergence and remain present in our genetic composition. This suggests that we are, to a degree, spring-loaded toward behaviors that, among morally conscious beings, are properly categorized as sinful. (p. 200)

In other words, God built sin into the very process of (evolutionary) creation. He fashioned us with an innate tendency to sin, a tendency born from our being created and not merely fallen. Such claims threaten the goodness and holiness of God, yet Hays offers no way out of this problem of Christian theodicy.15

4. Untying the Theodicy Knot

In chapter 19, Christopher Southgate takes on the theodicy question directly. He concedes that natural evil is inevitable in God’s evolutionary creation—by divine design. As he puts it, “there seems to be so much disvalue, so much suffering, alongside the values that have arisen within creation” (p. 293). However, he has no time for fall theodicies, whether Adamic or angelic, but instead lays out two other types of theodicies that he finds more promising.

The first argument is evil as the cost of the freedom that God gifted to nature. God values the freedom of creation so much that he is willing to risk evil as a byproduct (Southgate dubs arguments in this category “free-process arguments”). The second argument is that our universe with its history of suffering and evil was the only way God could have brought about our world with all its complexity and beauty (“only way arguments”). Southgate judges free-process and only-way arguments to be essential components of any theodicy, though he augments them with the perspective of eschatology and God as co-sufferer with creation.

Nearly a century ago, N. P. Williams raised a question that still lingers for non-fall evolutionary theodicies like Southgate’s. Once you lose a historical fall, the only remaining option for the origin of evil is cosmological dualism or monism—evil as an eternal principle alongside God (dualism), or evil and good mingled within God himself (monism).16 Since sin and evil are intrinsic to Southgate’s evolutionary creation, his proposal seems to threaten God’s holiness. Anticipating this concern, Southgate draws on Old Testament scholarship that defines the Hebrew word for “good” in Genesis 1 as “‘fit for purpose’ rather than ‘perfect’ or yet ‘beautiful’” (p. 303). Genesis 1, he claims, does not bind us to the idea that original creation was free from evil. However, I think the real issue is bigger than a linguistic quibble. Although the origin of evil presents difficult questions for all Christian traditions, the specific challenge facing Southgate’s proposal is that God creates the world with evil present from the beginning. Can one reconcile this picture with the thrice-holy God (Isa 6:3), the God who is light and in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5)?

Michael Lloyd’s two chapters tackle the same challenge of theodicy. While Lloyd accepts the need for a historical fall, he offers several reasons for rejecting the fall of Adam and Eve as the source of natural evil. He thinks the more ancient fall of angels instigated widespread disorder and disintegration in the created order. Lloyd’s key concept is the idea of “ontological” goodness:

Creation is not now as God intended, but it is still what he intended.… Even a fallen world remains ontologically good in the estimation of its Creator. Seen in this way, Genesis 1:31 does not contradict either the findings of modern evolutionary science or the fall-of-the-angels hypothesis” (p. 275).

By appealing to ontological goodness, Lloyd is able to affirm that God’s original creation in Genesis 1 and 2 was good even though it was fallen.

Lloyd’s chapters are theologically incisive and engagingly written; his angelic fall thesis coupled with ontological goodness offers an intriguing evolutionary theodicy. But one of my concerns with a good-but-fallen original creation is that it seems hard to reconcile with Paul’s claims about the cosmic significance of Adam’s fall. I endorse an angelic fall, of course, but I am not convinced that this event can replace the significance of Adam’s disobedience in the arc of the biblical story.17 For example, in Paul’s commentary on Genesis 3:17–19 in Romans 8:19–23, corruption and death in the cosmos result from God’s curse of the ground—a consequence of the Adamic, not angelic fall.18

As an aside, Lloyd’s thesis implies that demonic activity is the causal origin of pre-Adamic natural evil, including animal violence, predation, and suffering. Such a claim raises all kinds of questions, e.g., by what mechanism did demons instigate pathology and predatory behavior in the animal world? Perhaps Lloyd is agnostic on specific metaphysical details, but a more developed account of these elements—even if speculative—would strengthen his overall argument.19

5. Theologies of Retrieval

Some have asked, if Augustine’s doctrine of original sin got us into this mess, why not seek patristic help from elsewhere? In particular, Irenaeus’s doctrine of creation had developmental elements, prompting many Christian evolutionists to recruit him to their cause. Andrew McCoy’s chapter cautions against these superficial attempts to develop an Irenaean understanding of original sin.

But non-fall theodicies will find no help in Irenaeus, for his recapitulation motif is empty without an originating fall of Adam and Eve. One difficulty for Christian evolutionists is that physical death cannot be the result of Adam’s fall. At the end of his chapter, McCoy hints at how a more nuanced reading of Irenaeus might provide a way out of this puzzle by reframing evolutionary death “as experiences of human finitude and development and not sin” (p. 171). That means evolutionary suffering arises from creaturely finitude not fallenness—and thus, the theological dilemma evaporates. His remarks are suggestive, but they are too brief and raise more questions (as McCoy would be the first to admit).

If not Irenaeus, then who? Rosenberg’s essay ponders whether we have misunderstood Augustine himself. In his chapter, “Can Nature Be ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ in the Thought of Augustine?,” Rosenberg argues that for Augustine the fall does not extend to the physical world. Adam’s fall was relational only, an ever-widening circle of broken relationships with God, others, and our selves. Physical disasters, animal predation, and even death are all part of God’s good creation. They may cause us distress and suffering, but they did not arise from Adam’s fall.

Rosenberg’s argument goes like this. Augustine interpreted the cosmos through the lens of Christian Platonism, so that decay and death are necessary features of creaturely reality. “Existence for creatures is not absolute,” Rosenberg explains, “and so return toward nonbeing is a ‘natural’ movement to be expected unless there is direct, divine intervention to sustain the creature’s state” (p. 238). Only God has absolute being, all else tends toward nonbeing. When Adam and Eve turned against God the very source of their being, they succumbed to their intrinsic mortality. Augustine understood their creaturely contingency aesthetically: “the whole contains and demonstrates a beauty that both gathers together and transcends its individual parts. The goodness of the whole includes the frailty of individual creatures” (p. 241).20 The eons of evolutionary violence and disorder are symptoms of creation’s finitude.

This chapter is an excellent counterpoint to Lloyd’s argument that nature is “in some sense fallen” (p. 246).21 However, Augustine’s view of nature is more nuanced than Rosenberg allows. As Lloyd remarks in another chapter, “Augustine’s theodicy did not depend on the resource of a nonbeing approach alone. He also believed in the fall of Adam and Eve and in the fall of the angels” (p. 253n28). In his attempt to correct the received picture of Augustine, I wonder if Rosenberg has swung too far in the other direction. At one point, he writes, “nowhere do I find Augustine saying that the corporeal world has metamorphosed into something else as a result of the fall and is alienated from God” (p. 242). Let me point out, however, a couple of examples where Augustine suggests that the corporeal world was transformed by the fall. In his commentary on Genesis 3:18, Augustine granted that thorns existed prior to Adam’s fall. They were part of the animal diet and harmless. Yet Augustine believed that the nature of the thorns changed after Adam sinned, now harmful and exacerbating human labor.22 Rosenberg’s relational account downplays the extent of the fall in Augustine’s theology. It is true that Augustine, like Aquinas, believed that animal predation was a pre-fall reality, yet he also believed that the fall induced changes in humans and in nature itself. Another example: Augustine seems to blame Adam’s fall for a wide range of natural evils, including extremes of heat and cold, storms, floods, famine, cannibalism, lightning, thunder, hail, earthquakes, toxic fruit, rabid dogs, and so on.23 In the end, Rosenberg’s chapter leaves out important aspects of Augustine’s view of the relation between nature and the fall.

6. Closing Thoughts

How to separate gold from dross has always been the pressing question for doctrinal developments. As John Henry Newman remarked, “it becomes necessary in consequence to assign certain characteristics of faithful developments, which none but faithful developments have, and the presence of which serves as a test to discriminate between them and corruptions.”24 There lies perhaps the central difficulty with revising doctrines of the fall and original sin in light of evolution. By the end, do we still inhabit the same biblical story, the faith which was once delivered unto the saints?

A tricky question. The few essays of theological fine-tuning in this book are more obviously in continuity with the received tradition. The resulting doctrinal model, being only a slight upgrade, will therefore still have deep tensions with the current scientific picture—but then, wasn’t that the presenting problem? Have we gained anything? Conversely, the chapters that do make radical changes to received doctrines have relieved the tensions with science, but now the dissonance with tradition and (more importantly) traditional interpretations of Scripture becomes louder, sharper. And round it goes.

Although the more controversial essays make good use of Scripture, my impression is that traditional ways of reading it are downgraded whenever the canons of science pull in a different direction. This tendency—rightly or wrongly—gives the sense of Scripture as inconvenient, a hurdle to circumvent, rather than the trustworthy guide for doctrinal construction. My primary worry, then, is that the more radical revisions in this book tend to undermine doctrines that the church historically considered of high dogmatic rank. Of course, this alone is not an argument against such revisions, but it registers a caution. Tremors in the doctrine of the fall and original sin are only the bellwether, for a theology that absorbs standard evolutionary theory will deform the shape of the gospel story itself (more noticeably than most of the authors acknowledge).25

By the close of the book, readers undecided about whether an evolutionary creationism can absorb the theological challenges will be left with lingering questions, which is no doubt unavoidable. A few of the chapters do offer intriguing proposals for how a Christian evolutionist can preserve a recognizable doctrine of sin, yet other chapters are fraught with difficulties. Inevitably, reactions to a book like this will depend on one’s take on evolutionary theory, on prior theological commitments, and related matters. This volume is a remarkably clear and provocative inquiry into the human person in light of evolutionary questions. It repays careful reading. Yet for reasons hinted at above, I remain unpersuaded.26

[1] George Frederick Wright, “The Passing of Evolution,” in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, ed. R. A. Torrey, A. C. Dixon, et al., reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 4:77.

[2] For analysis, see David N. Livingstone, Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987); Bradley Gundlach, Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845–1929 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013). See also B. B. Warfield, Evolution, Scripture, and Science: Selected Writings, ed. Mark Noll and David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).

[3] For the view that evangelicals should not accept evolutionary thinking, see Norman Nevin, ed., Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Biblical and Scientific Responses (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009); J. P. Moreland, Stephen Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds., Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).

[4] See Dennis Venema, “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Size,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62 (2010): 166–78; Daniel Harlow, “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62 (2010): 179–95; John Schneider, “Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins: An ‘Aesthetic Supralapsarianism,’” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62 (2010): 196–212.

[5] For example, see Richard N. Ostling, “The Search for the Historical Adam,” Christianity Today (June 2011): 23–27; Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve,” National Public Radio, 9 August 2011,

[6] Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves, eds., Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014).

[7] All the contributors accept an ancient earth and universal common ancestry, with the possible exception of C. Ben Mitchell (chapter 14) and C. John Collins (chapter 10), who seem agnostic on Darwin’s theory of common ancestry.

[8] That judgment is based on his acceptance of the mainstream evolutionary story (p. 12), which automatically forces nonliteral decisions about Adam and Eve and their role in the biblical story.

[9] His doctrine-theory model tends to obscure exegetical questions that might challenge the new theological theory; that was my impression from reading his arguments in chapter 12 for an evolutionary doctrine of original sin. I elaborate this point below.

[10] Van den Brink critically reviews the arguments from Denis Lamoureux, “Beyond Original Sin: Is a Theological Paradigm Shift Inevitable?,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 67 (2015): 35–49.

[11] Recent scientific debates on this question are not addressed in this chapter or elsewhere in the book. E.g., see Richard Buggs, “Adam and Eve: Lessons Learned,” Nature Ecology & Evolution Journal Club, 14 April 2018,

[12] For the argument, see Hans Madueme, “From Sin to the Soul: A Dogmatic Argument for Dualism,” in The Christian Doctrine of Humanity, ed. Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 70–90. Christian evolutionists these days usually reject monogenism and (anthropological) dualism—e.g., see Ronald Cole-Turner, The End of Adam and Eve: Theology and the Science of Human Origins (Pittsburgh: TheologyPlus, 2016), 139–43.

[13] For his earlier argument, see Christopher Hays and Stephen Lane Herring, “Adam and the Fall,” in Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism, ed. Christopher Hays and Christopher Ansberry (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 24–54.

[14] See note 11 above.

[15] Not everyone thinks that resolving questions of theodicy is a worthy Christian enterprise—for two noteworthy cautions, see Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986); Terrence Tilley, The Evils of Theodicy (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991).

[16] For the same verdict, see N. P. Williams, The Ideas of the Fall and of Original Sin: A Historical and Critical Study (London: Longman, Green & Co., 1927), xxxiii; T. A. Noble, “The Spirit World: A Theological Approach,” in The Unseen World: Christian Reflections on Angels, Demons, and the Heavenly Realm, ed. Anthony N. S. Lane (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 205.

[17] The evil serpent in Genesis 3 points to a Satanic influence, an evil presence in the angelic—not human—realm; though I can’t develop the point here, I take it that a prior angelic fall in heaven is consistent with an originally sinless earth.

[18] According to Joseph Fitzmyer, Paul realizes “that through Adam came not only sin and death (5:12–14), but ‘bondage to decay’ and ‘slavery of corruption,’ which affect all material creation, even apart from humanity (8:19–23)” (Romans, AB 33 [New York: Doubleday, 1993], 505). See also C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans 1–8, ICC (New York: T&T Clark, 1993), 411–12: “The only interpretation of κτίσις in these verses which is really probable seems to be that which understands the reference to be to the sum-total of sub-human nature both animate and inanimate.” Fitzmyer and Cranfield are merely representative; for a different (though minority) interpretation of Romans 8:19–23, see Richard Bauckham, Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 92–101.

[19] E.g., see contrasting perspectives of Shandon Guthrie, “Christian Demonology: A New Philosophical Perspective,” in Philosophical Approaches to Demonology, ed. Benjamin McGraw and Robert Arp (New York: Routledge, 2017), 59–74; and Travis Dumsday, “Is There a Problem of Special Angelic Action?,” Theology and Science 16 (2018): 79–81. For a fascinating analysis of this problem, drawing on medieval scholasticism, see Travis Dumsday, “Natural Evil, Evolution, and Scholastic Accounts of the Limits on Demonic Power,” ProEccl 24 (2015): 71–84.

[20] Rosenberg’s account of Augustine recalls the aesthetic argument in Schneider, “Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins.”

[21] For a non-fall theodicy, see Bethany Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall (New York: Routledge, 2019). See also Jon Garvey, God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019).

[22] For Augustine’s discussion, see Gen. litt. 3.18.27, in On Genesis, trans. Edmund Hill (Hyde Park: New City, 2002), 232–33.

[23] Augustine, Civ. 22.22.

[24] John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, rev. ed. (London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1878), 170.

[25] See the remarks by a Christian evolutionist on the challenges evolution presents for creedal theology in Ernst Conradie, “The Christian Faith and Evolution: An Evolving, Unresolved Debate,” Verbum et Ecclesia 39 (2018): 1–14.

[26] My thanks to Mitch Stokes for helpful feedback on an earlier draft.

Hans Madueme

Hans Madueme is associate professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Other Articles in this Issue

What are we to make of Cultural Marxism? This article seeks to answer that question, first, by outlining the key elements and legacy of classical Marxism; second, by exploring the neo-Marxism of Antonio Gramsci; third, by assessing the main ideas and impact of “the Frankfurt School”; and, fourth, by offering some reflections on (i) the links between these thinkers and various contemporary developments, (ii) the wisdom of employing the term Cultural Marxism, and (iii) how Christians should respond to the current “culture wars” that are polarizing the Western world.

The article begins by establishing five categories of translation theory and argues that functional translations like the NIV do in fact reflect the meaning of every Greek word, but not in the same way as formal equivalent translations do...

Exegesis, prayer, and spiritual formation converge in the Psalms commentary written by Cassiodorus (490–584)...