Science in Christian Perspective
A Speculative Model-Part II. A Polylogue
Original Sin as Natural Evil
RICHARD H. BUBE
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
. Stanford University
Stanford, California 94305
Bernard L. Ramn
W. Stanford Reid Paul
K. Jewett Alvin Plantinga
Clarification by Richard Bube
From: JASA 27
Copies of this manuscript as it appears here were sent over two years ago to four distinguished scholars in biblical disciplines and in theology, history and philosophy, who would be critical of the ideas presented without being polemical. After promptly receiving their insightful responses, there was a great temptation to rewrite the entire manuscript and attempt to take advantage of their critiques. This might have led to a more unified presentation for the reader, but it would have slighted the contributions made by these scholars and would have made it unnecessary for the reader to work through some of these nuances for himself. The original manuscript and the responses are reproduced here substantially unchanged, therefore, and a few notes of response are added at the end in an effort to avoid misunderstandings, The reader is urged to read paper, critiques and response all together, before making a personal evaluation.
This paper continues an effort begun in a previous paper to explore
of integration of an evolutionary view of life with the biblical revelation. No
really successful integration has been previously accomplished, and those that
have been offered (e.g., by Teilhard de Chardin) tend to depart at some point
or other either from the biblical revelation or from scientific understanding
in a crucial way. The specific purpose of this paper is to suggest a possible
interpretation of original sin within the context of an evolutionary view. The
key thought is not that "man commits evil because he is an animal,"
as commonly maintained in nonbiblical evolutionism, but that "an
evil because he is a man."
In a previous article (Journal ASA 23,140 (1971)), "Biblical Evolutionism?" I attempted to develop a speculative model in which both biblical theology and an evolutionary view of life were integrated. This speculative model included the affirmation that (1) God created man, (2) He created him distinct from the animals, (3) He created him out of the stuff of the earth, (4) man is the participant in real moral guilt, (5) sin entered the world through man's choice to rebel against God, (6) man guilty of moral evil needs a Savior, and (7) the only way to bring man to his creation-intended position is through his acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. In this model Christian conversion, justification and sanctification are processes in evolutionary development; all evolutionary development is a manifestation of the continuing activity of God. In the present paper I continue the development of this model in somewhat more detail, and in particular consider the significance of "original sin."
The Problem of Evil
The problem of evil is certainly one of the most central and difficult in all of Christian thought. The origin of evil remains a problem with no ultimate answer, but this does not mean that nothing significant can be said about it.
The definition of evil must take into account the definition of good. If God is the ultimate standard of good, then that which is good in the world and for man is that which is in accord with God's creation purpose. Anything that happens can he called evil, therefore, if it is not in accord with God's creation purpose. Several categories of evil may then be recognized.
The first category is that in which human beings are not involved at all. In the earlier paper it was suggested that such events should not be called evil, and perhaps this is still a wise decision, but they must to some extent be included if we are to abide by the above definition of evil. When rabbits are killed by falling rocks, or deer are brought down by lions, or sheep are drowned by overflowing rivers, events are taking place which are both natural and yet perhaps unnatural. We hesitate to call them "evil" because rocks, lions and rivers are not responsible moral agents, and because rabbits, deer and sheep do not bear the image of God. The question is, "Are such events in accord with the creation purpose of God?" One is hard put to answer with authority, since such events are evidently indispensable in the world as we know it. Yet from the biblical strain flowing from the Old Testament prophets through Paul one must conclude that the biblical authors were either using these events symbolically to refer to actual evil, or these events themselves are part of the reason why the creation groans and waits for redemption. In any case it is probably appropriate to include them under the category of natural evil.
The second category is the more common one of natural evil, in which human beings are caused to suffer and/or die due to forces characteristic of the natural world as we know it, e.g., earthquake, fire, flood, volcanic eruption, disease, famine etc. The biblical revelation is fairly clear that the involvement of human beings in events such as these are not in keeping with God's creation purpose, but mirrors in some indirect way perhaps the sinful state of the world.
The third category is that of moral evil, in which human beings participate to violate the image of God with which they are endowed by creation. Moral evil results when a human being causes suffering and/or death either directly or indirectly (e.g., through irresponsible stewardship of the world's resources) to other human beings.
The existence of moral evil in the world (even if not its ultimate origin) can be dealt with biblically without major difficulty. Moral evil results when men place their own egos at the centers of their lives rather than God. Neglecting the fact that they are creatures, they claim the prerogatives of the Creator. Moral evil leads to the separation of man from his Creator, the separation of man from his fellow man, the separation of man from his true calling as human being, and the separation of man from the created world in which he lives. The solution for moral evil is to be found in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who came to live, die and rise again, in some way to pay the penalty for the guilt that man has incurred through his moral failures, so that man can receive the forgiveness of God, enter into restored fellowship with God, and exercise the ability to do moral good and oppose moral evil.
The problem of natural evil is not so easily dealt with, and probably poses one of the most severe philosophical problems for Christians to deal with. A paradox is involved. The present state of the world is obviously designed to be appropriate for sinful man, yet neither its design nor its sinfulness are part of God's creation purpose.
Consider one particular example of a natural evil: death, itself. The Bible makes quite clear that death is indeed an evil, that death is an enemy, and that death is the consequence of participation in a sinful world. The very existence of death is somehow related to the presence of sin in the world, and in the final redemption of the world death itself will he destroyed. Yet in the world in which we live, death is a necessity. Without death in the world, there could be no life. Life in the plant and animal worlds depends on the death of previous generations. We have therefore the paradox of death: a natural evil and an aberration on Cod's good creation, but a necessity for life in the world that we know today.
Theories dealing with the origin of natural evil are far from satisfactory. One theory proposes that natural evil is a direct consequence of moral evil. This theory starts with the creation of an actually perfect world, free of moral and natural evils, in space-time. There were no floods, fires, or disease; the lion did not eat the lamb; animals were vegetarians; death did not exist in the world until Adam and Eve sinned against God. The curse of God which followed that sin completely transformed the world, altered the basic physical laws, and produced instead a new and fallen creation out of what had previously been a good and perfect creation. Thus the natural evil we experience is caused directly by a historical curse pronounced upon nature as the result of a historical fall into sin at some time in the past. The drastic scope of this theory is sometimes softened somewhat by proposing that perfectness was limited to the Garden of Eden, and that death and other forms of natural evil existed at least potentially outside the Garden in the rest of the world.
A related theoretical formulation equates the occurrences of natural evil in the world with the activity of the Devil. This theory is based on those biblical passages that speak of the Devil as the ruler of this world, the prince of powers of the air, the one into whose hands the present power over the world has been temporarily given. Whenever we see natural evil, we recognize it as coming from the Devil.
These attempts to provide a theory for natural evil are important and practically useful; they help to
The present state of the world is obviously designed to be appropriate for sinful man, yet neither its design nor its sinfulness are part of God's creation purpose.
elaborate and guide the application of the revelation of the opening chapters
of Genesis. They serve to emphasize that natural evil, and its
in the plant and animal realm, are not part of God's good creation purpose, but
exist as present realities corrupting and altering that intrinsic purpose. But
they do not fulfill the search for an adequate description of the
and origin of natural evil, nor can they be considered consistent with a total
biblical and scientific perspective.
However much natural evil may remain a mystery, however, the biblical revelation is quite clear about the way that a Christian should deal with it. Never is a Christian to respond to natural evil as something which in itself is the will of God, and hence is worthy of respect and submission. It is at this point that the first theory mentioned above fails to represent the total biblical revelation. It was a mistaken application of this theory that led Christians to argue against relieving woman's pain in childbirth on the ground that this pain was directly willed by God in the curse that followed the sin of Adam and Eve. The last theory mentioned avoids this pitfall, but introduces some of its own in terms of the identity of the real ruler of this world. The biblical view is that the Christian is constantly called upon to realize that natural evil, like any evil, is not part of God's good creation purpose, and to combat it whenever and wherever possible. It is the calling of the Christian not only to give first aid to those suffering from the effects of flood and disease, but also to lead in the prevention of flood and disease as God gives him the ability. Never is he in the bind of having to decide whether or not to do these things for fear that he might be fighting against God. It is the recognition that these events of natural evil are not part of the good creation that gives the Christian his mandate to work against them and stop them.
The Message of Genesis 1-3
It is precisely in Genesis 1-3 that the Christian finds the biblical basis for this approach to evil. One of the basic revelations given to us in these chapters is the emphasis upon the goodness of God's creation. The creation "as it comes from the hand of God" is good and free from evil. The evil that we see around us, real moral or natural evil, is due to man's sin or to natural causes, and is not intrinsic in the creation purpose of God. Unlike many other major religions, Christianity rejects the concept that evil finds its ultimate cause in matter, finiteness, or in individuality. It is not intrinsically necessary for matter, finiteness or individuality to result in moral and natural evil. The biblical record tells us that the evil around us is something outside of, contrary to, different from, and an aberration on that kind of world which would correspond to the creation purpose of God.
How can such a truth he set forth in a language and form acceptable and understandable to all people of all times, regardless of their cultural sophistication or their scientific knowledge? How can it be told as clearly as possible that the world's goodness derives from God, that potentially the world is good, that the destiny of the world according to God's creation purpose is for salvation, and that matter, finiteness and individuality are good aspects of God's good creation? That the real evil in the world does not have its cause and origin in matter, finiteness or individuality, but that it comes into being for other reasonsreasons that are not part of, but are contrary to God's continuing purpose in and for His creation?
One way such a revelation can be accomplished is to take what is an abstract philosophical concept and east it into the form of a chronological account. Take the idea of goodness vs. evil as problems in ontology, and reduce them to "before" and "after" in the framework of chronology. Replace the goodness of God's creation purpose with a good creation before the Fall; replace the characteristic of evil as extraneous to God's creation purpose with a fallen creation after the Fall. Then the nature of God's good creation and the origin of evil are clearly distinguished.
If we read the opening chapters of Genesis and the closing chapters of Revelation, we see that in some ways the Bible forms a full circle. It starts with the representation of man free from suffering and in fellowship with God, living by the tree of life and the waters of life, and it closes with man free from suffering and in fellowship with God, living by the tree of life and the waters of life, yet in a new creation, not the old one recovered. In between comes the account of sin and God's plan of redemption. What is God's plan of redemption? It is to bring man to the actual state intended in God's good creation purpose, from which he deprives himself by his sin. It is as though the final pages of Revelation bring to completion what is the destiny of man set forth according to God's creation purpose in the opening chapters of Genesis. Neither moral nor natural evil are intrinsic to God's creation purpose, but they are intrinsic in the present state of that creation. Is it not possible that the biblical pre-fall and eschatological descriptions in these first and last portions of the Bible do not tell us necessarily what literally was or literally will be, but rather they tell us what is consistent with God's purpose, sometimes in symbolical language? Is it that they tell us what is and what God's purpose will bring into being?
To speak of the eternal God's relationship to events in time is always a difficult thing for the space-time mind to handle. Even Creation does not mean only creation of space, but creation of time itself as well. Just as the present is part of the eternal, so the eternal is manifest in the present. As God knows the end from the beginning, so what passes between beginning and end is eternally known. When God's activity becomes manifest in time, as He shapes the world, it is not surprising to find that the state of the world is appropriate for the state of man living in the world at that time. The present world with its various kinds of natural evil-some of them, like death, essential for life in the present-is appropriate for the sinful state of man. The Genesis account tells us that sinfulness in man goes back to his very beginning. There were not several generations of sinless man living in Eden; the first man sinned. Hardly was he created before he sinned. Hardly was he formed before the world in which he lived was a world appropriate for fallen man. Must we adopt a chronological literal-historical view of Genesis 1-3? Must we accept the account of the pre-fall world as something which actually happened in the space-time realm in the past? Or can we instead see it as a description given right from the beginning that makes plain man's calling and destiny according to God's creation purpose? This is what man is intended to he, this is what man can become if he is fully human. Man's sinfulness prevents this, but it can be overcome by the work of God on his behalf in Jesus Christ.
If we take these chapters of Genesis as not presenting an historical account of an idyllic perfect world before the Fall, we find consistency with scientific data which informs us about the occurrences and history of the world in previous times. We no longer are confounded with such (possibly meaningless) questions as: Was there death of plants and animals before the Fall? Were animals before the Fall carnivorous? Does one distinguish between plant death and animal
death as consequences of the Fall? Were there floods, fires, and earthquakes before the Fall? Did the lion lie down with the lamb before the Fall? We are no longer challenged without cause by the physical record that indicates that death, animal aggression, accident, fire, flood and freezing, etc. have extended back far beyond the time in which one could reasonably place the days of the first man.
With this as background, we finally come to the consideration from which the title of this paper is derived. The term "original sin" does not appear in the Bible, and the doctrine of original sin is a theologically developed one from biblical inputs. What is meant by the term is traditionally either one or both of the following: (1) a predisposition to sin, which is inherited through birth; and (2) the guilt which accompanies that state in which there is a predisposition to sin. "Original sin" is not a sin; it is a state of human nature.
One of the traditional views of original sin is that sinless Adam sinned, and that in some wayapparently necessarily genetic-the effects of his sin have been passed on to all of his descendants. We are therefore all prone to sin by that human nature which we inherit, and guilty in some sense of Adam's sin: "In Adam's fall sinned we all." An associated view is often that Adam was the federal head of the human race representing all his descendants; the guilt which he incurred by his actual sin is imputed to his descendants in analogy to the way in which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who put their faith in Him. Is man then condemned, judged guilty by God because of the sins of his ancestors? This kind of question has always been a difficult one. It is evident that man is guilty for his own sins. No man ever lives a life free from sin. It is also evident that each man is born with a predisposition toward sin, toward selfcenteredness which is the root and source of sin. Let us settle for a practical definition of "original sin" therefore as that predisposition with which we are born, that natural inclination toward self-centeredness which can lead us to transgress the commandments of God and to exalt the commandments of self.
Genesis 1-3 takes the idea of goodness vs evil as problems in ontology, and reduces them to "before" and "after" in the framework of chronology.
By its very nature original sin cannot be described under the category of moral
evil. Moral evil is entered into by man responsibly by choice; original sin is
something that man is born with without choice. If we view original sin under
the category of natural evil, however, we can see its existence in a man as a
consequence of the process by which man has come into being through
A somewhat enigmatic formulation may help at this point to demonstrate the differences between competing views. The traditional Christian view is that "man commits evil because he is man." The sin of man is something wholly unique to man and his relationship to the animals is only coincidental due to the fact that both have the same Creator. The non-Christian evolutionary view is that "man commits evil because he is an animal." The reality of sin is downgraded to that of incompleteness in the evolutionary process; this same process will carry man beyond the point where he no longer commits evil. What I am suggesting is that "an animal commits evil because he is a man." By this perhaps unnecessarily paradoxical phrase, I mean that the characteristics which were natural, acceptable and intrinsic to the animal become sin when that animal becomes a human being.
There is an undeniable continuity of man with the other animals, as well as an undeniable uniqueness about man which separates him from other animals. As Schaeffer has pointed out, man is one with the other animals as to his creaturehood, but uniquely separate as to his manhood. When man stops being human, he sinks to the level of the animal. The animal is characterized by self-centeredness and by the instinct for self-preservation as the very basis for its existence, although in the higher animals even this basic instinct can be overruled by love, loyalty or habit as one cares to describe it. The driving force for animal life is to preserve the self. Thus self-centeredness and self-preservation are appropriate attributes for the animal. In the course of Cod's working as seen in the evolutionary process, however, animals were transformed into men; or, if you prefer, men came into being as unique animals, creatures with many attributes similar to the other animals, but with unique attributes which describe man as made in the image of God. These include such attributes as God-consciousness, responsible choice, use of language, being able to live before God and have personal fellowship with Him in prayer and in life. Man shares the attributes of the animals, self-centeredness and self-preservation, but what was for the animals a matter of natural instinct becomes for a human being, with his new dimensions and potentialities, the source of sin if it continues to hold the same position in his life as it holds in that of the animal. When a man acts in such a way that self-centeredness and self-preservaton are the dominant factors of his life, then he has denied the humanity with which he was created, denied the position to which God has destined him by His good creation purpose, and sunk indeed to being only an animal.
Consider God's purpose in shaping a perfect world in Jesus Christ. We see God's work in history, forming from nothing the energy from which this world exists, and maintaining that energy in existence moment by moment by His continuing activity. We see the shaping of that energy into matter, of matter into living organisms, the development of living organisms into plants and animals, and the appearance of that unique creature man bearing the image of God. But man, as he comes into being, is also in the process of becoming. Natural man is not a fully human being. The answer to the question, "What does it mean to be fully human?" is "To be like Jesus Christ." If a man does not live as Jesus Christ, he cannot be said to be fully human. Thus man is in the process of becoming, either more human or less human. As he is touched by God, accepts and receives Jesus Christ, commits his life and himself to Him, the characteristics of the animal-appropriate for the animal but inappropriate for him-are transformed into the fully human. On the other hand, when a man turns his back on God and sinks in his actions and attitudes to the level of only animal-like emotions, then although potentially still made in the image of God, in actuality he becomes little more than an animal.
Sexual relations provide a graphic example. Animals partake of sex as a purely biological function. Men can choose to treat sex as a purely biological function and engage in sex indiscriminately for fun, but a man cannot act in this way without forsaking his humanity. It is his humanity which adds the dimensions to the sexual act which transcend the biological, which make it an act of a lifelong commitment of love before God, rather than just the carrying out of an instinctual biological animal urge.
The man in Jesus Christ is continuing along in God's purpose for the forming of a perfect world. In Him the effects of natural and moral evil are being overcome, and in Him are the firstfruits of what is to be a completed creation. The world as it exists today is not the world intended in God's good creation purpose. We are living in a transition time, between the time when God brought man into being and made it possible to enter into fellowship with Himself, and the time when God's work for the world will be completed. Now is the time for us to begin to deal with some of the moral and natural evils of this world through the strength of God's Holy Spirit and through a committed walk after Jesus Christ. This work of perfecting will be completed only in the final redemption, when the creation will no longer groan, when every tear will be wiped away, when suffering will end, when moral and natural evil will be done away with, when death will be cast out, and when the promise made in Christ's resurrection will be realized not just in hope but in full actuality.
Objections to this Approach
Objections to this approach may be anticipated. I would like to consider just two which are based on a misunderstanding. One objection is that this approach treats sin as if it were not real. This is not the ease. Rather we recognize that from the earliest days of the unique human being, brought into existence by God with the potential to be in fellowship with God and to be free from sin, he has failed to realize this potential and has instead been subject to self-centeredness and the neglect of the claims of God upon him as a human being. These claims call him to transcend the instincts, the animal emotions, that he has because of his animal heritage. The non-Christian evolutionist is not totally wrong in arguing that man commits evil because of his animal heritage; he is wrong in arguing that such a situation denies the reality of sin, guilt and human responsibility. But the traditionalist Christian is also wrong in arguing that man's sinfulness has nothing to do with any animal heritage. (It may be noted here that it is logically possible to divest the term "heritage" of its historical evolutionary connotations, and replace them with existential physical and psychological characteristics, thus making it possible to continue our present argument even under circumstances where the evolutionary process is not completely accepted.) It is also a grave error to argue, as is sometimes done, that the animal state represents a pure state of being which has been corrupted by the human, so that the solution of evil is sought in returning to the primitive pre-civilization modes of life; such a course can lead only to the final realization that the truly animal is truly bestial.
Man chooses to do evil, and in choosing to do evil, he uses one of the human abilities given to him. He does not commit evil because he is an animal, but he chooses responsibly as a human being made in the image of God. Therefore he is responsible for the choices he makes. Yet also undeniable is the fact that every man comes into the world with a predisposition to self-centeredness, to sinning. This predisposition does not determine that he must sin or make it impossible for him to do otherwise in an ultimate sense, but it is a condition that he cannot overcome by himself and that only the grace of God active in his life can free him from into what it means to be fully human. We are certainly not saying at all that sin is not real. We are saying that sin, rebellion against God and self-centeredness are conditions of man as he is developing, but that sinfulness, man's separation from God, and his participation in moral evil are the results
What was for the animals a matter of
natural instinct becomes for a human being, with his new dimensions and potentialities, the source of sin if it continues to hold the same position in his life as it holds in that of the animal.
of his responsible choice as a human being through which he becomes guilty of
sin indeed and in need of a Savior.
A second objection is that this point of view is very much like that of optimistic evolutionism which describes not the fall of man, but the rise of man-how man, once an animal, now has risen to be a human being and will pass on to higher and higher states until finally he becomes like God Himself. The critical difference here, of course, is that the common position of optimistic evolutionism is a man-centered humanistic view of life. It says that all this is going to happen as man pulls himself up by his psychological bootstraps. The Christian position is radically different in essence if not necessarily in form. It speaks about man becoming perfect, as becoming fully human, as being made like Jesus Christ Himself, as seeing Him as He is. But all of this is not somehow because of some basic capability or potentiality of man himself alone, but all of this is only because of the work of God who brought man into being through a process and continues to make it possible for him to fulfill his creation intended destiny of being fully human through a process. In past days man's ancestors were wholly animal, indeed, and yet God brought out of this stock a creature made in His image, a unique creature, destined to live in fellowship with Him. By His grace God calls this unique creature and says, "Turn from the selfcenteredness which characterizes the animal aspect of your ancestry, and recognize that to which you are called and created, namely to be a child of God living in the image of God." It is only by the grace of God that man is able to progress along this way.
The point of view sketched in this paper seems to enable us to integrate a scientific understanding of man and the world with a theological and biblical understanding, in such a way that violence is done to neither. We see them not as exclusive competing worldviews, but as complementary worldviews that tell us what man is in different ways, both of which are needed if we are to have a full perspective of what man is truly like. It provides us with a tie between the real world of geology, paleontology and anthropology, and the real world of biblical theology. It is consistent with our observations in the biblical record that man can sink to the level of an animal (and lower, since he is intended to he a man), that he can act through motives which are not truly human, not characteristic of the image of God-motives which are like and perhaps even baser than those of the animals to which he becomes similar. Yet from the very beginning of the fulfillment of God's purpose in creation to the final completion of His redemption, He calls men and draws them to Him in Jesus Christ by His sovereign grace. To live like an animal is not man's destiny; it is submission to "original sin" and rejection of God's continuing work. Man is called to be fully human in and through Jesus Christ.
Evil and/or Sin Inherently Irrational
Bernard L. Ramrn
Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bube's article, as I see it, is an attempt to make a synthesis of
says about man, sin and evil, and, of what we know of man through the sciences.
Working with these two different sets of data, he attempts to illuminate what
is meant by original sin.
Because evil and sin (which Bube does not sufficiently differentiate) are destructive of nature, i.e., value-destroying, they are inherently irrational. The irrational is never capable of total rational explication, but always ends up in a logical sued. That is why to date no explanation of evil and/or sin is satisfactory and that shall always be the case. A satisfactory explanation of evil and sin would be a contradiction "in the adjective." Accordingly Bube's article does not completely satisfy us, nor did we expect it to do so, but the article could have stressed the irrational and mysterious elements of the problems of sin and evil.
I think Bube has struck off in the right direction for how Genesis 1-3 is to be understood. I do not know if all readers would catch the importance of the hermeneutical stance. He says in effect that Genesis 1-3 is not giving us something strictly in historical order so that we can speak chronologically of conditions before a fall and after the fall. Rather the passage sets out the conditions of natural or created and human existence. These factors are factors always and everywhere at work. Hence they light up our present existence as well as the first man's.
This is what is meant by the best use of the word myth, and not the degenerative understanding of it by Bultmann. A myth in the good sense is a story, an historical narrative (which by definition is consequential with a "before" and "after") which sets out great, universal human themes, experiences, and conditions that illuminate our existence. The purpose of this illumination is not for contemplation but for wisdom in the manner in which we lead our lives. I would say that most Old Testament scholars today would accept the mythical understanding of Genesis (in the sense which I have stated but certainly not Bultmann's!) and not the historicalconsequential interpretation.
I suppose the most critical issue in Bube's paper is whether original sin is a "fall from" or a "failure to." His paper is not quite clear at this point. If it is a "failure to" meaning that man as evolving is first natural animal, but one who must move
along spiritually and morally to be fully in the image of God), then he is in the camp of Teilhard even though the paper ends with a disclaimer to this position. That is to say, redemption is the extension of, and fulfillment of, the creative-evolutionary process. However it seems to me in historical theology and in the Biblical record itself we have more a "fall from." It seems to me that the seriousness of sin, the demonic character of it, and the senseless and irrational character of it, are better explained by a "fall from" than a "failure to." Now there is some "fall from" in Bube's article, so that he could reply that he does write about a "fall from" as well as a "fallure to." However the paper would have been stronger with this clarification.
Another problem is whether the completed state of man is the man saved in Christ or not. If one says this, then what do we say of the Old Testament men of faith who had no knowledge of Christ? Or, what of men who apparently are born again-the spiritually circumcised Gentiles of Romans 2:29-by responding to the light of God within them ("the things of the law," or that "which the law required")? Is Bube's statement a normative one? That is to say, is this what God bestows on all the redeemed? If so, I agree. If it implies that all the redeemed had a Christ-awareness, then I have problems!
Finally, the doctrine of original sin is very controversial. Fresh investigations of Romans 5:1221-especially by Roman Catholics-have sparked new ideas. Studies in the concept of Adam (also in I Cor. 15) have always caused rethinking. Two or three volumes on the history of the concept have appeared in German theological literature, and an impressive two-volume work in French.
As I understand Bube's interpretation, original sin seems more the precondition of sin than a consequence of sin itself. At Least I do not find this point sufficiently clarified. If original sin is the ultimate fountain of specific sins, then it seems to me that original sin must be a consequence of sin. Bube's interpretation seems to me to be in the Kierkegaardian vein (The Concept of Dread) that original sin is the existential factors which characterize man and thereby explain (only to a degree!) why all men do as a matter of fact sin, and that not by genetic heritage of something from the founder of the race.
Difficult to Think of Evolution of "Image of God"
W. Stanford Reid
Department of History
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ont., Canada
It is good to see a Christian attempting to come to grips with a scientific hypothesis that has been bothering Christians for the past century and a half. Indeed it is high time that we began to look very carefully at the whole evolutionary position since it is now dominating not only biology, but practically every other discipline. Furthermore, Christians have often been kept from any attempt to come to a possible reconciliation between the Bible and evolution not only by the scientists who would use it as a club to destroy Christianity, but also by Christians who through fear or some other motive continually and dogmatically insist that there can be no such thing as "theistic evolution." For this reason I find Bube's two articles (Journal ASA, Dec. 1971 and the present statement) very interesting.
He might have pointed out, however, some of the reasons for Christians' adopting the attitude which they have towards evolution. The influence of the Greek philosopher Aristotle has not been limited to the Middle Ages, for from the seventeenth century on, after the initial Reformation break with him, he returned in the form of rationalism which resulted not only in the rise of 18th century "enlightenment" and 19th century positivistic materialism, but also in a type of biblical literalism which in reality has kept many Christians tied to an Aristotelian outlook on the phenomenal world. This in turn has faced them with many problems as scientific knowledge has expanded and changed our whole outlook on both this planet and the universe in general. One has to remember only the opposition of many evangelicals to flights to the moon on what they conceived to be biblical grounds, to realize how this type of thinking still prevails in many Christian circles.
Now we are having attempts by Christians who are scientists to harmonize the biblical doctrine of creation with the scientific General Theory of Evolution, without surrendering either Christian beliefs or scientific knowledge. One cannot help wondering, however, if Maatman's comments (Journal ASA, Dec. 1971) on the radical differences between the two do not have some point here. The Bible speaks in terms of sudden and largely discontinuous events while evolution stresses the gradual movement of cause and effect. May it not be that we are here in a situation similar to that which exists with regard to the question of light, where under certain circumstances a particle picture holds while in others a wave picture seems to be valid? May it not be that with one side approaching from theological or biblical starting point and the other from a scientific, empirical base, they can never be brought 10 a point of reconciliation, although they may both be true according to their own systems from which they work? They may touch at the edges, without really becoming meshed.
My reason for saying this is primarily in relation to the question of man becoming man. I would be willing to go along with Bube in his interpretation of the meaning of man being made from the dust of the earth. On the other hand, I find it a little difficult to think in terms of the evolution of the "image of God in man." According to the biblical position it would seem that man became "the image of God" in an instant. Dr. Stephen Leaky with whom I had some discussions on this matter some years ago spoke of man, or rather a hominid, becoming horrio habilis, i.e., learning how to think and to use implements. Then he believed man became homo sapiens, and although I cannot remember that he believed that this was the time when man became the "image of God", it seems to me that this was his view. Is not this possible? Anyhow, how could such a matter be determined by purely biological investigation, unless we were prepared to accept a materialistic philosophy?
It would appear that we might learn something from biblical teaching concerning the Christian's regeneration. We are told in Colossians 1 that Christ is the "express image of God", and we are also told that we are made conformable to Christ as new creatures. Christ's use of the term "born again" or "born from above" would seem to indicate that the new birth takes place at a definite time, even instant, but that the Christian then grows into the likeness of Christ. May this not be the way in which the original formation of man in the image of God took place, but that the growth stopped short when man turned aside to worship the creature instead of the Creator. (Rom. l:t9ff)? Of course man's rebirth is ultimately mysterious and beyond man's comprehension (John. 3:8), so will not his original creation in the image of God also remain a secret into which man cannot pry? Perhaps we should leave the matter there.
It seems to me that Christians must get over their fear of science by recognizing that the development of scientific knowledge is as a result of the Common Grace of God to all men. They must also realize, of course, that much of theft biblical interpretation as well as scientific theorizing is purely human rationalization which overlays the fact. Thus they must seek to strip both away if they are to gain true knowledge. At the same time, they have to realize that ultimately the providential action of God is not subject to human understanding. Consequently they cannot bring about a rational coherence between all biblical and scientific ideas or theories. They are to do theft best, but after that they have to admit that the "ways of God are past finding out." Bube has presented a model as a starter. It is now up to others to see what they can do to improve it.
Really Makes No Sense
Paul K. Jewett
Fuller Theological Seminary
Pasadena, California 91101
In a previous article (Journal ASA, Dec. 1971) Bube suggested that the scientific model of progressive development (evolution) with which the biologist works is not incompatible with Christian theology, since the doctrine of creation does not rule out God's acting in and through a process of development and change at the empirical level. In this second article he attempts to go on and show how such a developmental or evolutionary model is compatible with a Christian view of evil, including moral evil. His argument, in this case, is not as plausible to me as in the first instance. I shall simply indicate how I think as a theologian in these areas to focus some facets of the problem.
1. By "natural" evil I understand all those events that occur according to the laws of "nature", which bring suffering and death to living creatures. The factor of evil in such events is more evidenced as one approaches the human realm: the death of a deer from starvation caused by a famine is less, the death of a child is more, "evil" in this sense of "natural" evil.
2. By "moral" evil I understand all those events, whether inward attitudes or overt acts, which are a part of man's life, in so far as that life is opposed to God's will revealed in his law and in Jesus' life.
3. Moral evil I believe to be the result of a free and responsible act of disobedience on man's part, which act I call the fall. Having its root in pride and unbelief it results in the alienation of man from God and his neighbor.
4. Mao was not created fallen and sinful, but upright in communion with God. He did not fall into history (Greek Idealism) but to history. The fall, then, is an historical event, chronologically in the past. I cannot be more specific than to say it was an act of the first Adam, hence in the primal history of the race, in contrast to the saving act of Jesus, the second Adam, in the relatively recent history of the race. A date on the calendar, a location in a geography book, as describing this event, is not possible to us in the case of the first Adam, as it is in the case of the second Adam.
5. As a result of Adam's sin, all men are born sinners, that is, born disposed to sin, incapable of loving God and neighbor apart from God's grace in Christ renewing their hearts.
6. When God's gracious work of redemption in Christ is complete in the world to come, all evil, natural and moral, will be done away. Since there will be no more sin, there will be no more death.
7. This final order of life which is free from sin and death, is a new creation of God, not the result of the upward movement of human history. To say that natural evil is a curse or judgment of God upon man for his sin is not to say that sin causes natural evil, as scientists speak of cause and effect. (A man's congenital blindness is not caused by his parents sin. John 9:2.) A cause is always prior in time to an effect, whereas we know that death was in the world as a universal law, long before man was created, much less fell. Man's fall into sin is the reason, not the cause, of natural evil, including death.
8. The point I have just made (among others) makes me incline to a position which the theologians have called supralapsarianism. (Barthians also call it Christocentricity.) According to this view, the final end or telos of creation is salvation. In other words, the fall of man and his sin are a part of God's larger purpose of redemption in Christ. (Eph. 3:8-12). God, then, created this world as the theater of fallen human history, a world marked by death from the beginning, a world, to use scientific terms, in which there is a universal reign of entropy.
In light of the above affirmations I have difficulty with Bube's thesis in the following areas:
1. 1 do not see how he can say that evil in all its forms is no part of what he calls God's "creation purpose". The world, he says, is destined, according to God's creation purpose, for salvation. Since "salvation" presupposes salvation from sin and evil, I do not see how evil can be no part of God's creation purpose.
2. 1 do not see how one can understand such matters as man's fall, his original sin and actual sins, in terms of his animal ancestry. This really makes no sense to me. For me, sin in its origin, nature and expression, has to do with man's being in the image and likeness of God, not in his being like the animals. Jesus, who was as much like the animals as we are, did not sin, whereas angels, who are not like the animals, did sin. I get the impression that Bube is trying to think of the fail in terms of
evolutionary development from animal to humanllfe, whereas I think of it as a revolt against God, something which man is capable of because he is like the angels, not because he is like the animals.
3. 1 do not see how one can say that something that is "natural", "acceptable", and "intrinsic" to an animal can "become sin" when that animal "becomes a human being." Take sex, for example. I have always supposed it was "natural", "acceptable", and "intrinsic" to human beings as well as animals. It becomes sinful, not when an animal becomes a human being, but when a human being becomes a sinner.
4. I do not see how one can say such things as: (a) "Original sin cannot be described as moral evil." (b) "The traditional Christian view is that man commits evil because he is a man." I should rather suppose that (a) original sin is the primary form of moral evil and that (b) man commits evil because he is a sinner, not because he is a man.
5. 1 guess I could sum up my response to Bube as far as this article is concerned, by saying that I appreciate his awareness of how the modern scientific picture of man and the world impinge on a Christian view of man and the world; but I do not see that it is possible to harmonize the two, in these areas, as he does.
Makes God Responsible for Sin
Department of Philosophy Calvin College Grand Rapids, Michigan
Given that God is morally perfect, omnipotent, omniscient etc., how does it happen that evil exists? If we take the question, "Why does God permit evil?" perhaps the proper answer is, "We don't know." God hasn't told us why He permits it. This seems to be the aspect of the problem of evil that Bube speaks of in this paper.
Throughout the paper there is ambiguity about the meaning of the phrase, "God's good creation purpose." On the one hand, one might mean God's tong-run or ultimate purpose: the state of affairs that He proposes to bring about in the end, what we might call His eschatological purpose. On the other hand, one might mean God's purpose for the creation as it is presently constituted, what He wishes to see happen right now, for example. In Bube's view, events like rabbits being killed by falling rocks, deer brought down by lions, or sheep drowned by overflowing rivers are cases of evil, and are therefore not in keeping with God's creation purpose. But if one supposes that they are not brought about by any other beings (as apparently Bube does suppose), then presumably these events are due to God's activities, to the way He has constructed the world. It becomes very difficult to see how they could fail to be in accord with God's creation purpose, at least with His purpose for the creation as presently constituted.
Does God wish to see rocks falling right now? Did He wish to see rocks falling before the creation of man? Did He wish to see animals killing one another or rivers overflowing? Apparently He did; otherwise it is difficult to imagine how or why those things happened. A particular event, e.g., the drowning of animals in floods, could be in accord with God's proximate creation purpose applying to now or before men were created, but not in accord with His ultimate or eschatological purpose applying to the state of affairs He proposes to bring about in the future. Bube's ambiguous use of the phrase "God's good creation purpose" causes him to be ambiguous about whether or not these events such as rabbits being killed by falling rocks are or are not in accord with God's creation purpose. He is unable to decide whether to call them evil or not. They are in accord with God's proximate purpose, but perhaps not with His eschatological purpose. How could the answer be anything other than Yes to the question, "Are these events in accord with the creation purpose of God?" if what we have in mind is God's purpose for the world as it is now, for present events. If God didn't want these events to happen, presumably they would not happen. Why would they happen if they were not in accord with His purpose? If He didn't want them to take place now or before the Fall of man, leaving aside the effects of man's sin, they would not have happened. They did happen, so they are in accord with His purpose then, His proximate purpose. When the Bible speaks about these events as being one of the causes of the groaning of the creation, one must conclude that they are not in accord with God's ultimate or eschatological creation purpose. This kind of distinction between God's proximate and God's ultimate creation purpose needs to be made throughout Bube's paper.
Bube's definition for moral evil seems too utilitarian. Moral evil results from disobedience to God, even if no suffering or death to other human beings is involved. Failure to treat oneself properly is an example. Putting something else in God's place is another.
Bube's ambiguity concerning God's creation purpose arises again when he says that the present world is designed to be appropriate for sinful man, but that neither its design nor its
sinfulness are part of God's creation purpose. In what sense is the present world appropriate for sinful man? In terms of punishment? But suffering doesn't seem to be very carefully tuned to what people deserve: good men are stricken and evil men are not. It is not clear what Bube means to say here. As for the rest of Bube's statement, the design of the present world may not be part of God's ultimate creation purpose, but it is certainly part of God's proximate creation purpose.
The Bible does clearly teach that human death is an evil and a consequence of sin, but it is not at all clear that the Bible teaches this about plant death or even animal death. It is not at all clear that death in the non-human world is an aberration on a good creation. Maybe yes, maybe no; the Bible doesn't tell us. The theory that the world was created free of moral and natural evil surely does not intrinsically contain the assumption that there were no fires, floods or disease. Floods and fires certainly need not be considered as evil. Maybe animals were vegetarians; maybe not. All that the Bible teaches is that human death is unnatural and contrary to the nature of man.
The second theory - that ascribing the existence of natural evil to the devil and his cohorts - is really a special case of the first theory, since it involves evil resulting from the free will choice of the devil. If what this theory implies about the real ruler of this world is a problem for it, the same implication should he a problem for Bube's account of moral evil. But in fact it does not seem to pose such a problem for him. The fact that God allows the devil to bring about natural evil doesn't pose a problem as to the identity of the real ruler of this world.
Bube says that one of the baste revelations given to us in Genesis 1-3 is the emphasis upon the goodness of God's creation purpose. The creation as it comes from the hand of God is good and free from evil. That presumably means that when creation did come from the hand of God at some time in the past, there wasn't any natural evil. But this conclusion does not appear consistent with Buhe's view that creation as it comes from the hand of God did include death and natural evil.
What does Bube mean when he says that the evil we see all around us is due to man's sin and natural causes? The role of man's sin is easily understood, but how are natural causes involved? Whatever is due to a natural cause is due to God's creation purpose for the world at present. If it's due to natural causes, it's due to God; it must be intrinsic to God's creation purpose for the world at present, although not to God's ultimate creation purpose.
How could natural evil come into being for reasons that are not part of but are contrary to God's continuing purpose for His creation? If natural evil is not due to man's sin or to the sin of any other creatures, what is it due to? The virtue of the other theories is that they do give an answer to this question; Bube's view gives no answer.
Part of the point of the story of the Fall is to give an account of the origin of evil. Two Falls really are involved: the Fail of the Serpent, the devil, and the Fall of Adam and Eve. Part of the purpose of these accounts is to give a description of the origin of evil, both moral and natural evil. But on Buhe's view such an account is not possible. The story becomes the symbol for some other view which does not have an account for the origin of natural evil.
In Bube's view the world apparently was appropriate for fallen man long before man was formed. This is certainly not very clearly in accord with the Genesis account If we take it at all literally, it seems to suggest that God looked at His creation and said it is good - there was no evil in it. Then something happened. Other creatures introduced sin into it. After that it was appropriate for fallen man, but not before. My point is not that the Genesis account must be taken literally, but merely that the Genesis account cannot be very naturally taken in the way that Bube means to take it, i.e., as a kind of symbolic account. It does seem to suggest strongly that first of all the world didn't contain any evil at all, or that whatever evil there is in the world is the result of sin. On Bube's view all evil cannot be the result of sin, since what is called natural evil existed long before man's fall into sin.
The view Bube contraverts is not one that is found only among theologians outside the Bible. It is also found within the Bible: "as through one man all sinned, so through one shall all be made alive." That view strongly suggests that human sin somehow begins with one man, with Adam, just as all shall be made alive through one man, through Christ. I fail to see how Bube can understand or interpret such a text on his view. Bube's view seems to run contrary to the New Testament as well as to literal interpretations of Genesis.
Bube says that original sin cannot be described under the category of moral evil. That seems to be right, at least as far as my original sin is concerned. On the traditional view, it is the result of Adam's moral evil, but it is not the result of my free choice. If original sin is seen to be a natural evil present in man because of the process by which man has come into being through the activity of God, then isn't God responsible for it? How can we understand evil in such a way that we do not see God responsible for it? On Bube's view it looks as if God is responsible: He created man in a certain way using certain means that involve men in a predisposition to selfishness which is sinful. Apparently then God is responsible for my having this original sin. Nobody else is. I'm not. Adam isn't. It's just the way I've been created; it has to be attributed to God. This is the point of Bube's view with which I disagree most strongly. We most understand sin in such a way that it is not attributable to God. We can't maintain that God is morally perfect, omnipotent and omniscient - and that He is responsible for sin, when there is some other way in which He could have accomplished His purpose. Presumably there is some other way in which God could have created man free from original sin. On the traditional view, God creates man free and then man misuses that freedom. This is the source of both moral and natural evil. This makes sense in a way that Bube's view does not.
Bube says that when man stops being human, he has the capability of sinking to the level of only an animal. But man can sink much lower than that: he can rebel against God. Animals don't rebel against God. Putting anything else in the place of God is sin. Selfishness is one kind of sin, but it is not the essence of all sin. There are other kinds of sin. Likewise it is not totally true that animals are governed by the instinct for self-preservation. In many cases preservation of the group or hive takes precedence over preservation of the individual.
Finally let me summarize my principal objections to Bube's view. Man doesn't choose to have self-centeredness according to Bube; that's just part of his animal heritage with which he was created. He isn't responsible; God is. God could have made him differently. He could have arranged it so that man was not produced with animal ancestry at all, but could have been created directly as in the traditional view. On Bube's view God chose to create man in an evolutionary fashion and the result is that man suffers from original sin. Then original sin must be laid to God's door. God is responsible. He chose the means that result in original sin. Bube's view simply does not answer the question he started with. Part of the ground rules of such a discussion are that one doesn't say that God thought it would be nice to have some sin. Or that just as God brought about natural laws, He brought about man's sin. The task is to find an expression for the origin of sin that is consistent with the holy character of God. Bube doesn't give such an account.
An attempt at clarification
When one attempts to deal with as difficult a subject as this, the limitations of communication become startlingly evident.
Jewett provides a clear theological base for a portion of the position I am trying to advance.
Jewett: "To say that natural evil is a curse or judgment of God upon man for his sin is not to say that sin causes natural evil, as scientists speak of cause and effect . . . . A cause is always prior in time to an effect, whereas we know that death in the world is a universal law, long before man was created, much less fell. Man's fall into sin is the reason, not the cause, of natural evil, including death the fall of man and his sin are a part of God's larger purpose of redemption in Christ. (Eph. 3:8-12). God, then, created this world as the theater of fallen human history, a world marked by death from the beginning, a world, to use scientific terms, in which there is a universal reign of eutrophy."
As one interprets what I have written, I urge that it be interpreted in terms of this position of Jewett, which is probably for many a more effective description. Plantinga, on the other hand, appears to see my acceptance of this position, but rejects it.
Plantinga: "In Bube's view the world apparently was appropriate for fallen man long before man was formed. This is certainly not very clearly in accord with the Genesis account."
Another example of the difficulty in communication involves the question of whether original sin is to be considered moral evil. Jewett disagrees,
Jewett: "I should rather suppose that original sin is the primary farm of moral evil."
but Plantinga appears to agree,
Plantinga: "Bube says that original sin cannot be described under the category of moral evil. That seems to be right, at least as far as my original sin is concerned."
In the following I attempt brief clarification of some of the problems raised with the argument presented in my paper.
Ramm: "It seems to me that the seriousness of sin, the demonic character of it, and the senseless and irrational character of it, are better explained by a "fall from" than a "failure to."
I am not able to make a sharp distinction between these two terms. There is definitely a "fall form" involved, for man fell from the possibility of serving God fully with the newly developed human qualities he possessed. Yet there is also a "failure to" involved, for man fell from this possibility when he failed to choose for his human personhood in relation with God,
Ramm: "Is Bube's statement a normative one? That is to say, is this (a completed state in Christ) what God bestows on all the redeemed? If so, I agree."
Yes, this is my intention.
Ramm: "As I understand Bube's interpretation, original sin seems more the pre-condition of sin than a consequence of sin itself."
In the sense that "freedom of choice" is the pre-condition of sin, so
the "predisposition toward self-centeredness" that I have
sin" is also a precondition of sin.
Jewett: "Man . . did not fall into history (Greek idealism) but in history."
This is in accord with the model suggested.
Jewett: "As a result of Adam's sin, all men are born sinners."
This is more difficult; what does it mean to say that all men are born sinners as a result of Adam's sin? Is this a scientific cause and effect relationship? Is the biochemistry of the human gene such that sin is transmitted with genetic material? Did Adam's sin result in a change in biology? Is the human body then inherently sinful today? If the questioning of Jewett's contention raises profound theological problems, and I do not deny that it may, the affirmation of the contention raises problems as to what corresponds to the affirmation in the biological world. Perhaps a representative view of Adam is more compatible, leaning toward passages like I Corinthians 15:22 and Galatians 3:7 as analogues.
Both Jewett and Plantinga point out that I have been ambiguous in speaking of God's "good creation purpose." I must plead guilty to the charge on a number of counts. In most of my paper I am speaking primarily of God's ultimate creation purpose; this defines God's intention for the final state of his creation, and it also establishes certain basic principles, as, for example, that sin is not inherent in created matter per se.
Jewett: "I get the impression that Bube is trying to think of the fall in terms of evolutionary development from animal to human life, whereas I think of it as a revolt against God, something which man is capable of because he is like the angels, not because he is like the animals."
There need be nothing contradictory in the two ways of looking at the question. When man arrived on the scene via the evolutionary process (i.e., a creature came into existence like the angels), he faced the choice of living in the fullness of this nature or of subverting it by choosing to follow the self-centered aspects of his biological animal heritage; when he chose himself over God, he revolted and the fall was the consequence.
Jewett: "I do not see how one can say that something that is 'natural,' 'acceptable,' and 'intrinsic' to an animal can 'become sin' when that animal 'becomes a human being.'"
Self-centeredness is the prime example; when an animal is self-centered it is living in accord with God's intentention for its animal nature. When a human being lives a self-centered life, he is not living in accord with
God's intentions for his human nature; what for the animal was good, has for the human become sin. An animalistic approach to sex does become sinful when a human being chooses it; it is not sex that becomes sinful, but the indulgence by human beings in sex practices commensurate with animals but not with beings made in the image of God.
Some of the criticisms given by Plantinga are similar to those discussed above. His major devastating criticism, however, appears to be fundamental.
Plantinga: "If original sin is seen to be a natural evil present in man because of the process by which man has come into being through the activity of God, then isn't God responsible for it? . . This is the point of Bube's view with which I disagree most strongly."
On the classical view, God made man with the ability to make a free choice for or against God. What does it mean to have the ability to make a free choice against God? Does the existence of this possibility make God responsible for its exercise? Normally we answer that it does not; God makes the opportunity available, but since he does not compel the choice, man remains responsible. In my model, the "first man" again has a choice. He can choose to follow the predisposition of his nature as inherited from his animal ancestors, or he can choose to follow the higher calling of his new nature as one made in the image of God. It is his choice and it is his responsibility, not God's. The very fact that Adam can be spoken of as making a free choice against God means that Adam had the wherewithal in his nature to make such a choice; my model attempts to indicate a possible way in which Adam came into possession of this nature. Whether by evolution from animal ancestors, or by fiat creation with a genuine free will, man faces a choice and man is responsible, not God. In either case the possibility of Adam's sinning is provided by God.
Perhaps it is an error to speak of original sin as natural evil, since this leads to the apparent conclusion that God is the author of evil. Yet, in the view of Jewett, natural evil can be integrated with God's overall plan for the world, and even Plantinga is able to view natural evil as within the proximate purpose of God.
Plantinga: "Man doesn't choose to have self-centeredness according to Bube; that's just part of his animal heritage with which he was created."
Man doesn't choose to have self -centeredness (just as man doesn't choose to be able to choose against God), but man does choose to be self-centered in thought and life.
The reader will see now my great temptation to rewrite the paper to include these excellent comments; I am greatly indebted to the reviewers.