An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 6

Irenaeus on the Fall and original sin  A. N. S. Lane

I wasn't too familiar with Iranaeus's (c. 115-221AD) view of the fall so this chapter was a welcome addition.

Lane is keen to defend the Irenaeus's view against a number of recent commentators who seem to have misread/used Irenaeus. These include the Dominican Denis Minns.

Irenaeus held that Adam and Eve were not created perfect.  But, this does not mean that they were sinful. He also distinguishes between the image and likeness of God. Adam was created in God's image but the likeness was something he had yet to attain. The likeness was lost and is something that Christ restores.

Minns maintains that for Irenaeus Gen 1-3  was in part symbolic and is thus more in tune with modern understanding than Augustine (p. 140). However, Lane argues that 'Irenaeus's theology is undermined more than most others by the suggestion of a non-historical Adam' (p. 141).

Lane then looks at three important questions when considering the nature of the Fall:
  • Was the world perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve immortal?
Lane maintains that the traditional view is not scriptural (p. 143)! His response following Irenaeus is 'No' to each of the above questions. Before the Fall Adam and Eve were not perfect they were on probation, they did not fall from a great height: 'Rather, they were setting out on a path of moral testing and at an early stage they took a wrong turn' (p. 144).  It is not clear from what Lane says that this is a denial of a cosmic fall. He suggests that the language of 'fall' is misleading; it is a wrong turning rather than a fall from a state of perfection.

What concerns me most is that Lane suggests that we ought to be more sympathetic to a nature-supernature approach (p. 146). This might leave the way open to avoid a science-theology conflict over Genesis 1-3, but it would result in more problems than it would solve.

It would have been interesting to have considered why Augustine's view has been the dominant paradigm in theology through the centuries. Why is it that now Irenaeus's view is being reconsidered now? Is it an apologetic response to Darwin? Or is it a fresh understanding of the scriptures? I suspect the former.

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