Neo-orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once famously said that original sin is “the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” But what was once “empirically verifiable” is now questioned, and even science is being enlisted as its primary foe.
As the story goes, modern science indicates that it is impossible for the breadth of humanity today to have been derived from a single human pair. If there was no single human pair, there was no Adam and Eve, as the fountainhead of all of humanity. If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no cosmic Fall. Without a cosmic Fall, there was no original sin.1
The conclusion? If the core element of Christian teaching is that Jesus saves us from our sin, then without original sin, the entire Christian story regarding salvation falls flat. Therefore, science has made original sin obsolete. … To continue holding to an obsolete doctrine means that the Bible can not be trusted… The Christian story of sin and salvation implodes…. POOF!!
This is a narrative that has become increasingly popular in the West, as seen from different angles. Many former Christians and other agnostics/atheists point to this as one of the primary reasons why Christian faith must be rejected. Liberal-minded Christians will tend to look the other way and ignore such difficulties. Others from a Christian background will use this objection as a means of rewriting the whole of Christian theology to build a completely different worldview.
Glenn Morton (1950-2020). A maverick creationist(?), who defied labeling, finished his final book, Eden Was Here: New Evidence for the Historicity of Genesis, within days before his death. Morton makes the case for an historical Adam and Eve, thereby linking the Fall of humanity, and its association with original sin, to a specific event in the very ancient past.
Was there a real Adam, the sole progenitor of the human race? Is the text of Genesis 1-11 historical or mytho-historical? Did snakes talk? Did the apostle Paul regard Adam as an historical person? What is at stake with the raging debate over the historical Adam?
Veracity readers may wish to plug in and follow the work of Dr. William Lane Craig, who is beginning a new, expanded study on this topic.
Albert Mohler: Theologian and defender of a Young Earth view of Creation.
C. John Collins: Old Testament scholar and defender of an Old Earth view of Creation.
I recently listened to a debate between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. C. John Collins, with the provocative title, “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” Christians have very different views on this topic, and sadly, a lot of debates of this sort tend to descend into either rancor, or simply talking past one another, particularly for debates with non-believers. But this debate, intended for an audience of Christian pastors, was different, and for that reason, I thought it worthwhile to make some notes and share them here on Veracity. You can view the debate yourself at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s website, and I would encourage you to do so to get the most out of my following comments and observations (another synopsis of the debate is available here).
Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the debate question with “yes.” But in doing so, I appreciated what Mohler had to say about the very nature of this debate. As he put it, there are three different orders of theological debates that have an impact in the church: