For about a month we have been looking at the answers given by evangelicals to two questions: 1) did animal death exist before the fall of Adam and Eve?, and 2) what was the impact of Adam’s fall on the rest of Creation? We have summarized the answers provided by young-earth creationists (YEC), by old-earth creationists (OEC), and a hybrid position argued by Bill Dembski. This blog looks at the position advocated by evolutionary creationist (EC) Denis Lamoureux, in which he argues that Christian doctrine suffers no real loss in abandoning a historical Adam.
In his book, I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution, Denis Lamoureux argues as the title indicates, and probably represents for evolutionary creationists (EC) the majority position concerning the Fall. Lamoureux is an evangelical, charismatic Christian who affirms an orthodox Christology (Christ’s virgin birth, vicarious death, and bodily resurrection) while at the same time arguing that evolution was the means by which Jesus created (32). While he views EC’s strongest point to be that it “embraces both biblical faith and modern science,” he concedes that EC’s weakest point is its denial of a literal or historical fall (30). “In other words, evolutionary creation rejects the traditional Christian belief in the cosmic fall” (31-32). (However, there are some EC advocates who affirm a historical Adam and Eve. For example, see Denis Alexander’s Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Chose?) Lamoureux argues that God used a fallible, errant account of origins to convey an infallible truth:
“To conclude, there is no sin-death problem. Adam never existed, and consequently, sin did not enter the world through him. Nor then did physical death arise as a divine judgment for his transgression, because once again, Adam never existed. Indeed, sin did enter the world, but not through Adam.” (148)
Lamoureux admits that his reading of Gen 1-3 is “very unnatural and counterintuitive” and “is not an easy position to accept” (30-32).
Lamoureux appeals to evangelicals not to dismiss theistic evolution too quickly. The Fall is a spiritual mystery, he argues, not unlike other mysteries affirmed by Christian doctrine (i.e., the Image of God and the age of accountability) (29-30). Specifically, he contends that the Fall is analogous to the age of accountability. Christians are not agreed about spiritual state of children, whether a child is born condemned or becomes morally accountable at a later date. For those who do affirm an age of accountability, no one dogmatically holds to a certain time—either for a particular child or for children in general. Though the doctrine of the age of accountability is vague and mysterious, no orthodox Christian denies that all children possess an intrinsic, sinful propensity which eventually, inevitably renders all guilty before God. Similarly, argues Lamoureux, we do not understand the particulars of humanity’s fall. There was no simple, single original sin. Rather, “‘original sin’ was manifested gradually and mysteriously over many generations during the evolutionary processes leading to men and women” (157). Gen 3 presents, in mythical terms, a present reality: humanity is estranged from God.
The end result of Lamoureux’s argument is the conclusion that man’s fallen state has had no impact on creation. Rather, it is the other way around. Fellow EC proponent Daniel Harlow echoes Lamoureux’s position when he states, “Far from infecting the rest of the animal creation with selfish behaviors, we humans inherited these tendencies from our animal past” (PSCF 62:3, 180).
Lamoureux sees the origins account to be a fallible human text used by God to communicate an infallible message. He claims to hold to a version of inerrancy, but his view of Gen 1-3 seems to be much closer to that of neo-Orthodoxy. Lamoureux’s position runs the danger of revamping the Fall beyond recognition. I don’t question Lamoureaux’s devotion to Christ, but I strongly disagree with his position. Theologically speaking, we need Adam. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.)
This blog is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com.