Beyond Original Sin?

How Denis Lamoureux’s ‘evolutionary creation’ leads to heresy and the undermining of the Gospel

The Bible teaches that a person is either ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’. If we are ‘in Adam’ we are still in sin and under God’s judgement; if we are ‘in Christ’ we become partakers of His righteousness and escape judgement (Romans 5:18–19). There was a literal Adam, through whom we literally became sinners and die; and there is a literal Christ through whom we may literally become righteous and receive eternal life. There is no other way of salvation presented in Scripture, and Lamoureux’s rejection of a historical Adam undermines the Gospel at its heart. Moreover, if the New Testament is wrong about these matters why should we consider it to be authoritative in anything else?

 

Denis Lamoureux is an Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He describes himself as an ‘evolutionary creationist’ and believes that God used the Darwinian process to create people.1 Moreover, despite identifying as ‘an evangelical Protestant’, in an article published in Perspectives on Science and Christian Belief, he denies the doctrine of Original Sin.2 Science, he believes, has shown that there never was a historical Adam and therefore there never was an original sin.3

What is the doctrine of Original Sin?

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith,

Our first parents … sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul … They being the root of all mankind … the same death in sin and corrupted nature [was] conveyed to all their posterity.4

The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were created, fully formed, on the sixth day of Creation (Genesis 1:26–27). Along with everything else, they were “very good”, i.e. physically and morally perfect (Genesis 1:31). However, despite God showing them much goodwill—giving them a beautiful place in which to live and offering them His friendship—they disobeyed Him, “eating from the forbidden fruit”, and embraced evil (Genesis 3). Consequently, they “fell from their original righteousness” and “became dead in sin”, meaning that they lost their “communion with God” and became sinful, “wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul”. Consequently, they came under God’s righteous judgement which, on Earth, would culminate in physical death (Genesis 3:19 and Romans 6:23). Due to Adam and Eve being the “root of all mankind”—i.e. progenitors of all humanity (Acts 17:26, Genesis 3:20)—they passed this fallen nature to “all their posterity”, i.e. to every man, woman and child who has ever lived. Particularly, Adam acted as our ‘federal head’, representing the whole of humanity. Hence, the Apostle Paul wrote, “sin came into the world through one man, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Throughout church history the doctrine of Original Sin has been considered foundational to the Christian faith. It makes clear that all are sinners, even from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5), and explains why even babies and the unborn may suffer and die. It enables us to understand ourselves—why we behave as we do—and why so many mind-boggling atrocities have been committed throughout history. It also points us to Christ as the only solution to our sin: as the Apostle Paul wrote, “For as by the one man’s disobedience [i.e. Adam’s] the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [i.e. Christ’s] the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

The Bible teaches that a person is either ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’. If we are ‘in Adam’ we are still in sin and under God’s judgement; if we are ‘in Christ’ we become partakers of His righteousness and escape judgement (Romans 5:18–19). There was a literal Adam, through whom we literally became sinners and die; and there is a literal Christ through whom we may literally become righteous and receive eternal life. There is no other way of salvation presented in Scripture, and Lamoureux’s rejection of a historical Adam undermines the Gospel at its heart.

Moreover, if the New Testament is wrong about these matters why should we consider it to be authoritative in anything else? If the Apostle Paul was wrong in believing in a historical Adam then, presumably, so too was Christ. Should we then also question what the Son of God taught about marriage? (See Mark 10:5–9.) Once we begin to think like this, it is only a matter of time before every biblical doctrine becomes open to debate.

How does Lamoureux argue his case?

Remarkably, Lamoureux begins by setting forth the biblical basis for a historical Adam and Original Sin, acknowledging that both are clearly taught in Scripture. For example, he quotes nine verses from Paul’s letters which confirm this to be apostolic teaching5 and concludes,

In the light of these passages, there is little doubt that Paul accepted that (1) Adam was a historical person, (2) sin first entered the world through Adam, (3) Adam’s sin resulted in all humans becoming sinners, (4) death entered the world as the divine condemnation for the sin of Adam, and (5) Adam’s sin resulted in the divine condemnation and death of all humans.

At the same time Lamoureux accepts that the Council of Carthage, the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church and the Westminster Confession of Faith all affirm this Pauline doctrine. Moreover, he writes, “To summarize, the doctrine of original sin is deeply entrenched within the Western Christian tradition … everyone should feel the weight of challenging this historic doctrine, as I do.” Despite this, he confidently asserts that the Apostle Paul was mistaken and argues that this error arose from Paul’s understanding of Genesis 1–11 as referring to real, historical events.

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