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Models of the Fall Including a Historical Adam as Ancestor of All Humans: Scientific and Theological Constraints

Lydia Jaeger
S & CB 29 (1)
April 2017


Original sin introduces a distinctive feature of humanity. Only humans, yet all humans, are sinners, thus implying a clear animal-human difference. This traditional doctrine has increasingly been considered incompatible with scientific knowledge. This article examines the extent to which it is possible to maintain a strong notion of original sin, while accepting the genetic and palaeontological data. The strong notion considered here includes a historical Adam as ancestor of all humans and human corruption and death as consequences of original sin. Particular attention will be paid to the understanding of original sin as the loss of original righteousness. Drawing on both the Thomist and the Reformed traditions, the version of original sin explored here combines three key themes in order to account for what happened subsequent to the fall: loss of original righteousness, total corruption of human nature and loss of communion with God. As humans are created in God’s image, communion with God is essential for human nature, and the loss of this communion implies malfunction and corruption of the nature. It is argued that this view can be held without any contradiction of known scientific data. Major authors whose work on this subject is considered include Aquinas, Calvin, Turretin and Henri Blocher.

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