Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Non-Objections to the Doctrine of Original Sin in the Old Testament

I've thought lately that I should just call this blog, "Rethinking Rethinking Biblical Christianity," but I really don't want to get into a war with a former professor, one whose teaching style I really enjoyed in seminary, and who I originally supported in the whole Westminster thing. However, since he has taken it upon himself to address issues that are apart of my lifelong study and the orthodoxy that I think is true and life-saving, I feel that I should address a lot of what he says that I feel are not as accurate as they should be coming from a professor who has been, at least, somewhat exposed to ANE and OT studies.

Today, we deal with original sin. Of course, there is no discussion of what it is, which I think is kind of important if you're critiquing a view. What view of OS are you addressing? He says that there are certainly effects from Adam's sin that can be drawn from the narrative, but in what way? Some views of OS are just effects. In any case, we'd have to get that issue straight before understanding what it is that Dr. Enns is actually addressing here. But here are some things to consider nonetheless.

1. Inherited sinfulness is not one of the curses on Adam.

Actually, it is. The problem is that this is one of the assumptions of the ANE reader. Dr. Enns is reading within an anachronistic individualistic framework, and hence, it doesn't assume the same things when reading it. The context of the ANE reader is one where he assumes communal/familial/patriarchal federalism (i.e., the individual is one with the collective whole). Hence, the ANE reader would have immediately assumed that the sin and curse of the first human (whether as progenitor or as king of the larger group) would be a sin and curse for all humans.

2. True obedience to God is both expected and doable.

This is a Pelagian argument that has been refuted for centuries, and it's refuted quite easily by the fact that it makes a huge mistake: it confuses two different questions, one dealing with the cause and one dealing with the effect. Obedience is expected and doable. That has nothing to do with under what circumstances can obedience be expected and doable. Historic Christianity doesn't say that obedience isn't doable. It says that it is only completely doable if one repents and enters a salvific/covenant relationship with God. Otherwise, it isn't doable. In other words, the author of Genesis would have believed that if one repents, the curse is no longer his. His participation in the curse is only because he is born of Adam, a sinner's, family and therefore he will either share in Adam's judgment if he remains as he is, or he can break that by repenting and doing otherwise. In other words, this objection addresses a different question than the one the premises support. The two questions would be, Can men obey a command that God gives? and How/Why can men obey a command that God gives? The objection is of the former but pretends to address the latter.
3. With one exception, Adam disappears after Genesis 5.

This is an odd objection, and I've addressed this before. Adam, nor the story, is necessarily known by most biblical authors of the OT. I've argued before that there is likely some tradition of Adam seen in the use of the eponym for mankind, since the term 'adam does not mean "mankind"; but does Dr. Enns really think that if the Adam story and curse were true that God would have revealed it to every author in Scripture? Or that every book in Scripture must address the subject if the authors did know of it? It's ancient history, and it wasn't even a history known to most people (in fact, primeval history isn't known, which is why it is often described in mythic terms). I'm not quite sure why this objection has much force. The Book of Genesis is written after most of the Old Testament Scripture, so why would it necessarily be mentioned? Is there a book that is a full doctrinal treatise on sin and original humanity in the OT that I don't know about? The Adam story brings the entire OT together, but it doesn't have to be known by the entirety of OT authors and works. I find this objection to be without much weight.

4. Adam is not blamed for Cain’s act of murder.
5. Likewise, Adam is not blamed for the flood.

 These two objections are really the same. They essentially argue that if the Bible taught that people sin because of some adamic curse, then it would have explicitly attributed the sins that follow to Adam and his misdeed.
Again, I can only ask, Why is this an assumption on Dr. Enns' part? Do we really have any reason to expect narrative to lay out explicit ideas like this for us? Narrative works literarily through the implicit as much as the explicit (perhaps even more through the implicit). We have nothing explicit in Genesis to suggest that God makes all of these people. We do have something to suggest He makes the original couple and Cain through His mother, but we just let the narrative work its magic by letting us assume that God made all of these other people through their mothers and fathers too (we also assume implicitly that God made Cain through his mother AND father without the narrative having to tell us that explicitly). There is definitely nothing in Genesis that explicitly says that God loves the humans He made either, but again, that is implied by the narrative, and perhaps, to be found in the assumptions of the ANE reader as well as he reads about God creating and making covenants with men.
However, my other objection to this objection would be that the ANE individual's understanding of sin is that, although he may have inherited it from his father/community, he must choose to deal with his own sin (cf. Ezek 18). He can choose to remain in that line of sinners or repent and break from that group. Hence, no one is to blame for his sin but he himself. The issue is how he got in the position of being a sinner to begin with, not whether he is to blame for his own sin. Of course he is to blame. "Adam made me do it" is a ridiculous argument. I made me do it. Adam just cursed us by rejecting God's rule of his life for his own rule. We all wake up in this life within that godless ideal to rule ourselves. But can we turn to God in repentance because God provides a way back to Him? Of course. And, for that reason, all men are to blame for their own sin. Why in the world would the Bible emphasize Adam's sin over my own? When the Israelite kings sin in the likeness of their fathers, they are each individually judged, but they also amass for themselves the sins of their fathers, simply because they, by continuing their rebellion, display their unity with their fathers. The judgment of their fathers' sins comes upon them as well. They are one with their fathers, but they are always judged for their own sins, and told to repent of their own sins in order to break with their fathers (at least for their part). But their children may also continue the evil of their fathers even if a generation or two are skipped due to repentance.
Even Dr. Enns admits that the story of Adam parallels the story of Israel, and yet, if that is true, then the same understanding of familial sin needs to be understood in both stories.
Hence, if God wants to warn Cain to break from Adam's sin, He wouldn't blame Adam. He would tell Cain to deal with the evil in his own mind and turn away from it. If He wanted to judge mankind in the flood, He would emphasize that its thoughts were evil even from a young age, not the reason why its thoughts were evil even from a young age. That's implicit in the narrative. One can consider it bad logic in our day, but literature works off of that fallacy that says, "What follows is a result of what preceded." That's how literature makes its argument. Hence, the fact that the situational reason as to why all of these individual sins would have come into the world are understood as resulting from what Adam had done is already in the narrative. Dealing with sin, however, would always be immediately with the individual's choices, not the reason why he might not choose rightly.

I think this objection, therefore, misunderstands the ANE reader's assumptions, the way that narrative works, and the emphasis on the solution to sin rather than its ultimate cause.

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