For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. - 1 Corinthians 21,22
The implication is that Sin and Death came into the world through Adam's disobedience of God's commandment not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
But as I stated in my last post, the Fall story in Genesis is false as history. Historically (well, pre-historically) Death and suffering preceded humankind into the cosmos. I elaborated on this in my review of The Passion of the Christ:
We, on the other hand, now know that hardship and Death were in the world from the beginning of Life, long before there were humans. Further, we know that evolution is the response of Life to hardship and Death, and that humans are one of the expressions of that response. In other words, God used hardship and Death to make humans. In response to hardship and Death, we often disregard others and look out only for ourselves. But, since we are evolved to be a social species, we know that it is wrong for us to do so. We know that we must do good for ourselves and our society, and that sometimes, we must sacrifice our personal desires and interests for some higher good. We know that this is what God's Justice has written on our hearts, yet we disobey, and we lie to ourselves about it. And we attack those who threaten to expose our lies — like Socrates, the Prophets, and Jesus. (Or anyone who challenges our way of seeing the world and ourselves.)
Maybe that's what gets the Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents so exercised about evolution. It exonerates the first humans from bringing suffering and Death into the world. Death has not been imposed on the cosmos as a penalty for the Original Sin of the first humans. But the idea that Death is penal was implicitly embraced by Paul, and explicitly argued by St. Augustine some 350 years later. Moreover, both men saw Jesus as having paid that penalty for us by his Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is, although we must still die, Death will not be final -- the resurrected Christ will resurrect us after him, and has the power to do so because he paid our penalty.
Yet I relegate the truth of Genesis 3 to the truth of myth. That is, it is true as a primitive psychology - it points out our predilection for being estranged from ourselves, each other, the natural world, and God - which I call being Sinful. It is true in the sense that it is as if we fell out of timelessness into Time. But I cannot accept it as historical fact, like Paul and Augustine. And that makes me a heretic.
Or does it? Up to now, I've been treating Christian Theology as the intellectual property of Paul and Augustine, two of its earliest and greatest formulators and expositors. But Christian Theology is the project of understanding the Gospel anew for each generation. The Church is bound, not by its doctors, but by the event of the Incarnation-Crucifixion-Resurrection, which means more than all verbal explanations can ever state. We need verbal explanations in order to talk about it, to place it in our understanding of ourselves, each other, the world, and God. As we learn more about ourselves, each other and the world, we need also to learn more about God - and thus we need to re-explain the event.
Part of that re-explanation is revising the doctrine of Original Sin in the light of recent advances in our understanding of Natural History. Is that legitimate? I would argue that it is, since Augustine incorporated Natural History as it was understood in the early 5th century into his theology. But we must have some criteria for accepting or rejecting these continual re-explanations. On the other hand, any criterion we could state in words would itself be subject to continual re-explanation.
Fortunately, a solution exists. The Church itself must judge whether theological statements are heretical in the light of its continuing relationship with God, and its Magesterium (divinely ordained teaching authority) and its Great Commission to make disciples in all peoples. At any given moment in time, the Church itself may judge wrongly, but over the course of time, the Truth will out.
As for myself, I think the Crucifixion itself is more than sufficient to establish the doctrine of humanity's sinful nature (so-called Original Sin), as I argued in my review of The Passion of the Christ. Moreover, the demand for blood sacrifice comes from ourselves. God demanded it because we needed God to demand it.
We don't want to be confronted with our lies. Which means we can't accept our true selves, and we don't believe anyone else can, either, unless we pay the price, unless we earn acceptablity by self-sacrifice to a higher cause. Yet we need to accept our true selves, in order to be able to tolerate God, in whose presence we confront the truth about everything. The price is beyond our ability to pay, for in the presence of God, we have nothing to offer but tainted goods — the selves that even we cannot accept. So God pays the price for us. God came into the world as one of us, to endure abandonment by God, and to be killed by us.
That is the price of admission for people like us into God's Presence — Paradise.
So I have to ask you. Am I a heretic, or just an amateur postmodern theologian?