HEALING FROM DECEPTION vs. Augustinian Original Sin
The Genesis story of man's creation has enriched the human mind. Adam was created as imago Dei. Men and women are co-natural. Evil existed before the emergence of humankind. We are all Adams by the flesh and children of God by the spirit, and redeemed by the pre-existing Logos before the first sin. Yet there is also a dark side to the story. This darker side is conveyed mainly by its metaphors.
In Genesis 3:13 the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Where is sin here? Eve was seduced by a superior being who abandoned her after she gave in to him. She is like a seduced teenager abandoned by a womanizer. Her condemnation is similar to the NT Pharisees wanting to stone an adulterous woman without consideration for the circumstances and the guilt of her paramour.
Adam’s guilt is also nonexistent: he ate the meal that was served to him by his wife. His punishment is unjustified except in the perspective of a law-and-order society. The image of a Garden of Eden protected by a flaming sword after its children were expelled is the image of a property owner, not of a God of love.
The woman’s punishment is submission in marriage and society: “he will rule over you” (Gn 3:16). The first couple’s punishment represents a social order in which submission and obedience of the weak (women, children, and servants) to the laws of the strong is defined as “natural;” but it is, in fact, the natural condition of patriarchal times. The Garden of Eden is presented as a law-and-order society where violation of the prevailing order is followed by automatic punishment without consideration of intentions and attenuating circumstances.
The Adam and Eve story originated in a society where deception by cunning underdogs was accepted as part of life. This society valued the hero, the strong man who can resist temptations and disvalued women and the weak. Hence the weak had to be punished, e.g. by expulsion from the Garden of Happiness. Augustine added two more punishments: eternal damnation of the massa damnata, and the transmission of the original “disease” to all the descendants through intercourse. Orthodoxy never accepted the pessimistic view of original sin as downfall; instead it sees the history of salvation as progressive theosis – divinization by grace.
The church is not a law-and-order society. Christ abolished submission of the weak to the law of the strong and established the Great Reversal as the moral foundation of the spiritual Reign of God. If submission and obedience are the punishment due to the sin of Adam and Eve, they cannot constitute the moral foundations of the church as New Jerusalem where submission to the Law has been abolished.
"Father, forgiven them because they do not know what they are doing." Sin is often numbness of conscience, blind obedience to blind leaders, or deception by seductive social media preaching conformity. Deception needs healing rather than moralistic condemnation.
There is support for this view from Irenaeus of Lyons to Teilhard de Chardin. Is nature irremediably flawed? Is natural desire always concupiscence? This view is inspired more by a pessimistic anthropology than by NT writings. Is not the spirit of the Creator at work in the evolution of the cosmos? Domination, killing, rape, and the struggle for surval are part of the animal, not just the human nature, but so is altruism. Evolution can be seen as the humanization of nature. Salvation is "recapitalation" (Irenaeus), "Point Omega" (Teilhard) and "divinization" (theosis) through Jesus Christ. The whole universe is in travail for a new birth.
- the origin of humankind according to science and Genesis 1-3?
- the origin of evil – in Christian as well as secular anthropololgies?
- the Christian moral order based on the Great Reversal of the Gospel vs. Natural Law?
- Is Mary “conceived without sin?” or “conceived without original sin?” (Mary is greatly revered in Orthodoxy, but Original Sin is not part of it)