The fall of “augustinian adam”: Original fragility and supralapsarian purpose

Zygon 47 (4):949-969 (2012)
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The essay is framed by conflict between Christianity and Darwinian science over the history of the world and the nature of human personhood. Evolutionary science narrates a long prehuman geological and biological history filled with vast amounts, kinds, and distributions of apparently random brutal and pointless suffering. It also strongly suggests that the first modern humans were morally primitive. This science seems to discredit Christianity's common meta-narrative of the Fall, understood as a story of Paradise Lost. The author contends that this Augustinian story and its character of Adam as endowed with superhuman gifts, and yet as so fragile as to fall, as claimed, is implausible, at any rate, even apart from science. He proposes that Christians consider adopting a Supralapsarian metaphysics of divine purpose supported by the intuitions of Irenaeus, who depicted the first human beings as comparable to innocent, but morally undeveloped children. In this approach the existence of evils is part of the divine plan to "defeat" them in and through the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection of Christ. Putting an "Irenaean Adam" in place of the "Augustinian" counterpart may not remove conflict with science completely, but at least reduces it, and leads to a Christian narrative that is more plausible, in the light of science.


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