The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fascinating paper on "Augustinian Adam" vs "Irenaean Adam"

On p17-18 of The Fall of “Augustinian Adam”: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose John Schneider wrote:

Fascinating paper (think he’s an EU too) - looks like Augustine’s soteriology had even larger ramifications than I realised. Thankfully the Eastern Church didn’t follow him & Irenaeus gives us a better alternative!

That (Augustinian speculation) is almost too weird for words. I don’t know how he got to that place.

The Eastern church may not have followed Augustine but they still believe in eternal suffering.

As far as I know some do & some don’t… and they don’t typically divide or make a fuss over it (e.g. they can openly be URs without getting in trouble).

I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it :smiley:

That was a fantastic article, Alex! :smiley:
Thanks so much for linking to it. It was well worth reading and in an understandable and enjoyable style. Not much theological jargon which is a major plus. (My eyes glaze over if I read “hermeneutical”, “epistemological”, “soteriology” too often… :frowning: )Really hearkens back to John Hick’s thoughts about Irenaeus and Irenaean theodicy in Evil and the God of Love though Schneider is more focused on reconciling ‘Darwinism’ with ‘Adam’ in the Bible. As mentioned in the previous thread,[Theodicy:“Augustinians are from Mars, Irenaeans from Venus”), I think Tom Talbott’s theodicy is very Irenaean and would fit in well with Schneider’s idea of “Irenaean Adam”.

Thanks for posting this article, Alex. If I’m not mistaken, I think this was written by the John Schneider who got in trouble for saying stuff like this at Calvin College, right? He’s definitely got a great grasp of the major problems that evolutionary theory raises for traditional Western Augustinian theology: evolutionary suffering, the implications of evolution for original sin, etc. He probably could’ve provided stronger arguments for his position and fuller responses to his opponents, but, hey, it’s just an article. And if you’re going to provide a solid case for overturning (or at least heavily revising) one of the foundational doctrines of Western Christianity, you’ll probably need at least a book, if not a whole series!

That being said, I think he’s right that something like a (supralapsarian) Irenaean account of human origins is probably the best way to go in light of modern evolutionary science. Still, there are significant questions that remain, mainly relating to the existence of natural evils and God’s omnipotence and goodness. But, hey, the Augustinians have a 1600 year head-start, so I suppose one can’t expect all the kinks in an Irenaean account to be immediately hammered out.

As a side note, despite his perhaps questionable interpretation of the “gnosticism” of his day, Irenaeus definitely is in the running for my list of funniest theologians (not that it’s a particularly large group). See this quote from Against Heresies I.11 in which Irenaeus pokes fun at the “gnostic” Valentinus’ supposed propensity for positing a whole bunch of lesser deities in his cosmological schema:

It’s like a really, really heretical version of Veggie Tales! :mrgreen:

That’s a great quote, arlenite. I didn’t think much of the article nor the grid-lock position they imagine evolutionary science to dominate. Apparently evolutionists have an arm-bar on the church and they are waiting for us to tap-out.

I don’t think Irenaeus can be called upon to save the church from the incompatibility of Augustine and evolution. I was horrified that Irenaeus would be used as a mascot for this purpose (I am a creationist). Nevertheless, the melon cosmology was worthwhile.

What a great quote, arlenite! :laughing:

I did think it was interesting to see at the top of the page “Professor Emeritus of Theology, Calvin College” and then read the article… :smiley:

Love the quote :laughing:

I can definitely sympathize with your position, Stefcui. No doubt that contemporary scientists can drastically overplay the reach and settledness of their conclusions and miss the fact that they drift oftentimes into metaphysics (cough Dawkins cough :unamused: ). And when those scientific conclusions call into question a lot of the central and structurally-important points of a traditional theology, I get why one would simply side with the traditional interpretation of revelation and expect science to work itself out eventually. That being said, I imagine we’ve just got different methodological approaches, so reconsidering even central theological categories like the “Fall” and “original sin” isn’t overly worrying to me (though it is important if needed!). But, I totally get that scientific discoveries in the last couple hundred years are challenging doctrines far more central to traditional faith than whether or not the Bible says the earth is really, say, at the center of the universe or whatever. The stakes are definitely higher.

If you don’t mind my asking: are you an old earth or young earth creationist or something else? I’ve got to say that the young earth position seems pretty incredible to me, since, as I understand it, it requires basically every scientific field to be fundamentally incorrect: astronomy, biology, physics, geology, etc. That’s not to say it’s not possible, but I think it probably should nudge even theologically conservative folks to at least begin to reconsider whether revelation can be interpreted in a different way that isn’t so obviously in disagreement with these pretty productive fields.

As for using Irenaeus as a mascot, he might be overplaying how much he settles, although I think he’s mostly just trying to show that there is a patristic resource that - and I think his interpretation of him is correct here - points towards a different way of reading the Fall, original sin, human origins, etc. As I think I alluded to in my earlier post, I certainly don’t think invoking Irenaeus simply solves all problems, and it very likely raises new ones. Still, I think even Schneider admitted that.

Glad you liked the Irenaeus quote though! Not a bad way to use humor in a theological debate, I think.

Hi arlenite,

You express yourself really well. I am delighted to read what you post. I agree that contemporary scientists “drastically overplay the reach …of their conclusions”. There process of science has very often drifted into metaphysics and imagination “possibilities”; and yet the language to state their opinions are decidedly “scientific”. This is deceptive and confuses the real evidence.

I hold to the patristic version (i.e., Cyprian) of young earth creation. I think that each creation day represents 1000 years each in duration. Many of the geological features on earth were achieved in extreme catastrophic events prior to life being created, and then many catastrophes had continued even during creation. The landscape can be radically changed during a megaflood, as seen by the example of the Scablands megaflood. The earth has been through several of these climatic events which demonstrate radical deposition and canyon formations that we see on earth today. The worldwide planation surface demonstrate an inter-continent megaflood which had carved canyons, created giant planation surfaces, and deposited metasediment mountain ranges (such as the Great Dividing Range outside of my window). Unlike the modern YEC; I do not see that all of our landscape was caused by the Noahic deluge. I think much of the observed formations - particularly sediment - was produced during the thousands of years of catastrophes before life was settled on earth, and during the thousand year “day” in which sea-life was created.

The modern scientific community largely operates on the assumption and hypothesis that evolution and deep-time exist. I don’t think there is any evidence in biology, cosmology, physics, etc, that demands this deep-time hypothesis to be correct. The big bang is widely accepted; but there are also many evolution scientists who refute the big bang. The same refutations exist for Einstein’s cosmology and radiometric dating of rocks. I believe that there are too many assumptions about the modern science paradigm, and these have led to a castle in the clouds syndrome. I personally believe that the ‘creationist’ scientific explanations far better explain the data-set than does the deep time assumption. I am aware I represent the minority. :smiley:

Yes. I agree with the view of Irenaeus over Augustine. Alex (OP) has brought this distinction up before. I very much agree!


Hi arlenite,
I know your last post was to Stef, but wanted to chime in with some other thoughts on the article.

I agree with you here and think John Hick did the same thing with Irenaeus. (I suspect Schneider was strongly influenced by Hick and does give a nod to him in the article but that’s all—I’m thinking there’s more to it than that unless there is a great body of literature discussing Irenaeus’ view of ‘The Fall’ that I’m not aware of— which is actually quite likely. :smiley: ) Hick traced the ‘Irenaean’ theodicy from Hick to….Scleiermacher! (No intervening steps) Hick also admitted that Scleiermacher’s theology wasn’t especially influenced by Irenaeus, just resembled his. I do agree with Schneider’s and Hick’s points regarding problems with the ‘Augustinian Adam’ or ‘Augustinian Theodicy’ and am very sympathetic to both Schneider’s and Hick’s views, but to some extent at least, both are claiming Irenaeus in an attempt to legitimize their views by appealing to a ‘patristic resource’ as you pointed out. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! :wink: )

Thanks for the compliment, Stefcui! I spend so much of my time writing dry, boring academic papers full of dry, boring academic jargon that I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost the ability to communicate with actual human beings. Good to see hope’s not lost yet! :sunglasses:

Thanks for explaining your view of creation. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of that modified young earth creationism. I’ll give you that it at least sounds much more preferable to me than the typical YEC tossed about.

Hi Steve, thanks for bringing up Hick and Schleiermacher! I haven’t gotten around to reading Evil and the God of Love, which is where I imagine he most draws upon Irenaeus, but it’s definitely in my queue. Yeah, if I recall correctly, there’s definitely something like an Irenaean view in Schleiermacher, where humans sort of just inevitably strayed from their “God-consciousness” and all.

Hi arlenite,
By the way, I’ve always loved King of the Hill. Got a kick out of one episode where Arlen played Killeen in football as I’d lived in Killeen a few years before. Dale (your avatar for those not familiar with the show) especially cracks me up. :smiley:

That said, Evil and the God of Love, is a fantastic book! Hick writes so well and makes his points well. Read it when you can and let us know your impression.

All the best,


Hi Steve,

Awesome to find another King of the Hill fan! Yeah, both my wife, who’s from Dallas, and I are mildly obsessed (we might own multiple pieces of drink-ware with Hank Hill’s face on them :confused: ).

I’ll definitely keep y’all in the loop should I dive into some Hick-ey goodness.

Indeed it is.

I agree.

I agree.


Hi all,
Just came across this blog post by Dr Richard Beck from Friday referencing Hick’s Irenaean Theodicy in the setting of the Calvin and Hobbes comic so thought I’d link to it

Thanks for pointing this out to me, Steve. As a massive Calvin and Hobbes fan, i’m going to have to dig through this…and he’s done one on Peanuts too! That’s going to keep me busy :laughing:

I’d like to bump this up - to see if any of you - or others - have had dissenting thoughts in the past couple of years? Or do you more strongly agree with Enns, Hicks et. al.?