Mustn't Adam be one literal man?


Hello Tom; Good to have you back in the mix with us again and hope all is well with you.

My question for you treads (as some of them tend to do) near that realm where knowledge is uncertain and about which the bible is, or so it might appear, rather silent. If you have touched on your solutions to these problems elsewhere, please direct me there.

My question revolves around the nature and manner of our human origins, around our arrival at sentience and morality, and the problem of knowing how “advanced” the human life-form must be to be deemed (by God) worth “saving”. I find the ideas of Darwimian Evolution (DE) and Evangelical Universalism pose major problems for each other. In sum, I find the idea of human creation via Darwinian Evolution to be a real threat to the concept of Universal Reconciliation.

Given Paul’s straightforward description of the act of one man, Adam, bringing death being countered with the saving act of another Man, Christ, that alone seems to doom (doesn’t it?) typical formulations of Darwinian Evolution for an Evangelical Universalist. If the “one man” was in reality something more like a “population” of some thousands perhaps, what might that say of the One man – Christ? (perhaps a “population” of Christ’s??)

Further, if this one man’s act carries such severe consequences (death) that must mean that this man had arrived, via DE, at the “tipping point” of sentience and moral awareness wherein responsibility for his action was now the new reality. If this approximates how it all came to be, a host of problems follow:

– how could 1 mere generation mark such an enormous transition from no moral responsibility to FULL responsibility? (so full it necessitated the story of redemption) I think we all agree that EU requires some notion of full moral responsibility for our own actions. (While there may be hints in the bible that there are gradations of moral responsibility, it seems clear that the overwhelming biblical stance is full responsibility for our own moral choices.)

– by what rational is it logical, reasonable, or fair (maybe too vague a word) to expect full moral awareness and responsibility from a being “created” in a mileau of instinct, selfishness, and absence of sentience? (This may be unfair of me to suggest, and I certainly wait to be corrected on this, but it seems to me the RCC tries to take a shortcut in this discussion and simply says that the creation act of Genesis was the act of God instilling in this one man, Adam, the human “soul” and it was only at this point that creation of man was now “good”…)

– if the storylines of creation via DE are true, it seems there must be a point where the evolving morally aware man is dispensable to the overarching “goal” of creation. (so, untold gillions of versions who didn’t quite reach the goal) This worries me because what if the “lost” merely represent those human life forms who simply are also dispensable in the grand creation scheme and thus not “worth” saving by God? Thus those who reject God (surely an irrational act) may be doing so because they are simply inferior life forms and it was never God’s intent to save these formative steps in the first place.

– you already know I have trouble envisioning a loving God whose free and extensive use of violence to accomplish His purposes makes it perfectly acceptable (so it seems to follow) for His creation to behave in similar ways being seriously contradicted by the life of Christ who seems to me a pillar of nonviolence. And creation via DE is nothing if not extremely violent and harsh.

Anyway Tom, I hope you see my dilemma in all this and can help me formulate a productive way through these issues from your own perspective.

aka Bobx3

Open Theism and the Origin of Sin
Did Jesus have a free will?
Bible verses to show we confirm Adam's sin by ours?

I’m not sure when Tom will get around to addressing this–hopefully soon.

But I’ll be addressing all these topics, several hundred pages from now, in the BSM/SttH series.

(You can read an earlier draft of much (though not all) the material addressing these issues, starting around here, if you like. :slight_smile: It begins with a summary of what I’ve been doing in this Section of chapters up to now–keeping in mind I wrote three other Sections before starting #4! The BSM entries are currently not quite halfway though SecOne, for proportional comparison. :laughing: )


Hi Bob,

Your questions touch upon so many complicated issues that it would take several volumes to cover them all. But anyway, I have more than a slight suspicion that our human origins are far more mysterious and wondrous than either the standard Darwinian theory or the standard interpretation of the Genesis account might lead one to believe. I also believe that the standard interpretation of the fall, owing as it does to Augustine’s misinterpretations, has it all wrong. For as I see it anyway, St Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons between roughly 177 and 202 A.D., had a much more profound interpretation of the Adam and Eve story than Augustine did, and the Irenaean interpretation has the added advantage of being easier to harmonize with an evolutionary theory of some kind. In particular, Irenaeus explicitly denied that the story of the first human sin was the story of a fall from a higher morally mature state to a lower one.

I address some of these issues, though by no means all of them, in a recent paper, entitled "Why Christians Should Not Be Determinists: Reflections on the Origin of Human Sin, that appeared in Faith and Philosophy, July, 2008. So, to save time, I’m going to reproduce (sans footnote references) a section of that paper that explains how Irenaeus’ understanding differed from that of Augustine. But see the entire paper for context and for the footnote references. You can get access to a typescript copy on my website at the following URL:
Anyway, here is the section in which I discuss Iranaeus:

Augustine verses Irenaeus on Original Sin

As Iranaeus understood it, Adam’s initial sin arose in the first place for just this reason: Like every other child, he first emerged and began making choices in a morally immature state. Iranaeus even went so far as to suggest that, when compared to the guardians of this world, namely the angels, Adam had a distinct disadvantage. For whereas the angels “were in their full development,” Adam “was a little one; … he was a child and had need to grow so as to come to his full perfection.” The serpent, Iranaeus declared, thus had little trouble in deceiving him: “the man was a little one, and his discretion still undeveloped, wherefore also he was easily misled by the deceiver” (my emphasis). As Iranaeus understood the first human sin, then, it was virtually an inevitable consequence of the unperfected condition in which our first parents initially emerged and started making choices. They may have started out as innocently as any other child–“their thoughts were innocent and childlike”–but, like every other child, they made their first moral choices in a context of ambiguity, ignorance, and misperception, a context in which their judgment was already clouded and they had no clear idea of what they were doing. Their decision to eat the forbidden fruit, in other words, was no more a perfectly free choice, however causally undetermined it may have been, than the disobedient choices of a typical two year old are perfectly free.

Observe also how well this understanding of the first human sin comports with both the actual story of Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis, and the New Testament commentary on it. So far as I can tell, not one word in the Christian Scriptures implies that our first parents were any less disposed to act in misguided and self-centered ways than their merely human descendants are; nor does anything there imply that someone not already in a “fallen” (or, more accurately, an unperfected) condition might nonetheless succumb to temptation and sin. Were not Adam and Eve subject to the same ambiguities, the same ignorance, and even the same delusions to which the rest of us are subject as well? Like the rest of us who enter this earthly life as newborn babies, they came into being with no clear understanding of good and evil. So what could it possibly mean, I would ask, to say that someone with no clear understanding of good and evil was nonetheless created morally upright? And what might it mean to say that such a person had a clear understanding of who God is, or to declare, as the Canons of Dort do, that Adam had “a true and saving knowledge of his Creator”? In the Genesis account, Adam and Eve certainly knew that some authority (a kind of parental figure, if you will) had commanded them not to eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden; but like the children they were in all but appearance, they also confronted this command without any understanding of why they were required to obey it or why the command had been issued in the first place. It is as if God had simply told them, as loving parents sometimes do with immature children and in an effort to protect them from danger: “You must obey this command because I said so!” And like the children they were in all but appearance, their eyes were opened to their own imperfections or sinful propensities (the symbol for which in the story is their nakedness) only after their emerging wills had already mired them in an act of disobedience. It therefore seems to me quite plausible for a Christian to think of this story not as an account of how human beings came to acquire a “sinful nature” in the first place, but rather as an account of how our first parents’ natural propensity to “miss the mark” originally manifested itself in the context of ambiguity and illusion in which they first emerged.

Certainly the idea that Adam and Eve came into being with the same imperfections and egocentric dispositions common to human beings in general is no more philosophically problematic than the idea that an inherited sinful nature was God’s supposedly just punishment of the human race as a whole for the sin of Adam and Eve. The idea that all humans beings, including Adam and Eve, begin life with the same imperfections and egocentric dispositions also seems to accord very well with Paul’s magnificent vision of creation in two stages. As I have expressed this vision elsewhere:

Paul also made the following statement: “As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust,” and this at least suggests that Adam and his descendants (“those who are of the dust”) all come into being in the same context of ambiguity, ignorance, and misperception and with similar dispositions and propensities. The Psalmist thus declared that the Lord “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Why not? Because “he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.”

In any event, I find this vision of creation in two stages exceedingly suggestive. God must first bring us into being as immature rational agents; then, once we are independent of God’s direct causal control and our incipient rationality begins functioning on its own, God can relate to us not merely as the Creator who designed us and certainly not as a manipulative agent who controls all of our desires, beliefs, and judgments, but as a loving parent who works with us, guides us, and corrects us even as he permits us to learn valuable lessons from experience and from the consequences of our actions.

I have no doubt that the above paragraphs will raise more questions in the minds of many than they answer. But they nonetheless represent a first step in the direction of addressing at least a few of your questions, and I thank you for them.



I felt challenged by many studies in population genetics that indicate that humans and most mammalian species haven’t had population size bottlenecks of less than 10,000 within the last few million years. I carefully sifted the studies while taking some graduate courses in molecular anthropology. I concluded that these studies represented genuine natural revelation. And since there’s a lot of internal evidence within Ge 1-3 that suggests a non-literal interpretation of Ge 1-3, I outlined a theory of the fall of humanity that included a population size of no less than 10,000 humans. If I may, here is my approach (


Jim, do you have an outline of some kind of the internal evidence for a non-literal interpretation of Gen 1-3 that you could point me to? I’m very interested in that, since I’ve suspected as much for some time. If Gen 1-3 are non-literal, how would you say the interpretation should be characterized; allegorical or metaphorical perhaps?


I show two major examples of deliberate internal inconsistency in the article linked to my last post in this thread. Here is a copy and paste of two paragraphs that describe these two inconsistencies:

*A literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 that fails to recognize the purpose of the literary devices has problems. For example, in 419, Augustine published City of God while noting some problems with a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Augustine said that a literal interpretation might struggle with an internal inconsistency by claiming that there was a literal day and night during the first three days of creation (Gen 1:1-13) despite the verses that say God created the sun and the other stars during the fourth day (Gen 1:14-19). And in the context of the geological record and animal phylogeny, a literal interpretation might insist that the origin of sea mammals and birds (Gen 1:20-23) preceded the origin of all land amniotes (Gen 1:24-25). We affirm that Genesis 1 describes six solar days and nights, but as noted by Meredith Kline, these days are a literary framework that teaches about topics instead of chronology.

Kline also notes that a traditional literal interpretation of Genesis 1 causes conflict by pitting Scripture versus Scripture. He explains that Genesis 2:5 teaches that God did not form vegetation until there was a natural means to preserve the vegetation. For example, Genesis 2:5 says that there was no vegetation until there was a water supply that could preserve the vegetation. And this conflicts with a literal interpretation of the third day in Genesis 1:9-13 that implies that God formed vegetation before the formation of the sun, which would literally mean that a source of light and heat other than the sun had preserved the original vegetation.

M.G. Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48 (1996), 2-15.*


Just for clarification, did you mean Genesis 1 verse 3 or Genesis, chapters 1-3?


I’m sorry, but I didn’t use either. I’ll interpret a couple of examples. “Genesis 1” means “Genesis chapter 1”. And “Genesis 1-11” means “Genesis chapter 1 to chapter 11”. And “Genesis 1:1-13” means “Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 to verse 13”. I hope this is clear.


Okay, I suppose that you were referring to my first post in this thread, which refers to Genesis chapters 1 to 3.


Hi Tom:

I certainly admire and appreciate your bravery in attempting to tackle such a vague and broad question! Thanks…

It helps provide at least a tiny window into how future answers might “evolve”. But, as you suggest, raises yet more questions. As for the answer to my titles question (Mustn’t Adam be One literal man??) I’m hearing “maybe not”. This is, of course, but the beginning of the troubles! (and the journey!)

My sense is that the position of Iraneus creates more problems than it solves; yes, I’ve long been sympathetic to the notion that Adam and Eve simply had no chance against the vastly superior cunning of the serpent – which only begs for the question of why God would allow such an “uneven” playing field. If we are not tempted beyond that which we can endure (wow – what a loaded idea!) why did God allow this? Further, there grows the troubling notion that a sentient mind simply cannot grow into what God intended it to be without first participating in evil and the “anti-God” path. That’s problematic for me since the entire bible seems full of intimations that early man failed – and need not have; that our redemption is a return to a state which our own actions negated.

Then too the problem that Genesis declares this assemblage of atoms into God’s creation “good” at several steps along the way. And, on creating man on “day 6” declared it very good. Is the word “good” here to be rendered incoherent, perhaps like the word “love” is rendered incoherent when it allows and embraces a God who tortures in hell forever?? (ie ECT is God’s “love” revealed… a belief held by many) While not a problem for many, I can’t avoid it. Can one really “evolve” toward a Godly “goodness”? – or are these sorts of things revealed only by the Father Himself? eg Matt 16:17 (However THAT works…)

If one is able to take nothing else away from Genesis, it surely must be this; that God is involved in creation, and involved with not only purpose, but with personal purpose. (eg I knew you in the womb – and so on…) Which is explicitly denied by classic Darwinism – which knows neither purpose, nor personality, nor planning, nor goals, nor destinations. That’s a big roadblock for me. Seems science neither sees, nor assumes, a need to reconcile itself with biblical ideas like this; which means it is for the bible believer to do all the reconciling “work”. How this all plays out is fascinating to ponder. I’m not sure at all about my inner instinct to resist this pressure to meld my religion with science. But resist I do!

I will read the entire essay you shared and I thank you for it.

Thanks ever so much for engaging my question Dr Tom; I’m in this God quest for the long haul and I count it a privilege to have access to your wisdom along the way…

aka TotalVictory

PS – very much appreciated your essay on this topic Jim. I recommend it to anyone. (Though of course it too raises more questions…. Good work!)



Loved the paper. A few small squabbles here and there, but nothing worth mentioning. Good stuff.

I don’t know if you’ve read any of Greg Boyd’s Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy stuff but he’s argued the same point—viz., that love (in the case of creatures) requires freedom, freedom entails risk, risk is proportionate to…etc. He has six theses he works through in Satan and the Problem of Evil. There just is no getting created, rational creatures into solidified loving relationships without their choosing their way into such a state. Some aren’t comfortable with the notion of God taking risks, I understand. But there you have it. I think Greg references Titian in supporting the distinction between love in God’s case (i.e., the case of necessary being) and our case (contingent being). The metaphysical price-tag to pay, if God wants contingent, rational beings with whom relates personally in love, is endowing those creatures with a measure of “say-so” in determining themselves with respect to such love.

Technically one can argue that sin’s interruption is unnecessary. I’m inclined to say this since I favor the Eastern Orthodox view of evil as “privation.” But at the same time I think given the circumstances, God knew that eventually humankind would screw themselves up and here we’d be. But he foreknows this is the sense that he knows (moral) evil will interrupt his goals for creation, as a nuisance of sorts, not in the sense that such evil is necessary to the good he’s designed for us.

I also like the emphasis in your paper on the necessary ignorance that makes it possible for creaturely becoming with respect to love. I prefer “epistemic distance.” Says the same thing. God suffers from zero epistemic distance (between his apprehending reality and the truth about reality). But human beings (and angels too, but that’s another conversation) have to ‘become’, i.e., have to achieve the fulfillment of their ‘telos’ through choice, and THAT (my view is) requires a certain epistemic distance that makes it possible for us to deliberate with respect right and wrong (something I don’t think God does). So part of the metaphysical price-tag you talk about is the “space” God has to give us so we can become what he wants. He can’t overwhelm us with truth (close the epistemic gap) so to speak and also endow us with the necessary “say-so” to determine ourselves. There’s a lot the Orthodox have contributed to this sort of conversation (the notion of the ‘logoi’ of created entities, etc.), but I’m babbling now.



Hello again, Bob. You wrote:

I address some of these questions in a previous section entitled “Indeterminism, Separation, and the Mystery of Created Personhood.” Let me know what you think.

Thanks for your response.



Mustn’t Adam be one literal man??

Technically yes, otherwise, we make Christ a figure, an archetype, a myth in the comparison.

They tell us the universe and space itself started out as a point. Where did the point come from? Sounds like a thought to me.

Adam was a thought. He had no belly-button. Not born normally. He was an original point. Like Christ, except Christ IS the thought, not the creation of it.

So frankly, I would follow the lead of the physicists. The evolutionists rely on too much fiction. I mean really, if you want to follow their story line - the first human, Adam, was a virus.


Respectfully - please read up on a subject before you make wild pronouncements upon it. These scientists are the same ones who use theories of the natural world (gravity, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics) to supply us all with many things from electricity and machinery to sending space probes billions of miles into space with uncanny accuracy.



see my “landing on the moon video” before you make some wild pronouncement :slight_smile:


Thanks for your comment and for your kind remarks, Tom B. You wrote:

No, I haven’t read Greg Boyd’s work, though I know a lot of Open Theists, as they are sometimes called, who all emphasize the idea that God is a great risk taker. But despite my view that indeterminism plays an essential role in the creation of rational agents, I differ with the Open Theists on the nature and extent of the risks that God is willing to take. For in the end, it seems to me, God takes no risks at all with respect to the most important matters. He does not risk an ultimate disaster in creation, for example; neither does he risk the possibility that some rational agents will freely reject him forever; and neither does he even risk the possibility that some people will be harmed irreparably (where irreparable harm is understood as harm that not even God himself can repair or cancel out.

As I see it, then, God knows from the beginning that he will eventually achieve a complete victory over sin and death. He even has a trump card, I believe, that he can play anytime he wants, namely a face to face revelation of himself, and this would guarantee the salvation of anyone who is rational enough to qualify as as free agent. So why, you may ask, does he not play this trump card sooner rather than later? I address such matters in a chapter of a forthcoming anthology on hell, and I reproduce below (sans footnotes] a few of my concluding paragraphs.

So the upshot, Tom, is that you and I may yet have a few “squabbles,” as you put it, to work through. Feel free to make further comments or to raise further questions.

-Tom T.



It’s more than kind of you to take the time to respond! Thanks. You wrote:

“I differ with the Open Theists on the nature and extent of the risks that God is willing to take. For in the end, it seems to me, God takes no risks at all with respect to the most important matters. He does not risk an ultimate disaster in creation, for example; neither does he risk the possibility that some rational agents will freely reject him forever; and neither does he even risk the possibility that some people will be harmed irreparably (where irreparable harm is understood as harm that not even God himself can repair or cancel out.”

Many open theists (myself included) would agree with you. We’d agree that the risks God takes are limited to the journey between the granting of freedom to become with respect to love (i.e., creation) and the final fulfillment of God’s purposes for all rational creatures (eschaton). Determined goals, open routes, so to speak. The risk of evil and pain are contingencies that plague the journey, but they cannot call into question ULTIMATE ends/goals. I’m with you so far, even as an open theist.

I think our ‘squabbles’ are related to metaphysical beliefs about freedom’s role in creaturely becoming with respect to loving relations. And I suppose that since we both agree that in the end all is won and redeemed, our squabbles are academic! I just think God’s able to achieve the same end without having to depend upon any trump cards. And besides, I don’t wanna give up on you just yet! :wink: In addition, I think supposing God has and can play such a trump card creates insurmountable problems, problems you attempt to address.

I better run for now. But there are a few important comments I’d like to make later about supposing that God ad intra, sans creation, constitutes a “less than desirable” and thus surpassable state of affairs in comparison to “God + creation.” That looks to me like a denial of divine aseity, of God’s essential self-sufficiency.

I’d love to spend some time mulling over it and then get back to you though.



Jeff bows respectfully to Auggy - :wink:


Hey Tom T,

I tend to agree, but I’m wondering how you address wicked angels. If they exist as traditionally conceived, then they once had a face-to-face revelation from God, but nonetheless fell away. How do we deal with that?

best wishes

  • Pat



I have some time now so I thought it be easier to fire off some thoughts now rather than later. Forgive all the typos. Again, I’m very grateful for the chance to engage you.

TomT: Once we have emerged as individual centers of consciousness and rational agents, God can nonetheless transform our perspective, perhaps even instantaneously, in a perfectly rational way; he need only grant us a direct “face to face” encounter with himself, thereby providing compelling evidence for both his existence and the bliss of union with him. By “compelling evidence” I mean (roughly) evidence that both (a) justifies one in believing a given proposition and (b) renders one powerless in the face of this evidence not to believe it.

TomB: An overwhelming face to face encounter can guarantee belief in God’s existence, yes. But how’s that guarantee the loving, obedient response God desires if it’s the case that, for example, demons believe God exists and yet they continue to misrelate? The encounter would have to actually form a belief in the goodness of God and so guarantee a cooperative willing disposition.

TomT: If an alien spaceship should unexpectedly land in full view on the White House lawn, then this would no doubt alter the perspective of many people almost instantaneously and would do so in a perfectly rational way…

TomB: It would. Agreed.

TomT: …and similarly, if Saul of Tarsus (or Paul) really did encounter the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, as Christians believe he did, then it is hardly surprising that such an encounter should likewise have altered his anti-Christian perspective in a perfectly rational way.

TomB: I’ll grant that Paul’s experience was extraordinary, even overwhelming in certain regards. Paul could no longer choose to believe that Christ was not the Messiah. However, it doesn’t follow from this that Paul could not rationally choose to rebel. I think this is where we disagree. The Bible if full of examples of people (and angelic beings) who have rebelled against tremendous revelation and knowledge of God. The question with Paul’s experience, or any experience like this, is just how much of the epistemic distance has God collapsed? It’s hard to say. Surely angelic beings were privy to a display of God’s glory, power, and goodness beyond anything in Paul’s experience, yet they rebelled, responsibly so.

TomT: And that is why, with respect to anyone who is rational enough to qualify as a free moral agent, God always has a trump card to play, namely the revelation of his own being, that guarantees from the outset his ultimate victory over sin and death. Some will no doubt ask at this point: “Well, if God has such a trump card up his sleeve, so to speak, why not play it sooner rather than later?” But I would ask just the opposite question: “If God has a guarantee of ultimate victory, why not play his trump card later—at the moment of each person’s death, if necessary, or even later than that—rather than sooner?”…] Imagine first a world with no created order at all, a world consisting of nothing but an eternal Trinity, where the Father’s extravagant artistic skills and creative powers lie eternally dormant and unexercised, where his infinite grace has no role to play, and where his unbounded capacity to perfect the unperfected and to care for the weak and the helpless has no means of expression. Are we to suppose that such a world, even if possible, would be anything like as desirable from God’s perspective as a world like ours in which everyone has a story to tell, indeed lots of stories, but no one is finally excluded from eternal bliss? For my own part, I find such a supposition utterly implausible.

TomB: So we have to explain why a God of love does not play this trump card from the get-go but instead allows creation to be overrun with evil. And your answer to this, as I understand it, is that some of God’s desired outcomes in fact require evil. There are goods that are achieved in, through, and because of evil as opposed to in spite of evil, so that God creates in order to have redeemed creatures who have stories of redemption to tell. God gets to exercise mercy and grace upon sinners, gets to “repair the harm we do,” and we get to have a variety of stories to tell, stories that only those who have fallen and risen can tell.

In addition, it looks to me as if you’re essentially saying that God sans creation, God all by God’s trinitarian self, is a “less than desirable” state of affairs from God’s own perspective in comparison to God plus creation. Hence, God’s own being sans creation is a surpassable state of affairs. God achieves the complete perfection of his being and capacities only in the determination to create. Thus, creation completes God’s being. I don’t know if this is your view or not. It is that of a growing number of theologians.

I have a different view on divine aseity, one which is by no means classical, but by no means does it suppose that God is motivated to create because he perceives himself as a “less than desirable” state of affairs in comparison to other states of affairs. I don’t buy into divine simplicity, impassibility, immutability, or divine timelessness, for example, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t think of God’s self-sustaining sufficiency in trinitarian terms as the fullness of personal being, as unsurpassable aesthetic satisfaction, as perfect contentment, unimprovable even. But in this case there’s no ‘lack’ in God’s experience of loving relationality per se or even creative expression (that too, within the scope of God’s own creative self-expression vis-à-vis the triune persons) that God determines to create a non-God reality in order to fix or fulfill so that it might be said God achieves his being in the historical process of a sinful and redeemed world. But it sure looks to me, Tom, as if your rationale for why God does not insure a sin-free creation from the get-go—even though he can—presumes this very sort of achievement within the being of God. Help me understand you if this isn’t your point.

TomT: But now try to imagine a world in which God creates billions upon billions of people over time, not one of whom has a real live story to tell, except this: Once a distinct center of consciousness emerges, it is immediately brought into a mystical union with God where it remains forevermore, sort of like someone experiencing an eternal high, perhaps even quivering forever with intense pleasure, but without anything further to do.

TomB: Why suppose that rational creatures transformed to unfailingly believe and love would be like someone stuck in a ‘high’ just quivering with pleasure? I can easily imagine they’d be free to live in the world, farm it, play games, fall in love, ride bikes, read novels, travel, even skin their knees and experience some pain and perhaps even tragedy from natural evil…all without the risk of choosing to misrelate in sin. I submit, Tom, that this is the scenario you need to suppose when asking why God didn’t create a sin-free world from the get-go if he could guarantee desired outcomes by making sure we have knowledge of God sufficient to make sinful misrelation impossible. It sure looks to me that God could have a rich diversity of creative expression from us and unique stories to tell without sin. Healthy families every day enjoy telling and retelling unique stories that are void of any sinful misrelation. After all, what are we really saying about ‘goodness’, ‘love’, and ‘creativity’ if we suppose the beauty of divine creative expression to be incomplete without sin and misrelation? It’s like you imagine sin and evil to be among the colors of the palette that God uses to compose, so that evil ends up contributing positively to the explication of divine beauty. I guess I’ve been reading too much David Hart.

TomT: In such a static world (without meaningful progress) there would be no adventure, no quest for truth, no new discoveries to be made about the wonders of God’s creation, no moral struggles of any kind to be won, and no need for God to repair or to cancel out the harm we have done either to others or to ourselves.

TomB: But it wouldn’t be a static world without meaningful progress. There would be adventure and quest for truth and new discoveries about the wonders of creation. All these would be possible were God to transform our consciousness such that we’d be rendered unfailingly loving.

True, such a world would preclude “moral struggles” and it would mean God would not need to “repair the harm we do.” So the real question is: Why think God wants or needs to actualize these possibilities if everything else is possible without them?

TomT: For it is simply a mistake, as I see it, to view the bliss of union with God as if it were logically separable from the things we do in this earthly life, the things that happen either to us or to our loved ones, and the grace imparted to us over time and in many different contexts. It is no less a mistake to view such bliss as logically separable from the tasks we shall continue to perform as God reveals the riches of his grace through us in future ages (see Ephesians 2:7).

TomB: I totally agree. But all this is possible IF we suppose it’s the case that God can transform our perceptions so as to preclude our choosing to sinfully misrelate. That’s all that needs to be precluded. Grace remains. Grace was active in sustaining and guiding the human Jesus and there was certainly nothing to forgive or repair there.

It looks to me, Tom, as if everything you suggest as a reason for why God did not choose to play the trump card and transform us from the get-go into unfailingly loving beings—viz., diversity of creative expression, a lived experience of adventure, exploring and discovering the wonders of the created order, the quest for truth, dependency upon the sustaining grace of God, et. al.—would in fact be achievable by us were God to so transform us from the get-go. So these can’t also be reasons for why God chose not to so transform us.

The only items missing that you mentioned are our experiencing “moral struggle” and God’s “repairing the harm we do.” And I’m just wondering why we should imagine these are actualities a loving God would want or need to have actualized.

Loving the convo!




I’ve gotten completely away from your question about Adam.