Original Sin and Darwinian Evolution: Luis Gonzalez-Carvajal Santabarbara vs the Catechism of the Catholic Church
March 27, 2009 10 Comments
I was reading a book by Luis Gonzalez-Carvajal Santabarbara entitled This is Our Faith: Theology for College Students, translated from the 16th Spanish Edition by Jesus Vazquez (Claretian Publications, Quezon City, 2005). The first chapter on Original Sin made me squirm on my seat.
Gonzalez denies the historicity of Adam and Eve and the transmission of Original Sin to their descendants:
In the first place, considering the modern sense of justice, it seems unacceptable that a sin committed at the dawn of humanind could be inherited by those born a million years later. Divine justice would come off badly if, in effect, we had to share the responsibility for an action that we neither committed nor could have avoided…
Paleontology also poses very serious objections. At which stage of evolution should we place the first couple…. As for their intelligence, why speak at all? After Darwin, it seems impossible to assert that the first humans were more perfect than the present ones.
And the worst of it is that it is also difficult to speak of a “unique” first couple, because predictably the biological unity that evolved was not an individual, but a “community”. Today the monogenetic hypothesishas lost ground to the polygenetic hypothesis. And this poses new problems to the dogma of original sin. If there were more than one original couple, which one had sinned? If mind had, just my bad luck. Otherwise, it’s another person’s….
In the light of new data offered by science, what we should then do is to try to reformulate the dogma of original sin, which has its place in a border zone between theology and human sciences. (pp 2-3)
Being born with “original sin” does not mean that the sin committed y Adam is imputed to us but that the consequences of his sin affect us. We recall the personal guilt cannot be transmitted. (p. 11)
However if redemption could be spread to all without any single person descending physically from Christ the Redeemer, there is no reason to think that the propensity to evil could only be transmitted through physical generation. (p. 11)
As for physical death, we should assume that it would have existed just the same even if original sin had not taken place. Animals also die and they have not sinned. (p. 12)
The message of original sin can be summed up thus: in the world and in our heart a greater amount of evil resides than what we expect, taking into account the ill will of humankind. (p. 13)
Against the theological speculations of Gonzalez, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear that Adam and Eve are really our first parents and they committed the first sin:
The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents. (Art. 390)
What are the consequences of Adam’s Sin for humanity? The Catechism continues:
Following St. Paul, the Church as always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination toward evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul.” Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin. (Art. 403)
How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man.” By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve commited a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed”–a state and not an act. (Art. 404)
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal faulty in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted; it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin–an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persists in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (Art. 405)
Thus, Gonzalez’s theological treatment of Original Sin is not Catholic.