What if "the Fall" is allegory?


#1

I know there are scientific theories and theology that speak to this topic (whether we came from two people or a group, whether Adam and Eve were literal or not, how sin came into the world, etc.) but I’m not trying to decide what is true regarding Genesis, so please don’t try to prove one way or the other.

What I want to know is how can the need for a savior be reconciled with the hypothetical idea that Adam and Eve didn’t exist. How could Christianity go on? If there was no Fall then why would Jesus - the Son of God - have to die for us? What would be the point of a “Savior”?

Thoughts?


#2

It wouldn’t matter, since original sin is the one Catholic dogma instantly verifiable from looking at a newspaper or walking down the street.


#3

It’s not!

Don’t listen to scientists when it comes to your Faith!


#4

Don’t be too hasty…Let’s look at what the Catechism says regarding the senses of Sacred Scripture…if it were (and I’m playing Devil’s advocate) an allegory, it wouldn’t make a difference, in that there are two senses of scripture; literal and spiritual. Spiritual includes the allegorical sense, but, in this case, more important would be the moral and anagogical sense, and the anagogical sense of this allegory would lead us to understanding the salvation plan of God.


#5

Well, if it is hard to believe in the Fall today, given our reliance on empiricism, it would be really, really, hard to say that a man rose from death, was taken up to heaven, and is God, is the Son of God.
I would think you would have to call Jesus an allegory before you did so with Adam and Eve.

All Scripture does have an allegorical sense in addition to its literal sense, plus a moral sense and an anagogical sense, but allegory does not (necessarily) mean the literal is not real.

I approach it from the standpoint of believing the revelation delivered to me through the Sacred Tradition, believing in the people who are telling me.
There is a confidence or certainty within me that one day, somehow, I will understand how it can be real and still know all that science knows today.


#6

For me, and I would hope for most Catholics, it does not matter one bit whether the events described in Genesis 3 literally occurred. In fact, I am pretty sure they did not, and that the story is allegorical. That has no impact whatsoever on my faith. The world is clearly in need of being saved. It is of no moment to me how it got that way, only that there is a way to move the other direction.


#7

The really fast way to determine if “the Fall” is an allegory of something, is to use the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, starting with paragraph 374, page 95, IV Man in Paradise.

usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm


#8

If you believe that the Fall is allegorical, then you would have to believe that Creation was never perfectly sinless and happy and beautiful and good, and that humanity, and men and women, were never sinless and “very good.” Therefore you disbelieve in the existence of intrinsic human dignity. Also, you would have to believe in an incompetent Creator Who does not create perfectly.

You would also have to believe that Jesus Christ lied straight out when He said that “From the beginning” marriage meant a man and a woman becoming one flesh, and that Jewish divorce was not something allowed by Moses only to appease the hardness of hearts.

If you don’t believe in Adam and Eve as the parents of all humankind, you open the door to racism and thinking that some humans are genetically inferior to others.

It goes on and on. You can believe that certain things in the Creation stories are allegorical or poetic, but the basic concepts (Creation started out perfect, all humans are descended from two human parents, humans sinned by the deception of the devil and their own choice and brought sin and death into the world, marriage between men and women was created by God, etc.) must be believed, or you end up believing some very creepy things.


#9

:thumbsup:

This is one reason why I became a Catholic. There is no argument between faith and reason.

I don’t know if these stories are literal or allegorical. It is not the least bit of an issue with me at all. Personally I think of them as “truth” in poetry. The truth of our relationship with God is a reality that no words are able to explain. It is only the beauty of poetry that this can be expressed.


#10

It happened!

Don’t listen to scientists!

Luke 3:38 son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.


#11

How would a scientific theory disprove the religious (and historical) fact of the fall? There is no way to do so. Even if you try and claim polygenism (AFAIK, something not officially condemned by the Church, but AFAIK we are also to, for the time being, reject it), it would do nothing to the doctrine of the fall or original sin being passed from Adam/Eve to everyone else.

Christianity doesn’t rely on science, or lack thereof. Don’t worry about that. Ground your faith on something firm, in Jesus Christ!

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/youth/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20100806_youth_en.html


#12

Don’t listen to scientists that try to claim science disproves the fall.

If you mean otherwise, say goodbye to medicine, technology, economic growth, etc. :wink:


#13

Don’t listen to scientists that try to claim science disproves the fall.

If you mean otherwise, say goodbye to medicine, technology, economic growth, etc

Thank you. I was worried nobody else was thinking that.


#14

We know that at the beginning of human history there was an original sin committed by Adam and Eve that is passed down to the rest of us. That’s not negotiable. :shrug:


#15

You’re missing the question…OP asked about the fall, not the whether humanity can be traced back to the first couple created by God.

The Church teaches that the exact details of creation as presented in scripture can be viewed as a myth, but the existence of a first man and a first woman is fact.

So, I’m not sure what scientists or Luke 3:38 has to do with the thread.:shrug:


#16

I don’t see how believing Genesis 3 is allegorical results in any of this. How do you explain the millions and millions of Christians, including millions of Catholics, that believe Genesis 3 is allegorical without losing their faith? I manage it without rejecting human dignity, believing Jesus is a liar, or turning into a racist. So do most Christians I know.


#17

May I respectfully clarify the current meaning of polygenism. It refers to a breeding population of hundreds to thousands of first human beings which followed the Homo/Pan divergence. Common sense should recognize that the Fall aka one Original Sin could only have been committed by one Original Human according to Catholic doctrines. This is the point where certain scientific theories directly challenge authentic Catholicism.

Unfortunately for those who wish to update Divine Revelation, polygenism was formally denied by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22 and Romans 5: 12. There has not been one major Ecumenical Church Council which overturned St. Paul’s teaching of one Fall and one responsible Person. Pardon me, but I don’t really think that the thousands of years since St. Paul can be considered as “for the time being” and then Original Sin will be re-written to fit someone’s personal preference for the scientific population (polygenism) proposal.


#18

It has never been outright condemned, but it doesn’t seem extremely certain either.

OTOH, here is a starting point which makes it seem that there is a way in which polygenism could be reconciled with the Faith. ewtn.com/library/Theology/SINEVOL.HTM


#19

Wow. I really feel like my question has not been addressed at all. And as a side tangent - all those people telling me NOT to listen to scientist… WOW. I’m seriously speechless. This kind of thinking is what pushes me AWAY from the faith. If you think that you’re helping by asking someone to ignore science then let me set the record straight right now, right here. YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME. You are making me think that asking tough questions is not encouraged, that the faith will never actually stand up to such scrutiny, that I must blind myself to facts in order to remain Catholic. It makes me wonder if you’re an atheist pretending to be Catholic to make Catholics look bad by saying things like that. (The sad thing is that there were several such comments so I’m not speaking to one specific person here, just in general.)

Now back to my original question. Hypothetically, IF the Fall did not literally happen, more specifically, if sin wasn’t literally introduced into the world via one person (Adam), how does that effect the theology surrounding Christ’s death? Someone mentioned that it is obvious that we need a savior just by looking around, in newspapers and such. I get that point of view, and it’s at least an actual attempt to answer my question, but what I want to know is what about Christ’s death? Why was his DEATH necessary to save us if - hypothetically - there was no Fall? How does Substitutionary Atonement fit into the picture? What would be some logical explanation for the necessity of his death if Original Sin isn’t exactly as we understand it today? I was just curious if anyone had any good thoughts on this…


#20

That might be due to the fact that, apparently, your phrasing is kind of sloppy…

Now back to my original question. Hypothetically, IF the Fall did not literally happen, more specifically, if sin wasn’t literally introduced into the world via one person (Adam),

Here’s the thing: if the story of the Fall is allegorical, that does not imply that “sin wasn’t literally introduced into the world via one person.” It simply means that the story that is used as the vehicle for the truth (i.e., the truth that sin was introduced into the world via one person) is not a story that’s based in historical fact. Your confusion seems to be that, if the story isn’t historical, then the allegorical meaning is somehow disproven. That doesn’t hold up. Let me use an example to illustrate what I’m saying:

Some have suggested that Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is an allegory for the experience of World War II. (Tolkien himself replied that it is no such thing, but that’s immaterial for the sake of the argument I’m making here: let’s suppose, for the sake of the argument, that it is an allegory for World War II.) Your question seems to be presupposing that, if someone were to prove that there were never any such things as Sauron, Saruman, Gondor, elves, and hobbits, then that would demonstrate that the meaning behind the allegory – that is, the experience of World War II – is likewise disproven. Can you see that this makes no sense?

However, the question that does make sense – and which I’m hoping you’re trying to ask – deals with the question of a first human. The (somewhat more reasonable) question you might ask is “what if there was never one solitary first human, such that this first human was the source of original sin?” Now that would be an interesting question to ask!

Yet, you seem to be pointing to this question as if it were a natural outgrowth of scientific discovery. And, as it turns out, this isn’t a question that science is able to answer. Don’t get me wrong – science may certainly be able to posit that there was never a scenario in which there was only a single hominid (or a single breeding pair of hominids), but that’s not the question you’re asking, now is it? Since the definition of a ‘human being’ in a theological context is ‘an ensouled human person’, and since there is no way for science to quantify or identify a soul, then there’s no way that science can point to a specific instant in time and say, “see! there are hundreds or thousands of ensouled humans here at this time, not just one or two!” (Science could certainly make that claim about hominids, but not about ensouled humans.)

Might a person posit, then, that among the thousands of hominids in an initial breeding population, God only ensouled two (who, in the story of Genesis, are named ‘Of The Red Earth’ (i.e., ‘Adam’) and ‘Mother of All the Living’ (i.e., ‘Eve’))? Yes, it is possible to posit that! Does that suggestion imply polygenism? Nope… polygenism requires multiple ensouled humans.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not asserting that this is doctrinal Church teaching; I’m just saying that it’s a possibility, logically speaking. And, if it’s a possibility, then one cannot rule out the (allegorical) truth of the Fall. And therefore, no – it’s not possible that a scientific assertion about a small breeding population of hominids can derail our theological statements about Original Sin, the need for Christ’s death, or substitutionary atonement. :wink:

In other words, strictly speaking there’s no need to address your question, since it makes a presumption that isn’t valid. (If you had asked, “if pigs had wings, could they fly to the moon?”, then what I’m saying here is that, since pigs don’t have wings, then it’s not necessary (or even possible!) to discuss the possibility of swine-o-nauts… :wink: )


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.