What if there were no Eden?

Suffering and death were in the world before humans sinned. These may be natural evils only, and I don’t like them very much, but there they were, in the world that God created and called “good,” (whatever “good” meant). And then humans came along. Did God create a special place for them? Or did He put them right smack in the middle of evolution with every other creature? It seems to me, humans were placed in an environment in which they could suffer and die even before they sinned. Why? If we are to accept the evolutionary story and not be Biblical literalists–or ignorant, anti-scientific fundamentalists–where is the justice of God?

No they weren’t.

Suffering and death were a result of Adam and Eve’s fall. In the garden of Eden the animals, the tree’s, and the plants did not die, it wasn’t until after they ate from the tree of evil that suffering and death was released into this world.

Before the fall? They were not present.

God did give them a special place, he told them to be caretakers and watch over his garden. If Adam wouldn’t have let Satan, disguised as a 7-headed dragon (or a serpant as used in Genesis), into the garden of Eden, then Eve would not have fallen into sin.

My first thought (as a biology student) is to interpret “you shall surely die” in Genesis as spiritual death: separation from God, possibly for eternity. Not biological or material death.

It is the way of nature to die–cells, plants, animals, and so on are programmed that way. I don’t think that sort of death is particularly terrible, or an evil. It’s just the way of things. Stars go nova, cells undergo apoptosis, and animals get eaten, or go extinct. That doesn’t seem like suffering to me. They live according to their instincts, as God has made them, and that is good.

Humans were made in the image of God and given a rational, immortal soul. “Eden”, as it were, describes their spiritual state–perfect communion with God, without sin. That gift was far beyond just–borne out of love, and given freely. After all . . . we don’t need to exist. We’re made for His pleasure. What’s unfair about that? :slight_smile:

“The harm that has been done to souls, during the centuries of Christianity, first by the literal interpretation of the story of Adam, and then by the confusion of this myth, treated as history, with later speculations, principally Augustinian, about original sin, will never be adequately told. In asking the faithful to confess belief in this mythico-speculative mass and to accept it as a self-sufficient explanation, the theologians have unduly required a sacrificium intellectus where what was needed was to awaken believers to a symbolic superintelligence of their actual condition.” -Paul Ricoeur, “The Symbolism of Evil.”

Why are you posting the opinions of a heretic to back up your mistaken premise Jeanette you should know as Catholics his words carry no weight with us. Ricoeur is wrong.

The harm that has been done to souls by “Respected” intellectuals like Mr. Ricoeur is incalculable! Satan’s greatest tool is simply to plant the seed of doubt and then watch it grow in people’s souls.

All I am saying is that Catholic Doctrine needs to take into account the natural history of the world. Saying that the account in Genesis is mythological and not literal is not heretical. In fact, there is nothing heretical in my quote.

I want to see how science and theology mixes. Apparently this thread is not for the faint of heart. I want to talk to more biology students. Dinosaurs anyone?

I don’t think the Catholic Church denies the Scientific theory of the natural history of the world. The account that God created the world in 6 days may or may not be literal. We are free to accept either one of these beliefs.

And if you choose to accept evolution as the Church allows? Then what?

Dinosaurs are over in Apologetics. “Why did God create dinosaurs” Great fun in that thread. At least I am having a good time there.:wink:

May I suggest a “divide and conquer” approach to your comment – Saying that the account in Genesis is mythological and not literal is not heretical.

My goodness.:confused:
Do you realize how many words are in the whole of Genesis?

Can one assume that you are talking about the inhabitants of Eden? Who are dressed funny?

Note: Whenever I approach biological science regarding human nature, I look in the mirror before opening a book. Then I read actual research papers.


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I heard a wonderful lecture by Br. Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory this past week on that very topic (he was on the committee that demoted Pluto as a planet:)). I definitely recommend his books, if you’re interested in this.

So - - - -
What did he say about Adam and Eve being real according to the* Catechism of the Catholic Church*?


:bighanky: Can’t help it. I still feel bad about dear sweet Pluto.

Oh, don’t feel bad about Pluto–it’s a “dwarf” now, part of a whole new class of celestial objects. It’s not banished. :wink:

He didn’t mention Adam and Eve specifically, but he did have a lot to say about the relationship between faith and reason, and theology and science. The point I liked the most was that it takes faith to pursue science–faith that something exists outside ourselves, and that we can know it, and faith that the universe has order and rationality that we can begin to comprehend. :slight_smile:

I totally agree that it takes faith to pursue science–faith that something exists *outside *ourselves, and that we can know it,

By all means, the realm of science is that of the material and physical world. But that does not automatically eliminate the immaterial or spiritual realm from inquiry as if it were non-existent. Ah, one says. The immaterial cannot be put under a natural science microscope. True. But that does not exclude the reality of spiritual existence which can be known by the tools of reason, self reflection, logical evaluation, and analytical thought.

These tools belong to us as human beings because we descended from two sole parents whose nature possessed them.


Isaiah 55

To me, the more I learn from science, the more I believe that there is a God who created all of this. Such order does not spring from chaos.

Animals by nature are mortal; thus they would naturally decompose. On the other hand, as long as the two first parents of the human species “remained in the Divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.” ([FONT=Arial]Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 355-356; 374-379) [/FONT]

When the first human scorned his Creator, the effects of this original sin were devastating. (CCC 396-421) We know, through Divine Revelation, the consequences for the descendents of Adam and Eve. “Death makes its entrance into human history.” (CCC 400) While the Catechism is very clear in regard to the human species, it portrays the consequences for creation in broad strokes without giving the details we long for.

Being human, with the tools of reason, self reflection, logical evaluation, and analytical thought, we seek knowledge about all of creation and, more importantly, we want to know our Creator. When it comes to sadness and happiness, we understand ourselves because we have a spiritual soul with powers of intellect and will. The question is – how do we determine the extent of sadness and happiness in mortal animals which are both instinctive and sentient? If we were like animals, only mortal without an immortal soul, how would we describe how we feel? This is a true “Catch 22” as in the novel.

The key is that Catholics need to study Catholicism in order to distinguish what is symbolic language in Genesis and what is actual reality. [FONT=Arial]For those interested in Catholic teaching, this is a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm


Isaiah 55

It is not quite true that science deals only with the material, physical world. What about energy? Energy is not material. What about dark energy and dark matter. What about other dimensions? We cannot see or touch those things or notions, but scientists deal with them, although they can yet give no material evidence for their existence.

Isn’t energy part of physical? My dictionary says for physical “3. Of or relating to matter and energy or the sciences dealing with them, esp. physics.” The definition for physical science is “Any of the sciences, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, and geology, that analyze the nature and properties of energy and nonliving matter.”

Your point about energy was why I was advised to use the phrase “the realm of science is that of the material and physical world.”


Spring is a message of hope sent by God.

I fully agree with you. Bible cannot be treated as a textbook or an operation manual. Unfortunately there are lots of people, who treat it as such. Why is Bible still up-to-date, although it is 3,000 years old? Because it is not a scientific book. Had it been a scientific book, it would have long been outdated and forgotten.

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