An agnostic asks me four common questions about faith and scripture

One of the things that’s cool about this blog is that I get to connect and dialogue with folks I’d have never met otherwise. I mean, sometimes, that’s annoying. But other times, it’s cool.

This is one of those other times.

I recently received an email from a self-identified agnostic. His name is Chad. He described himself as a former Christian, who left the faith for several reasons, including questions about the Bible and not feeling “different” after becoming born again. I think a lot of us can probably relate.

However, he also said “a scientific curiosity” contributed to his deconversion, and that makes me sad. That’s actually a big reason why I do what I do here on GOE.

It’s one thing if someone rejects the gospel because they reject the gospel. We don’t have any power over that. But it’s something else entirely if someone rejects the gospel because of a non-essential barrier we’ve placed in front of the gospel, and this is certainly the latter.

In a vacuum, “a scientific curiosity” would never be in conflict with the gospel, or even the basics of the Christian faith. It is not the gospel itself, but YEC proponents’ fanatical obsession with promulgating their views, that has helped make conservative evangelical Christianity into a modern-day atheist factory.

Anyway, in the course of our conversation, Chad asked me four questions about scripture and faith, and how I make sense of them as a Christian who accepts evolution. Two of his questions are ones I’ve encountered before, and two of them I get asked pretty much constantly, so I thought it might be helpful to share them with you, along with my answers.

Question 1. My first question deals with the Genesis story of Adam’s fall. If “With Adam’s fall, man sinned all” never happened (because Genesis is just allegorical and not literal), then what’s the need for a savior?

First, let me clarify something. Chad’s question suggests that he thinks I believe the fall of man never happened. That is not the case. I believe Genesis 1-3 is a symbolic account of real events.

Genesis 1 tells the story of how the universe came into being, and I do, in fact, believe that really happened: that is, that the universe came into being. But Genesis 1 is a symbolic account of that event, not a historical one, so if we went to it for historical information we’d come away with the wrong idea.

Same with Genesis 2 and 3. I do believe God revealed himself to early man, and we rejected him, and have reaped consequences for that, but Genesis 2 and 3 do not offer us historical information about how that happened — they tell the story through symbolism and allegory.

It’s like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” That book tells the story of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism and the Soviet Union, but it explains it through the use of mutinous pigs on a small farm. It is very much about real things that had a huge impact on the world, but if you read it as a literal, historical account, you will be, um, a little confused, to say the least.

Chad also asked about the need for a savior, and I want to address that, too, because it comes up all the time. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible, or in traditional Christian theology, that holds that original sin deriving from Adam and Eve’s transgression is the only reason mankind needs a savior.

The reason we need a savior is because of our own personal sin. The book of Romans could not say this more clearly: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Notice it says “all have sinned and fallen short,” not “Adam and Eve sinned and fell short.” You have sinned; I have sinned — that is why we need a savior. Period.

There are many different views of original sin, and not all Christians would agree with mine, but the fact is that, if anything, original sin is an additional strike against us — not the only thing standing between us and heaven.

The sins of our ancestors may indeed be another barrier between us and God (though it’s not my view). But even if you took that out of the equation entirely, it wouldn’t change the fact that we still stand condemned because of the transgressions that we alone are responsible for.

Question 2. If it’s established then that certain portions (Genesis, for example) are not to be taken literally, how is it decided which portions of the bible are to be taken as the “literal,” infallible “word of God?” Is it on a personal basis, or is there some other established set of rules?

I believe the entire Bible is the infallible word of God. “Infallible” and “literal” are not synonyms. I believe the Bible is infallible in all things that it was meant to teach; however, if we interpret from it something literally that was not meant to be taken literally, that’s our fault. Not the Bible’s.

As to how we determine how a particular part of the Bible is meant to be interpreted, well, that’s exactly the right question to ask. And there are, of course, books upon books that can be and have been written on the subject over the past couple thousand years, but there are, I think, a few general rules.

Sometimes, the book identifies its own genre. Psalms and Proverbs do this, as do the gospels. In his chapter 1 introduction, the author of the Gospel of Luke, explicitly describes his own writing and those of the other gospels as straightforward historical accounts, passed on by eyewitnesses.

Genesis does not do this, so we look at contextual clues. In this particular case, the use of repeated poetic language and structure, the internal contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2, the use of obvious devices like magic trees and talking animals, are just a few of the obvious signs that these stories were not meant to convey literal historical events.

Update: Remember how I mentioned some of this questions are rather common? Well, while I was writing this, I had someone else ask, at what point does Genesis “switch” from allegory to history. Here’s what I said:

I don’t believe thinking of it as a “switch” is a particularly helpful way to look at the text. The entire book, like the rest of the Bible, is about telling the story of God, mankind and the relationship between the two, how our sin separated us from him, and what he has done to save us.

Some parts of Genesis contain more historical content than others, and some — I’d argue — contain none at all, like the creation accounts, but the fundamental point of Genesis is the same throughout: to tell the story of God and his people.

Question 3. No one had an iPhone back in the time of Jesus, so they couldn’t record a voice memo while he was giving a sermon. So how is it that we’re supposed to believe that the verses of what he said can be at all accurate? There seems to be a general consensus that the first books of the NT weren’t even written until around 45 A.D. or so, which is more than 10 years after Jesus’s death, yet people get very specific about words chosen/used in certain passages when interpreting scriptures. How would it be possible to accurately record what Jesus said word for word in such circumstances?

At this point, I had to admit that Chad probably wouldn’t like my answer, but it’s really what I believe. I believe that the Bible is inspired by God.

Thing is, he is absolutely right: If we were talking about a book, just written by humans, with no outside help or modern technology, there’s no reason for us to find it particularly trustworthy. On the one hand, there is evidence that people’s memories were better back then (because, you know, they had to be), and we can reasonably presume that these stories were being repeated and shared orally long before they were committed to writing. It’s not like the author of Matthew hadn’t thought about Jesus for decades before he sat down to write his gospel.

But, beyond any of that, I believe there was a supernatural aspect to what was going on here. The Bible says this as well: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

That’s Jesus, talking to his disciples, and assuring them the Holy Spirit would remind them of “everything” he said, after the was gone.

So, while I understand that non-believers aren’t going to find this nugget of doctrine overwhelmingly convincing, it is something that is a central component to our faith, and it is internally consistent.

Question 4. If God is omniscient and knows everything—the beginning and the end, how do you reconcile the paradox that exists with that? In other words, if God knows everything, then he knows every move and choice we will make throughout our lifetime. Therefore, he already knows who will choose to accept him and who won’t. And further to that, if everything is part of God’s plan, then that means every sinner who doesn’t repent was part of it too, doesn’t it? And doesn’t that mean that God created these people knowing that they would burn in hell?

For my part, I think we Christians might make a little too much of the omniscience of God. The fact is, nowhere in the Bible does it say, “God knows every little thing that will happen in the future, down to the tiniest detail.”

The Bible certainly says he knows big things, prophecies and whatnot, it says he numbers our days and prepares good works for us, but these are all things that he is more or less directly responsible for, or at least takes a very active role in.

Whereas, the question of whether or not a person will choose him is a matter of free will. Does God know, in advance, all of the decisions we will make of our own free will? Frankly, I don’t know, and I don’t think the Bible fully speaks to the matter.

I believe God is omniscient, in that he knows everything that can be known. But the question remains, are free will decisions really part of that, or not?

What we do know, is that the Bible says God “desires that all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and he does “not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I believe that these verses are true, which means I do not believe God makes people knowing beyond any doubt that they will go to hell (Romans 9 be damned! Heh). To the contrary, I believe he makes each person in the hope that they will ultimately choose him, be reconciled to him and spend eternity with him.

And that’s that. Now I want to hear from you: Have you encountered questions like this before? If so, how did you answer them? If not, how would you have answered Chad’s?

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at

  • Seth

    How did he respond?

    • At this point, mostly “Thanks for your answers. I appreciate it.” Nothing earth shattering, in others words.

      But he did share some of his spiritual journey. And he gave me permission to excerpt our discussion for this post.

  • Daniel Carroll

    The doctrine in question about original sin is that original sin is physically and spiritually transmitted to descendants of Adam, and that humans are “depraved” or unable and unwilling to embrace God without his grace and enabling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are born with it. The protestant reformers placed a great deal of emphasis on it, but mostly because of the doctrine of depravity, not due to some scientific opinion about origins. Of course, Calvin and Luther weren’t big on free will, either. While it conflicts with evolution and a symbolic reading of Adam, it is not an insurmountable problem. Adam is not really necessary for original sin either theologically or Biblically. Adam ultimately doesn’t answer the heart of the question anyway – the question of why did God allow us to be born with sin? I take original sin as an empirical observation – people are obviously sinful and prone to going against God. Therefore, we need God’s intervention. That’s mostly how the Bible handles the problem: while there are a small number of verses that reference Adam and sin, I believe those references are far more ambiguous than most people are willing to admit.

  • D. Humeston

    Excellent answers. I will share this with some friends of mine.

  • llevvi

    Great answers!
    However, the last one is the least convincing, in my opinion. For the Christian Theology, that’s probably the toughest topic. We know that the bible pretty often addresses that issue in, apparently, very opposite ways. We find several verses talking about humans´ fault for their condemnation and that they have the chance to repent in order to be saved. But at the same time, we find other several verses talking about how God selects specific peoples or persons to be saved and make his purposes happen (exactly what Romans 9 is all about).
    Knowing who will go to hell or heaven sounds like something very relevant for God’s omniscience since he is the guy who basically decides that (whether he picks you randomly or weights your acts on a scale). If you say that God is not totally aware of every man eternal fate that means that God doesn’t know about my future decisions / actions at all – since those things are intrinsically correlated. Again, it doesn’t matter if you agree more with Arminio or Calvin.
    Still, there’s the fundamental concept of time dimension vs eternity. Eternity can be defined as non-existence of time, therefore no dimensions at all. And the bible clearly says that God is eternal (he was never born and he will never die), Genesis also makes it clear that he is the author of everything – including time, angels, spirit etc. In my mind, our reality from God’s perspective is just like a flat info-graphic. As if he was on the outside having a complete view of our beginning and our end. It’s just a matter of totally opposite concepts. It is well represent on “Interstellar” at the end when those people can simulate a 3D universe and “manipulate” as they want.
    In sum, God knows about the future. Every single detail. It doesn’t mean that he is not fair or he is not love – that’s another story. Still, I can’t agree with your point. Does it make sense?

    • Thanks, Leandro! I appreciate your thoughts! That fourth question — that is a tough subject. I don’t think any of us fully understand how God’s election works in conjunction with our free will. But it does.

      Romans 9, I have always felt is more rhetorical and hypothetical than literal. Paul doesn’t say God did create “vessels for destruction,” he said “What if he did?” Basically, his point is that God can do what he wants, and we don’t have the right to say otherwise.

      And I believe that. But just because God can do something doesn’t mean he did.

      Also, I do believe God exists outside of time, and maybe that does mean he knows every single tiny detail of our future. I think that is just so far beyond our realm of experience it’s impossible to guess what that really looks like.

      • llevvi

        I must agree with that. In the end, you still need faith in order to accept such paradox. That’s why I’m not a convict Christian – but this is another story. Congrats again for the post!

  • Good stuff, Tyler,

    I might throw into the mix that some of these “problems” are more a result of a certain narrative than the Bible.

    If the Bible is fundamentally about how individuals avoid eternal, conscious torment and instead go to Heaven when they die, then a lot of Chad’s objections are understandable and, especially in the case of the last one, pretty valid.

    But I would argue that those are flaws in the narrative – a narrative that I believe evidence suggests is not commensurate with biblical data. We’ve taken a story about how the God of Israel saved His people and became king over the nations, then we made it about eternal spiritual destinies between Heaven and Hell, then we made it about MY eternal spiritual destiny, and each of those transitions left a lot of important things by the wayside and imported some things that were never meant to be there.

  • Jake Hughes

    I think the point of the story of Adam is that we reject God every day. Every time you sin, you reject Him. And since we are sinful creatures, it comes full circle. We each have that little voice inside us, urging us to do the right thing.

    As for the concern about Hell, after study and prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that Helol is real, and there is punishment for a sinful life and rejecting God, but I don’t believe Hell is an eternal state. How can God claim final victory over suffering and death of people still suffer and die over and over again in Hell? All whose name is written in the Book of Life will be lifted out and into His hands, right? Well, we’re you born? Were you alive? Then up you go. The question is “the easy way or the hard way.” How do you want to wait out the time til the end? Yeah, He could return as “a thief in the night,” and “the day is not known.” Hell, He could return as soon as I finish typing this sentence!
    … dang. Anywho, that’s all true, but think of the long game. According to most models of physics, the heat death of the universe will happen in a few hundred trillion years. How do you want to spend that time? Blissful paradise, or writhing in agony?

    I am curious as to your thoughts on the “Problem of Hell,” Tyler. How does a God who loves and cares let someone burn forever? If your son disobeys you, you punish him. Why? To teach, to rebuke. You give him some licks and move on. You don’t set him on fire then shoot him in the face.

    • Hey Jake, I agree with a lot of what you say here. I do believe there is punishment for those who sin, and reject forgiveness and restoration in Christ.

      However, I also believe eternal punishment doesn’t really make sense, especially in view of a loving God. Surely, even the most evil person ever could not do enough wrong in a finite lifetime to be punished for eternity, let alone the average person.

      I think the idea of eternal, conscious punishment comes more from Dante and the Greeks’ views of the afterlife. I think it has persisted because it is seen as a useful evangelism tool. Scaring people about not wanting to be tortured in hell is a heck of a lot easier than talking to them about the fine nuances of sin and judgment.

      • Jake Hughes

        Which is dad-gum terrible, in my view. I attended a private Christian school for several years as a child, and in addition to pushing an YEC view, they were heavy on the Hell. They played us this video, some guy in Hell writing to a Christian friend on earth. As the video progresses, it gets more and more graphic and disturbing as the man talks about how much it hurts, how agonizing the pain is, begging why didn’t he preach harder to him.

        It scares the crap out of me as a kid, but looking back as an adult, it angers me. With all the glory and love and redemption and peace in the Gospel, how could you use the exact opposite to try and convert someone?

  • Chris Mason

    Your last response brings a question to mind: what are your views on Hell? Do you agree with the traditional views that are oft-held by fundamentalists or are you an annihilationist or a universalist or do you hold to the Greek Orthodox view or something else? I personally am leaning more towards the Orthodox view. I first found out about it thanks to NT Wright:

    For the record, for those that see this, I have no interest in starting an argument with anyone regardless of what belief you adhere t or creating conflict, I’m just curious of what Tyler believes about it.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for the question. I tend to favor the annihilationist view. That’s what I think the “second death” in Revelation is all about: a final, and permanent, destruction.

      I don’t see a lot of support in scripture for the whole idea of eternal, conscious torment. I think the view probably owes a lot more to Dante and the Greeks than the Bible.

      Proponents would claim the view comes from the teachings of Jesus, but the man did know what hyperbole is. And, his teachings can support annihilationism as well: “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

      However, I don’t know that I’m familiar with the Greek Orthodox view. Would you mind briefly outlining it here?

      • Chris Mason

        I think the basics of it is that if you were to outright reject God, then He’ll just give you what you want, which is an afterlife where you are seperated from Him. At least, that’s how I understand it, although I’m somewhat new to the idea, so I can’t say that I’m an expert on the matter. If you want something more detailed than what N.T. Wright said in the video above, there was a link that I was planning to share, but now I can’t find it (I think something on it was written by Alexandre Kalomiros, but I’m not certain). I don’t know if I can really accept universalism because I don’t see how it’s compatible with Jesus saying “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” I don’t like the traditional view of Hell where you’re sent there to be tormented horribly for less-than-heinous reasons, and I honestly don’t know much about annihilationism because I know very few people who adhere to that view. So, it seemed to me that the Orthodox view was the best one. But that’s just my opinion.

        • Hmm… Sounds like my view incorporates part of that as well. I believe free will plays a big role as well. If we choose God in life, we “get” God in death, that is, we go to heaven, where God is. If we choose to live apart from him in life, we would continue to be apart from him in death, in hell, where God is not.

          As I mentioned before, where I get hung up is on the “second death” teachings in Revelation. That sounds awfully final to me.

          • Chris Mason

            Yeah, like I said, I’m not the expert. I was just curious as to what your thoughts were.

    • Greg Carlet

      Thankful for N.T. Wright!

    • lzzrdgrrl

      Hell, as a lake of fire and place of eternal torment and destruction bears very heavily on Teutonic mythology and like the Birth of Christ at the winter solstice, was impressed upon The Faith by the lightly Christianised proto-european people. In bargaining to bring the pagan peoples of Europe to the Christian Church, the syncreticism of the Roman Church with the tribal beliefs of clans and peoples that were forceably brought to Christ was accepted collateral damage……..

  • Timothy Swanson

    “It’s one thing if someone rejects the gospel because they reject the
    gospel. We don’t have any power over that. But it’s something else
    entirely if someone rejects the gospel because of a non-essential barrier we’ve placed in front of the gospel, and this is certainly the latter.”

    That is a great line.

    I believe it also applies to many other non-essentials that many have made into “gospel” positions so as to make them essential. I can name a few, such as gender hierarchy and gender essentialism, that I particularly care about, but there are a lot.

    • You are absolutely right. Young-earth creationism, unfortunately, is just one of the more visible symptoms of an underlying root problem, but it is still a problem in its own right.

  • Sue

    As a raised-christian-but-wobbling-on-the-edge-of-agnostic myself, my hangup about original sin isn’t so much about the literal vs. non-literal nature of the story in Genesis. I long ago came to a place of believing in theistic evolution. But I more recently struggle with the bigger picture of understanding the fall/original sin in the context of evolution. And I don’t believe they are compatible any longer, as I once did. Even without a literal understanding of Genesis, the redemptive biblical narrative hangs largely upon the entrance of sin into God’s perfect creation. How are we to understand the origins of this “sin/death/sickness/suffering”, when evolution requires that they are part of the story from day one? That is, evolution by its very nature requires death. And sickness/suffering have afflicted the “created order” long before the appearance of any hominids on the scene. How do you reconcile evolution with the Bible, not in the young vs. old earth sense, but in the theological sense?

    • Chris

      “Die” in Genesis 2:17 is not the introduction of physical death, it is a representation of separation from God. Most obviously, because even a staunch literalist will admit Adam lived several more centuries after that day. Physical death most certainly has always existed, it is a natural part of the life cycle, and the logical fallacy of imagining this Earth without the possibility of death is undoubtedly not “very good.”

    • Evolution requires death, and life. People always leave out the second part, and I don’t know why. The new life part is far more important to the evolutionary process than death. Death is where natural selection comes into play, but life is what makes evolution possible, by new genes appearing and being passed on.

      Hmm…death giving way to new life…where have I heard that before? So, yeah, I have to say I don’t think evolution is incompatible with the Christian message at all.

      As far as making sense of the Bible and evolution, there just isn’t that much biblical support for the idea that “death/sickness/suffering” came after and as a consequence of human sin to begin with. Most any NT reference to the subject is clearly talking about spiritual death, and the main support for it in the OT comes from a wild extrapolation of Genesis 1:31 (“God saw all that he had made and it was very good”).

      This is presuming Genesis was meant to be read as a historical account in the first place, which of course, I strongly believe it was not.

  • Chris

    I’d answer #2 and 3 like you, but #1 I’d include Ezekiel 18. Great passage, about personal responsibility for sin, not your ancestors’ faults. As for #4, I’d disagree with you (Romans 9 kinda does too but you acknowledge that– still trying to figure out why “Calvinism” is a taboo idea in evangelical circles), but I’ve always reconciled that as like knowing the end to a movie, does not make it any less enjoyable. God knows who will accept Him and who will not (just as Jesus knew what Judas would do of his own “free will”, or Peter denying him thrice, etc), but He made us all for His own purpose and glory, not so we would receive anything.

    • Yeah, I thought about including Ezekiel 18, but ultimately thought I had already written enough and made the point. But yeah, it’s a great passage and one that’s very relevant to the discussion.

  • This line is so true for me at the moment: “YEC proponents’ fanatical obsession with promulgating their views, that
    has helped make conservative evangelical Christianity into a modern-day
    atheist factory.”

    I hesitated to comment because I’m really not a fan of comment thread debates. I’m not trying to wade into any theological food fights. I just wanted to respond to that one sentence of yours, Tyler, and relate it to my own situation.

    I’ll try to keep this short (try). Firstly, I’m Australian. I feel like I ought to apologize, on behalf of our nation, for our habit of exporting YEC missionaries to the USA. 😉 In largely Catholic & Atheist Australia it’s an extreme minority perspective. Maybe that’s why they have to leave Aus? They have a ready made audience in the more religious nations! Just a thought…

    My background is Catholic. Aussie Catholic education includes the assumption that religion and science are entirely capable of co-existing in peace. I had nuns teach me evolutionary theory in religious education classes with a great sense of joy surrounding the incredibly diverse forms of life it’s produced coupled with a vague notion that God may or may not have guided it.

    However, I married a nondenominational Pentecostal guy who was mostly educated through the ACE Ministries program (decades later he’s still recovering), through which he learned that YEC was a non-negotiable tenet of faith. He subscribed to CMI’s ‘Creation’ magazine for years and I read them all, cover-to-cover. We attended a weekly YEC Bible study for years after we married, despite the fact that his home church technically does not promote one origins view over any other. There was a lot of pressure on me to convert – from his former perspective, nondenominational creationist Australian Pentecostalism is the only faith lucky enough to know the real God. His immediate family are still hardcore YECs, & every year they buy my kids new AiG, ICR & CMI books as gifts.

    Thing is, my husband – who subsequently earned two applied science degrees at a major Aussie university, including a Master of Engineering – having studied a bit of the science outside the heavily mediated context of YEC publications, finds that his faith is nearly destroyed under the weight of mainstream science. All it took was one Prof. Brian Cox show to spark an avalanche of previously unconsidered questions for him.

    Where I was taught that it’s okay for faith to be a mystery or a myth and still be “truth” on some level, The Husband has swung from on-fire-for-Jesus YEC to unhappily borderline Agnostic-Atheist questioning his entire religious life thus far and ready to throw out God, Jesus, Christianity etc. All because of the weight borne by those bloody first three chapters of Genesis. (Really sorry for the long comment. I evidently needed to vent.)

    And if he ultimately chooses to commit to Atheism he still has my full support. He has to follow his own reasoning and conscience on this. I just want to clarify that I do not base my family relationships on whether or not my loved ones agree with my religious beliefs.

    • Thanks for sharing. You can vent here any time 🙂

      Coincidentally, our stories share a lot of similarities. I also grew up Catholic and never realized evolution had anything to do with faith and religion until I became a born-again evangelical in college. My wife, on the other hand, also is a graduate of the ACE school of indoctrination, from a very conservative Baptist private school out here in Oregon. Also recovering, though her faith, fortunately, is strong, mostly thanks to finding a really good church and youth group while in high school.

      I’m sorry your husband is struggling so much with his faith right now, but you’re right to support him and let him wrestle this out. God is not afraid of our questions or our doubts, so we should not be either.

      • Thanks for the response! To be honest, when I first met my husband I thought he was joking when he described his schooling. I was studying educational psychology at the time we met and I honestly did not think the otherwise uptight Aussie education system would register a school using those methods! Turns out they tend to look the other way when it comes to religious schools (there’s a great book on it, ‘Taking God to School’ by Marion Maddox.) As it is aspects of ACE (particularly the use of corporal punishment to control students) are illegal here. Funny how the school only stopped use of the paddle the moment they were at risk of jail time for it. Turns out it’s not such a core doctrine after all. Unfortunately the husband attended the school before the laws changed, and the psychological damage that system caused is horrendous. When I see what that kind of “education” does to people, it makes me so angry at the injustice of it. The way it stunts creative, critical thinking and normal curiosity about the world is just terrible (and for a person like my husband with a natural leaning towards science, it was a huge hurdle in the way of his academic success).

  • Mahatma Randy

    I’m glad to read that you discount all or most of Original Sin. I don’t see any evidence of it in the Bible, and have never believed in it.

    • Agreed. The doctrine owes a lot more to the writings of Augustine (who, make no mistake, was a brilliant man, and spot on about many things) than it does to a plain reading of scripture and scripture alone.

      • Mahatma Randy

        A lot of people claim that one of the Psalms by/about David clearly states “Original Sin” when he’s talking about being born with sin, etc. A friend of mine pointed out a much more likely, logical reading of that, if you’re interested.

        • Sure, I’d be interested, though my view is that the Psalmist is clearly being hyperbolic there, just like when he talks about his bones melting away or his enemies feasting on his flesh, etc. Psalms is a very bad book to use as a primary source for theology, for that reason. It’d be like using “Leaves of Grass” as a primary source for American history.

          • Mahatma Randy

            Oh, I agree. Psalms is useful for telling us what people in a particular time thought, but not what that time actually was. I’ve always discouraged (Or ridiculed) people who cherry pick it for prophecy. “Why not just read the hymnal? It’s about as effective.”

            Ok, Psalm 51:5 David says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” This is taken by most as a justification of original sin. (Despite the Jews never having heard of such a thing)

            Now let’s look at David’s story: Samuel comes to Jesse and says “God says one of your kids is gonna be king. Bring ’em all out.” Jesse does, and doesn’t mention David. All of them get the thumbs-down, and still Jesse doesn’t mention David until Samuel bugs him about it, “Are these ALL your kids?” At which point Jesse admits there’s one more who’s way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, with the crap job of tending the sheep. God chooses David, you can read it to say that everyone is a little flustered at that. Why? Why this treatment of David? Why does his dad not even count him with his other kids?

            A friend of mine suggests that David was illegitimate, most likely the son of a prostitute.

            This explains the behavior in the story, it explains why he’d think he was created in sin (‘Cuz he was, but it wasn’t “Original Sin,” nor was it anything to be held against him, personally, just the sort of thing that makes you feel worthless, is all), and it’s consistent with the Biblical theme of God continually choosing the least likely people to be His heroes. (Rahab, Jacob, Moses, etc)

          • Huh. I don’t believe I’ve heard that take before but it would make a lot of sense. Interesting.

          • Mahatma Randy

            I can’t take credit for it. It was Ian Sutherland who told me about it, and he may have even thought it up.

  • Karl Goldsmith