Saving Adam

In spite of general assertions by the last three popes that belief in creation is not incompatible with evolution, Darwin continues to pose a problem for traditional Catholic doctrine. As one priest scientist quipped on his webpage, “Catholic theology requires a more clear-cut origin for Homo sapiens than the fuzzy species boundaries generally acknowledged in evolution.” And that means Adam and Eve—our first parents, as the Catechism describes them, the single progenitors of the entire human race, their fall from friendship with God, and the passing on of original sin by descent to the rest of humanity. They loom large in the backstory of Western Christianity.

Created in the image of God and set to be stewards of the earth, the first couple sinned against God’s commandment when they were tempted by the serpent. They lost their innocence and were expelled from Paradise, a story related in Genesis 2 and 3. According to St. Augustine, the founding couple lost more than their innocence when they sinned: they introduced evil and death into the world, the world God had created as good. And they forfeited a state of perfection, a state of “original justice.”

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