Conservative vs Liberal Christians: Wait, There’s Another Way To Read This?!

So, Adam and Eve sinned, and we are guilty of that sin, so God sent Jesus to die for our sins and save us. Right? Well, that’s a conservative Christian reading. Against this, many liberal Christians see Adam and Eve as a metaphor. Dr. James McGrath comments:

Question: In Paul’s mind Christ is the “second Adam,” having succeeded where the “first Adam” failed. According to Paul, it is precisely because of the failure of the first that the second was required.

  • McGrath: What I would note is that, if Adam in Genesis 2-3 is simply a symbolic depiction of what is typical of humanity in general, then the comparison still works just fine: Jesus succeeded where human beings in general failed, not just where one failed. The contrast seems to me to be between two ways of being human, and just as being in Christ is not about being descended from Jesus, there is no obvious reason why being descended from Adam is crucial to the comparison. I would also note that Paul plays fast and loose with the details in Genesis in order to make the contrast he does. If he were a literalist, he would have said “just as through two human beings sin entered the world…” The story as read literally is about a man and a woman who eat what they are not supposed to. Clearly Paul’s aim is not to stick to the details of Genesis as literal fact not to be tampered with, but to say something about Jesus. see

 The conservative reading requires a certain reading of Paul, and raises a whole host of questions such as did the Hebrew scripture writers think in terms of Original Sin theology?  On the surface, original sin resulted in a human condition of death and suffering, which we inherited, not that we are personally guilty for eating forbidden fruit.  The idea of me being guilty of something done by someone else millenia in the past is silly, so we should really think about it before ascribing it to the ancient Christians.

Also see: Adam and Eve among Evangelicals and around the Blogosphere

So there is an open question here if a penal substitution interpretation of the cross is better, or if we need something else. My trilogy of essays on the issue are:

  1. Justified Lie:

2) Penal Substitution:

3) Jesus Mythicism and Penal Substitution: