Irenaeus, Creation and Salvation

Creation and the Covenant of Adam.

Irenaeus speaks of three covenants – one made with Adam, one with Moses, and one with Christ. As for the first of these covenants, that with Adam, he begins by noting that God created humanity in the "image and likeness” of God. Remember that when writing this, Irenaeus is writing with a 2nd century science and psychology in mind. In this act of creation, God created Adam with free will and endowed him with reason. However, Irenaeus did not believe that Adam, being a creature, was endowed with divine perfection. Instead of perfection, Irenaeus suggested that God created the first humans in a state of innocence. That is, God created Adam as a child, morally, spiritually, and intellectually. While, in Irenaeus’s estimation, God could have created a perfect human being from the start – after all God can do whatever God wants – God chose to create the first humans in this way because God's creations needed to be of a lesser level because they, unlike God, had a beginning.

“Because they [humanity] come later, they are immature; as such they are inexperienced and not trained to perfect understanding. A mother, for example, can provide perfect food for a child, but at that point he cannot digest food which is suitable for someone older. Similarly, God himself certainly could have provided humanity with perfection from the beginning. Humanity, however, was immature and unable to lay hold of it.” [Irenaeus, Adv. Haeresies, 4:38.1].

Innocent and not fully formed intellectually, it was the intention of God, that Adam would through time, by the grace of God, freely choose to move toward a greater resemblance with the creator. For Irenaeus, God created Adam and Eve with the potential to grow into the fullness of his image.

“Through this system, such arrangement, and this kind of governance, humanity was created according to the image and established in the likeness of the uncreated God. The Father decided and commanded; the Son molded and shaped; the Spirit nourished and developed. Humanity slowly progresses, approaches perfection, and draws near to the uncreated God. The perfect is the uncreated, God. It was therefore appropriate for humanity first to be made, being made to grow, and having grown to be strengthened, being stronger to multiply, having multiplied to recover from illness, having recovered to be glorified, and once glorified to see its Lord. God is the one who is going to be seen; the vision of God produces incorruptibility; incorruptibility makes a person approach God.” [Irenaeus, Adv. Haeresies, 4:38.3]1

Though God intended the immature Adam and Eve to grow into maturity, this process was interrupted by the Fall. Because Adam was not yet mature, in his weakness and inexperience, Adam chose to listen to Satan and disobey God. Thus, humanity lost the divine likeness, that is, the endowment of the Spirit, and fell into the grasp of Satan. Adam's sin was disobedience to God, but this disobedience held important consequences for Adam's progeny. This first instance of disobedience led to the sinfulness of the whole race. He also believed that all of humanity shares in Adam's deed and therefore they also share in his guilt. Though Irenaeus never defines how this takes place, he must hold that there is some kind of mystical solidarity within the human race.2

1. Selection found in J. Patout Burns, Theological Anthropology, (Fortress Press), 23, 25.

2. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 171-72.


Gary said…
If evolution is true, then Adam never existed. And if Adam never existed, there was no Fall. If there was no Fall, then people do not have sinful natures and have no need of salvation.
John said…
What then could constitute salvation?

I think there are some very good possibilities.
John said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said…
If there were no Adam and Eve and no Fall, do you really think that humanity does not need God to deliver us from our sinful nature and all that this nature entails?

Could not the "Original Sin" which affected the first humans to breathe in the Spirit of God and which has infected most every human since, could that Sin be the sin of not trusting in the One who gave us Life, the sin of arrogance, to think we are self-sufficient and that we have no need for the graces of our Creator?

Gary said…
No Adam, then no Fall. No Fall, then no sin nature. And no "Original Sin". No sin, then no need of a Savior.

That's what happens when you "spiritualize" Genesis.
John said…
Could not salvation consist of the eternal reunification of a prodigal soul with its unconditionally loving Creator?

Does the story of Adam and Eve communicate the salvific principal better than the parable of the Prodigal Son? The story of the Fall speaks only of punishment and loss and says nothing of salvation and redemption.

The parable not only contains the hope of redemption, but carries with it the added weight of having been communicated by Jesus, God himself.

I don't want to overwork the parable, but I offer it here as an obvious alternative approach to salvation.

John said…
Who is spiritualizing Genesis?

If one assumes the literal factual accuracy of the story of Adam and Eve and their eviction for the Garden, isn't the inference from this story of the notion of Original Sin nothing more than the "Spiritualization" of the Story?

The story exited for hundreds of years (if not thousands) before Christians (not Jesus) read the spiritual concept of Original Sin into it. "Original Sin" was never a part of this Jewish story, until the Catholics invented the idea centuries after Jesus resurrection.

Anonymous said…
This article states Disiples do not believe in original sin?

I love this part. By the way, this is what I meant in an earlier post about the "million, trillion+ of us" sinners. Maybe some are exempt!

Extraterrestrial beings and original sin...
In an interview entitled "Aliens Are My Brother", granted to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, stated: "In my opinion this possibility (of life on other planets) exists"; "intelligent beings, created by God may exist in outer space" and "some aliens could even be free from original sin" concluding "there could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator".[29] And on 5 March 2009, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, another astronomer working at the Vatican Observatory, told the BBC, in relation to the search for Earth-like worlds about to be embarked upon by the Kepler Space telescope, that "we Jesuits are actively involved in the search for Earth-like planets. The idea that there could be other intelligent creatures made by God in a relationship with God is not contrary to traditional Judeo-Christian thought. The Bible has many references to, or descriptions of, non-human intelligent beings; after all, that's what angels are. Our cousins on other planets may even have their own salvation story – including other examples of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. We are open to whatever the Universe has for us."[30]
Anonymous said…
Sorry, I always mean to sign, and sometimes wish I hadn't..last post was by David Mc
Gary said…

"Theistic evolutionists" must spiritualize Genesis since Genesis is incompatible with evolution if taken literally. But doing that leads to more theological error since Genesis is foundational to what follows it.
Anonymous said…
God is a very good chemist I'm sure. That's all it takes I guess.
Shake N Bake, and wait.

He could have approached his evolving creation and introduced himself any time he wished, right?

He promised to do it again, right?

Evolution is not a faith killer to me by any means. I find that the more I (we) learn about it, the more it reveals the true nature of God as being more than I ever could have imagined otherwise. It is much more than early simple explainations suggested. I feel the same about all of the sciences.

David Mc
John said…
I thought we were talking about whether the notion of salvation was necessarily dependent on the factual accuracy of the Adam and Eve Story.

We have already disagreed at length on whether God is capable of employing evolution as a natural process in creation. You say God couldn't and wouldn't and I say could and did.

But you started this thread with the comment that if there was no Adam and Eve then there is no need of salvation. I was merely positing an alternative perspective on salvation which was not dependent on the factual accuracy of the Adam and Eve story (true or not). And the thrust of my discussion is that the Adam and Eve story does not address the concept of salvation.

However, there are some ways that the Adam and Eve story, whether factually true or not, may suggest salvific ideas, such as: the notion that all that God created was good, and God created all that is; humanity came into being through the breath of God, and without the continuing breath of God humanity cannot survive; humanity, male and female, was created and exists in the likeness and image of God; humans were created to live, and love, and worship in community; God created all that is as a gift for humanity, because God's love for humanity is so incredibly boundless; God's love for humanity continues unabated, even though we no longer possess the innocence of children; etc.

It is a story with beautiful contours, as well as harsh warnings for those who would turn away from God and strike out on their own: life without God in the center can be brutal and ugly.

Gary said…

If Genesis is myth, as you claim, then Adam is a fictional character. The Fall is fiction. If it is fiction, it means it isn't real. If the Fall never happened, then people are not living under the results of the Fall, which means that we aren't sinners in need of salvation. Why discuss something that isn't real?

By the way, you have no basis for saying that people are made in the image of God. Genesis says that, but Genesis is a myth to you. You're trying to claim something is true from a fictional story. You need to stop that. There has to be reality behind truth. If Genesis is myth, then there is no reality to it.
Gary you're using the term "myth" too literally so that it means something that's not true.

But, if the writer of Genesis is telling us truth -- humans have wandered away from God's ways (fall) -- in a way that would make sense to them, it's no less true if Adam and Eve and Eden aren't literal persons/places.

On original sin -- the question is and has been -- what is the nature of this sin and how is it passed on. From at least Augustine it has been taught that original sin is a sexually transmitted disease. This is why celibacy has been prized -- if you are abstinent then you don't pass on the disease.

I simply can't affirm such an idea -- and I don't think it's either in the Bible nor in the earliest Christian teachings.
John said…

You misperceive my point entirely. I am assuming for this discussion that narrative about Adam and Eve and their eviction from the Garden is factually accurate. Nowhere in that narrative does it discuss original sin or salvation. Moreover, for a thousand years after the story was written (if you are a believer in a "young earth" for four or five thousand years after the events occurred) the ideas of original sin and salvation were never inferred from the story. In fact the ideas were not inferred into the story until two or three hundred years after the Son of God was resurrected. (Was too busy to bring it up?)

With that being said, what then is the bible talking about when it speaks of God as the source of salvation? Salvation from what? And how is salvation to be afforded?

I have not denied the truth or mythologized anything about Genesis, I have only suggested the need to look elsewhere for an understanding of salvation.

So I look for a clue to the words of Jesus, the Incarnation of God himself, and lo and behold, he tells a story, a parable, a myth, which communicates a truth about salvation: that humans have turned away from the love of God, have separated themselves from their creator, blinded by their own arrogance and greed and inability to grasp hold of the truth as to their condition, i.e, their dependence on the grace and love of God.

Jesus' story goes further and suggests that if God's people humble themselves, pray, seek God's face, and turn from their wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their hearts, and embrace them in God's steadfast love.

The story of the prodigal son does not need to be historical fact for it to contain truths about salvation. The fact that Jesus, God himself, employs this myth to teach these supreme if not ultimate truths should caution us against denying the value of metaphor and myth.

Once again, Gary, my analysis does not deny the historicity of Genesis; here I am only questioning the wisdom of locating the spiritual concept of Original Sin within the narrative when it is silent on that account.

Gary said…
Cornwall and John,

A myth is something that is true? Are there false myths?

My main point is this: as evolutionists, you have to view Genesis as fiction. If Genesis is literally true, you cannot reconcile it with evolution.

And if Genesis is fiction, then it does not matter what it may, or may not, say about salvation, or anything else relating to doctrine! You might as well read Shakespear and try to find the truth in there.
John said…
Again Gary, the topic is salvation, not evolution.

Stay focused.

Gary said…

I'm wasting my time trying to get you to see the consequences of your beliefs. So I'll stop now.
Myth is a story with a message. One could understand the creation story as a parable. It borrows from the stories of the day to share a message. The message of Genesis is that the creation is good -- it is a theological response to the creation stories of its day. It takes those stories (myths) and essentially demythologizes them to tell a different story.

I don't take Genesis 1-11 as literal history. It is a story that sets up Abraham's call to father a people through which God will reconcile humanity.

Evolution is a scientific theory that has little to do with this discussion.
Gary said…

Everything you said in your last post is pure B.S..
Anonymous said…
Where did Jesus learn to tell all his parables, and know that they would be appropriate/ effective?
He sure liked the form.

Gary should let his (b)eef (s)tew?

It is interesting to note that Matthew 7:15 makes a reference to one of Aesop's Fables, "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing". Neither Luke nor Thomas includes this additional line, so it appears that this was added by Matthew himself.

matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

David Mc

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