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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31

The Doctrine of the Fall

The Doctrine of the Fall.

But it is said that Evolution necessarily contradicts the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. If we accept Evolution we must surrender, to begin with, the Doctrine of the Fall. To ascertain whether the objection is sound, let us discriminate carefully between what the Scripture does and does not say about the Fall.

(1.) Without attaching too much importance to the presence or absence of a word, it may be pointed out that the Scriptures do not speak of a "Fall" or "Fall of Man." These terms are the creation of theology.

(2.) The Bible does not tell us that man was created in the possession of high moral or intellectual qualities. (I may say here, in a parenthesis, that the popular notion of the "Fall and of the primitive state of man is derived, not from the Bible, but from the "Paradise Lost" of Milton, and, through Milton, from the schoolmen of the Middle Ages). We read that man was page 16 made in the "image of God," but in seeking a meaning for these words we must not forget that an infant child is in the parents' image, although destitute, for the present, of the parents' moral and intellectual powers. The child will grow into these powers, and that is sufficient to make it in the parents' image and likeness.*

(3.) We read expressly that the first state of man was one in which he had not "the knowledge of good and evil." And as if to define the phrase, and to show us that it is exactly equivalent to moral capacity, we have (after the "Fall") this remarkable statement: 'And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.' I ask the especial attention of Bible students to this passage. How was man advanced to "become as one of Us?" By what we call "the Fall!" And in what did his new likeness to the Deity consist? In the fact that he had attained "to know good and evil!" Getting "to know good and evil," then, by means of a fall made man in some sense more like God than he was before:—"Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." He will be a bold expositor who will find for the 'knowledge of good and evil,' in this passage—(Gen. iii. 22.)—any other meaning than' moral capacity.

(4.) And yet the Scripture tells us that, in becoming more correspondent to the Deity than he had been, man also became a sinner. It is only on the theory of Evolution that this riddle can be solved. On the theory of man's perfect moral capacity before "the Fall" it is completely insoluble. If Evolution is true, moral capacity was attained by growth. By its attainment man became, in a sense never possible before, like the Deity. And yet the very act which marked the entrance to this higher level of being, may have been, as the Scripture says it was, a wrong act—the ransgression of a law—and so the rise would be a fall. The first consciousness of the newly-born moral nature would be the consciousness of sin, and from that fact would flow all that the Bible has to tell us about the need either of punishment or atonement. Precisely the same progression and the same results are to be observed in the development of every child. So far then from Evolution concradicting the Bible doctrine of what is called "the Fall," it is only on the theory of Evolution that the Bible doctrine becomes intelligible and consistent.

The matter may be summed up thus: Evolution teaches that moral capacits was attained by development. The Bible admits that it was not an original endowment, and adds that, having attained it, man fell. Contradiction there is none.

* See Gen. v. 3., where the terms "image" and "likeness" are used of the correspondence between child and parent.