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Old Testament Essays

versão On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versão impressa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.25 no.1 Pretoria  2012

 

Evangelism of young children: Is an evolutionary understanding of "original sin" possible?

 

 

Annette Evans

University of the Free State

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Children's bibles have always been "pretexts for passing along values,"1 but the consequences of children reading the bible urgently need to be researched. A recent pilot study revealed that most of the young subjects had little conceptual impression of "sin, " thus also raising the issue of "original sin. " The latter is important in the context of knowledge transfer between adult and child in a religious climate of strong contention between religion and science and the emergent popularity of "Scientific Creationism" or "Intelligent Design. " The challenge today is to encourage young people to share in a tradition which is continuously being rethought and reapplied. In our predominantly secular environment, religious insistence on the ideal of purity and integrity tends towards resistance of any revision of the tradition. However, the conundrum of Anselm's dictum of "believing to understand and understanding to believe" must be considered. In modern scientific thought the idea that there was ever a historical state of innocence, or a literal Adam and Eve is unacceptable. "Original sin" can still express meaningfully the sense of humanity's estrangement from the deity, but the "ideal" world is the enlivening new creation yet to come, not a once perfect world to which we now seek nostalgically to return. This article offers an alternative understanding of God's relation to creation than "The Fall. " It is proposed that the Adam and Eve story is about the awakening of self-consciousness, and the concomitant responsibility to recognize temptation and exercise choice. Coherence between such contraries as science and religion, reasoning and spiritual susceptibility, even for young children, is promoted by an accepting ethical environment in which "fideistic assertion" is tested by imaginative questioning and exploration of the limits of dogma.


 

 

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Correspondence:
Dr. Annette Evans
Research Associate, International Institute for the Study of Race
Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State
Email: ahmevans@gmail.com

 

 

1 Samuel Heilman, Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra Orthodox Jewry (New York: Schocken Books, 1992), 225.

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