We all know about Adam and Eve – their role as the ancestors of the human race, their Original Sin which separated us from the Almighty, and the redemption to be offered by God through Christ. Now let us consider how much of that story is true.
Putting a date on Adam and Eve is tricky – it depends of course on the discovery of fossils. But we would be safe if we settled for some 200,000 years ago. Now that is rather a long time for a story to survive. And a new species is unlikely to start from one individual or, in this case, two individuals; the process of evolution tends to work through numerous species rather than solo individuals. I suspect that, like the account of creation over 6 days, we should think of the Adam and Eve story as a fable: the narrative is imaginary but, within it, a deep truth.
We learn that the couple initially have no understanding of good and evil. The tempter uses this as his bribe: he tells Eve that eating the forbidden apple will open their eyes and they will be like gods, knowing good and evil. The moral sense of homo sapiens requires consciousness, the rational ability to distinguish between good and evil and the freedom to choose between the two.
It is significant that, although we are now able to understand the workings of the brain down into the tiny details, science is unable to understand consciousness, reason, and freewill. It cannot even describe what a causal solution would look like. We, on the other hand, recognise these elements as spiritual, and implicit in the story of Adam and Eve.
The outcome of our forefathers’ choice is extraordinary. Every human being thereafter would be born separated from God. However, we have one more chance: we may be redeemed through the salvation offered to us by Christ. But there is one condition: the acceptance of Christ through Baptism. The New Testament refers to its imperative again and again.
So what are the numbers? Here’s my best guess. Looking at the proportion of Christians today they number about one third of the world’s population. Take that back through the 200,000 years to Adam and Eve and we would get a huge number. Our Catechism expresses a hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. There are tiny exceptions for the older people such as “baptism of desire” and “baptism of martyrdom”. But that’s about it.
Now, were I a very brave person (and thankfully I am not). I would be somewhat critical of the Almighty. Yes, Adam and Eve sinned, but why should their punishment apply to every created person? None of us chose to be created. Of course, we all have a get-out through Christ. I, and perhaps all those reading this, will have had the opportunity to be baptised. But how about the others? If, in our communicating world, only a third of humans have been baptised, what proportion of the whole human race – back to Adam – could have had a chance? The remainder, perhaps nine out of ten, are in deep trouble. And not just for a day, or a lifetime but for ever – and ever – and ever.
Do you think God got it wrong?