Friday, September 23, 2011

Fr. Robert Barron Denies that Adam Was a "Literal Figure"

By Dave Armstrong (9-23-11)

Fr. Robert Barron made the following statement in his You Tube video, "Misreading Genesis" (5:52-6:04):

Adam. Now, don't read it literally. We're not talking about a literal figure. We're talking in theological poetry. Adam: the first human being . . .

Sadly, it appears that Fr. Barron is in error on this point of the nature of Adam. He can't deny that Adam was a literal figure and the first man, who fell, without this having dire consequences for the Catholic doctrine of original sin, per Pope Pius XII's encyclical, Humani Generis (12 August 1950): one that was designed (in the subtitle) to counter "some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine" (my bolding):

37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]

38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies.[13] This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.

James Tucker wrote in the combox of the same video on a Word on Fire web page:

If we are not to read Adam as a literal person, but only a theological construct, then as we read St Paul's description of Jesus as the "New Adam", then Jesus becomes a theological construct. Yet, Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh, very much a real person. So, St. Paul's comparison brings out the fact that sin - sin which is very real in our lives even today - sin comes into the world through the choice of a real person Adam, so that redemption - a very real necessity for our lives even today - redemption comes through a real person: Jesus the Christ. (3-4-11)

Unfortunately, Fr. Barron did not reply, even though this is his own site, for his outreach apostolate. Fr. Barron's view on this issue is very troubling indeed. Here is what St. Paul stated about the historical Adam and original sin:

Romans 5:12-19 (RSV) Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned -- [13] sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. [15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. [17] If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. [18] Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.[19] For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [46] But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. [47] The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. [48] As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. [49] Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

I would elaborate upon Fr. Tucker's comment, and add that the view of a non-literal, non-historical Adam is also contrary to the understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the second Eve: a motif very common in the Church fathers and in Catholic Mariology ever since their time. If there wasn't a literal Eve who said "no" to God, then by analogy there would be no literal Mary who said "yes" and made redemption possible, in terms of being the Mother of (the incarnate) God (the Son). 

Therefore, just as the Pauline analogy of Adam and second Adam (Christ) requires a literal understanding, so does the Eve-Mary analogy. Just as there was a literal Adam who really fell (and the human race with him (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 15:22), thus requiring the redemption of Christ, so there was a real historical Eve who said "no" to God, and hence by analogy, a real Mary who said yes and led the way to redemption by being the Mother of (the incarnate) God.

Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., the renowned catechist and candidate for possible sainthood, who was also my own mentor, wrote in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, about Adam:

The first man. Created in the image of God. His wife was Eve and his sons Cain, Abel, and Seth. They lived in the garden of Eden but were expelled because Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command not to eat the fruit of a certain tree (Genesis 1,2). In early accounts of Adam's life he is referred to, not by a specific name, but "the man" (Genesis 3). Not until his descendants were given (Genesis 4:25) was the proper noun "Adam" applied to him. Many doctrines in the New Testament are traced back to the life of the first man, notably original sin and the concept of Jesus as the second Adam bringing redemption to the human race. 

He stated in the same work about original sin:

Either the sin committed by Adam as the head of the human race, or the sin he passed onto his posterity with which every human being, with the certain exception of Christ and his Mother, is conceived and born. The sin of Adam is called originating original sin (originale originans); that of his descendants is originated original sin (originale originatum). Adam's sin was personal and grave, and it affected human nature. It was personal because he freely committed it; it was grave because God imposed a serious obligation; and it affected the whole human race by depriving his progeny of the supernatural life and preternatural gifts they would have possessed on entering the world had Adam not sinned. Original sin in his descendants is personal only in the sense that the children of Adam are each personally affected, but not personal as though they had voluntarily chosen to commit the sin; it is grave in the sense that it debars a person from the beatific vision, but not grave in condemning one to hell; and it is natural only in that all human nature, except for divine intervention, has it and can have it removed only by supernatural means. 

I've written about this issue in the past: "Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah as Actual Historical Figures: the Biblical Evidence and Catholic Agreement With It." I noted many biblical evidences in this paper. For example, our Lord Jesus refers quite literally to Abel in Matthew 23:35. The author of Hebrews does the same (11:4; 12:24). St. Paul refers to Eve as having been deceived by the devil, in 2 Corinthians 11:3. I cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

If Adam and Eve are not regarded as actual human beings, and the parents of the human race, then the doctrine of the Fall of man goes down with that, and we are smack dab in the middle of the Pelagian heresy, which holds that man is saved by his own works, and is not in need of being rescued from a fallen condition. The fall is clearly taught in the Bible; especially by St. Paul.

The Catechism refers to Adam and Eve eight times, and ties in their rebellion to the fall of man at least three times (#399, 404, 417).

Cain and Abel are referred to as actual human beings twice, and their actions also connected to original sin.

God made a covenant with Noah. It's pretty difficult to make a covenant with an imaginary, fictional person. Thus, the Catechism refers to Noah and the flood, and what is called the Noachic Covenant, nine times.

The problem (among many) is that the New Testament certainly accepts the Genesis account as literal, and this person as Adam, and his wife as Eve: precisely as stated. Thus Jesus said:

Matthew 23:34-35 (RSV) Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

How, then, can Abel be an actual historical person, whose blood was shed: one used in an illustration of persecution up to Zechariah the prophet, yet his father be merely a "literary figure" and not the actual historical Adam? St. Paul's statements and analogies of Adam and Christ, seen above, clearly presuppose the historical Adam of the Genesis accounts and no other.

All of this smacks of good old-fashioned liberal heterodoxy regarding issues of historicity in Genesis. If this whole thing is simply a case of poor choice of words, or some misunderstanding on my part, I'd be more than happy -- in fact, delighted -- to be corrected, and to remove this paper if it is no longer necessary.

* * * 

Moreover, in Blessed Pope John Paul II's General Audience of 1 October 1986: "Consequences of Original Sin for All Humanity", the historical Adam was again asserted, in citing Pope Paul VI:

It is evident that the explanations of original sin given by some modern authors will appear to you as irreconcilable with genuine Catholic teaching. Such authors, starting from the unproved premise of polygenism, deny more or less clearly that the sin from which such a mass of evils has derived in humanity, was, above all, the disobedience of Adam 'the first man,' figure of that future one, which occurred at the beginning of history.

For much more discussion, see the combox thread for the cross-posting of this on Facebook (where I made several comments, and several others chimed in).



Theresa A. Henderson said...

Thank you for this, Dave. Sad to say, I've heard numerous priests in their sermons stating the same error.

Ben Anderson said...

wow - I'm really surprised to hear that from Fr. Barron. I guess we'll have to watch "Catholicism" with a careful eye. I wonder if he'll respond. Excellent analysis as always, Dave.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Ah neocons. Ever-reliable.

Jordanes551 said...

So sad that Father Barron has lapsed into this grievous doctrinal error. The Council of Trent infallibly decreed:

"If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offense of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth 'had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil,' and that the entire Adam, through that offense of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema." (Trent, Fifth Session, Decree Concerning Original Sin, Canon I)

If the biblical Adam is not a literal figure, then it is impossible to confess what this canon require all Catholics to confess. Sadly, on this point Fr. Barron is materially a heretic.

Dave Armstrong said...

See also the discussion thread for the cross-posting of this on Facebook (where I made several comments, and several others chimed in):

Ana said...

As someone who admires the intellect of Fr. Barron, and his charitable manner of speaking, and have benefited much from his insights, I was troubled when I had watched this video. The point that there is an exquisite theology behind the story, can be appreciated, but there's no reason to create a dichotomy between it and a literal understanding of the existence of Adam.

In the youtube comment section, someone cited Pope Pius VII, to which Fr. Barron responded:

"The "Adam" that the Pope is speculating about here is some primordial, first originator of the human race--not the literary character in the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis."

RomanCatholic Deacon said...

Thanks for this important post!
God bless+

Dave Armstrong said...

You're welcome. Let's all pray for a positive outcome. I don't enjoy pointing out error, but alas, it is my job and duty as an apologist.

Nick said...

Sad day! What a poor choice of words, at the very least causing scandal, at the worst a sign Modernism has a strangled hold on him. This Priest was thought to be a rising star, but not with this.

Before going all out though, there could be a saving grace here:

"Adam. Now, don't read it literally. We're not talking about a literal figure. We're talking in theological poetry. Adam: the first human being . . . "

Now the choice of words is horrible, but he could be saying this: "Adam" is not a "proper name" like John, Mark, etc, but rather mans "human". Thus there was an original "human", and the Creation story is one of poetry, meaning not a science textbook but still conveying truth.

The thing that really seems to cause me to doubt this is that Fr Barron made his upcoming career on clearing UP problems, not equivocating and using sophistry, and thus his language seems to betray an embracing of Modernism.

Dave Armstrong said...

Fr. Barron appears to accept the reality of the fall, in another video:

It seems that he may perhaps disconnect it from the history of Genesis: a literal fall of the first humans, that we took part in, as the human race.

He seems to me to possibly be an advocate of Ne-Barthian, neo-Orthodoxy. The game there was to accept Christian doctrine, but separate it from true history. This has been an ongoing struggle with modernists and skeptics.

Dave Armstrong said...

In another video, he discusses the interpretation of Genesis:

Nothing specific enough here to add any new definite information.

Martin said...

@ Hillary White

What's a neocon?
(I'm interested in your answer not what Google tells me )

Martin said...

Email ping

Unknown said...

Catholics who think like Fr. Barron are legion thanks to the corruption that was the Biblical exegesis of Fr. Raymond Brown. A man a thousand times more dangeous than theologians like Kung or Curran.

Mark Shea has also recently been pushing for a Evolution like reading of Genesis, going so far as to endorse polygenism claiming science has proved it, and Pius XII left room for it:

I hope Dave Armstrong can weigh in on that one.

SemperJase said...


The person who responded as "wordonfirevideo" is NOT Fr. Barron. Word On Fire is an organization with Fr. Barron as its visible face. He does not edit and post videos himself. His staff does that.

Fr. Barron also has a public Facebook page. If you read it, you will notice that the entries on it are announcement's written in third person ("Join Fr. Barron on EWTN...") and sometimes even second person ("Join us tonight on...)

He is not personally involved in much, if any, of his social media presence.

Whomever you were debating with in the YouTube combox was not Fr. Barron.

_ said...

Having just spent a rather large sum of money on the Catholicism series on DVD - based on the glowing reviews and my desire to have something to share with non-Catholic friends - I'll be SERIOUSLY annoyed if it contains stuff like this.

Michael said...

Hey Dave. I'm very grateful for all the work you do and appreciate all the resources you have developed on your site. I'm also very appreciative of the work Fr. Barron has done to present Jesus and the Church to this world. I wonder if you have had the chance to contact Fr. Barron in person to review these matters. I think you have a legitimate point here, but given what I have seen from Fr. Barron, he seems like the kind of humble man who can take correction well. Let us know if any such interaction takes place.

Dave Armstrong said...


I will assume you are right, and have removed references to the person I thought was Fr. Barron responding. This is good news, but for all we know Fr. Barron may believe the same sorts of things.

Aussie Apologist said...

I'm not convinced that 'we're not talking about a literal figure' necessarily needs to be read as 'Adam was NOT a literary figure'. That said, I appreciate the post.

Aussie Apologist said...


Dave Armstrong said...

By all means, give us a plausible explanation as to what he meant, if not that? Meanwhile, we await Fr. Barron's clarifications, if he wants to provide them. No one would be happier than I, if in fact he didn't mean to deny the historical Adam.

Teresa said...

Great post, Dave! I'll be posting on this and passing along with a hat tip your wonderful analysis on Adam and Eve.

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks. Glad you like it.

Brad said...

Dave, I also don't think he meant Adam was not a literal figure. I think he was setting up the telling of the story about the animals being created and named. He was saying not to take that literally. As in, don't think God mistakenly created all these animals that weren't suitable companions for Adam. As if God was doing trial and error companion creation. Finally, God quits messing up and creates another human. At least, this is a possible interpretation of what Fr. Barron said. If he had a chance to reword that I bet he would. I doubt he believes what you are saying, but I agree that sentence was poorly constructed. But then, he was speaking without a speech writer/teleprompter.

Brad said...

Also, please take down your post until you can get clarification from Fr. Barron. No need to have controversy broiling if it is in fact a misunderstanding.


Jacob Hubbard said...

While I would agree that Father Barron's choice of words wasn't great, I really don't think it would benefit Catholics if they deny the science of evolution and common ancestry. The thing I would ask rhetorically, "how do you read the account of genesis?"

According the Catehcism of the Catholic Chruch, it states the following:

"390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265"

So none of the science that we have right now would be able to conflict with Christian theology. We just need to keep that in mind and not forget that.

Dave Armstrong said...


At least one person (one of my readers) has attempted to contact Fr. Barron: apparently not with much success.

I will be happy to remove, retract, modify accordingly if it is stated by Fr. Barron that he believes in the literal, historical Adam of Genesis.

Until that time, I see ethical no necessity of removal, because the matter is public and was already a controversy on his own website, months before I found out about it. Public words are fair game for public critique. I take the words as stated, at face value.

As I have said many times: no one would be happier than me if it turns out that Fr. Barron does indeed believe in the literal Adam of Genesis. I sure hope so. I have nothing against the man personally. I didn't even know much about him before this (apart from having heard of his name).

catholicboyrichard said...

One definite weakness in this series is the it is essentially a "one person show" and so that priest's (in this case Barron's) biases come through. I believe it would be more credible if he had some extended interviews with hierarchy and Church leaders at times. So far I see and hear nothing but him. Having said that I like the series. I just think that is a point of weakness that, in 4 years of travelling the world, could have been easily remedied and was not.

Bubot Arevalo said...

if we are going to probe into the statistical works on this issue among biblical experts, i doubt if mr. armstrong's thesis would be able to stand.

monk68 said...

Folks, I really think this is much ado about nothing. Barron does not say there was no first human being. The first human being is ipso facto - Adam. His comments merely entail that the jury is out with regard to the degree to which the Fall narrative represents poetically packaged historical truth (apple, serpent, etc.) versus where the narrative transitions to something a bit more akin to our modern notions of concrete history (Cain, Able, pre-existing cities already inhabited by others, etc). Moreover, the jury is certainly out as to the exact time frame in human history, or pre-history, in which the narrative events took place. The text is very tricky to nail down in terms of genre.

Notice the section of Pius XII’s encyclical which was not highlighted:

"which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people"

Accordingly, what Barron says in that video comports perfectly well with what Pius allows is a text which must not be forced into too modern of a literary category.

All that Catholic dogma (seems) to demands is that there be a first true man (metaphysical man, not just biological) from which all other true (metaphysical men) take their origin through propagation. Notice how Pius XII allows for the possibility that man's biological existence (not his intellectual ensoulment) MAY have developed from evolutionary- like processes. Since that is a working possibility for a Catholic, it follows that a Catholic might hold that Adam just is whatever homo sapien developed biologically to the point where his biological makeup (matter) was disposed to receive a spiritual soul as the form of his body – that would be Adam. Pius does not lock down any concrete notion of when we are to think this happened (1 million BC or 4000 BC, or whatever) because of the very ambiguity he mentions (though affirmed as historically true in some sense) of the Gen 1-11 literary type.

And I say it SEEMS as though monogenism is dogma, BUT even that needs clarification since even some conservative theologians think that Pius XII used the language "its is in no way apparent" how polygenism is compatible with revelation, precisely to leave open the door that such apparent incompatibility MIGHT someday be shown as compatible after all. I think that's a tall challenge, and I also think monogenism is perfectly defensible in light of modern evolutionary theory and genetics, so long as we carefully distinguish between mere biological homo sapiens and true metaphysical man.

Regardless, all I am saying is that St. Augustine warned us long ago to be VERY careful with the interpretation of Genesis in his "On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis". His chief worry being that Christians might force the text to affirm things that the text need not be seen as affirming, which later turn out to directly contradict scientific or historical evidence open to everyone; a needless contradiction which would scandalize the faith in the eyes of the world. He was not bending to "liberal" pressure when he issued this warning. He was simply arguing against a ham-fisted handling of the Scriptures. I think Barron’s words are perfectly in keeping with St. Augustine’s advice and I see no sense in which he is transgressing either Catholic dogma or doctrine. If he is not transgressing either of those, then charity demands that we allow for divergences of viewpoint on lesser matters.

Pax Christi,


Dave Armstrong said...

He denied that Adam was a literal figure. I don't see that anything you say overcomes the legitimate objection to his position.

We're not talking about the entire narrative being absolutely literal, but about Adam as a literal human being in history. Obviously, the creation of the world was literal, etc. It actually happened at a particular point in time.

Jordanes551 said...

if we are going to probe into the statistical works on this issue among biblical experts, i doubt if mr. armstrong's thesis would be able to stand.

Statistical works on this issue among biblical experts?

How can statistics tell us anything about whether or not Church teaching maintains the existence of a literal First Man Adam from whom the human race derives its origin through propagation (monogenism)? Would that entail counting all the various ancient biblical manuwscripts and all the relevant patristic and magiserial statments on this issue?

monk68 said...


I do not wish to be contentious, but I do not think you are interpreting Fr. Barron’s words charitably. When he says, “not a literal figure”, one rather straightforward interpretation (in keeping with his macro theme of avoiding an overly literalistic approach to Genesis 1-11) would be that he means to affirm that a Catholic is not dogmatically obliged, given the apparent mixed genre of the text, to understand Adam as a figure enmeshed in a particular (literal) cultural milieu (say for instance, post-Neolithic Mesopotamia), even though parts of the narrative seem to present elements which correspond to our rudimentary knowledge of that epoch.

He goes on to say: “Adam, the first human being . . . .”, followed by a description of all the things that the first human being does (name things according to their intelligibility, etc.). He also states how the Church Fathers refer to him as the first philosopher, scientist, etc. Unless we want to say that Barron understands the Fathers as referring to a non-existent human in such accounts, it would seem quite natural to assume that what Barron means by using the words “not a literal figure” is more along the charitable reading I have just explained, rather than assuming (I think unnecessarily), that Barron means to affirm that Adam does not refer to any one real human being – the first human being, from which all humans are linked by propagation. You say: “Obviously, the creation of the world was literal” (I assume you mean because we are obviously living in a world); and for that reason, it would seem quite unwarranted to assert that Barron’s warning against a literalistic reading of Genesis entails some denial of cosmic creation – which I think we agree he does not deny. Yet, by the very same thinking, there was obviously a first human being since, we live in a world full of human beings. Surely we do not mean to assert that Barron thinks there was no first human being. As he says: “Adam, the first human being . . .”.

All of that appears to me as a quite reasonable, non-forced, understanding of Barron’s meaning, that in no way (from what I can tell) conflicts with either Catholic dogma or doctrine. Moreover, that reading perfectly comports with your concern that:

“We're not talking about the entire narrative being absolutely literal, but about Adam as a literal human being in history. . . It actually happened at a particular point in time.”

Therefore, I see no point in insisting upon an interpretation of his words that unnecessarily places his orthodoxy in the dock.

Pax Christi,

Dave Armstrong said...

The problem is that, granting you are right, and he meant no such thing as I (and many others, including Fr. Jim Tucker) interpreted, in the combox underneath the video comment, there was already a huge discussion, and this view that you are asserting was not clarified at all, by the person answering there: whether it was Fr. Barron or someone working for or with him.

To me that was the telltale sign that my "take" was right: also the continued refusal to respond to anyone who has written to him, making inquiries (several on my FB page said they were going to do so).

Why should it be an issue at all? All he has to do is make a clarifying statement. No one would be happier than I would be, to see that he does truly believe in the historical Adam described in the Bible.

But he hasn't done so. Why? Surely he must be aware of my wen post by now, if the number of "shares" is correct. I have nothing against the man personally. I'm just calling it as I see it.

He can write at any time and disabuse us of our error if indeed we are wrong. I'm not an unknown person in the Catholic world, myself. He may have even heard of my name before. He has nothing to fear from me.

If I have read him wrong, I'll make every effort to correct it. But even then, I wouldn't say I had no warrant for interpreting as I did, because it seems to me the straightforward reading of his words: especially in light of the combox discussion underneath them.

Jim Paton said...

"He denied that Adam was a literal figure. I don't see that anything you say overcomes the legitimate objection to his position."

I pointed this out in a comment I posted on the "called to communion" site not that long ago when it featured a video of Fr Barron's. The comment never made it onto the site and I was told by Bryan Cross that: "I'm writing to let you know why your comment is not being approved. While we believe that there was in fact a literal Adam, that does not mean that nothing Fr. Barron says is good or helpful. It would not be wise to dismiss everything he says based on some errors he makes; otherwise, we would also have to throw out St. Thomas and St. Augustine, and the writings of all the saints, none of whom was theologically flawless."

At first, I wrote back saying that he made a good point. But this ate away at me for a few days and then I wrote back to him and asked: "Firstly, can you provide evidence of any of these fathers of the Church openly denying Catholic dogma?" Even though this isn't dogma per se, it is a presupposition of other dogmas as Ott maintains: "The teaching of the unity of the human race is not, indeed, a dogma, but it is a necessary presupposition of the dogma of Original Sin and Redemption" (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, page 96)."

There are far too many Catholics willing to sweep this under the carpet. Fr Barron needs to state publicly that what he said was wrong, and until such times, then I don't think Catholics should be taking his advice.

My two pence worth.

Jim Paton said...

I should add - I have not received any reply.

Dave Armstrong said...

No replies seems to be a malady that is going around. I would say to Bryan: "yes, of course we don't dismiss everything he says, but we also don't put our heads in the sand and ignore a serious doctrinal issue hinging directly on original sin."

Noah of Christ Crucified said...

When he attacked St Bernard preaching of the Crusades that ended it for me with him. It is chronicled that St Bernard performed more miracles in his preaching the 2nd Crusade then all the recorded miracles combined from the time of the apostles.

Carl Grillo said...

The fact of the matter is that; unfortunately, the text of "Humani Generis" opens the door to the heresy of polygenism. The Central Preperatory Commission of Vatican II wanted to close this "door" by proposing mononogenism as "de fide divina et catholica" - at least by virtue of the ordinary and universal Magisterium - if not "de fide definita implicita" by virtue of the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Trent on Original Sin.

Traditional Catholic exegetes Marcone(Italian)and Bone(French) stated at the time(1962);inter alia, that:

1) all modern evolutionary theory presupposes the heresy of polygenisnm as its point of departure; therfore, the baby must be thrown out with the bathwater;

2) Pius XII also went "too far" by admitting even a moderate tranformism of the body of Adam from pre-existing organic matter - all the Fathers, Doctors, and theologians are unanimous in teaching the immediate creation of the body of Adam by God from pre-existing INORGANIC MATTER - "ex limo terrae" - this would have been defined by Vatican I if not for the Frano-Prussian War...

MatthewDoh said...

I noticed a serious logical flaw in one of the arguments made in this post and couldn't resist pointing it out. It is said in the post that if Adam is not a literal figure but a theological construct, and Christ is the new Adam, then Christ therefore a theological construct. This, however, is an invalid argument. Christ's title of "the new Adam" is a title in human words and cannot change the reality of his being (granted all titles for Christ say something integral to his essence). If Adam did not really exist, the mere fact that we call Christ the new Adam would not be enough to eliminate Christ from existence. That is similar to saying that my friends call me "the new bob", but bob never existed, therefore I must not exist. Whether or not Adam exists changes the force of the title, but it does not change the existence of Christ. That being said I actually think Adam and Eve exist. I'm open to correction though.

newenglandsun said...

"The degree in which the infallible magisterium of the Holy See is committed must be judged from the circumstances, and from the language used in the particular case."
Thurston, Herbert. "Encyclical." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 Aug. 2013 .

The circumstances that Pius XII wrote that in were dealing with the question of original sin and how this would be explained in light of polygenism. We have since learned much more. It's time to admit that Catholics are not at all obliged to adhere to monogenism so long as they can thoroughly explain the original sin concept in light of this.

kodachromefilm said...

Fr. Barron, who I AM NOT a fan of, but having listened to this video, I fail to see where Fr. Barron is in known error regarding the teaching of the Church? It is easy to misunderstand Fr. Barron for he speaks in the grey a lot which help to devoid his message of meaning. He has not, in this video, denounced Adam's humanity and God's infusion of the human soul into Adam. He is not denying that Adam was a single human being. He is not denying that Adam was our first parent. And when looking at the Book of Genesis, there is a lot of symbolism; not science; theories such as Creationism theory of God creating the heavens and earth in 6, 24 hour periods taking Genesis literally when the Old Covenant Jews have not nor the Catholic Church universal.

But what if one did? Would they lose their salvation? No. It has no bearing on salvation. Getting back to Adam, Fr. Barron is not excluding Catholic Church teaching which does have bearing on salvation; not denying they are our first parents, not denying God infused a soul into them, not denying that they are single human beings not being multiple beings such as in a tribe or nationality, etc. I believe Fr. Barron is being misunderstood which is easy to do since he speaks in the grey helping to devoid meaning from his message. He speaks like a genius; something he is not.

Dave Armstrong said...

Well, he never clarified what he meant, so what he DID say remains troubling to me on the face of it.

James Layne said...

I think this may be a little unfair to Father Barron, without more. It's really hard to tell from a quick, off the cuff comment like this exactly what he believes about whether Adam is a literal, historical person from which the human race descended. Keep in mind, Father's point was that Genesis is not science, and that we should read it as Theology in order to find its richness. So he is emphasizing not the literal sense of Scripture, but its figurative meaning.

Keep in mind, you can consider the same passage of Scripture under several senses. Even those things that can be taken literally and are meant by the inspired author literally can also be considered figuratively. For example, Jonas in the belly of the whale is literal, but it also is a figure of Christ in the tomb.

So when Father Barron says "Adam. Now don't read it literally..." and "we're not talking about a literal figure," he may simply mean that he is focusing upon Adam not as a literal figure, but to try and figure out what "richness" we can find in the figurative sense. Just because you're not reading it literally for purposes of his discussion and not currently "talking about" a literal figure, doesn't mean that one cannot read it literally or talk about it in the literal sense.

I'm not saying this is what he means. But I am saying we need to be careful before accusing a good priest of even material heresy. We need to give him the benefit of the doubt and at least state that his words are ambiguous.

James Layne said...

I should add, Dave, that this is what you did at the end of the article, when you say that his words may have been simply poorly chosen. I'm just cautioning us all to be extra careful and emphasize that his words could be taken in a perfectly orthodox way as well.

I just wish this were more forcefully stated as a possibility in your article. I really doubt that Father Barron is in error on this point, though of course it is a possibility.

Oakes Spalding said...

Thanks for the link, David. I think Mr. Shea just banned me from his site. I just got a message saying "You do not have permission to post on this thread." :)

Martin said...

Hi Oakes,

I can count on one finger the number of people I've seen Dave ban. Unless you've been giving him hell on some other thread I suspect this is an internet glitch. (Actually, I can think of a second person now. But the point is- not likely are you banned.

Dave Armstrong said...

He was sayin' Mark Shea banned him, not me.

I do ban folks at the drop of a hat on Facebook if they cross certain lines. The last one called Pope Francis a modernist and he was promptly banned.

On my blog I don't have moderation and so can't technically ban, but I allow more freedom of speech anyway. I'm more vigilant on Facebook because I don't want anyone led astray.

Topwater Reviews said...

Dave, was this ever resolved to your satisfaction? I.e., have you discovered what Father Barron was really saying?

Dave Armstrong said...

No. It just hangs in the air and is never clarified. Recently, Fr. Barron was in a thread on a friend's page and I asked him directly, with no reply. It's almost certain that he must know of my article. It made quite a splash at the time. Then a friend of mine recently said he would inquire. Haven't heard anything back.

The refusal to reply or non-reply / non-clarification itself makes me all the more inclined to believe that my initial impression was the correct one. But I hope I'm wrong!

Topwater Reviews said...

I am sorry to hear that, as it upset me greatly when I saw his video. I know you must be a busy man, but have you come to any conclusions?

From his other videos he seems to believe in original sin, so was he perhaps stating that the story of Genesis may not have gone down the way it tells (historically, i.e. Adam naming the animals) us but I am believes there were two people that brought sin in the world. Name, time, place..etc is all up for debate but the fact still remains the same.

I’m so confused as I respected him greatly

Topwater Reviews said...

I am sorry to hear that, as it upset me greatly when I saw his video. I know you must be a busy man, but have you come to any comclusions?

From his other videos he seems to believe in original sin, so was he perhaps stating that the story of Genesis may not have gone down the way it tells (historically, i.e. Adam naming the animals) but HE believes there were two people that brought sin in the world. Name, time, place..etc is all up for debate but the fact still remains the same.

I’m so confused as I respected him greatly

dmw said...

Dave, the "Fr. Jim Tucker" who you quote is not the same Fr. Tucker that was the former webmaster of Dappled Things. Dappled Things was run by a now-laicized priest of the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia). James Tucker is now a DC-based lawyer:

Dave Armstrong said...

Okay; thanks much for that clarification.

Kneeling Catholic said...

I agree with you David. All that Fr. Barron had to do was sometime in the past 3 years affirm what Pius XII insisted HAD to be true for evolutionary belief to be consistent with Catholicism.

I am afraid there are Teilhardians who believe Vatican II removed the obligation of Catholics to hew to any council which preceded it. Hence Fr. Barron and even good Cardinal Pell have said things which seem to deny that sin originated thru our first parents' decision. If sin did not originate via human choice, then we move in the direction of blaming God for sin. He putatively created humans via evolution. Their beastly qualities are seen as leftover instincts from God's 'trial and error' creative process.

John Z said...

Another heretic. Whatever, I can't judge him personally but I can judge his actions and thus, he's just another heretic, I wouldn't go to one of his masses, he simply doesn't believe. I'm sure he'd debate that vigorously but no matter, by his actions you can judge.

Dave Armstrong said...

I don't think he's a heretic or outside the faith; just wrong on this matter.

Thomas Pernice said...

Paragraph 390 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:

"390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."

Figurative ("poetic") language affirmed an actual event -- sin -- committed by our progenitors. But, the object of the first sin may not have been a literal "fruit", but nevertheless an original sin occurred by the first man and woman imbued with a soul.

Irenaeus of New York said...

He is not the only priest to suggest this. There is a youtube video of Cardinal Pell saying the same thing in a debate with Richard Dawkins. Dawkins keenly replied... "Then where did original sin come from?"


Alex Ortiz said...

i must say I don't think Fr. Barron was contradicting Catholic doctrine in his statement. He said that Adam is not a literal figure, which i understood to mean that the story of Genesis did not happen literally as told in the bible. He does NOT deny the Catholic doctrine that there was a first man and woman from which all humans are descended from. He merely said that the depiction of the first man is not a literal one. This is in accordance with Catholic doctrine. 

Dave Armstrong said...

Not my issues at all. To fully understand what I am saying (and you haven't even understood this paper), you also have to read my second paper on the topic:

Dave Armstrong said...

Yes I did. I don't allow radical Catholic reactionary garbage on my site. The problem ain't Vatican II or the Catechism, but Fr. Barron's errors in this regard. He is in error; not Holy Mother Church.

I deal with the errors in your strain of thought on a web page of mine:

Posting something again after I have deleted it constitutes trolling; thus I will close this discussion to prevent you from doing it again.