Adam being made mortal is not new in our community

While seemingly fundamental now, the idea of Adam being made mortal is not radical in the context of our pioneer writings (let alone Scripture!).  Yet brethren inset there is no other reading of the BASF.  Eg bro Phil Perry insists the BASF clause 4 & 5 can only be read this way.[1]  Both scripture and the history of our community reject this narrow reading.  Bro Robert in 1869 wrote as follows:

My explanation is…Adam, before transgression, though a living soul (or natural body—1 Cor. 15:44–5), was not necessarily destined to die, as obedience would have ended in life immortal.  After transgression, his relation to destiny was changed.  Death (by sentence,) was constituted the inevitable upshot of his career.  He was, therefore, in a new condition as regarded the future, though not in a new condition as regarded the actual state of his nature.  In actual nature, he was a corruptible groundling before sentence, and a corruptible groundling after sentence; but there was this difference: before sentence, ultimate immortality was possible; after sentence, death was a certainty.  This change in the destiny lying before him, was the result of sin[2]

Bro Roberts also changed his position later and insisted vigorously that Adam was amortal, further revising this yet again to accept divergence of views on the specific question of whether Adam would have died if left alone of not[3] (he specifically avoided the word mortal but dying = mortal.  (Refer to this post for his two articles in 1869).

Bro Sargent, commentating on Bro Thomas exposition on the state of Adam make some excellent observations (a fuller extract is reproduced later in this document):

If, then, we take “immortal” to mean “incapable of dying” (as Dr. Thomas does in the passage quoted), we must say that Adam in his novitiate was not incapable of dying, therefore capable of dying, and therefore “mortal” as a simple antithesis to immortal, and using the widest sense of an ambiguous term.  There is a class, “incapable of dying”; all not included in it must be included in the class “capable of dying”; but the latter class may be divided into two sections: (A) those in whom death is only a capacity—a latent capacity, as we might say; and (B) those in whom it is an active condition. Both are included in one wide classification, “not-immortal”: but it is the sub-class in whom death is an active principle who are, on a stricter definition of terms, called “mortal”, because they are “subject to death, destined to die”.  Adam was always within the class, “capable of death”, but on the sentence of God he passed from the sub-class in whom it is a latent capacity to the sub-class who are actively subject to corruption as a law of their being; and in that class all his posterity have remained—all save One, who has been “made perfect”.[4]

Later in 1969 Bro Sargent again concurred with the exposition of Bro Thomas on the mortality of Adam[5] – though noting the operation of that mortality was subject to ongoing obedience, a scripturally sound position that I agree with.

Somewhat more succinctly, and also using Paul in 1 Cor 15, Bro Whittaker puts it

Neither mortal nor immortal, but very good” is meaningless, for (a) “very good” is far too vague to be useful, without further definition; (b) every living being in the universe is either mortal or immortal, for the two states are mutually exclusive. “Mortal” means “subject to death” (QED), and Paul’s handling of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15 declares emphatically that Adam was created mortal (but of course with an opportunity of being sustained in being indefinitely until his Maker either made him immortal or condemned him to the grave…)”[6]

Bro Levin surveys the evidence of Genesis 2-3 and concludes “Adam and Eve did not have some sort of semi-mortal ‘very good’ status.[7]

I heartily agree with this analysis and explanation of these brethren.  It is very consistent with much of Bro Thomas’ early exposition (refer passages at end of this document).  In the interests of clarity about Bro Thomas commentary, it is fair to say his position changed somewhat over time.  He suggested Adam was not mortal in Anastatis[8] and clarified further in Catechesis to say his body was corruptible[9].  Despite Bro Thomas’ evolving thinking, the connection between the passages was also noted in the context of a mortal body in other later Christadelphian articles. [10]

Scripture clearly says Adam was created mortal but subject to a higher law on which his fate rested (ie obedience or otherwise to God’s law).  This doesn’t undermine the special creation view (hence it being held in the past as true in varying degrees).  Such a reading is also compatible with EC.  Insisting that Adam was initially not mortal not only introduces a new standard of orthodoxy into our community, more seriously it contradicts the Bible.


[1]Perry, Phil 2016 “Theistic Evolution Refuted” version 1.9 page 2

[2] Roberts. “Notes on the Mystery of Godliness” The Christadelphian Volume 6 page 242-243 (1869).

[3] Roberts, R, “Uncertain Details” The Christadelphian, volume 35 page 183 (1898)

[4] Sargent, L “Adam in Innocence”  The Christadelphian Volume 78 page 13 (1941)

[5] Sargent  “Dr Thomas on Adam’s Temptation” The Christadelphian Volume 106, page 124 (1969)

[6] Whittaker, H. “Commentary on Genesis 1-4” Biblia (p. 58) (1986).

[7] Levin, David (2011) The creation text: studies in early Genesis” The Christadelphian Tidings Publishing Company, Livonia Michigan USA page 221

[8] Eg see Anastasis pages 20, and 37-38

[9] Thomas, J.  Catechisis  Logos Publications page 11-12 (1866)

[10] Richardson, L “Fundamental Doctrines” The Christadelphian Volume 114, page 455 (1977)

7 thoughts on “Adam being made mortal is not new in our community

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