Forsaking the fall : an inquiry into the possibility of a nonlapsarian Christianity

  • Daniel Hayden Spencer

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


In this thesis, I argue that the orthodox Christian faith does not require commitment to the
doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. To yield this conclusion, I first outline what precisely is
meant by Original Sin; this is accomplished through a lengthy exposition of the three dominant
species of the doctrine (Chapter 1). Next, I turn to an investigation of the two standard proof
texts for Original Sin—Gen. 2–3 and Rom. 5:12–21—where I contend that various exegetical
and hermeneutical considerations make it plausible to suppose Original Sin is not grounded
authoritatively in scripture (chapters 2 and 3). Having addressed the putative scriptural
foundations for Original Sin, I turn in Part II to a somewhat more constructive task, the main
aim of which is to demonstrate that the abandonment of Original Sin leaves no significant gaps
in an overall Christian theology. Chapter 4 examines the biblical doctrine of sin; in conjunction
with the following two chapters I argue that the essence of sin here uncovered is supremely
amenable to a nonlapsarian theology. In Chapter 5 I argue that there are no serious difficulties
for such a project in terms of theodicy—at least, that is, no difficulties which would not be
equally problematic for the Fall doctrine. In Chapter 6, I suggest that traditional Christian
teaching on atonement and salvation can be squared rather straightforwardly with a
nonlapsarian theology. Finally, in Chapter 7 I propose a strongly realist account of orthodoxy
which is both compatible with nonlapsarianism and very similar in content to the evangelical
proclamation of the early church. I thus conclude that a broadly orthodox Christian theology is
compatible with a rejection of the Fall and Original Sin.
Date of Award1 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorJoshua Luke Cockayne (Supervisor) & Oliver Daniel Crisp (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 18 April 2027

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