Irenaeus' optimistic picture of humanity, made in 'the image and likeness of God' and 'ascending towards the perfect', had to come to terms with sin. Irenaeus introduced, for the first time in the Christian tradition, a
111 'Message of John Paul II', in R. J. Russell et al . (eds.), John Paul II. On Science and Religion: Reflections on the New View from Rome (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 1990), M7. That same message contained a striking set of questions as to the way findings of modern science may enrich our understanding of some Christian beliefs: 'Might contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections on creation? Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as imago Dei , the problem of Christology—and even upon the development of doctrine itself? What, if any, are the eschatological implications of contemporary cosmology, especially in the light of the vast future of the universe? Can theological method fruitfully appropriate insights from scientific methodology and the philosophy of science?' (ND 176c). On the science—religion debate, see J. F. Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000).
distinction between image and likeness: 'image' is what we always are, while 'likeness' is what we can become and/or lose through sin. To develop his view of sin and its consequences, Irenaeus drew on Genesis and on Paul's Letter to the Romans. Presenting Christ as the second or last Adam, Irenaeus showed how Christ has reconciled with God the first Adam's sinful descendants, has recapitulated human history, and leads all creation to immortal glory. To understand human sin, Irenaeus was not content to reflect on the symbol of Israel's captivity in Egypt, but went back to the very beginning when Adam and Eve chose an existence contrary to God.
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