11 recurring mistakes in the debate over the “historical Adam” (reprise)

Posted by PeteEnns on June 15, 2016 in Christianity and evolution The Evolution of Adam 85 Comments

TEAI began getting seriously involved in the Christianity/evolution “controversy” in 2009, which led to my 2012 book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. At that time and since the debate in the evangelical world over the historical Adam continues in an entirely predictable manner: the theological needs of the evangelical system lead to patterns of responses that are geared more toward protecting that system rather than addressing the serious theological issues introduced by evolutionary science and modern biblical scholarship on Genesis.

Below are the 11 recurring mistakes I see in the discussion. They are in no particular order.

1. It’s all about the authority of the Bible.

I can understand why this claim might have rhetorical effect, but this issue is not about biblical authority. It’s about how the Bible is to be interpreted. It’s about hermeneutics.

It’s always about hermeneutics.

I know that in some circles “hermeneutics” is code for “let’s find a way to get out of the plain meaning of the text.” But even a so-called “plain” or “literal” reading of the Bible is a hermeneutic—an approach to interpretation.

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others. Hence, appealing to biblical authority does not tell us how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has.

“Biblical authority” is a predisposition to the text. It is not a hermeneutic.

2. You’re giving science more authority than the Bible.

This, too, may have some rhetorical effect, but it misses the point.

To say that science gives us a more accurate understanding of human origins than the Bible is not putting science “over” the Bible—unless we assume that the Bible is prepared to give us scientific information.

There are numerous compelling reasons to think that Genesis is not prepared to provide such information—namely the fact that Genesis was written at least 2500 years ago by and for people, who, to state the obvious, were not thinking in modern scientific terms.

One might respond, “But Genesis was inspired by God, and so needs to be true.”

That assertion assumes that “truth” is essentially synonymous with historical accuracy and that a text inspired by God in antiquity would, by virtue of its being the word of God, need to give scientific rather than ancient accounts of origins.

These assumptions would need to be vigorously defended, not merely asserted as unimpeachable fact.

Lying behind this error in thinking is the unstated assumption that the Bible, as the word of God, must predetermine the conclusions that scientific investigations can arrive at on any subject matter the Bible addresses.

To make this assumption is to run roughshod not only over commonsense, but over the very notion of the contextual and historically conditioned nature of Scripture.

If Scripture were truly given priority over science in matters open to scientific inquiry, the church would have never gotten past Galileo’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.

3. But the church has never questioned the historicity of Adam. 

This claim is largely true—though it obscures the symbolic value especially early interpreters found in the Garden story, but I digress.

On the whole, this statement is correct. It is also irrelevant.

Knowing what the history of the church has thought about Adam is not an argument for Adam’s historicity, as some seem to think, since the history of the church did not have evolution or any scientific discoveries to deal with until recently.

That’s the whole point of this debate—evolution and ancient texts that put the biblical story in its cultural context are new factors we have to address.

Appealing to periods in church history before these things were on the table as authoritative and determinative voices in the discussion simply makes no sense. What Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans assumed about human origins is not relevant—and to say so is not a dismissal of the study of church history, historical theology, etc., but to put them in their place.

Calling upon church history does not solve the problem; it simply restates it. Appealing to church history does not end the discussion; it just reminds us why we need to have the discussion in the first place.

4. Both Paul and the writer of Genesis thought Adam was a real person, the first man. Denying the historicity of Adam means you think you know better than the biblical writers.

More rhetorical punch, but this assertion simply sidesteps a fundamental interpretive challenge all of us need to address on one level or another.

All biblical writers were limited by their culture and time in how they viewed the physical world around them. This is hardly a novel notion of inspiration, and premodern theologians from Augustine to Calvin were quite adamant about the point.

No responsible doctrine of inspiration can deny that the biblical authors were thoroughly encultured, ancient people, who spoke as ancient people. Inspiration does not cancel out their “historical particularity,” no matter how inconvenient.

Any notion of inspiration must embrace and engage the notion that God, by his Spirit, speaks within ancient categories.

We do indeed “know more” than the biblical writers about some things. That alone isn’t an alarming theological problem in principle. But that principle has become a problem because it now touches on an issue that some feel is of paramount theological importance—the historical Adam.

The stakes have been raised in ways no one expected, for now we understand that the ancient biblical authors’ understanding of human origins is also part of their ancient way of thinking.

Should the principle be abandoned when it becomes theologically uncomfortable?

As I see it, the whole discussion is over how our “knowing more” about human origins can be in conversation with the biblical theological metanarrative. This is the pressing theological challenge before us and it needs to be addressed deliberately and without rancor, not avoided or obscured.

Acknowledging that we know more than biblical writers about certain things is not to disrespect Scripture. We are merely recognizing that the good and wise God had far less difficulty with ancient categories of thinking than some of us do.

5. Genesis as whole, including the Adam story, is a historical narrative and therefore demands to be taken as an historical account.

It is a common, but nevertheless erroneous, assumption that Genesis, as a “historical narrative,” narrates history.

Typically the argument is mounted on two related fronts:

(1) Genesis mentions by name people and places; we are told that people are doing things and going places. That sounds like a sequence of events, and therefore should be taken as “historical.”

(2) Genesis uses a particular Hebrew verbal form (waw consecutive plus imperfect, for you Hebrew nerds) that is used throughout Old Testament narratives to present a string of events—so-and-so did this, then this, then went there and said this, then went there and did that.

As the argument goes, we are bound to conclude that a story that presents people doing things in a sequence is an indication that we are dealing with history.

That may be the case, but the sequencing of events in a story alone does not in and of itself imply historicity. Every story, whether real or imagined, has people doing things in sequences of events.

This does not mean that Genesis can’t be a historical narrative. It only means that the fact that Genesis presents people doing things in sequence is not the reason for drawing that conclusion.

The Lord of the Rings masterfully records in great and vivid detail people (and others) doing things in sequence. But is it still pure fiction. A Tale of Two Cities does the same, but that doesn’t make it a reliable guide to historical events.

The connection between Genesis and history is a complicated, multifaceted issue that many have pondered in great depth. The issue certainly cannot be settled simply by reading the text of Genesis and observing that people do things in time.

6. Evolution is a different “religion” (i.e., “naturalism” or “Darwinism”) and therefore hostile to Christianity.

Certainly for some evolution functions as a different “religion,” hostile to Christianity or any believe in a world beyond the material and random chance.

But that does not mean that all those who hold to evolution as the true explanation of human origins think of evolution as a religion. Nor does it mean that evolutionary theory requires one to adopt an atheistic “naturalistic” or “Darwinistic” worldview.

Christian evolutionists do not see their work in evolutionary science as spiritual adultery. Christian evolutionists take it as a matter of deep faith that evolution is God’s way of creating, the intricacies of which we cannot (ever) be fully comprehend.

In other words, “evolution=naturalistic atheism,” although rhetorically appealing, does not describe Christians who hold to evolution. Their convictions should be taken at face value, rather than suggesting that they have been duped or are compromising their faith Christians.

7. Since Adam is necessary for the Christian faith, we know evolution can’t be true.

Evolution causes theological problems for Christianity. There is no question of that. We cannot simply graft evolution onto evangelical theology and claim that we have reconciled Christianity and evolution.

The theological and philosophical problems for the Christian faith that evolution brings to the table are hardly superficial. They require much thought and a multi-disciplinary effort to work through. For example:

  • Is death a natural part of life or unnatural, a punishment of God for disobedience?
  • What does it mean to be human and made in God’s image?
  • What kind of God creates a process where the fittest survive?
  • How can God hold people responsible for their sin if there was no first trespass by a first human couple?

A literal, historical, Adam answers these and other questions. Without an Adam, we are left to find other answers. Nothing is gained by papering over this dilemma.

But, here is my point: The fact that evolution causes a theological problem does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have a theological problem.

Normally, we all know that we cannot judge if something is true on the basis of whether that truth is disruptive to us. We know it is wrong to assume one’s position and then evaluate data on the basis of that predetermined conclusion.

We are also normally very quick to point out this logical fallacy in others. If an atheist would defend his/her own belief system by saying, “I reject this datum because it does not fit my way of thinking,” we would be quick to pounce.

The truth of a historical Adam is not judged by how necessary such an Adam appears to be for theology. The proper response to evolution is to work through the theological challenges it presents (as many theologians and philosophers are doing), not dismiss the challenge itself.

8. Science is changing, therefore it’s all up for grabs.

Science is a self-critical entity, and so it should not surprise us to see developments, even paradigm shifts, in the near and distant future.

Is the universe expanding or oscillating? Are there multiple universes? How many dimensions are there? What about dark matter and dark energy? How many hominids constituted the gene pool from which all alive today have descended? And so forth.

But the fact that science is a changing discipline does not mean that all evolutionary theory is hanging on by a thread, ready to be dismissed at the next turn.

Also, the fact that science is self-correcting doesn’t mean that, if we hold on long enough, sooner or later, the changing nature of science will eventually disprove evolution and vindicate a literal view of Genesis.

Change, development, even paradigm shifts in scientific work, are sure to come, and to point that out is hardly a penetrating insight: that is how science works. But further discoveries will take us forward, not backward.

9. There are scientists who question evolution, and this establishes the credibility of the biblical view of human origins.

Individual, creative, innovative thinking often leads to true advances in the human intellectual drama. I would say that without these pioneering voices pushing the boundaries of knowledge, there would be no progress.

However, the presence of minority voices in and of itself does not constitute a counterargument to evolution.

Particularly in the age of the Internet, it is not hard at all to find someone with a Ph.D. in a relevant field who lends a countervoice to mainstream thinking. This is true in the sciences, in biblical studies, and in any academic field.

One can always find someone out there who thinks he or she has cracked the code, hidden to most others, and disproved the majority. And, in my experience, too often the promotion of minority voices is laced with a fair dose of conspiracy theory, where the claim is made that one’s view has been ostracized simply because it challenges the establishment.

Those without training in the relevant fields are particularly susceptible to following a minority voice if it confirms their own thinking. But simply having a Ph.D., having research experience, or even having written papers on minority positions, does not establish the credibility of minority positions.

The truthfulness of minority claims must be tested over time by a body of peers, not simply accepted because those claims exist and affirm our own positions.

10. Evidence for and against evolution is open to all and can be assessed by anyone.

Since evolutionary theory is the product of scientific investigation, it follows that those best suited to evaluate the scientific data and arguments are those trained in the relevant sciences—or better those who are practicing scientists and therefore are keeping up with developments.

The years of training and experience required of those who work in fields that touch on evolution rules out of bounds the views of those who lack such training.

This is certainly the case with those who have no scientific training whatsoever beyond basic high school and college courses. I certainly fall into that category, which is why I don’t feel I can enter into scientific discussions, let alone critique them.

Engaging scientific issues requires serious scientific training—which only a fraction of the earth’s population can claim to have.

My point is that most of us do not have a place at the table where the assessment of evidence is the topic of discussion. I include here philosophers of science, historians of science, and sociologists of science. These disciplines look at the human and historical conditions within which scientific work takes place, this giving us the big picture of what is happening behind the scenes intellectually and culturally.

Science is not a “neutral” endeavor, and these fields are invaluable of putting science into a broader intellectual context. I am all for it.

But I have often seen practitioners of these disciplines, without any high-level scientific training, overstep their boundaries by passing judgment on evolution on the basis of the big-picture context these disciplines provide.

Evolution cannot be judged from 30,000 feet. You still have to deal with the scientific data in detail.

I think I stand on very solid ground when I say that these various disciples need to be in conversation with each other, not one standing in judgment over the other.

Simply put, you have to know what you are talking about if you want to debunk evolution. If you want to take on the scientific consensus, you have to argue better science that stands the test of peer review, not better ideology.

11. Believing in evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.

Many arguments I have heard against evolution come down to this: my evangelical ecclesiastical group has never accepted it, and so, to remain in this group, I am bound to reject it too.

It is rarely stated quite this bluntly, but that’s the bottom line.

But, as is well known, in recent decades the term “evangelical” has become a moving target. Is evangelicalism a stable, unchanging movement, or is it flexible enough to be open to substantive change?

Or an even more fundamental consideration: should maintaining evangelical identity at all costs even be the primary concern?

These may be the most important questions for evangelicals to consider when entering into the discussion over the historical Adam.

[The original version of this post appeared in May 2015 as an edited collection of a four-part series that I first posted in 2011. Interested readers can find more on my take on all this in the Bible and evolution in The Evolution of Adam (2012)]

  • Gary

    Who is even having this debate?

    Outside of homeschooler debate leagues and Bible college dorm rooms, does anyone anymore even care?

    IMO, debates about a historical Adam are right up there with Nephilim/UFO conspiracy theories. I mean, you can gawk from an outside-in perspective and do a rubbernecker’s drive-by, but why would anyone actually demean themselves to any sort of debate here?

    • Andrew Dowling

      Look at Gallup polls on creationism; this is not an insignificant portion of the population.

      • Gary

        And what percentage of folks believe in ghosts, UFOs, etc. What’s popularly believed in is wild.

    • Sheila Warner

      Ken Ham, for starters, in response to your first question. He has a huge following.

    • AHH

      Evangelical Christianity is having this debate. It was a cover story for Christianity Today a few years back, just to pick one example.

  • http://www.livingspirituality.org/ Greg

    Thanks Pete. I’ve run into most of these first hand. Your helpful insights about recurring mistakes and your responses will be instructive to many, especially evangelicals. I think that 1 & 7 are the most striking lapses, but all of your 11 are represented by those who want to insist, “we don’t have no theological problems.” As you quite rightly point out, evolution, when taken seriously, will create difficulties for some interpretations of early Genesis. The sooner we accept that the better. Let’s embrace the challenge.

    • Hill Roberts

      Me too. All eleven.

  • charlesburchfield

    I like this;
    “But, here is my point: The fact that evolution causes a theological problem does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have a theological problem.”

    Here’s a nugget from an internet friend I like;
    “The brain being an artifact of the biological organism and [ is ] completely immersed in its own relativity.”

  • Robert J Naumann

    I don’t see how you can avoid the literal meaning of Genesis as a matter of interpretation or hermeneutics. The writers of Genesis meant exactly what they said and believed what they wrote and it was meant to be taken literally. It is just that their world and cosmological views were quit different from our present views. One simply has to take these writings as a history of the ancient Hebrew’s understanding of their relationship with WYWH or Elohim, depending on the writer.

    Biblical literacy should be taught in schools which would include a history of who wrote the Bible, when various parts were written, and why they were written. But the reaction from the Fundamentalists would be far greater than their objection to the teaching of evolution. So I won’t hold my breath.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “The writers of Genesis meant exactly what they said and believed what they wrote and it was meant to be taken literally.”

      And you know this how? To the contrary ancient readers would instantly recognize the poetic elements of the narrative and not instantly conclude like modern readers that everything is meant to be taken literally.

    • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

      How do you know the writers of Genesis understood their writings “literally?” Do you think Homer thought he was writing a documentary when he wrote the Odyssey? How do you explain that no rabbinical commentary treated Genesis 1 as “literal” until about the 11th century?

      • Robert J Naumann

        There is no reason the think that Homer thought he was writing a documentary when he wrote the Odyssey. I don’t know anything about early rabbinical commentary, but Paul, a Pharisee, compared Jesus to Adam, so he must have taken the Hebrew creation stories literally.

        • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

          Why must he have done that? I can compare Jesus to Odysseus. I don’t think there is any historical evidence at all that anyone thought Genesis was literal until the 11th century.

        • Hill Roberts

          I’ve been compared to the tar baby. Doesn’t make me one. And I totally understood the basis of the comparison. Doesn’t require that tar baby really lived for the comparison (compared – your word) to be valid, useful, theological, truthful, etc.

    • Paul D.

      “The writers of Genesis meant exactly what they said…”

      That’s an interesting claim to make. Some ancient author, probably one of the so-called “Priestly” writers, was the first person to frame the Hebrew creation myth in a “creation week” paradigm, and he was almost certainly doing so as a theological and/or pedagogical exercise to reinforce the doctrine of Sabbath observance — whose actual roots, as Bible scholars know, lie entirely elsewhere. Obviously he thought there was value to the message he was imparting; but I cannot imagine him, having put this story on paper for the first time ever, “believed” it really happened that way as a historical event.

      • Robert J Naumann

        I think it is reasonable to assume that the early writers of the J and E documents were writing down oral stories that were handed down as the creation legends of their people, and given their world view, there was no reason for them to question such stories. Granted, the Priests may well have later tinkered with the E stories later to put their theological spin on them before the Old Testament was canonized.

  • Hill Roberts

    Wow! Thanks for this overview. I’ll definitely be sharing this one on my FB page, maybe in parts. With your permission, and source credited of course.

    • Pete E.

      Of course. Spread the love.

  • Robert J Naumann

    The denial of Adam as the first man would indeed cause theological problems in Christianity, especially the sin of Adam. After all, it was the purpose of Jesus coming to earth as the perfect sinless sacrifice demanded by God to erase the stain of Adam’s sin. That was why Jesus had to be born of a virgin and the Immaculate Conception of Mary after the Church found out that females contributed genetically to their offspring.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “the purpose of Jesus coming to earth as the perfect sinless sacrifice demanded by God to erase the stain of Adam’s sin”

      That is the popular Reformation view of the “purpose” of Jesus but there are more ancient alternative interpretations.

      • Robert J Naumann

        May well be, but the whole idea of blood atonement, Jesus died for our sins, the eucharist, all these are central to mainstream Christianity, especially to evangelicals. Take Adam’s sin away and the whole thing collapses. Perhaps this is why the evangelicals are so concerned about the teaching of evolution, the denial that there ever existed a perfect world that was destroyed by man’s sin.

        • charlesburchfield

          There may be more to it than that!

          Supposing this “Church,” which is in reality no church at all, takes to herself the function of declaring that everyone else is guilty and rationalizing the sins of her members as acts of virtue?Suppose that she becomes a perfect and faultless machine for declaring herself not guilty? Suppose that she provides men with a convenient method of deciding when they do or do not need to accuse themselves of anything before God? Supposing that, instead of conscience, she provides men with the support of unanimous group approval or disapproval?
          Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

    • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

      Theological Assumptions Level: Critical

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    Very nice summary. And this list also applies to other areas of debate within Christianity by just changing a few words here and there.

  • Derek

    This post is a perfect example of why I appreciate the work of Dr. Enns so much. Thank-you for challenging assumptions and cutting through tradition and religiosity whilst remaining faithful, and encouraging others to do the same.

  • Derek

    I just posted this comment on a theology forum as I linked to your article for discussion, Pete. Here it is:

    “The only objection I could muster up at this time would be to point out that Jesus’ worldview seems diametrically opposed to the presuppositions that are virtually a prerequisite in the natural sciences for the most part. Once a Christian accepts certain presuppositions, either wittingly or unwittingly, they have already set foot on a path that is fundamentally a radically different meta-narrative at its core. A Christian who does this will experience cognitive dissonance to the nth degree due to holding two diametrically opposed metanarratives simultaneously”.

    I know you kind of touched upon this objection in your 6th point, however, I’d also appreciate additional feedback here as well.

    • Pete E.

      Jesus’s worldview was 1st century and Jewish. Should we adopt all that goes with it, too?

      • Derek

        I guess it would depend. Let’s take the potential effects of demons on an individual. I think we can agree that the Bible teaches that demons are literal spiritual enemies. I’d imagine Jesus would readily accept the notion that demons can be the source of various illnesses, etc. Now let’s turn our attention to the medical establishment – I think we can agree that the establishment as a whole rules out the demonic a priori in their methodological investigation of the source of an illness – they are operating with an alien set of presuppositions to the biblical view of reality. Does that make sense?

        • Occam Razor

          Jesus almost certainly believed that demons caused what we know today are medical illnesses. Jesus was wrong. One can assume or wish that away or flat out deny it, or decide to believe ancient superstitions. Believing in ancient superstitions is the best way to ignore the fact that Jesus was wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them true.

          • charlesburchfield

            Yikes! Jesus spoke directly to a demon!

            New Living Translation
            Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” MARK 5.9

          • Josh Wallace

            I see many both/and(s) in the Bible. Some appear to be direct opposites and others vary by distinction.

          • charlesburchfield

            Yep! IMHO One needs the mind of Christ to distinguish one’s way. Have you ever encountered demons?
            Here is a classic quote!
            There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

            C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (originally 1942; this edition: Harper Collins, 1996) ix.

          • Veritas

            Driving out demons as a matter of curing an illness was associated with a narrow subset of the biblical accounts of Jesus healing.
            For example (and I am not being comprehensive)
            A mute man
            A crazed man (or two) among the tombs
            A boy afflicted by convulsions

            On the other hand, no mention of driving out demons in healing:
            A withered hand
            The blind men
            The deaf man
            A paralytic
            A woman with hemorrhage

            I do not think it is so easy to be certain of what Jeaus understood about disease. But, if one doesn’t believe in the demonic, then I suppose it’s more obvious to decide Jesus was wrong.

        • Andrew Dowling

          And . . . .? What part of Christology demands that Jesus transcend in his knowledge of the material world what any 1st century Galilean would have assumed? That pretty much makes Jesus’s “humanity” a charade.

      • Gary

        The Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy resulted in two great Christological failures.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “A Christian who does this will experience cognitive dissonance to the
      nth degree due to holding two diametrically opposed metanarratives

      I’d strongly disagree with that; as Pete said, it’s about hermeneutics. If literalizing the stories of Jesus’s demon exorcisms or the virgin birth is a fundamental part of your Gospel metanarrative, than you’d have a stronger point, but I don’t see that as integral to the Gospel stories at all.

      And if you are going to go further and try to extrapolate “Jesus’s” worldview and not just the Gospel accounts, well then a Christian has some fundamental issues to begin with even if they eschew all modern science, since Gentile inclusion did not occur until years after Jesus’s death. Jesus shared his table with prostitutes and tax collectors, but in all likelihood he would not be cool with your BLT sandwich.

    • AHH

      I don’t think the “presuppositions” of the natural sciences are diametrically opposed to the worldview of Jesus. Any more than the rules of baseball are diametrically opposed to the worldview of Jesus.
      We scientists assume that the universe is consistent and to some extent comprehensible; that’s about the only presupposition. And we look for natural explanations for phenomena, but that’s not a presupposition — it’s a definition of what science is (a limit on science, not a limit on reality).

  • Pete E.


  • Pete E.

    Don’t get me started. . . .

  • Gary

    I don’t buy it. Over the course of my years, I don’t think I’ve heard as grand of counterfactual and unevidenced claims as from the Christian pulpit.

    In my anecdotal experience, it’s been much less the preacher bearing truth and much more me bearing false witness–non-truth boldly and confidently proclaimed as truth.

    For me, it’s telltale of foundational fractures.

    That people find profound spiritual fulfillment and transformation in these environments is now beyond perplexing.

    • Darrin Hunter

      I am in agreement with your comments, Gary. Not sure why you said “I don’t buy it”. To be clear, I basically stated that Christians, who aught to be truthful, would rather promote lies to cover for God and the bible.

  • Veritas

    “Is death a natural part of life, or unnatural….?”

    This question does not only challenge evolution, it must challenge all of what we know of biology, and so chemistry (since biology is only a subtype, a macro-chemistry) and then also physics and mathematics, since each is simply the playing out the laws that govern creation on varying scales of complexity.

    DNA obeys the laws of chemistry and of physics.

    If death, at least physical death, is really not a part of life, then science itself has a lot more wrong than evolution.

    • Gary

      Death enables a next generation with its mutations to have a potential to be adapted to a changed environment. Mutation and natural selection need generations and generations require death. It’s really not terribly complicated, certainly not as complicated as theology.

  • Josh Wallace

    Thank you for this.

  • Michael Michaels

    Thanks for your work, Pete! I really have been interested in the interplay between evolution and the creation story and your work has helped me a lot. You mentioned that there are scholars working to form more informed theology in light of evolutionary theory. Can you suggest some authors/books? And, I’m assuming the “Evolution of Adam” outlines this too?

    Thanks again!


    • AHH

      For starters, you could Google for some articles in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith by Daniel Harlow, John Schneider, and George Murphy.

      • Michael Michaels


  • Andrew Dowling

    Can I give this an amen?

    • Occam Razor

      I’ll second that.

  • Rob Davis

    Hey Pete, thanks for everything you do. I’ve been very influenced by your work, and I’ve started a new blog to specifically respond to an apologist named James White. Thought you or some of your readers might find it interesting: https://theantigayagenda.wordpress.com/

  • Sheila Warner

    Very good! I liked your book. I would recommend it for any Christian grappling with the theology implications of how they view the story of Adam. It was well researched, and one of my favorite books of Mr Enns.

  • Paul Z

    Pete – this is the best synopsis of the issues at play for evangelicals pondering the historicity of Adam (and much of the OT prior to the Monarchy). I’m passing this along to my inerrantist friends! Well done!

  • Derek

    Hi Peter, this is a rather long formation of my thoughts on the subject. I can totally understand if you find it too long for the comment section, however, I am eager to read from those who disagree with me, as I am not married to this position. Well, here it is:

    So to recap and organize my thoughts on this matter: At this point in time, I see the global scientific enterprise not as a nefarious entity deliberately and consciously attempting to undo the foundations of Christian theism, but rather, I see the scientific enterprise engaged in methodology that presupposes a meta-narrative that is inherently at odds with any form of supernaturalism. The scientific enterprise is not necessarily advocating for strict philosophical naturalism, yet there is the obvious reality that scientists must adhere to practical naturalism when engaging in scientific work. Scientists must interpret physical evidence naturalistically and formulate their conclusions or theories accordingly. There is absolutely no provision whatsoever for incorporating theistic presuppositions when conducting scientific investigation. It is unequivocally ruled out apriori and relegated to the realm of “magic” or “personal belief”. Scientists, including faithful Christian’s, must adhere to strict naturalistic presuppositions when examining the natural world. This naturalistic methodology swallows up the entirety of physical reality and scientists are therefore obligated to construct a narrative that precludes any injection of “supernaturalism” or “magic” into this narrative of reality. One merely has to watch a few episodes of natural geographic, for example, on the subject of origins and one can plainly see that the narrative being promoted is utterly hostile to any form of supernaturalism or divine intervention/tinkering – such a proposal would, once again, be relegated to the category of “magic” or “personal religious beliefs”. Once a scientist engages in science they have already accepted a whole host of presuppositions that have ruled out significant portions of the Christian narrative, namely, the effects of an intervening deity. Are scientists, even Christian scientists, interpreting the physical evidence with the possibility of divine intervention having occurred in some fashion? I think the answer is a resounding “No” – not if they want to be a part of the global scientific enterprise. Therefore, can the conclusions of mainstream science – which rules out fundamental Christian doctrines a priori – and labors to construct a natural narrative – be trusted to provide accurate interpretations of the physical evidence and human origins? I believe that Christian’s who hold to evolution are actually holding on to two radically different sets of presuppositions, this creates awkward attempts at harmonization and produces a bizarre hybrid consisting of mainstream scientific findings coupled with “theological” or “magical” (as mainstream science would have it) injections here and there.

    • Hill Roberts

      Actually there is objective evidence against the fundamental premise that science is a priori set against the Bible: Archeology. The science of archeology. When doing middle eastern archeology the Bible is a fundamental source. Take Jericho – K. Kenyon et al. went searching at Jericho specifically because of the Bible and the miraculous events recorded there about its history. She wanted to apply some of her newly refined skills wrt pottery analysis after Garstang and Albright’s work. It is not her fault nor of the science of archeology (then or in ensuing years since) that as it turns out Jericho was not inhabited in the time frame consistent with Joshua’s time (whether early or late). But yes, it existed; yes, it was a walled city; yes, it had a long history of occupation and destruction prior to the Joshua timeframe. Yes, it has been mostly unoccupied in the days since that general timeframe.

      All this helps us to better know what to make of the Bible record of this event. Most likely a somewhat embellished account from later generations about the advent of Israelite culture in the Levant. Though one may not like the results of this research, one CANNOT claim that in the area of clear overlap between the Bible and Science (archeology) that the two function in non-overlapping magisterial. They are in intimate conversation on a daily basis. Sometimes an intimate conversation of violent disagreement, and sometimes an intimate conversation of violent agreement. (Depends on who’s ox is being gored.) But conversation nonetheless.

      And do not minimize this by saying archeology is not a front line science. It partakes of all the even hardcore physical sciences of physics (stratigraphy, construction analysis, radioisotopic dating, thermoluminescent dating), geology (flood/drought stratigraphy), chemistry (materials, environment, trade connections), biology (food analysis), paleontology, forensic pathology, astronomy (analysis of cultic remains), and on and on. Archeology is one of the more hardcore scientific disciplines of the field of life sciences in general.
      So – the premise is objectively false.

      • Derek

        Please allow me to reiterate what some archaeologists themselves say: Archaeology is 90% digging and 10% interpretation. Again, archaeologists themselves are the one’s chanting the mantra that archaeology is more of an art than an exact science and so forth. This absolutely in no way is meant to denigrate the field, but rather offer an honest summation of this scientific field. All this seems to support my view. In relation to the historicity of the exodus and so forth, I don’t know if this is as closed a case as you would make it out to be. Again, archaeologists have been proven wrong on more than one occasion.

        • Hill Roberts

          Your claim is not that science can be wrong at times. You point was that science categorically cannot even consider the biblical view. Archeology objectively shows the falsehood of your claim. Unlike most theological and hermeneutical traditions, science is inherently always learning. Learning is inherently a process of replace former paradigms with better ones. Put another way, the process of science is such that it learns from its missteps. Theology is inherently to structured to exclude change and learning. Your premise is simply objectively wrong. Time to get over it Derek.

          • Derek

            My claim was that perhaps science will continue to get some things fundamentally wrong if it excludes supernatural effects in the physical world apriori. I never claimed that science cannot get many things correct (and it does), and some of those things may coincide with the biblical account and others may not. I am trying to find the reasons why there are fundamental differences with regards to the text and physical reality. I think interpretation and worldviews play a major role here.

            Also, I think you meant to say “theology is inherently too structured to *include* change and learning. If, so I would have to disagree with that charge as well. I think it is more appropriate to say “some theologians are opposed to change and learning due to their apriori commitments”. I hope I am not among that number (though I’m not a theologian) and I hope some scientists don’t fall into that error, either.

          • Hill Roberts

            Sounds to me that since you don’t like the way science is done, that you need to start doing it the right way. Go for it.

          • Pete E.

            I’m having a little trouble following you here Derek. Can you give an example of scientific conclusion that would be better/clearer/more accurate if supernaturalism were part of the equation.

          • Derek

            Sorry I wrote that comment in a major sleep deprived state. I don’t think I can provide a *scientific* conclusion that would be better/clearer/more accurate if supernaturalism were part of the equation. I think this is due, once again, to the very nature of scientific methodology that seeks to explain phenomena in a purely naturalistic fashion. I think the global scientific community has a tendency to extrapolate that methodology to encompass all of reality, and scientists either wittingly or unwittingly, become philosophical naturalists in the process – when “doing science”. I gave the example of demons effecting an individual. If left to scientific investigation, such a conclusion would never be reached because the demon/supernatural hypothesis has been ruled out apriori. Science by it’s very nature is operating with a presupposition that there *must* be a purely natural explanation.

            As to specific examples of how supernaturalism would effect certain scientific viewpoints and theories, I cannot say…I really don’t know but I guess it’s something to think about because supernaturalism certainly is part of the Christian worldview.

          • Hill Roberts

            So all this has been about something that you cannot provide a single example of ???

            I’m reminded of the Sid Harris cartoon:
            Just to make plain – it is a joke. There is no miracle function in math.

  • fritzpatrick

    This is a minor, but I think valuable, point. Most probably Paul believed Adam and Eve were historical creatures, but what can we say about the author of the Adam and Eve story? It seems to me that this writer or storyteller must have known it was a story. And so, I would think, did the first listeners/readers. This would, of course, have been before any move to canonize a set of writings as Scripture. What do you think?

  • JRW

    We modern types tend to think that we can understand Scripture the same way that it was understood when it was first written. The problem with that is we cannot put our own minds into the world that existed back then. The development of Jewish theology occurred in a brutish world in which each culture had its own bevy of gods that they depended on for deliverance from a vast array of threats. Although the blood sacrifice of animals was common to appease fearsome gods it was not unusual, in desperate times, to sacrifice children to placate especially furious gods. The Old Testament was the recording of a thousand years of a people wrestling with their one God to try to understand what was happening to them as they experienced good times and very bad times. Sometime in this period, the story of Abraham and Isaac was written down to inform the people that the blood sacrifice of children was not acceptable to their one and only God, although the blood sacrifice of animals was expected.
    At some point, Christians must deal with the premise that is central to orthodoxy. Did God purpose from the beginning of time that the only way to forgiveness was the blood sacrifice of His child. If the answer ultimately is no, then all the debate about Adam is irrelevant.

  • John Morgan

    I recently co-taught a Sunday School class and my co-teacher used “The Evolution of Adam” as reference. In that context, I read the book, enjoyed it, was enlightened by it, and agreed with or accepted most of it.
    I think Derek is spot on with his comment about the meta-narrative that drives the modern scientific enterprise: it precludes discovering any data which point toward a Creator. Related to that is your point not everyone is qualified to evaluate the scientific evidence. That is true and I think that is why most Christians decide WHO to believe and not really WHAT to believe. I especially have problems with AiG which has very few real scientists. I would commend Reasons To Believe to you (reasons.org) which has staff who have real doctorates in the sciences and have worked as scientists.
    Related to evolution, I would recommend “Who was Adam” and “The Cell’s Design.” I think there are valid reasons to question evolution and I think the standard meta-narrative prevents those reasons from being allowed in the discussion. If evolution is not a fact, then some of the impetus to make Adam non-historical seems to evaporate.

    Related to the Exodus, which you mention in the book, I commend the DVD “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus.” It seems to present clear evidence that is consistent with the Biblical narrative but goes counter to the standard narrative of archeology.

    I appreciate your pursuit of Truth. I believe that we should value Truth more than Evangelical Christianity. I, however, am not ready to say that evolution has been proven. Nor am I ready to say that the standard narrative of archeology is correct. You may be right that Adam is not the historical individual we imagine. But, I don’t think the scientific case is as firm as you seem to. And I don’t think we need to bow to the authority if that authority disallows any evidence to a Creator.

  • gingoro

    Good post. But IMO if one is not an inerrantist and accepts evolution then, with today’s use of the word evangelical, one is no longer an evangelical. Probably not accepting inerrancy is sufficient to be cast out to outer darkness. Carl Henry, Ockenga etc had a more embracing inclusive view of evangelicalism.

  • Josh Wallace

    I love this topic for apologetic reasons. I usually concede evolution in the beginning. Your work has helped me in evangelism.

    The other thing, Dr. Enns, is that many of our children go off to college and lose their Faith bc of some hotshot Dawkins type teaching them “science” as if there weren’t any limits to the subject. Scientists do a crummy job of explaining the difference between theoretical science and good ole science.

    I think many people hold to Darwinian Evolution with a religious zeal. On the other hand, I think many Christian hold to instantaneous creation with the same kind of religious zeal. I think these presuppositions get in the way of science. I think that it’s important to look at science by observing both possibilities, even with the conclusions of dna/human genome studies being formed. That’s why I consider myself a Bi-Creationist. Maybe there is a better term for it? I just don’t know enough to argue either theory. I’m torn between both theories. That damned fossil record of bigger creatures like elephants get in the way. Also, interesting is what they did to Lucy’s pelvis. Forgive me please for being skeptical of gradual and instantaneous creation.

  • Hill Roberts

    “Daddy, why is the pot boiling?”
    “Well sweetie, because the stove’s hot flame has added enough heat to the water in the pot that now the water can’t get any hotter. But the water still needs to get rid of that extra heat coming in. So now the hot water jumps out of the pot in the form of bubbles and that steam you see rising. We call that boiling.”
    “Sweetie, daddy is very smart about boiling water and I’m sure that must be right. but I just wanted a cup of hot tea with my supper.”
    “Okay mommy!”

    We scientists know our place in the greater order of things. Allow us this one little thing: to learn and explain how some stuff happens. “Why” will forever be “mommy’s” business. (Apologies to all the great female scientists out there for this bit of TIC gender foolishness.)

    And further apologies if you were expecting daddy to say “Because people learned eons ago that demons live in the water, and when it gets hot they don’t like it, and make the water boil to escape.” Or maybe you were hoping for “Because God makes hot water boil.” I’m good with that, as long as you don’t think that negates thermodynamics.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I think a better term for that “angel of light” is called testosterone.

  • Hill Roberts

    Oops – clicked the wrong thing and “promoted” myself – NOT cool. sorry.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Top 3 Things About Evolution That Revolt Devout Jews/Christians/Muslims the Most

    REVULSION #1 “I ain’t no Monkey’s Uncle!”

    “1996 presidential contender, Pat Buchanan, said something along the lines of `You may believe that you’re descended from monkeys, but I believe you’re a creature of God.’ I guess that Buchanan hadn’t considered that one of the basic tenets of Christianity is that God is the Creator of everything, including `monkeys.’ It seems to me that one of the basic reasons behind the so-called `creationism’ is the feeling that somehow parts of God’s creation are not worthy of being our ancestors.”

    However, Christians like C. S. Lewis were not threatened by the thought of a species of thinking religious animal:

    “When the rationality of the hross tempted you to think of it as a man… it became abominable–a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat. But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have… and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost… the charm of speech and reason. Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other. It all depended on the point of view.”
    C. S. LEWIS, OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (a Christian science-fiction novel)

    And certain ironies arise from denying so vehemently that one is not a “Monkey’s Uncle,” while affirming that humanity was created from the “dust of the earth,” because, isn’t it just as respectable to be a “modified monkey” as “modified dirt?” Or as Will Rogers put it during the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s:

    “The Supreme Court of Tennessee has just ruled that you other states can come from whoever or whatever you want to, but they want it on record that they come from mud only!… William Jennings Bryan tried to prove that we did not descend from the monkey, but he unfortunately picked a time in our history when the actions of the American people proved that we did… Some people certainly are making a fight against the ape. It seems the truth kinder hurts. Now, if a man didn’t act like a monkey, he wouldn’t have to be proving that he didn’t come from one. Personally I like monkeys. If we were half as original as they are, we would never be suspected of coming from something else. They never accuse monkeys of coming from anybody else… You hang an ape and a political ancestry over me, and you will see me taking it into the Supreme Court, to prove that the ape part is O.K., but that the political end is base libel… If a man is a gentleman, he doesn’t have to announce it; all he has to do is to act like one and let the world decide. No man should have to prove in court what he is, or what he comes from. As far as Scopes teaching children evolution, nobody is going to change the belief of Tennessee children as to their ancestry. It is from the actions of their parents that they will form their opinions.”

    REVULSION #2 “If you teach people they’re monkeys, they’ll act like monkeys.”

    A second revulsion is related to the question of the origin of ethical values. Ethical values like “forgiveness,” are assumed to be mysterious and sublime ideas that we owe primarily to a few millennia of Judeo-Christianity. However as Frans de Waal pointed out:

    “Monkeys, apes, and humans all engage in reconciliation behavior (stretching out a hand, smiling, kissing, embracing, and so on), so such behavior is probably over thirty million years old, preceding the evolutionary divergence of these primates… Reconciliation behavior [is thus] a shared heritage of the primate order… When social animals are involved…antagonists do more than estimate their chances of winning before they engage in a fight; they also take into account how much they need their opponent. The contested resource often is simply not worth putting a valuable relationship at risk. And if aggression does occur, both parties may hurry to repair the damage. Victory is rarely absolute among interdependent competitors, whether animal or human.”
    FRANS DE WAAL, PEACEMAKING AMONG PRIMATES (see also, Morton Hunt, The Compassionate Beast: What Science is Discovering About the Humane Side of Humankind; and, Alfie Kohn, The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life; and see especially the chapter on “Kindness” in de Waal’s latest work, OUR INNER APE.)

    “When Washoe [the chimpanzee] was about seven or eight years old, I witnessed an event that told about Washoe as a person, as well as causing me to reflect on human nature. [The account proceeds to describe the chimp island at the Institue for Primate Studies]…One day a young female by the name of Cindy could not resist the temptation of the mainland and jumped over the electric fence in an attempt to leap the moat. She hit the water with a great splash which caught my attention. I started running toward the moat intent on diving in to save her. [Chimps cannot swim.] As I approached I saw Washoe running toward the electric fence. Cindy had come to the surface, thrashing and submerging again. Then I witnessed Washoe jumping the electric fence and landing next to the fence on about a foot of bank. She then held on to the long grass at the water’s edge and stepped out onto the slippery mud underneath the water’s surface. With the reach of her long arm, she grasped one of Cindy’s flailing arms as she resurfaced and pulled her to the safety of the bank…Washoe’s act gave me a new perspective on chimpanzees. I was impressed with her heroism in risking her life on the slippery banks. She cared about someone in trouble; someone she didn’t even know that well.”

    “We are told by those who assume authority in these matters, that the belief in the unity of origin of man and brutes involves the brutalization and degradation of the former. But is this really so? Could not a sensible child confute by obvious arguments, the shallow rhetoricians who would force this conclusion upon us? Is it, indeed, true, that the Poet, or the Philosopher, or the Artist whose genius is the glory of his age, is degraded from his high estate by the undoubted historical probability, not to say certainty, that he is the direct descendant of some naked and bestial savage, whose intelligence was just sufficient to make him a little more cunning than the Fox, and by so much more dangerous than the Tiger? Or is he bound to howl and grovel on all fours because of the wholly unquestionable fact, that he was once a fertilized egg cell, which no ordinary power of discrimination could distinguish from that of the fertilized egg cell of a Dog? Or is the philanthropist, or the saint, to give up his endeavors to lead a noble life, because the simplest study of man’s nature reveals, at its foundation, all the selfish passions, and fierce appetites of the merest quadruped? Is mother-love vile because a hen shows it, or fidelity base because dogs possess it? [As Mark Twain wrote, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”] The common sense of the mass of mankind will answer these questions without a moment’s hesitation. Healthy humanity, finding itself hard pressed to escape from real sin and degradation, will leave the brooding over speculative pollution to the cynics and the “righteous overmuch.”

    “Question: If we think that we are just animals, won’t we behave like animals? “Answer: What animal species are you thinking of? Porpoises are gregarious, intelligent, and fun-loving. Baboons are protective of the young. They show cooperative group behavior. Gorillas are docile, family-oriented, and vegetarian. Chimpanzees form `bands’ of more than one family, while orangutans live alone. From an evolutionary viewpoint, natural selection has produced people who behave like people. Humans, like all other species, are unique. There is no reason why we should behave as if we were some other species… We are a highly social species. Most of our behavior is learned, not genetically determined. [Compare the behavior of a child who is raised by human beings, with one who is not raised by human beings, i.e., during the first few months or years of the child’s life. Then you begin to realize how near to animals we really are, and what a large proportion of human behavior is learned during a long socialization process, which is itself the result of millions of years of cultural, merely biological evolution. [See Douglas K. Candland’s Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature.] We can learn behavior that will contribute to group well-being and our long-term survival as a species. We can even `unlearn’ whatever traces of instinctive behavior we may have inherited. Even if war between tribes is `natural’ human behavior, we can learn not to make war. Systems of morals and ethics serve, in part, to channel our behavior away from behavior that is socially and biologically destructive.”

    One irony of this particular revulsion is pointed out below:

    “Creationists criticize evolutionists for the demeaning idea of `coming from apes’ and say that man is more noble than that, and then have sermons where man is called a miserable worm worthy to be burned eternally in hell.”

    REVULSION #3 “Do we have an eternal soul, or not? Animals don’t.”

    A third revulsion is related to the fact that animals die and we assume they never rise again, so if we are directly related to animals then maybe our lives will also cease with death:

    “We do not like to be reminded of the ways in which we resemble animals. We sinners like to think our motives are more holy than those of animals. And since we generally assume animals cannot have eternal life with God, thinking about animal deaths and about our own place in nature frightens us.”

    A similar doubt is given expression within the pages of the Bible:

    “I said to myself concerning the sons of men, God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath [‘…all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life’ Gen. 6:17; 7:15,22, both man and beasts] and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust [‘…till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ Gen. 3:19]. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?”
    ECCLESIASTES 3:18-21

    And an irony of this revulsion is pointed out below:

    “A preacher thundering from his pulpit about the uniqueness of human beings with their God-given souls would not like to realize that his very gestures, the hairs that rose on his neck, the deepened tones of his outraged voice, and the perspiration that probably ran down his skin under clerical vestments are all manifestations of anger in mammals. If he was sneering at Darwin a bit (one does not need a mirror to know that one sneers), did he remember uncomfortably that a sneer is derived from an animal’s lifting its lip to remind an enemy of its fangs? Even while he was denying the principle of evolution, how could a vehement man doubt such intimate evidence?”

  • Pete E.

    A critical problem with the “apparent age” apologetic is that there is overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that the cosmos changed over time on the micro and micro levels (let alone life on earth). So did God then also created with “apparent gradual development over a long time?”

    • Derek

      Oh, I’m not arguing that the ‘appearance of age’ argument is true, I’m just using it as an example to ask the question of whether scientists can rightly interpret the natural world when scientific methodology rules out things like divine intervention (and the effects) as scientists labor to construct a “natural narrative”.

      I’m not saying the methodology is bad or anything, but perhaps it might get some fundamental issues wrong, because the methodology is denying fundamental aspects of reality a priori (from the Christian pov).

      • Hill Roberts

        Okay then let’s use something that the OT does have: raquia, firmament, solid sky dome holding back a sea of liquid water above it. Sure enough science didn’t find any evidence for that. Not because of anti-Bible bias, but because it isn’t so. Again, how is this somehow a problem with science??? I’m unconvinced about the “high esteem” part – first post seems sort of just the opposite.

    • Hill Roberts

      And – AoA concedes the point – it appears old. Where would the evidence of that appearance come from? Well, scientific observations. Again, exactly how is that a problem for science ??? It looks exactly like what God made it to be.
      In my experience (as an apologist/scientist/Christian) when anyone advances the “well it appears such and such, but really we know … ” — watch out, you’re about to get a snow job. It indeed does appear old — because it is OLD. God made it to appear old, because it IS old.

  • Hill Roberts

    My experience and thoughts already shared – take em or leave em. Won’t engage over a false hypothetical, but at the very least if something isn’t true, then it is doubtful science would find evidence of it. So this is problem with science exactly how?

  • Hill Roberts

    And – you gather wrongly.

  • http://www.ReEnlight.com Rob Schläpfer

    Has there been any discussion here of Richard Gaffin’s book from P&R — “No Adam, No Gospel”? Cheers.

    • Pete E.

      No, there hasn’t.

  • Pete E.

    He wrote that book against me. I skimmed it and saw that he was simply repeated prooftexts, as if the issue of evolution can be handled that way. I found it to be disappointingly unreflective hermeneutically and historically.

    • http://www.ReEnlight.com Rob Schläpfer

      I hadn’t realized that when I originally asked. I’ve read it now. My focus was more on the Biblical concept of Redemptive History than Evolution. I’ll have to re-read your handling of the various Adam + Christ texts. Thanks & Cheers!

  • 382fan

    The problem I see with 5 is that if you take Adam and Eve to be something other than historical people, it begs the question of when we start believing that any of the OT people and events are historical. I don’t see any incompatibility between Adam being an historical person and the narrative not being a precise historical account.

    • James M

      How about this:

      1. Gen.1-11 are a different type of writing from the historical/historiographical books of the OT like Samuel-Chronicles.
      2. The narrative in Gen.3 is recognisable as a body of folklore motifs – the talking serpent is the same kind of creature as the talking horse of Achilles in Iliad 19, or the talking serpent in the in the Mesopotamian myth of Etana. That Gen.1-11 is largely mythological does not make it any less true or any less inspired – the parable told by Jotham in Judges 9 is (for lack of a better word) a “plant-fable”, told to make a political point. It is not a history, because trees and plants do not engage in politics.

      3. Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Lamech, Noah, & the rest are Hebrew names. The puns in Gen. 1-11 work only in Hebrew. But Hebrew is a comparatively recent language. It is derived from Canaanite, about 1200 BC. This is about 2,000 later than the most ancient texts in Sumerian, which is one of the most ancient of known languages.

      4. Gen.1-11 is held together by literary patterns. For instance, there is a motif of “transgressing boundaries”, over-shooting what God has appointed. The “sons of God/the gods”, who are heavenly beings, in 6.1-4 transgress boundaries, by “going in” to the “daughters of men” – the result of this union is the birth of the *Nephilim*, the giants. The passage is an example of the blessing of fertility – a major theme in Genesis – being used in a perverse way. The Sodom story in 19.1-29 is a counterpart to 6.1-4 – but this time, mortal men try to gang-rape heavenly beings – and bring down a Flood-like disaster, this time of fire.

      5. The motif of heavenly beings or gods coming down to visit mortal men, often to see whether a rumoured crime has occurred, is found in Genesis 11.1-9, 18, 19.1-29, Acts 14, & in Greek, Latin, & Norse mythology.

      6. The finding of a child upon the water, who later becomes a ruler, is very widespread. The infant Moses is discovered this way; there are Greek tales like this; Sargon of Akkad (c.2200 BC) was found this way; so were Romulus and Remus; so was the hero Perseus; so was the infant Scyld Scefing, mentioned in the Beowulf poem.

      7. The ages in Gen.5, in which only 3 out of 10 patriarchs (Enoch was taken at 365, Mahaleel died at 895, Lamech at 777) from Adam to Noah, fall short of their 900s, are legendary. But, even those ages are comfortably dwarfed by the 10,000s of years lived by the first kings in the Sumerian King List. Yet the SKL & Gen.5, despite the significant differences, exhibit the same pattern: longest-lived characters -> Flood -> shorter-lived characters (but still fabulously long-lived) -> slow decline to ages that are lower -> historical times. The SKL lists lengths od reign, whereas Gen.5 & 11.10 following explicitly list lifespans only. But the SKL & the Biblical passages come from the same sort of world. Thereafterm, the decline continues:

      Terah – 205
      Abraham – 175
      Isaac – 180
      Jacob – 147
      Joseph – 110
      Aaron – 123
      Moses his brother – 120
      Joshua – 85

      With the single blip of Isaac, the post-Flood trend is down from:

      Noah – 950
      Shem – 600
      Arpachshad – 438
      – and so on down to Terah.

      Exodus 6 (the descendants of Levi) exhibits the same trend, from the high 130s, downwards. These ages are very interesting – but they are not historical, any more than the ages of the anciemt kings in Tolkien’s Silmarillion are historical. They are a literary device, to serve a theological purpose. That does not mean they are not inspired Scripture; but the judgement that they are inspired is not based on hermeneutics – it is based on the Faith of the Church in Christ.

  • 382fan

    As for conflict between science and the Bible, I consider God to be the author of both, and therefore any perceived conflict is a failure to correctly interpret one or the other, or even both. God is One, perfect in unity and harmony. Discord does not arise from Him. It is picked up by Him and woven into the song.

  • 382fan

    When you say that engaging in scientific issues takes years of training, so we should just leave it to the experts, you are encouraging ignorance. Shame on you. There are enough “experts” on both sides of the issue, and plenty of texts, books, and articles written in “layman’s” terms for most people to be able to grasp the arguments on all sides of the issue. I say “all” because there are more than two possible scenarios.

    • Pete E.

      Not encouraging ignorance but humility. I’ve seen plenty of people with no training speak with great authority in things they know nothing about.