Pete Enns, The Evolution of Adam: Introduction

Exploring Our Matrix is one of several blogs that is participating in the Pete Enns blog tour, which means this week we will be reviewing Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2012). Visit the blog tour hub page to find out which other blogs are participating, and to enter to win some books yourself.

Since there is a lot that is worth saying about and highlighting in the book, I will be spreading my blogging about the book over three posts.

As Enns makes clear early in his book, the title (The Evolution of Adam) does not represent some attempt to harmonize the Bible and modern science by saying that Adam evolved biologically, or something else of this sort. Rather, the book is about the way our understanding of the figure of Adam has developed over the history of Jewish and Christian interpretation. The play on the word evolution is intentional, however, as the dual images on the book’s cover, of traditional direct creation and the double helix of DNA,  illustrate. Adam, Enns highlights over the course of the book, is not a static figure, understood in a single way. In the process of exploring this, and providing the contexts of both ancient literature and modern scholarship as the setting for investigating and considering the figure of Adam, Enns provides not merely a book about Adam, but also a good general introduction to the history, methods and essence of scholarly study of the Bible, using Adam as an example.

It is thus reasonable to hope that this book will do more than just address concerns that some Christians have related to modern biology. This book may help a larger number of Evangelicals to grasp and embrace Biblical scholarship to a greater extent and less selectively than tends to be the case at present.

The book’s introduction explains what the author is setting out to do, summarizing in the process Enns’ earlier book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. In several places throughout the volume, Enns will return to the importance of the incarnation as a model for divine self-revelation. God does not bypass human culture and thought, but embeds his message within them. As a result, the Bible “is God’s Word, but it has an ancient view of the natural world, not a modern one” (p.xiv).

The introduction also offers cautionary remarks about the dangers of not learning from past instances of science being at odds with the clear meaning of Scripture. The eventual result in the case of the Copernican revolution and Galileo was of course that the new view of the cosmos derived from scientific study of the natural world proved correct, and the church was left with a blot on its reputation.

Enns sees four options available for those who seeking to engage both science and Scripture: (1) accept evolution and reject Christianity, (2) accept Paul’s view of Adam as binding and reject evolution, (3) reconcile the two by positing a first human pair in the evolutionary process, or (4) rethink Genesis and Paul (pp.xvii-xviii). Enns considers the fourth option preferable, and the book is written to make the case for not merely why that option is preferable, but how to go about it in detail.

After the introduction, the book is divided into two parts, the first focusing on the creation stories in Genesis, the second focusing on Adam in Paul’s theology. Those two parts will be the focus of my other two posts about the book.


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