The Search for the Historical Adam 2 (RJS)

The June 2011 cover story in Christianity Today, The Search for the Historical Adam, is a summary of the state of the discussion about the understanding of Adam and Eve in our church. The subtitle lays it out – “Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it.”  This is a topic we’ve discussed a great deal on this blog, and a topic that will continue to come up for the foreseeable future. It will not be resolved in short order. In fact, the significance of the question requires that we revisit it from a number of angles, posing questions and considering the ramifications of the answers.

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In addition to the cover story itself, Christianity Today has also posted an introductory piece by Ted Olson, Adam, Where Are You? and an editorial outlining the stance of Christianity Today on these issues: No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel. In his introduction Ted Olson calls for a difficult grace filled family meeting.

Few debates in our world have been as impassioned and emotional as those over creation. But now we’re not just talking about dating rocks and interpreting fossils. We’re talking about family. Nor is the discussion between those who think the Bible’s account of creation, fall, and redemption is important and those who find it irrelevant. This is a family meeting. (p. 9)

This is an important point – this is a family discussion. Quite frankly non-Christians, those not committed to the gospel, don’t care. There is a bemused incredulity that we waste any intellectual effort on the discussion. A corollary here is also important – this is not a quest for external credibility or the approval of secular colleagues. It is an attempt within the family to reconcile what we know from scripture with what we know from science.

What do you think? What motivates this discussion?

Do you think it is important?

The cover story in Christianity Today does a fairly good job of giving a balanced picture of the current state of the debate. There are scientific, biblical, and theological questions to be considered.

The scientific data cannot be brushed under the rug and ignored. I continue the discussion here because I am convinced that the scientific evidence for an old earth, evolution, and common descent is so strong that Christians must adjust – this is a reprise of Copernicus and Galileo.  Some questions raised by proponents of Intelligent Design remain open, questions regarding the sufficiency of natural mechanism alone in bringing about the current state of life. But these open questions do not challenge the observation of an old earth, evolution, and common descent. Old earth progressive creationism is increasingly hard to justify and defend. The theological and scientific questions raised by young earth creationism are overwhelming. While one can take a position of mature creation on the strength of the testimony of scripture, this leaves us with a illusion of evolution, including death and decay, preceding the Fall. Many find that this leaves us with an image of God as intentionally deceptive in creation. I don’t expect everyone (or anyone) to simply take my word for it on the evidence. Thus some of my posts here have dealt specifically with the evidence and the nature of the scientific debate. This will continue.

The biblical questions are more significant than the scientific questions. How do we understand scripture as the inspired Word of God? How are we to read Genesis? What is the form and intent of the text? It is more than merely plausible to suggest that Genesis 1-3 is not a prose recitation of history. The word plays and names, the form and structure, the story elements and the imagery, the presence of different variations on the story, make it clear that the form and intent transcends a mere recitation of fact. John Walton has put forth a proposal for the first chapter of Genesis in The Lost World of Genesis One, but does not delve into the harder questions raised by Genesis 2-3 and the story of Adam and Eve. There are many questions regarding the nature of scripture that remain to be wrestled with.

The most significant questions, however, are the theological questions. This is where the Christianity Today editorial comes into the picture.

Christians have already drawn the line: there must be an original pair of humans endowed with souls—that is, the spiritual capacity to relate to God in the special way Genesis describes. (p. 61)

At stake, it is suggested, is (1) the entire story of what is wrong with the world. This “hinges on the disobedient exercise of the will by the first humans. The problem with the human race is not its dearth of insight but its misshapen will.” and (2) The entire story of salvation, which hinges on the obedience of Christ undoing the disobedience of Adam.

The editorial allows for the possibility that Adam and Eve could be leaders of an original population, rather than the unique biological progenitors of the entire human race. The importance of community in Ancient Near East thought and life and a corporate understanding of the nature of humanity provides an important perspective on the interpretation of the text. They point to the recent book by C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care, as providing a possible approach. We began this book last week and will continue to work through his argument. Joel B. Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible also delves into some relevant issues, including the nature of sin and the corporate view of humanity in scripture.

I am not convinced, though, that the editors at Christianity Today have accurately defined the stakes in the discussion. In particular it seems to me that the description of the gospel as problem (Adam’s sin) and solution (Christ’s life, death, and resurrection) is not a sufficiently complete understanding of the story we have in Scripture. I don’t think the incarnation is a response to a problem, rather it is a part of the plan of God from the very beginning. Whether we have Adam, Eve, a garden and an apple, or some other history represented by this story, rebellion and redemption was, for some reason known to God, part of the plan. Christ was present from the beginning and in Him we live and move and have our being.

Do you think that the editors of CT have accurately described the stakes in this discussion?

Does the entire story of salvation hinge on the disobedience of Adam? If so how?

The editorial ends in the same place that Ted Olson’s introduction started – with a plea for a grace-filled family discussion.

At this juncture, we counsel patience. We don’t need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth. (p. 61)

This is my prayer. May this discussion be characterized by the humility of our scholars, by their technical expertise and their willingness to listen to each other, to understand, and to wrestle with the hard questions. Only in this fashion will we move forward in Christian response and unity.

David Opderbeck has also posted some reflections on the CT editorial on his blog Through a Glass Darkly. As always, his thoughts are well worth consideration.

Darrel Falk at BioLogos has also commented on the editorial: BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Editorial. This is an excellent piece.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

You can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • Scot McKnight

    RJS,
    There is tension in the editorial for me, and perhaps it was intended. In particular, there is a strong claim that the historical Adam and Eve are at the root of the human problem and therefore a seeming necessity of affirming an original couple, but at the end of the article there is a concession to their being the representative heads — tribal king and queen? — of some thousands from whom our DNA pool is derived.

    I welcome that last concession as a theology that is unafraid of scientific evidence and conclusions. But will many read that piece and think that Adam and Eve are unconnected to the life forms before them?

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    Okay, I have some observations to add to the discussion. One of the real problems between science and Christianity is the element of time. Here’s a thought–time is a direct result of movement, earth’s rotation on its axis and its revolution around the sun (as a result, time has no meaning except here on the earth). Now, just like we don’t put vehicles into motion until the manufacturing process is finished, could God not have put things into motion (i.e., started time) after He finished creating? Think about it–it makes sense. And, if this is reality, then it would explain what science has measured because when we talk about billions of years, we’re pretty much talking about eternity. We could say God created our world in eternity and then started time.

    Now, the difference between Genesis 1 and 2 is that of point-of-view. In the first chapter, we “see” Creation from God’s perspective and, in the second chapter, from Adam’s. As far as Adam was concerned, he was the first being that was created. One of the biggest challenges in understanding the Bible is discerning the points-of-view of what is written throughout its pages.

    As Christians, we tend to focus on what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. However, the real story is the scam that Satan pulled on them. When God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He was establishing the choice that the human race had–cleave to Him and have life or let go of Him and be subject to death. Satan came to Eve and lied to her with the express purpose of conning her into letting go of God. You see, Satan wanted to destroy God’s creation because God came to his kingdom (darkness) to create our world. Adam and Eve never touched the fruit until Satan lied to Eve–therefore, the sin did not come from their hearts, but from Satan’s lie. And, since Adam and Eve only knew good at that point, they did not have the ability to recognize the evil of Satan’s lie. Satan was responsible for what happened to the human race, not Adam and Eve. The good news–Christ destroyed the power of Satan when he died on the cross. We just need knowledge, understanding, and wisdom from God to access what Christ accomplished.

    I discuss these things in my book–I could go on, but this a comment, not a dissertation. God’s blessings!

  • DanS

    I do not think the scientific evidence is settled. But I do believe that if the science really puts an end to an historic Adam, Eve and an historic fall, whatever “Christianity” remains is altered to a point most in church history would not recognize. I’ll paraphrase a few points from some Christians in the UK, in the book “Should Christians Embrace Evolution:

    The theological issues are:

    1. The historical link to Adam establishes the ontological unity of the human race.
    2. The historical link to Adam establishes the inheritance of original sin
    a. If original sin is not inherited, Paul’s statement “in Adam all die” is rendered meaningless
    b. Consequently our guilt is not related to our nature as sinners “in Adam” having inherited sin, or under the federal headship of Adam, but our guilt is related only to our individual sins – which is something loosely akin to Pelagianism
    c. Our salvation then, is not an undoing of both Adam’s sin and a death of our sin nature along with the sins we commit because of our sin nature, but is only a matter of forgiveness of our own sins, again loosely akin to Pelagianism

    3. As a result of undercutting the unity of humanity and the inheritance of a sin nature, the connection of the incarnation to salvation is severed.
    a. How do we all live “in Christ” if we did not all die “in Adam? Paul’s entire argument is undercut.
    b. Does Christ’s incarnation entail the reconciliation of pre-adamite non-humans? Is his incarnation sufficient to cover the sins of the Neanderthal? Do the sins of the ape-like common ancestor come under the mercy of Christ?
    c. What does the incarnation mean? Which humanity did Christ assume? Did Christ assume the flesh of pre-Adamites? Are the prior forms of humanity excluded from salvation?
    4. Or if the incarnation is weakened, and the link between spiritual death and physical death is severed, then does salvation become a spiritualized reality, all wrapped in allegory, story, even “secret knowledge” only attained by those sufficiently schooled in modern scholarship – akin to Gnosticism, where the physical and historical reality is completely severed from the spiritual “truth”?

    I think ultimately, the attempt to reconcile Christianity to Darwinism will fail. It will lead to a mystical, fluid Christianity that will have no real connection to reality. Little by little, it will dwindle away to a shadow of what it once was.

    But then, I think the science is not settled.

  • Scot McKnight

    DanS,

    I think #1 presupposes an answer to the problem or at least the question that is being asked, so let me re-express it:

    Our ontological [big term but I suspect you mean our nature, however that might be defined] unity is established by our DNA pool, and that DNA pool might be larger than Adam (and don’t forget Eve, brother). That DNA pool links all of humanity.

    On original sin, I believe in it but it makes me nervous to think how much attention it gets in your sketch above — it is the be-all and end-all in that sketch — when it is not even mentioned in the entire OT, it is not taught explicitly by Jesus [his teachings don't take us any further than that we all sin and are all sinners but nothing explicit the level of corrupted nature], and it emerges in the way you discuss it only in Romans 5:12-21, though 1 Cor 15 can get us there in part. As I see it, you make original sin the essence of what the gospel resolves.

    I’d ask you to avoid using Pelagianism, as also tossing in Gnosticism … both have very specific ideas that are not on the table and both are slurs. It’s a scare tactic unless it’s genuine. The Orthodox don’t believe in original sin as Augustine taught it, and they are not Pelagian.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    “this is a family discussion. Quite frankly non-Christians, those not committed to the gospel, don’t care. There is a bemused incredulity that we waste any intellectual effort on the discussion.”

    Non-Christians care about this discussion, as politically active Biblicist Christians have tried to push an anti-science agenda in our schools. There also seems to be a recognition that challenging anti-science worldviews among Biblicist Christians will be more effective when coming from fellow believers with close doctrinal ties than from secular outsiders. So I would disagree with the quoted statement above. It is a family discussion, but it is one secular society wants to see happen.

  • rjs

    Tim,

    You miss the point.

    Certainly many in the secular society want to see the anti-evolution rhetoric and politics stop. But Adam and Eve? The Christian understanding of sin and fall? The fact that we even care to have this conversation leads to bemused incredulity – isn’t it enough, after all, to declare science true and move on?

  • John W Frye

    It seems to me that early theology (the church fathers) bought too quickly into the Platonic categories of essences and ontology, thus creating a category called original sin. The first humans (i.e., those described as ‘image of God’ creatures) did in fact rebell from God, did sin. I think we need to recover the *relational realities* wrecked by sin–wrecked between God and humans, between humans and humans, between humans and creation and inner wreckage (fear, shame, guilt, autonomy in discerning good and evil), etc. Did Adam, let’s say, become ontological different when he intentionally bit into the fruit?

  • John W Frye

    #7 at the end: ‘ontological’ should read “ontologically”

  • Jason Lee

    Thanks for this thoughtful review.

  • EricW

    Maybe הָאָדָם, when he/she ate of the fruit, collapsed the paradisaical quantum wave function of the nascent world into a state of fallenness. The opening of their eyes, like observing Schrödinger’s Cat, effected the state. :)

  • http://kingdomroundtable.blogspot.com Dru Dodson

    The Good News is at stake indirectly. What’s directly at stake is our understanding of the Bad News. Scot references the eastern church, and their understanding of the Bad News and their exegesis of Romans 5 seems strong and probably right to me. It’s not the moralistic understanding of the west, but a warfare understanding of the captivity of the human race.

    There’s a lot of original sin teaching that sounds like biological transmission of a sin gene. This can’t be right.

    It also seems important to say that if it were “proven” that no literal Adam or Eve existed, we would still be faced with the human condition. The analysis of the people of God and their Book that we humans have a problem with sin, death and the devil would still remain. We might have to change our understanding of the mechanics, but not the results.

    Does anyone have a recommendation on a rigorous, Eastern exegesis of Romans 5? I found this one intriguing and helpful http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/frjr_sin.aspx “Original Sin according to St. Paul”.

  • Tim

    RJS@6,

    Let me put it to you this way, do you want to see moderate Muslims converse with radical Fundamentalist Muslims on theological issues with respect to interpretation of Quran? Now, any specific debate they may have amongst themselves may involve what we think of as “ridiculous” claims made by various passages in the Quran, but we very much want them to have that conversation. And it HAS to be the devout Muslims who have the conversation. No one expects secular scholars to be heard by the Fundamentalist Muslims – their views are rejected outright.

    So, even if the secular community views Adam & Eve and the Fall as ridiculous and not to be taken seriously in their own right, they do view Biblicist Christians as a serious threat, as they see them waging a Holy War against science in our schools.

  • smcknight

    Tim, let me try because something’s not being communicated here. RJS (and everyone) acknowledges your point: secularists want to see this creation theory of Adam and Eve to go away.

    But that’s not happening in the Christian family because there’s something important about Adam and Eve in the family. What is important to the family, that sin is rampant and connected to Adam and Eve, at least in Pauline theology, is completely unimportant to the secular scientist. For whom there was no such being.

    Here’s the logic you seem to be missing: the Adam Fall original sin salvation connections are the family discussion. That discussion — do you know any secular scientist who talks about transmission of sin from one original person? — is only within the Christian family. Appealing to the battle over how science is taught is not the point of this family discussion. (Yes, there’s a tangential relation, but that relation is not under discussion.)

    Capiche?

  • dans

    No slur intended. It is just a dangerous move theologically to separate the spiritual truth from its historical (physical) anchor or to remove all connection between the fall and the consequence. I don’t have time to elaborate. Not a slur. Attempt at a serious point.

  • Dan Arnold

    RJS,

    Thanks for following up on the CT editorial. When I read the editorial, I was pleased to see the emphasis on loving internecine engagement. However, I’m not sure that it is correct to require that Adam and Eve be actual historical figures. For J. Collins, this seems to be the case and CT appears to largely follow his lead. But to me, this presupposes a particular answer.

    I suspect that this is rooted in two debatable but long-standing theologies. Implied in the CT editorial is a belief in the idea of inherited sin. The CT editorial seems to make this a non-negotiable. Secondly, but not stated in this particular editorial is an adherence to a juridical (legal) relationship between humanity and God. From this follows the requirement for the penal substitutionary atonement. This was explicitly reaffirmed as non-negotiable in another recent editorial.

    Something I like about J. Green’s book, though, is that he is not willing to hitch his wagon exclusively to these Western theologies, but in what I have read so far, is open to Eastern Orthodox theologies, which are not so heavily influenced by Augustine. EO theology may provide a way to understand humanity apart from inherited sin that does not require Adam and Eve to be actual historical figures.

    Either way, as much as I appreciate CT’s call for open, loving and ecumenical discourse, it seems that they have already left out a significant part of the historical church.

  • Rick

    Dru #11-

    Ancient Faith (Orthodox) Radio has done some things. Here is one example:

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/oneness_and_the_fall_-_part_1

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    “The cover story in Christianity Today does a fairly good job of giving a balanced picture of the current state of the debate.”

    Strongly disagree. I found it very one-sided. It functions as a promotional piece for Biologos, which is too bad. We need an alternative that actually helps Evangelicals to think critically about the theology and the science and gives them the tools to do so.

    The article largely uses the tired old method of pitting scientists against theologians. Unless it is scientist against scientist, it is will be a poor debate.

    Fazale Rana, who is quoted in the article, commented on the article:

    Honesty, it is poorly researched . . . They completely have ignored the fact that there is a strong scientific response . . . to the genomic evidence . . .

    I do not think the article quotes a single scientist who is formally trained in the methodology of the historical sciences. When Darrel Falk and Dennis Venema state dogmatically that the human population “was definitely never as small as two,” their ignorance of the limitations of the historical sciences becomes clear. Stephen Jay Gould understood the limitations, as I discuss here: “We must be able to determine whether our hypotheses are definitely wrong or probably correct (we leave assertions of certainty to preachers and politicians) .”

    From CT:

    “We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time.”

    Strongly agree. But this has to include the philosophy of science, history of science, sociology of science and epistemology. Unfortunately, the article largely ignores these issues. I’m not sure that Ostling or the editors at CT even recognize them or understand them in this context.

  • Rick

    Dru #11:

    Also, there is this article at the Orthodoxwiki site:

    http://orthodoxwiki.org/Original_sin

    It has resources at the bottom, and if my memory is correct, the articles by Bishop Ware and V Rev. Fr. Romanides are helpful.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Regarding the questions:What do you think? What motivates this discussion?

    Do you think it is important?

    I believe this is an integrity issue and there are real costs associated with a lack of integrity. It is amazing that a religion that supposedly a beacon toward moral behavior would be leading the charge in potential self-deception and cover ups. As someone somewhat versed in science, and definitely a big fan of science, I find this conversation to be important to my association with the church because not allowing for the scientific interpretation promotes a lack of integrity for me.

  • Tim

    Scot@13,

    “secularists want to see this creation theory of Adam and Eve to go away…but that’s not happening in the Christian family because there’s something important about Adam and Eve in the family. What is important to the family, that sin is rampant and connected to Adam and Eve, at least in Pauline theology, is completely unimportant to the secular scientist”

    Scot, I agree wholeheartedly with the above, and had this in mind when I was posting. Perhaps I could have explained my view and reasoning better. So let me break it out:

    1) Biblicist Christians reject Evolutionary science, with many waging a theologically-motivated political war against Evolutionary science in the schools.

    2) Secular efforts to convince Biblicist Christians of the overwhelming scientific support for Evolution/Common Descent have largely failed, as there is a pervasive distrust toward “outside” sources of information when they run afoul of Biblicist conclusions as to “Truth”.

    3) These “conclusions” as to “Truth” center not only on the Genesis account, which in theory could perhaps be resolved via genre identification (thereby avoiding any conflict with the doctrine of innerancy), but also tap deeply into Pauline theology with respect to the Fall.

    4) The secular community (excepting secular Biblical scholars) recognizes that they are ill prepared to delve into complex thelogical conversations with Biblicist Christians, and even if they were , they recognize that Biblicist Christians would be just as apt to summarily dismiss their theological arguments as they have already proved so eager to do with resepct Evolutionary ones.

    5) Therefore the secular community recognizes that the “stumbling blocks” of Genesis in addition to Pauline theology of the Fall MUST be discussed among devout Christians of similar doctrinal background (so as to be considered “insiders” and therefore to the Fundmamentalist mind at least somewhat credible).

    So, put simply, Genesis and Pauline theology of the Fall are largely impenetrable barriers to accepting Evolution among Biblicist Christians that will likely remain intractable until such time as they are “removed” in the context of internal discourse with their more moderate brethren.

    So, the secular community, insofar as they are aware of this dynamic, wants to see it resolved among Christians such that the end goal (to the secular community) is a cessation of a Biblicist Holy War against Science that is perceived as damaging and threatening to our society. Goals eminating from the Christian communities may of course be different, but my posts have been discussing interest from secular quarters.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    Thanks for posting the orthodox links, those that have. The generally unsatisfying common thread for me is that all of them still seem to require a historical Adam/Eve pair.

    If there was no such pair, does orthodox theology fall over too? The orthodox articles still seem to presume that death only post-dated a historical fall event…

    And even if there was a “first pair” (as PDS seems to suggest might be a scientific possibility), that creates a new theological/historical problem – because we would be forced to conclude that this pair was the A&E pair; setting ourselves up for failure should other evidence come to light that would preclude that notion..

  • http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com Matthew Hamilton

    I responded to the editorial here on my blog: http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/a-response-to-no-ad am-no-eve-no-gospel/

  • http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com Matthew Hamilton
  • Susan N.

    Wow, that’s a lot (read all the CT links and watched the video) for me to absorb. Much to think on. Thanks, rjs. This helps me to organize and articulate some of what is rattling around in my head on this subject. Time, and patience, and humility required in large doses — agreed. Amen!

    Relating to a discussion yesterday (OT God — legalistic or gracious?) surrounding the Numbers 15 passage, the idea that Adam and Eve were representative leaders of a population of early humans, and that Adam and Eve were understood to be the origin of the Israelites, a new thought occurred to me. The stick-gathering guy broke God’s Law. God commanded the community to stone him to death as a result. What if the stoning was meant to impress upon the community *their* responsibility for the lawbreaking member’s elimination? As we Christians grieve the brutal execution of Christ due to our waywardness and on our behalf, maybe God wanted the community to realize the terrible consequence of not being our brother’s keeper? I tend to imagine these ancient Israelites reveling in the justice of the stoning-execution, but what if their hearts were genuinely broken for the lost member and their failure in his fall?

    Continuing to work through the theological complexities of this discussion. These posts and links have been a tremendous help. Thank you.

  • Tim

    Scot@13 (Continued),

    By…

    “Appealing to the battle over how science is taught is not the point of this family discussion. (Yes, there’s a tangential relation, but that relation is not under discussion.)”

    …are you addressing a broader point only with respect to the nature of the “family discussion”, or are you going further and asserting that “tangental relation(ships) such as the impact over how science is taught are off-topic for this thread?

  • http://evolutionarycreation.wordpress.com/ EC

    RJS points out that the CT description of the Gospel as problem (original sin) and solution (Jesus’s life, death & resurrection) might be deficient. I think there is something here that needs a little more exploration.

    If we define the Gospel this narrowly, then possibly it could be said that that gospel is at stake in the conversation. Because if original sin is in question in our discussions of Adam & Eve, and original sin is THE problem that the Gospel addresses, then it would be at stake.

    But if there was evil present BEFORE original sin, then the Gospel must be about something bigger than just original sin. If the Gospel is about something bigger than just original sin, then Jesus’s life, death & resurrection is not just about that problem, but about something bigger.

    It just seems that we tend to think that the Gospel deals only with original sin, and not the larger problem of evil in general. Maybe our understanding of original sin may need adjusting, but then again, maybe our conception of the Gospel does as well.

    Does this help the conversation? If not, ignore it! :)

  • dopderbeck

    Scot (#4) and Dan Arnold (#15) capture my concerns with the editorial. (BTW, I thought Ostling’s article was very well done and helpful).

    Scot, isn’t “original sin” the “be-all-and-end-all” of the CT editorial? Here is the key sentence: “First, the entire story of what is wrong with the world hinges on the disobedient exercise of the will by the first humans. The problem with the human race is not its dearth of insight but its misshapen will.”

    As Dan Arnold notes, stating this as the fundamental problematic pretty much excludes the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as other Christian theologies that think of original sin in a less-than-fully-Augustinian way. If you take “original sin” in a strongly Augustinian and Reformed sense, I think the editorial is probably right — you probably “need” a “real” single couple somehow at the headwaters of spiritual humanity.

    But this particular sense of “original sin” obviously is not the only historically “orthodox” way to construe it. The Fathers before Augustine of course agreed that “Adam” sinned and that the corruption of Adam’s sin subsequently infects all humanity. Yet it was not conceived of in the proto-”genetic” terms used by Augustine. It was thought of more in terms of having lost access to the source of holiness and life.

    Biblically speaking, this notion of “lost access” seems much more congruent with the entire Biblical story of sin, election, and redemption, than Augustine’s proto-genetic idea. Adam and Eve lose access to the “garden” and to the “tree of life” — the sacremental space in which they were able to commune directly with God. The Hebrew tabernacle and Temple restored that space provisionally; it was restored permanently in Christ and is mediated to us today in the Church through the Eucharist.

    The “lost access” theme doesn’t require a single monogenetic pair, and perhaps it doesn’t even require any “literal pair” of “first humans.” The point is that humanity at its headwaters — wherever and whenever that could have been — rejected the relationship and sacramental space God offered. We all suffer corruption because of that, including the corruption of our wills towards sin. Christ fulfills the Priestly role typologically assigned to Adam and in Christ we regain access to the holy God and thus are able to become perfected in Him.

    Whether what I’m suggesting above ultimately is the “right” way of thinking about this, it certainly sits within the broad stream of historic Christian orthodoxy (even if it might not satisfy a really strict Augustinian-Reformed orthodoxy). I really regret that the CT editors seem to have drawn a line in the sand at a strict Augustinian-Reformed orthodoxy — and if that wasn’t really their intent, I really wish they would clarify and at the very least change the terrible (I might say bordering on heretical) title of the editorial.

  • http://kingdomroundtable.blogspot.com Dru Dodson

    Thanks Rick 18 very helpful. Phil 21, don’t know yet . . .

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    I don’t not believe in “original sin” as original guilt. But I do believe there was an original act of corruption that infected all of mankind. I do not believe God created humanity in a corrupt state, because on the 6th day, after He created the man and the woman, Genesis 1:31 says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” I don’t think that could said if God had originally created man as morally corrupt. So moral corruption entered into humanity at some point. Any explanation that does not deal with that is, IMO, deficient.

    Whatever the “big picture” might entail, it does include a very big problem that needs to be solved, so big that the eternal Son of God became flesh and died as an atonement for our sins. What is the nature of the problem and what is its root? What is the nature of the solution? Does the cross of Christ heal humanity or merely deal with symptoms?

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    RJS,

    I found our earlier discussion of your assumptions about naturalistic explanations helpful, so I reposted it on my blog.

    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/rjs-at-jesus-creed-and-theistic-materialism/

    I think it is relevant in this context as well. The problem discussed here is only a serious problem if you assume that God did not intervene in the creation of Adam and Eve or in the subsequent history of the human populations. It is also only a serious problem if you have a deep faith in the estimates and models of historical population genetics, which are frequently changing.

    Here are some of the things you said that I found most interesting:

    I think that, until proven otherwise, there will be a “natural” explanation in general, because God created the world in a rational manner. If you want to call this theistic materialism – ok.

    . . .

    Also in the practice of science in general I don’t know how one can proceed without assuming an essentially natural explanation, having faith in the rational creation of God.

  • Rodney

    One of my concerns is how easily we talk about “Pauline Theology” or “Paul’s doctrine of Original Sin” as if these ideas are self-explanatory. I wonder how many Pauline scholars would be “troubled” by this issue (I don’t believe their would be many). In other words, that Paul may have thought differently about Adam than we do doesn’t not necessarily call into question the verity of his argument, e.g., Paul’s view of the “powers” is not shared by most and yet we still speak of Christ overcoming the powers through the cross.

  • Tim

    PDS,

    “It is also only a serious problem if you have a deep faith in the estimates and models of historical population genetics, which are frequently changing.”

    Do you feel that the evidence for Evolution/Common Descent rely primarily on population genetics? Is this a fair summation of the evidential landscape supporting Evolution?

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Tim #32,

    “Do you feel that the evidence for Evolution/Common Descent rely primarily on population genetics?”

    No. But the dubious assertion that the human population “was definitely never as small as two” seems to. Do you disagree?

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    “It is also only a serious problem if you have a deep faith in the estimates and models of historical population genetics, which are frequently changing.”

    Perhaps, perhaps not. It’s also a problem if one hypothesises the estimates and models of historical population genetics to be correct. For me, I want to carry out this exercise (of trying to understand theological implications) as a theological precautionary approach.

    Most of us take your point (and maybe many are sympathetic to it) that we should not rule out that God did intervene miraculously in history by creating an single individual pair of humans at the start of anthropological history. If that did happen, fine, we don’t need to fight this battle in our heads… But some of us are going down this road just-in-case. So I wonder if you can join us in exploring this, even if it means doing it as an honest thought experiment (let’s just assume the conclusion about there not being an historical progenic pair is accurate), rather than coming along each time and undermining the whole exercise.

    What I like to do, in this case, is say something like “I don’t actually believe this, but, it might be argued that….” that way I can wrestle too, without having to pretend that I actually agree with the base assumptions of the fight.

  • Tim

    PDS,

    I disagree that for an inference of science to stray from near 100% makes it in any way “dubious.” There are a multitude of reasons within population genetics to recommend, as the most supportable inference, that the narrowest recent bottle-neck never dipped below a few thousand/several hundred. These reasons do not all maintain the same dependencies with respect to demanding precisely calibrated molecular clocks or unassailable genetic models. It is an inferential argument based on our current genetic evidence, but I would not consider it so robust as the support for Common Descent.

    However, let’s be honest. The real reason most people reject a story of human origins centering around Adam and Eve as progenitors of our species isn’t a result of being convinced of the current inferences of population genetics. It’s largely an outcome of accepting Evolutionary Theory, which to most leaves the story of Adam and Eve, even harmonized to accomodate evolution (e.g., evolution to a homo Sapien form at which point God selects two individuals, imbues them with a soul and possibly some additional genetic changes, and establishes a “garden” covenant with tehm), as unlikely. The main reason being that so much of the Genesis 2-3 story would have been rejected by that point that it seems somehow disingenuous to cling to the rest.

  • scotmcknight

    David, I know you use your words carefully but I’d like to raise a red flag on the word “heretical” and suggest instead, if one is Eastern and non-Augustinian, that adding to the gospel in this way is closer to “legalism” than “heretical,” which seems to me to be denying gospel truths. I see no denial here, but if the non-Augustinian view is seen as more biblical then adding a historical pair to the gospel is legalistic (or something more than is needed).

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Phil #34,

    Great point. I would be happy to participate in the thought experiment if we all agree that that is what we are doing. But there are many who don’t see it this way and portray the current situation the way Ted Olsen did in this (IMO) patronizing, paternalistic manner:

    The recent reshaping of the creation-evolution debate is causing similar discomfort for those of us who emphasize the authority and infallibility of Scripture. Scientists in genomic demography and other fields—as well as their Christian popularizers in groups like the BioLogos Foundation—are essentially sitting us down to have “the talk”: Adam, the man you’ve called your father all these years, isn’t who you think he is, they explain.

    The folks at Biologos might be great scientists in their fields of genetics and biology, but I am not impressed with their philosophy of science or philosophy of knowledge, which they generally ignore. There are some things that are clearly factually wrong in what that they write. (I have a category “Fact-checking Biologos.”) Someone needs to have “the talk” with them.

    We need to have a family talk, but we have to talk about all the topics we all find relevant. I think the way CT and RJS raise the topic is problematic.

  • EricW

    While the “Western” view of sin and the Fall that is the default understanding of most Protestants may have been influenced by Roman legal thought, is it possible that the “Eastern” view that’s being touted by some here was wrongly influenced by Greek philosophical thought? What is the ancient Jewish understanding of Genesis 1-3, if such can be determined? I understand that “Adam” and “Eve” aren’t even mentioned again in the Hebrew Bible after Genesis 5, though of course one might view some occurrences of adam (e.g., by some of the Prophets or in the Writings) as referring to “Adam” rather than to “man(kind).”

  • EricW

    Okay, there’s 1 Chronicles 1:1 for “Adam.” But that may be it.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Tim #35,

    “However, let’s be honest. The real reason most people reject a story of human origins centering around Adam and Eve as progenitors of our species isn’t a result of being convinced of the current inferences of population genetics.”

    I don’t know about “most people,” but I am speaking for myself and other highly educated Christians who respect science tremendously, and are very willing to accept what is well established in science. We find the Biologos folks overly dogmatic and not very sophisticated in the area of philosophy of science and philosophy generally.

    What book did Thomas Nagel nominate as book of the year in the Times Literary Supplement? Nothing by any Biologos scientist.

    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/thomas-nagel-receives-honorary-degree-from-harvard/

    As a Christian, I am embarrassed by the treatment of this book by Biologos.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    PDS “I think the way CT and RJS raise the topic is problematic.”

    Point taken.

    From the perspective of a neutral observer, without the benefit of having been part of the JCreed community for some time, it could certainly seem that RJS is saying something aking to “the science says what I say it says, so that’s our starting point”. But I don;t think that’s the attitude here, and I’m not sure we should have to spell out our base-camp position each time we enter into a new thread – so long as we stick to our monikers ;)

    As a matter of familiarity, (from reading her work) I am fairly clear about what RJSs “assumptions” are, as am I with yours (which generally seem to be in support of an ID type understanding). With this in mind, I see little point in engaging with your posts because I know that if you are right, then there is very little theological implication beyond what I previously accepted (in so far as origins etc. goes). However, if RJS is right, then the implications are far reaching – so that’s why I engage with her material, and not so much yours.

    This might seem like you’re being ignored here, but that’s not the case. It’s just that what RJS (or the likes of Biologos) proposes needs more theological digestion for many of us.

    Of course, as you suggest, not everyone IS approaching this as a thought-experiment and I don’t propose to speak on everyone’s behalf…

  • Tim

    PDS,

    I’m not following your point in #35. Could you please state it another way? Also, how did Biologos scientists and Thomas Nagel come into this?

    Biologos scientists represent a drop in the bucket in the scientific community. Their increased relevance to Christians is due simply to the fact that they are Christians themselves who are discussing Evolutionary issues with fellow Christians within a Christian framework. But in terms of their scientific relevance, they are important, but within context of thousands of other life scientists who are also doing important work. There is no esteemed Biologos research program, for instance, from which we should start to expect to see Nobel Laureates produced.

  • Tim

    *correction*

    PDS,

    I’m not following your point in #40.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Phil #41,

    Your points are well-taken also.

    But I hold more of a hybrid ID/OEC/TE position, which is why I am here in support of that kind of position, which I think best fits the evidence and is the healthiest for the church.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    Tim, #43,

    I think PDs was suggesting the following:
    1. Nagel nominated “signature in the cell (SITC)” for his times book of the year
    2. “SITC” is an ID book
    3. Thomas Nagel’s nomination lends philosophical creedence to this publication
    4. bio-logos have, ion PDS’s opinion been un-necessaryily dismissive of SITC, and should engage it with more vigour, given Nagel’s recognition of it as an important work
    5. No such creedence has yet been given to any bio-logos work
    6. It’s a bit rich to simply assume that bio-logos are really at the forefront of Christian thinking with respect to origins given the above.

    PDS, correct me if I have not paraphrased your point accurately.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    and please ignore my spelling

  • http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com Chris Massey

    PDS, I shared my thoughts on that editorial on my blog last night. In a nutshell, I agree with Falk that it’s encouraging to see CT accepting scientific consensus. But it strikes me that they really haven’t thought through the implications of attempting to maintain a historical A&E as members of a larger population. I don’t find any of their reasons for insisting on a literal Adam compelling, nor do I think it wise to make it a gospel-defeater as the editorial title implies.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Tim #42,

    The CT article quotes Biologos folks extensively, and does not cite anyone who is trained in the historical sciences or philosophy of science. There are excellent Christian philosophers and scientists who are experts in these areas, but none are cited. Eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel praised one, and Biologos published a negative review of his book by someone who had not even read it.

    RJS reviewed the book here, but did not discuss the philosophy of science sections.

  • rjs

    pds,

    I wasn’t reviewing the book – I was interacting with the content of the book. I worked through the book up to the point where Dr. Meyer reached his “inference to best explanation” conclusion.

    I found Dr. Meyer’s interaction with the science unsatisfactory. His inference to best explanation for the origin of life (not for evolution following the origin of life) is plausible – but must be held with an open hand as it relies on the fact that we do not really have any idea how life originated. Having no idea today is no guarantee that there will not be a viable understanding some 20, 50 or 200 years down the road.

    All of the posts are available through the science and faith archive listing on the sidebar.

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    Skipped the comments, and thinking out loud here:

    (1) The incarnation doesn’t necessarily imply a plan that responds to rebellion (as you rjs suggests). God very well could have become incarnate as the capstone (eschaton) to the obedience of the Adam and Eve.

    (2) Could it not be that the “Adam and Eve” story is the story of the beginnings of the nation of Israel (doesn’t Sailhamer say something like this?). IOW, could they not be an early semitic couple that lived about 10,000 years ago and who were set apart to represent humanity before their creator? I know this leaves hanging the imago Dei question and its perpetuation throughout the human race . . .

    Finally, Walton, while leaving unanswered certain questions, nevertheless expresses a semi-concrete position on the historicity of Adam and Eve: “Whatever evolutionary process led to the development of animal life, primates and even prehuman hominids, my theological convictions lead me to posit substantive discontinuity between that process and the creation of the historical Adam and Eve” (p. 139).

    Regarding the question about CT, I think both angles (plight—>solution; solution—>plight) are needed and helpful. And if Adam was, literally, the first Israelite, then both perspectives dovetail nicely—it makes that much more sense for the Second Adam, the faithful Israelite, to have undone what the first Adam, the unfaithful Israelite did, covenantally speaking.

  • Tim

    PDS,

    I haven’t read Signature in the Cell, so I can’t comment. I have reviewed much of Behe’s and Dembski’s arguments concerning irreducible complexity (though I have found them lacking, as has virtually the entire scientific community). So it’s not that I’ve been ignoring work from the ID community.

    Having said that, if Nagel feels that the philosophical arguments in Signature in the Cell deserve attention, then perhaps we should look at them here at Jesus Creed. I’m curious.

    What is your understanding PDS of the philosophical arguments being made? Do they pertain to abiogenesis, naturalistic vs. supernaturalistic processes of evolution, or common descent? And what would be the relevance to Adam & Eve? For instance, if there was a philosophical argument that we should be agnostic on the issue of supernaturalistic as opposed to naturalistic abiogenesis, what would be the relevance to Adam & Eve – particularly when given the evolutionary history of pre-human hominid to hominid transition, and associated anthropological and genetic findings?

  • Tim

    …should be: “pre-human hominid to human transition”

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Tim #51,

    “And what would be the relevance to Adam & Eve?”

    For example, he argues that we test theories differently based on the field of science. We don’t “prove” things in the historical sciences. The best we can do is make inferences to the best explanation. It would help the discussion if Falk and Venema would recognize that and be more careful in how they state what we know for popular audiences.

  • http://www.evangelicalmonk.com/apps/blog/show/4795706-a-new-sheriff-in-town-part-1 Bill H

    RJS – thanks for this piece in this on-going discussion. Only 1, maybe insignificant point, you state “I am not convinced, though, that the editors at Christianity Today have accurately defined the stakes in the discussion. In particular it seems to me that the description of the gospel as problem (Adam’s sin) and solution (Christ’s life, death, and resurrection) is not a sufficiently complete understanding of the story we have in Scripture.” I find that somewhat unfair as I do not read CT generally or this article specifically as limiting its understanding of the Gospel message to this idea of God had to act in order to resolve the problem created by the initial acts of disobedience. A major element of the Plan yes, but not solely the plan.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Phil #45,

    That pretty much gets it right.

    RJS #49,

    Granted. But my main point remains.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Here is a question I am curious about:

    Does anyone here know how multiple bottlenecks would affect current estimates? For example if the population started at 2, grew to 80,000 and remained at that number for 20,000 years, shrank to 10,000 and then expanded to the current number, would we be able to determine this from population genetics?

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Do you think it is important?”

    Unquestionably, this is important.

    Historically, it will be seen as a turning point in Christian history as signicant as the Gallileo event.

    As rjs points out, sciencee does its thing. It is relatively rare event when scicenc can weigh in on a religious issue. But every now and then that happens, usually accidentally.

    Establishing heliocentricism was one such event. There was a religious belief that was contradicted by the facts. Adherents had the option of continuing their religious beiefs in spite of the facts or of investigating the sources of that belief to see if the sources actually required such a belief. Those who concluded tha the sources may not have been properly understood generally observed a (continued) growth in the number of adherents.

    Those who believed in spite of the scientific evidence generally faded into obscurity. Where are all the geocentrists today?

    The same thing happened with radiometric dating. YEC is not consistent with science. Adherents have have to make a choice–either determine that YEC is not a core Chirstian belief or follow the geocentrists and fade into irrelevance over time. There is a reason that the membership in Christian denomimations that do not adhere to YEC vastly outnumber the dwindling YEC denominations. That trend will escalate in the future.

    Genetics has now conclusively established that there could not have been a a time where there were only 2 human beings and all of the human beings alive today are descended from that first couple. Science did not intend to find this result. There was no effort to disprove “Adam and Eve.” It just happened.

    How we respond to this scietific fact is essential to the continued health of Christianity. I think there are a number of ways to accomplish that, but I do not think that “historical Adam and Eve” is a requirement for Christianity and Scripture and Tradition do not reqire such a belief.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Does anyone here know how multiple bottlenecks would affect current estimates? For example if the population started at 2, grew to 80,000 and remained at that number for 20,000 years, shrank to 10,000 and then expanded to the current number, would we be able to determine this from population genetics?”

    Yes. Easily detectable.

  • Tim

    PDS@53,

    Could you be a little more specific? For instance, you stated: “he argues that we test theories differently based on the field of science.” Um, OK. Each science has their own methodology as appropriate to their subject of study, but where are you going with this? Also, there is commonality among the varying sciences with respect to the scientific method, particularly as pertains to testing predictions. But again, these are very vague statements you are making so I don’t know what it is you are attempting to argue to.

  • rjs

    Bill H (#54),

    Perhaps my summary is a little unfair, I am not sure – but it is drawn from the title to the editorial and from the paragraph on the stakes.

  • AHH

    Quoting the CT editorial:
    Christians have already drawn the line: there must be an original pair of humans endowed with souls …
    I am disappointed that the CT editors would appear to “draw a line” declaring something secondary to be an essential.

    To use a medical metaphor, essential parts of the Christian Story include that we all have a disease (sin) which can’t be cured by our own efforts, and that the cure for the disease is Jesus Christ.
    But the details of how we contracted the disease, while not totally unimportant, must be a secondary matter.
    I agree with dopderbeck (#27) that it is a mistake to make the whole faith “hinge” (CT’s word) on a particular notion of the origin of sin that is not the only historically orthodox position.

  • jeff

    This is more of a personal comment than anything constructive to add to this discussion. The stark reality of the situation is that the scientific data that is available very clearly does not support a young earth creation view. Adam and Eve are given in the context of a young earth creation (albeit there is more than one creation story, etc.). To suggest that Adam and Eve are historical in light of the fact that the rest of the creation story is not seems a bit dubious to me. We can criticize the historical method, science, etc. as much as we want in arguing against current scientific data and explanations, but the reality is that the creation story, Adam and Eve, and “The Fall” have no data to support them as being historical events or people.

    However, I grant that one can believe in portions of or all of the story as a matter of faith, but ultimately that’s where it will end…faith and faith alone. Alternatively, one can believe that the Adam/Eve/Fall story is a figurative story of an otherwise historical event, but that also is a matter of faith and not evidence. Personally, I see the creation as more of an attempt to contrast the God of the Israelite’s with the Egyptian pantheon. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/6-02Watts.html

    I no longer have faith that any of the first few chapters of Genesis are historical. Life was easier when I believed it, but to go back to that place would be intellectually dishonest for me barring some sort of revelation that has not yet occurred (emphasis on the “for me”, not trying to put down anybody else’s faith journey here); and I’ve been left picking up the pieces of my faith for over 20 years now.

    The issue for me comes down to Jesus. Defending the Resurrection as a historical event (in my own mind) is challenging enough–and ultimately it also comes down to faith. Trying to harmonize the Resurrection (and Jesus) with my current understanding of human origins isn’t without its challenges (and isn’t the place where you’ll find most clergy, to say the least). I’m not sure where my thinking or faith on all of this will ultimately end up, but I do think that the pool of people I’m treading water with is going to grow substantially over the coming years.

  • Susan N.

    Chris @ #50 said, “And if Adam was, literally, the first Israelite, then both perspectives dovetail nicely—it makes that much more sense for the Second Adam, the faithful Israelite, to have undone what the first Adam, the unfaithful Israelite did, covenantally speaking.”

    This is along the lines of what I sought to express in #24. Well-put, Chris. Thanks for that. The theme of scapegoating that runs through Adam and Eve’s story, the nation of Israel in the OT, and, finally, Jesus, jumped out at me when pondering the communal implications of sin and broken relationship (with God and others).

  • http://www.ellenharoutunian.com Ellen H.

    This all seems to be another adventure in missing the point. Genesis 1 is a beautiful poetic piece of writing. I believe we can rightfully say that it contains profound truths about the Creator God and creation. However, it does not seem that it was ever claimed or meant to be a literal representation of creation events, nor is it a scientific text by any stretch of the imagination. It seems that the whole discussion misses the point of the text, which a beautiful and artful reflection on this mysterious Creator God who brings order out of chaos, speaks life, beauty, harmony and Shalom into being, and presents humankind as the Imago Dei. That’s enough to reflect on for many millenia. To try to make it match scientific findings (which can also be a point of worshipful reflection if you think about it) can only bring frustration. Doesn’t it simply distract us from Kingdom building?

  • rjs

    Ellen H.

    Genesis 1 isn’t the problem. Genesis 3 combined with Romans 5 … here is where the issues arise.

  • R Hampton

    But if there was evil present BEFORE original sin, then the Gospel must be about something bigger than just original sin. If the Gospel is about something bigger than just original sin, then Jesus’s life, death & resurrection is not just about that problem, but about something bigger.

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

    391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”

    392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.” The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.

    393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”

    394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I am pretty sure rjs totally disagrees with this, but I still think we all would be much better served to adopt some sort of framework by which we would first accept things that do not put us into some sort of privileged position from an origins and purpose perspective. It is called humility.

    Most of these problems are because we feel we are special and must have some grand place in the cosmos. Instead of interpreting our place as special from a “we deserve this place” perspective, perhaps we should be viewing our place as special from a “much is expected of you” perspective.

    Two people choosing to sin did not change the cosmos because of what they did, but because of what that meant they are going to do. They established a pattern for this creature called human that we will live out to this day of assuming that this world and other beings are here for our use. We destroy each other and our world. Jesus was sent to put us on the right track, God planned for that, but we are still really slow on the uptake. Our pursuit of being the greatest is continuing to cause our destruction. Repent.

  • http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com Matthew Hamilton

    What I don’t understand is why people assume that if a person does not believe in an historical Adam and Eve, then they must be arguing based on their belief in evolution. I think that taking the biblical text of Genesis 2-3 in its own socio-historical context, giving full respect to the genre of the text, provides more than enough evidence that should not assume that Adam and Eve were historical, just like we don’t take Noah, Job, or Jonah to be historical!

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    Matthew, I mostly agree with your incredulity. Although St. Paul who ‘seems’ to assume that at least Adam/Eve was historical, and I think this is where the treatment comes from.

    What if Paul thought Genesis was historical? Was he wrong about that (I’d say yes). This jumps to the next obvious question, what if Jesus thought Genesis was historical?

  • http://hamiltonmj1983.wordpress.com Matthew Hamilton

    I would agree that Paul was wrong if he thought Genesis was historical.

    Was Jesus wrong? Well, he was fully human and fully divine. I don’t know if he, theologically, could be wrong. Could the written accounts of his words and deeds, which were written by men, be mistaken? Certainly.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Matthew Hamilton#70, the “was Jesus wrong” question seems to be a great one to ponder, not from an apologetics perspective, but from an exploratory perspective. As NT Wright says, I think Jesus would answer that question by saying something like “A teacher and student were invited to a party…..”

  • Adam

    Was Jesus wrong?

    There’s a story in the gospels that sounds to me like epilepsy. But everyone around assumed it was a demon so Jesus cast out a demon. Did a demon cause epileptic seizures or is the demon a result of a lack of medical understanding? Did Jesus know about epilepsy and just played along with the crowd or did he believe it was a demon as well?

  • AHH

    Regarding the last few comments and “Was Jesus wrong?”, of course we don’t know from Scripture what Jesus thought of the historicity of the Adam & Eve story or the Genesis creation accounts. It does not seem to have been a concern of his, or of the Gospel writers.

    But I think orthodox Christology demands that Jesus could have, in his full humanity, had mistaken ideas about cosmology and history as would have been held by his fellow first-century Jews. He probably thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, too. If we deny that the incarnate Jesus had a finite human mind, we are venturing into Docetism.

    Similarly Paul, being only human, would have shared the views of his fellows on history and cosmology. And those could certainly appear as background in the Scripture he wrote — while God could have “corrected” such things in the process of inspiration, there is no reason to think that God actually overrode Paul’s human ideas in matters irrelevant or peripheral to the message being conveyed in Scripture.

    Of course what I just wrote leaves unanswered the question of whether the anthropological origin of sin is “peripheral” or part of the “message” in passages like Romans 5, and I suspect much of the real conflict is rooted in differing views on that question.

  • http://www.mychristianapologetics.com Arnie Gentile

    Richard Ostling’s CT article concerns itself mainly with the results of genetics, their possible impact on our view of evolution, and how these issues may affect our view of the early Genesis account. In my estimation, Ostling’s article is well-written, fair, and balanced, as far as it goes, including multiple viewpoints and raising important questions with regard to the contents and potential consequences of the debate itself. Dr. McKnight, however, is quite straightforward in his advocacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution, common descent, and natural selection and seems to believe that Christians must take this theory seriously, perhaps even adjusting our traditional creationist notions on the historicity of the Adam and Eve account, including the concept of a historical Fall. He admonishes Christians that

    “The scientific data cannot be brushed under the rug and ignored. I continue the discussion here because I am convinced that the scientific evidence for an old earth, evolution, and common descent is so strong that Christians must adjust – this is a reprise of Copernicus and Galileo”.

    I agree with Dr. McKnight that “the scientific data cannot be brushed under the rug and ignored”. This is precisely why the Church must embrace an old earth and an old universe. However, it is also precisely why we should let the theory of evolution drown in its own primordial soup. As far as this moment being a “reprise of Copernicus and Galileo”, nothing could be further from the truth. Copernicus and Galileo were vindicated by the evidence. Evolution has been decimated by the evidence, and continues to prop itself up with ad hoc proposals like punctuated equilibrium. The universe and the earth are old, and the theory of evolution is false. This is where the evidence continues to lead us, genetics notwithstanding, and I believe that, if alive today, even Darwin would agree and recant.

    Dr. McKnight concludes his blog post, favorably quoting Ted Olson, another CT writer on this topic:

    “At this juncture, we counsel patience. We don’t need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth”.

    Olson offers a false dichotomy. For Olson, there appear to be only two possible responses to the current state of scientific affairs, “another fundamentalist reaction against science” or “a positive interdisciplinary engagement”. Despite his irenic tone, I hear a sophisticated and subtle rebuke of creationists who are not embarrassed by the Bible and insist on the historicity of Genesis 1-3 and everything that comes with it.

    First of all, one can be “fundamentalist” regarding the Bible’s historical account of creation without buying into a particular chronology (e.g., young earth creationism). Secondly, the beef is not with science, but with evolution, which has been wrongly identified with science. Science has superbly constructed an evidential argument for an old universe and an old earth. Science has uncovered scant, if any, real empirical support for the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin, and prospects are getting worse, not better.

    As Phillip E. Johnson has asserted, theistic evolutionists seem to believe that “the job of Christian intellectuals is not to challenge the picture of reality provided by a science committed to naturalism, but to accept the picture and show how it can be given a theistic interpretation” (See “God and Evolution: An Exchange” in First Things,Issue Archive, June/July, 1993, available online). This is a problem because the longer we accommodate those who popularize the notion of metaphysical naturalism, the more damage they do and the less they have to account for it. The notion that God may be somehow vaguely behind the process of descent by modification through natural selection is not strong enough to establish that he is necessary. It is but a small step from here to relegating God to the isolated ghetto of deistic irrelevance or non-existence altogether.

    Biblical “humility” is not exhibited by capitulation to the ascendant scientific ideology of the moment and the prevailing strong scientism that it spawns, which claims, unscientifically, that science is the only source of substantial knowledge. In truth, science blindly and dogmatically clings to Darwinism against the evidence with the same religious tenacity as the Church clung to the epicycles of Ptolemy in the day of Copernicus. Meanwhile, the Church will demonstrate true humility and godly courage when we demur from a strategy of accommodation and once again begin to fulfill our mandate to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

    For starters, I invite you to consider the following articles at my blog.

    Humans: God’s Unique Creatures on Earth: http://mychristianapologetics.com/2010/09/07/humans-gods-unique-creatures-on-earth.aspx

    Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creationism: http://mychristianapologetics.com/2011/01/17/theology-and-science-part-3-theistic-evolution-and-progressive-creationism.aspx

    There are seven other articles within the category of Faith and Science that may be of interest to you. Please feel welcome to browse and feel free to comment in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15-16.

    I agree with Dr. McKnight that this is an important discussion, and I am happy to enter it, albeit a little late. I will continue to follow it.

    Blessings,

    Arnie Gentile

  • TRincon

    Does the virgin birth, changing water into wine, the Resurrection or any other New Testament miracle need to be harmonized with science? If not, I’m dying to hear why.

    My theory is anti-Semitism; that is, a rejection of the modern state of Israel by stealing the end times prophecies unique to her and spiritualizing them for the church. For this to happen, the book of Genesis must be de-literalized.


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