Adam in Genesis and Paul (RJS)

There is little doubt that a major fault-line in the integration of a Christian understanding of the world with the major findings in modern science is centered on the issue of Adam. We saw this in the response to the posts last week on Tuesday (Pastors Unconvinced … Now What?), Wednesday (Science, Evolution, and the Bible), and Thursday (Testing Scripture on Creation and Fall). In the introduction to his new book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, Pete Enns points out that the age of the earth is not a game changer for Christianity. Great age, like the loss of a flat earth, or a stationary earth, center of the universe (whatever “universe” meant in earlier cultures)  can be integrated into traditional Christian beliefs with very little significant impact. Many conservative Christians, although not all, will agree with Pete that a young earth is not a necessary consequence of the reading of Genesis.

To the contrary, it is clear that, from a scientific point of view, the bible does not always describe physical reality accurately; it simply speaks in an ancient idiom, as one might expect ancient people to do.  It is God’s Word, but it has an ancient view of the natural world, not a modern one. (p. xiv)

Genesis 1 is not really the problem. Genesis 2,3  … here is the problem. Pete continues:

Evolution, however, is a game changer. The general science-and-faith rapprochement is not adequate because evolution uniquely strikes at central issues of the Christian faith. Evolution tells us that human beings are not the product of a special creative act by God as the Bible says, but are the end product of a process of trial-and-error adaptation and natural selection. … Some Christians reconcile their faith with evolution by saying that God initiates and guides this process, which is fine (and which I believe), but that is not the point here. The tensions that evolution creates with the Bible remain, and they are far more significant than whether the earth is at the center of the cosmos, how old it is, and whether it is round or flat. (p. xiv)

But the core of the problem isn’t really Genesis 2 and 3 either. It is Paul and Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Evolutionary biology leads to the inescapable conclusion, from the standpoint of the science alone, that the first Adam with whom Paul contrasts Christ as the last Adam, never existed as a distinct individual from whom all other humans descend. Pete suggests that the pressing question is not “can science and religion be reconciled?” This rather generic question can be dealt with in a convincing manner (well convincing to some anyway) using philosophical arguments, natural theology, intuitive arguments about meaning and purpose. The pressing question is more tightly focused: “can evolution and a biblically rooted Christian faith coexist?”

Where is the most pressing issue from your point of view?

Does Paul’s reference to Christ as the last Adam, a life-giving spirit, ring hollow if there was no first man Adam who became a living being?

Peter Enns is a biblical scholar and an OT scholar in particular. He received his M. Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1989 and his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard in 1994. He is currently teaching at Eastern University near Philadelphia. His book The Evolution of Adam, like his earlier book Inspiration and Incarnation, comes from his desire to be faithful to the Old Testament in its Ancient Near Eastern Context and to the bible as the word of God.

In looking at the dilemma of many Christians, desiring to take Paul and Genesis seriously but unwilling and unable to ignore the evidence for evolution, Pete sees four possible options. (p. xvii)

1.   Accept evolution and reject Christianity. Far too many take this option. Evolution is not the only issue or the only stumbling block, But it certainly plays a role. And it certainly plays a role for many in our Universities.

I was accosted by a woman after church recently, someone I’ve known for many years. She came up to me purposefully with a problem and wanted to know how I would approach it. She had a friend, one of the many students she has interacted with at the University over the years, who just recently returned to China. Through many opportunities to talk about the Christian faith there was always one road block, and nothing else mattered. “I’m an evolutionary biologist”, her friend would say, “I can’t be a Christian.” It isn’t just Christians who struggle and reject, it is also many who see the dilemma and won’t even listen. Far too many Christians preach this dilemma, or, more positively, its converse, as the only real options – the consequences of this are serious.

2. Accept Paul’s view of Adam as binding and reject evolution. This is the converse of the first option and many in the church take it. Either they don’t realize the strength of the evidence for evolution or they do, but feel that the faithfulness demands that they reject evolution anyway. Perhaps they take a mature creation view, that God created humans (and often the earth as well) with an appearance of age.

Both these first two options, Pete points out, are assuming that the bible is prepared to give us an accurate account of human origins. Thus we have to choose. There are other ways forward however. One has been discussed quite a bit in many different posts on this blog.

3. Reconcile evolution and Christianity by positing a first human pair (or group) at some point in the evolutionary process. A number of serious and thoughtful Christian scholars take this position. C. John Collins’s book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? takes this view, as does Denis Alexander in Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?, and as did John Stott in his commentary on Romans. Even CS Lewis in The Problem of Pain falls loosely, perhaps, into this camp. Lewis, however, doesn’t preserve so much a historical Adam as a historical fall.

Pete, as an OT scholar, sees a serious problem with this approach.

The irony, however, is that in expending such effort to preserve biblical teaching, we are left with a first pair that is utterly foreign to the biblical portrait.  As I see it, this is enough of a problem to warrant alternate solutions.

This third option also shares one shortcoming with the previous two: a failure to properly address Genesis as ancient literature and Paul as an ancient man. (p. xvii)

This leads us to a fourth option – and the option that Pete sets forth to develop and argue in the remainder of the book.

4. Rethink Genesis and Paul. Perhaps we need to reevaluate what we can and should expect from both Genesis and Paul on the subject of human origins.

Part One of The Evolution of Adam looks at Genesis, while Part Two addresses the ways in which Paul uses the story of Adam in Genesis. Working through this book should make for a good series and a good discussion. Whether you ultimately agree with Pete or not, his approach adds something new and something important to the mix.

Are there other options that should be considered?

Is rethinking Genesis and Paul a valid approach? Or is it asking for trouble?

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

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

  • Robert

    Paul probably did think of Adam as a historical individual, but I don’t see that as a great problem. He uses Adam as a symbol of sinful humanity, in contrast to Jesus. The symbol still works, even if Adam isn’t historical.

  • John Mc

    I have read and heard too many Christians argue that the people and events of the OT are ‘precursors’ to the ultimate people and events revealed in the NT.  for example Adam as the first man and precursor to Jesus who is the new Adam, the Flood as the precursor to Christian baptism and rebirth, and even Mary as the new Eve who crushes the malevolent serpent beneath her heal.  And the stories of Job and Jonah, etc, likewise are explained as real life metaphorical examples of God at work in the world, whose lives and experiences were lived out merely to put flesh on the bones of a theological presentation someone is going to write in the future.  And those same Christians argue that if these people and these events did not happen exactly as set forth in the Bible then the Bible is deprived of the fullness of its value and the Bible becomes in effect a book of Aesop’s Fables.

    If my Christian friends are correct they are positing several very disturbing theories:  (a) God has put many people on the earth and put them through many terrible ordeals for no other reason than to lend power to a literary analogy which a Biblical writer is going to assert at some later date, i.e., if Adam didn’t really exist, then the Pauline metaphor of two adams isnt true and thus fails of its purpose- it becomes a literary metaphor only and of no serious theological value, and the same can be said for the Flood and Baptism, as well as the stories of Job and Jonah, etc;  (b) they insist that they will only accept Scripture as containing any value if they can insist that Scripture be interpreted on terms which they establish, that is it must be factually accurate in all respects, devoid of mere literary devices, or it is mere fluff and of no significant theological value.

    Now for the sake of fairness, even progressives are guilty of the later, in their own way, but we suffer much criticism from the literalists for this position.  We progressives also require that Scripture make sense to us according to our own theological constraints, i.e., that the stories ought to be interpreted in light of our own real world experiences.  What is disturbing is the denial of the literalists that they are equally guilty of controlling the interpretation of Scripture.  

    It is far easier for me to accept the possibility that biblical writers use literary metaphors than that God uses people as real life metaphors.  And, not to make too much of a rather obvious point, if Jesus teaches through metaphor and  parable, why can’t God do so through the whole of Scripture?  Can we not construe the OT as a literary ‘precursor’ to the teaching method of Jesus?  

    Finally, whatever Scripture is, it is not fluff, and it’s stories, metaphor or factual, we should not discount it because its stories fail to fit into our interpretive paradigm.

  • Rick

    John Mc #2-

    “And, not to make too much of a rather obvious point, if Jesus teaches through metaphor and parable, why can’t God do so through the whole of Scripture? Can we not construe the OT as a literary ‘precursor’ to the teaching method of Jesus?”

    So rather than just Adam being a metaphor, you are now expanding that to the entire OT?

  • DanS

    The other option is this: While acknowledging that the universe is orderly and intelligible, we admit that the human mind is finite and most of what occurred in the distant past is not accessible to us. We also admit the plain fact that human beings are capable of error and that the level of confidence moderns place in science might well be misplaced. Last, if we are Christians, we acknowledge that human beings are fallen, which means not only that we are capable of error, but often in rebellion against the truth.

    Perhaps RJS next book should be “The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science” by Oxford professor Peter Harrison, which I hope to read soon. http://www.amazon.com/Fall-Man-Foundations-Science/dp/0521117291

    It seems he argues that modern science came into being in part because of a belief in the fall, a skepticism about the powers of autonomous reason that led to rigorous methods to try to weed out errors in reasoning with the help of divine grace.

    Seems to me the supreme confidence in secular scientific pronouncements about events that occurred in the deep distant past, based on unverifiable assumptions about the immutability of natural law – is confidence misplaced.

  • https://www.nateweatherly.com Nate Weatherly

    Exactly. What reason would Paul, as an “ancient man”, have for doubting the historicity of Adam? Surely we shouldn’t expect him to know what we do now about evolutionary biology. We are do often quick to forget that, just like us, the biblical writers were human and limited in human knowledge. God used their unique personalies and minds to accurately reveal himself. He did not put them in a trance and write down His perspective on science.

    In the end, whether they existed literally or not seems to me to be moot. To paraphrase Rob Bell, the point isn’t that it happened, it’s that it happens in every human heart. Our union with Adam is not an arbitrary/tenuously mystical union. We are unified with Adam as long as we live like he did in genesis (and we all do), just as we are instead unified with Christ as we believe that his version of the story is true and we follow in his footsteps, living as he did by the power of his resurrection.

  • JohnM

    Robert #1 – The problem is, while the symbol might work for you, if what you say is right some seriously troubling questions will occur to many Christians. If Paul thought of Adam as a historical individual when he was not what else did Paul, or the other Apostles, mistakenly believe to be facts? What does that do to the veracity of their witness? What does that do to the belief that their writings were in any way divinely inspired?

    Even if these kinds of concerns involve more fundamental issues (like how we read the Bible in the first place) they deserve more than brushing aside, and certainly more than a sneer, especially if one actually wants to change minds.

  • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/ Keri Wyatt Kent

    I’ve not read the book, but I’m curious to know if it mentions the fact that in Genesis 4, Cain goes to live east of Eden, in the land of Nod. The next verse says that he “made love to his wife and she became pregnant.” Um, where did the wife come from? If all humanity is descended from Adam, wouldn’t Adam’s family have become drastically inbred quite quickly?
    Does the book mention Genesis 6: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Who were the Nephilim? this is a curious verse, seemingly plucked from ancient mythology.
    Also, John MC, you said that if God has put many people on the earth and put them through many terrible ordeals for no other reason than to lend power to a literary analogy …” In the story of my own life, I have been thru difficulties, like every person who has lived. God did not “put me thru” those trials capriciously, like an evil puppetmaster. Rather, he is in the business of redeeming my story. When I tell it, I can point to God’s purposes within it, without blaming him for it. I can see the events of my life as both true, and a metaphor for a bigger truth. I think the same is true of Scripture.

  • Steve

    The question becomes how does one read the different genres of scripture. This is a question of hermeneutics. FIrst, as a christian i beleive every word is inspired by God. Second, if God wrote it, then it must be true. So the narrative of Genesis 1 should be read with these principles in mind. If so, then the only conclusion one can come to is a literal seven day creation, culminating in a literal creation of a literal Adam. To intrpret narrative in scripture the same as a parable of Jesus does a grave injustice to the text. I would alos point out that evolution is still a theory, though a popular one, that has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

  • http://whitherthougoest.wordpress.com/ Brad Anderson

    Perhaps, as Robert #1 states, Paul did understand Adam as an historical person. Nevertheless, “Adam” does mean “humanity,” and there is no real difficulty is positing Christ as the “second humanity.” I’m not sure this needs to be as hard of an issue as we might want to make it (except, perhaps, for those who need a literalist account of scripture to fit with their Baconian scientific paradigm – that’s not a slam, just an observation).

    As to John Mc #2 and Rick #3, we should differentiate between the primeval narrative (Gen 1-11) and the rest of the OT. That might help with the “literary precursor” perspective.

  • http://whitherthougoest.wordpress.com/ Brad Anderson

    JohnM#6, I think that’s a problematic understanding of inspiration. There is a difference between fact and truth, and we need not deny theological truth if there are factual discrepancies (like Paul’s understanding of Adam as an historical person). “God-breathed” need not equate with plenary verbal inspiration.

  • Rick

    Nate #5-

    “We are unified with Adam as long as we live like he did in genesis (and we all do), just as we are instead unified with Christ as we believe that his version of the story is true and we follow in his footsteps, living as he did by the power of his resurrection.”

    But do we have the potential to not live like he did? Is it just a matter of us being able to choose right and wrong, and hypothetically speaking, someone has then the potential to always choose right?

    If so, how does that differ from Pelagianism?

  • Rick

    Brad #8-

    “As to John Mc #2 and Rick #3, we should differentiate between the primeval narrative (Gen 1-11) and the rest of the OT. That might help with the “literary precursor” perspective.”

    I agree, but that is not how I read John Mc’s comment. The main them of the OT involves stories based (however much so can be debated) on historical time/space events, involving the nation of Israel.

  • http://whitherthougoest.wordpress.com/ Brad Anderson

    Rick, I agree. And so I thought if John could be more specific (toward the primeval rather than the whole OT), it might help the point there.

  • JohnM

    Brad #10 – Yes, truth is more than facts, but there is no truth without facts somewhere along the line. If Paul got the facts wrong how are we so sure he got the truth right? That’s the fear some Christians have and it deserves an answser. Even if plenary veral inspiration isn’t necessary (I’m not taking a position here & now) might we not find ourselves altogether abandoning the idea scripture being God-breathed if we take the concept too lightly?

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    “Evolutionary biology leads to the inescapable conclusion … that the first Adam … never existed as a distinct individual from whom all other humans descend.”

    I still don’t get this. The human race didn’t spring from the ground. There was obviously a first human. He might have had parents, but there had to have been a first homo sapien.

    Why is that not Adam?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Have not read all the comments, but I heard Tom Wright say (I think it was him, and he may be quoting someone else).

    “The issue is not whether there was a talking snake in the garden or not, the issue is what the snake said”

    I guess I have always considered OT bible stories to be bible stories that may or may not have facts correct. To me it is irrelevant, though I can see how some who have been raised with a literalist perspective can have issues.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    JohnM#6 says

    If Paul thought of Adam as a historical individual when he was not what else did Paul, or the other Apostles, mistakenly believe to be facts? What does that do to the veracity of their witness? What does that do to the belief that their writings were in any way divinely inspired?

    Frankly, if Paul had said that Adam was not real then it would make me doubt the bible even more. What it shows is that Paul was being an authentic witness to what he was shown, told and taught. That is more powerful than getting the details right that he could not have know. The fact is that he does witness to what we believe he could have known with accuracy.

  • John Mc

    I agree we need to differentiate between genres, however, literalists ofen deny this, or if they accept different genres they would disagree on the placement of various books and stories among the genre.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ChrisB, let me take a shot at arriving at a no single Adam that may help. [there are others here who can do it better, though]

    Imagine that there are lots of tribes of pre-homo sapiens around. Imagine that one tribe of a couple hundred had someone get a mutated gene that had a bigger brain. Another had a gene that led to less muscularity. Another tribe, far away, got another trait. In each of these tribes that trait may become more prevalent since that trait has been shown to be chosen over other people. Then, these tribes meet and they in turn share people and offspring. Then this happens with many tribes over many many years with the ones that have had these traits and have bred with other tribes passing on genes and traits to their offspring.

    Now imagine a tribe that has not received any of these traits because they are geographically distant from the ones who are getting different traits. Over time, the populations would become more and more different. At some point scientists would classify one population as a different species from the other.

    Even now they have found that Neanderthals have not simply died out, they interbred with our predecessors so we have some Neanderthal in us too.

    Evolution is not really one day a monkey giving birth to a human. It is a series of minor [perhaps some major] changes in remote populations that kept that trait and combined it with others so that, over time, one group of people become sufficiently differentiated from another that they are called a different species.

    Does that help?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Here is a good article (Christian science monitor) that shows one way that new species can develop.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0103/New-hybrid-sharks-discovered-Signs-of-global-warming

    But that may not be the primary way it has been done over the years. Or, perhaps, there are some that follow the route of my other post, then some of this too happens, there are multiple ways of it happening.

  • John Mc

    I would not limit the primeval history as the only allegorical texts in the OT, but neither would I claim that the whole of the OT was allegory. I also wholly endorse seeing metaphor in our lives and in the lives of others. I just reject the notion that people were raised up by God and/or killed by God merely for future literary purposes. Thus, I have an issue with the notion of theological precursors (or whatever the technical term is for the concept).

    Also, saying that writers of Scripture or even Scripture itself is inspired is not the same thing as saying that God ‘wrote it.’ God used flawed men; even the most inspired of acts, by even the most inspired of men, is limited by the flaws of the human actor. We can do good, we cannot do perfect. To claim more for Scripture than this is to make Scripture into an idol. Jesus was the Incarnated Word, not what a bunch of people wrote about him, and certainly not what a bunch of people wrote before he lived among us. I am not suggesting a priority within Scripture, but a priority of worship, favoring Jesus.

    Also, my comparison of certain OT texts with Jesus’ use of parable was intended only to communicate the belief that metaphor is a higher genre of Scripture than literalist would credit, not lesser.

  • J Williams

    I see this transition (as opposed to the aforementioned misconceptions of Christians on the place of the earth in the universe, the shape of the earth, etc which the church eventually adapted) as more difficult. In one case your talking about observable, ooperational science; in the case of origins you are certainly talking about observable, operational science as well, but then running it backwards into historical science. For this reason it seems there may always be debate on this issue; though the debate may lean more toward a belief in evolution over time.

    Evolution seems to require the emergence of several thousand homo-sapiens around roughly the same time, while Paul’s theology appears to require that God can hold all humanity categorically accountable as one family because we come from one man and woman. It seems if the evolutionary view is true, that the traditional, historic view of sin, it’s entrance into the world, and continuing impact have a different explanation.

  • Don Johnson

    In his latest book, Dawkins uses the image of a postcard of one’s ancestor (for simplicity, just use the male always) and going back millions of years and generations. Stack the postcards together, after about 3 miles you get to a fish. But each and every ancestor was the same species as the offspring, yet eventually different species are identified, but these are somewhat arbitrary. The point is that words can fail to describe reality and the idea of species is one of those words that are useful but have limits of their usefulness also.

    I have just finished Enn’s book for the first time and think it makes a substantial contribution, but need to read it again and study it.

  • John W Frye

    RJS and other Christian scientists here,
    You must introduce in layman’s terms (for pastors like me) what it means that science now confirms absolutely that the human race did *not* descend from one original couple (as the Bible posits). We keep arguing Bible verses (OT/Genesis and NT/Paul) without any clear statements about the relevant or crucial evolutionary evidence. I am not doubting the evidence; I just don’t have a clear enough grasp of it to bring it to bear on discussions about this and that set of verses. Does this make sense?

  • P.

    Question from the pews here: how come theologians talk about Adam this and Adam that, and rarely Adam and Eve? Is there a theological reason? I mean, Adam didn’t give birth to the human race all by his lonesome.

  • Robert A

    The mockery of this whole discussion is it is based in one faith group telling another faith group that because of the work of a third faith group we can have epistemic certitude that the second faith group is wrong because of beliefs of the other two faith groups.

    The reality is, they are all faith claims.

    Use whatever “evidentiary support” you can muster, however when it is built upon a foundation of false knowledge there is little actual evidence that can be credulous.

    The myth of the modern scientific method is that one can provide results for unobservable criteria with any amount of certainty. You can’t, they are all faith claims.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    P.#25, regarding only talking about Adam.

    From what I gather (someone with real knowledge please chime in), the ANE view was that the male “seed” contained a new human and just need to be planted in the woman. They did not realize that half of the new person was her genetics.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Robert A, sorry, but that is just plain wrong. All faith claims are not equal.

  • RJS

    DRT and P.,

    I think the focus on Adam actually has to do with Paul and the connections he makes in 1 Cor. 15 and Romans 5, not anything else. Paul doesn’t compare Christ with Adam and Eve – he connects Christ with Adam.

  • Jon G

    I think what John Mc #2 was getting at was something like this:

    I often think about this subject like the George Orwell book Animal Farm. If you aren’t familiar with the book then this analogy won’t go very far. Anyway, the story is completely fictitious – and by fictitious I mean that the characters and dialogue are totally made up by the author. However, the book was written to give a true account of the dangers of Stalinism and champion the case for Democratic Socialism. The underlining story was completely truthful (at least from Orwell’s point of view) even though the narrative was not.

    Now, why didn’t Orwell just discuss openly (explicitly) his feelings and assessment of the political climate of the world in the mid-20th century? Is there any possible reason that makes his story more beneficial than a literal journalistic-type of account? I can think of several reasons…

    1. Stories are more memorable. Many studies show that people remember and process information longer and better when it is given in story form. Our brains retain information longer and more accurately when given within the context of Story because it takes up less brain matter to remember concepts as opposed to data.

    2. Stories are more accessible. To those that are not trained in certain areas of expertise, like 20th century politics, a story is a way of getting those of ‘simpler’ capacities to understand complex truths. I can teach my kids how to divide 1 by 8 but using a pie to illustrate the concept is vastly superior than using numbers alone. Plus it tastes better.

    3. Stories work within the realm of personal experience. Each of our lives tell a story. There are main characters – protagonists, antagonists, there are difficulties to overcome, there are dramatic conquests and failures, as well as resolution that humans are uniquely in a position to appreciate. We love stories because we relate to them.

    4. There is precedent in Jesus that Story is the best way to communicate Truth. Jesus often spoke in parables, many of which were not based on actual people. They (some)were allegories, fictitious tales, used to communicate deeper truths. This in no way implies that the accounts Jesus was giving were untruthful, misleading, or inerrant. He simply found that His message was more effective, long-lasting, and communicative when told in story-form.

    5. Stories can be subversive and allusive to those who are in a position to interfere with the goal a story is created to accomplish. By telling a story to communicate a Truth to a certain party, one might allude those in power who would object to the threat that story could have on their keeping power. Jesus said in the Gospels that He would speak in parables so that some would understand and others would not. His ministry was extremely subversive to the power structure in place.

    I think these are sufficient reasons to make the point that we don’t need to think less of Genesis, or the certain other portions of the Bible, to see that it makes use of allegory. The way I see it, to view the Bible as always trying to give, or even needing to give, an account of actual scientific/historical details is analogous to saying that Animal Farm is really all about pigs being put in charge of cows and sheep and horses…it misses the point entirely.

    So, why do we have to treat the Bible as if a “story” can’t be truthful?

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    @DRT,

    There would have been one mutant, in a long line of mutants, who one day crossed the line between being a homo sapien and being … whatever came before. It’s unlikely he would have been surrounded by others who were like himself — without divine intervention, at least.

  • Jon G

    Sorry, in my #30 comment, under #4 I meant to say “in err”.

  • Jon G

    Doh, and I meant “elude”!

  • John Mc

    Jon G.

    Story as a mode of teaching has the added feature that it cannot be understood without interpretation, and thus those who listen to the story can interpret the story in a dynamic fashion, weaving together the sources, the genre, the obvious and more subtle themes, the current circumstances of the listener, and the influence of the Holy Spirit all to find traditional meanings and meanings not previously discerned, but no less faithful and faith-filled.

    Thus story is a perfect medium for the Holy Spirit to speak to us today as well as to generations which come after us.

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    @DRT

    To be fair, your analysis in #19, and the article you linked in #20, is all speculation. It remains true that there is no known observable process by which new genetic information can be added to an organism’s genetic code, and therefore become a new species (ape to human, for example). And in that case, @Robert A. is right that this type of evolution, on the molecular biological level, is a faith claim. Whether it is an “equal” faith claim to that of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3, I don’t know. Not sure of your ranking system. I would consider it a lower caliber claim, as it does not include the powerful authority of the inspired Word of God.

    Consider the following explanation:

    So you have a patient that needs antibiotic treatment for a strep throat. You give him antibiotics which he takes. Since humans have more bacteria in the gut than cells in the body, there is a possibility that just one or two bacteria of the many trillions will have a positive mutation that confers resistance to the drug. The one DNA mutation changed the amino acid coded for, and the protein shape is changed ever so slightly, so that it still does its function, but the drug cannot bind like it did before. Since the bacterium is invisible to the drug, but all the other bacteria aren’t, the resistant bacterium takes over because of the available resources. Next thing you know, you have an even worse infection that you must use another antibiotic to kill.

    That is natural selection. Why did I explain all that? I did it to show that something like that must happen millions and millions of times over to create the changes necessary to make a new series of traits, let alone a whole new species. That bacteria has so much stacked against it to just have one of those beneficial mutations. Think about needing millions of them. Then think about needing a selection mechanism for each trait, and not only that, but that the beneficially mutated organism will experience selection in its life time. You likely have methicillin resistant bacteria in your gut now, but it doesn’t matter because they will never get selected for (unless you take methicillin). On top of that, you would need gene duplications, translocations, reversions, massive genetic rearrangement, etc. that were evidently necessary to create the complicated genomes we have now. If all that wasn’t enough, this all seems unlikely even in bacteria which has a generation time of 20 minutes. Consider how many years and generations it would take when you have to select from an organism with an 80 year generation time with all the setbacks I listed above! The probability that this can occur is astronomically low. And from a scientific and molecular biology standpoint, it is simply not plausible.

    My point is: Natural selection exists. It can shape some environments. It can change animals slightly within their kind by a few genes and to a certain extent. But there is no specific evidence, and it is extremely unlikely, that new species can be created through natural selection alone. Really, it’s impossible.

    @John W Frye’s question is good and necessary. In my opinion, specific objective, observable, scientific evidence on the evolution of man is necessary if we are to choose any option other than #2 above, and remain intellectually honest and Biblically faithful.

  • Jon G

    John Mc #34 -

    Yes, well said. Thanks for adding that.

  • Dana Ames

    1. I think the most pressing issue (though it is no longer *my* issue) is that the notion of “inerrancy” is seen as being attacked. Since many, if not most, Christians with a “high view” of scripture believe it is inerrant/infallible, the idea of there not being “a historical Adam” is extremely threatening to theology that is thought to be built on “the bible alone”.

    2. Not enough attention has been paid, istm, to an understanding of what St Paul meant when he wrote all those passages about being “in Christ”. That little word “in” is important. It signals a way to interpret this without there needing to be “a historical Adam”. That is, the phrase “in Adam” denotes all of humanity – including Eve :) – without necessarily having a “federal headship” view, but rather that all humans are descended from the one who was the first human to have Personal (theological meaning) congress with God, and all of us are in the same boat, headed for mortality and corruption. The phrase “in Christ” denotes all those who have been baptized into the New Humanity, into the fullness of what humanity was meant to be because of the redemption accomplished by Christ that is now steering the faithful toward life and incorruption.

    3/4. Rethinking the current anti-science stance of some Christians is certainly necessary, along with decoupling the need to “prove” scripture from our ideas about science, or else the current impasse will continue and probably worsen. This is the outcome of the biblicism about which C. Smith has written. We really do have to wrestle with the meaning of scripture as the recording of narrative.

    However, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Arguably the greatest theologians, the Greek fathers (some of whom, to my understanding, were very conversant with the scientific knowledge of their day), were just not all tied up in knots over this issue. Some believed in there was “a historical Adam” and some didn’t, but they really didn’t spend a lot of time arguing about it. What was important was that God created humanity – somehow – and interacted with humans and eventually *became* human. The bible is seen as the greatest witness to God’s dealings with humanity; to the Greek fathers – as in nearly all of the NT – the Word of God is Jesus Christ, following on the Jewish understanding of the phrase “word of God” as denoting God’s action within history. Certainly Christ as the incarnate God/Man is the apex of God’s action in history. It is the meaning of the Incarnation and all that follows from it for the redemption of mankind that is of the utmost importance. The meaning of the incarnate Son of God stretches back to God’s first dealings with mankind, but the Christ Event – {Incarnation/Life/Crucifixion/Resurrection/Ascension/Bestowal of the Holy Spirit of Christ} – is not dependent upon whether or not there was “a historical Adam”.

    Dana

  • Norman

    I believe Pete is onto the correct approach in this statement from his book.

    “Some elements of the story suggest that it is not about universal human origins but Israel’s origin. This line of interpretation has pre-Christian roots. For example, the book of Jubilees (second century BC) presents Adam as a patriarch of the Israelites (3:27–32). Similarly, the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus (Sirach/Ben Sira, second century BC) presents Adam as an Israelite ancestor (49:16).[66]”

    Indeed all conflicts with evolution issues are gone with the wind if this observation is correct and I believe it is. I also don’t believe Paul saw Adam as the first person of humanity as Pete is concerned with. The evidence is there in Romans 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 if we read it more from a historical Hebrew perspective as Paul intended it.

  • AHH

    I think I agree with the categorization into 4 options, but the phrase Rethink Genesis and Paul might be a little misleading in implying that what Enns is saying is new.
    Outside of the sheltered world of fundamentalism and conservative Evangelicalism, Christian scholars and lay people for years have had little problem reading Genesis 3 as conveying theological truth in story form (as for example Barth saying that Adam is an “everyman” figure). And also little trouble seeing Paul using Adam as a typological figure (familiar to his audience) to illustrate the redemption that Jesus has brought.

    Don’t get me wrong — I think Enns is doing good and needed things with this book. I look forward to reading it (my estimated delivery date according to Amazon is later this week). But maybe a more accurate name for the “Rethink Genesis and Paul” option would be “get over fundamentalist assumptions about how the Bible is supposed to communicate truth.”

  • http://disorietedtheology.wordpress.com Paul A.

    AHH #39:

    “Outside of the sheltered world of fundamentalism and conservative Evangelicalism …” is a pretty big caveat. I just finished the book and am getting set to review it myself, and I would say it reads as if written specifically to the communities you cite, those who are sympathetic to literalism and are concerned about what to do with the Bible if Genesis and Paul are not taken literally on these points.

    I’d also say that Enns treats Paul’s use of Adam as a far more serious problem to a figurative Genesis than many of the commenters here have. He spends quite a lot of time breaking down Paul as an interpreter of the Old Testament and how that affects his theology and exegesis — of Genesis, as well as other OT passages. But that’s because I think Enns sees the Adam-Christ parallels as particularly strong bonds holding otherwise-open evangelicals to literal interpretations of Genesis.

  • AHH

    John Frye @24,

    There are really 2 issues, one of which has been known from various lines of evidence for a long time, and one is more recent from genetic studies.

    1) The knowledge that there have been many humans around, scattered in different places, for lots longer than the 6-10,000 years ago timeframe that Adam and Eve are pictured in Genesis. So if you want to have one pair at the headwaters of humanity, you’d have to put them back at least hundreds of thousands of years, making them pretty far from the Genesis picture.

    2) The more recent results coming from studies of genetic variation that can make estimates of the size of the “bottleneck” — the ancestral population as humans branched off the tree (or, potentially, as the original ancestral population shrank at some point before growing again, as would be the case with 8 people in the ark in a literalist reading of the Flood story). This is not my field at all, but I gather these methods are not very exact but give a good ballpark estimate. And they show that the ancestral population for humans is some number in the thousands. Maybe 2000, maybe 10,000 (there is a range of uncertainty), but much bigger than 2.

    A Christian geneticist has tried to explain the science in this area in a somewhat accessible way, but I’m not sure it is simplified enough for those with no science background. But it might be worth looking at:
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF9-10Venema.pdf
    Here is something from Dr. Venema that is more accessible, and that addresses the misunderstanding about speciation in comments by ChrisB above:
    http://biologos.org/blog/understanding-evolution-an-introduction-to-populations-and-speciation
    And here is one on the population bottleneck issue:
    http://biologos.org/blog/does-genetics-point-to-a-single-primal-couple

  • AHH

    Paul A. @40,

    I agree with you about the audience Enns is mainly aiming at (conservative Evangelicals). I just doubt one can go where Enns is going (which I think is basically the direction Evangelicals need to go on this) and hang onto the fundamentalism-shaped ideas about Scripture (like “inerrancy” as commonly understood) that tend to be boundary markers for that audience.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Dana#37 says a couple things quite well.

    First, I also believe innerency gets in the way and it people seems to be defending their dogma rather than thinking about the subject.

    Second, isn’t it clear that we are not all descended from Christ? He had no children. So if Paul compares him to Adam, isn’t it [at least] possible that we don’t have to be literal descendents of Adam?

    Joey#35, I am trying to give intuitive insight into how it may be and it seems that you are simply not trying to stretch and see how the idea fits. Your comments seem to suggest you have not researched the evidence, of which there is a lot. Instead it seems that you are trying to figure out why what I am saying is wrong.

    Joey (and others), on this subject it probably makes sense to assume that it may be right, and approach it from figuring out the intricacies. The evidence is not point evidence, so point defenses of literal interpretations don’t work. It is a broad body of evidence from the similarity in DNA, observed interactions of species, fossil evidence and more. How do you think they know that Neanderthals are in our heritage? Because of the DNA. How did it get there? I am pretty sure good did not just mix in a bit of Neanderthal DNA for extra zing!

    And Joey, monkeys do not evolve into humans. Your saying that is a good indicator that you have not looked at this in much depth. Evolution is common descent. There was a creature alive long ago that was neither monkey nor human. It was it’s own thing. And populations of that ancestor who were geographically separate evolved into long strings of creatures and branched out into many others. Monkeys do not evolve into humans.

    All of the professors and scientists are not developing a big scheme to debunk Christianity, that is just paranoia. Put your guard down a bit and let god defend himself. The dogmas of religion are man made.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    Yes, the age of the earth is rather irrelevant in the grand scheme (despite the emphasis placed there by some). However, I might take issue here:

    “the bible does not always describe physical reality accurately; it simply speaks in an ancient idiom”

    Or, how about it often talks from a human vantage point, not intending to meet 21st century scientific description criteria. We still talk about sun-rise and sun-set in the weather report every day. So, yes, maybe an ancient idiom of sorts now and then, but that doesn’t necessarily mean non-accurate much of the time. (Sun-rise IS accurate, as far as it goes; raining cats and dogs might portray something important, but is the idiom. There is a difference.)

    “Evolution tells us that human beings are not the product of a special creative act by God”

    Depends on the definition of evolution in play.

    “Evolutionary biology leads to the inescapable conclusion, from the standpoint of the science alone, that the first Adam with whom Paul contrasts Christ as the last Adam, never existed as a distinct individual from whom all other humans descend.”

    Sorry, this is simply not true. That is one possible conclusion which might be drawn (and is) by some, from the data. However, given what we know from actual studies of animal populations, and the fact that computer models can often be inaccurate if we don’t understand everything being modeled, such a conclusion seems fairly short-sighted.

    Or, 5.
    Consider that Adam is a historic figure, and re-evaluate this common view of evolutionary science.

    What are the bounds of evolution (if any)? Do the assumptions and computer modeling for initial population numbers in the thousands hold up? etc. What if creation and evolution are both true if we define both properly?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Steve Wilkinson#44, while not the silver bullet, it is probably useful for most folks to be familiar with the ideas of Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam as background for these discussions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_eve

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-chromosomal_Adam

    These articles, in and of themselves, do not prove that the statement made about Adam not existing is true, but they are a good starting point for that discussion.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.wordpress.com MikeB

    I think that the Bible does attempt to answer the big questions regarding origins (contra some comments or the book (which I have not read yet)). I also think these impact the gospel.

    Things like:
    Why does the world/universe exist?
    Why does man exist?
    What was his relationship with God?
    Why does the world exist in its current state?
    Why is that relationship broken and in need of restoration?

    While we may be interpreting Genesis wrong, it may also be the case that the science is wrong regarding evolution. Reading Elegant Universe and one of the points made is that Newton’s view of gravity (how it traveled) was thought to be empirically confirmed for 300 years but overturned by Einstein and special relativity. So not hanging my hat on evolution because DNA seems similar and areas that may or may not be “junk” are similar too. Way to much to learn in this area IMO.

    MikeB

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    @DRT #43 -

    I’ve really appreciated our interaction on these posts, so I hope I come through as deeply respectful of your insight, because I am.

    I still don’t see any objective scientific evidence on a biological level. Without that, I think we should all just adopt option #2 above and just go proclaim the gospel. I take issue with your implication that I haven’t done much research on this topic. I have. Believe it or not, as they say.

    So there is no “point evidence” for human evolution? You’re going to have to elaborate on “point evidence”. Are you forcing me to approach this discussion on something other than a scientific level? That would be ok by me. But I feel inclined to not let you off the hook.

    Ok monkeys didn’t evolve into humans – obviously. Instead, the argument suggests, something else existed before monkeys and humans, and we are both common descendants of that something (don’t say amoeba!). But dare I refer to the standard AiG answer about the 98% common descent evidence? Haha, I know you don’t want to hear that, as that standard answer incorrectly implies that theistic evolutionists such as yourself live and die on this 98% deal, which I know you don’t – but still, it is worth mentioning. Just because there is evidence of common descent does that prove anything that would debunk the Biblical account that Adam was uniquely created separate from any evolutionary process. It is circumstantial evidence, interesting, but not observational. Enns book is no doubt helpful as to an approach to re-thinking certain Scriptural texts, but first someone is going to have to convince me on a scientific level this is all even conclusively possible, making the “re-think” even necessary. Without the ability to observe that it is possible – which no one has this ability, unless they are millions of years old, or even 6000 years old (ha!) – I don’t know how scientifically you are going to convince me. I am a tough cookie, though. Perhaps others are less stubborn.

    And I’m sorry, but your recommendation to approach evolutionary thought assuming it is right, so that we can move on to figuring out the intricacies is astounding. I really appreciate you, but I truly can’t believe you said that. That is the equivalent of saying let’s take science first, and then see what of Scripture aligns with science so we can decide what to believe. I don’t think that is what most theistic evolutionists are recommending, and frankly, I don’t think it’s what you meant either. You should re-word. After such a comment, if true, I cannot take very seriously your claims that you hold the Scriptures as authoritative in any sense. I would use your comment, if true, as a test case in what not to do when approaching science as a Christian. Sounds like the approach I would take if science was my god, and the Bible was only a reference. It’s an ultimate authority question – it will always come down to that. At some point you will be left with a faith claim, and you will have an ultimate authority that supersedes other authorities and gives you confidence in that claim. I don’t believe this is your actual approach to science though, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume I misunderstood your recommendation. Please clarify what you meant.

    Your broad body of evidence explanation is almost convincing, were it not an attempt to avoid the biological details. A combination of sorta true things does not equal one conclusively true thing. There is no observable biological evidence that a species can evolve outside its kind. On a molecular level, it is basically impossible. So whether the theory is that we gradually evolved together with another species over a long period of time, or separately, or whatever, that theory does not contain classical objective science, so even if I were a scientist, I am certainly not going to assume anything at this juncture, especially if it contradicts what the God of the universe has revealed to us by His abundant grace in the Scriptures. I like @Steve Wilkinson’s question about the computer models, and if they really hold up regarding population numbers. This is something I will admit I haven’t read much about. But to his point, if evolution could mean something other than man evolving from some non-human “creature”, than ok – there’s a good conversation. Similarly, scientifically it seems there is at least something to talk about surrounding whether a historic Adam (and the earth in general) may be older than 6,000-10,000 years, and perhaps, scientifically there is something to talk about surrounding whether Adam and Eve, created uniquely as the original humans, were one of many, instead of the only two. But explaining that on the one hand, humans were created in the image of God and the means by which God would get his ultimate glory, and on the other, humans evolved from some ancient creature, does not make any sense at all to me, neither theologically, nor scientifically.

  • RJS

    AHH (#39),

    In a sense I agree with you,but not entirely. Most of the “everyman” type interpretations don’t really make sense to me in the context of scripture as divinely inspired for a purpose. I think Pete may have something important to add here. He rethinks Genesis in a way that makes more consistent sense.

  • RJS

    So Joey,

    What should my friend tell the evolutionary biologist? Should she tell her that the amateurs at AIG know more than she does and she should give up everything she’s spent years learning, understands, and is convinced of, as baloney?

    Should she tell her that Christian faith requires submission to God and admission that evolution is a fiction?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey, I am going to read your response in detail, but I want to say something first. I appreciate your willingness to come to the table and interact on this. A big part of the reason I am here is to learn how people, such as yourself, think about these things. I cannot talk to my neighbor effectively if I do not understand.

    One of the best ways to understand and enhance my learning is through debate, and it is that for which I am most grateful.

    As you can tell, I really cannot understand the folks who do not accept evolution and Christ in the same breath. I have believed in both my whole life (which will turn 50 in less than two weeks). I was taught by nuns in the Catholic church many years ago and I never once had any idea that people, especially Christians, would not honor scientists and honor the study of creation. They embedded that curiosity about god’s world in me and heaped praises on me as I became more successful as a scientist and mathematics expert. I inherently have a difficult time reconciling folks who believe in Christ with a bias against science since everyone who formed me was profoundly engaged in both!

    I, seriously, see no incompatibility between science and Christianity. I believe they are both after the same thing, and I think that without reservation of any kind. But just as there are scientists who are more interested in their career, there are alot of Christians more interested in their career too. And it is those who muddy the water. In today’s world of communications it is sometimes difficult to understand who is right and wrong since everyone posses a megaphone. But, I believe patience allows all of this to come true in the end.

    I have gone on way to long but have one more thought to convey. As much as I am leery of purely modern perspective, modernity has come up with a couple of good things that work, but they rely on time to play out. First, is accounting. I know that is boring, but financial accounting practices are set up so that people who are not on the up and up eventually get caught. In any given moment or quarter a company could cook the books, but over time the system is set up so the cheaters get caught. The other is science for the same reason. There may be individuals who are cooking the books now and then, but they will get caught and the science will true up rather quickly. Evolution is way too old for the idea to not be valid at this point, research it. It really is this breadth across disciplines and independent research that lends credibility to the science.\

    God bless, and now to read your post!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    MikeB#46, Einstein did not debunk Newton. He expanded Newton (tremendously) and confirmed the basic behaviors Newton noted. Newtonian and Einsteinium physics is that same for most of our experiences.

    Most of the world in engineering and science still uses Newtonian physics as the basis for what they do.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey#47,

    My comments around point evidence stems from my view of the support of evolution from a scientific standpoint. For instance, we find bones in various places and those look like species that no longer exist but are similar to what we have. That is one point. Then we look at the depth of sediment and run geologic models to see rates of sedimentary build up. Another point. Then we engage in physics and probability mapping to determine the radioactive decay rates of various isotopes and that provides another point. Then we look at the locomotion sciences and determine that the bone sizes are consistent with the intermediary form of the creature under study. Another point. Then we consider that the creature was uncovered in a particular area of the world and at a particular elevation and realize that the plate tectonics lead us to a consistent view that the elevaton and sediment is appropriate. Another point. Then we look at the drift rates of the tectonic plates and the obvious interconnectedness of the outlines of continents, hypothesis and extrapolate on the implications of that for the travel times of ancient species and the time it takes for the continents to drift and that again provides a consistent picture. Another point. Then we start looking at the genetic structure of the people that are currently in those areas, the correlation with the age of the fossils and the distribution of the people over the earth and again find confirmation. Another point. Then we look at the wear marks on the teeth of the creature we found and also research the availability of food stuffs in the environment and again find consistency. Another point.

    And there are many many more. My contention is that it is not a point that makes or breaks evolution. The field of research is so large, vast, interconnected and documented that there is no doubt that the hypothesis is a good one.

    Now having said that, it is entirely possible that god stepped in and intervened because I am, after all, a Theist. But I don’t think that god steps in very often. All evidence I see is that he really does not need to step in for such mundane things like making a man. We have entirely too high of a view of ourselves to think that.

    So that is my response to why a point defense does not deflate evolution as a primary mechanism

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey#47,

    Now some commentary on assuming evolution is right.

    Given my last response, you can see that I view the nature of, well, nature, to be grossly interconnected and balanced among a wide variety of viewpoints. It is the diversity of support that lends the most credibility to the support, in my view. So, if you are going to argue with each and every supporting piece of evidence along the way you will never get to understanding the big integrated picture of the way that the world operates. It is a wonderfully interconnected web of astrophysics, physics, geology, biology, chemistry and such. I tend to think of each of those disciplines as a perspective on the whole of creation and not independent tracks. It is this web of support across all of the disciplines that provides, imo, the last nail in the coffin.

    FWIW, though, the single most convincing evidence is in the DNA evidence. I would suggest people should start there, but you may have to learn biology, chemistry and statistics to adequately appreciate what is done.

  • AHH

    RJS @48,

    I wasn’t particularly advocating the specific “everyman” interpretation, just citing it as a well-known example of a non-literalist reading by someone who held to Christian orthodoxy.

    Where I would come down would be seeing Genesis 3 as a story (inspired story!) that tells God’s people that human sinfulness is deep-seated and goes back to the root of humanity, and that tells us something of the fundamental nature of our sin and the consequences of our sin. I don’t feel any need to get more specific than that in terms of interpretation.

    As you have pointed out, that part is relatively easy; more care is needed in looking at how Paul used the “Adam” character and what we think inspiration means in that context.

  • http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/ Richard

    Here is an article by Ardel Caneday that some may find interesting: “The Language of God and Adam’s Genesis & Historicity in Paul’s Gospel”. Caneday interacts with Enns’ views as they were outlined on the Biologos site.

    http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2011/06/sbjt-v15-n1_caneday.pdf

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    RJS, you should tell your evolutionary biologist friend that the universe God has created is an awesome wonder worthy to be studied unashamedly in the minutest detail across all the disciplines. But she also needs to know that God created Mankind in His image for the expressed purpose to be a kingdom with Him in love cradled in holiness. And that Mankind rebelled against this plan that requires Mankind to love God first by obeying Him because God holds it all together, and this through love. And so we died, which is separation from God. But God because He loves us and so will have His kingdom, intervened in middle history to once again breathe life into a rebellious Mankind, staging a recreation through the faithfulness of His Son, Jesus the Christ. And we know this is true because Jesus is alive! You need to remind her that this is what it is all about, and to be careful not to turn the creation into a god, which is what all of us are wont to do exactly because of the root of rebellion in all of us. Appeal to her to acknowledge Jesus as King and love Him by following Him in faith, and so become a part of the vast growing fabric of God’s eternal kingdom that is His glory.

  • Tim

    Bruce #56,

    So in other words, you’re recommending to RJS that she preach Christian doctrinal claims to her scientifically-minded friend without dealing with any of her genuine intellectual objections? And she would accept these claims why? Because RJS assures her they’re true? Because she knows “Jesus is alive”? How exactly?

    How is this any different than the Mormon missionaries that appear on the doorstep, offering you their truth claims for you to just take or leave, your personal reservations notwithstanding? How much attention do you pay them? How much attention do you think RJS’s friend would pay her claims?

    If you want to impact someone’s life or perspective, you have to actually engage in dialog with them as a conversational partner. You can’t just preach at them while ignoring or dismissing all their reservations or objections.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ DRT #45 -
    Yes, I agree these are helpful. Dr. Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana from Reasons.org also links to those in his explanation, along with a bit more detail (but still an overview) on what I was referring to.

    http://www.reasons.org/were-they-real-scientific-case-adam-and-eve

    re: % genetic similarity – I’m not a biologist, but my understanding of it is that genetic similarity is much different than gene expression. That 98%, or 90% or 100% or whatever it ends up being doesn’t really matter that much.

    @ RJS #49 -
    I’d tell her that there are a number of views on the subject and to do a bit more thinking of where the science ends and the speculation begins. Anyone who thinks the full possible range of what ‘evolution’ means in the discussion as being a done-deal has been snookered somewhere along the way. Evolution certainly isn’t a fiction, but which evolution are we referring to? Biological adaptation to environment? Generation of novel genetic information? Common descent?

    @ DRT #50 -
    re: “There may be individuals who are cooking the books now and then, but they will get caught and the science will true up rather quickly.”

    I’m sure that happens from time to time to get research funding and such, but generally, I think most scientists are quite sincere in what they believe about evolution. The problems are a) a lot of the scientists aren’t scientists in a discipline to understand all the details that much more than I could if I follow the debate, they just weigh in as scientists. b) of the ones that do have the proper background, many don’t have the training in philosophy to understand it’s impact on science, and c) so they often don’t properly filter out their presuppositions (religious or secular) from interpretation of the data they are looking at. It isn’t that they are being disingenuous, but that they’ve often left science once they are interpreting the data and don’t realize it.

    “Evolution is way too old for the idea to not be valid at this point”

    Again, what definition are we talking about here? Galapagos finches or common descent?

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ Tim #57 -
    While I agree with what you are saying, it would also be a bit silly for someone to reject Christianity because there is a squabble going on within Christianity over the exact details of how evolution is to be considered and integrated.

    If that be the case, I think I would simply explain that there are a dozen different positions WITHIN Christianity, ranging from the YEC to the TE and that she should consider putting that one on the back-burner and looking at some of the other thousands of points where Christianity better fits and explains the real-world than other religions or worldviews.

  • Tim

    Steve #59,

    I think many people have had the Genesis narratives presented to them as factual historical claims. In fact, this seems to be the most dominant and vocal interpretation experienced by the public by far.

    Interpretations on Genesis such as ancient storytelling drawing on ancient near eastern mythic motifs and idioms have hardly received wide audience within even the Christian laity, to say nothing of the exposure of to the non-Christian communities.

    But even if one were aware of such diversity of views, it does not then mean that they would consider the reconciliations with science and scripture some propose intellectually convincing. Perhaps at least not at first glance. They might have legitimate questions such as, “Why does Paul then seem to believe there was a literal, primordial Adam? I thought this was supposed to be the authoritative Word of God? How could such an important detail be gotten wrong by an apostle speaking on behalf of and inspired by God? And how could two mellenia of traditional interpretation by the Church have gotten such a fundamental doctrine so wrong? And what do you even do then with original sin? It doesn’t seem to add up.” They might also have questions like, “How is supervening theistic control over Evolution not superfluous as an explanation? Why would God even elect to work in such a way? It doesn’t seem to make any sense, and it doesn’t seem to align with how God’s creative acts are described in the Bible.” There are a myriad of reservations a scientifically-minded individual may have. To just dismiss all those as “squabbling” debates within Christianity hardly seems to do justice to the situation.

  • Paul W

    A few people seem to have suggested throughout these discussions that concerns for inerrancy are lurking just below the surface.

    I’ll admit that I’m not all that familiar with what a culture of inerrancy looks like on the ground. I have read the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and a few of the ICBI publications. But as far as I can tell inerrancy doesn’t commit one to Biblicism (ala C. Smith), literalism, or historicism.

    A hermeneutic which understands Adam through the lens figurative imagery, poetic expression, literary foils, typology or whatever non-histicism paradigm one may imagine does not encroach upon inerrancy (at least as defined by the Chicago Statement). Or am I missing something here?

  • John W Frye

    AAH #41,
    Thank you for your comments and helpful links.

  • RJS

    Steve (#58) and Bruce (#56),

    First, as I said in the original post just after Pete’s option 1, I was asked by a friend how she should deal with the statement by her evolutionary biologist friend.

    I was asked because I am a scientist and a professor, after 19 years in church together I have some credibility, and because five years ago I taught a SS class on science-faith, so she knew I had thought about it.

    Second, comments to a professional with a great deal of experience about “doing more thinking” and “not a done deal” will go over like a lead brick as a way to argue against evolution.

    I do think most scientists have not thought about philosophy and the nature of knowledge enough. Some many say some rather naive things – like science and evolution can disprove God or Christianity or resurrection. There are strong ways to into a conversation about the Christian faith that can cut under a facade of assurance that it is balderdash.

    But the far more disastrous situation is the number of Christians who spout absolute garbage about evolution and the evidence for evolution and expect real experts to buy into this garbage.

  • RJS

    And by the way, in a short summary … I told her that she should tell the evolutionary biologist that there are many views about evolution within Christianity. It is a subject of much discussion, but one need not disregard evolutionary biology to be a Christian.

    She should bring up Francis Collins as a well known example of someone who accepts evolution and Christian faith.

    She should tell her friend that the vast majority of Christians who are also scientists likewise accept evolution. I do for example, – because the data in support are overwhelming.

    The conversation can (I hope) then move to the other, and in my mind more important, questions.

  • RJS

    John (#24 and #62),

    I am glad AHH saw your comment and he gave a great summary with links. Yesterday was very busy for me – and I didn’t get to all the comments.

    Dennis Venema has given some great overviews on the BioLogos site – some with Darrel Falk.

  • Tim

    RJS #64,

    I would find it doubtful to think that an Evolutionary Biologist would, upon hearing that the majority of Christian scientists (such as Francis Collins) accept evolution, would then just up and say, “OK, sounds great! Moving on then…tell me some other things about Christianity.”

    I would think that they would want to know how these scientists reconcile their beliefs, and whether or not it is forced or genuinely harmonious. Any scientist recognizes the human capacity to ad hoc rationalize data. That is why science relies so heavily on predictive validation. I think she’d want to see that the reconciliations are intellectually honest and not just stretches to preserve faith.

    So, you’d probably want to have a conversation about the Bible as ancient literature and how portions of it have been very misunderstood based on modern assumptions as to interpretation and literary form / genre. You’d probably want to present her with a rich, vibrant, and nuanced view of Scripture in some way, to incentive her to want to learn more. Certainly any scientist would appreciate the idea of erroneous assumptions / frameworks and how serious of an impact they can have on the state of knowledge of a community. The idea that the professional scholarly community has more to offer in the way of genuine understanding of the Biblical text in ways far more amenable to an Evolutionary view of life and history could spark some interest and appreciation.

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.wordpress.com Mike B

    DRT

    According to Greene in Elegant Universe – Einstein did debunk the idea proposed by Newton the effects of gravity are immediately felt because according to special relativity nothing travels faster than light. Did not say Einstein debunked all of what Newton proposed (see comment again).

    - page 52
    As we shall see in the next chapter, this [special relativity] conclusion plants the seeds for the second major conflict faced by physics during the past century and ultimately spells doom for another venerable and cherished theory – Newton’s universal theory of gravity.

    MikeB

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.wordpress.com Mike B

    DRT@52: “All evidence I see is that he really does not need to step in for such mundane things like making a man. We have entirely too high of a view of ourselves to think that.”

    I am curious then – how would you describe the creation of man and at what point was God involved?

    -MikeB

  • RJS

    Tim (#66),

    Sure, I said this was the short version answer, given to someone without the expertise or experience to engage with all of the various issues. But it was someone who has a friend and wanted some direction on how to deal with the issue. I actually went into a little more detail in our short conversation.

    This wasn’t the classroom or individual answer that I would give, and it isn’t the approach I use on this blog. All of the things you raise are important components.

  • RJS

    Mike B,

    Einstein did debunk some of Newton’s theories (extrapolations), but that doesn’t change DRT’s point at all. In the range where Newton’s ideas were derived we still use and teach Newtonian mechanics.

  • Susan N.

    I am still waiting for my Amazon shipment of this book to be delivered…

    The reluctance I see reflected in some of the comments to consider other possible interpretations of the biblical narrative — or at least a more nuanced interpretation — is connected, imho, with the post yesterday on the warning passages in the Book of Hebrews regarding perseverance and apostasy. By that I mean, some have been taught and/or have come to believe that perseverance in faith means continuing to believe and defend the truths that have been communicated to them in their faith tradition and/or from a literal/inerrant view of the biblical text. Further, to question or flat out reject that could also be unfaithful to their church, which would be considered another failure to persevere. Further yet, fear of losing one’s “salvation” or at the very least being labeled as an apostate or heretic makes it difficult to break out of old patterns of thinking and embrace new ideas. And, yes, I think that because systematic theologies tend to tie one thing (creation/fall) to another (atonement/redemption), then it can be very scary to lay all that on the table with a willingness to let one’s faith be potentially redefined. Perseverance implies, for many I think, a linear progression in knowledge, as well as practice. To lay down a belief or set of beliefs on which one’s Christian identity has been built can feel (or appear to others) like regression or failure to persevere.

    Maybe we should carefully define the meaning of “persevere” to include pursuit of truth, even if it means coming to realize that one’s understanding was previously incomplete or altogether wrong? And that realization does not cancel the validity of one’s “salvation” or conversion… It is more helpful for me to think about conversion as an ongoing process.

    Last night, I visited a favorite blog of mine after having forgotten about it for a few months. The two most recent posts are excellent and so relevant to this discussion, imo. See ‘Legion’ and ‘Have We Forgotten How to Read Scripture?’ here: http://seguewm.blogspot.com/

    I don’t know the blogger, except that I perceive so much wisdom consistently in his (Wm?) posts. I encourage others to check out the two posts I mentioned.

    I look forward to getting my copy of Peter Enn’s book in hand and am eager to follow the discussion and learn from it, over the course of this series of posts. Thank you, RJS.

    ~Peace~

  • phil_style

    Susan #71, what an inspired post.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, I think, connecting the two issues that have been discussed here over the past 2 weeks or so.

    Does perseverance mean flat-lining one’s beliefs?

  • Kristin

    This is not really a comment about the book, or the post, more about the comments on this post…

    It always disturbs me when Christians make out “Science” to be the enemy here. I long for the day when we can discuss the theological implications of evolution without demonizing the study of creation. Too many believers in the same breath thank God for for modern medicine but curse those doggone evolutionists!!

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    RSJ(63) and Tim(57,60): My response was meant to refocus the discussion. We all seem to be in agreement that God created the cosmos. Good. And many seem to think evolution was the mechanism He employed. Okay. But what I sense developing from this–to RSJ’s query–is a systematic dismantling of the Scriptures; consequently, I have attempted to recap–perhaps too subtly–what the book of Genesis clearly teaches: God created everything, God created Mankind in God’s image, God created Mankind to be a kingdom with God, Mankind rebelled, and God would deal with that rebellion. The rest of the Scriptures tell us of how God’s plan to restore His kingdom played out to the climax of the advent, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus the Christ. This is what Paul meant when he said, “the righteousness of God (which is attested by the Law and the Prophets[the entire Scriptural narrative]) has been disclosed.” And Paul was certain of this–including the literal Adam and Eve in Paradise (i.e., the nascent kingdom of God). Why? Because Christ is alive!
    Paul was certain of Christ’s resurrection, so he was certain of the veracity of God’s revelation. Paul reminds us that if there is no resurrection, then eat, drink, for tomorrow you die, which, of course, is the materialist’s eschatology.

    The resurrection should be central to all of these discussions. Paul was honest enough to concede that, so should we. And despite what you (Tim) might think about it, the resurrection is well attested historically (see N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus).

    I did not mean to shutdown the conversation. It’s my approach to always attempt to cut to the chase, and have us see what is at stake by exposing the foundational presuppositions we are each acting on.

    It saddens me when I hear (and it may not have been your intent, Tim) that unless someone can fully explain God, His decisions, choices, and mechanisms, etc., then it won’t be possible to accept that God loves us and created us for the purpose of entering in to an eternal relationship of love with Him. The earth and all matter comprise the stage on which this eternal relationship will play out. One reason I long for God to bring His kingdom to completion is so I can finally practice science free of biases, competition, and every other obstruction resulting from a contempt of God. Indeed, RSJ, this is another lesson from Genesis to tell your friend: that the kingdom is both spiritual and physical, and Mankind is to successfully maintain the physical as God’s steward through the intimate relationship Mankind has with God. And this stewardship will necessarily entail learning everything (can you say science?) about the cosmos God has placed in our care.

    RSJ, hopefully in all of the above you will find my answer to your question.

  • Tim

    Bruce,

    “And despite what you (Tim) might think about it, the resurrection is well attested historically”

    &

    “It saddens me when I hear…that unless someone can fully explain God, His decisions, choices, and mechanisms, etc., then it won’t be possible to accept that God loves us and created us for the purpose of entering in to an eternal relationship of love with Him.”

    Where did this come from? Are you honestly seeing that I am making these arguments on this thread?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Susan#71 and phil_style#72 talk about letting go of beliefs to allow new ones in and relate that to perseverance.

    I can’t remember who discussed this before, but someone talked about how a religions eschatology helps dictate how they behave. For many evangelical protestants, the way you get into heaven is to believe. Anything that can shake the belief including rethinking Genesis may compromise your eternal salvation.

    For many Catholics, it is more centered around living a pure life. So accepting ambiguity in your beliefs and changing beliefs will not affect salvation as long as they don’t lead you into sinful acts.

    I think that is a big reason that the Catholics don’t have a problem with people believing in an old earth and evolution since it is not those beliefs that give you salvation. But to many protestants it is precisely that that brings you salvation.

  • Robert A

    My apologies, I’m not very good at keeping up to comments sections in blogs. So if I’ve missed someone, it isn’t my intention. (I think the rubric is like this)

    @DRT #28…

    I don’t disagree that some faith claims are less equal than others. Yet in this discussion we seem to have several epistemological systems that have equal footing in making their assessments. My larger point, which no scientist has been able to work with, is that the modern, empirical scientific mindset (however wonderful at dealing with observable data) is not awfully helpful with issues related to cosmology and distant history when it must begin to provide answers that have no present day (or recently observable) criteria for testing.

    This is because science utilizes a method of reasoning called abductive reasoning which gets embellished when it comes to discussions of origins.

    Abductive reasoning belies the entire paradigm of scientific method (which I posit doesn’t actually exist) and needs to be recognized. As it pertains to the issue of scientific study of origins there is simply no way to be able to assert with any reliable certitude that, e.g., Adam and Eve didn’t exist. Basically the ground work of abduction gathers data available a posteriori and makes an a priori conclusion. It attempts to come up with reasonable answer for the evidences and, scientists here, are only limited in their conclusions by a) their imagination and b) their faith/reason commitments. I’m not against this system, but I believe we need to get to the bottomline of understanding the basic philosophical system underlying all scientific inquiry and realize that if we base our conclusions on faulty, or damaged, preconceptions we come out with bad conclusions.

    Science cannot speak with certitude about origins. We need a more transcendent source to be able to do that. I suggest the biblical text is a reasonable gauge to understanding something (not everything) that leads to a faith conclusion as coupled with (not denying) the evidence.

    My second point of argumentation is that science is reliant on the system put into place by the Creator and not a creative system in itself. An old joke works here (abridged:) A scientist meets and God and points out that science has proven they can create a man without God’s aid. God says okay let’s both try and see what happens. The scientist reaches down and scoops up some dirt but God stops him and says, “Get your own dirt.”

    The point here is that science operates within the established, observable limitations that God has created. They cannot look beyond what God allows because, given our inferior ontological status, we cannot. Thus if God put all of this creation into motion with age built in (as my assertion goes) and made all creation look like it is billions of years old (which He is totally entitled to do) then who are we to complain? Who are we to notice?

    If this is the case than scientific estimates and observations as relates to cosmology and the status of, say, Adam are not definite but simply faith claims built upon a rubric of abductive reasoning that forgets (too often) its place in the created order.

    BTW, I love science. (I was terrible at it in school that’s why I’m a theologian) I love what science can and does offer for solutions and a better life. We need great scientists…but we also need humble scientists. Ones that recognize there are simply some questions we will not be able to answer.

    I am thankful for your interaction here…and for this fine blog. :)

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    Tim (75), you dot, dot, dotted out my intentional caveat. However, when I read,

    “So in other words, you’re recommending to RJS that she preach Christian doctrinal claims to her scientifically-minded friend without dealing with any of her genuine intellectual objections?”

    and

    “They might have legitimate questions such as, “Why does Paul then seem to believe there was a literal, primordial Adam? I thought this was supposed to be the authoritative Word of God? How could such an important detail be gotten wrong by an apostle speaking on behalf of and inspired by God? And how could two mellenia of traditional interpretation by the Church have gotten such a fundamental doctrine so wrong? And what do you even do then with original sin? It doesn’t seem to add up.” They might also have questions like, “How is supervening theistic control over Evolution not superfluous as an explanation? Why would God even elect to work in such a way? It doesn’t seem to make any sense, and it doesn’t seem to align with how God’s creative acts are described in the Bible.” There are a myriad of reservations a scientifically-minded individual may have. To just dismiss all those as “squabbling” debates within Christianity hardly seems to do justice to the situation.”

    it sounded to me that you put a great deal of importance on intellectual satisfaction. What she needs to hear is a clear statement of the Christian proposition, and then to hear that it is predicated on the risen Christ. And yes, this needs to be stated side-by-side with the materialist proposition and how its predicated on the theory of evolution (materialism lost its legs with the advent of Christ, and only regained them fully with Darwin’s ready theory of evolution). And from there they can address the many questions as they connect the dots to the respective worldviews.

    Next, the litany of questions you laid out in (60) certainly prompt a response for why Paul taught and believed what he did, which definitely included a literal understanding of an Adam and an Eve in paradise. It’s speculation on my part, but if Paul had been confronted with the evidence of evolution, I don’t believe that would have changed his mind about God, God’s purposes, and what was taught in the OT. Why? Because Jesus is alive.

    Yes, I do believe you seriously question the resurrection, but I could be mistaken–maybe you are just concerned with how to properly address a scientist’s many questions. Clearly, you and RSJ are convinced evolution is correct, so evolution has now become–or threatens to become–the arbitrator of truth and, more specifically, the veracity of Scripture. Isn’t this the crux of RSJ’s main query?

    I submit that if true, evolution is no different than any other mechanism of the physical world. And certainly the physical world is important–that’s one reason why the resurrection is so critical. And certainly the physical world should point us back to its creator–Paul made this clear. But only Jesus is the arbitrator of truth. When we see Jesus we see God. At least that is what Jesus claimed. Why should we believe him? Because he’s alive.

    Evolution may be the mechanism God used for creation. This is not incompatible with the Genesis account. Indeed, we can see this as describing the progressive transformation of chaos to order in six days (epochs). And perhaps God employed evolution in this. But God tells us that the creation of Mankind is unique and special. Therefore I am saying that we must not overstate evolution by giving it undeserved theological power as arbitrator of truth.

    Adam and Eve were literal persons in a literal paradise, and Paul clearly meant this. Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought death onto all Mankind. Whether or not evolution as a mechanism of diversification of the biosphere is valid or not should have no bearing on this.

    Gee, I’m pretty entrenched aren’t I? And I’m even a doctor of organic chemistry who did his undergraduate research on the prebiotic formation of nucleotides in formamide solutions. How can I be so adamant (myopic?)? Because I’m happily faced with the truth of a risen Christ.

  • Tim

    Bruce #78,

    None of the reservations or objections I discussed relevant to the scientist RJS introduced were meant to be seen as categorically insurmountable. Only that they deserve to be taken seriously, and not just dismissed out of hand or with a cursory answer.

    What is more, I was suggesting that simply preaching truth claims at a scientifically-minded individual probably is not going to have the desired effect. You seem to think that yours is a slam-dunk case. The doctrines you hold as “essential.” The historical case for Jesus’ resurrection. You seem to think that your arguments are a done deal and that anyone with intellectual honesty should assent to their obvious validity when presented with them in the “preaching at” fashion you seem to favor.

    But I don’t see you as having made that case. Now, I’m not saying that good arguments can’t be made to support your claims. But how “obviously” valid your claims are is not in any way assured. Certainly some Biblical scholars have argued the case that the Resurrection is so very well supported that to doubt it’s validity would require a greater miracle than the one Biblically ascribed to Jesus. But how is this argument received among their peers? Is the consensus view truly that it is a “slam dunk” case? Hardly. There are arguments on both sides and a strong consensus view on just how robust that argument is has failed to emerge. So, one would imagine that an examination of the various arguments and counterarguments would be in order. But according to your view, that shouldn’t really be necessary. The scientist in question here should just here the argument YOU recommend, and that should be the end of the matter. If they’re honest and open-minded, then they should see the obvious validity to your claims.

    Now, regarding the rest of your claims concerning evolution, I would advise that the genetic evidence, including pseudo-gene and endogenous retrovirus orthogonality, demonstrate I would say fairly conclusively our common ancestry with other life, most closely the great apes. I get that you have a doctorate in Chemistry, so I don’t know how that prepares you to evaluate the genetic evidence or not. But my understanding is that this is the exceedingly dominant consensus view not just among life scientists (including geneticists) in general, but specifically Christian scientists in those fields as well. I’ve looked at some of the evidence myself and found the arguments convincing. I understand RJS has the same reaction to the evidential case as well. Clearly your mileage has varied thus far. Perhaps you’d be interested in examining it further?

    In any event, I would recommend dialog WITH someone over preaching AT someone any day of the week. I think it shows respect to your conversational partner. In fact, I think one of the principal problems with preaching at someone is that not only is it (a) not effective, and (b) tend to turn the person off to even wanting to engage with you, but it (c) actually conveys a lack of respect to your conversational partner (in effect a talking “down to” them as if you were a parent speaking to a child, rather than engaging with them as a peer).

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ Tim #60 -

    I’m with you on those questions, Tim; I’ve asked many of them (and haven’t gotten good answers very often, I might add). I’m OEC! :) My point was that even if YEC ended up being the case and you couldn’t square your science with that, you’d still have to consider thousands of other points where Christianity fits reality much better than any other worldview. In other words, while I think squaring science with Christianity on creation/evolution is important, it is hardly a very big deal on the whole of things. (the universe still needs a ‘banger’, there is morality, consciousness, Christ’s resurrection, etc.). To reject Christianity because you don’t think it squares with your views of evolution is, IMO, a sign of being pretty intellectually lazy, or wanting to ditch Christianity (often for moral reasons), or at minimum, having your priorities quite screwed up.

    re: ANE motifs – I don’t put much stock in that, at least as far as evolution is concerned. Sure, Genesis is, in part, a polemic against the ANE gods. But, TE folks then run with that and apply it to ancient science as well. If they’d just read Job, they would know that is baloney. Job was arguably written before Genesis and they knew rain came from the clouds and roughly understood the water cycle (or God revealed it to them). All this nonsense about science of Genesis being about brass domes with doors for the rain and such is just eisegesis to support TE.

    @ RJS #63 -

    Yes, a lot of Christians do spout absolute garbage about evolution, but many scientists are equally spouting garbage about the certainty of evolution. That’s why I said she needs to rethink things a bit.

    There are loonies on both sides at the extremes that just write off religion or science. However, in the middle there are scientists looking at the SAME data and coming to different conclusions regarding the extent of evolution. Once the data collection has stopped and one start inferring things from the data, more than science gets involved.

    BTW, is that the same Francis Collins who was so sure about ‘junk DNA’? ;) (Sorry, that was the stock proof that was feed to me by all the TE folks when I was in grad school.)

    @ Kristin #73 -

    I think one can hold creationism and evolution in perfect harmony. It just depends on how one defines creation and evolution.

    @ Robert A #77 -

    “Thus if God put all of this creation into motion with age built in (as my assertion goes) and made all creation look like it is billions of years old (which He is totally entitled to do) then who are we to complain?”

    I think we could complain as this has implications for God’s nature. If God tells us to look at nature, but has set it up to trick us up, that doesn’t seem to say good things about God, IMO.

    I think you either have to deal with the findings of science, or work to show that those findings are in error. (I do know some YEC folks who work to do so, and for whom I have a great deal of respect, even though I disagree. But, I think that is the path you must go.)

    @ Tim #79 -

    “I’ve looked at some of the evidence myself and found the arguments convincing.”

    Have you looked at some of the counter arguments by folks like Stephen Meyer or Fazale Rana? Or, if you’re concerned about the numbers of scientists on either side, read this interview with Bill Dembski (while about ID, I think speaks well to our topic at hand):

    http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/a-must-read-interview-with-dr-william-a-dembski-author-of-the-design-inference/

    I experienced this kind of thing personally (in a much softer way) while in grad school.

  • Tim

    Steve,

    Yes, I’ve looked at many of the ID counter-arguments. Not all the books or articles mind you, but enough I believe to make an informed assessment on their claims. Concerning numbers of scientists on “either side”, maybe I missed it in your link, but I didn’t see a breakdown. I am familiar, however, with survey data that indicates 99.875% of life scientists concur with evolution / common descent. Those numbers diminish somewhat as you move away from the earth & life sciences. I think the number of mathematicians, engineers, chemists, etc. that reject evolution is higher.

  • Tim

    Steve (continued),

    “To reject Christianity because you don’t think it squares with your views of evolution is, IMO, a sign of being pretty intellectually lazy, or wanting to ditch Christianity (often for moral reasons), or at minimum, having your priorities quite screwed up.”

    I disagree. I think Evolution / Common Descent can be known MORE confidently as a validated scientific claim than inferences based on historical data concerning the resurrection, comparison of internal consistency between religions, or varying testimonies of persons who feel they have experienced God – not to say that we shouldn’t of course attend to these as well.

  • Susan N.

    Phil (#72) – The term ‘flat-lining’ suggests to me a quick, irrevocable, and complete “death” of all belief. I do not think it is possible to be devoid of any belief; everyone “believes” in something.

    Perseverance, for me, has required hard, often painful “soul work” to confront my own demons and idols. Some beliefs, when examined in the light, are proven false and must be allowed to die. Other beliefs rightly become stronger. For instance, even *if* for a time I find myself in the belly of the whale, so to speak, there is resurrection life on the third day.

    In real time, the process has been much longer than three days; I am still undergoing renovations of the mind :-) When I posted my comment (#71), it was with compassion on those who are where I was a few years ago. Think of Jesus approaching the “demoniac” of Gennesaret, who put up his protective “legion” in habitual defense. Does that break your heart? Christ treated him with dignity and respect. That is the capital ‘T’ truth that I boast of. No fear!

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    Tim(79): Thank you for your kind and patient response and your willingness to stick with me on this. I couldn’t agree with you more about how to dialog with people. I need to go to school on how I come across on blogs etc.

    You and this thread have certainly awakened me from my molecular biological slumbers. I’ve had my nose in theology for the last decade or so. Last night and into the wee hours I read Francis Collin’s book. He certainly makes a compelling case based on the DNA. The process reminds me a little of the process of putting together the periodic table. However, I’m still not sure why the same outcome could not be explained by God simply creating each organism, necessarily requiring a certain DNA pattern for each group, so that when it’s all laid out after the fact one sees the same family tree and DNA relationships. Collin’s “junk” DNA argument sounds plausible, but I get nervous anytime someone says “I don’t know why God would do that (as in wasted effort)”–whether talking theology or science. God is God, after all. I will definitely seek second and third opinions from other reputable scientists, though.

    Thank you, again. Hopefully I’ve made a friend.

  • Tim

    Bruce,

    Thank you for your last comment. I really appreciate that. I’m glad you’ve found Francis Collin’s book helpful. He also started an organization by the way called Biologos that aims to discuss the evidence for Evolution and reconciliation of the science with an Evangelical Christian faith. You can check out the various articles at http://www.biologos.org/blog. On the genetic evidence, I would particularly recommend Dennis Venema’s articles on the site. http://biologos.org/blog/author/dennis-venema

    Best of luck to you Bruce as you navigate these waters. I hope you find the resources here at Jesus Creed and Biologos helpful to you, both Theologically and Scientifically. Cheers my friend.

  • Richard Jones

    @DRT #52 …”I really don’t think God steps in very often…”

    This again points out that the issue of contention here does not come down to what science does or does not say. It really amounts to one’s view of biblical teaching.

    One way to resolve apparent tensions between scripture and science is to say “the Bible really didn’t mean [it] (wink).” That’s not to say that the Bible does not contain allegorical references — it certainly does — but most often these are identifiable and applied with appropriate study of scripture itself.

    You, Enns and others seem to be espousing a hermenutic of chaos in your desperation to bend scripture to fit what you are convinced science has proven.

    In all respect, you have the cart before the horse.

  • RJS

    Richard,

    Enns most certainly isn’t espousing a hermeneutic of chaos. In fact, his overwhelming goal seems to be a consistent hermeneutic. The general approach in evangelicalism is intrinsically inconsistent, or so it seems to many of us.

    The other important point is that everything in creation is God’s work. He is the creator and sustainer of all. This includes the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary”.

    We don’t have the cart before the horse. God and his work in Christ is first, the ground of all. Evangelical theories of what scripture “must be” are down with all theories, tested for consistency with the evidence.

  • Richard Jones

    #87 RJS

    Sorry but I completely disagree.

    Once you start down the road proposed by Enns, what is NOT allegory and what IS historical?

    Contrary to your claim, Enns makes it up as he goes along to simply fit his world-view. And THAT indeed of necessity creates chaos in biblical interpretation.

    Once one starts down the slope it does not end. For example, how shall we characterize the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus?

    NOTHING in naturalistic science indicates those two events are in any way possible. In fact, this is the very argument used to discredit the possibility of the very core of Christian belief.

    Did those events occur in space time or are they purely “ancient cultural metaphors?”

    The position you claim to support— along with Enns — brings all of scripture into doubt because you will never be able to empirically draw the line between what was historical v. what we should simply wink at. And that brings chaos, not resolution.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Richard Jones#88,

    Once you start down the road proposed by Enns, what is NOT allegory and what IS historical

    I don’t get it. You are saying that we should interpret everything as historical? I think god would be more than a little disappointed that we are not using the intelligence and god image he gave us to do better than that, don’t you?

    Contrary to your claim, Enns makes it up as he goes along to simply fit his world-view. And THAT indeed of necessity creates chaos in biblical interpretation.

    What? Everyone .. Everyone applies their knowledge and view to interpret the bible. Are you saying something different?

    Once one starts down the slope it does not end. For example, how shall we characterize the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus?

    NOTHING in naturalistic science indicates those two events are in any way possible. In fact, this is the very argument used to discredit the possibility of the very core of Christian belief.

    So I take it we should never have advanced beyond allowing slavery based on the bible because it is a slippery slope to doubt your interpretation. That does not make sense.

    Also, the resurrection is presented quite differently than the Genesis stories. There is lots of multiple streams of evidence from independent witnesses and behaviors by the witnesses. The literal interpretation of Genesis has absolutely no corroborating evidence.

    No Richard, this approach does not bring scripture into doubt for me. It actually gives me a much better foundation to believe that its big claims are correct. There are clear pointers in Genesis that it is intended to not be historical (snake, two very different versions, where did all the other people come from etc). It is much more of a stretch for me to believe it is literal than for me to believe it is not.

    My belief is that your position of saying the events in Genesis are literal is driving people away from the church. It certainly has driven many people who I know away, as well as most scientists and educated people. You are destroying Christianity, not supporting it.

  • RJS

    Richard,

    Nothing in naturalist science can say anything about incarnation and resurrection except that it isn’t natural. All agree: if God doesn’t exist incarnation and resurrection are impossible.

    The nature of God’s creation and the interpretation of Genesis is entirely different. Yes God could have created humans in an instant. All the evidence suggests that he didn’t – or if he did it is along the lines of option 3 in the post. Pete didn’t invent any of this. We don’t have eyewitness writings of people interacting with Adam and Eve. We do have eyewitness and once removed writings of people who interacted with Jesus.

    I don’t really expect to convince you that I am right on this. But whether you agree or disagree, we take the work of God in the world and the bible as inspired very seriously. All of this (bible and work) is Christ centered from beginning to end.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I want to expand on one point I made in #89.

    First, as someone who believes that my faith should make sense in concert with the world, I look at Genesis and see that there are a few things that create a real problem for me. First, there are two accounts that are quite different. And these accounts are not different in a regular way like the differences in the synoptics, they are not the same events that are being described by different observers.

    Given that there were no witnesses to the Gen 1 and 2 creations, that means that god had to inspire people with totally different realities, which means that we have a real problem because god should be able to get it right. The synoptics, on the other hand, are clearly written by people who are documenting what happened. The same problem does not exist there.

    Second, we have that dog gone talking snake. I feel it takes effort for someone to try and think that the snake is not primarily symbolic. There is a word that describes teaching people that is against common sense that it is reality and that is what is done with people who believe there really was a talking snake.

    Third, there are obvious problems with who married the sons, and who was god protecting the killer son from since there were no other people, right?

    All of this is within the text. This creates inherent problems in believing that the text is relaying historical truths since all of these point to a non-historical genre of some sort.

    So, it is greatly gratifying to me for us to finally progress far enough in our civilization to confirm (via old earth and evolution) that these are not merely historical texts, but wonderful and vivid teaching texts about the nature of god and his relationship to his creation.

    It increases my faith in the accuracy of the bible that we have figured out evolution and old earth!

    Folks really need to stop corrupting what the bible is teaching by claiming a young earth and instantaneous creation.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I think I should get some kind of award for this sentance:

    “There is a word that describes teaching people that is against common sense that it is reality and that is what is done with people who believe there really was a talking snake”

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    @Richard Jones – For what it’s worth, I agree with you. Not sure how else to help you make your points, but I agree.

    @DRT – I feel like I have several unanswered points from our above dialogue. Sorry about that! This is too much for me to keep up with. But, a couple new things. You said:

    “My belief is that your position of saying the events in Genesis are literal is driving people away from the church. It certainly has driven many people who I know away, as well as most scientists and educated people. You are destroying Christianity, not supporting it.”

    I regret deeply that this issue is driving people away from the church. And I acknowledge it. I believe it. But I don’t believe it is destroying Christianity. I would ask you also to at least acknowledge and believe the same reality that the “re-thinking” of literal interpretations of Genesis and Paul (most significantly concerning Adam) are both leading people away, and preventing people from coming to, a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I have seen this as well. I think your acknowledgement of this would give us strong common ground. Even if it’s enough to drive you to “re-think” these passages better, and more carefully, that would be good.

    Secondly, I am glad for your bold (literally) statement that your confidence of the accuracy of the Bible (I presume on the essentials of our faith and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) increases with the discoveries of old earth and evolution. I cannot phantom how this is possible, but I am glad for it.

    Third, to gain additional common ground, I would ask you to please not consider a young earth and “instantaneous” creation to be corrupting the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God, and if you read it, without “re-thinking” it, this is the conclusion you will come to. That is not corruption, even if some interpretation along the way is proven incorrect. It is trusting God at His Word. It will not come back empty.

    Fourth, the examples of slavery, a flat earth, and what revolves around what, will never compare to the interpretation of a literal Adam. Looking at the passages in questions now, there is not even any debate on these issues. Somehow our original reading of the shape of the earth, etc. from Scripture was undisciplined and we got it wrong, and God’s natural (general) revelation corrected us. The key point is nothing about the essential truths of Scripture changed, and what did change was clear with no debate – there are not orthodox theologians who still think the earth is flat or that slavery is ok.

    That is not the case with the alleged “revelation” that Adam was not a real man, or worse yet, evolved from another species. There is no way you can faithfully go back to Scripture, adjust the interpretation of Genesis, the Gospels, and Paul’s letters, etc (big etc.), and account for this without confusing essential truths of the faith (personal sin, created in the image of God, covenant of marriage – that’s a new one in this conversation!, etc.) Pete Enns is trying to go back and make it work. And in all honesty, God bless Him. But it hasn’t worked yet. Let’s just be honest about that.

    Finally, on your doubts about instantaneous creation…nope, I can’t even go there. Maybe next time!

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ Tim #81 -

    My point with the link wasn’t to debate your numbers (I’m not sure how relevant that is anyway), but to show at least one reason why. To be respected in the field (or at least to no face problems), you have to tow the evolutionary line and compartmentalize the religious part.

    So, what do you think of Dr. Rana’s disputation that the number of original humans being was in the thousands?

    re: confidence – You’re more confident about evolution than Christ’s resurrection? And, if you think a decent comparison between religions can’t be made, in order to rule some out, I don’t think you’ve really studied them (they contradict one another on some pretty major things). But, I’m still missing what that has to do with my point. I’m saying that if one actually learned about Christianity and how well it matches with reality overall (ie: apologetics), I don’t see how not being able to completely square evolutionary theory with it would matter much.

    @ Bruce Kokko #84 -

    FYI, the idea of ‘junk’ DNA is already beginning to go the way of the dodo. Junk was essentially something we didn’t understand when that argument was made, so it was thought to be junk. We’re starting to discover purpose to some of the junk, as well as understanding how it contributes to gene expression, protein folding, etc.

    @ DRT #91 -

    re: Genesis two accounts – Genesis 1 is an overall creation account, Genesis 2 is focused on humanity / Adam & Eve. There isn’t any problem between them that I’m aware of.

    re: slavery – the issue there isn’t literal or not, but prescriptive vs. descriptive.

    re: talking snake – So, you don’t believe a spirit could possess an animal and talk through it? That’s not a hill I’d die on as far as reading it literally, but I don’t have any problem a literal reading. (I see Genesis as an interesting blend of symbolic and literal. For example, Adam & Eve being naked. No doubt they probably were, but physical nudity wasn’t the primary point, it was symbolic.)

    re: who married the sons – Adam and Eve had many more kids. (I always do a double-take when I see this objection, as I can’t hardly believe it gets raised.) Am I missing your point or something?

    re: inherent problems – Sorry, I’m not really seeing any. Got something else?

    We’ve certainly not confirmed these are not historical texts by any means! BTW, there are old earth creationists as well.

    @ Joey #93 -

    I’m not sure I’d agree that if you read the Bible without ‘re-thinking’ it, you end up with YEC, but the point is well taken that one can come away with YEC or OEC positions directly from the text. I’d say the TE position does require some re-thinking, as I doubt one would come to that reading without having some reason to see it that way. That doesn’t prove it’s wrong (as I believe in a ‘two-books’ view of interpretation – that God’s creation and Word will match), but I see what you’re saying.

    re: flat earth – I don’t think that compares either, as to get flat-earth, you’d have to have a pretty bad reading of the Bible in the first place, even if we didn’t have any scientific data to go on. (One could actually argue you can get a spherical earth in ‘space’ from the Bible alone.)

    But, I whole-heartedly agree with your point. If no major aspects of Christianity are effected, then it isn’t a big deal. But, the historicity of Adam and Eve is a pretty big deal with tons of theological implications. I’m much more comfortable with TE views that posit some kind of ‘adam and eve’ and real fall, etc.

    Because I’m a two-books person, if evolution ever does start to seem incontrovertible, then I’d start doing the theological gymnastics Enns and others are attempting. However, currently, evolution is, at best, just another interpretation of data that fits creationism just as well, if not better.

  • Richard Jones

    @DRT My argument about the Genesis accounts is that they are inspired by God Himself and convey truth in a non-deceptive way. You argue, on the other hand, that they are fairy tales because thats the only way you can make what the Bible teaches (or more accurately in your case, what the Bible DOES NOT TEACH)congruent with your beliefs about what science has demonstrated.
    You make scripture subservient to science. That is your choice. But please do not maintain that posture all the while claiming you maintain committment to biblical authority. In truth, your committment is to the opinions of certain molecular biologists who have agendas quite different than that of someone who belongs to Jesus.

    @RJS Who else witnessed the creation of the life of Jesus within Mary’s womb besides Mary? Certainly none of the authors of the Gospels. You don’t REALLY want to make the presence of physical witnesses the litmus test to attest to biblical historicity do you? If so, you merely make my point that your approach opens the entirety of scripture up to critical assault. Feeding the 5000? Wishful thinking. Jesus walking on water in a storm? Just a hopeful dream by a few frightened, primitive men.

    The numbers of events that could be treated in this way by the Enns approach are enormous.

    Yeah I don’t care for the condescension implicit towards our spiritual brothers and sisters from millenia ago, either. “I mean, they were just so primitive. They can’t help how stupid they were.”

    Lastly for anyone interested: the faculty report from WTS upon Dr. Enns’ dismissal in 2008.
    http://www.bible-researcher.com/enns1.html

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey93,

    I appreciate the search for common ground.

    Though I admit that some people will be driven from Christianity simply because there are substantive fights over doctrine going on, I don’t believe that people are being driven away because we are rethinking literal interpretations of Genesis. Let me say it a different way. The only people who are going to be upset about rethinking a literal interpretation of Genesis is going to be those who have been previously taught to believe a literal interpretation of Genesis. I honestly believe that any person who grows up in first world countries and is introduced to the bible in their early 20’s will consider it obvious that Genesis is not literal history for the reasons I have given above. All of these people would have been taught that the earth is old and evolution is the way things happen. When the bible comes along they would immediately see it for what it is, a text about the nature of god being creator, his relationship to the creation and his relationship to us. As well as an ancient instructional text that gives lighthearted and fanciful explanations for things that they could not have possibly known at the time.

    So, the part that is driving people away, in my opinion, is that there is a broad segment of the Christian population who has been taught things that are not true. The Catholic church has no problem with evolution and no one (or at least I have never heard of someone) has left the Catholic church in the past 10 or 20 years because of that. It simply is not an issue if you have not been taught to believe the fanciful literal view.

    Just because something causes conflict with the status quo in the Church does not mean it is a bad thing. And that is what your statement is saying.

    To your second point, I think it is important enough that I would like to elaborate more. I said It increases my faith in the accuracy of the bible that we have figured out evolution and old earth! and you said you could not see how this is possible (though you are glad for it). As I said in my first point above, my experience is that people who have not been taught to take Genesis literally as history will naturally read it as allegory when confronted with it. It is only the people who have been brainwashed into thinking of it as literal history that will see it that way. I am one of those people who were never taught to take it as literal history. As a child I never gave it a second thought, much like teaching kids about Santa. But as I got older I realized that it probably is not literal history, and when I expressed my doubts I was affirmed that I am indeed maturing in my understanding and am no longer thinking as a child, I put those ways behind me. I had reached the stage that I could think about the deeper truths of the text.

    Now if the fantastic elements of Genesis were not there, and the story was relayed like it was literal history (which it clearly is not to anyone who was not brainwashed into thinking it is), then I would have a big problem with evolution and old earth because it went against the bible. But given those fanciful elements in the text, it means that there is an alternative explanation somewhere, and the text is not trying to convey literal history. So finding the alternative explanation (common descent, old earth), makes me realize that the authors of the bible truly were inspired to know that they did not have literal history.

    Saying this one more way, the fanciful elements in Genesis point toward the truth that there is another method for the actual physical creation process, and guess what, we have found one. That makes the story of Genesis more accurate, not less.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey, continuing

    You said

    Third, to gain additional common ground, I would ask you to please not consider a young earth and “instantaneous” creation to be corrupting the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God, and if you read it, without “re-thinking” it, this is the conclusion you will come to. That is not corruption, even if some interpretation along the way is proven incorrect. It is trusting God at His Word. It will not come back empty.

    Well, perhaps corrupting is strong, but I do think it is accurate. For all the arguments I made in the previous post I think the aberration is the people taught to believe the literal history, not the people who don’t. The natural way to read it is as I do.

    Fourth, the examples of slavery, a flat earth, and what revolves around what, will never compare to the interpretation of a literal Adam. Looking at the passages in questions now, there is not even any debate on these issues. Somehow our original reading of the shape of the earth, etc. from Scripture was undisciplined and we got it wrong, and God’s natural (general) revelation corrected us. The key point is nothing about the essential truths of Scripture changed, and what did change was clear with no debate – there are not orthodox theologians who still think the earth is flat or that slavery is ok.

    For the moment, I want to put the issue of Adam aside.

    I feel the same for a young earth and the literal historicity of most of the events in the first few chapters. To me they fall precisely into the same category as slavery and flat earth. Those issues are examples of the good that is reached to reconsider some interpretations.

    Now Adam is a bit more interesting. While it is pretty clear that humans as a species were never a single breeding pair, I suppose it is possible that god did create and adam and eve in some sense. That is why I am interested in this series of posts because Adam really is a more difficult issue that I have not come to grips with yet.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Richard Jone#95, you are misrepresenting my position. I am not saying that they are fairy tales, I am saying that they are inspired texts that are using allegory to communicate deep truths about the relationships between god and his creations. My post96 elaborates quite a bit on why I feel that is the right approach.

    I am not making scripture subservient to science, I am allowing science to inform what scripture may actually be telling us. In this case it is clear that the point is not how many days it took or the precise order of things, but the relationships between the players.

    “In truth, your committment is to the opinions of certain molecular biologists who have agendas quite different than that of someone who belongs to Jesus.”

    I take exception to this on many different levels. First, you are making the categorical statement that molecular biologists who do not interpret scripture as you do, do not belong to Jesus. That is a reprehensible comment to make about someone simply because of the conclusions they reach in their career. I urge you to retract that.

    Second, I don’t have commitment to any scientist. Why do you think that? I have a commitment to Jesus and god, and to having an honest and open pursuit to my faith. This is where I am honestly and faithfully to Jesus believing the truth of the world and god is now. Please do not say that I have more commitment to someone other than god because that too is just plain wrong and quite an ad hominem.

    I demand that you please refrain from judging my faith like that.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    well, demand is too strong, how about ask.

  • http://josephgibsonelliott.blogspot.com/ Joey

    @DRT

    It has happened enough times that I am convinced it might not be unintentional or just a coincidence, and my curiosity is getting the better of me, so I have to ask: why do you never capitalize the ‘G’ in God?

    That is neither here nor there. Moving on. I appreciate your appreciation of my search for common ground. Yet, I sense you are unwilling to help me find it.

    Though I readily admit that confusion about the Genesis account in light of scientific discoveries is leading people away from the church, as you contend, you refuse to acknowledge that the “re-thinking” of Genesis is doing the same, and even more tragically, is preventing people from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at all. Let me say this plainly, yet lovingly: Your refusal to acknowledge this is folly. You are wrong. Do you know how I know? Because I know and have seen people in this category. The church and the Christian experience is bigger than your perspective.

    Why did you have to bring up the brainwashed word again? I don’t want to go back there, but suffice it to say, your last comments did not move us forward in the search for common ground with the use of such words. You’re calling me idiot, do you realize that? I know you didn’t use the word idiot, and you would say it’s not my fault, but let’s be real. You are saying I believe foolish, incorrect things. You say “people” referring to those who have been taught an “incorrect” interpretation, but among them, you mean me. Well, call me what you will, but I contend that evolution (especially as it applies to Adam) is not consistent with Scripture and cannot be accepted (and shouldn’t automatically be anyway, considering the components of it that still require a leap of faith, namely, that natural selection alone can create a new species on the molecular level), and I consider myself in good company. My conscience is captive to the Word of God, and to go against conscience is neither right nor safe, as Luther says. This is not a brainwashed man writing to you, unless by brainwashed, you mean regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God and surrendered to Jesus Christ, who purchased me with His blood.

    Sorry to be dramatic. But I profoundly disagree that people will naturally see Genesis as allegory when they come to it with no preconceptions about it as literal. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Sounds instantaneous to me. The only reason you wouldn’t take this as literal is if you already didn’t want to. Oh yeah, I said I wasn’t going to go there. Then God said, let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. There is not even an implication of evolution in these verses. That doesn’t say anything about the scientific discoveries, I admit. But just talking about the text, you would not read evolution in to them if you didn’t have that preconception yourself.

    I do appreciate you admitting that the re-interpretation of Adam is more tricky, and that you have not come to grips with it yet. I repeat my main point, then, that we should all acknowledge that the effort that Enns is going to, while admirable, is not a done deal. It may not ever be, which makes those of us not following his efforts (and holding to option #2 in the original post) no less credible. I continue to be interested in this series of posts, as well, though.

  • EJV

    Evolution should not be a show stopper. God has said my ways are not your ways so why are we assuming that evolution is not God’s way or is His way?

    Evolution is merely a scientific word used to describe natural events. We can’t dismiss the fact that our human intelligence has evolved over the centuries? Our minds are capable of creating computers but we didn’t have them when Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible.

    When will we get back to basics and remember that we must have faith like a child, that God is the creator, and that time is a man made creation due to our fall.

    To suggest that evolution is not of God is to suggest that new stars are not being formed in the universe presently. There are ask any astronomer.

  • RJS

    Joey,

    I think that the major reason a rethinking of Genesis is leading people from the faith is the single minded insistence by Christians that such a rethinking must be fatal to the faith. The insistence on scripture (that is, the ‘inerrant’ accuracy of scripture) as the foundation of our faith is devastating. We are doing it to ourselves.

    The major reason that “science” leads people from faith is the uncritical assumption that naturalism is the only rational choice accompanied by the insistence of Christians that scripture is the foundation of faith in its “plain” “literal” interpretation. We can’t do anything about the claims of unbelieving scientists and philosophers. But we can avoid aiding and abetting them with uncompromising and untenable views of scripture.

    The weak point in this whole picture is not God, incarnation and resurrection. The weak point is not science. The weak point is not scripture as the witness to and revelation of God.

    The weak point is the fundamentalist view of inerrancy and the weight this is called to bear – but can’t bear.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Start B Word -
    Joey, sorry for the hurt feelings, that was not the intent. I spent some time thinking, and *educated in the literalist tradition* still does not capture what I want. I will keep trying but not use that specific word.

    End B Word

    G for god.

    Well, over time I have started to think it is appropriate for me to be non-specific about g in regular debate about god. I can weave in and out of making statements that may or may not be representative of God, and it is a long-standing Jewish tradition to substitute another word for the name of god so as to show respect, and it is just plain easier, so I routinely just do not capitalize god. However, if I am going to write to my wife that I want God to Bless her, or, as I do, I want God to bless this conversation, I will capitalize. I would just rather not be in the casual habit of throwing the real god around when I may be just making argumentation and exploration.

    On to more of the evolution conversation

    One of the principles that I have come to adopt for myself is that god will not be outright deceptive in macro things. Like, everyone else is a machine and I am the only living person, or that there is nothing outside of our solar system and god just throws up a big mystical farce to make it look like there is something more.

    I have also come to agree with many folks that the whole idea of a god of the gaps approach is not a good way to pursue god. That is, if the proof for god or the place where it seems god is still acting is at the instance when someone would declare a new species to exist, then it sets god up for a terrible fall if we find for certain that the gap actually does not exist. Having said all of that, does it mean god never lends a hand, well no. It just means that we don’t see evidence for it in speciation.

    I would love to see an (scientific) experiment (come on Scot, don’t you have a grad student or two to spare?) as to the nature of interpretation of Genesis text without prior education into it interpretive framework. Sounds like a fascinating study.

    While I agree with you that you would not read evolution into the texts if you did not have a prior disposition toward it (one were brainwashed to think evolution is correct  ), I still believe that you would not feel that the mechanics outlined in the text represent the actual historical way it happened.

    Thanks for being honest with me, and Blessings!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ..and Joey, please, I would like to persuade you that the issue is not evolution of literal Adam, but going against a literalist innerency concept. Whether it was evolution, alien implantation or lightining discharge morphology, the problem you are referencing is not the validity of the attack, but the fact that the attack is happening.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey, sorry I am writing so much, but thanks for engaging. This conversation has enabled me to develop my thinking beyond where it was. I appreciate it, though it can be frustrating.

  • Richard Jones

    @DRT Sorry if I misrepresnted your position. However, you referred readers to wikipedia article summaries on molecular evolution that do represent your justification for your views. Then is it not a reasonable inferance for what you really consider authoritative?

    So much of this is essentially the creation of a hermanuetic to justify one’s beliefs about what science teaches. This is really nothing new. That assessment is not original to me.

    And only God will judge your faith. Same goes for all of us.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Richard Jones, you are not even trying to engage with what I actually said. We will part ways.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ DRT #96 -
    “my experience is that people who have not been taught to take Genesis literally as history will naturally read it as allegory when confronted with it.”

    So, would that be like 0.001% of all of Christians (historically) who have been already convinced to not take it literally by their culture? The non-historical view would be a VERY small number of Christians on the grand scale.

    “Now if the fantastic elements of Genesis were not there, and the story was relayed like it was literal history”

    What fantastic elements are you referring to? What would cue someone in to not reading it as literal history? Sorry, unless you’ve been taken in by a Hume-like skepticism or modern liberal OT studies, I can’t see why anyone would read it as non-historical (Note: the poetic nature of certain passages doesn’t indicate non-historical).

    Also, I’m not sure why you would have an issue with an old earth, since the Bible gives no indication to the age of the earth. The YEC interpretation of the creation days has a long history, but not the age of the earth being young. That is a fairly recent thing.

    @ DRT #97 -

    “While it is pretty clear that humans as a species were never a single breeding pair, I suppose it is possible that god did create and adam and eve in some sense.”

    While I’m glad to hear the second part of your statement, why the first part? What evidence makes that clear?

    @ Joey #100 -

    “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

    There is no instantaneous implied there that I can see. A literal reading fits YEC, OEC, and TE quite nicely.

    “Then God said, let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”

    The Hebrew, asah, does lend a bit of credibility to DRT’s view, in that it means make out of preexisting stuff. Could that be out of other life, or out of the earth? I don’t really see either as any less literal, if you only focus in on those few words.

    What makes the difference to me is in reading the whole thing, how Adam is included in literal genealogies, and how other Biblical figures refer to Adam (including Paul, which has direct theological implications). Also, since the descriptions in Genesis 1&2 so closely match the scientific evidence, I’m not sure why one would want to read them as non-literal. The scientific conclusion about the size of the original human population isn’t in yet in a solid way (it’s somewhere between two and a few thousand). It would seem kind of silly, then, to adjust our reading based on that.

    @ EJV #101 -
    “We can’t dismiss the fact that our human intelligence has evolved over the centuries?”

    I would. What gives you that idea? I think you’re confusing the application of the intelligence used to gain technology with intelligence itself. I don’t think we are (on average) a lick more intelligent than they were.

    “When will we get back to basics and remember that we must have faith like a child, that God is the creator, and that time is a man made creation due to our fall.”

    Faith like a child refers to how a child trusts (faith=trust) a parent, not that faith has no basis or grounding in truth and reality.

    I have no idea what you are referring to with time and the fall. Now I’m curios. :)

    “To suggest that evolution is not of God is to suggest that new stars are not being formed in the universe presently.”

    I’m not sure what that has to do with evolution (as anyone here is using the term). We’re talking about biological evolution in the sense of common descent and the creation of novel information by a natural process. I doubt anyone but the most unengaged (with science) fundamentalists doubt the more common meanings of evolution (such as things change over time and that species adapt to their environments).

    @ DRT #104 -

    re: God of the gaps – just be aware that ‘god of the gaps’ is when you simply don’t know something and insert God. However, if you look at the evidence and see agency as the best explanation of the data, than putting God in as that agent isn’t ‘god of the gaps’ reasoning.

  • Richard Jones

    @DRT Sorry we have trouble understanding each other. Frankly, I think I understand you pretty well.

    1) You think Genesis Chap 1 and 2 are contradictory.
    2) You think God has not been very involved in His creation.
    3) You think Bible-as-allegory (despite clear reference to actual historical events)lets you resolve your convictions about what science says and yet maintain that you are committed to scriptural authority.

    Seems pretty clear to me.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Richard,

    1. I believe there are some contradictions in Gen 1 and 2, but they agree on the most important parts. There is one god, he is good, he wants us to have a good life, he is the creator of all things including us, there are temptations in this world, and many more things.

    2. I believe god is totally responsible for creation. He has created everything.

    3. I believe there are texts in the bible that are meant to be allegorical and we should interpret them that way.

    My views are not as you are portraying them.


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