Pete Enns has recently published a book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins and this means the inevitable must occur. No, not backlash, name-calling, admiration, or fawning … it is the inescapable cyber-space book tour. As part of the now normal tour promoting his book Pete published a short column on the Huffington Post yesterday: Once More, With Feeling: Adam, Evolution and Evangelicals. Before we dig deeper into the book this post brings up some topics worth discussing.
First from the Huffington Post:
Evangelicals have been butting heads with evolution for 150 years. A lot is at stake.
If evolution is right about how humans came to be, then the biblical story of Adam and Eve isn’t. If you believe, as evangelicals do, that God himself is responsible for what’s in the Bible, you have a problem on your hands. Once you open the door to the possibility that God’s version of human origins isn’t what actually happened — well, the dominoes start unraveling down the slippery slope. The next step is uncertainty, chaos and despair about one’s personal faith.
One of the major premises of The Evolution of Adam is that we need to rethink the intent of Genesis in its ancient Near Eastern context.
Since the 19th century, through scads of archaeological discoveries from the ancient world of the Bible, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do.
Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch — an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about “the beginning,” however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question “Where do humans come from?” They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious — and often political — beliefs of the people of their own time.
What questions does Genesis 1-3 intend to address?
What is the purpose of the Genesis and the Biblical discussion of origins?
The integration of Christian faith with modern scientific discoveries will result in changes, some of them major, in the Christian understanding of the world common within evangelicalism. But it is not clear that these changes undermine biblical Christianity. My view in fact, is that scientific discoveries on their own cannot undermine biblical Christianity. The world view of scientific naturalism drawn out of these discoveries does undermine biblical Christianity. This needs to be countered on the level of world view, not by challenging evolutionary biology or any other science.
Within Christian thinking the challenges posed by evolution and other scientific discoveries require a return to scripture itself, not to debunk or demythologize scripture, but to more completely understand it as an inspired revelation from God. This is where books such as The Lost World of Genesis One and The Evolution of Adam have an important role to play. These are not the last word on the subject by any means, but they are good places to start. We respect the bible as inspired by God when we read it through faith, but recognize that it is written in a different time and culture often with different expectations and questions. Some of the conclusions we have drawn out of the biblical narrative of origins simply may not reflect the intent of the teaching of the book, either to the original audience or to the church today.
Back to the Huffington Post article:
Evangelicals tend to focus on how to protect the Bible against the attacks of evolution. The real challenge before them is to reorient their expectation of what the story of Adam and Eve is actually prepared to deliver.
These kinds of conversations are already happening, though too often quietly and behind closed doors. Evangelicals owe it to their children and their children’s children to bring the discussion out into the open.
Read the rest of Pete’s essay on the Huffington Post and on and let’s continue the conversation about it here.
What do you think?
Is the challenge to reorient our expectation of Genesis 3 one that we should explore and embrace?
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