Spinning our Wheels: A Response to a Review of “The Evolution of Adam” (with apologies to those with a 500 word, 1.6 minute internet attention span)

Recently, Hans Madueme, assistant professor of theological studies at Covenant College, wrote a lengthy review essay (5000 words plus footnotes) of The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human OriginsI appreciate the effort involved, and Madueme’s sincere attempts to maintain a balance between clarity of his conviction, Christian courtesy, and denominational constraints. (Covenant College is the denominational college of the Presbyterian Church in America, which requires belief in a historical Adam.)

Others have reviewed my book sounding similar themes (for example, two other reviews here and here, with my thoughts here and here). Madueme’s review stands out, however, not only for its length but also its methodological transparency.

Madueme is quite clear about why he disagrees with my arguments, and in laying out his case perpetuates many of the same problems that beset evangelical thinking in general about Adam and evolution. Responding to Madueme’s review allows me the opportunity to focus some of my general concerns with how I see things taking shape.

The core problem with Madueme approach to the Adam issue, the principle that guides his assessment of my book, represents an old and perennial conflict in the study of Scripture (my words):

Where dogmatic tradition is threatened by science or historical biblical scholarship, the latter should be held at bay, for they are the product of unstable and fallen human inquiry. When conflict is unavoidable, “Scripture” (i.e., the dogmatic tradition that flows from a “proper” reading of Scripture) will always have priority, regardless of the nature of the evidence to the contrary.

In other words, Madueme clearly gives final adjudicatory authority to theological/dogmatic traditions when science or historical biblical scholarship raise questions of the historical reliability of the Adam story. Reflecting critically on dogmatics in view of historical studies does not enter into the picture.

Embedded in Madueme’s assertion are two implicit methodological missteps:

(1) An underestimation, devaluing, and/or minimizing of the impact of biblical studies and/or the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution for an evangelical theology of Scripture.
(2) Functionally equating “dogmatics” and “Bible,” so that dogmatics and “what the Bible says” become  interchangeable.

This mindset is common in evangelicalism, not simply with respect to Adam/evolution but with most any matter where biblical studies, archaeology, or science raise questions of the Bible’s historical reliability. Such thinking may serve to protect evangelical boundaries, but it only perpetuates the very theological impasse I and others are trying to address more deliberately.

To his credit, Madueme himself comes clean with his methodology, though he does so only at the very end of his review (section 6, “Concluding Thoughts”):

I recognize the force of the mainstream evolutionary consensus, and I know that it raises tough questions for the viability of a historical Adam and the doctrine of the fall. But I am constrained by Scripture, tradition, and weighty theological considerations. I am a son of Adam. That is why I am a sinner. And it is why I need Christ.

Madueme is to be commended for saying plainly what many others only think: “I know there is serious evidence to the contrary that calls into question what I believe, but, come what may, I’m going to stick with ‘the Bible’ as understood by my tradition and the theological conclusions required to maintain theological stabilty.”

One might wonder, however, whether Madueme’s apologetic motives should have been stated at the outset, and perhaps led to a much shorter review. I mean no disrespect, but, after all, if Madueme truly recognizes the pressure that the scientific consensus on evolution (and I would add the study of ancient Israel) puts on the historical Adam and the fall, but then slips out the back door, so to speak, and returns home to his dogmatic commitments, all else is just filler. Any true engagement with counterevidence is in principle off the table at the outset.

I list below eleven (11) major examples from the review that show how Madueme’s dogmatic constraints skew not simply his assessment of The Evolution of Adam, but whether the serious historical study of Scripture can be in conversation with evangelical theology. (Since the review is online with no pagination, I give the section of the review.)

Section 2, “Doctrine of Scripture.”

1. Madueme claims that by saying a literal reading of the Adam story is “not an option,” I am assuming what needs to be demonstrated and so only employing a rhetorical strategy for “marginalizing” more conservative views. This is a discouraging comment, as my entire book is an argument to make that very case, not an assumption.

2. Madueme observes that my view of Scripture is built from the ground up “phenomenologically” rather than “dogmatically” (from the top down), which is functionally true. He contends, however, that this is not in line “the classical Reformation doctrine of Scripture.” From my own training in Reformed dogmatics, this is a fair but debatable point (perhaps a bit reductionistic), but I am happy to concede it for the sake of discussion because it is absolutely irrelevant. Failure to line up with tradition is not a counterargument, because lining up with tradition is not my intention. Further, appeal to tradition cannot be assumed to settle the hermeneutical question of how to read the Adam story. We are Protestants, after all.

3. Madueme challenges my suggestion that Paul can be wrong about Adam historically but still correct theologically. Madueme contends that I fail to provide epistemological justification for this distinction, and hence do not have a “functional” doctrine of biblical authority. My answer is that I have no more epistemological justification for my view than Madueme has for his. What I suspect Madueme means, however, is that a doctrine of inerrancy is an epistemological basis for interpreting Scripture, but of course that is not the case. Inerrancy does not provide a foundation for making sure hermeneutical decisions.

The fact is: we don’t know and we can’t be sure whether our interpretive conclusions are correct, Madueme included. Further, Bible readers cannot escape making the sorts of judgments I make with respect to Paul and Adam, for this is part and parcel of reading ancient literature and applying it today. Accepting Paul’s view of Adam would not make the epistemological question disappear.

At any rate, without implicating Madueme directly, shifting attention from concrete matters of biblical interpretation to “higher” matters of epistemology and theological prolegomena as the proper place to address the phenomena of Scripture is too frequently used as a stall tactic to hold at bay uncomfortable data. One would still need to engage the evidence credibly and knowledgeably without a predetermined outcome.

4. Following on the previous point, Madueme wants to know specifically how I can trust that Paul was right about the resurrection when I do not trust him about Adam. After all, Madueme argues, resurrection may be every bit as much ancient thinking as Adam, and science tells us people cannot rise from the dead.

First, “trust” is a scare word that already reduces a subtle issue to a simple matter of biblical authority. But the issue is not “trust” for the Bible, but understanding it well, which, again, cannot be settled apart from the nagging details that are part and parcel of proper biblical interpretation.

Having said that, Madueme is right–but perhaps more so than he realizes. Yes is possible that every last shred of the New Testament is as culturally determined as Paul’s view of Adam–including core matters of the Christian faith such as the resurrection of Christ. But that possibility has to be addressed on its own terms. The presence of that possibility does not give Madueme the methodological right, so to speak, to say, “Let’s not unravel that ball of yarn or open that can of worms. Let’s keep Adam historical so the resurrection is not threatened.” Arguing for the importance of a historical Adam because of what you might lose theologically without him is not an argument. At root it is an expression of fear.

But more importantly, I actually address resurrection specifically in my book, where I say that the origins of humanity (along with the earth and universe) are open to scientific inquiry whereas the resurrection of Christ not. How can I say this? Because there is scientific evidence for the former—testable, measurable, things—whereas by definition no such evidence exists for a one-time occurrence. Tying Adam and Christ’s resurrection together, as if they rest on the same evidentiary foundation, is simply wrong, though it is a common piece in arguments to counter theistic evolution.

Section 3, “Natural Science and Historical Criticism.”

5. Madueme claims that I place science in the “methodological driving seat” rather than Scripture. In my book I discuss this very problem of pitting science (and biblical studies) against the Bible like this. I point out that science (and the study of antiquity) help us “calibrate” the genre of Genesis and Paul so as not to have false expectations of what Scripture is prepared to deliver (e.g., to help us see that we should not expect science from Genesis 1.)

But Madueme continues his tendency to present us with an either/or choice, whether science or God has greater “authority.” That is a troublesome dichotomy, and we need to get beyond this if we are going to discuss the hermeneutical implications of evolution with the seriousness it deserves.

Further, there are many instances here I am sure Madueme puts something other than Scripture in the driver’s seat. I assume Madueme does not accept that a divine council conferred with Yahweh as he made decisions, or that other gods actually exist, or that a sea monster was tamed at creation. Exercising historical discernment is part of responsible Bible reading. (I am not suggesting, however, that only what can be verified historically is “true,” though that is another discussion and not relevant here.)

In this context, Madueme picks up on my view of the historical relationship between Genesis 1 and 2 (Genesis 1 is about the cosmos in general and chapter 2 begins to shift focus to Israel).  But for Madueme, making such an informed historical/literary assessment, “shifts the locus of epistemic authority from the canonical text to the world behind the text.” Apparently for Madueme, the relationship between Genesis 1 and 2 is too obvious to be burdened with historical analysis, and providing such an analysis (as all biblical scholars do) is an affront to biblical authority.

As we have seen, reducing complex matters to one of biblical authority vs. some other authority is an undercurrent in Madueme’s thinking about biblical scholarship, and to pose hermeneutical issues in this manner dooms the discussion before it begins. At this stage in his review I began wondering whether Madueme sees any difficult issue of biblical interpretation that cannot be easily solved by a simple appeal to biblical authority.

6. Madueme concludes that I do not have a “functional notion of biblical authority.” I would rather say that I do not have a notion of biblical authority governed by Madueme’s dogmatic requirements. “What does biblical authority mean?” is an open discussion, in my opinion, that will not be curtailed by older dogmatic assertions. A more narratival/biblical theological approach to biblical authority, such as what N. T. Wright articulates, is more promising.

7. It simply will not do for Madueme to assert that I am “too romantic about the reliability of mainstream scientific consensus” [sic] or  or “modern academic consensus [sic].” This is a

portion of Gilgamesh epic

common apologetic maneuver, that these disciplines are too muddled to be trusted, and Christians are to be patient to maintain sola Scriptura, knowing that God’s word will eventually be vindicated. Madueme even offers us, once again, a clear choice:

The two main options in biblical studies are the methodological naturalism of standard biblical criticism or a more robust, theistic, Augustinian supernaturalism.

This is a stunning and, frankly, inexcusable caricature of biblical criticism that effectively colors Madueme’s engagement of the historical data throughout his review. Caricaturing “standard biblical criticism” as beholden to “methodological naturalism,” the fruit of spiritual rebellion, is misinformed, minimizes the gravity of the situation, and will get us nowhere. This is not the way to work through the problem before us.

To be clear, I have no concern one way or the other where Madueme places his dogmatic convictions, and my purpose in life is not to change his mind. But I will raise a red flag when I see a legitimate and widely (if not universally) acknowledged hermeneutical problem essentially neutered by positing the unassailable priority of dogmatic non-negotiables.

8. Following on the previous point, Madueme poses another either/or:  the divine author’s intention is definitive for biblical interpretation, not what modern biblical scholars or historians say. Madueme acknowledges the human setting for Scripture, but that setting apparently has no real bearing on understanding what the divine author is saying. One might ask how Madueme is able to discern the divine meaning apart from the historical settings, to free it, as it were, from its unfortunate historical limitations. The answer for Madueme seems to be, without saying it explicitly, that a dogmatic system allows us to move beyond humanity to reveal the mind of God.

My disagreement with Madueme here is theological. To acknowledge Scripture’s historical dimension but then lay it aside when making dogmatic assertions fails to grapple with why God, in his wisdom, spoke truth in a world where myth and tribal culture were ubiquitous. Are those forms utterly inconsequential in how we approach biblical interpretation? Are they the shell that must be peeled away in order to arrive at a higher dogmatic truth? To say, as Madueme does, the we should “move on” from Scripture as a product of culture to get to the more valuable dogmatic nuggets obscured within the text is not a stable theological assertion.

The reason I suspect that Madueme can so easily equate his dogmatic structure with the divine meaning of Scripture is that he does not truly appreciate that hermeneutics, not dogmatics, is the arena for discussing matters of biblical interpretation such as what the Genesis story was written to convey concerning Adam, which necessarily involves us in a historical discussion of “Bible in context.” Dogmatic concerns are part of the discussion, but as a give and take dialogue, not the arbiter of how the very pressing and very real challenges raised through biblical studies, archaeology, and science are to be handled. What is sorely needed is true synthesis, not a reflex adherence to dogmatic priority.

9. Madueme insists that my observation that Adam is “absent” from the Old Testament betrays a myopic “historicism” for failing to take into account the witness of Scripture as a whole. Madueme contends that Paul’s references to Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 provide the canonical context by which Adam’s true presence in the Old Testament can be understood. That canonical reading also gives us, as we saw in the previous point, the divine intention for the Adam story.

First, Madueme can only come to this judgment by ignoring the hermeneutical problem of the New Testament’s use of the Old, namely the creative and theologically driven manner in which the New Testament authors draw Israel’s story into their gospel proclamation, which also reflects the Second Temple interpretive conventions the New Testament writers share. The entire second half of my book deals with this topic.

Also, claiming Adam’s absence in Old Testament is not a product of historicism, but a simple observation of the topics treated in the Old Testament. Adam typology is certainly at work in the Old Testament, where, for example, Noah and the Patriarchs are presented by the biblical writers as carrying forward the Adamic project (which is one very good reason for seeing Adam as a proto-Israelite, but I digress). But the role that Paul assigns Adam (cause of universal condemnation) is absent in the Old Testament, though there are echoes of such a view in Second Temple Judaism before we arrive at Paul.

Clearly, Madueme is operating from a different “data set” than I, which illustrates the seriousness of the impasse.

Section 4, “Further Theological Concerns.”

10. Madueme is correct that an Augustinian notion of the fall is lost if there is no historical Adam. And once we lose the fall, Madueme contends that we are left with no adequate explanation for why people sin. I understand the point, but retaining a historical Adam because it is needed to maintain a theological position is a non-argument that Madueme has posed before, and it is not the the kind of argument we would tolerate from someone protecting another religious system. “If you’re right, then I am wrong so you must be wrong” is not an argument.

We would do better to acknowledge the implications of evolution for Augustinian theology and try to work through it collaboratively. I attempted to do this, as others have, by suggesting that an Orthodox view of the Adam story (Adam’s failure to follow the path of wisdom) is worth considering for evangelicals. Madueme, however, feels that Irenaeus (whom I mention in this regard) will not help, since he believed in an historical Adam. Yes, of course he did, but that is not the point. The point is that Irenaeus, unlike Augustine, did not think that Adam’s transgression was somehow downloaded onto all posterity. If an Orthodox view is adopted, Madueme’s concerns about the fall are undercut.

Section 5, “A Methodological Aside”

11. Madueme claims it is an “overstatement” to say that Genesis has nothing to say about “scientific concerns.” He also feels I am ”cocksure” and “breezy” when I say that Genesis, “cries out to be read as something other than a historical description of events.” Madueme’s comments here suggests perhaps an unfamiliarity with the dominant voices in biblical studies and science that must be taken with greater seriousness. He may not agree, of course, which is his prerogative, but I am hardly shooting from the hip. These are conclusions I and others have reached, not cocksure and breezy overstatements. Were Madueme to make this claim in scientific or scholarly debate, he would quickly see they have very good reasons for arriving at their conclusions.

Apparently Madueme feels that Genesis does indeed have something to say of scientific value and that it should be read as a historical account. One would ask on what basis he makes these claims, other than an appeal to a dogmatic structure that requires it. Has he worked through and interpreted the scientific and extrabiblical evidence on his own and arrived at compelling conclusions to the contrary? What type of account is he prepared to give for how he reads the scientific and historical evidence differently—an account that deals with the data and not at the distance from the data that theological prolegomena afford? I would like for Madueme to give an argument for his hermeneutic that goes beyond dismissing contrary evidence as the by-product of unbelief.

***********

The problems I see with Madueme’s thinking pervade the entire review and rest on the core assertion that his dogmatic structure is the first and final court of appeal for handling difficult matters of biblical interpretation, one of which is Adam vis-a-vis evolution. This train of thought recurs in the defensive strategies of traditionalist evangelical responses when dogma is challenged.

No one should conclude, I hope, that I am making the opposite error, of casting aside theological categories for biblical interpretation, and a reading of either The Evolution of Adam or Inspiration and Incarnation should make that clear whether one agrees or disagrees with the argument. I am calling, rather, for a true dialogue among biblicists and theologians. I understand that this has been difficult in evangelicalism, mainly because the latter is functioned as a guardian against the troubling influence of the former.  Neverthless, that discussion needs to happen deliberately, not accidentally in blog posts.

As I said at the outset, I genuinely appreciate the time invested and the clarity and generosity with which Madueme expresses his convictions. I encourage interested readers to read the review themselves and give it more attention than I have been able to give here. If anything, Madueme’s review serves a purpose of making absolutely clear where some feel the lines need to be drawn. For my tastes, I would rather see fewer lines of separation being drawn and more lines of communication opened.

 

 

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  • Don Johnson

    Nice review of the review.

  • Don Johnson

    The article is on pages 275 to 286 of Themelios, which is a free download, so it is paginated, just not on the web page text. So you may want to go back and add pages to your review.

    • peteenns

      Thanks, Don. I may go back and do that!

  • James Rednour

    “One might wonder, however, whether Madueme’s apologetic motives should have been stated at the outset, and perhaps led to a much shorter review. I mean no disrespect, but, after all, if Madueme truly recognizes the pressure that the scientific consensus on evolution (and I would add the study of ancient Israel) puts on the historical Adam and the fall, but then slips out the back door, so to speak, and returns home to his dogmatic commitments, all else is just filler. Any true engagement with counterevidence is in principle off the table at the outset.”

    Exactly. Madueme just punts on the whole issue. While his argument is cogent and well-spoken, it adds nothing new to the discussion. As the review was extremely lengthy, I quickly skimmed it and jumped to his concluding paragraph. When I read it, I thought to myself “Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place and save everyone a bunch of time and effort.”

  • http://hopaulius.wordpress.com/ hopaulius

    Pete, I very much appreciate this article. It addresses the review point by point and delves into the depths underlying each. I’m currently attending a Presbyterian church that is struggling with its relationship with the PCUSA. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it does clearly illustrate a concrete reason why your reviewer and a host of others like him argue the way they do: the moment they yield ground on the centrality of the scripture/doctrine nexus, they see their yielding used to steer the church into a direction they don’t want and which they see as not accommodating science and reason but liberal social and political preferences. At the present time, as you well know, the issue is the sanctioning of sexual relationships outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage, and even the elimination from the book of order of a requirement for sexual chastity or fidelity among clergy. So while there are indeed historical and cultural influences in the various dogmatic traditions, there are also historical and cultural forces not necessarily related to science working to undo them.

  • Trio

    “For my tastes, I would rather see fewer lines of separation being drawn and more lines of communication opened.”

    I think this sums up not only your entire post but also my entire disagreement with you. All lines aside for a moment, since fewer is better, why do you accept Christ’s resurrection? Do you have any scientific evidence for it? Is not all scientific evidence -against- it? Since science is merely the organization of observation, and since no man has ever been observed using the scientific method to come back from the dead, could we not say that the story of Christ is entirely spiritual and meant to be read as a metaphor? Why interpret it literally?

    • James Rednour

      “Do you have any scientific evidence for it? Is not all scientific evidence -against- it?”

      While science certainly shows that resurrection from the dead is impossible, there is no scientific evidence that disproves Christ’s resurrection specifically. In fact, there is an abundance of evidence that something miraculous did happen. Besides, if we believe in a Creator God, we agree that he can overcome physical laws any time he chooses to do so.

      The difference with Adam and Eve is that ALL the physical evidence that we have (scientific, archaeological, historical) contradict the idea that Adam and Eve were the first human pair.

      • CGC

        Hi James,
        You said, “All the physical evidence that we have contradict the idea that Adam and Eve were the first human pair. Only in an overtly literalistic way. They certainly can be in an analogous representative way.

        • peteenns

          And now the issue becomes hermeneutical, i.e., whether in fact the Adam story in Genesis can legitimately be read as analogous representation. In my opinion, that case cannot be made exegetically in the context of Genesis or the OT, but would need to appeal to external theological categories—which is midrashic.

  • http://thejawboneofanass.wordpress.com Eric

    Madueme does seem to be falling a bit on the apologist (“X is true, let me figure out why”) rather than the scholarly (“I gathered data and decided X makes most sense”) side here. I find myself feeling like he is defending his theology against the Bible at points.

    • forgedimagination

      “defending his theology against the Bible.”

      That is an excellent way of putting it.

  • Don Johnson

    First I read your review, then I read his long review and then I read your review again. What he has is a system and is defending his system from perceived attacks such as yours. I agree it is a system with a long pedigree, but his most basic point is that he does not want to step out of his system and the basic rationale then becomes revealed as fear.

    All of us have systems, btw, for processing information. My fears reside is other locales, such as atheists winning over a whole generation by claiming you cannot integrate evolution and God, you must choose one or the other. So I urge you to keep up the good work!

    • Scott

      I confess I have not read the original review, only the review of the review. But surely it is a logical error to say that because “he does not want to step out of his system,” the “basic rationale” must be fear. Could it not in fact–at least theoretically–be that he is convinced of his system and does not easily jettison it just because there are some points where his system does not [yet?] have wholly satisfactory explanations? I suggest that if we were to jettison our frameworks just because some difficulties exist (perhaps only temporarily, though one doesn’t know how temporary at the outset), we would have all jettisoned Christianity a long time ago.

  • Bill

    I’m truly confused here and could use some clarification: you make the point that you can “trust” in the resurrection because no scientific evidence exists for a “one-time occurrence” by definition that can be examined. (Side note: does it make a difference that the Bible records more than one resurrection?) But if creation is also a “one-time occurrence”, why doesn’t it follow the same rules? To say it differently, if Jesus were raised from the dead today we would have scientific means to study what happened, wouldn’t we? I’m just not understanding how viewing the resurrection as a one-time event makes it valid even though it breaks scientific findings but viewing creation as a one-time event doesn’t.

    And I’m sorry if you’ve addressed this elsewhere–I follow your blog but haven’t read your books. Thanks!

    • peteenns

      Thanks, Bill. In a sense, creation IS a miracle, as you say, but unlike the resurrection, creation leaves footprints that we are able to discern more and more clearly. A resurrection of one person does not leave scientifically verifiable footprints, though some (like N.T. Wright) have argued for a different sort of footprint–ripple effects in history–but that is a very different kind of “evidence,” not scientific.

  • http://misoriented.blogspot.com/ Pith Helmet

    I’m copying the comment I made on Hans Madueme’s article on Themelios:

    Cutting through all the theological arguments, it seems clear that what the author is saying is, “Choose between science and the inerrant Bible.” Science is OK as long as it confirms the Bible, otherwise it is wrong. In fact, if Adam and Eve were not the historical progenitors of all mankind, then, “why would we as modern Christians continue to believe in Paul’s soteriology and Christology?”

    Fine, but that just throws into relief the very problem that Enns is trying to avoid: choose between observable facts about the world (science) or the Gospel. Enns says you can believe both, while Dr. Madueme says you cannot, at least not in a way that makes science meaningful.

    Do you see the effect on someone like me who is struggling to keep my Christian faith in the 21st century? This approach says, “If Enns is right, if Adam and Eve were not historical, then the Gospel is not assuredly true–we can’t know it.” Of course, Dr. Madueme’s inference is that we must at all costs keep a historical Adam. However, the converse is also true: he is informing those of us who see evolution as overwhelmingly supported that the Gospel is not assuredly true. In fact, we may as well believe in Lord Shiva or no god at all. He is saying to us (not to everyone, but to those who accept evolution) that we can either believe that the earth is the center of the universe or we can give up the faith.

    Dr. Madueme may very well be right, in fact I fear that he is right, but it is not necessarily good news.

  • LoneWolf

    What gets me is that he keeps using the phrase “functional notion of biblical authority.” What does he mean by “functional?” It means to be if such a notion actually works, and that meaning gives a lot of flexibility I’m not sure he is willing to give. Anything that isn’t outright insane would be a “functional” notion of biblical authority. To say “The whole Bible is bullshit!” is “functional” to me (and certainly more functional than “The Bible applies to everybody at all times.”)

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  • Ronald Taska

    1. I always like the way you summarize things by making a list of the most important points and numbering them.
    2. Are you sure you want to remain an evangelical? Why not switch to something less conservative and less aggravating? The odds of your changing any evangelical views are exceedingly slim.
    3. These discussions are important, but there is a lot more of the Bible to discuss after chapters one and two of Genesis. Surely, it’s time to move on….
    4. People use “confirmation bias” to fit or “spin” whatever information you present into their preconceived views. Supreme court justices do the same thing with “result-oriented” decisions hearing cases in a way that supports their preconceived views.
    5. This is really not about historical or scientific evidence, but about strong human wishes and needs which are much stronger than facts. Indeed, facts have nothing to do with it.
    6. I find your struggle with evangelicals to be quite painful and frustrating to watch. You are saved from the struggle by your sense of humor, but it is still painful to watch.
    7. Most of this seems to have been resolved by many at least 100 years ago.
    8. Most people tend to see all of this the same way that they were taught it when they were children.

    • John Inglis

      There are good reasons to disagree with everyone of your points, RT, but since that is not the point of PE’s post I decline. Your arguments should be made elsewhere, and instead you should deal with the issues raised in his post and in relevant one’s thereafter.

    • peteenns

      Ronald

      1.Thanks
      2.for
      3.your
      4.kind
      5.e
      6.mail.

      As for 6, don’t worry your little head. There is no pain involved for me at all. Concerning 4 and 5, I am not trying to convince people who are committed to protecting boundaries, but help those who are ready to think differently by giving them alternate ways of thinking. At the end, people make their own decisions on their faith journey.

      As for 2, just what “evangelical” means is a moving target and its definition is morphing–which is why there is such a struggle.

    • Jon G

      Ronald, on point #2…I’m an evangelical and Peter has changed my mind. (thanks Pete!). :-)

    • Jennifer Ellen

      These questions are fresh and current in evangelicalism, particularly as a new generation matures and steps into leadership. Many are not coming to the same conclusions they were taught as children (many are), and we need irenic voices to model respectful challenge.

  • http://thekingleads.blogspot.com Philip Taylor

    I appreciate your thoughts on this issue Peter. More communication would be a good thing. Would any of your old WTS buddies not discuss this with you?

  • Jon hughes

    Peter,

    I appreciate your transparency and courage in writing on these issues. However, you must surely know that this sort of thing can shipwreck people’s faith. I’d love to see you explaining passionately (on a regular basis) why the implications of the above shouldn’t lead to atheism.

    • http://www.justinboulmay.wordpress.com Justin Boulmay

      I don’t understand how what Peter is talking about can lead to atheism.

    • Jason

      My faith was already in shambles after I had a year long internet dialog with an atheist. I had been a Christian for approximately 16 years and I pulled out every “apologetic” tactic in the book (none of which “worked”). The interchange ultimately made me face some of the big questions that I had been ignoring for a long, long time and (at this point), I’m feeling more thankful and enlightened having engaged in the interchange.

      What Pete’s work has done for me is it has enabled me to look at the Old Testament realistically. I no longer have an underlying motivation to make the Old Testament line up with modern science. Instead, I can now take it as a piece of literature written by an ancient culture (with their own ancient understanding of the world & cosmos).

      With that said, I was still struggling mightily with the New Testament. Especially the resurrection. I was asking myself how much “story” is in the New Testament and whether or not the resurrection was reality or just another mythical story that was dreamed up by the ancients. I’ve come to realize that I was still holding onto the belief that if I doubted one part of “the book”, then it puts all other parts of “the book” in question. After abandoning that belief, I’m now coming to realize that I can look at Mark (or Luke) or whatever and take it for what it’s worth. It doesn’t have to be “distrusted” from a scientific/historical perspective, just because I don’t think Genesis is non-scientific/non-historical. The fact that all of these ancient documents have been put together into a “cannon” does not mean that I have to “take it all” or “leave it all”, based on anything what-so-ever.

      Jason

      • Derek White

        It’s been really interesting reading the ‘re-view’ and some of the comments. My view (having come out of an atheistic world view some 35 years ago) is that my Christian faith is based on ‘high probability’ and that I do not have to take a literalistic view of Scripture in order to continue in it (my faith in Christ as redeemer and rescuer) . Of course, with all true scientific endevour (‘our’ for Brits) it has to ‘go where the evidence leads’ (A Flew)– it may be in danger of being entrapped in a Darwinian straightjacket.
        ;-D

  • James

    In this discussion, we should use a definition of science that is less technical. That way, any sort of ‘evidence’ can be viewed as scientific, broadly speaking. Thus, the resurrection can be examined scientifically–based on the story itself and its “ripple effect.” The same for the literal historicity of A and E. Current scientific evidence, I would say, is stacked against it–at no loss and perhaps great gain to biblical understanding. But let’s not close the door on possible further evidence–that would be unscientific. I read recently of an archaeological find that may connect with Isaiah’s Calno and “kingdoms of the idols” (10:9-10). Fascinating! Of course, the authority of Scripture is not dependent on (but has room for) such scientific input. Let’s allow science to enrich our understanding of reality as God sees it, for he is the source not only of the Good Book but also the ‘book’ of nature which he also has gifted us to study, along with human history.

  • James

    Oops! technical glitch. Please read my second reply.

  • Norman

    Pete,

    Excellent response!

    I do wish you would have left just a tad more wiggle room/flexibility in your concepts that “Paul can be wrong about Adam historically but still correct theologically”. The manner in which you tackled this one issue head on seems to assume (I may be misreading you) a locked in understanding of what exactly Paul really thought about Adam’s historicity. I’m not sure the jury is completely in yet regarding the need to frame Paul’s Adam’s concepts so assertively. It seems to me that the abundance of 2T literature out there that Paul had access to regarding Adam would not have necessitated such a rigid view upon Paul concerning Adam. Nor it seems does an examination of Romans 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 lock Paul’s concepts in about Adam if it reflects a Pauline view of Adam as a corporate and covenant representative identity. We all know that Israel had a historical beginning and they thought of themselves as Priestly representatives to the world at large and so corporately Adam is historical in that regard as Israel and the concept of YHWH did have a beginning (see Gen 4:26). If Paul’s thinking is somewhere along those lines then our discussion has really gotten far afield of their original intent. I realize we need to dissuade people from thinking Adam is the first physical human but that’s a far cry from him representing a Jewish model of true humanity bearing the Image of God which may be more in tune with what Paul envisioned than as the first human period.

    Your point about Adam not being a literal individual is correct but it seems Paul may have believed Adam represented a corporate understanding of Israel is also possible and his writings may be reflecting that mindset and needs further investigation. In fact Paul’s concepts are often difficult to pin down because of the Jewish and ANE idea of community representation via the (soma) Body motif. I would even venture that in Romans 7 that Paul is taking on the persona of the individual Adam and corporate Israel as well in a form of prosopopeia which helps demonstrate the fluidity of Paul’s mind on such matters.

    Thanks again for your work.

  • Jim

    I was a conservative Presbyterian evangelical who had his mind changed and faith enhanced rather than lost.

  • Andy

    I’m an evangelical/pentecostal and Peter has opened my mind.

    I have never learnt anything from anybody that I have agreed with…

  • Bev Mitchell

    Pete,

    This detailed response is very helpful, both for what you say and for how you go about it. As this case study shows, method is often as crucial as argument. Thinking about this for something I was writing today, there appears to be a void in this general area that could be filled by biblical scholars and theological interpreters like you. Just like in science, in theology and biblical interpretation asking the right question is fundamental. The wrong question, or a reasonable question posed in the wrong context can waste everyone’s time, to say the least.

    Are there questions that some reasonable number of evangelical biblical scholars would agree should not be asked of Scripture? Based on the vast knowledge now available that pertains to Scripture, is it clear that some questions are simply out of bounds due to insufficient information? Clearly some people seem to expect too much from Scripture. We want our questions answered and often we want our prejudices confirmed. A list of out of bounds, relatively big, questions would be revealing and very useful. Am I asking for the impossible?

  • Jon T

    In response to Jon Hughes. On the contrary, many of us who were raised with the assumptions of conservative evangelicalism but later in life (for me in college) came to accept evolution, have been greatly helped by the work of Pete and others. I can honestly say my faith would be shipwrecked without their help. Thanks Pete. Outstanding post.

  • Robin Swindle

    Let me add my voice to growing witness that the work of Peter Ennis, and other contributors at Biologos, strengthened not weakened my faith. I was raised in conservative Evangelical circles in which I was told that I had to choose between accepting evolution and believing in Jesus. Thank you Pete, for helping me resolve my growing understanding and appreciation of evolutionary biology with my love of Jesus.

    • peteenns

      Thank you, Robin—and to the rest of you for your encouragement!

  • http://www.spiritofthescripture.com/blog Joshua Tilghman

    I appreciated this article. Great comeback on Madueme’s apologetic motives and viewpoint. Madueme is clearly not being rational or tolerable. I bet your book would be a great read, and, even though I haven’t read it, your response to Madeume proves its merit.

    http://www.spiritofthescripture.com/id282-adam-and-eve-the-story-of-human-consciousness.html

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  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Pete, thanks for this response. One observation and one question.

    Observation: you said, “Arguing for the importance of a historical Adam because of what you might lose theologically without him is not an argument. At root it is an expression of fear.” Maybe so. But it has a pretty good pedigree (hint: see 1 Cor 15.17). You may not see that a historical Adam is necessary to the gospel, but for those who do, such a rejection can’t be followed in good conscience. Right?

    Question: Why care what the OT thinks about the historicity of Adam if we know that what Paul thought about it was wrong? At least for the sake of good communication, it seems like it might be helpful to just say, “Hey, don’t get your skivvies in a bind. Paul believed in a historical Adam and was wrong; so don’t waste your time worrying about whether the OT thought Adam was historical too.” Am I making sense?

    Bonus: it may be worth saying that belief in the Bible’s inerrancy is not the only way to short circuit interpretive discussions. Belief in the Bible’s errancy can have the same effect.

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  • Ronald Taska

    Jason: I read your 8/16 comment several times and your path seems quite familiar to me personally. You have described it quite well and your comment is quite helpful. One further question: With regard to the New Testament, do you think there are contradictions between different Gospels and, if so, how have you integrated that into your views? Thanks. Ron

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  • http://www.techthoughts.net/ Daniel Bastian

    Excellent deconstruction of Maudeme’s review and in bringing his hermeneutical limitations to the fore. Literal exegesis of Genesis is of course no longer possible, and couldn’t his entire position be neutralized by pointing out that Adam in Hebrew is simply translated “man” or “mankind.” ‘Adam’ is an allegory for humanity. This Biblicism wave is risible, as it is a relatively new development in Christian circles (i.e., few people from antiquity even suggested literalism), and it doesn’t even require an apprehension of modern science. ‘Adam’ is allegorical. It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to tell us this; it only takes a course in Hebrew, or a minute on Wikipedia.

    I find myself dumbfounded by the practice of selective contextualization on the part of these Christians. Those who allegorize certain stories in the Old Testament while, in the very next breath, advertise the literal nature of others, must surely be insensible to the deficits of their reasoning. What a web of (il)logic that can be weaved when enmeshed in a philosophy of unchallengeable truth.

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  • BT

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Enns. I haven’t read your book yet, but- based on your review of a review of the book- apparently I should.

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