I’ve been watching the Adam and evolution debates/discussions on line, in social media, and in print. I think I am beginning to see more clearly what accounts for the deeply held, visceral, differences of opinion about whether Adam was the first man or whether Adam is a story.
The reason for the differences is not simply that people have different theological systems or different ways of reading the Bible. A more fundamental difference lies at the root of these (and other) differences.
I think we have a different God.
Christians are supposed to think about God they way Jesus showed us to think about him.
That God does not hesitate to participate in the human drama, to encounter humanity within the limits of the human experience. That means that biblical writers wrote about the God they encountered as they understood him within their cultural limitations.
True encounter with God, expressed in truly human, cultural, terms.
That’s why I have no problem reading the Adam story as a story of origins like other stories of the ancient world, or understanding Paul’s take on Adam as an outworking of his Jewish world (where biblical texts are molded to fit an argument), and calling this kind of writing “God’s word.”
The Gospel teaches me that this kind of Bible reflects the character of God. This kind of Bible is what I have come to expect.
The Gospel does not teach me that it is a problem for God to enter into the human experience and allow that human experience to shape–from beginning to end–how the Bible behaves. The Gospel teaches me exactly the opposite.
And the Gospel certainly does not teach me that God is up there, at a distance, guiding the production of a diverse and rich biblical canon that nevertheless contains a single finely-tuned system of theology that he expects his people to be obsessed with “getting right” (and lash out at those who don’t agree).
When it comes to things like Adam and I hear how people explain their position, the question I ask myself now is “what kind of God are you presenting to me here when you say X….?” Is it
an incarnating God–Immanuel, God with us, or
a Platonic god–where you have to peel off the obscuring “down here” hindrances to get to the untainted “up there” god, with the Bible as an encoded inerrant guidebook to get you there.
I don’t like the platonic god. I don’t think Jesus did either.
You can tell something about the god people believe in by paying attention to how they talk about controversial issues of the Bible–like Adam. Do you see a system-dispensing administrator who keeps his distance or “God with us”? If you keep your eyes open, my bet is that you will see one or the other coming through loud and clear.
This post first appeared in April, 2012.