An outsider eavesdrops on the Evangelical Theological Society and the Adam/evolution controversy. Oh no.

Just this past week, the Economist ran a story on the evolution controversy in evangelicalism. I can’t say I saw that one coming.

A reporter went to the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Baltimore and sat in on the session with the authors of the recent publication of Four Views on the Historical Adam (part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series–see Inerrancy volume here).

The piece is entitled “All about Adam: The Furious–and Political–Debate about Human Origins.”

Political? Ya think?

Here are quotes to get a feel for the piece.

The glue that underpins such faith [biblical literalism] is the principle of Biblical inerrancy—a certainty that the Scriptures are infallibly and unchangingly true.

Some discussions [at the ETS meeting] were a trifle arcane, it is true, with sharp exchanges about ancient Hebrew cosmology and the degree to which the Book of Genesis draws on Mesopotamian creation and flood motifs. But a bang-up-to-date, and distinctly political, dispute hummed along underneath the scholarly sparring: what to do about core principles threatened by new facts. Evangelical Christianity is being shaken not only by the irreverence of the young but also by new discoveries flowing from genetic science.

Recent research (notably cross-species comparisons of gene sequences rendered non-functional by mutations) has greatly strengthened the case that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. A creationist speaker in Baltimore shrugged such discoveries off, declaring that “science changes, but the word of God never changes.”

A few weeks ago, I commented briefly on the book itself, and I remain discouraged on two fronts: (1) the subtle maneuvers often made in evangelicalism to hold together science, ancient Near East, and a “historical Adam” seem desperate to me; (2) some carry on by essentially ignoring contrary evidence entirely and persist in presenting models of Christianity that can only operate in a climate of intellectual isolation.

The value of the book, for me, is largely centered on Denis Lamoureux’s essay (“No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”) and Greg Boyd’s pastoral reflection (“Whether or Not There Was a Historical Adam, Out Faith is Secure”).

Concerning the other authors, I respect John Walton and his work, but I find his “archetypal view” difficult to track with. John Collins’s old-earth historical Adam view remains idiosyncratic for me, though I applaud his attempts to bring the Adam issue before a conservative audience.

Most discouraging for me was to read Phil Ryken’s (president of Wheaton College) pastoral reflection, where he patiently outlines 7 reasons why “We Cannot Understand the World or Our Faith without a Real, Historical Adam.” Though his candor is to be noted, it is hard to hear this from the president of a (if not the) flagship evangelical college with a reputation for academic rigor and integrity. I am also not sure what is “pastoral” about creating cognitive dissonance, which, as the author of the Economist piece points out, has young people turning away from the church because it is perceived to be “anti-science.” Protecting theological boundaries and showing pastoral concern are not the same thing.

At any rate, the article is worth the read. I would have liked to have attended the session, but my own session on inerrancy ran parallel to it.


  • Scott Lencke

    Wow, I’m surprised that the 2 sessions (Adam and Inerrancy) ran at the same time. Seems that attendees (and panelists) of one would have enjoyed the other.

    • Brian Drawbaugh

      Absolutely- I, for one, had to pick. Having read their material, I thought I could skip the Adam presenters (and actually get to see Walton later anyway), but I really would’ve liked to see them defend their POV’s in person :(

  • Van

    Ironic! Just when all of the new genetic discoveries mitigate against ANY possibility of biological macro-evolution, the evolutionists are stepping up their desperate campaign of lying propaganda. Darwin’s theory of biological evolution is being abandoned by the new sciences as an embarrassment, but the diehards haven’t noticed the trend yet.
    I will never understand why any logical person could believe that his nearest relative was a hairy, grunting, stinky, slobbering, knuckle-dragging, cootie-picking primate. But if they insist, who am I to second-guess their miserable self-image? (sigh)

    • Caleb G.

      Could you inform the rest of us and the scientists involved just what these new genetic discoveries are? It is true that discoveries in the last 150 years have expanded and revised Darwin’s theory, but the basic ideas have not been overturned. If this is your idea of “being abandoned” then please explain to us just how science works, since you seem to know so much better than actual scientists.

    • Zeke

      Yes of course. The sciences of biology, chemistry, paleontology, medicine, and genetics now unanimously agree that man was created from dust a few thousand years ago. We all know that scientists from every country on earth were part of a worldwide conspiracy. Because Satan.

    • Rick_K

      Van, you said: “Darwin’s theory of biological evolution is being abandoned by the new sciences as an embarrassment”

      Please list the research papers and published evidence you use to support this bizarre assertion. I’d like to contact the biologists you know who do not believe humans evolved from earlier species.

      At the moment I think you dishonestly typed that with no intention of supporting it. But I’m really very eager to be proved wrong.

      • Klasie Kraalogies

        Drive-by prophets need no proof nor references, didn’t you know? It is true simply because they said it….

  • Brandon

    A creationist speaker in Baltimore shrugged such discoveries off, declaring that “science changes, but the word of God never changes.”

    For some literalists like myself, this statement has a lot of force. And I simply don’t understand why it doesn’t have more force among non-literalists. Science does change. It has changed. It is changing. It will change. As a result, there is a sense in which harmonization of Bible and science always ends up becoming a program of Christianity marrying the spirit of the age.

    “I am also not sure what is “pastoral” about creating cognitive dissonance…”… Read the psalms much??

    I’d love to see Biblical literalists respectfully acknowledge that evolution is the reigning scientific paradigm to explain origins (and to do so without their eyebrow twitching). But I really do think there is a place for Christians to admit an evolutionary paradigm’s explanatory power, while also saying, ‘but we have reason to believe a better scientific explanation will come along in the future.’

    • Caleb G.

      Our understanding of scripture has also changed. If you doubt this, then do you agree with Calvin and Luther that accepting a heliocentric view of scripture goes against scripture? Or do you agree with pre-civil war slave owners that scripture supports slavery?

      • Brandon

        Caleb, you are right that hermeneutics change, and my comment did not make that point particularly clear. It is for that reason that, even though I hold a historical read of Genesis 1-2, I am obligated to consider again and again whether my own read of the text is time-bound and culture-driven. If my reading is prejudiced, it could only be uncovered through further study of Scripture and science.

        Actually, it is because of that that I am perennially interested in this topic and try to read on it when I can. (FWIW, I read Dr. Enns’s book The Evolution of Adam, and found it helpful and thought-provoking).

        Also, regarding your two examples: 1) Did Calvin argue against heliocentrism? His Genesis 1 commentary seems to give science a fair bit of room to work with. 2) Slavery- no I don’t think the Bible encourages the practice at all, but whatever slave practice existed in Biblical times was a fair bit different from the slave trade practiced 200 years ago (see Douglas Moo’s commentary on Philemon).

    • Rebecca Trotter

      People who actually pay attention to the science understand that science changes in its details, yes, but not in ways that radically undermine the basic science itself. It gets more refined, not overturned entirely. The idea that the massive weight of what we know is going to be overturned and found instead to conform with a creationist interpretation of Genesis is fantasy. The idea that we should view the evidence gathered from the handiwork of God’s own hand as less reliable and binding to a believer than the interpretations men have of Genesis carries no weight with me.

      • Brandon

        Rebecca, there are paradigm shifts in science which call for a re-interpretation of the data (see Thomas Kuhn–he wrote a book on this). When you say “science changes in its details, yes, but not in ways that radically undermine the basic science itself” I’m not quite sure I follow you. You (hopefully) are not suggesting that science never challenges and overturns prior interpretations of data (heliocentrism? Newtonian Revolution? Einstein? anyone, anyone?). These were not mere refinements of data, these were new paradigms for interpreting data.

        Or is your point that such change would undermine the entire scientific enterprise? If that’s your point, I strongly disagree. Change only undermines undue dogmatic certainty illegitimately applied to the hard sciences–dogmatic certainty, BTW, that scientists repeatedly deny that their research can produce.

        Lastly, regarding the “evidence gathered from the handiwork of God’s own hand”– I won’t argue that it is less reliable. Quite frankly, I’d consider it a monumental victory just to get you to admit the (interpretation of) the evidence is not inerrant or infallible.

        • Brandon

          Rebecca, please forgive me. That last sentence in my response, to my eyes, reads in a condescending way that I had not intended (particularly the ‘get you to admit’ part). Sorry, again.

        • Rebecca Trotter

          Oh for pity’s sake. Give. Me. A. Break. Seriously? Really? So because once upon a time, people worked off the seemingly common sense idea that the sun revolved around the earth and then actual data was used to disprove that, now all scientific understanding is always and forever just about to be turned on its head and can’t be relied on? Seriously? That’s your argument? And that works for you? No wonder people are leaving the church in droves.

          There are so many problems with your, erm, argument that I’m a bit stunned someone would actually commit it to pixels. But how about the fact that once the data was actually taken seriously and it was shown that the earth went around the sun, that has continued to stand even as our understanding of the sun, gravity, the formation of solar systems and the rest has stood. Some scientific facts become more established as time goes on.

          Or how about the fact that evolution has consistently been supported by evidence, never undermined. And that thinking that one day scientific evidence will prove it wrong and show some idiotic, woodenly literally and wildly unfaithful to the actual text interpretation of how God created the world instead to be correct, is like holding out hope that one day we’ll figure out that the sun really does revolve around the sun. It’s an idea not to be taken seriously.

          I’ve been following astronomy and cosmology as a hobbiest for nearly 30 years. Of all fields of scientific inquiry, these are the ones most prone to having their underlying assumptions challeneged and overturned. I’ve seen how it works. I have books in my basement from the late 80s which present ideas about how things work as basic facts which have since been found to be inaccurate. So I understand better than most lay people the ways that science is and is not prone to error.

          Errors only rarely come out of misinterpreting data. Errors in data interpretation are usually found out quickly – people are forever trying to poke holes in everything, they build on pre-existing assumptions and discover the weakness of those assumptions when they crumble under the weight. Usually errors come from the places where we fill in gaps in data with assumptions about how things work. Like when people thought the sun revolved around the earth. But once the data starts coming in, the errors get upended. Just like when people actually started doing the math on the relationship between the sun and the earth. It is this filling in of gaps that we didn’t even realize were an issue which tends to upend scientific consensus.

          The reason that people have such confidence in evolution is that the data is continually filling in gaps just the way we would expect it to if it were true. In other scientific fields, the tendency is for there to be inconsistencies which explanations must be found for. Sometimes those inconsistencies mean that the underlying assumptions are wrong. Other times, they means that we don’t have enough information to understand what is being observed fully, Those inconsistencies are almost completely missing in evolutionary science. Instead, there is astounding consistency. That’s why there’s such broad support for the idea. The telltale signs pointing to potential problems which you see in other scientific fields like cosmology or even medicine are simply missing when it comes to evolutionary science. This is why Christians who prefer the interpretations of men over the evidence wrought by God’s own hand look so absurd to the rest of the world.

          I honestly think that the reason the evidence for evolution is so unusually complete and consistent is because God knows how ridiculously stubborn we humans are when we get something into our heads about how things work – particularly if someone’s slapped the label of religion on it. It’s like he’s left a not-so-coded-message written into the very fabric of life spelling out for us – “you were wrong.” Because he knew that unless he spelled it out in excuciating detail for us, we’d miss facts with important spiritual implications like that God plays the really, really long game, that chaos is written into the rules of the universe and is actually essential, that life grows and is successful because of change, not stasis, that stasis is actually innimicable to life, that we are all connected in ways more profound than we’ve realized, etc. These are important things which God wrote into our very dna and which too many Christians cannot see or understand because they prefer men’s interpretations to God’s very creation.

          • Brandon

            Rebecca, I think I am going to jump out of the conversation at this point, as the snark level has gone up to 11.

            I’m only responding because I see myself getting pigeon-holed into positions that I don’t hold and have not espoused in our conversation. I never, ever said that all scientific theory is always just about to be turned on its head. All that I said is that it (particular scientific theories) can be. It has happened before. It will happen again. It’s the nature of science to do this. Books have been written by scientists and philosophers explaining how it can happen again. Because of that, it seems foolish to attribute such levels of certitude to scientific theory that it cannot actually maintain.

            Good grief, I’ve heard Lawrence Krauss complain about this very issue of how science is received in pop culture! Based on his comments I can only assume hobbiests could become guilty of this too.

        • AHH

          While paradigm shifts happen on occasion in science, the nature and likelihood of these shifts often gets misunderstood when nonscientists use “paradigm” language to justify denying well-established science.

          The public tends to lack appreciation for the different degrees of certainty of scientific results. One has things that are conclusively established at this point (heliocentric solar system, smoking causes cancer, Earth is very old, creatures related by common ancestry). Then there are things where there is less certainty but science thinks it has a pretty good idea (like mechanisms for producing common ancestry or of carcinogenic properties of smoke, the Big Bang, anthropogenic global warming). Then there are areas of much more uncertainty (origin of first life, for example).

          The occasional paradigm shifts tend to be things that are more in the second category (where science thinks it has a good explanation for conclusive results), not the first category. To pick one example, Einstein did change the way we think about space and time, improving on Newton, but he didn’t overturn the settled facts of nature (masses attract each other, bodies in motion stay in motion unless acted on my a force) that Newton (mostly) explained.

          If you are hoping for some “paradigm shift” that will negate common ancestry, such a shift would NOT be like Einstein improving on Newton; it would be more like if Einstein had shown that gravity didn’t exist. It ain’t gonna happen.
          It is not inconceivable that, for example, there could be a paradigm shift in which our understanding of the mechanisms of evolution is altered in a major way. But common ancestry (including for humans) is about as well established as the existence of gravity at this point.

          Lest we repeat the Galileo embarrassment (I know that is more complex than often portrayed), the church needs to deal with science that is essentially certain, like an Old Earth and common ancestry, rather than keeping its head in the sand and holding out hope for paradigm shifts that are not going to happen. Yes, interpretation of scientific evidence can be fallible, but at some point it becomes much more likely that our fallible interpretation of Scripture (and fallible doctrines about Scripture) is what needs to be revised. That might take the form advocated by Enns or Lamoureux or Collins or Walton — at least all these people are grappling with the reality of God’s creation. To wish these realities away will hurt our witness in the long term by giving the scientifically literate the message that to be a Christian is to live in intellectual dishonesty and/or cognitive dissonance. .

          • Brandon

            I have freely admitted in this comments section that evolution is the reigning scientific paradigm with a lot of explanatory power. I accept that, and I can respectfully hear about evolution without getting freaked out by it. But I also believe in a historical Genesis 1-2. Therefore, I believe a better scientific explanation will come along.

            That non-literalists ( at least the one’s I have engaged in this thread) cannot tolerate the mere possibility of evolution being overturned is weird. And it makes me wonder if even the scientifically inclined here are working more in pop-culturized science than actual science.

            “We must acknowledge the possibility that new facts may come to light which will force our successors of the twenty-first century to abandon Darwinism or modify it beyond recognition.” If I (or any biblical literalist) said something like that you would laugh us out of the room, saying we know nothing about science–you’ve basically done this to me in this thread. But do you want to know who said that quote? Richard Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, p. 81.

            Maybe it’s time for some non-literalists to ask if the nature of their defense of evolution is a tad culture-driven and shaped by non-scientific concerns too.

          • AHH

            I recognize (and appreciate) that your tone in this discussion has been better than the antagonistic, head-in-sand stuff that one often sees.

            But I must point out that your quote from Dawkins does not mean what you think it means. When Dawkins says “Darwinism” he refers to a specific set of explanations for common ancestry, NOT the fact of common ancestry itself. It would be like somebody in 1850 saying it is possible that better explanations than Newton would come along for the fact of gravity.
            I said the same thing in my comment — that it was conceivable that current understanding of the mechanisms of evolution could be overturned.

            Part of the communication problem is that the word “evolution” has different meanings that many people inappropriately lump together. Its most basic meaning is common ancestry. But it is also used for theories (like Darwin’s) of how this common ancestry happened. Evolution in the common ancestry sense is about as well established as heliocentrism, while Dawkins and others recognize that there is more room for uncertainty and maybe even paradigm shifts in theories of how evolution happened.

            Is it in principle possible that the paradigm of common ancestry could be overturned? Sure. Nothing in science is ever established with 100% mathematical certainty. But I think it is a mistake for the church to stake itself to the 0.0001% chance that common ancestry might be wrong, especially when there are faithful ways to read Scripture that are not in conflict with it. We made that shift with heliocentrism; the similar shift with regard to an Old Earth is long overdue in some circles and is only slightly less overdue for common ancestry.

            On your last paragraph, any human position (mine or yours) is inevitably going to be partly culture-driven. All we can do is try not to let that distort our perception of reality. In my case, I will freely admit to the non-scientific concern of the way evolution denial harms the witness of the Gospel to the scientifically literate. If I had not been seeing that harm for my 30 years in science, I wouldn’t make as much effort to try and help the church get to a healthier place on these issues.

      • Benjamin Keil

        Rebecca, I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Kansas’ Philosophy Department and some of my work involves the philosophy of science. Speaking only of scientific revolutions in general (not the evolution/creationist dispute in particular), Brandon is right that there exist what are commonly called “paradigm shifts” in the sciences. (The standard scholarly sources in support of this thesis would contain Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and Feyerabend’s “Against Method” if you want to read up a bit.) I’m not quite sure what you mean by science changing “in the details” rather than “radically underm[ing] the basic science itself”, but if the geocentrism/heliocentrism change or Aristotelian/Newtonian/Relativity theory changes in physics don’t count as radical changes in basic science itself, I’m not quite sure what would. My $0.02.

      • Patrick S. Franklin

        “The idea that we should view the evidence gathered from the handiwork of God’s own hand as less reliable and binding to a believer than the interpretations men have of Genesis carries no weight with me.”

        Nicely said. A clever table-turn on the frequently made creationist argument that we should trust God’s Word (meaning a literal reading of Genesis with no hermeneutical sensitivity) over ‘man-made’ science!

    • labreuer

      Do you think God doesn’t expect us to update our ideas of him as we go through and experience life? The instant my model of God stops changing, it has become an idol. He is infinite; I can only ever approximate him when thinking about him. It seems a bit weird for God to have intended, “Here’s the Bible, nothing else teaches you much about me, so it’s mostly just this.” That basically shuts down any level of relationship past some level. Have you noticed that theology has been a bit… stagnant for the past many-years? When was the last equivalent of a quantum revolution, in theology?

      Maybe what I’m criticizing is more “sufficiency of scripture” and not literalism, but literalism does seem to kinda be a package deal.

    • Josiah


      I mean no disrespect but you have stated that you are a literalist, and that you hope that a literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3 would make
      a come-back. Could you (or other literalists) please help me to understand how you make sense of the texts in question? In particular, by answering a few questions.

      Before I became a Christian I was fully convinced by
      evolution. Now as a Christian, I choose to read the fall account symbolically as a parable. Generally, Christians have held that the serpent is symbolic of satan. From a strictly literalist perspective, is satan (in any sense) literally a snake/serpent? I live in a nation where there are no snakes, they all died out a thousand odd years ago when a caldera erupted (snakes don’t like sulphur, and now we just have fossils of them); yet these islands are not free of evil in any meaningful sense.

      If satan was merely possessing the snake, then why would YHWH curse the snake as if it was the responsible party? Or was YHWH ignorant
      about satan possessing the snake? On the face of it, literalism seems to lead to some odd conclusions, any help that you could give in helping me to see more clearly would be greatly appreciated.

      As an aside, I would have thought that literalists would stand out in any crowd because they’d all be missing hands, feet, or eyes; but
      why would anyone take Jesus literally? Following him on his terms seems to involve the costly decision of taking a non-violent stance (the way of the cross) at the very least. I know that not all pacifists are literalists, but
      are all literalists pacifists? I cannot even begin to see how someone who
      claims to take the text literally could neglect to live by the ethical imperatives that Jesus lived and died by, and taught his followers to do the same. I truly would appreciate your insights.

      a pacifist

    • MarkTemporis

      The “word of God” changes all the time. The archaic poetry of the KJV is nothing like the presumably more accurate but poetically flat modern argot of the NIV. Not to mention the hundreds of literary translations and versions written by organizations with an agenda, such as the JWs or Conservapedia.

  • John

    Wow, talk about contortions !!!

  • Bev Mitchell

    “I am also not sure what is “pastoral” about creating cognitive dissonance”

    This is the really sad part, isn’t it.

    • Lothar Lorraine

      I think that Ken Ham and his fellows YECs bring much more people to atheism than Dawkins and his underlings could ever dream of.

  • John

    In light of the concluding paragraph of The Economist report, one is prompted to recognize the political implications of this “debate.”

    “… Denying science is a bad habit among conservatives of all stripes: Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who sits on the House science committee (and who wants to run for the Senate), says evolution is a lie “straight from the pit of hell”.”

  • hzcummi

    Instead of trying to make sense of false doctrine, you should be examining the truth of Genesis, namely the “Observations of Moses”.
    Herman Cummings

  • dangjin

    So sad to read this article and the comments. God gave you a choice–believe him or believe evil and it seems most of you are choosing the latter. Secular science, unless it changes to agree with the Bible, doesn’t have the truth and never will.

    You need to understand that both God and Jesus never taught us to follow science over God’s word. Your choice is either God and His word or evil and secular science. You cannot have both.

    • Lothar Lorraine

      I suppose this is a joke, right? :-)

    • Preston Garrison

      You need to decide whether genuine faith requires self delusion, the refusal to even look at the the evidence in the world. When you declare science evil you slander millions of people who have done their best to examine nature carefully and figure out how it works. That process has led to many undeniably beneficial things in medicine and technology. Is is possible for Christian belief to start off well and veer into unreasoning fanaticism that betrays Christ, and it looks that is where you are headed. Don’t go there.

    • Andrew Dowling

      I hope you enjoy yourself coming on here with the requisite admonishing of sinners. If it brings light to your life have at it . . .

  • Lothar Lorraine

    “A few weeks ago, I commented briefly on the book itself, and I remain discouraged on two fronts: (1) the subtle maneuvers often made in evangelicalism to hold together science, ancient Near East, and a “historical Adam” seem desperate to me; (2) some carry on by essentially ignoring contrary evidence entirely and persist in presenting models of Christianity that can only operate in a climate of intellectual isolation.”

    Scientifically speaking, people could believe both in evolution and a historical Adam who might be a homo Erectus and the ancestor of everyone or a representative of mankind.
    Yet a gap of millions of years in the Genesis account does not seem very likely.

    But a literal interpretation of the text of Genesis has horrible theological consequences for it makes look God like an unjust monster who punished billions of innocent animals and humans because two people ate the wrong fruit.

    In one sense Conservative Evangelicals are entirely right that it is very difficult to reconcile evolution with their doctrine of an inherited sinful nature making wickedness inevitable.
    I view this as extremely liberating.

  • Yeshua21.Com

    ["Phil Ryken’s (president of Wheaton College) . . . patiently outlines 7 reasons why
    “We Cannot Understand the World or Our Faith without a Real, Historical Adam.”]

    Here is an outline of 7 ways in which the tradition rings true with or without a “real, historical Adam.”

  • gingoro

    A long time ago I tried to accept inerrancy but I found the Chicago statement incoherent and it was hedged with so many qualifications that I never could grasp the overall implication of the statement. Thus my rejection of inerrancy has nothing to do with my relatively recent acceptance of an evolutionary origin for mankind. But given a none literal reading of Gen 1-11 we need a coherent statement about what to do with those chapters in the Bible. Sometimes in frustration I feel that everything after Gen 1:1 until the end of chapter 11, should just be ripped out of the bible. Until this question can be answered in a more positive fashion I don’t think that we will get very far on this issue.


    • Andrew Dowling

      “But given a none literal reading of Gen 1-11 we need a coherent statement about what to do with those chapters in the Bible.Sometimes in frustration I feel that everything after Gen 1:1 until the end of chapter 11, should just be ripped out of the bible.”

      Why do you feel this way? Aren’t there (many) other parts of the Bible that should be read non-literally?

      • gingoro

        Yes there are other parts of the bible that are or may well be read none literally. But I have some idea of what their intent is and what they mean to us. With Gen 1-11, it seems to be a literal and not especially fantastic story but now I have no idea what the intent was and is. What lessons should we draw from Gen 1-11? How should it impact our theology?

        With say Job or Jonah it does not matter much if they have a historical basis or not. They still make valid comment on the human condition and on our relationship with God. Jonah could be historical or have some basis in history whereas to take Pete’s position (as I understand it) there is not even any historical background for the Adam story. As I see it we don’t have any fall from a state of perfection but rather we have an evolved mankind doing bad things (just like the other animals) that do not alienate us from God until God begins to deal with us and gives us his law. Once God gives us his law and we immediately break it then we have alienation from God and the need of a Savior. Paul says that without the law their is no sin and that statement seems to apply well to humans without any knowledge of God before God revealed himself to mankind. This is the kind of story that to my mind at least seems to agree much better with the Bible story than a descent from perfection of all kinds. We don’t have original sin but rather sin of origin.


  • Keith C Furman, PhD

    So many good comments, so little time. Thanks, Peter/all.

    I definitively agree with you, Peter, that “Protecting theological boundaries and showing pastoral concern are not the same thing.”

    With Pew research showing (when you do the math) that self-described “convinced” (not just political) atheists outnumbering evangelicals worldwide by 3:1. Include self-described “non-religious” and the ration is 9:1 htt:// and So, getting to the bottom of it all is crucial and urgent.

    But, after so many years of a largely scientific concordist hermaneutic the key thing is going turning the ship without breaking it apart.

    To avoid division on this topic, my own church’s pastors (we have 18 of them) responded wisely and courageously, I think, following my own paradigm shift to an evolutionary creation (EC) position in 2010 after being a scientific creationist for over 34 yrs and homeschooling our 5 kids to be good little scientific creationists too. That’s when I read the Francis Collins book and was exposed to the new molecular evidence. Our church is near Francis Collins’ NIH and we had a handful of his staff at the time such that about half of the dozen or so PhDs with science backgrounds were of EC persuasion while the other half were scientific creationists (YEC, OEC and ID-theory). The church was mostly YEC & OEC.

    What the pastors did was driven by “making the highway to the gospel as broad as possible”. After much deliberation, they taught a Sunday class in 2011 on various views and formally held that an evolutionary creation view was theologically acceptable!!! That was despite fact that the class had more of an ID-theory flavor. But, that was HUGE.

    I didn’t even know there were views other than YEC or OEC could be considered valid until 2010. Until then, we solved our differences by not talking about them. That is a huge tendency.

    Prior to that, the pastors read a book together that took a similar approach (The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation). You can’t read that without seeing that none of those views (YEC, OEC & Framework View) is a slam dunk even one of those is one’s favorite. That enabled them to see that we can’t judge each other on debatable issues.

    So, I think the “Four Views” book will end up being helpful to (1) generate discussion, (2) show all that there are other views held to be valid (however inaccurate some might be), and (3) forms a baseline for discussion.

    And, like you, Peter, I find the Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD view most helpful. I avoided his content for years because my pastors, as well as myself, didn’t like his conclusions. But, after finally hearing him out last year and going through his online college course (free to view) and Web Lectures (the place to start for the unfamiliar ), I’m SOLD and had to keep wiping away grateful tears — it made so much sense to me. I benefited greatly from your “Adam” book too, Peter. I might be lost rather than thrilled about my faith right now if it were not for courageous guys like you two. Thanks.

    Given my own paradigm shift WITH a scientific background, I wonder if especially older Christians with deeply ingrained views will be able to turn the corner. They typically do not have the theological or scientific training, nor the time to investigate it. I expect that there will be a very wide range of views that we will have to live with together with them for a very long time.

    See related posts on the or join me at @EvoCreatn on Twitter.

  • Nate

    The problem with cutting edge science and why patience in this area is not anti-science:

  • Agni Ashwin

    Do those who believe in the compatibility of a historical Adam and evolutionary theory, also believe in Eve coming from Adam’s rib?

    • AHH

      Some do, but the majority would read the rib thing as figurative.
      The big thing for those in this category who want a “historical Adam” (like C. John Collins) is not a desire to keep a literalist reading of Genesis 2-3, but rather what they see as Adam’s role in a historical “Fall” mentioned by Paul in a couple of passages.

  • theologicalresearcher

    We didn’t come from apes or smaller primates. I have no objections to a Christian holding to an old earth, framework, archetypal, etc. views of the material creation. However, when it comes to the first parents, God created them DIRECTLY through his sovereign and divine power. If you believe anything else about our first parents, you don’t take Scripture seriously and scorn the work of Christ–the Last Adam.

    • stardreamer42

      If you still think that evolution means “we descended from apes”, your understanding is deficient. Humans and apes do, however, have a common ancestor millions of years back. That is FACT, and cannot be contradicted by anything in the Bible, which was created by men. There were no “first parents” in the sense you’re talking about — which is actually a good thing, because the amount of incest which would have resulted from such a limited gene pool would have meant that humans would interbreed themselves out of existence in only a handful of generations.