creating Adam, again and again

STOSToday’s post is the second of two by Karl Giberson and is adapted from his newly published Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World

Giberson teaches Science & Religion at Stonehill College and is a key figure in the science/faith dialogue. His other books on the subject include Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in EvolutionThe Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World and (with Francis Collins) The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.

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The challenge of taking “God’s Two Books” (nature and the Bible) seriously has grown dramatically in recent years as genetic evidence has made it clear that Adam and Eve cannot have been historical figures, at least as described in the Bible.

More scientifically informed evangelicals within conservative traditions are admitting that the evidence is undermining Creation-Fall-Redemption theology. Christians have struggled to preserve this central Christian understanding in a way that is faithful to both the Bible and science; literalists have tried to preserve it by rejecting science or making increasingly strange claims about the world.

One of the strangest claims arising out of Creation-Fall-Redemption theology relates to its relationship to possible alien life on other planets.

A couple of years ago the media buzzed about a new planet discovered far from our solar system, Gliese 581g. The new planet was potentially habitable since its temperature was in the range where water is liquid. The news promoted speculation about possible alien life.

Ken Ham, who succeeded Henry Morris as America’s leading creationist, responded that the alien planet would have been victimized by Adam’s Fall: “The Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe,” he said. “This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin.”

Ham believes that the “Gliesens” would have seen their paradise planet mysteriously wrecked about 6000 years ago when God cursed the creation. The Gliesens would have been happy, immortal, surrounded by docile herbivores. Suddenly, because of an act on a planet trillions of miles away, Gliese would have been stricken with inexplicable suffering, death, and different laws of physics.

And, although human sin on a distant Earth wrecked their planet, the poor Gliesans “can’t have salvation,” says Ham. “Only descendants of Adam can be saved.” To even “suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong,” he says.

A slightly less strange proposal comes from Hugh Ross and his Reasons to Believe organization, which defends old earth creationism with a day-age reading of Genesis. Ross denies that the day-age interpretation represents a compromise with science, insisting that a careful reading of the entire Bible—and not just Genesis—points clearly to the days of creation being long epochs.

Ross also insists that the Fall inaugurated only human death. Ross goes further. Not only is death a part of the natural order but God ordained it to provide oil and other raw materials useful for humans. The benefits to humanity of these earlier life forms, says Ross, renders their suffering, death, and even extinction a good thing, and not an evil to be explained as a consequence of sin.

The leading intelligent design theorist William Dembski holds the traditional view that animal death is a real evil caused by human sin and not God’s way of making petroleum. Like Ross he understands that science has proven that the earth is very old. So how does Adam’s sin make the dinosaurs go extinct 70 million years before he existed?

Dembski describes his book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World, as an attempt “to resolve how the Fall of Adam would be responsible for all evil in the world, both moral and natural IF the earth is old and thus IF a fossil record that bespeaks violence among organisms predates the temporal occurrence of the Fall.”

The description of the problem is mainstream and one of the reasons why the young earth creationists are forced to reject so much science. But Dembski’s resolution is anything but mainstream.

Dembski proposes that “the effects of the Fall can go backward in time.” He proposes a “retroactive view of the Fall, in which God by anticipation allows natural evil in consequence of the Fall.”

The British biochemist Denis Alexander, offers yet another solution. He accepts the great age of the earth, evolution—including human evolution—and millions of years of death, suffering and extinction prior to the arrival of humans. He also understands that genetic evidence rules out the possibility that the human race ever consisted of one man and one woman.

Alexander embraces key Biblical ideas that play meaningful roles in Christian theology, but he does not insist on literal interpretations. He seeks historical events that lie “behind the text”—events that undergird the theological content of the biblical accounts, but may be quite different from the accounts themselves.

Alexander suggests that the Genesis account is based on an actual historical episode where God reached into history: “God in his grace chose a couple of Neolithic farmers in the Near East, or maybe a community of farmers, to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself—so that they might know him as a personal God.” (Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? p. 236)

Alexander calls these early humans Homo Divinus, “the divine humans, those who know the one true God, the Adam and Eve of the Genesis account.” “Homo Divinus were the first humans who were truly spiritually alive in fellowship with God,” says Alexander. “Homo divinus marked the time at which God chose to reveal himself and his purposes for humankind for the first time.” (Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? p. 237). The “death” brought on by sin was spiritual, not physical.

These ways of construing Adam all have adherents claiming the label “evangelical” in America and yet their views of Adam are all over the map.

In an ideal world the positions described above—and some that construe Adam as a purely literary figure—could be in conversation, competing for the allegiance of Christians trying with integrity to reconcile their tradition with the advance of science.

Christianity, after all, is not a religion about Adam; it is a religion about Christ. Adam can be understood in many ways. Unfortunately, however, the historical Adam has become a line in the sand for many evangelicals, who don’t even want to engage the conversation.

And even those who agree that Adam was historical are far apart with no hope of reconciliation.

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  • Norman

    The literal strangeness continues even with prominent theologians like N T Wright. I don’t believe Wright embraces the literalness of Genesis but he sure seems to embrace the literalness of its eschatological future where he sees a literal return to a physically harmonious world. It seems that some scholars like to keep their big toe dipped in a literal take of the bible since who’s going to challenge them about the future. I think it’s called trying to have your evangelical cake and eat it too.

    • newenglandsun

      The eschatological hope of the return to a physically harmonious world has long since been embedded into Christian tradition, not just Evangelical but also Catholic and Orthodox tradition. It’s one of the common theological tenants of all Christian denominations.

      • Ross

        I suppose one question is to whether the future harmonious World is something we “return” to or not. We can long for something better than the current World, but to what extent if any did it “pre-exist”?

      • Norman

        Yes just like the long held ideas that Genesis was literal as well, so the garden of Eden was a literal physical description of the condition of the planet before the fall. Do you believe the language of Genesis is to be taken literally because it has historically been most often interpreted in that manner? There is plenty of evidence to indicate that the original NT writers weren’t applying it as literally as the church throug the ages have. Finding the church has followed wrong concepts should not surprise folks today.

        The reason Genesis is being reevaluated today is because our common sense tells us to take another look. Very likely why the eschatological end hasn’t been examined as closely as there is no test of established science to overtly challenge it. The only challenge is to examine its internal consistencies

        • newenglandsun

          “Ahh, not very. Not very. I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it’s not a theory alongside theories. It’s not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said well, how am I going to explain all this…. I know ‘ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And for most of the history of Christianity, and I think this is fair enough, most of the history of the Christianity there’s been an awareness that a belief that everything depends on the creative act of God, is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds in creative time. You find someone like St. Augustine, absolutely clear God created everything, he takes Genesis fairly literally. But he then says well, what is it that provides the potentiality of change in the world? Well, hence, we have to think, he says, of – as when developing structures in the world, the seeds of potential in the world that drive processes of change. And some Christians responding to Darwin in the 19th Century said well, that sounds a bit like what St. Augustine said of the seeds of processes. So if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories, I think there’s – there’s just been a jar of categories, it’s not what it’s about. And it – it reinforces the sense that…”
          From Lord Rowan Williams’s interview with The Guardian
          http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/mar/21/religion.uk

        • newenglandsun

          Also, why are a bunch of ancient Christians expected to have current knowledge of modern scientific procedures as if God was most concerned they get their science straight first rather than their faith? I think the Church interpreted the Bible fairly correctly when it came up with the eschatology of the redemption and the Fall and weren’t concerned about mainstream science when they gave us the interpretation we have.

          I personally don’t have a specific view on the literalness of Genesis (YEC, ID, TE, who cares?!?–I’m not a scientist–just don’t preach to me your ideas of how God decided to make shit!). My church, the Anglican Church in America, has decided on plenty of theological doctrines–we accept the seven sacraments for instance, the seven ecumenical councils that the Orthodox and Catholics also accept (from Nicaea to Nicaea II) but we have no silly doctrines concerning what we “ought” to believe about the interpretation of Genesis in light of evolutionary theory and most of the people in my parish who care are a) scientists/engineers and b) are evolutionists who don’t find that evolution conflicts with the theology of original sin and the redemption of Jesus.

  • Bill Barman

    So how does Adam’s sin make the dinosaurs go extinct 70 million years before he existed?

    Before science tells us that “Adam and Eve cannot have been historical figures, at least as described in the Bible.” it needs to tell us how creatures that have been extinct 70 million year can have protein and blood cells in their fossils when “Proteins commonly decay hundreds to thousands of years after an organism dies”

    http://news.sciencemag.org/paleontology/2015/06/signs-ancient-cells-and-proteins-found-dinosaur-fossils

    Until they do, I’ll just keep clinging to my old Bible, thank you very much.

    And contrary to the stereotyping, I wouldn’t mind engaging in a conversation about it.

    • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

      I don’t really want to get into a creationism vs. evolution debate in blog comments, but in this specific instance, the woman who is credited with the discovery of collagen in dinosaur fossils, Mary Schweitzer (she’s mentioned in your article) is a devout Christian who believes in evolution, and she wrote a paper after her discovery explaining how the materials in the bone could act as a formaldehyde-like container under various conditions.

      She also sequenced the proteins in the collagen and found they matched very closely with birds.

      • Bill Barman

        I don’t really want to get into a creationism vs. evolution debate in blog comments, but in this specific instance, the woman who is credited with the discovery of collagen in dinosaur fossils, Mary Schweitzer (she’s mentioned in your article) is a devout Christian who believes in evolution, and she wrote a paper after her discovery explaining how the materials in the bone could act as a formaldehyde-like container under various conditions.

        She also sequenced the proteins in the collagen and found they matched very closely with birds.

        Hey, we agree on something. I too don’t want to get into a creationism vs evolution debate. I too recognize Mary Schweitzer as a Christian (I can’t say how devout) and am aware that she has suggested a possible explanation based on research for how the soft materials may have lasted so long.

        The topic at hand is by what authority do we decide Adam is or isn’t an historical figure. If you don’t believe the Bible records the historical event of Adam, his creation and subsequent disobedience, then what are you relying on? If it’s based on the belief that the human intellect has the ability to recreate the past by the reading of dead animals embedded in rock — which, by the way, testify more and more to the reality of Noah’s flood with each passing year of research — I would say you hold the more unreasonable position. That’s my two cents towards the conversation.

        • Dean

          What is this increasing amount of evidence for Noah’s flood you talk about? Also, how did koalas, who only eat eucalyptus leaves, get from Mount Ararat to Australia? And another question, why do we find fossils in layers all around the world, with the simplest creatures at the bottom layers and more complex and modern animals in the top layers? I would have thought a world wide flood would simply mix everything up? Those are the top two questions I have for Noah’s flood believers, I’ve heard answers to these questions, of course, but they are usually absurd on their face and don’t typically even merit a response. I’m just curious what you had on this.

    • Bill Barman

      Let me try a second time in engaging in a conversation about the line drawn in sand by this evangelical.

      Ham believes that the “Gliesens” would have seen their paradise planet mysteriously wrecked about 6000 years ago when God cursed the creation. The Gliesens would have been happy, immortal, surrounded by docile herbivores. Suddenly, because of an act on a planet trillions of miles away, Gliese would have been stricken with inexplicable suffering, death, and different laws of physics.

      This is strange indeed! For if the Genesis account is recorded history and creation took place in the sequence as recorded (Light, then Heaven, then Earth and plant life, then stars and planets, then fish and birds, then beasts of the earth and man, then He rested and called it all good), where do the hapless “Gliesens” first appear in this strawman picture used to paint Ken Ham in such a mean spirited light?

      • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

        I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking where aliens fit into Ken Hamm’s worldview, or are you asking why God wouldn’t mention the creation of aliens in a book written for humans?

        • Bill Barman

          I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking where aliens fit into Ken Hamm’s worldview, or are you asking why God wouldn’t mention the creation of aliens in a book written for humans?

          I’m not sure what I was asking, hence the exclaimation “this is strange indeed” I don’t know Ken Ham personally, but I know him to be my brother in Christ and someone who loves the Word of God at least as much as me, so it surprised me that he would even consider it possible for there to be alien life.

          When I went looking for the context of the quote (I know you guys are all about context) I found this quote from Ken Ham.

          Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe.

          Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space. I certainly suspect not. The Earth was created for human life. And the sun and moon were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God.

          And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.

          Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

          I don’t know the forum that this was spoken or written in but I find it pretty rational and lucid. Certainly more so than the posts and comments i’ve read on this blog. However, they are tagged with headers like: “Here’s Your Eggs With A Side Of Stupid” and “Creationist Ken Ham: Aliens are going to hell so just stop looking for them”. Karl Giberson doesn’t go that far, but with my own experience with theistic evolutionists in my own church, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t think it, if not express it. For I’ve felt such scoffing for myself from my brothers in Christ.

          So I guess the the full quote answers my own question as to where aliens fit into Ken Ham’s world view. They don’t. And that would be one reason God never mentions them in the inspired writings of Moses, Paul and of course the words of Jesus, because its His story of redeeming grace, not a sci-fi thriller.

          However, in a purely hypothetical nature, I’m sure no one here would have a problem with Jesus not dying to save fallen angels. Would they have a problem with Him not dying to save Gliesens? Did He not say “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” Is He not both sovereign and just?

          • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

            Speculating on whether or not Jesus died for hypothetical alien life is not a good use of time. The idea that Adam’s fall condemned the sentient flagellae of Beta-16 is just silly, and speculating about their need for redemption is equally silly.

            I am not sure I agree that Ken Hamm loves the Bible, but that’s between him and God. I am sure he doesn’t understand the Bible or take it seriously enough to do the hard work of studying it. Likewise with science. He may still be a follower of Jesus for all that.

          • Bill Barman

            Speculating on whether or not Jesus died for hypothetical alien life is not a good use of time. The idea that Adam’s fall condemned the sentient flagellae of Beta-16 is just silly, and speculating about their need for redemption is equally silly.

            So is this the standard answer a theistic evolutionist gives a seeker asking a tough question?

            I am not sure I agree that Ken Hamm loves the Bible, but that’s between him and God. I am sure he doesn’t understand the Bible or take it seriously enough to do the hard work of studying it. Likewise with science. He may still be a follower of Jesus for all that.

            Yes, God is the judge — or more accurately the Lord Jesus Christ is if the Father gave Him the authority over everything. But Ken Ham surely took the Bible seriously in answering the question reported on in the opening post. After all — to be a biblicist about it — Ken was obedient in keeping these instructions: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” 1 Peter 3:15-17

          • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

            You didn’t ask a tough question. You asked what place aliens had in Ken’s worldview, then you answered your question, then you proclaimed that aliens couldn’t exist because of some intriguing application of original sin and that’s why the Bible doesn’t mention it.

            Are you asking why -I- think the Bible doesn’t mention space aliens? Probably for the same reason the Bible doesn’t mention the Chinese or the Utne (who, by the way, exist) – they’re not relevant to the story the Bible is trying to tell.

            Are you asking if I believe space aliens exist? I don’t know, but I certainly can think of no theological or scientific reason that would rule out that possibility, but we also have no evidence of their existence. So, I guess I’d say that, given the size and diversity of the universe, it’s probably likely we’ll find life on other planets, but you never know.

            If you clarify what your tough question is, I’d be happy to take a crack at it.

            As for Ken H. taking the Bible seriously, he doesn’t. I think he takes the authority of the Bible seriously in his way, but people who take the Bible seriously learn Greek and Hebrew and sit through boring classes on the history of Roman provinces so they can understand the Bible better. Ken understands it according to a 21st century white American guy’s plain, surface reading. There’s no work involved in that.

          • Bill Barman

            Thank you for conversing with me. You have been most polite and kind. Much more than I have been.

            I do have a few more questions, but no need to respond. I’m moving on. This place is pretty glum.

            1. Why do you work so hard to try to understand the Bible?

            2. Why don’t you just believe it so that the Holy Spirit can give you understanding? 1 Corinthians 2:5-16

            3. What will a theistic evolutionist Bible authority do for a living when science proves the earth can’t be more than fifty to sixty thousand years old, and probably less than ten thousand years old? An evolutionist biology authority can always teach chemistry, an evolutionist cosmology authority can just shrug their shoulders and say “Well we were sure wrong on that one” like they always do, but a Bible scholar who places more faith in man’s science than the Word of God won’t have any credibility what so ever when it becomes obvious to all they not only bet on the wrong horse, they placed all their money on a dead horse.

          • http://thecuttingledge.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

            Hi Bill,

            I work hard to understand the Bible because it is almost literally from another world. It was assembled over a long period of time in nations and cultures quite foreign to my own. I did not live that history or hear those words in my own context.

            Imagine, if you will, that while visiting a foreign country, you fell in love with a beautiful woman, but you could not speak her language. You could only observe her actions, demeanor, non-verbal communication, etc. But that was enough to reveal some of her personality to you and you were drawn to her.

            Would you learn to speak her language, or would you just say, “I just let her talk, and whatever she seems to me to be saying, I just go with that.” I would argue that a man in love would work to cross that bridge. I hope that helps answer your first two questions, for me at any rate. I’m hopelessly drawn to this upjumped storm God who loved His people so, and the Bible is the only written artifact I have that points me to Him. There are other things, sure, like sacraments, the community of saints, etc. But I also take those seriously.

            As for #3, I always reserve tentativity about virtually all of my positions. Two hundred years ago, American Christians swore up and down that the Bible clearly taught slavery. They were not malicious people, and they took the authority of the Bible seriously, but they thought the conclusion that slavery was natural and right and good was clear, and people who didn’t think so were not listening to the clear words of Scripture.

            I recognize that any of us can find ourselves in a similar situation – so certain about things that history will demonstrate to be so wrong. But that’s life under the cross. I push forward with how things seem to me at the time, knowing I may have to let them go later, and I’m fine with that.

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/ Nathan Rinne

    “The challenge of taking “God’s Two Books” (nature and the Bible) seriously has grown dramatically in recent years as genetic evidence has made it clear that Adam and Eve cannot have been historical figures, at least as described in the Bible.More scientifically informed evangelicals within conservative traditions are admitting that the evidence is undermining Creation-Fall-Redemption theology”

    Can someone here, in a nutshell, summarize why the evidence makes it impossible to believe in Adam and Eve as historical figures?

    +Nathan

    • newenglandsun

      Good question. I don’t think they cannot have been historical figures. I know people who believe in evolution and yet also subscribe to monogenesis (N.T. Wright being one actually). What they argue is based on the classical understanding of Christian anthropology of man having a certain sense of a soul and closeness to God that other creatures don’t experience and that the first humans had these exact characteristics.

      However, was there a literal Garden of Eden? Probably not. Do I personally think that the scientific evidence is undermining Creation-Fall-Redemption theology as it has been classically understood by Christians? No. I think that’s going overboard with scientific theories and almost as if saying that science is superior to religion. I affirm the reverse.

      • Ross

        I’m not quite sure how to read your last sentence. The terms “science” and “religion” mean different things to different people.

        The “scientific method” is actually a reasonably precise way of examining the physical World and not really open to much question when done well. Scientific speculation is another ball game altogether. If we contrast “science” with “religion”, assuming there is an “objective reality including God” then Science cannot be in opposition. If the “objective reality” is one where God is not in existence, then science may be able to “prove” that (or not).

        In my mind there is no “science versus religion” dichotomy.

        When it comes to “theories” I.e. “scientific” versus “religious” I’d put them on similar levels.

        The view that “science” is atheist and antithetical to religion is to my mind a poorly informed one by both religious and atheist. I can’t say that science or religion are superior in either direction, it’s like saying that a Kenworth truck is superior to a Toyota sewing machine.

        • newenglandsun

          I am not saying there is a “war” or a “dichotomy” between religion and science. There are a multitude of theories on the relationship between science and religion within the philosophy of science and religion (as the two are related). Some, like my older sister, would argue there is no conflict between religion and science but that science, as opposed to religion, gets answers and is far more interesting (Major League Baseball vs. Pick-up baseball). I am saying that religion is superior in the playing field it plays on in that it provides life answers where science just gives you nature.

          • Ross

            Aha I think I get what you are saying. I think from my perspective “science”, I.e the scientific method is limited really to investigation of the physical, measurable universe and cannot go beyond that so simply put talks about the “how”. “Religion” is a discourse on areas which deal with the “why”.

          • newenglandsun

            If that’s the way you want to look at it then I would say the “why” of life is superior to the “how” of life. I think they both answer a fair mixture of “why” and “how” questions but religion looks for a more superior Truth than science whereas science looks for the truth of nature.

    • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/ Nathan Rinne

      I mean the nature of the evidence… what, in a nutshell is it, and why does it undermine a literal Adam and Eve?

      +Nathan

      • GeeJohn

        The burden of proof appears to me to fall on supporters of Adam and Eve, not the rejectors. Other than the Bible’s account what leads you to think that they were historical? BTW- I’m comfortable with the idea they were, I just think Russell’s Teapot is in play.

        • tearfang

          Burden of proof falls on anyone saying they know something, even saying something can’t be known assumes a burden of proof bc there is a claim that it is known that it can’t be known.

          Really burden of proof argument of the kind everyone besides me has a burden of proof are pointless.
          Far more interesting, is ppl telling what I should believe and explaining why. And specifically in this Christian context this means explaining NT use of Adam and Eve as well as their view of the Genesis account; eg the nessisary theological consequences of a view. Sure someone can claim to not have a view of Adam and Eve or theology and still be a Christian, but then there is no longer any reason to listen to such ppl when they talk about either.

          I like the summary of options Ens laid out, it was a good useful post of his view of the current landscape of evangelical belief.

    • AHH

      Can someone here, in a nutshell, summarize why the evidence makes it impossible to believe in Adam and Eve as historical figures?
      You left out an important qualifier, it reads “… historical figures, at least as described in the Bible.

      The A&E in the Bible (if one interprets early Genesis as literal history) are the only humans, separately created, living 6000 to 10000 years ago, the sole parents of all humans. But multiple lines of evidence (fossil, biochemical, and especially genetic) establish beyond a reasonable doubt that biological humans evolved from other primates and have been around for much longer than that (I say “biological humans” since science can’t address issues of being “human” in the sense of being the image of God).
      The evidence against 2 unique parents can’t be described in a nutshell, sorry. It is based on genetic variation about how small the ancestral human population was at its “bottleneck”, the smallest number. There is uncertainty in the number, so maybe it was one thousand or maybe ten thousand, but certainly not two. This is explained at a modest technical level by Christian geneticist Dennis Venema in this article:
      http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF9-10Venema.pdf
      Venema also has material on the Biologos website explaining this and other related issues, some of which is written at a more popular level:
      http://biologos.org/blog/author/dennis-venema

      Now, as Giberson mentions, there are ways to have a “historical” Adam & Eve that don’t conflict with what science tells us about God’s creation. Many have proposed that Adam & Eve were 2 individuals specially chosen from some ancestral population, who acted as representatives of humanity. Here is one such presentation:
      http://biologos.org/blog/series/models-for-relating-adam-and-eve-with-contemporary-anthropology
      But others would say that, although this addresses the scientific issues and a few other things like Cain’s wife, such speculations take Adam & Eve pretty far away from how they are portrayed in Gen. 2-3.

      I personally am among those who would say that it makes more sense Biblically to make A&E characters in an inspired theological story that tells us what sin is like than to try to make them historical people who don’t match the characters in the story we have.

      • http://littlegreenfootballs.com/pages/freetoken freetoken

        I guess I duplicated your post. But I would like to point out what I think is a moral issue with the Alexander approach of Homo divine – it is strikingly harmonious with racism.

        Essential, the first divinely chosen couple are literally the “chosen people”. Thus anyone in their family tree downward, their descendants, are the “chosen people”, which makes everyone else around the definitely UNchosen.

        • peteenns

          I think you’re right, freetoken. Plus, it is an utterly ad hoc solution that (1) does not really give us a “historical Adam” that is needed in an Augustinian scheme, and (2) is not remotely what the biblical story is about.

          • Tom R.

            Pete, wouldn’t all the scenarios for a “historical Adam” be pretty much ad hoc. I don’t understand the need for these contrived explanations. As you point out they are not remotely what the biblical story is about. Therefore, they don’t seem to be of any use in defending inerrancy.

        • AHH

          I agree that what you point out is a potential problem with Alexander’s approach.
          In fairness, it should be mentioned that there are other approaches to keeping a historic A&E as representative (the term “federal” is often used) heads of the human race that do not have this problem. C. John Collins and John Stott are two reasonable Christians who have held such a view.

          But such approaches, as Pete mentions, are pretty ad hoc and take one far away from the biblical story.

          • peteenns

            Unfortunately, Collins’s position is based on highly idiosyncratic uses of ANE and Second Temple sources.

        • J. Inglis

          Not that I agree with Alexander, but how is his divinely chosen couple any different or any worse than the Bible’s record of God choosing Abraham and his people? Neither view would ultimately exclude others, and both are explanations of how God broke into the history of this world in a particular way with particular people in order to bring all humans into right relationship with him.

      • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/ Nathan Rinne

        AHH,

        Thanks much. Hope to check out those sources.

        +Nathan

    • http://littlegreenfootballs.com/pages/freetoken freetoken

      You can find over on BioLogos a long series by Venema about human genomics and effective population sizes. Beside the other numerous fields of science which have accumulated knowledge over the past couple of centuries which leads to the discrediting of Genesis as an accurate record, genetics illustrates quite well why modern humans do not descend from just two people.

      Put simply, the DNA variation that exists in the population of Homo sapiens today is too much to come from just two people 6000 years ago, or even 60,000 years ago.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Even though I feel generally well-read on creationist issues, you have presented some interesting theories I have never encountered. Thanks for this excellent information.

  • Dr. Donny

    Thanks to Karl for pointing out the wide range of unlikely explanations that apologists have contrived regarding Adam. Interestingly, no one seems to have considered the historical Adam in view of the basic question of when history as it is understood today began to be written down. Most scholars attribute the earliest historical writings to Herodotus and Thucydides, who wrote almost a millennium after the early Iron Age author of Gen. 2-3 (referred to as the ‘Yahwist’ by most mainline biblical scholars). The basic literary features and structure of Gen. 2-3 has numerous elements which place it in the realm of etiological folklore based on existing ancient Near East myths.. A close reading of the text shows logical errors which indicate that the story of the Fall simply could not have occurred in the manner described. However, such errors and inconsistencies were not of concern to oral societies which, as modern cultural anthropology has clearly shown, did not think or reason in the fashion of modern literate people. As many others have shown, reading the Gen. 2-3 narrative absent its ANE context is doomed to failure. No amount of reference to Paul, Augustine, or other patristic writers, none of whom had access to the tremendous amount of knowledge regarding the ancient world available today, is going to surmount this issue.

    • Kevin Thomas

      Tell me more

      • Dr. Donny

        Kevin, the Genesis creation narratives are a complex subject area which, unfortunately, requires one to learn at least the basics of many allied areas. If you can be a bit more specific about what other questions you have, I could provide more directed comments or provide recommended references for you.

    • Tom R.

      Dr. Donny thanks to you for your comment. You have said what I would say but in half the space. These explanations of a “historical” Adam are contrived. I also like the point you made about oral societies not being concerned with inconsistencies in their stories.

    • tearfang

      “A close reading of the text shows logical errors which indicate that the story of the Fall simply could not have occurred in the manner described. However, such errors and inconsistencies were not of concern to oral societies”

      Quite a set of bold claims, is this a result of your own research, or a reference to other sorces where I can learn more about your claims? By logical errors do you mean internal errors of logic. Why are these errors with the fall?

      Are you claiming all oral societies are not concerned with the logic of their stories? If not which ones are and aren’t? And by what method are the ancient Hebrews at the time the genesis stories originated included in that? For that matter when do you place the origin of the genesis narrative?

      • Dr. Donny

        As I pointed out previously, 20th century cultural anthropology clearly demonstrated the tremendous cognitive changes that occur as a society moves from orality to literacy (see Ong’s “Orality and Literacy”, Goody’s “The Domestication of the Savage Mind” and “The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society” as examples). This applies to all societies they studied. The ancient Hebrews were definitely in the oral category when the Gen.2-3 story was composed as shown by its folkloric features. Earliest existing written examples of the Hebrew language are from the 10th century BCE or so and there is still controversy as to when during the dual monarchic era the Israelites (at least the Levite priests) became literate. The large majority of biblical scholars place the Gen. 2-3 written narrative prior to that at the time of the united monarchy. They also place the Gen. 1 story in the exilic period or shortly thereafter and consider the author to be the Priestly (P) source. The logical errors I speak of involve internal logic. As an example, Adam supposedly first learns about evil when he eats the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. However, in Gen. 2:17 Adam is threatened he will “surely die” if he eats from that tree. How is Adam supposed to know what ‘die’ means and that it is evil and undesired before he eats from the tree? And Eve clearly has evil in her mind when she decides to disobey God and eat from the tree. How logically can that evil action occur before the actual acquisition of such knowledge? Doesn’t Eden, as God’s earthly home, contain nothing but good and perfection prior to the Fall? The answer is apparently both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

  • newenglandsun

    “So how does Adam’s sin make the dinosaurs go extinct 70 million years before he existed?”
    I’m not going to say that Dembski’s theories are preposterous. There is a metaphysical idea in philosophy known as “backwards causation” which asserts that future events can have an effect on past or present events. Something which Dembski is qualified to know as having advanced training in philosophy and something that even Giberson should know as well as he too also has training in philosophy. In the meanwhile, I’m aware of this idea after having only taken one course in metaphysics…

    • mstrmc

      Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” period

      Genesis 1:2 “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

      We can millions of years between verse 1 and verse 2

      In the Hebrew translation of the word, “was”, as used in this verse “…the earth was without form,…”; in the original text it reads “became without form…”. This same mistranslation of the word “became”, and turning it into the word “was” is also present in Genesis 2:7. It should read there; “..and man became a living soul.”

      was

      1961 hayah

      hayah (haw-yaw); a primitive root [compare OT:1933]; to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary):KJV – beacon, altogether, be (-come), accomplished, committed, like), break, cause, come (to pass), do, faint, fall, follow, happen, have, last, pertain, quit (oneself-), require, use.

      void
      922

      bohuw (bo’-hoo); from an unused root (meaning to be empty); a vacuity, i.e. (superficially) an undistinguishable ruin:

      KJV – emptiness, void.

      The correct Hebrew translation from the Massoretic Hebrew text for the words, “without form”is “tohu-va bohu” in the Hebrew Strong’s dictionary. So we see that the earth was not “created without form”, but it “became [tohu] without form and void”. Lets go to Strong’s Hebrew dictionary, reference number 1961 to verify the word “was”, that we read in this verse. “Yahah, haw-yaw; a prime root, to exit; to become, or come to pass.” [#1961]

      • peteenns

        Confusing “was” and “became” as you do is an elementary mistake, mstrmc. I know this may sound condescending but I say it for your own good, you are likely doing more harm than good by pursuing the reading of scripture this way. You simply don;t know what you are talking about–if the comments of someone who has been working with Hebrew for 30 years would sway you.

        This will be your last “Hebrew” post I will let pass through here.

  • James

    It sounds like you are about to propose a way forward built on Alexander’s model. Maybe Homo Divinus developed more gradually. My, if Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, we’ve had lots of time to grow into the Imago Dei. And lots of opportunities to fall into sin. Adam could be an archetype of humans and their evolving condition before God. There’s Adam in all of us!

  • Kim Fabricius

    I see that the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (26th November 1865) have already begun …

  • gingoro

    Denis Alexander would not be considered an evangelical in North America although the UK has a looser definition. Some would doubt whether or not he is a Christian eg Uncommon Descent and Dembski. DaveW

  • Mark K

    So all of this is fascinating and all, but for those of us who aren’t really into science… And let me be clear, this post is not off topic or anything. 😉 But Pete, when do we get a hint about your upcoming book? (No, I’m not a homer..I’m not, I’m not). Anyway, it better be soon. You don’t want me to send the cows of Bashan to eat your front lawn.

    • peteenns

      I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

      I should have more clarity on the ms and the title in a couple of weeks.

  • Ross

    Purely speculatively I suppose the fall may not be historical in a physical historical manner for all of mankind, but may have been historically spiritual for each of us, the result of which we all fall from divine grace into the current physical World at the first birth (metaphorically speaking the expulsion from Eden). Each of us is Adam and Eve. Who knows, maybe some do not “fall” but we don’t meet them in the here and now. Maybe the Cosmos is divided into Heaven, where we are not and Earth, where we are. The eschatological future being where this Earth ends, or remains as Hell?

  • http://www.theolivejuice.com Dale Westervelt

    Peter, This is brilliant! It’s packed, broadly informative re. a very precise topic; a profoundly important and increasingly touchy subject. I appreciate your work a lot, and respect your bravery, candor, and use of (genuinely funny) humor. Awesome!

  • mstrmc

    Let the written word using a little original hebrew make clear what were talking about:

    Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man (ADAM Strongs #119) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

    The word “formed” is used [molded as clay] to describe the making of Adam. When man was formed he became a living creature. In the Hebrew it is “eth-ha-adham”, which refers to the particular person “Adam”, (not a generic form for man). The “Ha-Adham” [Adam] is the man that Christ will come forth through. Matthew 1:1-17, and Luke 3:23-38 both give us our documentation that this is true and did come to pass. Paul states in I Corinthians 15:21-23that sin came into the world by the first Adam, but by the second Adam [Christ} all shall be made alive. Christ is the first fruits [to come out of the grave to everlasting life], and then “they that are Christ’s at His coming”. There was death by the first Adam, and salvation by Christ Himself.

    Genesis 2:8 “(And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.”

    In this “Eden” which God had formed, He put “eth-ha adham” [not any man, but “the Adam”]. This is the man “Adam” formed from clay in Genesis 2:7, and not the “male and female” of the races of the sixth day creation of Genesis 1:27-28. Eden is a special place that God made, following the seventh day of rest, for a special man called Adam.

    God first created the wilderness, then the creatures, followed by male and female of all races; and then He rested. This Adam is of the eighth day creation, when God formed Adam, and we will see that when Cain went to the wilderness, he married into the sixth day creation’s offspring.

    Genesis 2:9 “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

    This “Garden of Eden” is a special place other then the fields and plant life of the six days of creation. It may have been a special planting, and when sin entered into the garden of Eden, the plant life as well as Adam were lost.

    There are two trees mentioned here in the midst of the garden. They were the “Tree of Life”, which is Christ, and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, which is Satan. The “Tree of Life” was taken away from man when he was cast from the garden, and that “Tree of Life” is Christ in His saving role. In Revelation 22:2-4 we see when He shall be given back to man, in that eternal city.

    The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is addressed in Ezekiel 31, this is where it identifies this tree in Eden as Satan. Are we talking about trees or men? The trees are symbols used for men.

    Furthermore:

    Genesis 2:15 “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.)”

    Notice that God didn”t take just any of His creation’s, but “Ha-Adham”, the man Adam, to take care of the garden of Eden.

    Genesis 2:16 “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:”

    God supplied all the trees for the enjoyment and nourishment of Adam. There were no limits placed on Adam, except for one.

    Genesis 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

    Verse seventeen is an extension to verse sixteen, and sets the only conditional limit to what Adam could do. The” tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is Satan, and he represents that evil tree today, just as he did in the garden of Eden. Tradition has so distorted this verse that most Christians today believe it was an actual tree spoken of, and in fact they will even tell you it was an apple tree. They do this in ignorance because they have not studied God’s Word.

    The “trees” are symbols for people, and the Bible has identified them. The three trees talked about in verses sixteen and seventeen are the “Knowledge” [Satan], which was man’s ruin; The “cross” in which I Peter 2:24 sets the way for man’s redemption; and “The Tree of Life” which is Christ, and offers man’s regeneration.

    “In the day that thou eatest” gives us the key to understand man’s physical span of life. For Peter gives us the key to this understanding in II Peter 3:8; “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” No man has ever exceeded the thousand year period, not even “Methuselah” who lived “nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.” [Genesis 5:27]

    This is the verse that Satan misquotes to Eve, and when questioned by God, and Eve likewise misquotes it back to God. [Genesis 3:3] God told Adam that the day he touches Satan, “thou shalt surely die”. And later, after the fact, Eve is repeating it back to God; “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Just a little half truth. However Satan takes it one step beyond in verse four; “And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die:” Then Eve believed Satan’s lie. We will get deeper into this in the next chapter.

    Genesis 2:18 “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

    “That the man” refers to a particular man; Adam (eth-ha-adham). This sets Adam apart from the other races created on the sixth day creation. The term “help meet” in the Hebrew text, should be translated “as his counterpart”.

    Genesis 2:19 “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”

    These creatures that God created and brought to Adam, are what we would call domestic animals, or farm animals. God does things in a natural way, and the nature and reason for Adam’s [Ha-adham’s] existence was to till the soil [farming], so we see the need for these animals existed.

    So let’s review the order of the creation physical life on earth to this point:

    First came the trees, grass, and plant life; followed by the fish and the fowl [birds] on the fourth day.

    Second in the order God, created the beasts of the field, or the wild animals on the fifth day.

    Third in the order of creation came male and female, all the races except for Adam {eth-Ha-Adham}, and this was done on the sixth day.

    Fourth in the order of God’s creation was the time on the seventh day for rest.

    Fifth in the order of God’s creation, on the eighth day [or a time beyond] God formed Adam, [eth-Ha-adham] to till the soil.

    The last order of the creation to this point is the creation of all domestic animals, for the use by Adam, and his naming of them.

    Genesis 2:20 “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”

    So though the races had their male and female counterparts, God has given only the domestic animals, and no wife to Adam.. Remember, God’s order for His creation was “kind after kind”.In the term; “..there was not found an help meet for him”, indicates that God never intended for the mixing of the races. This is why “there was not found” a wife for Adam. There is no documentation which spells out the method of God’s creation for the other races, and whatever is said is pure speculation; However, all the races are God’s children, and God loves all his children.

    Genesis 2:21 “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;”

    Adam was made in the image of God, and the angels, however, Adam is about to have surgery to change something.” Does this mean that man is one rib short? Of course not. The word “rib”in the Hebrew text is “Tsela”, and Strong’s Dictionary numbers it # 6763, from the prime root, # 6760; “to curve”.

    What that surgery was, has as many answers as there is people guessing. However, we know that Eve was formed from Adam by the use of surgery.

    Or this curve is DNA double helix taken out of Adam.

    Genesis 2:22 “And the rib (DNA), which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

    We know the man in this verse is Adam, because verse twenty two is part of verse twenty one. God set this woman apart from all other women living then, that were formed through the sixth day creation. It will be through this woman that the Christ child would come [be born], and from her daughters.

    The documentation connecting Eve [this woman] and the Christ child is given in Luke 3:23-38.The only way your soul will obtain eternal life is through that Christ child, and through His shed blood on the cross, and our repentance and acceptance of Him .

    Genesis 2:23 “And Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

    There were no women in the world that was [the first earth age], for all souls were the same in the first earth age. The same angelic body form that the angels have in this earth age, is the form that our souls had in the first earth age. There were no females, for all souls of that age are referred to as “sons”, or in the masculine sense, by God.

    • peteenns

      For what it’s worth, “using a little original Hebrew” doesn’t really solve the problem and won’t be convincing to those who know Hebrew, especially those who use Hebrew professionally.

      • mstrmc

        I doubt anyone here ever researched close enough to let the narrative simply explain as I posted. Else there would not be such doubt and confusion. Most like myself, at a point back in time, absorbed all the commentary that has been brought forth over centuries and made up their minds it will never be understood. So we get apples and snakes and fruit trees. 6095`atsah
        Tree…..aw-tsaw’a primitive root; properly, to fasten (or make firm), i.e. to close (the eyes):–shut.6096`atseh
        aw-tseh’from ‘`atsah’ (6095); the spine (as giving firmness to the body):–backbone

        Seed….2232zara`
        zaw-rah’a primitive root; to sow; figuratively, to disseminate, plant, fructify:–bear, conceive seed, set with sow(-er), yield.2233zera`
        zeh’-rahfrom ‘zara`’ (2232); seed; figuratively, fruit, plant, sowing-time, posterity:–X carnally, child, fruitful, seed(-time), sowing- time.

        • peteenns

          What you are doing here is not “research” but scouring Strong’s and producing creative midrashim. You are also committing an exegetical error by relying on etymologies and words rather than syntax and context.

          You can believe what you want, of course.

          • mstrmc

            Subject and object, simple reading skills. I’m sorry you object. You can keep your notions. I cannot change minds but only drop a few seeds and hope that they grow.