Pete Enns Responds

Pete Enns Responds August 18, 2012

The following response by Pete Enns to Hans Madueme was first posted on Pete’s blog  at Patheos (see Pete’s post for some good discussion) and we are using it with permission for our Saturday Book Review slot. Confession: I know Hans, he is an M.D. and has been in my home for a chat, and I’m glad he finished his PhD at TEDS and is now teaching at Covenant. Readers of this blog will know that I stand with the “creationary evolutionists,” think the Adam issue demands very careful work, do not think that appeals to a high view of Scripture makes the Adam problem disappear,  etc… Now to Pete’s response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 2, “Doctrine of Scripture.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 3, “Natural Science and Historical Criticism.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

portion of Gilgamesh epic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 4, “Further Theological Concerns.”

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

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

Section 5, “A Methodological Aside”

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

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


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

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

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

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  • Nathan

    2 words:

    Pete. Enns.

  • Thank you, Pete.

    I can relate to Madueme – he is in a hard place (worsened by the fact that his employment is now dependent on his thinking).

    I realized there was a lot more on the line than simply coming to terms with evolution – it would put fundamentals / the very foundation of my long held beliefs, upon which I had built my faith, on the line. Was I ready to reconsider everything? What were the implications? I realized it was nothing less than a seismic, complete paradigm shift. I felt like I was standing at the edge of an abyss – everything would have to shift if I took one more step forward. It was terrifying. And for a time the fear paralyzed me. I couldn’t go where I could see the implications were about to take me. So much to let go of . . .

    But all truth is God’s truth, and there won’t be a disconnect.

    Ultimately, the historical context of Genesis couldn’t be denied.
    Understanding Genesis 1-11 as worldview, as theology, rather than as science or history allowed me to take the final step. Dissonance resolved.

    Thank you for your commitment to gracious dialogue, and for your tireless efforts to keep moving forward in this immensely important work.

  • Peter,

    I must apologize for my response – not having read your book or even Madueme’s response to it. So let me just confine my remarks to your first critique of Madueme:

    “(1) An underestimation, devaluing, and/or minimizing of the impact of biblical studies and/or the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution for an evangelical theology of Scripture.”

    The entire Bible, implicitly or explicitly, requires that we put God’s Word above all other words:

    • Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Romans 3:4)

    • Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. (1 Cor. 4:6)

    • To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Isaiah 8:20)

    Even more explicitly, we are instructed to subject all truth claims to the scrutiny of Scripture:

    • The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

    Everything must be judged in light of Scripture. Meanwhile, it would seem that you prefer to subject Scripture to “the impact of [critical] biblical studies and/or the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution.”

    [Comment edited… I apologize to Pete Enns for missing this comment today as I was tied up most of the day.]

  • I have to say that I favor the argument of Peter Enns here. I think biblical hermeneutics/exegesis must always have some precedence over tradition and systematic theology. And I don’t at all understand a faith that can’t adapt its understanding and reading of a text to information that is suggestive both in helping understand the nature of the text, and from that, to better get toward its meaning.

  • Philip Donald

    This is terribly simplistic, and is not a support of Augustinian dogmatics, but there had to be a first human male and a first human female, evolution or not. Call them Adam and Eve. For heaven sakes, whether Genesis refers to two people in relation to Israel or not, does not stop there being a first pair somewhere along the line that bred.

    Also, nobody with a Christian worldview denies sin, and someone had to sin first, so call that the original sin. But no evangelical takes the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin seriously, because if they did, they would have to affirm Mary’s Immaculate Conception (i.e. her conception, not the conception of Jesus) and her sinlessness. If Augustine’s concept of Original Sin is correct, then Mary had to be sinless in order for Jesus to be sinless, otherwise sin would have been passed from Mary to Jesus.

    People get there knickers in a knot about half-baked theological positions. If they’re going to believe traditional theological positions, they had better get back into the Roman Catholic Church (which may not be a bad thing) because surely if we’re going to go along the lines of traditional interpretation, they hold the strongest position.

  • Val

    It took 400 years from Galileo’s statement of a heliocentric solar system to full acceptance. The church took longer than mainstream society to agree to it. The arguments were the same – Bible trumps human knowledge, slippery slope, literal interpretation of Joshua’s sun halting (why would God write the story in a non-factual way?), the evidence for earth movement was weak – we can feel earthquakes when the earth moves, so why can’t we feel ourselves hurtling through space? Jonathan Edwards came up with that gem.

    How did the “absolute literalism of scripture” work out for the church in this case? How will it work out in light of genetics?

    Genesis also points out humans were given dominion over this earth – by studying things on this earth, we can have dominion over some of it. Genetics is a hugely powerful tool for good or bad. It would be nice to see more Christian geneticists in such a potentially explosive area of study – it can go good or bad here. If all the Christians are avoiding biology, and genetics particularly, due to a forced dichotomy between faith and knowledge, the pioneering geneticists may take us down paths all of us will later regret. The Holy Spirit can go everywhere humans set their feet.

  • I really need to read “The Evolution of Adam” in order to fully understand Enns’ argument and not straw man him. However, my gut reaction is that Enns is doing exactly the same thing as Madueme when he places a de facto priority on original intent over later Biblical interpretations.

    He essentially critiques Madueme of being dogmatic about placing priority on Paul’s usage of Adam as a historical character and not taking Genesis on its own terms. But Enns does the exact same thing in rejecting Paul’s usage of Adam and being dogmatic about Genesis (and any other text in the Hebrew Bible) being read on “its own terms.” Whatever that means.

    I think there is a clear option besides the more “liberal” rejection of Adam as an historical figure, and the “conservative” position of Adam being the original first man. A view of Adam as an historical figure, but the first “generated” man bearing Imago Dei holds both theological/historical accuracy in tension, and is a tenable position from Biblical/scientific data.

  • unapologetic catholic

    “Arguing for the importance of a historical Adam because of what you might lose theologically without him is not an argument.”

    That is correct.

    “I recognize the force of the mainstream evolutionary consensus, and I know that it raises tough questions for the viability of a historical Adam and the doctrine of the fall. But I am constrained by Scripture, tradition, and weighty theological considerations.”

    I appreaciate it when a writir candidly admits this. It ends the dsicussion. There is no sense is writing anything more. If that’s what an apologist believes, then that the apologist should just say so up front. It will save everybody a lot of time beacuse no evidece at all will be satisfactory to such a person.

    Now, the problem is that the evidence that there was not a single universal ancestral couple is fairly conclusive. It is very plain that none of the aplogists take the science seriously and are apallignly ignorant of the sciecne. Jus to pick one example–“there had to be a first human male and a first human female, evolution or not”” is a fundamental misunderstanding of biology. It’s flatly wrong in the same way that 2+2=5 is flatly wrong. (I’m not critical of the person making this assertion–it’s a common mistake–but a mistake nevertheless.)

    I cannot overemphasize how damaging to religion is the combination of (1) contraint by (your peculiar interpretation of) Scripture; and (2) incorrect information regarding the actual science.

    In comparison, the damge to religion done by “the God Delusion” and similar books, is miniscule.

    Proof texting is particularly destructive.

  • RJS

    Maxwell Mooney,

    How is Pete doing the same thing in placing a defacto priority on original intent? I think Pete feels that Paul thought Adam was a unique individual, used this understanding to make a point about Christ, but Christ is the center of Paul’s argument. It is, in many ways, an incidental use of Adam. Paul was describing the Christ of his experience and the experience of his contemporaries (Peter, James, Barnabas, …). Paul is known to place novel interpretations on scripture to present his view of Christ (“Abraham’s “seed” being one example).

    The position you prefer, with Adam as historical, although not the unique sole first man is possible – but it arises from theological considerations. The discussion we need to have about this is a theological discussion. The biggest questions for me concerning the typical evangelical theological understanding of sin and death arise from consideration of Enoch and Elijah, among other things.

  • AHH

    Maxwell Mooney @7,

    RJS sort of beat me to it, but it is incorrect to say that in his book Enns is “rejecting Paul’s use of Adam”. Enns is interpreting Paul’s use of Adam in a non-Augustinian way. The position taken is that, as with other places in Scripture, Paul is focused on making points about Christ and, as was typically done by Jews of his day, grabbed onto OT traditions and readings to make his point, sometimes in ways that would make modern OT scholars cringe. So it is not “rejecting” Paul’s teaching, just saying that Paul’s teaching was about what Jesus had done, and that the Adam tradition Paul drew on to make the point should not be considered something that Scripture is “teaching”. Putting it in the same category as several other strange OT interpretations and teachings (Enns lists some in his book) that Paul used in making points about Jesus.

  • Nathan

    This article was incredibly illuminating for me wi respect to e idea of Scripture as formal principle.

    It seems to me that when evangelicals say that Scripture has priority they don’t actually mean Scripture qua scripture, bit they think they do. Rather, they are invoking what Enns describes as “the dogmatic tradition that flows from a “proper” reading of the text”, thus conflating a hermeneutical tradition with the thing itself.

    It seems to me that this bears out the valuable critique of the early Emerging Church movement and explains the tantrum-y responses and smack down they received.

    The fast and loose use of the idea of Scripture was really a political rhetorical stick (sincerely wielded, but wielded nonetheless). And it’s been exposed for what it is within the one Christian stream that still, in some quarters, bases it’s credibility on the assertion that they are the keepers of the only faithful view/use of Scripture.

    Enns’ simple description here has put a lot more into perspective for me than just the particular issue between him and Madueme.

  • AHH

    And I love Enns’ line about studies of what the Bible says (in context) being trumped from above by dogmatic tradition:
    We are Protestants, after all.

  • Andrew

    “Arguing for the importance of a historical Adam because of what you might lose theologically without him is not an argument. At root it is an expression of fear.”

    Dr. Enns nails it on this one.

    This, by the way, summarizes my entire outlook back when I considered myself more of a fundamentalist. My thinking went something like this: The Bible was inerrant because I needed my life to be held to a perfect external standard; without an inerrant Bible, my life wouldn’t make any sense. QED.

  • Trin,

    I fear that your “dissonance” has only been pushed back to a further corner where its costs are not yet apparent. There is no way that you can separate the theology from the history of the Bible. For one thing, you can’t separate the history of the Cross from the theology of the Cross.

    We find this marriage between the two in many places. God often based His claim for Israel’s obedience and love upon His HISTORICAL beneficence towards them.

    Jesus based His theology of marriage and divorce upon God’s historical work in Genesis 1 and 2:

    • “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ {Gen. 1} and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife {Gen. 2}, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

    If God hadn’t actually and historically “joined [them] together,” then Jesus’ teaching against divorce crumbles. The conclusion depends upon the historical premise.

    When you separate the Bible’s historical teachings from the theological – the physical from the spiritual – you also undermine the basis of apologetics (the tangible reasons that make faith sustainable}. You leave the Bible’s theological assertions hanging in the air without any evidential support.

    This is because we prove and provide evidence for the intangible by means of the tangible (the physical). He proved that He came from God (the spiritual) by rising from the dead (the physical):

    • After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    Jesus said God instituted marriage. We all agree that this is what Genesis 2 teaches. This does not hinge on the historicity of Adam and Eve – but it does hinge on the historicity of men and women. Jesus’s teaching on divorce most certainly doesn’t hinge on the historicity of Adam and Eve.

    Connecting the historicity of Adam and Eve with the historicity of resurrection is unnecessary, and causes great problems. We believe in the resurrection on the testimony of the Apostles and the early church recorded in the New Testament. I believe that scripture is inspired – but the belief in the resurrection doesn’t actually hinge on the inspiration of scripture. We believe many historical events based on the testimony of contemporaries without postulating inerrancy or inspiration.

  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Tim 3:16-17

    Oddly enough the list of things scripture is good for doesn’t include learning history and science. And even more strangely, it doesn’t say it’s for equipping us to defend our existing doctrines. Funny, that almost reads as if it’s saying that scripture is for equipping us for good works and learning to be righteous rather than so we can better wage war with the world. Perhaps someone can explain to me what the basis is for reading the entire bible as history or science could be? I can’t find the verse that says to do that.

    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. – Romans 1:20

    This verse seems to me to be saying that what God has made is so closely connected with Him that simply by looking at it, men can know him. So wouldn’t denying the testimony of creation be a form of blasphemy?

    I just don’t see how it’s faithful to deny the clear testimony of God’s own creation by saying, “well, I read your book and the way I understood it, it said you created everything in 6 days without evolution.”

  • I have read neither Enn’s book nor Madueme’s review, so am just commenting on what’s posted here and the follow up comments. A couple of thoughts:

    1. When we frame our arguments as “Science says A, the Bible says B” I think we use the word ‘science’ too simplistically. There’s a level of science that is demonastrably true in the here and now and we can have no quibbles with it. Gravity accelerates an object at 9.8 meters per second, per second. Any one of us with a stopwatch, a tall enough building and a tennis ball can go prove this to be true and none of us can prove it to be not true. The commenter in #8 states that “the evidence that there was not a single universal ancestral couple is fairly conclusive” and then goes on to put that statement on the same level as 2+2=4. The evidence for two and two equaling four is not ‘fairly conclusive’, it is empirically true.

    I think it is critical that we make this distinction acknowledge that there is another level of science that takes what is empirically true, that which we can measure and demonstrate in the immediate, and extrapolates from that data to a point in the past or the future–we can see the fossil record, the geologic data and from these things form conclusions based on reasoned thought, but this science is far, far different from that which can be demonstrated empirically in the here and now. Seems to me that this type of science is a bit like the hermenuetics we apply to the Scriptures–at this level of science, where we are projecting forwards or backwards from the hard data, we are interpreting and drawing conclusions from the data that we can see/touch/measure much like we interpret and draw conclusions from the Scriptures which we hold in our hands. To that end, when dealing with this level of science I think we can affirm that Enn’s statement relative to Biblical interpretation applies to the interpretive side of science:

    “The fact is: we don’t know and we can’t be sure whether our interpretive conclusions are correct…”

    When the first aircraft were being designed, their developers drew extensively on the data they had proven regarding aerodynamics, horsepower to weight ratios etc. and came up with designs that they said empirically and scientifically MUST fly. In some cases their peers reviewed these designs and strongly defended their it-has-to-fly conclusions. Only they didn’t. They never got off the ground and unproven scientific conclusions cost men their lives. Only when the first aircraft actually flew were the designer’s conclusions from the data proven to be true and thus move those conclusions from the level of ‘interpretive science’ to demonstrably true science.

    2. What then of miracles? Even if the age of the earth were empirically demonstrable and a single Adam demonstrably proven impossible, would that rule out the possibility that the Biblical account could still be true. After all, science can demonstrably prove that a man cannot walk on water and yet the Bible says that one did (well two, if we count Peter’s few faltering steps). If I am to understand the intent of some here, this would mean that to believe the account of Scripture about the incident on the lake would be folly when science proves that such a story is impossible. I work in the field of aviation and completely buy the demonstrated science that shows me that nothing will fly unless God’s laws of physics and aerodynamics are completely adhered to–but I am completely willing to believe that God suspended those laws and had Jesus ascend into heaven. Could he not have done the same thing when it comes to creation and the first humans?

    3. Finally, I take issue with Enn’s inference (1st paragraph) that Madueme’s conclusions are shaped by the tenets of the denomination that pays his salary. I do not know the man, and this is entirely within the realm of possibility, but it is also possible that Madueme comes to his conclusions on their own merits and it seems like as Christ’s followers we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Leading off with that inference is a cheap way of undermining Madueme’s personal credibility and his conclusions from the outset–Enn’s (and the rest of us) would have been better served to jump directly to engaging the reviewer’s arguments head on (which he does admirably in the remainder of the post.)

  • Elizabeth

    May I just say that I am so grateful that Peter Enns and other dedicated, intelligent, godly people are doing THIS hard work at THIS time. Such research and writing is so helpful to the church and glorifies God.

    That’s all.

  • @Daniel (#14)

    Key in our biblical understanding are 1) genre, and 2) original context. What did the author intend the original hearers to understand? What was he saying to them? Given the surrounding cultures of the ANE at the time of Moses is not only relevant, it is essential for understanding his message in Genesis.

    Even given a non-historical, non-scientific understanding of the Genesis creation story, that does not make it untrue. As with other scriptures, God’s eternal truths are there – and they are not dependent on a literal understanding. The *truths* of Genesis 1-3 stand regardless of 6000 or 13.7billion year old cosmos. The fact just happens to be that God has left enough evidence in his cosmos to tell us one and not the other. That doesn’t negate the *eternal truths*. We don’t need a literal 6 days, nor an Adam and Eve for those truths to hold.

    We know enough about hyperbole, metaphor, personification and all the rest to understand that God isn’t a mother hen, the earth isn’t sitting on pillars, and there isn’t a firmament above the earth – but the bible says all those things. Why do we not take them literally? Genre. Figures of speech. The same thing is happening in Genesis (OT scholars, e.g. Waltke and Walton, make the case that this is true for Gen.1-11, not merely the creation story).

    Historical narrative (gospels, Acts) needs to be accepted as such. To equate the need for a literal view of creation or else the resurrection falls is nonsensical.

    Scripture is God’s love letter to us, his self-revelation – it tells us who He is, of his establishing his kingdom on earth, and it tells us how to live our lives in his world and in a relationship with him. It is not a physics text, nor a biology text. It is not a lot of things. In losing sight of genre and context we’ve lost our way. Time for us all to find it again.

  • Trin,

    Thanks for your gentle response to my invasive challenge. While we both agree that sound interpretation must attempt to recover the original meaning of Gen. 1-11, you approach it with a lot of assumptions that are not really part of the text:

    1. That Moses (or whomever you might suppose wrote Genesis) was writing from an ANE worldview.
    2. That the Bible is unconcerned about history, biology and even the physical world.
    3. Instead, Genesis 1-11 is merely “God’s love letter to us.”

    These are powerful assumptions that will determine the way we look at the text. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is possible to approach the text without assumptions or paradigms. The question then becomes, “Which paradigm enables us to see the text as it was intended?”

    I think that the most reliable paradigm, if the Bible is truly the Word of God, is the light shed on Genesis from the rest of Scripture, namely that of the NT. Therefore, if Jesus, Peter, Paul and John regarded Adam, the Fall, the Garden and creation accounts as historical, this should take precedence over other considerations, especially when the theology they derive from these accounts depends upon the historicity of Genesis.

    For another example, Peter reasons that God means business about a future judgment. He cites His past (historical) judgments as evidence – the flood and Sodom (2 Peter 2:4-9). If these accounts were merely parabolic, then we’d have no reason to believe that the future judgment is any more than parabolic.

    This is really a big matter. If we are going to deny the historicity of Genesis, then we are to also deny everything that later inspired writers derived from Genesis. If the historicity of Genesis 1-11 – the foundation for subsequent theology – is discarded, then the house built upon this foundation will also eventually be discarded.

  • Trin,

    Please bear with me one more time:

    I think it hard to argue that suddenly the genre of Genesis 1-11 radically changes once we arrive at the historical Genesis 12.

    It’s also hard to argue that the genealogies of Gen. 5, 10, 11 are non-historical, but then they later are magically transformed into history.

  • Daniel, with all respect, what is the basis for believing that:

    1. Moses or whomever authored Genesis wasn’t working from an ANE perspective, since Moses clearly lived in the ANE and was even raised in an Egyptian palace?

    2. That the bible is interested in science.

    3. That all stories in the bible must be understood to be historical stories.

    4. How you explain the abundance of serious, devout practicing Christians who hold a high view of scripture AND reject reading Genesis as a literal explanation of creation without having their faith fall apart?

  • Oh – and also if you could explain the basis for accepting miracles while dismissing the idea that the bible “magically” changes genres. Clearly God is unbound by rules. Why can he walk on water but can’t or wouldn’t use a variety of genres to communicate his truths to us? Isn’t this unnecessarily limiting God?

  • Enns writes:

    “Madueme challenges my suggestion that Paul can be wrong about Adam historically but still correct theologically.”

    Kind of like the way others have challenged the assumption that the New Testament writers can be wrong about the historicity of the resurrection of Christ but still correct about all the theological implications they derive from it?

    (File under: “Well, d’uh!”)

  • Jeremy

    “The problems I see with Madueme’s thinking pervade the entire review and rest on the core assertion that his dogmatic structure is the first and final court of appeal for handling difficult matters of biblical interpretation, one of which is Adam vis-a-vis evolution.” Pete is not willing to say that Madueme just disagrees with me primarily exegetically and biblically because in Pete’s world that could NEVER happen because Pete has come to a conclusion that he thinks everyone should. There is a reason Madueme put Scripture at the top of his list in his conclusion as reasons he disagrees with Enns, but Enns retorts as he typically does, “may it never be!” It is never possible for someone to arrive at a conclusion and then join a PCA sponsored school in which you are in agreement with? Pete just can’t allow for someone to think differently apart from dogmatic considerations. He has to go for that added jab of dogmatic pressure. It’s old. Just get past that for crying out loud.

  • Rebecca (#22),

    Thanks for your questions. To answer generally, I think that it is unjustified to impose the current critical consensus upon Biblical interpretation, like “the Genesis writer was influenced by ANE worldview in his writing of Genesis.”

    Such an assumption is both needless and imposes its own foreign influence upon interpretation.

    Regarding the Bible’s lack of interest in the physical (scientific) world, there are just countless examples that the Bible doesn’t divorce itself from such concerns.

    I would certainly agree with that many of the Bible stories – namely, Jesus’ parables – need not be interpreted as historical. However, when there are sound interpretive reasons to regard an account as historical, we shouldn’t allow our philosophies to overrule these reasons.

    Regarding #4: Truth shouldn’t be determined by the principle of “majority rules.” The majority seems to want to follow the trends and public respectability. However, Jesus warned:

    **Luke 6:26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

  • Is anyone else confused by this statement: “Arguing for the importance of a historical Adam because of what you might lose theologically without him is not an argument. At root it is an expression of fear.”

    What? What other method of arguing for the importance of some tenet of faith is there? This is exactly how Paul argues for the importance of the resurrection in 1 Cor 15:17. And for goodness’ sake, this is how the church has always determined the importance of theological beliefs. Why is the resurrection more important than the timing of the rapture? Precisely because so much more is at stake in the first than in the second.

    Someone help me here. What am I missing?

  • Peter G,

    I strongly agree with you. However, I think that Peter E is convinced that what we what theologically want is disconnected from what should be of prime importance – the interpretation of the text.

    Ironically, when Peter E and others disparage the historicity of Adam, they cannot do so on an exegetical basis. Instead, they appeal to their understanding of “science.”

  • Rebecca #23,

    Theoretically I agree with you: “Why can he walk on water but can’t or wouldn’t use a variety of genres to communicate his truths to us? Isn’t this unnecessarily limiting God?”

    However, you have to make your case from the text itself and not merely make oxymoronic claims like TEs do: “Well, God can create through NATURAL selection and RANDOM mutation.”

  • AHH

    Peter G. @27,

    Enns probably did not word that very well, but I think what he is labeling as the problem is not the motivation for the argument (as his “because” would suggest) but the content of the argument.
    Enns is saying that “a non-literal Fall threatens my theological system” is not in itself a reasoned argument against a non-literal interpretation of the Fall. It may provide one with motivation for taking a position, but it is not a substantive argument for the position.
    Does that help?

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann (#28, 29)

    Pete’s argument against the historicity of Adam has far more to do with exegesis and ANE studies than with science.

    And be careful of the use of the term “oxymoron” – after all casinos and lotteries create profit through random events. A desired outcome can most certainly be designed using such mechanisms.

  • AHH

    I would add to RJS’s oxymoron observation (#31) that God creating through “natural” processes is only an oxymoron if one takes the position that God is not sovereign over nature.

  • RJS,

    Evidently you are using the terms “natural” and “random” in a way that evolutionists entirely reject. While you suggest that God directs and controls through randomness – like a casino which relies on a “randomness” determined by the odds – the evolutionist uses these terms to designate UNDIRECTED processes.

    It seems that there is something disingenuous about this. When the TE talks to the evolutionist, he/she uses the same terms but assigns a different meaning to them. However, when the TE advertises his wares to the Christian, suddenly “randomness” and “natural” take on creationist overtones to appeal to the choir. If I am wrong, please link me to a discussion where the TE is open with the evolutionist about what the TE means.

  • Thanks, Daniel (@28). I admit to being somewhat perplexed by Enns’s insistence on working with the contextual meaning of the Bible when combined with his dismissal of what Paul believed to be true. As I asked him on his blog, I don’t know why he doesn’t save his energy on Genesis and just tell conservatives that it doesn’t matter whether Gen 1-3 is historical since it could be just as wrong as Paul was.

    Thanks, AHH (@30). If that’s what Enns meant (and it may be) then it seems like a misrepresentation of Madueme’s position. It seems pretty obvious that Madueme is not worried about something threatening his pet theological system. He’s worried about something threatening salvation, as the last three sentences of his essay show. That is both a motivation and a substantive argument—just as it was for Paul (1 Cor 15:17). If arguments about what threatens salvation are off the table I’m left wondering What’s left?

    BTW, Enns never does say why we can believe the resurrection as a historical event.

  • RJS,

    One other thought. Although the casino can make money on the combo of randomness and the odds, I wonder whether God can do the same with randomness and the physical laws.

    You might claim that God can do anything. However, even He has limitations. He can’t fit a square into a round hole, sin, or perhaps even violate the laws of logic (??). Perhaps then, even God might not be able to bring forth the universe and life and the species through merely undirected physical laws.

    More importantly, I don’t see a wit of Scriptural evidence that He has done this. To insist that He has done so (against Scripture) for the sake of vindicating evolution in the eyes of Christians might be incurring His wrath (Job 42:6-8), and I suspect that this is the case.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann (#35)

    I don’t see a wit of Scriptural evidence that He has done this.

    I don’t see any modern science at all in scripture – I don’t think I should. But here is really where our primary disagreement comes in to play.

    (#33) – We prefer the term evolutionary creation because all Christians are creationists, our disagreement concerns God’s method and what scripture teaches about method. I don’t buy the metaphysical assumptions that are attached to scientific observations by non-Christians and it is unfair of you or anyone else to claim this is in some sense dishonest or contradictory. The psalmist says that God knit him in the womb … Ps. 139:13-16. I see no conflict between this and the “natural” processes of fetal development. Nor do I see a conflict between the action of God and “natural” processes in evolutionary creation.

  • AHH

    Peter G. @34,

    I suspect Enns might say (and I might agree) that Madueme is coming too close to equating “threatening his pet theological system” with “threatening salvation”.
    I would hope Madueme is not saying, for example, that the salvation of the Eastern Orthodox is in question because they do not take an Augustinian view of the Fall.

    But this does get at a central issue in the discussion: what is essential and what is nonessential. Is Augustine’s model for how we came to be sinful (as opposed to the simple fact of universal human sinfuless) an essential part of the Christian faith on the same level as the Resurrection?
    Madueme may think that it is (I would disagree) — I have not read his review but if he does not make a case for the essential-ness of that position (as opposed to simply asserting it as part of his system) then I think Enns’ criticism on the point is legitimate.

  • DRT

    Daniel Mann, I will try regarding the randomness and undirectedness chain.

    If I set a bottle of a substance (say alcohol) that is hygroscopic and set it out in the air it will absorb water out of the air (the definition of hygroscopic). It is determined by the make up of the substance and the surroundings. If I decrease the amount of water in the air quite significantly, the alcohol will not absorb water until it runs into the water vapor. It is a matter of chance, is undirected and random. There will be some time before the water vapor in the air comes in contact with the alcohol, but it will eventually given an appropriate amount of time.

    This process is natural and my natural random events. But, I directed the end effect by setting up the initial parameter and design.

    So too with creation. When god created the universe as it has been created the environment that had to happen, it is only a matter of time. He put the constituents in place for galaxies, solar systems, planets and the creation of life. It is only a matter of time. That is the nature of creation. It is natural for this set of constituents with the physical laws that we have.

    Of course that view opens the possibility that life will evolve, much like our own, elsewhere.

    That also opens the question that I have heard quite a bit, that being that people say if you were to replay the story of evolution it would not turn out anything like it turned out this time. But new analysis says that that view may be wrong and that our outcome is probably more embedded in the nature of our reality than those initial thoughts indicated. The range of possible outcomes is probably less open than many had thought.

  • AHH, what exactly is Enns’s criticism on that point? I’m still not sure I know what it is?

    You should read the article for yourself, of course, but I don’t see Madueme connecting salvation to Augustinianism but to a historical Adam. And since Paul connects Adam to the resurrection (1 Cor 15:21-22), which we all agree is crucial to salvation, then this is surely a legitimate move with Biblical (not merely systematic) warrant.

    In any case, I totally agree that the central issue is about what is and is not essential to salvation. And if we’re agreed that these essentials, whatever they are, then we’ve moved well beyond Enns’s perplexing statement.

  • Dan

    Pete Enns is awesome.

  • RJS,

    “Ps. 139:13-16. I see no conflict between this and the “natural” processes of fetal development. Nor do I see a conflict between the action of God and “natural” processes in evolutionary creation.”

    No Christian would deny that God uses “natural” processes to accomplish His purposes. After all, He uses the sunlight to grow the food by which He blesses us. However, you improperly offer Psalm 139 in support of “evolutionary creationism” as evidence that this is ALL that He uses. Why restrict God to merely formulaic physical processes???

  • DRT, (#38)

    Here are just some of the problems I see with your thesis:

    1. You are describing an entropy-consistent process, while the creation of life, the cell, DNA, consciousness, freewill – all require entropy-transcendent interventions.

    2. There is no reason to Deistically limit God to work ONLY through “natural” laws. If He created them – and I think that you are willing to admit that – why would you limit God to what He has created initially! If He answers prayer, is He restricted in doing so by “naturalistic” processes?

    3. Most problematically, Scripture tells us to “not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6, 2 Cor. 10:4-5; Isaiah 8:20). Evolution goes light-years beyond Scripture, even contradicting it in many ways, undermining confidence and the clarity of the Faith.

    And so, why is this evolutionary model being hawked as it is? Will it make us better Christians? Is it more exegetically based? Will it please the Lord, or is it instead promoted to show the world that we are not narrow-minded fundies?

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    I am not saying that natural processes are all that God uses. Nor am I using this passage in Psalm 139 as a defense of evolutionary creationism. I am using this passage as a defense against your charge that I, and other “TEs”, hold views that are best described as oxymoronic.

  • RJS,

    I fail to see how Psalm 139 argues in favor of “RANDOM mutation” or even “NATURAL selection.” From an evolutionist’s point of view, these terms entirely rule out any divine hand, while Psalm 139 is all about a divine hand. The theory of evolution does not allow any room for intelligent design.

    If TE is going to have any respect or credibility, it must take a consistent stand with both evolutionists and Christians and risk censure from the evolutionary community – the very thing it won’t do.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    No one (or almost no one) takes a “TE” view to avoid censure from the “evolutionary community.” Respect and credibility are not really the issue. We take such a position because we know – as scientists and as individuals – how overwhelmingly strong the evidence for evolution is. We also feel this doesn’t require abandonment of the Christian faith. There is plenty of censure that comes simply with being a Christian.

    Psalm 139 is all about divine hand, and we all believe that this is consistent with the so-called “natural” mechanisms of fetal development.

    I likewise believe, along with other “TEs” that divine hand is consistent with creation through evolution.

    You want to box me into a corner so you can eliminate my position … QED with a fluorish. But I will not be boxed into your corner. I have thought about all of these issues quite extensively.

  • RJS,

    I can understand why you feel that I am trying to “box you into a corner.” I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but you are convinced that there is “overwhelmingly strong…evidence for evolution” and feel that you are doing a service by promoting it among Christians. Meanwhile, I am convinced that it is only one of many philosophies that will eventually be discarded, but this one will take many well-meaning and highly educated Christians with it.

    As a result of trying to marry Darwin to their Christian faith, they admittedly have become uncertain about both the faith and its interpretation. I find this deeply troubling.

  • RJS


    Fine – argue your position. But don’t do it by misrepresenting my position.
    Argue against my position where you think it is weak, but don’t do it by turning my position into something else to facilitate your argument.

    But don’t do it on this thread – this one is too stale. (I am not going to continue the discussion here.)

  • CGC

    Hi Daniel,
    I hold onto my Christian faith tenatiously and have a looser grip on evolution. God governs my life, not a certain view of origins. Whether one holds onto progressive creationism, creation-science, or whatever, people should be willing to go where the strongest evidence goes (if Christians are really in pursuit of truth as they often say they are).

    You seem quite certain that as science progresses, that evolution is more going to lose ground rather than gain ground. Anyone working in the sciences, like RJS, knows the gaps are being filled and evolution is actually gaining momemtum, not losing momentum. Can it be that the church is losing ground for several different reasons, and one of them is over this issue of the natural sciences? Can it be that our young people are taught a young earth creationism or a kind of ‘God of the philosophers’ worldview and find that science and modern philosophy discredits both of these more often than not.

    I think you are correct about your observations of a growing skepticism among Christians in their faith but this is just as problematic from the theological right as the theological left; from Christians who hide from science to those who engage it. We no longer know how to do Christian theology much less have the kind of faith that grows and becomes stronger, not weaker in the postmodern and scientific world we find ourselves in today.

    So here are two recommendations: if you want to read a deep yet amazing work on how to do Christian theology in a world dominated by modern science, read Andrew Louth’s “Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology.” I’m sure you will like how Louth has a way of putting science in it’s place. The other book is a much easier and shorter read by Alan Roger’s called, “The Evidence for Evolution.” Rogers is a high school science teacher who saw a growing problem among his students who knew what they believed in, evolution, but did not know why they believed in it (sound familiar, like many people in the church in regards to their Christian beliefs?). Rogers short book is very well documented and lays out very simply the evidences for evolution.