A Letter, Concerning The Evolution of Adam (hint, it’s a parody)

A Letter, Concerning The Evolution of Adam (hint, it’s a parody) August 12, 2013

To Some Early Evangelical Reviewers of The Evolution of Adam:

These are the words of the author, who wrote the book, whose words are contained therein, and who endeavored to speak clearly on many complex matters in the space allotted after cost analysis by Baker Publishing House (of blessed name).

I know your deeds, that you are zealous to protect the faith that was once delivered to the saints, that you are concerned to maintain faithfulness to God, and are therefore cautious about entertaining too quickly ideas that are new to you or otherwise freak you out. In this, your motives are good and sincere.

But I have one thing against you: You have not yet left your first love, the theology with which you are familiar, that gives you comfort, which you have been taught to see as the mirror of the very thoughts of the eternal and inexhaustible God himself, and concerning which your knee jerks violently.

I see two, even three, obstacles you will need to face squarely.

1. Read deeply, for many months or even years, Mesopotamian, Canaanite, and Egyptian origins myths. Read, too, the works of those who have studied these myths and labored greatly to make plain their meaning in your mother tongue. Read especially those with whom you may not see eye to eye, and those whose blood does not boil at the subject.

Read and see what others before you have seen, that these stories, though unique and not without their entertaining, soap opera-ish qualities, have much to tell us about the literature of Genesis 1-3. Read and see that, although Genesis 1-3 clearly bears its own unique qualities, is does nevertheless and invariably breath the same air as these stories, and that such an observation will likewise invariably lead to theological overhaul.

2. Read deeply, and for many more months and years, the writings of those known to us as Second Temple Jewish Interpreters, and place the Holy Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul–formerly he of Jewish name, Saul, trained in and expert in all manner of Jewish customs and traditions of his day–along side of these writers, and see for yourself, and plainly so, that Paul, the first century Jew, does also breath the midrashic air of his time, first century Judaism, when he reads his Scripture, even the Adam story.

Learn too that neither Paul nor the Spirit of the Good, Wise, Loving, and Incarnating God has a problem with this, and so neither should you.

3. Read deeply, for many months after, how the Church (over which Christ is the head) throughout history (over which the risen Lord is ruler) have read the Bible. Note the manner in which they speak to the mystery and inexhaustible depth of Scripture, and that they have zero interest–zip–in removing that mystery and depth.

Note, too, those periods in the history of the church when the ears of many were stopped up and hearts were hardened to really neat new ideas, and how much subsequent embarrassment ensued.

To him/her who has ears to ear, let him/her hear what the 2000+ year stream of human thought, where God has not been a disinterested bystander, has to say to the church today.

To him/her who overcomes, you will find relief from your cognitive dissonance even as you come to see more and more than your theology is good and precious as a signpost along the path, but disastrous and idolatrous as a lodging place, the doors of which are locked from the inside and windows boarded up.

Moreover, to him/her who is able to overcome the current, but passing, moment of angst, you may come to see that the author is neither the first horseman of the apocalypse nor Babylon the Great, and that talking about Adam and evolution neither signals the end of the space-time universe nor God’s covenant faithfulness to you.

Neither will souls be plunged into outer darkness for speaking of such things, for the Creator God–whose mind is not our mind, whose ways are beyond tracing out, to whom we give no counsel–is not the petty and touchy Megatron we sometimes make him out to be, and is willing and eager to handle much more from those whom he loves than we give him credit for.

Finally, brothers and sisters, know that neither life nor death, unavoidable questions nor difficult answers, doubt nor certainty, theological stability nor shift, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

This post originally appeared in February, 2012.

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  • Jedidiah Slaboda

    This is why I love you.

    • peteenns

      Right back at ya, bra.

  • Jeff

    I’m reading through “The Evolution of Adam” right now. I normally just sit on the sidelines when reading through the blogs I follow but I have to make an exception to say that this is an awesome post. It has the perfect blend of humor, familiarity to scripture, and truth. I don’t know if it will break through the ice of some of my fundamentalist friends but I’ll share it and see what happens.

  • Don Johnson

    “Moreover, to him/her who is able to overcome the current, but passing, moment of angst, you may come to see that the author is neither the first horseman of the apocalypse nor Babylon the Great, and that talking about Adam and evolution neither signals the end of the space-time universe nor God’s covenant faithfulness to you.”

    Before this, I thought you had to select one or more of these options, so I am glad to hear this is not the case.

  • Joshua S.

    I love your wit.
    But, Pete, you accept “much of liberal scholarship on the Bible thus undermining any attempt to convince conservative Christians” (e.g. JEDP theory). 😉
    Quoted from: http://jacobsweeney.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/the-evolution-of-adam/

  • Troy

    Would love to see what Johh H. Walton says, should he give a review, for he may be more of an expert on ancient near eastern studies than you (respectfully). You certainly don’t think you are the only one who is familiar with the subjects you recommend others, do you?

    • peteenns

      Troy, I respect Walton a lot and consider him a friend. Many of us are waiting for him to weigh in on “The Lost Wold of Genesis 2-3.” I think it will come in time, but not sure when.

  • RJS

    Nice Pete.
    And thanks for setting my mind at ease on the parody bit.

  • Tragically, you misspelled “space” (as “apace”) in the opening paragraph, thereby proving yourself to be less than inerrant. If the literal sense of everything you say in this missive is not inerrant, it follows that I can attach authority to none of it. If I can attach authority to none of it, why should anyone attend to any of it? (Just thought I’d make explicit the reasoning that, while it probably won’t be actually invoked to summarily reject your collected writings, may be at work motivating the urge to do so.)

  • eric kunkel


    I pined for some explicit Prolegomenon about genres, etc. Especially since, as I remember, I think you stated that your audience was in part Evangelicals. If I am not mistaken.

    Just with Genesis One and Two: I bet you about 99.8 percent (plus or minus one SD) of readers, of all stripes, many with credentials read them like chapter one and two of a modern novel.

    Well, I got to read it at the shore. I could see some dorsal fins not far from the seasoned surfers. I was thinking, “well, Pete dove right in.”

    I am just observing. I think the experts will be fine.


  • As someone who reviewed your book (positively), I enjoyed this very much. 🙂

  • James

    We not only have origin myths, Second Temple Jewish and Christian interpreters, resistence to great ideas, but also the findings of modern science and the scepticism of post-modernism (which you didn’t mention) to contend with in biblical interpretation and theology. Good thing we have the love of God in Christ (which you did mention) as well as the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and Son, to lead us into truth. You are right, we shouldn’t get too worked up; the flame of faith still burns.

  • Matt Colflesh

    Amen and amen

  • Steve Pinkham

    Hardest I have laughed at intentional humor in the origins debates. Bravo.

    I daresay YECs have made me laugh harder, but I doubt that was their intent.

  • Krister S

    I know I’m late to the party to comment…I just want to say that I appreciate your contribution to biblical studies and hermeneutics more than you can know. Your wisdom, perspicacity, and irenic approach. I can only hope that works like yours (esp. I & I and E of A) are a catalyst for genuine dialogue and opened minds in the Church of the U.S. Oh, that the pugilists would relent and relax and listen.

    I confess that I have 3 heroes whom I’ve never met and probably never will: Pete Enns, Gordon Fee, and Scot McKnight!

    • peteenns

      That’s very kind of you, Krister. I will add you to my growing list of others who consider me their hero–which, at present, is one of my three children….sometimes. 🙂

    • Chaprich

      A Yankee fan could never be my hero, a good friend perhaps, not a hero.

  • Larry Valin

    E. W. Faulstich’s chronology is strong evidence to refute those that would undermine truth of the Bible.
    “Adam was born 3/24/4001 BC.”
    “Two days earlier earth, moon, mercury, venus, and mars were in 343 degree geocentric alignment.”
    His books are available free through his website for postage.


    See further here: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2246501455640880632&postID=4916306487872517832

  • C David Baker

    Can’t wait to read this! Thanks for writing it.

  • Seeker

    Perfect… Yes, once again, you have hit the nail on the head. Love it. Wish more people would get it.

  • Yuri

    So you’re basically saying that even to enter into a discussion of the meaning of Gen 1-3 requires years of careful study and deep reading of the relevant fields and subfields related to the Old Testament. In other words, you need a PhD to talk about this stuff. This is elitist, and I completely agree with it.

  • paulbuggy

    Look, we all know that you are a brilliant scholar. Blah de blah. But a funny brilliant scholar?..As Mr Miagi says…”Against this there is no defence”. So, so refreshing.

  • Dear Peter, Wonderfully put, but when Christianity gets to the point of admitting that it consists of inspired myths in Genesis 1-11, as well as inspired midrashic tales told by NT writers, why stop there with the questions?

    One might then ask what is the LEAST that could have happened to start the resurrection story/stories going.

    As for the book of Revelation, lying at the opposite end of the Bible from Genesis, astronomers do not seem the least bit interested in attempting to defend the biblical view that human events on earth will be succeeded quickly by the creation of a new heavens and earth. Instead, cosmologists tell us that regardless of whatever human events transpire on earth, our planet exists in what might be called a cosmic shooting gallery, with asteroids that can cause mass extinction events, and solar flares that could burn away our atmosphere, not to mention the extinction of life via a nearby supernova, or via our sun’s big expansion due in future as it ages, or the future collision between our galaxy with the Andromeda Galaxy which is headed our way. Those are the astronomical Armageddons awaiting us, even if the world were to convert to Christianity tomorrow.

    The stars also seem perfectly capable of continuing to burn for billions of years after the all-too-statistically-likely extinction of our species or destruction of the earth, just as they burned for billions of years prior to the arrival of our species. So, astronomers are no more likely to defend the book of Revelation than geologists and biologists are likely to defend the book of Genesis.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Many Christians view Revelation similar to Genesis . . .literature in which the main themes transcribed are what’s important, not any exact description of history (or history to be). I know others make the prophecy of Revelation a major (or ‘the’ major) component of their theology, with the thinking of it as a literal promise for the future (and thus taking the language more literally), and yes they will find similar issues (looking at the time in history/genre of the book when written, compatibility with what we know about the natural world/universe) with that text as exists with Genesis, although they have more of an ‘out’ since they can always just say it will happen in the future..

      • Anna

        Revelation is about the events of AD 70, no more, no less.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Well the wide majority of biblical scholars disagree with you.

          • Anna

            They’ll come around when they put their preconceptions and biases behind them, and actually read the text, and really take on board to whom it was written and why.

  • Ok so this is brilliant!

  • Bev Mitchell

    A very entertaining piece Pete. I particularly like this line.
    “……neither Paul nor the Spirit of the Good, Wise, Loving, and Incarnating God has a problem with this, and so neither should you.”
    That this is serious business few would deny, but we need to be ever vigilant as to what we take o so seriously. This is because we are very prone (call it original or total something) to take ourselves much too seriously thus missing lots of much more important stuff.

    and this one “…..your theology is good and precious as a signpost along the path, but disastrous and idolatrous as a lodging place, the doors of which are locked from the inside and windows boarded up.” We are called, to be sure, but not to have an iron-clad theology. Rather, we are called to have a living (as in alive – open to growth and change) relationship with the Incarnate Lord. Why would anyone put theology above this?

  • Hey Peter,

    are you sure this letter is sufficient to turn the heart of a fundamentalist into…something much better? 🙂

    It is first necessary to show them these ideas don’t have to freak them out before they can advance.

    I love these people as fellow human beings.

    But they’re deeply undermining our faith.

    I hope they’ll realize that and give up Biblical inerrancy without giving Christianity up.

    Lovely greetings from Germany.

    Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son