AN evangelical scholar in the US has upset hard-line fundamentalists by pointing out the absurdity of the Old Testament’s account of how humanity sprang into being.
Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, and a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation – a Christian group that tries to reconcile faith and science – is reported here as saying that it is hardly likely that we are all descended from the sinful Genesis apple-munchers:
That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.
Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says that, with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population – long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.
To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says:
You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.
Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century. Another is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan until recently. He says it’s time to face facts:
There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence. Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost. So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings.
To many evangelicals, this is heresy.
Says Fazale Rana, Vice President of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution:
From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith.
However Rana, who has a PhD. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong.
But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem.
Rana and others believe in a literal, historical Adam and Eve for many reasons. One is that the Genesis account makes man unique, created in the image of God – not a descendant of lower primates. Second, it tells a story of how evil came into the world, and it’s not a story in which God introduced evil through the process of evolution, but one in which Adam and Eve decided to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.
Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, says that rebellious choice infected all of humankind.
When Adam sinned, he sinned for us. And it’s that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a saviour.
Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam’s original sin.
Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul’s description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament.
Bottom line, said Mohler, is that if Christians want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn’t be surprised if their faith unravels.