Evolving Evangelicalism (part 11): Analysis and Implications of Genesis 1 and Adam

Evolving Evangelicalism (part 11): Analysis and Implications of Genesis 1 and Adam May 22, 2012

The following series is based on my senior paper for Seminary. You may remember a video where I invited people to contribute their stories to help make my case. For the next couple weeks, I’ve decided to share my findings with you all. There will be a “thesis/problem” section, a “biblical theology” section, and an “application” section. I hope you will read along and share this with others! You can read the rest of the series here.

Evolving Evangelicalism: Inviting Church Leaders to Refine their Approach to Scripture and Origins (part 11)

Analysis and Implications of Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve

Now that we have looked at three viable theological options for interpreting Genesis 2-3 (and Paul) in light of the book of nature, our task is to reflect on the implications of both Genesis 1 and Adam. Genesis 1 emerged in the midst of exilic realities, as Israel sought to reclaim their self-definition as the special people of God. One need not believe that it was written after the exile (one could still hold to Mosaic authorship) in order to accept the broad theological perspective presented.

Beyond the polemical makeup of this passage, it operates within a worldview that differs from our modern context. With functional ontology in place, Genesis 1 yields a viewpoint that God is the one who took the primordial chaos and arranged it all to function for the benefit of human image-bearers. Humankind bears the image of God in that we are given a unique identity and vocation in the world: to represent God’s care for God’s creation. After the pattern of an ancient 7-day temple inauguration (both in Israel and for her neighbors), God’s world is ultimately God’s own temple or dwelling place, which runs its course through evolutionary history under God’s sovereignty. Connecting the literary patterns, and the polemic and ontological perspective of the text, no conflict exists between biological evolution and this Holy Spirit inspired “poetic narrative.” As Brueggemann states: “Israel is concerned with God’s Lordly intent, not his technique.”[1]

After exegeting Genesis 1, we directed our attention to helpful theological options for understanding Adam and Eve. It is completely feasible to believe that they were literal historical people, and still be open to evolution. With this perspective, however, we may need to abandon that a “special creation” took place. The rhetoric demonstrates that a plain reading of the story utilizes creation from the dust as metaphorical. This language is comparative to the way Scripture describes Job being fashioned from dust, “molded… like clay” (Job 10.8-9). Adam and Eve were not the first homo sapiens, but each could be characterized as a homo divinus.

If Adam and Eve were not historical, but characters in a parable about the humanity’s rebellion or Israel’s loss of wisdom and exile, then humankind’s evolution is no longer a problem. Some rethinking about Paul’s theology is necessary, but this will not deny our need to be rescued from sin and death by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. No matter which option one may choose, all offer the possibility of refining our approaches to origins and Scripture. Holding to the interpretations offered for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3, faithful readers of the book of Scriptures no longer need to wage war against what modern science tells us about the book of nature.

[1]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 26.

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