The current scientific opinion about evolution has kicked this issue into high-gear, with Christians taking opposing sides.
There has been a growing number of evangelical Christians who argue that we need to embrace some kind of non-literal view of Adam that is compatible with evolution. Biblical scholar Peter Enns is a good example, he says the following in a Huffington Post article:
Evangelicals look to the Bible to settle important questions of faith. So, faced with a potentially faith-crushing idea like evolution, evangelicals naturally ask right off the bat, “What does the Bible say about that?” And then informed by “what the Bible says,” they are ready to make a “biblical” judgment.
This is fine in principle, but in the evolution debate this mindset is a problem: It assumes that the Adam and Eve story is about “human origins.” It isn’t. And as long as evangelicals continue to assume that it does, the conflict between the Bible and evolution is guaranteed.
BioLogos, which claims to be “a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith” presents the following options for understanding Adam:
- One option is to view Adam and Eve as a historical pair living among many 10,000 years ago, chosen to represent the rest of humanity before God.
- Another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an allegory in which Adam and Eve symbolize the large group of ancestors who lived 150,000 years ago.
- Yet another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an “everyman” story, a parable of each person’s individual rejection of God.
Adam can’t be lost
So does it matter? Is anything lost if we accept that the Genesis 1-2 account isn’t about human origins? Other Christians say ‘yes’, and are meeting the challenge.
Here two recent articles worth mentioning.
Michael Reeves argues in an excellent DesiringGod article that the gospel itself would be lost if Adam wasn’t real. You’ll have to read his entire article, Why the Good News Turns Bad Without Adam.
Kevin DeYoung gives 10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam. This post responds more to the actual claims of the skeptics. His actual arguments are fleshed out in the post, but here are his points.
- The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology
- The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them.
- The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry.
- There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12.
- The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.
- Paul believed in a historical Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-49).
- The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam.
- Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people have the same problem.
- Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.
- Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together.
For me, one of the strongest problems is that the Bible presents death as a result of sin, but evolution presents it as commonplace. If evolution is true and death occurred thousands/millions/billions of times before sin entered the world, then how exactly does Jesus defeat death by defeating sin?
I predict this as an issue that is filtering down into the ‘mainstream’ for Christians. That is, I believe every Christian will be confronted with this in the near future (if not already). So we need to see what is at stake, lest we be carried away with public opinion.
Praise God that Jesus is our Second Adam!