I consider myself an evangelical who is fairly competent. I have presuppositions, but evidence matters and I am willing to participate in a hermeneutical cycle of testing my presuppositions against counter claims to ask if they withstand scrutiny. Of course, if my views have flaws this doesn’t mean I abandon them straight away. There must be a theory that supersedes in explanatory power what I have previously accepted.
When I’ve had time I’ve given some thought to the implications of interpreting Adam as a historical person or a metaphorical person. As I mentioned previously I am planning on meeting with Dr. Harold Becker Jr., a biology professor at Portland State University who happens to be a confessing Christian (see “Let’s talk about Adam and Eve”). Some people respond in frustration that I would be slow and patient to think through this matter. There are those who accuse me of not thinking like a Christian. There are others who accuse me on not thinking, period. No one is pleased, so I will take my time.
Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation provided me with a new way to think about Scripture. I will read his Evolution of Adam when it is released in January, 2012. Alongside of it I want to read C. John Collins Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? to provide balance to my inquiry. At this point if you ask me what I think of the character of Adam and the claims of modern science I respond that it seems to me that Adam was understood as a real person by everyone in the early church, but his theological function doesn’t necessitate that he was a person in history. I acknowledge that things are much smoother when reading the Gospels or the Pauline Epistles if he was real. Also, I would say that as I understand it the so-called Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve make it seem unlikely that there was a “first couple”, but that I lack the credentials to know where the data ends and the interpretations continues forward (see “Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve”).
There are some things that are unhelpful as I study this matter. The first is the “your mom wears army boots” type of responses to my investigating. I’ve heard it from both ends like I said earlier. Either I am compromising Christianity or I am ignoring the hard facts from science. I don’t know if there is a better way to end a conversation than to try to convince me with threats of the consequences of arriving at the position other than the one you hold.
The second thing is related. Why do people argue reductio ad absurdum? On the one end it would be that even if you affirm the points that the Apostle Paul makes when he uses Adam unless you affirm a literal Adam you cannot affirm anything. Some even take it to be that you cannot have Christ himself lest you affirm a literal Adam! On the other end you get the types of arguments I read today in James McGrath’s post “Hume, Giraffes, and Incompetent Design” where he argues that the imperfections of creation are a charge against the competency of the Creator God. Robert Cargill wrote a post supporting McGrath’s titled “On Incompetent vs. Intelligent Design”. For both it made me stop and think about the implications of what proponents of Intelligent Design teach (so thank you for the healthy challenge friends!) but it frustrated me a bit because of the dogmatic conclusion reached by both.
Christian Bradley commented (see here) and he noted rightly that there are some responses that could be given that keep the simply deduced answer from being as simple and obvious as first thought (though he was quick to clarify that his response was not his personal views). Some may respond that “the Fall” made creation less than ideal and that the evolution of species since that event have caused the fracture in design we see now. Like Bradley, I am not saying this is a good argument. It is similar to the line of thought that the earth appears really, really old because God made it that way…but that it is not actually very old (e.g. see Peter Enns’ criticisms of Al Mohler: Pt. 1; Pt. 2).
Others–for some reason John Piper’s face comes to mind–may say that God created this world as it is flaws and all because it is “the best possible world”. Piper has argued that it must be the best possible world because God made it this way. Others have said that it is the best possible way to the best possible world. In other words, only by allowing a world wherein death could enter can we have a world wherein we will find resurrection.
Whether or not one thinks either of these arguments are compelling or not is secondary to the reality that they are responses. McGrath and Cargill don’t help people like me think through these issues when saying something like this:
“If you are a religious believer, and you refuse to accept evolution, then you have little choice but to blame God for the shortcomings seen in nature. You have little choice but to conclude that God wanted to leave us open to death by choking, when he made the routes for food and air converge on the same passage. And that is but one more of a very long list of examples of things that make good sense when considered the result of the slow adaptive processes of evolution, but which look ridiculous or even malevolent if considered the direct design of a divine Engineer.”
This comes across to me as panicked and dogmatic as Ken Ham. It makes me lose trust in you as a source not because you hold your view strongly, but because I assume you know people do have more philosophical options that the rhetoric allows. I come to assume that someone is trying to convert me for the sake of “winning” rather than presenting their point for the sake of informing me. It may be a fine nuance, but as someone who is open to versions of theistic evolution (e.g. I greatly respect Alister McGrath) these types of black-and-white scenarios that ignore the gray areas are frustrating.