Last week I began juxtaposing C. John Collins’ Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care and Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. In Pt. 2 I summarized Enn’s introductory thoughts. In Pt. 3 I did the same for Collins. In Pt. 4 I relayed Collins’ understanding of the interpretive options available to us. Today I move back to Enns and his understanding of the relationship between Christianity and science as well as the interpretive options he finds available.
Modern Christians are comfortable with the reality that the biblical authors didn’t share our cosmology. We don’t expect them to have understood gravity, or that the earth is a sphere that rotates around the sun, or what constitutes stars, and so forth. Enns writes,
“To the contrary, it is clear that, from a scientific point of view, the Bible does not always describe physical reality accurately; it simply speaks in an ancient idiom, as one might expect ancient people to do. It is God’s Word, but it has an ancient view of the natural world, not a modern one.” (Kindle Locations 228-231)
Why can’t we understand evolution to be one of those things that the ancients didn’t understand but that we do? Enns explains the difference saying,
“Evolution, however, is a game changer. The general science-and-faith rapprochement is not adequate because evolution uniquely strikes at central issues of the Christian faith. Evolution tells us that human beings are not the product of a special creative act by God as the Bible says but are the end product of a process of trial-and-error adaptation and natural selection. This process began billions of years ago, with the simplest of one-cell life forms, and developed into the vast array of life on this planet—plants, reptiles, fish, mammals, and so forth—and humanity. These humans also happen to share a close common ancestry with primates. Some Christians reconcile their faith with evolution by saying that God initiated and guides this process, which is fine (and which I believe), but that is not the point here. The tensions that evolution creates with the Bible remain, and they are far more significant than whether the earth is at the center of the cosmos, how old it is, and whether it is round or flat.” (Kindle Locations 230-238).
Recently I posted chapter-by-chapter my review of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One (see here). Most of us are OK with the creation of earth being depicted in sub-scientific, poetic, metaphorical imagery conveying a theological message. We know how to reconcile the theological-poetic message of Genesis 1 with modern science, kind of. Last week one person commented asking if this whole science-faith dichotomy is a false one. It may be when we talk about the age of the earth, but is Enns right that it is a game changer for Christian anthropology?
“If evolution is correct, one can no longer accept, in any true sense of the word “historical,” the instantaneous and special creation of humanity described in Genesis, specifically 1:26–31 and 2:7, 22.” (Kindle Locations 239-240)
He does not accept paradigms that suggest that Adam and Eve are the first two “elevated hominids.” In other words, he doesn’t want to be seen as participating in a correspondence reading of Genesis that connects all the the mythological imagery to modern science. So no, for Enns the idea of Adam coming from the dust isn’t short hand for a long, long process of humans coming from the earth through the process of evolution. Enns writes, “This hybrid view does not adhere to the Bible but rewrites it.” (Kindle Locations 244-245)
The Book of Genesis isn’t the main concern for Enns, though he will address it. He understand the image of God language to correspond to ancient near eastern ideas regarding Kings representing deities. In other words, Genesis 1 democratizes something other cultures attributed to their King alone. No, the problem isn’t Genesis, or even the interpretation of Adam in the context of the Hebrew Bible. The problem is the Apostle Paul:
“Evolution demands that the special creation of the first Adam as described in the Bible is not literally historical; Paul, however, seems to require it. After all, what purpose does the actual obedience of the second Adam (Christ) have if there was no first Adam who disobeyed? So, as the argument often goes, if there was no first Adam, then there was no fall. If there was no fall, there is no truly inescapably sinful condition and so no need for a Savior. If evolution is true, then Christianity is false. When the issue is framed this way, the discussion tends to move toward one of two extremes: Christians either choose Paul over Darwin or abandon their faith in favor of natural science.” (Kindle Locations 281-285).
As we can see Enns is presenting a condensed form of Collins argument. In my last post I outlined the interpretive options suggested by Collins. These are Enns’ equivalent:
“1. Accept evolution and reject Christianity.”
“2. Accept Paul’s view of Adam as binding and reject evolution.”
“3. Reconcile evolution and Christianity by positing a first human pair (or group) at some point in the evolutionary process.”
“4. Rethink Genesis and Paul.” (Kindle Locations 294-312)
Enns choses #4. He says he will approach it in two parts: (1) Genesis and (2) Paul.
What do you think of Enns’ rejection of the other three options? What do you make of “rethinking” both Genesis and Paul?