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I began getting seriously involved in the Christianity/evolution “controversy” in 2009, which led to my 2012 book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. At that time and since, the debate in the evangelical world over the historical Adam continues in a predictable manner: the theological needs of evangelical theology lead to patterns of responses that are geared more toward protecting that theology rather than addressing the serious theological issues introduced by evolutionary science and modern biblical scholarship on Genesis.

Below are the 11 recurring mistakes I see in the discussion. They are in no particular order.

1. It’s all about the authority of the Bible.

I can understand why this claim might have a rhetorical effect, but this issue is not about biblical authority. It’s about how the Bible is to be interpreted. It’s about hermeneutics.

It’s always about hermeneutics.

I know that in some circles “hermeneutics” is code for “let’s find a way to get out of the plain meaning of the text.” But even a so-called “plain” or “literal” reading of the Bible is a hermeneutic—an approach to interpretation.

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others. Hence, appealing to biblical authority does not tell us how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has.

“Biblical authority” is a predisposition to the text. It is not a hermeneutic.

2. You’re giving science more authority than the Bible.

This, too, may have some rhetorical effect, but it misses the point.

To say that science gives us a more accurate understanding of human origins than the Bible is not putting science “over” the Bible—unless we assume that the Bible is prepared to give us scientific information.

There are numerous compelling reasons to think that Genesis is not prepared to provide such information—namely the fact that Genesis was written at least 2500 years ago by and for people, who were not thinking in modern scientific terms.

One might respond, “But Genesis was inspired by God, and so needs to be true.”

That assertion assumes that “truth” is essentially synonymous with historical accuracy and that a text inspired by God in antiquity would, by virtue of its being the word of God, need to give scientific rather than ancient accounts of origins.

These assumptions would need to be vigorously defended, not merely asserted as unimpeachable fact.

Lying behind this error in thinking is the unstated assumption that the Bible, as the word of God, must predetermine the conclusions that scientific investigations can arrive at on any subject matter the Bible addresses.

To make this assumption is to run roughshod not only over commonsense, but over the very notion of the contextual and historically conditioned nature of Scripture.

If Scripture were truly given priority over science in matters open to scientific inquiry, the church would have never gotten past Galileo’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.

3. But the church has never questioned the historicity of Adam.

This claim is largely true—though it obscures the symbolic value especially early interpreters found in the Garden story, but I digress.

On the whole, this statement is correct. It is also irrelevant.

Knowing what the history of the church has thought about Adam is not an argument for Adam’s historicity, as some seem to think, since the history of the church did not have evolution or any scientific discoveries to deal with until recently.

That’s the whole point of this debate—evolution and ancient texts that put the biblical story in its cultural context are new factors we have to address.

Appealing to periods in church history before these things were on the table as authoritative and determinative voices in the discussion simply makes no sense. What Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans assumed about human origins is not relevant—and to say so is not a dismissal of the study of church history, historical theology, etc., but to put them in their place.

Calling upon church history does not solve the problem; it simply restates it. Appealing to church history does not end the discussion; it just reminds us why we need to have the discussion in the first place.

4. Both Paul and the writer of Genesis thought Adam was a real person, the first man. Denying the historicity of Adam means you think you know better than the biblical writers.

More rhetorical punch, but this assertion simply sidesteps a fundamental interpretive challenge all of us need to address on one level or another.

All biblical writers were limited by their culture and time in how they viewed the physical world around them. This is hardly a novel notion of inspiration, and premodern theologians from Augustine to Calvin were quite adamant about the point.

No responsible doctrine of inspiration can deny that the biblical authors were thoroughly encultured, ancient people, who spoke as ancient people. Inspiration does not cancel out their “historical particularity,” no matter how inconvenient.

Any notion of inspiration must embrace and engage the notion that God, by his Spirit, speaks within ancient categories.

We do indeed “know more” than the biblical writers about some things. That alone isn’t an alarming theological problem in principle. But that principle has become a problem because it now touches on an issue that some feel is of paramount theological importance—the historical Adam.

The stakes have been raised in ways no one expected, for now we understand that the ancient biblical authors’ understanding of human origins is also part of their ancient way of thinking. Should the principle be abandoned when it becomes theologically uncomfortable?

As I see it, the whole discussion is over how our “knowing more” about human origins can be in conversation with the biblical theological metanarrative. This is the pressing theological challenge before us and it needs to be addressed deliberately and without rancor, not avoided or obscured.

Acknowledging that we know more than biblical writers about certain things is not to disrespect Scripture. We are merely recognizing that the good and wise God had far less difficulty with ancient categories of thinking than some of us do.

5. Genesis as a whole, including the Adam story, is a historical narrative and therefore demands to be taken as a historical account.

It is a common, but nevertheless erroneous, assumption that Genesis, as a “historical narrative,” narrates history.

Typically the argument is mounted on two related fronts:

(1) Genesis mentions by name people and places; we are told that people are doing things and going places. That sounds like a sequence of events, and therefore should be taken as “historical.”

(2) Genesis uses a particular Hebrew verbal form (waw consecutive plus imperfect, for you Hebrew nerds) that is used throughout Old Testament narratives to present a string of events—so-and-so did this, then this, then went there and said this, then went there and did that.

As the argument goes, we are bound to conclude that a story that presents people doing things in a sequence is an indication that we are dealing with history.

That may be the case, but the sequencing of events in a story alone does not in and of itself imply historicity. Every story, whether real or imagined, has people doing things in sequences of events.

This does not mean that Genesis can’t be a historical narrative. It only means that the fact that Genesis presents people doing things in sequence is not the reason for drawing that conclusion.

The Lord of the Rings masterfully records in great and vivid detail people (and others) doing things in sequence. But is it still pure fiction. A Tale of Two Cities does the same, but that doesn’t make it a reliable guide to historical events.

The connection between Genesis and history is a complicated, multifaceted issue that many have pondered in great depth. The issue certainly cannot be settled simply by reading the text of Genesis and observing that people do things in time.

6. Evolution is a different “religion” (i.e., “naturalism” or “Darwinism”) and therefore hostile to Christianity.

Certainly for some evolution functions as a different “religion,” hostile to Christianity or any belief in a world beyond the material and random chance.

But that does not mean that all those who hold to evolution as the true explanation of human origins think of evolution as a religion. Nor does it mean that evolutionary theory requires one to adopt an atheistic “naturalistic” or “Darwinistic” worldview.

Christian evolutionists do not see their work in evolutionary science as spiritual adultery. Christian evolutionists take it as a matter of deep faith that evolution is God’s way of creating, the intricacies of which we cannot be fully comprehend.

In other words, “evolution=naturalistic atheism,” although rhetorically appealing, does not describe Christians who hold to evolution. Their convictions should be taken at face value, rather than suggesting that they have been duped or are compromising their faith Christians.

7. Since Adam is necessary for the Christian faith, we know evolution can’t be true.

Evolution causes theological problems for Christianity. There is no question of that. We cannot simply graft evolution onto evangelical theology and claim that we have reconciled Christianity and evolution.

The theological and philosophical problems for the Christian faith that evolution brings to the table are hardly superficial. They require much thought and a multi-disciplinary effort to work through. For example:

  • Is death a natural part of life or unnatural, a punishment of God for disobedience?
  • What does it mean to be human and made in God’s image?
  • What kind of God creates a process where the fittest survive?
  • How can God hold people responsible for their sin if there was no first trespass by a first human couple?

A literal, historical, Adam answers these and other questions. Without an Adam, we are left to find other answers. Nothing is gained by papering over this dilemma.

But, here is my point: The fact that evolution causes a theological problem does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have a theological problem.

Normally, we all know that we cannot judge if something is true on the basis of whether that truth is disruptive to us. We know it is wrong to assume one’s position and then evaluate data on the basis of that predetermined conclusion.

We are also normally very quick to point out this logical fallacy in others. If an atheist would defend his/her own belief system by saying, “I reject this datum because it does not fit my way of thinking,” we would be quick to pounce.

The truth of a historical Adam is not judged by how necessary such an Adam appears to be for theology. The proper response to evolution is to work through the theological challenges it presents (as many theologians and philosophers are doing), not dismiss the challenge itself.

8. Science is changing, therefore it’s all up for grabs.

Science is a self-critical entity, and so it should not surprise us to see developments, even paradigm shifts, in the near and distant future.

Is the universe expanding or oscillating? Are there multiple universes? How many dimensions are there? What about dark matter and dark energy? How many hominids constituted the gene pool from which all alive today have descended? And so forth.

But the fact that science is a changing discipline does not mean that all evolutionary theory is hanging on by a thread, ready to be dismissed at the next turn.

Also, the fact that science is self-correcting doesn’t mean that, if we hold on long enough, sooner or later, the changing nature of science will eventually disprove evolution and vindicate a literal view of Genesis.

Change, development, even paradigm shifts in scientific work, are sure to come, and to point that out is hardly a penetrating insight: that is how science works. But further discoveries will take us forward, not backward.

9. There are scientists who question evolution, and this establishes the credibility of the biblical view of human origins.

Individual, creative, innovative thinking often leads to true advances in the human intellectual drama. I would say that without these pioneering voices pushing the boundaries of knowledge, there would be no progress.

However, the presence of minority voices in and of itself does not constitute a counterargument to evolution.

Particularly in the age of the Internet, it is not hard at all to find someone with a Ph.D. in a relevant field who lends a counter-voice to mainstream thinking. This is true in the sciences, in biblical studies, and in any academic field.

One can always find someone out there who thinks he or she has cracked the code, hidden to most others, and disproved the majority. And, in my experience, too often the promotion of minority voices is laced with a fair dose of conspiracy theory, where the claim is made that one’s view has been ostracized simply because it challenges the establishment.

Those without training in the relevant fields are particularly susceptible to following a minority voice if it confirms their own thinking. But simply having a Ph.D., having research experience, or even having written papers on minority positions, does not establish the credibility of minority positions.

The truthfulness of minority claims must be tested over time by a body of peers, not simply accepted because those claims exist and affirm our own positions.

10. Evidence for and against evolution is open to all and can be assessed by anyone.

Since evolutionary theory is the product of scientific investigation, it follows that those best suited to evaluate the scientific data and arguments are those trained in the relevant sciences—or better those who are practicing scientists and therefore are keeping up with developments.

The years of training and experience required of those who work in fields that touch on evolution rules out of bounds the views of those who lack such training.

This is certainly the case with those who have no scientific training whatsoever beyond basic high school and college courses. I certainly fall into that category, which is why I don’t feel I can enter into scientific discussions, let alone critique them.

Engaging scientific issues requires serious scientific training—which only a fraction of the earth’s population can claim to have.

My point is that most of us do not have a place at the table where the assessment of evidence is the topic of discussion. I include here philosophers of science, historians of science, and sociologists of science. These disciplines look at the human and historical conditions within which scientific work takes place, thus giving us the big picture of what is happening behind the scenes intellectually and culturally.

Science is not a “neutral” endeavor, and these fields are invaluable in putting science into a broader intellectual context. I am all for it.

But I have often seen practitioners of these disciplines, without any high-level scientific training, overstep their boundaries by passing judgment on evolution on the basis of the big-picture context these disciplines provide.

Evolution cannot be judged from 30,000 feet. You still have to deal with the scientific data in detail.

I think I stand on very solid ground when I say that these various disciples need to be in conversation with each other, not one standing in judgment over the other.

Simply put, you have to know what you are talking about if you want to debunk evolution. If you want to take on the scientific consensus, you have to argue better science that stands the test of peer review, not better ideology.

11. Believing in evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.

Many arguments I have heard against evolution come down to this: my evangelical ecclesiastical group has never accepted it, and so, to remain in this group, I am bound to reject it too.

It is rarely stated quite this bluntly, but that’s the bottom line.

But, as is well known, in recent decades the term “evangelical” has become a moving target. Is evangelicalism a stable, unchanging movement, or is it flexible enough to be open to substantive change?

Or an even more fundamental consideration: should maintaining evangelical identity at all costs even be the primary concern?

These may be the most important questions for evangelicals to consider when entering into the discussion over the historical Adam.

[A version of this post has appeared now and then beginning in 2011. Interested readers can find more on my take on all this in the Bible and evolution on this website and in The Evolution of Adam (2012)]

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

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  • Phil Ledgerwood says:

    Must be something in the water.

    Really good article, Pete. It’s the kind of thing you can hand around in discussions about the topic and, at least within Christianity, helps level the playing field a little bit. It isn’t about whether or not the Bible is true; it’s about the best way to read it, or at least acknowledging what our options are.

    Regarding item #5, I know you were probably thinking of “the other side” and didn’t want to muddy the waters with potentially controversial things that your point doesn’t depend on, but one thing that’s pertinent to point 5 is whether or not it’s even meaningful to talk about Genesis “as a whole.”

    Apart from the incredibly likely contention that it is a compilation of source materials and not a single book by a single author, we don’t define individual portions of text exclusively by the genre of the whole. If a biographer includes their subject’s favorite song in the biography, that doesn’t mean we are to conclude that the events described in the song literally happened to the subject. It’s still a song even if it appears in a biography.

    I don’t for a second think that the best way to interpret any of Genesis is history the way we understand historiography, today, but even if I did, that doesn’t mean that every single portion of text that appears in Genesis is best interpreted as historical documentation.

  • Chris Falter says:

    Good post, Pete. I am an evolutionary creationist myself, and I participate on the BioLogos forums pretty actively. Recently, someone started multiple threads whose fundamental point was that several Scriptures outside of Genesis 1 regard the 6 days as literal-historical. For example, Exodus 20:11 –

    “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

    To me this seems like a reasonable, prima facie argument for young earth creationism, although it does not necessarily ipso facto mean we should all plan our next vacations for the Ark Park. I can think of a couple responses:

    * God was accommodating His revelation to the ancient Hebrew understanding of science and history.
    * God was establishing a communal worship practice, giving a weekly reminder to the ancient Hebrews of His authorship and dominion over all creation. However, this practice is not brought forward into the era of the new covenant; thus the literary-historical framework (144 hours) doesn’t need to be brought forward either.

    I would be interested in how you would answer this argument in favor of a literal 6-day creation. What say ye, Pete? And will the Yanks pitching staff survive the pennant race?

    • Joe Deutsch says:

      For a long time for me, at least, the 4th commandment was the best argument for a literal 6-day account. Then eventually common sense took over…if a commandment compiled hundreds of years later is the best argument for a position, that’s not a good argument. I also read something somewhere (it might have been something Pete wrote even-I really don’t remember the source, and Pete, if it was you and I butcher it with my misremembering, please forgive) about what the author meant by “rest.” It wasn’t like “okay, I worked all week, now I am tired so I will take a day off to recoop so I can do it all again, and again…” ( and would God really need to rest in that way??) It was more like the rest when a temple is finished and then the deity can come and occupy it in “rest.” That made more sense to me

      • Anthony Lawson says:

        Joe, I think you have John H. Walton in mind when it comes to the idea of rest in relation to temple building.

    • Joe Deutsch says:

      For a long time for me, at least, the 4th commandment was the best argument for a literal 6-day account. Then eventually common sense took over…if a commandment compiled hundreds of years later is the best argument for a position, that’s not a good argument. I also read something somewhere (it might have been something Pete wrote even-I really don’t remember the source, and Pete, if it was you and I butcher it with my misremembering, please forgive) about what the author meant by “rest.” It wasn’t like “okay, I worked all week, now I am tired so I will take a day off to recoop so I can do it all again, and again…” ( and would God really need to rest in that way??) It was more like the rest when a temple is finished and then the deity can come and occupy it in “rest.” That made more sense to me

  • Ross says:

    On the whole I find the evolution v creation debate a total red herring. It stems for many, I think, on an emotional gut level where they correctly recognise opposing views in society between “the religious and secularists”. Evolution/Creationism are perceived as concrete hooks on which to hang their hats and are used as the jousting tools. Ignorance of the science, as Pete states, is what keeps the ball rolling and generally the ignorance is on the side of the “religious”. However, ignorance of metaphysics and the limitation of science has a smaller but noticeable influence on many from the “non-religious side.

    I am continually amazed by the number of very well educated, bright, thoughtful friends of mine who lean heavily against “evolution”, so I’d have to say that many years of specialism and training don’t always lead to good conclusions. Often these people are not educated in evolutionary biology etc. but I have known some who are. On listening to their passioned debates it becomes obvious that they are engaged in a serious discourse but ultimately they are using the wrong terms and words because they don’t know the correct words or terms to use. The current situation has given them a vocabulary which is not up to the task.

    Really this is a battle from over 150 years ago which was totally won by the reality of the science, Evangelicals just refuse to go forward. In the same way the word “Evangelical” had a particular meaning 150 years ago and it really did mean something. As time has moved on, the World has changed and I just don’t think “Evangelical” has the same or any value any more.

    I never felt comfortable with the term Evangelical and if anything define myself by saying I would not call myself Evangelical. I admire and agree with what some people think are the defining features of “Evangelicalism” but really it’s a term which has lost any real sense of meaning and has too many negative associations.

    In the same way that “Evangelicals” need to drop the “creationist” narrative, because it is little more than a lie, I think they should also drop the name. Personally I don’t like “labels” so would suggest not having a defining label (whether it be Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, whatever), but few seem to be able to grasp this idea. Better to have a hope and desire such as “follower of Jesus” than a defining title.

  • Occasional Commenter says:

    Pete, thanks for this. I am not a literalist when it comes to things like Genesis. Years ago, of course, it was important to me to defend my group’s take on the Bible, which meant viewing Genesis as literal history. I consider myself lucky that all of that has changed, despite the challenges of this way.

    Curious if the discussion around Paul’s view of Adam, as you’ve encountered it, encompass only a binary? Is it possible Paul is relying on his readers’ familiarity with the story to make a point, and not on the idea of Adam as a historical person? Can’t Adam serve as an important point of reference? Maybe you cover this in your book. In any case, thanks for the post.

    • Pete E. says:

      I definitely think that is a possible interpretation.

      • Veritas says:

        Couldn’t Adam simply be the first man (and Eve, the first woman) who understood the concept of good and evil, and the idea of a creator’s role in their own existence? It seems to me that, like other transformational ideas, there is always someone who was the first to grasp it.

        • Pete E. says:

          A lot of things “could” be, but that doesn’t make them goos answers. The scenario you suggest here is held to by others but it is also ad hoc and hypothetical.

  • Robert Auth says:

    Very solid post Pete. I often hear from literalists & YEC that keeping Jesus historical gets lost by non-literal interpretations. Also, could you address the question of how *truth* is addressed within ANY hermeneutic???? Jesus makes the claim He IS truth. How do we handle that in talking with a black/white interpreter??? Keep on rolling Pete.

  • Stephen McAdam says:

    This is the best post on Genesis/evolution I have read anywhere. It is so refreshing to read something so well thought out and so necessary especially in this age of such extremes expressed by certain religious groups.

  • Tim Gesicki says:

    Great points for having a generous conversation. Thank you, Dr. Enns

  • Paul says:

    Jesus also affirms an historical Adam. Does this mean the Son of God Incarnate was also “limited” by his culture and time?

    • Pete E. says:

      If you believe in the incarnation, you MUST believe he was limited as we all are.

      • Paul says:

        I do not believe Jesus could have been “wrong” on the historicity of Adam … even with the limits He placed on Himself as a human.

        I am with Keller on this one:

        [Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real
        historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally
        when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the
        traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . . .If Adam
        doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work
        ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his
        time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t
        believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s
        teaching.

        • Pete E. says:

          You’re certainly free to think that.

          • Paul says:

            I think this is an important question that you do not answer: do you believe Jesus could have been “wrong” on the historicity of Adam?

          • Pete E. says:

            I’ve written a lot about this, Paul. I think Jesus thought as any man of the time would re: Adam. Asking whether Jesus was “Right” or “Wrong” puts us down the wrong path.

          • Paul says:

            Fair enough. I am familiar with some of your works but have not read where you address this issue. At a minimum, I think our brief exchange on this topic does reflect how it impacts broader and deeper theological matters such as the Incarnation, Salvation History, Soteriology, Hamartology, and yes inspiration itself (which I understand is what you are trying to get at in the article). I will try and familiarize myself a little more with some of your thoughts on these vital questions.

          • Pete E. says:

            I appreciate that, Paul, but just try to keep in mind that topic impacts “broader and deeper theological matters” but that impact is not necessarily adverse–it is only so when one assumes and that an evangelical understanding of these topics reflects “normal, biblical, pure” Christian doctrine. In other words, I am encouraging you to be open to how all those topics can and likely should be nuanced, shifted, or even reconceived in ways that lie outside of evangelical boundaries. The Keller quote you posted is hardly free from serious critique.

          • DonaldByronJohnson says:

            I think for the “tribe” that Keller hangs out with, his acceptance of much of evolution puts him already on the edge of acceptance; if he denied Adam was historical, his tribe would kick him out. So I see him as constrained by tribal boundaries, he has gone about as far as he can go.

        • The Slicer says:

          If your focus on this is the supposed need for a first historical Adam to support Paul’s “second Adam”, this is not necessary. We can all be “in Adam” in the same way as we have the opportunity to be “in Christ.” We do not need to have a historical individual called Adam as our biological antecedent to be in Adam any more than we need be biologically a descendent of Jesus to be “in Christ.” In fact modern genetics demonstrates that we simply are not all descended from a single biological pair.

    • AHH says:

      Uh … Jesus never mentions Adam at all.
      Are you referring to the mention of God creating humans male and female from the beginning? That is true regardless of the historicity of Adam.
      Paul’s reference to Adam is a legitimate point of tension, but don’t drag Jesus into that argument.

      • Paul says:

        Yes I would say that when Jesus refers to the creation account of Genesis and cites the “man” & “woman” paradigm that He is affirming what the Genesis account teaches … a historical Adam & Eve. Do you think it is possible he is referring to some other “man” and “woman” other than Adam/Eve?

        • AHH says:

          Please don’t misquote Jesus — I can’t vouch for the Greek but no translation I have ever seen has Jesus referring to God originally creating a singular “man” and “woman”.
          He says “in the beginning made them MALE and FEMALE”. This seems to be referencing Gen 1:28, which is before the 2nd creation account picks up with the garden story featuring Adam & Eve, and which says nothing about the original number of humans. So the beginnings of humanity could just as easily have been 5000 males and 5000 females, and that would fit just as well with what Jesus said as one of each.

          Jesus is not affirming any particular number of created humans, or their identities, or any specific hermeneutic for other passages in Genesis, just the fact that from the beginning (whenever that might have been), ever since there have been humans, God has made his image manifest in male and female together (recall that the context of Gen. 1:28 is God making humans his image-bearers).
          I think it is exegetical malpractice to take a teaching about divorce and try to turn it into a teaching on how to interpret Genesis 2-3.

          • Paul says:

            And I think it is exegetical malpractice to suggest Paul (and I would argue Jesus) were simply buying into the cultural assumptions of their day.

            At the end of the day, we simply have different understandings of inspiration and how it impacts other key theological concepts.

          • Pete E. says:

            I think it’s exegetical malpractice to imagine we can understand Jesus or Paul apart from their context. Every seminary I know of, including conservative evangelical ones, would agree. Would you rather have them buy into your cultural assumptions?

          • Paul says:

            I don’t believe we can understand Jesus or Paul apart from their context. But Paul (and I would argue Jesus) definitely taught Adam & Even were historical figures. Paul grounds his theology upon Adam’s historicity. If we deny this historicity and simply dismiss it as a product of Paul’s time (and subsequently Paul was “wrong” on this matter), we are undermining Paul’s arguments on more pertinent theological matters like sin, atonement, covenant, etc.

            Again – this discussion ultimately hinges upon one’s view of inspiration.

  • Ken Orton says:

    Great article Pete. You and a few others have not “opened my eyes” as much as given me relief from my fear of saying the truth and opposing willful ignorance of evolution by the church. Unfortunately, it has cost me friends and in some cases mentors, who long ago taught me “the final solution”, first Futurism and later Calvinism then Preterism. All say that is what God “inspired” writers to teach. But, now we at least suspect that even the names of the writers of Scripture could well be wrong.

    Anyway, as a Zoology major in college I first began to see that the “creation story” was just not what I had been told. The ensuing 50 years have not only affirmed that, but expanded it. This was not philosophical stuff but science in its purest form. I have since of late began to see that the “creation story” is a suitable explanation for a very primitive people who thought the earth was flat like their heads.

    I won’t even get into the “microevolution” and “macroevolution” discussion which is so often skipped over, although that was the emphasis of Darwin’s treatise and a good subject for you to address sometime. Whether God created ape-like creatures that evolved into what we call humans or did it with dirt and a rib is really no issue at all. We all need to look at evidence based analyses of the information that God has given us today and then “evolve” our theology on an as-needed basis.

  • fqs says:

    Good post with arguments worth remembering if a person wishes to discuss evolution with an evangelical. As for me, I no longer wish to even though numerous friends and family are evangelicals who reject evolution. And I don’t just mean that they reject the theory of evolution. I mean that they refuse to evolve. I’m tired of butting heads with goats.

  • The Slicer says:

    Another outstanding one, Pete – not so much for the content (of which little is new), but for the concise and direct presentation of such important points, all in one place. Thank you. You are a blessing to the Church. I only hope folk recognize that sooner than later.

  • Al Cruise says:

    “should maintaining evangelical identity at all costs even be the primary concern?” No, all things need to evolve. It’s time for us to evolve into heirs to the Kingdom of God. What does the Kingdom of God look like ? Jesus explained that quite clearly. The question will then come to, can there be evolution [existence] without God? That will remain a mystery for now.

  • Dave says:

    Awesome article, Pete. You are one of the few people who give me hope for the future of Christianity.

  • Pete E. says:

    I think it’s exegetical malpractice to imagine we can understand Jesus or Paul apart from their context. Every seminary I know of, including conservative evangelical ones, would agree. Would you rather have them buy into your cultural assumptions?

    • Paul says:

      I don’t believe we can understand Jesus or Paul apart from their context. But Paul (and I would argue Jesus) definitely taught Adam & Even were historical figures. Paul grounds his theology upon Adam’s historicity. If we deny this historicity and simply dismiss it as a product of Paul’s time (and subsequently Paul was “wrong” on this matter), we are undermining Paul’s arguments on more pertinent theological matters like sin, atonement, covenant, etc.

      Again – this discussion ultimately hinges upon one’s view of inspiration.

      • Pete E. says:

        I am trying to get you to see that “Paul (and I would argue Jesus) definitely taught Adam & Even were historical figures. Paul grounds his theology upon Adam’s historicity” are widely discussed, and very few scholars would agree with you (apart from some –not all–inerrantists). You’re free to believe that but as a declarative statement of fact it is useless.

        • Paul says:

          I am well aware of the debate within evangelicalism on the historicity of Adam and the subsequent necessity (or lack of necessity) of this belief in the structure of our belief system. Maybe I am misunderstanding your assertion but I can’t imagine you are suggesting “very few [evangelical] scholars” believe in the necessity of an historical Adam.

  • Ken Orton says:

    Great. This thought process should alleviate the “guilt” that most every Christian feels as science discovers more and more evidence that Adam and Eve is allegory. The guilt is that “I know it’s not possible but my church keeps holding to the story.” Now on to Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, Job, etc.

  • Pete E. says:

    Though there are a number of evangelicals who feel that Adam is not necessarily historical (or whatever other qualification they give) (e.g., Longman, Walton), my comment “very few scholars would agree with you (apart from some –not all–inerrantists)”was not limited to evangelicals (not my parenthetical qualification. I think it is fair to say that most evangelicals hold to SOME SORT of “historical Adam” though they explain that in different ways, and I would further venture that many of those don’t think Adam was the first human created by God de novo. In my opinion, those who do insist in a historical Adam of any sort are wrong, and their arguments are consistently guided by some perceived theological need, like, “The Gospel falls apart with no historical Adam.” That argument has been dismantled plenty of times (though one has to go outside of an evangelical/inerrantists paradigm to see it).

    • Paul says:

      Agree. It comes down to paradigms … which stem from one’s doctrine of inspiration, etc. I will bow out of the conversation at this point. It is always necessary and productive to read different perspectives to shape our own.

      • Pete E. says:

        Thank you, Paul. Leet me only add that one’s doctrine of inspiration should never be one’s unalterable, non-negotiable starting point. That, too, is a human construct that should be kept open to change.

  • Pete E. says:

    I think you’re right about this, Don. Tim is seen as very liberal by a good number of people in his denomination simply by allowing for evolution to be true in some sense. He walks a fine line. I wonder, though, why someone of his intelligence seeks to walk that line at all–aligning with, say the BioLogos foundation and at the same time currying the favor of the very strident The Gospel Coalition. I feel he is is making his own problems worse than they need to be.

    • DonaldByronJohnson says:

      Al Mohler in TGC is a YEC that barely accepts OEC as a faithful possibility and totally rejects EC/TE. I guess he and Keller do not talk about this much. Obviously, Keller does not think his participation in Biologos and TGC are incompatible. On the other hand, I think TGC is a double oxymoron and imitate Admiral Ackbar in my response.

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