The question of “Adam and Evolution” has become a hot topic lately among those who hold a high view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Three years ago, C. John Collins wrote Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? in which he argued that they did, but opened the door a bit to allow for the permissibility of a form of evolution in which Adam could have non-human ancestors. Two years ago, Peter Enns published The Evolution of Adam in which he fully supports a version of evolution that would not be consistent with the traditional understanding of Adam as a real, historical person. He acknowledges that Paul thought Adam was a real, historical individual. But just as Paul believed in a three-tiered universe (Phil 2:10) without making that belief normative for us, so his view of Adam was part of his cultural context but not part of the authoritative Word of God for us. Last year, Zondervan came out with Four Views of the Historical Adam, featuring a young earth creationist (William D. Barrick), an old earth creationist (the aforementioned C. John Collins), an advocate of an archetypal but still historical Adam (John Walton), and an evolutionary creationist who rejects a historical Adam, a view similar to that of Enns (Denis Lamoureux). And now hot off the press this month, comes the multi-author volume Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives edited by Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves. This last volume looks like it will be a very helpful one in terms of addressing the potential repercussions of evolutionary views for the doctrines of the Fall and original sin.
I have only read the Zondervan four views book. I am looking forward to digging into the other three. I was also able to hear the four authors of the Zondervan book interact on a panel at the ETS Annual Meeting in San Diego last week. This piqued my interest, and so I’ve decided to delve a bit more into this topic. My aim in this series of blog posts is not to argue for a certain position, but to accomplish three things:
First, I want to clarify what the questions are. It is not simply one question, “Did Adam and Eve really exist?” As I mulled over this issue, it became clear to me that this is a very complex question with a whole raft of questions that are all entangled and involved with one another. In my third post, I will list all the questions I can think of and group them into five clusters. I may not cover every single conceivable question, but I hope I will have gotten most of them on the table so that we can see just how tangled and complex this issue is.
Second, I want to show that there is a spectrum of views on these questions. It is not a binary option of historical Adam versus a denial of the same, or of an evolutionary scenario for the origin of man versus a literal interpretation of Genesis 2:7, 21-23. From what I can tell, based on the four books mentioned above, there are at least seven different views out there on the question of how to integrate the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve with the modern theory of evolution, understood as including an evolutionary model in which homo sapiens evolved from hominids. Two of the seven views (young earth creationism and old earth creationism) reject any evolutionary scenario for man since they deny that Adam had living ancestors. The other five views are a spectrum of different types of evolutionary creationism, four of which affirm a historical Adam. That in itself is interesting. It proves that holding to evolution does not necessarily entail a denial of a historical Adam. I am sure that there are other options within the broad label “evolutionary creationism” than the ones I will list here. These are just the ones I know about that are currently live options being discussed in the evangelical world. The conception that this is a binary debate must be let go!
Third, I want to try to figure out, if possible, where the line should be drawn on the spectrum of these views if we want to uphold traditional Augustinian and Reformed theology of the federal headship of Adam, the Fall, and original sin. To me this is the key issue – the theological issue. Evangelicals may have different ways of handling the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve, and we may have different ways of trying to integrate the Genesis account with the theory of evolution, but at the end of the day what those of us who are Reformed in our theology want to know is which of these interpretations/integrations are consistent, minimally, with an Augustinian understanding of original sin, but more particularly, with a Reformed understanding of Adam's federal headship. I will argue that of the five views that integrate the biblical account of Adam and Eve with an evolutionary scenario for the origin of man, only three stand “above the line” as within the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy and that the other two fall “below the line” and should not be adopted by those who consider themselves Reformed, that is, who hold to the two-Adams construction of federal theology based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. But I am getting ahead of myself.