We have looked at the entangled clusters of questions surrounding the whole “Adam and Evolution” question. I’ve laid out seven options (recognizing that there are more options not listed here) for attempting to reconcile the biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve with science, either by rejecting or accepting a evolutionary creationist model. In surveying the seven options, it becomes evident that there are two lines which demarcate important conceptual divisions. The first line separates views that say Adam did not have living ancestors (young earth creationism and old earth creationism) from views that say he did (evolutionary creationism types 1–5). The second line separates evolutionary creationist views that place Adam at the headwaters of the human race and that say humans died only after the Fall (types 1–3) from evolutionary creationist views that do not place Adam at the headwaters of the human race and that say humans have always sinned and died (types 4–5). In my view, this is where the line of orthodoxy should be drawn. This is the sea wall.
I include Walton’s version of evolutionary creationism (EC-4) on the wrong side of the sea wall, even though he affirms a historical Adam and Eve, because of his view that humans sinned and died before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. In other words, while he affirms a historical “Fall,” his understanding of it is significantly different from what is traditionally meant. It does not matter that he holds to a historical Adam, because the reason a historical Adam is so important is because of the historical Fall properly understood as the movement of Adam, representing the human race, from a state of integrity and uprightness, to a state of sin, guilt, condemnation, and death.
When we look at the most radical version of evolutionary creationism (EC-5) we see a more consistent view that denies the historicity of Adam and Eve and thus doesn’t just revise but totally denies the concept of a historical Fall of Adam as the representative of the human race. Lamoureux and Enns are both explicit on this point. What is so interesting to me is to observe how it is not really science that is driving these Christian thinkers, since, as I have shown, it is possible to formulate any number of evolutionary scenarios for the origin of man as a biological organism while maintaining a historical Fall (see EC-1, EC-2, EC-3).
If not science, then what is driving them to cross the sea-wall? It would take a longer post to show this, but in my view, it is ultimately their view of Scripture that takes them there. For example, in The Evolution of Adam (esp. Ch. 3), Enns argues that we must interpret Genesis 1-11 by means of what he calls “genre calibration” by comparing Genesis with the Ancient Near Eastern myths such as the Enuma Elish and the Gilgamesh Epic. Since these myths were understood by the ancients as totally ahistorical, fanciful myths (a questionable assumption, as Professor Jack Collins has shown – see the excellent Appendix 1 of his book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?), and since Genesis 1-11 shows evidence of being written in the same conceptual milieu and derived from the same shared culture, it follows that Genesis 1-11 is also ahistorical and ought not to be interpreted as providing us with any historical information about origins. Walton is also very much interested in interpreting Genesis in light of the ANE context and comes very close to the same position as Enns, although he still retains a tiny residue of historicity at seemingly arbitrary points. They share the same view of Scripture. They share the same view that Genesis 1-11 is not fundamentally to be read as telling “what actually happened” in referentially historical terms but as giving us something more theological, whether “functional ontology” (Walton) or “Israel’s stories of self-definition” (Enns). They share the same hermeneutic that gives priority to the ANE myths. Enns is just more consistent.
Enns is even aware of positions like EC-1, EC-2, and EC-3, but he dismisses such attempts at reconciling evolution with the Bible as “driven by a perceived theological need to preserve some sort of a first pair in order to preserve Paul’s theology” (as if that were a bad thing!) (p. xvii). He says that once we understand what type of literature Genesis 1-11 is (by comparing it with ANE myths) we realize that “these early chapters ... are not history in any normally accepted sense of the word ... They speak another language altogether” (p. 50). He adds, “The biblical view cannot in any way be joined to modern scientific models” (as EC-1, EC-2, and EC-3 try to do) (p. 57).
I do not think the EC-5 view represented by Enns is within the bounds of orthodoxy – not just because of its reading of Genesis as ahistorical myth, but also because it denies the historical Fall of Adam as the head of the human race. Too many theological issues are at stake. If there is no historical transition of the human race from a state of integrity to a state of condemnation, caused by Adam’s primal covenant-breaking in his role as the natural and federal head of the race, then how do we explain (a) the fact that everyone without exception is a sinner, and (b) the fact that all humans die, even the unborn and infants, before they have had a chance to commit actual sin? And if we deny the historical covenant-transgression of Adam as the federal head of the human race, then wouldn’t it be inconsistent to insist on the historical covenant-obedience of Christ as the second Adam and the federal head of the new humanity, the elect? Paul places the entire scheme of salvation history on the shoulders of these two Adams. To deny the historicity of the first Adam is to undermine the need for the historicity of the second Adam. Why do we even need the incarnation of the Son of God anyway? Couldn’t we just be Unitarians and say that all humans need to try to be good and work on improving their relationship with God?
I am not yet prepared to move from my old earth creationist position in order to adopt any version of evolutionary creationism. However, should any of my old earth creationist friends feel the need to do so, I would encourage them to stay on the right side of the sea wall of a historical Adam and a historical Fall by adopting either EC-1 or EC-2, or if necessary EC-3. I am at this point in tentative agreement with Jack Collins that at least EC-1 and EC-2, and possibly EC-3, are within the bounds of orthodoxy.
It might perhaps be questioned whether EC-3 is within the bounds of orthodoxy, since in contrast with EC-1 and EC-2 it does not insist on strict monogenesis and the traditional “face value” reading of Genesis 5:1ff that all humans are the offspring of Adam and Eve. This is one area that needs more investigation. In the past it has just always been assumed without question that Adam’s federal headship is grounded in his role as the biological ancestor of all mankind. For example, the Westminster Confession says that “They [= our first parents] being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation” (WCF VI.3).
But is this strict connection between genetics and federal headship biblical? There are two additional verses that can be taken as supporting the notion that all humans are the offspring of the first pair: the fact that the woman is named “Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20 NIV) and the statement of Paul that God “made from one man every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26 ESV). But both verses are capable of other interpretations. Aside from these verses, there is no logical obstacle (that I can think of) to postulating that God could have ordained Adam to be the federal head of all humanity, all those descending from the original tribe, even of those not genetically Adam’s offspring. I don’t have definitive answers to these questions at this point. It is something that needs to be explored further. If good exegetical and theological arguments can be made for grounding Adam’s federal headship in his natural role as the biological father of humanity, then I will yield and agree that EC-1 and EC-2 are the best evolutionary options for those wanting to uphold a Reformed understanding of Adam’s federal headship and of the Fall.