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11/29/2014

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Kenny Veldheer

The question of whether all humans descend from a single male-female pair doesn't apply only to Adam and Eve but to Noah as well.

Lee Grant Irons

With such evidence, why would one not feel driven to go the extent of believing that there were no historical Adam and Eve? And if Adam and Eve are just archetypes or symbols, what instructional or doctrinal utility is derived from the belief in the existence of a single first couple? Couldn't original sin just as easily be derived from an evolved community that, upon God first revealing himself to them, decided to transgress one of his first commandments? Wouldn't this be fact be just as useful to doctrine and instruction as a single-couple symbol?

Lee Grant Irons

One could argue that a flood effectively erases evolution and constrains descendants to a single ancestral couple. But I think your point is that if the genetic evidence does not support it, then the flood as a fact is just as much in question.

Charles Lee Irons

The issue isn't just about the instructional or doctrinal utility of the account of Adam and Eve. It is a concrete historical question. Was man originally created upright and without sin, and then disobeyed God and brought the entire human race with him into a state of sin, thus placing all humans under the judgment of death? Was the Fall a real, historical event in space and time? The Bible seems to say that it was. "God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). "Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin" (Romans 5:12; cp. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Charles Lee Irons

Thanks for bringing up the subject of the flood. I'm not planning to tackle that in this series, but it is an important related point, especially in view of the claim by Francisco Ayala, et al, re. the minimum population size. I don't have any brilliant insights to offer here, other than to say that among biblical scholars, there is also a spectrum of views on the extent of the flood: (1) a global flood (typically associated with young earth creationism), (2) an anthropologically universal but not physically global flood (my preference), and (3) a local flood (commonly held by critical scholars).

Jesse Cook

I'm not clear how sharing common genetic structures is an argument for anything. That is just a fact that needs to be interpreted. All living creatures are made out of atoms, does that prove that we were formed out of dust? It m"could be true, but stand alone facts do nothing without linking them together in some kind of pre conscieved paradigm. Why not simply rest knowing God chose to use common structures for all parts of creation, and enjoy studying His handy work?

Rob Mitchell

Thanks for putting forth the effort to produce a detailed and thoroughgoing overview of the issues and the scientific reasoning that prompts many (including myself) to re-examine Genesis 1-11 and to do so in a dispassionate and irenic manner. It's vitally important to understand both the scientific and biblical-doctrinal issues in some degree of depth in order to address questions of scientific and theological subtlety with specificity. Too many times, the scientists on one side and theologians on the other end up talking past one another without having bothered even to learn one another's terminology needed to enter the conversation, and end up firing polemical salvos expressed in unhelpful vague generalities.

Above and behind the scientific reasoning is a motivation that is equally important, and it is often mischaracterized (you have not done so here, but I think it helpful to note). People, including Evangelicals, who are curious about the world and who engage in the scientific enterprise are driven primarily not by a desire for academic respect, nor are they subordinating the authority of Scripture to human judgments. They are driven by relentless and fearless pursuit of truth. Evangelicals engaged in science are confident that all truth is God's truth, and so there are no scientific truths to be discovered that could do other than to honor God. Those who are of this perspective feel that there are no facts God must be defended from.

There is an important ancillary issue here: How should Christians educate our children and young people about science. I've posed this question to some who reject evolution outright on doctrinal grounds and the answer is commonly along the lines of "begin with the Bible and let Biblical doctrine form an authoritative position. Any area of science that threatens Biblical authority is out of bounds (or perhaps past the seawall).

There are two dangers with this approach. First and most obvious, science should not be limited in areas of exploration. There is no knowledge about the natural world that should be considered forbidden. This does not apply to knowledge of evil, but that is another matter. The second danger is that of elevating a particular hermeneutical construct (a human interpretation) to the level of Scripture itself. I think some Creationists may have done exactly this with a literal-historical approach to Genesis 1-11.

But this leaves open the question of what we do when scientific data point to a conclusion that raises theological issues, like the genomic data. I have a good enough lay understanding of genomics to agree with the scientific majority report that there is no evidence of a genetic bottleneck in the human species that can be pointed to the time either of Noah's family or of our Biblical first parents. I would predict that as time and knowledge progress, the data will firm up toward the absence of a genetic signature of a population descended either from Adam or Noah, and this is only in the area of genetics.

The question is, what do Evangelicals do with scientific data which leads us (compellingly but not necessarily convincingly) toward a view which we agree is past the seawall, to use your metaphor, of orthodoxy? Some suggest the church is approaching a "Galileo moment". I'm not so sure, but I cannot help but to ponder these questions. Your series here is a helpful contribution to the discussion.

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