March 13, 2012

The Evolution of Adam

I'm neither Creationist nor Evolutionist, but the third option is NOT "undecided". Personally, I find both Genesis' story and Evolutionary theory to be lacking in various* ways, and I suspect that we're ALL fairly unlikely to be guessing accurately at what happened in Earth's far flung past, let alone how to describe and explain biological development - from that point until now - in any practical terms.

Nevertheless, it looks increasingly likely that most if not all Western Christians will soon decide to believe Evolution and I'm totally okay with that as a Christian, no matter how much it bothers me as a Skeptic. Therefore, with my personal mixed feelings aside, I must hereby declare that with RJS' final summary of Peter Enns' new book, The Evolution of Adam, it looks increasingly likely that Enns has done all Western Christians a real favor.

While Jesus and Paul both spoke of Adam as if Genesis were historical, the weight that Paul places on Adam's original sin was about "the deep, foundational plight of the human condition" something that Enns says Paul merely "expressed in the biblical idiom available to him." Furthermore, "God's solution through the resurrection of Christ" obviously remains the same in either case. Yes, I just said that. Please note:

Although I'm usually the last one to embrace solutions where "historicity doesn't matter because the meaning's the same", it's a fair statement in this particular case because the investigation was ideological through and through. In other words, the only good** reason to investigate this issue was to consider if Paul's argument in Romans still works. According to Peter Enns, it still does. The Evolution of Adam may not be complete, but this book is a major contribution in these ongoing developments. About that much, there can be no question.

 * Evolution, if true, is nothing less than divinely miraculous, and utterly non-accidental. Logically, even given whatever bajillions of years for everything to transpire, the odds against all that are still so ridiculous that only Deus Ex Machina could explain all the diverse biological complexity that's developed to this point. So while "Intelligent Design" isn't viably scientific, it remains good logic that absolutely does beg the question. If God's required, why did he choose to Evolve us so slowly?

 * The Genesis story, if true, is at best a poor representation of actual facts. Logically, unless God and Adam spoke Hebrew before the Tower of Babel, then at least *some* of the aspects in Gen 1-3 are merely intended to portray, using words as best as anyone could have, a version of things known/believed at the time. So while there's no grounds to make Genesis totally "figurative", it remains less than 'incontrovertible video evidence'. If that's precisely what happened, how come it all doesn't really make sense?

 ** The other reason some will keep fighting about this is because Evangelical hardliners feel that Paul's evocations of Adam must be taken as evidence of Adam's historicity. Obviously, that's a major reason Enns wrote the book, but for my feelings on all that, see here.


Mike Morrell said...

It is fascinating to hear you say all this, Bill. I'm basically with you, though I'm more inclined to trust the best intuitions of science at this point, with fewer roadblocks. (But hey, you're the mathematician...) I'm curious, have you read Peter's book for yourself? If not, do you plan to..? I'm about halfway through it, and it's quite rich, even aside from everything about Adam and evolution! (In other words, his stuff on ancient near eastern culture & the development of the Hebrew canon, as well as his 'incarnational' model for biblical inspiration, are well worth the price of admission.)

Bill Heroman said...

Nope. As advertised, I've only read the RJS reviews, plus a bunch of the chatter elsewhere.

Peter seems to be fighting battles that aren't mine to join in with. That said, I pretty much blogged here on the aspects of his fight which I felt touch on my particular crusade. It's a major debate going on about the NT and historicity, and I do come out a bit surprisingly on the decision. Or so it may appear...

Fascinating indeed. Thanks for interacting about it.

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