A must-read paper on Genesis

Philosopher and theologian Roy Clouser has published a paper in PSCF that I believe defines and clarifies a theological position for many evolutionary creationists. Quoting from the paper:

I will show why the Hebrew text does not present Adam and Eve as either the fi rst humans or the ancestors of all humans, and that the New Testament actually denies both those claims. Neither can I any longer agree with Augustine’s view that Genesis presents Adam and Eve as created sinless so that their fall from grace is the origin of sin in the world.

I have heard Prof. Clouser present this material, and am thrilled to see it published.


Without joining their association, professing their brand of faith, and outing cash, I can not read this paper. Sad. It sounds interesting. I hope you could suggest they publish it on Biologos.

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@Sy_Garte… I too cannot review the article. I am not a member.

How will we surmount the inescapable obstacle for our general readers?

I found this paper by Roy Clouser. Is this the one? It is interesting in any case.


Sorry, I forgot that the paper is behind a paywall, for members of ASA only. I would be happy to send a pdf to anyone who sends me a PM here with your email address. The ASA is a great organization btw, and might be worth joining. Its open to all Christians, who are involved or interested in science. I dont know whether it might be possible to publish some form of it here. I will say that in general, the modern system of scholarly publication is horrendous. Anyway, I guess there cant be much discussion of this. Sorry.

That is a different paper, but I like everything that Roy says. So far.

@Sy_Garte I see they have back issues free on their site:

Do you know which issue it’s in?

Im afraid its in the latest edition December 2016, which is not available. I can send you a copy if you let me know your email address.


I’ll be happy to discuss it as soon as I read it. Haha

Thanks so much for your generous offer to email a pdf. You da man!

I have started in on it and am finding it interesting. I’m nowhere close to finished yet, but one general point he’s already made early on is this:

This group (critically referred to as ‘fundamentalists’ by Clouser) does not take Genesis literally (according to Clouser) so much as they are taking it (and indeed all of the Bible) as being ‘encylcopedic’. I.e. they want it to be a comprehensive source of any/all information that it may even happen to touch upon with its language. He argues that this misappropriation of God’s word is what drives them into error. If they were taking it literally, (in the genre-sensitive sense of that word), then they would be trying to understand it as its original audience would have heard it. That is what we all strive to do and would be a big improvement on how its being treated in so many quarters now.

So far I’m intrigued by how he’s developing all this.

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The June 2016 paper is interesting as it makes a valid point regarding reductionism. His concluding statement…

“Theistic regulation, on the contrary, means allowing belief in God to regulate theories by providing a view of created reality that eschews reduction. In this way it keeps its divinity belief out of science itself while freeing science from the fate of lurching from one deadend reductionism to another.”

… shows the paper fails to include the intent of anti-theists. It is easy to dismiss materialist eliminatevists, but the subtle arguments by anti-theists, especially in the way they utilise evolutionary theories (combined with the naïve views of 6-day creationists and over enthusiastic views of TEs) have not been captured imo by this paper. I also see an attempt at correcting the way TEs deify evolutionary thinking - I think many on this site should take this point seriously.

Nonetheless, the treatment of creation from nothing, and the way Genesis treats matters such as days, is discussed in a useful manner.

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I like the author’s simple approach to parsing and analyzing the so-called Two Stories of Creation in Genesis.

He makes perfectly good conclusions showing that the first story must have been intended as a figurative description, and that the 2nd story must have been intended to discuss (per @Jonathan_Burke’s favorite approach) the specific origins of one special family raised by God - - a special family with specific descendants - - rather than a special family that was the common ancestor of all Humanity.



Could you expound upon this? I’ve always sort of lumped the two factions together. Thanks!

I assume you mean atheists and anti-theists, I use these terms to distinguish between atheism as an absence of belief in any deity, from anti-theists whose outlook is to oppose belief in a deity (most often God and the Christian faith).

I understand the two terms (or factions) are often lumped together because they may use similar arguments, but from my experience atheists are not overly bothered if others believe in God, whereas anti-theists are aggressively trying to dissuade people from believing in God. The latter face a contradiction and are often incoherent in their criticisms. Both however, often subscribe to some type of materialism, so we get into difficult arguments (e.g. is materialism a belief system?)

Interesting. I need to look at the article. This has encouraged me to look at joining ASA, which I plan on doing now.
My daughter was taught (at Baylor) that the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 stories represent creation stories of two different traditions, the first probably a coastal culture due to the water imagery, and the second a desert culture due to the dust etc., with two different names for God, and they were merged.
That is a difficult concept for kids raised in a literal tradition of interpretation, but she had no trouble with it. Some of her classmates had some major cognitive dissonance, which is sort of why Biologos exists.


Read the June 2006 version. Totally agree with the convent concept for interpretation. I liked his discussion of metaphysical ideas, though it felt like he missed making a definitive point. Maybe he just did not defend his position strong enough.

My biggest problem is the last word of this statement.
“What will be different about my presentation of it is that it will be based on the text itself rather than a sharp partitioning of humans into natural and non-natural sides, or a wave-of-the-hand dismissal of the text as, say, poetry.”

How is a poetic interpretation a wave-of-the-hand dismissal of the text? Poetry can describe reality. It can do so with deeper meaning and with fewer words than prose. Poetry is also easy to remember, easy to sing, and easy to teach children. His dismissal of a style of writing puts a limit on his understanding of the text. He sees it in one dimension. Gen 1 only expresses covenant, not the reality of the creation itself. How is that not a wave-of-the-hand dismissal of the text?

Yes, I believe Gen 1 is poetry. A poetic Gen 1 describes standard science from the Big Bang through the evolution of the universe to the awakening and covenant with humanity. But the reader has to accept the poetic structure to see that reality.

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I was pretty keenly interested to read the paper, since it coincides with a topic I found myself thinking about over the past week quite a bit, i.e. whether the Bible is telling two different accounts of different events, or two accounts of one creation of humanity.

I was rolling my eyes at AiG’s insistence to read Genesis literally, when it occurred to me to ask, does it ever actually say that Adam and Eve were the first people? A more simple and intuitive reading seemed to be that the creation of humankind is described at the end of Gen 1, and the story of Adam is a separate event concerning the spiritual transformation associated with the dawn of agriculture.

I’m not a Christian, so all this is simply my own perspective and speculation, but I do welcome other thoughts and evaluation of these ideas!

There are a number of clear references, it seems to me, in Gen 2 to ‘tilling the ground,’ to the plants and herbs and animals ‘of the field’ as opposed to ‘of the earth’ from Gen 1, which could refer to domesticated crops and animals? The phrase for birds seems to be identical, however, and for cattle/herd-animals, but these categories both include wild and domestic variants. I would love to know what this distinction looks like from someone who knows Hebrew.

Even more interesting is the connection of Adam personally to the dust of the ground. The feminine form of ‘Adam’ is ‘adamah,’ soil. By saying Adam is formed from the soil, does it mean that Adam was ‘formed’ spiritually from physically working the land in a way unlike previous humans, who were hunter-gatherers? Certainly it is difficult to think of any more profound change in humanity, requiring a greater shift in the way we interact with and view the world and our place in it.

I would also suggest that it then becomes rather silly to suggest that the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’ must be passed down genetically to all humanity rather than the traditional ways that knowledge is spread, by word and deed to other humans. And who today is untouched by the sins of civilization?

To elaborate, I would suggest that hunter-gatherers had a spiritual understanding perfectly adequate to living a hunter-gatherer life. (It was good.) It would have been highly conserved—changing extremely slowly over generations. But when suddenly a lot of changes happened in a shorter time period (the rate of change accelerated), it was no longer sufficient—man was not formed to till the ground. This is where Adam’s new relationship with God has to form. And Adam and Eve set out on the path towards understanding good and evil—towards re-forming a morality which is different from just accepting the way things have always been.

But the thing is that as soon as you have the greater knowledge, you also have responsibility. Adam tried to pretend he had never taken that step, to deny that anything was different, but knowledge like that can’t be put back, undone, or reversed. The first thing Adam did with it was fail to take responsibility. It’s completely understandable—the enormity of what they were setting in motion would intimidate anyone! And yet the only way to travel the road to becoming better involves failing repeatedly, and with far greater consequences than if you’d never set foot on that road to begin with.

I was thinking this all fit extremely well together, and then I read Gen 5 which seems to explicitly tie together the creation of humankind and the man named Adam, which rather took the wind out of my sails a bit. I was hoping to gain additional insight into this issue from reading the article (which I have been sadly remiss in addressing so far) and although it excellently covered many points and provided a deeper understanding for me of how to interpret Genesis within a Christian framework, I didn’t see Gen 5 explicitly addressed.

I did find very interesting how the author tied ‘dust of the ground’ to natural mortality, and how the ‘breath of life’ represents a spiritual rather than physical transferrence. Just about my only quibble was as I outlined above: that I would occupy a middle ground between Augustine believing that pre-fall humanity was in the highest possible state of perfection, and the author believing that they were not right with God at all.

I’m sure as this is just a broad outline, that there are still many holes to be patched and arguments to be made, at least in my thoughts (again, the article is much more comprehensive and water-tight than my leapfrogging about) but I believe I should curtail myself before this comment begins to get as long as a paper itself!


I should’ve been more clear in what I was asking, sorry! I don’t disagree with what you’ve written here, but I was asking more for an explanation of how the dismissal of materialists isn’t adequate to dismiss anti-theists.

Reminds me of a quote by Sam Harris: “Atheism isn’t a philosophy. It isn’t even a worldview. It’s simply a refusal to deny the obvious”. I always found this terribly smug and utterly lacking self-awareness: for essentially the entire course of human history, the ‘obvious’ has always been that there’s something beyond us.

Yes, there are atheists who simply believe their view is so obvious that there is no need to argue - but then they go anyway and write book after book, to more or less state something so obvious that it does not need elaboration or arguments. Go figure!

Anti-theists are so concerned with showing religion is (? …I have yet to read a coherent view of Christianity from such quarters, so let us say they believe it is wrong) something they oppose, that they fail to state what they believe, with the exception that all is without purpose or meaning. Again their basic premise is a negative one (ie it ain’t so!).

You don’t have to pay to join the ASA as a “Follower,” nor must you take an oath of allegiance to a doctrinal position as far as I recall when signing up recently.