##NOTE: I am not looking to debate the historic Christian doctrines of original sin and total depravity. If you don’t agree with those doctrines, please refrain from commenting, as this will not appeal to you.
After some thinking, I have come up with a perspective on Adam. This perspective will really only appeal to Reformed Christians such as myself, who attempt to place necessary emphasis on the idea of federal headship when it comes to Adam and Christ. Indeed, this is not so much a harmonization of Genesis 2-3 with modern science, but a harmonization of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 with science. I submit my theory to you in humility, willing to be corrected, but only corrected on the basis of Scripture.
(As I haven’t read very many opinions on this matter, this perspective may already be held to by some in the evolutionary creationist community.)
###A Reformed and Evolutionary Perspective on Adam
Suppose, for a moment, that evolution by natural selection is the best explanation for the origins of life on this planet, and that animals and humans evolved in large groups via natural processes under the sovereign guidance of God. What then becomes of original sin and the story of Adam? Here is what I think.
When human evolution reached a sort of climax, God endued humanity with His image, blessing his creation to be His image bearers in the world. It is at this point that God sovereignly chose from the group of humans two individuals, who would later become known as Adam and Eve to the Hebrews. He placed these individuals in a special garden in Eden, and so ordained and purposed that they should be the federal representatives of not only their progeny, but also of all their contemporaries, having given them a single command: do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was a time of bliss, with the Creator and two of his creations communing with one another, a foretaste of the New Creation. These two were endowed with free will, the ability to choose independent of any outside coercion. Ultimately, however, because of the deception of the serpent, according to God’s most holy decree, the pair transgressed the single command God had given them, and so were cursed. They were sent forth out of the garden as fallen creatures, the whole of their beings impaired, and the rest of the new humanity fell with them.
Therefore, man to this day is totally depraved, born with original sin; as Augustine put it, mankind is naturally non posse non peccare, not able to not sin. All mankind does is sin, and apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ, all a man or woman ever will do is sin. We are sinners. The sin of Adam was imputed to us all. In this sense, the doctrine of original sin is still very real. The first humans to sin were Adam and Eve, federal heads of the human race.
Is this unfair of God? No, because God can do (and does do) whatever he so desires. Federal headship is central to Paul’s argument in Romans 5, and without it, original sin and the atonement make no sense. (And, by the way, Ezekiel 18, when interpreted properly, is in no way contrary to this position as classically held by the Reformers).
So what about the biblical account? This may sound heterodox, but I think that the accounts are what one might call “mythologized histories.” What do I mean? Well, history tends to be mythologized as it goes from one generation to the next. The details are embellished and the story made more fantastical. One must discern the bare-bones story underneath all the icing on top. The Holy Spirit so chose to inspire a legendary account of the two individuals known as Adam and Eve. The story at the core is indeed true, and represents reality, but some details may be incidental.
This has implications for inerrancy (duh), but I lean towards Denis Lamoureux’s idea of the “message/incident” principle (I disagree with Lamoureux about Adam, though).
Anyway, that’s it in a nutshell. It is highly speculative and by no means concrete. Please, let me know of improvements, or of other people who hold this or a similar perspective on this issue. (I think that John Walton holds to a perspective similar to this, perhaps without the federal headship; I need to do some reading.)