Books and Culture Hosts Online Symposium on Adam and Eve | The BioLogos Forum

Books & Culture has been one of the bright spots in the development of the evangelical mind over the last generation. It has molded itself after the fashion of the New York Review of Books, enlisting the writing talents of many prominent evangelical academics to review books and provide cultural commentary.

B&C also maintains a website that houses articles that don’t find their way to print and other special symposia. One of those just occurred that will be of interest to many of our readers. Karl Giberson recently published a book, Saving the Original Sinner, about the history of arguments about Adam. He and B&C editor John Wilson organized an online symposium in which Christian authors write about the doctrine of Adam and Eve.

After Wilson’s introduction (and before his conclusion), there are two rounds of contributions from Giberson, Pete Enns, Denis Lamoureux, Hans Madueme, Hal Poe, John Schneider, William VanDoodewaard, and John Walton (it is easiest to navigate to these from the box at the bottom of each post). Most of these guys have reconciled their faith to the reality of evolution, and it appears that at least half of them do not hold to a historical Adam. Madueme and VanDoodewaard represent the more conservative side according to which treating Adam as anything other than a historical figure undermines theology. Each person wrote an original essay, and then each wrote a response to that first round. They are well worth reading to get a flavor of the conversation about Adam and Eve among Christian academics today.

At BioLogos we’re often asked about our position on a historical Adam and Eve. The honest answer is that we don’t have one. We’re confident that the science of evolution has demonstrated common ancestry beyond a reasonable doubt. And we’re committed to the Scriptural doctrine that all human beings are created in the image of God (see What We Believe). Within these parameters, there is still a wide range of views on Adam and Eve. We’ve sponsored a good deal of discussion about this (see our list of posts tagged with Adam and Eve), and we expect to continue to do so.

Below is a complete list of the essays, with links.

Symposium on the Historical Adam:

Saving the Original Sinner [interview with Karl Giberson]

Round 1:

Round 2:

John Wilson, Adam’s Ancestors [brief wrap-up]

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I have had a fair amount experience lately talking with people about the doctrine of Adam and Eve. Anyone else want to talk?

Thanks Jim & BioLogos for providing such an extensive bibliography of the Adam & Eve discussions. I have a few hours of stimulating reading ahead of me.
Al Leo

I am not disappointed, the listing of the Adam & Eve Symposium is a gold mine. One of the many gems I would like to pass on is this quote from Poe’s 'Confusion…":

“Science does not yet have a definition for humanity that allows us to know when our ancestors became human. Body form does not do it. From a biblical perspective, the greater question concerns when humans came to be made in the image of God. For this matter, theologians also lack a common understanding.”

Both science and theology could learn from Pinnochio. The puppet, Pinnochio, became human when he listened to Jimminy Cricket, his conscience. Same goes for Homo sapiens.
Al Leo

I have always thought that Genesis is very straightforward on the Fall-- we became human when we became aware of the difference between good and evil, and chose evil as often as not. That was a brilliant deduction, and doesn’t depend on whether Adam and Eve were two actual people.


Hi Jim, a few suggestions that may hopefully be useful on this subject.

The questions posed by evolutionist creationists and like minded people regarding Adam and Eve seem to avoid, or obscure, some elementary considerations that are essential to a coherent Christian discussion of this topic. These include the following:

  1. The central aspect is that God was involved with Adam and Eve. If we do not accept this, we cannot have any Christian discussion on the subject.
  2. The Bible teaches God’s involvement included the creation of the universe, the earth and all that is in it, including humanity – again, if we cannot accept this, the discussion is pointless.
  3. A Christian understands that the relationship God offered to Adam and Eve (and by implication all of humanity) included the offer to eternal life, freedom from evil, and an idyllic existence in terms of communion with God and free from death and all matters associated with death and evil – if a person cannot accept this as a teaching of the Christian faith, any discussions would be pointless.
  4. A Christian understands that Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, in spite of all of the evidence regarding a good life free from evil – this too is obvious to a Christian.
  5. As a consequence, Adam and Eve were removed from Eden, and lived in a world that included death and suffering.

I understand that various theological discussions have occurred over the past 1-2000 year, but I am not aware of any that disputed the five points above.

The importance of Biblical teachings that include Adam and Eve is shown when we consider conversion of a sinful human being into one who lives by faith in Christ, obeys the commandments, and ensures a clean conscience. This always includes repentance, baptism (signifying the death of human nature and sin), and rebirth into a life in Christ. None of these matters involve or require an evolutionary outlook, nor are in conflict with any scientific understanding. All include a reference to the choice made by Adam and Eve (and all of us throughout history).

We do not need a scientific experiment to know that human beings die, or that the entire world suffers because of sin. As Calvin points out, it is the regeneration of the human soul/spirit (or the creation of the new human being) that is taught by the Christian faith.

If I may be so bold, Biologos (and perhaps all US evangelists) do not need alternative theories for Adam and Eve, nor new notions of sin (original or otherwise – sin originated from spiritual rebellion of angelic beings against God and does not have its origin in material aspects, be they biological or materialistic). They instead need to examine their doctrinal position and decide what Christianity means to them.

It should be obvious that denying God’s involvement in these matters would negate any meaning to a Christian – atheists would understand this, but Christians should also understand Christ provides the foundation for our beliefs. Evolutionary biology can continue, and when atheists and others decide to use it as an ideological weapon, Christians should dimply reject the ideology. There is no basis for a Christian to see a conflict in these matters – the conflict is always (and has always been) between some atheists, all anti-theists, and any Christians who are drawn into such conflicts.

Jim writes: “it appears that at least half of them do not hold to a historical Adam.”

Is it not accurate to say, as William VanDoodewaard did in round 2, that in this evangelical Symposium on historical Adam and Eve only “one quarter [were] committed to the historical Adam of historic Christian orthodoxy”?

“The honest answer is that we don’t have one.”

Perhaps. Though BioLogos appears to generally favour doubt regarding “a historical Adam and Eve.” Have you ever done a survey of your staff and ‘members’ on this topic? Hosting anti-historical A&E proponents Giberson, Enns and Lamoureux early was a telltale sign. Venema is the current example.

I side with GJDS, VanDoodewaard, Dennis Bonnette (Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic) and “historic Christian orthodoxy” (as well as Jewish and Muslim orthodoxy) on this topic. We all accept theological monogenism and reject theological polygenism. BioLogos promoting pop gen hasn’t changed that.

@GJDS @Gregory Thanks for the comments.

[quote=“Gregory, post:9, topic:2413”]
BioLogos appears to generally favour doubt regarding “a historical Adam and Eve.” Have you ever done a survey of your staff and ‘members’ on this topic?
[/quote] This is not quite as straightforward as it might seem. I’d suggest the data you want should be qualified by how closely affiliated with BioLogos people are, and by how informed on this topic they are.

In the most closely associated circle, we have only 7 full-time staff members, and at least half of those are office support who don’t really have a strong view. If we add in part-time staff (including fellows), our board, and advisory council, we have a larger sample and quite a few who have carefully considered opinions. John Walton would probably be the most significant of these (on the two axes I mentioned) and Denis Alexander would be next. They’re both supportive of a historical Adam.

[quote=“GJDS, post:8, topic:2413”]
I understand that various theological discussions have occurred over the past 1-2000 year, but I am not aware of any that disputed the five points above.
[/quote]Perhaps I’m misunderstanding here, but insofar as your 1, 3, 4, and 5 assume a historical Adam and Eve, they are certainly disputed by Christian theologians. I don’t know anyone affiliated with BioLogos who would dispute #2.

Given the lack of inclusion of Adam and Eve in the historic ecumenical creeds, I cannot go along with the claim that the historicity of A&E is essential to a proper Christian theology. I personally am not persuaded that Christian theology hangs in the balance over this issue. Certainly it calls for some rethinking of traditional doctrines. But that has been a constant feature of Christian theology.

Hi Jim

I, too, am not sure I understand the responses of GJDS and Gregory. As to the requirement that, to be a Christian, one must believe in a historical Adam & Eve, I would say that both GJDS and Gregory are mistaken. The earlier BioLogos blogs bear that out. Furthermore, in reference to GJDS’s point #3 and unlike many evangelical Christians, I do not believe that God placed the first humans in an idyllic Eden free from suffering and eventual death. Nevertheless, the discourse I have had with the evangelicals (courtesy of BioLogos) has not been pointless, at least from my point of view. It has cleared up several misconceptions I held previously, and I now have greater respect for the folks who hold different views than mine.

By whatever means God used to create life on this planet, He certainly achieved variety. In humanity’s efforts to know Him, it may be pleasing to Him that we have taken a variety of approaches, as long as this is done with respect and without rancor.
Al Leo


You bring up a good point. But in doing so you have expanded the term “historical Adam”. What “historic Christian orthodoxy” is regarding Adam could be a symposium by itself. However, there are actually three basic views of Adam represented here. 1 A historical Adam as described in the Bible. 2 A historical person named Adam who is not at all the person described in the Bible but who make a choice involving all humanity. 3 No historical Adam. In the past it was though all humanity descended from a single couple but now we no that is not true. There was no historical Adam and no need to make up a non Biblical Adam.

@Gregory @jstump
I hate to sound like a broken record, but Peter Enns contribution to the Symposium, where he differentiates his position from that of Madueme and VanDoodewaard, illustrates the need to use two definitions for humanity: biologically, humans have the genome of Homo sapiens; theologically, humans are the modern Homo sapiens who also have symbolic cognition which produced a Great Leap Forward in behavior.

Peter Enns states: "there is no “first human”…This scientific conclusion is not a trend, nor is it a “theory” teetering on the crumbling foundation of godless thinking." Enns continues: "The specific rhetorical tactic employed by Madueme and VanDoodewaard is to argue from theological consequences: “If evolution is true and there is no biological first man, then what we believe is false.”

Biologically speaking, the evolution of a particular primate species (still not positively identified) reached the status of Homo sapiens some 190,000 years ago; so, in this sense, there was no ‘first human’. But ‘to argue from theological consequences’, one should not use the biological definition. From the aspect of behavior, humans appeared on the scene (Tattersall, an expert in human origins, phrased it “Truly a new kind of being was on earth”) in a Great Leap Forward, probably by just a few individuals, perhaps just a couple. Thus a historical Adam & Eve, while it is not exactly supported by science, neither is it completely denied. Both views should be entertained by rational people. So Enns probably overstates his case in calling it “obscurantist apologetics”.
Al Leo


Hi Jim,

“…assume a historical Adam and Eve, they are certainly disputed by Christian theologians.”


“… I cannot go along with the claim that the historicity of A&E is essential to a proper Christian theology.”

This is clearly wrong; God becoming involved with human beings by creating Adam and Eve as true humans has not been disputed by any established theologian in any orthodox tradition. The Church did not provide a creed as such concerning Adam for the simple reason that this is embedded in every statement concerning sin and the need for salvation. I will confine my remarks to statements by Aquinas as these sources are readily found on the internet; in “Contra Gentiles”, Book4, chapter 50, where Thomas states, “However, since the Pelagian heretics denied original sin, we must now show that men are born with original sin. First, indeed, one must take up what Genesis (2:15-17) says…” and “…Therefore, the understanding of the Apostle is not that sin entered the world through one man by way of imitation, but by way of origin.”

In his Summa, Thomas discusses the subject in First Part of the Second part, especially Q 81-85 – you will see that this treatment is an integral part of the discussion on the attributes of those in Christ as opposed to the attributes derived from a sinful nature. I will be glad to discuss Patristic writings that go back to early Christianity if that is what you wish.

I think the discussion is wrong in using phrases such as “historic Adam”, as this may imply that we need material from pagan sources to verify what is found in the Bible. Such discussions are also in error, as they assume Genesis is myth, and then disingenuous circular arguments are constructed which are supposed to prove what is already assumed.

My five points all put God’s involvement central to these discussions. Any refutation must address this central point.

@GJDS You’re not going to find “any established theologian in any orthodox tradition” disputing geocentrism before 1600 either. That doctrine was not mentioned in creeds either, though in their minds it was embedded in their view of anthropology and the imago dei. That same attitude lingers today in many people’s attitudes about intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Theology that is accepted as orthodox does change and develop over the centuries as we seek to articulate what was communicated to and through ancient cultures.

I hope you’ll agree that allowing science into conversation with theology is not looking to pagan sources. We believe God speaks to us through creation, so it seems wise and properly Christian to allow God’s message there to help us see if we’ve misinterpreted his message in Scripture.

Your position on Adam and Eve as the sole progenitors of the human race seems to entail one of the following:

  1. What we find in the created order is not the work of God (you might opt for
    some version of Manichaeism).
    2. God’s work in the created order is inconsistent with what he has revealed in Scripture.
    3. Mainstream science is massively mistaken about the conclusions it has drawn from the created order.

I suspect you’ll opt for door #3 here. To defend that, though, we need something more than saying that Christian tradition is univocal in its endorsement of Adam and Eve. I know you’ve spoken to scientific concerns elsewhere, so I’m not expecting you to give a full-blown defense here in the comments section. I’m merely suggesting that here you seem to suggest that Christian tradition settles this question and nothing further needs to be said.

1 Like

Sure, thanks for asking. I’m speaking for myself here–not delivering an encyclical on behalf of BioLogos or all Christians who accept evolution.

I doubt there’s much of a linkage between evolutionary creation and the prominence of the creeds. I myself do attend a church where the creeds are taken seriously, and I suppose I’m inclined to think we Christians ought to take them seriously. I’m not going to commit myself to claiming that they contain all that is necessary and sufficient for the faith (and so I don’t take my statement to GJDS as a conclusive refutation), but I think they are good places to start in interpreting Scripture and science under the rubric of mere Christianity.

In this particular case, I think that means the burden of proof is on GJDS to explain why Adam and Eve are absent from them. So far he’s said that A&E are embedded in the statements about sin. I’ve said that since God’s other book pretty clearly shows there was never a population of just two homo sapiens, IF there is any such implication in the statements of the creeds, it would have to be interpreted as contingent cultural context.

Furthermore, I’ve not been persuaded that the two claims “All humans sin and need saving” and “Adam and Eve did not exist” are contradictory. So, I’m suspicious that there is any logical embedding of A&E in statements about sin and salvation in the creeds. I admit that the framers of the creeds probably thought A&E were real human beings; but they had no reason to think otherwise.

Jim, this approach is getting tedious and I think we are avoiding the issue - your three points all are also irrelevant to the discussion of the theological issues. We may consider the outlook by Calvin as these come at a later then the Patristic writings, and you can easily see that his view is strictly that of sin and Adam and Eve are the initial sinners - the Calvin commentaries show this, and his articles on Christianity are abundantly clear - at no point can I detect any comments that would misinterpret scripture or discuss any debates on the material world.

The conversation that you refer to enables us to better appreciate the creation through the natural sciences, not change the revealed word of God. There is a basic mistake in deciding the issue is one of determining the matter of progenitors of the human race and opposing this to the teachings of the disobedience by Adam and Eve who allowed themselves to be tempted.

So I reject your suggestion that we are discussing your three points, and instead encourage you and others to deal directly with the central issue which I have outlined previously. Once we have adequately dealt with the orthodox understanding of the first sin by Adam and Eve and its consequences, we may also consider the peripheral matters that seek to discuss science within Christian theology.

Jim, you need far more theological ‘proofs’ than your comments suggest - all Christian theology of any consequence discusses Adam and Eve, and the sin of disobedience, as a core issue related to the nature of humanity, the attributes we show, and why we are saved in Christ into attributes of Christ. I cannot fathom how you can ignore this obvious fact and divert the discussion to the articulations that the early Christians provided as creeds (these by and large were always part of the overall theological teachings of the Church). As I have shown by giving direct quotes and sources, Adam and Eve were never absent from any major discussions of Christian doctrine. If you think otherwise, the burden is on you to prove your case.

@GJDS Well we agree on one thing… our discussion has gotten tedious! I’ll try one last approach to find some common ground.

I fully concede that if Christian theology is properly conducted in a hermetically sealed library in which we only have access to Scripture and the Christian tradition until 1859, then the most natural interpretation of this record would be your position on Adam and Eve. But I think Christian theology is properly conducted in conversation with what we learn through other means (a point to which the Christian tradition itself amply testifies). If you accept that point, then my three options on the relationship of the doctrine of A&E with the natural world exhaust the options open to you; if you don’t accept that point, then I’m afraid we’re attempting to play the same game with different rules.


Jim, the rules have not changed, nor is this discussion concerned with what we understand is the Christian attitude that we seek the truth in all things, If I can make any sense of your position, it is that you accept part of the traditional account regarding Adam and Eve, but then you (seem) to propose a change in orthodox Christian doctrine - this doctrine is articulated in theological teachings that are grounded in Apostolic authority. You have not said anything of theological significance, or made your personal position clear by any measure. Biologos has admitted a non-position on this issue, but you on the other hand argue against the accepted teachings, and put forward three odd points regarding my comments, as some sort of defence for your position. You are naturally entitled to any point of view you put forward, but you are not entitled to put forward my position in terms you select. I find your somewhat obscure suggestion that you are in a position to propose changes to orthodox Christianity objectionable, as I have shown that whatever major tradition we examine, the teachings related to Adam and Eve are the same. You do not have any persuasive arguments against this, nor are you providing anything of significance - except for the tired on parroting of monogenesis or whatever population genetics and its chequered history may put forward.

In any event I cannot see this discussion advancing to a useful outcome so I wish you well and close my comments to you.

Hi @jstump @GJDS,

Perhaps a way forward still exists. Let me try to tie it together with the linked Symposium on historical A&E.

“Madueme and VanDoodewaard represent the more conservative side according to which treating Adam as anything other than a historical figure undermines theology.” – Jim Stump

What is the other ‘side’ called? Do you mean ‘the more liberal side’? Is that what BioLogos represents?

And when do the terms ‘heresy’ and ‘heterodoxy’ come into play in the conversation? That would involve more than just a discussion of Tradition, as GJDS suggests. What possibly could count as ‘theologically liberal, verging on heretical’ or even as ‘heretical’ wrt A&E in your view, Jim?

I think this is what GJDS is getting at wrt your position (or lack of position) when he says:

“I find your somewhat obscure suggestion that you are in a position to propose changes to orthodox Christianity objectionable”.

This hints of a classical distinction between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘Orthodoxy’ and between ‘evangelicals’, Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox within Church history. If there is no ‘orthodoxy’ about Adam and Eve in whatever evangelical ‘denomination’ Jim calls home, then no possible ‘unorthodoxy’ or even ‘heterodoxy’ could in principle be possible. Taking no position then, might be in some ways the best position without orthodoxy as their guide.

After reading most of the Symposium articles, here is how the writers seem imo to be positioned:
Anti-historical A&E:
Peter Enns (formerly BioLogos), Karl Giberson (formerly BioLogos), Denis O. Lamoureux (affiliated with BioLogos), John Schneider

Unclear/uncommitted/on the fence:
Harry “Hal” Lee Poe (Ironic title: “A Case Study in Confusion”)

Pro-historical A&E:
Hans Madueme, William VanDoodewaard, John H. Walton (affiliated with BioLogos)

Let me add, however, that the ‘fence-sitter’ Poe, also said this:

“I strongly insist that the science does not dispute the possibility or probability of a common couple as the progenitors of the human race.” [Iow, ‘common ancestry’ & ‘sole progenitors’ not in clash, like “Adam as Our Common Ancestor, but not our Sole Progenitor”.]

[I’d still really like to hear if BioLogos people have yet read the Flynn-Kemp scenario re: monogenism because it may surprise the anti-historical A&E majority here.]

And this:

“The present controversy [regarding A&E] cannot be simply resolved by appealing to the science, because science does not deal with the issues at stake. The disagreements are deeply rooted in theological traditions, philosophical assumptions, epistemological presuppositions, hermeneutical methods, exegetical theories, personal convictions, and tribal loyalties.”

Tribal loyalties and theological traditions are imho especially important in the way Adam and Eve are discussed at BioLogos (e.g. “Catholics don’t have any problem with this” - S. Joshua Swamidass at BioLogos conference 2015, again, see Flynn-Kemp). If Jim identifies no ‘orthodoxy’ wrt A&E, then no heterodoxy is even possible in taking ‘no position.’ Perhaps, however, the still uncommitted do have an important mediation role, like Poe, in pushing back ‘evangelically’ against ‘(pop) geneticism’ and ‘scientism’ on this topic, to allow historical theology, even orthodoxy its say, before they eventually do take a position consistent with the teachings of the ‘one holy, catholic and apostolic Church’.