Books and Culture Roundtable on Adam and Eve

Hey everyone, there’s a very interesting roundtable discussion happening at Books and Culture (run by Christianity Today). The subject is how to understand Adam and Eve in light of Scripture and science. They’ve pulled together some of the leading voices on the topic, including John Walton, Pete Enns, Karl Giberson, and Hans Madueme. I’m going through the posts myself at the moment, so I don’t have any specific response yet, but I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention. Depending on how the conversation goes here (and some other factors), I (or Jim) might write about it.


I just finished reading through these. Thanks for posting the link. It’s a nice summary of the various positions on the spectrum. I also learned a new word. Hereticate. I’m filing that one away so someday I can whip out, “Don’t hereticate me!” on Patheos when someone is being obnoxious.

Here is something I think would make for interesting further discussion: Giberson’s post touches on the idea that I have seen echoed around here on the discussion forum about the propensity to sin being somehow genetic/biological/tied to DNA and natural selection, as opposed to thinking of it more metaphysically as a “spiritual disease.” He also presents it as biologically hardwired into individuals, not as something communal.

I think it would make for an interesting series to have some back and forth between someone who sees it the way Giberson sees it (selfish gene and natural selection and whatnot), and maybe a cultural anthropologist or sociologist that talks more in terms of human culture as part of the world that is damaged by sin in the metaphysical sense, and therefore cultural institutions and what they propagate in a community can be sinful and broken apart from the individual sins/urges of the community members.

These ideas have been swirling around in all the commentary on race/police brutality/terrorism of late and I think the debate between evolutionary psychology and Evangelical cultural anthropology is an interesting one.

For example, Giberson mentions anorexia as a symptom of evolution programming men with unhealthy views toward women. That is a highly debatable assertion. (Many would say men are not born with unhealthy views toward women hardwired into them, they are socialized to view women a certain way.) I’d be interested to hear what a sociologist or anthropologist or missiologist would say about those kind of things that Giberson brought up.

I have read some, but not all, of the material on this interesting roundtable discussion. I was struck by one fairly simple observation - it seems as if most (or perhaps all) evangelists represented in this discussion believe in Christ, His death and resurrection, and yet many seem to cringe at the thought that God could create Adam and Eve. From my point of view, the former requires a far greater commitment of faith than the latter. So I guess I will remain somewhat puzzled by some of the arguments put forward for a non-existent Adam, while I ponder the importance attached to science and studies of the dim and often obscure history of the ancient Eastern nations. Perhaps an amusing thought may be, “Do we have any evidence-scientific to disprove the existence of Adam?” Surely with such hubris derived from what is proposed as unquestioned scientific evidence used to discuss Adam, we are entitled to ask this simple question.

It has been helpful for me to keep in mind that many times when people proclaim “There was obviously no Adam!” what they really mean is that no single person was the genetic father of all existing humans. For many people, that is the only question that matters. That is what science can speak to. (I know you maybe disagree, but that is the claim. I’m fine with ceding that point to people who know more than I do about genetics and archaeology.)

If we grant that Adam and Eve are not the biological first parents of all humanity, but don’t see why that automatically relegates them to the category of myth and allegory, that is when the explanations seem a little lacking in my opinion. Why is it scientifically preferable or necessary that they did not exit at all and had no real historic role in salvation history? What hermeneutic requires that interpretation? Science cannot speak to whether or not God ever put two individuals in Israel’s history in a sacred space and gave them a task which they failed at.

Generally I agree with your comments - however based on what bio-scientist/evolutionists insist, the notion of biological first parents of all humanity becomes conflated and finally is a non-term. Thus the odd debate imo - evolutionists cannot speak to a biological first human or humans - they argue for populations that undergo transitions over enormous periods of time, and even then, they are interested in seeing some sort of correlation between present day genetic diversity and their (mythical) past populations. This exercise has its problems - so I again ask, just how do these separate and dare I say it, unrelated topics, converge and become a single topic for endless debate. My take is that both sides want to incorporate Darwinian theories into their theology - I do not think it has much to do with science or harmonising science and faith. Once you set up such an odd debate, conflict is inevitable.

If sin is tied to DNA then I would think that would lead to interpreting being ‘born again’ as a physical altering of one’s DNA since the Bible states that Jesus delivered us from the power of sin, and John says that those who are in Christ do not continue to practice sin. Of course some would argue about genetic expression. However, in that case God’s promise is not the same to every believer.

The thought of sin being tied to DNA leads to lot more problems than answers. For example, since Adam couldn’t change his DNA, God must have made him sinful. Since Jesus was sinless, then whatever he inherited from Mary could’nt have have the sin gene, so it must be onthe Y chromosome, but if so why are women sinful? Or maybe God made all of Jesus’s DNA de novo, or maybe that verse about Jesus being the new Adam is really literal, and Jesus has Adam’s original pre-sin DNA.
I think the absurdities of genetically carried inherited sin strengthen the case that it our spiritual condition that we share with Adam, not particularly our DNA.

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