Questions about Universal Ancestry

(Peaceful Science) #41

I would like to remind everyone that I am not presenting my perspective. I am presenting how many theologians think about this, even if they are ultimately wrong. These are theologians outside the BioLogos tent, so you may be unfamiliar with their perspective.

All those problems do evaporate from the perspective of those I am discussing.

However, in the traditional theology, this is solved in several ways. In covenantal theology, the notion here is that everyone is born into this covenant, in the same way we are all born into families. That is how it has been understood, for example in the Westminster and Ausburg confession. This does not explain why this is the one covenant you cannot opt out of, but this is why “natural descent” becomes a critical piece of the equation.

I do agree it raises questions about ad hoc committments, but at least it is in traditional theology.

Nonetheless, in an evolutionary context, this turns to be a problem with a solution. We will just have to be patient to see it published first. There is a way to justify this not as a covenant with arbitrary rules but a natural outflow of God’s nature and ours. A this point, we will just have to be patient.

Once again, this is a problem with a solution. A key doctrine in traditional theology is how we are all subject to sin even before we sin. We are all sinners, even before we are born. There are several nuances to this, but a key challenge is making sense of this in theology.

As I have said, this is an excellent theological question with some really coherent and interesting answers.

We also hold he was (1) fully human in nature, (2) was tempted in every way we were tempted, (3) did not sin, and (4) none of us could have possibly done this. How is all that possible at the same time? That is the puzzle that original sin is supposed to solve. He is fully human, but he does not have a Fallen nature like us. E.g. your appeal to a unique intimate relationship seems to subvert #2.

Augustinian transmission is incorrect, but it would have at least logically solved the problem in a non-evolutionary context.

I think the key thing is that many theologians do not believe God propagated original sin by intention or fiat. Instead we need to show how it propagated by first principles. As I have said before, there are ways to think of this.

Give it time. It will become clear. What do you think the differences could be?

But why? There are answers in traditional theology. We have to replace those answers with something better or equally good to move from it.

That is the question. As is well known, I am practicing studied agnosticism here. Theologians are working out answers to this. It will take time for the theological dust to settle.

I will say, I personally do not see much sense to seeing God’s Image passing by genealogy (I like Walton’s model). So any personal interest I have hear is in finding coherence in understanding the Fall, not God’s Image.

Exactly. And the sperm idea was never canonized, and immediately disputed by everyone. We can say for certain it is not consistent with anything we know about in biology. Augustinian transmission should be shelved. That is not the same thing, however, as genealogical transmission.

(Christy Hemphill) #42

Not when I say it, it isn’t. Having the same nature and being descended from Adam are not conflated in my mind.

(Dennis Venema) #43

Transmission of original sin, do you mean?

(Peaceful Science) #44

Yes, of original sin.

Once again, I am not even saying that this my perspective. However, the questions of genealogical transmission of original sin are much more sensible and salient than those of God’s Image. For many of the reasons you would dispute transmitting God’s Image genealogically from Adam, I would dispute them too. Nonetheless, I can acknowledge there are some conceptions of God’s Image (e.g. not human dignity or rights, but perhaps appointment to a role) that may not be problematic if transmitted genealogically. Those are not models I am, however, drawn towards or have ever proposed or supported.

Once again, I reiterate that I myself have not put forward any solution. That has not been my intention. I expect there will be a plurality of models built from the science, to suite the individuals who build them. Promotion of any specific theological model has never been my goal.

(Peaceful Science) #45

There is quite a bit written on this on @Jon_Garvey’s blog. It is a misreading of me to think I have ever implied God’s Image began with Adam (and was then passed to everyone by genealogical transmission from him). (unfortunately uses MRCA instead of UGA)

(GJDS) #46

We all (all humanity) have the same nature as Adam -genealogical descent from Adam is consistent, or identical (as human identity) with this fact. Biblically the genealogies are there to show how covenants were made (and some broken) with God, and from there we discuss Israel. Ultimately this takes us to Christ and the Church. This includes genealogical decent - appealing (if some indeed do) to evolutionary and genetic data simply does nothing to change or modify this clearly articulated aspect…

(Christy Hemphill) #47

Can you get some of them to come by and argue with us? Tell them it will be fun!

Okay, thanks for conceding that. The thing is, “traditional theology” (are we really just talking about Reformed theology?) has its intractable problems. Sometimes you talk about “genealogical Adam” as if it’s this theological philosopher’s stone that changes all the theological lead into gold. I’m skeptical. A lot of it still looks like lead, from my perspective at least, which is admittedly different than the people whose views you are expressing.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union states Jesus is one person with two natures, divine and human. But I think that “human nature” is a slippery term that deserves just as much care as you are advocating for “human.” Some people use “human nature” to refer to human brokeness and fallenness. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Athanasius was referring to when he talked about the union of divine and human natures in Jesus.

I believe that our righteousness is not just imputed but actual, because in the power of the Holy Spirit we are truly made holy and actually live out that holiness like Christ. I think in Christ we normal fallen humans can be tempted in every way and not sin because we are united (like Christ was) to the Spirit of God. I skew kind of Wesleyan in that area, so I’m not seeing the disconnect. Do you disagree that Jesus had a unique relationship with the rest of the Godhead, compared to every other human whoever lived before? Isn’t that factoring his divinity right out of the equation? He wasn’t like any other human, because no other human was also God.

I don’t think a sinful nature is “transmitted,” period. So no dog in that fight, I guess.

Why can’t we opt out of being in Adam? It’s our reality according to divine revelation. We can’t opt out of God’s reality.

I disagree. So all I’m saying is you shouldn’t impose your concept on my words.

(George Brooks) #48


I have never had a YEC acknowledge the problems you (rightly) describe about New Testament inuendo about the ethnicity of Jesus. Try it for yourself. Ask your Sunday School class (not just the instructor) if they would all agree that this text confirms that Cain survived into the “Kenite” kin group (where the former was “a murderer from the beginning”, and where the latter is the namesake community descended from Cain.

John 8:37-44
I know that you are descendants of Abraham; . . .you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did.

You do what your father did." They said to him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

[They said: "You are of your father the devil [Greek Transliteration = diabolos], and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning…[this is an implicit but clear reference to Cain, who was “a murderer from the beginning”, and who lied to God about his brother] … When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. The authorized version of the Flood story is that nobody of Cain’s lineage survived the flood.

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Jesus answered, "I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

(George Brooks) #49


If you don’t believe in Original Sin (which I think reflects excellent judgment), that is a good thing. It should not be “a problem” if someone who already endorses Evolutionary historical interpretation also doesn’t happen to endorse Original Sin either!

(Christy Hemphill) #50

Never heard that theory before.
I think it’s a clear reference to the Devil. Kind of the opposite of “children of God.”

(Christy Hemphill) #51

I believe in a historical Fall. So, I believe sin “originated.” The term “original sin” has a lot of baggage though.

(Peaceful Science) #52

I really appreciate this invitation. That is really a great gesture.

Observing the forums for a couple years, you do have a few here who lean this way. In particular, I’ve noticed. @grayt2 and @Jon_Garvey . Once again from observation, they do not appear to be having fun on the forums. As minority voices, (who actually affirm evolution!!!) they do not appear to feel their perspective is welcome here. I imagine this is because of the strong non-concordist, non-literal or non-traditional majority here.

One without a negative experience yet (probably because he is good natured and ignored?), but also someone I brought here is @JustAnotherLutheran .

If the forums can change here to be more welcoming, I think we will see @Jon_Garvey and @grayt2 around more. When they are having fun, you will know we can invite more.

Except some of them I think are actually solved by evolution. I think evolution actually brings clarity to the difference between genetics and genealogy, which then leads (I"ve seen) to a much more robust and coherent traditional theology.

Regardless, even if I am wrong there, people are comfortable with the mess they are used to. E.g. reformed theology (imho) has issues, but if it is your theology then you are accustomed to those problems. Trading in these problems for whole other set is not something people are willing to do.

I am not reformed, but I do appreciate how Jack Collins has explained this. I think part of the Gospel message is to recognize that we have all be sub-humanized by the fall. There is actually a more true way of being human that we can see in Jesus. Jesus is actually more human than us; and our fall we mistake as our true nature, but is really a distortion of our true nature. That is why we can have confidence to turn from sin entirely and put our sinful nature to death. The fall dehumanizes us. In this sense, Jesus is fully human more than we are even human.

I digress however. The key thing is that there are traditional solutions that genealogical transmission leaves intact.

Okay, I’m fine with that because you affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus. This has never been about convincing you to change your point of view. I"m trying to help other people (who are not here) with their theological hangups. You have come to peace with mainstream science, so this has never been about you. Rather, I am trying to show others how their deeply held beliefs are not threatened by evolution. There may be problems with traditional theology, but I do not see how there are more problems with traditional theology in the context of evolution. Actually, it seems like there are fewer problems.

Look up the two-seed theory for one way this was put forward.

I just mean it as is expressed in historic confessions (e.g. Augsburg and Westminster), often without even using the term “original sin.”

(George Brooks) #53

Well, it’s actually the same story …

Those heckling Jesus are presented as knowledgeable of the Books of Enoch: " . . .the first Book of Enoch devotes much of its attention to the fall of the Watchers. The Second Book of Enoch addresses the Watchers (Gk. egrḗgoroi) who are in fifth heaven where the fall took place. . . . "

“. . . The Aramaic irin “watchers” is rendered as “angel” (Greek angelos, Coptic malach) in the Greek and Ethiopian translations, although the usual Aramaic term for angel malakha does not occur in Aramaic Enoch.”

“Some have attempted to date this section of 1 Enoch [to] around 2nd–1st century BC and they believe this book is based on one interpretation of the Sons of God passage in Genesis 6, according to which angels married with human females, giving rise to a race of hybrids known as the Nephilim.” Based on the Enochian accusation that the “Devil” was a fallen angel, the Nephilim are, mathematically speaking, the Sons of the Devil.

To some, the Nephilim have apparently survived the Flood or Jesus could not have been accused of being so descended.
Interestingly, both sides of the Nephilim equation are criticized and associated with Jesus:

The Nephilim, as children of the angels are spawn of the Devil and his brother fallen angels - - while Cain, who marries into the Nephilim kinship group, was “a murderer from the beginning”.

(Dennis Venema) #54

I’ll admit to being a bit confused. Not that that’s particularly uncommon, mind you…

In your Sapientia piece, you say the following (my emphases):

“Therefore, entirely consistent with the genetic evidence (Figure 1), it is possible Adam was created out of dust, and Eve out of his rib, 10,000 years ago in a divinely created garden where God might dwell with them, the first beings capable of a relationship with Him. Perhaps their fall brought accountability for sin to all their descendants.17 Leaving the Garden, their offspring blended with their neighbors in the surrounding towns.18 In this way, they became genealogical ancestors of all those in recorded history.19 Adam and Eve, here, are the single-couple progenitors of all mankind.”

If Adam and Eve “are the single-couple progenitors of all mankind”, then anyone who isn’t a descendant of Adam isn’t part of mankind - i.e. isn’t human - unless I am mistaking your meaning here. If someone (something?) isn’t human, then how can they (it?) be made in the image of God? Also, if Adam and Eve are the first beings capable of a relationship with God, but then you say the imago dei doesn’t start with Adam, are you saying that there are entities who are made in the image of God but nonetheless were incapable of having a relationship with him?

(Peaceful Science) #55

No, traditional theology is not Reformed theology. Traditional theology includes, for example, Lutheran theology (and Luther hated Calvin’s theology) and also historic creeds (who had no knowledge of Calvin). Biologos is heavily skewed Reformed to its detriment.

There is a much more out there. Reformed theology has its good points, but I personally am much more attracted to Lutheran theology. Even though I am not german enough to be Lutheran. =)

(Peaceful Science) #56

Thank you for attempting to clarify.

You are right. I did write this, but you misunderstood it:

I would also point out that I had to cut down from about 3,500 words to 2,000, so large amounts of critical text had to be moved to footnotes. They changed the rules to allow footnotes because of me (or so they say). Let’s take your points one by one:

the first beings capable of a relationship with Him

As you know “capable” cannot be construed as any sort of biological capacity here, because there is not enough time for genetic ancestry to become universal, nor would it be reliably transmitted to his offspring. When I wrote this, I meant “capable” as in “first capable because they were first with opportunity.”

I have come to realize that capable is a trigger word for people, especially when not trained in biology. For this reason, I changed the illustration to opportunity in the blog post. This is an entirely inconsequential change, because I never proposed this as a coherent model. It is merely an illustration, a scientific test case. I do not advocate for this specific model, nor do I see at as anything other than an illustration.

I expect that as others understand the science, they will make theological models of their own, a plurality of them. I have no specific model here at all, but am merely saying that science is silent on this matter. That has been my point all along. Remember, I wrote…

Now I face a mystery. We do not know all the details; a very large number of scenarios are consistent with science and Scripture. What are the details? How could we know? Facing a grand mystery, I fall into the worship of creative curiosity.

Now let’s deal with this:

Adam and Eve, here, are the single-couple progenitors of all mankind."

In no place do I mean that there are no other “humans” in all sense of the word (remember, it is a totally ambiguous term, and I make a big point of that). I am only stating in the illustration that it is possible to imagine a theological definition of humans as we understand human today that makes Adam and Eve sole progenitors. FOR EXAMPLE, Others could still be entirely human (e.g perhaps they are God Imaged Homo sapiens), however they were just not be human as we understand it today (e.g. God Imaged and Fallen). This is, essentially, Walton’s definition of “true” human with a variation on how the Fall is transmitted. Let me remind you how I explained this in the blog:

In contrast, those “outside the garden” are God Imaged, but not yet Fallen. They are not sub-human, to be clear, but they are also different than humans as we understand them today; C.S. Lewis might say they were better than us.

This finding of non-contradiction extends to terms like sole-progenitor, first parents, “all the living,” “de novo” creation, without parents, etc. Keep in mind that sole-progenitor has several meanings, and does not forbid intermixing with other lines (see, for example, AiG’s many views on Nephilim).

Footnote 4: For example, if we define theological humans as “Adam, Eve, and their descendents,” then by definition they are the sole-couple progenitors of all humans, by definition.

Footnote 6: Once again, recall that sole-progenitors does not preclude mixing. Its definition here is that people are conferred with a specific theological status solely by way of a connection to this single-couple alone. In this sense, they are our sole-progenitors, sole source of any theological status (like original sin) conferred by being in their line.

By “theological human” here, I mean human as we understand human in theology today. And this is entirely clear from how I apply this to Walton’s model.

In context, I was responding to your book, where the focus was on Paul’s understanding of Mankind, whom are all fallen and subject to sin. So I am not talking about Homo sapiens. I declare up front that there is ambiguity in the term “mankind” and “human” in the distant past, in both theology and science. As Paul uses the term, it is legitimate to think (as even Scott McKnight thinks) he intends to refer exclusively to the descendents of Adam, which he believes are all “humans” alive in his day.

To be clear, I am not endorsing this view or advocating it. I am rather showing that it is permitted in the scientific account. Now, I am also showing you that it does not declare others as sub-human. I would point in particular to CS Lewis’ work here, that makes this clear: . Of course, there is also Walton’s approach too, which I have repeatedly referred to.

You are mistaking my meaning, as I hope is clear now. I could have just changed the dates to 150K (or so) years ago, so Adam is ancestor of all anatomically modern humans (as I discuss in the PSCF paper). I changed “capable” to “opportunity” with zero impact on my meaning. It was just an illustration.

This gets to the crux of the reason why so many theologians panned McKnight’s contribution to your book. Many have a problem with revising Paul’s understanding of Adam, but are entirely okay revising our understanding of Genesis. McKnight concedes Paul was starting from a genealogical Adam, but then just declares him wrong, for no clear reason. This is all the more strange when we realize there is no reason from science to doubt Paul’s understanding of Adam.

A lot of theologians found that to be jumping the shark (see the videos by my dialogue partner). I did my best to make the argument on his behalf, because there are better arguments then he offered. And I am open to a figurative Adam (as I understand you believe it), but McKnight did not make the case well.

Let me remind you also how I finished both this talk and my Sapientia piece…

Now I face a mystery. We do not know all the details; a very large number of scenarios are consistent with science and Scripture. What are the details? How could we know?

Facing a grand mystery, I fall into the worship of creative curiosity.

I fall into the “theologized fiction” of C.S. Lewis. Instead of clinging to a fragile theology unsettled by intelligent aliens, The Space Trilogy “imagined out loud” a vision of Jesus in a universe with life on other planets. Instead of grasping at fine-tuning arguments, The Chronicles of Narnia embraced the multiverse with a vision of Jesus too. “I am in your world,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia.”

Our generation needs fearless creativity. Come let us worship with curiosity, imagining new stories of Adam that give a clear vision of Jesus to our scientific world.

Venema says Human = Homo Sapien. Really?
(Peaceful Science) #57

Also the date here, of this lecture, is Easter Week 2017, the same day you (@DennisVenema) first raised the “sub-human” complaint on the forums.

(GJDS) #58

It seems I have misunderstood you. Just for clarification, are you proposing two human natures or identities, one Adamic, and the other something else?

(Jon) #59

You said a mouthful right there.


You said that “What mattered to first century Jews was membership in the covenant community, which was defined by Torah observance, not genetics or genealogy.” I merely pointed out that Samaritans accepted the Torah.