Questions about Universal Ancestry

(Dennis Venema) #61

Consider the following two statements:

  1. “Dennis is not capable of learning French.”
  2. “Dennis has not had an opportunity to learn French.”

These are not equivalent statements. 1 indicates that I would not be able to learn French, even if given the opportunity. Capable relates to the abilities or capacities of a person. If you intended opportunity, using “capable” would very likely lead to confusion.

[quote=“Swamidass, post:56, topic:37071”]
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. [/quote]

In your model, Adam and Eve are specially created beings, the first capable of a relationship with God. As written in your Sapientia piece, that sounded to me a lot like Adam and Eve were the first to have the imago dei. If one takes a relational / vocational view of the image, then this especially sounds like the imago dei.

Again, if Adam and Eve are the first “theological humans” it sounds a lot like they are the first bearers of the imago dei.

The distinction between “theological humans” and “non theological humans” was also what I was getting at in my response. Genealogical models of Adam and Eve have to draw a line of some kind between their descendants and everyone else. I don’t like that. I think everyone with an anatomically modern human skeleton is just as human as anyone else. I don’t think that when someone’s lineage finally encountered Adam’s that the children born from that meeting had any different status than the children born the generation before. Others might disagree.

Venema says Human = Homo Sapien. Really?
(Andrew M. Wolfe) #62

This might deserve its own topic, but I hoped to just tack it on here for those already engaged in this Adam discussion, and let people continue this thread of the conversation elsewhere: RJS over at Jesus Creed has posted about Adam interpretations today, if anyone wants to jump into the comments.

(Christy Hemphill) #63

They had their own syncretistic religion. They weren’t Jews.

No. I don’t know what an “Adamic nature” means. I think all humans are born into a sinful identity as members of humanity. I don’t think “humanity” must be traced, genealogically, genetically or otherwise, to Adam. I think the idea of being “in Adam” is a descriptive construct that helps us understand our human condition, not a literal description of all humanity’s ancestry.

(Brad Kramer) #66

Josh, here is where I get confused. You claim to be advocating on behalf of those who you think are being unduly excluded. OK, fair enough. But your arguments (which claim to be representing “their” arguments) are not fully representative of any “traditional” views on Adam and Eve that I have ever encountered. (And yes, I am familiar with their perspectives. I was raised in a traditional, conservative Christian community, I minored in theology in my undergraduate education and I have a MDiv degree. And I would say most people you are dialoguing with here are fully aware of what “traditional” theologies think about Adam and Eve).

I think the word “traditional” is hard to use precisely, so instead, perhaps we can use “conservative Evangelical Protestant” (CEP) in its place, because it seems most of the people you are trying to represent here fall under that category. The CEP view of Adam and Eve was expressed nicely by Hugh Ross in a recent blog post about the Keller/Duncan video:

a supernatural de novo creation of Adam and Eve as the first humans and sole progenitors of all humanity.

By this, I take them to mean that every organism that has ever existed that can properly be called “human” descends from a single pair of humans named Adam and Eve. I have never encountered any CEP who uses that phrase to mean anything different than that. I have never seen any caveats about “all humanity (since 0AD)” or “all humanity (with a sin nature)” or “all humanity (minus a certain percentage of the human population before the time of Jesus)” or so on, until I read your ideas. You are the first person I have ever encountered who introduces these caveats. I am very interested to hear of these “theologians” whom you claim you are representing, who are OK with these caveats. I read very widely on these issues and I have never heard of them before this. I’m not trying to be snarky; I’m genuinely curious.

As I’ve said to you many times, I think your ideas about Adam, Eve, science, and human origins are interesting, and thought-provoking. I am enjoying this conversation, and I think you raise a lot of very important points about the insufficiencies of certain proposals about Adam and Eve. Thank you for explaining the difference between genealogy and genetics; as a non-scientist that distinction had never occurred to me.

But as far as I can see, the novelty of your ideas is two-sided: It pushes both evolutionary creationists AND conservative evangelicals (who are skeptical of evolution) to rethink Scripture and science. I’m all for that; I love anything that moves the conversation forward. However, I think we should be clear about what conversation we are having. Many of the criticisms that you leveled against Loren’s ideas could easily be made of both your position and the position of CEPs. Which is not to say that your ideas are wrong or bad at all, but I confess to being very confused about who you are arguing for, and who you are arguing against. And it appears from this thread that I am not the only confused one.

Amen! I think CEPs are the main group who need to hear this message, though, not evolutionary creationists.

P.S. I don’t see any reason to exclude this topic from the discussion. Deb’s request was that there would be no speculation about your departure from BioLogos, or conversation about the size of the BioLogos tent. Your ideas logically require there to be populations of homo sapiens distinct from those genealogically descended from Adam and Eve, and it is legitimate and necessary to clarify what you mean by that (as you have already done in subsequent posts).

Venema says Human = Homo Sapien. Really?
(Peaceful Science) #67

I would be more inclined to take these objections seriously when we can actually identify a group of theologians that take these objections seriously. I not found any; have you?

It also appears this has nothing to do with genealogical transmission, but with a historical Adam. Because in all historical Adam models, Adam has a special theological status that is somehow conferred on everyone else.

I do understand that my request is not being honored. I do understand that it is important to many people at BioLogos to argue against genealogical science on theological grounds, even though this precise objection has been dealt with several times. I was just requesting to move past it, as no theologian has sustained it and it is being inconsistently and unfairly being applied to me alone.

As I have written several times:

Recognizing ambiguity in “human” raises premature concerns about naming others as “sub-humans.” Here, John Walton’s model, based on a textual analysis5 of Genesis 1 – 3, is helpful. Without reliance on extra-Scriptural sources, he argues that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are sequential. God first makes “mankind” in His Image, and then later identifies, or perhaps specially creates, a single man Adam and a woman Eve, who together become important because of his Fall. Walton calls Adam and Eve the first “true” humans, who are both God Imaged and Fallen. 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. A related two-creation interpretation of Genesis, also, is found in The Book of Enoch (from before 200 BC) and elsewhere, so this solution may carry both traditional and textual support. The two-creation model of mankind is just one theological approach; many more are possible. Nonetheless, I personally refrain from endorsing any specific solution at this time, and offer this primarily to abet premature concerns.

Moreover, because of the necessary entailments of the science, proposals within this framework cannot be construed as polygenesis, a false theory of origins sometimes marshalled in support of racism. Instead, this framework continues to affirm monophylogeny, which is the way modern science came to reject polygenesis as a falsified theory. All humans alive today are the same kind, and all would share ancestry with Adam and Eve if they existed. Adam and Eve, if they existed, were not important for bringing advanced biological abilities to those “outside the garden,” but for a unique theological role they played.

I did not ever say non-theological humans. I said theological humans as we understand human in theology today, and emphasize then that there are other types of humans possible that are no less human than us.

@DennisVenema’s problem seems to be one of making theological distinctions between people. As @Jon_Garvey writes…

On the other hand, what the Bible does record as occurring under the wise counsel of God are distinctions. Evolutionary theory actually implies that there are no real or ultimate distinctions between living things, but that the whole tree of life is a continuum. That is why modern genetics, whilst it may falsify racism, cannot actually affirm “humanity” as a moral category, because the universal called “human” has no distinct meaning under Darwinian assumptions. In the Bible, though, man is classed as different from the animals, for all his animal characteristics. If, as Venema says, we should not call hominids “subhuman animals” if they are not in genealogical relationship to Adam (which only he has – societies have long used other, more nuanced, categories), then does he contend that human ancesters were never “subhuman”? If, in evolutionary terms, they were however, there was necessarily a gradual and irregular transition to “humanness” over time and geography, if you discount a supernatural creative act.

But theologically, as well as biologically, the biblical story is also founded on distinctions between people. Leaving aside the possibly arguable distinction between Cain’s line and the “holy” line of Seth, there is no doubt at all that, for the entire Old Testament period, God saw fit to relate to mankind covenantally exclusively in his chosen people Israel, with the exception of those few who, like Naaman the Syrian, might have converted to Yahwism. As Paul says to his gentile readers, before Christ came “you were without God and without hope in the world”.

There are so many reasons why this objection fails. The scholars (other than @DennisVenema) who have engaged this find the sub-human objection has no coherence or validity. This is why Jeff Hardin wrote in his article affirming the science and also retracted (now it seems inaccurately) @DennisVenema’s objections.

Josh’s main goal was to make a scientific point; he left open the theological implications raised. When Dennis was asked to respond to Josh’s Sapientia piece, however, he commented on those potential theological implications. Dennis’ questions arose from particular ways of construing important theological ideas, such as the Imago Dei (image of God), the transmission of original sin, and other fundamental theological categories. Dennis has told me recently he has apologized to Josh for his blunt and forceful response and is sorry that he didn’t use more measured language. With Josh’s recent blog post, Dennis now recognizes that Josh was not advocating for a particular theological construal. All of this was unfortunate, because Josh’s genealogical insights are scientific. Just as in so many other areas at BioLogos, there are multiple ways that science, including genealogical science, and theology can be brought into dialogue. We look forward to continued thinking about these things together.

Looks like that may have to be revised.

(Christy Hemphill) #68

And yet Reformed voices like @Jon_Garvey, whose work was linked to in a recent BioLogos article find they are not welcome?

That’s quite a paradox.

(Peaceful Science) #69

I am actually arguing the opposite. I am saying that “human” is ambiguous and has no fixed meaning, so we have autonomy to define in any way we want in the distant past, as long as (at minimum) every one alive that Paul is referring to ends up being human by that definition. There is no such thing as a “proper” way to use “human” in the distant past, because there is such a large range of uses.

These caveats are made all the time.

John Walton makes them in his book when he discusses Adam as the first “true” human. Kidner makes a similar distinction (in a far more problematic way) with a hybrid race of true humans between evolved Adam and specially created Eve (who are not ancestors of us all in his conception). Dennis Lamaruex also describes behaviorally modern humans as the first true humans. The same is for the Homo divinus discourse in Catholicism.

It is standard discourse in theology to make distinctions of before and after Adam in any evolutionary context includes him. It is also standard discourse in those that do not include him, because at some point we have to decide of “Human” applies to Homo sapiens alone, or also Homo erectus.

“Human” has no fixed meaning in the distant past. Not in science. Not in theology. This is well known.

It is standard in the theological discourse to draw lines in origins between different theological classes, even if they are fuzzy lines. In traditional theology it is common to posit “biologically compatible beings” that existed before Adam, but were not the subject of Scripture. Because everyone agrees humans are distinct from the rest of the creation. But how is that line drawn? That is why everyone makes distinctions here.

The stranger thing is that objecting to this is being applied selectively to genealogical science. Given the precedence for this, I just do not understand.

As Jeff Hardin writes:

Josh rightly reminds us to use caution in using the term “human” in scientific claims; the ambiguity and theological weight of the term “human” can create confusion about what science does and does not say.

And specifically about the intended audience. They appear to love it.

Venema says Human = Homo Sapien. Really?

I have always found your view the best way to approach the subject. In the NT, Jesus said that everyone has sinned and needs forgiveness which makes the whole Original Sin idea somewhat superfluous, IMHO. It’s a bit like arguing over the idea that a pig sty used to be clean. To me, Genesis makes a lot more sense as an allegory for the emergence of human morality, empathy, consciousness, and sapience. It isn’t so much about Original Sin as becoming a species that knows what sin is.

Just my two cents.

(Jon) #71

Exactly. It’s right there in the text, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I think it’s important to read the New Testament by starting with the Old Testament and working through the Second Temple Period texts, rather than starting with the creeds and medieval theology, then working back through the New Testament to the Old.

(George Brooks) #72


I wonder…

If you had Sikh genes, would that make you “German enough” ?

(Peaceful Science) #73

I do want to clarify @BradKramer I appreciate your contribution here. There has a little edge that has come out, but it is not directed at you.

I need to just accept the reality of the situation, but it sometimes feels like everyone is piling on before understanding. However, it is clear in your post that is not what you are doing. Sorry if you felt grouped in by that.

(GJDS) #74

I find this to be a very difficult outlook and I cannot fathom how you reconcile this with biblical teaching. I would agree that we do not need to add genetic or genealogical details to the Genesis narrative, and such detail are brought in to help those who feel insecure with regard to evolutionary ideas. However, it is from the first Adam to the last (Christ) that takes us from sin to redemption.

(George Brooks) #75


I think the trick to fathoming it is to think about the piles and piles of cross-referenced evidence showing us the world is billions of years old. That’s not in the Bible.

So… what to do? Are we going to forge a great Syncrhonization? Or just sit there, trying to decide which part of science is “all wrong” ?

(GJDS) #76

You seem to miss the point entirely - the unfathomable notion is:

From the first Adam to the last (ie Christ as the last Adam and perfected, thus enabling our salvation). If we remove the first Adam, we remove that biblical teaching, and that is not acceptable for Christians.

I just do not get your obsession with geological times - I have never disputed such matters.

(George Brooks) #77

You have never disputed such matters… but the average YEC surely has. And that’s why many of us are here … to cope with YEC objections.

The @Swamidass scenario includes Adam & Eve. The question that some of us are tackling is whether this couple’s mere Presence on Earth is enough to accomplish his Federal Headship?

Or… is it his inescapable “Degrees of Kevin Bacon” that accomplishes the necessary? If everyone one on Earth has “met someone who met someone who met someone … who met Adam” … is his role accomplished in that way?

Or, do we really need “descent”? For it to be about descent, doesn’t that suggest that Original Sin is a genetic inheritance?

While Federal Headship seems to be more about either one’s Psychological/Spiritual Stance … or about what God does with the souls that he puts into each new born human.

(GJDS) #78

The constant deflection to YEC would be described in my part of the world as “YEC bashing”, meaning it is used to obscure a discussion by constantly criticising their outlook.

Adam and Eve are shown to have made the choices we all make - IF they had chosen otherwise, they are shown in the NT, to foreshadow Christ - the choice to obey God and live in communion with Him would have made that available to all of humanity.

This is why it is ancestral sin - humanity exists because of our ancestors - it is ALL genealogical.

Christ is the head of His Church - Adam had a chance to be the head of all of humanity that would have partaken of the tree of life (which btw is Christ - remember the last supper?) Adam made the wrong choice in spite of being placed in a sacred place and with God - the enormity and importance of this cannot be brushed to one side by these juvenile discussions.

(George Brooks) #79

First you ask for an explanation for “why your obsession with geological times…”, then you bash me for giving you the answer.

Look, I have put the same answer below - - but with no waffling around on the issue of Federal Headship vs. Genealogy. I regret trying to interest you in the distinctions.


You have never disputed such matters… but the average YEC surely has. And that’s why many of us are here
… to cope with YEC objections.

The @Swamidass scenario includes Adam & Eve.

I hardly think it is bashing the YECs to point out that YECs oppose any scenario that involves more than 6000 years … that’s definitional to their position, right?

(Jon) #80

The idea that it is actually Cain, is found in pre-Christian Second Temple Period literature, and was also followed by a few of the early Christian expositors, including Clement of Alexandria.

(Chris Falter) #90

Hi Joshua, I have been mostly absent from the forums for a while. Would you conclude that I absconded because I wasn’t having fun? Or might it be that I was simply busy with graduate school, work, family, and ministry?

My point is that it is perhaps not wise or useful to make assumptions about the perceptions of some individuals, particularly when that assumption paints a negative portrait of other individuals. Better to let folks like @Jon_Garvey speak for themselves, IMO.

Speaking of the Camel’s Hump, I always enjoy Jon’s posts here. I click the like button for a good many of them. Others I disagree with, but would it be fun if I always agreed with him?

Finally, it is undoubtedly wise to distinguish between the forum participants on the one hand and Biologos on the other. Plenty of non-Biologos folks participate on the forum, and express opinions that do not conform to the Biologos Statement of Faith.

I hope you have found this post useful, Joshua. And if not, I hope you will forgive my bleary-eyed confusion. :slight_smile:


(George Brooks) #91


Your various circumlocutions would suggest that the people who "affirm evolution, but do not enjoy themselves on these fora, are I.D. proponents? Do I undestand the nuance correctly?

I have found very few people arriving at these doors who both enthuse over I.D. and they affirm evolution. We’ve had people who fabricated their zeal for evolution… but when push came to a little more pushing … they publicly challenged Speciation. This is quite a bar to winning popularity contests here.

But, again, I could have things wrong about what you are trying to say. I just find it a little hard to believe that people who are “out in front” on the issue of Evolution, Speciation and Natural Selection wouldn’t be a smash hit here…