What does "historical Adam" mean? And why is it important?

I am a member of a Converge church. (Formerly Baptist General Conference). The denominational affirmation of faith does not mention Adam and Eve. http://www.convergeworldwide.org/about/values/affirmation-faith

Converge churches are fairly independent, and my church’s statement of faith is very general:
https://www.morainevalleychurch.org/index.php/about/our-beliefs
"That man was created in the image of God to live with God, but fell into sin resulting in separation from God."

People at my church hold quite a range of views on origins and last things. They are considered secondary issues that we aren’t supposed to fight about.

I’m not sure I follow. I personally prefer to believe Adam and Eve were real people who existed at a point in history, though I don’t see the account of them as “historical” in the sense we usually think of when we think of history. I think we are supposed to read our own story of sin and rebellion, our need for the promised Savior, and our innate longing for “paradise lost” into their story. I am not convinced it is theologically necessary for them to be the first biological or spiritual humans.

Hi Christy,

Thanks for that and for sending the links.

If you follow this link and download the PDF at the bottom of the page, you will find this in your church’s Gospel Declaration:

“God created all things at the beginning, and it was all ‘very good.’ But the first man and first woman (Adam and Eve) did not trust God enough to obey him. Despite living in the paradise-like garden in which God had placed them, they were not satisfied. Believing they knew a better way, they rebelled against God by defiantly disobeying his command.”

The point is that I want you to know that I take your concerns seriously. When I send a link, I hope it will be edifying for readers who genuinely want to learn more and when people send me links, I usually follow them to discover more and to learn from them. I’m thankful you read the Kemp paper, Christy, because imo it offers a solution that could help BioLogos from falling over the cliff of genomicism (the ideology that exaggerates the importance and relevance of genomics, for us, i.e. especially in this historical Adam and Eve conversation). The anti-historical A&E people at BioLogos are actively, but also needlessly, embracing heterodoxy within their churches, university institutions and schools, witness the case of Jim Stump.

When you say “I personally prefer to believe Adam and Eve were real people who existed at a point in history”, the preference imo is not what’s important, but the belief. If you really believe that (in your ‘heart of hearts’), then we, along with the classical, historical and current teachings of most churches (as well as synagogues and mosques) around the world are in agreement. That some, but not all, BioLogos folks reject this and are trying to overturn these teachings is beside the point. You believe, that’s what’s most important.

The rest of what you wrote in that paragraph is hard to understand, so perhaps we can leave it at the above if you agree.

That paragraph about Adam and Eve that you quoted is in a section about the “story of the gospel” and is a summary of the Genesis account, not an interpretation or a doctrine. We affirm that the Bible is true, but that really isn’t guidance on how literally one is to interpret a given passage.

What is scientific racism? I’m still not clear on how thinking that Adam and Eve are meant to function theologically primarily as archetypes for describing the human condition and God’s relationship to humanity (not literal history or science) is dangerous to the Christian message.

It still might be possible to sort of find Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in a sense. The DNA worlds theory says that the DNA system functions similar to a 3D computer simulation, that it is a world in it’s own right.

What this means is there can be representations of both man and woman, trees, snakes, the sun and moon, in the DNA world of a human being.

The main evidence for this theory is that the mathematical ordering of the DNA system is exactly the same as the mathematical ordering of the physics of the universe. Other reasons why this theory is great, besides it being wonderfully simple, straightforward and understandable, is that it provides efficient explanations for non-coding DNA, and the development of organisms to adulthood.

So in the future we might translate the signal from the DNA to a videosignal of a computer, and directly look inside the DNA world, and find “the” Garden of Eden there.

@Eddie

It is very difficult to partake in a useful dialogue if you insist on your version of the type of response from people - on the biological question you now keep bringing up, the reference given by Gregory mentions these matters. If you disagree with the paper, make this your point. If you have some technical issues to discuss, then make these as specific points and those with technical expertise may have some specific responses. I have made the observation that the population modelling as expounded in a couple of peer reviewed papers starts with a given population (i.e. it does not prove it nor has a mathematical treatment that would show how mutations of various species led to either a male and female as initial human beings, or a group of such beings). This is another example where modelling needs to be restricted to deal with matters of interest to the modeller. Dennis has responded by correctly noting there are other aspects that appear to support his position.

Whatever the merits (and otherwise) of pop modelling, it cannot address our main concern regarding the biblical teaching, which is that Adam and Eve existed. You may want to make some debating points about descendants, but again the bible shows these are relevant in terms of a line of descent leading to Abraham and Israel.

“God created all things at the beginning, and it was all ‘very good.’ But the first man and first woman (Adam and Eve) did not trust God enough to obey him. Despite living in the paradise-like garden in which God had placed them, they were not satisfied. Believing they knew a better way, they rebelled against God by defiantly disobeying his command.”

Maybe it would help me to understand, Christy, what you don’t agree with or reject in your church’s Gospel Declaration message above. When you said, “I personally prefer to believe Adam and Eve were real people who existed at a point in history”, that was enough for me and not confusing. I don’t understand what more needs to be said further.

“What is scientific racism?” - Christy

There’s lots of writings about scientific racism and by scientific racists on the internet. There have been many scientific racists (and eugenicists) in the USA. Recognising this and the huge impact it has had on the USA (I’m not a US citizen) is imo much, much more important for cultural communication today than hearing more 2nd hand about genomics. Suffice it to say, polygenism and scientific racism often go hand in hand.

This might interest you: http://io9.com/the-9-most-influential-works-of-scientific-racism-rank-1575543279

With transhumanism and human enhancements très chic right now, you might want to have a look at the gigantic shadow of upcoming neo-eugenics while we’re on the topic of science, philosophy and theology/worldview of ‘anthropos’, humanity, (and as an Abrahamic theist) Adam and Eve. That’s a post-modern (contemporary) reality that we are now facing and which will become more urgent to deal with in the near future.

p.s. since we’re dealing with actual people and not just academic abstraction, let me a bit playfully mention that one of my first girlfriends was named ‘Christy’. So you leave a good impression. :yum: Just don’t tell your husband, as I’m only about 7500 kms away! ;):relaxed:

@Eddie

I think we would all agree that a relaxed conversation ‘over a cup of coffee’ is preferable - I suppose the point that interests me is the notion that anyone has a basis for posing a question such as, “Did the human population start from 10,000 humans or from 2?” If we think such a question through, I think we would see that is an impossible question if it is posed as a scientific (or biological) one. Instead, we have arguments that include, for example modelling, and these arguments must, by necessity, include assumptions, such as, is it possible to model the current population of humans, and in such modelling, is it necessary to commence with a male and a female (2), or is it necessary to commence with a population of human beings, say 10,000?

I am using this to illustrate my point, not to make a rigorous examination of a scientific point. If our conversation tried to address both scientific and theological matters, we could involve ourselves in very complicated discussions, as we all understand from the points put on this site.

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I agree with it. I just don’t think it compels a person to believe that Adam and Eve were literally the first human beings on the planet historically, biologically, or spiritually speaking. I think “first man and woman” can have other meanings related to their selection as image bearers and their special relationship with God. Some people in my denomination interpret Adam and Eve as true myth or allegory, and there is room for that.

The SBC is all over this you know. They have called for a position paper on the baptism of cyborgs.

My favorite Baptist theologian Roger Olson had a few blog posts on transhumanism not to long ago.


Fun stuff for all us sci-fi fans.

Spelled the right way, too.

Ok, then that’s enough. I’m not sure that the ‘Yes, but…’ or ‘doesn’t compel…’ or ‘can have other meanings’ answer gets us anywhere productive. It’s too obvious to need to be said.

Your church teaches that Adam and Eve were “the first man and first woman” and you agree. Yes. Period. Amen.

We agree. :smile::thumbsup:

“The SBC is all over this you know.”

I didn’t know (not being from USA and not following SBC), but it’s not surprising. Lots of interest (and big funding) right now on this topic. Yes, I’ve read Olson on this. There’s also a new Christian Transhumanist Association and people present on this at the ASA meeting regularly (e.g. Winyard 2013, 2015). Hyper conservative groups, however, like the Discovery Institute are insistently anti-transhumanism.

I wrote an article a few months back about transhumanism and anthropic principles for a special edition on TechnoLogos (yes, they capitalised the ‘L’, just like BioLogos does, but with a considerably different intention). I can send you the link privately if you’d like.

Sure. PM me the link. I’ll add it to my rainy day reading folder. :slight_smile:

Regarding Dennis Venema, he can answer for himself if he chooses on his own thread re: polygenism. Eddie wants me to directly challenge Venema’s genomics writings on BioLogos, but that is not what I am called on Earth to do.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think of Venema’s biology, genetics or genomics. The point is the same one that GJDS has already made here along with many others elsewhere. Population genetics cannot disprove a historical Adam and Eve; it can only suggest a minimum bottleneck size, which doesn’t disprove THEM.

Besides, the more qualified person on this topic at BioLogos is James Kidder, who is a paleoanthropologist, rather than a genomicist.

GJDS was entirely correct: “on the biological question you now keep bringing up, the reference given by Gregory mentions these matters.”

Kemp’s paper deals with this directly. So I’ve done what I think is the responsible thing in deferring to someone who knows more about genetics and biology than myself.

For those who haven’t read the excellent paper “Science, Theology and Monogenism” by Kemp, who is a Catholic philosopher and TE/EC, here are a few highlights:

The foundation of Kemp’s monogenism/polygenism solution are based on this: “while it is true that all men are descended from Adam, the race nevertheless had a broad origin.” – Andrew Alexander (“Human Origins and Genetics”, 1964)

“there is no real contradiction between a theologically conservative (monogenist) account of anthropogenesis and the scientific insights of evolutionary biology and modern genetics.” – Kemp

“Discussion of whether there ever was a population bottleneck in the course of hominid evolution and, if there was, when and of what size is, in fact, on-going among paleoanthropologists.” – Kemp

“That account can begin with a population of about 5,000 hominids, beings which are in many respects like human beings, but which lack the capacity for intellectual thought. Out of this population, God selects two and endows them with intellects by creating for them rational souls, giving them at the same time those preternatural gifts the possession of which constitutes original justice. Only beings with rational souls (with or without the preternatural gifts) are truly human.” – Kemp

This is the same basic argument that has been supported by David Opderbeck, GJDS, Ben Yachov and Jon Garvey here on BioLogos, with figures like John Walton and Denis Alexander more or less in agreement. Lamoureux, Falk, Enns, Giberson and Venema (and apparently Kidder too) are against it, but it has not yet been confirmed that any of them have read Kemp, Flynn or Bonnette.

10,000, 5804, 2685, 229, 12, 4 –> the ‘group’ number simply doesn’t matter. One simply can’t overturn a theological doctrine using mathematical genomics.

So is Venema in particular correct while he sticks with the population number not <10,000? I don’t know and am not qualified to say one way or another, so I’m not going to commit myself to say anything. Others have used different numbers and in so far as they are only interested in the ‘biological human,’ the same response is due to them also as above.

Kemp, Flynn and Bonnette offer a third way, which allows people to maintain traditional Church teaching about historical Adam and Eve and also account for contemporary genetics. Based on that, I neither have to say ‘BioLogos is wrong about the science and the traditional theological account is right’, nor ‘BioLogos is right about the science and the traditional theological account is wrong.’ That polarising ultimatum is not necessary due to the new views available.

“there can be no theological objection to the claim that some one (or two) members of a prehistoric, biologically (i.e., genetically) human species were made sufficiently different from the others that they constituted a new theological species, e.g., by being given a rational soul and an eternal destiny.” - Kemp

Or, as John Stott put it, perhaps more believable for evangelicals who don’t or won’t read Catholics, as quoted here at BioLogos, this constitutes Homo Divinus.

Ok, will do. Perhaps it will bring a bit of sunshine on that rainy day. :umbrella: :sun_with_face:

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This is probably the longest post I have placed on any blog, and I hope it will be the last detailed one, but I feel it necessary to make these points. The discussion regarding Adam and Eve has two basic lines of reasoning, biological and theological:

  1. Biological – very generally, this may be summarised as follows (and those with the technical expertise may wish to correct any detail if they so wish):

(a) This argument posits a continuation of change from a common ancestor over millions of years - presumably some type of animal that eventually mutated into a number of species (or intermediates if that is preferred) but eventually species now termed humans and apes were the end result.
(b) The line leading to humans as we know them may or may not be defined, but there is discussion of interbreeding, so we cannot designate a clear distinction or specific point at which human beings came into existence, but nonetheless, present day human beings are believed to have ‘come into being’ in some way.
© On this line of reasoning (without disputing any evidence from data or modelling) we may still be at a loss on how the population of 10,000 humans came about – although genetic diversity may suggest such a number.
(d) If the ridiculous suggestions such as bestiality was accepted, we are left with a huge problem regarding breeding between different species.

I am speculating now by asking questions – can we decide if an original human being can be thought to have existed? Is it possible to argue that there was an original male and female who gave birth to human beings? Or is it stated, by those committed to this outlook that a gradual change occurred in which various types of male and female bred for prolonged periods? Just how do we arrive at a population of human beings? If there were a variety of creatures who could breed, these by definition were one species; if so why would this mixture not exist today?

  1. Theological.

(a) This commences with a clear statement that God created Adam and Eve from the substance of the earth. Most Christians accept this to mean the atoms and molecules that make up all animal species.
(b) The involvement of God is central to this – we cannot ignore this point and skip into a lengthy and futile narrative on evolution and how God may have gone about doing this or that to accommodate a pet theory or a perceived consensus.
© The theological point is not about the material substance that made up Adam, but the purpose for his creation by God, which was to imprint the image of God, to breathe into mankind the breadth of Godly life.
(d) What God can do and reveal is not restricted to any notions we may have – by this I mean Genesis does not become relevant only if we can put a scientific gloss on it. We are however, required to show that it does not contradict our general understanding obtained from our life experiences, our faith, and our limited understanding of science.

The theological point also does not require detailed explanations of how children came about, since all reasonable people understand propagation is done by male and female giving birth. Trying to redefine Adam and Eve within an impossible constraint is ridiculous, and trying to read such nonsense into Genesis is adsurb.

God considered Adam’s actions as typifying all humanity (which I personally think He did) – we cannot restrict God’s actions just to fit our own notions.

We now may ask, what does the Bible teach us regarding God’s involvement with humanity? We can easily answer this by looking at other examples. Abraham was called by God, so was Moses, so was Isaiah, and on goes the list. In all cases, these people were changed into God fearing and God serving people.

The arguments against Adam are, as I have said before, flawed because people wish to read their speculation into Genesis, or leave out stuff out of Genesis, or isolate Gen 2 for special treatment that can be woven into the evolutionary narrative.

At no point does God ‘zap’ anyone, be it Adam, Abraham, Moses etc., nor do we need a biological explanation for any of these events. We also understand God was involved in the birth of Christ - I do not think this is a biological question either.

Genesis 2 shows us that God acted, created, in a particular way, to teach us that we as human beings can, and do, make choices contrary to His will, also contrary to our own good.

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Just got to this thread (looking after too many grandchildren to keep up) and am surprised and pleased by the general consensus represented (despite the apparent disagreements).

The only point I want to add is to the talk about God’s “adding” an “immortal soul” to the mix in Adam - a natural enough viewpoint when some of the sources like Kemp and The O’Floinn are Catholic.

Yet few of us here are actually Catholics, and there are problems with such an idea of “soul”, especially when it’s considered apart from Aquinas’s deeply Aristotelian grasp of “soul” as that which gives human form to mere matter, rather than any idea that it a spiritual “addition” to a human animal.

In Hebrew terms, of course, “soul” is even more a fundamental idea of what we are, not what we have. Immortality in the Garden was not intrinsic, but a gift of being in the garden - surely related in imagery to being in the presence of God. Adam was spiritual because God revealed himself to him, though he had to have been created capable of receiving such revelation.

We do maybe need to struggle, as Aquinas did, with the reality that dissolution of the body at death does not entirely extinguish us until we are re-embodied at the resurrection. But that does not equate to the Cartesian “immaterial soul” that most of us tend to have as our schema for “immortal soul”.

In other words, a historical Adam in the ANE certainly gained some new blessings from God, and certainly sullied them, and so it was through one man that sin entered the world. But those things need not have been, from the Gen 2-3 account, either biological or “psychic”. Likewise, mankind as a race received in the act of creation the privilege of being “in the image of the Image” - there is an ontological correspondence between humanity and Christ. Such an endowment, however it relates or not to Adam and Eve, must be beyond the merely biological, and certainly beyond the reach of a biological theory based on contingency rather than teleology.

And as GD points out, evolution alone cannot define a clear human category: we need more than biology even to allow the universal, “humanity”.

All of which leads me ever closer to the conclusion that we learn relatively little about human creation from any consideration of biological evolution: is “evolutionary creation” therefore not a rather misleading concept? It’s no more explanatory than “chemical creation” or “Newtonian creation” would be.

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@Jon_Garvey

I agree with your comments, and I feel we should emphasise an important point that seems forgotten in some of these exchanges (and I will use your phraseology) - and this is ‘the sovereignty of GOD’ in all of these matters. I have used the ‘centrality of God’ as the defining phrase, but I want to give my amen to yours. I think Gregory and myself may use other phrases at times, but we both reject the myth nonsense, because we both attest to the centrality (sovereignty) of God regarding Adam and Eve, and the creation.

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