When the preponderance of evidence forced me to accept the fact of evolution, it was a short trip to discarding the Bible I had studied, memorized and believed all my life.

Until that point, I held firmly to Biblical inerrancy. In my view, the Bible itself asserted this with claims like “all scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16), and “every word of God is flawless… do not add to his words.” (Prov 30:5-6). I would have agreed with Answers in Genesis that “the Bible is God-given (and therefore without error) in every part (doctrine, history, geography, dates, names) and in every single word.” It was quite black-and-white for me.

But the truth of evolution means there was no historical Adam. No first man, specially created. At no time did a primate ancestor give birth to a human. We formed from the well-understood shift in genetic alleles across an entire population of tens of thousands who eventually speciated. If God watched and chose some dividing moment between not-in-his-image and in-his-image for our hominid strain, it was after hundreds of thousands of years on the African plain and billions of years of death… no tree of life in sight.

No historical Adam means no “original sin” and no need to send a divine Jesus to die for it.

I’m aware that many can hold the Eve-and-the-talking-snake story to be metaphorical of a sinful nature that God needs to cleanse, but the problem is that the New Testament writers accepted and preached historical Adam.

A literal Genesis reading is affirmed by the epistles. “The first man Adam became a living being” (1 Cor 15:45), “for Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (1 Tim 2:13-14).

Then the authors double-down by expressly linking Jesus’ salvation plan to historical Adam. “Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses” (Rom 5:14), “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people” (Rom 5:12), “for as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22)

The trouble with the claim of inerrancy is that a single crack will destroy it. It is all-or-nothing. A plain reading of the New Testament asserts a historical Adam who didn’t exist, so that perfection is shattered. My black-and-white options left only black in the failure of white.

The trouble with picking-and-choosing parts of the Bible to accept and other parts to ignore as figurative is that there are no compelling reasons to accept any of it one doesn’t like. Such an activity is to merely make a god in one’s own image. In fact, this seems to be what many people do.

With the greatest respect to those who find meaning in interpreted readings, I see no reason to abandon my life-long binary view of the scriptures. My quest for truth has yet to uncover any new reasons to believe the claim that the Bible holds any. In fact, the investigation has revealed many more substantive reasons to believe that it does not. (Stay tuned for that.) But this extra evidence merely supports my lack-of-belief that started with Genesis chapter one.

(Image from Christian Publishing House)


I’ve been reading The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns (PhD, Harvard). Enns works for BioLogos, an organization dedicated to the integration of science and Christian faith. I am impressed with this group’s tone, intellectual honesty, scientific understanding and forthrightness in presenting the quite-human literary history of the Bible.

The author failed to convince me that his contextual figurative reading of difficult passages was more apologetics than apologies, but this would provide plenty of food for thought for someone looking to reconcile Biblical writings with non-denial of science.

Have you read it? What do you think?

 


I’ve been letting the blog reflect momentary snapshots of non-linear fragments of my forefront thoughts, and it will likely remain thus. But if you have any topics you’d like me to cover or questions you’d like me to answer, please let me know.

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6 thoughts on “(Adam)ant Doctrine

  1. Paul – I am enjoying your blog so much. I have had many of these same struggles and I’m finding your story very informative. On most days, I don’t even know what I believe – the abandonment of beliefs that were ingrained as a child is difficult. It seems like that should be filled with something else and I don’t know what that is. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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  2. I love all your blog posts!! They are give something to think about or something you learn or just pure entertainment!! I admire your skill to be able to draw someone in with your knowledgeable truths

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  3. I appreciate you sharing your journey. I am sure there are those with more intelligence than I (a category I’m sure you would fall in), yet it appears you make a huge jump in logic or rather a huge assumption … if evolution is true there is no Adam.

    Without discussing the merits or potential issues of evolution, if we assumed it was true does that automatically mean there was no Adam? No. As you have pointed out there are many scientists and theologians that would argue that the two are not mutually exclusive.

    I don’t see anywhere in the Bible the mentioning of Pythagoras’ Theorem (a2+b2=c2). If the Bible is silent on this does it mean that the Bible can not be true? Or what if one of your children when they were young came up to you and asked you “What you were doing?” You told them that you were going to talk to millions of people. Of course they would say “No you’re not dad, that’s impossible!” But you did not mention that you would do it through a web site… If we were to assume (as we have assumed evolution is true) that the Christian God is as He describes himself all knowing and all powerful would it not be possible that He created the world in anyway He wished and to say otherwise would amount to the same as your children saying “You can’t”? Because it doesn’t give you the detail you want, does it make the Bible any less true?

    I’m sorry, your assumption that there is no Adam does not hold up for me.

    Happy Lucy day 😉 (You should have planned your previous post to be today)

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    1. If you are willing to accept some sort of symbolic Adam, you are in very good company and I definitely understand.

      With your temporary premise that evolution is true, the Adam described in Genesis cannot exist for the reasons I lay out in my third paragraph. Eve is even more problematic. If the Christian God used such a process for humans to eventually emerge over billions of years, he deliberately chose to record it (for the Word is not silent on Adam’s creation, as you suggest — it is specifically detailed twice) in his revealed word in such a way that is unrecognizable, obfuscated and even directly contradictory to his actual methods. With precedent set that the plain reading is not to be taken literally, how then could one be so arrogant as to take any chapter at face value?

      In your analogy, I would have clearly specified to my children that I was using a styrofoam-cup-and-string to talk to millions of people when I was really using a website. When I later tell them that invisible gamma rays are being shot into my hand to cure a disease they can’t see, should they know that I am being truthful? Or should they rather treat it as another metaphor?

      It is my observation that those who reconcile science and the Bible do so by labelling proven-false parts of the book as myth and treating the rest as true.

      For me, I must take this one logical step further… I label the entire book as myth, willing to accept proven-correct parts as true.

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      1. It would appear you are unwilling to give me my second assumption, the Christian God is who he says he is. Moreover you have added another assumption to your list, that God would be an absentee landlord like the lame song From A Distance, Bette Midler.

        If we accept my second assumption that the Christian God is all powerful, all knowing, in fact apart from time itself. The Bible is specific in this, God created Adam and Eve. The Bible does not tell us the science behind how He did so, that was not the purpose of Genesis. Genesis is the record of the Christian God as Creator, the source of everything, creating something out nothing. So if it is not specific in how He did it, anything is possible (He is God) and to say it is not possible is to reject the Bible and the Christian God not on the basis of logic nor science because neither are in conflict with what the Bible says. I could say “Is it not possible that God …” and the answer would always be yes because logically it follows out of who He is.

        Moreover you make the assumption that if in fact God is real that he was an absentee landlord allowing things to happen haphazardly, chaotically. Two common themes in the Bible are that God is a person of design and that He has an interest in human history. If we assume that evolution is true, is it not possible that God orchestrated, intervened, in the creation of humanity at a specific point, the culmination of an immense number of factors (astronomical). Of course it is possible, there is no logical or intellectual suicide necessary here, He is God. In the Bible there are many occasions of God’s intervention or things happening at their appointed time.

        If we are talking about logic and reason an interesting read is The End of Reason. Ravi Zacharias

        My Adam is still standing.

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