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.