Monday, October 01, 2012

Adam where art thou?

The other at week our Bradford on Avon Ministers' Fraternal, Robert Oliver spoke on the controversy over the historicity of Adam among American Evangelicals. A recent John Owen Centre Conference was devoted to this theme. Here are some notes on Robert's talk. 

Barbara Haggerty an American journalist wrote an article on the National Public Radio website on Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve. Surveys show that 4/10 Americans believe the Genesis creation account  But some conservative scholars doubt that Adam was an historical figure. According to Dennis Venema, studies on the human genome show that humans emerged from earlier species thousands of years ago. The idea that the whole human race originated from two ancestors over a relatively short period of time gives no time for genetic mutations that are currently present in the genome.

Venema is a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, a Christian group that aims at reconciling faith and science. The group was founded by Francis Collins, an Evangelical and current head of the National Institute of Health. John Schneider, who once taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan said, "it's time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence." 

Geneticist Francis Collins is a converted atheist. He became a Christian as a result of reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. In The Language of God, he argued for a form of theistic evolution. BioLogos means life-truth. The foundation exists to promote belief in theistic evolution. Influential American Evangelical leader Tim Keller is an advocate of theistic evolution, although his relationship with BioLogos is difficult to discern.

Al Mohler responded to Haggerty's article on his blog with a post, False Start? The Controversy Over Adam and Eve Heats Up. Mohler argues that, "this question is now a matter of Gospel urgency." Paul saw Adam and Eve as the first parents of the human race and took the fall as a historical event. However, in Saving DarwinKarl W. Giberson advocates the view that the biblical creation account not to be read as history. According to him, the Bible a library not a book. In any library there will be works of fiction such as the Harry Potter  books, and factual biographies of Abraham Lincoln. So with the Bible, Genesis 1-3 is the biblical equivalent of Hogwarts, while  Jesus is an historical figure like Abraham Lincoln. 

Peter Enns attacked Mohler for defending the historicity of Genesis 1-3, see here. Enns, author of The Evolution of Adam says that Conservative Evangelicals make too much of Adam. Adam was a symbol of Israel rather than a historical figure. Genesis 1-3 is about the origin of Israel not history. Genesis is not intended as history. 

To what extent are Evangelicals seeking academic approval in trying to accommodate the bible to theistic evolution? In trying to do so, Evangelical advocates of theistic evolution are putting the gospel metanarrative of good creation/fall/redemption/restoration under threat. That is why Al Mohler was right to say that this question is a  matter of "gospel urgency".

You can order recordings of addresses given at the John Owen Centre Conference on Adam in the Church, the Bible and the World

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