Archive for the ‘darwin’ Tag

I don’t believe in Adam, and I’m OK

Many of us are comfortable with a literal reading of Genesis, finding its account of human origins more plausible than anything else we’ve heard.  If that’s you, this post will either bore or offend you.  But if you’re like me—unable to swallow a literal reading of Genesis—this post’s for you.

I’ve believed in evolution for a couple decades now, and I spent much of that time in the closet, afraid to talk to anyone about it.  I spent a couple of those years not believing in God, because I’d grown convinced that my science and my religion were incompatible. It’s been a long and fruitful journey for me, and today I can’t imagine doing theology without evolutionary science by my side. My science provides my theology with fantastic depth, fruitfulness, and beauty that it couldn’t have any other way. I love where I’m at with it.

But a friend recently brought up a question about this, and it’s relevant to our theological project here in the Trinity and Humanity blog community, so I thought I’d post about it here.

Many Christian evolutionists believe in a historical pair of Homo Sapiens named Adam & Eve.  I do not, for a variety of reasons.  Does this fundamentally conflict with Saint Paul’s “Adam Theology” (expressed in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15), which is a really important piece of the Trinity-and-Humanity vision of God?

In these passages, Paul uses Adam to illustrate the universality of Jesus’ saving work.  The basic idea is expressed succinctly in Romans 5.18:

Just as [Adam’s] one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also [Jesus’s] one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Here are two quick reasons why my belief in Paul’s theology doesn’t conflict with my non-belief in a historical Adam:

1.  Divinely-inspired ancient people don’t know quantum mechanics.
Or Newton’s laws of motion. Or that the Earth orbits the Sun.  Or that all life on Earth is related by birth.  As far as I can tell, Paul believes in an Earth-centered cosmos and a historical Adam & Eve, and that’s okay by me.  My trust in Paul as a divinely-inspired messenger of the Gospel does not compel me to agree with his notions about the natural world.

2.  Paul’s argument rests on Jesus, not Adam.
In these passages, Paul wants us to know that Jesus affects all of humankind, and he uses his understanding of human origins to illustrate how that can happen.  Similarly, Hosea says that God is as trustworthy as the sun’s movement around the earth (Hosea 6.3). The truth of his theology does not rest on the accuracy of his science.  New Testament scholar N.T. Wright backs me up on this:

If you’re interested in learning more about the interface between biblical Christian faith and evolutionary science, Peter Enn’s Biologos is a pretty good place to start.

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I understand that some of my friends might not like what I have said here.  If that’s the case for you, please know:  I don’t need you to agree with me, but I do hope I can continue being welcome at your table.  I think our theological project here is big enough for us to continue working side-by-side.

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