Mohler Leads Discussion of the Historicity of Adam

Albert Mohler led a discussion in Southern Seminary’s chapel today about the historicity of Adam and the gospel. Panel members include Tom Schreiner, Jim Hamilton, Chad Brand, and Steve Wellun. You can watch above, listen below, or download here.

[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/media/audio/fall2011/20111108-panel.mp3]

My favorite line from the discussion comes from Jim Hamilton who argues that Peter Enns seeks to replace the beginning of the biblical story with evolution. Hamilton says that replacing the beginning of the biblical story with evolution is like replacing the first scene of “Star Wars” with the first scene from “Sleepless in Seattle.” It just doesn’t work because they are two different stories.

71 Responses to Mohler Leads Discussion of the Historicity of Adam

  1. Dan Phillips November 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Thank you, I look forward to listening.

    One of my all-time favorite counters was actually in a meta. The commenter said, “Great. I have to battle sin every day because of something some guy did in some story.”

  2. Dan Phillips November 8, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    …and if you’re suggesting that Jim Hamilton rocks, sign me up.

    • yankeegospelgirl November 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

      I’ll suggest it: Jim Hamilton rocks. Shall we form a club? Make some T-shirts?

  3. RD November 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I left the following comment over at Jim’s blog (he posted the panel discussion as well and it is well worth taking the time to watch or listen to!!):

    I still don’t think that the panel made a compelling argument for why the entire Christian meta-narrative falls apart if it turns out that Adam wasn’t an actual, historical, man. The Adam and Eve narrative is an account for how humanity selfishly disobeyed God and an account of the consequences of that disobedience. Whether the account is factually true or not isn’t really relevent to our position of actual separation from God. What’s important is our position, not how we got in our position.

    Suppose the Christian meta-narrative was this story: One Day RD pushed Jim into a large pile of quicksand, from which Jim was then unable to free himself. God decides to send his son to rescue Jim from the quicksand. He comes to earth and pulls Jim free.

    Now, suppose fifty years after the fact (or hundreds of years, whatever) it is discovered that RD never actually pushed Jim into the quicksand. Jim fell in himself while trying to fish out a coconut which had fallen into the middle of the sand. RD, it turns out, was a mythical figure used as part of the narrative to explain how Jim had gotten into the quicksand to begin with. The fact that RD didn’t push Jim didn’t negate the fact that Jim was in the quicksand and needed to be rescued.

    The fact is that we can see the wages of sin and death around us and throughout our history. Why do we have to have an actual Adam and Eve and piece of fruit in order for our position of separation from God to be true?

    • Daryl Little November 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      RD,

      I think the trouble with what you are saying is simply this. How did it happen?

      That is, if God created everything (and everyone believes this, even the atheist who claims he doesn’t), and if everything God created was good, as Genesis affirms and as simple logic demands, then how did we get from where we were to where we are?
      It’s not enough to have a story that represents our current condition, the story must, of necessity explain how we got here. In Peter Enns’ version the Scripture gives us not such information, making, to my mind, any explanation of how the thing is reversed, suspect.

      Not only that, but Paul is clear in Romans that the way redemption works is precisely in the same way that the fall worked, and in fact, depends on that to be the case. If Adam didn’t represent me in the fall, but I simply fell by myself, then how can Christ represent me in redemption, rather than me representing myself?

      When you add in verses like Acts 17:26 where Paul plainly says that God created all men from one man, Adam, you see why claiming that Genesis is not history demands that Paul be in error, which eliminates the possibility of an inerrant Scripture and then no foundation whatsoever on which to stand.

      Peter Enns admits this as do many others involved with Biologos. The trouble is, he is so committed to academic respectability, that he happily goes there dragging many unstable believers in his wake.

      The real question is, if God told us what happened (and he did, that is plain) then why do we need to imagine a different scenario.
      This really is “Did God really say…” all over again.

  4. Nathan November 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    The Genesis narrative shows that sin and death came AFTER creation, and so were NOT a part of it. I believe that life begets life. Life created me — gave me my physical form and my intellect — as He saw fit — death had no part of that.

    You can choose to believe that death was an integral part of your creation; that it has shaped your being based on its survivorship tables. Somehow though, I think the Author of Life would be offended by that notion.

  5. Jim W November 8, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    The problem I see with all the people pushing for evolution is that if God had meant to say He just started the process and then let “nature” take over to develop the rest over millions of years, or if He didn’t really start the whole process and it “just happened” over billions of years, or if Adam and Eve were just metaphorical, He could have very easily said those things. Does anyone think that if God told Moses what to write that He couldn’t have said exactly what He did? Oh, yeah, God did tell Moses what to write and Moses did exactly that.

  6. Don Johnson November 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Here is how I see it. I see ALL of Genesis as Mosaic Sinai covenant preamble.
    I see all of Gen 12+ as straight narrative history. But I see indications that Gen 1-11 should not be read as straight narrative history, the moreso for the earlier chapters. So it is a genre and interpretation question.

    For example, I find John Walton’s reading of Gen 1 as a cosmic temple inauguration very compelling.

  7. Christiane November 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I would love to hear Dr. Mohler and these gentelmen debate (or dialogue with) Robert Barron on ‘Genesis’.

  8. herodotus November 9, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    What generation do the geneaologies move from fiction to fact?
    My dad was Robert, his dad was Ira, his dad was Thor, god of Thunder….

  9. Don Johnson November 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Mohler about 42 minutes in “Scripture tells us that world is not going to tell us the truth. That world is showing all the effects of the fall, the flood, all the effects of the ravages of human sin and God’s judgments on that sin.”

    This is very scary for him to say, it attacks epistemology. This seems like a super-duper escape valve, so big it swallows itself.

  10. Daryl Little November 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Don,

    He may have overstated it a little, But his point is quite accurate.

    Fallen men reading uninspired facts cannot possibly be trusted to reach accurate conclusions about how the world began.

    On the other hand, regenerated men, reading an inerrant text under the supervision and guidance of the Holy Spirit have, for millenia, reached the same conclusions repeatedly about the historicity of Adam and the first 12 chapters of Genesis.

    Are we really so uppity that we believe that we are somehow wiser than Paul, or anyone else of his, or previous eras?

    • Don Johnson November 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Many Bible scholars, both Christian and Jewish, for many hundreds of years ((some before science was invented) have pointed out that there is some unusual stuff going on in the early chapters of Genesis. And they even warned in some cases not to read it in ways that bring disrepute to the faith.

      • yankeegospelgirl November 10, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

        And when, in your opinion, was science “invented?” Or are you going to tell me ancient people were stupid?

        • Don Johnson November 11, 2011 at 11:13 am #

          The scientific method (and therefore the beginnings of science) was invented in the 1600s.

          See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

          The ancients were not stupid, but they had their limitations.

          The Bible text is ancient and needs to be read as ancient text. We need to try to do our best to read it as ancient original readers would have read it. For example, the Torah of Moses (including Genesis) was read every 7 years to farmers and shepherds in Israel.

          • yankeegospelgirl November 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

            AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

            Pardon me. It’s just so obviously apparent that you don’t know the first thing about the history of science.

    • Adam Omelianchuk November 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

      Daryl,

      I am curious. What is this distinction between “uninspired facts” and inspired facts amount to? At the end of the day they are still facts and fallen people have to deal with both of them. How do you know they cannot possible be trusted? Is that’ an inspired fact? If so, where do you get it from?

  11. Daryl Little November 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    So drawing the ire and laughter of atheistic naturalists is the equivalent to bringing disrepute to the faith?

    I think Enns’ and many others believe that, which is the problem.

    The fear of man does funny things to our thinking doesn’t it?

    • Don Johnson November 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      No, I expect the scorn of atheists, that goes with the territory of being a believer. What brings disrepute to the faith is putting un-necessary stumbling blocks in front of nonbelievers due to one particular interpretation of Genesis.

  12. Micah November 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Daryl – You said “Fallen men reading uninspired facts cannot possibly be trusted to reach accurate conclusions about how the world began”.

    My question is, where is the dividing line on which fallen man can draw accurate conclusions about things? For example, if you’ve flown on an airplane, you obviously at some level trust the ability of fallen people to use science to create a device that allows you to fly. Why would you trust fallen men to reach conclusions about how to make a big hunk of metal fly around the world and not trust their ability to use the scientific method to theorize about the age of the earth? Why would scientists’ abilities be so adept at creating flying machines but so horribly inadequate in studying the age of the earth and the biological history of humans?

    I agree that inciting the scorn of non-believers should not be a deterrent to our faith. I’m sure a lot of non-believers believe I’m crazy for believing Jesus was raised from the dead, and I’ll happily stand by this. The problem, however, is that most scientists believe that the evidence that they observe indicates that the Earth and universe are very old and that man has evolved over long periods of time. Despite what many evangelicals think, most scientists do not have any other agenda in their work than to do good science (whether it’s creating flying machines or studying the age of the earth and origins).

    Micah

  13. Daryl Little November 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Micah,

    I’ve listened to enough believing PhD scientists to know that the data does not, in fact, support evolution.

    I know that’s an assertion without an argument, but the point is “most scientists” would prefer, like most unbelievers, that God not exist.

    That way they wouldn’t need to answer to him.

    It is telling to see how much other important theology groups like Biologos and people like Peter Enns are jettisoning simply because they are trying (unlike most people) to be consistent in following their belief wherever it leads.

    World views have consequences. And evolutionary thought does not have Christianity as it’s consequence.

    • Don Johnson November 10, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      Then you are not listening to the right ones. Just having a PhD does not necessarily mean anything.

      The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, unless one takes the path (like Mohler might be taking) that nothing in the world can be trusted. This makes God into a master deceiver and such is not the God I worship.

      • Dan Phillips November 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

        Leaving us inevitably to wonder what God you do worship… or what you mean by “worship.”

        As to the tired “If God doesn’t subscribe to the science fad of the day, He’s a deceiver” dodge, that’s been answered so many times that it’s lost its power to amuse or amaze.

        • Micah November 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

          Dan – Help me understand how evolution is the “science fad of the day”.

          Additionally, I’d like to understand from those who adamantly oppose evolution, why it is that they don’t rely on the scientific process in this particular area, but they do in so many other areas. I’ll repeat my question to Daryl from a couple posts ago.

          “My question is, where is the dividing line on which fallen man can draw accurate conclusions about things? For example, if you’ve flown on an airplane, you obviously at some level trust the ability of fallen people to use science to create a device that allows you to fly. Why would you trust fallen men to reach conclusions about how to make a big hunk of metal fly around the world and not trust their ability to use the scientific method to theorize about the age of the earth? Why would scientists’ abilities be so adept at creating flying machines but so horribly inadequate in studying the age of the earth and the biological history of humans?”

          Micah

          • Dan Phillips November 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

            Sure. Apart from the answer already in the post linked above, every generation of science has had fads, and every time the proponents assure everyone that the (current) fad is Science.

            Until it isn’t anymore.

        • Don Johnson November 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

          My suggestion is you read a decent book on the overwhelming amount of evidence so you will be able to discuss this. There are lots of good books out there and the evidence really is overwhelming; your position is like hearing a forensic expert testify at a crime trial and thinking that all the evidence has no meaning.

          • Dan Phillips November 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

            I’m familiar with the chest-thumping, bluffing, and circular arguments, thanks.

            Otherwise, already anticipated and answered in the post linked above.

          • yankeegospelgirl November 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

            PWNED!

          • Gabe November 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

            Yankee,

            No pwned at all. The evidence is there for anyone to see if you really want to see it. Evolution isn’t a fad that is going away. Reading creationist apologetic books isn’t going to give you a fair look at the topic.

          • yankeegospelgirl November 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

            I may not happen to be a YEC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a fad when I see one. Might I suggest you get your head out of the Dawkins and read something by a real scientist like Jonathan Wells or Michael Behe?

  14. Micah November 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Dan – Given the amount of time this theory has been around I don’t think it’s fair to characterize evolution as a fad. If it were a fad i would think that the idea would have been abandoned by now. Sure, the definition of evolution has changed over the years, but i would expect this to be the case. As new facts and information become available, the theory is updated to fit what is observed. None of the evidence that has accumulated over the years has caused scientists to drastically shift their view to one where macro-evolution is out of the picture.

    Also, concerning your post at http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2009/02/science-bible-and-presuppositions.html…it’s certainly a clever story but i don’t think it’s really very compelling…mainly because it seems like an oversimplication of a very complicated history. Your parable breaks down, in part, b/c the man who wrote the note (the room owner), wrote a note that was 2 sentences long, and it appears it was being read by people who lived at the same time and in the same culture. Just look at the diversity of opinion, even within seminaries, concerning the interpretation of creation accounts in Genesis (and other references in the Bible). There are good Christian scholars that come down on all sides of this issue.

    The title of your parable mentions presuppositions (presumabley by people who hold to evolutionary theory). I believe the presuppositions are being made by you. Namely, you presuppose that your interpretation of Genesis is the correct interpretation. As a result, your ability to observe facts and do good science is hindered b/c you already ‘know’ the history of man…you know that man did not evolve so even if science points in that direction it must be wrong.

    Let me ask you this. Assume for a moment that evolution did occur. How would this affect your view of God? I think Don is exactly right when he says “What brings disrepute to the faith is putting un-necessary stumbling blocks in front of nonbelievers due to one particular interpretation of Genesis.” I know Mohler and others will talk of this being an issue of Biblical authority. I totally respect and admire their adherance to Biblical authority. I also hold to BIblical authority…i just happen to believe that their interpretation of Genesis is incorrect.

    Micah

  15. Nate November 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Don, your notion of the bible being ancient and therefore somewhat “unreadable” by modern man is an attempt to create a false dilemma, so as to escape the issue. By Jesus’ day, the OT was an ancient text (1500 yrs), so, by your argument you also need to say that Jesus and Paul could not have completely understood what Moses wrote, if we are to say that 2000 years removed from the writing of the NT we cannot understand. Furthermore, you have not dealt with the fact that Jesus and Paul both believed Adam to be a historical man and the first historical man (e.g. geneaology of Jesus in Luke, Jesus’ reinforcement of marriage in Matt 19, Paul’s argument in Romans, Paul’s speech on Mars Hill, etc.)

    Dr. Schreiner made that point explicitly on more than one occassion, but emphasized it when he cited Acts 17:26. Moreover, Dr. Brand’s comments on the end result of evolution (referring to H.G. Well’s book The Time Machine) and even more pointedly evolution’s affirmation of ethnocism, racism, etc. cannot be overcome should Adam not be the first historical man made in the image of God,unless you are also arguing that man is still evolving and that evolution will lead to something else.

    So, are you saying Paul did not believe Adam to be the first historical man? If so, what is the point of Romans? Was Paul simply not as smart as we are (accomodation theory)? What do you really believe?

    Futher, since Paul is adamant that death came through sin, how does man evolve without death, mutation, and reformation? How do you tie death to sin? It would seem that you will have to accomodate death apart from sin prior to what you deem “historical man” who is now under the penalty of death and separation from God for his sin.

    How did that take place? What sin did your evolutionary man commit to cause God to damn him apart from salvation in Christ, that previously hadn’t been committed? Or, are you saying that God had no basis to judge man until He endowed man with His image? What Scripture would you have to proport any of these arguments?

    • Don Johnson November 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      It is trivially true that we moderns today know more about some things than Paul in the first century, for example, did. The discussion is how does that affect our reading of what Paul wrote.

      Act 13:46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
      Act 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”

      As we know today that there are no ends to the earth, we today read “ends of the earth” as a metaphor. But even then we know that Paul did not know about the Americas or Australia, so his idea of what the term meant can easily be different than ours and we may not even recognize that we have changed meanings. When he talks about going to Spain in Acts 15 he is referring to going where the land mass ends.

      I see the problem where sincere believers make 1001 changing to meaning like this, because we know more today, but decline to make the 1002 change. I find this very arbitrary. I agree with the concern that if one makes the 1002 change, then where does it stop? But that does not mean to not make the 1002 change, given that almost all believers make the 1001 changes. So the real challenge is to read the text as Paul meant it, subtracting all of our modern knowledge, which is admittedly hard to do.

    • Derek November 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      Nate, great comments. Obviously Donald agrees, because he didn’t address your actual words and questions.

    • Don Johnson November 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      What I claim is that ANY text, including Bible text, is embedded inside the culture in which it was produced and needs to be understood inside that culture’s worldview, which can be very different from one’s worldview today. So it takes work for us today, work that the original readers did not need to do, since they lived it. I do not claim that the Bible cannot be understood, I just claim that for many parts of it, it takes work.

      In my previous post, I was trying to point out that we often accommodate repeatedly when reading the Bible and that doing this is not really true to what the text meant. There are many books that discuss Bible difficulties or challenges and there are many to discuss when one looks at these kinds of books, either written by a believer or a skeptic. So what happens when reading the text is one “auto-adjusts” the meaning of words and may not even realize one is doing that; I know because that is what I did for a long time. But I now think that was trying to make the Bible into something it is not, it is NOT a scientific oracle if one can only find an ingenious way to make some or most or all of science fit; it is not a scientific oracle at all. This does not mean that God lied, it means that God accommodated to the understandings of the original audience.

    • Derek November 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

      Don, you’re engaging with Nate at all because neither he nor anyone else is suggesting that Biblical scholars and research and anthropology is a waste of time. You repeat yourself so often on this point that it almost seems as if you think anyone who criticizes you believes this and thinks that any wooden translation of ancient scripts will do just fine.

      It would be nice if you actually engage with the questions Nate had in paragraphs 3 and 5 rather than answering questions no one is asking. Connect some specific lines or reason, research and argument so we can see how you get to your conclusions.

      • Derek November 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

        I meant to write “you’re NOT engaging with Nate…”

      • Don Johnson November 16, 2011 at 11:17 am #

        I am not referring to a wooden translation.

        There are basically 2 ways to try to integrate the Bible with science, one is to believe in what is called scientific concordism, that the Bible is a scientific oracle; the other is to believe is what is often called accommodation, that God inspired the authors but spoke inside their culture and worldview, accommodating to their limited understanding. In the accommodation method there is no expectation that the Bible can be used as a scientific oracle, since that is not its purpose. I do think that people that use either of these methods are trying to be faithful,

        The problem with the former method is exemplified by what happened to Galileo. There are verses that “clearly” say the earth does not move, so when Galileo said it did, this was seen as a threat to faith. We see today that it was not really a threat to faith, but it was a “threat” to a particular way of interpreting those verses in the Bible, that somehow those verses taught the “truth” (as in scientific truth) and therefore Galileo was wrong. And there are a few people today that claim that the earth moving is an illusion, since the Bible says it does not move. But most admit it moves and do not find this a threat to their faith.

        So we move on a few years from Galileo and find the geologists (many of whom were Christian) discovered deep time (this is years before Darwin). The Christians were not expecting to find deep time, they were expecting to find evidence of a worldwide flood and before that Creation, but that is not what they found. So now there is again 2 ways of looking at this. Mohler’s way is to claim that the evidence for deep time is just an “appearance”, that actually Creation is only a few 1000 of years old and he sees things this way because of the way he (chooses to) read the Bible. Other people accept the evidence for deep time and do not find it a threat to their faith. Some of these believers are often called Old Earth Creationists and others like me are often called Evolutionary Creationists, the main diff. being whether evolution is accepted.

        So one way to sort these different ways of integrating the Bible and science is to see how much of science is accepted and how much is seen as appearance but not reality. It may be surprising, but there are some that reject all science, they believe that the earth is flat and the sun goes around it, since that is what the Bible “clearly” says (to them). At least they have a consistent hermeneutic, but they have very few adherants. And then on the spectrum after FEs (flat earthers) there are YECs, OECs and ECs.

    • Derek November 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      Flat earthers are a bogey man that you keep bringing up in order to divert attention away from Nate’s questions for you in paragraphs 3 and 5. ANY person or Biblical scholar who accepts the simple notion that the authors of Scripture used idioms, symbols, analogies, etc., can understand that there are multiple ways to understand the passages relating to the earth moving. Those who insisted on only one way of understanding those passages were applying a wooden, overly literal translation.

      Nate’s questions and concerns are shared by many others who are not dogmatic on the age question, but who do share significant concerns regarding the theological and philosophical problems that are created as it relates to evolutionary mechanisms. His questions are important questions for theistic evolutions to wrestle with and provide their best arguments or resolutions.

      On a personal level, I have listened to theistic evolutionists explain their theories and personally, find it very implausible and impossible to harmonize with other convictions I hold to, especially original sin. The question and concern here cannot be dismissed as easily nor categorized as easily as the flat earthers and Catholic Church in Galileo’s day can be. In any event, I’m still waiting for a good explanation on how evolutionary mechanisms can be harmonized with Scripture’s narrative and this is a far bigger question to me than how we can gain scientific knowledge from Genesis 1-3.

      • Don Johnson November 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

        You think me bringing up flat earthers is a bogeyman, but to flat earthers we are all compromising the clear teachings of Scripture. It all depends on where one sits.

        It is true that accepting evolution means that some interpretations of Scripture are not viable, just like accepting deep time means that some interpretations of Scripture are not viable and like accepting that the earth moves means that some interpretations of Scripture are not viable. You may think I am beating a dead horse, but I am trying to show that there is variability among believers in this area of how the Bible and science integrate and I think ALL of them are trying to be faithful.

        I go with Biologos on the historicity of Adam and they are officially agnostic in that it may be the case that Adam was a neolithic farmer or it may be the case that Adam is a literary figure representing the human condition. And guess what, I may be wrong and when I sit at the Master’s feet, he may explain how the universe is actually only a few 1000 years old. But that is how today I integrate the Bible and science based on my studies.

        One of my concerns is that MANY people accept evolution as a fact and if you tell them off the bat that they only way they can follow Jesus is that they must reject evolution, then many will not make that choice. In other words, those that claim loving Jesus and believing in evolution are mutually exclusive are in practice making the atheist’s job easier as that is what Dawkin’s claims also. I do not want to do that, I want to make it harder for the atheists, so that as many will find Jesus as possible, including those that believe in evolution.

      • Justin F November 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

        Derek,

        Some quick thoughts over lunch in response to your discussion with Don

        “On a personal level, I have listened to theistic evolutionists explain their theories and personally, find it very implausible and impossible to harmonize with other convictions I hold to, especially original sin.”

        The doctrine of Original Sin is itself an interpretation of scripture, while evolution is a theory to interpret observations within nature. I agree that Original Sin and evolution are not compatible, which is why I find it difficult to believe in original sin. You on the other hand question evolution. The question is which interpretation is the best? Thus the present debate. But note that evolution does not deny the existence of evil and sin, it merely claims that it is based in survival mechanisms that evolved. This creates a whole bunch of other interesting questions which I would recommend exploring, but don’t have time to dig into here. But people are exploring the implications, and it’s worth reading up on. Richard Beck on his Experimental Theology blog has some good insights.

        “The question and concern here cannot be dismissed as easily nor categorized as easily as the flat earthers and Catholic Church in Galileo’s day can be.”

        I’m not sure if I’m misreading this, but flat earth was not the issue for the Catholic Church. It was the earth revolving around the sun. And don’t be so quick to dismiss the issue just because you aren’t bothered by the concept. At the time this issue was a huge theological challenge to both the position of humanity in God’s creation and the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church. It’s why Galileo was imprisoned. And notice that these issues are central to the challenges presented in the evolution debate. Just sub Genesis for the Catholic Church. You don’t have theological problems with the earth revolving around the sun today because others have thought through the implications and made adjustments to our theology. The same mechanism is at work addressing the theological concerns about evolution, and I believe that in time evolution will be widely accepted by the church. I just don’t know if it will be 20 years or 200 years.

        • RD November 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

          Justin F,

          Thank you for your comment I think it’s spot on! Thanks, too, for pointing to Richard’s blog (http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/). His insights are extraordinary. I’ve been studying and praying through his series concerning Original Sin and the idea that instead of sin leading to death, that death (our fear of it) leads to sin.

        • Derek November 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

          Justin F,
          I wasn’t saying that Galileo’s contemporaries were flat earthers. I meant that flat earthers and the Catholic Church of Galileo’s day were married to a very literal and specific rendering of Scripture that did not make proper allowance for figures of speech, idioms, symbolism, etc. That is what they hold in common. My point is that those who doubt evolution or hold to ID are not universally married to a single narrative or explanation. Explanations run the gamut. We can’t be dismissed b/c of a few screwballs who still maintain that the earth is flat.

          Obviously, I do not doubt the evolutionary narrative simply on the basis of the doctrine of original sin or by pinning everything on to a single interpretation of Scripture. I also doubt it on the basis of other major obstacles that evolutionary scientists cannot answer without using circular reasoning. For instance, how did the first cell originate? Darwin and scientists for many years after Darwin believed that a single cell was very simple, but in the last 100 years, scientists have peeled away the inner workings of the cell one layer at a time and have been stunned to discover its complexity. The cell contains many parts that REQUIRE advanced interaction with other very complex systems or the whole thing falls apart.
          There are other scientific findings that have required evolutionary scientists to “walk back” their most basic assumptions of evolutionary processes. So there are numerous reasons to doubt evolutionary theory even outside of the simple fact that it can’t be squared with the Biblical meta-narrative – not just Genesis 1-3 or a few isolated texts that may or may not be interpreted literally.

      • Derek November 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

        Using flat earthers to make an argument is a straw man tactic. If you can find any credible flat earth advocates in a reputable seminary or Bible college, it might be a useful example, but even then we’re talking about a very tiny group of individuals who translates Scripture hyper-literally, makes Ken Ham look liberal and bluntly speaking, is not the actual issue driving the debate about the evolutionary debate.

        • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 10:18 am #

          The main point I am trying to make is that there are variations among believers on how the Bible and science integrate. This indicates to me that it is a complex question. Complex questions can mean complex answers, not simple answers.

          Posing the question as “Was Adam historical?” sounds like a simple question, but the reason this question is being asked now is because of questions on how the Bible and Christian faith interact with science, that is the real fundamental question, and this is not a quick question with a quick answer.

          Another point I am trying to make is that words that we typically read as metaphors in the Bible may not have been metaphors at all to the original readers. Since we “know” more than them, for example, that the earth is a globe and rotates to form day and night and circles the sun every year with the sun being a giant fireball (and not a “god”), we can easily MISREAD what the text originally meant and not even recognize we are doing it, since we do these kinds of adjustments on autopilot. We may THINK we are reading the text literally, but actually adjusting it into something far from what the original readers would have thought.

          This is some of what the flat earthers and geocentrists like to point out and they are right on this aspect. Most of us ARE distorting what the text actually says, and we do not even think anything of it and are not even aware we are doing it. It takes a lot of effort to read the texts as an original reader would, as we need to forget a lot of what we know and learn ways of seeing things that are unfamiliar.

          • Nate November 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

            Don, but you continually evade direct questions by inferring that the panel wanted to give trite responses to the question of Adam’s historicity. And you have yet to address my particular questions asked of you. Let me restate just a few of them.
            1. Do you believe that Jesus and Paul believed that Adam was a historical figure and the first historical man? If, so why? If not, why? Don’t forget to deal with Acts 17:26, and the genealogy of Jesus in Luke.
            2. If you believe that Jesus believed that Adam was historical, deal with how the Son of God (who had perfect understanding) would have made statements concerning Adam if evolution was really the way man came into existence. And if Jesus was speaking in methaphorical language, then how can Paul write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and say that God created all mankind from one man?
            3. As for evolution, deal Scripturally with how death/sin can occur in mankind prior to it being a damnable offense or explain how Paul’s statements in Romans are metaphors and not cut and dry statements regarding sin entering the world through Adam and then death spreading to all men because of Adam’s offense.

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

            I do not claim to know all the answers, especially when lots of people are still thinking about them. So these ideas are tentative.

            1. I think Paul held to the common 1st century Jewish understanding of Torah and implied in this is that he thought Adam was historical. Jesus as God could have accommodated to the 1st century understanding, or as human could have held to the common 1st century Jewish understanding of Torah and believed that Adam was historical. (Jesus was/is both God and human and I do not think how this worked/works is fully understood.)

            2. Jesus as God accomodated to the current culture and worldview.

            3. My reading of Gen 1-11 is that it uses literary figures in stories similar to a parables to express the human condition and God’s covenant keeping as part of the Sinai covenant preamble, altho I do think the flood and tower stories are quasi-historical and it may be that the others are also. There are many clues in the text that indicate (to me) that it is not intended to be read as straight historical narrative like Gen 12-50. So the Holy Spirit continued to accommodate in the NT to the 1st century cultures and worldviews and inspired the NT authors to write what he did. I see this as true for other things in science besides evolution, it is just that evolution presents the greatest challenge and therefore apparent disconnect, one that some in faith choose not to make.

          • Derek November 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

            My fundamental problem with the notion that Jesus accommodated the people’s belief in the historical Adam is what I call the “Santa Claus problem” – when parents tell their kids that Santa Claus is real, a day will come in which the parents will have to fess up and tell their kids that they were fibbing. By reinforcing the view in a historical Adam and also tying him to the Genealogy, Jesus was “doubling down” on the “fib” as well. If Paul receives special knowledge in other areas and remains in the dark about Adam, then all Christians are left in the dark for the last 2,000 years. Only now are we learning that God lied and Santa Claus is not real.

            Sorry, the “Jesus accommodated illiterate farmers” theory is a real stretch. And it is one that threatens to undermine all of Scripture because now that we know Santa Claus wasn’t real, why should we believe the other things He told us?

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

            I do not see God’s accommodation as God telling lies. I see ALL of God’s revelation in the Bible as God’s accommodation to humans in general and to humans in particular times and cultures in particular, depending on the particular book.

            When Jesus told a parable, I certainly do not think he was telling lies. It is a genre question and one should not overload the expectation of a particular genre, as it will not hold the weight nor is it expected to do so.

            I see the most basic purpose of Genesis as Sinai covenant preamble is teaching that YHVH God is faithful in keeping His covenants, even when humans screw up. That is the basic storyline. And I do not think this storyline is affected if Gen 1-11 is using literary figures to accommodate to the understanding of bronze age Israelites.

            I do agree with the concern expressed as “where does this type of accommodation stop?” If Adam is a literary figure, why not Abraham, Moses, David and even Jesus? For the OT people, I rely on Kitchen’s “On the Reliability of the OT”. Since I am a believer, I accept that Jesus died for me, which means he lived, but there are also evidences I accept.

          • Nate November 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

            Unfortunately Don, just because you don’t want to believe that the Son of God is lying by accomodating Adam as a historical figure to the 1st century if Adam really wasn’t is wishful thinking on your part. And, a parable, by its genre is not narrative.

            Furthermore, by your answers (especially to #2) you have no basis to believe anything in the bible as factual. It all could be an accomodation of some sort (as you alluded). Your desire to not believe this so that you may call yourself a believer still begs the question, “What are you believing in?” The answer would have to be your own creation of what you deem to be truthful from what God accomodated to you.

            If you want to argue that God wouldn’t have accomodated anything harmful, but only things necessary for you to come to faith in Christ… Well, you see the neverending dilemma. This is why the accomodation theory leads to ruin.

          • Derek November 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

            When Jesus confronted misunderstandings regarding the Torah, or confusion that arose from the extra-Biblical interpretations of various Rabbinical sects, He dealt with it – directly. He didn’t accommodate their illiteracy or further cloud things by reinforcing incorrect assumptions or understanding.

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

            A parable IS a story, that is, a narrative. By far most of the Bible is in the form of narrative stories. What a parable is not is a straight historical narrative, a historical narrative is a sub-genre of the narrative genre. So any time one comes to a narrative, one needs to assess whether it is historical or not. And faithful people can disagree on this evaluation.

            All of us, not just me, are at risk of creating God in our own image, which is idolatry.

            God accommodated to you and to me because we are finite and God is not. If God did not accommodate to us and come down to the level of human ability to understand, we simply would not understand. So it is not a question of whether God accommodated or not, it is a question of how much did God accommodate and in what ways did God accommodate. So you had better get used to God accommodating to us, as that is what we have and it does not lead to ruin, at least not necessarily.

          • Nate November 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

            Pardon me Don, you are correct about a parable being a narrative. What I meant (and I think you understood) was that a parable is not historical narrative (i.e. factual).

            And while all of us are at risk to make God into our own image (cf. Rom 1), the only reason we can come to believe is because God’s word tells us the truth about our condition, our need for a Savior, and whom that Savior is and what He has done and how one must receive Him.

            But do not try and steer away from the discussion point of Jesus speaking lies (by accomodating) versus God only speaking to us (truth) as we can understand it. That is an entirely different definition of accomodating, and you know that.

            One of those (God speaking to us as frail, sinful humans in truth that we can understand) is the gospel. The other is something else entirely because then none of the bible cannot be read as factual. Forgot about Gen 1-3 or even Gen 1-11. Your answer that Jesus accomodated to His hearers in the 1st century carries ramifications into every letter of the New Testament, especially Romans.

          • Derek November 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

            There is a significant difference between God accommodating our limited intellect and capacity by LIMITING our knowledge or information and DECEIVING us. You are ignoring a very critical distinction, Donald. The fact that Jesus and Scripture uses analogies and parables is an obvious state of fact and smoke screen that is your way of evading the “doubling down” issue that I described a few posts up in relation to the “Santa Claus problem”.

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

            Actually, I was not sure what you meant by claiming a parable was not a narrative. Perhaps if we were face to face I could guess what you meant, but not over the Inet.

            My stance is I think it is a mistake to think the Bible can be used as a science oracle. I do not think it is a science oracle at all, since science started in the 1600s and all the books of the Bible were written by 100AD. So what we find time after time in the Bible are pre-scientific explanations and assumptions, this does not surprise me in the slightest. This does not mean they are “wrong” or “lies” it means that God accommodated to the understandings of people in the 1st century when the NT texts were written.

            Mar 4:31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth,

            All of us know today that the mustard seed is NOT the smallest of all the seeds on earth, does this mean that Jesus lied? That I cannot trust ANYTHING in the Bible? Maybe if one is an atheist it does, but not for a believer. No, I just go with the working assumption that Jesus is accommodating to his hearers, no harm, no foul. And I do not assume that the Bible is a science oracle.

            Is the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luk 16 a parable or not, that is, is it a historical narrative or a parable? Faithful believers can come to different conclusions on this. And similarly, faithful believers can come to different conclusions on whether other stories in the Bible are historical or more like a parable.

            I have stated before this that because of what is found in the text, I have reason to believe that Gen 1-11 should NOT be read as straight narrative history but rather like parables. Now you can disagree with me and think it should be read as narrative history.

          • Derek November 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

            The mustard seed example is not a material statement of fact, because Jesus is obviously using figurative speech/hyperbole here, which all rabbis employed (as have many if not most teachers throughout time). Plus, with regards to Adam’s historicity, we’re not talking about just one or two examples from Scripture that may or may not be taken literally. We’re talking about multiple passages in the Old and New, multiple authors, Jesus and Paul’s unambiguous assumptions, the genealogical record, etc. At some point in our relentless “has God really said?” questions, common sense has to kick in here, does it not?

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

            You give a great example of how one “auto-corrects” when one knows that something the Bible claims is not scientifically correct.

            Jesus did not need to say the whole phrase he did, in fact he could have said the mustard seed is a small seed and left it at that or not mentioned the size at all. In fact, in the other 4 mentions of mustard seed in the gospels, only 1 other mentions its size. But he is recorded as saying “smallest seed on earth” when it is NOT the “smallest seed on earth”.

            Since we know it is not, we find some way to handle it. You claim it is “obviously figurative speech or metaphor”. I claim it should simply be seen as an accommodation to a pre-scientific 1st century understanding. But neither of us think that Jesus told a lie.

            So I use my accommodation claim with discussions of Adam and you think that means I think Jesus told a lie. I do not think this at all but that is because I do not think the Bible should be used as a science oracle, in fact I think it is a misuse of the Bible to treat it that way, as that is not its purpose.

          • Derek November 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

            You entirely ignored what I said. I’ve already granted that we are sometimes left to wonder whether specific passages are to be taken with wooden literalism, virtual literalism, symbolism, hyperbole or even as an idiom. But when we are talking about a narrative and assumption that is stated, implied and reinforced by multiple authors and Jesus himself, we’re in different terrain entirely.

            Also: a previous comment of mine was modded so you may not be able to read it, but both Nate and I pointed out that regarding accommodation, there is a world of difference between God accommodating our limitations by allowing us to remain in a state of mystery or even ambiguity on some issues and on the other hand, by presenting us with a “Santa Claus” narrative.

          • Don Johnson November 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

            I am answering your questions, but perhaps not in the way you expect an answer to look like.

            I agree that there are major implications and possible concerns with viewing Gen 1-11 as similar to a parable narratives rather than as straight historical narratives. It can be a large leap and I can see why it would seem simply too large for some believers to make, so I do not fault them for not making it.

            I have stated before this that it is not only due to the problem of integrating science with the Bible that I see Gen 1-11 as similar to the parable genre, it is also because of what I find in the text itself and many of these things were found by scholars long before science even existed, so it cannot be because they are trying to make something fit with science.

            So I see it as a genre and interpretation question.

  16. Micah November 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Dan – Given the amount of time this theory has been around I don’t think it’s fair to characterize evolution as a fad. If it were a fad i would think that the idea would have been abandoned by now. Sure, the definition of evolution has changed over the years, but i would expect this to be the case. As new facts and information become available, the theory is updated to fit what is observed. None of the evidence that has accumulated over the years has caused scientists to drastically shift their view to one where macro-evolution is out of the picture.

    Also, concerning your post at http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2009/02/science-bible-and-presuppositions.html…it's certainly a clever story but i don’t think it’s really very compelling…mainly because it seems like an oversimplication of a very complicated history. Your parable breaks down, in part, b/c the man who wrote the note (the room owner), wrote a note that was 2 sentences long, and it appears it was being read by people who lived at the same time and in the same culture. Just look at the diversity of opinion, even within seminaries, concerning the interpretation of creation accounts in Genesis (and other references in the Bible). There are good Christian scholars that come down on all sides of this issue.

    The title of your parable mentions presuppositions (presumabley by people who hold to evolutionary theory). I believe the presuppositions are being made by you. Namely, you presuppose that your interpretation of Genesis is the correct interpretation. As a result, your ability to observe facts and do good science is hindered b/c you already ‘know’ the history of man…you know that man did not evolve so even if science points in that direction it must be wrong.

    Let me ask you this. Assume for a moment that evolution did occur. How would this affect your view of God? I think Don is exactly right when he says “What brings disrepute to the faith is putting un-necessary stumbling blocks in front of nonbelievers due to one particular interpretation of Genesis.” I know Mohler and others will talk of this being an issue of Biblical authority. I totally respect and admire their adherance to Biblical authority. I also hold to BIblical authority…i just happen to believe that their interpretation of Genesis is incorrect.

    Micah

  17. yankeegospelgirl November 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Here’s a question I’d like to see someone take a stab at answering: How did the mind evolve?

    How ’bout the soul?

  18. Gabe November 16, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Yankee,

    How about get your head out of the Wells and Behe and read some real scientists. That’s pathetic.

    • yankeegospelgirl November 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      Like who? Dawkins? He’s not even a scientist, though I’m sure he’d like to play one on TV.

      • Gabe November 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

        He’s not as smart as yankeegospelgirl that’s for sure.

        • yankeegospelgirl November 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

          Oh, Dawkins is a genius—in his dreams, that is.

          Seriously. Just the other day I was chatting with a couple atheists who agree with me that Dawkins is a complete hack. Not only that, he’s a bully too. Bill Craig offered to debate him, and Dawkins refused. People on his own side were embarrassed.

          • Don Johnson November 17, 2011 at 10:25 am #

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig

            Dawkins explains why he will not debate Craig.

          • yankeegospelgirl November 18, 2011 at 1:01 am #

            Ah yes, I remember Dawkins’ patronizing dismissal to the effect that it would look good on Craig’s CV but not his. Oh, the irony. He just wouldn’t listen to the people who were trying to advise him that turning down the debate offer was going to look really, really bad.

          • Gabe November 18, 2011 at 10:08 am #

            And Craig is being very hypocritical. Craig refuses to debate John Loftus, one of his former students, for the same reasons that Dawkins refuses to debate Craig.

  19. RD November 16, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    YGG,

    The answers to those are complicated and complex. Personally, I don’t know near enough about the mechanics of the brain to even make a stab at “how the mind evolved” over time. I think, though, that it is pretty obvious that human cognition has, indeed, evolved (or developed) over millions of years.

    As to the soul, well, that one’s even more complex. What is the soul, really? Where is it in our human phsyiology? Is it connected to consciousness? Is our enlightenment understanding of the soul actually correct? Is the common Christian understanding of the nature of the soul based more closely on the Biblical (Jewish) understanding, or is it based more on Plato’s thinking? Many argue that the Church has incorporated Plato’s ideas about the nature of the soul into its theology and preach Plato rather than scripture. Is this an example of the evolution of the soul?

  20. Christiane November 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    YGG,

    The soul comes from God.

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