This is the final post in my mini-series on “Creation, Evolution and Evangelicalism.” In my last post I looked at what the ground rules would be for interpretation. So in this, the last post on the subject, I will give you the answer you’ve all been waiting for: all your questions about Genesis, Paul, Creation and Evolution will fall away and you will never have to wonder about it again! … I wish. Part of the frustration with a topic like this is that I don’t think there is a clear answer, a clear synergy.
That’s the main reason why I’ve been somewhat putting off writing this post – because I can’t really give “an answer”. However, I think there are some interesting things I’ve learnt along the way, which I will share with you.
At some stage in the future I will consolidate all these posts into one, hopefully iron out some of the unevenness which naturally arises from blog posts (well, my blog posts anyway). But for now, here we go…
Who was Adam?
There are a variety of explanations, some of which I think are more valid than others.
One explanation which in some ways is very attractive is that of ‘federal headship’. This is the view Denis Alexander explains in his book. He posits the view that God chose a pair of neolithic farmers (a man and a woman) to be ‘federal heads’ for all of humanity. They then sinned, and that then became the sin which Paul refers to in e.g. Romans 5. This view is attractive because it would fit in well with evolutionary history as far as we know, it would seem to explain about Adam and Eve being farmers at the approximate time period that the Bible seems to indicate they were around, and would seem to fit with God ‘choosing’ people (e.g. God chooses Abraham, God chooses Israel etc.) Under this view, Paul’s reference would not be to Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all mankind in a biological sense, but in a representative sense.
Such a view might also shed some light on Genesis 6:1-4: It’s an interesting exercise to read that passage in the light of this theory, the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” … but then, it’s a very difficult passage to interpret any way you look at it. It would also seem to solve the perennial problem “where did Cain get his wife?”, although there are – again – all sorts of options on that subject for every view of origins.
I’ve heard that Alister McGrath is a proponent of a view like this, although I haven’t been able to find any hard evidence so I’m willing to stand up to correction on that one.
Of course, there are problems with this view, for example: it seems to do damage to a doctrine of original sin, and leaves unsatisfied the question of what happened to all the other neolithic people.
Another view is to place the creation of Adam way back approx. 150,000 – 200,000 years ago, to the first hominid pair. Although this would be much earlier than the traditional dating of Adam and Eve, if the Biblical chronology would allow a much longer period of time during Genesis 1-11 it would seem to gel more neatly. Apparently Hebrew genealogies don’t function in the same way that we might write a genealogy, they picked out key people and allowed for the possibility of gaps – of course, 150,000 years is a lot of gaps but then Genesis 1-11 is unique.
One suggestion which Henri Blocher made is that the reason for the slow development over the course of time after the initial Adam was to do with the fall – i.e. the fall impacted negatively the development of mankind.
I think it’s difficult to be proscriptive about the question of origins when there is so much that is still unknown. One thing I’ve been encouraged by is that a lot of the people I’ve read who are conservative theologically also take the question and science of evolution seriously: as such, people like C. John Collins, Henri Blocher and Tim Keller all seem to believe in evolution even if it’s not 100% clear how we fit it all together theologically. (I’ll link to some of the relevant books below).
What I’d like to conclude with is a quote from Henri Blocher’s essay in ‘Darwin, Creation and the Fall’:
We should not be embarrassed to conclude with uncertainty: it is a mark of a mature faith, properly based on adequate evidence and serenely bearing the tensions of a pilgrim’s progress by faith, not sight. Free from a neurotic need for certainty on every matter, we trust the trustworthy Creator and Redeemer.
Here are a few of the books which I’ve found helpful:
- In the Beginning by Henri Blocher – scientifically a bit out of date, but theologically right on the money.
- Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins – I found this book really helpful, surveying the relevant literature and Bible passages, as well as surveying some of the models of understanding Adam and Eve in the light of science. Doesn’t draw any firm conclusions but helpful to think some things through.
- Darwin, Creation and the Fall – a collection of various essays by several different authors, specifically about the problem of the Fall with respect to evolution. I found Blocher’s essay, once again, very helpful – although there were also a number of other helpful essays.
- Creation or Evolution: Do we Have to Choose? by Denis Alexander – I’m not sure about this theologically, but it’s well worth reading and contains lots of good info about the science.
- Should Christians Embrace Evolution? by Norman C. Nevin (ed) – the answer of this book is basically “no”; it was written as a response to Denis Alexander’s book. I found this book a bit uneven – I agreed with some of what was said, but I often think the authors went a bit too far in their critique of theistic evolution. That said, it’s still worth a read.
- Reclaiming Genesis by Melvin Tinker – in the introduction of the book, Melvin explains why Christians shouldn’t see the Bible as being in conflict with evolution. He then goes through and delivers expositions of Genesis 1-12 which are brilliant. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really talk about Adam and Eve and how we should understand them in the light of Paul – but if you want a good exposition of Genesis 1-12 this is good to go for.