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NPR interview: Christians Divided Over Science Of Human Origins

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September 22, 2011

The story of Adam and Eve is a primary belief for many Christians. Some Christian scholars argue that research on the human genome shows that modern humans did not descend from the Biblical couple, and that Christianity must find a way to reconcile modern science and religious beliefs.

Neal Conan hosts journalist Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Calvin College’s Daniel Harlow, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Al Mohler here:

From Hagerty:

They say now that we’ve mapped the human genome, it is clear that modern humans emerged from other primates way before the timeframe of Genesis, you know, like 100,000 years ago. And they say given the genetic variation, we can’t possibly get the original population to below about 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

And one scientist put it to me this way. He said there would have had to have been an astronomical mutation rate that produced all these new variants in this short amount of time, and those mutation rates simply are not possible. We’d have to – we would have mutated out of existence, he said. So it’s not possible.

From Harlow:

I don’t think our students sense a disconnect between what they learn in Bible classes and biology classes. In our Bible classes, they learn two fundamental things. First of all, the literary genre of early Genesis is divinely inspired story, not documentary history.

Secondly, they learn very quickly that Adam and Eve are not central to biblical theology, despite claims to the contrary. If Adam and Eve were central to biblical teaching, it would be a surprise to learn that they are not mentioned in the entire Old Testament after Genesis Chapter 3 and 4.

If Adam and Eve are at the heart of the Christian faith, then Jesus and the apostles missed that memo. If you read the Gospels and read the Book of Acts, which purports to give the apostolic preaching of the Gospel, Adam, Eve and the serpent are not there. What is central to the Christian faith is the life, the saving death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So we don’t need a historical couple tricked by a talking snake for the truth claims of Christianity to be true. What we need simply is a recognition of the reality of human sinfulness, that human beings are in the grip of sin, and that we need a savior because of that.

From Mohler:

Adam is, I have to say – contrary to Professor Harlow – is a very important part of how the Bible explains the Gospel. In particular, the apostle Paul twice grounds the story of the Gospel in the linkage between Christ as the second Adam, understandable in terms of why he came and what he did for us, with reference to the first Adam.

And the apostle Paul, by the way, is not just telling us about biblical theology here and helping us to understand the Gospel. He is also telling us how to interpret the Old Testament. And I think it’s a very important issue here that we recognize that what’s at stake in this discussion is not just, as important as it is, the historicity of the first several chapters of Genesis or the historicity of Adam and the fall.

If we’re going to allow modern science to tell us what we can and cannot theologically affirm, then it doesn’t end with the discussion of whether or not there’s an historical Adam. It continues throughout the entirety of the body of Christian truth. And that is a disastrous route.

And frankly, you’re either going to accept that the Bible gives us the authoritative word concerning the entirety of our understanding of things relative to who we are as human beings, what God did in creating the world and what God did for us in Christ. If the Bible is not the authoritative source for that and instead has to be corrected by modern science, then the Bible is just there for our manipulation, and quite frankly, the Gospel is there for constant renegotiation. It ends up being another Gospel, the very thing the apostle Paul warned against.

And so it goes. It gets a little testy. Thoughts?

Confused pewsitter throwing one in: Is it more difficult to believe that there was only one historical couple than that a man rose from the dead?

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7 Replies to “NPR interview: Christians Divided Over Science Of Human Origins

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Actually, as far as the genetic evidence for Adam and Eve is concerned, Biblical Creationists are more than holding their own as far that goes, and evolutionists are left with gaping holes in their theory (once again!) as this following article and video make clear:


    Here is a paper which offers a very good defense of the genetic evidence for Adam and Eve, and although I don’t agree with the extreme 6000 year Young Earth model, used as a starting presumption in the paper, the model none-the-less can be amended quite comfortably to a slightly longer time period (which I think provides a better fit). Moreover, the evidence it presents from the latest research is completely inexplicable to neo-Darwinian mechanism!!!;

    The Non-Mythical Adam and Eve! – Refuting errors by Francis Collins and BioLogos

    CMI has a video of the preceding paper entitled, ‘Are All From Adam and Eve?’ by Dr. Carter. It is at the bottom of the list of videos, on the following site, after you click on the ‘Creation Super Conference link at the bottom of the page:

    ‘Are All From Adam and Eve?’ by Dr. Carter – video

    Further notes:

    Human Evolution? – The Compelling Genetic Evidence For Adam and Eve
    Dr. Fazale Rana – video

    Icon Of Evolution – Ape To Man – The Ultimate Deception – Jonathan Wells – video

    Hominid Hype and the Election Cycle – Casey Luskin – September 2011
    Excerpt: Ignoring fraudulent fossils like Piltdown man, the last 50 years have seen a slew of so-called human ancestors which initially produced hype, and were later disproven.

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  2. 2
    turell says:

    Some of the discussion above is based on translation errors in the KJB. ‘Yom’ is a Hebrew word for any interval of time, a fraction of a second to an eon. It is like the error made for the “Sea of Galilee”. “Yam” is the generic Hebrew word for any body of water, puddle to ocean. In Israel that 5×13 mile lake is called Yam Keneret. Ancient Hebrew had only 2-3,000 base words. With prefixes and suffixes a vocabulary of about 10,000.

  3. 3
    ciphertext says:

    I doubt many members of any Christian church (that is flourishing) nor Jewish synagogue seek out NPR’s wisdom on matters theological. NPR is, understandably, attempting to generate stories that would garner interest in it (NPR) as a content provider during the current political environment. As do all media, they are attempting to manipulate opinion and sentiment in a manner to facilitate production of thoughts (and thus opinion and sentiment) in a manner that conforms to their desired outcomes.

  4. 4
    lastyearon says:

    “Yom’ is a Hebrew word for any interval of time”

    Incorrect. “Yom” is the Hebrew word for day…

    Genesis, 1:5: ???????-????? ???????-?????, ???? ?????

    vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom echad.

    It was evening and it was morning, one day.

  5. 5
    Eugene S says:


    You may find this interesting but in Orthodox Christianity there is such a thing as Ecclesiastical Tradition. In Orthodoxy, the authority of Tradition is much higher than that of our personal views. Tradition in particular has invariably held a literal interpretation of the Hexaemeron. In fact, there are not so many places in the Scriptures that are figurative.

  6. 6
    ScottAndrews says:

    Harlow is out to lunch. Why would Adam and Eve be mentioned again? If you only mention the early explorers at the beginning of American history and never again, does that mean that the role they played was imaginary?

    Jesus referred directly to Adam and Eve when he pointed out that in the beginning God made them, male and female, and put them together. Jesus’ audience already knew about Adam and Eve. He wasn’t there to teach Sunday school.

    Later writers explain that Adam’s sin was directly related to Jesus’ obedient death. Jesus’ own death was certainly central to all four gospels. How often did he preach about that?

    It’s one thing if people openly proclaim their contempt for the scriptures and then butcher them. God help anyone who tries to learn anything about the Bible from these people who are way too clever for their own good.

  7. 7
    Neil Rickert says:

    As an NPR listener, no I do not look to NPR as a source of theology. But I do look to them to inform me about current controversies, including those in theology.

    As it happens, I was already well aware of this particular controversy before I heard about it on NPR.

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