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:
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.
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.
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?
Follow UD News at Twitter!