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Adam, Eve, and the Culture Wars

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October 6, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's video features Pete Enns. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video Conversation, BioLogos Senior Biblical Fellow Peter Enns discusses why Adam and Eve seem to be at the center of the Culture Wars. In particular, he considers why questioning the historicity of this particular origins narrative is so threatening to evangelicals.

Enns notes that challenging the literal interpretation of Genesis and its “first parents” frightens people. He suggests that much of this fear is a factor of the time in which we live—where there has now been 100-150 years of battle and conflict behind us. Consequently, we have been taught that the only way to protect the Bible is to protect its literalistic reading and interpretation. Enns notes that the ongoing debates are primarily motivated by fear—not flawed theology.

One way to get over the fear—which will take time—is to help people become more self-conscious or self-aware, says Enns, about the assumptions that we carry. Instead of believing that the Christian worldview and faith hinges on our interpretation of Adam and Eve, we should instead view their narrative in its proper context as one biblical passage.

“A central component is the centrality of Jesus and what he did for understanding of the Gospel and of the Bible itself,” Enns explains. “That is our epicenter—that is our beginning point as Christians and I think we work out from that.”

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Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Pete Enns is a former Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for The BioLogos Foundation and author of several books and commentaries, including the popular Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional views of Scripture.

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Papalinton - #34559

October 13th 2010

@ Roger
Sorry Roger, Dawkins, Dennett and I are not so much interested in the search for the ‘meaning of life’ as that is a Don Quixote quest and a wasted effort of energy; what we are striving for is finding a ‘meaning in life’.  Cut out all the god bits from religion and that which remains of religion, that which binds us all together is our humanity, our finest human essence.  It transcends all the tens of thousands of stripes of religion.  Cut out all the god-bits and religion may well have a genuine story to tell, akin to some of the great lessons about humanity in the extant writings that we would do well to pause and listen for a moment.
Atheism is one such lesson.  As when the Dalai Lama was asked what he would do if it was found that science showed that a particular teaching in Buddhism was false, he said, throw out that teaching.

The notion that religion is the only source of Meaning and Truth is utter nonsense.  The abjuration of so many elements of human characteristics, indeed the existence of humanity itself, as being products of a supernatural spectre [mischievously described as ‘reality’  by the religious] is arguably the most stupid of ideas offered by theology. 


Gregory - #34564

October 14th 2010

Re: Communism as a Metaphor for Religion

No doubt the Soviets drew on Russia’s 900yr Christian heritage. This supports the view that Marxism-Leninism became a kind of ‘secular salvation story’ because there was no unique ‘hope’ in atheist ideology. Thus, as I said, Durkheim’s rude inversion elevated Society into a pseudo-God.

Imo, communism is *not* a ‘religion’ per se; it is an ideology. None of the Abrahamic faiths are *only* ideologies, though they involve ideas & dogmas. But this is a topic for ‘religious studies,’ which seems an immature field in USA compared to theology.

I’ve interviewed atheist religious studies professors in Russia & can attest to ultimate emptiness of atheism cum secular humanism.

“Lenin has been compared to a high priest and a god during the Bolsheviks’ war on the Orthodox Church, and he acted as both.” – Papalinton

Lenin, acted as a ‘god’?! Pray tell, what miracle(s) did he perform? Did he heal the sick or give sight to the blind? Did he walk on water? Yes, he encouraged people to ‘Learn, Learn, Learn’ & helped lift Russia from 19thc. illiteracy to 20thc. scientific-technological superpower. But to consider him a ‘god’ is different from merely idolizing him.

Gregory - #34565

October 14th 2010

Wrt North Korea, again you’re in tough company, Papalinton, since I’ve actually been there. We were taken upon arrival at Pyongyang airport directly to the huge bronze statue of the ‘Great Leader’ to pay respect. & I even attended a church service there, one of the most surreal experiences in my life!

But ‘religious fervour’ is inaccurate & ‘cult of personality’ does injustice to human relationships with Christ as one Person of Holy Trinity. As a former Christian, this should be clear & it is disappointing if religious leaders in your life were not able to convey this. Willingness to defend one’s national political leader ‘to the end’ is quite different from religious martyrdom.

& I’d like to add, having also lived in the South, visiting the martyrs’ cemetery in Seoul, there are amazing stories to be told @ risking one’s life for God vs. for a political ideologue. Most N. Korean’s don’t know political alternatives b/c they have not freedom of information, gathering, speech, etc. This testifies to differences btw atheist Juche ideology & the South which has flourished, in significant part under Christian leadership (e.g. Pres. S. Rhee).

He’s calling you!

Private contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Gregory - #34566

October 14th 2010

Indeed, culture wars do persist because ideologues seek to gain the transcendent power of religious authority. Yet atheist nation-states have failed time & again because they cannot reach people in the most important way; not materially, but spiritually. The number of Chinese converts to religion today is startling; a sign of finding the hope they didn’t have before.

Now I realize that for Papalinton this word ‘Spirit’ is empty of meaning b/c human beings are *only* material-physical-natural in his (or her) view. This is a major problem BioLogos faces in its bid to rid (evangelical) Christianity of its majority belief in ‘real, historical A&E.’ Once you ditch ‘real, historical A&E,’ sin & spirit become much more difficult topics & nihilism a much easier path. It is absence of an Adamic human-social scientist in BioLogos’ ranks that allows this blind spot.

As an ex-religious person turned atheist, Papalinton, I am curious what it would take for you to return to the religious fold? Science offers answers to some questions, I agree, while other questions inevitably require a kind of Kierkegaardian ‘leap of faith.’ If it’s not ‘Theism,’ then what alternative to ‘Me-ism’ & ultimate meaninglessness?

Jon Garvey - #34576

October 14th 2010

Gregory - #34564

“Lenin has been compared to a high priest and a god during the Bolsheviks’ war on the Orthodox Church, and he acted as both.” – Papalinton

My cousin, a historian of Russia, wrote a biography of Lenin. She found it hard to finish because she ended up hating him so much.

That doesn’t seem to happen to many who study the life oif Jesus, so a direct comparison is rather invidious, wouldn’t you say?

Trevor K. - #34619

October 14th 2010

I hope you’ve enjoyed the discussion so far. It’s getting a bit stale so you might want to come up for a bit of fresh thought.

Here’s the spam for today:


Papalinton - #34623

October 14th 2010

@ Gregory

“But ‘religious fervour’ is inaccurate & ‘cult of personality’ does injustice to human relationships with Christ as one Person of Holy Trinity. As a former Christian, this should be clear & it is disappointing ....”

Sorry Greg, been there, done that,  seen the movie and have the T-shirt; there is no going back for one who has grown up, matured and has no need for any form of invisible support. Your notion of my word ‘spirit’ as empty of meaning is symptomatic of the characteristic pathology of the dead hand of christian theism.  In terms of nihilism, the most classic example is that of christian eschatology.
In religion truth pays a heavy price.  The comparative study of religion throws doubt on the specific truth-claims that any particular religion makes; at the very best, it puts religion on the defensive, making it prove what it had always simply preached.  At worst, it forces such religion to abandon falsified truths and retreat to unfalsified and unfalsifiable ones. [Pretty much as the A&E debate is heading]  In that way, it ends up being something like Gould’s truncated rump religion. 


Papalinton - #34624

October 14th 2010

@ Gregory   [cont]

One possible and common and popular outcome is to affirm that all religions are ‘true in their own way’, which represents a second cost.  The very concept of truth becomes vague and flabby and inoffensive:  no one want to hurt anyone’s feelings or seem intolerant by telling someone they are wrong.  This is the modern condition of toleration, which either ends up saying that they are all true or that truth does not matter or does not exist.  All of these positions are equally foreign and hostile to religion qua religion.  In the final analysis, there were not even supposed to be ‘religions’.  There was only supposed to be religion - one true and therefore compulsory, factual statement about the spiritual world and moral imperative flowing from those facts.  Here, most purely and profoundly, religion implodes - not because religion and anti-religion (ie science or symbology) meet but because religion and religion meet.  Nothing is more destructive to religion than other religions;  it is like meeting one’s own anti-matter twin.

Gregory, your ‘leap of faith’  is the ‘leap of the lemming’. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #34632

October 14th 2010

Paplinton 34559

I do not think that you understood my point.  You say that you are looking for not the Meaning of life, but a meaning of life.  That is fine, but very easy.  Everyone from Marx, Plato, Hitler, Pol Pot, Jack the Ripper, etc has a meaning of life. 

You also say that it should be based on our finest human essence, which no one has defined in a secular way.  Dawkins and Dennett have defined away the “human essence.”  They see all life forms including humans as survival machines controled by their genes.  If the purpose of life is only to survive, to live for the sake of living, that is not a rational reason to live.

You reject that God, Who is seen as the Source of the universe, Who gave it rational structure, meaning, and purpose, should have created humanity in God’s image.  I assume you embrace the concept that nature, which cannot think and therefore must be inferior to humanity, some how produced humanity.  If so, then to what end other than death?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #34658

October 14th 2010


You should know that the idea of lemmings solve over population by rushing into the sea or river is bogus.

Papalinton - #34660

October 14th 2010

Roger Sawtelle

“meaning in life”,  ‘meaning IN life’, is what I’m talking about.  The search for the ‘meaning OF life’ is tilting ay windmills;  it externalises the experience of living away from humans and puts it into the hands of the unknown.  You know very well, in your heart of hearts the concept of a god is meaningless, make-believe, a fairy-tale, for there are so many of them.  As they say old gods don’t die, they get forgotten.  As has happened with the Egyptian gods, roman gods, greek gods, so shall the christianities dwindle into the history of human civilisation.

Your,  “If the purpose of life is only to survive, to live for the sake of living, that is not a rational reason to live ..”  is an elegant and wonderful reason to live;  it is the well-spring in our very genes and as we look around, is a testament to the almost tragic success of the human animal.  And all this has happened without even a scintilla of knowledge about jesus for over 5 billion people currently on this earth.  And as evolution resulted in the development of cognition and consciousness in the continuum of its processes, humans have the capacity to search for a meaning ‘IN’ life.

Just wonderful


Gregory - #34687

October 15th 2010

And so, Papalinton, should I take it that you are actually *NOT* interested in contributing to the fruitful dialogue between science and religion because you reject religion and religious knowledge?

BioLogos’ mission is to promote harmony between science and religion because some people think they are ‘at war’ with each other. I don’t agree with the warfare model and am encouraged by the many people at BioLogos with whom I share this view.

But why come to BioLogos if you are not interested in promoting this harmony or in learning more about the fruitful dialogue?

Btw, you didn’t answer the question about ‘Lenin’s miracles’. It almost sounds like you wish to be an apologist for the heinous crimes that were committed by the Soviets and which are still being committed by North Koreans in significant part because of the dehumanisation caused by their atheist worldview!

Most religious people find that their faith enriches their lives. I’m sad to hear that you feel you’ve lost this possibility. The wisest, smartest and most compassionate people I know are almost all religious, and not necessarily the same as my religion. I can only imagine what happened to turn you away from truth toward nihilism. : (

Roger A. Sawtelle - #34817

October 15th 2010

Now Papalinton,

What kind of response is that?  To question my integrity when I say that I believe in God.  Just because you don’t.  You know better than that.

You say that seeking the meaning of life is tilting at windmills and the meaning in life is the struggle for survival which is in our genes.  I take it that you believe that life is inherently irrational.  Is that true?  Is that why the Harverd student commited suicide?  Is atheism irrational because life is irrational?  Is science irrational because the universe is irrational? 

If it is irrational to think that life is without meaning, then it must be rational to believe in a rational God, Who created a rational universe for rational human beings to live rational lives.  If you can’t understand that the existence of God is not dependent upon humans, but existence of humans are dependent upon God, then what can I say?

Paul R - #34884

October 16th 2010

In terms of people feeling threatened by non-literal interpretations of the bible, I would like to recommend M.Scott Peck’s book ‘Further along the road less travelled’ and in particular the chapter on ‘Spirituality and human nature’, where he describes 4 stages of spiritual growth (this being based on the work of James Fowler ‘Stages of Faith’). The following quote gives it some perspective:

>> People in Stage Two are not particularly threatened by the Stage One people: the sinners. They love the sinners, seeing them as fertile ground for their ministrations. But they tend to be threatened by the skeptic individualists of Stage Three, and more than anything, by the Stage Four people, who seem to believe in the same things they believe in and yet believe them with a kind of freedom they find absolutely terrifying.
Stage Three people, the skeptics, are not particularly threatened by the unprincipled people of Stage One, or by the Stage Two people, whom they simply toss off as superstitious idiots. But once again, they tend to be threatened by the Stage Four people, who seem to be scientific-minded like them, and know how to write good footnotes, yet still somehow believe in this crazy God business.<<

Roger A. Sawtelle - #35553

October 20th 2010

I seems that Papalinton is no longer interested in carrying out a dialogue, but just in case anyone else is listening, I want to say this.

Life is too beautiful, too interesting, too profound, too precious, too wonderful to say that the purpose of life is survial.  Ecology shows the way to a life of sharing and working for mutual goals.

BenYachov - #35575

October 20th 2010

There is a reason the Second Divine Person is called the Word of Life in the 1st letter of St John.

John Heininger - #38734

November 6th 2010

Satan said to Adam “Did God say?” and we know the consequences.  I get the distinct felling that this is what is going on in articles posted by biologos, and is the underlying theme of this site.  If we view the Bible as reflecting the mistaken science of its day, then one could well conclude that Bible likewise reflects the mistaken theology of its time. On what objective evidential basis could one argue otherwise.  Perhaps the God of the Bible is likewise a primitive reflection of ancient times, and should be abandoned, along with the notion of sin and divine judgment.  Lets be consistent, if the Bible is wrong in science, it could equally be wrong in theology.

John Heininger - #38740

November 6th 2010

p.s - 2 Timothy 3:16 tell us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”, which means that the mistaken science in the Old and New Testament revelation was inspired and given by God.  In which case God passed on and fostered a false paradigm that had no basis in reality, as He would have known.

Oh, what a scriptural matrix we weave when we ourselves are scientifically deceived.  And embrace an evolutionary continuum that is primarily based on “subjective” presuppositions, inferences, predictions, conjecture, explanations and speculations regarding unobserved and unrepeatable past events.

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