BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Cover Story
The cover story of the June issue of Christianity Today, entitled "The Search for the Historical Adam" (the full article can be viewed here), notes that our website The BioLogos Forum has played a prominent role in moving the discussion surrounding the historical Adam forward and cites various blogs and articles that appear on these pages. We are pleased that a matter deemed so important by us is beginning to play a prominent role in the discussion for the Church as a whole.
As detailed extensively on these pages over the past two years, there is now little doubt that God has created all life forms, including human beings, through an evolutionary process. God could have created in an instant. After all, in the supreme divine act of all time Jesus was raised from the dead—in an instant. However, it now seems certain that this is not the way He chose to create the human body. God’s process was gradual, not instantaneous.
We are fully aware that interpretation of scientific data changes and this fact causes some to be skeptical about the scientific consensus regarding human creation. True, scientific revolutions do occur. However, the data with regard to human creation has been accumulating for 150 years, and the conclusions have been substantiated through a wide variety of scientific disciplines. Astronomy shows that the universe is billions of years old. Geology independently shows that the earth, though a little younger, is also billions of years old. Paleontology poignantly lays out the parade of created life forms and graphically documents the species-changes over hundreds of millions of years. Comparative anatomy and developmental biology show feature after feature in living bodies, each with its distinctive trademark pointing to gradual alteration from that which came before. And, with the sequencing of the human genome, genetics provides the final confirmatory lynch pin. Creation through a gradual process is not a hypothesis that emerges from a peripheral scientific sub-discipline. To show it wrong would involve overturning principles that independently lie at the very core of the findings of most of the natural science disciplines. True, they all together cry out in unison with a loud voice—“Created!” However, they also, in a subtle, but persuasive whisper, add the all-important qualifying phrase—“…slowly and not in an instant!”
The Christianity Today cover story is important because it engages the Church in one of the most important questions of all: was there a historical Adam and Eve? There has been much discussion of this point on these pages and although we strongly encourage ongoing discussion, BioLogos does not take a position on the issue. Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute and a frequent contributor to the BioLogos conversation says ‘yes’ in this BioLogos article, and Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City affirms it in this one. Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns believe otherwise and have expressed their views here and here, for example. The scientific data are silent on the possibility of a federal headship—two unique individuals singled out by God from all others to enter into relationship with him and to bear his image. Similarly, science is silent on the veracity of the alternative possibility— that the story of Adam and Eve is not a story of two unique individuals. According to this latter view, the story of Adam and Eve is in a very real sense the story of all humankind—we have all sinned and we are all in need of redemption.
These are theological questions, not scientific ones. Science makes it abundantly clear, we believe, that God has created through an evolutionary process and that there was never a time when there were just two individuals on earth. It goes no further though. Beyond that, we are in a different realm, one deeply steeped in the traditions and creeds of the church, and in theology, biblical scholarship, and philosophy.
Although The BioLogos Forum has raised the issue and encouraged discussion, we also urge caution. The “Federal Headship” model that accepts the scientific findings while at the same time holding to the historicity of a real first couple has not yet been carefully worked out by theologians. The reason that we haven’t had many articles of that sort is because we haven’t been able to identify theologians who are looking at the question from that perspective. In general, our experience has been that theologians are in one of two camps. Either they work within the framework of a non-historical Adam and Eve or they believe the scientific conclusions will eventually prove to be deeply flawed and humans were not created through an evolutionary process after all.
The purpose of BioLogos is to show that there can be harmony between mainstream science and evangelical Christianity. We are in complete agreement with Richard Ostling (the author of the aforementioned article) and the Editors of Christianity Today that working through the historicity question is of the utmost importance to the Evangelical Church. Within the framework outlined above, it boils down to theology not science, and we urge the Church to reserve judgment for a while. Let’s keep both possibilities before us. Here’s hoping that some of our greatest theological minds will work on the question of what a model based on “Federal Headship” would look like. Here’s also hoping that some of our finest theologians will continue to work on how the view of a non-historical Adam would address some of the issues that puzzle and concern most evangelicals. Communication is key. This must move beyond theologians speaking to each other in language that is not readily accessible to the rest of us. Let’s figure out pastorally-responsible ways of putting the issues before the Church in a manner which is respectful of all views, while not shying away from the challenges that lay before us.
This is an exciting time for the Church because there is much interesting work to be done. Personally, I reserve judgment and I urge that all of us proceed with caution. Let’s see what emerges. Let’s see what our theologians and philosophers come up with, especially those who hold to a historical Adam and Eve. The Church is 2,000 years old. It has been guided by some of the sharpest minds that have ever lived and it has done so under the guiding wisdom of Emmanuel—God with us. This is God’s Church and we must proceed prayerfully, lovingly, and solemnly. We must listen intently to the wise voices of our deep past while following the Spirit’s guidance into a future where we have not yet been. We are not alone though. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses whose lives and work remind us of the faithfulness of God through the millennia. This is still God’s Church and we are still God’s people. We are not alone. Emmanuel—God is with us!
More Pieces on the Historical Adam from BioLogos
- The joint statement from our second "Theology of Celebration Workshop"
- Evolution and the Fall
- Daniel Harrell: A Pastor Deals with Adam and Eve (Video)
- Denis Alexander on Understanding Genesis and the Fall (Video)
- N.T. Wright on Adam and Eve (Video)
Darrel Falk is former president of The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.