BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Editorial
In a one page editorial entitled "No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel" (Christianity Today, June 2011, p. 61), Christianity Today (C.T.) draws the line. It is foundational to hold onto the view, the editorial states, that there were two real people named Adam and Eve. Given what else is said in the editorial, regardless of whether they are correct on the historicity question, I heartily applaud the article.
As I wrote last week, the data are clear that humans have been created through an evolutionary process and there was never a time when there was a single first couple, two people who were the progenitors of the entire human race. Within that framework, BioLogos does not take a position on the existence, in history, of two unique individuals, Adam and Eve. This is a theological question, not a scientific one. We recognize that now that the scientific consensus is clear, having become substantiated even further through genetics, there will be many fine theological minds on both sides of the historicity question. Our task is to help the Church come to appreciate that mainstream science and Christianity can co-exist in harmony. We’re happy to stand back and watch as the theologians work through the historicity question. Indeed, some of that conversation may well take place on these pages.
What pleases me most about the C.T. editorial is that it shows the willingness of the C.T. editorial staff to pay close attention to scientific consensus. Look at what they say:
Sometimes, Christian ways of thinking must adjust. Two famous names—Copernicus and Galileo—tell that tale. Other times Christian thinkers adopt some of what scientific research suggests, but hold firm on key aspects of biblical knowledge. The name B.B. Warfield tells that tale…
As the article goes on, the editors also make this statement:
Now we come to another great moment of tension between Christian readings of Scripture and science…
Christians have already drawn the line: there must be an original pair of humans endowed with soul—that is, the spiritual capacity to relate to God in the special way Genesis describes.
Having explained why the line must be drawn at a first couple, the editorial goes on to briefly discuss ways of bringing harmony between the science and traditional Christianity:
Hebrew thought offers one clue to resolving this tension: The corporate nature of humanity. Scripture often calls groups of people by the name of their historical head. Israel is an obvious example. So are Canaan and Cush.
At times, Scripture also holds groups of people morally responsible for the actions of some of their members.
Thus some have suggested—as does John Collins in “Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?” (Crossway, 2011)—that if both biblical and scientific clues suggest a larger population contemporary with Adam and Eve (Whom did Cain marry? Whom did God protect him from?), we can still conceive of Adam and Eve as leaders of that original population. That suggestion has the virtue of embracing both a prehistoric couple and a prehistoric population.
Finally, and all importantly:
At this juncture we counsel patience. We don’t need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth.
The C.T. editorial, in other words, has shown that in their view mainstream evangelical Christianity and mainstream science can co-exist in harmony. There are still many details to be worked out and much conversation lies ahead, but there is reason for optimism. The findings of science and the evangelical approach to Christianity need not be at dead end anymore, and we are thankful that the editorial staff of “Christianity Today” is clearing away the barriers and beginning to pave the way.
As we move forward, the conversation ought to focus on matters about which we can all agree. This is part of the reason that BioLogos has begun a Saturday sermon series, which currently focuses on a set of sermons delivered by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I have now listened to the second sermon in this series four times and every time I hear it, I glean some new truth that leaves me in complete awe of our Creator and the never-ending depth of a theology thoroughly grounded in Genesis. Each week we post a four minute excerpt, a brief summary, and then a link to download the entire sermon. We are encouraging people to come back after listening to the whole sermon to “talk” about it if they so desire. So far, it has largely been the atheists who have been chomping at the bit to enter into conversation. That’s not what we want though, especially when I suspect that they have not even listened to the sermon. We hope that a large group of fellow believers will listen to these sermons together as we are all drawn into a spirit of celebration for the beauty of the creation story as fully revealed in Genesis, Romans and Revelation.
The reason that I am advocating Pastor Keller’s messages as the rallying point around which we can all gather is that as one listens to what he has to say, there is very little with which any of us Christians would disagree, regardless of our perspective on details. As I listened again to last Saturday’s sermon, The First Word, I thought to myself that if I were a young earth creationist, I could embrace almost everything he said and grow richly closer to God in the process. However, that would be equally true if I was a Reasons to Believe, old earth creationist, or a William Dembski I.D. theorist, or, of course, a BioLogos evolutionary creationist. The fact is that we are all one. We can all rally around the Word as expounded by pastors such as Dr. Keller. Sure we’ll look at some parts differently—but when we are all hearing the Word together, we can all celebrate its message as it speaks to the heart and soul of who we are as Christians. As we do that—together—we will all, with one voice be able to cry out in unison—“Christ in you—the hope of Glory!” The atheists will look on and wonder what is happening, but what they will see as we all celebrate and worship together is the radiant face of Jesus—the Body of Christ in unison celebrating the beauty of the Creation story as it is completely fulfilled in our Lord.
Editor's Note: Please see Darrel's follow up comment below (#62248) for some clarification on the piece and BioLogos' position on Adam and Eve. Also the first two sentences of the second paragraph have been modified slightly to ensure that the BioLogos position is clear.
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.