Confronting Our Fears, Part 3: Losing Our Savior

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November 19, 2012 Tags: Lives of Faith

Today's entry was written by Mike Beidler. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Confronting Our Fears, Part 3: Losing Our Savior

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19, ESV)

 

At the end of my last post, I suggested that as Christians, we have to take seriously Paul’s clear treatment of Adam as a real person rooted in human history. Furthermore, Paul seems to have thought that an historical Adam was important not for its own sake, but for the logic of salvation through Christ Jesus. How could an historical, literal Jesus solve the very real problem of sin that resulted from the rebellious act of a mythical, literary Adam?

 

While that question makes a lot of sense on the surface, are these two figures as closely linked as I, and many others, think they are? Before I address whether the connection between Adam and Jesus is iron-clad or tenuous, though, I need to briefly address a different common objection heard by evolutionary creationists: If we accept that the cosmology and anthropology of Genesis 1-3 isn’t accurate from a modern scientific perspective, then we can’t trust the remainder of Scripture. Are we truly on a slippery slope toward rejecting everything else in Scripture, to include the necessity of Jesus’ role as humanity’s redeemer? I don’t believe so, and here’s why.

As an evolutionary creationist and a Christian, I hold the Bible to be sacred literature, and I identify fully with the faith community that the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures not only shaped, but which also shaped the content of Scripture. As a truth-seeker, I desire to understand what the text is truly saying as much as any other member of our shared faith. I want to read the Bible for all it is worth, and that requires taking the time to determine the author’s original intent for every passage of Scripture, including various passages within the same book that were written utilizing different genres. In doing so, we discover that the life of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels is nothing like the etiological myths encountered in Genesis 1-11; we can safely treat the Gospels as a reliable source for knowing how the early Church viewed the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth, whose very existence is also documented in extra-biblical literature.

Skeptics of evolutionary creationism may accept that the faith-filled life of a theistic evolutionist is evidence that the Bible still wields moral authority in his or her life, and even that he or she affirms the historicity of the God-man Jesus. But there is often still considerable concern over how evolutionary creationists can affirm the historical assertion that Jesus’ death upon the Roman cross was necessary if Adam truly never lived and breathed. If Adam never lived (so the argument goes), sin is illusory, atonement for mankind’s sin is unnecessary, and Jesus’ death is all the more tragic. Because the person of Jesus and His sacrifice are so central to the Christian faith, this is a valid fear.

However, I believe this fear can be dissected carefully and ultimately overcome once one acknowledges that, even without an original source and propagator of sin (i.e., Adam), the sinfulness of mankind (1) remains universally observable and repeatable, (2) can be explained as a result of our status as a created species with free will and a genetic predisposition to sin inherited from our ancestors, and (3) is still recognized as an inherent moral weakness that needs correction and redemption (if a divine lawgiver is presumed). All this, even if Adam and Eve were not historical persons co-complicit in an historical “fall.” In fact, one could argue that evolutionary biology provides an even more powerful paradigm for explaining the source of mankind’s sinful nature in our day than the biblical text does.

Many evolutionary creationists are convinced that our inherited evolutionary baggage—borne of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts—still requires divine intervention in order to allow us to altruistically transcend what Paul calls the “flesh” (Rom 7:18; 8:5-9). We still need the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us on a sanctifying path to make us more than merely human and increasingly like the Logos of whom John the Baptist testified (John 1:6-8).1

An historical Adam

One may argue that Paul treated Adam as an historical person. Yes, I believe Paul certainly did; but this is to be expected and readily admitted.2 To believe that God created Adam approximately 4,000 years before Paul’s day was an integral part of the Jews’ religious heritage. Paul’s belief that Adam actually existed is a natural extension of his rigid upbringing in the Pharisaical tradition. Nevertheless, Paul was not attempting to make an anthropological point and arguing for the necessity of a literal Adam; he was making a soteriological one and defending the necessity for a literal Savior. Even if Paul knew better by exclusive revelation from the Holy Spirit, Paul’s appropriation of Adam’s original act of rebellion is, of course, perfectly acceptable since, regardless of sin’s “material” origin, the solution to mankind’s sin problem remains Jesus’ sacrificial act—an act of love that requires a particular context for it to “make sense” to those to whom Paul preached.

Anticipating the claim that Paul, an inspired apostle, would not have used the rebellious act of a mythical person to justify the loving act of an historical one, I can only appeal to the argument that theological truths need not be couched in the dry, straightforward manner of modern journalism. God can (and did!) inspire the authors of Scripture to express His truths through a variety of methods: myth, legend, epic, poetry, wisdom literature, historical narrative, gospel, pastoral letters, and apocalyptic literature. Jesus’ parables even featured actors who never existed and utilized historical fiction to press his points. Sometimes truth is best communicated through means that accommodate our current paradigms (as inaccurate as they may be) and meet us where we are. All genres that illuminate truth are the “best kinds,” and God uses story as well as history to illuminate His truth.

Next time, we’ll continue our exploration of fears that I and other evangelicals have about considering evolutionary creation by looking at the fear of losing face.

Notes

1. See Daryl P. Domning and Monika K. Hellwig, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006).
2. For other possible ways to understand Paul’s understanding of Adam, see Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2012).


A commander in the U.S. Navy, Mike holds an MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego, a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and an AA in Persian-Farsi from the U.S. Army’s Defense Language Institute. Mike is a member of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). He currently resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area where he works as a Middle East politico-military adviser, runs the popular blog “Rethinking the αlpha and Ωmega,” and helps administer the Facebook group Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection.

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Cliff Martin - #74511

November 19th 2012

Excellent, as always, Mike. I appreciate that you acknowledge and respond to what could be considered the strongest theological objections to evolutionary creationism ... and you do so with grace and empathy. Thank you.


Mike Beidler - #74536

November 19th 2012

Thanks, Cliff!  Your compliments are greatly appreciated!


Leigh Copeland - #74514

November 19th 2012

I like the term “evolutionary creationsim”.  No sense letting Creationists monoplize that term.  Mike, you use the term “free will”.  The claim that God ‘created’ us in his image through random (I’m trying to grasp the special way this is used in genetics) mutations and natural selection seems like it has a close relationship to that “free will”.  In both cases God somehow accomplishes his sovereign will by relinquishing direct control.  These two concepts are at least related in my mind: they both seem paradoxical; it sounds like attributing to God the ability to self-contradict.  Aside from my probem, how deep is the link? Does creation by random mutation and natural selection imply or require free will?  Does free will imply or require creation by random mutation and natural selection?  Do you see a contradiction in my holding on to Calvinist predestination (or Luther’s Bondage of the Will) while exploring or affirming evolution? 


Mike Beidler - #74532

November 19th 2012

Leigh,

I, too, have struggled to reconcile the concept of man’s free will with my Calvinist leanings.  It seems I’ve only pushed that question a little further back in time and putting the debate firmly in the middle of the discussion of evolution and whether God directs the process or whether he allows things to unfold on its own to a considerable degree.  Perhaps the idea of predestination should be relegated only to soteriology and not the unfolding of God’s creation over the eons.

Personally, I believe creation by natural selection, genetic drift, etc., requires a certain measure of free will within the constraints of the natural laws God insituted at the beginning of time.  If you go back to some of my comments in Part 1, I do speak to these ideas at length.


Eddie - #74629

November 22nd 2012

Mike:

I know you’ve offered the above remarks tentatively and modestly (to your credit), so I’m not going to respond as if you were aggressively defending them, but I do have a question:

What does it mean to say that “creation by natural selection, genetic drift, etc., requires a certain measure of free will within the constraints of the natural laws God insituted at the beginning of time”?  Do you mean to say that DNA molecules, proteins, genes, cells, the background radiation that contributes to mutation, the meteoroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, etc. all have “free will”?  That is, that these things have choice about how they behave?  If you do mean that, I find it odd; I know of nowhere in the orthodox Christian tradition where non-human things, still less inanimate things such as DNA molecules, are spoken of as having “free will.”  But perhaps you weren’t expressing yourself exactly.  If that’s the case, could you reformulate?  Why would “free will” be a relevant concept in evolutionary history, prior to the appearance of man?  Why speak of it at all, outside of the human context?


Mike Beidler - #74633

November 22nd 2012

Eddie,

To answer your question would delve very deeply into quantum mechanics, e.g. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  However, I will offer this up:  It’s not so much “free will” is in choice, but rather “free will” as in the ability for a particular quantum particle to take different routes given an equal chance of moving to one side or the other.  (If the link provided goes way over your head like it does mine, try this “simple” version of the article.  It makes my head hurt much less.)  This ability for the cosmos, at the quantum level, to exhibit some “freedom” to organize allowed for a variety of options to occur, all constrained by natural laws of course.  Taking these options then have the capacity to manifest themselves differently given the right circumstances.

Why would “free will” be a relevant concept in evolutionary history, prior to the appearance of man?

As I alluded above, changes at the quantum level can lead to very different outcomes.  As those changes start outworking themselves on a larger scale, variety ensues, as this abstract briefly posits.  “Uncertainty” becomes the engine for evolutionary processes.  Evolutionary processes that led to us. 


Eddie - #74642

November 23rd 2012

Mike:

Thanks for your comments.

I’m familiar with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  I studied it in second-year quantum chemistry!  I’ve also been reading, for over 30 years now, attempts to derived philosophical and theological consequences from quantum physics, the most common application being the attempt to ground “free will” in quantum indeterminacy.  Such attempts have never struck me as very convincing, and in fact have been criticized by world-class philosophers and religion scholars including Carnap and Jonas.  But even if it could be shown that “quantum freedom” can in some way provide the basis of human free will, it is not the same as human free will—no quantum theorist known to me has ever asserted that electrons have free will, or that radioactive elements give out emissions according to their free will, etc.  

You’ve said yourself that you find the quantum concepts difficult to grasp—that they make your head hurt.  All the more reason not to rest any argument or even speculation on them!

In any case, I grant that “indeterminacy” leaves a number of alternate pathways open.  My objection is not to saying that there are indeterminate things about the universe, but to using the language of “free will” to characterize this.  Speaking as a stuffy old university teacher, I’d be tempted to say that such usage is downright sloppy and should be avoided.  One can completely accept the notion of indeterminacy in physics, without believing that any event in the universe involved any “free will” prior to the advent of man.  


Mike Beidler - #74647

November 23rd 2012

Eddie,

But even if it could be shown that “quantum freedom” can in some way provide the basis of human free will, it is not the same as human free will

Your point is well taken, and I’ll be sure to couch future discussions more carefully.  Thanks for the assist. 


Ronnie - #74518

November 19th 2012

Cmdr. Beidler

In your attempt to explain away a historical Adam, you are digging yourself into a very deep hole. Nowhere in scripture is it mentioned that sin is a relic of our evolutionary past. Only in the zeal to shoehorn evolution into the account of creation does this idea have any merit. Genesis is very specific, Adam is called the first man, and through him did sin enter the world, not as a natural result of an evolutionary process but by a deliberate, willful act. Adam is even called a “type” or “figure” of Him who was to come (Jesus). If Adam is only figurative to describe bad evolutionary behavior, how can this be a “type” of Christ? Adam is linked to Christ in 1 Corinthians as the first man and second man. They must both be real, literal men or both be allegorical.

It pains me to see the efforts you are taking to disprove a fundamental message of Gods Word. Stop digging!


Mike Beidler - #74519

November 19th 2012

Nowhere in scripture is it mentioned that sin is a relic of our evolutionary past.

Of course not, Ronnie.  The writers of sacred Scripture weren’t familiar with modern-day science.  And nowhere do I attempt to “shoehorn” evolution into the creation account.  I am merely positing that evolutionary biology is a modern-day explanation for the universality of sin that plagues mankind, and one that is especially powerful because of the reasons I listed in the main body of this post.

Whereas Paul (and never the authors of the OT) explained mankind’s sinful state on Adam, we evolutionary creationists appeal to the evolutionary history of our species.  The reality of sin (assuming the existence of a lawgiver) remains unaffected as does the remedy for that sin: Jesus Christ.

I would encourage you to read Peter Enns’ book on the Bible’s use of Adam referenced in the footnotes.  It’s quite an eye-opener and should give you much to chew on.  (For the record, I hadn’t even read Enns’ book before submitting this essay to BioLogos; I added the footnote in the editing process.) 


Mike Beidler - #74520

November 19th 2012

I’d also like to ask you which is the more fundamental message of salvation history:  the origin of sin or the remedy for it?

And if it truly pains you to see the alleged efforts I’m taking to dig a “fundamental message of God’s Word,” by all means, stop reading! 


Ronnie - #74554

November 20th 2012

“I’d also like to ask you which is the more fundamental message of salvation history: the origin of sin or the remedy for it?”

Of course our gift of salvation is more important, with sin being the fundamental cause of a need for salvation. Where you and I differ is the origin of sin. I believe in a straight-up reading of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, and you believe sin to be an evolutionary trait that was developed and passed down from our ancestors. I think you rely on a large amount of extra-biblical writings to come to this conclusion, and if I may be so bold, say you are using these writings as a standard by which the bible must conform instead of vice versa (my humble opinion, of course). This interpretation also relies on evolution being the method God used to create, which I don’t believe is supported by scripture.

A “What if” question for you:

What if someone had only a bible to read, what do you think their conclusion would be on the origin of sin?


Cliff Martin - #74556

November 20th 2012

Surely you are aware, Ronnie, that if we only had a Bible to read, we would all still be geocentrists. We have been adjusting our interpretation of the Bible in light of facts uncovered about our cosmos and our world for hundreds of years. This is not new, nor do you object to the process (I presume you agree with Copernicus and Galileo). 

Yes, if we only had a Bible to read, you are correct. Bible beleivers like Mike and me would no doubt believe as you do about the origin of sin. The remarkable, wonderful thing is that our knowledge is not limited to the Bible. The Bible itself extols the wonder of natural revelation, encouraging us to learn more about God and his attributes through the things he made, through nature. Are you suggesting we should ignor Creation in our pursuit of truth?


Mike Beidler - #74580

November 20th 2012

What Cliff said. 


Ronnie - #74591

November 21st 2012

Thanks Cliff, for answering my question.

I don’t see a problem with extra biblical writings, but they should at least be in the ballpark of scripture, don’t you think?


Cliff Martin - #74606

November 21st 2012

I agree! I also believe that a proper understanding of biblical writings will never contradict empirical observations of nature, that natural revelation is just as trustworthy as the Bible? Agree?


Ronnie - #74617

November 21st 2012

Cliff

I disagree. Natural revelation is subject to ones bias, or presuppositions, and therefore not as trustworthy as the bible. I agree that natural revelation can enhance our understanding of God and His creation but only if the bible is used as the standard. Your term “proper understanding” assumes that empirical observations support the evolutionary viewpoint and therefore the bible must be “properly understood” within that context. This changes the standard to natural revelation, i.e. evolution, which the bible must conform.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Mike Beidler - #74624

November 22nd 2012

Ronnie, biblical interpretation is also subject to one’s bias and presuppositions.  Your use of the Bible as “the standard” in interpreting the data used in scientific observation also assumes that God intended the Scriputres to be used in this way.  In the end, your declaration of proper “use” of Scripture is also a result of your own biases and presuppositions about the nature of the Bible.


Cliff Martin - #74651

November 23rd 2012

Ronnie,

My instant response was already expressed by Mike. You must surely agree that Bible interpretation is subject to bias and presuppositions. In fact, gauging from the wide diversity of Bible interpretations out there, versus the broad acceptance of the leading theories in science, I would conclude that the Bible is far more subject to bias and presuppositions than is natural revelation.


My question is whether you agree that natural revelation (the virtues of which are supported strongly in the written revelation) is as trustworthy as the Bible. Of course, both forms of divine revelation are subject to interpretation. But I am suggesting the raw data in each case is equally trustworthy, since both kinds of revelation stream to us from the Creator himself. Do you agree with me now? and if not, kindly state clearly why not.


Ronnie - #74676

November 24th 2012

Cliff

I’m sorry to take so long to reply, Thanksgiving, work and other family obligations haven’t left me much time the last couple days. I appreciate your taking the time to discuss this topic.

In regards to your question, I don’t believe the premise that natural revelation is on equal footing to the written revelation is correct. I think this assumes nature has qualities (divine qualities?) that it just doesn’t possess. Assigning this aspect to nature and then assuming the evolutionary point of view is correct only leaves one result; that the written revelation must follow suit. I think this is faulty reasoning based on evolution being the standard, or at least ‘broadly accepted’ to use your term. So, again, I will disagree with you.

It’s interesting that you mentioned that the “raw data” of both natural and written revelation are equally trustworthy. The raw data of the bible (in Genesis anyway) is that God created all things in 6 days, approximately 6 thousand years ago, that Adam and Eve were the first humans from whom sin entered the world, and that God judged the world with a worldwide flood. The raw data of science does not state when the all things were created, who created all things, how it was created, who the first humans were, what sin is or that it even exists. So, the raw data of Genesis is specific, and the raw data of science (at least in matters of history) are open to interpretation.

Another point that may or may not be relevant is that the bible states: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matt. 24:35). Nature is a created thing that will one day pass away, but Gods words will live forever. It was by the word of God that the natural world was brought into existence. I believe Gods word to be more powerful and hold more credibility than the natural world.

Also, another point to mention is faith. I think we have a strong desire to know as much as we can, but there are things that we just cannot know with absolute certainty. One of these is the question of where we come from and how did the world get here. It is scientifically impossible to prove (or disprove) either evolution or biblical creation, therefore we must have faith that either one or the other (or even some mixture of both, if that’s possible) is correct. Faith is what pleases God, and I believe this is why the account of creation in Genesis and the evolutionary viewpoint are so opposite one another, God wants us to make a choice; His word or the determination of sinful man.

Lastly, I think the influence of satan cannot be ruled out. Just as he deceived Eve in the garden by saying God didn’t really mean exactly what He said, he is just as active today trying to deceive as many as he can in the same way.

I hope this answers your question and in a small way explains my reasoning. I would like to hear your (or anyone’s) thoughts regarding this.


PNG - #74595

November 21st 2012

We wouldn’t be geocentrists. We would be flat earthers.


Ronnie - #74597

November 21st 2012

PNG

I was referring to the origin of sin, not geocentricity. Cliff and Mike admitted that Genesis defines the origin of sin but they choose to believe that extra biblical writings and ideas say otherwise.


Cliff Martin - #74608

November 21st 2012

Ronnie, do I detect a bit of snarkiness there? Really. Do you want to have a friendly intelligent conversation, or take pot shots?

I think you misunderstand me. I do believe that Genesis defines the origin of sin. Sin originates in the human heart that rebels against God’s providential love and chooses to follow its own selfish desires. It is not necessary for me to determine whether the story of Adam and Eve is literal/historical or allegorical/mythical to see that.

Perhaps you are unaware that for most of my life, I read Genesis precisely as you do. We have more in common than you might think. I did not roll out of bed one day and decide to abandon that view. My view changed because I felt I had no choice in light of overwhelming evidence from nature that was earthshaking for me. It has not been an easy transition, I assure you. But when all the dust settled, I found that my faith was now free of contradictions from mountains of empirical facts, and therefore more robust and reality-based than ever. And the Scriptures make more sense to me today than ever before.

 


Seenoevo - #74522

November 19th 2012

If microbes-to-monkeys-to-man evolution is true, and

If Genesis is derivative of, or influenced by, Ancient Near East (ANE) mythology, and

If ANE mythology not only featured but possibly exalted animal-man composite creatures (e.g. http://www.helium.com/items/618962-about-composite-beasts-of-the-ancient-near-east), then

Why would not Genesis have Adam being formed not from the dust but rather formed from one of the created animals?


Mike Beidler - #74525

November 19th 2012

Seenoevo,

Firstly, a minor correction to your first statement:  man did not, according to evolutionary theory and DNA evidence, evolve from monkeys.  Man and monkeys shared a common, albeit, distant ancestor.  But I understand what you’re saying. 

Secondly, a minor (but important) correction to your second statement:  I don’t think that Genesis (or any other ANE creation myth) is derivative of or influenced by another.  That’s a difficult (if not impossible) thesis to prove.  There is abundant evidence, however, of a shared cognitive environment.  (See Walton’s Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology for an outstanding treatment.)  When comparing creation stories, you can also see how certain portions of the Genesis creation account serve as a polemic against other extant creation mythologies, sharing some aspects and slamming others.  But I understand what you’re saying. 

As for the animal-beast composite creatures, I don’t quite understand why you think that could be a possible (literary) source for Adam, since it certainly isn’t present in other creation myths of which I’m familiar.  There is strong evidence in Genesis 6 of angel-human hybrids, but that doesn’t touch the creation of man story.


Laurie Ann - #74539

November 19th 2012

Seenoevo 

I read this the other day and it made a lot of sense to me.  The ancients were very familiar with the effects of decomposition of the body after death.  It most likely made perfect sense to them that since man returns to the dust of the earth ... man most likely came from the dust of the earth as well.

 


Chip - #74526

November 19th 2012

Yes.  Paul was wrong or confused about Federal Headship and the origin of sin because—among other things—he had a traumatic “rigid upbringing.”  Furthermore, “even if Paul knew better by exclusive revelation from the Holy Spirit…” (in other words, God communicated one thing, but Paul ignored this and wrote his own culture-bound opinions anyway), this should in no way affect our confidence in his views on soteriology, and the need for “a literal savior.” 


Mike Beidler - #74531

November 19th 2012

Chip,

Firstly, I would greatly appreciate if you could couch your questions in a polite manner (e.g., “Mike, could you explain how Paul could be wrong about Federal Headship and the origin of sin, yet still be preaching the truth?”) rather than speak condesceningly and put words in my mouth.

Are you familiar with the principle of accommodation?  What good would it do for Paul to preach the Gospel in terms of evolutionary theory?  (And I do not state that “Paul knew better” but rather offered that hypothetical as an example of how God, speaking through Paul, might accommodate truth using culturo-religious categories with which Paul’s audience was familiar.

That being said, if you’re willing to admit that the OT and NT might very reflect an ancient cosmology/geography (see Brian Godawa’s excellent article on Mesopotamian cosmic geography), you should have no trouble understanding from where I’m coming.  If not, then I suppose our discussion has come to an end.


Joriss - #74527

November 19th 2012


“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19, ESV)”

This text says: I, you, we all were made sinners by the disobedience of one man. The way you put it, we are not sinners by Adam’s disobedience, but we are sinners because God created us thus by means of evolution. The reason God created us was that He could redeem us?

So how do you explain this text?

“In fact, one could argue that evolutionary biology provides an even more powerful paradigm for explaining the source of mankind’s sinful nature in our day than the biblical text does.”

Paul says: I know, that in me, that will say: in my flesh, dwelleth no good. Could the first human being, made in the image of God, whoever he was and whenever he lived, have said the same thing? That’s a very important question to me!


Mike Beidler - #74533

November 19th 2012

Joriss,

With this verse, Paul is using categories with which he and his audience are familiar.  The mode by which the many were made sinners, while important insofar as “audience relevance” is concerned, is less important than the indisputable and scientifically verifiable fact that everyone is a sinner.

The way you put it, we are not sinners by Adam’s disobedience, but we are sinners because God created us thus by means of evolution. The reason God created us was that He could redeem us?

Not quite.  I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that mankind—when we became, as a species, accountable to God for our sin—and made a provision for that: Jesus Christ.  There really is no difference between knowing Adam would sin and knowing evolved mankind would sin.  Even a young-earth creationist could be confronted by the question, “Why did God create Adam knowing he would sin in the Garden?”

As for your “very important question” at the end of your post, yes ... as mankind evolved, there would have been a point at which the laws “written on their hearts” (Rom 2:15) became manifested as a capacity to know right from wrong (just like children do in their development).  As well, “their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”  In short, I think you’re spot on.


Seenoevo - #74528

November 19th 2012

If the Ancient Near East “shared cognitive environment” included a mythology of animal-human composite creatures, and so displayed some comfort even then with an animal-human linkage, then

 Why would not Genesis have Adam being formed not from the dust but rather formed from one of the created animals?


Mike Beidler - #74534

November 19th 2012

Seenoevo,

A “shared cognitive environment” does not require uniformity in culture, language, religion, etc., between the various ancient Near Eastern cultures.  (Walton’s book does a phenomenal job showing the reader what that cognitive environment looked like, insofar as the extant literature, artifacts, etc., allow us.)  There are distinctives that arise within each people group.

There are, though, examples of animal-man hybrids in the Bible:  Ezekiel 1:5-11 and Revelation 4:6b-8a.  But as I said before, they don’t appear to have any connection to the creation of man.

Perhaps I’m still misunderstanding your question.


Seenoevo - #74529

November 19th 2012

Mike: “In fact, one could argue that evolutionary biology provides an even more powerful paradigm for explaining the source of mankind’s sinful nature … our inherited evolutionary baggage—borne of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts”

Ronnie: “Adam is called the first man, and through him did sin enter the world, not as a natural result of an evolutionary process but by a deliberate, willful act.”

Is the source of sinfulness not the free will but rather the un-free instinct, an instinct essentially indistinguishable from animals’?

Do animals have the capacity to be considered “guilty” of bad behavior?

 

Mike: “which is the more fundamental message of salvation history: the origin of sin or the remedy for it?”

Are not the two essentially equal, if one considers a human’s free will decision to be necessary for both?


Mike Beidler - #74535

November 19th 2012

In traditional Christian theology, we can’t help but sin because we sinned “in Adam.”  In an evolutionary creationist paradigm, we can’t help but sin because it’s in our genes.  Either way, we are hopeless sinners in need of a Hope.  We are, however, distinguishable from animals because we possess a heightened sense of right and wrong.  We have the capacity to make moral decisions that “go against the grain,” so to speak.

As for animals having the capacity of feeling guilty, I see it in my 16-year-old, incontinent Cocker Spaniel.  She poops on the rug and, without me even coming across it, I can tell by her behavior that she feels bad.  But dogs and most other creatures have an extremely difficult time “kicking the habit” that’s imbedded in their DNA and manifests itself as “instinct.”

The two concepts of the origin of sin and the remedy, while related to a degree, are distinct.  I could contract cancer that I once believed was caused by smoking only to find out that I had a genetic predisposition to contract cancer given the right environmental trigger—in this case, exposure to chemicals in the drinking water that originated from a local plant.  Smoking had nothing to do with it after all.  The fact remained, though, that I had cancer, and I required a remedy.


Seenoevo - #74541

November 19th 2012

In the genealogy of Luke 3:23-38 which extends from Jesus back to Adam, where is the break between real people and metaphorical people?


Mike Beidler - #74543

November 19th 2012

Great question.  I tend to make the “break” at Abraham, keeping in mind that the names that come before Abraham may have their origin in real people.  I believe even the Noahic flood has its roots in an historical event in the distant past.

The reason I make the break at Genesis 12 is that Genesis 1-11 is very distinctive literarily from the rest of Genesis.  Much in those 11 opening chapters that have literary parallels with other ancient Near Eastern stories, and that should be taken into account when we choose the proper hermeneutical lens through which we read them.

Also keep in mind that the purpose of genealogies in any ancient Near Eastern culture was not merely to provide a list of names but to anchor one’s national identity to a particular land, covenant, etc.  They go very much hand-in-hand with etiological literature.  Walton’s Genesis commentary discusses this feature at some length.


Mike Beidler - #74577

November 20th 2012

I also want to nuance my last response to you.  You ask where I differentiate between “real” and “metaphorical” people in Jesus’ genealogies.  To be clear, I don’t believe that some of those names are used in a metaphorical sense.  For an idea of where I’m at in regard to the genealogies presented Genesis 5 and 10, which Luke adapts, here’s an excerpt from an article by Daniel C. Harlow from the September 2010 issue of ASA’s journal Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith.  Harlow is professor of biblical and early Jewish studies in the Department of Religion at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

The genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10, with ten generations between Adam and Noah balanced by ten generations between Noah and Abram, are literary-theological assemblages displaying the Israelite priestly ideal of a perfectly ordered creation. The one in Genesis 5 is actually based on the one in Genesis 4 and borrows its particular form from Mesopotamian king lists. Further, the ages given for the antediluvian people named in Genesis 5 are not randomly distributed, as we would expect in a list of real people, but neatly contrived according to a precise numerical scheme, a base-60 or sexagesimal system of Babylonian origin. So Genesis 5 mimics not only the form but also the numerology of the fictional lists of Mesopotamia. Its “competitive genealogizing” is a strategy for claiming an ancient pedigree for the Hebrew people over against the pretensions of Mesopotamian culture.

The branched or segmented genealogy of Noah’s three sons in Genesis 10—an ethnographic “family tree” often called the Table of Nations—is full of anachronisms: many of the ethnic and national entities it lists, seventy in all, do not even fit the primeval epoch being pictured in the surrounding narratives, but reflect the geopolitical map of the first millennium BCE as the Israelites viewed it. Genesis also reflects the naïveté of ancient ethnographies, that the origins of cities, nations, and peoples could be traced to named individuals. None of these observations serves to discredit the Bible but only to clarify the nature of the passages in question. The ancient biblical authors did not miswrite these genealogies; we moderns have simply misread them.


Seenoevo - #74542

November 19th 2012

“Perhaps I’m still misunderstanding your question.”

Third try:

If evolution was God’s creative method and Genesis, as part of the Bible, is the inspired, truthful word of God, but is sometimes stated in figurative ways, then

Why would not Genesis have Adam being formed from one of the created animals?


Mike Beidler - #74544

November 19th 2012

My third (and surely not last) attempt at an answer ...

As for your question, “Why would not Genesis have Adam being formed from one of the created animals?” I think the answer is that such a concept does neither “fits” how the Hebrews thought of themselves nor does it appear to align with ancient Near Eastern thinking.

I think I see another issue.  I don’t attempt to read evolution into or out of Scripture.  I don’t try to find some one-for-one correspondence where such-and-such an act = evolution in figurative language.  Perhaps this is what you’re attempting to do.  Is this the case?  Are you trying to see how a figurative or metaphorical description of the evolutioary process “fits” into an “inspired” Genesis?

Stay with me, Seenoevo ... we may have to go around and around a bit to get there, but we eventually will.


Leigh Copeland - #74547

November 19th 2012

I had the same reaction, “Oh I see, He’s asking, ‘If man evolved from animals why isn’t Adam formed from one?’”  My response would be that animals weren’t made from animals; they also were all made de novo.  We do have the part about woman being made from man, which pretty clearly demonstrates that a concordist attempt to read evolution into Genesis or Paul is going to be really difficult, messy.  I like to point out that even in our modern, scientific culture a fully accurate, scientific account of genomics will go over most of our heads; If God had dictated such a treatise to Paul, Paul wouldn’t have been able to follow it. 


Chip - #74549

November 20th 2012

Hi Mike,

While I appreciate the lecture on politeness, I think it would be better if you didn’t ignore the issue.  

What you haven’t done is provide any coherent hermeneutic that justifies your complete dismissal of Pauline anthropology while at the same time accepting his soteriology—even going so far so as to say that our situation “requires divine intervention” (my emphasis).  But given your principles, I see no reason to do this.  Nothing about evolutionary theory requires a Pauline soteriology.  And if he had an overbearing mother or was bullied on the Tarsus playgrounds, certainly that would affect all of Paul, and not just his views on Adam.  What principled reason is there to be selectively accommodationist?

So, here’s a practical little exercise.  I’ve taken the liberty of writing a draft of the BioLogos translation (BLT) of the new testament, starting with the verse from Romans 5 you cited.  Given your input into the origin of sin, I think it should go something like this: 

if, because of [our inherited evolutionary baggage—born of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts], death reigned through [the species], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as [our inherited evolutionary baggage—born of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by [our inherited evolutionary baggage—born of an instinctual (and once necessary) need to preserve one’s self by means of selfish acts] the many were made “sinners”, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19, BLT)

I recommend reading it aloud to get the full effect. 

Your input is in the square brackets.  What do you think?  (Admittedly, it doesn’t scan quite as well, but it is just a draft…).  Moreover, since evolutionary theory justifies the excising of the original and replacing it with your (or similar) content, there’s no reason to expect that the rest of it won’t morph in a similar direction since evolution means nothing if not change over time, after all. 

I thank you for your input and welcome your further revisions to the BLT.


Mike Beidler - #74578

November 20th 2012

Chip,

I’m not intentionally ignoring the issue.  Perhaps we’re simply misunderstanding each other.  Let’s just keep at it until you’re satisfied that I’ve answered your question, even if you aren’t satisfied with the answer itself.  (Keep in mind that the space limitations on my essay didn’t allow me to launch into a full-defensible apologetic for my stance.  Hence, the comments section, where readers can further engage with my ideas.)

I can dismiss Paul’s anthropology because the scientific evidence, encompassing a number of disciplines from anthropology to linquistics to archeology to genetics, convergences on the conclusion that anatomically modern mankind is much older than 6,000 years by a factor of about 20.  Where I come down on Paul’s soteriology, on the other hand, is purely theological, even though the need for some sort of salvation (assuming a divine Judge) manifests itself in observed infractions against our fellow human beings and God (assuming again His existence).  Whether I believe Paul’s soteriological solution is a matter of faith, and I embrace it with my entire being.

How we see the principle of accommodation at work in Scripture is, by its very nature, a selective process.  If we discover, through additional scientific exploration, that the more important “message of faith,” i.e., theology, is conveyed through less important and scientifically inaccurate paradigms, we can invoke the principle of accommodation.  It doesn’t make God out to be a liar; it makes Him out to be a loving Parent who teaches His children by means of an intellectually accessible paradigm.  It seems as if you are arguing for a one-size-fits-all hermeneutic for the entirety of Scripture.  Is this correct?

As for your “practical little exercise,” I love it!  Your use of “BLT” made my day! 

Although I agree with the message your paraphrase attempts to get across to the reader—quite effectively, I might add—I much prefer the original.   I certainly don’t want to rewrite sacred Scripture!  It gets it message across quite well without me altering it.  By preserving Paul’s words, we are reminded, in light of modern science, that God can still communicate His truths to us despite (and through!) our faulty paradigms.


Joriss - #74550

November 20th 2012

You admit that the first man, made in the image of God, could have said: I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good. So all the negative characteristics Paul describes in Rom. 7 are also the characterics of the first man?

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.
19 For the good that I would do, I do not; but the evil which I would not do, that I do.
20 Now if I do that which I would not do, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.


So this is the man God created in his very image:

*There dwelleth no good thing in him.

*Sin is dwelling in him.

*He is held captive to the law of sin which is in his members.

*He is living in a body of death and sin.

*He find himself a wretched man.

*He cries for redemption that he needs very badly.

So the ultimate consequence of your teaching is: God created a sinner in the need of redemption.
Are you sure you are right?

Is this really the man God created? His image?


Joriss - #74552

November 20th 2012

Mike,
Sorrry, I forgot to adress you, but the post was to you, of course.


Cliff Martin - #74555

November 20th 2012

Joriss, I’ve never met anyone who believes man was created in the image of God without qualification. Every Christian view of what is meant by imago dei defines image as something less than total or complete. So a traditional view of Adam (perhaps this is your view?) is that Adam was not perfect, but innocent. He certainly was not omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent. So all of us, regardless of our overall view, define “image” as something less than “exact representation”. My view is that we are in the image of God, not in terms of divine attributes or moral perfection, but in terms of being relational, spirit beings. Accepting, as I do, the incontrovertible evidence for our evolutionary past, I have come to see that God created us in his image through an evolutionary process, one that culminated in intelligent, sentient, relational beings into whom the Creator could (and did!) breath spirit. Imperfect, to be sure. But then, you would agree that even Adam was imperfect, yes?


Mike Beidler - #74579

November 20th 2012

Cliff nailed it by identifying your main sticking point as an allegedly imperfect Adam still being made in the “image of God.”

I am going to defer to Peter Enns, who really gives the imago dei concept full attention in this BioLogos series.  I would highly recommend you read the 4-part series and return to the discussion.  I’d love to hear whether Enns’ treatment of the topic has given you food for thought.

Lastly, Genesis 9:6 points out that, even in our sinful state, we are still considered to be made in the “image of God.”


Mike Beidler - #74584

November 20th 2012

Be sure to click on the “this” link in the comment above to read Enns’ series.  The hyperlink isn’t all that obvious.


Seenoevo - #74562

November 20th 2012

From Part 2 - “please explain to me (1) why Christianity is so divided doctrinally if the Scriptures are, in their entirety, perspicuous, and (2) how it is that one knows he or she possess the true interpretation?”

Has Christianity always been so divided and uncertain doctrinally?

 

Considering adultery (Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and especially 1 Cor 6:9),

What is the salvation status of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?


Mike Beidler - #74581

November 20th 2012

Seenoevo,

Has Christianity always been so divided and uncertain doctrinally?

As the NT proves, doctrinal divisions within the Christian faith existed from the earliest of times, even during the Age of the Apostles.

Considering adultery (Mat 5:32, Mat 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, and especially 1 Cor 6:9), What is the salvation status of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?

I’m not sure what this question has to do with the subject matter at hand, but I’m certainly open to discussing this question with you offline either by private message (using BioLogos) or personal email.  I just want to keep things as on-topic as possible. 

Thanks for understanding.


Seenoevo - #74563

November 20th 2012

Is it OK, sufficient, to do without the Bible and Christianities and just believe that there is a God who will bring you to heaven if you want and ask him to?


Mike Beidler - #74582

November 20th 2012

See my comment above.  Feel free to PM or email me.  (You can request my email via PM.)


Joriss - #74564

November 20th 2012

Cliff Martin - #74555
November 20th 2012
Joriss, I’ve never met anyone who believes man was created in the image of God without qualification. Every Christian view of what is meant by imago dei defines image as something less than total or complete. So a traditional view of Adam (perhaps this is your view?) is that Adam was not perfect, but innocent. He certainly was not omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent. So all of us, regardless of our overall view, define “image” as something less than “exact representation”. My view is that we are in the image of God, not in terms of divine attributes or moral perfection, but in terms of being relational, spirit beings. Accepting, as I do, the incontrovertible evidence for our evolutionary past, I have come to see that God created us in his image through an evolutionary process, one that culminated in intelligent, sentient, relational beings into whom the Creator could (and did!) breath spirit. Imperfect, to be sure. But then, you would agree that even Adam was imperfect, yes?

Cliff Martin,
Imperfect and incomplete can both have different meanings. A newborn baby can be complete, without any deficiency or handicap, but is not completed, has to drink, eat, grow and learn, to become an adult. I mean this phisically.

In this sense I (and many others) believe Adam was perfect, physically AND spiritually complete, in that phase of his existence, when God had created him, but not yet completed, not yet accomplished. So in that sense, he was imperfect and had to increase in wisdom, in knowledge of God,of course.
But that has nothing to do, in my opinion with the hopeless situation in which Paul found himself, a captive of his sinful flesh and crying for help.
Adam is not described as a sinner in genesis, neither by Paul.
He and we BECAME sinners by his sin is in clear words told to us by Paul.
So Adam became a sinner by his sin. And having become sinners he and we could not return that sinless; we need forgiving and redemption, we need Jesus.
In his first state Adam had a chance to stay without sin. He was not made a sinner by God, but by himself. Paul discovered he had NOT that chance, because he was a born sinner.


Joriss - #74569

November 20th 2012

There occurred a deletion or some typo. It must be: And having become sinners he and we could not return into that sinless state; we need forgiving and redemption, we need Jesus.

So to answer your last question, Cliff, yes, I agree that even Adam was imperfect, but I am not so sure we mean the same thing with “imperfect”.

We read in Romans and Ephesians that God wants to give us his fullness and glory. I don´t believe Adam was created with this fullness, and that he failed to be guided by God into this glory by his sin.


Cliff Martin - #74588

November 20th 2012

Oh yes, Joriss, it is quite clear that you and I would assign different meanings to “imperfect”. You may have missed my point. 

You implied that Mike’s views did not allow for man to have been created in God’s image. My point was that all of us qualify what we mean by imago dei. None of us believe that Adam was ever actually a perfect image of God. We qualify what we mean by defining imago dei down. You do. Mike does. You may claim your definition of imago dei is better. You may not like Mike’s definitions. That’s fine. But my point is we all provide qualifying definitions.


Joriss - #74570

November 20th 2012

correction: and I believe that he failed to be guided by God into this glory by sin. How imperfect I am….


Norman - #74575

November 20th 2012

Mike,

It’s been a while since we have interfaced together.  Norm Voss here; remember I wrote the foreword to Tim and Jeff’s book “Beyond Creation Science”. However unlike my dear friends Tim and Jeff I’ve long ago moved into an acceptance of Theistic Evolution having moved out of the Hugh Ross Camp well before I encountered Tim and Jeff. In fact Tim and Jeff are still on a movement as I believe they are looking at possibly updating their book again reflecting some of their growth: which by the way we all are experiencing.   I would remind that they are not Old Earth in the vein of Ross or Snoke whom they properly take to task in their book as you well know since you helped edit it.

It’s really good to see you interacting so diligently here on Biologos and I’m hoping you will continue to have many opportunities to dialogue with this crowd. I used to spend a lot more time here but the typical Biologos commenter as of late is more comfortable with philosophical discussion than they are with theological scriptural depth. You know us Preterist; we cut our teeth on theology and not philosophy.

However getting back to your topic here: I think we have to be careful in overstating too quickly how strongly Paul felt about the historicity of the Adam’s OT character. I think the recent investigation into 2 Temple literatures reveals that the various segments of Jews used “Adam” much more fluidly than even modern scholars like Enns, Lamoureux and Walton may appreciate. These are not the only scholars who are investigating the subject and we have to be careful of jumping too strongly (lock stock and barrel)on their bandwagon in these early stages of modern investigations. There are other nuanced understandings that are going to have their say as well. Genesis and much of the OT likely is a product of the tension between, and reflect the two camps of Jews who were at odds with each other throughout first and second temple periods. You had the messianic spiritual crowd characterized by the culmination of the first Century Christians along with the Qumran community crowd against the legalistic Pharisee crowd. It was essentially an interpretive civil war between the two with one camp wanting a spiritual messiah and the other looking for a physically national messiah. 

Paul uses allegory and understands Genesis in that manner too often to jump to the conclusion that he took Adam as historical. Anyone who can yank Gen 2:24 out of a literal context and apply it allegorically like he does in Ephesians 5:31-32 can’t be branded/labeled too quickly. He equates that marriage verse to Christ leaving His father and being joined to the woman (the church). Understanding the ANE concepts of cosmology is important but Hebrew usage of it doesn’t begin to follow the ANE methodology and so we need to be careful in using ANE ideas to overstate what exactly the Hebrews were doing with their literature. We can be sure of one thing though is that they sure didn’t like the ruling priesthood that oversaw the 2nd Temple government. They wanted a new Priesthood and that idea permeates OT and 2T literature profusely.  Paul changed sides and left the Legalist crowd to work with the Qumran messianic crowd.

We are in the early stages of good scholarship finally so I recommend we examine many scholars who are gathering data and will bring good thoughts to the table. We don’t want to lock in too quickly and have to retreat or rewrite too many books.

Blessings

Norman

 


Mike Beidler - #74583

November 20th 2012

Norm,

Many thanks for chiming in!  I’ve been staying out of discussions on eschatology in order to maintain my sanity, so your “conversion” to theistic evolution is both welcome and surprising (although I detected hints here and there)!  (I think Tim and Jeff were surprised to see the direction I went after editing their book.)

I think we have to be careful in overstating too quickly how strongly Paul felt about the historicity of the Adam’s OT character.

You are absolutely right.  Although I do reference Enns’ book on the Bible’s use of Adam in the footnotes, the reference was a “late add,” since I hadn’t read the book until after I submitted this essay to the BioLogos staff.  I am eager to delve further into the topic of various understandings of Adam within Second Temple Judaism, and I’m open to adjusting my views based on the evidence.  In Enns’ defense, he does address some of these alternate interpretations of Adam and his relationship with the sinful state of mankind, as well as how Paul appropriates Adam out of Adam’s original canonical context in order to make a theological point centered around the life and ministry of Christ.  In both cases, Enns presents these subjects quite effectively.

If you’ve got some recommendations, please list them here so others can have an opportunity to interact with those alternative approaches.

Thanks again for swinging by!  Hope to see you return and comment on this series.


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