Over the past two months, BioLogos Senior Fellow Pete Enns has explored various interpretive challenges related to the Creation accounts in Genesis and New Testament passages related to Adam. Today we want to highlight a new essay by Enns, placing it in context:
Cosmic Battle Series
In a series of four posts (found here, here, here, and here), Enns argued that the themes of creation, flood, and exodus all tell the same story throughout the Old Testament—the victory of Yahweh and the salvation of his people. In a fifth post, Enns presented an “Israel-centered” view of Adam, wherein Adam is the beginning of Israel, not of all humanity. This interpretation, while not well appreciated among lay Christians today, has been widely recognized by both pre-modern and modern scholars.
Paul’s Adam Series
Building upon this foundation, Enns began a related series (found here, here, here, and here; still ongoing), which has outlined numerous interpretive issues related to the Apostle Paul’s view of Adam. To truly understand Paul, we need to consider, among other things, how Adam appeared and was understood in the Old Testament; the nature of the Fall in Genesis 3; Paul’s purpose in drawing a parallel between Adam and Jesus in Romans 5; what the book of Romans would have meant to Jews in Paul’s day; Paul’s ancient view of the world; how he used the Old Testament in his writings; and how Adam was understood by Jewish interpreters during Paul’s time. These are just some of the inescapable issues that must be considered.
New Scholarly Essay: Moving Toward a Synthesis
But why are all these issues important, exactly? Why invest so much time in trying to understand Genesis as the ancient Israelites would have, or in reading Paul in a non-literal way? In a new essay, Enns argues that Christians must engage in these activities, because ignoring the scientific and archeological evidence for evolution is not an option for believers in the twenty-first century.
First, Enns clarifies that the controversy is “Christianity and evolution,” not “science and faith.” Many Christians accept that science and faith can in principle exist in perfect harmony, but nevertheless reject evolution. Why? As Enns explains,
If the fundamental historical value of Genesis is called into question, and if therefore there was no first pair created by God and who disobeyed and “fell”—as the argument goes—you are not far from questioning how Jesus’ crucifixion can really be about reversing a fall that never happened.
The stakes are high indeed.
Enns offers four paths forward for Christians: 1) accept evolution and reject Christianity, 2) generate a scientific model to place Adam within the evolutionary process, 3) reorient our view of Scripture to achieve a true synthesis with the science, or 4) accept Paul’s understanding of Adam and reject evolution.
Obviously the first and last options are untenable, and Enns points out why the second is problematic. The remaining option, then, is to foster a hermeneutical reorientation. Enns helps us think clearly about three areas which must be addressed:
- How we think about the purpose of Genesis
- How we understand Paul’s interpretation of Jesus as the second Adam
- What it means to read the Bible well
We look forward to more thoughts from Pete next Tuesday. In the meantime, let’s discuss. Is the main controversy between Christianity and evolution, or are the issues broader than that? Do you agree that Christians should adjust their theology when it contradicts strong scientific evidence? Why?