t f p g+ YouTube icon

What Are We to Make of Adam and Eve?

Bookmark and Share

March 31, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's video features Alister McGrath. 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.



One of the most important questions concerning the origins of life is about Adam and Eve, suggests theologian Alister McGrath.

Are Adam and Eve real historical figures that lived 6000 years ago, or are they metaphorical representations? It is an interesting question, says McGrath, because based on one’s response, the whole theory of evolution would shift the time frames back a very long way from what many evangelicals hold as true.

There are those who would say that Adam and Eve designate specific historical figures. That makes some sense, acknowledges McGrath, but it makes even more sense to say that Adam and Eve are stereotypical figures that encapsulate the human race as a whole. They represent the vast human potential as created by God, but also the capacity for going wrong.

The story of Adam and Eve is the story of all of us—people created with the greatest of intentions and great gifts—but still with the ability to fail. The Adam and Eve story tells us that this is not accidental—this is part of what it is to be human.

The real question is: is there anything to be done about this human quandary? Science doesn’t have a huge amount to say about how we understand Adam and Eve. Yet in Romans, Paul writes that Christ is the second Adam, who offers a second chance for humanity. This is our story, we have gone wrong but there is something to be done about it. And that something is the transformation that is brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Alister McGrath is professor of theology, ministry, and education and head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London. He is also involved in theological research and the professional development of clergy from a range of Christian denominations. McGrath has written many books on theology and history, including Luther’s Theology of the Cross and Surprised by Meaning. McGrath is an ordained minister in the Church of England and spends his Sundays pastoring and preaching in a group of rural churches in the beautiful Cotswolds, close to his home in West Oxfordshire.

Learn More


View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 4 of 6   « 1 2 3 4 5 6 »
Gregory - #8263

April 2nd 2010

Correction:

Should read - “Dogs are not persons.”


beaglelady - #8264

April 2nd 2010

So it is true that you’re alive today, you must be a descendant of someone with a soul?  Yes? No?


Gregory - #8265

April 2nd 2010

“In trying to find the right name for that Universal Mind, or First Cause, or the Absolute, or Nature, I submit that the Name of God has priority”. - Charles Kinbote

http://victorfet.com/blog/?page_id=211


beaglelady - #8266

April 2nd 2010

Gregory, No, dogs are not persons.  A person is a human.


BenYachov - #8277

April 2nd 2010

>So it is true that you’re alive today, you must be a descendant of someone with a soul?  Yes? No?

I reply: I don’t understand the question.  What does being alive have to do with being a descendant of someone with a soul?  Adam was alive & he descended from lifeforms that had no souls.  We descend from him.  Please rephrase your question.


Chris Massey - #8290

April 2nd 2010

Gregory:

Alright, so then your question is, “Do you agree that there had to have been a first person with a soul?”

Assuming that we have such a thing as a soul, then yes, there must have been a point in time at which God bestowed these souls on men. But I am more inclined to the view that if such an event occurred, God would have given souls to the entire race of men all at once. I recoil at the idea of God giving souls to only two people and then letting their soulishness spread through the human population like a beneficial mutation until they outcompeted their unsouled cousins. That idea seems motivated by a desire to retain a historic A&E - and I see no justification for this.

BenYachov posits that the unsouled are like his cat, but we know that other extinct hominid species cared for their sick and ceremonially buried their dead. They were not unthinking animals. Evidence of this sort inclines me to the view that moral/spiritual consciousness emerged gradually. I suppose there must be a cut off somewhere. Will we see neanderthals in heaven?

I have no easy answers. That’s why I’m here


beaglelady - #8296

April 2nd 2010

BenYachov said,

What I’m advocating is the first human(i.e. hominids with souls) began to interbreed with the population & over time only souled hominids became the sole members of the human race.

So that implies that if you’re alive today you must be a descendant of someone with a soul, right?  Or do you think that God continued to insert souls into folks?

Are we talking about homo sapiens sapiens as the first people with souls?


beaglelady - #8298

April 2nd 2010

BenYachov posits that the unsouled are like his cat, but we know that other extinct hominid species cared for their sick and ceremonially buried their dead. They were not unthinking animals. Evidence of this sort inclines me to the view that moral/spiritual consciousness emerged gradually.

True, and we are discovering more and more that even some animals have a sense of justice and can act altruistically. 

I suppose there must be a cut off somewhere. Will we see neanderthals in heaven?

I sure hope so.


BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #8299

April 2nd 2010

>So that implies that if you’re alive today you must be a descendant of someone with a soul, right?  Or do you think that God continued to insert souls into folks?’

I reply: God creates our souls & imparts them to us at our conception.  I recommend you look up the SOUL entry over at the online CATHOLIC ENCYLOPEDIA.  Also look up the entries on Creationism(of the soul)  vs Traducianism.  My views are the Catholic views I don’t hold any novel opinions in this specific area.


BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #8300

April 2nd 2010

Chris,


If you look at my second post above #8119 I cite a compromise view that reconciles both our views by Roberto Masi.


Gregory - #8313

April 3rd 2010

“we are discovering more and more that even some animals have a sense of justice and can act altruistically.” - beaglelady

Says who? Who is the ‘we’ you are referring to?

The term ‘altruism’ was coined by A. Comte and deals *specifically* with human beings. Animals simply cannot *by definition* ‘act altruistically’. That’s the facts!

Yes, I am well aware that people such as R. Trivers think even plants ‘act altruistically’. But who do you accept your definitions from, beaglelady?

You are siding with people who behind your back attack your worldview, simply to grab a vocabulary that would help you do battle with fellow believers who see things differently than you.


beaglelady - #8343

April 3rd 2010

Okay then, scientists are discovering more and more that animals have a sense of justice and can act altruistically.  For example,  Goodall, Mark Bekoff, and others.

Altruism can refer to animal behavior also.  I get my definitions from the dictionary.  See this definition from Merriam-Webster.  Merriam-Webster is not involved in a sinister plot to attack my world view.


beaglelady - #8376

April 3rd 2010

Correction: I meant Marc Bekoff


Gregory - #8414

April 3rd 2010

I highly doubt you are a scientist, beaglelady. Please prove me wrong if you are.

The m-w definition does not acknowledge that the term ‘altruism’ is meant as *unique* to human beings. That ethnologists and evo psychologists have abused it is not a solution or excuse.

Yet you would defend anti-religious ethologists and evo psychologists *against* one who actually knows what the word ‘altruism’ means, i.e. being *unique* to human beings, from a religious perspective?

This is highly relevant to discussion of A&E, e.g. when geneticists are credited above culturologists regarding their contributions to knowledge. Has ‘scientism’ already won in most of America?


beaglelady - #8627

April 4th 2010

I’m not a scientist, and I don’t need to be one to learn about this topic. And you aren’t allowed to define words to mean what you want them to mean, unless you want to create a dictionary for your own private use. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provided 2 meanings for altruism:

1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
2 : behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species

I can check other dictionaries if you want.  And I don’t see what the big deal is, anyway.  Animals are God’s creatures, and I find this whole topic fascinating and very touching.  I wonder if anyone was upset when Jane Goodall discovered that apes use tools?


Merv - #8952

April 6th 2010

People get upset when hard categories are seen to be “fuzzy” as so often happens in science and in the study of life in general.  Is it this species or that?  What was the day, hour, and moment in your life before which you could not read and after which you could?  Is so-and-so human or not?  Our minds don’t easily break from binary habits.  And yet we discover that much of reality simply doesn’t work that way.  As Christians any such inquiries into truth should interest us no matter where they take us—because I bet most of us here could agree on one fundamental tenet:  All truth is God’s truth.


Myles - #8994

April 7th 2010

Ancient creation stories have similar traits but are obviously not identical to Genesis. One of the traits I believe to be unique to Genesis is the Human realisation that he is bad or evil. If I remember my history correctly I believe the Genesis account was written around 6 BC when the Jews were trying to come to terms wuth their Exile and why the were exiled. Their result was to write this account which demonstrates how Human beings were good and had fallen by directly disregarding Gods law. If we put this more scientifically than a piece of fruit, then the rebellion against God was perhaps the rebellion against our “moral law” (thank you Mr Lewis) against what were know in our hearts is right (objectively).  I think that the whole of Christianity does not hinge on 2 historical figures, but Jesus. If these were “stereotypes” of the human condition and not an exact date in history then so what? does it take away the fact that no matter how this started we are all sinful?


Myles - #8995

April 7th 2010

Does it matter if we dont know exactly how we got an illness when Christ we know has allready treated us? And as for Paul we must remember that he is writing with a 1st century view of the world. Scientifically it may not be entirely correct but theologically he is comparing past human sin in adam (which could be representative or factual) and how Jesus has saved us from this ultimate past sin. If Adam was real then Pauls argument is completely valid. If he was’nt real but rather can refer to humans in general, then Paul might be shocked that he was’nt real but his theological point still does not fail. Principally that by one man (or the human race) sin entered the world, and by one man it is taken away. This fails only if you judge paul on his symmetry in that “ONE man brings in sin and ONE man takes it away”.  Numerically I do not see how this differs, if it was one man or a whole race, if it was a historical event or a curse that we have given ourselves through disregarding our moral law which I believe Paul says himself is written on our hearts.


Roger D. McKinney - #9261

April 9th 2010

I have known many theistic evolutionists who are great Christians. While I am a young earth creationist, I don’t require that other have to be creationists in order to be good Christians. However, I do think that theistic evolutionists have a hard time explaining the cross of Christ. It’s easy for people like McGrath to make statements like “it makes even more sense to say that Adam and Eve are stereotypical figures…” But it’s much more difficult to fit those into the story of the cross. Here’s why:

1) Where did death come from? According to the Bible, even the NT, death did not enter the world until after Adam and Eve sinned. According to Paul, death is our enemy and will be the last enemy vanquished. But according to theistic evolution (TE) death is a natural part of our existence. God created death as the means of creating mankind through evolution. Death is not judgment against rebellion; it is the creative force of life. Massive of amounts of death and extinction had to take place for billions of years before Adam and Eve appeared.


Roger D. McKinney - #9262

April 9th 2010

2) What was the Fall of Adam and Eve? According to the OT and NT, God created Adam and Eve in a state of perfect innocense. When they rebelled against God, their nature changed to one with a tendency toward rebellion against God. Physical death became immenent, but spiritual death was immediate. Christ came to die, rise from the dead and make possible our spiritual rebirth from the dead. Theistic evolution turns the story of the cross on its head.


Page 4 of 6   « 1 2 3 4 5 6 »