Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, June 3, 2011

Christianity Today - The Search For the Historical Adam

Christianity Today and BioLogos are coming out this month with findings based upon current human genome studies (popularized by National Geographic in 2008 - see below for more links). CT has given its June 2011 article a video preview (shown below). Please follow along with future links on this site to RJS's Search for the Historical Adam as he reviews a Christian perspective all these newest theories and suppositions: http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/06/search-for-historical-adam.html.

June 3, 2011

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BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Cover Story

by Darrel Falk
May 31, 2011

BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Cover Story"Science and the Sacred" frequently features essays from The BioLogos Foundation's leaders and Senior Fellows. Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. Darrel Falk serves as 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.

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. [(this is also the position of this website here, Relevancy22, given the burden of proof from human genomic studies (several of those articles can be found on this site's sidebars) - sh)]

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 (1) 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 (2) 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

    NatGeo - The Human Genome Project after 10 Years

    Christianity Today and BioLogos are coming out this month with findings based upon current human genome studies (popularized by National Geographic in 2008 - see below for more links). CT has given its June 2011 article a video preview (shown below). Please follow along with future links on this site to RJS's Search for the Historical Adam as he reviews a Christian perspective all these newest theories and suppositions: http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/06/search-for-historical-adam.html.


    Five Break Throughs & Five Predictions

    Ten years after the Human Genome Project's grand achievement, experts hail the advances and share hopes for the next decade.

    A person standing in front of a digital representation of the human genome.
    A museum visitor views a digital representation of the human genome in New York City in 2001.
    Photograph by Mario Tama, Getty Images

    Ker Than
    Published March 31, 2010

    In June 2000 scientists joined U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House to unveil the Human Genome Project's "working draft" of the human genome—the full set of DNA that makes us human (quick human genetics overview).

    As the tenth anniversary of that achievement approaches, scientists weigh in on the scientific discoveries the Human Genome Project enabled, as well as some hopes and predictions for future advances that could be made using the project's data.


    1. Democratized Data

    Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Human Genome Project formally lasted from 1990 to 2003. The project helped pioneer the now common practice of making scientific data freely available online.
    (Related: "'Eco Hubble' to Bring Nature Data to the Public.")

    This open model of research has enabled researchers to make discoveries much more quickly than in the past, said Francis Collins, NIH director and former leader of the U.S.-government effort to sequence the human genome.

    "For example, the search for the cystic fibrosis gene finally succeeded in 1989 after years of effort by my lab and several others, at an estimated cost of U.S. $50 million," Collins writes in an opinion piece published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

    "Such a project could now be accomplished in a few days by a good graduate student. ... ," he writes. All the budding geneticist needs, Collins says, is the Internet, some inexpensive chemicals, a thermal cycling machine to amplify specific DNA segments, and access to a DNA sequencer, which "reads" DNA via light signals.

    2. Added DNA to Human-Origins Tool Kit

    The Human Genome Project has proven to be a valuable new tool for studying human origins and the history of our species' migrations, said Mark McCarthy of the University of Oxford in the U.K., who studies the genetic causes of diabetes and obesity.

    "We've learned how young a species we are and how similar so many of us are, particularly those populations that came out of Africa 70,000 years ago"—such as the ancestors of modern Europeans or East Asians or South Asians—McCarthy said.

    The genetic data largely back up theories derived from archeological and linguistic studies, such as the idea that ancestors of many modern human populations originated in Africa, he added. (See "Massive Genetic Study Supports 'Out of Africa' Theory.")

    Furthermore—by working under the assumption that the more closely related different human populations are to one another, the more similar their genomes will be—scientists have been able to roughly chart out the path that humanity took as it spread around the world.
    (Explore an interactive atlas of the human journey based on genetics.)

    3. Snipped Away at Diseases' Prehistoric Origins

    The Human Genome Project set a foundation for later efforts such as the International HapMap Project, which aims to uncover single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs ("snips").

    SNPs are differences in the lettering of genes among members of the same species. The written language of DNA uses four "letters," or nucleotides: A, T, C, and G.

    HapMap is a catalog of common SNPs that occur in human beings. SNPs that lie next to each other on a chromosome and are inherited together are called haplotypes; clusters of related haplotypes are called haplogroups.

    SNPs can greatly influence our susceptibility to certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, scientists say. (Find out how an SNP-laden hairball helped reveal the face of a 4,000-year-old human.)

    Geneticist Spencer Wells, who leads the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, called HapMap "the biggest payoff of the Human Genome Project so far." (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

    HapMap "revealed the relatively high frequency of genetic diversity that exists across the entire genome. Using that data, scientists were able to start looking at disease associations at a genome-wide level," said Wells, who is also a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

    This is important because scientists are finding that many diseases have multiple gene influences.
    "For the really interesting diseases, you've got a lot of genes that have relatively low effect" by themselves, Wells said.
    (More on HapMap: "New DNA Mapping to Trace Genetic Ills.")

    4. Found Lack of Junk in Our Genetic Trunk

    Before the Human Genome Project, some scientists had estimated the known three billion or so DNA letters combined to form a hundred thousand or more genes.

    "That seemed sensible, because we're such big, complicated organisms," said Christopher Wills, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego.

    "But the amazing thing is that there are much fewer genes in the human genome than expected"—only about 20,000 to 25,000—"which means that each gene has to be very sophisticated in what it does," Wills said.

    Because the number of DNA letters per gene is limited, the new, lower gene count made clear that about 98.5 percent of our DNA has nothing to do with genes—junk DNA, some called it.
    (See "First Decoded Marsupial Genome Reveals 'Junk DNA' Surprise.")

    But even junk DNA strands—long seen as useless or as relics of vestigial genes—are proving they hold a few gems.

    "The part of [DNA] that doesn't code for proteins, which is about 98.5 percent of it, turns out to be much more rich in functional characteristics than I think a lot of people had imagined," NIH's Collins told National Geographic News.

    "There doesn't seem to be much reason to use the word 'junk DNA' anymore," Collins added.

    5. Supercharged Genetic Research

    The Human Genome Project has helped foster the creation of newer, faster, and cheaper methods of gene sequencing, said George Church, who heads the Personal Genome Project at Harvard University.
    That's because the rough draft of the human genome that resulted from the Human Genome Project serves as a reference against which the data from new sequencing methods can be compared.

    "It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle," Church explained. "If you've got the final picture on the cover of the box, ... you can say, This little piece goes here."


    1. Science Will Pinpoint What Makes Us Homo Sapiens

    In the near future, scientists will be able to compare our genome against those of our evolutionary cousins, such as chimpanzees and Neanderthals, to get a clearer sense of which genes are involved in making us Homo sapiens, the University of California's Wills said.

    "The thing I'm really looking forward to is finding out how we differ from our close relatives, what has driven us toward becoming human beings, and in particular, which genes are responsible for our astonishing talents," Wills said.

    NIH's Collins called the recent success at partially sequencing Neanderthal DNA "fascinating."
    "I think most people ten years ago would not think it would be possible to reconstruct an accurate rendition of a sequence of Neanderthals," Collins added, "and yet we're pretty close to that."

    2. Gene Therapy Will Cure Diseases

    Gene therapy—curing ailments by replacing faulty copies of genes with normal ones—will finally become a reality, likely within the next decade, the University of California's Wills said.
    (Related: "Color-blindness Cured by Gene Injection in Monkeys.")

    "The big problem has been, How do you get the genes to the cell?" he said.

    Scientists have been using viruses to "infect" animals' DNA with new genes, Wills noted, "and that's dangerous.

    "But I think a breakthrough is going to be happening fairly soon. When it does, it's going to be very exciting."

    (Also see: "How 'Gene Doping' Could Create Enhanced Olympians.")

    3. The Very Meaning of "Gene" Will Change

    The traditional definition says a gene is a region of DNA that encodes for a protein.

    But in recent years, scientists have discovered stretches of so-called junk DNA that don't make proteins but are nonetheless important.

    For example, some regions of DNA appear to hold instructions for producing a DNA-like, but non-proteinaceous, molecule type called double-stranded RNA.

    "These double-stranded RNAs"—part of the body's RNA interface or RNAi—"turn out to be very strong regulators of the way that genes function," Wills said. (Find out why the discovery of RNAi led to a Nobel Prize.)

    Some double-stranded RNA, for example, can "silence" genes by preventing their protein products from being produced. They do this by binding to and blocking a messenger molecule in the protein-creation pathway, called messenger RNA.

    Wills estimates that if bits of double-stranded RNA were counted as genes, they would double the estimated number of genes in the human genome.

    "As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy to call them genes without worrying about semantics," he said.
    NIH's Collins agreed. "I think we're at a bit of a semantic difficulty here, in terms of deciding what to consider a gene," he said. "Genes are units of inheritance that need not be thought of in such simplistic ways anymore."

    4. Personal Genomes Will Spawn Made-to-Measure Drugs

    Thanks to improving technology, within the next five years a person should be able to have his or her entire genome sequenced for about a thousand U.S. dollars, many experts say.

    Soon after, that figure could drop as low as a hundred dollars, the Genographic Project's Wells said. "I could imagine a time, ten years from now, where it could get down that cheap."

    NIH's Collins said the pace of technological innovation has been dizzying to watch.

    "I thought we would get to this point, but I didn't think we would get here so quickly," he said.

    The cost of sequencing a human genome "has come down by a factor of more than 10,000. That means DNA sequencing is moving forward more quickly than that classical example of exponential growth, which is Moore's law from computers." Moore's law speculates that the processing power of computer chips doubles every two years.

    Collins envisions a day soon when everyone's genome will be sequenced and included as a routine part of their medical records.

    By "knowing what you're at risk for and individualizing your preventative medicine plan," doctors will be better able to treat their patients, Collins said.

    The era of personal genomes will also be a boon to pharmacogenomics, the science of tailoring drugs to an individual's genetic makeup.

    5. Personality Will Move From Art to Science

    As scientists learn to better understand the information contained in our genomes, they will get better at predicting how genes influence the development of physical and mental traits and even behaviors.
    In the distant future it may be possible to look at the genome of a human—or a close human relative—and roughly deduce not only what she looked like, but, for example, how she acted.

    "Will we ever be able to do it with complete confidence? I suspect not, and I rather hope not," the University of Oxford's McCarthy said.

    "But I do suspect that by the time we've finished this journey that we've started on ... we'll be able to do better than we're doing at the moment."

    The Search for the Historical Adam 2

    Christianity Today and BioLogos are coming out this month with findings based upon current human genome studies (popularized by National Geographic in 2008 - see below for more links). CT has given its June 2011 article a video preview (shown below). Please follow along with future links on this site to RJS's Search for the Historical Adam as he reviews a Christian perspective all these newest theories nd suppositions - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/06/search-for-historical-adam.html.

    June 3, 2012

    The June 2011 cover story in Christianity Today, The Search for the Historical Adam, is a summary of the state of the discussion about the understanding of Adam and Eve in our church. The subtitle lays it out – “Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it.” This is a topic we’ve discussed a great deal on this blog, and a topic that will continue to come up for the foreseeable future. It will not be resolved in short order. In fact, the significance of the question requires that we revisit it from a number of angles, posing questions and considering the ramifications of the answers.
    Few debates in our world have been as impassioned and emotional as those over creation. But now we’re not just talking about dating rocks and interpreting fossils. We’re talking about family. Nor is the discussion between those who think the Bible’s account of creation, fall, and redemption is important and those who find it irrelevant. This is a family meeting. (p. 9)
    This is an important point – this is a family discussion. Quite frankly non-Christians, those not committed to the gospel, don’t care. There is a bemused incredulity that we waste any intellectual effort on the discussion. A corollary here is also important – this is not a quest for external credibility or the approval of secular colleagues. It is an attempt within the family to reconcile what we know from scripture with what we know from science.

    What do you think? What motivates this discussion?

    Do you think it is important?

    The cover story in Christianity Today does a fairly good job of giving a balanced picture of the current state of the debate. There are scientific, biblical, and theological questions to be considered.

    The scientific data cannot be brushed under the rug and ignored. I continue the discussion here because I am convinced that the scientific evidence for an old earth, evolution, and common descent is so strong that Christians must adjust – this is a reprise of Copernicus and Galileo.... Some questions raised by proponents of Intelligent Design remain open, questions regarding the sufficiency of natural mechanism alone in bringing about the current state of life. But these open questions do not challenge the observation of an old earth, evolution, and common descent. New earth creationism is increasingly harder to justify and defend. The theological and scientific questions raised by keeping to a theory of young earth creationism has become overwhelming. While one can take a position of mature creation on the strength of the testimony of scripture, this leaves us with a illusion of evolution, including death and decay, preceding the Fall. Many find that this leaves us with an image of God as intentionally deceptive in creation. I don’t expect everyone (or anyone) to simply take my word for it on the evidence. Thus some of my posts here have dealt specifically with the evidence and the nature of the scientific debate. This will continue.

    The biblical questions are more significant than the scientific questions. How do we understand scripture as the inspired Word of God? How are we to read Genesis? What is the form and intent of the text? It is more than merely plausible to suggest that Genesis 1-3 is not a prose recitation of history. The word plays and names, the form and structure, the story elements and the imagery, the presence of different variations on the story, make it clear that the form and intent transcends a mere recitation of fact. John Walton has put forth a proposal for the first chapter of Genesis in The Lost World of Genesis One, but does not delve into the harder questions raised by Genesis 2-3 and the story of Adam and Eve. There are many questions regarding the nature of scripture that remain to be wrestled with.

    The most significant questions, however, are the theological questions. This is where the Christianity Today editorial comes into the picture.
    Christians have already drawn the line: there must be an original pair of humans endowed with souls—that is, the spiritual capacity to relate to God in the special way Genesis describes. (p. 61)
    At stake, it is suggested, is (1) the entire story of what is wrong with the world. This “hinges on the disobedient exercise of the will by the first humans. The problem with the human race is not its dearth of insight but its misshapen will.” and (2) The entire story of salvation, which hinges on the obedience of Christ undoing the disobedience of Adam.

    The editorial allows for the possibility that Adam and Eve could be leaders of an original population, rather than the unique biological progenitors of the entire human race. The importance of community in Ancient Near East thought and life and a corporate understanding of the nature of humanity provides an important perspective on the interpretation of the text. They point to the recent book by C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care, as providing a possible approach. We began this book last week and will continue to work through his argument. Joel B. Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible also delves into some relevant issues, including the nature of sin and the corporate view of humanity in scripture.

    I am not convinced, though, that the editors at Christianity Today have accurately defined the stakes in the discussion. In particular it seems to me that the description of the gospel as problem (Adam’s sin) and solution (Christ’s life, death, and resurrection) is not a sufficiently complete understanding of the story we have in Scripture. I don’t think the incarnation is a response to a problem, rather it is a part of the plan of God from the very beginning. Whether we have Adam, Eve, a garden and an apple, or some other history represented by this story, rebellion and redemption was, for some reason known to God, part of the plan. Christ was present from the beginning and in Him we live and move and have our being.

    Do you think that the editors of CT have accurately described the stakes in this discussion?

    Does the entire story of salvation hinge on the disobedience of Adam? If so how?

    The editorial ends in the same place that Ted Olson’s introduction started – with a plea for a grace-filled family discussion.
    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. (p. 61)
    This is my prayer. May this discussion be characterized by the humility of our scholars, by their technical expertise and their willingness to listen to each other, to understand, and to wrestle with the hard questions. Only in this fashion will we move forward in Christian response and unity.

    David Opderbeck has also posted some reflections on the CT editorial on his blog Through a Glass Darkly. As always, his thoughts are well worth consideration.

    Darrel Falk at BioLogos has also commented on the editorial: BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Editorial. This is an excellent piece.

    If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
    If you have comments please visit The Search for the Historical Adam 2 at Jesus Creed

    The Search for the Historical Adam 1

    The Search for the Historical Adam 1

    by RJS
    June 2, 2011

    The June 2011 cover story in Christianity Today is a summary of the state of the discussion about the understanding of Adam and Eve in our church. The subtitle lays it out – “Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it.” This is a topic we’ve discussed a great deal on this blog, and a topic that will continue to come up for the foreseeable future. It will not be resolved in short order. In fact, the significance of the question requires that we revisit it from a number of angles, posing questions and considering the ramifications of the answers. Darrel Falk has posted some comments on this issue of Christianity Today and the question of Adam and Eve on the BioLogos blog - BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Cover Story. I don’t have this issue in hand, and the cover article is not yet available on line. When it is available I will comment on it directly and pose some questions.

    In a timely fashion, though, I received from the publisher (through Scot) a book by C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. This book expands on the discussion in his article in the ASA Journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (v. 62 no. 3 2010) (I posted on it here). Dr. Collins’s goal in writing his book is stated in the introduction (p. 13)
    My goal in this study is to show why I believe we should retain a version of the traditional view, in spite of any pressures to abandon it. I intend to argue that the traditional position on Adam and Eve, or some variation of it, does the best job of accounting not only for the Biblical materials but also for our everyday experience as human beings – an experience that includes sin as something that must be forgiven (by God and our fellow human beings) and that must be struggled against as defiling and disrupting a good human life.
    He is not, he notes a little later, trying to provide the right answers. Rather his goal is to help Christians think through the issues critically and carefully. While he is critical of some positions held by Francis Collins as described in his book The Language of God and by many of those who are affiliated with BioLogos (and no doubt would be critical of some of my positions) he is not criticizing the BioLogos perspective or evolutionary creation in itself. It will be interesting to engage with Dr. C. John (Jack) Collins, working through his book and considering the arguments and reasons. His approach provides a useful entry into some of the key issues and ideas.

    One of the first questions Dr. Collins raises in the introduction to his book is that of authorial intent in scripture and most importantly in Genesis 1-3. In the rest of this post I would like to explore this topic a bit.

    Does authorial intent determine how we should read the accounts of Gen 1-3?

    Does it matter if the author thought these accounts were historically true? If so why?

    For some people establishing that the inspired Biblical authors thought that an idea was true, a historical statement was true is enough to establish its veracity. If the author of Genesis 2-3 thought that Adam and Eve were created exactly as described this is enough to establish it as a fact essential for the Christian faith. Dr. Collins places a high value on both authorial intent and the nature of Biblical authority, but finds the situation a bit more complicated than often thought and does not structure his argument on this approach to the text.

    Dr. Collins suggests that there are at least four possible ways to look at authorial intent in Genesis 2-3 (p. 16).
    1. The author intended to relay straight history, with a minimum of figurative language.
    2. The author was talking about what he thought were actual events, using rhetorical and literary techniques to shape the reader’s attitudes toward those events.
    3. The author intended to recount an imaginary history, using recognizable literary conventions to convey “timeless truths” about God and man.
    4. The author told a story without even caring whether the events were real or imagined; his main goal was to convey various theological and moral truths.
    The view argued by Dr. Collins is option 2. There is figurative language in the telling of the story of Adam and Eve, the story uses devices and techniques common to the literature of the day. But the authorial intent was to describe historical events. The use of rhetorical and literary technique is as appropriate to the inspired biblical text as it is to any kind literature. There is no need for wooden literalism. Here he quotes CS Lewis (Mere Christianity, Book 3, CH. 10): “People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant we were to lay eggs.

    It is not true though that if the text uses symbolic language it is merely symbolic. Symbolic language can be used to convey historical reality. Now we have to have a method for making a judgment about the nature of the elements of the story. Dr. Collins uses the following three criteria for this study (p. 19):
    1. How does the person or event impact the basic story line? My study of the Bible has convinced me that the authors were self-consciously interpreting their world in terms of an overarching worldview story. Does making the persons or events “merely symbolic” distort the shape of the story?
    2. How have other writers, especially Biblical ones, taken this person or event? Any notion of Biblical authority requires me to respect what Biblical writers see; common sense requires me to check what I see against what others see, especially those who are closer to the original time and culture than I am. This is one reason I will not confine my conversation partners to people who already agree with me.
    3. How does this person or event relate to ordinary human experience?
    This is an intriguing set of criteria. As we consider the arguments in Dr. Collins book it will be interesting to apply them and to explore where they may help to determine the truth and where they may lead us astray. One place where I think that Dr. Collins and I may disagree is in the significance of authorial intent in the context of an overarching ancient near east worldview. The author intended to convey an ancient near east cosmology, with a world on pillars, the vault of the sky holding back the waters. This was an integral part of the worldview or author and original audience. There is no reason for us to assume that this cosmology was inspired by God and therefore correct. Perhaps Adam and Eve are not “merely symbolic” but part of an assumed worldview, not corrected by God, and used to convey his theological message in the same way that ancient cosmology is used rather than corrected. I am not giving this as the answer, but putting the idea up for consideration.

    What do you think?

    Is authorial intent significant? If so how and when?

    What criteria would you use to evaluate the text?

    If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
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