As I mentioned yesterday (Pt. 1) I will be reading through C. John Collins’ Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care and Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. In order to understand the direction these authors aim to take us we need to give heed to the introductions. Let me begin with Peter Enns.
Enns accepts the theory of evolution as fact. He writes, “The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, has shown beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans and primates share common ancestry. “(Kindle Locations 133-134). Our current intellectual climate demands that we discuss this reality, especially in the face of militant groups like the “new atheist” who seek to undermine the intellectual viability of the Christian religion. Enns does not deny that Christians have a problem that needs to be addressed. If human evolution is the best explanation for our origins what do we do with Adam and Eve? Unlike some who may want to set the Bible aside as archaic and irrelevant Enns states, “My goal is to focus solely on how the Bible fits into all of this.” (Kindle Location 139). Elsewhere he adds, “…the issues I raise in this book and the conclusions (exploratory and tentative at some points) that I reach are an outworking of my Christian convictions of what it means to be a responsible reader of Scripture in my time and place.” (Kindle Locations 198-200). In summary:
“I am arguing that our understanding of Adam has evolved over the years and that it must now be adjusted in light of the preponderance of (1) scientific evidence supporting evolution and (2) literary evidence from the world of the Bible that helps clarify the kind of literature the Bible is—that is, what it means to read it as it was meant to be read.” (Kindle Locations 210-212).
So for Enns (1) evolution is a trustworthy account of human origins and (2) the Bible still matters, but we must reinterpret it.
Many may walk away from the discussion at this point. It is likely that they do not see a connecting point between evolutionary origins and origins as depicted in the biblical narrative. They may be Christians. They may not be Christians. Enns seems aware of this so he writes,
“Let me begin by explaining whom I see as my primary audience. I make two assumptions my readers. The first is that they consider themselves Christian, of whatever tradition or stripe, and so respect Scripture and recognize that what it says must be accounted for somehow. A significant subset of this group is an evangelical readership, particularly in an American context.” (Kindle Locations 144-147).
“Second, these same people are convinced, for whatever reason, that evolution must be taken seriously.” (Kindle Locations 155-156).
Now that Enns has clarified his presuppositions and his intended audience he introduces us to his hermeneutical approach:
“The most faithful, Christian reading of sacred Scripture is one that recognizes Scripture as a product of the times in which it was written and/or the events took place—not merely so, but unalterably so.” (Kindle Locations 168-170)
For some this is another point of departure. In a review of the book James K.A. Smith criticized Enns’ devotion to the historical-critical approach (see “Whose Bible? Which Adam?”). He suggested that Enns ignores the canonical context writing:
Enns’ approach leaves little room to recognize such recontextualization within the canon—nor does he accord any positive, constructive role to tradition (cf. 114). In fact, if it becomes a contest between “the authors of Genesis” and Paul, Enns sides with “the original meaning” of Genesis as the determinative meaning: “what Genesis says about Adam and the consequences of his actions does not seem to line up with the universal picture that Paul paints in Romans and 1 Corinthians […]. I do not think the gospel stands on whether we can read Paul’s Adam in the pages of Genesis” (92). To use Enns’ language, Paul attributes something to Genesis that the “authors of Genesis” are not trying to give us. Again, this account is entirely “from below,” as if it is Paul alone who “invests Adam with capital he does not have either in the Genesis story, the Old Testament as a whole, or the interpretations of his contemporary Jews” (135).
Obviously this is one opinion on the matter. Some like Steven Douglas in “James K.A. Smith on the missing Author in authorial intent hermeneutics” and Daniel Kirk in “What’s Wrong with Theological Exegesis” have responded to Smith already. I share this little debate not as a primary point, but to show how as early as hermeneutical presuppositions one’s theological trajectory can begin to move in a radically different direction from that of others. I think this is the case with Enns and C. John Collins. Let’s save that point for later.
More from Enns:
“(1) Our knowledge of the cultures that surrounded ancient Israel greatly affects how we now understand the Old Testament—not only here and there but also what the Old Testament as a whole is designed to do. (2) Because Scripture is a collection of discrete writings from widely diverse times and places and written for diverse purposes, the significant theological diversity of Scripture we find there should hardly be a surprise. (3) How the New Testament authors interpret the Old Testament reflects the Jewish thought world of time and thus accounts for their creative engagement of the Old Testament. It also helps Christians today understand how the New Testament authors brought together Israel’s story and the gospel. Further, this “human dimension” of Scripture is not an unfortunate state of affairs that must be tolerated, an unhappy condescension on God’s part. Instead, the “incarnational” reality of Scripture is—as is the actual incarnation of Christ—a mark of God’s great love for his people, evidence of how low he is willing to stoop in order to commune with his creation.” (Kindle Locations 176-184).
Enns is pleased to accept a Bible that contains “God’s Word in human words” as Kenton L. Sparks has phrased it.
In my next post I will summarize Collins’ introductory thoughts as well. Then I aim to juxtapose the two. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on Enns’ approach.
I thought it was interesting that Enns’ opening assumption ”The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, has shown beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans and primates share common ancestry,” is demonstrably false. The HGP showed that humans and primates share an extremely high percentage of genetic material, but it cannot show beyond doubt, much less conclusively prove that common ancestry is true. It may be true (I don’t accept it based on the available scientific evidence) but a study like the HGP could never prove a thing like that. The science underlying that assumption is far more complex than Enns is aware of. Because he is rather naive when it comes to scientific thought, he is at the mercy of the strong rhetoric that is used in absence of clear evidence and argumentation.
Since he simply assumes a scientific position and then revamps his interpretation of Scripture to be compatible, in essence, he is doing what he critiques evangelicals for when it comes to a theological position on inerrancy. They come to the text with a theology of inerrancy and then flatten out the rough human edges to accommodate it (this is what he sees, I don’t necessarily agree). Enns comes to the text with an unargued scientific presupposition and then flattens out the text to fit more comfortably.
In the end, this just doesn’t strike me as a helpful or commendable approach to biblical interpretation.
But if Peter Enns’s unargued scientific presupposition happens to be correct, then the rest of his book has provided one giant step in reconciling our current interpretation of science and our interpretation of the Bible.
That’s a pretty big “if.” Speaking as someone who has a pretty good handle on philosophy of science and spent the last year teaching high school biology, his presupposition is little more than conjecture at this point. The writings of people like Jerry Coyne and even Richard Dawkins bear this out pretty clearly.
Help an old chemical engineer out here. I don’t follow Jerry Coyne’s blog, but I have read his book “Why Evolution is True.” On page 195 he makes statements like:
“Molecular data derived from DNA and protein sequences confirms these relationships, and also tells us roughly when we diverged from our relatives. . . .”
“Yet to many, fossil evidence is psychologically more convincing than molecular data. It’s one thing to learn that we share 98.5 percent of our DNA sequence with chimps, but another entirely to see the skeleton of an australopithecine, with its small, apelike skull perched atop a skeleton nearly identical to that of modern humans. . . .”
Coyne then spends the next 14 pages discussing the fossil evidence, before returning to genetics.
How is that “little more than conjecture at this point”? HELP.
i’ll be interested in these posts! people say they don’t care for the work of c john collins but don’t really say why. maybe you can? 🙂
I admit my great weakness is a lack of an education in the sciences. It may be odd to begin with biblical scholars, but I hope it will help me know “what to look for” if you get me.
Thus far I haven’t seen anything that I find too terrible about Collins, but it is early!
Although your question was directed to the other Brian, my answer would be that C. John Collins wimps out, without really answering the question in the title of his book (not that it necessarily can be answered this side of heaven). He thus fails to contribute much to the reconciliation of our current interpretation of science and our interpretation of the Bible, whereas Peter Enns at least tries.
Paul, that is little more than conjecture because all he is doing is noting similarities. In the same way that correlation doesn’t imply or necessitate causation, sharing DNA does not on its own prove common ancestry. Nor do similarities in skeletal structures, which upon close inspection are not all that incredible similar (to say they are “nearly identical” is a very generous description, we don’t even have a complete skeleton for australopithecine). Yes, they are the most similar within the animal kingdom, but there is still a leap in logic to go from similarity to shared ancestry. Or as I said before, you can conjecture that we share an ancestor, but the data itself doesn’t imply or force that conclusion on the interpreter.
Further still, by Coyne’s own criteria concerning the definition of a species (reproductively isolated communities of organisms) we could never conclusively establish an ancestry relationship from one species to the next because we cannot demonstrate who was reproducing with whom. All of the fossil evidence amounts to little more than stringing together skeletal remains, dating them, and then proposing a hypothetical connection between them that leads back to a common ancestor. But it is illegitimate to move from a plausible or possible reconstruction to what actually happened historically. Or, we could say it is a reasonable conjecture to do so, but only if you already are committed to the conclusion that “evolution is true and we all share a common ancestor.” But that seems like assuming the very thing you need to prove by hard data.
It seems to me that of the six criteria of evolution Coyne delineates in the beginning of his book, common ancestry has the least going for it. I found his explanations of the others to be cogent and persuasive, but found the common ancestry argument to be a bit weak. It at least is not as laughable as his argument (or lack thereof) for the evolution of sexual reproduction (see p. 155ff), which given Coyne’s own criteria we should adamantly reject because it lacks any evidential basis (see quote p. 230). And if we don’t have evidence that reproduction evolved from asexual to sexual then we don’t have a key piece of evidence to prove that all life shares a common ancestor after all. In that case, we don’t have proof that higher forms of life evolved from lower forms of life, we just have conjecture that it must have happened because the assumed conclusion demands it.
Speaking as a professional scientist (although not a biologist) I would say that while there is overwhelming scientific evidence for the claim that life has been developing on this planet for a very long time (contra young earth apologists like Ham) it is not at all clear how this has taken place (contra materialist apologists like Coyne and Dawkins). The primary difficulty I have with the current evolutionary paradigm is that it predicts a gradual development of life that is not supported by the fossil record, which is why Gould – a Harvard evolutionary biologist, geologist, and paleontologist – tried to advance (unsuccessfully, I might add) a radically different understanding of how life developed on this planet under the moniker of punctuated equilibrium a generation ago. Therefore, to the extent Enns represents the current scientific consensus as to how evolution took place as a settled fact, much like gravity is to physics, he is not being helpful.
The primary theological question that is at stake though, which Enns and Collins are both qualified to answer, is to how central the historicity of Adam and Eve are to the Christian faith. If the existence of Adam and Eve is central to the Christian faith then why is it so but if not then why not. For my part I agree with Enns, the historicity of Adam and Eve is not central the Christian faith; in fact, I would go so far as to say that the tradition preserved in Gen 2-3 was never meant to be understood as historical fact and that it was only taken to be so by the later editor(s) that incorporated it into the present form of Genesis when they connected it with the tradition about Cain and Abel in Gen 4 and that the historicity of Adan and Eve is about as significant to the Christian faith as that the historicity of Job (i.e. not very significant).
However, the historicity of Adam and Eve is of critical significance to those Christians who hold to either the doctrine of inerrancy, the Augustinian doctrine of original sin, a theodicy that tries to justify the reality of suffering and death as a consequence of a free will decision made by Adam and Eve, or a metanarrative of Scripture that wants ignore the complex history of Israel by jumping from Gen 3 to Matt 1. While I don’t hold to any of those things, individually they all command a majority amongst evangelicals to the extent that almost every non-progressive evangelical holds to at least one of them and, therefore, finds the historicity of Adam and Eve to be of critical significance. Ergo, I would say that if Enns wants to demonstrate why the historicity of Adam and Eve is not that important to Christian faith then he needs to engage all of the aforementioned items and show why a large strand of Christian tradition has been wrong about them.
@residentoftartarus I think you hit the nail on the head. I would disagree with your conclusion in your middle paragraph, but you laid the issue out very nicely!
At the end of the day, I would say that the theological problem that is the historicity of Adam and Eve is an artifact of the Church’s longstanding inability to properly integrate the history of Israel post Gen 3 with how we understand ourselves in the grand metanarrative of Scripture. The Church created the myth of the Fall, which was not (I would submit) one of myths of the ancient Hebrews in the sense that they did not believe that human beings had “fallen” from some previously better state of existence, in order to compensate for its failure in this regard.
From what I know of Enns, he does seem to fall prey to what James K.A. Smith critiques him of; that is, an uncritical bond with the historical-critical method. Which as Nate highlights above, really only places Enns on the opposite side of the same coin of the Fundamentalist thinking he vociferously critiques; thus Enns is simply another player in the that same old binary that the culture wars are fueled by. His apparent rejection of ‘theological exegesis’ seems pretty naive, given the fact that all of scripture engages in it; esp. the NT authors as well as the dominical teaching of Jesus found in the Gospels.
In the end, to me, Enns’ stance on the incorrigible nature of macro-evolution seems very circular to me. Sure, there is a huge “cultural” under-swell that Enns can appeal to in favor of his belief about evolution; but this is more of an appeal to the people than it is critical engagement of the actual data as Nate, once again, has been highlighting. No, I’m not a scientist, but I’m not a dummy either ;-); when folk appeal to an argument (like about the sciences) that complexifies it to the point that only the ‘specialist’ (by way of credentials) is privy to, then again, this is a non-starter. I am simply asserting that any thinking person, scientist or not, can make reasonable judgments about the sciences; such that any thinking person, who is “critical” can look at the data and make an informed judgment about whether the “evidence” must of necessity lead to the conclusion, in our case, that macro-evolution is the only viable alternative as the interpretive schema used to understand the data. I don’t think it is, but then again, I am also not totally happy with the ‘god-of-the-gaps’ method that ID forwards. And yet, again, I see Enns appealing to this god-of-the-gaps thinking too; he simply collapses God into the creation, imbues nature with God-like creative capacities (in secondary causal ways apparently), and then uses his interpretation of the ‘secondary causes’ built into nature as his interlocking chain that leads him back to posit that God must be the primary cause of all that is. But, for me, this is simply to engage in the kind of classical theistic synthesis that I find so troubling; and ultimately Enns’ approach is highly metaphysical in orientation, even his appeal to the historical-critical model.
Anyway, that’s my rant.
Thank you for your very insightful comments. I’d like to trace out the point you made about the church creating the myth of the fall. It seems that the church has done this as they’ve read Genesis through Paul. I agree that the Hebrew Bible at face value says nothing like later Christian doctrines of the Fall and “original sin,” but Paul matters a lot to the church. (I know Enns addresses Paul in his book and I assume Collins does the same.) Do you think the error lies with Paul himself or later interpretations of Paul?
Glad you find my summary to be helpful. Whatever disagreements we have about these doctrinal points, I am convinced that they are a very small thing to God. My suspicion is that he has not doctrinally unified the Church as a test and a challenge to our love for one another. In my opinion, we do not deserve the kind of doctrinal unification that we all crave if we can’t show enough grace to each other to love and fellowship with each other in spite of these differences.
I was a bit confused by Smith’s claims not because Enns isn’t committed to the historical-critical approach, but because it does seem that he engages in “theological” thinking about Adam even as he reinterprets Adam. Could you clarify what Smith meant by his critique or what you mean when you say Enns rejects “theological exegesis?” Does this mean canonical-theological readings?
In my opinion, once again, I would say that while Paul believed in the historicity of Adam and Eve (or “the man” and “life” in the original Hebrew of Gen 3) along with the later editors of Genesis he did not teach anything like the Augustinian doctrine of original sin nor the idea that physical death (human or otherwise) began with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, later Christian interpreters have wrongly inferred these things from Paul (i.e. the myth of the Fall). However, I would also say that Paul correctly derived from Gen 2-3 theology that this tradition was originally crafted to communicate as an ahistorical tradition and that modern Christians who deny the historicity of Adam and Eve should not be embarrassed by the theology of Rom 5 or 1 Cor 15.
Keep in mind that the Church has read the Hebrew Bible through the lens of Paul because they don’t know how to read the Hebrew Bible in the first place (unlike Paul)! The Church should view the writers of the NT as guides to the Hebrew Bible but not as lenses that control our understanding of the Hebrew Bible.
All valid points, especially that we have failed to learn the art of reading the Hebrew Bible from the NT writers while lazily settling for their readings. When I read Paul in Romans I find strong evidence that Paul saw every individual as guilty of his own sins, even if he ties us together in Adam. In both 1.18-31 and 5.12-21 Adam seems present, but only to show we are all Adam, not that Adam did something and we have to pay for it.
My beef with the historical-critical approach to much of the OT is that we don’t have enough historical data to work with to profitably use such an approach to much of the OT. The scraps that we have about the ANE apart from the Hebrew Bible are just that, scraps, and this situation is very unlikely to change. Hence, I think scholars should abandon the kind of historical-critical approach to the OT that has been dominant in the academy post-Enlightenment for a more historically informed theological approach to the OT that avoids the mistakes of the pre-critical era. On the other hand, I would say that we barely have enough data to properly employ such an approach to the NT, but only barely so if indeed we have enough as is evidence by the enduring lack of historical consensus among NT critics.
If I may indulge in a bit of speculation, my suspicion is that a historical-critical approach to the OT primarily functions as a tool in the service of an anti-Christian prejudice that wants to reconstruct the history of the ANE only to show how wrong the Hebrew Bible is in matters of history. In reality, the historical reconstructions put forward by OT critics are founded on littler more than so much speculation as there’s not enough data to ground their conclusions.
Indeed. I would say that in Rom 5 Paul primarily saw the character of Adam in Gen 2-3 as an example that shows how as a consequence of our individual sin we all deserve eschatological death (i.e. the punishment of our souls in Sheol) and separation from the garden of God (i.e. the eschatological kingdom/paradise of God) while in 1 Cor 15 Paul saw in the same individual an etiological explanation for why we all experience physical death (i.e. our bodies are all made of dust along with the first man). With respect to the latter, it’s perfectly obvious that our bodies are made of dust (along with the fact that we as human beings can discern good from evil) independent of the historicity of Adam and Eve, we don’t need to attach to Gen 2-3 the etiological significance that Paul undoubtedly gave to it in order to recover its theology.
To give an example of what I mean about the pitfalls of employing an historical-critical approach to much of the OT consider the case of Walton in Lost World, in that book he concludes that the ancient Hebrews understood this world (i.e. the heaven and the earth of Gen 1:1) as a cosmic temple built by God primarily on two grounds: the first is that a few other ANE cultures apparently viewed this world as a cosmic temple according to their creation myths and the second is that the divine rest we find in Gen 2:1-3 always occurs in the context of a temple. The problem with the second line of evidence is that contra Walton the Pentateuch understands the “rest” of Gen 2:1-3 in the context of the Sabbath and not that of a temple (Ex 20:11) and the problem with the first line of evidence is that without any supporting biblical evidence it can only function as a bit of parallelomania that tries to flatten our understanding of the OT through the lens of other ANE cultures. Finally, and most devastatingly for Walton in my opinion, the ancient Hebrews already had a temple for God’s glory in the invisible heavenly sanctuary, so there was no need to posit for one for this world as well.
But how could a scholar like Walton have gotten Gen 1:1-2:3 so wrong in his book to the extent that even an amateur such as myself can see through his thesis? My diagnosis is that he attached too much significance to the scraps of extra-biblical ANE tradition that we have and read the biblical creation narrative through the lens of those traditions (i.e. he engaged in parallelomania) and ignored the biblical evidence that worked against his thesis, which laypeople such as myself are more familiar with.
Forgive my hogging of this discussion, being a scientist and a relatively conservative Christian I’ve thought about these issues a great deal and evidently have a lot to say.
No apology necessary, I invite as many insights as possible as I venture through these two books. It makes the learning experience more fruitful. While I think many of Walton’s insights were very helpful you are correct that they seem to be ignored by the rest of the Pentateuch. Could this be that Genesis 1 was a later addition to Genesis-Deuteronomy?
My suspicion is that apart from the genealogies the traditions found in Gen 1-11 are probably later than most of what is found in the Pentateuch (with the possible exception of Cain and Abel) while much of the patriarchal narrative found in chapters 12-50 could very well be as early as anything else in the Pentateuch (with the possible exception of Gen 49 and perhaps some other traditions). I don’t know how anyone could prove this though.
However, as a general rule, much of what’s found in Genesis is not that important to the rest of the Hebrew Bible outside the covenantal activity between the patriarchs and Yahweh. I like to tell people that if the Hebrew Bible were a single book then Gen 1-11 would be the prologue, 12-50 would be the introduction, and the book of Exodus would be chapter one. In stark contrast to Genesis, almost everything in the Exodus is very important to the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Oh, you were only asking about Gen 1:1-2:3. Sorry.
I detect an earlier version of the creation narrative in this passage that doesn’t structure God’s work of creation in terms of an ordinary week (i.e. take out the language of “and there was evening and there was morning the x day”) and to which was tacked on Gen 2:1-3 and that the references to the days of creation in Exodus are later additions as well. I would submit that this earlier version of the creation narrative might be very old indeed.
The thing you have to keep in mind is that the final editor(s) of Genesis were trying to provide a continuous record of their history up to the time of the Exodus, but in order to pull that off they had to glue together earlier traditions (perhaps Gen 4) with later traditions (perhaps Gen 2-3). I’m convinced that this sort of thing happens all the time in Genesis but it’s hard to say for sure where it happens.
Also, seeing as how the main thrust of the theological narrative of the Hebrew Bible proceeds from the covenant that Yahweh makes with Israel in Exodus, and not from anything found in Genesis, it stands to reason that Genesis could contain very old traditions that don’t show up elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible because of their relative theological unimportance by virtue of the fact that they precede Exodus in the story of ancient Israel. Of course, what was less important theologically to the ancient Hebrews later became very important theologically to the Church because the latter didn’t know what to do with the Exodus and the theological narrative that followed from that part of the story (in my opinion).
You know what’s funny, growing up in fundamentalist dispensational theology I held on to the doctrine of inerrancy as long as I could and here I am engaging in amateur OT source criticism on your blog. It was very liberating for me to discover how we can construct Christian theology without that doctrine. The view that Christian theology is whatever the Bible says functions as a kind of theological shortcut that may work for the less curious (hence, the vast majority of Christians) but it won’t work for anyone who digs deep enough. All the psychological anxiety that burdens Christians with respect to the age of the earth and the historicity of Adam and Eve is completely unnecessary and in many cases spiritually harmful, Jesus’s warning about putting stumbling stones in front the little ones who believe in him shouldn’t be ignored as often as it is (if I may indulge in a bit of prophetic criticism).
Yes, to be honest, I’m not totally sure what Smith’s critique ultimately is; I would need to read it in full to better understand. And I don’t really know how Enns interprets scripture, per se; but it does seem from what you have been reporting, that Enns is working from a dualism (nature V. Creator), and trying to somehow bring them into complementary relief. But I don’t think Enns’ project is really worthwhile since he does not also seem to be grounding his approach from a ‘Christ-conditioned’ lens; meaning it does not seem that Enns’ is consciously or intentionally grounding his method from God’s Self-revelation in Christ. But instead I see Enns’ working from some form of foundationalism, and trying to bring reconciliation between creation and Creator through this (dualistic) lens (or, trying to fill in the gaps).
I want to say more, but won’t be able to until tomorrow.
residentoftartarus says ‘Keep in mind that the Church has read the Hebrew Bible through the lens of Paul because they don’t know how to read the Hebrew Bible in the first place (unlike Paul)!’
It’s actually worse than that. The Church has read the Hebrew Bible through the lens of Paul, through the lens of later third and fourth century Church fathers (filtered by ‘classical Greek education’ (and prejudice)) because they don’t know how to read Paul’s Hebrew thought in a non-Greek way.
… and we read the the Hebrew bible through the lens of Paul through the lenses of third and fourth century Church fathers (filtered by classical ‘3rd and 4th century Greek education’ (with prejudice)) through the lens (where it suits us) of post-Christian, often hostile, Jewish thought, as though Jewish thought provides any kind of clear representation of ancient Hebrew/Israelite thought. We also do this unconditionally (prepositionally) believing there to be an unquestionable relationship.
None of this should surprise us, life is a messy business.
I like to tell people that the Christian faith can be compared to an adult who suffered a head injury as a baby, when the Romans destroyed Judea and by extension the earliest Christian communities in the 1st century a lot of understanding was lost to the non-Jewish communities that remained, knowledge that we’ve been trying to recover ever since that event. The many theological mistakes of the predominantly Gentile Church in the 2nd century and beyond are entirely understandable when viewed in this light.
Brian, whether or not Enns sees things through unproven scientific presuppositions, from your description, it seems he certainly sees things through equally debatable theological ones.
For example, if one of his presuppositions is “Scripture as a product of the times in which it was written and/or the events took place—not merely so, but unalterably so” than this suggests he holds little regard for the idea of ‘inspiration’ where God’s role in the production of scripture is held in high regard. If there is theological justification for ‘inspiration’ where God provides both purpose and primary authorship through executive under-writing, scripture cannot be simply seen a product of the times (since God is beyond time) – this not merely so, but unalterably so.
Thus Enns’ own assumption of theological certainty in his approach, also seems dubious.
residentoftartarus, I agree life is messy, but I also believe it is possible not to mindless follow the rabbit hole. For example, I believe Greek prejudice is detectable, as is Jewish prejudice (since it looks suspiciously like that shown by Christ’s opponents). I also believe it is possible to ‘detect’ the errors of Church fathers, as well as Paul’s innovations in understanding the original scripture …..
… BUT we need to be willing to face our own prejudices and discard them, and we need to have moral courage to go against tradition.
*Very Hard to do when it causes us to be judged against a norm*
Pt. 3 is available now: http://nearemmaus.com/2012/05/31/collins-and-enns-on-the-historicity-of-adam-pt-3/
I also lean closer to Enns on this, but I am careful to not put all my marbles in his basket—I don’t want my exegesis to be solely reliant upon the ‘changing’ physical-sciences—even though biblical interpretation itself has changed over the years….uh-oh!… But what I wonder, as some here have taken up arms against Enns’ hand-waving statement about the ‘veracity’ of evolution, at what point can we just call it how it is without the argumentation? I mean, no one says ‘the earth revolves around the sun,’ ‘the earth is spherical,’ ‘we are kept to the earth by its gravitational pull,’ (even while many still disagree with these) and then is forced into backing that up with all the scientific data necessary—even with gravity, and from my understanding, gravity isn’t fully understood. At what point can this happen? Creationists get up and arms about that ‘loaded statement,’ when most the scientific establishment accepts it—and perhaps they have good reasons not to accept it. But of course, so did the Catholic Church in trumping Galileo (before they looked into the telescope). And so while I do not want to argue (as I am not qualified to) the case for/against evolution, I do wonder about the potential parallel we have here with Galileo and the Church, or the ‘flat-earthers’— in which case, 100years or so from now, we may all be having a good laugh about those primitive thinking Christians of the 21st Century—or perhaps the other way around—those wrong-headed scientists who put too much stock into one man’s observations in the 1800s ;-).
This is the precise problem with our being locked into one place in time. It is impossible to know what future scientific communities will say about the current models of things, but we do live now, and you are right, it doesn’t seem like there is much doubt in the scientific community about evolution.
Isn’t the issue that there is a false dichotomy between faith and science? Creationism relies on the metaphysical lens to understand the physical world. Science understands the physical world but the world it understands has no metaphysical component to it, so is ill equipped to address the metaphysical questions suggested by its observation.
Science is absolutely the correct lens to use in understanding physical processes, such as how species interact with their environment, and how species propagate themselves BUT (and this is a big BUT) it (meaning science) must know its own limit, just as believers must appreciate the utility of metaphysics. Questions such as ‘how did life come from non-life’ is a metaphysical questions, not a physical one. Science is blind to the answer. Similarly the biblical description of creation is a metaphysical description, not a physical one – so believers must appreciate that ‘HOW’ God created is not the point of Genesis, and therefore should be open to scientific evidence which may have something pertinent to say on the matter.
That the discussion itself pits ’physical-science’ against ‘biblical interpretation’ shows that people by into this false dichotomy. We cannot appreciate the physical university without belief in God, but similarly our ability to ‘observe God’s creation’ tells us much about not only God’s nature, but about how He works.
I agree for the most part. I think what makes this discussion a tad more unique that say the broader creation narrative is that both science and religion are seeking to address the same thing when they discuss the precise events surrounding human origins.
By the way, Pt. 4 is up: http://nearemmaus.com/2012/06/01/collins-and-enns-on-the-historicity-of-adam-pt-4/
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