Evolution and the fall of the Fall

I just finally got around to reading the post from BioLogos from May 31, “BioLogos and the June 2011 ‘Christianity Today’ Cover Story“. Within it, president Darrel Falk makes note that they’ve had trouble identifying theologians who affirm both the historicity of Adam and Eve and evolution. While the scientific data cannot alone rule anything out, the stance that accepts God’s selecting one man and one woman out of an early population of Homo is something Falk flags as having had little serious theological effort placed into explaining it:

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.

That divide is something I’ve certainly witnessed, and no doubt it’s used by the latter group to demonstrate the “slippery slope”. And in this case, I think they’re right: most who go all the way to say that so many aspects of Genesis 1 and 2 are not historical or literal have a hard time drawing the line at the historicity of the first pair. The divide comes over how we deal with the NT’s treatment of Adam, who Paul especially seems to use as a key figure in his theology (I would argue that Adam is not any more key to Paul than Melchizedek is to Hebrews, used typologically). In short, it’s not nearly as much about the historicity of Adam and Eve as it is the historicity of the Fall.

Although people like Tim Keller and Denis Alexander will continue to try arguing for a first pair of souled individuals, a position that was assumed by C. S. Lewis and has recently been affirmed by Vatican theologians, my guess is that the next generation of Christians who grow up accepting evolution as a “first language” will never seriously consider it, in the same way that teens growing up today rarely crack open their parents’ books on how to install software or run basic functions of Microsoft Office. Federal headship, like most other models of the Fall, may well be a moribund theological construct.

Falk urges “caution” with the federal headship view of the Fall because there are a number of theological questions that have yet to be teased out satisfactorily. Did God only impart His life-giving spirit to two of them, who promptly turned around and “fell” in a way we might have expected from the rest of their still-animal tribespeople? How did their divinely imparted souls that separated them from their peers and ancestors get passed on to their descendants? How did their fallenness get passed on?

Given questions like these and the available alternative of understanding that the “fallenness” of humanity and its solution in Christ don’t depend on an historical Fall from an historical pair, I’m fairly confident that a denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve will become the dominant paradigm within the next couple of decades.

This prediction will lead to the question, “But what about those who hang onto inerrancy? How will they simply reject the Bible’s teachings about Adam and Eve?” Well, for one thing, I think most Christians (and in honesty, people in general) tolerate enough cognitive dissonance to the effect that this will not invariably be noticed as a conflict with an assumption of evolution. Another factor is the attempt to salvage a semblance of inerrancy by arguing for figurative language and other literary devices to account for Paul’s treatment of Adam and Eve (this was the path I took several years ago). But even more so, I think that the inevitable acceptance of evolution by the younger generations will in fact pull a modified or abandonment inerrancy along with it. As Cliff Martin likes to point out, the Church will accept evolution; it must.

Tagged with:
Recent Posts:
  • JL Vaughn

    It seems to me that the mistake was made when it was decided that the proper translation of the Hebrew word Adam was the English word man.

    The Old Testament never discusses of the son of man (ish) but mentions frequently the son of Adam.  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of Adam, that he should repent.”  Num. 23:19.  Unfortunately, translating Adam as man hides the special relation that the sons of Adam had with God, that no other people had.  The sons of Adam were God’s chosen people from the beginning.

    The question should not be, was the entire human race descended from one man?

    The question should be, what relationship does this one man Adam, the father of the sons of Adam, have with the rest of us.  The sons of Adam in Deut. 32:8, included the descendants of Abraham, the descendants of the 318 fighting-men born in Abrahams household and the mixed-multitude that joined Israel in Egypt.  They were not all natural descendants of Adam.  They were joined to Adam by covenant.

    Son of Adam was a covenantal designation.  It belonged to the household of Israel.  My ancestors were not of Israel.  They were not sons of Adam.  They were not the men that Jesus said the sabbath was made for.

    Every people has a first father.  We, in the US, have George
    Washington.  I am not a natural descendant of
    Washington, but he is still my father.

    The Jews have Adam as their father.  Adam has never
    been mine.

  • Not so fast Stephen. You and your mentor Denis Lamoureux  appear to be selectively reading Paul and declaring him anciently ignorant as your rationale. Paul obviously did not take Adam from Genesis nearly as literal as Lamoureux speculates he was doing. Paul is clearly applying Adam as a federal headship in his classification of Christ as the Last Adam. We know that Paul is not inferring that Christ as the last Adam was the Last man standing.  No he was applying Adam to Christ as a federal headship of the New body of Christ replacing Adams/Israel’s old body of death.
    1Co 15:45  Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
    Paul makes other applications to Genesis 2 & 3 that are allegorical in nature which reveals that he understood Genesis much the same way many of us have determined and so he wasn’t unwise in that regard. Here is another example of Paul’s where he yanks the context of Gen 2:24 and declares that this is mystery language pointing to Christ and the Church.
    Eph 5:31-32  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  (32)  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
    Also Paul’s understanding of the “death” from Genesis is clearly not what Lamoureux treats as a physical understanding. Paul had people walking around alive but “dead” in their trespasses and sins just as Adam was declared.
    Eph 2:1-3  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  (2)  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–  (3)  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,
    Falk is aware of the Federal headship issues of Paul that Lamoureux glosses over and it has irritated Lamoureux so much that he chimed in Friday and Saturday upbraiding Falk to no end for letting the discussion proceed. Falk decided to delete the postings as out of line with Biologos standards of interaction decency. He had to post a warning because Lamoureux made such a stink over the issue and became very personal. Lamoureux wants the discussion squelched and to end with his personal views as championed.  The problem is that lamoureux gets a lot right but because of his overt literal NT application cannot fathom that Paul actually was quite wily in his understanding of Genesis. Someone else will have to finish the Job that Lamoureux wanted to claim and that Falk recognized as problematic as well.
    What this means Stephen is that Tim and Jeff hit the nail on the head as others are coming to similar conclusions as their book points out. There are other science minded folks out there that are pursuing this path as well.

  • Dan

    There seems to be a lot of interest in blending evolution with biblical preterism or at least using evolutionary theory as a backdrop to eliminate or moderate the Genesis account as a record of the creation of the Universe and not just the ‘world of the Jews’- a position convenient for those disposed to one form of preterism but certainly not all.

    No one seems to  note the failure of science to support, let alone prove, the idea that evolution, God directed or  not, has any merit in reality.  That the diversity of life forms on this planet is a product of descent with modification remains to be proven by some rigor of science and not just assumed because it is currently a poplular thesis. 

    Just to look at one field of hard science like molecular biology, where experimental design and hypothesis testing are feasible, an honest soul must wonder how any sort of living system could come into being, or diversify into several million other life forms independent of special creation…And, if evolution were directed, where is the scientific argument for such and can we reference any divine sanction in the biblical record for this possibility? 

    If there remains skepticism over biological evolution in any form; indeed if there is really no solid science to allow a critical examination of this hypothesis then how can anyone say that acceptance of evolution is any kind of answer to a proper interpretation of the Genesis accout of creation?