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.

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