Saturday, July 6, 2013

Adam

A local evangelical church recently hosted a debate between two competing groups of Christian scientists on the subject of creation and evolution. The first group, called Reasons to Believe or RTB among its devotees, is a "progressive creationist ministry that promotes day-age forms of old Earth creationism". They believe that God specifically created various forms of life over a long period of time. God made the dinosaurs in a special act of creation, they say, and then much later God made the first couple Adam and Eve. In this way they try to reconcile the Biblical account of the book of Genesis with modern science.

The second group represents main-stream secular evolutionary theory with God thrown in at the beginning to start things off. They believe, as do non-religious secular scientists, that life evolved from a simple-cell organism billions of years ago. They accept the big-bang theory to describe the origin of the universe, but advocate intelligent design - things didn't just happen by chance, but God was there to get them going and guide them along.

The leader of the second group caught my attention when he said he believed in "the historicity of Adam", although not in the sense of RTB. In other words, he believes in a historical person named Adam with a wife named Eve, although he does not believe this couple was specially created by God as the first human couple on earth. The scientist then went on to give his "personal testimony", as it is known in evangelical churches. He was a hard-partying young scientist whose life was falling apart until he had his come-to-Jesus moment. The love and forgiveness of Jesus flooded his heart with joy and peace and changed his life forever, he said. The result was he was now both an evangelical Christian (hence the belief in Adam) and an evolutionary biologist.

It didn't make sense to me, and I raised my hand when the moderator called for questions. Addressing the born-again evolutionist I asked, "It seems to me that your scientific beliefs about evolution are no different than your secular coworkers at the university where you teach. But somewhere along the line you realized, "Oh crap, now I'm an evangelical Christian. I have to believe in a historical Adam who sinned to explain Jesus dying for the sins of mankind." At that point you threw all your scientific reasoning out the window and took a position based solely on faith."

The question brought chuckles from the audience, probably due to my use of the expression "Oh crap" in church (I was going to say something else, but thought better of it). The scientist replied that belief in a historical Adam had nothing to do with his initial conversion experience. It was the love of Jesus, he repeated, that attracted him and changed his life. It was only later that he came to believe in a historical Adam.

Other people had other questions and I couldn't follow up on mine, but it seemed to me that he both side-stepped my question and added fuel to my argument. The fact that he later decided to believe in Adam made it even more clear that it was a decision based not on scientific evidence but religious dogma. He was attracted to Jesus, and began to follow him. Later, as he came to understand the teachings of the church, he learned that Jesus died to pay the price for mankind's guilt. Since guilt for sin did not fit in his evolutionary training and worldview, he had to believe as an evangelical that at some point in mankind's evolutionary development he became guilty. He therefore chose to believe - based purely on faith and not on science - that there really was an Adam who once lived and sinned, and that somehow his sin affected everyone after him with the result that Jesus had to die.

I still don't understand how he can reconcile the two. Wouldn't it make more sense to see Adam and Eve not as a historical couple but as an allegory representing the close relationship people can have with God? Is it possible their leaving the garden of Eden was not a punishment from God, but their stepping out into the real world to face life with all its tragedy, beauty, and mystery? And could the serpent, rather than being a  historical Satan as interpreted thousands of years later, actually have been the friend who reminded them there was much more to knowing God than they already knew?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I view the Garden of Eden story as an allegory about when man stopped being an animal. At some point we developed a self-awareness not seen in other intelligent animals. We became ashamed of our nakedness and aware of our own mortality. At some point we passed a cognitive and emotional threshold that allows for a level of conceptualization that is radically different than seen in other species. We attained a self-knowledge that was God-like compared to other animals and gave us the capacity to conceive of God. It also imposes a heavy psychological burden on us. Becoming human appears not to have been an entirely gradual and incremental process. At some point it appears that a very abrupt transition took place.

Anyway, I think people who try to take some biblical stories too literally end up missing very powerful insights.

HK

sara said...

HK, I agree 100 percent, although I'm not sure about the "very abrupt transition". Not saying I disagree, just that I don't know.

aemish said...

I LOVE this post. I just want to grab you and say, 'NOW you are getting somewhere!'

But beware that rabbit hole.. sometimes it's better to just mind your behavior and stop trying to compete with our Creator

Bukhari Muslim said...

The first 5 Books of Torah were written by different people! Moses didn't write them! Most of the Old Testament is like Talmudic Judaism, FULL OF LIES, FARCE, SOME HISTORY & LOTS OF BABYLONIAN COPYING & PASTEING!

ALL RELIGIOUS BOOKS AR PR WORKS.

Just look at Mormonism & realize how religion is created, established & accepted. Smith & Young were to sex maniacs, just like Mohammed.

If you want lots of SEX, create your own religion or form a Rock & Roll Band.

OK?