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Adam and Eve Simpsons

[Note: This post coincides with week 2 in our Origins series: Splitting the Adam. If you haven’t heard that message yet, it might be better to go there and give a listen first. Enjoy!]

One of the things that I love about our church community is how we live out a real-world diversity-in-unity that is summed up in the Greek word HOMOTHUMADON: literally, a raging passion for unity.  (See this blog post for more about HOMOTHUMADON.) We get to experience this more vividly when we teach and learn and discuss and discover together on potentially divisive topics like free will, baptism, women in leadership, gay marriage, peace theology, charismatic gifts, and (you guessed it) the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis.

Every time we walk toward rather than run away from a potentially divisive topic, I am again encouraged by the spiritual maturity and fruit of the Spirit manifest by our congregation. And so far (did you hear that church? So far?) this series is no different. I think this is one of the benefits of being radically Jesus-centred.

So in answer to the question – Did Adam and Eve exist? – I think most folks at The Meeting House fall into one of three general categories:

  1. Yes. Adam and Eve are literal people since Genesis is literal history.
  2. Yes. Adam and Eve are literal people, even though aspects of the early chapters of Genesis are more literary and figurative.
  3. No. Adam and Eve are literary figures God uses to tell us important truths about ourselves.

And in this post I’d love to help us develop a loving appreciation for brothers and sisters who hold each view.

VIEW 1: Literal History

In this view, Adam and Eve were both near-instantaneous miracles, similar to Jesus turning water into wine (John 2). That’s a good analogy, because wine is something that has the appearance of age (since fermentation has taken place), and yet Jesus made it instantly. Maybe this miracle is similar to the creation of Adam and Eve and this whole world of ours. If we believe the stories of Jesus and his miracles, we have to be open to the idea that God can make things a) quickly and b) appear to be old even though they are not.

There is something basically admirable, down to the core, of a believer who is willing to stand by their convictions despite the weight of the world being unsupportive. This is the kind of chutzpah that the early Church had, the Radical Reformation had, and one that I want this generation of Jesus-followers to have again. Are you ready to be mentored in this tenacious chutzpah by your brothers and sisters who are firm in their faith? By listening to and learning from them, I think that kind of firmness of faith rubs off on a variety of Christian convictions.

VIEW 2: Real people, evolved and chosen.

In Genesis 2, the creation of Adam is described this way:

Then the Lord God formed a man [ADAM] from the dust of the ground [ADAMA] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

That word “formed” (Hebrew, yasar) refers to the action of an artisan.  It is used in the Bible to refer to both pottery and wood working. God is the Divine Artist and Master Builder. Now the question is, how long did it take for God to “form” humankind? Ten minutes? Ten hours? Ten million years?

Proponents of this view see evolution happening in the word “formed” while at some point God actively interrupts business as usual and infuses his own unique God-life into humankind. This is both metaphorical and literal, like God making Eve from Adam’s side. God has formed us, quite likely using the natural processes of evolution, but at some point, God has intervened supernaturally to make us more than the animals.

VIEW 3: Largely literary

Coming back to that word “formed” in Genesis 2:7, Dennis O. Lamoureux (a triple PhD Canadian scientist, professor, author, and fellow Christian) suggests that we should see it pointing to a real God who also really used the natural process of evolution the whole way. I’ve had the privilege of talking with Dennis and I am as impressed with his passionate Christian faith as much as I am with his sharp “follow-the-evidence-wherever-it-leads” intellect.

According to this view, Genesis 1-11 is God-inspired parable. The real recorded history in Genesis starts around chapter 12 with the call of Abram. So, stories like the talking snake, Noah and the ark, and the tower of Babel are all stories God uses to teach us something about ourselves in relationship with God.

For people like Lamoureux, the “formation” of Adam happened through “teleological evolution” – that is, evolution with a purpose, a goal, moving intentionally toward an end, and that end was us. God designed evolution to produce people.

Dennis uses the analogy, not of Jesus turning water into wine, but of a baby being formed in the womb. The process of foetal development takes time and passes through many stages, but eventually becomes a newborn baby. It is a purely natural process, but a natural process God designed to produce people. Evolution, then, is God’s embryological approach to creation.

But Genesis 2:7 says specifically that it was God who formed Adam and not some impersonal process of evolution. Yes, just as David said it was God who formed him in his mother’s womb:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
~ King David (Psalm 139:13-15)

On the one hand, gestation in the womb is a completely natural process, explained by scientific processes. And yet at the same time, the Bible says it is a miracle; God’s personal involvement in the creation each and every life.

We see both aspects of the natural and supernatural in Job’s statement:

Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?
~ Job (Job 10:9)

See that? Job claims God personally molded him from the dust – just like Genesis describes the creation of Adam! So, here we see that the Bible can speak of a natural event (being born from a woman) in supernatural terms (being molded from the dust personally and directly by God).

Maybe, just maybe, this is similar to what the Bible tells us about Adam and Eve.

Whatever the right answer, I’m glad on judgement day Jesus will not ask for our theory about the origins of life on earth as our pass card into heaven. A faith that follows Jesus – that’s what makes us Christians and unites us as Christians. And that is a genuine miracle.

Peace,

Tags : Adam and EveCreationGenesis

16 Comments

  1. Thank you Bruxy. The most refreshing thing that has come out of this series for me is a renewed sense of awe at the genius of God. The subversive anti religious, and relationship loving message of the creation story in the ANE context has been blowing my mind! Whatever the view on whether it’s literal or historical, the mind behind the message here is divine genius.

  2. I love this series Brux.
    I’m totally in the 3rd ‘largely literary’ camp.

    It’s one of the many things I love about our Meeting House. We are free to have different views and still be family together.

  3. There is a credible scientific and biblical position on this that you are either ignorant of or perhaps are purposely disregarding! I would suggest that you invest the $20 US and order a copy of “Who was Adam” by Dr. Fazale Rana and Astrophysicist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. The current edition is updated from the original first edition published 10 years ago and includes data from the human genome project and also DNA comparison data of hominids and humans revealing that all the hominids track down evolutionary dead ends with no connection to modern man.There is no sense in reinventing the wheel when there are scientific answers to our questions so readily accessible!

  4. I believe there are some central truths that can be taken from the primeval history of Europe earth – God’s as a personal creator, mankind as the pinnacle of that creation, mankind’s freely made decision to disobey God and others. It seems to me that the author did not intend (or understand) the process of creation, the timeframe involved etc.

    That said, I find the third view to be somewhat difficult to accept in view in part to the genealogy in Genesis 5. The genealogy seems to a matter of historical interest and fact for the author of Genesis. Aside from this point, I am not certain how to interpret the fall of mankind into sin with the sin effect transferring to all future generations if it were not a decision by actual people at an actual point in time.

    1. I’m pretty sure that I’m descended from one of the people wandering around outside the garden of Eden while Adam and Eve were in there sinning, that’s why I’m free from original sin (unlike the rest of you) 😉 /s

  5. Awesome blog! Like you said (pretty much) and Paul said- to know Christ and him crucified is the truth that matters and forms the basis of the peace and unity Jesus calls us to. The cruciform lens to scripture has completely changed my life and witness of Jesus- with stunning effects of people actually open to hearing! It has also transformed my love and worship of the God Love Is. We are so blessed!

  6. Hey Bruxy. I see myself as a pretty simple man with a pretty simple faith. In a way, I realize that doesn’t sell well in todays culture. I remember the very moment I came to Christ at the age of 16. I craved. I believed. I was satisfied. I came to Christ as a child clinging to a parent. I guess from there I’ve always believed that God can do whatever He wants. So I very much fall under your first grouping of folks.
    Thanks for being a thinker and a teacher. You address issues in a way I never could. You speak to the issue.
    Though I have never said, “just believe” to anyone, as it is a dismissive and trite answer, I’ve concluded that it’s exactly how I live. God is able and can accomplish whatever He wants.

  7. Both Jesus and Paul regarded Adam as literally real people. That holds an amazing amount of weight in my book. Christ spoke about the permanence of marriage quoting Genesis in Matthew 19 and Paul mentions Adam more than any other NT writer. Romans 5 is hard to understand if the first Adam is not real and thus his disobedience is not factual. The second Adam, Jesus, did obey and by that perfected obedience we are saved. Seems strange to build a theological point an fairy tale.

    1. I would agree that Jesus referred to Genesis 1 and 2 as history as the ANE world would understand it. (It’s Acient Israel rendering of history, which we’re embracing over our Western version as Jesus followers.) However I wonder why he did not name the characters outright. Was it to be assumed as a given? Or was it that Adam and Eve were archetypical characters in that real ANE history of ours?

      Jesus had no problems referring to OT characters directly by name but didn’t do with the Male and Female reference. Makes me wonder if there’s something else going on that we should pause to ensure this is the correct biblical assumption.

  8. Hey Bruxy !

    Great second session for this series.

    I just noticed that the text of Gen 2:17 says that “in” the day you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil)

    It says IN not ON like “back IN the day” and could be indicating an era of time. So it could be that we are still IN the era of eating and dying that Adam and Eve lead us into. IN this day, we all eat, and we all die. 600 year old Adam still died ,,, so that’s 219,000 days late ! And everyone since has died and continues to, up to this day and beyond !

  9. Here is one more speculative idea. God created the Garden of Eden with the distinct purpose of creating Adam and Eve to begin the process of forming relationship with a people group. God set them apart in a place that was not quite Heaven and not quite Earth. While this was happening evolution was taking place outside of the Garden. In this scenario the Hebrew account of the world being 6,000 year old is a direct reference to Adam and Eve at the eviction from paradise and into reality.

  10. Thank you for your post Bruxy. I especially appreciate how charitable you are to each view. Many times when I listen to you speak or read your blog I am reminded of the importance of approaching these sorts of issues with such charity. And this is for the purpose of continually working toward unity. God bless.

    1. I love this Jesus-centred theology. I first encountered your application of this back in your “Beyond the Grave” series, in regard to various views on Heaven and Hell. Having grown up in a denomination that insisted one must believe all the “right” details of every doctrine in order to be saved, I find this Christocentric viewpoint both Biblical and Freeing. Thank you!

  11. I’m wondering if Genesis 2:19 ( where Adam names the animals) is God teaching Adam to communicate before he meets Eve? I wonder if God and Adam were having a conversation regarding naming with purpose …intentional communication is a building block to relationship. Bruxy suggested this might have been God giving Adam the opportunity to be creative. What is creativity?

  12. The use of the miraculous appearance of wine at the wedding at Cana is not a good example of the use of appearance of age argument. In fact it was the lack of appearance of age that made the miracle at Cana a bona fide miracle. When the water gets turned into wine there is no suggestion in the story that time was involved in that miracle. Sure normal wine production takes time, and the people in that day realized that making good wine, as this wine evidently was takes directed human effort, employing the laws of nature to produce a desired result over the course many months. But when people saw the water turn into wine they were under no illusion that the wine came from a process requiring the effort of winemakers. There was also no competing theory that the wine came from somewhere else such as the local winemakers pouring out water the after in jars and replacing it with their own fermented juice. People knew that it was a miracle since they had other examples of how wine came to be, to compare it against. Normal wine takes months. The best wine takes years. And this wine being the best was created instantly . It was this comparison that allowed people to validate this event as a miracle. When the water was turned into wine there was no sense that God meant to show us evidence that the wine took many years to create when in reality it happened in an instant. There is no element of deceit in this miracle. The result was plainly seen and the implications plainly stated.

    On the other hand the appearance of Adam was not like this at all. The evidence in the human genome points to multiple progenitors of the human race. All the evidence of the appearance of Adam shows that time was required to produce humans from prior life forms. So in contrast to the wine miracle in this case there is a compelling alternate theory supported by mountains of evidence that it took lots of time for evolution to produce humans and that the apparent age of the universe is a reality and not an illusion. To think that God created Adam as if he was the product of evolution when in fact he was created in an instant seems to make Him out to be deceitful by having Him plant false evidence that would lead us to false conclusions. To me that doesn’t sound like a God whose creation declares His glory. And if that were true then how could I believe that anything in this world is true since any evidence I have, even the Bible itself, could just be the “Appearance of Something “ and not the evidence of something. My whole epistemological framework would become a vapour.

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