In this final installment, ‘Jeff’ and I returned to Eden and the subject of Adam (along with Eve, this time). As I recall, he expressed his appreciation that I didn’t give any credence to the ability of purely naturalistic processes to “create” the first life or the diversity of life we see now and in the fossil record. But, he was still concerned about my views on Adam, particularly as they pertain to sin and death. Recent discussions in Christian circles, including articles in Christianity Today, have been addressing whether or not the Biblical Adam & Eve were real, historical people. If so, were they Homo sapiens or something else? So, it wasn’t surprising that this came up in our exchange.
Anticipating where he was going, here’s what I said:
“Before you ask, I assure you I believe that the events recorded in Genesis 1-11 were literal, historical events involving (from 1:26 forward) actual, fully human people made in God’s image (Homo sapiens sapiens). I just happen to think that they took place a few years earlier than you do, as allowed by Biblical text (without unnecessarily assuming metaphors) and as indicated by scientific discovery.
I think the Bible clearly teaches that 1) only Man is a spiritual creature and 2) sin is a matter of spiritual rebellion (though often manifested in the physical). Only humans make moral choices that bring “death through sin.” Both Romans 5 and I Cor. 15 state that the death Adam experienced — initially spiritual “death” or separation from God, and later physical death — when he & Eve disobeyed God in the Garden was visited on “all men.” No reference to plants, animals, or other critters. Thus, I have no problem with non-human death before the Fall. In fact, without an ad hoc assumption of divine preservation, it is hard to believe no plants, bugs, or bacteria would have been killed even accidentally — in Eden or outside of it — even in those first few days. Plants & bugs get trampled on or eaten; even bacteria, whose lives are often measured in hours, are used in animal & human digestion.
I agree that God could have created full-“grown” trees/plants just as easily as He did an adult-sized man. But, none of this ever need call into question what God CAN do or COULD have done. Rather, it is about what He DID do, even if we don’t fully understand how or why He might have done it that way. What does the Biblical text indicate or allow for — assuming “high view” and good hermeneutic — and what does careful scientific study tell us about General Revelation, the Book of Nature? In both science (i.e., study of the natural world) and theology/hermeneutics (i.e., study of God & His Written Word), we rely on “man’s understanding”, both others’ and our own. We are all “mere men.” But, God is the God of Truth and the Author of both “books”, and when interpreted correctly, they harmonize. I believe they do, starting with the Big Bang (i.e., Gen. 1:1; the creation ex nihilo of all matter, energy, space, & time) through “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-Chromosomal Adam” (i.e., origin of humanity from very small population in northern Africa or vicinity thereof a few thousands of years ago) and beyond. It’s exciting to see how scientific discovery catches up with Scripture!
Btw, you may find the following posts from my blog of interest:
I was looking forward to his response. But, at this point, ‘Jeff’ decided he had had enough dialog on the subject for the time being, and we agreed to end it. It was a good discussion, though. As stated earlier, it gave us a chance to address a few of the YEC/OEC differences and I was able to clarify some misperceptions he had about my OEC position. Maybe we’ll get a chance to continue some other time….