Sunday, June 26, 2011

Debate over Adam Rises to the Top

It has been a big year for faith and science.  While some Christians in secular colleges deny any tension between faith and science (they mean Christianity and Evolution), at the seminaries and Christian colleges a debate is raging.  In the past the debate may have been over the age of the earth or intelligent design, but today it centers on the historicity of Adam. 

The debate has caught the attention of at least two prominent Christian magazines:  Christianity Today and World Magazine. 

World Magazine Announces Books of the Year

A very nice feature of the World Magazine co-Book of the Year, Should Christians Embrace Evolution? , is that it contains the most up to date thoughts and theories in both the theological and the scientific realms.

The other World Magazine co-book of the Year, God and Evolution, according to Evolution News and Views, "features essays by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars critical of the growing effort by advocates of theistic evolution such as Francis Collins to persuade leaders of the faith community to change their theology without hearing from scientists who are skeptical of the claims of unguided Darwinian evolution."

The June 2011 issue of Christianity Today offered a major cover story, The Search for the Historical Adam

The CT article gives a variety of viewpoints from various players in the debate, from secular academia to seminaries to pastors.

One reason for all the commotion is the well funded Biologos organization, and it's founder, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and former Human Genome project director.  Also a born again Christian, Collins is promoting Theistic Evolution, the idea that God used evolution to create over long periods of time.  His position has given him a powerful platform to spread his views. 

World Magazine cites Bill Dembski, Intelligent Design promoter, as saying, "Theistic Evolution akes the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptizes it".

The promoters of Theistic Evolution feel they have overwhelming scientific evidence for the common descent of all life on earth from an early, simple life form.  Others are not convinced, and offer an interpretation that points to special creation.  Many further contend that evolution is favored in academia only because of philosophical bias against supernatural intervention.

The problem, as stated well in the World Magazine article, is that, "Most theistic evolutionists have no room in their Darwinist theory for the special creation of Adam and Eve."

The idea of Theistic Evolution has also received significant push back from prominent pastors and theologians. 
The Christianity Today article, quotes Tim Keller as writing,

"[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority," Keller wrote. "If Adam doesn't exist, Paul's whole argument—that both sin and grace work 'covenantally'—falls apart. You can't say that 'Paul was a man of his time' but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don't believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul's teaching."

If you read liberal commentaries on this topic you find that even the liberal theologions believe that Paul thought Adam was a real historical figure, they just believe he was ill informed - wrong.  So much for divine inspiration!

CT also says, "...physicist John A. Bloom, director of Biola University's science and religion program, wrote that if there was merely a population of pre-Adamic hominids that "collectively evolved into modern man, then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged: If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?"

Bloom highlights the core of the problem.  Eliminating a real Adam destroys the foundational Christian doctrine of salvation. 

To end the article Christianity Today stuns us with,
"South Carolina pastor Richard Phillips, a blogger with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, sees serious doctrinal danger if the historical Adam disappears. 'Can the Bible's theology be true if the historical events on which the theology is based are false?' he asks. If science trumps Scripture, what does this mean for the virgin birth of Jesus, or his miracles, or his resurrection? 'The hermeneutics behind theistic evolution are a Trojan horse that, once inside our gates, must cause the entire fortress of Christian belief to fall.'"

It is foolish to change theology based on so called "modern science".  The prevailing philosophy of science assumes there is no intervention of God.  Science, thus defined, will never accept special creation, or intelligent design, no matter what the evidence shows.  This is exactly why intelligent design was rejected in the Dover, PA trial five years ago.  It was rejected by definition, not by it's evidence.  Why should the church bow to such tyranny? 

The most sustained case for a historical Adam comes from chapter 3 of the World Magazine co-Book of the Year, Should Christians Embrace Evolution?  That article, "Adam and Eve", authored by Michael Reeves, gives a detailed theological rebuke of Adam as a figure or group or awakened chimpanzee. 

World Magazine summarizes the debate this way:

"The battle is between biblical Christianity and theological liberalism, which views Adam as mythical and Jesus as symbolic. For that reason Reeves, leaving himself open to condemnation from those who would fudge the issues, points out that debates about Adam and Eve are 'inescapably foundational in that they really represent a debate between the Christian gospel and an entirely different approach to God and salvation.'"

Meanwhile, many Christian students where I work don't think that evolution has any significant bearing on theology, and they look to the academic elite Christians in secular positions, like Francis Collins, as their heroes.  Others would say the evolution - creation debate is a non-issue or a side issue or a fabricated conflict.  As you can see, these viewpoints are out of touch with reality.

As a campus minister at an influential secular academic institution, I have a lot of work to do, not only among the unbelievers, but also among the believers!  Please pray for me.