Evo Believo

One of the things I find most perplexing about theistic evolution, in the guise of BioLogos, at least, is how unnecessarily skewed against mainstream evangelical teaching much of it is. I don’t think this is the fault of people like president Darrel Falk. In a recent blog, he corrects an item on NPR (“an American Radio network, I believe, M’Lud”) which seems to make belief in evolution antithetical to belief in a historic Adam and Eve.

Darrel points out that BioLogos does not consider the two to be incompatible, and that a range of views is consistent with its position. That seems to me very reasonable, whatever Falk’s personal position might happen to be. What is more perplexing to me is how very few responders to the post support this stance (and this is typical of similar discussions on BioLogos). The thread, like others, has a few contributions from those unsympathetic to evolution who, of course, regard BioLogos as theologically compromised for leaving any space to de-historicize Adam. There are rather more posts from known atheists wanting, as so often seems the case, to pressure an overtly Christian theistic site to come out against both God and the Bible. But most of the rest are from core supporters, who almost with one voice, are critical of Falk for his apparent support for the concept of the historical pair.

As Darrel Falk quite rightly says in the article, the matter need not be related to scientific evidence at all, once one has accepted the precept that, on genetic grounds, Adam and Eve cannot have been the first Homo sapiens. But then the Bible does not explicitly say they were. The issue, then, is theological: does one read Genesis 2-3 in purely metaphorical terms, or in some proto-historical sense? And in either case, how does one map the story to ones reading of the rest of the Bible, to history and to theology?

These are all interesting, maybe even vital, theological issues. But they have no bearing on the relationship between science and religion, and so should it should not be considered necessary for an organisation like BioLogos to take an official stance on them, any more than it would be helpful for it to insist it was Arminian, premillennial  or presbyterian.

In any case, since BioLogos does declare itself to be primarily a servant of the Evangelical community, it is surprising that it has so few posters who actually express support for mainstream doctrines (and, even now, the historicity of Adam and Eve is the mainstream Evangelical position). Why would this be? Is it that Evangelicals are unsympathetic to theistic evolution and are all Young Earth Creationists? That may be so in the US, but it’s certainly not the case in the UK.

Could it be that TEs are the Brights of the Christian world, and have a more intellectually rigorous approach to understanding Scripture? Well, maybe, but I haven’t noticed most of those posting on BioLogos to be theologically that well-informed.

Could it be that  the teaching most US BioLogos types have received in their churches is just crap? Perish the thought! Though that seems to be the opinion of some of my Canadian and British friends familiar with the American scene.

It may not be entirely irrelevant that the Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies at BioLogos, Peter Enns, takes a decidedly post-modern stance on Scripture, currently being in the middle of a 14 part (so far!) series raising many questions about the authority and reliability of the Bible but answering very few. If ones theological advisers are well out in left field, it’s pretty likely to affect ones perceived position and, therefore, those who are drawn into ones fold and those who conclude one is not talking their theological language.

In my view, in accepting the science relating to evolution, there is no need for any fundamental revision of Evangelical doctrine at all, any more than the acceptance of Copernican cosmology required any more theological adjustment than a reappraisal of the Bible’s materialistic literalism. You can have a high view of Scripture’s reliability in matters both of spiritual truth and factual accuracy, with the proviso, which itself is mainstream Evangelical teaching, that one pays attention to genre and authorial intention.

I, for one, feel a lot more comfortable relying on both of God’s two books. It would be nice to hear if anyone else feels that way.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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5 Responses to Evo Believo

  1. Cal says:

    Hi Jon,

    I left a little remark on the site and yes, it seems everyone’s stuck in the same old rut of making Adam and Eve not only the first ‘Human’ but also it seems the first Homo sapiens (whatever that really means) or even the first Hominid (I’ve read some of the nonsense of neanderthals being diseased Humans).

    Though I don’t believe the idea has every really been circulated, I always thought that perhaps the ‘Sons of God’ and ‘Daughters of Man’ were rather Humans mating with non-Human hominids. Again, this is my own conjecture and I haven’t thought through much of the consequences (though there are some genetics to say such did happen), but I digress.

    Mainly, I’ve come to answer your last request and say that the two books “Creation and Revelation” are the only things for me in regards of curriculum. And I’m certainly glad I have a Teacher dwelling upon me to help instruct and teach how to read these books, and a whole lot of brothers and sisters who sit in the same classroom, as we study together.

    I use to be more along the lines that nature is red in tooth and claw, but I’ve started to move past that. Yet just because nature speaks of His glory, that it is not a tool itself. Even Satan quotes Scripture, and it rather helps understand why Jesus rebukes storms and disease. Evil may appear via nature, but that does not make nature evil. As much as Scripture is evil for being used to justify apartheid, governmental crimes and every sort of unloving attitude or act. Again, digressing..

    I don’t know if I’d consider myself evangelical. Being American it has strange connotations, and I don’t see really anything else to tell folks other than I am a Christian seeking to be orthodox and orthoprax. Keep on right brother, I fight to keep my sanity this side of the Atlantic. For His Ekklesia.


  2. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Nice reply Cal! Thanks.

    The “Sons of God”/”Daughters of Man” passage has been applied to Seth’s v. Cain’s lineage for as long in Christian and Jewish interpretation as the main alternative, which is the mismating of fallen angels with women. Since “non-Adamic hominids” have not featured prominently in theology (though may well have been assumed by the Genesis author) you’re right in saying it’s not circulated much in that context. But any textual difficulties (eg daughters of man = daughters of adam) apply as much to the Seth/Cain interpretation, which has been around.

    I take your point about the ambiguity of the label “Evangelical”. Some of the strange connotations have appeared here as well. I continue to apply it (cautiously) to myself because I committed to it nearly half a century ago and haven’t essentially changed that commitment. Why should I be the one to make up a new word?

    Anyway, Cal, thanks for support – keep the faith.

  3. Avatar photo penman says:

    Hi Jon

    Some of us, of course, would be happy to jump in on BioLogos and defend a historical Adam as the federal head of an existing humankind, whose physiological form God molded through evolutionary processes (probably Shapiro-esque ones). But we’re too busy on other projects! Once my workload is out of the way, I’ll probably re-emerge on BioLogos with my usual (humble) finger-wagging at the false dichotomies you rightly critique…


  4. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Your return is much to be wished for, Penman!

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