EVOLUTIONARY CREATIONISM AND REFORMED THEOLOGY
I said that there are several different ways in which we could envisage Adam fitting into an Evolutionary Creationist scenario. The key question is how Adam relates to the rest of the image-bearing race in terms of (i) their original possession of the divine image, and (ii) the transition into a state of sin and death.
My preferred model is as follows – I invite other Evolutionary Creationists who accept Adam to join the discussion and suggest alternatives. First, I envisage God bestowing His image collectively on the whole of the existing race of anatomically modern humans. How far advanced linguistically, technologically, artistically, musically, etc, humans can be without possessing the divine image, I do not fully know. Nor am I sure what immediate and evident effects the bestowal of the image would have brought, in terms of observable differences in the historical record (what should we be looking for?).
However, I postulate this collective bestowal of the divine image on the existing race of anatomically modern humans, which would perhaps have been experienced by them as a collective quantum leap into God-consciousness. It seems to me that Genesis 1 is best read as describing the creation of a race – humanity – rather than exclusively of Adam and Eve, who I think first appear in Genesis 2. In my model, then, Adam is not the biological father of all Homo divinus humans. But I see nothing in the text that requires him to be. He is the ancestor of his own line, the Adamic line, through which descends the Promise of the Messianic Seed. The contemporaneous existence of other humans would explain who Cain feared might kill him and where he got his wife.
Two of these newly Homo divinus humans – our historical Adam and Eve – were then taken by God, invested with a royal and priestly dignity over the rest, and placed in the Garden of Eden as a palace-temple. (It seems Adam alone was placed there at first, with Eve coming later: so the text indicates, however we interpret the details.) Adams priesthood is entailed by the abundant parallels between the Garden of Eden and the Jerusalem temple, and the cultic language used in Genesis to describe Adams activities in tending and keeping the Garden.. Many studies have developed this theme; I must leave it to the reader to explore them. Adams kingship is suggested (for example) by Ezekiel 38:12ff, where the king of Tyre is described in richly Adamic imagery.
To Adam and Eve, as the priestly king and queen of the race, the races destiny was committed. These two represented the whole of humankind in Gods presence in the Garden Temple. In this regard, I accept the historic Reformed view of an original covenant between God and humanity in Eden: traditionally the Covenant of Works, although I prefer other equally historic descriptions (Covenant of Eden, Covenant of Innocence, Covenant of Life, or perhaps Adamic Covenant, but Im not sure how historic this last one is). Adam was therefore the kingly, priestly, federal head of the race.
How exactly Adams transgression of the Covenant brought about the Fall of the entire race – the mechanism of causation – I do not profess to know. There are unrevealed mysteries here. Any theological model is surely faced with mysteries at this point. My model has been critiqued because it leads to people thousands of miles away from Eden suddenly waking up (as it were), after Adam had sinned, to find themselves sinners-doomed-to-die, without having done a thing personally to bring this about. As an effective critique, I suggest this is a sort of optical illusion, because exactly the same critique can be made (and has been made) of the traditional model. After all, on the traditional model, here we are, not only thousands of miles but thousands of years away from Eden, born as sinners-doomed-to-die, without ourselves having done a thing personally to bring this about!
I see no substantial difference in my model. We all have to deal with the meaningful participation of the whole race in Adams sin, when no other individuals were present in the Garden (other than Eve). I doubt whether any model is overwhelmingly successful, at least not in resolving this specific mystery. It remains a biblical fact, however, that Adams sin was a race-sin, in whatever way we conceive of the mode of the races solidarity with Adam in his sin. We shouldnt allow our ignorance of the mode (how did the race meaningfully participate in the Edenic sin?) to undermine our belief in the revealed fact (the race did indeed meaningfully participate in the Edenic sin). There are many parallel mysteries, e.g. our ignorance of the precise mode of the union of deity and humanity in Christ, but our belief in the fact. There is a place for mystery and principled theological agnosticism. The art lies in locating the mysteries in the right places.
Even so, the priestly and kingly imagery associated with Adam sheds some light. Both suggest some sort of mediatorial role. Israels high priest represented all Israel before God, bearing the names of the twelve tribes on his breastplate (Exodus 28 and 39). He therefore brought the people into Gods presence, and Gods blessing to the people. If Adam and Eve were high priest and priestess of humanity, their presence in the Garden Temple, and their expulsion from it, immediately gain a colossal corporate significance for the race. Similar things could be said about the mediatorial role of Israels king. When the king sinned, the land and nation suffered, because king, land, and people were one in Gods sight. Hence the sin of the original high king and high queen of humanity had in-built repercussions for their nation (humankind, now fallen into servitude to sin and death) and for their land (the earth, now defiled by human sin and death).
None of this explains the mystery of human unity, of solidarity with Adam, but it does illustrate it and give it a biblical context. Ultimately, though, we are still left with faiths confession, expressed eloquently by Ambrose of Milan: In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of paradise, in Adam I died. How shall the Lord call me back unless He finds me in Adam, so that as I was liable to guilt and owing death in him, so now in Christ I am justified?
A historical Fall, then, as well as a historical Adam, remains an integral part of my theology. One might ask how human death fits into an Evolutionary Creationist scheme. (I should make it clear that I understand the death to which the Fall has subjected us as physical as well as spiritual in nature.) There is, I would submit, no difficulty here. When God first bestowed His image on humanity, Homo divinus was neither immortal nor doomed-to-die, but (as Augustine said long ago) suspended between the two possibilities. In the weaker sense of mortality – capable of dying – Homo divinus was mortal. Had we obeyed, we would have been granted immortality. Disobedience, however, cut off that possibility, so that we became mortal in the stronger sense of doomed-to-die.
In that sense, human death is the fruit of the Fall. The Edenic sin has brought it about that humankind is now not merely capable of dying but doomed-to-die: in Augustinian vocabulary, not merely able to die, but unable not to die. Immortality is now no longer possible, except through the intervention of the Second Adam.
There, in a nutshell, is how I personally construe the place of Adam in a wider worldview that accepts Evolutionary Creationism. Embracing the General Theory of Evolution does not require abandoning Adam; we have every biblical and theological reason to retain him. And we can indeed retain him within an Evolutionary Creationist framework. Attempts to eliminate him in the name of evolutionary science are, I would suggest, both gratuitously unnecessary, and inflict grave damage on the theological fabric of orthodox belief. There is a better way. This essay is one effort at envisaging it.