The BioLogos thread on the historicity of Adam turns out to be another important one, though the most interesting bit has got hived off to a sub-thread involving the Usual Suspects here, one Ex-Suspect and Christy (who so far is not suspected of anything, though she’d be most welcome on The Hump). I venture to suggest that amongst these there is broad agreement (though they may not fully realise it) that classical Christianity requires that Adam and Eve are not optional, and that attempts to make them so at least amount to new doctrine (so Eddie) and more strongly that such attempts amount to heterodoxy. That a significant strand in the BioLogos leadership don’t see it that way, or don’t think it matters in the light of scientific inevitability, is why I think the BioLogos programme is severely compromised as an attempt at a science-faith synthesis for Evangelicals.
I also don’t think those on that thread are very far apart on agreeing that some kind of Homo divinus model works with both good theology and good science. If I haven’t got him wrong, Eddie wants to avoid any “non-overlapping magisteria” fudge (to which I reply “Amen”, except that close examination of the current science shows it to be largely irrelevant to the Adam queston anyway).
Perhaps he also baulks at the kind of “non-overlapping magisteria on the ground” idea, propounded by the last Pope amongst others, that God creates man’s body by evolution (scientific bit) and adds an immortal soul for Adam (non-scientific bit). To that I replied in my post on that thread that the Catholic concept of an immortal soul is, at best, only a working approximation to what biblical anthropology actually teaches.
All that being so, I want to use it as a springboard for a further exploration here. And that is to look at the links and differences between God’s creation and his election, since many positions obfuscate by failing to distinguish them adequately. For example, regarding Genesis 1 a good number of TEs have fallen into the assumption that God chose the most suitable of the beasts on which to “put his image” in order to create mankind as we know it.
That covers a multitude of positions (and sins, probably): at one incoherent extreme, an autonomous evolution just happens to turn up an intelligent ape rather than an octopus, giving a delighted and probably relieved God “raw materials” for humanity, though others would concede that God somehow influenced the biological outcomes too. And the result of that choosing of a species ranges anywhere from the provision of an immortal soul, as in the Catholic reconstructions, through various more biological views like giving rationality or a sense of symbolism (perhaps at the “Giant Leap Forward” suggested for c40-60K years ago), to a simple matter of bringing certain men or all men into some kind of relationship to himself.
The common feature of all these is that they make the image of God in man a matter of election – choosing. Now Scripture is certainly full of God’s sovereign election of individuals and peoples (sorry, all you Arminians and Pelagians out there). Abraham, the line of “promise” amongst his descendants and the resulting nation of Israel, Moses, David, many of the prophets and so on were all chosen freely and sovereignly by the grace of God for blessing and service – not to mention the teaching about our election to salvation by grace in the New Testament.
But Genesis 1 isn’t about election – it’s about creation; not choosing, but bringing into being from non-existence (or into function from futility, in John Walton’s understanding of the text). Man was created in the image and likeness of God – the image is what makes him a living human being at all. If one regards the image as an addition to man, by God’s election of the species, or of some members of it, then one destroys the unity that in both Hebrew and Thomistic thinking constitutes man. Our bodies become, as in “pie in the sky when you die” quasi-platonic popularisations of Christianity, the dispensible and even hindering encumbrances from which our spiritual souls need to be released. One is left with a dualistic concept of man that truly is incompatible with biblical religion.
How one squares that circle, in the sense of integrating the biological origins of man with what Genesis 1 means by his creation, I don’t know. But I’m happy to be agnostic on that, having concluded already that whatever insights evolution may provide, it cannot give an adequately complete account of our true humanity: it can’t even define it because of the problems evolution has with any kind of universal categories like “man”.
Now let us move on to Genesis 2-4, and ask of the Adam and Eve account the same question: does it speak of creation, or of election? With some confidence I would say that, in genre, it is not a creation account as such – which is why the Hebrew word bara, “create”, doesn’t occur in it at all, recurring only in the summary leading into the next section. Textually, there is no good reason to take its account of the formation of Adam as a restatement of the creation of man in ch1, as indeed many commentators have pointed out. Yes, it speaks of God’s forming Adam from the dust of the ground and breathing his breath into him so that he becomes (note!) a soul, but Walton (ever-helpful) shows how this kind of idiom is widely used in Scripture and elsewhere in the ANE to show simply that our origin is from the earth and from God’s hand: we are all but dust (Ps 103) and God formed each of us (Ps 139).
What actually happens to Adam has the flavour of election, in that he is personally privileged to name (= assign functions) to the animals, he is given an elect wife, he is taken into the garden and assigned his work, he is given access to the eternal life of God and to God himself, and (as I have argued elsewhere) it is hinted, by the prohibition against eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, aka wisdom, that in God his wisdom will also become perfect. Now all these blessings are akin to what is promised to God’s elect throughout the Bible, from Abraham onwards: they are what we too are promised in Christ.
And so I suggest that the emphasis of Genesis 2-4 is on the election of Adam, and subsequently Eve, as individuals. He becomes thereby the archetype of the whole race. This, of course, is quite compatible with the idea that he might have been called, in the cultural time and place laid out in the text, from amongst the already-created race of men – the race created, that is, in and as God’s image. Adam would then be a proto-Abraham, a proto-Israel or a proto-Christ, chosen by grace from amongst men and becoming, in a not altogether different way, a representative on behalf of all men, though one noted for his failure.
However, to say that the story of Adam emphasises, in the Scripture, election is not to exclude creation from it altogether. Although the original Genesis 1 account is about the foundation of the world we live in, Scripture does not limit God’s work in creation to those seven days (you can easily do a word study on bara which demonstrates that clearly). Man is only truly man in relationship to God. He had eternity in his heart from his origin, and that is why we long for eternal life and find death so abhorrent. We were made for God, and Adam was the first to know God. And so it is not surprising that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, bases his argument on Genesis 2-3, saying that man was created first, and woman for man rather than vice versa. I don’t think such language implies that the Adam story is just a re-run of the creation account, but it does suggest that his election to service in the garden involved God as Creator, as well as Covenant-maker.
That, too, ought to be no great surprise. In our time, the election of God is always election in Christ, and election to salvation, good works and eternal life. And the inevitable outcome of that election for any individual believer is this: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
And so, if Adam were indeed taken from the mass of mankind and placed in a sacred precinct, perhaps now covered by waters of the Persian Gulf, he would still be something entirely new in creation, the fountainhead and archetype of humanity and the antitype of Christ.