Last year Joshua Swamidass, an Evolutionary Creationist who believes in a historic Adam, set a challenge called The 100 Year Old Tree to examine the question of the implications of a specially-created Adam. This was predicated on the fact that human beings appear to have a genetic history reaching back long before the young earth time frame for an Adam who is the first progenitor of humanity. Most ECs, of course, also argue that man has genetic footprints revealing his animal ancestry.
It may be helpful to reprint Joshua’s imaginary scenario at this point:
Let us imagine that God creates a fully grown tree today, and places it in a forest. A week later, a scientist and a theologian encounter this tree. The theologian believes that God is trustworthy and has clearly communicated to him that this tree was created just a week ago. The scientist bores a hole in the tree, and counts its rings. There are 100 rings, so he concludes that the tree is 100 years old. Who is right? In some senses, both the scientist and the theologian are right. God created a one week old tree (the true age) that looks 100 years old (the scientific age). Moreover, it would be absurd for the theologian to deny the 100 rings that the scientist uncovered, or to dispute the scientific age of the tree. Likewise, the scientist cannot really presume to disprove God.
Instead, the theologian should wonder why God would not leave clear, indisputable evidence that the tree is just a week old. My question to the theologians: Why might God choose not to leave evidence that this 100-year old tree is one week old? Alternatively, why might God choose to leave evidence that the week-old tree is 100 years old?
My full response (one of only three put up on his site, as it turned out) is here. I looked in some detail at philosophical reasons why the de novo tree (which in the scenario indisputably is new but looks old) is actually only seen as old by the scientist because of an understandable, but erroneous, confusion in relation to formal causation. But the obvious trigger for such an exercise is the oft-raised question of deception on God’s part, if man or any other part of creation should have a pseudo-history, such as tree rings or ancestral genetic markers, attached to it.
Although Joshua raised this matter of theodicy in relation to Adam, I noticed its similarity to similar discussions about Young Earth creationism as a whole, which seems to imply God’s falsely creating distant astronomical objects with an existing photon stream stretching across the light years, sedimentary rocks and decaying natural isotopes appearing much older than they are and so on.
There does indeed seem to be something intuitively wrong about this “Last Tuesdayism” (We all think we’ve been alive for decades, but the world was actually created last Tuesday, including all our memories). On the other hand, for most of two millennia and more a literal six-day creation was almost universally assumed by Jews and Christians alike, with Adam being formed during the first week and placed in the mature garden of Eden with all its fruiting trees, in many opinions to sin even before his first sunset.
I don’t know how much things like the endowment of Adam and Eve with navels was seriously considered by past divines,though it seems a surprisingly common question for internet posters to discuss. But although Irenaeus, for example, considered their fall to be linked to immaturity, there was no disagreement that they were essentially created as adults, and therefore, to outside appearances, created having the false appearance of a life-history whether or not they were ennaveled(!).
The thing only appears to be a troubling question because modern scientists have become so used to the article of faith that they are studying natural reality, rather than natural phenomena (ie appearances). This is an epistemological error the mediaeval philosophers didn’t make, for they realised that what we conclude from our senses can be said to match, or not to match, reality – but cannot be demonstrated to be reality.
But I was recently discussing the Virgin Birth with someone, when it occurred to me that whether or not Adam was specially created, Bible-believing evolutionists simply have to lump the reality that God has the right to create a reality that would lead a scientist to false conclusions. Here’s why.
I remember as a teenager reading John Robinson’s Honest to God. The burden of the book was that “modern man” simply cannot accept traditional talk of miracles and so on because … science, modernism etc. I was slightly annoyed that at the tender age of sixteen I could not be “modern” because I had no trouble accepting miracles. But I was even more annoyed (as a zoology student) by his know-it-all assurance that if Jesus had been born of a virgin, he would have been a she, lacking a Y-chromosome. Ergo, modern man cannot believe in the Virgin Birth.
I am familiar enough with theistic evolutionists to know that a few atavistic positivists would indeed still find that argument a persuasive demonstration of the Bible’s erroneous worldview. But there are, thank the Lord, enough who are aware of the irrationality of scientism to say that Robinson knew “neither the scriptures, nor the power of God” in this matter. However, I suspect many more than the positivists would be troubled by the fact that any version of the Virgin Birth can be taken as evidence of God’s deceiving mankind in the Incarnation.
It is, of course, impossible to sequence the Lord Jesus’s genome, unless such could be reassembled and distinguished from those of thousands of others on a genuine Shroud of Turin or a piece of the True Cross. But that doesn’t alter the principle of the thing, that however you imagine it, Jesus would give some appearance contrary to his apparent history, whether scientifically, or simply by homespun family resemblance.
Suppose, for example (and it is the most implausible scenario of all) Jesus received all his genes from Mary, yet appeared as a male rather than an XO or XX female. That would be a supreme deception in every way, and not least because the promised King of David’s line would be a Queen. Very pleasing for gender-fluidity advocates, but in cultural context a non-starter.
But in fact the virgin birth (if one considers its theology seriously) is not built around Jesus having no human father, nor does it imply that his Father is God, as opposed to man. The emphasis is wholly on the miraculous nature of his human conception as the true, representative, man, his human nature (from Adam) being united to his divine nature as the eternal Son (from the Father). This truth would not, as far as I can tell, have been affected had Jesus been conceived biologically in the normal way, yet with the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing in addition. That’s a good reason for affirming its historicity – there was simply no compelling theological reason for the early Church to make it up.
Therefore, Jesus can be expected to have had half his genes from Mary, and half from “the human father he never had”. But who would that genetic father have been? It is, of course, an unanswerable question, for we have no good reason to be told. However, I’ve long felt the Bible may give an answer in the fact that Jesus is said to be “the son of David”. It would not surprise me were I to find out (in the age to come – I can’t conceive any possibility prior to that) that the Y-chromosome Jesus carried was that of King David, and maybe the rest of his paternal genetic complement was too. It would be simplicity itself for God to make that happen.
But whether that were so or not, it must necessarily be the case that his genome, if made “in like manner” to ours, would have a closest match in some male member of the population, who would thus be the best-fit “scientific” candidate for Jesus’s biological father even if the match were not perfect. And that conclusion, given the truth of the virgin birth, would be utterly wrong.
Even if no such actual match were found by sequencing the entire Jewish population, or the whole human race, for Jesus to be truly a man and a Jew (both essential components of his role as our representative before God) he must have had genuinely human genes that would suggest a genetic history as indicative of universal common ancestry as yours or mine. But the half of that history not coming from Mary would, in fact, be deceptive: though his humanity, created by God, would be utterly genuine.
Theologians may, and no doubt some do, huff and puff about how for Jesus not to have a genuine genetic history puts him outside the human race, and therefore unable to stand in our place. But the fact is that the same Scriptures that teach his solidarity with humanity also teach not only his divinity, but the Virgin Birth. Human reason at some point has to surrender to God’s truth.
Now, I hope you appreciate that I’m really not losing sleep meddling in imponderables like the genetic profile of Jesus – he is my Saviour and Lord, not an experimental subject. But the speculation demonstrates that it cannot be incompatible with God’s moral character to create a being whose history, according the the usual scientific assumptions, is false (but only, note, because those scientific assumptions were misapplied on a false principle that God never redirects the closed system of efficient causation in nature).
There is an application of this conclusion apart from the question of the special creation of Adam or a finished earth in 4004BC, and that applies to biological science. My last post mentioned, in passing, the disparity between the fossil record and the assumed phylogenetic history (morphological and genetic) of, in this case, snakeflies. Snakefly fossils date back only to the Jurassic – their origin “ought” to be back in the Permian. This is an all-too-common phenomenon, usually blithely attributed to the paucity of the fossil record.
But that assumption is based on no evidence, but simply on the assumption of the truth of current (gradualist) evolutionary theory. It might be true if the fossil record is deceiving us about virtually every single actual divergence in the
tree bush lawn of life. Yet just suppose new taxa actually arose from some non-gradualist, non-Darwinian circumstances? For example, theologically one might consider progressive creation, in which God modifies wholesale some chosen examples of a pre-existing species. But we needn’t even assume such a supernatural process: some saltational mechanism as yet unknown would do, like those mysterious self-organising principles propounded via ideas such as that information is entropy, and so evolutionary novelty is inevitable. Or it might even be something a bit more plausible like Richard Goldschmidt’s hopeful monsters.
The point is that any conceivable saltational process known only from its results, and in ignorance of its immediate precursor, will necessarily create for the believer in gradualism the strong impression of a history that never happened. Even if the new creature and its own mother were both fossilised and dug up, they could only be regarded, on gradualism, as sister taxa with a distant common ancestor whose age would be calculated according to the number of different features through cladistics or (if the saltation occurred last Tuesday) the degree of genetic difference.
In such a case, the problem would not be that God, or nature, were being deceptive. The cause would be the more prosaic issue that the prevalent theory was flat wrong, at least in that case. To know the significance of your tree rings for sure, you have to have watched your tree grow. In the case of Jesus, even watching him grow up wouldn’t reveal his true biological history – and that must be equally so for any true act of creation.
Any discontinuity in the world, then, will inevitably generate a false history to those committed to continuity. Deception simply doesn’t come into the matter, except at the subjective level of a belief in universal continuity that is, in effect, religious – it is actually effectively deism.
The question then becomes whether such discontinuities do exist in the world, and where they are… and, of course, how one could ever distinguish them from histories of efficient causes.