Monday, August 15, 2011

Dose of reality on Adam and Eve

Seems everybody's talking about that NPR story on Adam and Eve last week. I got emails, people asked me about it personally, and there were some blog posts (of course). What's my perspective I've shared my thoughts on Adam and Eve before, but there's one more point I want to make. The NPR story and the Christianity Today cover story might give one the impression that this is a major debate in evangelical Christianity. I think that's a mistake. Those individuals who now question the historicity of Adam and Eve, or rather who question the theological importance of a historical Adam and Eve, represent a minority view in evangelical Christianity. I can cite two sources to back up that claim.

First, the survey done for AIG's book Already Compromised looked at Christian college presidents, academic vice presidents, and heads of religion and science departments. The pool of Christian colleges was largely the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, of which Bryan College is a member. The survey found that 59.6% of the respondents "believe in God creating the earth in six literal 24-hour days," 57.7% "believe the Flood was worldwide," and 42.3% consider themselves young-earth Christians. Although they didn't ask directly about Adam and Eve, those numbers suggest that a majority of evangelical Christian academics in today's colleges hold quite conservative views on the origins of humans.

Second, the survey recently conducted by the American Scientific Affiliation has preliminary results already available in PDF format. To those who might not be familiar with the ASA, they are a group of mostly Protestant Christians who are also scientists. They are widely viewed as a theistic evolution group, and though I think that classification might be a bit of an exaggeration, they are certainly sympathetic to reconciling evolution with Christian theology. In their survey, they asked respondents (of which I was one) to select their view on Adam and Eve, and only 21.6% responded that "There were no historical individuals corresponding to Adam and Eve."

I say this not to denigrate those who make these arguments or to denigrate the importance of this debate. But I also don't want to see people panicking by thinking that there is some huge shift happening in evangelical circles. This current debate is being driven by a savvy and well-funded "thinktank" (BioLogos) that represents a very minority view among even Christians in academia. The centrality of Adam and Eve to the narrative of the Fall and Curse on creation has been enshrined in countless Protestant doctrinal statements, and that's not going to change any time soon. The editors of Christianity Today affirmed the essentiality of Adam and Eve. Even within BioLogos, the historicity of Adam and Eve is not a settled issue. So please don't think this is a huge change. What we're seeing is the call of a few to re-examine these issues. They're just getting a lot of press coverage.

Where will this end? I don't know, but I'm eager to find out.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.