Monday, April 15, 2013

Misframing Adam and evolution

I will comment on this post:

My starting point for how I handle this issue of Adam is twofold: (1) I accept the overwhelming scientific consensus concerning evolution, and (2) our considerable knowledge of  how ancient stories of origins functioned. These factors affect how we read the Adam story and they cannot be dismissed or marginalized.

From an exegetical standpoint, why would his belief in evolution affect how he reads Gen 2? Isn’t a major rationale of the grammatico-historical method to guard against anachronistic interpretations? Surely reinterpreting Gen 2 in light of evolution defies the outlook of the narrator and his target audience.

It strains credulity to think that, of all ancient peoples with origins stories, Israel alone escaped this story-telling mentality and gave us something approximating “history” or “science” in the modern sense.

i) This is unintentionally comical. Notice how he poses the question. Basically, he’s asking, what are the chances that Scripture beat the odds?

What this ignores is a little thing called divine inspiration. It was never a question of whether Israel would naturally resist cultural misconceptions.

Of course, Enns denies the inspiration of Scripture. My point is that he isn’t even considering the inspiration of Scripture for the sake of argument. He doesn’t bother to address the obvious counterargument to his objection. So his objection is a straw man.

The tensions between evolution and evangelicalism are real and cannot be “fixed” by simply “grafting” evolution onto evangelicalism. The two most common ways of doing that are by (1) making Adam and Eve into a pair of hominids chosen by God to be the “first,” and (2) making Adam and Eve a “gene pool” of the earliest hominid group, according to genetic studies.

Both of these options fail because they are ad hoc, i.e., made up to support a position once wishes to maintain. A more spiritually and intellectually satisfying way forward is to leave aside ad hoc explanations and take a more exploratory, dialogical approach to solving the issue.

I agree with him. However, his own “Incarnational” model/Israel=Adam compromise is equally ad hoc.

Neither literalism nor inerrancy should be given the status of default positions of orthodoxy. They are themselves theories of how the Bible works that are as open to scrutiny as any.

As scholars like Warfield have documented, this is based on the self-witness of Scripture.

Inerrancy in particular has a difficult time accounting for how the Bible looks so “untended” and “misbehaved” by inerrantist standards.

That’s an odd statement. Does Scripture looks so “untended” and “misbehaved” by inerrantist standards. Enns is clearly judging the appearance of Scripture by his own standards, not inerrantist standards.

Speaking for myself, Scripture looks the way I’d expect an inspired communication to look which was revealed in the idioms of the receptor culture. What we call the organic theory of inspiration.

An incarnational model of Scripture, though hardly the last word, is a better way of accounting for how the Bible behaves than an inerrantist model…

Which D. A. Carson tore to shreds:

…(and C. S. Lewis wasn’t an inerrantist).

A red herring.

A well-rounded approach to addressing the Adam issue is the metaphor of a trialogue of three voices: historical context, canonical context, and Christian tradition. None of these voices is dominant or the judge over the others, including “Christian tradition.”

The historical context includes ancient origins stories that “calibrate” how Genesis and Paul should be read. The canonical context is three levels: exegetical, Old Testament, and New Testament, and each adds its own complex of issues to the discussion. Christian tradition refers to the various Christian iterations of the gospel, all of which are provisional, not the final word on the gospel. (Fleshing out the “trialogue” metaphor was probably the longest section of the paper and it brought in a lot of issues I discuss in my book.)

So the canonical context, which Enns defines as how Scripture itself understands the historicity of Adam, shouldn’t be dominant or the judge over the other two?

Two things were clear to me as the day progressed: (1) Evangelicalism has a number of big questions ahead of it for addressing evolution, and I am not sure the evangelical system is designed to move forward without a lot of soul searching and discomfort.

The Origin of Species was published in 1859. So, no, this is not ahead of us, but behind us. It’s not as if Bible-believing Christians haven’t addressed this issue before.

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