Saturday, October 07, 2017

Genealogical Adam and Eve

I don't subscribe to theistic evolution. That said, this is a striking critique of Dennis Venema:


  1. He takes an interesting mediating position, affirming evolution/common ancestry while also affirming a literal Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden being at the headwaters of the human race. While this proposal may not be tenable, he at least tells us what science can and can't tell us along the way, and those are useful observations indeed.

  2. But the intermarriage thesis he's proposing is pretty theologically problematic in view of Jesus' teachings about the connection between God's original intent for marriage and the way it was "in the beginning." For example, if all of these other biological humans out there were men and women in the biologically relevant sense, this doesn't square with Jesus' point that God intended monogamy and that we can tell that by God's making precisely one man and one woman to begin with. Second, he states that Adam and Eve were the first beings capable of a relationship with God but that their children interbred (apparently not sinfully per se, but by the original plan) with all the others "out there." This must mean that God planned from the outset that beings capable of a relationship with him would marry (!!!) and interbreed with beings incapable of a relationship with him. Was that what Adam and Eve were supposed to be teaching their kids about marriage? "Hey, Seth, when you grow up you have the opportunity to go out and marry a soulless hominid who is incapable of a relationship with God and have sex and babies with her. Isn't that exciting?" What could marriage even mean in that scenario for their children? What sort of distinctly human society could be formed from such interbreedings?

    And what about the imago dei and its relation to biology? If the other beings out there were fully biologically similar to and sexually compatible with Adam and Eve and their children, then this distinctly human quality was literally physically invisible. This is somewhat implausible biologically anyway and smacks of a kind of exaggerated caricature of Cartesianism (and I actually *am* a dualist) according to which the body and the mind have no particular connection with each other and having a soul would not make any difference to the form of the body. But aside from that, why then should we in our natural law arguments today place such weight concerning the imago dei upon being *biologically* human? For example, why emphasize that the very young human fetus is a biological human being? Maybe, like those other hominids who interbred with Adam and Eve's offspring, they have a human body but don't yet have that invisible spark that makes them *really* human in the morally relevant sense.

    He's doubtless right that science couldn't rule out God's making a man and woman whose children then intermarried widely with other genetically compatible beings in the surrounding world. But is that really the question? Does calling this man and woman "Adam" and "Eve" correspond to the full range of morally and theologically important meanings of those names? I don't think it does.