We are going to blog through the new book, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight here at Internet Monk. I, Mike the Geologist, your erstwhile science nerd, will attempt a chapter by chapter summary and discussion of this important book. Unlike the series on the Grand Canyon, here I am more of an informed laymen, but I will strive to my uttermost to faithfully present the science side to you, the Imonk blog readers. But the science of genomics is literally (see what I did there) only half the book. The first four chapters are by Venema and the last four chapters are by McKnight and cover the theological aspects. Fortunately, our own Chaplain Mike is as big a theology nerd as I am a science nerd, and, in fact, knows Scot McKnight personally. So you can expect insightful and thoughtful comments by him that will go to the heart of each issue (not that he doesn’t do that all the time anyway). So, in the second half of the book if I tee up some thoughts and they shank or hook us into the rough, Chaplain Mike will get us back on the fairway, never fear.
Dennis Venema is a professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. – See more at: http://biologos.org/biologos-voices/dennis-venema#sthash.eDtRurRC.dpuf . Dennis is one of the regular bloggers at the Biologos web site, and writes regularly about the biological evidence for evolution. Biologos has some recent introductory posts about the book by Denis Alexander, Ken Keathley, and Pete Enns. In my Science and Bible series, I relied heavily on Dennis’ writings for the genomic portion of that series.
Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades. Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of numerous books including the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Paraclete, 2004), which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living. Scot blogs at Jesus Creed (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/) Scot’s blog is my second click after Imonk. There are introductory posts up at Jesus Creed about the book as well.
The chapters are titled:
- Evolution as Scientific Theory
- Genomes as Language, Genomes as Books
- Adam’s Last Stand?
- What about Intelligent Design
- Adam, Eve, and the Genome: Four Principles for Reading the Bible after the Human Genome Project
- Adam and Eve of Genesis in Their Context: Twelve Theses
- The Variety of Adams and Eves in the Jewish World
- Adam, the Genome, and the Apostle Paul
Did I mention that this is an important book? The foreword is by Tremper Longman. He serves as a Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Tremper Longman, III is an Old Testament scholar, theologian, professor and author of several books, including 2009 ECPA Christian Book Award winner Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. Many of us at Imonk are familiar with Longman, who also blogs frequently at Biologos.
2009 was the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species”, and the evolution controversy has never raged harder within evangelical Protestant circles. The mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003 under the leadership of Francis Collins, who is not only a leading biologist, but a devout evangelical Christian. As Longman writes in the foreword, the evidence provided by the genome, added to the mounting evidence of hominid fossils, testifies to the persuasiveness of the theory presented by Darwin in the mid-nineteenth century.
Of course, the genomic evidence points to another conclusion that disturbs many evangelical Christians- namely, that humanity begins not with a single couple but rather with an original population of some thousands of people.
As Longman says:
“This evidence leads to the now-much-discussed question of the historical Adam. If Adam and Eve were not historical individuals, is the Bible true? Were humans originally innocent? Was there a fall? Is there such a thing as original sin? If, so how does original sin affect us today? These are crucial questions that aren’t easily answered. They are also questions that cannot be ignored by refusing to address them or by vilifying those who hold opinions that are different from the ones we are used to…
I can’t imagine a better combination of thinkers to help us navigate the difficult and controversial waters of questions surrounding evolution and the historical Adam. Dennis and Scot deserve our attention, and their arguments demand our careful consideration. I, for one, thank them for their lifelong work in elucidating God’s “two books”, Scripture and nature, for us.”
I couldn’t agree more with that Longman quote. He is absolutely right, this issue in NOT going away. We evangelical Christians have no choice but to deal with it. We can stick our heads in the sand and deal with it disingenuously, or we can hitch up our big girl panties and deal with it forthrightly. We can stick our fingers in our ears and yell, “BIBLE, BIBLE, BIBLE…” or we can engage honestly with the science and try to figure out what that means for our interpretation of the scriptural writings.
In the Introduction, Dennis recounts his childhood and early adulthood as a Christian steeped in suspicion of science in general and openly hostile to evolution in particular. And yet at the same time he had a deep longing to be a scientist. He resolved this tension by planning to be a medical missionary. But by his third year in university, he was doing real research in cell biology, genetics, and how gene products work at the molecular level. And he was hooked on real science; dropped the plans for medical school, and signed up for a PhD program in genetics and cell biology. His childhood dreams were being fulfilled. I can relate here, as I’ve shared before on this forum, I wanted to be a geologist from the time I was 5 years old.
Now he is on the other side of the equation, teaching biology to undergraduates—many of whom were coming from the similar evangelical background. Like he did, they’ve heard evolution is evil and that they have to choose between the Bible and science. So he is experienced in guiding evangelicals through the process of coming to terms with the science of evolution. He met Scot at a Biologos conference where Scot was speaking, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Scot, for his part, took the time to read Dennis’ articles, and try to understand them. He became convinced that Dennis was right about the genetics and realized that someone with the theological chops needed to put the context of the science in the context of the scriptures. He decided, with Dennis’ urging to participate in a Biologos grant project, that it might as well be him. To quote Scot:
“What follows in Adam and the Genome, then, is a basic introduction to the science of evolution and genetics and how it impinges on the basic claim of many Christians: that you and I, and the rest of humans for all time, come from two solitary individuals, Adam and Eve. Genetics makes that claim impossible—as I understand it. But instead of leading me to hide behind the Bible or insult scientists, genetics sent me into the stacks of books in the library to investigate science with freedom and to ask yet again what Genesis 1-3 was all about in its original context and then how Jews and the earliest Christians understood “Adam” when they said that name.”
Did I mention this is an important book?