October 17, 2017

More Creation Questions: Adam & Eve

By Chaplain Mike

It’s time to get back to some basic Biblical and theological questions related to the subject of creation.

In recent posts, I have dealt with Michael Spencer’s view of the creation narratives, the controversy over creation issues prompted by Bruce Waltke’s video, and my own interpretation of Genesis 1.

Today, we begin considering the narratives that follow Genesis 1. For the next question involves how we should understand the stories of the Garden, Adam and Eve, sin and the fall. This came up in our earlier comment threads, and I promised we would take up these narratives in days to come.

As a brief introduction to the subject, I present this video from the Biologos blog. It features Daniel Harrell, who is the Senior Minister of Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota. Before taking this position, Harrell served as associate minister at Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts for over twenty years. He is the author of the book, Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith.


  1. Tim Van Haitsma says:

    I hope he doesn’t lose his job too…

    Nothing wrong with saying we don’t know.

  2. I guess this is one of those issues where Catholics have a bit of an advantage over Protestants. When I was growing up, we were taught in catechism class that the Church accepted the theory of evolution, and that it didn’t conflict with the Bible. Adam and Eve were the first fully human creatures and thus the first ones that God dealt with directly. Or something like that. Anyway, it was just never a problem for us. Of course, you Protestants have a lot more freedom to express your opinions about other issues, so it all evens out. 😉

    • “Protestants” can include those who accept evolution and/or an other-than-strictly-historical-and-literalistic understanding of the English translation of Genesis.

  3. ahumanoid says:

    For those who insist that Adam and Eve were the first homo sapiens, I ask who did Cain marry? Also, in relation to Cain, why did he say “I shall be a fugitive and wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Seems like he had more people than just his family to worry about??

    Another question I have is how the Nephilim and the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 play into this?

    • WebMonk says:

      You can get 35 different answers to those questions WITHIN any particular camp on origins. Generally the YEC will answer “sisters and brothers” to your first paragraph questions – Cain and Able weren’t the only or first kids, just the first two mentioned because of their deeds.

      As to your second paragraph questions – like I said, 35 different answers can be found just in 4004BC-KJV-only camp of YEC.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        For those who insist that Adam and Eve were the first homo sapiens, I ask who did Cain marry? — ahumanoid

        Generally the YEC will answer “sisters and brothers” to your first paragraph questions – Cain and Able weren’t the only or first kids, just the first two mentioned because of their deeds. — WebMonk

        Okay. How do they handwave around the corollary — “Incest is Best”?

        Though one joke book proposed an alternative: Cain’s wife evolved from apes while God was making Adam & Eve!

        (Actually, a variant on this DOES make weird sense, if you assume Adam & Eve weren’t ex nihilo creations but the first fully-human Uplifts from a protohuman predecessor. Their fully-human, In God’s Image genome bred true, even with a first generation of non-Uplifted proto-human mates. You need 50 to 500 breeding pairs in a population to prevent genetic degeneration through inbreeding; maybe Adam & Eve’s “In God’s Image” genome not only bred true, but spread through a viable breeding population in the first “Cain’s Wife” generation? There’s a genetic bottleneck indicating a human breeding population that small around 70,000 BC in the aftermath of the Toba supervolcanic eruption; “Genetic Adam” & “Genetic Eve”s DNA trace also points back to that period. This is also the time when complex language seems to have appeared; if YEC’s weren’t so committed to Bishop Ussher’s dating system, this would be an ideal time to place Adam & Eve and the point of “ensoulment”.)

        • I don’t believe we can know the past for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say:

          Incest is bad primarily because of bad recessive genes. Before the Flood, there were no bad recessives.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Isn’t that a variant on “And then A Miracle Happened” or “God Willed It”?

          • Sure. How did Jesus walk on water? Or raise Himself from the dead? God did it.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And so you can easily slip into a God of the Gaps (“We don’t know how this happened, so God Must Have Done It Supernaturally!”)

            Or worse, Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali’s denial of reason, cause & effect into a constant “In’shal’lah”. Where there is no reality, only the instant-by-instant Will (or is that whim?) of a Cosmic Sultan.

            al-Ghazali’s Incohnerence of the Philosophers set Islam down the road to Unreason and blind Faith Faith Faith some 800 years ago, after the trauma of the Mongol Invasions. Look where it got them.

          • David L says:

            “Before the Flood, there were no bad recessives.”

            Excuse me? Where do you get this one?

            Recessive DOES NOT EQUAL bad. It is just a gene that requires a pairing to express itself. (In very overly simplistic terms.)

            So there were no blue eyes, blond or red hair, etc… before the flood?

          • “Bad recessives” there may have been non-bad recessives.

          • “And so you can easily slip into a God of the Gaps (“We don’t know how this happened, so God Must Have Done It Supernaturally!”)

            Or worse, Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali’s denial of reason, cause & effect into a constant “In’shal’lah”. Where there is no reality, only the instant-by-instant Will (or is that whim?) of a Cosmic Sultan.”

            God has always done miracles for a reason, to reveal Himself. With Jesus, God finished the revelation (and the first generation apostles got it all written down). Today we can operate freely under the assumption that miracles won’t happen (although they do). That is why repeating experiments is so important.

          • Malganis says:

            nedbrek wrote: “Incest is bad primarily because of bad recessive genes. Before the Flood, there were no bad recessives.”

            I thought incest was bad because… well, it’s morally bad. And if something is morally wrong, isn’t it always wrong, forever and ever? When did incest become wrong, if it wasn’t always so? With the giving of the Law to the Israelites? Does that mean that everyone marrying their sister or their half-sister or their niece or aunt were morally right to do so before the giving of the Law, and wrong to do so afterwards (or to stay in such a marriage after the Law had been given)?

            Honestly this is one of the questions that perplexes me the most. I have never found a suitable answer.

          • Re. “incest is eternally morally wrong”

            I haven’t studied this is depth, but I am fairly confident – it was morally wrong for the Israelites, as part of the commands given to Moses (a command given to protect them from the genetic consequences). It is wrong today, driven by our understanding of genetics.

            It was not wrong for Cain, Abel, and Seth. It was probably not wrong for Isaac to marry a close relative.

        • Dennis says:

          “Okay. How do they handwave around the corollary — “Incest is Best”?”

          I think regardless of your understandings, incest would have had to occur in our ancestries. Even through the process of evolution, 100 apes didn’t evolve into human beings at one time. At one point–even with evolution, there was a first man and a first woman. From there, incest had to occur.

          Cain likely would have married his sister–or niece or aunt?. Does it say that Cain and Abel were the first born?

          • The latest evolutionary interpretation is that there is no single “first” individual of a species. Rather, an isolated group becomes the species over time.

          • Isn’t “an isolated group becomes a species through interbreeding” a practical definition of incest? Or am I misunderstanding you?

          • It only takes a small number of individuals to avoid the “badness” of incest. I’ve seen some projections as low as a dozen (given the right mix of male and female, and very controlled mate selection). I forget the exact numbers, but 40 or so can avoid the badness.

          • Dennis, I don’t know if you’ve followed Ken Ham’s teachings or not—from Answers in Genesis videos—but his insistence that “Cain married his sister” may be the only logical bit of Bible study that I’ve heard from him. That’s pretty scary, because if his science relies heavily upon the Bible to make it work, it’s no science at all. And other than the reasonably logical conclusion that Cain married his sister, there’s not much in the way of solid Bible study coming from him either. In Mr. Ham’s teaching, it all keeps coming back to the Flood, like a smokescreen, like circular reasoning.

          • Ted,

            I can’t say I’m familiar with Ken Ham. I’m Catholic and haven’t really gotten too involved in YEC vs. Old Earth arguments and am not that familiar with the nuances. My belief is that the earth is old and what’s most important is to get the message out of the Bible instead of taking it literally. Heck, Genesis 2 conflicts with Genesis 1. If we’re to take the Bible literally, we would get stuck by the second chapter of the first book.

          • Ned,

            The latest theory about isolated groups becoming the species over time sounds implausible and like someone trying to fill the holes in the errors of logic in evolution.

            It’s been over 20 years since I was in college, but the way I understood it was slight mutations over long periods of time would create new species. The mutation would happen to one indiviudal animal and then work outward from there.

            That makes sense in a way. To have a whole group of mutated individuals sounds like something out of science fiction.

            All of it does not explain the vast differences between man and animals. The human intellect is so far beyond any animal that evolution doesn’t explain it. Evolutionary theory would have multiple species who had a memory retention and have the ability for technological advances. Multiple species could understand physics or calculus, etc. That didn’t happen.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Heck, Genesis 2 conflicts with Genesis 1. If we’re to take the Bible literally, we would get stuck by the second chapter of the first book. — Dennis

            Or have to build some sort of complex theological construct like Darbyite Dispensationalism to reconcile everything to everything.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            It’s been over 20 years since I was in college, but the way I understood it was slight mutations over long periods of time would create new species. The mutation would happen to one indiviudal animal and then work outward from there. — Dennis

            As I understand Gould’s essays on the subject, a large breeding population would tend to dilute the mutation (probably by countering it with other mutations in the large population). A small breeding population in an edge environment on the fringe of a species’ range would tend to concentrate the mutation like inbreeeding does recessives. Like you need just enough inbreeding to concentrate the mutation but not enough to concentrate destructive recessives. According to this, we should see the “fastest evolutionary steps” in the smaller edge populations.

            I think we might be seeing a macro-example of this in a “Nepalese Elephant” subspecies of Indian Elephant in this one national preserve in Nepal; these were an isolated breeding population of Indian Elephants who seem to be drifting into a distinct “ethnic type”. One of their bulls, nicknamed “Raja Gaz” (King Elephant) was photographed in profile — and resembled a Mammoth so closely in size, profile, and size/shape of tusks — that it triggered a Cryptozoological expedition to investigate if there was actually a surviving Mammoth population. Analysis of DNA samples showed Raja Gaz was an Indian elephant with some minor variations that made him physically resemble a Mammoth — however, there are Pliestocene-era fossils in the area showing similar anatomical variations; the theory is that the isolated population is concentrating recessives — including the recessives of their ancestral species, resulting in a sort of “throwback”. In time, they might drift into a separate subspecies of “Nepalese Indian Elephant”.

          • ahumanoid says:

            @HUG: just as an aside, epigenetics may revolutionize (or at least add some complexity to) our current understanding of evolution. For example, in light of recent discoveries in epigenetics, Lamarckism is no longer the heresy it once was.

    • Ask Zecharia Sitchin. 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Annunaki, Planet X Nibiru, and the legacy of Erich von Daniken?

        And so Art Bell opens up the phone lines, unscreened, East and West of the Rockies…

        Eric, thanks for making all our days a bit more surreal! Glad to not have to be the only one doing so!

    • I encountered a joke theory in Science Made Stupid that posits that Adam and Eve were created by dust from God, but that the wives of Cain and Abel (and Seth for that matter) had evolved. As a compromise that makes everyone both see red and laugh, I particularly like it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I remember the same one. I think I alluded to it on another one of my comments in this thread, and that it actually made some sort of weird sense if you take Adam & Eve being “the first people” as Uplifted proto-humans who could now directly interact with God. Cain & Abel would have taken wives from the surrounding proto-human population, and whatever made the Seed of Adam human would have spread through the population through their descendants.

  4. Looks like the links are to the admin versions of the pages instead of the public ones. I get a WordPress login screen when I click them.

    • Jeff Dunn says:

      They should all be fixed and pointing in the right direction now. Sorry for the problems…

  5. His covenant idea is interesting, but it does bring up questions about the meaning of Imago Dei, the impact of the Fall, etc…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My comment on the above, from a chapter/episode preface in my most recent SF novella:

      “All the species of (fictional space-opera universe) are as fallen and stained with sin as humanity, just in different ways. Apparently true sentience carries with it the potential for sin; the Imago Dei, expressed in whatever form, is always vulnerable. And if the potential for a Fall is there, someone, somewhere, sometime is going to try it.”

      • You’re a writer?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Starting out. Small-press only these days, and this really isn’t the proper forum to go into detail about my dream to be an SF writer, the type of stuff I write, and how bad the market conditions are these days. Fr Obregon (OrthoCuban) who comments here has read my stuff; you might want to continue inquiries through him.

          • Christopher Lake says:


            Ten years ago, when I moved to the D.C. area, I had hopes of eventually being able to support myself as a rock music critic. Talk about bad market conditions… now, I’m just be happy for any kind of steady, full-time job, with a bit of time to write about music on the side! Hopefully, SF will work out better for you though.

  6. I’m preparing for another 100+ comment thread! I will try and watch the video tomorrow morning.

    In the meantime, can anyone say whether he addresses the genetic difficulties of intense inbreeding stemming from two original humans?

    A YEC would say that genetics worked differently before the Flood (the command against inbreeding was not given until Moses).

    • scottee says:

      I never thought the genetic from Adam and Eve would matter, because if you believe in a historic Adam and Eve, don’t you probably also believe in a global flood? Which would mean all the genetics would have to come through Noah, his three sons, and their wives. Though an interesting thought is that I heard someone teach once that Noah’s three sons/their wives branched off and are the reason we have three separate lines of mongoloid, negroid, and caucasoid, and how would this play out if the three wives had pretty different genetic makeups.

      • Arthur Custance “Noah’s Three Sons.” Very good book.

      • Most people who believe in an old Earth do not believe in a literal global flood. Anyone here can feel free to correct me.

        • It is not because I believe in an old earth, but because I don’t think the text indicates a worldwide flood.

          • Uh, oh, Chaplain Mike. You may have just started the next bar-room brawl.

            But back to nedbrek: You’ve mentioned a couple of times that inbreeding wasn’t a problem before the Flood–for example: “A YEC would say that genetics worked differently before the Flood (the command against inbreeding was not given until Moses).”

            Which verse(s) do you get that from?

          • Not a verse, per se. Just that things work differently at different times – but they always work consistently within God’s framework (He is upholding all things). If incest is bad now, but wasn’t then, something must have been different.

          • Mike, then how do you interpret Gen 6:17?
            “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.”

          • Nedbrek, I’m sure this will come out in future posts, but the Hebrew word translated “earth” may also be rendered “land,” and I think this is its consistent meaning throughout Genesis 1-11. I consider these chapters primarily to be “The Early History of the (Promised) Land” not a history of the “earth” in a global sense. The author would have had no conception of the “earth” in those terms.

          • Interesting. But it does relieve the greater problems with an old earth…

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:


            What you said regarding “history of promised land vs history of earth globally” I think I can buy that logic if one considers the possibility that all known land at the time leading up to the flood was clustered in one area of the globe and a land mass large enough to require 40 days/nights of constant rain, water from inside the earth
            coming up etc to cover it to a significant depth – all of it completely. Also have in mind that the rest of the earth (globe) was water covered already since it is suggested in Genesis that dry land was made to appear which makes one think it wasn’t dry initially – that it was covered with water.

            All that said to say yes, you could go there if all known land was clustered in one area of the earth and the rest, perhaps (probably?), was covered with water already.
            Yes, of course I know all that mess above sounds like an uneducated boob talking but, my mind just seems to think that way when trying to deal with these subjects.

            An aside related to Adam and Eve pre-fall versus post-fall – I tend to go with the genetic idea. Something changed that caused bodies (beings) to go from one of perfection ment for an eternal existance just like God who created them to one of
            inferior, degrading over time til death bodies that we know and have. Seems that genetics had to play a role – something changed. Perhaps it could have had something to do with the spirit or inmost part of man becoming dead at the fall – I don’t know…… just some thoughts.

          • I think it is not appropriate to speculate on scientific matters like genetics, natural processes, etc. from Genesis, which was not written to address such questions.

            What we have here is a story, written from a pre-scientific perspective, explaining why things are the way they are for God’s people at a particular place in history. In other words, the focus is covenantal, not scientific. It’s about God’s relationship with his people.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:

            Got it……. really did kinda go off topic…… When my mind gets to churning on things no telling what might come out. Understand though.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:

            Additional……. will say this though for the scientific – genetic, natural processes etc – I do find that exceedingly interesting…….. but that’s for another time/discussion.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m preparing for another 100+ comment thread!

      Because nothing packs ’em in like Evolution, Homosexuality, or parsing theological minutiae for purposes of one-upmanship.

      While pastors’ widows still have to eat out of dumpsters. (And right now it’s looking like my writing partner will have to support a wife and three kids the same way.)

      • Perhaps he should write a book about a half-evolved homosexual theologian. Actually, I imagine I could get a publisher interested in that. And that is just so, so wrong…

    • cermak_rd says:

      How can anyone know? After all, in the Flood story, there is a reference to clean and unclean beasts. Genesis chap 7:

      “2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, each with his mate; and of the beasts that are not clean two and two, each with his mate;”

      If one is a literalist, that would imply that some elements of the Law were already in place prior to the Flood.

      Mind you, most Rabbis would say it’s a sign that a later editor of the Torah wanted to make the point that Noah was a good Jew and therefore studied his Torah!

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Chaplain Mike, everybody?

    Didn’t the last guy in a Biologos video you posted here get fired/purged/cleansed from his seminary/college/whatever?

  8. Actually, I take a more historical perspective on Adam and Eve, though it is not conventional. (I am certain no one that knows me is surprised by that statement). I think Genesis 1 is a ancient cosmology presentation of the creation of the race of creatures grouped together and called “humankind.” As such, it describes the assignment of functionality to the created order; making it “created” in the minds of the ancient peoples. The Matter as such may have existed before, even the creatures, but here they are formally given purpose by God.

    In this section, mankind could include all the ancestors leading up to man (or it could not–such was not a concern of the author).

    However, Genesis 2 is not a recapitulation of the same “humankind” as in Genesis 1. This is a separate creation of a priesthood people that were meant to show and act as mediators between the “mankind” of Genesis 1 and Yahweh. (I could point out a lot of parallels between the Garden in Eden and the later structure of the Temple to prove this point, but this would then be an article and not a comment). This priesthood fell with the sin of Adam and plunged the world into ever increasing darkness.

    The rest of the Bible, Old and New, is the search for a new High Priest and a New Priestly people to undo the fall of the first High Priest (Adam). This is ultimately fulfilled in Israel by Christ and his new Priesthood of the remnant of the Jews and the grafted on Gentiles.

    So the Old Adam was historical (though perhaps poetically stylized) as is the New.

    That’s were I stand, at least for the next few minutes…

  9. Patrick says:

    If Adam and Eve are not historical persons then why is everyone marked by their sin? Does scripture not state this explicitly.

    How does scripture not teach a worldwide flood?

    How is it not possible that all current ethnicities came through Noah’s son’s and their wives?

    Why do so many presume that an omnipotent and omniscient God (note the “G” is not a “g”) is not capable of creating everything in six days (or six months or six seconds)? It is the most plausible answer to the question.

    Are we questioning the words of scripture simply because they are scripture?

    I do not know how or when but I believe the book to be the words of God and have no problem believing that He is supremely capable of understanding how He did it and how long it took and chose to tell us. I just don’t get the “God must fit into our ability to understand” concept.

    • No one questions that God is capable of creating the earth in six days, or causing all the peoples of the earth to be descended from Noah. God is certainly capable of making all those things happen. The question is whether or not that’s what God actually did.

      The problem is that the scientific evidence doesn’t support a six day creation or a global flood. The question we have to ask is, is the science wrong, or is our understanding of the text wrong? History has taught us that it is more likely that we are misreading the text than that all of the scientific evidence is false or misleading.

      As Galileo pointed out, God is the author of two works. One is the Bible, and the other is creation. I believe that what creation says about itself is more reliable than what we think the Bible says about creation.

      I also don’t believe that scripture teaches that we are all marked with Adam’s sin, but I hold that belief due to theological reasons, rather than scientific reasons.

      • There is no evidence which directly contradicts a 6 day creation thousands (definitively not millions or billions of years ago).

        The evidence does not speak for itself, it must be interpreted into a “story”.

        The old earth story has had a lot of very smart people working on it for a very long time, and it feels quite nice.

        The young earth story has had far fewer people working on it for a much shorter time (there was no Flood Geology text book until th 1970’s).

        You must look at the assumptions behind the stories, and evaluate how the stories compare to what you know is true (which should be the Bible, for Christians).

        • David L says:

          “There is no evidence which directly contradicts a 6 day creation thousands (definitively not millions or billions of years ago).”

          Well yes there is. And little to nil of the under 1,000,000 years. But we’ve been down this path before. Oh, well.

          • There are no written records or long lasting cultures before ~6kya.

            The current old earth story is that humans in their current form have definitely existed for 100ky, probably 500ky, maybe 1my.

            For this entire period (scores or hundreds of times the length of recorded history) – _nothing_ of note happened.

            Then, 6kya, multiple cultures arose – speaking different languages, even though they must of shared some common language originally.

          • David L says:

            “There are no written records or long lasting cultures before ~6kya.”

            I was talking about the planet and solar system, not people. There’s very strong evidence for > 1,000,000 years. But for people there’s good evidence going back over 6K. Many conservative christian leaders, (Dobson for one), think Jericho has been settled continuously for 9000 years.

            “Then, 6kya, multiple cultures arose – speaking different languages, even though they must of shared some common language originally.”

            35K years ago is when this seems to have happened but you have to agree that carbon dating is valid back past 6000 years. If you disagree with this basic point you can then disagree with most anything about people going back past 6000 years.

        • I do believe that the Bible is true. I just don’t believe that I understand it perfectly. I consider it more likely that my understanding of the Bible is wrong than that all of the scientific evidence for an old earth (and an even older cosmos) is wrong.

          But if you think that the science behind the young earth story is credible, then feel free to believe in that. I won’t stop you. In fact, I’m kind of curious what a flood geology text book is like, since I’ve never read one. Do you know where I could order such a thing? I’d be interested to see how the science compares.

          If you have any articles on flood geology that got published in a peer-reviewed journal, that’d be even better.

          • Answers in Genesis (AiG) is the most popular place for speculation on how things worked around the time of the Flood. They also have a peer reviewed journal.

            I don’t believe the origins story is science. Really science fiction (either side).

            There are some interesting articles on layers formed by particles (experimentally shown) and investigations of the ice age.

          • David L says:

            “Answers in Genesis (AiG) is the most popular place for speculation on how things worked around the time of the Flood. They also have a peer reviewed journal.”

            The basic problem with AIG (and I know many feel there are a LOT of problems) is the statement of faith.


            Which has as it’s final point:
            “By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

            So when they say peer review they mean people who agree with them. And by agree they have to agree to a specific interpretation of the scriptures. Very specific. Lots of details they get reading between the line.

            Now I’m not saying the “science” gets it right all the time. And at times peer review can become something of a closed system. But with science in general things are published and argued about world wide. And wrongs tend to be righted. With AIG, disagreements with them are basically ignored.

          • Sure, I’m not saying AiG is the latest and greatest. They have some interesting stuff, and some marginal stuff. You have to take it for what it is – basically amateurs interested in explaining stuff.

            The problem is that Christians have better things to do than make up origins stories. There is no money to support it, and little manpower (basically motivated amateurs in their free time). There are some scientists working in their fields, but they generally have day jobs doing other things. So, back to free time.

    • Dennis says:

      From what I’ve learned, what’s important is not necessarily to take Genesis literally but to understand the key points.

      Genesis 1 (and 2…and 3…) are written from a perspective where people didn’t have a grasp of evolution or the universe. So, it is written from a perspective that they could understand.

      The key point to Genesis 1 and 2 isn’t that God created everything in six days but that God created everything. Note that a day is a length of time created by man that’s only pertinent here on earth. Us holding God to the six day creation would be trying “fit God into our ability to understand.”

      In regards to Adam and Eve, again that’s man’s way of explaining what happened to us. Did it happen? Possibly.

      What is definitely true is that man is separate from animals. We have an intellect and free will that animals do not have. We have the ability to reject God’s design for us whereas, a fish must stay in the water and a bird flies in the air–Animals cannot sin. So, something separates us from animals and the Fall of Man story is the best explanation I can think of (much better explanation than evolution.)

      • Taking it literally or not will give you different interpretations later on…

        For example, is death good? (On day 5, God said everything was good, and that is before man).

        • Dennis says:

          Well, before the fall, there was no death.

          The key point to that verse is that everything that God creates is good. On day 6…after the creation of man, everything is not just “good” but VERY good which taken literally shows that of God’s creation, man is placed above everything.

          Did Eden and the Fall of Man happen? I suppose being a Christian that it had to happen. Somehow, we were deprived of eternal life and Christ came to restore it. Did it necessarily happen exactly as described? I don’t know that. It could have. There really is no proof one way or another.

          • A close look at Genesis has led me to think that there was physical death before the fall. Otherwise, the world would have been so unlike the world we know today as to be unrecognizable. Death of organisms and plants at least would have been required for nature to function. There is absolutely no Biblical evidence that the world changed so drastically that the very laws of nature are different today than in the beginning.

            Adam and Eve were likewise mortal, and access to “life” (eternal life) was only available to them through the Tree of Life. God told them that they would “die” in the very day they ate from the forbidden tree, apparently referring to something they would have already observed. Note also that they did not perish physically when they sinned. The “death” they died, which passed on to all (Romans 5) was a “covenantal” or “spiritual” death that involved their relationship with God.

            Is physical death, therefore, “good”? I don’t claim to know the full answer to that, but apparently the processes of death and rebirth are part of the very fabric of creation. What is definitely not “good” is that Adam and Eve, representing their descendants, failed to obey God and thus were separated from him and from access to eternal life. Their covenantal relationship with God was broken and they came under his condemnation. This death is “not good.”

            In the new creation, there will be no more death of any kind. In the resurrection all forms of death will be overcome and God will make a new heavens and new earth that will apparently run by different laws.

          • “In the new creation, there will be no more death of any kind. In the resurrection all forms of death will be overcome and God will make a new heavens and new earth that will apparently run by different laws.”

            Maybe that, too, is symbolic and not literal language.

          • Whatever it will be like, Eric, I’m all for it.

          • “A close look at Genesis has led me to think that there was physical death before the fall.”

            I believe that is the only consistent view for an old-earther. It does not directly contradict Scripture, but it does make for a different view of God.

            For example, animal suffering. We’re talking about millions of years, countless animals being eaten alive, suffering broken bones. Crying out and not feeling relief until death comes.

            If this is good for animals, is it good for humans? Why or why not?

          • EricW says..“In the new creation, there will be no more death of any kind. In the resurrection all forms of death will be overcome and God will make a new heavens and new earth that will apparently run by different laws.”

            Maybe that, too, is symbolic and not literal language”

            You hit on the reason many do NOT want to make a more poetic reading of Genesis 1-11. It then puts the question to how much else in our cosmology is poetic.

            BTW, as a preterist tend to agree that this language IS poetic here as well. We are the New Creation, and with the destruction of the entire Old Covenant System in AD 70, the world has entered into the New Creation System as well.

            But that will someday be a new topic. Suffice it to say, you can be a Christian and think both ends of the spectrum are symbolic, poetic, or hyperbolic; meant to represent the reality that in Christ we have entered into the Resurrection already.

            (P.S. The nesting of these comments does confuse me a bit, so if this comes up BEFORE EricW’s comments, my apologies)

    • Patrick, no one is trying to “question the words of scripture.” My desire all along has been to truly understand what Scripture actually says. Some of the more literalistic approaches to reading Genesis just don’t ring true to the text. They don’t grasp the genre of the literature. They don’t account for the context of the passage in the Torah. They subconsciously read it from the viewpoint of people who have a scientific view of the universe when the original author and readers did not. They jump right to the scientific debates of today and try to make Genesis speak to those issues, and neglect the original intention of the text.

      • I understand the purely literary view and I agree we should step back from the “culture wars” and just focus on the message which it seems everyone pretty much agrees on. However, just food for thought is that history (particularly in the last 200 years) is littered with examples of things from the Bible which highly educated scientists and theologians laughed at and referred to as pious fiction or clearly just an allegory or a myth and then suddenly, something at an archaeological site was found that not only disproved the “myth” idea but confirmed the literal, “means-what-it-says” words of Scripture more thoroughly than one could have imagined. Those cases are all quickly forgotten it seems and the remaining “myths” are laughed at just as strongly as all the previous ones that were proven not to be myths. I think those on the extreme right should tone down the anti-science rhetoric and the culture war, but I’m suggesting that maybe those on the left should start giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt once in a while in history and science—given man’s track record of failure in doubting it.

        For the record, I’m not arguing with or criticizing anyone and I have no problem with (or without for that matter!) evolution as a means of creation since I believe it’s not inconsistent with a literal reading. More to the issue in this essay, I think it’s difficult not to accept Adam and Eve as literal because that would undermine the meaning of so much concerning original sin, the virgin birth, etc.

    • Without getting into the details of how it happens (I would agree with others that this is somewhat useless speculation), my understanding is that having a literal lineage from Adam is important. When Adam sinned, his flesh (which included all of humanity in his seed) was corrupted with the guilt of sin and this is literally transmitted to every human being. This is why the virgin birth was necessary so that there was no corrupt human seed transmitted via the human father into Christ. This is what Aquinas taught and even though I’m not Catholic, I personally think it makes a lot of sense. Food for thought, that’s all…

      • I disagree. The Bible doesn’t speak to the issue of human sin being transmitted biologically. That theological idea comes later on. Also, if sin is transmitted by the father’s seed, then why not by the mother’s egg? Catholics believe that Mary herself was immaculately conceived, and without sin, so that her sin would not corrupt her son.

        The virgin birth is not required in order to protect Jesus from original sin. The virgin birth is required in order to, 1) establish Jesus’ “paternity” so to speak and 2) to fulfill the promise made through the prophet Isaiah, “And behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a child.”

        Keep in mind that in Hebrew, Adam isn’t a name. It’s just the Hebrew word for “man”. Every time we read “Adam” in our English bibles, some translator decided for us that the author was talking about a specific individual, rather than all of mankind.

        People cite Romans as proof that Adam was historical, and that we are all corrupted by Adam’s sin, but the point Paul is making is that Adam sinned and, in the same way, all mankind sins. Paul’s story about how the law exposes sin parallels the story of Adam from Genesis. First Paul is without sin. Then he hears the command, “Thou shalt not covet.” Then he experiences temptation. Then he sins.

        The point is not that we are all guilty of Adam’s sins. The point is we all sin, just as Adam did. Adam’s story is a pattern that can be applied to every human being. Hence we are all guilty, not of someone else’s sin, but of our own sins. (Which is the point Paul was trying to make in Romans 1-8, if you’ll remember).

        • “The point is not that we are all guilty of Adam’s sins. The point is we all sin, just as Adam did. ”

          Hi Jimmy, this is a key point you make here. The argument against this is that whether or not we actually sin (like a person who dies in infancy), we have a nature which is corrupt and this is really what “original” sin is. God sees that we have a corrupt nature, not just that we commit individual sins. (again, I’m passing along the argument from Aquinas and others) An analogy might be that if you have a car with bad brakes that is likely to kill you if you drive it, it doesn’t matter whether you actually drive it and get killed—it’s still “corrupt” and “guilty” because it’s tainted with “sin” (in this case, bad brakes). So I’m saying that Adam’s sin is not just a pattern we follow, but rather something which is inherently passed on to us and in which we share guilt before we ever commit individual sins ourselves.


          • I wouldn’t use the word “corrupt”. I would argue that we are susceptible to temptation, which is different. That is what we inherited from Adam (or, to put it another way, that is part of our human nature).

            I would argue that, through the incarnation, Jesus also inherited our susceptibility to temptation. He became human and so he took on a human nature.

            As the author of Hebrews writes, he was tempted in every way that we are tempted, yet he was without sin. This is because he also has a divine nature, so he is able to resist temptation perfectly.

            I don’t believe that God shielded Christ from Adam’s curse. Rather, Jesus took on Adam’s curse and redeemed it, making atonement for us all.

            After all, what does the Bible say is the actual curse of Adam? The curse is that we must toil to earn our daily bread and that we die. For thirty years Jesus worked as a carpenter’s son; he toiled to earn a living. Then, after three years of ministry he dies.

            He experienced the full brunt of the curse of Adam. He was not protected in any way, except that, because he was righteous, he was redeemed. He was vindicated when the Father raised him from the dead.

    • Patrick says:

      “Because it states it in the Bible, it must not be true” is the theme of each response.

      The currrent interpretations of scripture are based on the oldest known manuscripts and believed to be the most accurate as to what the writers originally recorded. There have been no interpretations of the Genesis accounts of creation to flood which differ to the point of causing us to question their actual occurance. There are hundreds of accounts all across the world in a variety of cultures of a worldwide flood.

      If it is the word of God (big G) then why must it not be true? I do not get that logic.

      Evolutionary science is constantly changing the dates within evolution and the facts of the matter. Hence making it easier to be skeptical of its claims to “truth”.

      By the way, any cursory study of any place on earth from a geographical viewpoint will point to the fact that it was once underwater and that there are gobs of fossils of seaborne creatures in the ground.

      Again, not sure why we must discredit the Biblical accounts of some event simply because they are in the Bible. Recommend checking out Tim Keller on this issue.

      • Huh?

        Adventures in missing the point, here.

        • Patrick says:

          The post somehow wound up down here in a place which causes it not to make any sense, my goof.

          There appears to be general rule of thumb among many who discredit the Biblical accounts of the universe coming into being and the flood simply because they are Biblical accounts.

          If one chooses to accept the “scientific” answer to big question it is as much faith in the writings and findings of others as much as believing in a the Genesis accounts as literally true. I do not what is true because I was not there nor was anyone else (who currently reside here). Those who believe in the answers from “science” are placing a faith in the writers that their interpretation of the evidence is accurate.

          It takes as much faith for either conclusion. For me it is simply easier to accept an all powerful, all knowing God did it in six days and flooded the entire Earth and had it recorded for us.

          • Patrick says:

            My proofreading needs some work. Should be “the big question,” and “believing in the Genesis accounts” and “I do not know what is true…” and “are placing as much faith…”.

            My nap was not long enough:-)

  10. Martha says:

    This may be of interest in the broad range of this discussion; an article in “Dappled Things” by Michael Flynn on “The Age of Faith and Reason”, or why in the West there isn’t (or should not be) conflict between Religion and Science, if both are properly understood:


    Wisdom 7: 17-21

    “For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements:
    18: The beginning, ending, and midst of the times: the alterations of the turning of the sun, and the change of seasons:
    19: The circuits of years, and the positions of stars:
    20: The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts: the violence of winds, and the reasonings of men: the diversities of plants and the virtues of roots:
    21: And all such things as are either secret or manifest, them I know.”

    • Tim Snow says:

      I attended a lecture at Catholic University in Washington, DC by Randy Isaac, executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation (http://www.asa3.org). He generally holds to the two-book theory–one being nature and the other being Scripture with each under the overarching concept of logos. We get into problems when either science tries to answer the question of god or when Scripture is used to try to answer the question of science.



  11. briank says:

    now i know why the bible is called “the book of books” — it’s a History book, a science book, a cooking book, Encyclopedia, sex manual, & almanac —– after you learn all these lessons you can move to the gospel message of Jesus —BUT ONLY AFTER – you accept all the other lessons.;-)

    • You have put your finger on one manifestation of the “false gospel” being proclaimed today. Just as the Jews set up boundary markers saying one must be circumcised and keep the laws in certain ways, so many in the evangelical church today say you must accept not only Christ but also the entire culture war agenda and moralistic stance of the right to truly be a Christian.

  12. Jonathan Brumley says:

    Interesting – MIT Technology Review just posted a related article from the science side:


    Summary is that homo sapiens gets 4% of its genes from Neanderthals. So there likely was inbreeding between species.

  13. The science is settled. Neo-darwinian synthesis it is. Or maybe not.

    Let’s review the settled science regarding cosmology since I have been aware of the topic. The settled science until the 70’s was a steady-state or possibly oscillating universe. Although a Big Bang had been hypothesized, it was philosophically a non-starter because it implied a Big Banger. Totally unacceptable to naturalists. Then Arno and Penzias discover background radiation coming from every direction in the universe. Voila. The settled science becomes unsettled, and the Big Bang becomes the next settled science.. This is the discussion that was so controversial when I was in college in the early 70’s. My astronomy professor swore that the oscillating universe was the correct model and that the Big Bang was ridiculous.

    How about genetics. We have now mapped the human genome, and we now know that the genes are more like software than hardware. There’s this science of epigenetics which has upset the formerly settled science of genetics. What is the epigenome? What if there is an epi-epigenome.

    Maybe the settled science of geology is also wrong. Way back in the 70’s uniformitarianism was the settled science. Now, because we have the ability to observe, record, and analyze multiple types of catastrophic events, uniformitarianism is no longer the settled science. We have volcanoes, earthquakes, and asteroid strikes, Oh my!

    Then there is physics. Simple, observable Newtonian mechanics has been replaced by the, let’s face it, really strange quantum mechanics. Maybe Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is God messing with their minds. We may find out that physics and, by derivation, astrophysics may not be quite so settled either.

    Oh, and let’s remember that little problem of selecting data points and proprietary algorithms to “smooth the data”, etc.

    I think that God is hiding in plain sight for anyone who will see with the eyes of faith. For those who refuse to see because of the consequences of a God to whom they are answerable, there will always be a plausible, to them, “scientific” reason not to see.

    I’ll not address the appeal to genre being made, but it seems unlikely to me in view of the comments of Jesus and Paul regarding creation and Adam.

    • Eileen, I don’t pretend to be able to speak to the science. That’s not my area. I do agree that you make a valid point about science being a subject that is always changing and coming to new conclusions.

      However, it does so within broadly established paradigms. I doubt that anyone is going to overturn the Copernican thesis that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. Nor the “theory” of gravity. Today’s scientific consensus, which includes many fine scientists who are committed Christians, asserts that the basic structures of evolution are similarly firm.

      My only position with regard to science is this: if fine, committed, and gifted Christians who are scientists accept the evidence for something like the evolutionary model, then I must not take a stand that automatically denies the possibility they may be right. I will take a stand that says, “I won’t be part of a culture war mentality that rejects scientific findings that don’t fit in my preconceived “box” because of fear and distrust. (There are those on the atheistic side who do the same thing and I can’t tolerate them either.)

      All of that said, my primary concern is the meaning of the Biblical text. I have no desire to give anyone anything but sound interpretations and good reasons to trust in the God who has revealed himself in creation, the Scriptures, and most fully in Jesus the God-Man.

      • Eileen says:

        Chaplain Mike,

        Thank you for the thoughtful reply, and I appreciate that you are trying to remove this issue from the “culture war.” And mea culpa, my keyboard typed Arno and Penzias instead of Wilson and Penzias as the discoverers of background radiation. sigh..

        I really don’t have any exegetical expertise. At all. And I would agree, after consulting with someone who does, that the text of Genesis does not *require* that yom mean a 24 hour day. However, in light of the text establishing the sabbath observance in Exodus being based on creation, we do have textual support that Moses and whoever composed the Pentateuch and later the Hebrew Bible thought that the weekly cycle is closely related to the creation week and the yearly cycle of seasons to creation as well.

        One objection to a literal “24 hour day” that seems to often come up is that the sun was created after the first day, so therefore the word “day” cannot or at least probably does not refer to a 24 hour period. My question in response to that objection is this: does the duration of the rotation of the earth define what a “day” is, or does one rotation of the earth last for 24 hours because God has determined that a “day” shall be 24 hours long and determined that there would be a sun and that evening and morning would occur as the earth rotated for the duration He decreed? Same for “year.” God determines what “year” is, and then He creates the earth and then the sun, and then He causes the earth to revolve around the sun in an orbit which requires one “year.” Do you see the difference in the approach to that issue? He established that there would be “seasons” and so He tilted the earth’s poles with respect to the sun.

        The other point I would like to make is that it is impossible to separate one’s thinking about theological issues and the way one evaluates these kinds of questions. Some approach the data with skepticism toward the text, and some approach the data with skepticism toward the “science.” Trust me, “science” data is interpreted just as the Biblical text is interpreted. There is no such thing as total objectivity in science, especially now when monetary and political motivations drive much of scientific endeavor.

        Finally, no one has truly addressed the violent death and suffering which occurred during these billions of years. What was the purpose of that, and why did animals suffer. I don’t buy the notion that plant “death” or microbial “death” is the same as the death of animals. This is a huge theological and philosophical problem for the theistic evolutionary view.

        You stated in post above that there is no evidence from the biblical text that the world before the Fall was much different than this world in which we live. What is your basis for that? It seems to me that the Curse is a pretty significant change, and there is no reason to assume that it did not change some fundamental laws of the Creation. To assert that it did not or probably did not goes way beyond the text.

        For the person who mentioned Neanderthals, you need to do some more reading on Neanderthals and their relationship to “modern” man. Lots of confusion on that point as well as unstated and unsupported assumptions.

        Sorry to be such a pest, but I see some sloppy thinking going on in this thread, and I appreciate the interaction here which helps me to think through it, too, and check my presuppositions.

        • Eileen, you might want to go back and read my earlier post in which I explain my understanding of Genesis 1. You can find it here.

          As for some of your questions about how Genesis relates to pre-historic matters, etc., I have to say I don’t know. I will say that one of my firm convictions is that we should not force the Bible to deal with matters it was never intended to address. One can have a perfectly legitimate Christian faith and worldview without understanding these things or thinking they must somehow be covered by the Scriptures.

          • But the question of the goodness of death is a Biblical matter, regardless of pre-history.

            If God can torture and kill countless animals for no obvious reason (except that He can’t seem to figure out what He wants to create, bringing about whole species then wiping them out, only to later recreate similar ones – then kill them too), and call it good.

            Why shouldn’t we do the same?

            Is the sacrificial system just a rigorous form of this goodness or does it remind us that something is not right with the world – something which will be set right.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The settled science until the 70’s was a steady-state or possibly oscillating universe. Although a Big Bang had been hypothesized, it was philosophically a non-starter because it implied a Big Banger.

      It didn’t help that the guy proposing the Big Bang was Christian (Jesuit, I think). He got piled on as a Stealth Creationist. Just as the major proponent of the Oscillating Universe was Buddhist.

      But do you notice the three models of the universe also have pre-Scientific analogs?
      1) Steady-State follows Aristotle’s idea of the Cosmos being Eternal. Always has been, always will be.
      2) Oscillating Universe follows the Hindu/Buddhist idea of Time as Eternal Cycles — Brahma to Vishnu to Shiva to Brahma to Vishnu to Shiva to…
      3) The Big Bang follows the Jewish/Christian idea of Linear Time, with the Cosmos having a distinct beginning (and presumably a distinct end).

  14. Thanks for this post and the comments. I have two questions: 1) what would “history” have looked like in an Ancient Near Eastern context of Israel? 2) could death have become negative, although it originally was part of creation?

    • Two great questions:

      For the answer to 1) I suggest getting (at least as a start) “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John H. Walton.

      For the second, I would say yes. Death’s connotation changed when Adam was thrust out of the Garden. Before, Life could be offered through Adam’s High Priesthood and mediatorship with God. After the Fall of the Old High Priest, death had all the power and involved separation from God’s fellowship both in the world and thereafter.

      • Are you saying Adam offered sacrifices before the Fall?

        • I would say not. Instead, he was the one who walked with God directly in the garden and could instruct and lead those outside the Garden once he matured. Sacrifice was not necessary until the Fall and he was therefore thrust out of the Garden.

          I don’t think priesthood involved the sacrifice of animals until the Priesthood itself fell and was cast out of the Garden with no access back.

          But a great question!!! I am still working this all out myself.

    • “could death have become negative, although it originally was part of creation?”

      Good question/point.

      I haven’t read enough from people who have thought about this, but I know that Calvin saw death before the fall as likely involving the same sort of transition from a corruptible, mortal state to an incorruptible, immortal state as at the final resurrection. Pre-fall, man was not immortal but had the ability not to sin (as well as the ability to sin). In the immortal state, man loses the ability to sin. Note that Moses lived to 120 but it says he was still in full vigor. Perhaps that’s what would have happened to Adam—full vigor through mortal life and then a painless transition to the immortal state without any process of decay beforehand. Pure speculation, of course, apart from my summary of Calvin’s position which at least has some thought behind it.

      • ATChaffee says:

        Isn’t this like C.S. Lewis’ take on unfallen death in Out of the Silent Planet?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Either Lewis based his “take” on Calvin or the two came to similar conclusions independently. Lewis had an advantage in that he was writing fiction, and did not have to hold his speculation to the same rigors as theological conclusions. Though Lewis probably used the fiction to present the idea.

          • ahumanoid says:

            Although I realize the scientific evidence demonstrates that death must have been around prior to the fall, a part of me still rebels against that notion. I still sense something is amiss when I see any form of death, whether it’s the bird in the cat’s mouth or the elderly man in the nursing home.

            I have trouble reconciling the description of the peaceful coexistence of the lion and the lamb mentioned in Isaiah with the reality that the animal kingdom is “designed” to function within the context of predation and survival. Yet, I long to see all creatures existing in harmony. . .

        • Do you mean Perelandra? That’s the one with the Adam and Eve type story. It’s been so long since I read the trilogy, I really don’t remember. You sparked my interest in re-reading it with your comment, though!

          • ATChaffee says:

            It’s the first one with the unfallen Martians (don’t remember the Lewis name). One of them dies while hunting and everybody is pretty mellow about it.

  15. GranpaJohn says:

    three scriptures come to mind; Genesis 3:1, Proverbs 30:5 & 1Corinthians 8:2

    When Michael and I discussed this (and we disagreed vociferously) we agreed that when we arrived in Heaven one of the first things the Savior would say to us would be “You believed WHAT?!?!?” “Where in my Word did you get THAT from??”

    I wonder which theological juggernaut(s) he heard that about when he arrived…
    And which shall I?

  16. Ohhh…I get it. Basically, DNA and other scientific research is the hermeneutical crux now when interpreting passages like Genesis 1-2. Because the literal-historical interpretation of Genesis 1-2 does not square with recent findings from biological science we must allow the latter to interpret the former. Right….

    • You didn’t read that from me, Mark. And you know it.

      • Mike,

        I was responding to what Pastor Harrell said in that clip.

        • Mark, even though I understand what you are saying to a certain extent, you are betraying a lack of historical perspective. Our understanding of the Bible has always grown and changed along with new findings from general revelation through disciplines like science, history, etc. Otherwise we’d all still think that faithfulness to Scripture means believing in a flat earth that stands firm and doesn’t rotate, a sun that revolves around the earth, and a sky that is solid with windows that open every now and then to send rain and snow on the earth.

          • Patrick says:

            Where in scripture does it state, “flat earth that stands firm and doesn’t rotate, a sun that revolves around the earth, and a sky that is solid with windows that open every now and then to send rain and snow on the earth”?

            • Do a concordance search. The Ancient Near Eastern understanding of the universe permeates the First Testament. It starts in Gen 1 where it says that God separated the waters above from the waters below and put a firmament between them. The word means a solid dome.

              This is old news. The Bible describes the world and universe in terms its first readers understood.

  17. dumb ox says:

    “The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. So to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that which is impenetretrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” – Albert Einstein.

    I think the young earth folks AND the Theistic evolutionists are both in danger of running contrary to Einstein’s comment. We keep trying to tame the mysterious. Our logical minds somehow demand it. This domesticating of the unknown seems to be at the heart of what we view as “reason”. I think Einstein is saying. “not so fast…”.

    There is an obscure tale of the cold war that I think bears some wisdom for us. On one occasion, the Soviet early warning system sounded an alarm that the United States had launched a thermal-nuclear attack. All indications, sensors, and data seemed to confirm this. The Soviets were moments away from launching a counter-attack, when one insightful general said, “this can’t be right”, and called off the counter-strike. It turned out that a computer glitch – a la “War Games” – resulted in a false-alarm. Human reason is something far more profound than a logical knee-jerk reaction to apparent “facts”. As a warning sign placed on a machine once read: “This machine has no brain; use your own”. This type of reason is so critical today, in an age of phishing emails, fake anti-virus messages, Nigerian millionaires waiting to deposit your check, or wild claims of finding the tomb of Jesus. Ask yourself if it really makes sense.

    Father Benedict Groeschel in his book, “Praying the Creed” states, “When once the mind believes in God the great obstacle of faith has been taken away – a proud and self-sufficient spirit”. If our faith is shaken by every new scientific claim, or even the latest discovery of a new religious relic or sighting of Noah’s ark, then both faith AND reason will be impossible. As Einstein said, once we lose a sense of mystical wonder or the belief that some things lie beyond our grasp, even science becomes impossible.

    • dumb ox says:

      Correction: second quote is from Groeschel’s book; however, it is a quote from John Henry Newman.

    • Coming quite late into this discussion, but if I were to have serious reservations about the literal-historical validity of any portion of Scripture, it would have to be Genesis 1-6. I count myself fortunate to have seen the singular beauty of Mount Ararat. The source of what we know of the antediluvian world comes from Noah, the sole survivor of those times along with his immediate family. Noah was not a Jew and did not live anywhere near Israel. From his time, the accounts of pre-flood history, both natural and human, travelled through numerous cultures and were handed down through generations of oral tradition until the time of Moses, when they were collected and written down. A question arises as to what impact those oral traditions – handed down over an extended period lasting centuries – should have make in using such terms as “inerrant”, or “infallible” with respect to the pre-flood account recorded in Genesis. All Scripture is inspired, but there is no indication in the Bible that Moses was given extensive special revelation, either on Mount Sinai or elsewhere, intended to scientifically explain creation in terms that would generously satisfy our 21st Century questions. What is clear to me is that the intent in Genesis 1-6 was to present God in his dynamic interaction with the physical realm he created, insofar as it serves as a preamble to the Israelites’ journey of faith. We live in an era where there is no mystery which cannot be rationally solved. On the other hand, I take in on faith that there was a historical Adam, the Fall, and the swiftly downward progression of humankind. The brevity of that portion of Scripture covering such an immense span of time seems to indicate God is satisfied in leaving many questions left unanswered. Where others find it crucial to factualize each and every statement in Genesis, perhaps they should blame Moses in the first instance for not being more inquisitive in the first place.

      • As Ken Horind (who I believe was a faithful Christian, and a bad tax attorney) used to say, if you don’t want an argument – agree with me (the YEC side)!

        If you say that the world will hate us, who cares? Love of the world is enmity with God. They will hate us for the Cross, what is one more (minor) thing?

  18. dumb ox says:

    I’m wondering if such discussions could help redeem Schleiermacher, who also appealed to non-believers, through a philosophy of the intuition of God. A misinterpretation of Schleiermacher resulted in reducing faith to mere emotionalism – particularly in the United States. For as much as fundamentalists demonized Schleiermacher, he may hold the key to the search for a way to co-exist with the “evolutionary epic”. Needless to say, this has been all attempted before with varying degrees of success. But the answer to doubt is not to altar the message, but somehow offer grace to the doubter, which we all find ourselves at times…or all the time.

  19. It’s always amazing and draining how many people try to explain the mechanism that brought life upon the earth.
    As with any story we should start at the beginning, the nothing point. The universe is a point source of extremely high density which for unexplained reasons begins to expand rapidly and eventually unevenly outward. At discrete times various physical “laws” take effect and “guide” the evolution of the universe.
    Advance to the origin of the earth we can advance a theory that the earth is complex artifact that is probably unique in the universe. See following link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis
    Now go to the theory of Michael Behe, in his book “Darwin’s BlackBox”. Behe makes a strong case in my opinion that the development of the first Cell is just too improbable to have happened by accident. Darwin’s theory as found in Wikipedia’s article on biology states: “A central organizing concept in biology is that life changes and develops through evolution, and that all life-forms known have a common origin. Introduced into the scientific lexicon by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck in 1809,[15] Charles Darwin established evolution fifty years later as a viable theory by articulating its driving force: natural selection.[16][17] (Alfred Russel Wallace is recognized as the co-discoverer of this concept as he helped research and experiment with the concept of evolution.)[18] Evolution is now used to explain the great variations of life found on Earth.”
    ALL life comes from a common ancestor. Now, where does the common ancestor come from?
    Well, natural processes act to build the first Cell from…nothing. Do any of you hear the irony of this?
    Life comes from…decaying hay,or rotting meat,or ammino acids colliding? Until “evolution” can explain where the Ancestor Cell comes from I personally think that there is an intelligence directing the formation of life processes. The intelligence doesn’t have to have a name yet, but I think we here can point a finger at the Designer.

    As for Adam and Eve (thanks for staying with until now), that story is explanation to a pastoral group who were dealing with some pretty wild creation stories from the people surrounding them. But the common thread in Genesis is clear…. “GOD IS IN CHARGE!” How He choses to run the universe is His chosing. We may discover some of the mechanisms used, but ultimately God calls the shots.

    I step down from my soapbox.

  20. dumb ox says:

    Couple more quotes from Einstein, both from Max Jammer’s book, “Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology”:

    “I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling, and that without such feeling they would not be fruitful.”

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”.

    One must be careful interpreting what Einstein meant by “religion”. According to Jammer, Einstein’s view of religion was influenced by Spinoza (who also influenced Schleiermacher).

    Nevertheless, religion and science are not antithetical. I don’t know how that affects ones interpretation of Genesis. I do know from reciting the creed this morning, that “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” I’m not sure what else matters.

    I don’t have a problem with atheism, except when it becomes flat, dead examination of facts without any sense of wonder. I have the same problem with many evangelicals.

  21. I agree that we must understand the text in the same manner as that of the original audience. The story is always going to make sense in their context.

    That said, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to apply the “dome” of the ancient Hebrews to the spheroid we know of today. The “dome of the sky” is the atmosphere. Many YEC believe there was another sphere (perhaps of ice) above the sky. This would account for the reduced radiation and increased partial pressure of oxygen (which there is evidence for).

    The Bible certainly does not say the world is flat. Some people infer that, from verses which describe scenes visible from all over the world. However, through satellite commo we can now observe things all over the world, even though it is not flat.

    The “windows of heaven” do not seem to refer to any particular structure – but rather to God supernaturally acting to rain (literal rain or blessings) on the Earth.

    • nedbrek, you are obviously unfamiliar with Ancient Near Eastern studies. The Bible’s use of terms relating to nature is parallel to those of the cultures around them. They had the same “science” as everyone else in their day. This is well-known and accepted fact. As one commentator puts it:

      “Moses and the other biblical authors use these same basic elements, which were all part of the popular cosmology of the day, as the assumed context from which to tell God’s wonderful story of creation. The ancient Near-eastern concept of heaven and earth is literally the cosmological stage upon which the drama of creation, the fall, and redemption unfolds.”

      You can find a good summary of this (including the above quote) at http://www.blog.beyondthefirmament.com/2009/03/11/through-ancient-eyes. Or read anything by John Walton.

      What other cosmology would they have had? They were people of their own time. The difference in the Bible’s Creation narratives is not in the “science” of how things came to be (with today’s scientific perspective) but in Israel’s understanding of WHO created the world, and WHY he created it.

      • I don’t understand. Just because it is a story about who and why, doesn’t mean it isn’t also a story of how. All of history is God telling a story, using actual events that really happened. Things which also symbolize other things. Just because something is symbolic, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

        • Wow, nedbrek, are you really missing the point that badly? Please don’t comment again on this until you’ve read Glover’s article that I gave the link for. Then respond to what’s actually being said here.

          • I just finished Glover’s article, and I still don’t get it… He makes a bunch of assertions that I don’t see in Genesis (maybe in Job, I haven’t gone through that as thoroughly). Namely:
            “The Hebrew universe consists of three levels: the heavens, the earth and the underworld” – I understand it as earth, the sky, and space; but this seems minimal
            “Earth (land) is a disk or rectangle spread out over a watery abyss” – I think he is inferring too much here.
            “The sky is a solid dome or vault holding back the waters above the heavens and regulating the passage of precipitation, wind, and celestial objects through the expanse of heaven from ‘storehouses'” – I previously mentioned possible interpretations of the waters over the dome of the sky
            “The sun passes through the underworld after leaving the heavens each night to hasten back to the opposite end of the firmament” – I don’t know where this is coming from at all
            “The earth is fixed and immovable and the heavenly bodies revolve around it” – I don’t see this in the text

            Overall, it has the sense of “the beautiful lie” – that the Bible is a lie that helps us feel comfortable. It’s the junk theology I mentioned before; junk I’ve survived and wouldn’t wish on anyone. If it hasn’t led you to despair, it’s only by God’s grace.

            • Sorry, nedbrek, but I think you simply fail to see that you are reading the Bible with centuries of background and subconscious understanding that the first readers of the Bible did not have.

              If I were to say to you today, “The sun will rise in the sky tomorrow morning,” you would know that I am using a common accepted phrase and not speaking in scientific language. You know the sun is not “in the sky”. You know the sun doesn’t “rise”. You know that the sun is one small star in a vast solar system and that it appears to rise on earth because of our planet’s rotation.

              However, when you spoke to someone in the Ancient Near East and said, “The sun will rise in the sky tomorrow morning,” they would hear you entirely differently. They would think the sun was actually IN THE SKY. They would think the earth is standing still and that the sun actually does “run a course” above the earth from east to west each day, rising and setting along the course of the dome of the sky.

              That is the way the world looks to us. And that was the science of the day, which was based on human observation. The Bible is filled with this kind of language, and if you can’t see it, it must be because you can’t get past all the subconscious presuppositions you bring to the Bible.

              This Ancient Near Eastern context gives us the language and conceptual system God used to speak to people in that day. When we read it today, we know the “science” behind the statements is not accurate. That doesn’t mean that the Bible is telling a “lie.” No matter when in history God speaks, he does so in a temporal context. If someone was writing Scripture today, he would use the language of our day. However, 200 years from now, someone might look back and see that the “science” was not 100% correct. Because science is constantly changing and our understanding grows. Nevertheless, the main purpose and truth of the story the Bible is telling is true.

              God’s Word is both timeless and timely. Its timeless truths were given to people in particular cultures with views of science that were vastly different from ours today. And so God put it in that language so that they could understand it.

  22. Let me formalize how I see your position, in an attempt to be clear – then you can point out where I am wrong by reference:

    1) Death and suffering occurred before man (from the fossil record)
    2) Man was created on day 6
    3) God said it was good on days 1-5 (and day 6)
    4) Therefore, death and suffering is good

    The only way (I see) to avoid #4 is to say, “God said it was good, only in some non-literal sense”. That is the “beautiful lie”.

    Similarly the ages of the patriarchs (hundreds of years). Again, God is lying to us, but in order to help us in some way (I’m not entirely sure).