Historical Adam?

There is an interesting (supposedly all the rage) theological position building up a head of steam. The movement attempts to find a solution to a problem raised if one is committed both to a high view of scripture and a high view of modern science. Evidence from modern science supposedly produces belief in an evolutionary account of earth's history and the Biblical account produces some history, but mostly a theological account. The two must be squared in some way and, for some people, a form of theistic evolution emerges. However, a vital question also emerges: what are we to do with the historical Adam? And here is where the debate gets interesting. The line of thought, at least according to Peter Enns (see here), is as follows:


First, the Adam account must be compatible with the findings of modern science. Second, the account must be compatible with scripture. Once one begins here, the question, in regards to Adam, is: what did the author of Genesis describe when he talks about Adam. Enns argues that Adam might refer to a people. The people in question, according to Enns, are not necessarily universal humanity, but the people of Israel.  Adam, then, is a character who describes the origin of Israel.  Enns cites four parallels: both Adam and Israel  were created by God, given a special land to inhabit, given a law to obey and, after disobeying the law, are exiled from the land.

Once one accepts the interpretation, one can move to the next substantial mention of Adam - Paul's letter to the Romans. It is here, suggests Enns, that the real work must take place since, on a plain reading of Paul, it seems that he assumes a historical Adam from whom humankind originate. Enns does not supply a suggestion for how Paul understands Adam. Rather he sketches out several reasons why Paul might be mistaken in his assumption that Adam was a historical person from whom the human race originates.

First, Paul is not a modern man with access to modern scientific theory. Second, Paul often uses the Old Testament creatively to make a point. Third, Romans may have, as its focus, the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles not the justification of sinful human beings. Fourth, there were numerous Jewish interpretations of Adam abounding at the time in which Paul wrote Romans from which Paul may have drawn. Enns makes other points, but they all attempt the same feat - to bring suspicion upon Paul's assumed worldview. This worldview should in some way be suspect because it is historically conditioned and, therefore, subject to criticism from a modern scientific perspective. Enns wites:
Accepting Paul’s assumptions about human origins means the scientific and archaeological evidence must be ignored or mainstream theories must be replaced with better ones. I speak as a biblical scholar, not a scientist. But ignoring evidence is not a reasonable option. And reconfiguring the evidence to support Paul’s assumptions of a 6000 year-old earth and two humans as parents of the entire human race is, quite simply, impossible.
My own response is that I am still waiting for a good theological reason why Paul could both be writing Romans in the role of apostle, carrying all the weight of authority entailed, and be mistaken about the historical Adam. If, as Enns admits, Paul assumes a historical person called Adam from whom all human beings originate, then one has to show, from the text, that either Paul is mistaken (which seems to be the end game of Enns' argument) without damaging scriptural authority derived from Paul's status as apostle or that another interpretation of what Paul meant fits the text. It seems clear that Enns is going to attempt the first strategy--to show that Paul's worldview is mistaken--and is left with the task of leaving the text (and the underlying evangelical assumption of inspiration) undamaged.

We await an solution. I just hope that BioLogos and their friends are prepared to offer a suggestion that does not assume the very thing they wish to prove - that evolution is true.

The second assumption is that Moses is writing to illustrate the origin of Israel with the story of Adam. However, Enns (at least in what I have read so far) does not supply any reason why Moses is not saying making the comparison between the historical Adam and the people of Israel. Enns has Moses saying "Let me tell you, Israel, a story about your origins. Once upon a time..." instead of saying, "Isreal, look how your story is so similar to the story of the first human." The latter retains the comparison, but does not treat one as a parable. If one is committed to both the historical accuracy of Adam and Israel Enns does not seem to provide a reason to think of Adam as mere illustration of Israel (even if one has not noticed the comparison between the two before).

Finally, I would quibble with Enns' use of the term "impossible." Is it impossible to be committed to a young earth view given the condition of exposure to modern science? To say it is impossible seems to fly in the face of evidence that there are many people, scientists included, who find that kind of belief possible. For example, Answers in Genesis comprise a large team of proponents who are aware of modern scientific conclusions yet remain committed to a young earth view. Enns might believe that it is somehow irrational  to have such commitments, but it is surely not impossible.

I must admit I have not got a comprehensive take on BioLogos' proposal so there may indeed be good arguments forthcoming that I am not aware of. If you have any suggestions as to where to look to find answers to the problems I have posed to Enns, please let me know. 

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