Adam and Creation Tossed Out of History

This month’s Christianity Today (June 2011) lead story is “The Search for the Historical Adam.” While the search is not new, the evidence that threatens to throw Adam out of history is. Francis S. Collins’ work on genome has put the historical Adam and Eve in the category of fiction instead of history. Based on his scientific research Collins concludes  “that ‘unfortunately’ the concept of Adam and Eve as the literal first couple and the ancestors of all humans simply ‘do not fit the evidence’” (CTi, June 2011, 24). Collins believes based on his scientific evidence that theistic evolution is the best model to explain the existence of Adam and Eve. For Collins and others our first parents evolved from primate ancestors 100,000 years ago through natural processes.

While it may be “convenient” to toss a literal reading of Genesis out and relate it all as myth to harmonize its account with science, I wonder how he (and others who affirmed theistic evolution at a BioLogos workshop in NYC in Nov 2010, [CTi, 27]) would read other portions of the Bible that build their argument based on a literal creation.  In particular I have in mind Isaiah’s concept of God as creator.

In Isaiah 40-55 the prophet is arguing that Yahweh is God alone. Isaiah’ purpose is to move his countrymen away from trust in idols back to the living God.  To prove that Yahweh is God alone Isaiah recounts numerous times that God worked as creator. According to R. Reed Lessing, “Isaiah employs wide variety of creational verbs. His list is impressive” (“Yahweh Versus Marduk: Creation Theology in Isaiah 4-55,” Concordia Journal, 36, no. 3 (Sum 2010): 234-244).  By my count Lessing notes that eleven “creation verbs” appear eighty times in these chapters. God as creator is vital to Isaiah’s argument.  If God did not create the stars and lead them (40:26) or stretch out the heavens (40:42; 42:5; 48:13) or give breath and spirit to all people (42:5) or form light and darkness (45:7) or make the earth and create man on it (45:12, 18; 48:13), or form his servant in the womb (49:5), then he is no better than the idols and Isaiah has lost his argument against Israel.  The purpose of Isaiah’s rhetoric is to show through special creation that Yahweh is God alone.

And there is more to explain. How would theistic evolutionist read God’s ability to “remake” nature on Israel’s behalf in these chapters? For Israel God will open rivers in deserts, plant cedars and others trees in desert (41:17), he will lay waste to mountains and hills (42:16) and make rivers in the desert (43:19).  The “creation” language of these verses indicates that God (as the subject) will do all these things based on his personal agency and not natural processes.  To argue that natural process will be the cause of these changes in nature is to rob Isaiah of his rhetoric to his comfort people based on God’s actions.

The implications of the historicity of the first couple or the truth of a six day creation does not simply impact the early chapters of Genesis.  If Adam, Eve and a literal creation are tossed out of  history, their loss vibrates through the rest of the scriptures as well.  Evangelicals cannot afford to have Adam and Eve tossed out of the Garden AND history.  While there is redemption for the first, there is little hope for the second.

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