What I’ve Been Reading (5)–The Evolution of Adam

August 16, 2012 by Ken Keathley

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Peter Enns is the fellow that Ken Ham has been warning about. Members of the Answers in Genesis organization (such as Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson) have often contended that abandoning young-earth creationism is the first step on a slippery slope in which the historicity of Adam and the Fall is denied, and eventually the gospel is compromised.  Logicians generally consider the slippery slope argument a fallacy (or a poor argument at best), but Enns makes the AIG guys look like they’re on to something. Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins is both disturbing and disappointing.  Enns doesn’t present much that is all that new (Bultmann made many of the same arguments 75 years ago).  What is new is that the arguments are being made by one who, until recently, signed the ETS statement affirming the inerrancy of Scripture.

Enns argues that Paul got it wrong about Adam, but but we shouldn’t worry about that because the apostle got it right about Christ.  According to Enns, Paul’s use of Adam is idiosyncratic.  Because Paul engaged in the creative hermeneutics typical of 2nd Temple Judaism, he presents a view of Adam that cannot be sustained by a close reading of the Old Testament.  Actually, Paul’s understanding of Adam is not typical of 2nd Temple Judaism.  He may have been using their hermeneutics, but he doesn’t arrive at their conclusions. In passages such as Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15, Paul engages in the theological equivalent of reverse engineering.  He saw Christ’s resurrection as a solution in search of a problem.  He begins with the resurrection of Jesus, and then re-interprets the Old Testment (particularly Genesis 3) to make sense of it all.   In the end, the apostle presents us with a view of Adam and the Fall that cannot by justified by theology, biology, history, or even the Old Testament itself. 

The classic theological liberals of the 19th and 20th centuries demonstrated the danger of accommodating the modern worldview to the point the gospel is lost.  Has Peter Enns made the same mistake? I fear he is on the verge of doing so.  Enns affirms the bodily resurrection of Christ, but he abandons the first half of the grand biblical narrative that makes sense of the event.  Enns puts that narrative–Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration–in serious jeopardy.  When he jettisons a historical Adam and a subsequent historical fall, Enns seriously damages the first half of the gospel.

The problem is not simply that Enns advocates theistic evolution.  Other evangelicals in the past have done so (B. B. Warfield and C.S. Lewis come to mind) and some current evangelicals do so today (think J. I. Packer and Tim Keller).  I think they’re wrong about evolution, but they still held, or hold, to a literal Adam who fell in a literal garden.  Enns says that there must be a synthesis of evolution and Christianity. “The only question,” states Enns, “is how that will be done” (123).  I can think of at least one more question. After the merger, is the result still Christian?

This blogpost is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com.

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