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My last post was about a white paper by Bruce Waltke which looked at a list of “barriers” that block evangelical Christians from considering the possibility evolution is something God designed and used to create life on earth. The paper was part of a workshop held by the BioLogos Foundation. Darrel Falk gave a similar paper, but his purported to look at barriers affecting the other side of the equation, at barriers that keep the “typical agnostic scientist” from considering the possibility God did create life, as the Bible claims, by designing and using evolution to accomplish it.

I looked forward to Falk’s paper since I had once been one of those “agnostic scientists” myself. I could never put God and evolution in the same sentence – except to say one abolished the other. And that argument – that one abolishes the other – was one I often used in even earlier years when, as an out and out “hostile atheist”, I was proselytizing my Christian students away from their faith. After a decade or so of that I changed from atheist to agnostic, and a decade later to Christian. Along the way I heard them all, and the five “barriers” Falk talks about were real and pretty prevalent. But among those and all the others, one loomed especially large, for me and my friends and colleagues. Falk rightly made it #1 on his list. It outweighs all the others together.

Falk, like Waltke, gives a list. His number #1: “The story of Adam and Eve must viewed as history”. As I said, he’s right on target. This is the big barrier, the stumbling block for most every scientist, academic, and high-school grad. But, curiously, it was also my weapon of choice for ending the faith of my Christian students. If someone has trouble attributing creation to God, as described in the first two chapters of the Bible, they will have trouble in believing in God himself, not to mention the Bible and Christianity. And no part of Genesis is harder to swallow for a modern kid, or scholar, or scientist of any stripe, than “the story of Adam and Eve”. The rest of Genesis 1 & 2 is small potatoes by comparison.

Falk starts with an anecdote about a young woman, a student of his, presumably to give us a sense of how a barrier works and the impact it can make. The young lady had grown up a Christian. She was on fire for her faith, going on missions, teaching Bible classes, and all. She went off to college. She came home an embittered atheist, decrying how the church and biblical teachings had put her in a bubble – a bubble of ignorance about the real world, about science and the real truth, a bubble of “fairy tales”.

Falk uses her sad report to question whether we Christians teach things that are not really the truth and in doing so, create barriers between Christians and the world and, I guess, scientific doctrine and scientists. I think he gets into a little trouble there. His example is almost the reverse of his thesis. The bubble, here, enveloped the young lady in Christianity and was popped by the scientists. The barrier was, in effect, the other way around, keeping her from science, not scientists from Christian doctrine. The barrier looks more like a lance in their hands! That was how it worked for me in my atheist days, a weapon more than a shield. The barrier(s), as he reviews them, seem to do Christians more harm than scientists. That’s a problem Falk doesn’t really address. Still, I think he’s generally right about the barriers keeping scientists from accepting God, and evolution as something He invented.

From the information Falk gives us, we can’t really tell what popped the girl’s bubble of faith. (I do like his metaphor, it’s like the isolation bubbles used for immune-compromised patients, right?) But I can guess, from my own decades of first hand experience, and might infer from Falk’s rating it “#1” on his list, that it was the “Adam and Eve story”.

So what does Falk say we should do about it? What’s the reason it’s a problem and how might we solve it? This is where he and I part company. Falk’s solutions only make things worse. To use an old idiom, he throws the baby out with the bath. At least to fix one problem we tend to have, nowadays, in our trusting and believing what the Bible says, he puts the rest in jeopardy. Gets on that “slippery slope” we always hear about, taking an easy out that makes it all the easier to give it all away, throw it all away in the face of the adversities of a modern, and increasingly skeptical and hostile world.

Falk has a couple of problems, very common to all of us who run into what he calls “barriers”, which most commonly are just believability questions modern science and modern culture bring up in the course of the world moving on, growing more sophisticated. We’re constantly being challenged with “whose report are you going to believe?”

Falk’s first problem is that, at least here in Genesis, he’s ready to believe the world and the scientists are right when conflict or contradiction arises between them and the Bible. That’s pretty common, of course. Scientists have done a great job building their case – across the board, in fact, for all the sciences (it’s the very nature and methodology of science) – especially for evolution and genetics and all the biological/medical sciences that support it, that belie the Adam and Eve account.

I can’t blame him. I couldn’t help but accept what science has to say and plainly show that contradicts “Adam and Eve” either, certainly as I read it in any Bible version I can find. And I’ve never known any scientific colleague, fellow academic or more educated person who could. They mostly join Falk in finding some way to disregard or rationalize that little bit of Scripture away. So I certainly can’t fault Falk for throwing Adam and Eve under the bus like he does. His way is to declare that it wasn’t intended to be factual or truthful, to be “historical”, but should only be taken as “allegorical”.

Unfortunately, once we start throwing the Bible, or little parts of it, out, we’re on that slippery slope. And that shows in the last century or so, especially in our losing “culture war” with science over evolution. While, as I just said, scientists are ever building their case for their side, we aren’t. Not to say Intelligent Design” isn’t a good try, at least, but the real high ground of our position is the Bible, and aside from our almost childish protestations “is too!”, we’ve done very very little to match what science has so successfully been doing.

We shouldn’t be so ready to give up, to plead the Bible’s authority away. Don’t cop the plea saying, “it was never intended to be a scientific text” – of course it wasn’t to be a science text, but it should be scientifically testable, and verifiable; the archaeologists are doing a magnificent job practically sweeping the old critics away. Don’t take a passage – Adam and Eve – clearly intended to be every bit as much “historical” as the rest of the creation account of Genesis is, and plead it out as “merely allegorical”.

Instead, do like the sciences do. Go back through your data, Reexamine the fossils and artifacts and archives, see if there’s anything there. See if we’ve missed anything. Scientists constantly find errors, new understanding, even the basis of new theories in their past work being reevaluated in light of today’s contradictions and latest revelations. That’s how they build and strengthen their case. But we, in Genesis 1 and 2, just simply take what we got 400 years ago. What King James’ scholars said Genesis said!

Suppose Genesis’ “Adam and Eve story” read like this:

Genesis 2:20 And the Man (Adam) proclaimed names for all the beasts of the land and every flying creature in the air, to every living thing on the land, but there was not there any appropriate partner for the Man (Adam).
Genesis 2:21 The Lord God caused a trance to come over the Man (Adam), and He brought to the chamber where he slept, a chosen female, and He delivered her for the purposes of the flesh.
Genesis 2:22 The Lord God established the family in that chamber, where He brought for marriage a woman from among men and ushered her in unto the Man (Adam).
Genesis 2:23 And Adam joyfully declared, “At last, this is bone of my bones and kindred of my kind. She shall be renowned among women for she was chosen for marriage from among the women.
Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man be set free of his father and his mother and he shall be joined together with his wife and they shall be one flesh.”

Well, it’s my contention that it does! Not allegory, but another bit of history of our relationship with God, just as Genesis intends. Not an allegory about the way and meaning God’s people should mate and marry, but a record of the way He wanted it. And an explanation of how it is different than mating and coupling of the creatures of the secular world (which evolution produced?): “[among] all the beasts of the land … there was not any appropriate partner [until] He brought … a chosen female (surely, spirit-filled – reborn – just as Adam was).” Not outrageous in the face of modern knowledge, and science, but fully compatible. Not something anyone would be embarrassed about, but proud of – proud of what God gave us and not the rest of His creatures.

Isn’t that a better way to go, to take away the bubble, and disarm the atheists and agnostics?

Professor Bruce Waltke was invited to present a white paper at a BioLogos workshop in 2009, explaining why so many evangelical theologians reject even the possibility that God used evolution as a process or method of creation. He decided to conduct a survey. By invitation, 264 professors from various evangelical colleges and seminaries went to a website and answered yes or no to a list of eleven reasons which he thought the most likely. A twelfth choice was “I can accept the theory of theistic evolution”. Waltke gave the results in “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation By Means of an Evolutionary Process.”

Today, I readily choose the twelfth option, “no problem”. Before completing my retranslation and interpretation of Genesis 1 – 2, I wouldn’t have. Even a few years after that I wouldn’t have. I was already concerned with how many in my evangelical community were going to take my new translation, and after a decade or so of preaching against evolution, I wasn’t ready to reconsider, let alone reverse myself and accept evolution again. Well, I’ve finally grown past that. I’ve had time to both to continue tweaking my interpretation of Genesis, and absorb the full meaning of what I’d discovered about Genesis. I’ve also watched incredible growth in the science, methodologies, and evidence for evolution. Its been almost overwhelming, even embarrassing! And so now I’m eager to tell you why I think the “barriers”, the reasons evangelicals give for not considering it possible God actually designed and used evolution as a tool or process in His creation, are not good. Not right. Not sensible. Actually damaging the church’s standing and reputation, and alienating us from the world and our children.

The most popular choice (barely) in the survey was “I have no problem with theistic evolution” (46%), but next, the most common “barrier”, most popular reason for rejection of everything evolution (44%) was: “A straightforward reading of Genesis 1-2 does not harmonize with evolution”.

What can I say? For ten years, now, I’ve been at the city gate telling the elders, “What you’ve been reading is not the straightforward truth. What you’ve always read is only the inevitable naiveté and shortcomings of scholars of 400 years ago!” If I could only get that 44% to read my translation (and the book by which they could witness and evaluate each and every step I took) I am fully certain most would unselect that choice. What they think the Genesis record says is not anywhere near correct. If the truth of the Genesis text be known, there is NO contradiction between its outline of the history of creation and that writ by modern science! And there’s the salient point: Genesis is but a history of creation. It describes the history, not the methods or processes, of creation. And sadly, what most everyone seems determined to do, is ignore the fact the King James scholars had absolutely no knowledge of such as genes or dinosaurs or the universe beyond earth, nor need for such – nor did their audience. The result:their translation and interpretation (still the basis of every Bible version today) is irrelevant to our culture wars and to anyone’s decision for or against modern sciences’ ideas or theories – including evolution.

All I can say, as I have been for some time, is that its about time we, including scientists and evangelical Christians, start utilizing the best knowledge we have today when we read and analyze the Scriptures and choose what to do with what the sciences have to say.

The second most popular choice of “barriers” (36%) was: “ID explains the origins of species better than evolution”

I’m a fan of ID. I’ve long championed it as the best alternative to evolution but, as of today, ID’s scholars and researchers not been winning many battles. Many of their contentions, things they say can only be explained by ID, have been aptly parried by the evolutionists, via new fossils, biological and genetic analyses, etc. The fossil record, particularly, seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, filling in gaps that were once the mainstay of ID – so much so that ID’s often been characterized as a “theory of the gaps”. Nowadays, I’d rather argue for “intelligent guidance”, and I’m far more confident of the “intelligent design” of the physics and laws of the universe – designed to propel and make inevitable God’s preferred/planned outcomes, than cast the whole cloth of creation of life into the rubric of ID.

If that still sounds like a “God of the Gaps” thing, well so be it. That might be about the best place for “ID”. Indeed, ID’s best arguments and staple of its challenges to evolution have always been about gaps, or “missing links”, or biological “inventions” that evolution can’t explain. Most of all, ID is, so far at least, the best answer to the origination of life itself; of DNA, the first cell (the biggest “gap” of all), even (perhaps) of the major branches (“kinds”) in the tree of life, which seem to be beyond the purview of a theory addressing “descent with modification” wrought by “natural selection”. Once life is invented, I think Darwin has made a great case for the process of speciation, which seems to be going on even in present day, and can be engineered in the lab.

Whatever, Genesis 1 – 2 is quite compatible with both ID and evolution. In fact, ID and Evolution can even help each other explain Creation, filling in for the shortcomings of the other!

In third place (34%), the barrier was: “Evolution does not harmonize with the doctrine that Adam brought death and decay into the world.”

That “doctrine”, I fear, is on a par with the geocentric (“earth-centrism”) doctrine that condemned Galileo, still goads the culture wars, and delayed our learning where we really are in a creation far greater than we can imagine, even today. I think a doctrine that insists there was no death or decay before Adam is even more naive and illogical than geocentricism. It practically makes nonsense of the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2!

If physical death and decay were not already part of the ecosystem before Adam, (and when Adam was in the Garden!) then all before Genesis 1:27 wasn’t real, was not the creation of what we have now because there could be no biological life as we know it, no dynamic ecology or web of life with its hierarchy of “kinds”, of creatures as Genesis describes. The fact is, everything bigger than a microbe eats other living things. Eating fuels a biologically based energy system and provides the building materials that are the basis of living! Creatures eat seeds and leaves and flowers and fruits of plants; plants thrive in their own detritus, create seeds and leaves and fruits to create more plants – and plant materials – which themselves must fall to the ground and decay or the earth would soon be one big haystack. Animals are even worse! They eat and excrete, and reproduce and multiply. Genesis says so! The planet would be overwhelmed in very short order, if nothing died and nothing decayed! Surely, physical death and decay came with the creation, was part of the system, from the very first instance of life. If not, if it had to await Adam’s intervention, then until that moment it could only be a chimerical creation, like a plastic terrarium or aquarium!

You might try to answer this with a “Young Earth” interpretation, that it was all a stage but only for several days until Adam was given his batteries (he can’t be biologically complete until the “Fall” either, you know). Well, what about the time Adam spent in the Garden – must have been years, right? Was everything still “on hold” during that time too? If so, what was he “tending” or “taking care of” (tilling and pruning?) if not living plants? What did he do with the clippings? And, he was obviously eating. He was told to eat anything he wanted but the one fruit. Why would he eat if not to fuel and provide the biological processes of a biological body? And another question: was everything that God created inside the Garden? Or outside also, throughout the whole world? Remember, Genesis 2:8 suggests the “Garden” (from gan, a word denoting “an enclosure”) was not “all”, but a “special” place. And if life (the whole ecosystem of life) was ongoing outside God’s special place, well, then there must have been much life and … death and decay!

So what’s the answer? Rather simple, really. I’ve been talking about it for a decade. First, it is not the “First Death” that matters, not to God, and not really to us. The First Death comes to us all sooner or later. However long we live, our body will go through the cycle of life: birth, childhood and growing up, maturity and mating, parenting and grand parenting, and death. Whether it takes 70 or 700 years. (A 1000 years is but like day, remember, to the Lord.) And though He might care (because we do), our physical death merely ends a “blink of an eye” in eternity, and it is really whether we die or do not die to eternity that He really cares about. Adam was not warned about the first, physical, death, but of the second.

The Story of Adam (and Eve):

You need not agree, it won’t matter much in eternity, but I suspect Adam was at first a mere Homo.sapiens (that is, a biological man). He was one of a village or tribe which was one small part of the species, part of a kind. God, satisfied with what the kind had become, liked what He saw in Adam. So God chose him from out of many and put (breathed) His Spirit into him, endowing him with the potential for the only life that really matters, the life of the spirit, the life of Adam’s second birth! Adam was a man born of water, and by God’s grace, born again of spirit – the model and type of all of us today! Adam was the first “Man”!

God is always choosing! He often starts thing by choosing. He chose Adam. One might assume He chose earth (from so many planets), and chose that point in the history of life. He chose Abram. He chose Israel. He even chose Eve.

The Scriptures make it plain that Adam matured during his time in the Garden. I say (in my book) that God led Adam through a study of (naming) all living creatures that he might come to understand what was special about himself, and requisite for a proper “helpmate”. When Adam learned, God chose again. He chose a female (from among the H.sapiens), breathed into her a spirit, and brought her to Adam, to his house, to his wedding bed. Eve was the first wife, and destined to be the “mother of all”.

This is what the Hebrew language describes, and there is no incompatibility with that third barrier.

This interpretation answers many questions, of course. It explains why Adam and Eve were “embarrassed to be naked – the people from which they came were not naked. It explains who Cain feared when he was turned out, who God had to warn not to harm Cain, and with whom Cain formed “cities”. It explains why we are never told that after the Fall God recreated the earth’s ecosystem, adding predators, and death, and decay … even the beginning of genetic processes that would actually supply the raw material of speciation as we know it. We aren’t told because it was all already there!

The fourth choice (28%) was: “Evolution calls into question Adam as the father of original sin and of Christ as the Redeemer from the effects of sin.”

What I’ve said about #3 pretty much answers this as well. Adam (and Eve) were the first to be “born again”, born of the spirit, and thereby received the potential of eternal life. God warned them they might “die”, but He meant “die” the second death, which Satan obfuscated. When Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world (as God knew they would), we carried on the tradition (as God knew we would). It’s in our genes to do wrong. It’s in our spirit that it becomes sin. Evolution has naught to do with God’s spirit, or sin – animals don’t sin! So Adam as the first Man, and first able to sin, was the father of sin, and Christ Redeems each of us of effects unrelated to biology or evolution, but our relationship with God. That’s why Christ is the Redeemer. He redeems not our biological life (possibly a product of evolution) but our spiritual life (definitely a product of God, not biology or evolution).

For the rest of the other “barriers”, read Waltke’s paper. And feel free to come back and ask my thoughts about any of them.