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A bridge too far

Issue: "2011 Books of the Year," July 2, 2011

In June, after WORLD's articles on books were written and in production, the debate about theistic evolution, and particularly the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, hit the cover of Christianity Today (CT) and the internet home page of The Gospel Coalition.

The CT cover story asserted, "The center of the evolution debate has shifted from asking whether we came from earlier animals to whether we could have come from one man and one woman." The article quoted critics of the revisionist view but gave more room to the contentions of those such as TE proponent Karl Giberson, who "downplays the potentially vanishing Adam and Eve as 'a secondary or peripheral disagreement that . . . will percolate along as an issue and more of the evangelical church will become fine with it, despite Main Street objections.'"

The CT editorial noted that "the entire story of salvation hinges on the obedience of the Second Adam" but concluded, "At this juncture, we counsel patience. We don't need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth."

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The Gospel Coalition's headline read, "Sinned in a Literal Adam, Raised in a Literal Christ." Author and pastor Tim Keller wrote, "If you don't believe Adam and Eve were literal but realize the author of Genesis was probably trying to teach us that they were real people who sinned-Paul certainly was-then you have to face the implications for how you read Scripture. . . . I don't think the author of Genesis 1 wants us to take the 'days' literally, but it is clear that Paul definitely does want readers to take Adam and Eve literally. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority."

That's also what's at stake in the debate about theistic evolution. Young earth advocates argue that old earthers, by saying the "days" of Genesis 1 could be billions of years, have moved away from biblical authority. Old earth advocates reply that they are respecting the authority of all of Scripture, but have legitimate exegetical disagreements with their young earth brethren. But Christians who disagree with Paul about the historicity of Adam and Eve have crossed a bridge too far for those who are biblically orthodox in their reading of Genesis.

In God and Evolution John West points out that without the first chapters of Genesis "the rest of the Christian story makes very little sense." He quotes Wisconsin historian of science Ron Numbers, a believer in Christianity until he became a Darwinist: "With evolution, you don't start out with anything perfect. . . . There's no perfect state from which to fall. This makes the whole plan of salvation silly because there never was a fall."

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Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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