I heard Francis Collins yesterday here at Pepperdine. As you may know, he is author of The Language of God and co-author of The Language of Science and Faith. He was leader of the project that cracked the entirety of the human genome, a project that I believe will quickly result in curing most diseases like cancer, diabetes and other gene related illnesses. Obama appointed him to head the National Institutes of Health, an appointment new atheists like Sam Harris publicly opposed.
His faith is very evident. Let's be clear about that. He has a spiritual autobiography something like C. S. Lewis where he started as an atheist but was driven to faith. It is also evident that he sees no contradiction between science and faith, and he was founder of BioLogos to that end.
I won't pretend that the question of evolution is not a difficult one at one point in particular, namely, our theology of Adam and the Fall. Genesis 1 is a piece of cake, since it seems rather easily read as a poetic rather than a literal presentation of creation. The problem is not even with Genesis 2-3. The problem is with what Paul does with Genesis 2-3 and what Augustine did with Paul and with what Calvin and Wesley did with Paul.
I might describe it like this:
1. The rest of the OT doesn't do anything with Genesis 2-3. Genesis 2-3 is not of major significance for the theology internal to the Old Testament. Further, Adam and Eve's sin only stop them from not dying. It does not seem to bring human death into the world except in that it prevents endless life.
2. The rest of the NT doesn't do anything with Genesis 2-3. Genesis 2-3 is not of major significance for the theology internal to the rest of the New Testament outside Paul. Adam is not mentioned elsewhere.
3. Adam in Romans and 1 Corinthians, however, provides Paul's explanation for where sin and death came from. Adam seems to play a central role in Paul's theology.
4. This became central to our Christian understanding because Augustine and Protestantism focused on Paul and Adam, and made him a centerpiece in the Christian reading of Scripture. When anyone reads Scripture, s/he must prioritize passages to form a coherent reading. Adam would not have to be a centerpiece of such a reading. He is central because we have inherited the readings of Augustine and the Protestant tradition.
The idea that death entered the world through Adam is one issue, since evolution requires lots of death. There are strategies you can make. Perhaps spiritual death entered through Adam. Perhaps we could go with Genesis--Adam stopped life rather than started death.
Collins presented a new problem yesterday I was not aware of. In his opinion, the human genome is too diverse to have come from one parent (remembering that Eve got her DNA from Adam). He thinks thousands would have been necessary (he also pointed out that the genome of homo neanderthalis, which they have also decoded in full, is very similar to homo sapiens, possibly implying continuity between the two species.
He presented several possibilities. One is that God created thousands of Adams and Eves. One is that God did something special with two of the newly evolved thousands and then retro-did the others or it spread to the others. Collins doesn't like the metaphorical route, that Adam and Eve are a story expressing the mystery of human identity and our condition before God, but not historical individuals.
Here is some exploration of Adam by RJS on Scott McKnight's blog, including a link to a recent CT article. I do not offer an answer. I do have two ground rules:
1. Having grown up with a fundamentalist view of the Bible and then feeling repeatedly stupid--indeed feeling like a complete ignoramus--as I studied the Bible in context, I reject the idea that the Christian position on these sorts of issues is a slam dunk. The interpretation of the Bible is often complicated and unclear, and its appropriation even more susceptible to debate.
2. I reject any glib dismissal of science by those who couldn't pass a science class to save their life and yet insist on using cell phones and surgeons. It is one and the same scientific method which has given us lap tops and evolution. I am not a scientist. I am not competent to judge the issue. But I fear basing my faith on the opposite side of the vast and overwhelming majority of those who are competent to judge the evidence, in a field where you make your reputation by coming up with new discoveries, when every single scientist against evolution does so because of a presupposition they start out with rather than because the evidence drove them to that conclusion.
So have at it. What do you think?