Normally I want to post more pure science or culture on Friday, but since I haven't come to anything really interesting to me in the biography I'm reading about James Clerk Maxwell, I thought I would post about the introduction to the new book by Peter Enns I'm also reading, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins.
This is going to be a hard book to read, not because Enns himself is caustic or confrontational. In fact, quite the opposite. I have been impressed with how sensitive and "exploratory" a tone he has adopted in this book. His evangelical background as an OT scholar comes through clearly, not as someone who has been burned (Westminster Theological Seminary effectively pushed him out, even if he did the resigning), not as someone bitter because they feel stupid from the past (very, very common). The tone is thoroughly respectful and truth seeking. It doesn't have the condescending tone Giberson and even Collins sometimes seem to have.
His audience is Christian, especially evangelicals, and especially American evangelicals. Yet he is also addressing those who believe evolution must be taken seriously. Respect of Scripture is a primary value, although he clarifies that "the most faithful, Christian reading of sacred Scripture is one that recognizes Scripture as a product of the times in which it was written and/or the events took place--not merely so, but unalterably so" (xi).
I will not debate this claim, although I think there may be more to Christian hermeneutics than the original meaning. Nevertheless, I agree it does no honor to the Bible to pretend that it meant something different than it did (even if I think there is room for self-consciously different readings).
In any case, the reason the book will be a hard read is because of his conclusion: "If evolution is correct, one can no longer accept, in any true sense of the word "historical," the instantaneous and special creation of humanity described in Genesis, specifically 1:26-31 and 2:7,22" (xiv). In particular, he does not believe we should speculate about Adam in ways foreign to the original meaning of Genesis. For example, he will not let us say that Adam and Eve were the first two homo sapiens in which God put a soul because that is certainly not anything Genesis itself was thinking.
Enns does not believe, rightly I think, that Genesis is, in the end, the real point of conflict between evolution and the Bible. Paul is. He sees four options:
1. Accept evolution and reject Christianity (he will say no to this).
2. Accept Paul's view of Adam as binding and reject evolution (he will say no to this as well).
3. Reconcile evolution and Christianity by positing a first human pair (or group) at some point in the evolutionary process (he thinks this doesn't respect Genesis enough in terms of its original meaning).
4. Rethink Genesis and Paul (clearly the option he believes has the most integrity).
So the book begins.