The Historical Adam, Round 2: Denis O. Lamoureaux
Comments on Roundtable
I am grateful that Peter Enns and John Schneider raised the pastoral issue related to origins. To use Schneider's words, there is a "disaster" in churches as young people are leaving in "droves." A 2011 Barna Group survey reveals that 59 percent of young people "disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15." This study records that 25 percent of them perceive that "Christianity is anti-science," and 23 percent have "been turned off by the evolution vs. creation debate." We should all be concerned with this shocking loss of faith. I disagree with Ken Ham who wants churches to teach more young earth creationism to the younger generation. In my opinion, this will only throw fuel on the fires already destroying the faith of our youth.
Historian William VanDoodewaard offers a historical argument for the existence of Adam. He asserts that "the mainstream, historic view of Christian orthodoxy" has always upheld the de novo creation of Adam, with Eve made de novo from his side, and that this occurred on the sixth day of creation. Of course, as an evolutionary biologist I have some issues. Humans share about 13,000 pseudogenes with chimpanzees; the best known is a similar defective gene for Vitamin C. Are we to suggest that on day six the Lord first placed these faulty genes in chimps, and then recycled them when he created Adam later in the day? A more parsimonious and less tortuous explanation is that humans and chimpanzees inherited these 13,000 genes from a last common ancestral population. With regard to the creation of Eve, did God remove the Y chromosome out of each cell from the flesh of Adam's side and replace it with an X chromosome before he fashioned her? Is the intention of the Word of God to reveal that the Lord was the first genetic engineer? I am doubtful.
But let's return to VanDoodewaard's historical argument and apply it to a different scientific issue. Geocentricity was "the mainstream, historic view of Christian orthodoxy" up to the 17th century. For example, Luther embraced geocentrism, as the diagram from his 1534 Bible translation reveals. In his 1536 Lectures on Genesis he states, "Scripture … simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed … in the firmament of the heaven (below and above which are the waters) … . The bodies of the stars, like that of the sun, are round, and they are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire."
John Calvin was also a geocentrist. In his 1554 Commentary on the Book of Genesis he boldly asserts, "We indeed are not ignorant, that the circuit of the heavens is finite, and that the earth, like a little globe, is placed in the center … . The primum mobile [the final sphere] rolls all the celestial spheres along with it." Does VanDoodewaard want to appeal to the historical record in order to argue that 21st-century Christians need to accept geocentricity, since during three-quarters of church history it was "the mainstream, historic view of Christian orthodoxy"?
John Walton has been instrumental in assisting evangelical Christians to understand the necessity of reading the Word of God in the light of ancient Near Eastern literature. I completely resonate with his archetypal interpretation of Adam and Eve. If we cannot see that we are Adam and Eve, then we have missed completely the inerrant spiritual truths in Genesis 2-3. I do disagree with his thesis that creation accounts do not deal with material origins, but instead only functional origins. In my examination of ANE origins stories and a recent reading of David A. Leeming's two-volume Creation Myths of the World (2010), it is obvious to me that these accounts feature both functional origins and material origins.
Finally, I have a special kinship to Hans Madueme because we are both clinicians. He is a physician and I am a dentist. In his paper he raises concerns about methodological naturalism yielding a so-called "truncated science." Let me suggest that we would never have completed our respective MD and DDS degrees had we not embraced this assumption. In fact, if we ever attempted to practice our clinical sciences appealing to demons, angels, or divine acts in diagnoses or treatment protocols our professional associations would cancel our licenses. And if any patients were aware of such a clinical approach, I doubt they would darken the doors of our offices, including Christians. Methodological naturalism is a wonderful instrument. It has made us a healthier people, put humans on the moon, and revealed that the Lord created us through an evolutionary process.