The Historical Adam, Round 2: Peter Enns

Ignoring the Problem Won't Make It Go Away

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Madueme and VanDoodewaard will no doubt contend that their view rests on the solid foundation of Scripture, though putting it this way, admirable as it is, nevertheless ignores the hermeneutical and theological complexities of Genesis recognized by many others. In truth, their foundation is not really "Scripture"—as if its meaning were plain—but rather the "proper" reading of Scripture, which is determined by their theological tradition (better, their interpretation of their theological tradition—not all Calvinists would agree with them!). In other words, Madueme and VanDoodewaard give final adjudicatory authority not to the Bible but to their theological tradition whenever science or historical biblical scholarship raises questions about the historical nature of the Bible, including the historical reliability of the Adam story. Such unwillingness to reflect critically on that theological tradition in view of historical studies is the reason why the impasse between the two "divides" mentioned at the outset continues. No true dialogue will emerge until this underlying issue is addressed.

I do not mean to suggest that Madueme and VanDoodewaard are lone voices for the view they espouse here in this roundtable. In fact, their view is common among fundamentalist and conservative evangelical apologists. But we do not do justice to the very real impact of evolution on Christian theology by disengaging from the challenge in favor of maintaining those very theological categories that the scientific and scholarly consensus has called into question. Those committed to Christian faith amid the challenges of our contemporary world deserve better.

This article is part of our Symposium on the Historical Adam:

Peter Enns is Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written extensively on biblical studies and contemporary Christian faith and has taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and Harvard Divinity School. His book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say About Human Origins questions the belief that Adam was a historical figure.

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