Promotes no basis for Christianity at all!
Published: 27 October 2011 (GMT+10)
The publication Christianity Today is a popular mainstream Christian magazine that many consider indicative of views in the evangelical church in general. Certainly that was true at its inception, but many are not aware that for several years now, they have advocated unbiblical and sometimes radical views of many ‘staples’ of Christian doctrine, including origins. In short, they are regarded as being very liberal by many evangelicals today. The article “The search for the historical Adam” in the June 2011 issue is only the latest in this trend.1
The article begins by saying, “Secularist brows furrowed in 2009 when President Obama chose prominent atheist-turned-Christian Francis S. Collins to be the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).” He is called “one of the most eminent scientists ever to identify as an evangelical Christian” (p. 23). High praise indeed, but what the article doesn’t bring out is that Collins’s beliefs about origins in many ways are no different than the atheists’. He accepts that modern humans “emerged from primate ancestors perhaps 100,000 years ago” (p. 24). Instead of coming from two individuals, the original human population (to the extent that we can even distinguish the first humans in a single generation) numbered around 10,000. He is the founder of the theistic evolution organization Biologos—an organization that places greater authority in secular science than the Bible. Indeed, some of its members have openly stated that the Apostle Paul and even Jesus (the Creator of the universe—Colossians 1) were wrong when it comes to science.
What of the Bible’s account, which, as a professing Christian, Collins is obliged to believe? It is relegated to being merely “a poetic and powerful allegory” (p. 24). The Bible is divinely inspired, trustworthy, and authoritative, but only on “faith and conduct,” not scientific matters.
What’s at stake?
The article notes that “foundational confessions of faith from the Protestant Reformation assume a historical Adam, and official Romans Catholicism defined this teaching at the 1546 Council of Trent” (p. 24). But the Church’s affirmation of the historicity of the first several chapters of Genesis began far before the 16th century. As is documented in Refuting Compromise, every major Church Father affirmed the historical Adam.
Since the Church Fathers and Reformers aren’t inspired, one could say that they were simply wrong and reflected attitudes of their own day. But when one makes the same claims about the biblical authors, one runs into some serious theological difficulties. Yet this is exactly what theistic evolutionists do. “Paul and Luke may have thought Adam was a literal man because they had no reason not to… but we have many reasons to interpret Adam as a literary figure” (p. 26). Waltke reflects the same uncertainty in the Bible’s teaching when he says, “We have to go with the scientific evidence. I don’t think we can ignore it. I have full confidence in Scripture, but it does not represent what science represents” (p. 26). And what does science represent? Truth? What then of Christ’s claim to be the Truth? He taught that Adam and Eve were real historical figures.
As we’ve shown before, the New Testament refers to Genesis as literal history 1–11 over 60 times. It refers to that straightforward history as the basis for making pronouncements about Christian belief, doctrine and practice. The historical Adam and his relationship to humanity is analogous to Christ’s relationship to believers.
Theistic evolution: a “Trojan horse”?
Christianity Today’s article is divided between people who say that “Scripture can be reinterpreted to accord with evolutionary theory,” and those who worry that “the hermeneutics behind theistic evolution are a Trojan horse that, once inside our gates, must cause the entire fortress of Christian belief to fall” (p. 27).
Peter Enns, the Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for BioLogos, argues that “a literal Adam as a special creation without evolutionary forebears is ‘at odds with everything else we know about the past from the natural sciences and cultural remains. … The Bible itself invites a symbolic reading by using cosmic battle imagery and by drawing parallels between Adam and Israel” (p. 26). Dennis Lamoureux goes farther, saying, “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity … the Holy Spirit descended to the level of the biblical author of Genesis 1 and used his incidental ancient science regarding biological origins’ to reveal ‘infallible messages of faith about the human spiritual condition’” (p. 26).
But as Jesus said in John 3:12: “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Indeed, in the evolutionary view the Bible is wrong about the human spiritual condition as well, because as CT writes “Vices we associate with consequences of the Fall and original sin, such as self-serving behavior, exist in lower primates and would have been passed on via evolution to humans. Thus Eden cannot be a literal description of how things really were in the primal human past” (p. 26). So if Genesis doesn’t reflect historical reality, it can’t depict spiritual reality either.
Attempted harmonizations fall short
Some try to harmonize the evolutionary account of humanity’s origin with the Bible by saying that “After God conferred his image upon Adam, he did the same with the others who then existed to bring them into the same realm of being.” In this view, “Adam’s headship of humanity extended … outwards to his contemporaries as well as onwards to his offspring, and his disobedience disinherited both alike” (p. 27). They appeal to a “population bottleneck around 150,000 years ago”, comprising at least several thousand individuals “at minimum” out of which modern humanity is supposed to have emerged and hypothesize that perhaps God made this entire population into the first ‘biblical humans’. They argue that “it would have required God’s miraculous intervention to increase the genetic diversity to what is observable today” (p. 25). But as we’ve pointed out before, what we see in genetics fits with what we’d expect if the Bible’s account is true—everyone is very closely related, and we’re not that different genetically.
But when you start talking about a whole population of beings which emerged from primate ancestors, you’re no longer talking about biblical humans in any sense. It’s an origins story, but it’s certainly not a biblical one, or one that is Christian in any historical sense.
The critical question is: is there any ground that these theistic evolutionists wouldn’t give way on, if science demanded that they do so? Collins concedes that “if Adam and Eve lacked an actual existence we nullify so many things in the Bible it results in a different story.” But then he immediately backpedals and argues that “the pivotal point is that however God produced the bodies of the first human beings, it wasn’t a purely natural process.” And if genetics seemed to contradict Adam and Eve as the literal ancestors of all people, Collins “could perhaps reconceive of Adam and Eve as the king and queen of a larger population and thereby preserve Genesis’ historicity” (p. 27).
In these harmonizations, it’s always the Bible which must give way—there’s not a single point where Collins, Giberson, et al make the argument, “Science says this, but we believe it’s wrong because the Bible teaches us otherwise.”
Over the years there has been a plethora of fanciful ideas that attempt to marry the Bible with ‘science’, and there also seems to be no shortage of willing evangelical organizations willing to promote such views. However, as Dr Jonathan Sarfati wrote in his classic book Refuting Compromise, “‘If we marry our theology to today’s science, we’ll be widowed tomorrow.” Indeed, many such novel interpretations have come and similarly disappeared over the years. As Christians, wouldn’t it be easier to just believe what the Bible says?
Theology and history are inextricably linked
The most conservative position that Christianity Today presents is that of Tim Keller, who argues that:
“Paul most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. 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 the biblical authority … If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching” (p. 27).
Physicist John Bloom, director of Biola University’s science and religion program, adds:
“If there was merely a population of pre-Adamic hominids that ‘collectively evolved into modern man, then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged. If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?”
But this doesn’t keep these individuals from believing in evolution—we pointed out this inconsistency in our response to Timothy Keller’s paper published on BioLogos, “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople”.
Can anything be ‘Christian’?
A person who calls himself a Christian has an obligation to submit to the Bible’s authority as the Word of God, and not just in spiritual matters, but also in historical matters, and even where the Bible’s teachings make scientific implications. It should be worrying when so many mainstream scholars and pastors who self-designate themselves as ‘evangelicals’ can discard so much of the Bible’s teaching about origins.
An Adam who had ancestors, human or otherwise, is not the biblical Adam, even if you make him the actual ancestor of all humans who came after him (and most don’t). When you talk about an original population of 10,000 human beings, you’re no longer talking about a biblical account of origins.
In short, someone can believe any origins story they want. But they don’t have the freedom to call their preferred protology ‘Christian’ or ‘biblical’ unless it’s in full conformity with all the Bible’s teaching.
- Ostling, R., The Search for the Historical Adam, Christianity Today, June 2011, p. 23–27. Quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from this article. Return to text.
The 'scoffers’ themselves are willingly ignorant. To me this is not a problem, it has since been prophesised as such by Peter, and it will not change (although my wish is for everyone to see the truth just like our Lord Jesus wanted us to). My main fear is for these unbiblical teachings to reach young minds, especially those at junior school level. Biologos, Ongoing Creation, Christianity Today, etc. the disguise is all sheep's clothing. Thanks CMI for always flashing the red lights.
God bless CMI (and Collins, Dawkins and Co when they sincerely desire it).
These opposers of the plain teaching of the Bible re creation are appealing to their greater knowledge than ours to force us to accept their evolutionary teaching. But we trump them by appealing to the clear Word of God. All this controversy brethren and sisters can work together for good if we believe and act on our beliefs. We have a greater authority than they. Their authority is something like "the assured results of higher scientific research" so they reject the plain meaning of Scripture to accommodate unbelieving scientists. Our acceptance of the Word of God as it stands overcomes their clever Bible destroying theories. We are assured that ours is the true understanding of origins and salvation because of Psalm 119 verses 98 to 100. This teaches that we who stick to God's Word (against the twisting and watering down of it by evolutionary Bible re-interpreters) are "wiser than our 'enemies'" and "have more understanding than our teachers, and more than the aged". I repeat, our taking the Bible at face value beats the evolutionists hands down and assures us we have the real truth. Give your youngsters the Bible liberally from infancy. By doing this we have many of our six children and 13 grandchildren evangelising Japan. Our opponents have hardly even attempted to answer our scientific challenges (Refuting Compromise etc etc) and they have to do that to satisfactorily kill our understanding of the Bible's truth. Like Hitler, they just keep spouting their own theories and ignore our opposite talk. It's a trick in arguing and it works on some people.
Have you noticed that God who seldom repeats Himself in such matters, goes to all the trouble of saying all of nine times on Page One of His book,that He made living things to reproduce "After its kind, after its kind......"? No evolution from page one!!
I find the illogic of these compromisers incredible. Invariably they deny (at least by implication) the ability of God to create without using natural processes such as evolution. So how did God create anything “natural” in the first place? Then they attribute to Him some alternative creative processes (not even hinted at in the Biblical account) to fill the resulting gaps and make the story fit their own ideas. Not only this but they also ignore the fact that they are limiting God to “guiding” natural processes (rather than creating) apparently without interfering with those processes, but, if He interferes, they are no longer natural processes. Go figure!
“Paul and Luke may have thought Adam was a literal man because they had no reason not to … but we have many reasons to interpret Adam as a literary figure” (p. 26).
-The pretense here is that everyone circa 60 AD believed Adam was a historical figure; but this isn’t even close to being true, as almost everyone outside the Jews didn’t believe this. (Luke was not a Jew; and not even all the Jews believed Adam was a historical figure.)
‘Waltke reflects the same uncertainty in the Bible’s teaching when he says, “We have to go with the scientific evidence. I don’t think we can ignore it.’’
-The unspoken pretense here is that the consensus of scientists is always correct. This isn’t even remotely true.
-There’s no such thing as ‘scientific evidence’ by the way; all we have is what particular scientists claim is evidence for their claims.
-To dispute a claim isn’t to ignore it.
‘Peter Enns, the Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for BioLogos, argues that “a literal Adam as a special creation without evolutionary forebears is ‘at odds with everything else we know about the past from the natural sciences and cultural remains. … ”
-This is such a wild claim it’s hard to know what to say. What we see in the fossil record (that theistic evolutionists like to site) is sudden creation; perfection with no precursors. (Not that I believe the E. account of the fossil record.)
‘Dennis Lamoureux goes farther, saying, “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity …’’
-It doesn’t matter that Christianity has no basis in reality? Reality doesn’t matter? Why not base Christianity on a six foot tall, talking rabbit called Harvey in that case.
Why is that so many “believers” don’t seem to have a problem with God creating the universe; a virgin becoming pregnant; or Jesus healing the sick and raising the dead? They don’t have a problem with Jesus Himself rising from the dead (that is assuming they celebrate Easter). But for some strange reason they think He’s not powerful enough to create humankind from Adam and Eve. Seriously? God healed lepers and gave sight to a man born blind. He walked on water and fed 5,000 people (not counting the women and children) with five loaves and two fish but was stymied when it came to us. Humankind had to have evolved from pond scum through the process of random mutation and natural selection because, what, were we too complicated to build? Too complex for God’s “limited” abilities I guess. Really? Is it just me?
Sadly the magazine “Christianity Today” is aptly named. It clearly shows how far Christians (if that is what they really are) have strayed from the truths of scripture. To believe fallen man over an eternal God in Faithlessness. Creation Ministries on the other hand is a lamp shining brightly on its lampstand. Keep up the brilliant ministry.