*Please understand the views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views of everyone associated with Hashtag Apologetics.
As someone who is a firm proponent of evolution as well as a devoted Christian, I get questions all the time about how I could possibly collaborate those two views. Doesn’t the Bible teach that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old? Doesn’t the Bible teach that all of mankind came from a single primal biological couple? In short, no. You run into problems in both scripture and science with holding those views.
There are several ways we can incorporate the story of the Garden of Eden into a Christian worldview that accepts evolution. I will take you through a couple of the top ideas that fit both logically and theologically.
Adam and Eve as literal people:
Accepting evolution doesn’t automatically equate to an allegorical/figurative view of Adam and Eve. There are certainly ways we can incorporate them into the evolutionary stream while respecting the fact that they indeed could have been historical people. In fact, this is the view I lean towards most considering how Jesus and Paul both spoke of Adam as literal people. Population genetics strongly suggests that Homo sapiens didn’t descend from a single primal couple but descended from several thousand common ancestors. So, there really is no way to posit that Adam and Eve were the first two biological humans that were created distinctly alone on this earth (with no other Homo sapiens).
The first option could go something like this: God supernaturally created Adam and Even as it is said in Genesis (Adam from the dust, Eve from his rib), within the flow of evolution. Meaning, God made Adam and Eve some 6,000 years ago along with several thousands of other Homo sapiens.
Another option would be for Adam and Eve to be the first Homo sapiens created imago dei (in God’s image). This would be the point in history where Homo sapiens truly became humans that had a “soul” and the first two creatures that had the capacity to interact with God. This would theologically fit with the doctrine of original sin. This would also fit logically in answering the questions like who Cain was fearful of being killed by in Genesis 4:14 (this would obviously imply there were other people outside of Adam’s genealogy alive at the time), or answering the question of where Cain’s wife came from (Genesis 4:17).
There is also the Homo divinus model which pretty much says God specifically chose a couple of neolithic (late stone age) farmers in the near-east in which He decided to reveal himself to, and called them into fellowship with Him. In this model, God would have appointed these farmers to be stewards of His creation and to simply come to know Himself as the one true God. These humans (pre-first interaction with God) would have been anatomically modern, but spiritually dead. So, like the last theory, this would be the point in time where God makes humans spiritually alive with the ability to know God Himself. In this model, Genesis 1 would serve as a piece of allegorical literature that lays down the foundational truths of creation, while Genesis 2 serves to teach us the foundational truths of our relationship with both God and His creation.
Adam and Eve as figurative people:
There is the view that Adam represents an allegorical tie to the nation of Israel. Meaning, Adam is Israel. I’m not a proponent of this view, but consider the following truths about both sides:
-Both Israel and Adam were created by God, made distinctly as His chosen people.
-Israel was placed in a lush land flowing with milk and honey; Adam was placed in an extravagant “perfect” garden
-They are both to stay in these lands as long as they follow God’s commands
-They both disobey God and are exiled
So, this view would naturally lay out Adam as a story of Israel’s origins, not mankind.
There is also the view that the Garden of Eden story was solely written to portray theological and existential truths about mankind. Adam would serve as the symbolic representation of all men and our inability to perfectly hold to God’s law. It would also serve to symbolically portray our role in God’s story as stewards of His creation. The actual “Garden” in the near-east that’s portrayed in the story has several symbolic ties to a modern representation of a temple or a Holy place of worship. Many people would point to the chronologies in the Bible that lead back to Adam as proof that scripture saw Adam as a literal figure, but for those that hold to an allegorical Adam, those chronologies would serve not as a historical analysis of past generations, but as a symbolic or theological connection (which there is a good amount of evidence to back when looking at post Abrahamic chronologies). Take the genealogy laid out in Luke 3 as an example- the author of Luke wasn’t portraying a literal historical chronology of past generations, he was displaying that the Messiah had come after the fullness of time in human history had been fulfilled (if you add up the generations laid out it comes to 77 generations of separation between the time of Adam to the time of Christ’s coming and “77” is a multiple of “The Day of the Lord”).
There are several other options and models that have been formulated. These are just some of the ways we can incorporate the story of the Garden of Eden laid out in Genesis without being fearful of what modern science tells us about human history.