Incorporating Adam and Eve With Evolution

*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.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and ...

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and Eve. Beech wood, 1533. Bode-Museum, Berlin (Erworben 1830, Königliche Schlösser, Gemäldegalerie Kat. 567) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Cheers

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10 thoughts on “Incorporating Adam and Eve With Evolution

      1. MeesterGibson

        for instance where you stated
        “Meaning, God made Adam and Eve some 6,000 years ago along with several thousands of other Homo sapiens”
        This would mean that god either punished innocent members of mankind for the sins of 2, or he waited till their sin to finish his creation and hence create doomed beings.

        The rest of it is just incoherent .

      2. Philosogetics Post author

        I don’t think you have a very good grasp of the doctrine of original sin and what the price tag of free will entails.

  1. ironapologist

    Great post! I think the most plausible solution you offered is that Adam and Eve were the first homo sapiens made in God’s image. However, I still have trouble believing in evolution. I would definitely recommend for you to read “Darwin’s Doubt” by Stephen Meyer. This book was recently released and focuses on the Cambrian explosion. I went into the book with little prior knowledge of the subject and feel like Meyer’s arguments are solid. However, with your experience in the field, you may disagree. I’m a little over halfway through but have learned a ton. I definitely recommend you checking it out!

    Reply
    1. Philosogetics Post author

      Thanks for the reply.

      To be frank, I’m not a huge fan of Meyer and the arguments proposed by the ID crew. I’ve listened to several of his arguments (such as those laid out in his other book ‘Signature in the Cell’) and they all pan out to be pretty nonsensical. Some of his main arguments like the one about the size of proteins/RNA polymers and the universes inability to find functionality in such proteins, or the ones involving ATP synthase and the flagellum are all really bad.

      So, despite all the hype revolving around this new book, I am very skeptical about his work.

      Cheers

      Reply
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  5. Dr. Dennis Bonnette

    A literal Adam and Eve which is compatible with legitimate science is entirely possible and rationally credible. It is neither necessary to sacrifice sound doctrine nor to abandon good science.

    Some may be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church, for one, still maintains the literal reality of Adam and Eve as a single mating pair of first true human beings. Moreover, recent claims made by some paleoanthropologists and geneticists against the scientific possibility of Adam and Eve turn out not to be definitive.

    Please read my just published article entitled, “Time to Abandon the Genesis Story?”, which appears online on the Homiletic and Pastoral Review at http://www.hprweb.com/2014/07/time-to-abandon-the-genesis-story/

    Reply

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