Thursday, April 1, 2010

Response to “Ten Reasons” - 1

This is a continuation of our response to an article entitled “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” published in Clarion in January. See this introductory response for the context and our approach. In the interest of clarity, and to avoid further unnecessary polarization, we presented these responses in advance to the authors of “Ten Reasons” to provide an opportunity to identify any misunderstanding or misrepresentation. No response was received.

Original from Clarion [numbered for our responses below]

Evolution must regard Genesis 2:8 as mythical

In Genesis 2:4-7 we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and then He breathed the breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living soul.

God created man (in Hebrew:
Adam) from the dust[6] of the ground (in Hebrew: adamah) and he became a living soul. This account of the creation of man resounds with the special character of this creative act of God.[7] On the previous creation days, God said, “Let there be…!” And it was so. And it was all very good. But now in Genesis 2:7 we read of the Lord God, the covenant God, who in a special creative act, gives the breath of life to Adam formed from adamah.[8]

Now, if evolutionists are right, then this is figurative language.[9] Some biblical scholars have rejected a literal “potter” interpretation because they see this as close to disrespect of God: “Did God fashion the liver, the lungs of clay?” they might ask. “God was not concerned with creating a scientific text when he told us of his creative work; He just wanted to communicate that man did not descend from the gods, but that He was part of this creation,” they would say.

However, if this creation story is figurative, allegorical, mythical or some other kind of story, other than history, then at Genesis 2:8 we have a problem. For God put that man he had
formed into a garden. There, together with the woman, he was tempted to rebel against his Creator and fell into sin. Any literary approach to the narrative would make no distinction between the forming of the man in verse 7, and the formed man in verse 8. So if this is an allegorical myth, it must continue into the following verses. It would seem disingenuous to claim verse 7 to be myth, and verse 8 to be history.[10]

Of course the story of the fall, and the record of historical Adam are foundational to the New Testament doctrine of redemption and atonement. Paul and the Lord Jesus accept the historical reality of Adam. Paul, in Romans, works out the doctrine of substitutionary atonement based on the historical Adam. The doctrine of the covenant also is tied into a historical Adam.

Evolutionists, who claim that the human race descended from pre-adamite primates need to be clear and honest: the Reformed doctrine of atonement and covenant would need to rewritten, for there can be no real Adam formed from
adamah.[11] (JvP)

Responses by Reformed Academic

6. In this context, thought must be given as to what “dust” means. Considering Psalm 103:14, we know that even we today are created from dust. (See also Genesis 18:27; I Kings 16:2; Job 10:9; Job 34:15; Psalm 90:3.) Thus, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we see that Adam’s creation from “dust” does not necessarily mean that God pushed around some mud and formed a humanoid shape. Instead, “dust” has a range of acceptable interpretations including “the material Adam is made of,” “the humble status of Adam,” and “the clay used by the divine potter to fashion Adam.” Contrary to this, many other religions assume humanity was formed out of divine substance.

7. Christians who lend credence to the theory of common ancestry fully affirm that the creation of man is a special creative act of God; they also affirm the clear Biblical teaching of the soul, and that the human person is made uniquely and specially in the image of God. (Among others, these include Denis Alexander, Denis Lamoureux, Francis Collins, Jitse van der Meer.)

8. We fully affirm the main point of this paragraph, namely that man is a special creation. This point, though, is grounded in the fact that God breathes the breath of life into Adam. The precise meaning of “dust” in this context does not affect the clear fact of the special creation of man.

9. This assertion is correct for adherents to evolutionism as a worldview, but not for those who work with the theory of biological evolution while rejecting the worldview. The latter are not forced to accept a figurative or mythical interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. Instead, just like each of the Gospels offers history written from different perspectives, so they can take Genesis as offering history with a religious perspective. While a religious perspective does not remove the historical reality referred to in a text, it also does not conform to modern scholarly standards for history writing. In the words of C. John Collins [Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2006) p. 13, n. 17]: “…if we say that an account makes a historical truth claim, that does not settle every question we might ask about whether, for example, things are narrated in the order in which they occurred; or whether the description is complete; or whether we must interpret the account without reference to metaphor, hyperbole, literary devices, etc.” Christians who take the Bible seriously can take Gen. 1 & 2 as history while not taking it as a “photographic report” as the five authors appear to suggest. Their view that evolution forces a figurative, allegorical, or mythical interpretation on the text of Gen. 1 & 2 is overly simplistic and does not stand up to criticism.

10. From what we just wrote it will be clear that a straw man is being set up. This strategy is constantly repeated against our protests and does not promote the neighbour’s good name. Instead, it carelessly identifies us as evolutionists and then raises all the concerns that they think apply to evolutionists. Only they do not apply to us. We at Reformed Academic affirm the historicity of the Genesis account, while many seem to think that we seek to deny it, consider it a myth, or force upon it a new interpretation to fit modern science. Instead, we wish to use sound Reformed hermeneutical principles, including letting Scripture interpret Scripture, emphasizing the redemptive-historical approach, and considering the cultural, literary, and textual, historical context, especially seeking to recognize how modernist and enlightenment thinking has in recent centuries clouded our interpretation of what the original author(s) and readers and hearers meant and received. An important aspect of this is to recognize that our understanding of the world does and indeed cannot but influence our understanding of the Word (and vice versa of course). After Galileo, most Reformed believers had no difficulty in correcting interpretations of passages such as Psalm 93:1 and Joshua 10:12,13 which had earlier been taken, on a so-called “plain sense reading,” to oppose the developing sun-centred model. However, note carefully that it is not science which brings an interpretation to Scripture, but new scientific understandings can be the occasion for more careful hermeneutics and exegesis in cases where even a long-standing traditional interpretation, though likely not an original understanding, of a passage is called into question.

11. Neither do we join with those who regard Adam as a-historical.

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