Thursday, October 31, 2013

Combining Adam and Evolution

Can we harmonize an historical Adam with evolution? Many Christians believe so. Consider, for example, a recent Christianity Today article, "Where Did We Come From?", by Pastor Andrew J. Wilson. According to Wilson, Genesis says nothing about Adam and Eve that is contradicted by Darwinian evolution.
Pastor Wilson argues:
First, I believe that the Scriptures, when interpreted properly with respect to their context, purpose, and genre, do not contain any mistakes...Second, I believe in the general integrity and credibility of peer-reviewed journals, and the importance and value of experimental science...In my view, the argument from design, the historicity of the Fall, and the theory of evolution fit together...
There is no evidence to say that a pair of Neolithic farmers, formed directly by the hand of God in Mesopotamia, did not exist. There's no evidence to suggest that they weren't the first people, made in his image, with the soul-life of God breathed into them. There's no evidence to contradict the claim that they knew God, and were tempted, and sinned, and were exiled, and had children, and died. Not only that, but Genesis doesn't actually say that all human beings are biologically descended from Adam and Eve alone....
There may be some for whom all of this sounds rather obvious. John Stott, Derek Kidner, J. I. Packer, Tim Keller, and Francis Collins have all more or less taken the same approach. 
Pastor Wilson's suggestion seems to be that God directly created Adam and Eve, about 10,000 years ago, as per Genesis 2; however, at that time there were already many other humans, who had evolved from lower forms of life, as per mainstream science. Adam and Eve were merely the first people specifically created in God's image and endowed with a soul.

Here the general strategy for harmony is to diminish Biblical events so as to render them essentially invisible to mainstream (naturalist) science.

Unfortunately, Wilson does not address any of the obvious problems involved with his dubious marriage of Genesis and evolution. Consider a few pertinent questions:

1. The Bible clearly teaches that Adam and Eve were the first humans, from whom all other humans descend. Consider, for example, "Then the Lord God said, it is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper fit for him" (Gen.2:18); "The man called wife's name Eve, for she was the mother of all living" (Gen.3:20). After the Flood, it was of Adam's offspring, Noah's sons, that it is stated, "from these the people of the whole earth dispersed" (Gen.9:19). Moreover, Paul states, "he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26).

How does Pastor Wilson explain these texts, particularly given his professed commitment to inerrancy?

2. If Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and had souls, precisely how did they differ from their evolved contemporaries before the Fall? after the Fall?

3. Pastor Wilson's view entails that not all humans alive today are descended from Adam (e.g., Australian aborigines). Are we to conclude that they do not possess the (fallen) image of God? If they do, how was this passed on from Adam? Do they have souls? Does original sin apply to them? Are they saved through Christ's death if they do not share the same flesh and blood as Adam and Jesus (Hebr.2:14)?

4. Pastor Wilson's view entails that Adam 's fall caused no perceptible change in creation, not even in humans. Human sickness, suffering and death existed long before Adam was created.  In that case creation has been groaning in travail, subjected to futility and decay (Rom.8:28) since the very beginning. How is this to be reconciled with God's assessment, after the created of Adam and Eve, that everything that God had made was "very good" (Gen.1:31)? or that physical death is a punishment for sin (Rom.5:12)?

I have yet to see any plausible theistic evolutionist answers to such questions. Adam can be reconciled to evolution only at the expense of a radical modification of Scripture, interpreted improperly.

For a more detailed analysis of the deficiencies of theistic evolution, I point the interested reader to John Otis's recent book Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise.



  1. Reads and sounds like Wilson is another in a long line of the sappy and falsely nostalgic "Can't We All Get Along" crowd, who thinks Milton, Paley, and Darwin would have been 'best buds', and if only they could have sat down together and discussed their differences, they would have found out they didn't really have any differences after all! Thinking this the love of Jesus, it actually turns out to be 'contra' Jesus, who affirmed every single doctrine Wilson is trying to compromise on.

  2. Dear Dr Byl,

    Thank you for all your hard work in blogging. So few Reformed men have stood up. Thank you for defending the faith which was once for all delivered to us!!

    God bless

  3. Hi Michael

    Nice to hear from you. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  4. Dear Dr. Byl,

    I am fascinated to see your eloquent scriptural defense of what the Catholic Church calls monogenism, a doctrine which it and you appear to hold in common.

    Many today, following the claims of paleoanthropology and recent studies in genetics, now hold that a literal Adam and Eve are "scientifically impossible." It turns out that these claims are not definitive.

    I support what I just said in an article just published online in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, entitled "Time to Abandon the Genesis Story?" See this:

    I am no scriptural scholar, but is it possible that the text that says physical death is a punishment for sin applied only to Adam and his descendants, who would have avoided death had he not sinned. If it applied only to him and his descendants, the fact that earlier subhuman primates died would be irrelevant.

    Dennis Bonnette, Ph.D.
    Professor of Philosophy
    (Retired, Niagara University)


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