“The Evolution of Adam” byPeter Enns: some early thoughts

I have been very slowly reading through The Evolution of Adam  by Peter Enns. I am nowhere near the end, not even up to the meat of his topic, which I understand is to involve an examination of Pauline soteriology, how sin and its consequences entered into humanity via the sin of our one proto-elder,  and that we are saved from sin and its consequences through the action and sacrifice of Jesus.  I understand that Ennis intends to look at this teaching in light of current thought about evolution, with an expected absence of a unique common “Adam,” and also of current academic thinking about the nature of the Old Testament scriptures. The topic interests me greatly.

I see myself as pretty much of a card-carrying fundamentalist,  and am thus not likely to fall lock-step in line with Enns; but I must say I am enjoying  his book. After all, If I only read people who are always saying  things with which I already agree, and reach conclusions that I could as well say myself, how likely is it that I will learn anything? Even if I NEVER come to agreement, I will have learned by contrast, and by doing the mental work of confronting his argument with what I understand as the truth. It’s a good thing.

One of the main thing that irks me so far the “The E of A”may perhaps be a stylistic habit of writing in academia. Or it could be substantive. Or what may have started as stylistic as is becoming real. I don’t know. For now, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Enns places all his discussion of the OT on a strictly human center. ‘Israel wrote this because…’  There is barely a hint, so far, of any other agency, with any other purpose, than Israel attempting to define and explain its own past. Whether or not his analysis of the text is correct, I think there is more to the story. I hope Enns thinks there is more to the story. And that brings me to my further point, a point of agreement.

In his chapter on the influences of surrounding cultures on Israel and the development of the Hebrew scriptures, Ennis says that

“To claim that Israel, of all world cultures, somehow escaped that influence is, frankly, a peculiar assertion, resting on a theological presupposition that it is beneath God to adopt these forms of speech. But what would that say about God himself? The Christian and Jewish God is not one who refuses to enter into the particularities of history, Rather, this is a God who gets dirty, who constantly shows up and allows himself to be described according to a particular people’s way of thinking.”

He hasn’t quite won me over, but here, I think he is onto something. He is expressing an idea I posted a few months ago in “Is the Bible The Word of God, or is it a human book?”

Christians of my stripe refer to the Bible as The Word of God, or “God’s Word, written” in deference to Jesus, whom we also call “The Word of God,” after the opening of the Gospel according to John,

“In the beginning was the Word…”

Since the earliest days, one of the issues the church had to chew on was how are we to answer Jesus’ question to Peter; “Who do you say that I am?” Some would say that he was God, only appearing to be flesh. Others would say that he was a man, particularly close to God. True human existence is too messy, to unseemly for God. He must have been one, but influence by, or appearing as, the other. Both of these views are still with us.

The Church came to understand Jesus as True man and True God. Not part one and part the other, not one with a shell (or a heart) of the other, but fully man. Fully God. Crazy or not, that is what we teach, it is what I believe.

I  hear echoes of the same dispute in how we are to think about the Bible. Some of us, more my side of the camp, see the Bible as the Word of God, and therefore it is, it must be, without spot or blemish of any kind, perfect.

Others, noticing things that seem like errors and blemishes, say it therefore could NOT be divine. It is a human book. Perhaps parts of the book are wise, perhaps foolish; but it is of the same sort of stuff, with the same limits on its authority, as every other book.

I am feeling my way here, and am not convinced; least of all by my own rhetoric (I KNOW the fool who says writes THIS blog!). But just perhaps in the debates and resolution of the question about Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” there is a hint of how we may approach this other meaning of “The Word of God.”

May the Spirit of Truth lead us into all Truth, in His time, by His method, for His glory. Amen

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Filed under ALL, Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Theology

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