Ben De Bono's Reviews > The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns
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Jan 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: theology
Read in January, 2012

Peter Enns follows up his fascinating and controversial Inspiration and Incarnation with this equally fascinating and sure to be just as, if not more, controversial work on evolution and the Bible. A lot of good work has been done in recent years addressing how the creation account in Genesis 1 lines up with modern scientific discovery (cf John Walton's brilliant The Lost World of Genesis One). Enns touches on that briefly, but the main focus of this book moves beyond Genesis opening to the story of Adam and Eve. Specifically, Enns seeks to answer the question of whether or not evolution can coexist with the biblical story of human origins.

His main thesis follows along similar lines as the arguments he and others have made for how to interpret Genesis 1 - namely, that when we look at Genesis 1 in its cultural context, rather than performing the poor and biblically disrespectful hermeneutical practice of imposing our own cultural standards on the text, many of the problems resolve. What makes the issue more complex here is Paul's use of Adam in Romans and Corinthians.

Enns' solution for solving that problem is original and quite well stated. While I'll need to give it some additional thought and reflection to decide how much of his thesis I subscribe to, my original inclination is that he's made a fantastic and biblical case for a biblically faithful reading of both Paul and Genesis that is fully compatible with evolution. I especially appreciated his discussion of original sin. He argues that Scripture is concerned with the presence of sin (i.e. the fact that sin and death are universal realities) and not concerned with the origin of sin. Many will no doubt balk at that assertion. Before reading the book I would have been among them, but Enns' argument, while too complex to repeat here, is very formed. I also enjoyed how he brought in aspects of the New Perspective on Paul to argue his point. As a big fan of the New Perspective, I found that line of argument quite compelling.

Enns' critics had a field day with I&I, subjecting it and him to both fair criticism and grossly unfair misrepresentations and character assassinations. I'd expect that the same will take place with this book. Criticism is an important part of biblical scholarship, and while I certainly wouldn't suggest that Enns' should be exempt from that I do hope his critics keep a few things in mind. First, Enns' has a high, conservative and evangelical view of Scripture. He is not twisting the text, but attempting to understand it. Second, Enns' is not seeking to undermine historic orthodoxy. He is seeking a biblical and orthodox understanding of Scripture in light of recent science. Third, Enns' is writing this as a believer within the shared confession of historic Christianity. It's my hope that rather than attacking his character or his faith, his critics will understand the great degree of common ground they share with him and argue from that foundation, rather than accuse him of not sharing it.

The Evolution of Adam continues the recent trend of evangelical scholars seeking to understand biblical origins in light of ancient culture and modern science. How well it holds up to criticism remains to be seen, but I for one applaud the effort. Unlike many fundamentalists and evangelicals, I believe that the way to advance God's Kingdom is not to stick our heads in the ground concerning science, seeking to defend the Bible on points where it needs no defending, but to embrace modern discoveries and seek to better understand the text in light of what it is and isn't attempting to say. Enns' and others like him are attempting to advance that cause. They deserve our thanks, not our unfair criticisms.
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