One of the most fascinating and important discussions going on in Christian circles today is the debate about an historical Adam. Was Adam myth or real? That debate has been going on for a while, but what’s forced it forward in recent years is Science.
One blurb for Peter Enns’ controversial new book, The Evolution of Adam, frames the dilemma thus:
“Recent developments in biology have indicated with impressive evidence that humanity does not go back to a single human couple. Does that mean that the Bible is wrong or that science is wrong?”
Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago. However, traditional readings of Genesis, as well as the New Testament teachings of the Apostle Paul, appear to teach that Adam was a single, divinely wrought, entity, not a unique genetic pool. So how does the “Bible-believing Christian” resolve this conflict? Is it Science or Scripture?
BioLogos, a group of evangelicals who seek to integrate evolutionary science with faith), in Can science and Scripture be reconciled?, summarize their approach to such conflicts this way:
In Christian belief, God reveals himself in both the written book of the Bible and the created “book” of the natural world. Thus, the truths we find in scripture should not conflict with the truths we find in nature. Yet at times the two revelations seem to be saying contradictory things about how God made the world. Since God does not lie, the conflict must occur at the level of human interpretation: either a misunderstanding of what God is revealing in nature, or a misunderstanding of what God is revealing in scripture. Conflicts motivate us to reevaluate both interpretations. Christians may disagree on whether the scientific or the Biblical interpretation needs to change, but we can agree that God speaks to us in both revelations. (emphasis mine)
The problem with BioLogos’ view, as I see it, is that whenever there is a conflict between Science and Scripture… it is almost always the Scripture that needs re-interpreted. In other words, in their view, Scripture should be re-interpreted to agree with Science.
I realize this is a huge subject with lots of technicalities, nuance, and wiggle room. Something else: I’m not a scientist. As I’m assuming most reading this aren’t. Still, as a laymen (that group to whom the Bible was primarily written for), how does one approach such conflicts? Do we place the Ultimate Authority on Scripture or Science? When faced with a choice, do we re-interpret Science to agree with Scripture, or re-interpret Scripture to agree with Science?
Of course, it may not be as cut and dried as this. Which is what I’m hoping and why I’m leaving room in the Poll below for “a third way.” But in all honesty, I’m not exactly sure what that third way is. Some would say it’s allowing for paradox; that Adam was both real and myth. Others would say Scripture is authoritative when it comes to spiritual things, while Science is authoritative when it comes to scientific things. Which sounds good but has lots of problems — especially when spiritual things are mentioned in light of historical, scientific things (see: the Resurrection of Christ for starters). So I’d love to be an advocate for a third way, I’m just not sure what it is. And if you fall in that category, I’d love to know what it comprises.
So when it comes to apparent conflicts between Science and Scripture, do you ultimately place Scripture above Science, place Science above Scripture, or seek a third way?