Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sola Smorgasbord: Tim Keller And Theistic Evolution. Part IV: Adam And Eve: The Extreme Makeover Edition

(Originally Published 5/25/10)

Tim Keller poses four questions that must be answered if one is to reconcile Biblical faith and belief in Evolution.  We have dealt with the first two in previous posts.  The final two Keller deals with simultaneously: is belief in Evolution compatible with a historical fall of a literal Adam and Eve and if these two world views are indeed compatible, when did sin and suffering enter God's creation?  In Francis Collins' book, "The Language of God," he states that Adam and Eve are symbolic figures and his explanation of the introduction of sin into the world is vague at best.  It is Collins' website Biologos where Kellers article "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople" appears.  Keller's position is a marked improvement upon Collins'. Despite that, Keller's views on this subject fall short of sound Biblical interpretation.

Keller defends the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Keller effectively debunks the notion that the Biblical account of creation is just one of many creation myths and that Genesis and other ancient stories were imaginary history.  Keller quotes Egyptologist and Evangelical Christian Kenneth Kitchen: "The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary 'history.') In fact, exactly the reverse is true--there was, rather, a trend to 'mythologize' history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms..." (Keller, p. 8)  Near Eastern 'myths' did not evolve over time into historical accounts, but the reverse, that historical events took on mythological elements.  But they were still historical accounts and it is reasonable to interpret  Genesis 2 and 3 as  true historical accounts.

In Rom. 5:12, Paul writes of the Fall as a literal historical event and of Adam as an actual historical figure. If one holds to a non-literal view of Adam and the Fall, this has implications as to how one reads Scripture. Keller tells us "Those who don't believe in the Biblical account of the Fall and of Adam and Eve will tell themselves: 'Well, the Biblical authors were 'men of their time' and were wrong about something they were trying to teach readers' The obvious question they will ask is, 'how will we know which parts of the Bible to trust and which not?' " (Keller, p. 9) If Paul interpreted Genesis 2 and 3 literally, and he was wrong, then his theology of sin in Romans collapses. This would lead to the questioning of the reliability of all Scripture. "...I believe such a move (interpreting Genesis 2 and 3 non-literally) can be bad for the church as a whole" Keller writes, "and it certainly can lead to confusion on the part of laypeople." (Keller, p. 9) Without a literal historical Fall, there is no way to account for the introduction of sin into the human makeup. If we did not inherit the sin nature because Adam sinned, where did we obtain it? Keller asks, was it only by observing the bad example of others? Furthermore, he asks, "If some human beings began to turn away from God, why couldn't some human beings resist so that some groups would be less sinful than others?" (Keller, p. 10) Keller states that these explanations violate the Christian doctrine of original sin.

Keller is exactly right here. Yet the writings of Paul are not the only relevant New Testament texts to consider. Heb. 4: 3-4 and Mk. 10:6 are also important in determining how we interpret the creation account in Genesis. We have gone over this in Part II, but it bears repeating. Heb. 4: 3-4 speaks of the seventh day of creation as an actual historical event. If the seventh day did not really occur, then the promise given in Hebrews concerning a future Sabbath rest for the people of God is a promise based on a myth. If the writer of Hebrews interprets the account of the seventh day in Genesis 2 literally, then we must interpret the Genesis 1 account of the first six days literally. We cannot believe that day seven is a literal hisorical event while claiming days 1-6 to be a symbolic or theological interpretation of actual events depicted in Genesis 2. We will come to the observations concerning Mark 10:6 shortly.

Thus far, Keller and I are in agreement. Unfortunately, Keller presents a model of how we can reconcile the historicity of Adam and Eve and the development of Man through evolutionary biological processes. This model was first introduced by Derick Kinder. Keller's presentation of this model is bad Scriptual analysis and an affront to God's character.

Keller points us to the verses that he believes indicates that Adam was born through natural biological processes. He follows Kinder in pointing us to Job 10: 8-9: "Your hands shaped me and made me...Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?" Obviously Job was born through natural biological processes despite his poetic description of his birth. The language in Job is similiar to the language used to describe Adam's creation in Genesis 2. Keller asks, with Kinder, if such similiarity could denote natural biological processes in Gen. 2:7, namely Evolution? Keller brings to our attention Bruce Watke's observation on Ps. 139:13 written by David: "For you created me in my inner most being, you knit me together in my mother's womb." This is figurative language for the normal process of human development that occurs during pregnancy. Therefore, according to Keller, the language of Genesis 2:7 may be figurative language for Adam's birth through natural biological processes.

Rev. Keller, we have a problem. The word "Adam is probably related to the verb 'adom, to be red, refering to the muddiness of man's complexion. Adamah, 'soil' or 'ground', may also be derived from this verb. Thus, Gen 2:7 says 'The Lord God formed 'adam from the dust of the adamah.' Paul sees Adam as earthman or earthy man in ICor. 15:47." (Word Wealth Note for Gen. 1: 26 from the "Spirit Filled Life Bible.") Yes, it is obvious that the language in Job 10 and Ps 139 is figurative. Yet in neither of these two verses can we observe the same linguistic dynamics we observe in the creation and naming of Adam. By naming the first man Adam, the Lord was linking him to the manner in which he was created, from the dust of the ground. Literally. Not through normal biological processes. Even more of a problem for Keller's thesis is Paul's statement in ICor 15:47: "The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven." In the original Greek language Paul is telling us that the first man came out of the ground. Literally. ("The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key To The Greek new Testament", Cleon Rogers Jr. and Cleon Rogers III) Paul says here that Jesus literally came from heaven. Keller knows this to be literally true. Why in one verse would Paul use figurative language for the first half of the verse and straight forward historical prose for the second half? The entire verse is to be taken literally. And if Paul interprets Gen. 1:26 to say that Adam literally came from the earth, so should we. Keller himself tells us we must use the same standard of interpretation when interpreting the account of the Fall in Genesis 3 in the light of what Paul said in Rom. 5:12.

It doesn't get any better for the Keller/Kinder model. According to this model, lesser beings developed through evolutionary biological processes until one was ready to be the first of the new race of Man. God took one out of this group of homo faber (the maker of tools) and endowed him with the image of God. Then God created woman, Eve, through special creation. So the man was created through evolution, the woman through special creation. Keller tells us that the presense of evolved beings lower than Man explain the presense of those who would kill Cain for murdering Abel, a wife for Cain and inhabitants for Cain's city. Keller states that Gen 2:20 hints that Adam went in search of a wife. Among whom did he seek? Personally, I do not see that Adam went in search of a wife, but that no suitable helper could be found among the creatures God brought to Adam to name.

Where did Cain get his wife?  Keller ignores Genesis 5:4: "After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters."  If the human race began with a single pair, than marriage among Adam's children was unavoidable.  Such examples are not unknown in Scripture.  Abram married his half sister (Gen 20:12).  Moses' father married his father's sister Jochebed (Ex. 6:20).  At first, the sin of incest applied only to relations between parent and child.  By the time of the Mosaic Law, it had been extended to cover relations among mothers, fathers, stepmothers, sisters, brothers, half brothers, half sisters, grand daughters, daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws, aunts, uncles and brothers' wives.  "The genetic reasons for forbidding incest were not always an issue.  Close inbreeding in ancient times was without serious or any genetic damage.  Today, the risk of genetic damage is extremely high.  Since the genetic possibilities of Adam and Eve were very good, there were no biological reasons for restricting marriages to the degree that it became necessary to do later." (This quote, as well as all the information in this paragraph come from "Hard Sayings of the Bible" edited by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce and Manfred T. Brauch)  Someone may object that this theory is just as speculative as Keller's thesis. That there were those who lived on earth who would want to kill Cain for murdering Abel could be explained if these were blood relatives of Abel.  Speculative this explanation may be, yet it is based on the implications of the plain reading of the Biblical account of creation, not on an attempt to reconcile Biblical faith with a world view rooted in the rejection of a creator.  (See Part III)

Then there is Mark 10:6. Jesus declares: "But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female." At the beginning of creation. There was no evolutionary development of Man because Man as we know him (without the sin nature) came into existence at the very beginning of creation. This proves that Jesus Himself read Genesis 1 as a literal historical account of the origins of Man.

Then there is the question of the introduction of sin and suffering into the world.  Keller points us to to Gen. 1:2 which says that before God's creative acts the earth was formless, empty and filled with darkness.  Keller tells us chaos reigned.  Satan was present in the world as well.  After God's creative acts, the earth was undeveloped.  "Even before the Fall," Keller writes, "the world was not yet in the shape God wanted it to be." (Keller, p. 12)  Why God chose to create the earth without form , or how long the earth remained without form is hidden from us.  Yet in that state, the earth was in that state by the will of God.  After the six days of creation, the earth's undeveloped status was still by God's design.  And God called his creation "good."  In both states, before and after creation, the earth was as God wanted it to be.  It is apparent, though, that it was not God's will that the earth remain in either state.  But while the earth was in either state, it was in a state of being with all the potential God had in  mind for it.  After creation, the earth was undeveloped, but God created it to be glorious under the domination of Man.  A new born baby may not be as smart as a dog or a cat, yet it is the pinnicle of creation and all its potential to be what God wants him/her to be is already present in that new born (with the exception of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).  The state of the earth before or after the six days of creation in no way implies that sin and suffering were present on earth prior to the Fall. Yes, Satan was present, but he had no power until Adam and Eve disobeyed God's decree. They did not have to give in to temptation; it was not until they did so did that they become powerless against Satan. It was only after that that the earth has failed to reach its potential.

Evolution teaches that all life forms came into being through the survival of the fittest, a process involving death, violence and suffering. This notion is the main obstacle to reconciling Biblical faith with belief in Evolution. Keller knows this. "The process of evolution, however, understands violence, predation, and death to be the very engine of how life develops. If God brings about life through evolution, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a good God? The problem of evil seems to be worse for the believer in theistic evolution." (Keller, p. 2) While it is commendable for Keller to have acknowledged this issue (this issue didn't seem to trouble Collins in "The Language of God"), no where in his article does he answer the question. While at the end of his article he tries to make the case for evil being present in the world before the Fall, Keller makes no attempt to explain why God permitted this. To maintain that God not only created a world where sin and suffering existed, but that such suffering was the engine that He used to develop Man, is a slur upon God's character. God would not create a world in which the majority of living beings had to kill or be killed to survive. Perhaps Keller believes that God's loving care extends only to fully evolved Man and that those less evolved creatures he believes Adam evolved from did not suffer the anguish of the survival of the fittest. Whoever the people were whom Cain feared would kill him for murdering Abel, if they wanted revenge against Cain, then they must have had a sense of right and wrong, a sense of justice. Would God create such a race and them subject them to the law of the survival of the fittest? Would not such creatures ask why they had to kill or be killed, why a God whom Keller believes may have provided these creatures with the genetic capacity to believe in Him, would place them in such a cruel world? God would not have created such a world and then pronounce it "good." Yes, Keller believes that Genesis 1 is not to be read literally but is a poetic restatement of the actual events of creation recorded in Genesis 2. If this were the case, then the author and the God who inspired the Scriptures to be written would be lying by pronouncing such a world to be good. Keller is rightly concerned that to reject the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall would undermine the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture in the minds of believers. Yet Keller cannot see that to promote his views attempting to reconcile Biblical faith and belief in Evolution would have the same effect. There will be more concerning this point in Part VI.

Part VI? I originally wrote that this would be a five part series. I had intended to include how Keller's views violate the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and contradicts the Calvinist theology he adheres to in this post. But that would make this article too long. So those topics will be covered in a seperate post. This will be a six part rather than a five part series.

All Scripture Quotations From the NIV.

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