The Problem of Adam and Eve

I’ve commented before about the problem that Adam and Eve causes the Christian, (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/can-you-adam-and-eve-it/)

DNA evidence now makes it abundantly clear, there is simply no skirting around it, Adam and Eve never existed.

This month’s Christianity Today has an article titled The Search for the Historical Adam (http://christianitytoday.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vchto11/i6/p29). Its clear from the article that a literal interpretation of Genesis is discouraged. The wider implication of this, the fall of man with the original sin, is not covered in as much detail as I would like.

The article states that scientific evidence demonstrates that not only did the human population that’s alive today not descend from a sole pair of humans, but that the genetic history goes back considerably longer than 10,000 years. The estimated minimum modern human population is a few thousand individuals several tens of thousands of years ago. Unless one wants to believe in a god that created a pre-aged world with a pre-defined historical DNA record, there simply is no way that a literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story is possible.

Also not mentioned in the article is the authenticity of the Garden of Eden. DNA evidence puts man as originating from Africa whereas the location of Eden as described in the bible would put it somewhere in The Middle East.

The Christianity Today article is referenced by BioLogos (http://www.biologos.org/blog/biologos-and-the-june-2011-christianity-today-cover-story/), where the scientific fact of the non-existence of Adam and Eve is also acknowledged. The BioLogos article ends with a call for theologians to step in and sort the issue out.

I find it interesting that neither article makes a big issue of the scientific evidence; nor do they speculate on what the solution may be. What I wanted to read was a categorical stating of scientific facts and a rousing challenge to Christians. Given that both organisations are devoted to the Christian faith, I guess there was no chance that was going to happen.

The problem for Christianity

The acknowledgement that Adam and Eve never existed is going to have to come from the Church eventually. This is not an issue on which it can bury its head in the sand. The thing is, this acknowledgement produces a big problem.

Without Adam and Eve, there is no original sin, no first murderer, no ordained punishment condemning women to a painful childbirth and no requirement for Jesus’s sacrifice. No wonder the articles are reluctant to take a stance on the matter.

For me, it reaffirms that my decision to exit Christianity was the right one. This is not a problem I’d want to be wresting with as a Christian.

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22 thoughts on “The Problem of Adam and Eve

  1. I’m not sure how those Christians who hold to evolution explain the problem of Adam and Eve away. I’ve been told that the Genesis account is merely allegorical. But that still doesn’t deal with original sin and the need for a Savior. I’ve had several liberal/progressive Christians come to my blog and tell me I need to consider the audience, the purpose of the text, and the allegorical nature of the text, but I’ve yet to have anyone explain to me, in a satisfactory manner, the need for a Savior with no original sin. Pauline Christianity is based on the fall of man. No original sin, no fall. This is precisely why Ken Ham spends his time and money defending YEC. He sees the pitfalls involved even if he isn’t willing to concede the obvious.

    • I think they do it by saying that the Adam and Eve story is an allegory. The fall wasn’t a single event but an attitude of mind. Salvation was still required because man still rebelled.

      I can see how it can work, but it then opens up a whole new host of problems. What other Old Testament accounts are also not real? Where does one draw the line between allegory and event?

      Ken Ham has his own problems that he needs to sort out.

      Who did Cane and Able marry? Were their wives created specially for them? In which case they did they rebel too? Or did they marry their sisters? Ooops, that’s a problem! Whichever one Ken chooses, it requires adding to the biblical account.

      • Right, I see the allegory being a viable option for the Adam and Eve story. But the question still remains: If evolution is true (which I believe it to be), were we always rebellious? If that be the case and we were always rebellious and there was always death, then death isn’t the curse for being rebellious. Evolution requires death to occur. If death isn’t the curse for rebellion then why did Jesus need to sacrifice himself to undo the curse? When did the “fall” occur? There evidently was no “fall”. We were always “fallen”. If we were always “fallen” we were “created that way”. Why are we being punished for something that we didn’t control or create?

        See, I ramble. One thought leads to another and then another and then..well…I can’t reason my way into any of it making sense anymore.

        Yes, Cane and Able present a whole other set of issues and questions. And that’s only in the first few chapters of Genesis. There’s 65 other books that bring on their own endless questions.

  2. I’m sorry this is a bit off topic, but I am aware that some of the people posting here are atheists. My question is . .. . . how atheists cope with a terrible experience? They can’t really pray so where do they turn? I’m sorry if this question is to personal . . . but I am terribly curious. Like for example a tornado. How does an atheist manage to just deal with something like that? Or cancer? Its just a general question and I’m just interested in a general answer. I’m not sure how an atheist could handle such a situation like the ones I have described.

    • I’m not an atheist, but perhaps I could answer that. It may not be a satisfactory answer, but it’s how I view it. I’m agnostic at this point, really.

      I find it easier, actually, to handle all of those situations. For example, natural disaster. What comfort I used to find in God was that I or my loved ones were spared, and that He had a bigger purpose for the suffering left in it’s wake. When I really stopped to think about it, if God chose to spare me or my loved ones, He was equally choosing not to spare those who lost their lives or their homes or whatever else you can imagine. That isn’t a comforting thought to me. So if I pray that God spares my life in that situation, what I’m actually doing is praying for the death of another. I’m praying for God to choose another path for the destruction.

      In the case of an illness. If God chooses to heal me, but not some one else, what does that say about the situation? Am I more important to God? I hardly think so. An afterlife is wholly unprovable. We can’t know what happens after death, but am I really to think that believing just the right things gets a person into a joyful afterlife and the lack of that belief gets someone a ticket to hell?

      In either case, let’s just assume the illness isn’t terminal. Praying about it just causes me to place my hope in healing from a God. So if I’m healed through medical means, God gets the credit. What about someone who doesn’t believe in a God? The receive healing, too.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that praying in expectation as I’m instructed to in the Bible only leads me to disappointment more times than not. I have way more misses than hits when it comes to answered prayer. It’s hard for me to fathom a God who is more concerned with parking spaces as Wal-Mart than he is with children starving and women being abused and people being murdered. Not relying on God makes me take much more personal responsibility for what happens around me.

    • To pick your tornado example.

      We live on a dynamic planet, with weather patterns that are a little chaotic but are generally predictable.

      Tornadoes in the US frequent mostly the same areas and during the same time of year. We also know what causes them. It do with differentials in air temperature and pressure (http://www.weatherquestions.com/What_causes_tornadoes.htm).

      So we have the ability to predict, within limits, where they are likely to appear and when. This is achieved through study and measurement and prediction testing.

      With this in mind, why should we be surprised than on occasion one will plow through a populated area? Its not the tornado’s fault we built some houses in its path.

      The atheist will say, “well if you’ll build a house on the sand, its hardly a surprise that its going to starting sinking at some point”.

      So, in short, the atheist’s response is that “shit happens”. Having a good idea of what is likely to happen and the best ways of mitigating against it are more effective than taking a gamble and praying about it.

    • Prayer may bring fleeting comfort to one who feels a need for some control over life’s sad and traumatic events, but it’s essentially a waste of time. After four decades of Christian living and praying, I eventually realized that there is no “answer” to prayer that you can interpret correctly (everything that happens is “God’s will” so what’s the point in trying to have your own way?). You go through tragedies, like parents dying of cancer, with a core of your own inner strength, and the comfort of those who love and support you in your grief.

  3. D’Ma,

    I think the death issue is resolved by saying that it refers to spiritual death rather than physical death.

    That still doesn’t get around the issue of when did we deserve that punishment. At what point did we change from dumb animals acting only on instinct to cognitive humans capable of conversing with God? And then when did our acts of free will change into rebellion?

    I have no answer for that one.

  4. Limey said:
    Without Adam and Eve, there is no original sin, no first murderer, no ordained punishment condemning women to a painful childbirth and no requirement for Jesus’s sacrifice. No wonder the articles are reluctant to take a stance on the matter.
    For me, it reaffirms that my decision to exit Christianity was the right one. This is not a problem I’d want to be wresting with as a Christian.

    This raises the question of what is a Christian. As a committed follower of the Christian God who believes in the ‘myth and symbolism’ of the book of Genesis I don’t have a problem with the story of creation – I do not accept the teachings of original sin – and I do not accept the traditional teaching of the need for the sacrifice of Jesus.

    I walked away from ‘traditional’ Christian teaching some 40 years ago but I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe in the existence of God, but if you had asked me to describe that God I wouldn’t have been able to give you a meaningful answer – and I’m not going to try now!

    I have come to the conclusion that there is an enormous difference between the Christian RELIGION (or Christendom) and the Christian FAITH.

    It was only last year that I was introduced to the writings of Richard Holloway – ironically by an Anglican priest (a lady). As a former Anglican I found a lot of food for thought but especially his comments about BROKEN MYTHS.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts – see my other blog – “The Garden of Grace” and “The End of Religion” – http://thegardenofgrace.blogspot.com

  5. Science is the only way for humans to know empirically verifiable truth but science is also a work in progress and truth is not confined to what can be presently verified. I am inclined to believe that life is in fact an information based technology and that the information in the DNA is not metaphorical or illusory but real. If this paradigm is true future scientific findings will likely erode the credibility of the possibility of self-organization. I await the research

  6. It is said that chickens have genes to grow teeth.
    Why is the expression of these genes suppressed ?
    if we did not have this knowledge and found in the fossil record chickens with teeth what would we have called these creatures ?

  7. Back to the subject at hand, I am curious how the DNA proves that there was no Adam and Eve?

  8. The Christianity Today article touches on it and I am sure there is much more detail available elsewhere if you wanted to delve more deeply.

    As I understand it, the DNA mutations that happen in each individual average out to a specific number per generation and so when going back historically its possible to work out how many generations ago a certain sample is. Or its by looking at some mutations they can tell how old it is when they compare that same mutation across many individuals.

    Don’t take my word for it, I’m thinking on the fly here and not checking my facts so its a very good idea to check what I’ve said.

    Anyway, those who know way more about this than me say that the modern human population (us) did not come from a single couple, instead the minimum population they had was about 10,000.

    Its not just that simple though, there are source individuals for mitochondrial DNA, passed only from mother to daughter, and Y chromosome DNA, passed only from father to son. However, these two source individuals go back several 10s of thousands of years, so beyond the 10,000 that a creationist would accept. More than that, these two individuals are separated by about 100,000 years, so they could not possibly have been a couple.

  9. “The acknowledgement that Adam and Eve never existed is going to have to come from the Church eventually. This is not an issue on which it can bury its head in the sand.”

    I’m not too concerned. For progressive and moderate Christians who see the Bible as allegorical, they need not interpret the Adam and Eve story literally for their faith to have meaning. For fundamentalists with an inerrant view of Scripture, since when did science stop them from taking Bible legends literally? We STILL have fundamentalists running around who embrace creationism and a global flood, after all.

    • Where do you draw the line though?

      Is Noah’s Flood literal or allegorical? How about the Tower of Babel? The story of Joseph? The Exodus from Egypt? The slaying of the prophets of Baal? Jacob fighting the Angel? The Star of Bethlehem? The Angles visiting the shepherds? The resurrection of Jesus? The Holy Spirit visiting as tongues of fire?

      So many ‘impossible’ things have happened in the Bible. Once you start going down the road of not literal, where do you stop?

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  15. Adam and Eve were not the first humans. The bible does not teach that. Cain was banished from Eden to become a vagabond, and was terrified that he’d be killed. If there were no other humans on the earth besides Adam and Eve, who was Cain afraid of?

    There are two creation stories in the bible. Adam and Eve were created by YHVH in Gen 2, separate from the human race created by the Elohim in Gen 1. This was after the human race was wiped out, or nearly wiped out, around 70,000 BC by the eruption of Mt Toba, which resulted in a nuclear winter, and caused the most recent ice ages. See Gen 1:2

    Adam and Eve, and their descendants had long lifespans of 900+ years. After the flood, they intermarried with other humans including most likely descendants of Cain, who was the first to intermarry with existing humans on the planet. Now, we are a mishmash, with most of humanity having at least some lineage back to Adam.

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