04 June 2011

On Adam & Eve not existing, and the fundamental falsehood of Christianity

Jerry Coyne has a great article up over at WEIT in which he discusses the theological implications of what is now an indisputable scientific fact: Adam & Eve are a work of fiction. There is simply no possible way that all of humanity descended from one pair of humans, although a few accommodationists over at BioLogos are trying their damnedest (and generally failing) to reconcile their theology with reality:
Pastor Tim Keller, a participant in a BioLogos workshop on evolution and Adam and Eve held last November (!), says this:
“[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority. . If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work “covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that Paul was a ‘man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.”
Jerry Coyne rightly points out that without a literal Adam & Eve, the central Christian concept of "The Fall" becomes logically incoherent. More liberally minded Christians don't seem to want to think about this issue too much – well gee, maybe it was all just a metaphor for the idea that we are all sinners. No, it's not a metaphor! It's central doctrine. But Christians, when faced with the harsh sting of scientific fact, are simply forced to find creative ways to re-imagine their beliefs. When, exactly, did "sin" enter the world, since Adam & Eve did not exist? Coyne expounds:
... given the inventiveness and deviousness of the theological mind, there is simply nothing that can’t be conveniently reinterpreted as a metaphor.  I suppose that if we were to get evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist, was born after human copulation, or simply rotted in the tomb, that whole saga would also be reinterpreted as metaphor.
But the historical and scientific problems with Christianity bring me to a philosophical one: the central doctrine of Christianity is nothing more than a perverse guilt trap. Think about it: Christianity holds – as C.S. Lewis argued in The Case for Christianity – that there is something wrong with you. You are guilty of a crime. This crime isn't necessarily anything you did, and no amount of good deeds or good intentions will absolve you. But if you're not absolved somehow, your soul faces an eternity of suffering. What is this crime, you ask? You were born. That's it. You're a human being, so by your very nature, you're guilty – from the moment you're born, you bear the guilt for crimes committed by people who didn't even exist. 

And how is one absolved of this "crime" of being born? Well, apparently, the debt is to this God, Yahweh. And the only way Yahweh could think of to absolve you is if he came to Earth in human form and ritualistically sacrificed himself to himself as a payment to himself. And if you confess that you simply believe that all this stuff happened and ask God to forgive you for your mere humanity, he'll absolve you of this 'crime' and you can live in blissful peace for all eternity. God is not so much concerned with whether you live a good life, or whether you're kind or cruel, but whether you believe. The greatest crime of all is having the wrong theology.

It's not just that it makes no sense from a scientific and historical perspective; it's not even logically coherent from a theological perspective. Christians might be busy trying to invent new ways of imagining their faith in light of scientifically demonstrable reality, but all they're really doing is inventing new ways to describe the emperor's clothes.

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