Adam and Eve, and the bullshit train

I meant to comment on this the other week, but I've been busy. Over at Huffington Post, Biblical scholar and evangelical Christian Pete Enns has an op ed about the non-existence of Adam and Eve, and why this should not be a problem for Christians. First, I do have to give him credit for at least acknowledging the fact that Adam and Eve did not exist, which is more than can be said for the majority of Protestant pastors:
Evolution is a threat, and many evangelicals are fighting to keep Adam in the family photo album. But in their rush to save Christianity, some evangelicals have been guilty of all sorts of strained, idiosyncratic or obscurantist tactics: massaging or distorting the data, manipulating the legal system, scaring their constituencies and strong-arming those of their own camp who raise questions.
Right, so the non-existence of Adam and Eve poses some serious problems for Christians, and they haven't handled it very gracefully. So, what's the solution? Re-interpret the Bible!
Since the 19th century, through scads of archaeological discoveries from the ancient world of the Bible, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do.
Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch -- an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about "the beginning," however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question "Where do humans come from?" They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious -- and often political -- beliefs of the people of their own time.
Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples.
Likewise, Israel's story was written to say something about their place in the world and the God they worshiped. To think that the Israelites, alone among all other ancient peoples, were interested in (or capable of) giving some definitive, quasi-scientific, account of human origins is an absurd logic. And to read the story of Adam and Eve as if it were set up to so such a thing is simply wrongheaded.
See what he's saying? He's saying, Well of course Adam and Eve didn't really exist! That story was obviously never meant to have been taken literally

Here's the problem though. You know who did think that Adam and Eve were real people? The apostle Paul. Pastor Tim Keller, author of The Reason for God, illuminates the issue:
[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.
Not really real
Enns' article is a prime example of the kind of backwards-rationalization – draw the conclusion first, then interpret the evidence to fit it – that drove me from Christianity. For thousands of years, people have assumed that Adam and Eve were real people. Contra Enns, primitive people most certainly were interested in giving a quasi-scientific account of their origins. How do we know? Because it was science that showed Adam and Eve to be made-up. Where were the Christians prior to Darwin, prior to our modern understanding of genetics, telling their fellow believers not to take Adam and Eve's existence factually? Why isn't that mentioned, I dunno, in the Bible?

It's obvious to anyone with an iota of reason what is really going on here: science is exposing the foundation of Christianity as false. We already know that most of the stories in the Old Testament are fiction. But it's been scientists, not theologians, leading the charge; Christians are the ones scrambling, in the aftermath, to re-engineer their theology so their beliefs can co-exist with the facts.

h/t Jerry Coyne



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