Rebecca Anderson is the most talented author I know who has not been published (yet). She is a capable and intelligent woman who is raising two (soon to be three) sons in admirable fashion. She debates well. And she believe in the literal interpretation of the bible, straight down to Adam and Eve.
But such is her abilities that she is able to blog about this, and really make me think. You should check out her post. In her view, it is important for the Bible to maintain Adam and Eve as the literal truth. If I’m reading her right, she sees Adam and Eve as a lynchpin, without which the Bible falls apart.
What the Bible tells us, beginning with Genesis and carrying straight through to the end of Revelation, is that sin is a real and terrible problem in the heart of humankind, and that since the events of Genesis 3 all creation has been “groaning” on account of it. In other words, the Bible insists that at some definite, historical point in the past, mankind made a conscious, willful decision to rebel against God and His commandment, thus bringing about the moral corruption of humanity, the inevitability of physical death, and all the disastrous faults we see in the world around us. This is why humanity needed sacrifices for sin (a practice we see beginning with Cain and Abel) and ultimately, a divine, infinite, perfect Redeemer to pay sin’s penalty and offer us salvation.
However, if there was no Eden, no Adam and Eve, and no literal space-time fall, there is no such thing as sin — only faulty creation on God’s part. We are left to conclude that somehow God neglected to build into the process of evolution a safeguard to keep it from going wrong, leaving man and nature mere victims of a faulty evolutionary process, and a careless or short-sighted or indifferent God the real author of the phenomenon we call sin. In which case the whole idea of God sending a Redeemer in the form of His Son Jesus Christ is sheer mockery — God trying to cover up His own mistakes and pin the blame on us.
I do not have the capability, or the ability to quite Bible passages off the top of my head, to debate Rebecca in detail on the interpretations of the Bible. But as a Christian who believes that the theory of evolution is the best scientific explanation we have so far for how we came to be here, I am able to reconcile this with my belief in God. Adam and Eve and the book of Genesis is not a historical fact to me, and yet I’m able to retain my faith.
Rebecca refers to the passage where Jesus speaks to the Pharisees. By explicitly referring to Adam and Eve in his sermon against divorce, Rebecca argues that this connects the Old and New Testaments as a literal document because: “If in this passage Jesus were merely making reference to Genesis as a shared myth with no basis in literal historical fact, then wouldn’t actually be proving anything, any more than I would be proving something if I said, “The story of Snow White proves that eating apples is dangerous, and therefore you ought not to eat apples.”
But I disagree. For one thing, the story of Snow White doesn’t prove that eating apples is dangerous. It’s not a story about cursed apples; rather it’s a tale of jealousy, selfishness, vanity, and how love triumphs in the end. The fact that Snow White is a fairy tale doesn’t make these values any less true. And when Jesus refers to Adam and Eve, their example alone isn’t what makes divorce questionable; it’s the failure of two people to meet their commitments, or their decision to enter into marriage frivolously that is the problem. The failure of humans to rise above their selfish natures is universal. It wasn’t established by Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel; real or not, they merely illustrated the perils of our natures provide.
And that illustration works whether or not Genesis is a historical document.
I’d point Rebecca to C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair and the passage of the marshwiggle Puddleglum: “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” Conversely, sin is sin, whether or not Adam and Eve existed to bring it into this Earth.
I also respectfully disagree that the lack of a literal Eden foists the problem of sin onto God and somehow makes him negligent in his creation of the Universe. I believe that God did allow chance to enter into his creation, and that it was an integral part to establishing the concepts of good and evil.
Let me explain: God, the all powerful being, could have created a world without sin, without pain, without fear or death. We, his creations, could have been created without the ability to sin. But we would not have been human. We would not be life, we would be art.
I believe that God wants something more out of his creation than mere automatons. He gave us free will, because if we choose his way of our own free will, the choice means more than if our decision was scripted at creation. The drawback is, by giving us the ability to choose right, we also gained the ability to choose wrong. It is from this that sin entered the world.
Of course that offends God, but it is an integral part of his creation. As Einstein feared, God does play dice with the Universe; even great universal events have been left up to chance. This is why bad things happen to good people. It is the only way for us to be able to bring out the best in ourselves, rather than rely on God to bring out the best for us.
We can talk about morality without having fallen from a literal Eden, because even without the perfection of Eden to compare ourselves to, we still know that we are imperfect. But we are likely the first animal on this planet to look up and realize that we have a place in this universe; the first animal to try to rise above our biology to something spiritual. We realize that the animal ways of eat, sleep, fight or flee, don’t cut it anymore, and we are trying to operate more in God’s way.
And whenever we do that, I believe that God smiles.
“One word, Ma’am” he said coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
—C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
- Kate Orman’s post which started the whole discussion (Highly recommended!)