Tuesday, December 03, 2013

So You're a Christian Who Believes in Evolution, Eh?

Troll Question:
So you're a christian who believes in evolution, eh? If evolution is true, the creation story is a myth. If it's a myth, Adam and Eve never existed. If Eve didn't exist, she never ate the forbidden fruit which caused original sin. No original sin, no reason for Jesus to be sent to die on the cross. No Jesus = no Christianity. But science and faith are still compatible, right?
I actually believe it's easier to reconcile evolution with Christianity than a 6-day literalist interpretation.

1. If evolution is true, the creation story is a myth.

Well, this is a non-sequitur, but I believe the original intent for the creation story is primarily a work of Babylonian counter-mythology[1] and serves a different purpose than to be used as an instruction manual for earth-building. But this should be fairly obvious from reading the text itself. Much of Genesis is written in organized, poetic language.

Order of things "Made" in Genesis 1:

  • Waters separated and sky created (day 2) | Fish and birds created (day 5)
  • Dry land created & vegetation (day 3) | Land creatures and humans created (day 6)
  • Times and seasons created (day 4) | Sabbath created (day 7)
Order of things "Formed" in Genesis 2:
  • Adam (formed first)
  • Vegetation (formed second)
  • Animals (formed third)
  • Eve (formed fourth)
But so far, nothing to say Adam (אָדָם "Man" derived from  אֲדָמָה "Red Earth") and Eve (חַוָּה "To Breathe" related to חיה "To Live") didn't exist. Actually, there's nothing implicitly there to dismiss evolution either. Abiogenesis teaches that all life came from non-life, evolution is the gradual change between species; the Bible teaches that man came from dust.

But moreover, the purpose of this text is to establish the purpose of Israel and to teach the Jewish people that they ought to observe a sabbath day.

2. If it's a myth, Adam and Eve never existed.

Another non-sequitur. There are myths about Siddhārtha Gautama, but we still believe he was a real person who discovered the path to enlightenment and became the Buddha. What we really mean when we talk about Adam and Eve is the first fully-integrated beings created in the image and likeness of God. This also shows a lack of understanding of what a myth is. A myth is not a lie, it is a narrative meant to explain something about reality.[2]

3. If Eve didn't exist, she never ate the forbidden fruit which caused original sin.

What's also important about these first beings is that they were created and living in harmony with God, with one another[3], with the rest of creation, and within themselves; freely eating from the Tree of Life.

The first sin damaged this. In that act, Man and Woman turned from God, and the consequences that inevitably followed included disharmony with God, disharmony with one another, disharmony with the rest of creation, and a disharmony or dis-integration within themselves (denied access to the garden, prohibited from the Tree of Life).

Death is understood as the separation of body and soul. Prior to sin, Adam and Eve were not subject to such separation. Their bodies and souls were perfectly integrated. In eating the forbidden fruit (take that as allegorically as you will), they endowed themselves with the knowledge of good and evil -- that is, they became arbiters of their own reality: instead of living in harmony with God, humans were now perceiving for themselves what is "right" and what is "wrong". They became ashamed of their own bodies, and felt unworthy of being loved by God.

You actually don't need the Bible to observe humans living with this intrinsic disharmony. When we participate in the dysfunction of arbitrarily deciding what is right and wrong, we become Adam and Eve. Whether you believe you are born with this tendency or not is simply dogma. 

4. No original sin, no reason for Jesus to be sent to die on the cross.

The work of Jesus is not contingent on our acknowledging the inheritance of ancestral sin -- but whether or not we, ourselves, choose to participate (some might argue that these are the same thing).

As for having a reason for Jesus' dying on the cross, this depends on what we believe was accomplished by Jesus' dying on the cross. There may be many ways to understand this, but the early church did not understand the death of Christ as paying a penalty in some transactional sense that only God’s son could pay.[5] The crucifixion is not, in that sense, cosmically necessary to reconcile God and humanity.

Instead, Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love. God entered fully into the bondage of death, turned it inside out by making it a moment of victory, and thereby liberates humanity to live in harmony (with God, themselves, one another, and the rest of creation) once again without the fear of death.
"...To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."
~ Revelation 2:7

5. No Jesus = no Christianity.

Of course this is true, but it is hardly contingent on a literal Adam.

Luke affirms Jesus' lineage back to Adam and, ultimately, God. (Luke 3:23, 38) The Hebrew expression "son of man" (בן–אדם i.e. ben-'adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible (mostly in Ezekiel). As generally interpreted by Jews, it denotes humankind generally.

Mark's gospel records Jesus affirming both 'Adamic lineage' and God's sonship (Mark 14:61-64). This suggests that Jesus' role in our salvation is either something to do with his direct lineage to a literal man named Adam, or, --what I believe is more in line with Jewish thought-- that he is a representative of humanity as a whole. While it could certainly mean both, I don't see how the former is implied in the text nor what deeper significance it has for our atonement.

6. Science and faith are still compatible, right?

I grew up indoctrinated in Young Earth Creationism and I thought evilutionists were out to brainwash me as well... Then I was confronted with the evidence and only after sleepless nights did I slowly consider and begin a dialogue with an evolutionary biologist Christian friend that I could accept the paradigm shift. It was a humbling experience for me, that enriched my faith in the end. I would challenge anyone to confront the evidence without the aides and pundits to interpret for them.

YEC in its current form, as a so-called “scientific discipline,” didn’t begin until 1923.[6] It comes from a couple 7th Day Adventist named George McCready Price and Ellen White, who were not scientists. So unlike the earth, YEC is very, very young, and began as a cultic knee-jerk reaction to scientific discovery. There are prominent Christians who make significant contributions to the scientific community, but YEC is not a product of that.


  1. No. You're being silly-ish.

    True, Adam and Eve never existed, except as a description of humanity as self-awareness, self-consciousness and manifest intelligence developed in our species.

    First sin is simply the acknowledgement that we, as humans became aware of being, at times, unjust, unfair, and evil. and not liking it. And eventually realizing we needed to be better than that.

    When we see a predator tear open and start eating an antelope, -while its still alive and struggling to get away- we are revulsed. If any human did such a thing, it would clearly be a sin of cruelty. But when a Lion does it , it is not a sin because the lion lacks the advanced intelligence that we have to understand what they are doing is cruel. In their mind, they are simply eating.

    Frankly, i am starting to believe that Christianity doesn't need the Old testament at all. Its poly-theistic Canaanite roots are well known and it has distinctly anti-Christian and un-Christian ideas in it. After 1700 years Its time we revised what our Bible is again. It desperately needs updating.

    1. For me, I interpret that simply as our becoming aware that we're so different than God. Where God says "I made you just the way I intended, and I love you", and where our response was not one related to sin but to humanity, that we say in kind, "I see you, God, and, you cannot nor should not love me at all. Look at me!". We became aware of the comparative gnats we are, and Christ's death and the tearing of the veil brings us back to the awareness that salvation is through God's view of us rather than the insufficient view we have of ourselves.

      Make sense?

      Clothing would be our attempts to seem worthy. Less shameful. Not because we now have the right knowledge that we were naked.

    2. Jesus certainly thought He needed the Old Testament. He regarded the Tenach as His Holy Scriptures and the God thereof, Yahweh, as His Father. Such an attitude also smacks of theological anti-Semitism. You tread upon very dangerous ground when you despise the Tenach.

  2. i do not believe the scriptures need updating - i believe it is our interpretation of the scriptures rather, that should be updated.

    while ur explanations on the meaning of adam and eve, of original sin, etc, is quite sensible and i'm willing to admit it as permissible interpretations, it remains a fact that the Old Testament is still part of the Holy Writ, just as inspired as the New Testament is. All we have to do is check again our interpretation - for God (the author of the Word) is infallible whereas Man's understanding of the word is always fallible, and subject to revisions...

  3. Sometimes a myth is a story that is true on the inside whether or not it happens to be true on the outside. Whether or not Adam and Eve ever actually existed– and whether or not the gospel accounts are historical in every respect –these traditions ring true inasmuch as they reflect:

    1) our innocence in the garden of God (cf. infancy and early childhood)

    2) our eating the forbidden fruit (cf. the formation of the egoic mind, our perception of duality, and our growing sense of alienation)

    3) our egoistic pursuit of happiness and/or security in some combination of:

    -- sensual indulgence
    -- material prosperity
    -- social recognition
    -- legalistic (and/or ascetic) ideals

    4) the possibility of a moment of clarity that reveals the emptiness and/or futility of # 3

    5) the possibility of our recognizing the light of the world which reconciles us to God and reveals the Way, the Truth, and the Life

    6) the possibility of finding perfect peace and rest in “aware presence” and “alert stillness” (cf. the peace of Jesus)

    7) the possibility of participating fully in the flow of life, here and now (one life, transcendent and immanent… A new creation that is at once holy human and wholly Divine).

    Good News! Take up your cross! The kingdom of heaven is at hand!


    1. Couldn't agree more, Wayne. Nice blog btw!

  4. Creation evolutionist/theist-evolutionist...is no different than a YEC in that they all think God is cause of all creation. A theist only accepts evolution because they think god caused it....which would mean that evolution is not natural but supernatural. A supernatural version of evolution is based on belief, not science. So, why do theist bother claiming they accept evolution at all?? For many reasons I'm sure....but evolution being purely a natural process is NOT one of them. If you can't see the contradiction here...it means you are either a theist or don't understand evolution.

    1. Well that would make you the first person I have come across to claim metaphysical naturalism as the only ontological framework for accepting and understanding evolution.