Review: “The Evolution of Adam” by Peter Enns

The book’s target audience is that group of Christians who are convinced of evolution, but want to ‘value’ Scripture in some way and hopefully hold on to some of the beliefs they once held dear….Sadly, this book would pull the Christian who is halting between two contradictory worldviews [Naturalism versus Christianity] toward greater acceptance of naturalism and a corresponding demotion of Scripture to the level of mythology.

The Evolution of Adam What the Bible Does and Doesn’t say about Human Origins. Peter Enns, Brazos Press, 2012. Paperback, 172 pages, with end notes, bibliography and Scripture Index.

The Book Surveyed
The book’s target audience is that group of Christians who are convinced of evolution, but want to ‘value’ Scripture in some way and hopefully hold on to some of the beliefs they once held dear. This can be a real struggle, especially considering 12-16 years of indoctrination in the evolutionary worldview in which God is excluded from every area of life and thought. But by the grace of God, many have been shown a better way, the way of fully trusting the God-breathed record of creation from the Creator Himself. Sadly, this book would pull the Christian who is halting between two contradictory worldviews [Naturalism versus Christianity] toward greater acceptance of naturalism and a corresponding demotion of Scripture to the level of mythology.

The book begins with a recital of what used to be called “The assured results of higher criticism” along with a few new interpretations of genetic data.

· Human Genome Project has according to Enns “Shown beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans and primates share common ancestry.”
· Scripture is a product of its own time.
· There is theological ‘diversity’ in Scripture
· We need to revisit and change our ways of thinking about the Bible
· Not so much that Adam evolved, but our understanding of Adam has evolved.
· One can no longer accept, in any true sense of the word “historical’ the instantaneous and special creation of humanity described in Genesis.

The second part of the book switches from Genesis and the Old Testament on Adam, to Paul’s view of Adam. The ‘problem’ to be disposed of is Paul’s insistence that Adam was a historical figure and making an important theological point on that basis. But if we simply assert that Paul was an ‘ancient’ man with primitive views and a child of his time, we may continue to value his theological insights while rejecting his view of history, Adam, and the cosmos. In Scripture, both prophets and apostles called people to be contra mundum, against the world. The inspiration of Scripture lifted them above the culture and against the culture. In the mythical view inspiration does not keep the writers from error and makes no change in their view of origins, they think just like the pagans.
The conclusion of the book lists nine theses of Adam and Scripture. Some of these are:

· Literalism is not an option.
· Scientific and biblical models of human origins are strictly speaking, incompatible because they ‘speak a different language.’ They cannot be reconciled, and there is no ‘Adam’ to be found in an evolutionary scheme.
· The Adam story in Genesis reflects its ancient Near Eastern setting and should be read that way.
· There are two [conflicting] creation stories in Genesis
· Story of Adam is wisdom story for all Israel.
· God’s solution through the resurrection of Christ reveals the plight of the human condition. Paul [as an “ancient” man and a child of his culture] expresses that fact in the biblical idiom available to him.

Evaluation/Interaction with the Book
Enns does not so freely use the word “myth” in this book as compared to his previous work. But a non-historical untrue story is a myth by another name. The apostolic testimony is that they did NOT follow cunningly devised fables [Greek muthos = myth]. He seems to chide his former colleagues at Westminster Seminary by reference to those who “insist that all those other [pagan] writings are clearly ahistorical while Genesis is somehow presenting history.” He calls this a weak position of faith. He may have a point here, if he would move them toward a greater trust in the Word of God, but he does not. He believes consistency demands that Westminster and every other Christian concede much more to the evolutionary view. The history of compromise in the Christian church is a tragic one. One compromise leads to another until there is no firm foundation upon which to stand. The Church is large part simply drew new lines in the sand while beating a hasty retreat. The tides of time washed each line away. Enns has drawn the last line at the resurrection of Christ, the next stop is the abandonment of the faith altogether. But it could be a renewed by the grace of God to a trust in the authority of Scripture from the very first verse to the last.

Usually, his references to creationists are condescending and misrepresentative. Creationists do not believe that the earth is flat, that it was created just as its looks now [for example, the Flood made massive changes], or that the earth is a fixed point over which the sun actually rises and sets. Nor do we believe the Bible teaches these things, however much we may speculate about the personal views of the writers. He correctly states the conviction that God created the world in relatively recent history, but seems to lump that together with a belief in a flat earth. But the recent creation is derived from the inspired chronology of Scripture, the flat earth is not. There is no evidence that he has read any serious work on the creationist view. Not being able to fairly state what creationists actually believe and being unwilling to inform oneself of their literature might be seen as a weakness in one’s case.

So many things are simply asserted based on a presupposition that evolution is true that it would take a book larger than the one he wrote to give biblical replies. But biblical replies have been written, it is just that most evolutionists do not bother to inform themselves of them. Every Christian should be informed on the biblical doctrine of creation and be equipped to defend the faith.

I had the experience in seminary of having a German liberal who told pretty much the same tales about the OT, making most of the same assertions. He was, as far as I could tell, totally unaware of conservative works on the OT. It is hard to understand until you know that the “liberal club” like the “evolutionary club” thinks they are above reading such things, they read only each other. Conservative writings, no matter how scholarly, are dismissed with a snicker. “Scholarly consensus” to them means they surveyed the “club’ members and all agreed with the liberal view. Sadly, from reading this book one would never know there were any other views.

Tragically, Enns seems much surer of evolution than of Scripture. That is a sad and unnecessary condition for a Christian. He mentions in passing something about the ultimately divine origin of the Bible, but it is left very vague. I had to wonder, “Where is the view of Scripture held by Christ and the apostles? “ Wouldn’t that be the Christian view? Jesus affirmed the Scriptures of the Old Testament, certainty including Genesis. He was a ‘jot and tittle’ believer where Scripture is concerned. Jesus has been accused of being a “fundamentalist” by some liberals. Paul believed that All Scripture was God-breathed. Enns can dismiss Paul as an ancient child of his times, but does not touch on Christ who had the same views. We should be aware that the originators and promoters of the evolutionary worldview—those same people who allegedly force us to mythologize Genesis—also tell us that the resurrection of Christ is mythical. This should lead us to doubt their conclusions on Genesis!

One can only wonder about some of those quotes, especially one by Augustine. Those who advocate novel ways of throwing Genesis under the bus, like to pretend to have support from some early church father. Since Augustine is almost universally recognized as the greatest of them all, the compromise views want to enlist him for their cause.

For example, page 12 quotes a portion of Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Here is a quote from chapter 19 [extended a little from the actual document]:

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn….Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

I certainly have no objection to bringing Augustine into the discussion. I did not notice any condemnation of a literal reading of Genesis or of young earth creationism. In fact, Augustine, however unclear he may be on some aspects of creation, very definitely held to the so called ‘young earth’ view [if you want to call 6,000 years “young”!]. So Augustine could not have been condemning the relatively recent creation. In fact, in The City of God says in no uncertain terms “About the most mendacious vanity of the Egyptians, in which they ascribe to their science an antiquity of a hundred thousand years” (Book 18, Chapter 40 and that is just the heading). The quote goes like this:

Consequently, how utterly unconvincing is the presumptuous prattling of those who maintain that Egyptian astronomical science has a history of more than 100,000 years!…we know from Holy Writ…6,000 years have not yet elapsed from the days of Adam, the first man, should we not ridicule, rather than bother to refute, those who strive to convince us of a temporal duration so different and so utterly contrary to this established truth?…We, on the other hand, have the support of divine authority in the history of our religion. Accordingly, whatever in secular histories runs counter to it we do not hesitate to brand it as wholly false….

It is hard to understand why evolutionized Christians keep trying to use Augustine against creationists? Perhaps they think no one will read Augustine for themselves. So just who is it that Augustine thinks is guilty of “presumptuous prattling” and “utterly contrary to this established truth” and guilty of “the most mendacious vanity”? (That last phrase means “lying conceit”).

Much is made of how similar to Genesis the Akkadian myth Enuma Elish is. You can read it for yourself; just search the web for “Enuma Elish.” I doubt that you will think it very similar. It is easier to see some parallels between the Genesis Flood and the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic. This actually is what we would expect from the biblical history. There were only 8 survivors of the Flood and everyone in the world came from Noah and his three sons. So all over the world the people groups scattered at the Tower of Babel still had some memory of the Flood. In their rebellion and in their confusion their stories became muddled and refused to give glory to the LORD God. This is the biblical worldview, which Enns must mythologize in order to cling to his academically and culturally approved theory of evolution. Perhaps he may be excused as a child of his time who has adopted the ancient Greek philosophy of evolution.

Enns still believes in the JEDP theory of the Pentateuch, despite numerous works refuting it. His version is even worse than what I heard from my German liberal professor. That professor put the Pentateuch into the Monarchy period; Enns puts it in the post exilic period. The whole ‘two names for God = two different authors” thing is misguided. God [‘elohim] is a more general term as the almighty. LORD (Yahweh) is the more personal name for those with whom He is relating Himself, as in covenant.

For example, in Jonah the pagan sailors speak first only of “God” in general. After they are shaken and rescued, they speak of LORD. The same is true of Naaman the Syrian who spoke of LORD after he was healed of leprosy and had a new reverence for the LORD. In Genesis 1 there were no humans in relationship until the sixth day. In Gen. 2 Adam and Eve do have a relationship with the LORD spoiled only when they sinned. But many times Scripture has the LORD God, combing the two names with no problem at all. The real sources of Genesis are likely documents of the various toledoth of Genesis assembled by Moses as he was one of those “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Pe 1:21, NAS) Since the Creator was the only eyewitness and incapable of deception, one might think His testimony would be the best evidence we could possibly have.

The basic issues are much more foundational than any of these particulars. For answers to particulars one could consult and which contain thousands of well written articles. The more foundational issues spring out of our worldview, our comprehensive understanding of reality based on the authority of God’s revealed truth. Everyone has the same observable evidence. The difference in worldview and ultimate standard shapes the way we interpret or make sense of the evidence.

· What is our ultimate authority? Do we have the view of Scripture held by Christ and the apostles? For example when Peter spoke of Scripture as follows: “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; (Acts 1:16, NKJ) Or Paul’s declaration, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” or the statements of Jesus affirming the Old Testament as well as His own authority. The Scripture cannot be broken; it is enduring truth down to the jot and tittle. The God-breathed revealed word is the ultimate authority, the standard by which all human statements are evaluated. If we judge Scripture by a human standard, the Bible is no longer our ultimate authority. Autonomy has raised its ugly head.

Or, is Scripture just the attempt of a downtrodden post exilic people to reconnect with their identity by their ancient primitive non-historical stories modeled after pagan mythology? Can Jesus escape these charges hurled at Moses and Paul? Whatever view of ‘inspiration’ Dr. Enns may have does not seem to involve much of divine influence or preservation from error. The book is rather short on positive affirmations, except for affirming evolution. By God’s grace, our eyes can be opened, and we can confidently affirm all that the Scripture teaches. Biblical theology is rooted in history. Real historical events accurately interpreted. The Bible tells what happened and what significance it has. Of course, if it did NOT happen, then it has no significance.

· What is ‘science’? In a Christian worldview, science is a God-glorifying endeavor as we explore God’s creation and marvel at his power, wisdom and purpose. When we look at the creation through the clarifying lens of Scripture, every observation leads to the glory of God. We have a God-given standard by which to interpretation everything we see and everything that happens. Modern science was begun by Christians desiring to think God’s thoughts after Him and learn more of Him by studying His works. Things observed are rightly understood by the standard of God’s revelation.

An evolutionary worldview rules out any consideration of the Creator. They define ‘science’ as naturalistic, thus excluding from the start the right answer! But what if God really did create the heavens and the earth? Would it be legitimate to rule out the truth and consider only wrong answers? Has ‘science’ no interest in what really happened? Let’s say that God did create the heavens and the earth. Then it is true, scientifically true and historically true. In that case the evolutionary presupposition only guarantees that the truth will not be found!

· What counts as ‘science’? ‘Science’ has a positive connotation for most people, including me. People think of technological advances like cell phones or MRI, of combating diseases by knowing more of how the body operates, or the engineering and mathematical skills required to send a man to the moon or orbit satellites. But is calculating the acceleration of gravity really in the same category as speculating about the origin of the universe? In a Christian worldview, with Scripture as our ultimate authority, we learn so much from Geology about the extensive catastrophic changes brought about by the Flood. Careful observations and measurements, consistent experimental results and technical and medical advances—all these give us a positive response to ‘science.’

But evolutionists do a ‘bait and switch,’ trading on the positive achievements of real science. Another ‘bait and switch’ tactic is in defining ‘evolution’ as merely ‘change over time.’ Once this obvious fact is acknowledged, evolution becomes “the development of higher life form, including man, from single celled creatures, the origin of life from non-life, of intelligence from non-intelligence, and many other unacceptable conclusions. In the name of ‘science’ they exclude God from their thinking, as true “Romans One”[i] men, and begin telling their just so stories. Rejecting Genesis 1 as “religion” or worse, they explain the origin of the universe by “The Tale of the Amazing Exploding Speck.” According to this Epicurean-like story, long, long ago and far, far away, a tiny speck no larger than the head of a pin had been just floating around in dark frigid space for millions and billions of years [not that there were really “years” then]. With no outside forces in existence, it of itself exploded into the entire universe we see today. The billions of stars, whole galaxies, and all our solar system with the Sun, the earth and all the planets were packed into the amazing exploding speck. The unimaginably massive material mass of the universe fit into a pinhead! The pieces gradually assembled themselves into stars, planets, moons, and earth.

Why does this qualify as ‘science”? Why does this explanation of the origin of life– that claims extraterrestrial aliens visited earth and left a few spores behind—qualify as science? It is more like a deliberately chosen presupposition, a God-excluding worldview, a philosophy of life.

It is not ‘science versus religion.’ We all have the same evidence to observe. The difference is in how we interpret that evidence. How do we account for it? Should I use the God-breathed record from the omniscient Creator as my standard of evaluation and interpretation? Or should I rely on a philosophy which was designed to exclude all consideration of God? But what if God is the right answer? Should I rule out the right answer because of philosophical preference? Won’t that simply guarantee that I would reach a false conclusion?

I cannot think of anyone to whom I would recommend this book. I understand that many Christians struggle with the conflict between what they have learned from the Bible and what they have been taught for 12-16 years in compulsory attendance at government run schools. These schools systematically exclude any serious study of God from history or science; anyone even suggesting such a possibility or criticizing the established religiously held belief in evolution will be silenced or dismissed.

I had these kinds of questions as a new convert in high school. I learned that many Christians had devised ‘interpretations’ that allowed for a kind of synthesis of the evolutionary worldview with the Christian-biblical worldview. These were ultimately unsatisfactory. By God’s grace I was shown a better way. The answer I found was not an acceptance of evolution as truth, but a confidence in the Word of God and a new way of looking at life. It is far better that we present to the world an antithesis to their worldview, rather than attempt a synthesis.

Dr. John Sanford, Ph.D. genetic specialist and inventor of the gene gun, has informed directive to Christians caught in a dilemma of worldviews.

“For many years I was a hard core evolutionist. Then for many years I was a compromised Christian and a theistic evolutionist, and now I am a Bible-believing Christian. I have never found science more exciting than at this point in my life.” Dr. Sanford now realizes how evolution hurts true science, even though that had been his ‘religion’ prior to his conversion.

So what is our ultimate standard? Is it the God-breathed record of the omniscient Creator or the current cultural consensus of speculation among evolutionists, the leading originators and promoters of which are anti-Christian “Romans One” men?

If we allow Dawkins and friends to force us to mythologize Genesis, then every miraculous work recorded in the Bible, and to regard Paul as merely an ancient culture-bound man with mistaken opinions—how will we defend the resurrection of Christ? After all, the same crowd that demands Genesis be mythologized, also thinks the same about the resurrection.

(Before we hop on the evolution “bus,” we ought to find out who is driving and where they are headed.) We may praise God that there is a better way.

Let us cease the pathetic, unrealizable quest for academic respect from the Romans one crowd. Instead we must as Christians answer this call: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5, NKJ).

After tearing down the strongholds of anti-Christian thought, we are to do the labor of building up a biblically based Christian worldview. The Scripture will be our ultimate standard by which all opinions are judged. We have some “reinterpreting” to do, all right. But not by simply absorbing the current cultural consensus, but by the hard work of reinterpreting all life and thought by bringing our minds into conformity with the mind of Christ revealed in Scripture. That is the real solution to the modern Christian’s dilemma over evolution.

Donald D. Crowe, Ph.D.,is a minister in theReformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS) and Professor of Biblical Languages at American University of Biblical Studies and Christ Seminary. He is the author of Creation without Compromise: A Christian Worldview Response to Evolutionary Challenges to the Faith.

[i] By a “Romans One” man I mean one who “will not have God in his knowledge” and who “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.”