Classifying Responses to the GAE model from Different Camps

Related to the topic of this thread: Ken Keathley Introduces Sapientia Symposium on The Genealogical Adam and Eve), this week we will see a variety of scholarly reviews to the GAE book posted on Sapientia. Josh @swamidass has kept a running record of the reviews and interviews regarding GAE on this page: Reviews and Interviews on The Genealogical Adam and Eve.

I thought it would be interesting to notice common threads in the responses from the different, familiar camps in the origins debate. In a way, the varied reactions to GAE expose the different assumptions and chief concerns that each camp has.

Based on my experience, “moderate” OECs or “conservative” ECs seem to be the most friendly to Swamidass’ model. These people are usually concerned with making sense of the scientific evidence, but also still regard biblical infallibility and traditional hermeneutics pretty highly. They might have qualms or quibbles about where or when exactly to place Adam or how and who bears the image of God. But usually they react to it positively, deeming it a good point for further study and clarification. Examples of people in this camp are Sean McDowell, AJ Roberts (RTB), C John Collins, WLC.

In contrast, the strong objections to Swamidass’ model tend to come from YEC and TE/EC camps. This is a familiar situation: when you try to synthesize two different “worlds” (as in the case of GAE), one which puts a lot of weight into traditional hermeneutics and another which puts weight on the scientific method, then you cannot please everyone.

YECs or conservative OECs will tend to argue that there is insufficient Scriptural evidence for people outside the Garden, and that any hermeneutics which allow for such people is too science-driven and/or “naturalistic”. See, for example, Madueme’s review on TGC. Another response (more common among YECs) is to flat out reject the scientific evidence. These are both familiar responses. This camp tends to place first priority on Scripture, and science as a secondary concern (if at all). The most charitable of them, such as Madueme, will not outright try to argue against the science, but may, for example, urge an epistemic humility in light of the tension and hope that it will be resolved eschatologically.

TE/ECs on the other hand will tend to criticize the model on the grounds of falsifiability, lack of “positive” scientific evidence, or the alleged deceptiveness of de novo creation. Some of these concerns are raised in the Biologos reviews (e.g. Hardin) as well as more critical reviewers from all over. Most people in this camp tend to put a premium not just on scientific evidence, but also a certain conception of the “scientific mindset”: if something is not attested to directly by positive, scientific evidence (e.g. we haven’t archaeologically dug up the Garden of Eden), then we should tend to be skeptical of it. If Scripture talks about it, then we must regard it as mainly literary myth for the sake of teaching moral values, with little basis in space-and-time history. This also explains the other common TE response, which is that “searching” for a historical Adam is unnecessary and the product of outdated, harmful Scriptural hermeneutics.

I would note, however, that while many of these TEs will refer to less conservative scholars such as Peter Enns on the matter, they tend to still affirm the historical nature of the Gospels and NT, and so refrain from collapsing into a fully mainline or liberal Protestant interpretation of Scripture. I note that few people in the mainline or liberal theological world probably care much about this debate, since they probably think the matter has been settled for decades.

As this review series is rolled out, I’ll be on the lookout to continue updating this classification of responses. I’ll also be interested to hear others’ take on these common threads in responses.


This is really interesting and helpful @dga471. It’s also worth categorizing the responses to these objections. As several of these reviews preemptively make a defense against these objections.

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I think that sounds about right, but OEC’s didn’t have to embrace this. It’s to their credit that they have, and it really puts a lot of pressure on EC/TE. It isn’t apparent yet, but this also puts pressure on YEC.

I like how @kkeathley summarizes the GAE: “It can safely be described as a mediating position between old-earth creationism and evolutionary creationism, with a dash of young-earth creationism thrown in.”

There is no reason why all three camp’s shouldn’t embrace it in time. I think in fact that this is more likely, in the long run, than most people are aware.


I should point out though, the weight is on YEC hermeneutics, not traditional hermeneutics. The weight is on EC/TE science, not secular science. These are distinct things. A strong commitment to secular science would make EC/TE less opposed. A strong commitment to traditional/literal hermeneutics would make YEC less opposed.

Those stronger commitments, of course, are being observed in peacemakers within these camps.


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I may get in trouble for saying this, but this seems to be precisely what is meant by “post-Evangelical,” right?

They often are ex-fundamentalist or even ex-evangelical, and retain some of the key markers of orthodoxy (e.g. affirming the bodily Ressurection ). But they end up deviating pretty strongly from the center of gravity of the broader evangelical movement.

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Protestants denounced Catholicism, post-evangelicals denounced protestants, sort of…I see it just in bible classes, belief systems crop up based on past life garbage…We have “Prosperity Gospel”, “Faith Healers”, so many denominations for the same thing, and lame versions of the bible based on peoples feelings that get passed on as the Word of God…(the Message and the Passion versions fall into this category for me). The new emerging thing is “Skinny Jean” pastors that preach a gen-x form of social tolerance and personal selfishness that is completely contradictory to scripture, but brings in tithes, so let it go.

I still don’t know what category I fall into, none are appealing…I guess I went from Evangelical to post- in a couple weeks. Don’t label me yet, I’m going to be a trendsetter, need a catchy name…and a great acronym.

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That’s kinda strange. I would personally like to believe that there weren’t any people outside the garden; however, the biggest hindrance to such a view is what scripture teaches on the subject.
Cain’s story become’s totally incoherent if one believes that it happened when there were only 3 people other than Cain in the world.
Seth’s lineage also becomes hard to understand without Assuming there were people outside the garden.


Genesis 4:15-17 - 15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. 16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.

Verse 15 suggests that there were others (“Anyone”), it is reasonable to say that God would have just told Adam and Eve hands off, which was probably not necessary anyway.

Verse 16 considers that there is not only other places and populations, but there are enough to be named for identification.

Verse 17 suggests that Cains wife was now the second woman mentioned in the bible without prior mention of birth from Eve.

So I agree (from biblical study), that there were humans outside of Eden. But I think it should be noted that the bible is the story of Jesus and His geneaology, not the story of humans and their geneaology. So, yes there were people outside of Eden, but they did not know God, so to this point were not part of the story.


I would suggest that the Cain story is indeed incoherent unless there were people outside the garden, but the Adam story is incoherent unless there weren’t people outside the garden. One can resolve this by supposing that the stories were originally unconnected but were stitched together by the people who wrote the book of Genesis.

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If you keep in mind that Genesis 2 (and maybe Genesis 1) is describing a specific area, not the whole globe, the Adam and Eve story then becomes coherent with people outside the Garden.

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Sorry, but the story itself makes no sense if there are people outside the garden. References to and the possibility of such people are completely absent from that story, and the story makes no sense if those people exist. You can pull references from other parts of Genesis, but that doesn’t relate to the Adam story. You must make the crucial assumption that Genesis is an integrated whole, but that still leaves the contradictions in place. Why is God so slow to realize that Adam needs a mate? Why must he create one from Adam’s rib rather than just introduce him to a nice girl down the way? Etc.

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We could hold a contest?

Metro-vangelical, or maybe Metro-gelical
Hoopy Froodian???


This is highly doubtful.

Do you affirm the Lausanne Covenant?

Thanks for that, I will have to study. From a quick skim, I find no fault and would most likely affirm. I will say however, that what I find in writing and what I find in practice among the Christian community is a pretty wide gap with a lot of what seems to me to be misinterpretation (but then again, it could be my own ignorance). That is where my hesitation in being associated with a group lies. I generally agree with the scripture, but find fault in the tactics, which seems to be what the Lausanne Covenant addresses. Usually where I disagree is in the interpretation of how to evangelize. But then again, what I am doing here could be considered evangelism.

In class today, we were going over God’s gifts as outlined in the bible, one was evangelism (Ephesians 4:11) which I admit is not a gift of mine.

I believe evangelism is important, but I also have these post-evangelical criticisms (which is why I made that statement):
From wikipedia:

The last one there is contradictory to what the Lausanne Covenant suggests…but it certainly exists in Christian circles and in the world.

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So you seem to be an Evangelical that is critical, rightly, of the Americanism and Sectarianism if the American Church. You will find yourself in good company. Look at the history of the Lausanne Covenant…which was a global movement, not at all captures by Americanism.

In my opinion, this does not make you post-evangelical. You are in good company, as many Evangelicals hold many of these same concerns.

Most post evangelicals would not be okay with the Lausanne Covenant. That seems to be a better way to define it.