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.