I am very pleased to give credit to BioLogos for beginning the effort of fixing this page. At the current moment, you can see the changes they have made here: https://www.diffchecker.com/3ezd9flT. These edits go a long way towards fixing this post, though there is still much to do. Given that there are many edits being made to this page, THE CRITIQUE BELOW IS OUT OF DATE, and I’ll look forward to them fixing the remaining problems.
The de novo creation of Adam (from the dust) and Eve (from his rib) are fundamental beliefs that drive opposition to evolution. However, we have found that there is nothing in evolutionary science that undermines traditional theology of Adam, including de novo creation and sole-progenitorship. Both these doctrines are consistent with the common ancestry of humans with the great apes.
As I have explained several times, and justified thoroughly,
Entirely consistent with the genetic evidence, it is possible Adam was created out of dust, and Eve out of his rib, less than 10,000 years ago in a divinely created garden where God might dwell with them, the first beings with opportunity to be in a relationship with Him…Adam and Eve, here, are the single-couple progenitors [genealogical, not genetic] of all mankind. Even if this scenario is false or unnecessary, nothing in evolutionary science unsettles this story.
As several conservative theologians told me, this “is a game changer” that “changes the paradigm” (quoting a couple of them).
The Importance of De Novo Adam
It is well known, for example, that BB Warfield found it critical to affirm that Adam was created “from the dust”, and Eve “from his rib.” This was also the fundamental reason Williams Jennings Bryan opposed evolution and instigated Scope Trial as a result. He had no problem with the an old earth or evolution among non-humans, but the de novo creation of Adam was where he drew the line.
More importantly, these beliefs are still alive, and are important to many Christians today. Case in point is Tim Keller, who says about his doctrine of creation:
Not only was there an Adam and Eve… it sure seems like the text says that God created Adam and Eve, and didn’t just adapt a human-like being; it says he created him out of the dust of the ground.
But Stephen Meyer, a Discovery Institute leader of the intelligent design movement, told WORLD BioLogos leaders are using “an unsubstantiated and controversial claim to urge pastors and theologians to jettison a straightforward reading of Genesis about the human race arising from one man and one woman. They think ‘the science’ requires such a reinterpretation, but apart from speculative models that make numerous question-begging assumptions, the science does no such thing.”
The DI movement recently wrote the tome Theistic Evolution, which explains their opposition to evolution because of their value on the de novo creation of Adam. Wayne Grudem leads the charge on this, convinced that traditional theology is incompatible with common descent.
The Strawman at BioLogos
On this specific point, ID is not making a caricature of BioLogos. Opposing the de novo creation of Adam, along with traditional theology of Adam, is the official policy of BioLogos. Opposition to de novo Adam is the one reason BioLogos, for example, have opposed Tim Keller in the past: http://peacefulscience.org/defense-tim-keller/.
It is also why they oppose “traditional” theology. BioLogos writes in their common questions page, which represents their official position:
In one traditional view, Adam and Eve were created de novo—they were created by God as fully formed humans (Homo sapiens), roughly 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. God made them quickly and completely as fully formed humans with no biological ancestors. In this traditional de novo view, Adam and Eve are “sole progenitors”: all humans who have ever lived are direct descendants of this original pair and no others… the traditional de novo creation of Adam and Eve is not compatible with what scientists have found in God’s creation.
It is important to follow the switch being done here. BioLogos is arguing that ALL traditional de novo accounts of Adam are incompatible with evolution, because only ONE specific traditional view (a strawman they’ve imagined) is not consistent with the evidence. It is a logical error of thinking one has disproved a whole class of scenarios by disproving one example.
Moreover the “and no others” clause does not actually appear in traditional theology. That is an invention required for this strawman argument to work. Their definition of “traditional” theology is not even found in traditional theology. It’s not even clear what it means either. We all descend from our parents, but they are other people than than Adam and Eve. So even in the traditional account of Adam eve, none of us (except Cain and Abel, etc.) descend from Adam and Eve and “no others.”
The argument here is transparently incorrect: it a strawman, it is illogical, and it relies on misrepresentation.
That is not the whole story though, as the history of this page makes clear.
For several years, as recently as earlier this month, the one version of “traditional” theology they used did not say “and no others” (see here https://web.archive.org/web/20170228045554/https://biologos.org/common-questions/human-origins/were-adam-and-eve-historical-figures)
NOTE: since this post went up, BioLogos reverted again to the definition they have had up for a long time. So the original version, without “and no others” is the one currently being used.
The same logical error is at play; they are making a strawman, arguing that ALL is false because ONE is false.
More importantly, notice also that this definition describes a Genealogical Adam, and is not in conflict with evolutionary science. It turns out that the “traditional” view of Adam, as explained by BioLogos as recently as a few weeks ago, is entirely consistent with the evidence because of genealogical ancestry.
Realizing this glaring problem, they silently removed this definition of a “traditional” view of Adam, replacing it with another one, because it is no-longer not disproven by science as we understand it now. The work we’ve done on a genealogical Adam makes that clear.
Instead of acknowledging this new opportunity for reconciliation between traditional theology and evolutionary science, BioLogos silently changed the language to a new strawman, without acknowledging that some traditional understandings of Adam (like their own understanding of traditional views just 1.5 weeks ago!) are entirely consistent with science. They know that at least one traditional understanding of the de novo creation of Adam (which was their definition till 1.5 weeks ago!) is entirely consistent what we have found in science.
This history makes clear that this is not merely an oversight, but what appears to be intentional misrepresentation of our understanding of evolutionary science that reveals true motivations and values. Knowing that their definition of “traditional” de novo Adam was compatible with science, they just changed it, simply in order to say that traditional theology is in error.
That is the exciting thing about genealogical science. It dramatically shifts our understanding of how evolutionary science interacts with theology. It seems there is nothing in evolutionary science that unsettles traditional theology.
This is good news for the Church, but very inconvenient for anyone who wants war instead of peace.
Why Oppose Traditional Theology?
So, both claims are possible at the same time. As traditional theology holds, we can all descend from a de novo Adam in our recent history. As evolutionary science indicates, we can all share ancestry with the great apes. Both these things can be true at the same time. They are not in conflict.
So why would BioLogos oppose traditional theology and the de novo creation of Adam? Why make this opposition their official position? Why insist on ad hoc strawman arguments?
As it has been explained to me, BioLogos is officially guided by theological and hermeneutical reasons (not science) to oppose the de novo creation of Adam and traditional theology, even though some traditional accounts are 100% consistent with common descent. Therefore, let us stop pretending that their opposition to “traditional” theology has anything to do with evolutionary science. I, for example, affirm evolutionary science and see no problem with “traditional” theology; and this was the reason I was taken off their speakers list, even though I affirm common descent.
BioLogos agrees with me on the science (sort of) but then writes of hermeneutics, they write (also their official position):
consider Genesis 2:7, when God forms Adam from dust and breathes into his nostrils. This could not have happened exactly as described, because we know from other passages in the Bible that God is Spirit with neither hands nor lungs.
There are many reasons not to believe in a historical Adam, or in the de novo creation of Adam. This argument put forward by BioLogos, however, is a genuinely bad argument that relies on ignorance of theophany. Genesis 2:7 appears to be describing a theophany, and theophanies appear to have hands and lungs. As writes @jongarvey:
Neither is such a theophany unique to “poetic” Genesis 1-11, for Abraham and others in the Old Testament also encountered God in human form. …These considerations surely make even the original sentence in the essay an unsafe argument, quite apart from any unwarranted deductions about the creation of Adam.
@jongarvey goes on to make an uncomfortably accurate quote about BioLogo’s continued silence on a Genealogical Adam and universal ancestry.
there is an arbitrary decision by some that nobody in their senses can really believe in a historical Adam, and that therefore to point to possible metaphor in Genesis is to remove the historical Adam by default – a logical error, as I have shown. That such a prejudice may be the case somewhere in the thinking of “official” BioLogos is shown by the continued non-mention, as a viable option, of the significant development of the Genealogical Adam hypothesis in the “Common Questions” section.
Agreeing with @jongarvey here, it is very surprising that all this time since I left they have not mentioned A Genealogical Adam on their blog, nor have they included it as an option on the common questions page on Adam and Eve.
More and more are taking notice.
BioLogos and I parted ways because of the large gap in our values exposed by The Genealogical Adam. For theological reasons, not science, it is of defining importance to BioLogos to oppose “traditional” theology of Adam, and therefore to oppose the de novo creation of Adam. Soon, we can hope, they may catch up with the shift in our understanding of the science. Theological agendas, regrettably, may prevent that from taking place any time soon.
The Cost of Peace
I still, however, do have hope for our tiresome Creation War. The good news, still, is that rapprochement is possible.
If BB Warfield and Williams Jennings Bryan knew what we know now about genealogical science, perhaps we would not have faced the last 100 years of conflict. If BioLogos stopped opposing “traditional” theology, perhaps they would be more trusted. Peace, however, is costly. It requires us to lay down our swords.
This will be difficult. Laying down swords is never easy.
For those that oppose evolutionary science, the invitation is to lay down opposition to common descent because it does not conflict with theology. For those that care about affirming common descent, the invitation is to lay down opposition to “traditional” theology of Adam because they do not conflict with evolution.
Some will choose war. The Church, however, is invited into a confident peace. Nothing we care about is threatened by evolutionary science. Jesus is greater.
We should watch how this call to peace is received across the spectrum. I’m encouraged, honestly, by what I have been seeing among ID proponents and theologians that hold to traditional theology. See for example, this post by Dr. Rossiter that begins a series of confessions we should be sure to follow: https://shadowofoz.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/long-hiatus/. It remains an open question, however, if BioLogos will answer the call to peace.
Let us all hope that they lay down their swords eventually. We have no reason to be at war. Instead, let us follow Him, the Prince of Peace, the one greater than all we find in science.