Can you give the full reference? Hans is responding to my book at the ASA conference in 2020.
Madueme & Reeves 2014, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, a book you are surely aware of (chapter 11 specifically).
Madueme & Reeves also theologically critique some GAE-like models where Adam is just one of many human beings (e.g. Kidner’s proposal) in chapter 10, although this is not quite the same as the GAE models in the GAE book.
Here is Han’s review of Adam and the Genome:
Further, Venema tends to give a deeply confident—almost serene and epistemologically unruffled—picture of mainstream science. Though he succeeds in demonstrating why the scientific method is far more impressive than many religious conservatives allow, I worry he glosses over genuine philosophical and historical questions about how effectively science tracks with reality—we need only recall, for example, that scientific “certainties” often turn out to have been ephemeral; as Del Ratzsch reminds us, “Recurrent claims that we finally have in hand all necessary materials for completing the scientific picture have just as recurrently failed.”
Having said that, Christians who agree with me on this point—and are committed to the traditional Adam and Eve—have much work to do. We’re still trying to figure out the most compelling apologetic replies to the kind of research Venema has ably presented. Responses that have appeared so far from various perspectives leave something to be desired. (As far as I’m aware, the best critique of the genomic evidence against Adam is from young-earth creationist Todd Wood—see his essay “Genetics of Adam,” co-authored with Joseph Francis, in What Happened in the Garden .) Venema’s well-substantiated critiques of Meyer and other ID theorists aren’t easily dismissed. At the very least, Adam’s would-be defenders had best roll up their sleeves.
Adam and the Genome has appeared because of a growing conflict between theology and science. In other words, it’s Adam versus the genome—and the way out is to jettison Adam. Yet I keep coming back to the nature of Christianity, a faith that turns on Jesus’s resurrection. Everyone knows, from multiple lines of evidence across countless generations, that the concept of resurrection is utterly unscientific (understanding “science” to imply methodological naturalism, as Venema does).
Can you give me some quotes on this from this chapter?
Hans Madueme, “‘The Most Vulnerable Part of the Whole Christian Account’: Original Sin and Modern Science” (Chapter 11 of Madueme & Reeves, eds., Adam, the Fall and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives). This book is not on Google Books or any other online form that I can easily find, so I had to manually type in all the following quotes. That’s why I can’t quote at length, but if you want more quotes from a specific section, I can look at it.
Interestingly, Madueme is a YEC. But he sounds more diplomatic and more respecting of mainstream science than many others. While this chapter mainly discusses the doctrine of original sin (OS) in relation to science, it also details Madueme’s general attitude towards reconciling science and theology.
Madueme on Scriptural Realism
The proposal I want to unpack briefly is scriptural realism and it draws on classical themes within the Reformational traditions. It is designed to answer our key question - on what grounds can extrabiblical, natural science change or even overturn, a doctrine that is authorized by God’s Word in Scripture? I will sketch out my proposal in three moves. (241)
First move: inerrancy
The first move - or rather, commitment - is to affirm biblical inerrancy. Since God cannot err or deceive, Scripture as his self-expression cannot err or deceive (e.g., 1 John 3:20; Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18). God is holy and faithful. Scripture is truthful in all that it affirms, so that “when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences”.
The quoted definition of inerrancy is from Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy” in Inerrancy, ed. Geisler (Zondervan, 1980)
…This conviction functions inescapably as a premise shaping our understanding of the relationship between science and theology…there are indeed other legitimate windows into reality (e.g., history, science, archaeology, etc.), but Scripture stands on an entirely different plane as the Word of God.
The Second Move
The second move invokes a pneumatic certainty. John Calvin acknowledges the objective dimension of Scripture’s authority, what he calls the “firm proofs” that help establish the credibility of Scripture. But Calvin goes on to argue that far greater than any such external proof is the internal proof that God himself speaks in the Scriptures…
This internal testimony of the Holy Spirit induces in believers a theological certainty of the divinity of Scripture. In the seventeenth century, Francis Turretin classified three kinds of certainty: mathematical, moral, and theological. Appropriating the latter, we can call this a pneumatic certainty, by which we mean that autonomous human reason does not have final authority over faith. Our sinfulness ensures that reason must sometimes be instructed by faith as it is supernaturally mediated by the Spirit through the Word of God… (242)
The concept of dogmatic rank can help at just this point. Some doctrines are more central to the biblical witness and others more peripheral, less certain. Central doctrines are more clearly attested and more vital to the very structure of faith, so that they shape the lives of believers at much deeper levels. These beliefs have a high depth of ingression (perhaps even a maximal depth of ingression). They are not on the periphery but at the very center of my noetic (intellectual) structure. (243)
…In truth, even our central theological convictions are equally central to the Bible or equally honed intellectually. Some are more flexible and less certain. In truth, even our central theological convictions must be put to the test of Scripture. So the pneumatic certainty must be a qualified pneumatic certainty.
The Third Move
(emphases all mine)
The third move is to adopt an eclectic approach to scientific theories…This kind of eclecticism is committed to a “soft” rather than “hard” concordism. Science and theology will ultimately harmonize - when Christ comes back - but in the meantime attempts to harmonize them are often premature. This is partly because Scripture does not usually answer our scientific questions and partly because scientific claims are by nature revisable…That said, the Bible does address material issues that bear directly on the claims of science.
The upshot of all this is that there will at times be real conflict between science and theology (or better, between widely accepted scientific theories and Christian doctrine). Sometimes a major doctrine will thus be in tension with the scientific consensus. How should one proceed in such a situation? Recall that the ultimate harmonization of scientific theorizing with our doctrinal conceptions is an eschatological claim. The reality explored by science is most truly, though not exhaustively, disclosed to us in Scripture; since our world is fallen, scientific theory and practice are fully enmeshed in the noetic effects of sin. In this life east of Eden we will therefore not always be able to reconcile science and theology - to think that we will, or to assume too quickly that we have successfully done so, will tend to betray an over realized eschatology. During those episodes of of genuine conflict between science and theology there will be times that scientific consensus will simply need to be rejected by Christians. (244)
…Let us say that when our doctrinal convictions are clearly attested to in Holy Scripture, when they are central - not peripheral - to the redemptive-historical narrative, and when they are taught universally in the catholic church, then those convictions are deeply, even maximally, ingressed in our noetic structure. They are confirmed supernaturally by the internal witness of the Holy Spirit and we are thus convinced of their divinity. They are theologically certain. They are warranted on the sole authority of God and his word in Scripture and they need no warrant or evidential support from modern science or any other area of human learning. They effectively serve as theological lenses with which we then apprehend the rest of reality.
…It is also possible that these central doctrinal beliefs may be overturned by a future scientific finding, but, practically speaking, the threshold for such defeasibility is very high. (245)
Madueme’s Scriptural Realism applied to Original Sin
The doctrine of Adam’s fall is a central, not peripheral. It is warranted by Holy Scripture (norma normans) and the catholic tradition (norma normata). Adam and Eve were historical people. They were the head of the human race, and they fell from God’s goodness and grace. This doctrine is essential for our knowledge of sin and our experience of redemption. It is warranted by God’s Word in Scripture and therefore theologically certain.
Scientific evidence that is overwhelmingly persuasive can therefore overturn a central doctrine like the fall. We would then have to revise our understanding of Scripture without a historical Adam or fall. But such a decisive judgment should never be made by one or even many individuals; like the earlier conciliar or creedal decrees, it would be an ecclesial decision superintended by God’s Spirit and involving church leaders from across the globe. Such a scenario is logically possible yet extremely unlikely. The biblical evidence for the fall has an intrinsic warrant that is far greater than any current evidence for paleoanthropology and evolutionary biology. Moreover, the fall is an essential thread tying together key doctrines in the seamless garment of systematic theology; pull it loose and the whole thing unravels. Some of the pre-Adamite proposals are, on this point, more plausible than others - different church traditions will assess them using their own internal theological standards - but none fully persuade (they leave too many questions unanswered). Individuals may hold these proposals as nondogmatic, tentative hypotheses that are not binding on the church.
Given the extremely fragmented nature of modern Protestant Christianity, I doubt that Madueme’s suggestion of a worldwide church council agreeing to reinterpret certain doctrines is a realistic proposal.
Madueme on some proposals to reconcile the Fall with modern science
Evolutionary pre-Adamism goes one step further by including humans within the evolutionary process. Proponents of this view say that Adam evolved from an earlier hominim and then became, with Eve, the father of all his descendants (i.e., true humanity) - notable exponents are John Jefferson Davis and Henri Blocher. Federal headship pre-Adamism is the idea that Adam evolved from a hominin and had many hominin neighbors - when Adam fell, he acted as the federal head of both his descendants and his contemporaries. Derek Kidner suggested this picture over forty years ago, and it has been picked up by the likes of John Stott, R. J. Berry, Denis Alexander, and Tim Keller.
These pre-Adamite proposals embrace a more or less realist understanding of the fall - Adam’s fall happened in our space-time history. One weakness, however, is the potential of an Adam-of-the-gaps fallacy…Thus Adam and the fall are held hostage to the fortunes of science. (237)
Madueme then goes on to critique Blocher for changing his dating of Adam from 40k BC to 100k BC, and Karl Rahner for changing his views from requiring monogenism to allowing polygenism to be consistent with original sin. I’m not sure whether you’ve engaged with these cases before in the book.
This is really helpful. Thank you. What is your assessment? I need to think about this more, but I also might be a Scriptural realist.
There’s a lot that I agree with in what Madueme writes, and I think it resonates with a lot of what you’ve written (whether in the GAE book here) about Scripture and science being two equally essential “methods” to know about reality. I think that many TE/ECs are too quick to discard traditional interpretations of Scripture at the first sign that they seem to be in tension with the latest scientific findings. Because we accept Scripture as the word of God, it does “stand on a different plane” compared to everything else. Scripture must also be interpreted with the guidance of the church throughout history, so it is not enough to invent a new, perhaps “demythologized” interpretation of Scripture that we think coheres with the latest science. As Madueme says, the “bar of defeasibility” for revising a traditional doctrine has to be seriously high. Note that interestingly Madueme, despite being a YEC, doesn’t close off this possibility entirely (although his suggestion that a worldwide church council is needed to do this cannot be taken seriously, I think).
Even as I agree with Madueme that the threshold for revision has to be high, I think that he does not speak enough (at least in this chapter) about more details on how exactly scientific evidence should be assessed in reaching that standard. I would advocate for a more specific criterion. It is a common trope among some YECs and many lay Christians that “we can’t hang our theology on science because the scientific consensus constantly changes.” In response, I would say that the direction and extent of the change matters. In physics especially, there is the well-known correspondence principle: scientific revolutions might completely change the interpretation and applicability of certain equations, but the math itself cannot change. Instead, older scientific evidence tend to be subsumed under a broader, newer theory. Newtonian mechanics, for example, was superseded, not falsified by Einstein’s general relativity.
Applying this to the age of the Universe, we have multiple lines of evidence - astronomy, nuclear physics, geology, etc. - which all point towards an old universe. Even if one could cast doubt on specific experimental results, perhaps revising the estimate of the age by a little bit, this would not change the basic finding that the universe is much older than 6000 years. I suspect the situation regarding the evidence of evolution is similar (though I am not a biologist, so I will not try to elaborate on it here).
In situations like this, where scientific evidence seems to clearly point towards one direction, clearly ruling out certain theological scenarios, I think we must judge the science to have approached or surpassed the bar for revisability that Madueme mentions. To do otherwise would force Christians to reject most of mainstream science, and thus nullify the truthfulness of God’s general revelation.
- For a YEC who thinks that “science, if properly done and informed by YEC presuppositions regarding Scripture, would find the universe to be young”: this essentially questions our ability to reason properly. It virtually denies the existence of common grace after the Fall, such that one cannot reason except if explicitly informed by Scripture. Science is not an exotic form of reasoning completely divorced from common sense. Rather, science is a systematic extension of common sense empirical methods that everyone uses in their daily life. If we start questioning our own reasoning capabilities, then wouldn’t that also undermine our capacity to understand God’s Word itself?
- For a YEC who thinks that God made the universe to appear old, although it is actually only a few thousand years old (the omphalos hypothesis): this would also question the truthfulness and honesty of God’s general revelation. If the world isn’t what it really seems to be, then were the disciples correct in judging the post-resurrected Jesus to be really flesh-and-blood?
Thus, while some amount of epistemic tension between science and theology might be inevitable at certain times due to the noetic effects of sin, as well as the general serendipitous and stochastic nature of scientific progress, I think one should be confident of having the ability to make a second-order judgment about where the scientific progress is headed, and seriously consider Madueme’s admission that even if the bar of defeasibility is very high, it still exists.
(By the way, I don’t think the bar of defeasibility applies at all to even deeper theological positions like that God exists, because such a question, once understood properly, seems not even in principle falsifiable by scientific methods.)
Now, it doesn’t seem to me that the situation regarding the age of the universe applies to the general question of a historical Adam and Eve, given how many scientifically acceptable theological scenarios have been proposed regarding that question (as demonstrated by the GAE, RTB, and Kidner models, among others). Certainly, as I have said before, positing an ad hoc hypothesis of a single crossing across the Bass Strait within a few thousand year period could be an acceptable amount of epistemic tension to reconcile one’s scientific and theological commitments. However, I would expect that the person who holds position should be able to thoroughly demonstrate the theological advantages of such a position over a 10 or 20k BC Adam, including that we have pneumatic certainty that a 6000 BC Adam is a central theological belief which would violate multiple, specific other parts of our shared, orthodox Christian theological noetic structure.
If we take Hans at is word, it seems he might be personally drawn to the YAC position (Young Adam Creation) that the GAE makes possible. It will very interesting to see his review when it comes out.