Why is the de novo creation of Adam and Eve important?

Question: Why is a de novo creation of Adam and Eve important?

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Welcome @John_Bauer!

De novo creation is important because it is the stated reason that many people in the Church are troubled by evolution, or even outright reject it.

See, for example, this TGC video: Keller on Adam and Eve.

See, also, Wayne Gruden’s objections to evolution: 12 Ideas You Must Embrace to Affirm Theistic Evolution | Crossway Articles.

See, also, Ken Keathley’s statements about the creation of Eve (echoing Kidner), Southern Baptist Voices: Expressing Our Concerns - Articles - BioLogos.

See my analysis here, BioLogos and the Crossway TE Book.

So we have several scholars from several traditions in the Church all pointing to de novo creation of Adam and/or Eve as important to them, and the reason they are troubled by evolution. All these scholars are informed. They have heard the theological and hermeneutical arguments against de novo creation and were not convinced.

Here is how evolutionary creationists responded:

“evolutionary creationists cannot affirm the traditional de novo view of human origins”
A Flawed Mirror: A Response to the Book “Theistic Evolution” - Articles - BioLogos

In contrast to this, here is how I responded to Gruden, Keathley, and Keller,

Grudem is correct; theistic evolutionists have not been sensitive to the theological concerns presented here… All too often, evolutionary science is incorrectly understood to overturn the traditional theology of Adam. Certainly, evolutionary science allows for no-Adam theology, but it also allows for historical Adam theology too… This year, also, there was a surprising advance in our understanding of how evolutionary science interacts with theology (e.g., S. Joshua Swamidass, “The Overlooked Science of Genealogical Ancestry,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 70 [2018]: 19–35). We find that Adam and Eve could be genealogical ancestors of us all, less than 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, de novo created, without parents. As surprising as this may sound, these confessions are entirely consistent with evolutionary science. With this correction in mind, it is not clear if any of the theological claims Grudem lays out are in conflict with evolutionary science.
Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique | Themelios from The Gospel Coalition

That is why it is important. Several scholars say de novo creation is important. For 160 years, they have been incorrectly told that these beliefs were in conflict with the evidence. Maybe they now have less reason to reject evolution if we make space for them.

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Joshua Swamidass:

Thank you for this thoughtful response. I should probably explain that I am quite familiar with the concerns raised by Keller, Grudem, and others. As a Christian who not only enjoys swimming in the deep end of the Reformed swimming pool but is also exploring the science of evolution and trying to understand it from a biblical world-view, it is incumbent upon me to keep abreast of these theological criticisms.

Unfortunately, people like Grudem are aiming their criticism at an evolutionary view that is different from and weaker than the one I have come to accept, as a Christian with a biblical world-view. For example, Grudem is arguing against the sort of theistic evolution that has been represented by Howard J. Van Till and his ilk, which Grudem describes as the view that “God created matter and, after that, God didn’t guide, intervene, or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes.” These people are focusing on “the version of theistic evolution that affirms 'the sufficiency (or creative power) of the unguided, undirected mechanism of mutation and natural selection as an explanation for the origin of new forms of life.” Insofar as that position seems wildly inconsistent with a biblical world-view and is not even remotely close to the view that I am exporing, it does not strike me as a relevant criticism—and leaves me wondering why a de novo creation of Adam and Eve is important.

I do not dispute that they are informed, but I do find it curious that they don’t interact with an evolutionary creationism that presents a God whose providential hand is immanent throughout the natural world, working out all things according to the counsel of his will. Nature cannot operate independent of God—there is no such thing as “purely natural processes,” no “unguided, undirected mechanisms.” Ard Louis explains that this is why in Psalm 104, for example, “the point of view fluidly changes back and forth from direct action by God—‘he makes springs pour water into ravines’—to water acting on its own—‘the water flows down the mountains.’ Such dual descriptions are two different perspectives of the same thing. Within a robust biblical theism, if God were to stop sustaining all things, the world would not slowly grind to a halt or descend into chaos; it would simply stop existing.” [1] This view is reflected in Aubrey L. Moore, who put it this way:

The plant which is produced from seed by the “natural” laws of growth is his creation. The brute which is born by the “natural” process of generation is his creation. The plant or animal which, by successive variations and adaptations, becomes a new species (if this is true) is his creation. … We need hardly stop to remind ourselves how entirely this is in accord with the relation of God and nature, always assumed in the Bible. What strikes us at once, trained as we are in the language of science, is the immediateness with which everything is ascribed to God. He makes the grass to grow upon the mountains. To him the young ravens look up for food. He holds the winds in the hollow of his hand. Not a sparrow falls without his knowledge. He numbers the hairs of our head. Of bird and beast and flower, no less than of man, it is true that in him they “live and move and have their being.” O Lord, how glorious are thy works! For the Christian theologian, the facts of nature are the acts of God. [2]

Assuming they are informed of this type of biblical perspective on evolution, Grudem and others don’t seem to be taking it seriously. But, at least here, we can do things differently. We can do better, even if for a moment, just long enough to explore an argument. Let us assume, arguendo, that we are dealing with an unabashed biblical world-view that accepts the science of evolution. Given this view, why is the de novo creation of Adam and Eve important? Why is it necessary for a traditional theology vis-a-vis Adam? Their historical existence, sure. I understand the importance of that. But their de novo creation? I am not seeing it. What does a traditional theology of Adam lose if he was born?

Sincerely your servant,

John Bauer


Footnotes:

[1] Ard A. Louis, “How does the BioLogos model need to address concerns Christians have about the implications of its science?” Scholar Essays [PDF], The BioLogos Foundation, n.d.

[2] Aubrey L. Moore, Science and Faith: Essays on Apologetic Subjects, 6th ed. (1889; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1905), 225–226.

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You are correct here. They used a strawman of EC on God’s action.

However, much of Grudem’s critique of EC on Adam and Eve was valid, and was not based on this strawman. Moreover, his critique is not centered on God’s action, but on Adam and Eve.

But this does not follow:

Independent of that strawman definition of TE, there are theological and inerrancy concerns that make de novo creation important.

I think we may be mixing two issues. The affirmation God’s action and providence is related to the de novo creation (which is an act of God) but it is ultimately a different issue.

For Collins, Keller, Kidner, and Keathely, this is more about their reading of Scripture, and questions of infallibility and inerrancy. For them, it really reads like Genesis 2 describes the de novo creation of AE, and that his how most Christians read Genesis through history. Ken Keathley even grants that, if he squints hard enough, Adam might be chosen from a larger population, but Eve really seems to be a special creation.

That linked article is worth reading. For Ken, this is a matter of inerrancy. He echoes Kidner’s and Tim Keller’s concerns as well. Keller can’t get past the traditional reading of Scripture, and it becomes a question of personal integrity for him, so he is caught in tension.

Now, Grudem himself may never come to affirm evolution, and that is okay. However, we now know for a fact that his theology is fully accommodated alongside evolutionary science. He may not like evolution, but it isn’t actually in conflict with his beliefs.

Both Jack Collins and Ken Keathley, however, have very strongly signaled their support of a GAE based approach with de novo creation. That is good news.

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Joshua Swamidass:

I have read all of these gentlemen before, and have listened to numerous interviews and podcasts. I am quite familiar with their perspectives. And yet this question remains. It is evident that you think they’ve made some kind of clear statement about why a de novo creation of Adam and Eve is important, and it’s apparent that I have somehow managed to miss what you regard as so clear. Like them, I am also concerned for inerrancy and a consistent systematic theology. Therefore, I am kindly asking you to succinctly indicate what those reasons happen to be, so that it may become clear to me, too, when I reexamine their material. I willingly admit that perhaps I’ve been reading with Adam’s historicity too much in mind, such that I missed why his de novo creation is important.

Sincerely your servant,

John Bauer

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Well, quoting them in the references I listed above:

Keller says:

And Ken Keathley says:

Take for example, the account of God creating Eve from Adam’s rib:

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”—Gen 2:21-22 (ESV)

Should we understand, as some theistic evolutionists suggest, that the real message of these verses is that God gave a female hominid the same awareness of the divine that He gave to a male hominid? Is this the intended meaning of the account? I just don’t see how we can arrive at such an understanding with integrity.
Southern Baptist Voices: Expressing Our Concerns - Articles - BioLogos

That seems pretty clear to me. These, also, are just a couple quotes. There are many more.

Does that make more sense of it?

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As you can see, they’re not great at articulating their reasons. They just say “Well that’s what the text looks like to me”, which is of course what YECs say about a 7,000 year old earth and a global flood. These people think the same way, they’re just a bit further along the spectrum towards reality. So when YECs say “That’s what the text looks like to me’” about a 7,000 year old earth they’re not impressed, but then they turn around and say the same with Adam and Eve. For the YEC the Bible isn’t inspired if it doesn’t read the way they think it should, and these people think the same way.

Other factors include doctrines they fear will be affected, such as original sin, and a greater fear of “But if I’m wrong about this what else am I wrong about?”.

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I would emphasize as well I’m not picking sides in this theological debate. I’m just trying to make space for differences.

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Here’s some arguments someone at my church has made regarding this, when discussing the possibility of other people being around:

  • Adam is described as the “first man” in 1 Corinthians 15:45. So in their view, this means only one human existed at some point in time.
  • There was no “helper” found for Adam in Genesis 2:20. All the animals are brought before him, but no humans from an existing population.
  • Adam calls his wife Eve because she’s the mother of all living in Genesis 3:20.

(I personally believe there were other people around)

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@Boscopup these are separate concerns that don’t necessarily imply de Novo creation. I also address all of them in my book.

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This is a pretty useless football that will keep getting kicked around until some important public figures come out with a clarifying statement that the Hebrew text’s use of “'bara” DOES NOT require an understanding of a “magic, obvious to all, and instantaneous first instance or appearance of something completely devoid of any attendant natural history.”
Gen. 1:1 might refer to such, of necessity, but that does not automatically entail the same for every other instance of the use of “'bara.”
“Poof” theology is a peculiarly modern American false measure of orthodoxy, based upon this misunderstanding.
It DOES, however, entail the creation of something completely new, no matter how long it takes, or by what means it takes.
At which point, I usually ask where “'bara” is used in the text with relation to Adam specifically, rather than as opposed to humanity as a whole in Genesis 1:27.
“Evolution,” per se, is not WRONG --it’s just not ENOUGH. God acts miraculously through AND BEYOND nature.

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@Guy_Coe look at what @KenKeathley wrote. His interpretation does not depend on “bara” in any way.

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Link?

I’ve linked it it here at least two times, and also quoted it. Where is the disconnect!?

Will simply have to find it. Android phone is acting up.

Having skimmed the article, it’s not clear to me that he would object to, or even disagree with, what I’ve just written… Thoughts? @swamidass

He says that the de novo creation of Eve is an unavoidable teaching of Genesis 2. This is in directly conflict your views. He goes so far as to say he cannot see how you arrive at your position with integrity. That is pretty strong disagreement with you @Guy_Coe.

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Like you, I am used to being misunderstood, and I could easily call it a minor disagreement which we could easily resolve in conversation. Realize, you are equivocating “de novo” with “'bara,” whether you mean to or not. “De novo” does not mean “de nihilo,” e.g. And, it’s about Eve, not Adam. Right?? @swamidass

I have not equivocated de novo with bara. I explain that de novo means suddenly created by a direct act of God, “from the dust and from a rib.” The Hebrew word there is asah (“made”), not bara. Nothing in that definition directly or indirectly references bara.

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Hebrew verbs cannot convey the duration of an action! Where do you get “suddenly” from? @swamidass “From the dust” and “from his tsela” can also be used colloquially. And Adam’s “tardemah” or “deep sleep” does allow it to be a visionary experience. Whereafter, she is presented as “new” to Adam, without any claim to no natural or supernatural history being involved.
Keathley neither addresses nor refutes any of these observations.
Your thoughts, @KenKeathley ?
Unfortunately, will be out of touch for several hours, now…