Book Review: Adam and the Genome

The central premise of Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science is that data from modern genetics, and especially from the Human Genome Project, calls into question the ex­istence of an historical Adam. Christians have long as­sumed that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve should be taken literally, and that all of mankind are direct de­scendants of this single human couple created by God. Even less-literal interpretations, that have accepted that humans may have evolved from lower primates, still as­sume that at some point God stepped in and gave the first human couple a soul and that original sin began with this first couple, who then passed it on to the rest of humanity. Such views were possible when all that was known about potential human origins was based on basic similarity with other primates and a small collection of pre-human fossils.

Data from modern genetics, and especially from population genetics, has called the above views into question, and suggests that all humans today descended from an ancient population of humans of no less than 10,000 individuals. If it were just one line of evidence, this conclusion might seem easy to refute, but several in­dependent population genetics methods, using different kinds of genetic data, lead to the same basic conclusion. Some methods allow scientists to peek even farther into the past and estimate minimum population sizes in the evolution of pre-human populations.

In the first half of the book, Dennis Venema pres­ents the evidence that modern humans are derived from a population of no less than 10,000. He spends the first chapter explaining how scientists establish what is “true” and what the word “theory” means to scientists. Unlike what many lay people, especially Christian lay people, have been led to believe, the word “theory” does not mean a “tentative or highly speculative scientific con­clusion,” but is rather a more robust conclusion, often supported by numerous lines of evidence.

Venema then proceeds to show, using examples from science, just how theories are developed and why scien­tists consider theories to represent robust and predictive conclusions based on solid data. Woven into this discus­sion is the reminder that Christians have traditionally considered there to be two books that reveal God and His work: scripture and nature. Thus, if we truly val­ue both as sources of knowledge about God, when they seem to disagree, we need to be willing to reassess both books and reinterpret one or the other or both, as better understanding is obtained. In the history of the church, though, the scriptures have often taken primacy, even to the point of ignoring clear evidence from nature. The best example of this approach is the refusal of church theologians in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to discard the earth-centered model of the universe, as­sumed to be presented in the Bible, for the sun-centered model of Copernicus. It took more than 100 years for theology and science to come together in support of the sun-centered system we know today.

In Chapter 2, Venema plunges into the science, giving a tutorial and history of genetics and the Human Genome Project that should enable most non-scientists to understand the evidence he later presents. Creation science has often felt confident in debunking human and primate evolution because it was based primarily on analysis of a small number of early human and oth­er hominin fossils. Considering new data from modern genetics, such an easy dismissal is impossible. So many lines of genetic evidence consistently support the evo­lution of humans and primates from older vertebrate lineages that it is hard to know where to start attacking the evidence. Here is a sampling of the main lines of evidence:

• The greater similarity in the sequence of many func­tional genes between humans and primates than be­tween humans and other mammals, such as dogs.1

• Non-functional olfactory genes in humans and pri­mates, shared with functional versions in dogs, that have the same mutations among primates causing them to be non-functional.2

• The presence of non-functional, partial vitellogenin gene sequences in humans (and other primates) that share sequence similarity with functional vitellogen­in genes in chickens, including sequence similarities in adjacent regions of DNA that involve both coding and noncoding DNA.3

The deeper scientists dig into the genomes of living organisms, the more evidence there is for common ancestry for all vertebrates, from fish to humans.

Chapter 3 is the climax of the first half of the book. The arguments that Venema uses to show that modern humans must have originated from a popula­tion of no less than 10,000 in­dividuals are complex, and not readily accessible to non-scien­tists, or even to many scientists, but as a biologist who is trained in population genetics, I can say with confidence that the data and analysis are compelling. Venema does as good a job as anyone could in explaining these arguments so that non-scientists at least have a chance of grasping them.

Venema also makes it exceedingly clear that his intent is not to discount or disrespect the Bible, which he considers to be an inspired book, and claims that it should hold primacy as we develop our understanding of God. Rather, he is urging an honest look at the scientific evidence and a re-evaluation of how we interpret Gene­sis. If God’s two books do indeed share the same author, we must do this.

Venema also confronts the problem of the “historical” Adam directly. For most Christians, the reasoning goes, if there is no historical Adam, then there is no way to save the doctrine of the plan of salvation. This is a valid concern, and Venema suggests there may be other ways of viewing Adam that would support our understanding of the plan of salvation, such as an archetypal, genealogical, or literary Adam. For the most part, the discussion of the implications inherent in the loss of an historical Adam are left to the second half of the book, which is by the coauthor and is heavily theological.

Before plunging into the theological thicket, Vene­ma takes one more chapter to cover a related topic: in­telligent design (ID). In addition to providing evidence questioning the historicity of Adam, the human genome project has also provided evidence that questions some aspects of ID theory. One of the central tenets of ID is that irreducibly complex biochemical systems cannot have evolved, because sever­al intermediate steps, each of which has no selective advan­tage, are required to evolve such innovations. Thus, ac­cording to ID, all the required pieces would have had to occur simultaneously, which is statisti­cally impossible. Creation apol­ogists often use such biochemi­cal examples as proof that God must have designed and created them.

Central to ID arguments is opposition to the evolutionary model where new genes evolve from unused copies of older genes, the claim being that not a single plausible example of such a process has been found. Venema shares an example of a duplicated gene in fruit flies that has diverged enough to take on a new, and now essential, function.4 In addition, he recounts the discovery of the new enzyme, nylonase, that evolved in bacteria, enabling them to break down nylon and use it as a carbon source,5 and of unique human genes that are highly similar to non-coding DNA sequences in other pri­mates, suggesting that the “new” gene in humans evolved from these non-coding sequences.6

Venema interprets the failures of ID not as a sign that God is not the creator, but rather that God is an even more magnificent creator, in that he designed living sys­tems to be able to evolve just as evolutionary biology has proposed. As Venema states:

Could it be that God, in His wisdom, chose to use what we would call a “natural” mechanism to fill His creation with biodiversity adapted to its environment? And to use evolution to allow His creation to continue to adapt as that envi­ronment’s conditions shifted over time? If He did, would he be any less a creator than if He had done so miraculously? I think not. Though it is not something that science can speak to — since it goes beyond what science can estab­lish — I view evolution as God’s grand design for creating life.7

The remainder of the book deals more closely with the theological issues that arise from the scientific evi­dence and is written by Scot McKnight, a theologian by training. McKnight begins by summarizing how his own ap­proach to science and scripture evolved, starting from a posi­tion of fundamentalism, where scripture and evolution are in stark opposition — considering evolution a purely atheistic philosophy — to a more mature perspective where both scripture and science have equally valid things to say. McKnight acknowledges how challenging the issue of Adam’s historicity is in light of scientific evidence, and lays down some principles he believes must be followed in trying to solve the dilemma.

The four principles he outlines are 1) respect, in this case for the story related in Genesis; 2) honesty; 3) sen­sitivity to the student of science; and 4) the primacy of scripture. Respecting the story, as it is related in Genesis, means reading it carefully in the context in which it was written, recognizing the limitations of the author and the nature of the original audience, most notably, that it was written in a pre-scientific era. Thus, we should not force a reading of Genesis that goes beyond the scientific under­standing of its time.

Honesty may be one of the more difficult principles and extends to both the scriptures and to science. Being honest requires recognition that sometimes science can tell us true things that, if we are honest, must be held to be true, even if they seem to run counter to what we want to believe based on scripture. This does not mean one cannot hold a theological belief that is apparently incompatible with scientific knowledge, but it does mean an open rec­ognition of such paradoxes. This honesty cuts both ways, because sometimes science does not have all the data to support (or fail to support) a particular theological view, and this needs to be openly acknowledged as well.

Sensitivity to the student of science is important be­cause many students who are steeped in a fundamentalist approach to scriptural interpretation and understand the Genesis account in a complete­ly literal sense, will find scien­tific evidence a threat to their faith. It is easy, when facing overwhelming scientific data, to conclude that science so thor­oughly negates the truth of the Bible that the student of sci­ence sees the only one option: throwing out scripture entirely and embracing evolutionary theory as an atheist. We need to help students of science see that, although scientific data may require a reinterpretation of Genesis, it does not mean that Genesis is irrelevant or uninspired.

The fourth principle, the primacy of scripture, is re­lated to the previous principle, and is a reminder that a serious student of God’s two books recognizes that scripture is still the inspired word of God. Scriptural in­terpretation may have to be adjusted so that it is compat­ible with established scientific knowledge, but it remains central to religious belief.

A central theological question that always arises in these discussions is whether there was an historical Adam. McKnight believes the adjective “historical” is problem­atic, because it biases the question, immediately assuming that in order for the Bible to be true, there must have been a literal person named Adam that meets all the usual fun­damentalist criteria. He suggests the possible use of sev­eral other potential adjectives, such as “archetypal,” “ge­nealogical,” or “literary.” In the remainder of the book, McKnight explores these alternative ways of viewing Adam, and what effects these alternatives have on Chris­tian theology.

There is no easy way to summarize the complex arguments that fill the last three chapters, and in many ways, they represent a work in progress that will like­ly not be completely satisfying to many conservative Christians. In Chapter 6, McKnight first presents sum­maries of four, ancient, Near-Eastern creation stories to give some context to the account in Genesis. He makes no assumptions about whether the author of the Genesis account has read or heard of these stories, but recognizes that, at the very least, the ideas in these stories would have been infus­ing the culture of the time, thus giving some hint of the purpose and central truths of the Genesis account. There are many similarities among these several creation stories, but also striking differences between the Genesis account and the other four, most no­tably that the Genesis account considers creation the work of a single God, rather than a group of gods. McKnight draws frequently from ideas presented by John Wal­ton in his book The Lost World of Genesis One8 to make his arguments.

McKnight further explores the intent of the Genesis account relative to the other contemporary creation stories in the form of twelve theses. For example, Thesis 1 reads:

God is one, and this one God is outside the cos­mos, not inside the cosmos as the gods of the ancient Near East are. The God of Adam and Eve is unique as the superior one. Genesis 1–2 is more about God than Adam and Eve or the cre­ation of the world. This one true God of Israel, as the New Testament will state explicitly, creates the universe through the Son of God, who is the Wisdom of God.9

And Thesis 11:

To read the Bible in context means to know where the Adam and Eve story will go in the pag­es ahead. What will become evident to the one who reads the whole Bible is that Adam and Eve are not just two individuals but representatives of both Israel and Everyone. Hence, Adam and Eve’s sin is Israel’s prototypical sin, their “exile” is Israel’s exile, and they therefore represent the sin and discipline of Everyone.10

McKnight finally concludes that the easiest way to reconcile the Adam and Eve of Genesis with the findings of modern genetics would be to consider them literary figures used to tell the story of God’s creation of humans and the birth of Israel. The assump­tion in evangelical theology is that Adam must be our literal historical and genealogical an­cestor, or the Bible and the story of the fall and redemption make no sense. The apparent clash between science and theology is especially troubling. What if these assumptions are wrong? McKnight spends the final two chapters exploring the “many Adams” of Jewish tradition, and finally the Pauline Adam, to see if our modern Adam is the same one the Bible writ­ers and interpreters recognize.

In intertestamental Jewish literature, McKnight iden­tifies “seven kinds” of Adam and Eve. He gives short labels to each of these: the archetypal, moral Adam (Sirach); the immortal and just Adam of wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon); logos Adam (Philo of Alexandria); Adam of Torah observance (Jubilees); Roman Adam (Josephus); fallen Adam (4 Ezra); and Adam as everyone (2 Baruch). His contention is that Jewish thought did not have a single view of Adam, and that when Paul writes about Adam, he was drawing from some of these diverse threads. These “seven kinds” of Adam overlap in various ways, and share various degrees of literalness, some treating Adam in a more literary or allegorical way.

This whirlwind tour of intertestamental Jewish sources is confusing at times and left me with the sense that I need to read these sources myself more critically. One thing that does seem clear is that all these writers seem to focus on the literary Adam, possibly also assum­ing that he is the genealogical Adam. The problem of sin also seems to be prevalent, although it is never clear from any of the authors that the sins of each of us now are the fault of Adam. Adam is portrayed as the first to break a covenant relationship with God, but each of us is challenged to renew that covenant and not repeat Adam’s mistake.

McKnight presents what he calls two non-negotia­ble conclusions from his study of intertestamental Jewish thought. First, “the Adam of each of these writings is consciously and constantly the Adam of Genesis, the literary Adam.” By this, he seems to mean that their interpretations are less “literal” than many Christian theologians’ views of Adam. The second non-ne­gotiable is that “each author used Adam to his (or her) own purposes.” None of the writers take a simplistic, purely histori­cal view of Adam. The story of Adam is used to make specific theological points, thus em­phasizing different aspects of Adam and ignoring others.

In the concluding chapter, McKnight tackles Paul’s use of Adam, focusing the greatest attention on the key passage in Romans 5 that is often used to support the doctrine of original sin. He breaks his arguments down into five theses, the first three of which are the least controversial:

1. The Adam of Paul is the literary, genealogical, image-of-God Adam found in Genesis.

2. The Adam of Paul is the Adam of the Bible filtered through — both in agreement and in disagreement with — the Jewish interpretive tradition about Adam.

3. The Adam of Paul is the archetypal, moral Adam who is the archetype for both Israel and all humanity.

Thesis 4 strikes at the heart of the issue, and is the most controversial for the traditional Christian theology of original sin:

Adam and all his descendants are connected, but original sin understood as original guilt and damnation for all humans by birth is not found in Paul. In Jewish fashion, Paul points his accusing finger at humans for their sins. How there is con­tinuity between Adam, all his descendants, and their sins and death is not stated by Paul.12

Although Seventh-day Adventist theology does not accept the Catholic doctrine of original sin in its entirety, and there is some confusion and disagreement on this, it is generally believed that we have inherited Adam’s disposi­tion to sin (but not his guilt).13 McKnight essentially dispens­es with the entire concept of original sin, arguing that Paul’s key statement used in support of this doctrine has been mis­interpreted due to translation inaccuracies. In Romans 5:12, where the NIV translation has, “and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned,” Ambrosiaster and Augus­tine translated the word “because” (ἐφ’ ᾧ, eph’ hō) as “in whom,” making the point that we have all sinned “in Adam.” Even the Douay-Rheims translation retains the Augustinian translation: “and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” McKnight’s conclu­sion from this is that Paul does not say that we sin be­cause we have inherited a sinful nature from Adam, but rather that each of us continues to choose the path of sin ourselves. Dispensing with the doctrine of original sin then negates the need to see ourselves as biological, genetic descendants of Adam, because our tendency to sin is not in our genes, or at least not any genes we got from Adam.

Dispensing with original sin leads directly to McK­night’s final thesis, “The Adam of Paul was not the historical Adam.”14 In some ways this is McKnight’s weakest thesis, but it is consistent with one way of look­ing at Paul’s use of Adam. Paul clearly uses Adam in a literary fashion and as an archetype for all humans, and especially for Israel. He even sees a genealogical link between Adam and Jesus, and given the scientific understanding of the time, this should be no surprise, but this genealogical link, again, does not imply in­heritance of some sort of original sin and guilt. It also seems reasonable to assume, according to McKnight’s fourth thesis, that Paul is viewing Adam in a more liter­ary, genealogical sense than an historical sense.

No doubt many theologians will take issue with McKnight’s conclusions, but as both authors of this book point out, if God is the author of both the nat­ural world and the inspiration behind biblical truth, some path to the reconciliation of the truths of both books must exist. Science, by its very nature, is open to objective, experimental investigation, and the more the natural world has been probed using the scientific method, the more evolutionary theory has been con­firmed, including the evolution of humans. Pretending scientific facts are not true, to save what are perceived as essential biblical truths, risks dispensing with half of God’s truth in an attempt to save the other half, that now itself may be untrue.

Just as believers in the day of Copernicus and Gal­ileo had to face uncomfortable truths from the book of nature, so must we today. If we refuse this task, or pro­hibit those who wish to take it on, the authors suggest that we may alienate honest seekers from the church. What alternative does an honest seeker of truth in sci­ence have when told the things they have found to be true in nature are, by theological definition, contrary to scripture, and are therefore off limits for consideration?

As an exploration of the above question, the book ends with an afterword by Daniel Harrell, Senior Min­ister of the Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota. Har­rell recounts his experiences as a pastor being confronted by university students who have, for the first time, been confronted with the certainties of evolutionary theory and are in spiritual crisis. His solution is not to simply dismiss their fears and reaffirm the truth of the Bible (and the falsity of science), but to open a dialog, as painful as that may be. He contends that such open dialogue is essential if we honestly want to know the truth. He concludes:

Christianity is not fantasy fiction or a fairy tale. Our faith in God who creates and redeems is grounded in the reality of things as they truly are rather than in how we wish and want them to be.15

Endnotes:

1. R. H. Waterson, E. S. Lander and R. K. Wilson, “Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome,” Nature 437(7055), (2005): 69.

2. Y. Gilad, O. Man, S. Pääbo, and D. Lancet, “Human spe­cific loss of olfactory receptor genes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(6), (2003): 3324–3327.

3. D. Brawand, W. Wahli, and H. Kaessmann, “Loss of egg yolk genes in mammals and the origin of lactation and placen­tation,” PLoS Biology 6(3), (2008): e63.

4. S. Chen, Y. E. Zhang, and M. Long, “New genes in Drosoph­ila quickly become essential,” Science 330(6011), (2010): 1682–1685.

5. S. Negoro, et al., “Plasmid-determined enzymatic degra­dation of nylon oligomers,” Journal of Bacteriology 155(1), (1983): 22–31. S. Ohno, “Birth of a unique enzyme from an alternative reading frame of the preexisted, internally repetitious coding sequence,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 81(8), (1984): 2421–2425.

6. J. Ruiz-Orera, et al., “Origins of de novo genes in human and chimpanzee,” PLoS Genetics 11(12), (2015): e1005721.

7. S. McKnight and D. R. Venema, Adam and the Genome: Read­ing Scripture after Genetic Science (Brazos Press, 2017), 90.

8. J. H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2010).

9. McKnight, and Venema, Adam and the Genome, 119.

10. Ibid., 142.

11. Ibid., 176–180.

12. Ibid., 183.

13. G. Pfandl, “Some thoughts on original sin,” Shelf Docu­ment, Biblical Research Institute GC, 15. https://adventistbib­licalresearch.org/materials/theology-salvation/some-thoughts-original-sin.

14. McKnight and Venema, Adam and the Genome, 188.

15. Ibid., 200.

Bryan Ness has BS and MS degrees in biology from Walla Walla University, and a PhD in botany (plant mo­lecular genetics) from Washington State University. He is currently a Professor of Biology at Pacific Union Col­lege (PUC) where he has been teaching for 30 years.

Book cover image courtesy of Brazos Press.

This review first appeared in the Spectrum journal, Volume 47, Issue 2. Did you know? It is our generous journal subscribers who fund what you read on the website. Please consider subscribing today to help support the work that Spectrum does now and in the future.

Already a subscriber? Thank you! We greatly appreciate your support and invite you to click here to learn about additional ways you can support Spectrum /Adventist Forum. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all gifts are tax-deductible, and you will receive a tax receipt for your records.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9830
4 Likes

With a possible exception of a few, more recent, scientific findings, it sounds like the book is essentially a rehashing of talking points that Biologos and their peers have been putting out for years now.

There are some things that books like this never seem to address. The theological perspectives that are suggested as possible alternative readings are in fact Christian theological models that have been around for a while now and whose strengths and weaknesses are well known: liberal, neoorthodox and catholic theology. These perspectives make certain assumptions about the nature of reality that are unprovable, but happen to coincide more with scientific conclusions than other theological perspectives. If however, these foundational assumptions are wrong, the naturalistic methodology of science is liable to lead to faulty conclusions, unless corrective measures are developed, something no one seems willing to address. Instead, fundi pseudoscience (Scientific creationism, ID, etc.) is held up and ridiculed as the ‘opposing view,’ thus eliminating the need to take these problems seriously.

What people like Venema don’t realize is that methodological naturalism (MN) does not stop with evolution. It extends to all reality. When followed, this methodology will eventually eliminate God from the picture entirely by making Him redundant. It will push God further and further into a corner until He completely disappears, whether or not He actually exists. The fault is with the methodology itself. When your starting assumption is naturalism, your final conclusion will inevitably be naturalism as well.

The scientific method is extremely powerful and has done the world much good, but a corrective is needed at the philosophical layer. We have procrastinated on this for too long. The methodology was developed during the modern era, when philosophers had a bit more epistemic confidence than was warranted. Now, in the post-modern era, we are starting to know better, and should therefore reevaluate the scientific methodology as well. We should come up with philosophical correctives that can be translated into methodological correctives which could then potentially make room for alternative hypotheses that can then be tested and developed.

And frankly, we really need to put the theological discussion on hold until this is done.

2 Likes

it’s quite striking that certain theological models, like science, operate under a set of unprovable assumptions…can we ever talk only about things that can be definitively proved if we feel such a burden to update our understanding of revelation…

1 Like

There is so much visual / geological / fossil evidence to seriously compromise the earth age ( 6000 years ) and the world wide flood that fundamentalist Adventists so adhere to — mainly because of their idolatrous worship of EGW and her highly plagiarized output of non scientific “ facts “ .

Now it seems that we have genetic evidence to compromise our belief that we have a single common ancestor - Adam.

So a lot of what we took as “ gospel “ is apparently garbage.

However, none of these problematic issues should have any bearing on the fact that Christ died for us and atones for our sins — these other.minutiae do not diminish this.

I long ago discarded the X rated and R Rated Old Testament with its god ordained genocides and other violences. Paul’s epistles are rife with miserable misogyny, and hateful homophobia not to mention his endorsement of slavery — so I discard them.

But the GOSPELS remain paramount and perfect for our salvation…

4 Likes

The biggest obstruction to religion is this strange belief everyone subscribes to that in order for a statement to be true, it has to present itself as a physical fact. But once it subjects itself to physical fact confirmation, it loses is religious value and becomes natural science subject to testing.

Physical is not the only criterion for truth. There are psychic facts that can never be confirmed or explained but nevertheless are true as seen in psychiatric clinics. Religious statements are of this type without exceptions. They cannot be established as physical facts. If they were, then they would be considered as part of the natural science. And who would want to be part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of the Natural Sciences?

13 Likes

wow, elmer…this is a really profound comment…congratulations…:sunglasses:

2 Likes

A technical note: My understanding of the genetics is that “Adam” is a single Y chromosome variant, but this should more properly be designated as “Noah” because of the genetic bottleneck of the flood. The 4 men on the ark were genetically closely related. Mitochondrial “Eve” would still be correct because the 4 women on the ark were not as closely related.

4 Likes

Some seem to think their concept of God cannot be sustained unless God is a being who operates outside of nature (i.e., supernatural), who might be described as a God of magic.

The alternative is to see God as orderly and rational; as one who operates through laws of nature. Some physicists speak of mathematics as the language of the universe. Could we expect less from God? Stated another way, would we really want to worship an arbitrary God who acts contrary to his own laws?

In regards to genetics, it is clear it will quite decisively tell the human story, and it will likely be painful on some level. Some long-held assumptions may require revision. In the face of this we will need to find new ways in which to embrace the old stories we have inherited. This will be our task. Will we rise to the occasion?

4 Likes

How does the fact that the human genome is closer to the ape genome than it is to the dog genome add anything to what we can see with the naked eye, which is that a man looks more like an ape than like a dog?

Rather than assume that humans evolved from primates, why don’t we instead assume that the same thing caused the same mutation in both humans and primates? Far more interesting: where did the functioning gene come from in the first place, because in a trillion years, it never could have built itself by random DNA copying errors.

This is very thin gruel to launch a reinterpretation of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is amazing what a weak atheistic apologetic can suffice to convince some Christians that their sacred writings are wrong.

3 Likes

*Post #3, Robin V
…"I long ago discarded the X rated and R Rated Old Testament with its god ordained genocides and other violences. Paul’s epistles are rife with miserable misogyny, and hateful homophobia not to mention his endorsement of slavery …"
Robin, sadly, you seem to side with misotheist William Empson who claims that the god of John Milton is responsible "for handling human affairs rather *wickedly and incompetently.
" You also gladly say:
"… Christ died for us and atones for our sins …"
How can the above be reconciled with Hebrews 1:1-3?
God has spoken to us by his Son …" who being the brightness of his glory, and
the express image of his person …"
Does cognitive dissonance and/or cherry-picking reign?
Can I have my cake and eat it too, Robin?

1 Like

“Ignoramus - ignorabimus” (we do not know - we never will know) Emile du Bois - Raymond gave this title to a paper presented at a meeting of top scientists around1880 in Hamburg, Germany.

I instantly will order this book.

And here I already ask, what Loma Linda teaches on embryology. and how Loma Linda deals with atavisms as parts of the thyreoid gland in the tongue or a third mamilla , even mamma, in height of the navel or even lower.

OK, one deals with genetics.What about others in research and practice in physics ? Our ordained elder decades ago , head of one world leading producers of telecommunication research department with a doctorate on Technical Physics and one student of the same discipline told about their daily work in one of our Sabbath afternoon meetings. One not so bright youth said : “That is evolution !!!”

We live in a world of cognitive dissonance ! Without the daily work of those two ourTed Wilson would have had to paddle in a canoe to Johannesburg, South Africa !

4 Likes

Typical Christian response. Science says it; ergo, it must be true. I wrote Baptizing the Devil to, if nothing else, try and get believers to at least understand a bit of the philosophy and subjectivity involved.

So science shows that human came from 10,000 ancestors a long time ago?

No doubt that they have lots of evidence to back it up. However, the history of science is filled with theories and ideas, now rejected, that had lots of evidence to back them up as well. If we’re around 25 years from now, chances are this whole theory will be replaced by something else . . . . And then these Christians will have to modify their faith accordingly, as they always do.

Nothing new here. This has been going on since the early church accepted Sunday instead of Sabbath; just more compromise with the world, only now in the venerable and powerful name of science.

5 Likes

for sure…just last year, stoeckle and thaler shocked the world with the announcement that all of humanity is descended from one human pair 100,000 - 200,000 yrs ago:

https://www.inquisitr.com/5177309/new-research-has-concluded-that-all-humans-are-descendants-of-just-one-couple-who-lived-200000-years-ago/

Ecclesiastes –
Yes, discarding the OT and discarding Paul prohibits us from being wise
and understanding in the Development of “Who we are”. The Naming of
those traits of Character that Develop us into “Who we should become”.
HOW to put those traits of Character into Action in the world.

Jeremy,

I think it only fair that I at least help keep the facts straight. Stoeckle and Thaler did not claim any such thing in their paper, and those who claim their research shows that all humans came from a single couple are badly misinterpreting the paper. There are many technical refutations of this argument, but to keep the reading more accessible to non-scientists I will simply share a well-written response from Forbes, of all places: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelmarshalleurope/2018/11/26/no-humans-are-probably-not-all-descended-from-a-single-couple-who-lived-200000-years-ago/

I did not do this book review to tear apart the Bible or traditional interpretations of the Bible, but rather as a way of alerting those who are scientists in the church that some very solid science is at odds with our theology. I also hope our theologians will take this seriously and begin exploring ways of reinterpreting the Bible so that both God’s books can be fully respected.

10 Likes

It can seem comforting to bash science and believe that this will all somehow pass away in a few years as we learn more. In my earlier years as a graduate student and scientist I once thought the same. I believed that as we learned more about genetics, more and more evidence would accrue showing that evolution doesn’t work and that therefore God created all of life as Creationists have traditionally believed. I am sorry to say, and this is the geneticist in me speaking, that the exact opposite has happened, especially since the Human Genome project.

At this point, the discoveries from genetics are simply solidifying many of the things said by evolutionary biology. I too have grown up as an SDA believing traditional SDA Creationists and would like nothing more than to find scientifically defensible arguments for traditional Creationist beliefs, but knowing the genetics discoveries of the past 10-15 years, I cannot lie about the science to make that happen. Nature is just as much one of God’s books as the Bible. I just happen to be more an expert on the book of Nature, and I would like to nudge the theologians to now work with what they know best, the Bible, and look for ways to find these books compatible.

I do not think bluster will save the day in this case, any more than it did in the days of Galileo. The discoveries over the last 10-15 years in genetics are every bit as certain as the discoveries made by Galileo, and to simply ignore these discoveries because they will require some uncomfortable theological readjustments is unwise. I just hope it will take less time than it did for the church in Galileo’s day to come to terms with scientific realities. Just as the church then was able to save the validity of Biblical truth, I believe we can today as well. These new discoveries DO NOT invalidate the Bible, although they just might invalidate some cherished theological beliefs, but theology is not the Bible, it is only the way we interpret the Bible, for which I am grateful, since I still value the Bible as one of God’s books.

17 Likes

This article seems to give much more weight to Paul’s use of Genesis scripture than to Jesus’ teachings using that same scripture. Christians, however, enjoy the luxury of discounting Paul if they should think that he is erring in certain aspects of his arguments. The followers of Jesus, in my opinion, have no such luxury.

When Jesus teaches from the book of Genesis (Matthew 19, etc.), would there be anything about His teaching that one of his followers would have to discount or dismiss due to recent knowledge of the genome? How much of what we teach today - using Genesis scripture - must Christians (dealing honestly) discount or dismiss due to recent knowledge of the genome?

Jesus’ appeal to Genesis assumes that God created Adam and Eve (whatever that actually means), and in so doing, God also created a paradigm for marriage that continued from the time of creation down to the time in which he was teaching those concepts (Matthew 19, again). To what extent are the teachings of Jesus using the Genesis story diminished in light of genome data?

2 Likes

Seriously exploring ways…
Will never happen.
OUR Theologians are NOT interested in Science like the European
theologians were in the 16,17,18 hundreds and wrote letters to each
other about their findings and their questions.
IF any of our SDA theologians WERE interested, they probably would
have to study and write under the bedsheets with a flashlight at night.

8 Likes

Yes, it’s not the climate at the moment. But there are interested theologians. They just aren’t - so to speak - allowed to do more free research after our Creation Fundamental was narrowed.

3 Likes

I have talked, off the record, with many pastors and theologians about the issues science brings to the table, and yes, that fear is there. Maybe I am a dreamer, but I would like to see the church leadership allow for more open and honest discussions. The choice right now, often forced by leadership, is between science and the Bible. If I take the science seriously, the forced perception is that I am throwing out the Bible. Of course, that was exactly the way it was in Galileo’s day. That is a terrible way of couching the problem.

When we continue to pretend that scientific truths do not require any revision of our theology, we make ourselves look like idiots before educated people. What educated person would want to join a church that requires one to lie to oneself about incontrovertible scientific truths? The veracity of the science only gets stronger the more is discovered from genetics. Cognitive dissonance is always an option, but it is so much easier to choose de Nile.

8 Likes