Book Review: "In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration"

The idea that Adam evolved from primates would presuppose a diety who also evolved from primates and lived solely within the mind of the descendants of Adam. The author deftly ignores the paradox of deus ex machina and essentially invalidates the concept of god as anything more than a slave to uncreated science, which is what many of us have believed for years. We appreciate the culture but not the theology of Adventism just as adults will put up a statue of Santa Clause at Christmas while not praying for him to deliver toys. That Spectrum continues to operate within the sphere of Adventism may be the greater miracle.

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You mean…“Pride in my humility” syndrome? :slight_smile:


[quote=“Beth, post:19, topic:23077”]
If one accepts as a given truth that the Christian God exists and that God is loving and good, then one can wrestle with the problem of evil as a theological hobby while maintaining faith. Believing that God exists and is good, how do I understand this difficult thing? But if one starts actually questioning those two assertions in light of evolution and the ongoing tragedies of life, weighing the evidence and the implications, it is my experience that often the result is an inability to continue to believe.

So my question is, “believe” what - creation - the Adam of creation - the Bible?

We talk about the “Christian God”, but we leave out Christ as part of the discussion. I guess the idea is that if you question Genesis or the Flood, along with the existence of good and evil, you must not believe in Christ. Stepping out of the priorities into which Adventist theology places us, we still do have the God of Christ. Anything can be true, but for Christ.

Some here have stated that if we don’t believe in Genesis as literal history, we can’t believe in Christ. Meaning, of course, that since Jesus spoke of the OT and its characters and events, they must be literal. If we don’t believe the stories, we can’t believe the story teller.

If Jesus, as he walked the dusty roads of Israel, were to delineate precisely the truth of God’s creation, he would have carried a white board and markers to the mount, and given a lesson on quantum physics along with who knows what information alien even to us in this scientifically enlightened age. Jesus referred to history as understood and/or believed at his time. The point of his references to his followers, were not to explain how God did what was done, but to direct faith toward the God of their history.

Faith in Christ seems should be paramount for the Christian; not necessarily in the stories believed by his ancestors.


Twenty years ago this might have had a grain of truth, but the current state of genomics makes it night impossible to interpret the data in any other way than that Humans, chimpanzees, and other primates share a common ancestor. It is pretty hard to explain the extensive synteny between the chimpanzee and human genome, especially when such synteny includes classical pseudogenes or gene remnants. How can one explain nonfunctional fragments of vitellogenin genes found in the same locations in humans and chimps? There is one objection from many creationist arguments, that these apparently nonfunctional gene fragments must have some kind of function, but such an argument, although remotely possible, is considered no argument at all to geneticists. They are for all intents and purposes nonfunctional, and the vitellogenin gene fragments are just one of many examples. So, although it might be possible to cling to a creationist argument in hopes that someday someone will be able to demonstrate function for these sequences (an Intelligent Design argument), is that reasonable to expect everyone to do so?

But what if such evidence never surfaces, and the case for humans evolving from primates just gets stronger over time? Wouldn’t it be at least wise to see whether a Biblically based theology can still work if humans actually have evolved from primates? Is it better just to be stubborn and hang on, regardless the scientific evidence?

Sure they can, and I don’t disagree with you. My point is, aren’t theologians supposed to look for ways to faithfully interpret scripture, and if scientific findings make certain interpretations tenuous, isn’t it reasonable to expect them to see what they can do to develop some better theological solutions?

Adventist theology has had a tendency to settle on things like a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 and to assume that that is the only possible interpretation, no matter what science might say. This puts believers in a bind. Either Genesis is literal, or the Bible is not valid, according to this kind of reasoning. What is a believer who knows his science to do then? It is not that I need to feel responsible for such believers, per se, but wouldn’t it be wise to consider other alternatives than a false dichotomy?


Craig doesn’t dodge this, he just doesn’t address it. That is not the point of the book.

Nevertheless, he does touch on it tangentially, by suggesting, for example, that Adam and Eve were mortal (physically), albeit not spiritually. His acceptance of evolutionary theory also shows somewhat how he views the concern about suffering.

From a biological perspective, I would suggest that it is likely impossible to create a living ecosystem, or a world full of living organisms, without death, which must then also include suffering. So maybe it isn’t even reasonable to expect God to create a world without suffering. By the very nature of how life functions, suffering is simply an integral part of it. So, the choice is God not creating at all vs. creating the world he has with its inevitable suffering. I suppose God could make a world where no suffering exists, as long as he keeps complete control of entropy, stops all reproduction when carrying capacity is reached, and takes away all free will that might lead to choices that cause any sort of suffering.

I know we all like to conceive of a situation like heaven where there is no suffering, and maybe God has made such a place, but from a biological perspective I just can’t conceive how it is possible. I am perfectly happy to let God surprise me, but at the moment it seems inconceivable. Which means for me, I don’t see the existence of suffering as a reason to believe God does not exist.


I heard someone say that a creator used the same basic building pieces to make everything just as a kid uses Legos to make everything from a flower to a spaceship and that the studs that aren’t attached to anything just show that it could be further built on and that the commonalities spoke to design consistency and interoperability. But he was ignorant. Obviously cells and planets are much more complex than plastic toys.

Obviously if there is a god, it doesn’t care enough about what people think about god to help them develop some kind of coherent theology and is quite satisfied with fanciful myths. Glad to see that someone like you is willing to concede that there could be a diety but that it is not accurately depicted in an old book.

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I am not sure I follow the logic here. If God is transcendent, as Genesis seems to assume, and he created life on earth as a few simple cells that evolved to what we see today, that would not mean God also evolved in such a way. Not that I can even hypothesize where God came from anyway. There are many Christians who believe God created in that fashion, and that humans evolved from primates, who still consider him the omnipotent, supreme God of all creation.

I see our messages crossed as well. :smiley:

I dare say there are a number of theologians who might disagree with you. :wink:

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Your logic doesn’t really follow since anything pointing to a god is explained by science. Unless god was a mere observer, there doesn’t seem to be an active place for him in your cosmology. Otherwise you have a world suffering that he started and then he suddenly decides to play hero and step into it millions of years down the road to save it from what he did to it.

Frankly, it is easier to look at everything and say that some diety made it because in its imperfection it is still magnificent than to believe that the diety didn’t care about it until whatever point and then risked everything for it. There’s no science that would support such a narcissistic view of humanity that it is worth more than the life of the child of the diety. You seem to believe the hard part but not the easy part.

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Good point! Jesus communicating in relevant ways to the people of his day is consistent with how the biblical writers did as well. He was a first century Palestinian Jew. How else would he have spoken about this, especially in a way that would have made sense to his contemporaries?



Thanks Bryan

The review is helpful.

In my simplistic mind, I find more coherence if one starts with the story of Job - who states a problem. Why sin, suffering and death?

The Genesis story, and the cultural history that follows seeks to address that problem.

Stories have to start somewhere, Adam, Eve and Eden are stage setting.


When God created Adam and even before Adam could even begin his life, what life experience did God bestow in Adam’s mind to give Adam the cognitive ability to discern what was right from wrong. Unless the story is a myth to help mere mortals begin a relationship with God.


So what use is your God? I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely curious. If your God probably can’t create a place without suffering, what is he good for and what, if anything, does he actually do in relation to us? What does redemption look like? Seems to me the entire point of a Christian God is the capacity to overcome death and suffering someday.

I do agree with you that biologically (and for me psychologically as well) the concept of a heaven like place doesn’t compute. It would have to be so different as to be beyond our understanding of both life and ourselves. But isn’t that what deities are for?


Elmer, I remember reading somewhere that there was a “tree of life” somewhere in the Garden of Eden, and Adam & Eve apparently needed to eat from eat in order to stay alive. Does it mean that they were already destined to die anyway if they didn’t eat from that tree? Wasn’t one of the reasons for their removal from the garden to prevent them from eating from that tree, thus living forever?


Oh, come on Victor, you are by no means a “simplistic mind,” we all know that… You are actually a sophisticated thinker, just too humble maybe? :wink: :wink:
Well, on Job’s story though, it may be my simplistic thinking now, but for many years it’s been nothing but an allegory for me What are the odds of something that weird actually happening in someone’s life? And Satan still visiting Heaven and talking to God, and being challenged by God? And God just making a man’s life on Earth that miserable and full of the most horrible suffering just to make a point to Satan, or to other living beings in the Universe. Seriously?

I can’t buy into that one!


Well, that is the question and one on which I would like to see more work done by Adventist theologians. If suffering is inevitable, then that may be what God is trying to teach us. It is the choice between my nonexistence (in which case I wouldn’t suffer at all) and existing, but with some understanding that the price for existence is suffering. This does mot mean there is no room for salvation or the plan of salvation, but it might mean changes in the way we view it theologically. Maybe salvation becomes the process of learning the inevitability of suffering, along with learning how to reduce the extent of suffering we must experience and learning how to inflict less suffering on others. Thus, if God did create via evolution, there needs to be theological work to fit that into a meaningful plan of salvation.

Other denominations, including the Catholic Church, are actively exploring these implications. We need to do so too. Maybe it is okay to live with what we have, based on a literal interpretation of Genesis, but wouldn’t it be prudent to consider how it all works if Genesis simply can’t be interpreted literally? It might even be prudent to freely allow different views on this subject within the church, instead of continuing to denigrate Adventist scientists for having trouble accepting a literal interpretation. I know many Adventist scientists who have serious difficulty with interpreting Genesis literally, and many who have given up such an approach entirely. Do we really want to alienate all of them?


What I find fascinating about Job is that Satan is a member of God’s royal court. How does that line up with the Great Controversy? :wink:


Someone, at some point, made a huge mistake while recording what was supposed to be reality.

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I think you may have pushed the wrong button. (Sirje)

Hi George

Whether Job is an allegory, parable or hard luck story matters less.

It questions the correlation between cause and effect. Why do good people suffer, experience loss etc?

Historically this is the earliest biblical text, thus Job gets to ask the questions. That’s how Jewish dialogue works.

Genesis and the rest of scripture give case studies around the problems.

Somehow we need to get used to the idea of balanced ecology where forms of life work together. Adaptations like thorns have a purpose. Fungi, Bacteria, slime, Biomass serve a constructive purpose. There is a cycle of life in all species - it is pretty wonderful. The begats tell the story.

The form of death introduced with Cain and Abel are about human power, jealousy, competition, these are the most sad and painful to this day. In essence sin.

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One doesn’t have to believe in the exact historicity of the story of Job to get the point or points being taught. How can the idea of God rewarding the good and punishing the evil, which was the standard belief of the time, compute with what happens to Job? It doesn’t. It blows up their theological paradigms. Job is also given no real answers.

Kind of like where this thread’s discussion is leading all of us. Long accepted paradigms being challenged and even undermined. If we take the lessons of Job, we might not get any real answers to replace them.

I guess faith doesn’t necessarily operate with certainty, and not always under our logic constructs.