Christians deemed “heretics” after claiming no historical Adam and Eve

Well, almost. This NPR article was a good find; some evangelicals are starting to realize that the truths being uncovered by geneticists and other areas of science are making it harder and harder to maintain the fiction that the whole of the earth got populated thanks to two people some celestial being molded together out of clay and a rib 6000 years ago.

conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, “You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.”

Others would likely try to say God miraculously made all those mutation rates possible in order to maintain the delusion of a functional biblical timeline, so it’s great to see logic and rationality taking charge here instead. Three cheers for science and minds open enough to accept its findings, even when they run counter to earlier, long-held beliefs. (That said, later down the page he appears to credit God for the evolutionary process as a whole so it’s clear he’s not willing to scrap the notion of a god’s interference completely. Can’t help some people…)

In fundamentalist circles these admissions are less than popular.

“From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith,” says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong.

“But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem,” Rana says.

One of those problems being cognitive dissonance. Hundreds of years of telling believers that the bible has everything right. Here come all these great minds devoting themselves to scientific inquiry and discovering so many examples where that’s clearly not the case. Yet, believers will turn away from all those the strange and frightening facts because their (outdated) beliefs are old and comfortable friends. They can’t possibly be wrong…

Of course they can.

A religion like Christianity is built on precepts that require believers to assume the world is other than it is in order to work. To trust those errors are not really errors at all.

To have faith. Faith in Genesis.
Faith in the Ark and the flood wiping out all but God’s chosen few.
Faith in a prophecy about a new king of the people. Faith in a story about angel visitations,
a guiding star in the sky and a baby born in a stable who,
wonder of wonders, will grow up to be that
King of heaven and earth and rise from the dead one day, too.

I’m impressed by how that part rhymes. You’d think I planned it…

“When Adam sinned, he sinned for us,” Mohler says. “And it’s that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior.

Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam’s original sin.

“Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul’s description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament,” Mohler says.

The fault lies in the need for humans to interpret everything. That must have been of evolutionary benefit at some point, because we’re so damned good at it. We’re really good at misinterpreting things, too. Something else we’re really good at is taking stuff for granted when we think someone else has interpreted everything correctly for us already. Why do people believe Paul was right? There’s nothing wrong with building lessons out of a story you’ve learned, and it’s easy to see why people want to believe he’s right, but that still doesn’t make him factually accurate. He just jumped to that conclusion and whole chunks of the world ultimately followed in his footsteps.

Creation myths exist across cultures. Some of them are very beautiful you’d just love for them to be true for that reason alone. Others sound so ridiculous you have to wonder what kind of dopes ever came up with them. Everyone wondered where things came from and how people came to be. The Judeo-Christian version is just one of hundreds, and easily determined to all be equally false once people finally get around to comparing them to what the reality of our history can really tell us.

Back in the article, some scholars liken this origin rift to the high stake action of the battle between Galileo and the Catholic church. Others are reluctant to make that comparison but admit evolution is a sore point and getting trickier to deny outright. Still, they continue to insist on doing so.

others say Christians can no longer afford to ignore the evidence from the human genome and fossils just to maintain a literal view of Genesis.

“This stuff is unavoidable,” says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. “Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have.”

“If so, that’s simply the price we’ll have to pay,” says Southern Baptist seminary’s Albert Mohler. “The moment you say ‘We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,’ you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world.”

I don’t see why that would be true. People tend to respect anyone willing to admit he or she was wrong. If there’s a reluctance to take that step and admit the whole premise of the faith is flawed, and was always flawed, people will continue to be taken in by it all. That said, I just know that if every theologian threw up his hands tomorrow and admitted it was all a damn sham and the Pope himself took his fancy hat off to apologize for lying to the masses, there’d still be thousands of people flocking to churches to pray to god, “Say it ain’t so! Give me a sign!” Then they’d convince themselves that every piece of fluff and feather was a sure sign pointing to God’s way being the right way and they’d change nothing.

But this is a good start. People should be willing to challenge long held beliefs. People should be brave enough to set those beliefs aside if enough evidence can be collected to refute them.

Which reminds me. Christopher DiCarlo will be in Saskatoon to promote his book, How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass later this month. The focus of the book is to train one’s self to think critically about all sorts of things and if you’re in the area and that sounds like something you’d like to learn, too, all the details are here.

4 Responses to Christians deemed “heretics” after claiming no historical Adam and Eve

  1. tmso says:

    There is hope!

  2. [...] Christians deemed “heretics” after claiming no historical Adam and Eve (1minionsopinion.wordpress.com) [...]

  3. [...] Christians deemed “heretics” after claiming no historical Adam and Eve (1minionsopinion.wordpress.com) [...]

  4. G.M.M., Simsbury, CT says:

    “Hundreds of years of telling believers that the bible (sic) has everything right?”

    With apologies to John Waters: “WRO-ONG, do it again!” Clone what metaphorical parish sheep you must if it helps you to fail less spectacularly in your attempt to find God in a Petri dish, but keep Derrida and Chomsky in your own dustbin, where they are already being left, when it comes to the search for REAL meaning in an important text without first having to “Destroy it to save it.” Why is it so difficult for your side to get the fact that Watson & Crick did not write the Book of Numbers?

    A Kings Ransom to have listened as Wittgenstein beat the living hermeneutical snot out of both of them, but it was not meant to be, with an additional $10,000 to you or anyone else as can count less than 20 PhD’s or equivalent holders of advanced graduate degrees in Philosophy, psychology, engineering, particle physics, law, medicine, and ancient literature in my Parish. Not dumb people. Jonah as Balleen look-alike? Genesis: Do whatever you like, BUT DONT TOUCH THAT BUTTON?, thus, The Creator of The Universe as knowing less than the average parent of a 5 year old about what will happen the moment they leave the room? Nonsense!

    A “Modest Proposal”, if you will; Stop trying to disprove the existence God using machinery that you could not imagine, build, nor operate but for His gift of intelligence, to you. For my side, I do not frankly care if I my worst enemy believes that we are ultimately descended from an English Muffin as long as I am not eaten, nor required to eat it. Honestly, when you think about the Book of Job? Where were YOU when I was building stars?

    Just wish we could get over this Literalist nonsense. Give to Science as we should, but give to God that we know “Good”.
    Thanks.

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