Creation, the Bible and science, faith, understanding, and appreciation.
|Question for you: |
Is Christianity undermined if Adam and Eve were not real people? I have a friend ... who says sometimes such crazy things that they assault my intelligence, yet I cannot come with a convincing argument for why he's wrong.... He claims that without original sin in humans... there [would be] no need for Jesus to come to wipe away the sin of humanity. Therefore, the idea of a caveman Adam and Eve who arose via evolution undermines his religion. (He used to "believe" in evolution, and no longer does, for reasons that there are "no transitional fossils." .... He thinks ... literalness of the Bible is wrong (he doesn't believe in the 6 days theory, but he also doesn't believe in an Old Earth)....
It has been a long time since I have thought that Biblical truth depended on literal meanings. The Bible is not a newspaper or an encyclopedia. It is a record of God's relationship between God and God's people, as seen and understood, insofar as humans are able, from the human side. That's not to deny that much of it is pretty nearly literal; but just thinking of ordinary events, I know that I understand many events differently from what I once understood about them. Every time I read a biblical passage, I see something there I never saw before, or implications that had never before occurred to me. Reading Shakespeare, or great literature, often has similar results.
It should be obvious even to your friend, that the only ones who could possibly tell the story with reasonable accuracy would be the first people themselves. Every subsequent generation would be at best repeating what they heard. Whether you are an evolutionist or a creationist, there obviously had to be some being who was the first to carry whatever genes they are that make us human, so in that sense there has to be an "Adam," (which in Hebrew means "dirt" or in more kindly language, "earth.") I understand that to mean not literal mud, but that the first human came from ordinary, earth-based stuff, certainly not from some miraculous unworldly stuff, but the same stuff from which everything else is made.
That fits well with both sides' positions, too, I think, although your friend appears to be beyond thinking and is relying on simple answers. There really can be no doubt, that if humans had a beginning in any way, there must have been a first person who thought of and talked to/with God, or what we think of as God. In that sense, too, then, there must be an "Adam." There may have, evolutionarily speaking, been some generations in which the "Adam" characteristic showed up in beings before one linked and proceated with an actual "Eve" (or it could have lurked in versions of "Eve" for awhile before finding an "Adam"), and then there must have been a first "couple." Whether or not any of the words (in any language) that are recorded as having been spoken were literally spoken, I think there is something of truth in the events that come down to us in "myth" form. (I hope I don't have to explain the difference between technical term "myth" and "fairy tale;" but do correct me if I am mistaken).
Then there must have been a first moment that humans realized they were not in perfect cooperation with God, however they understood God to be. There must have been a first murder between brothers, whether they were true genetic brothers or neighboring clans to which Genesis refers. There must have been a first thought about how to deal with killers (Cain thought that having been found out he would be killed, after all) and the first notion that banishment might be a better answer, (whether that was to live with other true humans, or with a genetic precursor pretty close to being human), would also convey the first idea of mercy offered for the sinner.
Scripture records what people at least a thousand or even sixty thousand years later remembered of their ancestors' stories and the meanings they saw in them. I do believe that God guides and who knows, maybe sometimes helps with the wording; but I do not believe that God imposes on us to the point of dictating the script. Contrary to those who think that is what the Bible is -- God's dictation -- forced words would not be loving of God. So I do believe that the resultant myth is a witness to human relationship with God and therefore is worth thinking about what it means even when the original speakers/hearers might not have caught the same meaning it has for you or me today.
I lived in Papua New Guinea's jungle areas for some years. There I saw how in a relatively primitive and illiterate society, truth is carried from generation to generation through a very careful system of telling the stories. In PNG, the men and women would gather, and the young men would tell the stories of the ancestors. The old men would correct them, sometimes with specific words as well as the events, so that by hearing them told and retold the young men got the stories down pretty pat by the time there was a new generation of young men to carry the story forward. Therefore the stories would be pretty nearly letter perfect for several generations. In other words, it took a much longer time for corruptions to intrude and things to be forgotten from the first tellings than it does for modern gossip to change things around.
Still and all, there are two differing creation stories at the beginning of Genesis, two differing genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament, and lots of other disparities that drive literalists crazy; but the differences seem to me to enhance and expand on the theoretical originals, bringing out sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatically new insights into the same original events without actually changing the inherent truths being affirmed. So I see, for example, the first creation story telling us that the world didn't just appear but was was made and who is responsible for it being, and the second is telling why it was done as it was done.
"Original sin" often has been interpreted from Scripture in a strangely literalistic and corrupted way. I see it this way: One only has to have children to realize that from birth they "think" of themselves as the center of the universe. Indeed, it is hard not to govern our lives as adults as if we were not personally the center of life! But thinking of oneself as the center makes one inherently selfish, not so? The baby hurts so he demands relief. You can't tell her "later," she wants it now. She has to be trained to accept her mother's schedule, just as she is trained to talk or to use the potty later on. This self-centeredness is indeed the root of all sin, isn't it? What human-generated evil does not come from thinking first of one's own wish/desire? So original sin is an observable truth--we are born with it. If Eve were raped, then perhaps her realization of it actually was the first recognition of evil, but just what was the precipitating event we do not know. Something looked good, someone said it isn't really as dangerous as you think, someone tested it out, and someone discovered "that was a mistake!" The "what" of the something is irrelevant. Any "something" will do. And the myth conveys that rather fundamental truth. But converting the story conveying the truth into a journalistic account and then disproving the journalism which never was intended and never truly existed creates not only heresies, but loss of faith in the truths themselves when the meanings of the stories get lost in arguments about "facticity," which is irrelevant.
Now as for your friend. One great realization is that my faith in Christ does not depend on the Bible; rather the Bible depends on Christ. Without the faithfulness and mercy of God, the Bible itself becomes irrelevant and/or bitter. The most important truths cannot be proven, and maybe we don't really believe we want them to be something that can be proven.
Try to "prove" love somehow. The mother who saves her child from being hit by the truck--did she love the child? Was she afraid she couldn't live with the guilt of watching it die? Was she trying to impress a newspaperman, or any man? Was money involved? Something else? There's no real way to tell, except to trust what we believe and act on that and continue to do so.
Believing in God is not a matter of "thinking He exists." If I say "I think you exist," does that thrill you? I might say, well "Whoop-de-ding-ding for you," but it doesn't impress me and it doesn't thrill God. But "I believe in you," -- doesn't that mean something much bigger and more important? Alas, to most unbelievers and to frighteningly many who think themselves to be believers, that idea doesn't seem to occur. Your friend was looking for some kind of proof and he settled into the idea that the Bible is proof and doesn't want his mis-placed faith shaken. You might just mention that God doesn't depend on the Bible, but the Bible depends on God. Neither does salvation depend on the Bible; the Bible's meaning and truth depends on the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God.