Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are You Calling God a Liar?


The second chapter of Genesis tells the story of Adam and Eve. Let me be clear from the start. I do not believe that Genesis 2 is a factual account of human origins. You may disagree. Many Christians do. But, please bear with me while I present my evidence.

First, there is the internal evidence. The Book of Genesis contains two accounts of creation. The first is found in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. It includes the beautiful, poetic account of the seven days of creation. The second account begins at Genesis 2:4b and tells the story of Adam and Eve. The two accounts disagree in many details. For example, in the first account, birds are created before human beings (Gen. 1:20-23). In the second account, humans come before birds (Gen. 2:18-20). In the first account, plants are created before humans (Gen. 1:11-12). In the second, humans are made before plants (Gen. 2:4b-9). In the first account, man and woman are created simultaneously (Gen. 1:26 ff.). In the second account, the man is created first, and the woman is made from his rib (Gen. 2:21 ff).

Apologists try to reconcile these two creation stories. As with the story Judas’ death, their attempts only work if one ignores the plain meaning of the text. The very fact that anyone tries to reconcile the two accounts indicates the problem. As I see it, the two accounts were not meant to be reconciled.

Even the names “Adam” and “Eve” suggest that Genesis 2 was not meant to be a factual record of human origins. The Hebrew word “adam” means “humankind.” “Eve” means “life bearer” according to a footnote at Genesis 3:20 in the HarperCollins Study Bible. I take these names to indicate that Adam and Eve were not historical persons. Rather, they are symbolic representations of all humanity

Then there is the external evidence. The biblical accounts of creation indicate that the earth would be about 6,000 years old. Some young earth creationists will stretch that to 10,000 years. On the other hand geologists and physicists who examine the physical record tell us that the earth is closer to 4.5 billion years old.

Again, a literal reading of Genesis suggests that human beings were created about 6,000 years ago but the fossil record indicates that modern humans existed in Africa 200,000 years ago.

And again, Genesis tells us that human beings were created in their present state. The best science tells us that human beings evolved from earlier life forms. Although some Christians reject the evidence, evolutionary theory explains physical reality better than the biblical accounts do.

The question of human origins is another case where the General Revelation contradicts the Special Revelation. If science is right in this case, then Genesis 2 is not factual.

At this point, I expect an inerrantist to exclaim, “Wait a minute. The Bible is the word of God. Are you calling God a liar?” To which I reply, “No. Are you?” After all the hand of the Creator is revealed in the creation. If Genesis 2 is a literal, historical account, then God must have falsified the physical record.

More importantly, although I do not believe the story of Adam and Eve to be factual, I absolutely believe that it is true.

I’ll take this up again in my next post.

Two recommended books for those who are interested in reconciling Christian belief with evolutionary science: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins, Free Press, 2006, and Can You Believe in God and Evolution: A Guide for the Perplexed, Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett, Abingdon Press, 2008. The HarperCollins Study Bible (Wayne A. Meeks, general editor) was published by HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. The painting of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder was found at

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