Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Regarding the Evangelical Kerfuffle about the Historicity of Adam and Eve

Science was the best vehicle for determining whether Galileo was right. Church leaders who feared the crumbling of their Aristotelian theologies were not the best persons to make such a determination. Likewise, the discipline of history is the best vehicle for determining the historicity of Adam and Eve. Church leaders who fear the crumbling of their evangelical theologies are not the best persons to make such a determination. (By the way, non-sectarian historians overwhelmingly say there is absolutely no evidence for historicity in this regard.)

Theologies come and go -- patristic, scholastic, humanistic, fundamentalist, evangelical, progressive. The truth of the gospel is not dependent on our speculative theologies, nor is it threatened by a mythical understanding of any part of the biblical narrative. There is something good in each of these and other theologies, but they are not the gospel.

Regarding the idea that Moses wrote any part of the Bible, the written form of the Hebrew language emerged at the end of the second millennium BCE or the beginning of the first. Moses is supposed by Christian tradition to have been born around 1600, at a time before there would have been written Hebrew. The emergence of Hebrew script at the turn of the millennium aligns with mainline scholarly consensus that the earliest portions of the Torah were written around the time of David.

I am a Christian clergyperson. I am not trying to destroy the Bible, Christianity, the gospel, or salvation. None of these are harmed in any way by acknowledging the truth of our best critical understanding (which always changes anyway, because it is human understanding) of science and of history. If our theologies cannot stand the test of scientific or historical examination, we must change those theologies rather than stubbornly hold onto them because we're afraid to let them go. We've been changing our theologies for thousands of years. We can do it now, and the new theologies that emerge will become the next orthodoxy to guide a robust community of faith as long as it can continue to hold together. Then it will be time for the next theology to come along.

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