To my mind, by far the strongest theological argument against human evolution is the question of where this leaves Adam and Eve. Tim Keller turns to this in the reply to his third question in his essay Creation, Evolution and Christian Laypeople (PDF) (see previous posts 1 | 2):
Question #3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?
Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in an historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue and so Christians who believe God used evolution must be open to one another’s views.
Dr Keller observes that many Christians who accept evolution conclude that Adam and Eve were not historical but “an allegory or symbol of the human race”, with Genesis 2 being a “symbolic story myth which conveys the truth that human beings all have and do turn away from God and are sinners.”
Dr Keller accepts that individual Christians (including C.S. Lewis) may well be able to believe this, but that a loss of belief in a historical fall could be harmful “for the church corporately and for its growth and vitality over time”, for two main reasons.
First, because it harms confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture: even if Genesis 2 could be read symbolically, Paul’s argument in Romans 5 clearly depends on there being an historic Adam to parallel the historic Christ.
Second, the New Testament’s account of sin and salvation is based on the historicity of Adam and his rebellion. If we don’t have that point of rebellion against God, what is the alternative? As Keller writes:
You may posit that some human beings began to slowly turn away from God, all exercising their free wills. But then how did sin spread? Was it only by bad example? That has never been the classic teaching of the Christian doctrine of original sin. We do not learn sin from others; we inherit a sin nature … we are “hard-wired” for sin.
So how can a historic Adam and Eve be reconciled with a belief that God used evolutionary processes (“EPB”, to use the terminology of the previous post) to create human beings?
Any answer we give here will necessarily be speculative: neither Scripture nor science gives us much to go on. The model Dr Keller gives most attention to is that set out in Derek Kidner’s commentary on Genesis:
First, he notes that in Job 10:8-9 God is said to have fashioned Job with his “hands”, like a potter shaping clay out of the dust of the ground, even though God obviously did this through the natural process of formation in the womb. Kidner asks why the same potter-terminology in Genesis 2:7 could not denote a natural process like evolution.
Keller then quotes Kidner as follows:
Man in Scripture is much more than homo faber, the maker of tools: he is constituted man by God’s image and breath, nothing less … The intelligent beings of a remote past, whose bodily and cultural remains give them the clear status of “modern man” to the anthropologist, may yet have been decisively below the plane of life which was established in the creation of Adam.
Thus Adam and Eve (whether or not we agree with Kidner that Eve may still have been made by special creation) were not necessarily the biological parents of the entire human race, they were established as “God’s vice-regents”, and:
…God may have now conferred his image on Adam’s collaterals, to bring them into the same realm of being. Adam’s “federal” headship of humanity extended, if that was the case, outwards to his contemporaries as well as onwards to his offspring, and his disobedience disinherited both alike.
But what about suffering and death? Doesn’t the Bible portray these as consequences of the fall? Dr Keller observes that “traditional theology has never believed that humanity and the world in Genesis 2-3 was in a glorified, perfect state”. Even in the Garden of Eden, “there would have had to be some kind of death and decay or fruit would not have been edible”, and God’s injunction to humanity to “subdue” the earth implies there was still work to be done to perfect even a “very good” creation. Keller continues:
The result of the Fall, however, was “spiritual death”, something that no being in the world had known, because no one had ever been in the image of God. Human beings became, at the same time, capable of far greater and far worse things than any other creatures.
Other models can be considered along similar lines, but the crucial theological point is (to quote Derek Kidner):
What is quite clear from these chapters in the light of other scriptures is their doctrine that mankind is a unity, created in God’s image, and fallen in Adam by one act of disobedience; and these things are as strongly asserted in this understanding of God’s Word as on any other.
In the conclusion to his essay, Dr Keller once again calls for Christians to form a “bigger tent” than either “the anti-scientific religionists or the anti-religious scientists”. He finishes:
When Derek Kidner concluded his account of human origins, he said that his view was an “exploratory suggestion … only tentative, and it is a personal view. It invites correction and a better synthesis.” That is the right attitude for all of us working in this area.
Amen to that.