Last week I wrote a 3-part review of Pete Enns’ Evolution of Adam. Many others have been chiming in as well, with reviews all across the spectrum as you might expect, given the nature of the book. Some have labeled the book as heretical and have Enns fitted for a stake while others think it is THE book to read on Adam that will usher Evangelicals into the future, bring the 2nd coming, cure cancer, and get me to 1,000,000 blog hits a day.
Okay, maybe not.
But reviews have been mixed with the majority of folks that I read and trust overwhelmingly liking the book. So did I.
After writing an in-depth multi-part review and reading a bunch of other reviews (don’t miss RJS on Jesus Creed, either), you would have thought that I would have gotten everything out of my system and have nothing more to say… at least nothing more of merit (assuming what I wrote previously had any merit, anyway). But, to quote Michael Corleone in the Godfather that never happened (*), “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” The more I read about the book, the more I couldn’t shake that there was something else I needed to say.
And I finally figured out what it is today. At least I think. So here goes.
My biggest issue with the book had nothing to do with evolution, of course. After all, I’m a scientist who teaches on it regularly and a Christian who dares to think that even evolutionary psychology has its merits. My issue also had nothing to do with the introduction of biblical criticism and ancient near east comparative studies to our understanding of Genesis. Been there, done that. No, the biggest concern for me was the chapters on Paul and “his” Adam, written from the perspective of Enns’ incarnational model of Scripture. I asked myself (not really in the blog post but personally, although I did mention my concerns in the post)… isn’t Pete running the risk of reducing Paul to a mere commentator on the Old Testament? Isn’t he saying or at worst strongly hinting (without actually saying it) that Paul is no different or no better than the commentators of today? I thought the New Testament was distinct. Isn’t acknowledging that Paul used the Old Testament or that he could have been (gasp) wrong on the historicity of Adam the final nail in the coffin of inerrancy? How can Enns do this? What is wrong with him? He’s an Evangelical, right?
Well, here’s the thing. Maybe he didn’t do that. Some of his readers are saying that he did it or are afraid that he has now made it okay for others to entertain these ideas. But maybe, just maybe, he didn’t say these things himself and my personal thought questions above, while not unfounded, go way beyond what Enns is proposing. Maybe he didn’t do anything new (sorry Pete!), well, at least not anything earth shatteringly new and nothing that every garden variety Evangelical doesn’t himself or herself do on a regular basis when reading the Bible.
So what did Enns do? I think what he did was to systematize what everyone already does. He gave a name to it (incarnational) and applied a hermeneutic that we all already use to places of the Bible that some didn’t want him to. Enns dared apply his model to the words of Paul. Particular words of Paul that are considered to be sacred words having to do with humanity’s origins or so we think, which is what scares us (well, some of us) to pieces. But… we already read the Bible this way. We use discernment and appreciate that the Bible, while the Word of God, is no less inspired, even though it is a product of its culture and its time, whether we admit to or use an incarnational hermeneutic or not. None of us, no not one of us, reads every word of the Bible literally. And Enns is having the courage to say that this is okay. Furthermore, since the Lord Jesus was fully man and was fully God, then we might actually expect the Bible to be both of God and of man. Enns is providing the rationale for what… We. Already. Do. So, no, he’s not prescribing anything new, he’s just applying it to texts that some don’t want him to. He’s using a mechanism of interpretation consistently on the Bible in its entirety instead of on a select few passages here and there.
At least that’s what I think. And now I feel “fully reflected.”
Fault him if you want. I know I will, as I did in my review, and I will continue to do so as Enns and I ponder what it means to be an evangelical Christian in light of modern scholarship. But let’s not forget to put his thoughts and words into the appropriate context.
Let’s turn it around to the reader. Do you appreciate that the Bible is a product of its time and culture? What do you think of Enns’ ideas? Do you agree with him? Do you think it is okay to apply an incarnational model to all passages in the Bible? Are there some passages that are off-limits? How do we decide?
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–(*) True Godfather fans believe Godfather III never happened. Some blame Sophia Coppola while others blame Andy Garcia. I blame the whole lot of them. Bad movie. The series ends with Godfather II. No, I didn’t see myself including a Godfather reference in a blog post. Ever. I guess there’s a first time for everything.