RE: Another postmortem reply

Allan Harvey (
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 16:27:26 -0600

Fred Phelps wrote:
>Lets look at Adam. I can think of only about four possibilities that
>are consistent with the scientific evidence: [I've condensed these - ahh]
>1) Glenn's view that he was not Homo Sapiens and lived more than 5.5
>million years ago.
>2) Dick's view that Adam fits into the obvious historical setting of
>Mesopotamia. Adam in this view is not the first Homo Sapiens.
>3) Literal Adam never existed. Very few Evangelicals can stomach this.
>4) Adam was the first human and we are all descended from him, but he
>lived hundreds of thousands of years ago.

>OK, which view do you support? Low resolution would mean that the data
>is consistent with more than one view. This is not our problem. Our
>problem is choosing even one of the above views to really believe in.

But who says we have to "really believe in" one of the above views? Why
can't I say "It doesn't matter" with regard to this detail, much as I would
if asked how many angels could dance on the head of a pin? I don't think it
is a cop-out to decide to be an agnostic with regard to the chronology (and,
at least for me as one of those "few" evangelicals who can stomach a
figurative interpretation, even the literal existence) of Adam.

Maybe a parallel issue is eschatology. Some people embrace a specific view
of the end times, but I don't (to borrow a line from a friend, my view is
"pan-millenial" - God's in charge so it will all pan out in the end). I
choose not to focus on end-times issues because it does not help me walk
with and serve Christ in the present, which is what I am supposed to be
doing until His return (the return, not the details of how and when it
happens, being the important message). Similarly, as long as we hold the
message of those Genesis chapters (which is not a scientific message but
rather a message about our broken relationship with God), I think we can in
good conscience choose not to worry about which if any of the above
scenarios to believe in, so we can concentrate on more important things.

Fred worries (legitimately) about people rejecting Christ when they cannot
get Scripture and science to line up. But I think we are far better off
saying "it isn't a science text" or "it's a low-resolution picture" and
convincing people that they don't *need* to line up in detail (and also
that, at low resolution, they line up OK) than if we try to pick a
concordist scenario and make it important in our apologetics. Scientific
progress tends to undermine such attempts, and if we bet on the wrong
concordist horse (as the medieval church bet on Aristotle's geocentric
universe), the loser is likely to be the witness of the Gospel.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | Phone: (303)497-3555 |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | Fax: (303)497-5224 |
| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | |
| "Don't blame the government for what I say, or vice versa." |