re: Concordism and Princeton theology

Paul K. Wason (
Fri, 26 Sep 1997 16:37:02 -0500

I very much like Ted's "soft" concordism, in part because it takes
away the pressure to find a way of fitting everything together, and so
lessens the chance of premature conclusions about what a discovery means in
Biblical terms or vice versa. (And this jumping to connections has been as
much of a problem in Biblical archaeology as in science/theology, I think.)

However, the findings of paleoanthropology may not be as much of a
problem for strong concordism as it would at first seem. Neither the
antiquity of fully modern humans nor the long course of evolution from
earlier primates really get in the way of accepting an historical
individual, Adam, or of accepting an historical fall. We don't need to
assume, for example, that if there was an individual, Adam, he would have
been the very first of what we identify from bones as modern humans -- he
is merely the first of what the Bible describes as true humans, and this is
a spiritual as well as physical definition not easily correlated with

At the same time, I acknowledge that there may be other, more
theological or critical, reasons for questioning traditional understandings
of what Genesis is saying, and that those perspectives would call for a
different way of correlating the two books. Also, it is not at all clear
HOW the book of the fossil record relates to the Bible, as illustrated by
several extended discussions on this list. Thus it may be, in Ted's terms,
that they are not telling the same story even if they are both telling
genuinely historical stories. (That is, Genesis speaks of individuals,
while models of human ancestry emphasize populations, and can't tell us
about which individuals will be important for the future.)

It depends on exactly what we mean by concordism, but to relate
what I am saying to Ted's post, I agree that in a strict sense "concordism
can't work for genuinely modern science with its tenet that humankind
appeared a long time ago" since it is very hard to see how we can correlate
the stories -- and concordism is about correlating the stories, not just
avoiding contradictions between them. Yet at the same time, this modern
understanding of the antiquity of humans does not in itself get in the way
of an historical understanding of Adam and the fall. If we use Ted's soft
concordism approach, we can take advantage of each story, as best we can,
to illuminate the other, but we aren't constrained to finding some
unambiguous answer to the question, where would this Adam fit in the fossil


Paul K. Wason (207) 786-6240
306 Lane Hall, Bates College
Lewiston, Maine 04240