Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Descent of Man

The most accepted atheistic evolutionary account of the origin of mankind is that there was a population of primates which slowly developed into modern human beings over time. In order to accept this account, however, it is necessary to completely disregard the Biblical account of man's creation as an accurate source of truth. If the human race is not all descended exclusively from Adam and Eve (as real people and the one-and-only set of original human ancestors), then there is no real reason why Christ's death and resurrection, or even his incarnation, were necessary or should be effective to restore us to a right relationship with God. (In fact, if any part of the Bible is not true, then God is a liar, and the Bible claims that he is absolutely the essence of truth, and lies are abhorrent to him, so not only would the Bible be telling "little white lies" about how the world began, it is also telling lies about who God is and what he is like: holy and true.) How Adam and Eve are essential to Christian theology is a worthy and interesting topic, but for now, I will limit myself to what the book of Genesis says regarding the creation of Man. Statements that no Christian can ignore if he believes that the Bible is the word of a God who cannot lie. Genesis 1:
25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Genesis 2:
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.
7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.
15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." 18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
From Genesis 2:7 we learn the following things about Adam: 1. God formed Adam from the dust of the ground. 2. God breathed into Adam the "breath" (or "spirit"--same Hebrew word) of life. 3. This caused Adam to become a living "being" (or "soul"). From chapter 1, we learn that God wanted to create a special creature called "man" with these qualities that differentiated him from the other creatures: 1. Created in God's image. 2. Created according to God's likeness. 3. They would rule over the other creatures. 4. They were additionally given the authority to "fill the earth, and subdue it." Part of being made in God's image is having a three-part being: 1. The physical, biological part, corresponding to the Son of God 2. The mental, psychological part, corresponding God the Father 3. The spiritual, God-relating part, corresponding to the Spirit of God God's "likeness" means that man had authority (and responsibility to God) to rule over the earth and its creatures. Since the earth and its creatures were under man's authority when Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God, the earth and its creatures also fell out of their proper relationship to God. In understanding what might be meant by saying, "God formed ____ from the dust of the ground", at the very least, we know that: 1. God's design and intent was at work in "forming": God did not take a random, hands-off approach. He knew what he wanted, and produced it. 2. It was process: that is, they did not "pop" into existence from nothing in zero time. Existing raw materials were taken and "formed" into the desired creatures. 3. The chronology of when this takes place is not the focus of the story.
  • In chapter 1, the land animals are made, and then God decides to make man in order to rule over them (in addition to all the other (sea and air) creatures from previous days), as well as the earth itself. (v.26)
  • In chapter 2, we are only told that God formed the creatures out of the dust of the ground as they are being introduced to Adam, which is after he is alive. (v.19)
It seems to me as if the forming is going on off-stage, and is provided as background information that explains where these things came from: how they came to exist. My point is that it is not necessarily part of the chronological narrative (since this is the case at least with the animals in chapter 2), and could have taken place over long periods of time. Another possible interpretation is that in Genesis 2, new individuals are produced on the spot from dust so that Adam can give a name to their species, but this seems to me less likely than the above interpretation.
4. There is a completely different word used for "formed," which is used to describe the way in which God makes Adam (v.7) and the animals (v.19) from the dust of the ground, and "fashioned," (v.22) which is used to describe the way in which God makes Eve from Adam's rib.
  • The semantic difference between the two words is minimal. The word for 'fashioned' often means 'build' (by laying out layers of raw materials) and is related to the word for 'laying out' materials or 'spreading'.
    • The significance of the word choice might be merely a play on words with the way that a marriage bed is "spread" (see the link).
    • The significance of the word choice might also indicate a different kind of action.
      • Young-earth creationists (particularly the literal 6-day variety) would say that God made all living things in the same way as Eve was made: whole, fully adult formed, and without intermediary steps or great length of time.
      • I would not agree with the above description of Eve's fashioning, but I would argue that since a different word is used (in addition to the play on words), a different action is indicated, and Eve's fashioning was as unique an event as God breathing life into Adam.
In verse 20, it says, "The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him."
  • Therefore we know that Adam was a unique creature: there was no evolving population group of primates from which Adam might be able to choose a mate.
  • There are a couple of explanations to account for this:
    • There were no other humans because God had made Adam unique, directly from a pile dust.
    • The process of "forming" Adam was an extension of the process of God designing the other types of animals, but because Adam was the only creature into whom God had breathed his spirit of life, he was now separated from his ancestral breeding group, not biologically (or rather, not merely biologically, since God may have applied some unique genetic finishing touches), but spiritually and socially. This is the same reason that, even if it were possible to breed with a chimpanzee, a chimpanzee would not make a suitable spouse for a human being.
      • Since Adam identifies the fact that Eve is "bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh" as qualifying her to be a suitable mate (v.23), this indicates that, indeed, Adam and Eve were not merely socially and spiritually distinct from all other creatures, but genetically distinct as well.
So, in summary, the Bible says that the human race did not "evolve" from other animals: it was produced by God's direct action by the forming of a single individual (however that was accomplished), accompanied by God bestowing on that individual his own image, likeness, and spirit of life. Later, after it was demonstrated that no possible mate existed for this individual, God directly intervened again, and, from a part of that one male individual, he fashioned a female of the same species.


  1. Now we sit back and wait to see if any trolls find your blog. :-o

  2. Was this prompted by anything you've seen online? It just seems like an appropriate response to a recent post on Challies.com. Tim Challies was commenting (negatively) on an argument that evolution and Christianity are perfectly compatible. Evolution and the Word of God don't jive, in my opinion. "Dust of the ground" != "primitive life forms".

  3. This was my attempt to explain to a friend how I see the Genesis account, and how that view is compatible with modern evolutionary biology as well as with the Bible. Both science and theology are after the same thing: truth. Therefore, true science and true theology will produce a compatible result.

    Where my view on 'evolution' (warning: this word means different things to different people and in different contexts) necessarily differs from an atheistic evolutionist is in the following three areas:

    1. Intent, meaning, and purpose:

    An atheistic evolutionist must believe that life developed through undirected random processes, and can attach no meaning, value, or significance to life, including human life. Additionally, he must hold that all forms of life developed on their paths of least resistance, with no guiding force or design.

    I, on the other hand, believe that God formed each of his creatures with intent, that there is intrinsic value in life because God made it, and that there is a special value in human life because mankind was created in the image of God and endowed with his spirit.

    2. The special creation of man:

    While it is possible, with my view of the accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, for God to have remained "behind the scenes" during the time that he was forming life, and an observer of God's creation might come to the conclusion that random processes were at work (just as an observer of my life might not recognize the Life of Christ that God is creating in me--or would attribute it to "natural" causes), the creation of man was markedly different in this regard: there could be no question that the creation of mankind (male and female--especially the female) was a miracle ('miracle' in the sense that it defied the laws of physics, like walking on water, as opposed to 'miracle' the sense of providential answers to prayer, which occur while conforming to the laws of physics).

    3. I attribute the existence of life on earth in the first place: the existence of the first living cell, to God's miraculous creation. The atheistic evolutionist, on the other hand, has no adequate explanation for the advent of life, for the consciousness of his own soul, or for the universe to exist in the first place.

    With regard to 'dust': I don't see it as a stretch for an infinite being who transcends time to describe a process spanning billions of years as a single event. The first cell was formed from the materials of the earth: the building blocks of all subsequent generations have also drawn their physical material from the earth. The only reasonable answer to the question, "From what material did God form living things?" is "dirt."

    At the same time, I respect your interpretation. I cannot say with certainty that my view of Genesis 1 and 2 is completely correct. The text, as I see it, allows both of us to draw our differing opinions and remain true to it.

    My problem is that I cannot have a double-think world view (thanks to my faith in the law of non-contradiction), and I won't simply dismiss biological and geological evidence that legitimate science has uncovered.