Enns: ” the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul”

In a fascinating article this week, Dr. Peter Enns, formerly of BioLogos, reviewed Jack Collins’ book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?. While Dr. Enns appreciates Dr. Collins attempt to explain Adam and Eve in light of evolution, he does not believe that Dr. Collins was successful in advancing the discussion between conservative Christians and evolutionary scientists. In particular, Dr. Enns does not think that the view that suggests that Adam and Eve were specially chosen hominids is a plausible one. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Enns’ article:

John Collins has taken on the important task of explaining who Adam and Eve were in view of evolutionary theory—which he accepts, at least in its broad outlines. More importantly, Collins wishes to instill in his readers a firm confidence in Adam and Eve as the historical “headwaters” of the human race, and so retain the biblical metanarrative of creation, fall, and redemption. In other words, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? is an apologetic for the traditional view of Adam and Eve as the first human pair in light of evolutionary theory. I commend Collins for attempting to bring under one roof the truth of evolution as the proper paradigm for explaining human origins and the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The topic is timely, thorny, and absolutely unavoidable.

I see two audiences for this book. The main audience is those who share Collins’s doctrinal commitments but may be skeptical of, or hostile to, the Adam/ evolution debate. Collins is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, the denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church of America (in which he is ordained). The document that governs their theological deliberations is the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession of Faith, which clearly stipulates a first couple. I commend Collins for the courage to engage this group in a conversation about evolution.

The other audience is a broader Christian one, already invested in and knowledgeable about this discussion, but not necessarily committed to Collins’s theological predispositions, and not pressured to conform to them.

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? may help the former audience by nudging them toward some openness to accepting scientific realities and addressing the theological ramifications. Those familiar with these sorts of delicate negotiations will quickly perceive where Collins goes out of his way to remind readers of his firm theological commitments.

In the long run, however, I am not convinced that all—or even most—of these readers will feel comfortable following Collins. Collins’s synthesis requires an ad hoc hybrid “Adam” who was “first man” in the sense of being either a specially chosen hominid or a larger tribe of early hominids (Collins is careful not to commit himself to either option). Although I am sympathetic to Collins’s efforts to blaze such a path (and he is not alone), I do not see how such an ad hoc Adam will calm doctrinal waters, since the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul, and therefore entails a clear rejection of evolutionary theory.

Further, this type of hybrid “Adam,” clearly driven by the need to account for an evolutionary model, is not the Adam of the biblical authors. Ironically, the desire to protect the Adam of scripture leads Collins (and others) to create an Adam that hardly preserves the biblical portrait. Evolution and a historical Adam cannot be merged by positing an Adam so foreign to the biblical consciousness.

You can read the whole article here.

One thought on “Enns: ” the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul”

  1. sedgegrass says:

    Dr. Collins is a professor at the official PCA denominational seminary. The PCA holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Dr. Collins offers a couple of alternative theories about Adam and the first chapters of Genesis, which differ from the Confession. How much latitude does the PCA give to it’s teaching elders’ adherence to Genesis and the Westminster Confession? If one were to compare the recent controversy at Westminster Theological Seminary over Peter Enns and his teaching, to Dr. Collins and his views, it would seem that the later is simply higher up the slippery slope (for now), which Dr. Enns slid quickly down. When these men train seminary students, they lead them to the top of that slippery slope; it is only a matter of time before these students-turned- pastors, lead their congregations by the hand, to this same spot.


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