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Enjoying God Blog

Today a book review was posted on the Christianity Today website that calls for a very brief response. The book is, When Did Sin Begin? Human Evolution and the Doctrine of Original Sin. Its author is Calvin University physics professor Loren Haarsma. According to the review, Haarsma outlines various evangelical proposals for harmonizing human evolution and original sin. “Drawing from a dozen recent books on the subject, Haarsma runs through the four main options.”

That is where the review had my attention. Again, understand what is being said. What follows in the book are supposedly the main options available to evangelicals, people who believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative revelation of God. Perhaps the word “main” suggests that Haarsma also mentions the view that I embrace, but simply considers it of such minor significance and lacking substantive support that it hardly warrants mention. I guess I’ll have to read the book to find out.

I will forego commenting on whether human evolution can, in fact, be reconciled with original sin. For that to happen, one must assume that evolution is true, something that I cannot embrace. Aside from that, consider the four options set forth:

(1) God selected Adam and Eve from an existing population to represent all of humanity. Since they represented everyone, the consequences of their failure immediately affected everyone.

(2) God selected Adam and Eve from an existing population to represent humanity, but after being expelled from the Garden, their sinfulness was spread to others by culture or genealogy.

(3) Adam and Eve aren’t literal individuals. Rather, Genesis 2–3 is a stylized retelling of many human events compressed into a single archetypal story. Although God occasionally revealed his will to individuals or groups, people persisted in disobedience.

(4) Adam and Eve are symbolic figures in an archetypal story. Over a long period of time, humans became morally accountable through general revelation (Rom. 1:18–20), yet they chose sin.

Do you find it interesting, as I do, that something profound is missing here? Why is there no reference to the fifth and, in my opinion, only biblical option available to evangelicals? That option is to reject human evolution and affirm that,

(5) Adam and Eve are precisely what the Bible says, the first literal human beings, descended from no one, but created directly by God. Adam stood probation for the entire human race and by his failure introduced sin and death to all his posterity.

This fifth view is compatible with both an old earth (which I affirm) and a young earth. It is, I believe, of secondary importance whether the earth is millions of years old or of more recent origin. But my understanding is that Adam and Eve did not descend from a pre-existing population but were likely created no more than 12-15,000 years ago, largely depending on how one interprets the genealogical records of the Old Testament.

My purpose here isn’t to engage in a debate over the age of the earth. I’m not a scientist and others have far more insight into this issue than I. My point is simply that I find it regrettable and misleading that the author of this book (assuming the reviewer has correctly represented him) contends that evangelicals have, available to them, only the four options cited above.

I prefer to take my stand on what I believe to be the straightforward teaching of Scripture, that Adam and Eve were the first humans, the parents of the entire race of mankind, as a result of whose sin we find ourselves alienated from God, justly condemned, and desperately in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ.