book report: Did Adam and Eve REally Exist? by C. John Collins
This is not the first book I've attempted by C. John Collins, but at least I finished this one. It is not that his books are bad, it's that they are like pound cake, too rich. Pound cake has a pound of butter and a pound of sugar to go with a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. Too much of something that rich makes me sick. I need to eat it in small portions when its richness can be appreciated. Normally, I can digest in a night or two a book just over 150 pages. Collins's book did not let me do that. I had to put the book down and process after every few subsections in his chapters.
Part of the reason I chose to study for a degree in biology was that even as a boy, I was really concerned with the challenge Darwin presents to those who would take Genesis as a somewhat reliable guide to the earth's and life's origins. He writes partly in response to Francis Collins and the work of the group Biologos which seeks to harmonize origins science with Christianity. C. John is of the camp that one starts with the Bible as the reliable source which science can inform, but Francis is of the opposite persuasion. Hence, Francis and many others of that camp question the historicity of that first couple in a certain Garden called Eden. But C. John questions a scientific proposal for Christians that denies what Jesus and Paul affirm in the New Testament, a very real and very guilty Adam and Eve.
I'm very sympathetic to some of the weaknesses C. John points to in the other camp.
For example, consider how the Old Testament scholar Peter Enns defines "myth": It is an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing question of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from? One difficulty in Enn's definition is its apparent triumphalism: it seems to imply that we in the modern scientific world are more sophisticated than the ancients. This overlooks the astounding achievements of ancient peoples in areas that we would call mathematics and engineering. p.29
The modern/ancient bias is hard to shake and comes up repeatedly as an assumption we all make. The more I read history, the more stupid I feel. I'm beginning to suffer from the opposite bias nowadays. I agree with Collins that we need to give ancient people as much respect as we have for ourselves. Regarding the double creation stories in the first 2 chapters of Genesis he writes,
The only text that have is the one that places these two passages together. Further, we have no reason to expect that whoever did put these passages together was a blockhead (or a committee of blockheads), who could not recognize contradictions every bit as well as we can. p.52
The answer to the title of C. John's book, in his argument, is "yes." My first year in college was at the only non-denominational Christian liberal arts college in New England, and in my class, that answer was not definitive. After that year, I realized I could get the same perspective on biology at a much less expensive state school, UConn, and was educated in one of the top ecology and evolutionary biology departments in the country. I love the debate. I love the science. I love the theology. I am glad C. John Collins has contributed a thoroughly researched and reasoned and level headed theological argument to the latest debates without being shrill or petty.
I'm glad Crossway published it and that they sent me a copy for review.