For some reason, there has been a great deal of talkrecently about biblical story of Adam and Eve. Many people I know have asserted that to be a “true Christian” one must believe in a literal man, Adam, and literal woman, Eve. This admonition seems to be aimed at trying to maintain the view that the biblical view of the creation of the world is complete and historically accurate as it is written. Those that hold this view seem to look to the accounts in Genesis as a history of the world and suggest that the stories there be held as factual accounts of creation without any attempt to interact or dialogue with the evidence for an earth that is millions of years old, the existence of dinosaurs, or the development of the human person over time as evidenced by fossil records, etc. I am a self-admitted skeptic of things of faith and like Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, I want some proof for things; “Because the Bible says it” has not been an adequate explanation for me since I was in the 6th grade. I want to believe (and there are many things I try to accept on faith), but faith does not come as easily to me as others.
That being said, it is not that I do not believe in an actual Adam and Eve, it is just that I don’t know. I am not willing to stake my faith on their literal existence and I am not willing to judge others on their belief (or disbelief) in the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. To me, the insistence on a literal Adam and Eve as a litmus test for faith creates many problems. First of all, it creates divisions in the followers of the faith based on that which cannot be known with certainty and something that is not a fundamental of the faith. The stance lacks grace and humility and it does not focus on the message and meaning of the creation story for the generations. Just because I do not know for certain if Adam and Eve truly existed does not mean that there is not value in the biblical story. To focus on one seems to diminish the other.
As I learned through the years, the creation story was not necessarily written to tell us HOW the earth was created, but by whom it was created and why it was created. For me it is the story of humanity – both as a whole and as individuals. To simply say that the story of Adam and Eve is the story of the fall of humanity is to miss a greater truth about what that might mean.
Despite Dr. Mohler's (and others') argument, one of the reasons I believe that the story of Adam and Eve can be seen as story of humanity is because their names, Adam and Eve, literally mean “Man” and “Woman”. In this I see that their story is our story and the story of every person. It is the story of our personal history and the story of our corporate history. This truth for me does not change if Adam and Eve are literal people or not. They may have been literal people whose story speaks to all through the generations. If, by chance they are not literal people, their story still speaks to something very real about our experience. I appreciate the attempt to make sure that all parts of the biblical record fit together, but I do not accept that IF one part of the Bible is written as a metaphor, then the entirety of faith must crumble. The of the faith would then seem to be in the power of the metaphor to speak to generation after generation.
See Part 2 for reflections on the meaning of the story for humanity.