Human Origins:
Issues
(Scientific & Theological) and Scenarios

This page contains excerpts, shared with the permission of authors and publisher, from Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution, by Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma, Copyright © 2007 (all rights reserved) by Faith Alive Christian Resources.

an introduction from the authors:  "In Chapters 11-12 of the book, we discuss scientific and theological issues around human origins and lay out five scenarios regarding Adam and Eve.  Our purpose is to inform readers about the range of views held by fellow Christians regarding human origins, and to examine some of the pros and cons of each view, without endorsing any one view.  This page contains summary sections from those chapters."

and from the web-page editor:  Their book is on ASA's list of Recommended Books (and for 4 months, in 2007-2008 shortly after it was published, this book was featured on our homepage) and is highly recommended by Ted Davis (ASA Council Member) who says "in a word, this book is splendid," and by me (editor of ASA's website for Whole-Person Education) because I think it's the best available introductory overview about the science and theology of origins questions.  You can get information about the book (descriptions, reviews, table of contents, and how to buy it) and explore the publisher's associated website where the authors share "articles that expand on topics covered in the book."

writing style:  The excerpts in this page show the authors' careful thoroughness in helping you understand a wide range of issues and views;  but it's written in outline form, so it doesn't show the normal writing style that you'll see in most parts of their book.

the rest of the story:  What you see below is only a few brief excerpts from an excellent book.  A great way to learn more about origins is to read other parts of the book, as recommended by the authors at the beginning of Chapter 11 & 12: "If you have skipped ahead to this chapter, please go back and read the earlier chapters, especially chapters 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9.  These chapters lay the theological and scientific groundwork for this chapter and will help to avoid false impressions about the topic of human origins."  If it's useful to supplement their whole chapters with "theological and scientific groundwork" from earlier in the book, this reading will be even more useful for the following chapter-excerpts.

 

SUMMARY OF SCIENTIFIC AND THEOLOGICAL ISSUES (pages 216-217)

Scientific Issues
Fossil evidence:  Scientists have found fossils of hominids going back five million years and of modern-looking humans going back at least 120,000 years.
Genetic similarity to animals:  Similarities between human and animal genetic sequences support common ancestry.  [principles of Genomic Organization, Introns, Pseudogenes and their Similarities in Humans & Chimps]
Genetic diversity in the human population:  The diversity in the gene pool is much more than would be expected if all were descended from a single pair.  [Genetic Diversity Within Species]  [Genetic Adam & Mitochondrial Eve explains "why scientists don't believe that all humans descended from these two individuals."]

Theological Issue — The Image of God
• View 1:  Social abilities:  We have mental and social abilities far above animals.
• View 2:  Personal relationship:  God chooses to have a personal relationship with us.
• View 3:  Representatives and stewards:  God commissioned humans to be his representatives and stewards in this world.
  All three views are compatible with each other and with all five scenarios about Adam and Eve.

Theological Issue — The Human Soul
Theory 1:  The soul and the body are two different entities (one immaterial, one material).  The soul must have been created miraculously.
Theory 2:  The body is material and the soul is immaterial, but they should not be thought of as two different entities.  The soul organizes and empowers the body, endowing it with its essential human characteristics such as self-consciousness, reason, will, and the ability to relate to God.  The soul must have been created miraculously.
Theory 3:  The soul consists of our mental and relational abilities (arising from our bodies) plus God’s spiritual relationship with us.  God could have created the soul through the natural mechanisms of evolution plus his special revelation to us.
  All three theories are compatible with all five scenarios about Adam and Eve.

Theological Issue — Original Sin
Situation of original sin:  No one can be righteous apart from Christ.
Transmission of original sin:  Sin is transmitted to other humans biologically, socially, as a spiritual status, or all three.
Historical origin of sin:  Was it a single act or multiple acts?  Was original righteousness before the Fall an actual or a potential state?

Theological Issue — Human Mortality Before the Fall
View 1:  The Fall resulted in spiritual death only;  humans were naturally mortal before the Fall.
View 2:  The Fall resulted in both spiritual and physical death;  humans were naturally immortal before the Fall.
View 3:  The Fall resulted in both spiritual and physical death;  humans were naturally mortal but potentially immortal before the Fall.
[Three Interpretations of The Tree of Life]

 

[In Chapter 12] we will analyze five different scenarios regarding Adam and Eve, comparing in some detail how the theological and scientific issues discussed in Chapter 11 [summarized above] play out in each scenario.  ...  Keep in mind that our goal here is to promote informed discussion in the church rather than to defend one particular position.
 

ADAM AND EVE: FIVE SCENARIOS (page 197)
Recent Ancestors:  Adam and Eve were specially created about 10,000 years ago and were the first humans.  All humans today have descended from them. 
Recent Representatives:  God created humans about 150,000 years ago using progressive or evolutionary creation, and God specially selected a pair of humans about 10,000 years ago to act as humanity’s representatives.  They chose to sin and their sinful status was applied to all humans. 
Pair of Ancient Ancestors:  God used natural mechanisms to create pre-human hominids; then about 150,000 years ago God miraculously modified a pair of them into the first humans, Adam and Eve.  All humans today have descended from this pair. 
Group of Ancient Representatives:  God created humans about 150,000 years ago using evolutionary creation, and God specially selected a particular group and revealed himself to them.  They chose to sin and their sinful status was applied to all humans. 
Symbolic:  God created humans about 150,000 years ago using evolutionary creation.  No particular single event occurred where all humans fell into sin at the same time, but many events happened where various individuals and groups rebelled against God.

 

CHRISTIANS IN AGREEMENT (pages 228-229)

    While these five scenarios have serious differences with each other, they also agree with each other on some key points.  In all of these scenarios, human beings are uniquely God’s imagebearers,
• gifted by God with certain abilities,
• invited by God into a personal relationship,
• commissioned by God to be stewards of this earth.

    All of these scenarios can be compatible with Christian beliefs about the body and the soul.
    All five scenarios can also be compatible, some more easily than others, with at least two views on human mortality before the Fall:
• the Fall caused only spiritual death.
• the Fall caused both spiritual and physical death, but humans were only potentially immortal by God’s grace.

All of these scenarios agree about the situation of original sin.  They agree that
• humans today are sinful and in a broken relationship with God.
• humans cannot achieve righteousness by their own action.
• we can only be redeemed through the work of Christ.

 
CHRISTIANS IN DISAGREEMENT (page 229)

    These five scenarios primarily disagree about the following questions:
• How and when did humanity fall into that sinful state?
• Was the first sin committed by our ancestors or by our representatives?
• What was the spiritual status of any humans living before the first sin?

    To some Christians, these are vital questions.  To other Christians, these are secondary questions.
    Some argue that a clear historical first sin, committed by Adam and Eve as our ancestors, is essential to our understanding of the Christian theology.
    Others agree with Lutheran theologian George Murphy:  "The Christian claim is that a savior is needed because all people are sinners.  It is that simple.  Why all people are sinners is an important question, but an answer to it is not required in order to recognize the need for salvation.  None of the gospels uses the story in Genesis 3 to speak of Christ’s significance.  In Romans, Paul develops an indictment of the human race as sinful and then presents Christ as God’s solution to this problem in chapters 1-3 before mentioning Adam's sin in chapter 5."
 


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HUMAN ORIGINS (homepage with links)