Calvin College has posted an interesting interview with Alvin Plantinga about his return to Grand Rapids. In the last couple of years, Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and George Marsden have all retired back to their homes in GR. Do you know what this means? In 15-20 years the greatest liberal arts education in the world will be found in Grand Rapids nursing homes!
It’s usually dumb to disagree with a Plantinga, but I want to raise an issue with Alvin’s response to the question, “Was there an original Adam and Eve?” He said: “God could have picked a pair of humans and gave them a property that allowed them the ability to discern good from evil, the freedom to obey or not, with a choice between obedience and disobedience. This seems wholly compatible with current evolutionary theory.”
I appreciate that Plantinga is attempting to square Scripture with what he believes is the settled finding of science. And I don’t here want to delve into the many biblical-theological problems with this solution (e.g., was there human death before the fall?; does a theory of evolution conflate creation and fall?).
I only want to focus on one: while Plantinga’s approach may be logically possible, how plausible is it that this is what the Bible means in such passages as Genesis 1-3, Romans 5, and 1 Timothy 2? Did any biblical author–did Jesus himself–think that God took Adam and Eve from a pre-existent hominid race? Or is it more likely that they believed that God directly made the first man and woman?
This raises an issue that I haven’t heard discussed much. Even non-Christians can tell that our Bible does not mean to say that Adam and Eve were taken from a pre-existent hominid race (despite the suggestion that it explains where Cain found a wife and who he feared may want to kill him). Most people who read Scripture easily conclude that it teaches that Adam and Eve were the first humans. So when we contort the plain reading of Scripture to fit the new discoveries of science, we leave the impression that we don’t take our Bibles as seriously as we take our scientists. And if we’re not careful, this may not only leave us with not much to believe, but it may also lead non-Christians to respect us and our faith less.
In our efforts to integrate faith and science, we must not allow the fruitful dialogue to turn into a monologue. Some Christians allow science to do all the talking–and Scripture must conform or be kicked out of the conversation, while others simply read Scripture and dismiss what the scientists say. None of us are probably as balanced as we think, but from where I stand, I wish Plantinga’s solution would include a more plausible reading of Scripture.