‘The Evolution of Adam’ by Peter Enns: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

26 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam. I hope you enjoy.

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Peter Enns seeks to evidence that in the Christian tradition, we do not need a historical Adam and Eve, that is, that our theology will not rise or fall on Adam and Eve’s existence or lack thereof. Enns first begins by discussing the changes geology and evolution caused in modern thinking about the age and construction of the world. He then goes on to note how biblical scholars began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to notice that books such as Genesis seemed to be compilations of various sources. Enns then shifts to discuss how early Israel seems to have understood and used Genesis and how Paul used the OT scriptures in general and Adam in specific. Essentially, Enns suggests that while Adam is treated as historical for Paul, more significantly, Adam is a theological example of the plights of humanity, sin and death. Enns does not suggest that we replace theology/Scripture with evolution, but that we must recognise that the two speak different languages and must be synthesised.

While I generally agree with many of Enns conclusions about Genesis and evolution, I have several issues with this book. His almost naive acceptance of modern biblical, historical-critical method of interpretation aside, Enns spends no time on two issues that seem rather important from his conclusions. First, Enns suggests that all we really need to know is that sin and death are problems for humans and we need ask no further. Enns completely ignores the question of evil and his approach would almost suggest that God created humanity as sinful, or that sinfulness naturally arises in humanity, which comes to the same thing. The second issue Enns ignores is how the tradition understood/understands Genesis and Adam and Eve. For that matter, chronologically speaking, Enns ignores what the Gospel writers have to say on the issue. One could perhaps forgive Enns for ignoring the early and medieval theologians as outside his purview since the subtitle says ‘What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins’. Although Enns does make fleeting reference to the reformers. However, one cannot forgive Enns for promising in the title to tell us what the Bible does and does not say about this topic and then focus only on the Old Testament Scriptures and Paul. Admittedly, Adam only appears in two other places and seems to have less theological import than in Paul, but to ignore them entirely seems negligible.

In the end, I would recommend this book for those interested in learning more about this topic, but more so would I recommend reading Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea and Peter Bouteneff’s Beginnings.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘The Ancestral Sin’ by John S. Romanides: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

19 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of The Ancestral Sin by John S. Romanides. Hope you appreciate it.

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This book is a primarily unhelpful polemic from start to finish. Romanides main point seems to be to show how the West is woefully wrong concerning sin and death (sinfully wrong, perhaps) and how the East contains only the right vision. Romanides argues that the West’s understanding of created grace, evil as privation of the good, the analogia entis in Thomas, and God being love, good, etc. in his nature all lead to notions of original sin. The East, instead, sources evil and death in Satan, rather than in God (as he understands the West to do), and God is primarily free in his essence while attributes such as love are uncreated energies.

There are too many problems with this characterisation to go into here, but the one major problem I want to point out is this: Romanides desperately wants to make it clear that God did not create death as a punishment, that instead death is the dominion of the devil who is at war with God. The problem? Did not God create the devil? Is the devil capable of creating from nothing like God? Is this how God is not responsible for death? If so, then we fall into dualism, which Romanides would repudiate.

While in many ways I agree that we need to think of sin, death, and the Fall in ways other than original sin and man’s fall from perfection, Romanides’ attempt at this is inept and often glosses over areas where Eastern Fathers, whom he cites elsewhere often coincide with Western positions he repudiates. Chief among these would be how Athanasius writes about evil, what the Cappadocians write about the soul, and how Maximus understands the human desire for the supernatural.

I neither recommend this book nor don’t. Read at your own risk.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Lent: The Light Has Gone out of the World

Dear Friends and Family,

We’re just over half-way through Lent and I’ve realised I didn’t do a post about it. There is a lot I could tell you about the history of Lent; how it started as a forty-hour fast before Easter to symbolise the time Christ spent in the tomb and then evolved into forty days of limited fasting to connect better with the Israelites in the desert and Christ in the wilderness. Instead, however, I just want to write a brief apology for Lent.

For many Christians Christmas and Easter are easy to understand. Even Pentecost and Ascension Day make sense since they’re days in the life of Christ. Lent is just a different bird. Lent is in place to remind us that Christ died, that the light of the world was snuffed out. We commiserate with the disciples who, still misunderstanding Christ, thought he had come to restore the Davidic Kingdom. We recognise our sinfulness during this time and dedicate ourselves anew to repentance. We fast to remember that the true source of our being is God, not food, not the comforts of this life, but God.

I know some Christians who see all Christian celebrations and commemorations as inappropriate because we ought to be celebrating Christ’s life, death, and resurrection all the time. This is true. It does not, however, negate the usefulness of year in and year out living in the rhythm of Christ’s Birth, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and sending of the Spirit to the Church. We ought to set aside specific times to think about and discuss these things. Otherwise our view could become myopic, we could become sidetracked by whatever aspects of salvation speak to us most. In the Church Calendar we abate that fear. In Lent, we remember why we needed a saviour and why we tend to myopia in the first place.

Spend these next few weeks reminding yourself why you needed a saviour and Easter will seem all the more felicitous for it.

A Lenten Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Yours,

David