Over at PuffHo, Michael Ruse continues to push his strange but fascinating mixture of sense and nonsense. In a piece sensibly called “Adam and Eve didn’t exist. Get over it!,” Ruse addresses the recent Christianity Today article on how to reconcile science with Adam and Eve (see our discussion here). And, as he shows without reservation, the genetic facts absolutely put the lie to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.
If Ruse had stopped there, it would have been fine—and a public service. But of course he can’t, because he’s always compelled to osculate the posterior of faith. And so, as is his wont, he suggests alternative interpretations of the Bible that better comport with genetics:
Augustine thought that we are all tainted (original sin) because of actual act of disobedience by a real Adam. This cannot be so. But there are alternative theologies at hand. Irenaeus of Lyon (before Augustine) worried that everything rested on the fault of one rather naive man faced with a wily serpent. Instead, he interpreted original sin as part of our general incomplete nature, something that was completed by the Christian drama. Jesus was never “Plan B,” in the sense of sent to earth to clean up the mess created by Adam. His coming and sacrifice were always part of the divine intention.
“General incomplete nature”? What the bloody hell is that? And why would an uncompleted drama have anything to do with original sin? No, there has to be some reason why every human is born in sin, not just that he or she becomes a sinner. For only the former interpretation makes scriptural sense—even under liberal Christian theology.
And if Jesus wasn’t “Plan B,” but part of the whole divine intention (as seems clear), then what does that make of God? First he botches the whole thing on purpose, and then tortures his son on a stick to make things right? Why wouldn’t God have just bypassed the entire Adam business and not introduced inherent sinfulness at all, thereby obviating the need to torture and kill his own child? Under a clear-eyed view of Christian theology, God comes off as some sort of sadistic playwright, one who wrote Eraserhead when he could have given us Mary Poppins. Such is the senselessness of the Christian faith.
Given a theology like this, the disappearance of a literal Adam and Eve is not only possible but something of a relief. This is not to say that this theology is now the only right one for evermore, but rather that giving up some thoughts in the face of science is not necessarily the end of faith. And there may well be religious (and not just scientific) advantages. The Augustinian scenario always leaves the bad taste about why we should be blamed for the sin of someone else.
A relief? Not to many Christians, as the Christianity Today pieces makes perfectly clear. If we’re not born in sin, then much of what Christians believe—especially Catholics—falls to pieces. And of course, it makes Jesus die for nothing at all.
Finally, Ruse makes a good point: that science makes theology change, and it’s never the other way around. Doesn’t that make theology inferior, always malleable to newly discovered facts? Sadly, Ruse says “no”:
But is there not the uncomfortable worry that religion — theology — is always going to play second fiddle, having to give way in the face of science? And never the other way around. When did a Nobel Prize winner ever change his or her mind in the face of a reinterpretation of the Trinity? It may be true that this is a one-way process, but in no way does this imply that theology is inferior. The changes are part of theology. If we are made in the image of God (and Augustine was right here)*, then we have the power of reason and the ability to learn and understand the world that God created. We have the ability and the obligation. This means doing science, however uncomfortable it may be. We see through a glass darkly. At some point, we will see face to face. But not without a lot of effort by us.
How could theology not be inferior? First of all, it’s all made up, and second, it is a slave to science. Saying “the changes are part of theology” is simply an accommodationist’s way of saying, “Theology changes only when science or secular reason forces it to”. If we really used our “power of reason and the ability to learn and understand the world”, we wouldn’t believe in God at all.
Note to Dr. Ruse: You can give up now. You’ve tried hard, but the Templeton Prize isn’t going to come knocking.
*Wait—I thought Ruse was an atheist! How could Augustine be “right”?