Peter Enns has got to be a smart and courageous guy. He's has been grappling with Old Testament scripture (especially the book of Genesis) and attempting to "open" a conversation with scientific assertions and theories (specifically those of human origins)…that's an astute and challenging intermingling of disciplines and passions (not to mention the implications of worldview). After a friend plowed through Peter's book, (The Evolution of Adam – summarized well on the "Jesus Creed" blog) I decided to pick up a copy. Fact is, I encouraged a "scientifically curious" (his words, not mine) pal of mine to read it and give me his take. After he informed me that it "rocked his world", I decided to wade into the waters myself.
I don't want to give you a full overview here…you can read what work has already been done on the blog I alluded to above. That blog will take you through a series of posts that outline the book as well as pose a significant number of excellent questions which will challenge any reader. What I WILL be willing to say is that this book is a MUST READ for anyone who is serious about wrestling with issues having to do with cultural engagement, intellectual honesty, biblical faithfulness, as well as having a bird's eye view of how serious scholars engage biblical material in light of the context in which we live. I found the book fascinating to read…I highlighted much of it…discovered and re-discovered exegetical conclusions that were challenging and rather enjoyed a divergent hermeneutic (in other words, a different interpretation) of key passages in Genesis as well as the letters of Paul. Make no mistake about it this book is one which wrestles with "interpretive" issues…for example, how do we faithfully interpret the book of Genesis without reducing it to a bunch of disconnected, morality based tales? How would people in Genesis' original audience react to the material and how might that be different from how people in the apostle Paul's day? How did Paul view Adam and what difference does and should that make in how we view these biblical stories? As Peter says in one of the final chapters, "if Adam had stayed within the confines of Genesis 2-5, there would be far less difficulty in synthesizing evolution and Christianity-a "historical Adam" would likely be no more crucial to the Christian faith than a literal talking sanme or a literal garden paradise." If that question interests you, than this book is for you. It will make many uncomfortable…trust me, it will. When I was a college kid and my first bible professor told me that some scholars believed that Moses didn't write the first five books of the bible, I walked out of class (only to be followed by my professor who explained to me that I needed to open my mind to some new insights into the bible if I was to be the person God was forming me into be). If you haven't thought through some of these issues before, the book will take you to foreign territory. If you have, it will challenge you in your assumptions and poke at your biblical "sacred" cows. This is an important book to read because this conversation is a necessary one. It is necessary NOT because we need to be apologetic for believing what we do about the bible as followers of Jesus but rather because as Peter states in one of his theses at the conclusion of the book, "scientific and biblical models of human origins are, strictly speaking, incompatible because they speak of 'different language.' They cannot be reconciled and there is no "Adam" to be found in an evolutionary scheme." He also discusses the fear that many people who love and follow God have in even opening their minds to this discussion…and I imagine he's right on that account. Our usual point of reference in these discussions is defensiveness or intelletual naivete. Truthfully, if you desire a good read that will stretch you and get you to ask some good questions about the bible and faith and science that you may have never asked before, pick up the book.
In fact, you can get a good "sense" of the book by watching a lecture that Dr. Enns gave at Westmont College in 2011. Here it is for those who want to wade into the waters: