Old Testament scholar Peter Enns has been causing a stir with his latest book, The Evolution of Adam
It’s quite an interesting book, and in it he makes his case with the arguments of theology, science, and hermeneutics, and yet at the end turns to another element to the debate, that it challenges beliefs so deep they have become part of our identity. So that it’s not just a matter of science or theology, we have an emotional and psychological stake in the result.
“Evolution threatens the evangelical narrative. And it’s not a joke. The threat is real.
All of the rancor, posturing, and nervousness about evolution masks a deep fear: ”If the Bible is wrong here, there is no telling where this will go. Soon I may find myself adrift, no longer sure if I can trust anything the Bible says–no longer sure about how I should life my life and what will happen to me after I die.”
It really does come down to the the Bible: what is it and what does it mean to read it well? The evangelical movement has invested a lot of energy in building thick walls around the Bible, ready to defend it against challenges, real or perceived, that threaten its safety. (If you want to learn why that’s part of the evangelical legacy, Mark Noll will tell you here. I’ve never read anything that gets to the point as quickly and says it so well.)
The problem before us, however, is that evolution effectively challenges time-honored, bedrock, evangelical positions on how the Bible must be read. That’s why for some, even engaging evolution generously, let alone accepting it, simply means turning their back on their own evangelical heritage. The cost of doing so is often too high.
What is lost is the comfort of knowing that your reading of the Bible is right, which allows one to table doubt and mystery and embrace a (false sense of) absolute certainty.
Rewriting one’s theological narrative is threatening, but new narratives must be written, where openness to theological change when warranted is valued as part of the journey of faith rather than feared as a threat to faith…
The question of evolution is out in the open, it’s not going to go away, and it has implications for how evangelicals read their Bible and do theology. The only real question before us is how will we choose to address it.”
[For the rest of the quote, see this post which is a loose excerpt from his book]
What do you think?
Is Enns right that this can end up being about identity and emotion and our own personal narratives as much as science or theology?
If so, how might that influence the way we engage the discussion and the questions we are willing to ask?