Colossian Blog
November 18, 2011 | James K.A. Smith

How (Not) to Have a Conversation about Adam and Eve

Pastor Mark Driscoll has recently weighed in on a growing conversation in the church: “The Biblical Necessity of Adam and Eve.”  As he notes, this has become a pressing issue as Christians grapple with scientific evidences that seem to push back against traditional understandings of human origins.

I’m deeply sympathetic to Driscoll’s concern that the church navigate these waters guided by the authority of Scripture and the wisdom of the Christian theological tradition.  And I share his concern that even some devout evangelicals seem a little too quick to defer to “what science says,” unwittingly buying into problematic paradigms and failing to see the theological implications of such deference.

However, I’m equally concerned that the church consider just how to work through our differences and disagreements on these matters.  In other words, even before we start debating the specifics of biblical hermeneutics, theological implications, and relevant scientific evidences, it is crucial that Christians first consider the “rules of engagement” for such contentious conversations.  Is it possible for us to conduct this debate in a way that doesn’t compromise our common witness to Christ?  Is there a way to work through our disagreements and still exhibit the virtues of Christ–compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and above all, love (Col. 3:12-14)?

Driscoll’s argument is not that different from concerns raised by Pastor Tim Keller.  But I still find a significant difference in their tone, and would invite Driscoll to consider formulating his concerns in a way that reflects a stance of charity.  Charity, for example, will not begin by immediately impugning the motives of our brothers and sisters who disagree with us.  Instead, love requires that we take our common confession seriously and thus consider just what Gospel-impetus might be compelling them to arrive at a different conclusion.

Very concretely, that also means that Christians need to resist our temptation to frame false dichotomies.  So, without commenting in any way on Driscoll’s conclusions, let me just point out a concern with how he opens the debate–by mapping a complex issue in terms of a false dichotomy.  Early in his essay, noting that some Christians who accept the authority of Scripture also seem willing to reconsider the picture of one historical couple, Driscoll quickly concludes:

One can conclude only one of two things: either they don’t fully understand what Scripture says about Adam and Eve, or they prefer to base their perceptions of history and reality on science rather than on Scripture.

Well, not so fast.  I’m not sure that’s the “only” thing one could conclude.  And I’m also not convinced that there are only “two” options on the table.  (Just a quick perusal of Christian theology over the centuries would show quite a few more options held by orthodox Christians.)  At the very least, loving my brother requires that I relinquish the too-easy penchant to frame issues in my terms.  In this respect, following Christ–and exhibiting his humility–might require letting go of my cherished dichotomies.  That might be a way to imitate Christ’s kenosis (Phil. 2:5-11).  It is not only our conclusions that should be “captive” to Christ; how we debate such issues should also reflect the “mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:1-5).

Suggested Posts
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
November 22, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
Each Colossian Way small group session opens with the group remembering why they're here and acknowledging God's presence. Messy situations, difficult subjects, polarizing conversations, and paralyzing conflict can all draw us into lives of deeper faithfulness to God. Success in the small groups can be measured by if we grew in love of God and love of neighbor through the course of the ten weeks together. These important tenets are also key parts of the internal culture at The Colossian Forum. We practice opening the day with morning prayer as a staff team, which helps us remember why we're here and acknowledge God's presence together. But prayer and meetings aren't the only components of a strong organizational culture. Here's a peek inside the curtain of what makes TCF tick in our organizational culture. Intentionally strengthening the organizational culture is an important priority as The Colossian Forum continues to grow. We developed the TCF Attitude to touch on the key aspects of our culture: a hungry spirit, humble heart, and being people of joy. We want to be a team that embodies a sensitive, efficient, innovative, and enjoyable workplace. Hungry Spirit Exhibiting a hungry spirit indicates the desire to grow more deeply into the image of Christ by pursuing excellence and a strong commitment to our mission of conflict as opportunity. We see the divisive issues we engage in as places where the church can do better and we're hungry to make that happen. A hungry spirit also involves displaying an urgent desire to manifest Christ's peace in the world. We actively seek to be the best in what we do and engage in responsible risk-taking. TCF is hungry to do more, learn more, and broaden the scope of our mission. The shadow side of that hunger is the high pressure and toll on relationships. It can be easy to become discouraged, be hungry for things we haven't been given, and demanding God to do things that fit in our agenda. Humble Heart Alongside a hungry spirit lies a humble heart, which means that at TCF embodies Mark 12:30-31 by exhibiting a love of God and love of neighbor. We delight in the different gifts and desires God's put on our team, and work hard to embody our mission of conflict as opportunity. A humble heart is also respectful, disciplined, and respectful. We genuinely care for one another and humbly submit to the mission of The Colossian Forum. We also recognize that we don't have all the answers and happily connect with partners who can help us broaden and implement our thoughts, worldview, and mission. Sometimes it's hard to have a humble heart when pursuing excellence and having a fear of failure. Often it's easy to rely on pride and control instead of submitting to the Lord in humility. People of Joy Underlying the hungry spirit and humble heart is that at our core, we are people of joy who truly delight in God and each other. We embrace the staff team family and have great hope that we can live into our remarkable mission. We do our best to not take ourselves too seriously--after all, it's God's world, not ours. Our team also works to maintain perspective and engage in healthy spiritual practices. It's a true joy to celebrate God's work in us through both successes and failures. Even the most joyful among us can struggle with fear of failure and the pressures of overwork, and it's no different at TCF. It's hard to accommodate the time for celebration and joy with the expectation of task completion. It's a balance to incorporate joy into our work life, but one we're committed to integrating better. It's easy to forget that how we act comes under our service to Christ and that we are living this out as Christians. We hope this glimpse into the hopes and fears behind how we work at The Colossian Forum helps point to the beautiful things we hope for.
The Joy of the Inner-Directed Life
November 15, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Joy of the Inner-Directed Life
Lou Huesmann is the senior pastor at Grace Long Beach, which recently went through The Colossian Way training. He shared this excellent reflection and an article from Rabbi Sacks with us. Thanks, Lou!   Is character strictly personal, or does culture have a part to play? In other words, does when and where you live make a difference to the kind of person you become? These questions are raised by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a recent reflection on the classic book from 1950, The Lonely Crowd. The book's two sociologist authors develop the idea that particular kinds of historical circumstances give rise to particular kinds of people. In reflecting on The Lonely Crowd, Rabbi Sacks argues for the recovery of an "inner-directed" people for the sake of the world. In a culture largely comprised of "other-directed" individuals who find their direction in life from contemporary culture and winning the approval of others, the work of The Colossian Forum is vital. The Colossian Forum is providing groundbreaking training that has the potential to change not simply individuals but also the larger culture through its emphasis on developing the acquisition of virtues and practices that mark an "inner-directed" person. It's this inner-directedness that provides the security and courage to be different and the confidence to build a better, more life-giving future. Inner-Directedness, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. If you see something that sparks a connection with TCF's mission, we'd love to hear from you!