Sinned in a Literal Adam, Raised in a Literal Christ

Question: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve, how can we know where sin and suffering came from?


Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue.

Compared to other questions laypeople ask pastors about creation and evolution, I find the concerns of this question much more well-grounded. Indeed, I must disclose, I share them. Many orthodox Christians who believe God used evolutionary biological processes to bring about human life not only do not take Genesis 1 as history, but also deny that Genesis 2 is an account of real events. Adam and Eve, in their view, were not historical figures but an allegory or symbol of the human race. Genesis 2, then, is a symbolic story or myth that conveys the truth that human beings all have and do turn away from God and are sinners.

Before I share my concerns with this view, let me make a clarification. One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C. S.Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not think the lack of such belief means he cannot be saved. But my concern is for the church corporately and for its growth and vitality over time. Will the loss of a belief in the historical fall weaken some of our historical, doctrinal commitments at certain crucial points? Here are two points where that could happen.

The Trustworthiness of Scripture

The first basic concern has to do with reading the Bible as a trustworthy document. Traditionally, Protestants have understood that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God and that, therefore, discerning the human author’s intended meaning is the way that we discern what God is saying to us in a particular text.[1]

What, then, were the authors of Genesis 2-3 and of Romans 5, who both speak of Adam, intending to convey? Genesis 2-3 does not show any of signs of “exalted prose narrative” or poetry. It reads as the account of real events; it looks like history. This doesn’t mean that Genesis (or any text of the Bible) is history in the modern, positivistic sense. Ancient writers who were telling about historical events felt free to dischronologize and compress time frames—to omit enormous amounts of information that modern historians would consider essential to give “the complete picture.” However, ancient writers of history still believed that the events they were describing actually happened.

Ancient writers also could use much figurative and symbolic language. For example, Bruce Waltke points out that when the psalmist says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13), he was not saying that he hadn’t developed in the perfectly normal biological ways. It is a figurative way to say that God instituted and guided the biological process of human formation in his mother’s womb. So when we are told that God “formed Adam from the dust of the ground” (Gen 2:7), the author might be speaking figuratively in the same way, meaning that God brought man into being through normal biological processes.[2] Hebrew narrative is incredibly spare—it is only interested in telling us what we need to know to learn the teaching the author wants to convey.

Despite the compression, omissions, and figurative language, are there signs in the text that this is a myth and not an historical account? Some say that we must read Genesis 2-11 in light of other ancient creation myths of the Near Eastern world. Since other cultures were writing myths about events like the creation of the world and the great flood, this view goes, we should recognize that the author of Genesis 2-3 was probably doing the same thing. In this view, the author of Genesis 2-3 was simply recounting a Hebrew version of the myth of creation and flood. He may even have believed that the events did happen, but in that he was merely being a man of his time.

Kenneth Kitchen, however, protests that this is not how things worked. The prominent Egyptologist and evangelical Christian, when responding to the charge that the flood narrative (Gen 9) should be read as “myth” or “proto-history” like the other flood-narratives from other cultures, answered:

The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary “history”). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to “mythologize” history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms. [3]

In other words, the evidence is that Near Eastern “myths” did not evolve over time into historical accounts, but rather historical events tended to evolve over time into more mythological stories. Kitchen’s argument is that, if you read Genesis 2-11 in light of how ancient Near Eastern literature worked, you would conclude, if anything, that Genesis 2-11 were “high” accounts, with much compression and figurative language, of events that actually happened. In summary, it looks like a responsible way of reading the text is to interpret Genesis 2-3 as the account of an historical event that really happened.

Consider the New Testament

The other relevant text here is Romans 5:12ff, where Paul speaks of Adam and the fall. It is even clearer that Paul believed that Adam was a real figure. N. T. Wright, in his commentary on Romans says:

Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair, whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and had broken it. Paul was, we may be sure, aware of what we would call mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story, but he would not have regarded these as throwing doubt on the existence, and primal sin, of the first historical pair.[4]

If you don’t believe Adam and Even were literal but realize the author of Genesis was probably trying to teach us that they were real people who sinned—Paul certainly was—then you have to face the implications for how you read Scripture. You may say, “Well, the biblical authors were ‘men of their time’ and were wrong about something they were trying to teach readers.” The obvious question is, “How will we know which parts of the Bible to trust and which not?”

The key for interpretation is the Bible itself. I don’t think the author of Genesis 1 wants us to take the “days” literally, but it is clear that Paul definitely does want readers to take Adam and Eve literally. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority.

Sin and Salvation

Some may respond, “Even though we don’t think there was a literal Adam, we can accept the teaching of Genesis 2 and Romans 5, namely that all human beings have sinned and that through Christ we can be saved. So the basic biblical teaching is intact, even if we do not accept the historicity of the story of Adam and Eve.” I think that assertion is too simplistic.

The Christian gospel is not good advice, but good news. It is not directions on what we should do to save ourselves but rather an announcement of what has been done to save us. The gospel is that Jesus has done something in history so that, when we are united to him by faith, we get the benefits of his accomplishment, and so we are saved. As a pastor, I often get asked how we can get credit for something that Christ did. The answer does not make much sense to modern people, but it makes perfect sense to ancient people. It is the idea of being in “federation” with someone, in a legal and historical solidarity with a father, or an ancestor, or another family member or a member of your tribe. You are held responsible (or you get credit) for what that other person does. Another way to put it is that you are in a covenant relationship with the person. An example is Achan, whose entire family is punished when he sins (Josh 7.) The ancient and biblical understanding is that a person is not “what he is” simply through his personal choices. He becomes “what he is” through his communal and family environment. So if he does a terrible crime—or does a great and noble deed—others who are in federation (or in solidarity, or in covenant with him) are treated as if they had done what he had done.

This is how the gospel salvation of Christ works, according to Paul. When we believe in Jesus, we are “in Christ” (one of Paul’s favorite expressions, and a deeply biblical one.) We are in covenant with him, not because we are related biologically but through faith. So what he has done in history comes to us.

What has all this to do with Adam? A lot. Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 15 about Adam and Christ that he does in Romans 5.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22).

When Paul says we are saved “in Christ” he means that Christians have a covenantal, federal relationship with Christ. What he did in history is laid to our account. But in the same sentence Paul says that all human beings are similarly (he adds the word “as” for emphasis) “in Adam.” In other words, Adam was a covenantal representative for the whole human race. We are in a covenant relationship with him, so what he did in history is laid to our account.

When Paul speaks of being “in” someone he means to be covenantally linked to them so their historical actions are credited to you. It is impossible to be “in” someone who doesn’t historically exist. If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work “covenantally”—falls apart. You can’t say that Paul was a man of his time but accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.

[1] Granted, often New Testament writers see Messianic meanings in Old Testament prophecies that were doubtless invisible to the OT prophets themselves. Nonetheless, while a biblical author’s writing may have more true meanings than he intended when writing, it may not have less. That is, what the human author meant to teach us cannot be seen as mistaken or now obsolete without surrendering the traditional understanding of Biblical authority and trustworthiness.

[2] See Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Zondervan, 2001) p. 75. Of course, Waltke notes that Psalm 139 is poetry and Genesis 2 is narrative, but that does not mean that prose cannot use figurative speech and poetry literal speech. It only means that poetry uses more figurative and prose less. Another example of a narrative that speaks of the divine power behind a natural process is Acts 12:23. There we are told that Herod Agrippa was delivering a public address to an audience when “an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms, and died.” Josephus relates that Agrippa did indeed fall ill at the same time, but it was due to a “severe intestinal obstruction.” Here again we see the Bible speaking of God’s action behind a natural biological process.

[3] K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003) p.425.

[4] N.T. Wright, “Romans” in The New Interpreter’s Bible vol.X, p. 526.

  • R

    Thank you, Pastor Keller.

  • Jared Wilson

    I’m a fan of Keller and appreciate this article, but one portion confuses me:

    “I don’t believe Genesis 1 can be taken literally, because I don’t think the author expected us to. But Paul is different. He most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures.”

    I’m not sure I understand what Dr. Keller is saying here. Is he saying that he disagrees with Paul? Is he saying that Paul believed Adam and Eve were historical figures but this “mistake” does not fall within the scope of infallibility/authority? I am likely misreading something here.

    • Collin Hansen

      Jared, take a look at the section as Dr. Keller has now edited it. Does that make his view clear?

      • Jared Wilson

        It does. Thank you, Dr. Keller (and Collin).

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  • David Pitman

    I don’t think this nuanced approach by Keller will advance the gospel. Eloquent but ineffective. “I don’t think the author of Genesis 1 wants us to take the “days” literally, but it is clear that Paul definitely does want readers to take Adam and Eve literally.” That eclectic hermeneutic will not impress the liberals and only weakens your argument.

  • RazorsKiss

    BioLogos certainly doesn’t impress liberals, either. It’s just something to laugh at, and club we confessionalists over the head with. How does Dr. Keller get around the WCF on this?

  • Kenny Taylor

    Looks like I may have missed the original draft of this article, but I am curious to read more of Dr.Keller’s perspective on Gen 1 as “exalted prose narrative.” Personally, I wasn’t persuaded by what I read on that subject in The Reason for God, but I would like to read more on that interpretation, just to gain a stronger understanding of it. Recommended reading? Thanks

    • StuntMonk

      Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology, perhaps?

      • Kenny Taylor


    • theothinker

      John Walton’s Lost World of Genesis One is a great look at Genesis 1. Avoids the whole poetry/prose dichotomy by suggesting it’s a functional creation and not a material creation. He suggests this gives a more literal reading of the account than others. Good stuff in my opinion.

  • Ryan Mahoney

    Thank you Dr. Keller for your thoughts and post on this subject. I will be doing some reading and studying of this issue this summer, and, heading into the project, I am on the fence and open to arguments on both sides of this issue at present.

    You questioned, “How will we know which parts of the Bible to trust and which not?” Is this really an issue of trust? Would not a person that reads Genesis 1-11 mythically still trust what the text is saying? Certainly it changes, to some degree, the meaning of the text to read it mythically as opposed to literally, but both can (and hopefully would) trust the text. Wouldn’t a mythic story tell us that God worked in creation in some way, making humans the pinnacle of that creation, and some kind of rebellion occurred in humanity and the created order, disrupting the cosmic temple? Couldn’t a reading of the text in this manner still be trusted and authoritative in what it intends to communicate?

    I guess the point does not seem to be the trustworthiness of the text (in evangelical circles), but the question is, is our READING/INTERPRETING of the text trustworthy? When do we alter our reading of the text based upon our knowledge of the world (for example when humans figured out the earth was not the center of the universe)? That seems to be the issue…it is one of hermeneutics. No?

  • tim keller

    David —

    I’d respectfully argue that the hermeneutic I outline is not eclectic. It is uniform–we should accept the Biblical author’s intended meaning and seek to discern what it is. Once we conclude what that meaning is, we should submit to it, whether we like it or not. Sometimes an author means to be taken metaphorically, sometimes literally, but whatever his meaning, we should accept it. It’s God’s Word.

    I’m not sure who you have in mind when you speak of liberals, but most liberals I know do not accept the authority of the Biblical author’s meaning. You are right, then, they won’t be impressed with that hermeneutic or that view of Biblical authority. What I am writing would be a challenge for them to embrace. I’m not trying to make it easy for them. That’s not my purpose.

    Razor’s Kiss —

    My denomination (the PCA) some years ago adopted a study paper on views of creation, and laid out several that, in the view of the committee, fit within subscription to the WCF. One was “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”, a view that is not “theistic evolution” but which does not believe that Genesis 1’s creation days should be taken literally. By the definitions in that paper, that is the category (OEPC) in which my views fall.

    Ryan —

    You make good points. But you say that we may–“alter our reading of the text based upon our knowledge of the world”. Well, no. If we get very strong new evidence from empirical investigation of our world we should go back into the Bible to ask: “Did we misread the Biblical authors? Did we originally read our old understanding of the world into their meaning and now we need to correct our understanding of their meaning?” But notice, we still must let the Biblical authors’ teaching have the final word. We can’t say, “the Biblical authors believed X, but science proves that X is wrong, therefore the Biblical author is wrong.” Then you have human reason the authority over the Bible, not vica versa.

    Having said that, we must not be so 100% certain of all our interpretations of the Biblical authors’ meaning. That kind of arrogant certainty is by no means consistent with what the Bible says about the noetic effects of sin on our minds. Our cultural biases color our reading of the Bible. Many conservative evangelicals don’t want to admit that.

    So I like your attitude of openness to new interpretations. I want to be open to new ways of understanding the Bible. Indeed, the older I get and the more experience in life I have, the more I see that I read the Bible wrongly in my youthful naivete about life.

    But in the end something will have the final authority–reason, experience, or Scripture. We can’t say that science trumps Scripture.

    All —

    I have been at my computer this morning but now I am leaving and so, unfortunately, I won’t be able to post additional comments.

    • taco

      I understand you will not be able to respond in kind here Dr. Keller, but maybe someone else can shed some light here.

      Dr. Keller wrote in the post: “Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue.”

      Dr. Keller responded to RazorsKiss: “One was “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”, a view that is not “theistic evolution” but which does not believe that Genesis 1′s creation days should be taken literally. By the definitions in that paper, that is the category (OEPC) in which my views fall. ”

      In affirming evolution to bring about ‘human life’ it seems that one would be affirming the TE position. I don’t see how trying to make room for a historical Adam and a historical Fall necessitates that this position is not ultimately TE.

      Does anyone have a link to this paper written by the PCA on OEPC? Does it affirm evolution as the means of bringing about ‘human life?’

    • RazorsKiss

      Dr. Keller claims to be presuppositional in his apologetic methodology; in the comment above, he speaks of “arrogant certainty”. While I am sympathetic to those who, as Van Til said, virtually make their meaning of the fact “the fact” to them; I cannot see how his approach to Biblical interpretation accords with that of Van Til.

      Dr. Keller states that “we must not be so 100% certain of all our interpretations of the Biblical authors’ meaning.” Dr. Van Til says this: “Man does not need to know exhaustively in order to know truly and certainly. When on the created level of existence man thinks God’s thoughts after him, that is, when man thinks in self-conscious submission to the voluntary revelation of the self-sufficient God, he has therewith the only possible ground of certainty for knowledge for his knowledge.”

      I’m not surprised at the capitulation to doubt, as if to have certainty is arrogance – Machen battled it in his day, and it’s been an ever present problem on the Christian horizon; but hearing it from putative “presuppositionalists” is rather jarring, given that we argue from the *impossibility of the contrary*, for crying out loud. Is Dr. Keller trying to tell us not to overstep ourselves about being certain, (contra VT and Bahnsen, as well as historic Reformed orthodoxy, of course) and argue from the “probably not” of the contrary, instead?

    • David Pitrman

      If the genome project disproves an historical Adam it must disprove an historical Noah (world population reduced to 8), correct? Well at least this approach will make OT history easier to study – there won’t be much of it left.

  • RazorsKiss

    Then why are you affiliated with a self-professed TE group, Dr. Keller?

    • Tony M

      Why not be affiliated with another Christian organization, comprised of Christian brothers and sisters, who can sharpen, inspire, and uplift you? Being affiliated with an organization that doesn’t necessarily share your full scope of beliefs is something the church should be an expert in; unity across our diversity should characterize us as the body of Christ. Instead we erect artificial barriers to celebrate the 15% of our differences, rather than come together and celebrate the 85% we have in common. Certainly we should check their interpretations and opinions against Scripture and validate/reject accordingly, but that doesn’t mean we don’t associate with other Christians does it?

      • RazorsKiss

        Because Theistic Evolution is heretical, that’s why.

        • Jarrett

          I’m not trying to be smug, but please explain why you think Theistic Evolution is heretical? What orthodoxy are you referring to when making this statement?


          • RazorsKiss

            Confessionally (LBCF 1689), Covenantally Reformed.

            • Jarrett

              Ok. Gotcha. Thanks for that info. I think this is what we brothers and sisters in Christ need to be doing. Discussion with each other, but unity in Christ as redeemer.

            • maythis12

              Agree with RazorsKiss that TE is heretical but his reason is based on LBCF 1689. Perhaps it should be based on… I dunno, plain reading of Scripture? (I believe it is — just making a point that we shouldn’t make the same mistake others are making when we base our decisions on other fallible human documents/thinking/reasoning, rather than Scripture itself)

            • RazorsKiss

              Of course it’s based on Scripture. Confessions are aids to organizing the doctrines found in Scripture.

          • John Lane

            I think TE is heretical because of the other doctrines that are lost if it is true. You lose doctrines of Original Sin, Sanctification, Justification, and the doctrine of Imagio Dei. Without these doctrines there is no gospel.

            • StuntMonk

              @Lane, Tim Keller does believe in both evolution and a historical Adam, so his view does not lead to the loss of doctrines like Original Sin, Sanctification, Justification, or Imago Dei.

  • Jarrett

    I think this argument is one that keeps going in circles. I see no reason that the evolutionary process and the real existence of a real Adam and Eve could not fit together nicely. Even C.S. Lewis, in “The Problem of Pain,” summarizes this quite well. I think if we did originate from the result of a processed evolution and once man was of the capacity to differentiate himself from the other animals by using reason and self awareness, then at that point, why couldn’t God have taken that person and breathed the divine life into his lungs?

    If all throughout the Bible God has a propensity to call out of many, one to be an example for His will, why then couldn’t the same be said for the first among all people?

    • maythis12

      Because that’s not what He said He did?

  • Daniel

    Thoughtful and Biblically Orthodox as usual for Dr. Keller. Thank you.

    Now, open the gates and let the Interweb Trolls inside! None is safe.

  • RazorsKiss

    That does mean that yes, I’m calling TE espousal sin, and yes, that I’m calling for repentance of it. It’s a wholesale betrayal of the Biblical text, which is rebellion against its Author. If this strikes you as too strong, Calvin would be rather informative on the topic. Dr. Keller’s sidestep on this issue is why I don’t recommend his apologetics materials. Claiming to use the Covenantal apologetic and espousing the theological prerequisite for doing so are inseperable. Theology determines everything else; get your theology wrong, and you leave the unbeliever with an excuse that Scripture doesn’t grant him.

  • Fred Butler

    Tim Keller writes,
    My denomination (the PCA) some years ago adopted a study paper on views of creation, and laid out several that, in the view of the committee, fit within subscription to the WCF. One was “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”, a view that is not “theistic evolution” but which does not believe that Genesis 1′s creation days should be taken literally. By the definitions in that paper, that is the category (OEPC) in which my views fall.

    I am trying to wrap my thoughts around this comment. How exactly does it gel with what the WCF actually states,

    I. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

    Were the framers of the WCF mistaken? Naive? Primitive? What exactly did THEY mean by 6 days? How can progressive creationism or any other compromised hermeneutic, possibly be accommodated by such clear language?

    • maythis12

      They are taking fallible ideas from so-called science, trumping Scripture with them, and then adjusting Scripture to mesh with pop-psuedoscience. They take the word “yom” for day, and make it mean a “period of time.”
      However, this is not consistent because the language makes it clear that the author intended the meaning to be six ordinary 24 hour periods — In the grammer of the language, 1. Whenever “yom” is used with “evening” and “morning,” it’s a 24 hour day. 2. Whenever “yom” is used with an ordinal number (first, second, third… as used in the text for counting the days) it’s a 24 hour day. It’s as if the Author realized there would be disagreement and though, “Well, Let’s make it REALLY obvious…”

  • Peter C.

    You’ll have to find a way to marry evolution with the Adam and Eve story because denying the theory of evolution, in toto, is unsustainable. While it’s hard to stamp the label “fact” on a theory that requires more pieces of the tapestry to be woven in, the pattern is clear enough. Some form of evolutionary theory did occur.

    The horrible intrusion of bible literalism into Christianity is putting God in a box where we can manipulate Him. We simply don’t know on this side of the grave how the actual day to day process of creation occurred. We do know God was responsible. We do know that a fallen created order is the result of sin. Beyond that, the Bible is not a science book and was never intended to be one. No serious scholar believes the Garden of Eden was an actual place on Earth. If Adam and Eve were allegorical characters, it wouldn’t change my faith one bit and it shouldn’t change any one else’s.

    Leave the theological Scholasticism to an era best left in the past.

  • Fred Butler

    Peter C.,
    Did Jesus “literally” raise from the dead? I mean, we need to find a way to marry medical science with the gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection, because denying medical science, in toto, is unsustainable. It’s just medical fact that corpses do not rise from the dead. We do know God may had done something, but the Bible is not a science book and was never intended to be one. If Jesus’s death and resurrection is allegorical, it shouldn’t change anyone’s faith, right?

    • Pastor David Pitman

      Well said Fred!

      • maythis12

        Ditto to Fred…
        1. Nothing in operational science has ever shown or implied that macro-evolution has occurred. Saying it’s settled doesn’t actually settle it or make it true.
        2. Anyone who takes their Bible seriously would not say that EVERYTHING is to be taken literally. They would say that every single Word should be read “plainly,” as in, read history as history, poetry as poetry, etc. The genre of Genesis is historical narrative. Also, read Scripture with Scripture; What did Jesus believe about Genesis? Paul?
        3. A “Theory” in science is (apparently everywhere else EXCEPT for the “theory” of evolution…) is to be observable, repeatable, testable, and falsifiable. The muck that is the “theory” of evolution is none of the above (it should be, if true, observable, but we haven’t observed one single case of new information added to DNA…), and has no place in operational science. By the same definition, Creation is also not a theory…

        It comes down to what we believe BEFORE we look at the evidence — “In the beginning God” or “In the beginning, cosmos.”

        • nancypants


        • Jake Riley


    • Peter C.

      Your reply avoids the thrust of my original post: denying each and every form of evolution because you feel it threatens the Biblical creation story is unwarranted, and I would argue, threatens the sovereignty of God. As to your Biblical literalism, when Jesus said “I am the vine”, did he sprout leaves? You’re the one left with the untenable position of removing allegory from the Bible because once you admit it’s there in verse X but not in verse Y, you’re boxing God up again.

      You forget that part of the scientific method is verifying results. Jesus raised a man from death, a fact witnessed by many people including the dead man himself. How the process of resurrection happened might mystify scientists; however, tangible proof is there for the taking in the dead man’s breath and the witnesses who spoke and wrote about it. In contrast, no one witnessed the creation, a pre-historical narrative.

      Adam and Eve are clearly representatives of our earliest ancestors, not actual people running around a mythical garden. The sooner Christianity moves back away from scientific creationism and returns to a faith based account, the better for all!

      • maythis12

        See “literal” vs “plain” and read up on the bait and switch between micro-evolution (occurs all the time, different kinds of cats and dogs and birds etc, within a kind — we see that, doesn’t contradict Scripture at all, in facts supports it (ie, where did we get all these “different” animals so quickly after the recent global flood?)) and macro-evolution (never observed, would be one kind (say cat) turning into another kind (say dog)).

        Is it putting God in a box to trust what He clearly revealed to us in His Word and Son? Or is it simply being humble and accepting God as God?

  • nancypants

    First let me say that I thoroughly respect Tim Keller and appreciate his work. He is a gifted communicator and a man of God but that doesn’t mean he’s always got it right. Thankfully God alone has that going for Him. My main issue here is with this statement: “I don’t think the author of Genesis 1 wants us to take the “days” literally,”… Pastor Keller uses no Biblical basis for *this* belief… I should say that though I heartily disagree with him on the point mentioned above, I agree with the rest of his point regarding the necessity of a literal Adam, federalism, etc. and have argued it myself many times. I mostly find it sad, and yes, troubling even, that so many Christians, pastors in particular, will let supposed “science” (which the theory of evolution is not since it cannot even fit into the human confines we have placed on the human institution of science, namely that it is not observable but is merely a method of translation) help form their willingness to believe something as physically/humanly impossible as a literal six day creation. If we can’t believe that scientific improbability then we certainly can’t believe in the miracles of Christ where, as in creation, He displays anew that creation obeys Him by being recreated by the power of His word (lepers, withered hands/feet, fish and loaves, wind and sea), thus inaugurating the recreation of all things, captured so brilliantly in His words in Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Less believable on scientific terms (to say the least) still than a mere six day creation is a virgin birth, a sinless (!) savior and Resurrection from the dead, yet this is precisely where our, hope rests… The foolishness of the world, the wisdom of God! Thanks be to God! For when have we seen proof that anyone could literally live a sinless life!? Try picturing a sinless Christ at two or three years old and you will find this concept to be every bit as far fetched as a literal six day creation, if not more so since we have regular observable daily evidence (far more scientific than the theory of evolution) to the total unlikelihood of this ever coming about! And yet we believe, by the grace of God that He is able. I would entreat those who struggle to believe Genesis 1 is intended by its human authors to be taken literally to ask themselves how difficult it often is to determine intent in simple Internet conversations… Or even face to face spousal conversations. “I don’t think they wanted us to” is an incredibly weak argument for disregarding the words morning, evening and day in the opening chapter of the greatest book ever written, and the only God inspired one. His intent is the only one that matters here. Did He inspire Genesis 1 as a way to elevate man and his 19th century theories or did He plainly mean us to believe the unbelievable and take Him and His humanly impossible acts by faith? I choose the latter.

  • nancypants

    “No serious scholar believes the Garden of Eden was an actual place on Earth.”

    Really? Or no scholar you are willing to take seriously. Why should we then believe in a new Heavens and a new earth and that the church is the new Jerusalem and will descend out of Heaven and that The dwelling place of God will be with man? Will it be a real place? Will resurrection bodies be real? Were pre-fall bodies real?

    • maythis12

      Even if no “serious scholar” did believe it was an actual place… does that change fact? I can “seriously” believe that I’m Michael Jordan, but that doesn’t work so well (although I have managed the bald head).

      Find one “serious scholar,” with all of our learning and technology and labs, that has created life out of… not life.

      New life happens every day right before our eyes, and we are no closer to explaining it than we were way back when. Oh wait, we already have that explanation, if we’d just accept it on faith.

      • nancypants


        • maythis12

          Oh where was my serious scholastic aptitude in my last post?? I would be remiss if I didn’t name a few “scholars” who did, in fact, believe in the Genesis account. You may or may not recognize their names — but most people would recognize them as “serious scholars:”
          Bacon, Galilei, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Leibnitz, Faraday, Morse, Pasteur (a bioligist… with some of the most incredible advancements in medicine… and he believed in Creation? But don’t we NEED evolutionary theory/thinking to do anything useful in medicine?) Kelvin, Maxwell (electrodynamics and thermodynamics, not the coffee guy) Carver, Luther, Johnny Hart (had to include him…)

    • nancypants

      It should also be noted that very few serious religious scholars of Jesus’ day believed that He was the son of God… But ordinary every day people (prostitutes, fishermen, tax collectors and other nobodies) who dared to believe the impossible, that their sins could be forgiven… To these were given the keys to the Kingdom! Serious scholars be damned (literally!)

  • Steven Tyra

    I am currently earning my Th.M. (Church History) at Fuller Seminary in CA. Previously, I completed a year of M.Div studies at Princeton Seminary, although I eventually transferred back to my native CA to finish at Fuller. I’d just like to offer my perspective on the notion that Dr. Keller’s rhetoric is ineffective or will not challenge “liberals.” Well, I’ve actually met quite a few self identified liberals, many of them in prominent posts in academia. Fuller is currently a very mixed bag in that regard. I can tell you from experience that Dr. Keller’s interpretation of Genesis 1-3 would be seen as radically “evangelical,” even “fundamentalist” by some OT profs I have come across. The fact that he posits a “fall” that is more than just a rehash of ancient myth or, at best, an “origins of Israel” story (see the article in Christianity Today) would earn him instant scorn in many classrooms I’ve sat in. Heck, that “sin” has objective content at all is pushing the envelope. Moreover, that he assumes that Paul and the Genesis text must speak with a united voice is a sort of “canonical criticism” and “totalizing hermeneutic” that raises the hackles of “liberals.” I encourage you to read Walter Bruggemann’s treatment of Genesis 1-3, in particular the “fall” (or lack thereof). By way of contrast, you’ll see how truly Christ centered and faithful Dr. Keller’s reading is. We owe him a lot for articulating a strong defense at a time when even fashionable evangelicalism is giving up on core doctrines like the historicity of Adam. God bless him.

    • Steven Tyra

      In other words, Keller’s faithful reading of Genesis is NOTHING like liberalism in its academic form, if you’ve actually encountered that liberalism face to face (and had to defend your views in term papers to it). God bless Tim Keller.

    • Armando

      Thanks Steven very well said! I totally agree with you on the fact about these OT Scholars scoffing and ridiculing even the premise of Dr Kellers position. In my opinion I think that some of these commentators on this blog should do a little more reading on the contemporary OT scholarship that is out there.

      • Fred Butler

        And those contemporary OT scholars are who exactly? What insights do they bring to how we understand the historical narrative of Genesis that was missed BEFORE so-called Darwinian evolution began infiltrating the thinking of Christians?

        Of course, we could say this about a lot of subjects. I imagine you would say the same thing about NT criticism. Maybe I need to spend some time reading Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels.

        • StuntMonk

          Maybe I need to spend some time reading Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels.

          Wouldn’t hurt. It is no crime to test one’s own convictions – you might even come off more measured, and more assured.

          • Fred Butler

            Really? How exactly do apostates and heretics make one more assured? I guess it makes me even more confident in their error, but I have this “scholar” argument pitched at me like these individuals have golden insights I have never considered before and will shape my philosophical foundations.

            And with that advice, I am sure you have invested the time to actually read biblical creationists and their exegesis of Genesis?

            • maythis12

              I actually sort of agree with StuntMonk here. There is an important conditional — being that these authors (as with any uninspired author) are read critically and prayerfully… and ESPECIALLY through the lens of Scripture. If done in this way, holes in their thinking will come to light, and our faith will only be strengthened.

              Perhaps more importantly, it helps us become more aware of the false arguments and better able to help our friends and acquaintances past these stumbling blocks. “Always be prepared with an answer…”

    • nancypants

      With all due respect, are those who are “wronger” on the issue of Gen. 1 (I say only 1 because I believe Keller is right from 2 on) are not the plumb line by which to judge the scripture. Surely there is a spectrum on which all theologians can be found to be degrees nearer or farther from a fully Biblical theology. Some are way off, some are not quite as far off. All are beholden to God alone and the authority of scripture for their teaching. Just because someone else is by way of comparison, further off the mark, does not move the actual mark. While I am extremely glad that Keller steps out on this limb where, sadly, fewer and fewer are willing to tread, I believe strongly that he is still holding onto the trunk when He should in fact go further out on that very same limb and let the plain meaning of scripture, unpopular as it is, speak for itself. If in fact the gospel can be found on every page of scripture, it can be found in Genesis 1 just as easily as in Genesis 2 and beyond. And that gospel is the power of God unto salvation of which we must not be ashamed. The limb won’t break so let’s walk further out on it by faith!

      • Steven Tyra

        Of course you are right, but (and this is the budding church historian in me) we need to be very careful with our terms. “Orthodox” means what, exactly? If its adherence to the ecumenical creeds, they don’t exclude Keller’s view at all. If it’s finding ourselves in the mainstream of historical exegesis… well, the majority of orthodox exegetes didn’t hold to a literal six day creation — Augustine perhaps most famously and influentially. On the other hand, the vast majority, if not all of the classical theologians held to a historical, flesh and blood Adam. Keller thus falls perfectly within historical orthodoxy. Perhaps instead of thinking about orthodoxy as a ladder, with some “higher and lower,” maybe we should think of it as a circle around, in the case of Genesis 1, a number of acceptable interpretations. In Genesis 2 the circle is narrower because of the definitive Pauline interpretation (notice, on the other hand, how the NT does not pin us down in the case of the “days.”)

        • maythis12

          Should we measure by “historical” or “popular?” Duh, no. So why even bother mentioning it? We should measure our ideas with Scripture, and adjust our ideas rather than Scripture.

          When you read the NT as a whole, you will see that whenever the topic was broached, the writer assumed (or specifically mentioned) a literal six day creation… why would the NT writer be believed any differently than the very clear grammar of the OT? If a person is not willing to accept Biblical authority, it won’t matter how many times it’s reiterated.

          “The majority of orthodox exegetes didn’t hold to a literal six day creation.” Perhaps we should be privy to your new definition of “orthodox.”

          • Steven Tyra

            Hmmm I think there are rather more complicated issues at play here, issues of hermeneutics, i.e. what constitutes “clear grammar.” Clear to whom? I’d only say that you, I, and your auntie never just “read the Bible” but always read within a particular tradition of discourse. We’re shaped by our confessional contexts. We read with the community, both living and dead. That is not, by the way, a bad thing. I choose to make my conversation partners the orthodox fathers and Reformers who have come before us, guided by the creeds and confessions. Irenaeus, Augustine, Chrysostom loved the Bible, made it a part of their language, thought, and worship to an extent that would shame all of us. And yet these things were not “clear” to them. That should at least give us pause. There are many things, the Gospel first and foremost, which indeed fall within the great Reformation doctrine of the “Perspicuity of Scripture.” I’d suggest, respectfully, that the length of the days in Genesis 1 is not one of them.

            • maythis12

              So… by the same logic, we should accept the current teaching of Rob Bell?

              “Clear” as in to what it meant to the person who wrote it, to the persons first reading it, to the persons who later commented on it with divine inspiration (Paul, et al) to the Person who presumably would have corrected a misunderstanding but instead affirmed the plain understanding (Christ) and to anyone else reading the passage who is not trying to mesh Scripture with pop-psuedoscience.

              You cannot in good conscience say that if you picked up Genesis 1&2 and read them with no familiarity to what you were taught in science class that you’d come to the conclusion that humans evolved.

              I also agree with you on another point — that it should “give us pause” that people before us (who have had, by all accounts, good intentions) have been mislead by man’s fallible ideas. We must be like the Bereans and see if these ideas match with Scripture.

  • Armando

    Also of course not everyone gets everything right thats a moot point. But again in my opinion and how I think Keller views on the “literal” days in Gen 1, I can only take his statement to mean a literal “24”hr day. Again that is my opinion as I read his comment..

  • Armando

    Good points nancypants, I also read in his article that we should all be careful of being arrogantly right on our interpretations and he stated that these were where his views fell but also stated I believe that their also should be an open-mindedness to other views as well, and not to just a stamp a “Heresy” label on it as some tend to do. By the way my views theologically are very historically orthodox as well.

    • nancypants

      I’m certainly not calling him a heretic. I hate how easily that word is thrown around these days. It literally makes me sick to my stomach at times how quickly that label is lobbed about, especially on the internet. He did state that there should be an open-mindedness to views other than the plain reading of Gen. 1. I disagree. I disagree that there should be an open-mindedness on the duration of hell as well, though that is a hot button issue of the day too. He feels convicted about his position on Gen. 1 – that’s fine. Hopefully people wouldn’t encourage others to believe their own view unless they felt convicted about it. But this does not mean that others who are convicted about their position need be open to his. If we all remained open minded on these issues few of us would care enough to post our opinions here. Having said that, we must be careful not to condemn one another. Condemnation and believing that someone can be wrong about something (or a lot of someones for that matter) does not equal condemnation. But surely we are allowed, nay encouraged (if the Bereans are any marker), to question even the most scholarly of scholars if what they are saying does not sit right with our spirits. I do not believe Tim Keller is a heretic. I believe he is an amazing teacher and a humble man of God with a winsome way of preaching the gospel. I simply believe he is wrong though, with regard to the days of creation and I don’t believe he has given any kind of meaningful scriptural basis for his belief (in this article, that is… I don’t claim to have read everything he’s written on the subject) that “the author didn’t intend us to believe in 6 literal days.” There is however ample scriptural basis, without ever having to resort to splicing Hebrew words, for a literal 6 day reading of Gen. 1. It is harmful to the body to suggest that those who hold such a view are somehow less thoughtful or spiritually inept in doing so.

      Ps. 136:4-9

      • Armando

        nancypants, let me first clarify that I was not including you as claiming Tim Keller as a heretic at all! If that is what you inferred I do apologize. I was making a general statement not specific. Also on the question of open-mindedness it depends out we define the word. Some define it as a total acceptance of another’s view and others define it as being open to their views open enough to consider them thoughtfully and engage or disagree thoughtfully as well

  • Jake Riley

    How is it compatible to assert Gen. 2-3 as literal History, and yet not accept Gen 1 as such? along the same lines, how is it possible to assert the trustworthiness of Scripture when we do not take literally the six day account of creation? Texts such as Exod. 20:11 and 31:17 seem to reveal that they were taken to mean a literal 6 days, in which the Created things were brought into being by God’s spoken command (Psalm 148:5).
    I deeply appreciate Dr Keller’s defense of a literal Ad and Eve, and the importance of that in the Gospel Of Christ, but the issue this and the very Gospel itself is deeply confused when in the midst of the discussion he defends or compromises on views which seem to llogically tend against that which he is saying.

    • Joe

      Jake you should google “Framework Hypothesis” for more study on the view of poetical Gen 1 but historical Gen 2. Keller probably picked it up from his professor Dr. Kline who taught at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and espoused this view.

      Since Keller holds to this view of scripture, and his own denomination has validated this view in the study paper they did on creation, we must accept that his denomination believes his view is within the bounds of “orthodoxy.”

      As for theistic evolution (TE), that theory, in my opinion, has no bearing on the Genesis account because it is “pre-genesis.” TE is talking about HOW humanity got to the Genesis account where God could actually breath his image on humanity. Genesis on the other hand is concerned about the WHO–who created life. The HOW and the WHO can fit together because it is more probable the writer of Genesis, being pre-scientific was unconcerned with the HOW of creation. He was obviously concerned with WHO though.

      • maythis12

        One day I went to a dealership and ordered a red 2011 four door car. I went to pick it up, but the dealer had a green 2010 two-door pickup. He explained to me that was the vehicle I had actually intended, seeing that the dealership knew much more about cars than I do. I didn’t really care “HOW” it looked, just “WHO” I was buying it from.

        If the author/inspirer was uninterested in the how, why did He include those details?

        God didn’t say He breathed His image onto something that was already there. He said He formed it out of the dust and breathed life into it, on one specific day in history.

        “Pre-scientific?” This is basically:
        1. Assuming ancient people were scientifically illiterate and/or unintelligent (which is possibly semantically accurate but in reality absurd/arrogant considering the structures they built that we still can’t explain — see “pyramids”)
        2. Assuming the author of Genesis was carelessly misleading his readers with a detailed account of creation ex nihilo when he could have easily used simple Hebrew language already in existence to convey what you believe “actually happened” and assuming the God that created everything including the very concept of science is Himself scientifically illiterate or did not have the ability to communicate to His creatures what He actually did.
        3. Neglecting (or denying) the fact that Scripture is inspired by an omniscient God who can inspire someone to write and/or speak something they don’t necessarily understand.

        • Jake Riley

          Thanks to both of you. Any debate as to whether any form of evolution as opposed to the six day interpretation is in fact scientific AT ALL is beyond the scope of this discussion. The theory was formed within the context of a godforsaken worldview, and has been researched through that lens since then; investigation without that context has pointed to the validity of a non-“poetic” interpretation of Genesis 1

          I’m am not, and never will be the one to call out Dr Keller on anything; he is older, wiser, and a deal more learned and experienced than I. But I agree with my brothers that within this context Dr Keller seeking to secure the views of the PCA against the literal interpretation of one passage while demanding the literal interpretation of passages which are only separated from the former by translation seems counterproductive.

        • Joe

          Hey Maythis–

          Without getting into a long debate with you, I will just reiterate, Keller’s own denomination has space for this view with the acceptance of Old Earth Progressive Creationism (OEPC). It is possible for whole denominations to be wrong biblically, of course, however, just know you are basically saying just that by your statement in regards to the PCA.

          B.B. Warfield had a TE stance. Augustine. didn’t believe in a strict six day creationism. I believe we cannot as well put outside of orthodoxy various creation interpretations that keep God and Scripture central. By keeping Adam historical, Keller also keeps all the other traditional doctrines including the doctrine of original sin. As such you probably want to turn your guns to fire somewhere else. Cheers brother.

          • maythis12

            My statement said absolutely nothing about the PCA, so I’m not sure what you mean. I’m completely unfamiliar with the PCA, as I was commenting only on what has been written here.

            If the PCA accepts any reading of Genesis other than the plain reading, then yes, I would be saying it (and anyone who believes and – especially – teaches it) is wrong. Is that to say they’re all unsaved or unbelieving? Not necessarily. I’m simply asserting that it’s wrong and counterproductive to the advance of the Kingdom.

            Keller does manage to believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but he does not keep original sin intact, because death is required for evolution. Scripture indicates that death entered the world through sin. It impugns the character of God to say that He called the death that is evolution “good.” Keller will not answer to his denomination. He will answer to the Creator Himself, the Word. My intention with these posts is not to “fire my guns” at him — he’s made up his mind… my intention is to hopefully warn others from following His lead away from the plain reading of Scripture.

            So… Warfield and Augustine were wrong… That’s a pretty simple conclusion.

            Jake — totally agree. Creation/evolution is NOT science at all, it is religion, plain and simple. However, I believe that creation (by an orderly Creator) is what makes the field of science possible in the first place. Evolution (based on random chance) does not lend well to science as we know it, since there are no laws or theories to test and observe in any sort of pattern.

            • Joe

              Thanks Maythis.

              If you get a chance google “PCA position paper on Creation.” They have a number of biblical versions of possible views of Creation.

              “The plain reading” is an interesting concept because the plain reading I think you are referring to is the plain English translation of Hebrew, which being the nature of translation, means by definition stuff is loss in translation. That is, whole words are not lost–no all words are translated exactly the same, but meaning infused in the words are not always apparent.

              This is why I think most scholars of the bible will grant that there are more then one way to interpret Scripture. That is why we have hermeneutics.

              I think you have have original sin even if there is death before the fall. Have a good day friend.

            • maythis12

              I am not the least bit interested in the PCA position paper. I am only interested in what God has clearly revealed.

              You make my point when you speak of the translation process. We can’t assume our (English) words mean the same thing — we must diligently check not only the Hebrew language, but how it will relate with the rest of Scripture (whatever meaning we conclude MUST be consistent with the rest). It’s also helpful to note how Jesus (as well as other OT and NT writers) taught on Genesis. Doing this, we can see clearly that the Bible leaves absolutely no room for macro-evolution. The hermeneutics of the Hebrew text have to be flat out ignored to come to such a conclusion.

              Again, according to Scripture, death came through sin… I don’t know of any translation that butchers Scripture badly enough to deny that.

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  • Zachary Mccoy

    Dr. Keller,

    Scripture isn’t weighed in the balance of science; science is weighed in the balance of Scripture.

    Special revelation (Scripture) trumps General revelation (science — observation), and both are trumped by the Personal revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

    “For in [Christ] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”

    Jesus said, “In the beginning, God created them male and female.” (Mark 10:6).

    Nevertheless… You are a tremendous blessing to me (and the Church), Dr. Keller.

    Peace and grace and mahalo,

  • Tony M

    Hello Pastor Keller,

    I’m not sure if you’re even going to get this comment, but it’s worth a shot. I have much respect for you as a brother in Christ, a pastor, and a theologian/scholar. Your work has greatly assisted and benefited me and I am indebted to your kingdom service. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I also am an OEPC and I think you’ve done a good job in being faithful to the text and the original author’s intent (as best as we can tell anyways). I have one quick question for you though. John Walton wrote a wonderful little book called “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology”. I found his thesis about Genesis 1 being set within a functional ontology versus a material ontology to be incredibly interesting and very tenable and convincing. I was curious if you had a chance to read that (or any works like that), and what you thought of his thesis? It is something I’m becoming more inclined to, but it is a pretty large paradigm shift and I was curious as to what your thoughts might be. Thanks for any help. God bless you, your family, and your ministry!

    • David Smart

      Just a quick correction. John H. Walton’s book is called The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient cosmology and the origins debate (2009, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press). While this book lays out the historical and grammatical exegesis by which Dr. Walton argues for Genesis 1 being a cosmic temple text—an extraordinarily compelling case that I likewise find profound and convincing, and happily defend—it is at most an introductory work. The book Tony is referring to, Genesis One as Ancient Cosmology, is a forthcoming book in which Dr. Walton provides a more “detailed discussion” on this exegesis. In a personal email to me he confirmed that this book “is approaching page proofs and should be out around Labor Day,” Lord willing. (It would be difficult to understate the importance and value of Dr. Walton’s contribution to this discussion; I highly recommend his book to others and can hardly wait for the more detailed argument in his forthcoming book, which I will purchase as soon as it is available.)

      By the way, The Lost World of Genesis One can be purchased from Westminster Bookstore (

  • David Smart

    I find it interesting to observe so many of the comments here being narrowly focused on issues like theistic evolution and whether the days of Genesis 1 were literally 24 hours long, etc., all of which appears to battle outside of, and practically underscore, the whole point Dr. Keller makes in this article. The point I hear Dr. Keller making is that steadfast fidelity to biblical theology is not compromised by diversity in interpretation of the Genesis creation account, unless and until the historical reality of Adam and Eve is cast into doubt or denied. That is because a biblical theology of salvation is rooted in federal headship and covenantal relationship; as Dr. Keller succinctly put it, “It is impossible to be ‘in’ someone who doesn’t historically exist.”

    Quite right. So ponder this a moment. If John believes the days of creation were vast periods and Jane believes they were 24-hour days, but they both believe Adam was an historical figure and the federal head of humanity (i.e., death for those in Adam but life for those in Christ), which one is a heretic who imperils his or her soul? I mean, at what point did the interpretation of ‘yom’ become a defining mark in soteriology? Or when did the question of whether or not there was a gap of vast ages between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 become a tenet of the gospel message? When it comes to a biblical theology of salvation, the issue is whether or not Adam was an historical figure who was God’s image-bearer and the federal head of humanity. That serves as a defining mark in soteriology. Whether the days were 24 hours long or indefinite ages is an exegetical discussion we can engage with genuine charity, but what cannot be safely denied is that we all fell ‘in’ Adam, an historical figure who represented mankind as our federal head.

    • Joe


      These people clearly don’t want to interact with Keller’s view of a historical Adam. He is claiming that is what matters from a theological point because it is there all the traditional doctrines live and die. If you hold a historical Adam, then there are any number of other interpretations of how creation came about.

      Instead there are a bunch of “gotcha” bible quotes being thrown around. Too bad. Clearly Keller wanted everyone to know that he hold to a literal Adam, and that is the important point.

      • nancypants

        Joe, I can only speak for myself, but I (assuming I’m one of the “these people” mentioned) am not uninterested in interacting with Keller’s view of a historical Adam. There is no bone of contention there. I am participating in this conversation (a rarity for me as I don’t spend a lot of time discussing theology on the internet) only because I believe that Genesis 1 matters just as much as Genesis 2, from a Theological standpoint. The gospel is on every page of the Bible and I believe that is also true of page 1, so it matters. It’s certainly not because I love finding fault with awesome pastors or theologians that I greatly admire and respect. It’s that I remain unconvinced (by him or anyone else I know personally that holds his position) that a fully Biblical explanation exists in this area on which we differ (length of the creation week). Certainly I have more reading to do on the subject.

        We just can’t say that simply because traditional doctrines don’t hinge on a certain passage of scripture that it ultimately is of lesser value or import to the believer since the whole of scripture is God’s inspired word. Take away or denigrate part of it as being of lesser import (“1 is theologically less important than 2″) to the believer and it’s no longer the whole message which inevitably also calls into question I Tim. 3:16.

        Grace and peace.

    • Armando

      David, Well said and articulated..

  • maythis12

    It would appear that Dr. Keller himself stated his “whole point:” “Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve…”
    What a number of us are trying to say is that this is simply not true. We are hitting on several items from Scripture that are incongruous with Keller’s position. Then of course we went off on some rabbit trails because of comments posted (all of these posts are not necessarily responding directly to Keller’s original article).

    To summarize what I believe a number of us are saying directly to Keller’s article:

    1. The “historical fall” makes absolutely no sense in the evolutionary framework because death would have existed before sin. So… what exactly is this “salvation?” What are we being saved from? Scripture seems to indicate that we are being saved from death itself… but if that was “good,” why would we need saving from it? And what does that have to do with sin, since death existed before sin?

    2. This is a case of fallible man trying to work what we believe we’ve learned into what God said simply is. The ONLY reason we are even having a discussion on whether the days were really days is because we are trying to somehow reconcile evolution with Scripture. We are saying this simply does not work — that the two are mutually exclusive.

    • David Smart


      Despite the items being hit upon, not one of them are incongruous with Dr. Keller’s position—under which, moreover, the historical Fall is not somehow rendered nonsense. And a moment of thoughtful reflection should cause one to consider this possibility, for surely one would not presume that Dr. Keller is somehow ignorant of these issues, that they never occurred to either himself or the PCA as they examined the Scriptures.

      For example, how is death in the animal kingdom prior to the Fall problematic? Is there some scripture that militates against such a thing? Invariably one points to Romans 5:12-14, but it is not the animal kingdom being referred to in this passage. First, death is spoken of as a divine judgment upon all mankind as a result of Adam’s transgression, for he is the federal head of humanity, not the animal kingdom. Second, death was a divine judgment against sin, but the Bible does not provide us any reason to think animals sinned against God, either in themselves or in Adam. Third, death is juxtaposed with eternal life (v. 21), which again has mankind as the object through federal headship, death in Adam but life in Christ (soteriological context); the issues of sin and righteousness, condemnation and justification, death and life, Adam and Christ all serve to inform us that the context addresses anthropological and soteriological issues. Fourth, we see Paul stating that sin entered “the world” (Gk. kosmos), which does not by itself mean creation on the whole (Gk. ktisis) but rather humanity (cf. Matt. 13:38; John 3:16; Rom. 3:19; Ph. 2:15; Heb 11:7; see also John Murray, “The epistle to the Romans,” in F. F. Bruce (Ed.) New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 181). And fifth, verses 12 and 18 also underscore that it is mankind in view, not the animal kingdom, serving the very context of Paul’s overall point about federal headship and imputation. Furthermore, if death in the animal kingdom impugns God’s character, passages like Psalm 104:19-28 are difficult to understand, wherein it states quite plainly, “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. … When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

      What are we saved from? Our sin and carnality and God’s divine judgment against it.

      • Chad

        But doesn’t Romans 8 clearly connect the “groaning” of the material world with the curse that was leveled by God when Adam sinned?

        • maythis12

          Chad — I believe the answer is… yes, it clearly does!

          Any elementary study of the Hebrew language will show that Hebrew word for die in the OT (or death), mût (or mavet), is used only in relation to the death of man and animals with the breath of life — not regarding plants. This is what Paul was referring to. But let’s eliminate that basic understanding to make room for the lie that is evolution, which is not even hinted at in Scripture.

          “Cursed is the ground” (Genesis 3:17) Hmm… man’s sin had some consequence to the created world?

          As for the lions tearing their prey, God had not yet given animals as food at Creation– that happened after the flood. Well, that is if the flood actually happened… according to evolutionary theory, that’s not possible with our current biodiversity.

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  • freetoken

    Having followed the BioLogos issues for a while one thing I’ve tried to do is search the internet to assess how their effort is being accepted or perceived by the larger self-professed “Christian” community. I landed here in part due to a Google search after reading the online publication of the CT editorial (published online 6 June) and second BioLogos posting on this latest flare up of American Christianity struggling with a scientific discovery.

    One thing that leaps out at me is how the subject that drove the BioLogos position – Genetics – is not discussed at all is so many of the blog/news articles and forums that are covering this story.

    So far here, in the original sermon and the subsequent comments, there has been no mention of Genetics.

    Do people here understand the issue which modern genetics is laying before the Christian community?

    • Zachary Mccoy


      Per your comment, I read a genetics article from BioLogos (, and here was the conclusion:

      “So that’s the situation we are in with regard to the human population size in ancient history. There was a bottleneck. There were likely fewer people alive during that time than the number of fans attending a typical NHL hockey game. (We don’t know if they were all together in one village, of course, but the total was small.) However, it was not two people. Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear about that.”

      My presupposition is that God (through Christ) is the Sovereign Ruler of all that exists, has ever existed, or ever will exist. God has chosen to be revealed Generally (in Creation), Specially (in Scripture), and Personally (in Christ).

      If current genetic observations SEEM to be at odds with Scripture, it’s no matter, the science will mature over time.

      I do not have a particular explanation for why there seems to be a bottleneck of several thousand, instead of two. But, it’s not such a leap (for me) to think that The Infinite God should create in such a way that creature cannot (yet?) properly observe.

      Have you considered the scriptural analogy of God as the Potter and we as clay? How will these shards of clay begin to comprehend the skillful work of their most magnificent Potter? Will the pots begin to explain their chemical composition? I tell you they will understand nothing except what is made known to them by their Maker.

      • maythis12

        Not to mention that this study was completed by the same “scientific community” that completely ignores young dates from a multitude of dating methods simply because of an a priori commitment to their “theory.”

        • freetoken

          Consider carefully if you really want to become a cloistered religion, hiding from the world around you in fear of changing. Certainly religious people have done that in the past – and everyone else in the world went on with life. But you will lose any relevance you still might have if you want to ignore cures to diseases or paternity cases in court, afraid that the tools used might lead to you change your pre-conceived notions which you find so comforting.

          • maythis12

            “hiding from the world” is quite different than being “set apart from the world” as we are commanded.

            Rejecting macro-evolution in no ways nullifies operational science like paternity tests, and hasn’t been central to any cure for diseases… challenge: Name one.

      • freetoken

        The article you found at BioLogos is a nicely written concise summary of some aspects of genetics and human bottlenecks. Yet it only touches one aspect of the challenges that genetics (in the greater sense) brings to society. In the case at hand the challenge for those who want a literal, historical Adam and Eve is that genetics shows that by ancestry all the people alive today did not come from two people a mere 300 or so generations (i.e, roughly 6000 to 10,000 years) ago.

        Space (and time) here certainly doesn’t permit a full discussion of all the different discoveries in the sciences the past couple of centuries that have challenged literalists’ reading of the Bible, but the responses offered by literalist creationists tend to follow the same path: just say God somehow made the Earth/life/human-ancestry *look* old, even though it really isn’t.

        And that is quite a theological statement that creationists make, though they never start out verbalizing it, only inferring it. The implications are staggering.

        Contemporary genetics can be used to determine ancestry – e.g., check if your parents are really your parents, or if your grandparents are really your grandparents. And so on. Yes, really.

        This issue will not disappear. Genetics is arguably the hottest science around, the focus of societies around the world, in order to better lives through various innovations. While I don’t agree with everything the BioLogos members write, in this case I really do think they are trying to help the evangelical/fundamentalist believers avoid a disastrous crisis in faith in the coming decades.

        • David Smart

          Not to be overly pedantic but that is not actually a challenge to those who affirm a literal, historical Adam and Eve. It is a challenge only to those who affirm that all mankind arose from these first parents less than 10,000 years ago.

          (P.S. When it comes to bettering lives “through various innovations,” you are speaking of technology, not science. There is a difference between scientific knowledge on the one hand and what we do with it on the other.)

          • maythis12

            Thank you for making this distinction. Now perhaps we are closer to making the distinction between science (operational, observable) and history/religion (evolution, creation, etc).

  • Fred Butler

    Do people here understand the issue which modern genetics is laying before the Christian community?

    Yes, and it is highly overrated and overstated by Biologos. Their opponents have interacted with this so-called evidence for years but it is ignored because Biologos folks don’t respect their criticisms and their blog supporters are too lazy to do their own research as to what these Christians have said.

  • David Murray

    As I’m still struggling to understand this view and its potential implications, I have a couple of (real not gotcha) questions for Dr Keller or someone who shares his view.

    1. Are you saying that Adam and Eve were the end result of a millions-of-years-long process of evolution (single cell>human being)? Or are you saying that just the universe and the animals evolved, while Adam and Eve were created “instantly” by a special creative act of God?

    If the answer to the latter question is “yes” then ignore the following questions.

    2. Were Adam and Eve the first human beings to emerge from this evolutionary process? Or were they picked out by God, for a special purpose, from a number of possible options that had emerged into human being status?

    3. If there were others who had also become human beings, or if there were others maybe a couple of evolutionary steps away from receiving a soul and becoming fully human, what happened to them when Adam sinned?

    I’m honestly seeking clarity rather than critiquing.

    • Kenny Taylor

      Good questions

    • taco

      These are indeed good questions. I asked a similar question above that was not answered by anyone that I think is related to this but more so with Keller’s view within itself as Keller seems to be affirming ‘evolution’ in his answer in the affirmative to question asked at the beginning of the post yet claiming OEPC and denying ‘theistic evolution’ (see comment from Dr. Keller). I look forward to seeing a post from Dr. Keller explaining his position more clearly as he usually communicates very effectively. (re: his recent work regarding hell and Rob Bell) Or if someone could correct my this understanding if it is mistaken here that would be appreciated.

    • nancypants

      Good questions. I’d also be curious about how the female component came about pre-Eve if there were billions of years of reproduction leading to evolutionary maturity… Why would Adam have found for Himself no suitable helper then? It seems like there would have been plenty to choose from. Scripture also tells us that God breathed into Adam and He became a living soul… Was he living before and merely soulless and out of the perfect communion we see in Genesis with God until infused with a soul? Also, quite apart from my other questions, what does an evolutionary creationist do with irreducible complexity? (These aren’t “gotcha” questions either, but legitimate questions of the evolutionary creationist position.)

      • maythis12

        You are correct that there are countless scientific problems with evolution…

        However, I don’t believe these issues would pose a problem to those who are already compromising the Scripture. If we are already tailoring Scripture to match what we think we know about science, then we’ve taken “science” as gospel (unfortunately that’s not just a figure of speech). If we’ve already accepted what evolutionary “scientists” are claiming, then we simply haven’t looked at any real science (so we don’t know what irreducible complexity is, or the problems it poses)… instead of critiquing the “science,” we’ve given it the place of authority and instead critique Scripture. We have already accepted the “science proves evolution” mantra without giving Scripture its proper authority, and without giving real operational science any respect. Again, the issue goes back to authority and humility, rather than good science.

    • David Smart

      David Murray (and taco),

      Although I reject the view Dr. Keller adopts on Genesis, I have studied this issue at length and understand progressive creation (and the competing alternatives), so I will attempt to answer the question you and taco seem to share.

      No, progressive creation denies phyletic gradualism and common descent; i.e., Adam and Eve were not “the end result” of long evolution. Progressive creation affirms microevolution, that species-change happens laterally by the laws of nature God instituted but the arrival of new biological forms resulted from divine intervention, where God steps in and specially creates. For example, while mankind adapted evolutionarily to his environment (and thus the morphological differences between, say, Inuit and central African populations), the species Homo sapiens was a product of special creation. This applies to all new species, not just the creation of Adam and Eve.

      Evolutionary creationism differs from progressive creationism in that it affirms either phyletic gradualism or punctuated equilibria and in either case common descent. However, they believe that God was actively involved throughout the process; thus they reject dysteleological natural selection in favour of teleological divine selection. So they affirm divine evolution in the same way one might affirm divine embryology; i.e., despite understanding empirically the science of embryology, it is firmly believed that God knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psa. 139:13-16).

      Beyond that we get into theistic evolution (which is deistic in its view of God creating the universe ex nihilo via the Big Bang from that singularity but thereafter sitting back and letting nature operate by itself) and ultimately atheistic evolution (which believes that God is wholly unnecessary for anything).

      So that is the old-earth spectrum: from progressive creationism, to evolutionary creationism, to theistic evolution, to atheistic evolution.

      Interestingly there is a spectrum in the young-earth wing, too. Some young-earth creationists interpret Genesis and the Scriptures so literally that they affirm a flat-earth geocentricism (e.g., Flat Earth Society); other young-earth creationists accept that Earth is an oblate spheroid but still affirm geocentricism (e.g., Association for Biblical Astronomy); and other young-earth creationists accept that Earth is an oblate spheroid as well as the heliocentric model.

      As you can see, we all draw a line as to where we allow science to inform our understanding of nature and Scripture (God being the author of both), including young-earth creationists who allow science to function as a corrective in their interpretation of scriptural passages that speak, for example, of earth being the center of the solar system and universe. What is ironic is that the arguments they use against old-earth views is practically identical to the arguments that geocentrists use against them.

      • RazorsKiss

        Always looking for a new pulpit to preach the new “gospel” of immaterial creation to the benighted, eh, David?

        • David Smart

          It is unfair and somewhat insulting that you would consider the visitors at The Gospel Coalition “benighted,” Joshua. Unless of course you are suggesting that I consider them benighted, which is no less unfair and insulting. I struggle to understand the meaning and motive of such a tone taken by you just here, or how either myself or anyone else might have earned such an uncharitable remark from someone who is ostensibly a brother in Christ. Moreover, I have not even preached any particular view here; I am simply engaging concerns and questions that are being raised because this is a subject I find rich and rewarding theologically and scripturally. As for “the new ‘gospel’ of immaterial creation,” which I assume is referring to Walton’s thesis, I simply concurred with Tony’s positive reception of it; I am not sure how that could be construed as “preaching” it.

          • RazorsKiss

            Given the context you know exists for the comment, David, I think it’s clear what I meant. You and I have discussed another issue previously, as well. I won’t take up any more space in these folks’ comment section to clarify further, but given the reply was to you, I think the intention is plain.

            • nancypants

              See how hard it is to determine authorial intent?!

              I have no idea of y’all’s previous differences here or anywhere else but FWIW (which is probably very little) I thought David’s explanation very helpful and kindly written. Thank you David.

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  • truthmatters

    “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.” When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” Genesis 5:1-5

    Jesus said-“haven’t you read,” he replied, “THAT AT THE BEGINNING THE CREATOR MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,’ ( The Greek word for beginning, means “first” Chief in various applications of order, time, place or rank) and said, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and…” Matthew 19: 4,5

    It is clear from Scripture that there was nothing prior, leading up to Adam and Eve. Even a child believes it is silly, that a frog can turn into a prince. Doesn’t Mr. Keller believe that each creature produces after their own kind? – Is this not hard evidence that Genesis should be taken literally?

  • Peter C.

    As Ron Osborn wrote in Spectrum,

    “Literalism assumes, however, that human language is intrinsically capable not only of guiding us toward God but also of unequivocally revealing or disclosing God in the form of linguistic signifiers. What is more, it confidently declares that we can read these signifiers without any necessary gap between what the signifying text says and who God really is. In the name of honoring God’s Word, literalism thus subtly displaces God’s actual sovereignty. It tends toward a kind of idolatry—what we might call “bibliolatry”—that stresses propositional truths and human cognitive powers in a way that denies the radical “otherness” of God and the freedom of the Creator to be the Creator beyond all human signifying speech.

    A parable: To plagiarize Dostoevsky’s legend of the Grand Inquisitor, let us imagine that Christ one day appeared on earth and began to teach and preach among us, leading his church into greater truth. Let us imagine also that one of the things Christ taught us was that we have been mistaken in our tidy language of “six literal contiguous 24-hour days” when we have talked about the creation. What if Christ told us that something far more mysterious, terrible, and at the same time glorious than anything we have ever imagined had unfolded, and that this was what Genesis had really been saying to us all along. How would we respond to the living Word? Would we embrace Christ’s message? Or would we “correct” God himself for shattering our systematic theology? Would we give thanks for the new light Christ had given us? Or would we declare him to be a blasphemer and a false Messiah and drive him from our midst (or worse) because we could not reconcile living Truth with our most deeply held assumptions about our sacred book?”

    • maythis12

      My apologies in advance for the length of this reply to Peter’s post… there are many issues to address.

      We are certainly limiting God’s power when we say He is unable to communicate to us in a concrete fashion. He created us, and He created language. Is he somehow unable to use the language He created to communicate with his creation? If we accept the end of the logic Osborn proposes, then exactly what good is Scripture? It would make no sense to even be discussing what it means if we inevitably can’t know what it means… In fact, what good were the words Jesus spoke when He was on earth? If you agree with Osborn, you must also give up everything you’ve ever read or been taught, as this has all been language based. In the end you’re left with nothing.

      Even then, I don’t believe anyone here is proposing complete literalism. I believe we are proposing that whatever Scripture clearly speaks to is true and knowable.

      I hesitate to use human writers, for obvious reasons, but Kevin DeYoung makes a good point in, “Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be),” p. 36-37:
      The emergent agnosticism about truly knowing and understanding anything about God seems to be pious humility. It seems to honor God’s immensity, but it actually undercuts His sovereign power. Postmoderns harbor such distrust for language and disbelieve God’s ability to communicate truth to human minds that they effectively engage in what Carson calls “the gagging of God.” For example, Tomlinson writes, “To say Scripture is the word of God is to employ a metaphor. God cannot be thought of as literally speaking words, since they are an entirely human phenomenon that could never prove adequate as a medium for the speech of an infinite God.” In a similar vein, Bell writes, “Our words aren’t absolutes. Only God is absolute, and God has no intention of sharing this absoluteness with anything, especially words people have come up with to talk about him.”
      Such statements fly in the face of redemptive history and nearly every page of Scripture. The God of the Bible is nothing if He is not a God who speaks to His people. To be sure, none of us ever infinitely understand God in a nice, neat package of affirmations and denials, but we can know Him truly, both personally and propositionally. God can speak. He can use human language to communicate truth about Himself that is accurate and knowable, without ceasing to be God because we’ve somehow got Him all figured out.
      We may all be, by nature, like blind men touching the elephant without knowing whether what we are feeling is a trunk, tail, or ear. But what if the elephant spoke and said, “Quit calling me crocodile, or peacock, or paradox. I’m an elephant, for crying out loud! That long thing is my trunk. That little frayed thing is my tail. That big floppy thing is my ear.” And what if the elephant gave us ears to hear his voice and a mind to understand his message (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14–15) [I would add v10-16]? Would our professed ignorance about the elephant and our unwillingness to make any confident assertions about his nature mean we were especially humble, or just deaf?”

      Let us imagine that one day Christ did actually appear to us as is stated in the Scripture, and that everything He taught was consistent with and confirmed what the OT writers and prophets indicated concerning God. Then what would we do? Would we be like the Pharisees who insisted despite all evidence that they were still right in their twisted use of the texts?

      Let us imagine that truth actually exists, and that by definition there is no such thing as “greater truth,” but simply true and not true.

      Let us also imagine, no — let us KNOW — that our Creator did actually give us ears to hear and a mind to understand (1 Cor. 2:10–16.)

      If this imagined person showed up teaching anything other than what Scripture clearly states, we are instructed by the Word to ignore such a teacher (Galatians 1, especially v 8).

      You are, in fact, attempting to drive Truth out of Scripture because you cannot reconcile what Scripture says with your most deeply held beliefs about “science.”

  • RazorsKiss

    “we must not be so 100% certain of all our interpretations of the Biblical authors’ meaning. That kind of arrogant certainty is by no means consistent with what the Bible says about the noetic effects of sin on our minds.” – Dr. Keller

    “there is now little doubt that God has created all life forms, including human beings, through an evolutionary process. God could have created in an instant. After all, in the supreme divine act of all time Jesus was raised from the dead—in an instant. However, it now seems certain that this is not the way He chose to create the human body. God’s process was gradual, not instantaneous.” – Darrel Falk, President, The BioLogos Foundation

    Illustrative of the myth of neutrality, is it not?

    • maythis12

      I think you’ve cut through it all and hit a very interesting point here. Let me try to summarize this sad position:

      1. God is so much more powerful than we are [I agree so far]
      2. We are not capable of understanding Him, and He is not capable of communicating with us, since we are of such low order [um, He states that He’s communicating to us through the Spirit of Christ, but nevermind that]
      3. We cannot know anything that God has shown us with certainty
      4. Since scientists are on our same low order we can understand them and they can communicate with us [eh, no problem here I suppose]
      5. We can know with certainty what scientists are communicating to us [even though sometimes when they talk about life just appearing on the backs of crystals it gets a bit hazy]
      so… um, well… I seem to be missing a few logical steps and the reasons for them, but
      QED: We can know for certain that what scientists tell us is true! [oh my…]

  • Joe

    Just found this on another site. Thought it was applicable. It is an interview with Keller about his views on Creation. From:

    Interviewer: Why have you avoided using arguments from intelligent design in your apologetics?

    Keller: James Boice was a great preacher at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia years ago. When he preached on Genesis 1, he talked about young-earth creationism, theistic evolution, and progressive creationism. He went through the gap theory (that there were essentially two creations on either side of the gap in Genesis 1:2). He went through all the various theories that evangelical Christians with a high view of Scripture have come to. He showed the strengths and weaknesses of every one.

    Nobody does that anymore. Nobody says different Christians might come down in different places here and still have a high view of Scripture. Instead, they identify their take as the wise one, and say everyone else is selling out or something.

    In today’s climate, to come down on a theory of creation would be as bad as if I said, “I’m a Democrat” or “I’m a Republican,” because then the people of the other party aren’t going to listen. They’re going to say, “So your gospel isn’t for Republicans,” or “It’s not for Democrats,” or “It’s not for me, because I believe in evolution.”

    So I want to be noncommittal. I don’t want the people who don’t like one creation view to feel like now they can’t listen to the rest of the gospel.

    Instead, I point out that it’s a red herring to go after that before you decide whether Jesus died and rose again. Two people said [last night at a Veritas forum]: “I can’t believe in Christianity, because look at the fossils.” And I was trying to say, “Because you believe in evolution does this mean that Jesus Christ couldn’t be raised from the dead?” One said, “No, that has nothing to do with it.” If he was raised from the dead, then you have to take seriously the Scripture and you have to work on all this. If he wasn’t raised from the dead, who cares about Genesis 1–11?

    • David Smart

      Overall, I love Dr. Keller’s point there. However, I might have a slightly different take on something he said (although for all I know this might be what he meant). If the Republican versus Democrat point was intended to be an analogy of Young-Earth versus Old-Earth, then the problem is even more fundamental. Specifically, we are asked to share the gospel with the world of unbelievers, which the age of the earth is not by any means a tenet of. How we view the Genesis creation account is an exegetical issue, which means an in-house discussion within the church.

      • Geoff

        David, I just wanted to thank you for your responses on this thread. They answered many of the questions I had after reading the post. I believe you were true to the Gospel and Christ was honored by the level of your dialogue here.

        One comment regarding his Democrat Vs Republican comment, he has used that analogy in several places to illustrate two groups of people that take sides on things and follow “party lines.” In such cases civilized dialogue is often challenging. From my understanding, Dr. Keller is first an evangelist. So to echo what you said, I believe he is saying that in order to subscribe to any form of creationism you must first accept the bible as an authority, or more to the point, The Authority. To accept the bible as an authority, you must accept that Jesus rose from the dead. If we start the debate at the line of evolution, we are missing the Gospel and missing the point.

        • David Smart

          Your warm and kind words are incredibly humbling, Geoff, and a spiritual encouragement. Beyond that I hardly know how to respond, other than to thank you and give God the glory.

      • maythis12

        False. Because it involves both our origins and the origin of sin and death, is central to the gospel. It is not simply an in-house debate (although for the most part I think that’s what it is on this particular blog) because there are many people who are unbelievers who find that this is their stumbling block.

      • Joe

        David I think the Republican vs Democrat comment was to answer the interviewers question on apologetics. In today’s politics we “tune out” the other side without even listening to their arguments because of party lines. Keller says picking a side on creation is like that–that if you do apologetically the other side will no longer listen to you.

        Better, he says, when presenting the gospel to not pick a side, but keep Christ, and the authority of Scripture central. Cheers

        • maythis12

          I agree with your comments, insofar as how you’ve summarized Keller’s position. However, that puts a new spin on things — was Christ in err because people didn’t always listen to what He said (how many of us have actually been killed for our beliefs on Creation or evolution?)? Or should we be preaching the uncompromising truth no matter who listens and trust the Holy Spirit to reach those He pleases?

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  • James S

    I am fully convinced that Tim Keller is wrong about Genesis 1, but I still love him as a brother. I think we are all imperfect somewhere in our theology. Only God knows our hearts. He knows whether we innocently believe the things we do, or whether we believe them because we are trying to fit something to how we want it to be. He knows if we truly have good reason or bad reason based on all we have studied to believe what we believe. We don’t even know our own hearts like that. So I can’t get too down on the guy no matter what.

    Personally, I dont find that I need to gain more faith in my belief of young earth creation and literal days since I have never had any doubts about it whatsoever. I have read all the different ideas and beliefs and explanations for them about Genesis 1 over many years. I have no trouble or effort involved in believing what I do, it could not be more natural and obvious to my understanding. I find it a little too uncanny, to say the least, that macro-evolution even has any acceptance at all since it is quite illogical and has no proof whatsoever, but thats me, and I can’t expect everybody to see things as clearly as I do.

    I don’t hope to ever bring anyone to the level of faith I have in my belief, since I don’t think I had anything to do with having the full faith that I have. God has made it completely obvious to me, compelling me and making me completely content and at ease with it. I have never found anything compelling about any other claim even in the least.

    I find that the hard thing for me is keeping from being prideful about it. I am certain that I’m right, and its very easy to boast of this, but its definitely wrong to boast. So thats why I normally stay out of these kinds of posts and threads, but I always read them.
    So with the first and last thing I will probably ever say about this subject in a comment thread anywhere, I thank you for the interesting reading.

  • truthmatters

    “The evolutionary lie is so pointedly antithetical to Christian truth that it would seem unthinkable for evangelical Christians to compromise with evolutionary science to any degree. But during the past century and a half of evolutionary propaganda, evolutionists have had remarkable success in getting evangelicals to meet them half way. Remarkably, many modern evangelicals. . . have already been convinced that the Genesis account of creation is not a true historical record. Thus they have not only capitulated to evolutionary doctrine at it’s starting point, but have also embraced a view that undermines the authority of Scripture at its starting point.” – John MacArthur

    • Peter C.

      Well, an army of earth scientists are now out of a job thanks to MacArthur’s bible literalism. Attn: geologists, paleontologists, meteorologists, mineralogists, marine scientists—nothing to see here, go on home! You’re out of a career. All just a big cosmic misunderstanding, you see.

      Stop treating the Bible as a science book instead of a book revealing God’s plan of salvation. God is larger than your narrow hermeneutic, John MacArthur. God can be both a God of a 4 million year old earth AND a God of Jesus.

    • David Smart

      (1) I firmly believe that Genesis is a true historical record. (2) I reject young-earth creationism. (3) I reject evolutionary doctrine as a starting point. (4) I reject any view that undermines the authority of Scripture. (5) I firmly believe the only safe and right starting point for Christians is God and his word. As I persistently affirm, “The truth of God is our beginning, the word of God is our means, and glorifying God is our end.”

      Ergo, MacArthur’s rebuttal hits a narrow target that leaves quite a few old-earth creationists untouched.

      • Peter C.


        Regarding your point (1). Would you agree with this statement: Genesis is both a “true historical record” but need not be a “literal” historical record?

        • David Smart


          First, I would not agree with that statement, no. I think Genesis must be interpreted literally as an historical record. But I reject young-earth creationism because it does not interpret Genesis literally (which puts the irony on the whole thing). Second, I confess it does not even make sense to me, regarding your question, how something can be history but not literal.

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    • maythis12


  • Marco van Dijk

    Excuse me Mr. Tim Keller, but you are totally wrong. What about the formation of Eva from the rib of Adam? Also an biological Proces?!

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  • Mike Smith


    Thanks for all your comments. However, as David says above I think you are too quick in dismissing the alternative arguments and have even at times caricatured them unfairly. Moreover whilst I appreciate your concerns for the Bible to be the final authority – many of your counter arguments only refer to the Bible relatively briefly.

    – Romans 5: You have not adequately answered this question – Paul does seem to be referring quite specifically to human death in a contextual reading of the text.

    – Genesis 1: a plain reading of the text surely must include a careful grammatical-historical approach (as is appropriate in all biblical exegesis). And on this basis, the framework hypothesis or moderate concordist readings may be valid. I would encourage you to re-read these views again and critique them fairly.

    – Gen 3:17 / Romans 8: There is no doubt that man’s sin had consequences to the created world. Neither David nor Tim have ever denied that. They were emphasising that sin entered through Adam, and then through fallen humanity, sin deeply affected the world.

    – Animals as food before flood: you may be right with respect to animals being human food (Gen 9:3), although again this is debatable (cf. Gen 3:21, Gen 4:20). But your flood theory doesn’t discount he fact that animals may have been food for each other before the flood as in Psalm 104, just that they may not have been food for humans.

    – “evolution not hinted at in scripture” – well i guess that depends on what you mean by the word “evolution”. An evolutionary creationist (as David refers to below) might see evidence in Gen 2:9 or Psalm 104:14 for example. They may be wrong but they need to be shown how so on exegetical grounds as well as theological and scientific grounds and not just dismissed unfairly.

    – noetic effect of sin: what Tim and David have been arguing for is not that we cannot know God’s word truly or that it is not clear but that we all need to have some epistemic humility when it comes to things that Christians have had differing views on (even long before Darwin – see Augustine, Basil, Calvin, Irenaeus…). Other issues like infant baptism, church eldership/governance etc would potentially fall into these categories as well.

    Lets be people who sharpen each others understanding of the word with rigorous argument, but lets be people who also do that with gentleness, respect and humility. Hopefully I have tried to do that – if not I am sorry.

    Grace & Peace.

    The views on how to read Genesis 1 have been varied long before the arrival of Darwin. that In the context of Romans 5, it is clear that Paul doesn’t have in mind animal death but human death

    • maythis12

      Mike Smith,
      Thank you as well for your comments. I suppose I must give credence to the fact that I appear to dismiss many of these views very quickly. From the content of the posts that I was responding to, I had made the judgment that the posters had previously examined these items and simply ignored them. You are correct in pointing out that this may certainly not be the case. I also appreciate the tone with which you pointed this out — refreshing (not to mention challenging).

      – Romans 5: Someone else brought up Romans 5. While I hinted at the idea found in Romans 5, among other places, It was David Smart that specifically mentioned it (I hadn’t mentioned a specific reference because a holistic reading seemed (to me) to support what I was saying… you are right that I should have been more specific in my Scripture references). He stated that the Greek word for “world” (kosmos) in Romans 5 did not refer to the animal kingdom in this case. However, that is not a fair treatment of the text for these reasons, among others: 1. kosmos does in fact refer to the whole of creation in many places (Mat 13:35 is one good example)… I believe it is used more frequently in this meaning than in the “humanity” meaning, but I haven’t taken the time to nail that down. 2. kosmos frequently means a harmonious arrangement or order (which is what creation was before the fall, and would make perfect sense in this context). 3. Later in the same verse, there is a construct that is very specifically referring to “all men” (anthrōpos). If that is what the author intended in the first part of the verse, why not specify the same in the first part, since he was obviously very aware of the necessary greek grammar to do so. He seems to, instead, be making a point.
      It should be noted that Keller appears to agree with this reading of Romans 5, but I can’t tell for sure.

      – Genesis 1: I reject both these views for a number of reasons (they are basically the same for both). First, it is not the “plain” reading. A plain reading would respect the Hebrew construct for the word day. Yom is often used as a “period of time” and could have easily been contextualized to mean “period of time” in this case — but it wasn’t. It was very specifically hammered down grammatically as an ordinary 24-hour day. It’s possible you missed my post concerning the word yom. Yom has several meanings in the OT (24-hour day, daylight period of the day, general time period (ie, in the day of Noah…), etc.) When used with “evening” and “morning,” it is always an ordinary day. When used with ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc) it is always an ordinary day. It seems the author was attempting to preclude our current discussion. Second, I reject this view because it is only around because of “science.” If proper scientific method would be followed, “science” would be unable to say anything about the origins of the earth (although the overall implication would be ID). I also reject this view because it rejects a male/female creative distinction (ie, the creation of Eve from the rib) and Christ taught using that distinction. There are other reasons as well, but I sense this reply already become too lengthy…

      – Gen 3:17 / Romans 8: Agreed.

      – Animals as food before flood:
      Genesis 3:21 — In context, this would support my view. This is the first recorded “nephesh” death and introduces the substitutionary atonement. (While we’re here, let’s drop back to verse 3:20 where it describes Eve as the mother of all the living…)
      Genesis 4:20 — Unsure how this applies. This would seem to indicate that humans were in fact mastering the creation as commanded in Genesis 1:28-30 (which also, when read plainly, will indicate a vegetarian diet for all the beasts and birds and everything that moves.) It does not indicate or imply that the herdsman were actually killing their livestock.
      Psalm 104 — Presumably written by David, long after said flood. Poses no problem for the fact that animals were not to be food before the flood. Also, I think it’s important to note that animals (or humans) may have eaten each other before the flood, as a part of the curse that struck the world at the fall — but this would have been contrary to the command of God (as were many other things, thus the reason for the flood in the first place).
      Post-Flood Diet (Genesis 9:1-4) — Again, this completely supports the fact that God had yet given animals as food… only as substitutionary sacrifices for sin.
      Nothing here indicates animals eating animals pre-sin. Also, Isaiah 11:6-9 should be noted. When all things are made new, the lion and the lamb will lay side by side. While this doesn’t necessarily “prove” my point, it certainly would imply it very strongly.

      “evolution not hinted at in scripture” – I apologize for using this word hastily and without clarity. I flippantly used the term when I really meant something more like “the so-called ‘theory’ of macro-evolution which purports to be either the originator of life or God’s ‘helper’ in bringing about either animals or humanity.”
      Genesis 2:9, Psalm 104:14 – Not sure how that would do anything other than confirm the creation account, specifically God creating and giving life? It says nothing about a long process, trees developing from grass, etc… Please advise.

      – noetic effect of sin: I agree with them on their point, but not where they take it. It is NOT humble to discount what an authority says — that’s the antithesis of humility. In (an admittedly small dose of, given only by the grace of God) humility, I have accepted that whatever God speaks to in His Word must be true and reliable… and in the same humility, I have accepted the fact that God can communicate clearly to me about what He has done and will do (I will acknowledge that it would be great if I could take that humility a bit further and consistently submit to what He’s communicated…). In humility, I will fear my Authority, rather than my peers.

      “The views on how to read Genesis 1 have been varied long before the arrival of Darwin.” Agreed… (1 Corinthians 3:11-21) but just because there are “differing views” does not mean each view has a valuable or legitimate place in our theology. See Rob Bell for details. We must be on guard and search the Scriptures to weed out anything that is not true/consistent.

      • David Smart

        Thank you for finally commenting on Romans 5:12-14. I would like to give you the due respect of answering this, after which you may have the last word. (Incidentally, you did bring up this passage when you spoke about there being no death prior to the fall, for this is the only passage ever used to support that. I simply brought out explicitly what you referred to implicitly.) You said that it was “not a fair treatment of the text” to interpret kosmos here as referring to the world of humanity, and for three reasons. I shall respond to these.

        1. You pointed to Matt. 13:35 as support for kosmos referring to the whole of creation. First, even if that were true, what does that have to do with what Paul wrote in Romans? It may be noticed that I made my case within the text while you attempted to make yours quite outside of it. Second, you stated that Matt. 13:35 refers to the whole of creation but inconveniently neglected to show that it does. An assertion is not an argument, much less an exegetical one. Third, you said this is “more frequently” its meaning, providing a single reference in the face of the five references I provided (in addition to my citing Murray’s commentary); it seems prima facie evident that humanity is its more frequent meaning, something I took the time to nail down. Fourth, there is already a word that means creation on the whole, ktisis. Fifth, the context rules against such an interpretation; “the foundation of the world” here likewise refers to humanity. The prophet Asaph understood “that there was a hidden meaning in God’s ancient dealings with his people,” that a “typical, archetypical, and prefigurative element ran through the whole” which the evangelist here saw culminating in the Lord’s parabolic teachings (Vincent’s Word Studies); i.e., just as Asaph “delivered these parables and dark sayings, so Christ expressed the Gospel and the mysteries of it in a parabolical way, which were hid in God and under the shadows of the law, and so were kept secret from the beginning of the world and from the multitude, though now made known to the apostles, and by them to others, according to the will of God” (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible). It was to mankind, not creation on the whole, that God has been revealing divine truths. Finally, you said that you believe kosmos refers to creation on the whole more often than it does to humanity, but “haven’t taken the time to nail that down.” Then on what basis, pray tell, do you have that belief in the first place?

        2. You state that kosmos “frequently means a harmonious arrangement or order,” but again neglect to make your case, an assertion without argument. Perhaps you might be encouraged to not only take the time to nail that down but to also demonstrate that such was Paul’s meaning in his text, especially given his consistent reference to humanity throughout (vv. 12-21).

        3. You wondered why Paul did not refer to humanity at the beginning of verse 12 like he did at the end of verse 12. With all due respect, that is a question that practically answers itself, yes? Paul was referring to humanity not only before and after verse 12 but throughout the preceding and following chapters. Would someone honestly suggest that Paul broke from his context briefly in part of verse 12 which he had been maintaining throughout his soteriological exposition in this epistle? What reason would one even have for such a strange suggestion?

        • maythis12

          Once again (and I’m not sure exactly how many times this must be reiterated) I was NOT relying on Romans 5 (although I do believe it teaches this) when I made the statement about death entering through sin. If I recall correctly, the only specific references I gave to that effect were OT (Isaiah and Genesis?). The balance of Scripture as a whole indicates that death did not exist prior to sin. The only reason to deny that is if we need to make room for the death required for evolution.

          That said, I did not attempt to make the assertion that you said I did. My point was not that Romans 5 (after you brought it up) must and does refer to all of creation, but that it is unfair to say that it most certainly does not.

          You are correct that Romans 5 deals with the salvation of humanity. But to ignore Paul’s distinction here between “kosmos” and “anthrōpos,” and categorically claim that kosmos does not refer the animal kingdom is not a fair treatment of the text. They appear to be juxtaposed for a reason, and doesn’t break context.

          Romans 5 is not my source for a belief in a deathless world pre-sin, but I do believe it supports that view (along with the balance of Scripture). At the same time, I can’t say that you’re reading of that portion of the text is “wrong.” However, even if kosmos and anthropos were juxtaposed for some reason other than making a distinction, that certainly doesn’t cancel out the balance of both the OT and NT in relation to sin and death.

          As for being the more common use… Again, I did not make this categorical assertion, and my view on Genesis doesn’t rely on it. The straw man is yours if you want it — but for as many commentators as support your reading, there are just as many who say that the (very frequent) phrase “foundation of the world” (world = kosmos here almost exclusively) refers to the “creation of the universe.”

  • maythis12

    “Every Word He sends out will never come back empty.” Your view of Scripture is noted by your reaction to its quotation.

    • Zachary Mccoy


      No, I certainly understood it to be a quote from the Apostle Paul… I simply feel it was misapplied.

      In the context of Romans 1, those professing themselves to be wise were unregenerate people. To apply it to fellow Christians, who may happen to be severely mistaken on the Creation account (see my own comments in this thread), is another severe mistake…

      Take careful thought (Matt. 5:22)

      • maythis12

        I apologize for the misunderstanding. There was a reason I did not use quotations and/or a reference.

        Could you be more specific about your “feelings” (ie, which quote you are referring to, and why you “feel” it was misapplied?) I “felt” I could fly. But now I “feel” that I require an ambulance.

        Is the Romans 1 comment directed toward something i posted? If so, please explain which comment of mine you are trying to rebut, and how it would rebut it. I didn’t use Romans 1 in any of my previous posts, but it would certainly apply. If you are saying Romans 1 would make the case that those who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie are unregenerate… I’m not sure I’d be able to disagree with you very strongly, but I’m certainly not prepared to make the case that it applies to this conversation… that is beyond the scope of this forum, and something that I haven’t really taken a lot of time to examine.

        As for Matthew 5:22, I once again apologize for any perception I’ve given to cause anyone to think that I’ve called anyone a fool. It may not be a clear distinction to anyone personally offended by my comments about their beliefs, but I tried to take care to only refer to the false belief as foolish (as does Scripture) and not the person holding those beliefs. In fact, I believe that anyone on this forum holding those beliefs is not, for the most part, simply foolish, but simply misinformed. Possibly affected by the subtle deceit of Satan, certainly affected by the fall. If I believed they were fools, what good would it do to have this conversation? (Proverbs 23:9)

        Speaking of Proverbs, how bout 1:7?

        • rey

          In Romans 4:6 Paul says “David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works, saying ‘Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity.'” David doesn’t say what Paul claims, not in what Paul quotes, nor in the remainder of Psalm 32. Paul is twisting.

          • rey

            I mean “without works” — David says no such thing in any way.

    • Kenny Taylor

      Couldn’t the same quotation have been applied to you? Just throwing out quotes from the Bible and applying them however you like doesn’t mean God’s word is behind your argument. Come on now.

  • Greg Surrett

    There is no reason to place faith in the theory of evolution when one trusts the biblical creation account. The theory was designed around developing a naturalistic explanation of the origins of the universe, with the assumption that there is no higher power (or, as they would say, lacking the assumption that there is a higher power). Evolutionism is entirely incompatible with Scripture by nature of the process of thinking that leads to it as a conclusion.

    However, for the believer, there is a higher power. He has told us how he did it, and, in my humble opinion, scientific study oversteps its philosophical boundaries when it begins to discuss origins.

  • Paul Pyle

    I stand by my comment. When you take man’s theories and ideas and try to make them fit the Word of God by twisting and perverting the Word of God…then you are a fool whether you be a Christian or an unbeliever.

  • theothinker

    Dr. Keller,

    Thank you for sticking your neck out and talking about this subject. You’re likely to get hammered on all sides of the issue, but I think it is vitally important to discuss it within the evangelical segment of Christianity. I think we’re dying on the wrong hills. (Please excuse the overuse of metaphors!)

    I appreciate your boldness to speak to what you think is true in a humble but strong way. Sound hermeneutics and thorough exegesis, coupled with an accurate understanding of the natural world is a powerful thing. Hopefully we can learn from both books of God’s revelation.

    Thanks again.

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  • jason mcguire

    Where kind I find info. on all the so called evidences for theistic evolution as opposed to special creation. Who has written on these subjects and laid out the arguments in laymen’s terms.

    • maythis12

      You’re not going to have much luck finding that.
      Simply put, we’re all working with the same evidence… it’s not about scientific evidence — it’s about presuppositions (some presuppose God, some nature).

      If you’re simply looking for info on the idea of theistic evolution, you’re going to find a broad spectrum of writing as there are many attempts to add evolution to Scripture. David Smart does a good job of describing the different views in a post above.

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  • Armando

    David, Just a question you mentioned the theistic evolutionary view ,the big bang and singularity. In your opinion where do they say this singularity comes from or how it came into existence? Once again thank you for you well thought out replies and rebuttals I thoroughly enjoyed them and your gracious responses to some harsh personal critique.

    • David Smart


      I appreciate your kind words, thank you. As for your question about theistic evolution, I am afraid there is no answer because evolution regards biology, not cosmology. In other words, theistic evolutionists look to cosmological models for descriptions and explanations of the possible origins of the cosmos, and there are a few different models (all of which, by the way, are mathematical and unconfirmed by experiments or observations; i.e., it is math, not science). So you will have some theistic evolutionists that favour this model while others prefer that model, etc., but none of it has to do with evolution.

      Creationists on the other hand—from young-earth creationists, to progressive creationists (like Dr. Keller), to evolutionary creationists—all share the same belief in common, that the origin of the cosmos is found in God. Regardless of the eventual scientific description we develop for what happened, the Son of God made all things, “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17). Science is about exploring how God did it, not whether he did it; we already know he did. Theistic evolutionists, since they have little use for the Bible, will go on wondering where it all came from.

  • Sola Ratione

    There is a serious problem of evil generated by evolution:

    The scientific evidence that evolution is the mechanism by which we arose is now overwhelming. So, if Christianity true, it follows that God chose to create us by using a bloody, painful and violent process. But an omniscient God would have foreseen the suffering that evolution would entail. An all-loving and benevolent God would have been repulsed by the mere thought of it. And an all-powerful God could have easily used a different method. So the evidence for evolution renders Christian theism highly unlikely.

    See: An Evolutionary Problem of Evil

    • David Smart

      Sola Ratione,

      This so-called evolutionary problem of evil argument is no different than any other problem of evil argument, and is just as intellectually bankrupt. The argument holds only if suffering is gratuitous; given the nature and will of God, gratuitous suffering is logically impossible. In other words, there is no such thing as gratuitous suffering, nor can there be (just as there can be no Immovable Object where there exists an Irresistible Force). Given what results definitionally, gratuitous suffering cannot be assumed but must be proved—and if proved, then God vanishes necessarily.

      Gratuitous suffering cannot be assumed because: (i) to assert that gratuitous suffering has a probability greater than zero is to assert that gratuitous suffering is possible; (ii) to assert that gratuitous suffering is possible is to assert that the biblical God is impossible; (iii) to assert that the biblical God is impossible within a premise of an argument on the possibility thereof commits the fallacy of begging the question.

      • Sola Ratione

        Hi David,

        Thanks for your response. Suppose that the question before us, to use your analogy, is this:

        Is there such a thing as an Irresistible Force? Does it exist?

        One answer to this question might be this:

        ‘Given the empirical evidence available, there is a high probability that all objects are movable. Hence, it is highly likely that there is no such thing as an Irresistible Force.’

        This seems to be a reasonable argument, do you not think? Suppose, however, that someone then objected to this argument with the following:

        ‘To assert that the probability of moveable objects is greater than zero is to assert that moveable objects are possible. But to assert that moveable objects are possible is to assert that the existence of an Irresistible Force is impossible. But to assert that an Irresistible Force is impossible within the premise of an argument on the possibility thereof begs the question.’

        So what do you think? Does this objection succeed, in your view? Is there not something seriously wrong with it? And if so, how is it any different from your objection to the evolutionary problem of evil argument as I have presented it?

        Best wishes,
        Sola Ratione

        • David Smart

          Sola Ratione,

          It is difficult to make sense of this alternative argument. How does moveable objects being possible render an Irresistible Force impossible? That strikes me as incoherent. If there exists an Irresistible Force, then necessarily all objects are moveable. Ergo, yes there is something seriously wrong with this alternative argument.

          • Sola Ratione

            Hi David,

            You are quite right. Thank you for picking up my mistake.

            The initial argument should have read as follows:

            ‘Suppose that, on the empirical evidence available, there was a high probability that all objects are immovable. In that case, it would be highly likely that there is no such thing as an Irresistible Force.’

            Likewise, the objection should have read as follows:

            ‘To assert that the probability of all objects being immoveable is greater than zero is to assert that it is possible that all objects are immoveable. But to assert this is to assert that the existence of an Irresistible Force is impossible. And to assert that an Irresistible Force is impossible within the premise of an argument on the possibility thereof begs the question.’

            My closing questions remain the same.

            Sola Ratione

            • David Smart

              Sola Ratione,

              Now this argument is no longer an alternative one but, in fact, the very same argument I made (i.e., it is not any different from mine at all): instead of “gratuitous evil” it is “immoveable objects,” and instead of “the biblical God” it is “an irresistible force.” It is somewhat ironic that you could think this argument is an alternative to mine when in my very response to you I suggested the interchangeability of those terms as making my case, wherein I said, “Given the nature and will of God, gratuitous suffering is logically impossible … (just as there can be no Immovable Object where there exists an Irresistible Force).”

              So yes, on my view the objection succeeds—which is sort of why I made it. To assert that immoveable objects are possible is to assert that an irresistible force is impossible; but to assert that an irresistible force is impossible within a premise of an argument on the possibility thereof commits the fallacy of begging the question.

            • Sola Ratione

              Hi David,

              First, the argument was not intended as an “alternative”, but rather a “counter-example”. In other words, it takes the same form as your argument precisely in order to show that this form is fallacious (cf. ‘refutation by logical analogy’).

              Second, in asking whether the objection “succeeded”, I hoped it would have been clear that it needed to be evaluated in terms of its merit as a RESPONSE to the initial argument — that is, taking into account the dialogical context in which it was an open question as to whether or not there is such a thing as an Irresistible Force.

              At any rate, since that approach appears not to have any traction, I will try to make my case more directly.

              The philosophical problem of evil, as I understand it, is an objection to the existence of God. As such, it is situated within a dialogical context in which people are seeking to address the question: “Does God exist?” Posed in that context, this question would make no sense unless it is assumed by all parties that it is at least possible that God does not exist. In other words, the context is one in which God’s existence is an open question. Otherwise, why bother to ask?

              Suppose, in that context, I argue that, on the evidence available, it seems very likely that there are many instances of gratuitous suffering, both animal and human. But you respond by arguing that there can only be gratuitous suffering if God does not exist; so there can be no such thing as gratuitous suffering.

              Now who is begging the question here? The only way you can disallow the evidence that there is gratuitous suffering is by assuming, in advance, that God exists. But the existence of God is the very issue in question! By putting forward evidence for gratuitous suffering, I do not ASSUME the non-existence of God: I am ARGUING for the non-existence of God. Yes, gratuitous evidence logically excludes the existence of God; but that is precisely why the fact that we find suffering in the world that seems to us to be gratuitous COUNTS as a good reason for thinking that the existence of God is highly unlikely. We might be wrong, of course. There might be evidence — to which we don’t currently have access — that would show that the suffering was not, after all, gratuitous. But, given the dialogical context, this kind of ‘additional evidence’ cannot involve or entail the existence of God, since that would beg the question.

              Having said this, I suspect that you might respond by arguing (in Plantingian fashion) that, as a Christian, it would be irrational for you even to enter into this kind of dialogue. After all, the existence of God is, for you, not an ‘open question’ — and so any argument that appeals to the evidence of gratuitous suffering in the world can be ruled out, in advance, on the grounds that such a phenomenon would be logically incompatible with your theistic presuppositions. If so, then I guess we’ll have to just agree to disagree, and wait in silence until the final arbiter of death.

              Best wishes,
              Sola Ratione

    • maythis12

      I must give you credit for:
      1. Being correct about the problem of evil/suffering (It impugns God’s character to claim He used suffering to bring about the existence of man/animals, when — if all-powerful — He could have easily done it without.
      1.5 Knowing more about the consequences of a belief in the God of the Bible than many Christians do
      2. Identifying the logical fallacy (I believe the argument for God is basically the same as the argument for not God — it is a faith question, not a logic question. It forces accepting a postulate either way which is not logical.
      2.43 Apparently declaring that you do, indeed, have a presupposition (most people do not acknowledge that).

      That said, I would ask you to reconsider the “evidence for evolution” (especially look at 1. the assumptions ‘scientists’ make in their dating methods and 2. the circular relationship between rock layers, “ages” of fossils, and 3. the calibration of said dating methods) in light of a God hypothesis, and see how very nicely it all works out…

      • David Smart

        Sola Ratione,

        It would seem the misunderstanding is yours, given how you wrongly characterized my argument. Let me try to be as clear as I can be here. My point is this: the existence of “gratuitous suffering” (GS) and the existence of “the biblical God” (BG) are mutually contradictory states of affairs; thus within an argument about the possible state of affairs BG it is illegitimate to assume arguendo that the state of affairs GS is possible. Again, as I said originally, it is for this reason that GS cannot be assumed but must be proved. And if proved, then BG vanishes necessarily (since the two are mutually exclusive).

        Either the state of affairs BG is possible or the state of affairs GS is possible, since they are mutually contradictory. In a world where an Immoveable Object (or GS) is possible, in that world an Irresistible Force (or BG) is impossible, and vice versa. If the state of affairs BG is the “open question” before us, then it begs the very question to assume arguendo that BG is impossible. (And what my rebuttal shows is that assuming arguendo that GS is possible entails necessarily that BG is impossible.) For this reason it is illegitimate to assume for the sake of argument that gratuitous suffering is possible. Thus it must be proven.

        And I wish you the best of luck with that. By assuming arguendo that the state of affairs BG is possible (since that is our open question), the state of affairs GS is necessarily impossible. You have shouldered for yourself a burden of proof that cannot be met—proving that the logically impossible is logically possible. Good luck.

        Since this discussion has nothing to do with Dr. Keller’s article, this will be my last response to you here on this. I encourage you to publish an article at your site defending your argument (e.g., with something that proves gratuitous suffering is possible), contacting me via email to let me know when it goes live. I will then respond in kind at my site. My contact information is there.

        • Sola Ratione

          Hi David,

          I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t find my response convincing. Thank you for your invitation to continue the dialogue elsewhere, but I’m not sure that I can make my case any clearer than I have already done above. So if you have not thereby been persuaded, there’s probably little point in ‘flogging a dead horse’, so to speak.

          In view of your reply above, however, I would like to make one final small clarification, and then I am done.

          Suppose we agree to have a dialogue in which the question of BG’s existence is genuinely open. As I tried to make clear in my previous response, that means we will have agreed to start by assuming that God may OR MAY NOT exist.

          In other words, our starting assumption would not be merely, as you put it, “that the state of affairs BG is possible”. To assume that would be to beg the question in favour of theism.

          Instead, the starting assumption would need to be this: ‘that (a) the state of affairs BG is possible AND (b) the state of affairs not-BG is also possible’ (i.e. God may or may not exist).

          But in that case, when we then begin to look at the evidence for and against the existence of God, we cannot simply rule out, on logical grounds alone, the possibility that there are instances of GS. Why? Because ‘it possible that GS’ is logically compatible with our starting assumption that ‘it is both possible that BG and possible that not-BG’.

          Well, I think I may have used up all the ‘good luck’ at my disposal, so time to sign off. It’s been a pleasure to ‘speak’ with you David, and I hope our paths will cross again.

          Best wishes,
          Sola Ratione

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  • Noé P. Campos (Brazil)


    Every human being who really wants to know the truth comes to it, and every one that comes to the truth knows that Adam and Eve did really exist. As a man of Science, I and other Christian partners of Brazilian Society for Progress of Science had a time of fight with its main “scientific” stream, and we defied them to justify the amount of holes that Theory of Evolution cannot explain.

    My lectures on Science and Bible rely on this point:

    “The true Science and the Bible correctly read and interpreted don’t fight one another, because the Truth is unique”.

  • Michael in Dublin

    The main point of Genesis 1 is clear – God is the Sovereign Creator of our world and the universe. This is repeated time and time again in different ways throughout the Scriptures. I find the opening words to the Hebrews (1:1-4) particularly helpful. While much of the Bible is quite simple and clear, the passages like those relating to the creation, Adam and the fall in Genesis 1-3 are certainly not so simple when we approach them with our reasoning minds. However, this is all a part of what God has revealed. I cannot trust my reasoning ability (which is limited because I am a mere creature and not reliable because I am a sinful creature) and that is why the reminder in Hebrews that God has spoken and revealed to these things to his children through the record of the inspired Scriptures must always trump any contrary reasoning. While God encourages us to reason, the call to faith is a call to take God at his word and not to trump revelation with what so many unbelieving scientists and thinkers are claiming today. Or worse, what we hear from the pulpits of so many churches where the Bible is no longer viewed as the reliable word of God.

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  • rey

    Although the story of Adam is in the OT, none of Old Testament theology is actually based on it. That is proof enough that the story is virtually meaningless. Plus, the New Testament is all based on the theory that we need a son of Jupiter to die on the cross for us or we can’t be saved. But the OT in various places shows that God does not require blood sacrifice before he will forgive. Psalm 50, for example. The last verse clearly replaces all blood sacrifice with “praise” and “ordering your life aright.” After concerted bashing of sacrifices, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” We don’t need a sacrifice, neither a bull nor a goat, nor a son of Jupiter. If we will praise God with our lips and live right morally, we will be saved. The more you study the Old Testament, the more Christianity is seen for the fraud and imposture of paganism that it is.

  • Matthew Hamilton

    Hello! I have actually been doing a lot of thinking and reading on this lately, as well as writing on my blog. I actually have a few posts on this very subject, and today I asked a couple questions about the historicity of Adam and Eve. If you would be so kind to take a look and maybe answer my questions, I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!

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  • Steve Cranston

    I’ll grant that I didn’t read every comment in detail so I may be repeating something already stated by someone else. I’m reminded of reading someone having said, “It’s not the things I don’t understand about the Bible that cause me trouble, it’s the things I do.” This probably meant the passages we don’t like because they speak to our “issues” regarding obedience but there may be some application to this discussion, also.
    I must be missing something here….There’s no reason not to take everything in Genesis 1-11 as literally as the rest of Scripture, unless it is clearly allegorical. Most of what people have suggested as not being literal, including the days not being 24 hour day and night sequence, are an attempt to accommodate so-called “science” and evolution in some way.
    I heard Dr. John Whitcomb (co-author of “The Genesis Flood”; credited by many as being the significant beginning of the modern creationist movement)eloquently explain that there’s no need to take any of Genesis 1-11 as any less literal or historically accurate than the rest of the book. Leaving it open to “interpretation” in any other way gives one the liberty to do that with any of the rest of Scripture he chooses.
    God, who created everything out of nothing neither needed nor needs help with His finished work of creation or “interpreting” His Word.
    If this sounds critical or mean-spirited, please know that’s not my intent. I’m only wanting to emphasize, though in some small way, that when the Spirit of God works in one’s life to “remove the scales” of unbelief He also allows them to take His Word literally and not feel a need to accommodate so-called science. Real science affirms the truth of God’s Word. Anything else is pseudo-science.

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  • Bob Wetmore

    The rapid slide of evangelical theology away from the trustworthiness of the Bible leaves one gasping for breath. It does not seem that long ago when at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the late 70’s and early 80’s my professors talked about evangelical scholars who were claiming that their Bibles were infallible but not inerrant. Now it seems like a multitude of evangelicals are denying Adam and Eve as historical persons and think nothing of the decision. When does a person cease to be an evangelical?
    I would say to Tim Keller that you yourself do not entirely have clean hands in this frightening collapse of evangelical truth. You call for those evangelicals who embrace evolution to come up with a narrative as compelling as those who embrace a young earth. Don’t you realize that you cannot eat your cake and have it too? What reasonable scientist denies the evolutionary ascent of humans from pre-humanoids? If you accept evolution, on what basis do you reject Lucy or Neanderthals or some others as part way human? And then why on earth would God create Adam from dust and Eve from rib if entire races of pre-humans or proto-humans co-existed?
    Dr. Keller, you are caught in your own trap here. If you embrace evolution, you must embrace the history of the development of humanoids, some of which even created cave drawings. You must embrace artifacts of religious worship. Yet these are all BEFORE Adam! So what are they?
    And why create Adam from dust and Eve from a rib?
    Sooner or later admit the fact that either science is wrong or your faith is empty.
    It just will not work to keep the presuppositions of both.

    • rey

      But this problem is specifically Augustinian. Semi-Pelagians don’t necessarily need a literal historical Adam (despite that most of them undoubtedly do believe in a literal historical Adam). But since their theology doesn’t use a literal historical Adam as any building point (i.e. it ignores Romans 5) they don’t have anything to worry about at all.

  • rey

    ” It is impossible to be ‘in’ someone who doesn’t historically exist.”

    Its just as impossible to be “in” someone who does historically exist.

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  • John

    It is actually common knowledge that bible authors wrote scriptures using ancient knowledge, and ancient science. This is why Paul believed in the 3 tier universe (Philippians 2), because he was an ancient man, with scientific knowledge from the ancient time. Paul used Adam in his teaching with the objective to teach the importance of resurrection of Christ, and that is the essence of his teaching. If we insist on using his teaching to focus on the historicity of Adam, then we have greatly missed the rich meaning of Paul’s Christ centred teaching.

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