Faces

The story of Adam and Eve with the snake is disarmingly simple. We may dismiss it outright as ridiculously unscientific and impossible to believe or to take seriously. However, it refuses to go away. In fact, it demands to be taken at face value. The human race most certainly had an origin, and even though one may hypothesize a more complex scenario of human beginnings, (which could be none other than an evolutionary scheme) it loses touch with the human soul in proportion to its complexity and uncertainty. In other words, we cannot get beyond the faces of Adam and Eve, and for that matter, the snake as well. Behind these faces, if they are not to be taken at face value, is nothing but darkness and confusion, a cloud impenetrable. Scientists might revel in this chaos, but evolution has not the power to capture the human imagination at large. We are stuck with Adam and Eve whether we understand them in a symbolic way, or literal way, or something of both. They are our dad and mom.

Certainly there is a symbolic dimension to them! Most of us know that Adam is a name derived from the Hebrew word ʹadāmâ which means “ground.” We are necessarily creatures tied to this earth. We might also know that Adam is the generic word for humanity as well, translated “man.” How did God form them? We simply do not know apart from the fact that the material with which He formed man is the same stuff of the ground. The crucial thing is that somewhere along the way God “breathed” intimately into “man” and he became a living soul, the body and spirit together becoming the imago dei. That Eve was taken from the man’s side is so artfully simple! It explains in one elemental stroke the yearning for one another and completeness when together. As we study the temptation narrative we see that Adam is every man and Eve is every woman. Written in an economy of style, this narrative unfolds into inexhaustible theological and psychological dimensions, exposing the inner essence of our humanity like nothing else written ever has. The modern world with all of its scientific knowledge and theory has nothing to compare with it. The same can be said of the snake and its symbolism!

So all we have are the faces of Adam, Eve, and the serpent. In them we have what we might call the “first man” motif, the “beautiful woman” motif, and with the serpent, the face of evil. These faces take us all the way through Scripture. The Bible is not interested in getting behind these faces to some scientific or philosophical exactitude to suit our modern cravings for mechanical explanations of origins. In them we have what we need to understand our humanity. To get behind them will do us no good. In the faces of Adam and Eve is the imago dei. In this lie all the treasures humanity could ever fathom ─ the great secret of ourselves, nature, and all created realms! The knowledge we thirst for is spiritual; the material by itself apart from the spiritual is but dust.

2 Responses to “Faces”

  1. A very interesting and plausible treatise about the understanding of the story of Adam and Eve that does not totally demean those who might believe in evolution.

    In Friendship,

    Joe

  2. Thanks, Joe. I am beginning to think outside of my own box on this. One thing I am beginning to understand is that one’s cosmology is what is important, not how one imagines the exact process of origins. By cosmology, I mean the maintenance of a firm belief in transcendence along with a firm belief in matter being created “good” (real and important to God and to us), and that time is “good” and leading to the consummation God intended for it. I am convinced that a theistic evolution (so C.S. Lewis and Pope JP II and many Vatican II scholars) can do this as well as the traditional belief in a literal Adam and Eve. My problem with evolution is with the non-theistic type which has no answer, I believe, to the problem of irreducible complexity.

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