The story of Adam and Eve reminds the fundamentalist and secularist alike that the deepest wisdom of Scripture can only be uncovered with the help of the Spirit. Without God, the biblical text is just…text.
Of course, we miss all this when we insist the Bible’s origins stories are simply straightforward recitations of historical fact, one scientific discovery or archeological dig away from ruin. What both hardened fundamentalist and strident atheists seem to have in common is the conviction that any trace of myth, embellishment or cultural influence in an origins story renders it untrue. But this represents a massive misunderstanding of the genre itself.
It’s a bit like this: Imagine if, for your birthday, your entire family gathered—parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends—and in celebration of the anniversary of your birth, presented you with a formal reading of your birth certificate.
May 1, 1984. 10:05 a.m. 6 lbs, 14 ounces. Tupelo Mississippi.
That’s it. No dinner. No homemade cards. No cake and ice cream. No long, candle-lit evening retelling those familiar, exaggerated stories about how your dad nearly wrecked the car on the way to the hospital, or how you pooped all over that fancy take-home dress your grandmother made, or how your uncle kept flirting with the nursing staff. No laughter-filled debates over which you said first, “Mama” or “Dada.” No Internet searches for where the Olympics were held that year and who ran for president. No reminders that you were named after a beautiful shepherdess from the Bible and a stubborn schoolteacher from Appalachia.
Just the facts.
That would be weird, right?
We know who we are, not from the birth certificates and social security numbers assigned to us by the government, but from the stories told and retold to us by our community. Should the time of birth on your certificate be off by a minute, or should it be lost altogether, it wouldn’t change what’s most true about you—that you matter and are loved. . . .
The origins stories of Scripture remind us we belong to a very large and very old family that has been walking with God from the beginning. Even when we falter and fall, this God is in it for the long haul. We will not be abandoned.