(Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT via Wikimedia Commons)
What should Christians make of "cavemen" fossils in light of Scripture? That is the question two Christian apologists tackle in a recent magazine article published by Answers in Genesis, an apologetics ministry founded by Ken Ham.
The apologists featured in the Answers magazine article, David Menton and John UpChurch, explore the "often misunderstood and confusing" topic of cavemen, addressing questions like: Were they our primitive brutish ancestors? Did Adam and Eve really exist? The men address the ongoing debate about whether Christians should believe in the biblical account of creation without question, or whether they should explore how the account can be scientifically supported.
"Variation among post-Babel humans has led to a great debate among evolutionists, who wonder where they fit on the roadway to being 'truly human.' But that way of thinking misses the fundamental truth. When God created humans, He didn't define our humanness in terms of physical characteristics. We aren't human because we have two arms or legs or skulls of a certain shape or size. Our Creator, who is spirit, made us in His spiritual image," the authors write in the article.
"Genesis reveals aspects of what this implies," they continue. "Our early ancestors made musical instruments and tools, farmed, built cities, and otherwise represented God as stewards of His creation (Genesis 4). With that as our standard, we can cut through the confusion and bias. All those we call 'cavemen' (probably a misnomer) show the same characteristics as the first humans in the Bible."
These first humans were "all descended from Adam through Noah's family," the authors conclude.
They were also "very human, Homo sapiens, and thus were also in need of God's grace," Menton, a biologist who also works with Answers in Genesis, said in a statement emailed to CP. "According to the Bible in Genesis 4, the first humans made tools and musical instruments, and built cities. Ancient people were not primitives. Also, there are people today who live in caves, even in modern countries, but we don't consider them less than human."
Early humans are commonly classified as "cavemen," which is "somewhat misleading," according to Dale Mason, publisher of Answers.
"Many of these humans simply found temporary shelter or buried their dead in caves, as archaeology reveals," he said in the statement.
"Nevertheless, the term 'caveman' is often used as a catch-all for people who lived in an earlier era in human history -- the Ice Age," Mason added. "Even some Christian theologians are arguing that cavemen were on the evolutionary line between ape-like ancestors and modern humans. Sadly, when early humans are depicted as animal-like primitives, the term 'caveman' carries some baggage: that they were less than human."
The debate over evolution and creation is old, complicated and ongoing, as Christians were believing for centuries that everything in the Bible is literally true, but some of whom are now questioning many of its aspects, especially in recent years, given advances in science.
Currently, "even some theologians are beginning to question whether or not the first humans, Adam and Eve, were real people, and argue instead that primitive cavemen are our actual ancestors," the Answers in Genesis ministry points out. The ministry, which is "dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively," maintains that evolution and creationism are not mutually exclusive. One of the ministry's most famous accomplishments is the Petersburg, Ky., Creation Museum.
Christian apologists have been at work digging for scientific explanations for elements of the Bible that might appear unscientific. Christian scientists have also given the topic a lot of thought. The American Scientific Affiliation conducted a number of studies on Adam and Eve and the origin of man.
In "Adam and Eve as Historical People, and Why It Matters" John Collins, a Christian scientist and professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., writes, "The best way to account for both the biblical presentation of human life and our own experience in the world is to suppose that Adam and Eve were real persons, and the forebears of all other human beings."
"Some of the factors that lead to questioning a real Adam and Eve include the perceived impossibility that we could be done long ago; the parallels between the themes in Genesis and what we find in stories from other Ancient Near Eastern cultures (which led some to conclude that Genesis is just as "mythical" as these other stories are); and advances in biology that seem to push us further away from any idea of an original human couple through whom sin and death came into the world," Collins writes.
But Christians should not lose faith in the biblical account in Genesis, he added. "We must trust that God created the kind of world that He did because an evolutionary process involving selfishness, suffering, and death was the only way to bring about such creaturely values as novelty, complexity, and freedom," he says.
Still, Collins insists, reviewing the Scriptures in an attempt to make it credible with modern men is necessary, and therefore "the church needs more evangelical and Reformed scholars to enter the field of evolutionary theology, a field in which Roman Catholic and Anglican thinkers have excelled.
"For Christianity to remain intellectually credible and culturally relevant, it must be willing to revise -- and thereby enrich -- its formulation of classic doctrines if the secure findings of science call for revision. The task of Christian theology in every generation is not simply to repeat or paraphrase the tradition but to re-present it in fresh ways so that it can continue to speak meaningfully. Doctrines invite revisiting and possible reformulation when the church is confronted with new interpretations of Scripture and new understandings of the theological tradition, with new insights from the creation itself, and with new challenges from contemporary intellectual culture."
Daniel C. Harlow also addresses this problem in "After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science."