I don't want to insert myself into that particular conversation, mainly because I don't think I can make much of a contribution in an exchange between two professionals on their own turf. I do, however, want to point you to the conclusion of Dr. Smith's review as it raises some issues I've wrestled with on this blog.
At the end of his review of Enns's book Smith turns to what he considers to be the root problem in trying to reconcile evolutionary history with the Christian faith. Specifically, this problem has less to do with how we read the bible--Should Genesis be read as literal history?--than with the theological problems evolution poses to orthodox theology. The main location of tension, according to Smith, has to do with the problem of evil.
Theologically, the doctrine of the Fall is doing a variety of things according to Smith. Primarily, the doctrine of the Fall makes the claim that humans are universally sinful and in need of a Savior. This is the part of the Fall that Enns focuses on in his book. The question he poses is straightforward: Do we really need to posit a historical Adam to make the claim that humans are universally implicated in sin? Enns's answer, given the Darwinian struggle inherent in evolution ("Nature red in tooth and claw") is that, no, we don't need to posit a historical Adam. Darwinian evolution could stand in for the Fall given that it is a process that would, in an unredeemed state, produce selfish and violent survival machines.
So far, so good. However, Smith goes on to note that the Fall isn't just trying to explain universal sinfulness. In addition to this, Smith argues, the Fall is also trying to explain the origins of evil. Critically, the Fall is making the claim that God is not the source and origin of evil. In this the doctrine of the Fall is a claim about the unmitigated goodness of God. Consequently, if we reject the Fall and claim that God "created" humanity via Darwinian evolution then we are left with the conclusion that God is the origin of evil. According to Smith that is the critical theological issue. The debate isn't about universal sinfulness, it's about the origins of evil and the goodness of God.
Here are the concluding paragraphs from Smith's review where he's making this point:
But it is in this context that I think Enns either misrepresents or misunderstands the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Fall and original sin. He speaks as if the doctrine of original sin was just an account of the cause of our universal human sinfulness (124)—and it is just this sort of causal claim that he thinks is untenable in light of evolutionary evidence for human origins. But Enns thinks we are free to abandon this causal claim associated with original sin and instead simply affirm universal sinful humanness—and hence the need for a Savior, thereby preserving the Gospel. We “must remain open on the ultimate origins of why all humans are born in sin (original sin) while resting content in the observation that all humans are born in sin (sin of origin)” (125).If you are a long time reader here you know I've been wrestling with this exact problem for many years. Specifically, given that I largely agree with how Enns reads the bible I have regularly struggled with how certain theological moves morph issues of soteriology into issues of theodicy. Smith has correctly pointed out that this is exactly what Enns has done in his book. Enns has solved the soteriological issues posed by evolution only to have created for himself (and for those who read the bible as he does) a suite of theodicy issues. In noting this I think Smith is exactly right.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Because if we don’t have an account of the origin of sin we will end up making God the author of evil—a thesis that has been persistently and strenuously rejected by the orthodox Christian tradition. Enns thinks he can save the Gospel by simply affirming universal human sinfulness without taking a stand on the origin of sin; but that is to fail to recognize that what’s at stake is the goodness of God. If God uses evolutionary processes to create the world and sin is inherent in those processes, then creation is synonymous with fall and God is made the author of sin—which compromises the very goodness of God. And if the goodness of God isn’t central to the Gospel, I don’t know what is. I don’t deny that this is an incredibly thorny issue; and this is not necessarily an apologetic for a “blow-by-blow” understanding of the Fall. I only point out that Enns’ account doesn’t recognize it as an issue. And that is a problem...
So the question now becomes, what are we to do about this?
As I noted in yesterday's post, I don't know if there is anything that can be done about it. Smith is right: if you accept evolution the easy work is soteriological in nature. The harder work has to do with the theodicy questions that get thrown up. In noting this Smith is an excellent diagnostician. And I agree with his diagnosis. The trouble is, what if you find the scientific evidence convincing? Yes, you're going to have to, per Smith's diagnosis, confront the issues of theodicy. But if the scientific evidence is convincing to you, well, this is simply the theological path you have to travel. And, yes, how many travel on from this point may indeed lead them away from orthodox faith. (For example, you might handle the theodicy problems posed by evolution by adopting a process theology position.)
In light of this conundrum, let me conclude with two related thoughts that might split the difference between Enns and Smith.
First, Smith argues that the doctrine of the Fall is an attempt to explain the origins of evil. I disagree. I don't think the doctrine of the Fall is, at root, an explanation for the origin of evil (though it does do some work in this regard). In Genesis evil, in the form of the serpent, predates human sin. And regarding the origins of the serpent, evil and Satan the bible is pretty much silent.
This silence provides some nice wiggle room for orthodox theology. The silence of the bible on this subject allows orthodox theology to retreat into "mystery" when questions of theodicy get too tough and too pointed. And that's handy.
But as I see it, that doesn't get orthodox theology off the hook. The questions are just as acute as they are for someone like Enns. The questions are just being dodged more artfully.
Enns, by contrast, has a bit of a different problem. Specifically, by getting into mechanisms and origins Enns is being much more specific. And in being so specific he lets the boogieman of theodicy out of the closet. Smith rightly notes this. Enns, being tied to a very specific scenario, can't play the mystery card so easily. But as I see it, Enns shouldn't get dinged on this account. By bringing theodicy to the forefront Enns isn't creating a problem. Rather, Enns is simply drawing attention to a problem that has always been there. A problem, in my opinion, that orthodox theology regularly sweeps under the rug.
This brings me to my second observation. At the end of the day, theodicy doesn't really boil down to the origins of evil. It boils down to this: Why'd God do it in the first place? Why, given how things turned out, did an all-knowing and all-loving God pull the trigger on Creation? Why'd God do it?
No one knows of course. Not Smith. Not Enns. Not me. My point here is simply to note that this is a live and acute question for everybody. So I think it right and proper for Smith to point this out for Enns. But the same question is pointed at orthodox theology and it doesn't have any better answers, just a "mystery" that allows it, often in cowardly ways, to retreat from answering the questions directly.
Theodicy has always been the root problem of Christian theology, orthodox or heterodox. There's no getting around that. The problem is no less acute here than there.
I don't care how you read Genesis.