New Perspectives on Human Origins: Three Challenges for Christian Theology

Saturday, March 10th 2018, 1:00pm to 5:00pm

Over the past decade, scientific and technical advances have transformed our understanding of human evolution. Paleogenomics (the recovery, sequencing, and analysis of genomic DNA from ancient individuals) provides powerful tools for retracing the steps of our evolutionary past. Newly discovered species such as Homo naledi point to multiple hominin lineages living simultaneously. New findings and advanced analysis of tools and cultural artefacts from Neandertals and other early humans tend to undermine our confidence in any cultural "big bang" that separates behaviorally modern humans from our earlier ancestors. Many of these findings are summarized in the 2016 book, The End of Adam and Eve: Theology and the Science of Human Origins. Discoveries since 2016 point to ever greater complexity in the story of human origins, with more precise details but less definitional clarity or simplicity in basic concepts and categories, such as the species Homo sapiens. These discoveries directly challenge three classic Christian theological ideas: (1) Human uniqueness and the "image of God", (2) human "fallenness" and the meaning of redemption, and (3) human diversity and unity. Addressing this challenge, even if only in a provisional way that keeps the door open for more discoveries and more revisions in our view of our origins, is beneficial for any theology that seeks to understand the core themes of the Christian faith, centered in Christology, in light of the best available insight into creation.

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