by Alan Ludwig
Last year I spent a month in Ethiopia on a teaching assignment. The skeleton of a prehistoric female ape is housed in the National Museum in Addis Ababa, the city where I taught and near where the skeleton was discovered. Pop science presents this “Lucy” as the mother of modern humans. I also traveled to the city of Lalibela, the site of ancient churches hewn out of stone. In the rock of one of the churches is a sign, inscribed in Amharic and English, that reads “The Tomb of Adam.”
The irony didn’t escape me that the same Ethiopia is the supposed resting place of two opposite contenders for the place of first parent. One is from the Bible. The other is the product of the Darwinian theory of evolution. One is a man, specially made by God with His own hands and breath, in His own image and likeness. The other is a female of an animal species still far below us on the evolutionary scale.
Could Lucy really have been some kind of “Eve”? According to Scripture, God took a rib from Adam and formed Eve as a helper for him. Sinless, immortal, probably more creative and intelligent than anyone has been since, the first couple was at the very top of the ladder and had dominion over all other creatures. Through their disobedience, they brought the original high state of humanity crashing down. Modern man is not upwardly mobile, as evolutionary theory would have it, but wallows in the ooze of sin, more beastly than the beasts.
Yet couldn’t the Genesis story be a metaphor to help “pre-scientific” people understand human origins? Besides the fact that our Lord and His apostles took Genesis quite literally (Matt. 19:3–6; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; Jude 14), there are deeper difficulties with trying to harmonize the biblical account of man’s creation with the likes of Lucy, who is supposed to be some midpoint in our species’ slow upward climb from the slime. When God made Adam, He made a perfect man with a view toward the incarnation. The Son of God in human flesh was God’s plan from the foundation of the world and before (Eph. 1:4; 1 Peter 1:19–20).
Christ came into the world as the second Adam, with all the perfection of the first Adam and much more. He became man in order to restore human nature to the glory it knew before the fall and even more so (Rom. 5:12–21)! God took woman from the side of man and joined the pair as one flesh, and this He intended as a picture and preview of Christ and His bride, the Church (Eph. 5:31–32).
If Christ doesn’t return before, perhaps one day science will take the myth of Lucy as mother of us all and cast it on the pile of dead fables together with the world’s standing on four pillars on the back of a giant tortoise. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will continue forever unchanged, as it has from the beginning of the world. The Genesis account of the creation of man and woman is an inseparable part of this Gospel. Here there is no place for Lucy.
The Rev. Dr. Alan Ludwig is a theological educator serving with the LCMS Office of International Mission in Novosibirsk, Russia.