to be honest, i had no idea how to answer him! =P
then a few days later, i was in my uncle's office. he is clearing it out because he will be retiring soon, and he has all sorts of interesting stuff in there. one of his books caught my eye - "Creation or Evolution: Do we Have to Choose?" by Dr. Denis Alexander. i thought it looked interesting, and wondered how the author would handle that youth's question.
so i flipped through the book to find out what he had to say about it. this is a summary of what i found. he presented 5 possible models of understanding and connecting Genesis and Evolution:
- there is no connection at all between Genesis and Evolution.
- Genesis is a theological account, a story or a parable which teaches us about the role and importance of humanity in God's purposes; whereas Evolution is a scientific account, and the two are disconnected.
- in this model, adam and eve did not really exist - they are just characters in the myth of creation.
- Genesis is not fully historical, but refers to events that took place in particular times and locations.
- Suggests that as anatomically modern humans evolved, or during some period of linguistic and cultural evolution since then, there was a gradual growing awareness of God's presence and calling to which they responded in obedience and worship.
- Therefore Genesis is a story/parable (like in Model A), but one that refers to real events that took place over a prolonged period of time during the early history of humanity.
- in this model, adam and eve also did not really exist. they are symbolically representative of all humans - everyman and everywoman.
- Very much like Model B, Genesis is not fully historical, but refers to events that took place in particular times and locations.
- Unlike Model B, however, this model locates these events within the culture and geography that the Genesis text provides.
- In this model, Adam and Eve were two Neolithic farmers in the Ancient Near East to whom God revealed Himself in a special way.
- Religions may have existed before that, but Adam and Eve ('homo divinus') marked the time that God chose to reveal Himself and His purposes to man for the first time.
- This model is known as 'old-earth creationism' or 'episodic creationism'.
- According to this model, the earth is very old as per scientific data, but God has intervened at various points in evolutionary history, particularly:
- creation of the genetic code
- formation of the first living cells
- evolution of the main 'kinds' of animal
- creation of man
- in this model, Adam and Eve were the first anatomically modern man and woman, and they were created directly by God, not evolved.
- This model is known as 'young-earth creationism'.
- In this model, scientific data on the age of the earth is disputed or discounted; the earth was created by God around 6-10 thousand years ago.
- All living things were created within 6 literal 24-hour days.
- In this model, Adam and Eve were the first anatomically modern man and woman, created by God on the 6th day.
Model E is problematic because it disputes or discounts scientific data. the only reply i can think of that can deal with the discrepancy between the scientific data and the young-earth creationist understanding of genesis, is that God could have created the world with an appearance of great age. but the problem with this view is that it makes God appear to be a deceiver - he tricks scientists into thinking the world is old, which then becomes an obstruction that keeps them from coming to faith.
personally i think i favour Model D. however, it meets a problem very similar to that of Model E; namely, man has every appearance of having evolved, so why did God create him that way? isn't that deceptive as well? off the top of my head, i suppose we could say that God was keeping a kind of thematic harmony; as every other living being was evolved, it might have been aesthetically pleasing to Him that Man also appeared that way. atheists would probably find this suggestion silly, though.
in any case those are the 5 models that Dr. Denis Alexander presented in his book. let us continue to think and ponder over questions that matter. the question of whether adam and eve were neanderthals doesn't really matter, as it has no practical effect on us today. but the question of how we understand genesis and what relationship it has with present-day scientific discoveries is an important one, and one worth thinking over.
feel free to respond or to think out loud in the comments section. =)