FEBRUARY 13, 2006

by Pastor George Van Alstine

My college major was biology, and one important course was Genetics, in which we studied how traits are passed on from one generation to another. I have just located my textbook for that course. It was published in 1953. I checked the index and found no listing for DNA!

I remember my professor in 1954 giving a lecture on the exciting new discovery of the molecular structure of the genes within cells of living things. He spoke of a complex molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid and used the shorthand reference of “DNA.â€? It was a brand new discovery, and it made my head spin.

Today, even elementary school students have heard of DNA. It had a starring role in the TV serial we remember as the O.J. Simpson trial. A major weekly TV drama, “CSI,â€? refers to DNA routinely. Belligerent rival males on the “Jerry Springer Showâ€? wait nervously for DNA evidence to settle the paternity of an unborn baby. The double-helix structure of the DNA molecule is used as part of the logos of major pharmaceutical corporations.

One avenue of DNA investigation has led to startling new insights into the history of the human race. We’ve already learned about the DNA-inspired coming together of black and white descendants of Thomas Jefferson, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A recent line of research has traced early mutations, that appear only on the DNA of male humans, all the way back to a time when the human race was almost extinguished by a major volcanic eruption. This evidence has led researchers to an amazing conclusion:

That Every Human Being Now Alive Is a Descendant of One Man Who Lived about 60,000 Years Ago!

I have not heard Bible-believing Christians trumpet this scientific conclusion as corroboration of the Genesis story of the creation of Adam. I think this is because the 60,000 years doesn’t fit with their stubborn insistence on their “young earthâ€? theory, which declares uncompromisingly that Adam was created 6000 years ago. These narrow-minded Christians have become so distrustful of science that they can’t even recognize it when science supports the Bible. The Bible says that true human beings, bearing the image of God, began with one man. Science also now says that true human beings, showing the qualities that make humans radically different from other animals, began with one man. 6,000 years or 60,000 years—who’s going to quibble?

I’ve shared all this heady stuff so that I can say one thing about this Sunday’s “Black History Celebrationâ€?—Black History is about all of us. Whites can no longer say, “That’s their thing.â€? DNA research proves that “their thingâ€? is “our thing.â€? Humanity is one. All the distinctions of race, clan and nation are artificial and temporary. Our common ancestry is the basic fact of our humanity.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul made a point of underlining the oneness of humanity in sin:
“Sin came into the world through one man . . . and spread to all because all have sinned . . .â€? (Romans 5:12)
And then he showed that God also used the oneness of humanity to bring salvation through Christ:
“Just as one man’s sin led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.â€? (Romans 5:18)

At Altadena Baptist Church, though we are of many races, we are doubly united. First, we are one because of the physical DNA that comes down from the original human, whom the Bible calls Adam. Second, we are one because of the spiritual DNA we share through our common faith in the One who came to renew our humanity, Jesus Christ.

Let’s all celebrate our shared DNA this Sunday.