In his book The Lonely Man of Faith, Joseph B. Soloveitchik—one of the leading American rabbis in the second half of the 20th century—famously compares the two accounts of the creation of humanity in Genesis 1 and 2. In the first, God tells man to “fill the earth and conquer it”; in the second God places him in the garden “to work it and to keep it.” Soloveitchik thus contrasts “Adam I,” the man of science, politics, and business, with “Adam II,” who is focused on piety and duty. Noting that this book is becoming increasingly popular with Christians, Meir Soloveichik seeks to explain why::
The Lonely Man of Faith actually originated, in part, in a talk to Catholic seminarians, and today it is Christians who are particularly shocked by the rapidity with which a culture that was once Christian has turned on them, so that now people of faith are quite lonely in the world at large. In [the book], Rabbi Soloveitchik notes that though the tension between Adam I and Adam II is always a source of angst, “the contemporary man of faith is, due to his peculiar position in secular society, lonely in a special way,” as our age is “technically minded, self-centered, and self-loving, almost in a sickly narcissistic fashion, scoring honor upon honor, piling up victory upon victory, reaching for the distant galaxies, and seeing in the here-and-now sensible world the only manifestation of being.”
Now that the world of Adam I seems wholly divorced from that of Adam II, people of faith seek guidance in the art of bridging the two; and if, 70 years ago, Reinhold Niebhur was a theologian who spoke for a culture where Christianity was the norm, Rabbi Soloveitchik is a philosopher for Jews and Christians who are outsiders. . . .
Yet Rabbi Soloveitchik’s thesis remains that even when society rejects us, we cannot give up on society, but we also cannot amputate our religious identity from our very selves. Adam I and Adam II must be bridged. This will not be easy, but a theme throughout Soloveitchik’s writings is that all too often religion is seen as a blissful escape from life’s crises, while in truth the opposite is the case. . . . Traditional Jews and Christians in the West face cultural challenges to their faith—disdain, scorn, and even hate—but if the challenge is faced with fortitude, sophistication, and honor, it will be a religious endeavor worthy of being remembered.
And as both traditional Jews and Christians face this challenge, it will often be as compatriots, in a fellowship that we may not have foreseen 50 years ago.