We believe it is real. It is as good an explanation of what happened as there could be. The word Adam means “red” or “of the earth.” It also is a generic term for man. It does not offend my reason to think there was one original couple that God made, and that from this couple came all the other people on the earth. Nor would my faith be shattered if one day I learned that this story was an allegorical description of God’s creation of man.
These original humans were not subhuman or Neanderthal creatures. They were beautiful human beings, created in the image of God, with tremendous intelligence and ability. If man has gone away from that, he has gone down instead of up.
Some people may ask where the Garden of Eden was. The Bible says that it was to the east (of Israel) and mentions four rivers relative to it: The Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (see Genesis 2:10-14). These meager references would place the garden somewhere around modern Iraq or possibly northern Syria.
Ancient Chinese culture may refer to Eden. The written Chinese language symbol for west means two people in a garden. This character dates back at least three thousand years. If a Chinese person were asked to explain the word west, he would have to say, “Well, that is where two people lived in a garden.” The existence of this remarkable symbol would indicate a pre-Christian tradition that the people who populated China came from the west, perhaps someplace in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, and that the early Chinese ancestors were familiar with the story of the first couple living in a garden–possibly the Garden of Eden.