Posts Tagged ‘Adam’

Book Plunge: Four Views on the Historical Adam

March 5, 2014

What did I think of this counterpoints book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend sent me this wanting to see what I thought of it. He also figured I’d eat it up since I am a major fan of the work of John Walton. In that case, he is entirely correct and it’s not a shock that in my eyes, Walton did indeed deliver.

I will say also that at this point, I do believe the case for a historical Adam is far stronger than the case against. At the same time, I am not ready to make the belief in the existence of Adam a point of salvation. Salvation is based on belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not based on belief in Adam.

The one essay in the book that argued against a historical Adam, that of Denis Lamoureux’s, also contained a wonderful story about his coming to Christ and it’s apparent throughout the work that he has a great love for Jesus Christ and a high regard for Scripture.

In reviewing this book, I’d like to look at in order the essays that I found most persuasive and why.

It is not a shock that I found Walton’s to be the most persuasive. Since reading The Lost World of Genesis One, I have been amazed by Walton and that book has forever shaped the way I read Genesis. Naturally, I have a great admiration as well for the book he co-wrote with Brent Sandy called The Lost World of Scripture.

Walton argues that Adam is the archetype of humanity. The text does not say anything about if Adam was the first human or if he was the only one at the time before Eve was created, but it does argue that he is the one who is the representative of us all. Walton also argues that the text says nothing about the material origins of man but rather a statement such as being dust refers to our mortality. He also argues that God did not really perform divine surgery but that the text is written in a way to show that Adam realized Eve was of the same nature as he was and was meant to be his helpmate.

The argument is impressive, but I would like to have seen some other points. For instance, I would have liked to have seen more about his view of the Garden of Eden itself, though I realize that that was not the scope of the book, it would have helped explain the relation between Adam and Eve more in their historical context. Also, the biggest pushback in the counter essays to Walton was on his view of the firmament in day two and this wasn’t really addressed. I know his view has become more nuanced since The Lost World of Genesis One was published and I would have liked to have seen more on that.

The second essay I found most persuasive was that of C. John Collins. Collins comes from an old-earth perspective more along to the lines of what one might see from Reasons To Believe. I found Walton did make a case for how his view would fit consistently.

Yet at the same time, I wondered about some aspects of his essay. Did he really make a case for reading Genesis as he suggested to refute the young-earth position, especially since one scholar in the book is a young-earth creationist? I did not see that presented enough. I also did find his essay contained more concordism than I would have liked.

The next on the list is Denis O. Lamoureux who argued that Adam did not exist. I found it amazing to see that Lamoureux did hold to a high view of Scripture in fact proclaiming his belief that it was inerrant. His case was a fascinating one for no Adam and he did seek to bring into play the NT evidence as well.

Yet I found myself wondering if this was really necessary. The genealogies and other such arguments do lead me to the position of a historical Adam. I do not see how Lamoureux’s position does in fact explain the origin of sin in the world and the problem of evil. Still, it is worth seeing what that side has to say.

The least convincing to me was that of William D. Barrick who argued for a young-earth and a historical Adam. It is not because I hold a disdain for YECs. My ministry partner is a YEC. My wife is a YEC. I do have a problem with dogmatic YECs however, and that includes someone dogmatic in most any secondary position. I would have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC.

Barrick too often was pointing to Inerrancy and seeing Scripture as the Word of God as support of His position and agreeing with what God has said. Now naturally, every Christian should want to agree with what God has said, but your interpretation might not be what God has said. This is built on the idea sadly that the Bible was written for the context of a modern American audience. I do not see this.

I have also seen firsthand the damage that is done by assuming that if you believe in Inerrancy, then you must believe in a certain interpretation of Scripture. I would not argue against a Jehovah’s Witness, for instance, that he denies Inerrancy, even though he denies essential tenets of the Christian faith. I would argue against his interpretation. Inerrancy says nothing about what the content of Scripture specifically is. It only says that whatever the content is, that when Scripture affirms something, it affirms it truly.

Also, Barrick did not make any arguments for a young Earth that I saw from a scientific perspective. Now he might discount this as man’s reason and such, but I would have liked to have seen something. I do not think these arguments work since I am not YEC, but I still would have liked to have seen them.

After all, if we are going to just simply say “We don’t need man’s reason” then my reply to that is “Then I do not need to read Barrick.” I do not need to go to his seminary and sit in his class and learn from him. I do not need to go to a church service and hear a pastor speak. I have everything I need with just myself.

Yet I will not be the one who thinks that the Holy Spirit has only guided me into truth and everyone else is just ignorant.

Sadly in many ways, it comes across as just a self-righteous and holier than thou approach to argumentation. I do not think that that is at all conducive to good debate and discussion and while of course the case of Scripture is supreme, there is no harm in looking at extra-Biblical sources. The Bible was not written in a vacuum and we dare not proclaim there is a cleft between the book of Scripture and the book of nature.

The book ends with essays by Greg Boyd and Philip Ryken with Boyd arguing that Adam is not an essential to the faith and Ryken saying that if we don’t have a historical Adam, then Christianity is seriously undermined.

Frankly, I see Ryken’s argument as a kind of paranoia in Christians that if you take this one step, then everything goes down from there. I do not see the argument that if there is no Adam, there is no original sin and thus no need of a savior. If I need to see original sin, I just need to turn on the evening news and see that there is a need for a savior. If I want to see if Christianity is true, I look and see if Jesus is risen. I find it bizarre to think that we could say “Yeah. Jesus came and died and rose from the dead, but Adam didn’t exist so Christianity is false.” I can’t help but think of what G.K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy:

“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

I highly recommend this volume as an important work on an important question. While I do not think this is a salvation question, I do think this is an important one and one worth discussing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Poythress, Science, and the Bible

May 14, 2013

What are we to think of the debate on Adam? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend of Deeper Waters recently sent me an article wanting a response. It’s written by Vern Poythress and can be found here. My problem mainly with how to approach this is that I am not a scientist. I do not speak in scientific terms and if I have no reason to think that someone has not done strong scientific study, I question their statements. Theologians, philosophers, and historians who wish to speak on science as science should study science as science.

Unfortunately, those in the other camp don’t often follow that advice as well. Atheists who are authorities on science seem to think they’re automatically authorities on history, philosophy, theology, morality, etc. They could be if they have also done sufficient background study, but all too often, they have not.

So let’s deal with some concerns.

First off, what about evolution? Here’s my response. I don’t care.

“What? Did I read that right?”

Yes. Yes you did. Christianity relies on the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead. Everything else is secondary. If we can establish God raised Jesus from the dead, then it would not matter if we are here due to a long evolutionary process. It might mean we have to change our understanding of Genesis, (and quite frankly, even if evolution is false, I think we need to change it) but we still have Christianity. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection and not the creation.

What about Adam? Recently in my reading of Genesis, I noticed something. I cannot recall God naming the man Adam. The word simply means, according to what I’ve studied, man. So many times in the text is says “The man.” It seems quite likely that a man showed up at one point, however that came about, that we are all descended from. Personally, I lean more towards God acting in a divine way to make man, but if I am wrong, it will not shipwreck Christianity at all.

Part of the problem with the emphasis on creation is that we have this idea that if God did not create the way we think He did, then He is inactive in the universe. If God is not active, then we could be deists, but if He did not even create, then we might as well be atheists or agnostics. I find this idea problematic right at the start since it has this implicit idea that God’s chief activity is creation.

Creating, as it is, is nothing essential to the nature of God. God could be God even if He never created anything. What must God do? God must exist and what He does with that existence is up to Him. He has chosen to create, but the property of existence is the main feature of God.

Picture stepping outside your door and seeing a huge pile of money one day and your thought could be “What brought that about?” In other words, “What is the cause of the existence of what I see before me?” Now picture stepping outside and instead hearing a strange sound that isn’t ending and asking “What is the cause of this sound?” In this case, you are not likely looking for what brought it into being, but also what is keeping that sound going.

The point to make is that the same can be said of the pile of money on the front porch as well. Does it contain within itself the principle of its own existence? The answer is no. Only God has that. God is the only one that must necessarily exist. Everything else exists by the power of God. That means that God’s work with the universe is not just creation, but sustenance.

“Well is that biblical?”

Yes. Profusely so.

1 Cor. 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Note that all things come from God and all things are through Jesus. The Godhead is sustaining our existence.

Col. 1:16-17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Note in verse 17 that all things hold together in Him. God in Christ is sustaining all that is.

Hebrews 1:2-3 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

The same pattern emerges again with Christ upholding the universe.

Job 34:14-15 If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.

Again, if God removes His being, we cease to exist.

The study of existence is metaphysics and it cannot be touched by science. Science deals with a type of existence, namely material existence, but it cannot deal with existence as existence. Note also that each branch of science deals with a different type of material existence as well. None of this is to lower science, but it is to point out that it is not the supreme study.

What do we do with creation then? We could keep in mind what a writer like John Walton has said. For the ancients, something was not said to really exist until it was given function. The creation account is not creation as we understand it, but rather God giving purpose to things. Does this go against material ex nihilo creation? No. Walton tells us that Genesis is not asking the question about scientific creation because Genesis doesn’t care. Genesis cares about giving God glory through the temple of the cosmos He has created.

Does this mean I oppose scientific apologetics? Not entirely. It means that it should only be done by those skilled in science. If you don’t know scientific terminology, then don’t argue science. Now if only our atheist friends would follow the same pattern with Biblical studies, philosophy, history, etc.

If we are people of truth, then we must accept whatever is found to be true. We also must make sure that our modern thinking that is scientific is not the paradigm by which we read Scripture. We should seek to understand it the way the ancient reader would have understood it and not the way someone from our culture would.

If there is something we must not do, and we do it just as much as atheists do sadly, it is to make science and Christianity seem opposed negatively to each other. People of truth must accept all truth. If it turns out that evolution is true, we must accept it. If it turns out that it is not, we must accept it. If we wish to argue against evolution or any other scientific hypothesis, which the scientific community should welcome by the way, then we must do so scientifically. This is why you will not see me joining this argument. I am not a scientist. I will stick to my strengths and let others stick to theirs.

In conclusion, we must remember that creation is not the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. It is resurrection. It is quite concerning some Christians are better at defending their views on creation than they are on resurrection. We must also not limit God to just creation. God is responsible not just for the beginning, but every point in the timeline, including where we are right now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters