The Curious Case of the First Man

historical adam You may be familiar with the Counterpoints series published by Zondervan. Some editions are more useful than others, but they’re worth having if just to get a better understanding of various and opposing viewpoints on an array of theological topics.

I wish to interact with Denis Lamoureux’s contribution in “Four Views on the Historical Adam”. He holds to an evolutionary creation view, which is the belief that “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life, including humans, through an ordained, sustained, and intelligent design-reflecting natural process.” This view also denies the existence of a historical Adam. I’m not going to deal with his contribution to the book in its entirety in this post, but hope to in the days (well, in my case, probably weeks) ahead.

One must begin by asking why Dr. Lamoureux, with a Christian worldview, presupposes naturalism when it comes to human origins? Creation itself is not natural, it’s supernatural by definition. Yet the author asserts that, “similar to the way that the Lord used embryological mechanics to create each of us in our mother’s womb, He also employed evolutionary processes to create humanity.” (pg. 37) I would like to ask Dr. Lamoureux why the God who created the heavens and the earth is constrained to create mankind through an evolutionary process? Whatever one thinks about whether God revealed scientific facts in the Bible thousands of years before their discovery by modern science, He did reveal in the text of Scripture that He created man directly, personally, and supernaturally.

So how does Dr. Lamoureux deal with this thorny problem? By concluding that modern science reveals the Old Testament to be a divine accommodation to an ancient and ignorant people. God didn’t really create man directly, personally, or supernaturally. No, since ancient man could not understand modern science, God (as it were) told him a little story he could grasp. Now, I absolutely believe that God accommodates His revelation in such a way as to condescend to our understanding. However, this is not the kind of divine accommodation Lamoureux is talking about. This is, in my view, a wholesale undermining of the text. Was God only communicating with an ancient people when the opening chapters of Genesis were written down? Is it not divine revelation to a modern people as well? We’re just scientifically sophisticated enough to know that God really meant the opposite of what He said? Perhaps, in a later age, we will discover that God really meant what He said in the first place.

II.

In the introduction, Professor Lamoureux asserts that the central conclusion of a previous book he penned on this subject is that Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” (pg. 38) I find this a curious statement in light of the historical nature of the Christian faith. Why is it necessary for the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ to be historical, but not the life and death of Adam to be so? If God has revealed an intimate historical and theological (not to mention organic) connection between the first man and the Son of Man in Scripture, why is it that Dr. Lamoureux dismisses it so easily?

The foundational belief he has in view is the fallen nature of mankind. He posits that this spiritual truth can be separated from any historical context. All we need to know, in the end, is that we are fallen, sinful human beings in need of redemption. There is no “original sin”, accept perhaps incidentally. This, in fact, illustrates something Lamoureux likes to assert frequently—that the Bible is a book which communicates spiritual truths divorced from historical or scientific truths. How does he know this? The spiritual truth squares nicely with his Christian worldview, the rest doesn’t square with his naturalism.

We’ll explore this further in our next installment.

BONUS: Happened to come across this review of Professor Lamoureux’s full length book I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution by Dr. James Anderson. Enjoy!

C.M. Granger

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Tying Up Some Loose Enns, part 2

March-Fun-198Following up on my previous post, found here…..

I’m not sure why there is such an intellectual struggle for some when it comes to reconciling science and faith.  It’s a false dichotomy to pit the two against each other.  The Scriptures are God’s divine revelation of Himself and of His works in history.  Science is the discovery of how things work and how they relate to one another.  If creation itself was a supernatural event, why insist upon a natural explanation when it comes to human origins?  Professor Enns insists that modern discoveries in evolutionary theory, particularly the human genome project, prove that man evolved from a common ancestor.  But why is he interpreting such information within a secular worldview?  How does Dr. Enns know the scientific evidence points to a common ancestor rather than to a common design?  It seems to me he is quick to put his faith in scientific consensus (a consensus largely produced within a community of unbelieving scientists) rather than in God’s revelation.

The problem with putting faith in scientific consensus is that science is a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.  As the pieces are discovered, from time to time, the overall picture changes.  Should we not rather put our trust in the One who created it all?  Should we not rest in the fact that science will say no more in the end than that which corroborates what God has already told us?  Isn’t it already scientific consensus that people cannot be raised from the dead, and that miracles do not occur?  Why doesn’t Professor Enns accept consensus in these areas as well?

I don’t think Genesis 1 – 11 is meant to convey scientific facts about the creation of the world, and therefore anyone attempting to exegete physics and geology from these texts is asking more of them than God intended.  However, it is a historical account of what God did and it records the fact that He specially made Adam and Eve.  If this be rejected, what in Scripture cannot be?  Why isn’t Jesus a divine myth as well?  I have yet to receive an explanation of this from Dr. Enns or his proponents.

C.M. Granger

Related Links at No Extra Charge:

The Explanatory Power of False Theories

Adam, Eve, and Chimpanzees

What Depends Upon An Historical Adam?

I’ll be following up on my previous post, but in the mean time, this post by Steven Wedgeworth from The Calvinist International is a must read.  Just consider a few quotes:

 

“If the first Adam was mythical, then the nature and work of the Second Adam, precisely as Second Adam, would have to be mythical as well. This does not mean that the Judæan man whom Paul identified as the Second Adam was himself a myth, nor that his life did not unfold in real history. Rather it would mean that his redemptive identity, along with the nature of what He said was his work, was merely mythical, not an objective event with objective effects. He would have been seeking to fulfill a myth.

The resurrection sometimes figures in this discussion in an especially complicated way. Its historicity is undeniably a hallmark of orthodoxy, a non-negotiable doctrine whose status as such has been hard-fought in the last century. Some of those who wish to deny the historicity of Adam think they can take a stand on the doctrine of the historical resurrection. We must remember, however, that our belief in the historical resurrection is not merely a product of proof-texting, as if 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 simply commands fideistic assent. No, the historicity of the resurrection is tied in with the historicity of death and the sure reality of the world to come. The resurrection is where Christ completes the re-capitulatory atonement, and so again, if the Adamic backstory is mythical, so too is the recapitulation.”

 

 

 

It would be argued by some that the historicity of Adam is not true simply because a particular theological system requires it to be so in order to stand. Of course, my response is “What about the historicity of the Resurrection? Does your theological system require that to be true?” Apparently, it’s ok with regard to doctrines that are acceptable, not so much with those we wish to explain away.

Update: See also Dr. Enns’ Brief Response

And Steve Hays contribution: Adam in Scripture

C.M.Granger

Tying Up Some Loose Enns, part 1

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A few weeks ago Dave and I went to an Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Nyack, NY at the Alliance Theological Seminary. The two main speakers were Peter Enns and John (Jack) Collins, the topic addressed was the historicity of Adam. Dr. Enns’ presentation was thoughtful and articulate. His words were measured as he had clearly wrestled with some problematic questions. I certainly respect his desire to come to sound biblical conclusions, but as with all wrestling, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

For Dr. Enns, Adam is simply a myth. He’s a part of Israel’s origin story, which had as its’ backdrop other Ancient Near Eastern literature (i.e. other origin stories with some parallels, The Enuma Elish, for example) After his presentation there was some Q&A. One person mentioned that Paul believed Adam was a historical figure, as clearly stated in Romans 5. Professor Enns advised that Paul was a 1st century Jew who believed the conventions of his day. Following this, someone else brought up the fact that Jesus himself believed in a historical Adam. To which Dr. Enns advised that Jesus too was a 1st century Jew who believed the conventions of the day. In other words, Paul and Jesus were mistaken.

This presents us with some interesting questions. If Paul was mistaken about this matter, what else was Paul mistaken about? Was he right with regard to doctrinal formulations and propositional truths, but confused about material facts? Was he correct about his interpretation of OT texts, or was he wielding them for his own purposes in seeking to proclaim and exhalt the One whom he thought was the Christ?

But further than this, what if Jesus was mistaken about Adam? Could Jesus himself believe something which was untrue, and then apply that error in making a theological point about God’s original intention in marriage (Mt. 19:4-5)? And if so, where does it stop? How do we discern what is true and false?

Let’s ask an additional question. If Jesus as a man was mistaken about historical facts, how do we know he was correct about any statement he made? What kind of duality does this create? Jesus could be wrong in his humanity, but never wrong in his divinity? He knew heavenly things, but not earthly things? Of course, no one with an orthodox view of Christology suggests that Jesus knew everything in his humanity (like how to speak French or do complicated algorithms), but that when he spoke he knew everything truthfully and accurately pertaining to the things he said.

Dr. Enns’ presentation deflated rather quickly after this. The implication of his position could be re-stated this way:

Jesus was a man of his times and subject to the conventions of his day, therefore with regard to Adam, Jesus was wrong.

Paul was a man of his times and subject to the conventions of his day, therefore with regard to Adam, Paul was wrong.

Peter Enns, in spite of being a man of his times and subject to the conventions of his day, is correct with regard to Adam.

This is one of those situations where to state the position is to refute the position, but I’ll let you be the judge.

C.M. Granger

Theological Docetism and the Postmodern Turn

One of my pastors (that guy listed as an author on this blog, you can guess which one right?) is doing a Sunday School class this year entitled “Foundations of Systematic Theology”. This morning he dealt with the two natures of Christ in one Person. He began with a brief survey of early errors in Christology regarding this subject. One of them, Docetism, stuck with me today as I thought about facts and appearances. What do I mean?

Docetism is the belief that Christ was divine, but only appeared human. We discussed in the class why this view is problematic. If Jesus only appeared human, then he didn’t really suffer on the cross. If he only appeared human, then he couldn’t be our represententative as the second Adam, couldn’t have experienced (and resisted) temptation in our stead, couldn’t have bled and died in our place.

I started thinking of a postmodern form of Docetism. What would that be, you might ask? The belief that the Bible only appears to record historical events and persons (i.e. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood, the extermination of the Canaanites, etc.) but in reality contains a boat load of myth and metaphor. Is there a historical narrative in Scripture you can’t stomach? Simple. It’s a myth. Maybe the early chapters of Genesis got you down? Easy. Metaphor.

It’s all in the appearances anyway, isn’t it?

Except that the Christian faith is based on actual historical events that are all tied together and cannot be separated. Consider 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul defends the resurrection on historical grounds, tracing sin all the way back to Adam. Verse 13 and following, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” Vs. 17, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Seems like this historical event is important in the apostle’s view, doesn’t it? Vs. 21-22, “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”

But, wait a minute (says the postmodern mind), Adam is a myth. A figurehead meant to illustrate a theological point. Hmmm. How can I assert a historical Jesus now?

Not sure. I’d like to know that myself.

Have an answer? Chime in…

C.M. Granger

Of Myth and Metaphor: How Do We Know Where It Enns?

I would like a reasoned explanation from someone who agrees with Peter Enns with regard to myth and metaphor in Scripture.  Exactly how do we discern the concrete facts and historical events of the Bible from the ever-expanding list of merely theological points which have no basis in time and space (i.e. reality)?

Jerry Coyne, a militant atheist, appears to be more perceptive than some Christians, sadly.  Consider his insights here and let me know what you think.

C.M. Granger