Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creation vs Evolution - The Historical Adam

Have you ever wonder why farmers install electrical fences around their horses or even cattle?  The use of low voltage fences is to make sure that the animals stay within the boundary.  The shock an animal receives when it gets close enough, reminds the animal that they are not to step any further or they may get hurt.  Likewise, many who reject the “electric fence” of the historicity of Adam seem to think that his position is not important and has little or no impact on their belief.  In the last chapter of Denis O. Lamoureux’s book, Evolution Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution, asserts, “My central conclusion in this book is clear: Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”

In my last post, I tried to lay out a deep foundational concern for the growth within the Evangelical movement to disregard or underplay the importance of the historicity of Adam.  In this posting, I would like to continue down this path and think about the implications of such an idea that Adam is a mythical person more so than an actual, historical being.

First, we must admit that the very idea that Adam is mythical is a new idea in Christiandom.  In the two thousand years of Christianity, it has only been the past 100 – 150 years that this seed was planted and started to grow.  For most of this development, it was held fiercely by the Liberal wing of Christianity.  Evangelicals were amongst the strongest to criticize such a position.  Evangelicals defended the simple understanding that Adam was an actual man, created by God in God’s own image. 

It has been just in the past decade or less that those who consider themselves as evangelicals start attacking the very notion that Adam was a historical person and are in agreement with the Liberal wing that Adam is simply a myth.   Personally, when evangelicals start sounding a lot like those they criticized in the past, a red flag rises in my mind.  The growth and strengthening of these attacks on the historical Adam are rooted in the complacency of Evangelicals towards the defense of orthodoxy.

Before we look deeper into the why’s of how this shift in thought has started to seep into the Christian mind like yeast in dough, I will share why the defensive of the historical Adam is paramount to the very foundation of our faith.  As James Anderson, Professor of Theology at RTS, says: “…the historicity of Adam is ta thread woven all the way through the Bible’s history, theology, and ethics.  Pull out that thread and sooner or later the whole garment will unravel.”[1]

David Murray in his article titled, The Quest for the Historical Adam outlines five doctrines that are weaken if not destroyed if Adam was not a real person.  I would like to summarize each one as well as add one or two more to his list.

1.  Doctrine of Sin: Hamartiology

If Adam is not the man in which sin came into the world, then the outcome must be that sin was always a part of man’s very existence.  Accordingly, those who deny the literally existence of Adam truly believe that the “Fall” is just a symbol for mankind’s imperfection, an imperfection that was always there.  If sin always existed in man, how can we be responsible to God for it?  Likewise, God had called his creation good; how can God call an imperfection, a sinful being ‘Good’?

The theological idea of Federal Headship comes into question.  Those who, Murray calls “Adam-deniers,” believe that Adam is representative for mankind believe the “Fall” is simply a group fall.  If true, Paul’s idea of the “one for many” falls flat on its face.

2. Christology

If we are to reject the Bible’s teaching of an historical Adam, why should we not also reject the Bible’s teaching of an historical Jesus?  If sin did not come by one man, how would it be possible for one man to redeem mankind?  Not only would the historicity of Jesus need to be questioned, but also Jesus’ integrity.  When Jesus was asked by Pharisees regarding divorce, Jesus went back to Genesis 1.  Matt. 19:4-5 we find this, “He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?”  From this text, it is obvious that Jesus believed in the historical creation of man and woman.  If not, then what was Jesus referring to?  If God did not create the historical Adam, then we must question the veracity of Jesus’ statements.  Is it possible that Jesus, the Son of God, mistakenly applied Genesis 1, understanding the creation to be historical?

3. Soteriology

Paul spells out in Romans 5 that all men are either in Adam or in Christ.  We are all fallen, declared guilty in Adam.  Likewise, all who believe in Christ are justified, declared righteous. 

James Montgomery Boice wrote: “You do not need an historical atonement to undo a mythological fall or a mythological transgression.  All you need is another myth.  But if Christ needed to be real to save us, then Adam was real, too.  It is because Adam was real that Christ also had to be real to make atonement.”[2]

4. Eschatology

I will quote Murray’s point in length, “If Adam was not a historical person and the fall into sin was not a historical event, then can we have any certainty about Christ’s resurrection or our own?  If Adam was simply a teaching model, how can we be sure that Christ’s resurrection is not also merely a teaching model.  In 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 44-49, Paul uses the analogy of Adam and his fall into sin bringing us all down, to teach that similarly Christ and his perfect obedience will raise his people up from the dead.  Adam’s sin and death do not merely illustrate our condition, they determine it.  Similarly, Christ’s obedience and resurrection do not merely illustrate the Christian’s life and resurrection, but determine it.”

In other words, where is our hope to be founded in if there is no historical existence for Adam?  E. J. Young comments on Paul’s teaching here, “Remove Adam and his historicity from these verses and all the profound truths that Paul is teaching go by the board.  They are then not truths at all and Paul’s words must be abandoned.  Adam is gone, but so is Christ.”

5. Practical Theology

Paul’s argument for male headship is dependent upon the historicity of Adam being made first.  Paul’s argument and application would fall flat if he erred in such an assumption.

The above five are areas that David Murray touched on.  One other that is implicit in this whole discussion though is the doctrine of the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word.

6. Inspiration of Scripture

If Adam is not a historical person, then the question of inspiration must be placed on the table.  For the Adam-denier to hold firm to the rejection of the historicity of Adam has to declare that the writer of 1 Chronicles, Jesus’ words, Luke, and Paul are all wrong in their application and/or assertions we find in the Bible.

 Sadly, the apostle Paul is already under heavy attack by men like Peter Enns.  He has emphatically stated that accepting Paul’s understanding of human origins is untenable as members of the human race in the twenty-first century.[3] 

7. Evangelism & Discipleship

What is the Gospel if there is no entrance of sin into the world?  How is one saved from a myth?  Are not our limited resources of time, money, and people better served?

As can be seen, there is much damage that is done when we circumvent the “electrical fence” of the historical Adam.  We as Christians if we go down such a path simply are rejecting the Truth, the veracity of God’s witness, His Word.

[1] James Anderson, Was Adam a real historical individual? Analogical Thoughts Blog.
[2] James Montgomery Boice, Romans (Grand rapids, MI: Baker 1992), 2:583
[3] Peter Enns Evangelicals, Evolution, and the Bible: Moving Toward a Synthesis. The Biologos Foundation.  He further goes on to assert that rejecting Christianity and accepting evolution is a much more tenable solution than to believe that Paul is correct in his understanding of who Adam is.

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