Does it matter if Adam was a real person?

13 May

From Steven Wedgeworth at Calvinist International (excerpt):

We return to our main question, and we offer this unreserved thesis: The historicity of Adam determines the public nature of our religion. If Adam was a historical individual, then the Bible makes authoritative claims about all of humanity and indeed all of the cosmos. It can, at least in theory, be falsified, and it is thus a legitimate topic of dialectical discourse. It is rational and not a retreat to commitment. If Adam was not a historical individual, and if instead the Genesis account is a sort of mythical story which was employed in order to make a uniquely religious point, then Christianity is necessarily rendered merely metaphorical, expressing truths of the human condition through symbols. The Bible in this case is no longer an authoritative account of human origins, history, and final destiny. It no longer addresses all men in all places and times, but rather expresses one faith-narrative that seeks to convey a meaningful but wholly internal truth.

Put more simply: if Adam is mythical, then so is redemption. While it does not follow that if Adam is mythical, then the historicity of Jesus must also be denied, it does follow that if Adam is mythical, then the historicity of Jesus as Second Adam must be denied. And Christianity is founded on Jesus as Second Adam.

In order to support this claim, we must first define our terms and conversation. We are not here concerned with the age of the earth. That study is certainly important and rewarding, but it is not our immediate question. It touches only indirectly on our concerns, but nothing we say here depends upon one position or the other in that field. We are not even dealing with Genesis chapter 1. It is conceded, nearly by all Christians, that the events of Genesis 1 are presented in a stylized form, with chapters 2–3 retelling the same events from a different perspective, in a somewhat different fashion. We could, in theory, set chapter 1 completely aside, and Genesis 2–3 would still provide us with sufficient exegetical material for our question. And so for this argument, neither the “literal six-day” position, nor the Day-Age Theory, nor the Framework Hypothesis, nor the Analogical-Day Theory is necessarily determinative. We are concerned only with the historicity of Adam, whether he was a real and singular person from whom all human beings descend and whose actions are the cause of all sin, suffering, and death.

In addition to explaining the origin of sin and death, the opening chapters of Genesis explain the foundation for human society. Genesis 2:18–22 makes much out of Adam’s initial lonely condition, his relationship to the animals, and then the rationale for the creation of woman. In Christian theology, this last issue is typically included under the language of “creation ordinances.” But if these ordinances are not actually related to creation, as it happens, then the nature of their moral claim falls as well. They are simply “ordinances,” not “creation ordinances.”

This Eden situation, described as occurring in real time and space and affecting all subsequent world history, must be dealt with in all discussions of evolution and human origins. To simply dismiss it, while perhaps making the scientific investigation easier, does not actually satisfy the exegetical or theological questions. Such a move does not even take the questions seriously. And as we will see, both spiritual and temporal claims are dependent upon the answers to these questions.

Read the whole thing here


2 Responses to “Does it matter if Adam was a real person?”

  1. J. Palmer May 14, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Interesting. But if Jesus was able to express “truths of the human condition through symbols” (i.e. parables), and Jesus was God, and the Bible is the word of God, then couldn’t the story of Adam be a parable too? That would be consistent with the methods of Jesus, right?

    Since Jesus taught using parables, does that mean that his teachings are not “an authoritative account of human origins, history, and final destiny”? Does it mean that Jesus’ words do not address “all men in all places and times, but rather expresses one faith-narrative that seeks to convey a meaningful but wholly internal truth”?


  2. thereformedmind May 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Well, simply because Jesus used parables doesn’t mean that everything in the scriptures are or could be parables. Scripture has many genres of writing, from history to parables to poetry, etc. The question is simply did the author of the creation story intend it to be history AND did the rest of the biblical authors understand it that way. It seems clear to me that Jesus along with the NT authors clearly understood Adam to be a real person and hung their entire redemptive system on that assumption.


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