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Was Adam a Real Dude?

Matt's Blog

I don't read blogs, so I don't know why I expect you to read mine.  But every now and then I'll run across something that I think SOMEONE SOMEWHERE might enjoy reading.  Like maybe my wife.  So Michele, here's some random thoughts you might enjoy.

Was Adam a Real Dude?

Matt Herndon

I just finished reading “Five Views on The Historical Adam,” published by IVP and edited by Gundry.  It’s part of IVP’s “Counterpoints” series, in which they invite multiple authors to argue different perspectives on important theological issues. 

In this particular book, four authors address the matter of Adam, the first man created by God in the book of Genesis.  Was he a real dude?  Why does it matter if he weren’t? 

There are four views represented.  To summarize the positions: Absolutely Hell Yes, Yes but with Caveats, Yes but with Different Caveats, and Come On People No Way.  All of these positions were argued from an evangelical posture, meaning they accept the authority of Scripture as the rule of life and faith for God’s people.  (Although I should note that the most pro-Adam of the authors does suggest that belief in Adam as a historical person might be a boundary marker for basic Christian faith, meaning that he cannot necessarily affirm the salvation of all the other authors.  Things get a little tense at that point.) 

Here’s a summary of the four positions: 

Denis Lamoureux (St. John’s College, University of Alberta) argues from an evolutionary-creation view, which believes that God created the earth and its inhabitants through natural processes—i.e., evolution.  The story of creation reflects an ancient worldview that we now know to be scientifically inaccurate, but still bears Biblical authority.  The story of Adam is a vital part of the Christian faith which transports spiritual truths, and his non-historical status does not undercut any core Christian essentials. 

John Walton (Wheaton College Graduate School) argues that Adam is probably a real person, but what’s important is how the author of Genesis interprets Adam.  He is an archetype for humanity.  His experience of creation and fall is representative for all of humankind, and we are to understand our experience of creation and sin in light of the author’s archetypical description of our first, fallen, parents.  According to Walton, this is the author’s point. 

John Collins (Covenant Seminary) argues that Adam and Eve are real people, but that does not negate the evidence for some type of evolution, or the ancient age of the universe.  Collins explains that we cannot over-literalize the story of creation, which was written with a theological agenda in mind, and also reflects an ancient understanding of the world.  However, the creation of Adam and Eve can coexist with a more scientific understanding of the universe. 

William Barrick (The Master’s Seminary) argues that Adam must be real, because so much of the Bible’s theology depends on his existence.  Paul argues that in Adam all sinned, and in Christ all (believers) are saved.  How can this argument hold if Adam was not a real person?  Yes, the creation of Adam is rather fantastic and hard-to-believe, but isn’t is the resurrection?  Or Christ’s miracles?  What’s the difference?  Besides which, Paul and probably Jesus regard Adam a real, historical people.  Who are we to dispute them? 

I read this book because I myself have questions about whether Adam and Eve were historical people.  In today’s scientific age, believing in Adam and Eve seems kind of loopy.  I wanted to come to a conclusion. 

But I haven’t, really.  Even after reading the book.  I understand both “sides.”  I’m not opposed to the idea that God created the world (and humanity) through natural processes.  God uses natural processes all the time.  (Can you say “medical miracle”?)  The scientific case against Adam is not easily dismissed.  Scientists say that in order to have a humanity as big and genetically diverse as we are, humanity could not have sprung from two solitary human beings.  That doesn’t allow for as much genetic variation as we have.  I’m not a scientist, but I can understand that.  At the same time, I know what the Bible says.   Theologians say that without Adam, one of the key pillars of the Christian gospel gets undercut.  “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all may live,” writes Paul (1 Cor. 15:22).  Jesus and Paul certainly talk about Adam as though he were a real dude.  Who am I to disagree with God’s Son and his lead Apostle? 

So I really don’t know.  But I don’t know if I feel pressure to figure this out.  I mean, these four guys are a lot smarter than me.  I’m reluctant to stake claims on matters that brilliant people can’t agree on.  I admire Barrick’s absolute commitment to the truth of Scripture no matter how crazy it sounds.  “Crazy” is relative to the whims of the day.  Yet I celebrate Lamoureux’s openness to the revelation of God’s universe through science, and the way that does not negate his personal faith in Christ and submission to God’s revelation in Scripture. 

And that’s what I take away from this.  I do not personally find the matter of Adam’s historicity to undercut my faith on a personal level.  I mean, whether or not Adam was real, I know I am a sinner in need of redemption and forgiveness.  Whether or not all humanity sinned in Adam’s fall, or whether or not Adam’s fall was a fable designed to teach us about our fall, I know who I am.  And it is Ugh.  And whether or not Adam was real, I believe that Jesus was and is.  The case is much simpler to make that Jesus walked the earth, and that he died for my sins and rose again from the dead.  No fable there. 

Thems my thoughts on Adam.  Yours? 

And as far as why Adam has such a small penis in the Michelangelo painting, I must confess that's a little bit of click-bait.  I have no idea.  But it is interesting, and I'm not the only one to have wondered: