Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Historical Adam?

posted by Scot McKnight

From Tremper Longman, at BioLogos:

The description of how Adam was created is certainly figurative. The question is open as to whether there was an actual person named Adam who was the first human being or not. Perhaps there was a first man, Adam, and a first woman, Eve, designated as such by God at the right time in his development of human beings. Or perhaps Adam, whose name after all means “Human,” is himself figurative of humanity in general. I have not resolved this issue in my own mind except to say that there is nothing that insists on a literal understanding of Adam in a passage so filled with obvious figurative description. The New Testament’s use of Adam (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) does not resolve the issue as some suggest because it is possible, even natural, to make an analogy between a literary figure and a historical one.

This issue is an important one. It is wrong to challenge people to choose between the Bible and the science of evolution as if you can only believe that one or the other is true. They are not in conflict. It is particularly damaging to insist that our young people make this kind of false choice as they are studying biology in secondary school or college. If we do so, we will force some to choose against the Bible and others to check their intelligence at the classroom door. This is a false dilemma created by a misuse of the biblical text.



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Yourname

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:23 am


When we set the Bible and science in conflict and force young people to choose, we damage the Bible, science and the youth. Science is a revelation of God, just like the Bible, so to say both revelations cannot be true is to deny part of God.



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Gina

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:25 am


This is so true! As a homeschooling mom, I have come to the sad reality that science books published by Christian publishers just can’t be used in our house because of their denial of evolution, and often their ridicule of those who do. Sadly, I have seen homeschooled children grow up and leave the faith, in part because they were forced to choose between the Bible and science. As I continue to teach my girls, all truth is God’s truth and we must not be afraid of it. Who knows what great things await us if we put this fear behind us.



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Gina

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:27 am


Oops. Should say:
…and often their ridicule of those who do believe in it.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:32 am


I love how learned men toss around the word “certainly” with such conviction.
It is acceptable to question many things, but it is CERTAIN that “the description of how Adam was made is figurative.”
And thankfully, I do not need a new Bible every fall, like science classes need new textbooks to correct the old ones.
Science is not a revelation from God – science is the sum of man’s exploration and explanation of God’s general self-revelation in Creation. To test science by Scripture against one another is no more sinful than to test science by reality.
Remember, Christians – science says people do not come back from the dead, yet we preach Jesus Christ crucified and risen on the third day. Truth, scientific and scriptural, is our friend.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:35 am


Ugh – I hate it when I forget to delete an earlier phrase. That should read:
Science is not a revelation from God – science is the sum of man’s exploration and explanation of God’s general self-revelation in Creation. To test science by Scripture is no more sinful than to test science by reality.



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Ray Ingles

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:41 am


And thankfully, I do not need a new Bible every fall, like science classes need new textbooks to correct the old ones.

“[W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was [perfectly] spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” – Isaac Asimov



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ScottL

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:42 am


I think a helpful book in dealing with topics like this – the historicity of Adam, the genre of Genesis 1-11, and other OT textual questions – is Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation. And it’s only 170 pages. A great work from an evangelical scholar devoted to the Scripture being God’s word.



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ben

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:43 am


@nick -
Science says that science hasn’t observed anyone coming back from the dead and that it is not currently reproducible through any known means. That is not to say that it isn’t possible. Science says very specific things with carefully used wording. It’s a statement of what we have observed.
As to needing new science books, that is a good thing – it means we have learned more about the creation. Science doesn’t need a new Earth every year either – we are still studying the same one. The same is true in theology – new theology comes out every year as we grow in our collective understanding of God. The Bible hasn’t changed – we are still studying the same one.



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indymavs

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:04 am


@nick gill
VERY nicely put! Thank you!



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Tim

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:15 am


Well, I see now reason to think Jesus, for instance, believed in a historical Adam – as his references to him could have well been only literary.
I find this encouraging, as my own view is that the evidence for evolution is simply too overwhelming for me to come to any other conclusion that it having happened is fact – and I don’t see why God would have (imperfect) humans evolve just to then take two, make them perfect, stick them in a perfect garden, and watch them become imperfect again by eating forbidden fruit.
But, Paul really does seem to believe in a historical Adam. Here’s a passage from Romans 5:12-17 that seems to imply this rather strongly:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned? 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God?s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man?s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God?s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”
Here Paul does not seem to be speaking of a literary figure, but truly seems to believe that sin actually entered into the world by one man (Adam).
So, what is my take on this?
Well, I simply think that Paul was wrong. He accepted history as it was presented to him as a Jew, and you see this now reflected in his writings. Being inspired doesn’t mean you can’t ever be wrong.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:19 am


@ray — “[W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was [perfectly] spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
Obviously, Asimov’s error is mostly chronological snobbery: imagining that those stupid ancient folk actually believed the earth was flat. Most societies in human history knew the curvature of the horizon and the gradual disappearance of large objects in the distance meant that the earth was not flat.



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Chris Rosebrough

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:20 am


Hmmm… who should I believe? Should I believe Jesus or Tremper Longman from Biologos?
Jesus believed that Adam and Eve were literal historical people. In fact, He, Jesus was the literal “seed of the woman” who was promised to Adam and Eve who would crush the head of the serpent. Jesus not only believed that Adam and Eve were literal historical people, he believed Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s sons to be literal historical people and he believed the account in Genesis of Abel’s murder to be literal history.
Tremper Longman, on the other hand denies that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve is literal history.
Jesus is the One True God in human flesh and proved it by raising Himself from the dead on the third day after he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Tremper is the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, as well as Visiting Professor of Old Testament at Mars Hill Graduate School, Visiting Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary and adjunct of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of over twenty books, including the upcoming Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins with physicist Richard F. Carlson.
As impressive as Tremper’s credentials are, they don’t really even compare with Jesus’ credentials.
I’m going to go with Jesus’ opinion and say that Jesus knows best and since Jesus believes in a literal Adam and Eve then I think it would be stupid to claim to know better than Jesus on this matter.



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Yourname

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:23 am


“To test science by Scripture is no more sinful than to test science by reality.”
Sin isn’t what we’re talking about, though. Testing science with Scripture is testing apples with oranges. It’s not sinful, just a waste of time unless your focus is studying ancient Hebrew ways of understanding the world. Testing science with reality, on the other hand, is the very nature of science.
If one’s comfort in the Bible is based on the fact that it is unchanging, you must address how our understanding of the Bible has in fact changed greatly. We used to consider slavery, not sparing the rod, genocide, polygamy, child brides and treating women as property biblical. Not to mention burning people at the stake.
There are only really four basic choices:
1. Science is wrong and the Bible is right.
2. The Bible is wrong and Science is right.
3. The Bible and Science are both wrong.
4. The Bible and Science are both right.
Number 4 for me.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:24 am


@ben
“Science says that science hasn’t observed anyone coming back from the dead and that it is not currently reproducible through any known means. That is not to say that it isn’t possible. Science says very specific things with carefully used wording. It’s a statement of what we have observed.”
As I’m sure you know, science also makes conclusions based upon those observations, and I’ve never heard a non-Christian biologist say, “Resurrection is possible, but currently unobserved.” I don’t think it is realistic to only interact with the observational part of science, but that’s certainly your intellectual right.



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RMahoney

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:25 am


The debate about a historical Adam and the facticity of Genesis is an important one. Sadly I see most people on either side of the debate trying to claim that there is no debate, there should be no discussion. I know I am guilty of making insensitive and perhaps incorrect claims like, “The description of how Adam was made is certainly figurative.” If we define our terms appropriately, I think that we could all agree with that statement, but the word “figurative” can be so slippery.
The primary concern I see addressed in this post is the pitting of Science and Religion against each other, and the negative results of forcing our children (and ourselves) to choose between the two. What if, instead of always being on the attack, we offered grace to the scientific community? And this goes both ways, for the way that many scientists write off christians is reprehensible. Regardless of what side of the debate we are on, we should teach our children to approach disagreements in love and humility, and teach them a robust faith that is not threatened by different views. There is a lot to be learned in the science classroom, many great truths about this wonderful creation. A good science teacher will encourage students to approach what they are taught with a healthy skepticism, to not take her word for it but dig deeper, require empirical evidence, because that is what science is. But when students walk into the classroom bible in hand and never even give the teacher a chance, she is going to get defensive, she is going to turn aside from just teaching science and start the work of indoctrination, because that is all that is left for her to do. The battle lines have been drawn and both sides are much more likely to leave the field with wounds than enlightenment.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:27 am


@Tim
“I find this encouraging, as my own view is that the evidence for evolution is simply too overwhelming for me to come to any other conclusion that it having happened is fact.”
Is the evidence for evolution stronger than the evidence that everyone who dies stays dead?



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Tim

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:36 am


@Nick
There is no scientific evidence that says that some supernatural force can’t bring somebody back from the dead. Science merely concludes that natural processes aren’t going to accomplish this.
But, if we’re comparing what is more credible in terms of “overwhelming” evidence, then I would say the evidence for evolution is far more robust than any evidence for the core tenets of Christianity.
This is why “faith” is required of the believer. If you had such strong evidence as to lead to near certainty on that alone, why would you even need faith?
However, it takes no more faith to accept evolution that it takes to accept that the Earth orbits around the Sun. Such is the weight of the evidence.



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:37 am


Chris #12 ? Would you please at least acknowledge that you are choosing to believe your interpretation of Jesus and not Jesus himself. It is wrong to believe that you are somehow channeling the actual true Jesus and not just believing your own interpretation. People refer to myth like it is fact all the time. It does not take away from the argument.
Or, do you believe that your interpretation is on par with the words of god? Please have some integrity and acknowledge that it is your interpretation you chose to believe.



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:38 am


Nick (#16)
Actually the evidence for evolution is much, much stronger than the evidence that everyone who dies stays dead.
The few instances recorded in scripture of people who were raised are all temporary – they eventually dies. Thus they represent more a “healing” not a resurrection.
With respect to the resurrection of Jesus – this is a one-off event that is a portend of things to come, the future resurrection of all. None of us really expect resurrection as a norm today. The scientific “evidence” then cannot speak to the reality of The Resurrection.
On the other hand the evidence for evolution is written in the earth and the genetic record. It is found within each of us and the world around us at every level. It is profound and persuasive as the mechanism for God’s mechanism of creation.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:55 am


@RJS (#19)
“Actually the evidence for evolution is much, much stronger than the evidence that everyone who dies stays dead.”
I don’t see how that is possible. The evidence that everything that dies stays dead is just as written in the earth as is the evidence for evolution. The evidence that everything that dies stays dead is just as written in our biology as is the evidence for evolution.
The *evidence* we have for the Resurrection is precisely the same evidence we have for Adam – ancient narrative documents. Marcus Borg, et al, have shown pretty persuasively that the same arguments that undermine the historicity of Adam can be used to undermine the historicity of the Resurrection.
I don’t understand what grounds one could have to say that the presuppositions for the arguments against the historicity of the Resurrection are mistaken, when they’re the same presuppositions used to argue against the historicity of Adam.
I appreciate the opportunity to converse with you.



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm


nick, I think it is clear that there were no witnesses around to see what god did before the creation of man. There were lots of witnesses to see and talk about Jesus. The two are quite different. One is written with good evidence. The other is written in a way that seems to intentionally make it allegorical. Right?



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm


nick,
With respect to the evidence in the earth demonstrating that what dies stays dead – well I don’t know of anyone, including Christians, who doesn’t think that this is the normal situation. The resurrection was not “normal,” which is precisely why it is so significant. The future resurrection, what ever that entails, is also not normal for here and now. It is the consummation and initiation of something very different.
And no – the evidence we have for Resurrection is not ancient narrative documents. Or rather those are only one piece of a much larger whole. The evidence for the Resurrection is in the apostolic witness of the NT, the understanding and witness of the early church, and the role of the Holy Spirit in his church – past, present, and future.
To tie Adam with Resurrection is not intellectually or historically credible. Argue for the historicity of Adam by all means if you feel that this is important – but don’t do it by association.



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Robert A

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm


I’ve studied the creation narratives and cannot come to the same conclusion as Dr. Longman. I believe in a literal creation of a literal Adam placed in a literal Garden of Eden. The text gives me no reason to believe otherwise.
Perhaps the more poignant question here is, at the crossroads of faith and philosophy (specifically in cosmology) is science any more credible than Christianity? Science is good at speaking about observable events, but cosmology isn’t observable. How should we then understand science’s claims? They are faith based speculations.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm


I?ve said the following before but this seems a good place to repeat it.
When a father is confronted by his daughter with the question ?Where did I come from?? his answer is going to differ depending on whether the daughter is four years old or fourteen years old. For the four year old, the explanation is going to be something like ?Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much and they wanted someone to share their love with. So daddy planted a seed in mommy?s tummy and God cared for it and grew you out of the seed until one day, when you were ready, you were born. And here you are as part of our family.?
Is this scientifically correct? Hardly. But is science the question the four year old was asking? No. She is wanting to know the context of her existence. The father communicates the metaphysical reality that she was born in love, that she is part of a family, and that God cares for her.
Now when this child is in biology class at fourteen, well this answer she was given at four cut it? No. She now knows more. Science class is asking the question differently. Does this mean the earlier answer was wrong? No. The context was different.
Similarly, the folks of the Old Testament era lived in a pre-scientific world. The concept that the earth may have been formed over vast eons would have been foreign to them. Their understanding of biology would have been rudimentary at best. So if God is going to answer the question, ?Where did we come from??, how will he do it? Just as with the father above, he is going to give them a narrative that communicates the metaphysical truth they need to know. Being who God is, God will use the language and genres of his intended audience. Thus, we see stories that in many ways parallel Ancient Near East stories but uniquely deviate at key points communicating important truths about God and our context.
The New Testament folks lived in this same pre-scientific world. Jesus came, self-limiting his knowledge to that of the human context into which he was born. Therefore, Jesus, Paul and other NT figures were all steeped in this cultural milieu. My guess is that Jesus, Paul, and others thought of Adam as a historical person but I?m not certain of that. The whole question of historical vs. fictional is an obsession of ours, not theirs. It is peripheral to the theological significance Adam plays in the narrative that helps us understand our context: we are all sinners in need of a redeemer. Therefore, when understood in context, Paul was not incorrect to speak of Adam as historical person. That Jesus, Paul, or anyone else may have referred to Adam as historical is no determinative of their actual existence.
The irony here is that those most dismissive of scientific/historical analysis are the ones most insistent that early Genesis be read as scientific/historical text. They are taking the answer being given to one question (Who are we and what is our purpose?) and torturing it into confessing an answer to another (What are or scientific/historical origins?)



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Robert A #23
I’ve read and studied The Screwtape letters and The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. I have come to the conclusion that these are historical events. The text gives me no reason to believe otherwise. Agreed?



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:45 pm


RJS (#22)
I haven’t begun to argue for the historicity of Adam yet. I’m certainly not saying that if you lose a historical Adam, you also lose the historical Resurrection. Even if I’m wrong about a recent earthly creation in an old cosmos, I don’t think that necessarily entails me being wrong about Jesus.
I’ve only been pointing out that the arguments being used to undermine the historicity of Adam are also used to undermine the historicity of the Resurrection. Overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, along with ancient writing that should be interpreted figuratively, are two cornerstones of the edifice that’s been erected to lay siege to the truth of the Resurrection.
One reason I reject the evolution narrative is because, while so many scientists suggest that evolution is elegant and beautiful and profound, I find it cruel and hideous. For every beneficial mutation (if we ever actually see one occur), there have been billions of awful ones that lead to a tortured existence in which the only blessedness is in its brevity.
We want doctors to fight against genetic mutations, when genetic mutations are precisely “the mechanism for God’s mechanism of creation?” No, I can’t bring myself to blame God (to congratulate Him, actually) for mutations.



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nick gill

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm


Michael #25
“I’ve read and studied The Screwtape letters and The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. I have come to the conclusion that these are historical events. The text gives me no reason to believe otherwise. Agreed?”
As I’ve been discussing with RJS, this same line of argumentation seriously endangers the limb Christians sit on with regard to the historical Jesus.



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Bill Crawford

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Hi Michael (#24),
“Similarly, [since] the folks of the Old Testament era lived in a pre-scientific world, the concept that the earth may have been formed over vast eons would have been foreign to them.”
Can this be substantiated? Didn’t the pre-Socratics (or at least some of them) hold to a very old earth? I know some were later than the OT writers.
My history of science is rusty so some support for this would be appreciated. Thanks!



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:56 pm


nick,
The arguments you repeat connecting the resurrection and Adam are easily countered, and thus not even worth mentioning as you try to make your point. These are the arguments I expect from one arguing against the truth of Christianity. When they come from inside the Christian “camp” they help to draw a line in the sand that makes preaching the gospel so much harder – lending credibility to the atheist claim.
Now the beauty vs horror of evolution is a different question, and a much more profound question. Do you think that death, not human death – but all death, is evil? Is the death of a chimpanzee or a worm by natural process evil?



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm


nick,
“As I’ve been discussing with RJS, this same line of argumentation seriously endangers the limb Christians sit on with regard to the historical Jesus.”
My reaction to that is a big “so what”. Just because that line of reasoning can be used as a non-historical Jesus weapon does not mean that it does not apply to Adam. I suggest it is a valid line of reason and we should consider it with respect to Jesus. Having said that I feel the conclusion is different.



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Fish

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm


“No, I can’t bring myself to blame God (to congratulate Him, actually) for mutations.”
I thank God that some type of mutation caused some wolves 40,000 or so years ago to start getting friendly with another predator, man. I love my dog.
I also like the fact that I have a nice large brain and that I can walk upright. Good changes there.
“Mutation” seems to carry a negative connotation, probably rooted in our deep belief that anything different must be bad, but it shouldn’t.



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muse

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm


I find it very simple. No literal Adam = no literal Jesus. The end.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm


#27 Nick
I don’t think it endangers the limb at all. What it points to is that we must have an eye to genre and context.
C. S. Lewis also wrote Mere Christianity. I know The Screwtape Letters is fiction and Mere Christianity is not. How? Nothing internal to the document says. Both are written as though history. I know because of experience external to the documents … about how genres work and what happens in real life versus fiction. We must do the same with Scripture.
The limb that is endangered is the limb that says if we can defend each passage as history we will preserve the integrity of scripture. What this in fact does is destroy the integrity of those clinging to this branch because of the refusal to wrestle with genre and context which is so obvious to others.
My take is that the starting point for Scripture is not Genesis but Jesus’ bodily resurrection. The interpretation of everything works outward from there. Like reading a good novel, we don’t understand how all the pieces of the story fit together until we get the conclusion. But now knowing the conclusion we can revisit the pieces and see their significance.
For many years Christians unquestioningly read portions of the Bible as “reporter on the ground” history but evidence from many quarters now shows these passages were not of this variety. Enlightenment/Modernist types have relished in “disproving” the faith because these accounts can be shown to be “incorrect.” The response back has been to demonize the debunkers and become ever more adamant about historicity.
Yet, if we take Scripture in its Ancient Near East and Middle East context we learn that all sides of this controversy are misguided. The stories were not “reporter on the ground” histories but their failure to be such says nothing about their truthfulness. These cultures were storytellers, taking stock stories and reworking them to communicate different aspects of the truth. Theology was taught through story and symbolism. This is not to say they didn’t communicate in matter-of-fact ways but the idea of strict adherence to “historical facts” is a product of modern Westernism.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm


@muse
I agree. No literal prodigal son = no literal Jesus. The end.
This is fun.



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Percival

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm


I wonder if we are too heavily invested in the historicity of every person NT writers referred to in historical contexts. Does it matter, for example, if the two magicians in Exodus were really named Jannes and Jambres?
II Timothy 3:8 Even as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so do these also oppose the truth,
I know that the issue may be different than Adam, but Job and Jonah also come to mind. For the purpose of the NT person referring to these personalities, does it really matter if they were historical individuals? If so, why?
(Maybe the capcha tells the reason — “reargap tradition”)



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Percival

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Here’s one. No literal Lazarus the begger = no literal Jesus. You’re right – very simple and fun!



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BIll

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm


Professor Longman?s analysis rightly calls for some discernment, and his observation, that ?It is wrong to challenge people to choose between the Bible and the science of evolution as if you can only believe that one or the other is true. They are not in conflict,? is something with which I can heartily agree. However, back to the beginning of his blog post, he undermines the entire approach and desire of the BioLogos blog, to celebrate the integration of science and Christianity, when he implies, if not outright states that an intellectually honest appraisal would admit the figurative nature of the Genesis account (now not only as to cosmic creation but as well Adam and Eve). In other words, intellectual honesty requires a revision of our understanding and reading in order to align with science, which seems to me to fall a little short of the ideal of integration.
Ultimately we are left with nothing more than inspired mythology (which allows us to differentiate from the other ANE mythologies) until we come to the incarnate and resurrected Jesus. Woe to us when science turns its beam to the historical validity of those events. There has not been any discussion or effort that enables believers to make boundaries here. And that is what makes the difference in these efforts to force faith to conform to the proofs of science. In my humble opinion, the line between a wholly naturalistic view and the views of Biologos is terribly thin. The arrogance of humanity was I believe the message of Babel.



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm


Percival and Kenny,
The comments about Jannes, Jambres, Job and Jonah are interesting – but there is an important point here that goes beyond the “fun.” I don’t hold to the idea that the belief in a historical Jesus demands a historical Adam.
But the question of Adam is more significant than for the others because of the connection that Paul draws in Romans 5 and because of the story we tell about our origins. It isn’t only genre and form – we need to think about it and have a clear answer.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm


RJS,
I agree. I just thought the drive-by comment by muse demanded a similar response.



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Ray Ingles

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm


Obviously, Asimov’s error is mostly chronological snobbery…

Actually, if you read the link I provided, you’ll see:
In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence. It was not just a matter of “That’s how it looks,” because the earth does not look flat. It looks chaotically bumpy, with hills, valleys, ravines, cliffs, and so on.
Of course there are plains where, over limited areas, the earth’s surface does look fairly flat. One of those plains is in the Tigris-Euphrates area, where the first historical civilization (one with writing) developed, that of the Sumerians.
Perhaps it was the appearance of the plain that persuaded the clever Sumerians to accept the generalization that the earth was flat; that if you somehow evened out all the elevations and depressions, you would be left with flatness. Contributing to the notion may have been the fact that stretches of water (ponds and lakes) looked pretty flat on quiet days.
…There were reasons, to be sure, to find the flat-earth theory unsatisfactory and, about 350 B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle summarized them. First, certain stars disappeared beyond the Southern Hemisphere as one traveled north, and beyond the Northern Hemisphere as one traveled south. Second, the earth’s shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse was always the arc of a circle. Third, here on the earth itself, ships disappeared beyond the horizon hull-first in whatever direction they were traveling.
I’d suggest reading the whole thing, it’s illuminating.



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Percival

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm


RJS,
You’re right of course. I’m wiping the smile off my face and stifling my church giggles. But they started it!



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Scot McKnight

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm


Bill, I think that is said so unfairly though: “nothing but” (really?) “inspired mythology” (as if myth is inherently bad). But “myth” properly understood probes deeply into the inner works of reality and truth and so tells powerfully tells true things.
I know the problems here but the way to describe them is to give them their best due.



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AHH

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:59 pm


Outside of fundamentalist extremes like Ken Ham, most reasonable Christians seem to be able to at least grudgingly agree that, considering just Genesis, “Adam” could be figurative like some other material there clearly is. It seems to be the NT mentions that make many people rule out that option and instead insist on Adam as a historical individual.
In view of that, maybe the most important thing Longman says is:
The New Testament’s use of Adam (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) does not resolve the issue as some suggest because it is possible, even natural, to make an analogy between a literary figure and a historical one.
Many of us who think the strong evidence for human evolution does not threaten our Christian faith have said similar things, but it is heartening to see this coming from a widely recognized top-notch Evangelical Bible scholar.



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Hank

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm


“The description of how Adam was created is certainly figurative.”
“It is wrong to challenge people to choose between the Bible and the science of evolution as if you can only believe that one or the other is true.”
It strikes me that the former does exactly what the latter says is “wrong.”



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:05 pm


Bill,
“intellectual honesty requires a revision of our understanding and reading in order to align with science, which seems to me to fall a little short of the ideal of integration.”
What? Are you saying that nothing but a literal reading is correct? How does that integrate? This view is simply casting it in a different light, not saying it is untrue, just that it is allegorical.
Are you saying that we should dismiss something that we think is true because it may make us change our minds about our interpretation? That’s arrogant as all get out. It presumes that someone’s interpretation is more important than the actual meaning. That does not seem right to me.
One of the things I have seen in the past few years is that some people consider faith to be blindly following someone elses interpretation of scripture and never questioning it. People have to get over the fact that questioning interpretation is not wrong, it is good.
Assume for a minute that the Gen 1-2 stories really are allegorical but inspired to give insight into the truths of god. Do you think that god and Jesus would want us to keep believing it to be historical? NO! Then what is wrong with trying to get to the truth?



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:10 pm


Hank,
No – one can acknowledge that way the story of the creation of Adam is told is figurative and still hold to a special creation (no evolution).
Simply making this observation doesn’t require anyone to accept evolution or choose between science and scripture. But we should be honest with the form and genre of the text.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm


#28 Bill Crawford
The point I was getting at was evolution and linear time … the earth and the life upon it evolved over vast eons.
As I recall some of the Greeks had the idea of an eternal universe. Some saw the world as created and destroyed set periods. I know that cyclical time was dominant over linear time. For some, time moved in a circle, rather than along a line, with events repeating themselves endlessly.
The idea of creation originating billions of years ago and life evolving incrementally over vast eons of linear time is unique to our scientific age to my knowledge.



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David P Himes

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm


It seems to me that the most fundamental dispute about creation is whether is happened by chance or it happened with God’s intervention.
There is no question that human, animal and plant life all evolve in various ways — that is not the issue.
The issue is whether man evolved by chance from animal life. Whether you believe the message of Genesis 1-2 is literal or figurative, clearly, it says that God brought mankind into being, thru whatever process he chose. I care not exactly how he did it.



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BIll

posted August 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm


DRT & Scot – my apologies. I did not intend to suggest mythology is solely fairy tales/fables, etc. Clearly, mythology, in the academic sense, is what is intended.
DRT – my point was where is the effort at integrating – to me that means something more than saying forcing choice is wrong, but also saying in the same breath that of course Genesis 1 and 2 are figurative – respectfully that seems to me to be setting up having to choose, my faith or my intellectual integrity. Nothing more nothing less. What do you expect the response to be? If anyone raises a question about the scope of the evolutionary claims, that person will be shot down from many sides and ultimately portrayed as an ignorant Biblicist or an arrogant fool.



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm


Bill,
I don’t think we should acknowledge that Gen 1-2 are figurative to align with science, rather we should acknowledge that they are figurative because the form of the text demands it. I tried to make this point in an earlier post a couple of weeks ago comparing the order of creation in Gen 1 and Gen 2. They simply are not consistent and this has to tell us something about the form and intent of the text.
I have a question though about the last part of your comment – “If anyone raises a question about the scope of the evolutionary claims, that person will be shot down from many sides and ultimately portrayed as an ignorant Biblicist or an arrogant fool.
What would it take to avoid this impression?
I would say that one can raise questions about the scope of evolutionary claims. But it has to be done with evidence and reason in the face of dissent and discussion. Ultimately the ideas have to stand the light of day.
If the counter-arguments are fair and don’t resort to ad hominem, then that is the nature of an intellectual discussion. When people resort to ridicule or personal attack rather than focusing on the ideas we have a problem. But ideas must be defended and stand up to challenge.



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm


“The arguments you repeat connecting the resurrection and Adam are easily countered, and thus not even worth mentioning as you try to make your point.”
I’ve seen approximately two dozen comments making the attempt, and nobody has substantially refuted his logic, or even really come close. I think it a rather difficult task, and one that introduces paradoxes to which philosophers and theologians alike have devoted countless years of study unraveling.
I do find that there is an air of unearned certainty on the part of those who believe in a figurative Adam, and who agree with the mainstream scientific understanding of evolution. The result is comments like this:
“Here’s one. No literal Lazarus the begger = no literal Jesus. You’re right – very simple and fun!”
I mean, nothing like being condescending in the act of employing flawed logic. Christ taught by telling illustrative stories. The bible says this was so. He introduced his stories in precisely the way one would if he were telling a story.
It is illogical to apply the same standard to the rest of scripture, which never explicitly indicates it is telling a story. Genesis begins with no such indication. The book of Job does not begin with “suppose there was a man from Uz.”
To introduce Lazarus as a counter-example for a literal interpretation of New Testament is about as apples to oranges as it gets. Yet it seems to suffice for many of the commenters here (who piled on with similar logic).
If you are “certain” about your position on Adam and evolution, and this line of reasoning helps to inform that thinking, then you should no longer be certain.



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BradK

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm


I’m a bit surprised that no one has responded (or if so I missed it) to Tim’s conclusion in #10.
“Well, I simply think that Paul was wrong. He accepted history as it was presented to him as a Jew, and you see this now reflected in his writings. Being inspired doesn’t mean you can’t ever be wrong.”
Does the assumption that Paul was simply wrong about the historicity of Adam invalidate the argument that Paul was making? No one believes that Paul’s main point here is actually about the historicity of Adam, right? Figurative or literal, is the historicity of Adam really relevant to the point Paul is making?
There is at least one other place in scripture where Paul appears to be wrong in his assumptions. In 1 Corinthians 15:40 and following Paul seems to assume (like other people in ancient times?) that the stars and other celestial objects are living beings with celestial bodies. We now know this isn’t true and that the stars are actually distant suns. But does this invalidate the point that Paul was making?
Isn’t our basic approach to scripture (and possibly our views of its inspiration) the real issue here?



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preachinjesus

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm


#25 @Michael W Kruse
“I’ve read and studied The Screwtape letters and The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. I have come to the conclusion that these are historical events. The text gives me no reason to believe otherwise. Agreed?”
Well you apparently didn’t study them awfully well since the author’s preface and numerous other comments would clearly indicate a different kind of literature.
Your example isn’t a good one.
and these cursed captchas are all messed up….



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Fish

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm


You may be familiar with “Godwin’s Law,” which states that all blog discussions will eventually contain a reference to Hitler.
I propose “Fish’s Law.” Fish’s Law posits that any post on a religious blog which casts doubt on any passage in the Bible being literal truth will eventually be logically tied to denying the resurrection.
Fish’s Law was fulfilled in only 4 responses in this thread.



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preachinjesus

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm


#25 @Michael W Kruse
“I’ve read and studied The Screwtape letters and The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. I have come to the conclusion that these are historical events. The text gives me no reason to believe otherwise. Agreed?”
Well you apparently didn’t study them awfully well since the author’s preface and numerous other comments would clearly indicate a different kind of literature.
Your example isn’t a good one.
and these cursed captchas are all messed up….



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm


kevin s.
The point of my comment – the one you quote at the start of yours – is that the there is no reason to equate literal Adam and literal resurrection as if our reason for believing in the resurrection depends on a literal Adam.
There are many lines of argument including:
The difference in genre and form of the gospels and Genesis. The form of Gen 1-2 is figurative in a fashion. We can have a figurative form with or without a literal Adam and with or without accepting evolution. The form of the gospels is not figurative, nor is the witness of Paul.
The connection between Jesus, the apostolic witness in the NT, the church, and the present. The evidence we have for Resurrection is in the apostolic witness of the NT, the understanding and witness of the early church, and the role of the Holy Spirit in his church – past, present, and future. Whether we view Adam as also literal or not doesn’t influence the reliability of this witness.
The uniqueness of the resurrection. The resurrection is a one-off event that cannot in any fashion be either proven or refuted by science. The most science can say is that resurrection is not normal. Christians agree. On the other hand science may have something to say about the plausibility of a literal historical Adam. One can deal with that evidence – but however one comes down, it does not influence the resurrection question.
Note – I am not trying here to make a case for or against the historicity of Adam. I am simply trying to make the point that the historicity of Adam and the historicity of the Resurrection are not interdependent questions. They can and should be discussed separately.



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm


I have been studying the EO church just a little, and think that it is directly relevant to our pursuits since they have not had as much change in the past 1000 years.
It is interesting that their icon representations for adam and eve do not have halo’s meaning that they are not literal, I believe….
http://lent.goarch.org/forgiveness/learn/



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm


“The uniqueness of the resurrection. The resurrection is a one-off event that cannot in any fashion be either proven or refuted by science. The most science can say is that resurrection is not normal.”
This assessment only makes sense if you assume, a priori, that the resurrection occurred. Science assumes the absence of miracle, by definition, and so renders its verdict on observation.
The most science can say is that the instantaneous creation of Adam and Eve is not normal. Whatever science has to say about resurrection (and science says it is impossible), it also has to say about Adam.
Same goes for the virgin birth. I’m guessing this, and not resurrection, is the next domino to fall, since it fails two of your three criterion for being distinct from a non-literal interpretation of Adam. Science obviously rejects it.
This is the problem of a certainty, as espoused by Tremper Longman, that concludes one must choose between embracing the figurative interpretation or rejecting science.
I don’t want to reject science, but to understand its limitations. All we can say about Adam and Eve re: science, is that science cannot explain it one way or the other.
If you want to leave science out of it, and focus solely on the text, that is a different matter, and one distinct from the argument Longman is advancing.



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Percival

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm


Kevin S #51
It is not always easy to tell when Jesus is telling a fictional story, a story based on a true story, or a completely historical reference. Some of his parables are rooted in actual historical events. He uses no formula like “once upon a time.” Instead Jesus says, “There was a certain begger named Lazarus…” Some people ask, “Was there really a certain begger named Lazarus or was Jesus lying?” This is the kind of thing people are saying about Jesus referring to Adam or Jonah. The difference with Adam is that Adam is a much more important personage in the grand scheme of the big story.
You said, “He introduced stories in precisely the way one would if he were telling a story.” And, the book of Job does not begin with “suppose there was a man from Uz.” Please tell us what exactly is this precise way Jesus uses to introduce stories? I don’t recall him saying, “Suppose there was a man” or “Once upon a time.” When he refers to OT characters, he only needs to say their name. It would be silly to say, “You’ve probably heard the story of Jonah.”
I find it very irritating when people assert that if you don’t accept the historicity of a particular, then you shouldn’t be able to assert that anything is historical. Unfortunately, some people here keep saying this kind of thing over and over. Case in point, look at how many times people keep coming back to the idea that the miracle of 6- day creation and the resurrection are somehow similar. Really, the patience of RJS, who has to address this charge over and over, is remarkable.



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Derek Ashton

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Mr. McKnight,
I couldn’t disagree more with what Dr. Longman has said here. The text of Scripture doesn’t countenance the possibility of evolution, doesn’t describe it, doesn’t give us any reason at all to even consider it. We only think evolution is non-negotiable because the propaganda of our culture has brainwashed us. The scientific elite, including (notably) all of the new atheists, are religiously devoted to evolutionary dogma.
Is there a line in Genesis where the narrative changes from a figurative description to actual history? Biblical genealogies of real historical people trace their roots all the way back to Adam and Eve. Who was the first “real” person in those genealogies if not Adam? Who was the first to sin if not Eve? How did death enter the world if not through the sin of Adam?
In Genesis, creation is described in terms of specific “days,” with “morning” and “evening” in a specific sequence. It is not presented as poetry or allegory, but has all the earmarks of historical narrative, and it leads directly into the ongoing narrative of the book without any hint of a transition to “reality” from allegory. Again, I would ask Dr. Longman, where is the line that separates the “figurative” myth of creation from the real history that follows?
Does a belief in creation put us at odds with science? Far from it. Most scientists unequivocally deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, along with His other miracles, so Christians are already out of favor with them. Is it “damaging” to insist that young people make a choice about the resurrection – a choice that surely won’t be accepted by scientists and will lead to the accusation that they have checked their intelligence at the classroom door? If we affirm the resurrection on Biblical grounds, why not affirm creation on the same grounds?
Derek Ashton



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm


kevin s.,
No – my assessment of science and resurrection makes sense whether or not one accepts the resurrection as true or not. Science can not address the possibility of a supernatural resurrection. It can only say that it is not normal. There is no scientific trail. There is a historical trail for the resurrection of Jesus – one that NT Wright argues, quite persuasively I think, supports the historicity of the resurrection.
The virgin birth question is also one that science cannot address. There is no historical or scientific trail, only the witness of the church and theological reasons for accepting or discounting that witness.
Adam and Eve is a different question – although one can maintain a literal Adam, it is quite clear that we do not all descend from one male several thousand years ago and do not descend from one unique couple at the cusp of an up-side down cone. It is also very clear that there was not a flood that wiped out all human population save the offspring of four unique couples (Noah and his wife and the parents of his daughters-in-law) some several thousand years ago. The question is quite different than the questions about Jesus because the data is embedded in every one of us, and in the archaeological and fossil record. Adam and Eve – if they are a literal couple – were one couple within a population, not the beginnings of everything. Of course such a view also makes more sense of the text of Genesis.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Preaching Jesus #54
On the contray. “The Screwtape Letters” illustrates my point well. The full preface from “The Screwtape Letters” written by C.S. Lewis:
“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who make bad use of it shall not learn it from me.
Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle. I have made no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I think it very unlikely that the portraits, say, of Fr. Spike or the patient’s mother, are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.
In conclusion, I ought to add that no effect has been made to clear up the chronology of the letters. Numbers XVII appears to have been composed before rationing became serious; but in general the diabolical method of dating seems to bear no relation to terrestrial time, and I have not attempted to reproduce it. The history of the European War, except in so far as it happens now and then to impinge upon the spiritual condition of one human being, was obviously of no concern to Screwtape.”
From the outset, Lewis sets up the book as a factual recounting. Nowhere does he clue is in with “this is just a story.” Now you may have an edition with an additional preface by someone else, as I do, that but that is not the text. That is commentary by another on the text.
The assertion was that there is nothing in the Genesis account that says “this is a story” and we are obligated to treat it as “reporter on the scene” history. There is nothing in Lewis’ book that says this is just a story. Therefore, to be consistent we must assert that Lewis intend his book as literal history because nothing in the text says otherwise. And furthermore, if I comment to a friend who I know has read the book, “If you think you can get away with that idea then Wormwood must be messing with your mind”, then have I now declared that I believe Wormwood to be a factual being?
Now there is another way we can be consistent. We can acknowledge that each time we encounter a book we bring a number of things from outside the book to assess the nature of the story we are encountering. What do we know about the stories origin and from what context did it emerge? Who is the author? Do the elements of the story comport with what we know about the physical universe and history? What have others who have examined the story learned? etc.
Now I’m pretty certain that if most of us encounter a story, ancient or present, that includes talking serpents and trees with mystical powers, we would conclude we are encountering something other than a “reporter on the scene” description of events. We would probe deeper to learn more. But no. We are told that because the story does not self-identify as story it may no be questioned. Case closed.
Let’s be consistent. We consistently except no qualification to stories that appear to us to be historical and do not identify themselves otherwise or we can be consistent and recognize that we must look outside any given text to determine its nature.



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Norm

posted August 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm


There is a way out of this Adam dilemma in which we can have our historical Adam cake and eat it too.
Recognize that Genesis literature is a Hebrew story and Adam is considered the ancient faith forebear becoming Israel and not the human race at large. The Jews in their ancient writings trace their religious ancestry back to Adam circa 4000 BC. Jesus as a blood descendant of Eve (as the mother of all the ?Living?) fulfilled this Jewish messianic narrative by crushing Satan?s head. Paul picks up on this historical understanding and applies it appropriately recognizing himself the embedded allegory found within Gen 2 & 3.
The Jews then folded the Gentiles from whom Adam was initially selected back into the narrative primarily beginning at Babel which basically mimics Israel amongst the Nations. This is specifically accomplished when Genesis was most likely finalized around the end of the first Temple period and the Hebrew Priesthood was constructing their historic narrative called Genesis.
Paul has his historic Adam and when the Jews reject him he continues on with his Tent making duties enlarging and spreading it out to make room for the Gentiles.
Isa 54:1-3 ESV “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. (2) “ENLARGE THE PLACE OF YOUR TENT, AND LET THE CURTAINS OF YOUR HABITATIONS BE STRETCHED OUT; DO NOT HOLD BACK; LENGTHEN YOUR CORDS AND STRENGTHEN YOUR STAKES. (3) For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and YOUR OFFSPRING WILL POSSESS THE NATIONS and will people the desolate cities.



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DRT

posted August 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm


Michael W. Kruse,
I have really enjoyed your posts on this thread. Thanks for sharing.
Dave



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Dana Ames

posted August 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm


DRT@57,
nope, that’s not the reason. They don’t have halos because in nearly every iconic portrayal of them, even that of Christ pulling them out of the tomb, they are viewed to have not yet come to the point in their existence where they are able to show forth the light of God which is a result of union with God. But the Orthodox iconic portrayal of them does not necessarily presuppose a “literal Adam & Eve”. The early Fathers did not require that A&E be “literal”. Read the Cappadocians.
I like this:
“Typical of the Eastern approach to theology, but this time in visual art, this relationship is expressed through a paradox in which one can almost hear the divine laughter of the Holy Spirit. Adam and Eve, the aboriginal ancestors of mankind, fled from God because of sin-induced fear. God now comes to find them in the depths of death into which they fled. The shock is that the God who comes to lift them into the life of the Holy Trinity, and the saints along with them, is their descendant in the flesh. This icon refutes the ghastly spectacle of Chronos eternally devouring his children in a closed universe. It shows, better than a thousand words, how the gate of heaven and eternity stands open for humankind.”
from here:http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/theology/ejournal/aejt_7/cross.htm
Paradox… oh yes!
Dana



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Naum

posted August 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm


#53, “Fish’s Law”, LOL, as much as politics threads are decried for being vituperative here, this observation is definitely on the mark?
Michael in #33, good point on context and ties also in with Scot’s comment on “myth” ? “figurative” does not equate untruth, “myth” may be a truer rendering than any “fact based reporting”?



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Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm


If I had to believe in a literal Adam and Eve and reading of Genesis in order to be a Christian, I wouldn’t be a Christian.
I would never renounce Christ, but I would never renounce science in favor of the Bible.
In matters of science, science is superior to the Bible. In matters of faith, the Bible is superior to science.
If scripture being “wrong” as shown by science is a threat to one’s faith, then place your faith in Christ and not the Bible. IMHO.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Derek #60
I agree that the Bible doesn?t consider evolution. It is far prior to the events in the Bible and has no bearing on the truth God was imparting.
?We only think evolution is non-negotiable because the propaganda of our culture has brainwashed us.?
Evolution is a non-negotiable because the evidence points overwhelmingly in its direction. The reason we have so many resisting the evidence in Christian communities is because of cultural warrior ideology that (incorrectly) sees a historical interpretation of early Genesis as the line in the sand to save the Bible.
Yes biblical genealogies trace back to Adam but the genealogies do not serve the same purpose as in our culture. They locate people within a theological and social context. The tracing back to Adam has profound symbolic meaning. The number of generations between key figures also carries symbolic meaning. That doesn?t mean that everyone in the genealogy is an actual historical figure. RJS did a great post about this earlier.
?Who was the first to sin if not Eve? How did death enter the world if not through the sin of Adam??
Rom 5:12 ?Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned ?? Does this contradict your claim and 1 Tim 2:14, that Eve sinned first. Adam seems to be at blame. Could it be that the story is being used figuratively to unfold theological truths about our sinfulness rather than to tell us about historical people Adam and Eve.
And death was contemplated before the fall. Gen 3:22-23a ?Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” ?therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, ?” Death is apparently normal. Eternal life is the thing that must be prevented. The death we have through sin is a spiritual death.
?In Genesis, creation is described in terms of specific “days,” with “morning” and “evening” in a specific sequence. It is not presented as poetry or allegory, but has all the earmarks of historical narrative, ??
Did you see my comment #62? Lewis told an entire story, talking of fictional events as real, without out once informing us of what he was doing. We see this in literature repeatedly. Does the author have to say ?Now I?m going to give you a poem?? What would you need to see to make the determination that this is poetry? Understanding and appreciating various genres from ancient foreign cultures is a challenge. But just asserting that they are all historical doesn?t free us from the task.
?If we affirm the resurrection on Biblical grounds, why not affirm creation on the same grounds??
Because they are apples and oranges. One is Ancient Near East based cosmology, unfolding the purpose that God has assigned to creation and humanity. The witness to the resurrection is written in entirely different genres for different purposes. While still not quite ?reporter on the ground? type genres, the NT books witness to a historical reality that radically reshaped and redirected an actual community of people in the First Century. The question of Genesis? genre is not connected to questions of Jesus historical resurrection. There is no slippery slope that leads from a figurative/mythical understanding of Genesis to a denial of resurrection … anymore than there is to slippery slope from acknowledging that C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” was fiction to somehow jeopardizing trust in “Mere Christianity.”



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm


@muse
I apologize if you were offended, but I still think that drive-by one line comments are not constructive (and neither was my attempt at humor, I admit).
I have to say that I don’t agree with you. Does sin exist? I’d say yes, no matter if Adam is a historical figure or not. Is creation broken? I’d say yes, no matter if it can be explained by a literal Eve eating a literal fruit or not.
So for me… no matter what I need Jesus’ forgiveness. No matter what, I need God to restore His creation. A literal Genesis does not change that for me.
And for the record, I don’t deny a literal Adam — I simply don’t think he is necessary for my understanding of Christ.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm


Why did a literal Adam have to be the first image bearer for the humanity to be image bearers?



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm


Why do I have to know the origin of sin in order for Jesus to be a literal person?



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Ron Newberry

posted August 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm


WE are all adam. Everyday we must decide: do we trust God or a talking snake.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm


#78 Muse
Kenny was not being contrary. You are making an assertion that is not obvious to some of us but seems to be obvious to you. Why do we have to know the origin of sin in order for Jesus to be a literal person or for us to believe in sin?
Jesus, Paul and others make quite clear we are sinners in need of redemption. That God explains our sinfulness in the genres and modes of Ancient Near East culture was apparently sufficient in God’s eyes. A precise accounting of how we came to be sinners isn’t needed to appreciate that we are sinners. Many things are vague to us and have shades of mystery.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm


Dave #64
You are welcome. Restating this stuff over and over at Jesus Creed has helped me process a few issues. I’m glad it is useful to some others.



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm


“You said, “He introduced stories in precisely the way one would if he were telling a story.” And, the book of Job does not begin with “suppose there was a man from Uz.” Please tell us what exactly is this precise way Jesus uses to introduce stories?”
Luke 15 is a good example. The informal introduction (the NIV literally uses the word “suppose”) to the parables signals that they are stories, and not real events. In Matthew 13, he explains why he speaks in parable. The fact that he is speaking in parable is stated and discussed in the text.
“When he refers to OT characters, he only needs to say their name. It would be silly to say, “You’ve probably heard the story of Jonah.”"
Yes it would, because they were real people whose experiences were described in the Old Testament.
“I find it very irritating when people assert that if you don’t accept the historicity of a particular, then you shouldn’t be able to assert that anything is historical.”
Nobody is asserting anything close to this. The argument is that the scientific case against a literal Adam is the same is the case against a literal resurrection. If you don’t have the patience for it, don’t address it.
The collective impatience of the pro-evolution believers does not persuade me to their point of view. There just isn’t enough “there” there.



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:15 pm


kevin s.
Your argument is that the scientific case against a literal Adam is the same is the case against a literal resurrection.
My contention is that they are not close to the same because the scientific argument against resurrection is based solely on analogy – nothing else. But even those of us who believe in resurrection, believe that it was a one-off event. The argument by analogy then is not a convincing argument against.
On the other hand there is a great deal of evidence for evolution, and against a single progenitor couple in the near past (near in this case being about 100,000 years). Now you can argue against that evidence and we can have a conversation about it.
My objection here is the coupling of resurrection and Adam. The scientific cases are not the same or even similar. The biblical and historical cases are not the same or even similar.



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muse

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm


Michael, I would respond to you, but my posts have disappeared. I was speaking to the continuity of Scripture and the truthfulness of Scripture. I don’t think Jesus was confused when he talked about Adam or Jonah. I don’t think Paul was confused. Nor do I think either of them were trying to trick us, or just didn’t know. I don’t believe Jesus set aside his intelligence when he came to earth. If you assert that there doesn’t have to be a literal Adam for sin to come into the world, then I think that it’s fair to ask how do you then assert that sin did come into the world. As I stated in my former post, my atheist friend and I agree on the scientific finds. He just think it points away from God while I think it points to God. He thinks it points to evolution. I think it points away from evolution. I am just asking that the people are so sure something is a myth explain how it could have happened otherwise. How there could be a Second Adam without a First Adam. If Adam was not literal, how did sin come into the world, and death by sin. If Adam was not literal, why do we need a savior?
I am really surprised with the disrespect that has been shown to me here; perhaps you sense that I am a middle-aged woman and just assume that middle-aged women don’t think. I don’t know. But try being a little nicer to me, OK?



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm


@RJS
“Science can not address the possibility of a supernatural resurrection. It can only say that it is not normal. There is no scientific trail. There is a historical trail for the resurrection of Jesus – one that NT Wright argues, quite persuasively I think, supports the historicity of the resurrection.”
Right, and so science has very little to do with it. We do not use science as our guide for understanding the resurrection because it happened outside of science’s purview. Ditto the virgin birth.
But, for the high school student in Longman’s scenario, they are being forced to choose between science and religion. They can apply principles of science, or they can trust the human accounts of what occurred.
With respect to the origins of man, the only substantial difference is that science has offered an explanation that we can reconcile to the text. By my reading, we have to make some major compromises to do so. A literal Adam (and, as importantly, a literal fall story) is certainly one of them.
Why should we make those compromises? Just because we can? Because we can retain some intellectual credibility on this issue?
Those are not without value, so the question is whether the intellectual consonance merits the theological trade-off. You are vulnerable, then, to the question of why scientific explanations of scripture take precedence in this instance and not others.
Alternately, you can argue that there is no trade-off. This leaves you arguing that the only way to interpret the text regarding the fall, the origins of man, Noah’s Ark etc… Is to assume they are figurative.
Again, that is your prerogative, and it is an entirely different discussion. What we have here, and in the original post, is a sort of hybrid of two incompatible approaches. You are using the certainty of science to evade tricky theological questions, and the certainty of theology to evade tricky scientific questions.
I find this tenuous, and I would encourage those who think as Tremper Longman do to employ a bit more humility.



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm


Regarding the Godwin’s law thing. The problem with evoking Hitler in a discussion is that it borrows the moral equity attached to opposing genocide to advance an argument that is far less clear cut. It is a de facto logical fallacy, and amalgam of the slippery slope and arguing from absurdity fallacy.
It is not at all absurd or fallacious to suggest that science might be evoked to deny the literal resurrection. That happens all the time.
Further, many arguments arrive at inevitable ends. The business with the parables is another example in this context. The frequency with which an argument is evoked is not an indictment of its validity.



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RJS

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm


kevin s.
Don’t we all disregard many of the scientific explanations of scripture? After all the ancient near east cosmology assumed in the text is not something any of us hold to.
But I don’t really claim that theological explanations take precedence in some instances and scientific explanations take precedence in others. Rather I claim that we have to look at the world, God’s word, and God’s action in the world as a coherent whole. The evidence for mechanism of creation explored scientifically is a reasonable picture of God’s method. The revelation of his creative power and mission in the world found in scripture is a reliable, inspired revelation. But we have to read scripture literally with literary intelligence (what Michael has been arguing).
I posted a week or so ago (Aug 5) on Genesis – in the post titled collected stories. One of my points there was to compare the creation of man in Gen 1 and Gen 2. The two are not really capable of harmonization without serious mental gymnastics. Among other things this suggests to me that we should look at the form of Genesis 1-3 as something other than historical reporting. Both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are true however, in their function – the message they are intended to convey.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm


“I don’t believe Jesus set aside his intelligence when he came to earth.”
Did Jesus’ knowledge grow? Did he know everything when he was born?



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Fish

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm


Ah, yes, science might be evoked to deny the literal resurrection, but not often by scientists.
Some theologians (and I’m not placing you in that group) create a strawman in which scientific questioning of any area of the Bible is equated to denying the resurrection. It borrows the moral equity associated with Christianity to advance an argument that is far less clear cut, to use your terms.
The fact that it inevitably happens is what makes Fish’s law a law.
Post #60 contained a particularly well-put example: “Most scientists unequivocally deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, along with His other miracles, so Christians are already out of favor with them.”



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EricG

posted August 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm


Kevin S –
Honest questions, not trying to score points or pick a fight, but instead trying to get to the bottom of the point of disagreement:
Have you examined the evidence for evolution? What do you understand the best evidence to be? Does the strength of the evidence matter? What if it were demonstrated to your satisfaction that the evidence for evolution today is as strong as the evidence 100 years ago that the earth circles the sun? Would it affect the way you are framing these issues?
My sense in reading your arguments is that you aren’t engaging with how strong the scientific evidence is. It may affect how you understand the points RJS is making, in distinguishing the evidence for evolution and the resurrection.



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Percival

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:19 am


Kevin S #75
There is no introduction to Luke 15. There are only introductions to certain parables. One parable starts this way:
Luke 15:11 ?A certain man had two sons.” It seems a certain man is a fictional character. But in Luke 19 he says, “A certain nobleman went into a far country.” This seems to be the same kind of introduction, but there are some scholars who now say this is based on a historical event. Also, the parable of Lazarus was assumed by Medieval Christians to be historical.
Even if some of the parables are based on actual historical events they can still become “parablyzed” (my word) by Jesus. I don’t know that the line between one genre and the other is as clear as we sometimes suppose. The legitimate difference of opinion about Job and Jonah among conservative scholars are indicative. Sometimes it is obvious what is a parable and sometimes it is not.



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Jeff

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:45 am


Setting 1 Corinthians and Romans aside for the moment, what do you “figurative Adam” folks make of Luke’s genealogy, which traces Jesus’ descent back to Adam. Is Adam a “figurative” or “literary” character there? Are genealogies the kinds of genres that lend themselves to such figurative or literary characters?
I’m not in any way implying a fixed chronology standing behind Luke’s genealogy. But, it strikes me as something different to claim that the persons involved in the genealogy themselves are not to be taken as literal, historical figures. But, perhaps I need to be further informed.



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kevin s.

posted August 20, 2010 at 2:30 am


“Have you examined the evidence for evolution?”
Yes.
“What do you understand the best evidence to be?”
The cohesion between a repeatable phenomenon (natural selection) and the appearance of the Earth (fossil records, wind-swept rocks etc…).
“Does the strength of the evidence matter?”
Yes.
“What if it were demonstrated to your satisfaction that the evidence for evolution today is as strong as the evidence 100 years ago that the earth circles the sun?”
Then I would be forced to concede that it was so.
“Would it affect the way you are framing these issues?”
Depends on what you mean by framing. I would still contend that science is limited in its ability to tell us about the historical Adam, because everything about the creation story points to a miracle. That said, it would be almost impossible for me to defend the notion of a literal Adam if it were concluded that all of mankind descended from monkey ancestors.
As it stands, because science is science, there is a strong undercurrent of circular reasoning associated with the practice of explaining Genesis through an evolutionary lens. We are leveraging the findings of a discipline that eschews (or cannot explain) miracles in hopes of learning more about a miracle.
Within this paradigm, science has come up with a persuasive explanation, and I believe scientists have made a good faith effort to explain the origins of man.
I see it along the same lines as the quest for a historical Jesus, wherein Crossan et al… were forced to invent an apocryphal text in order to explain how the gospel accounts came to pass. They felt compelled to do so because Christ’s deity was beyond their purview.
I think they made a good faith effort, but there were some serious gaps, with hypothetical gospels texts introduced to fill them. I see the same phenomenon with evolution.



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EricG

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:55 am


Kevin S,
Thanks for the response. My general views on Crossan and others on the historical Jesus are that their theories are fairly speculative, and are based on a philosophical worldview that requires a strong preference for naturalistic explanations. (Also, if you are inclined to that sort of historical analysis, N.T. Wright’s analysis is more credible, IMO). For those reasons I don’t agree with them, and it sounds like we’re agreed on that.
My view on evolution isn’t based on a preference for naturalistic explanations, or even simply because it is a plausible theory consistent with fossils. Instead, it is based on the strength of the evidence — check out the genetics evidence people like Francis Collins and RJS have described — I find it stunning. To the point where, if evolution isn’t true, then God is engaged in intentional deception, which I could not fathom.
In my view, you are correct that there are theological questions raised by evolution. (Of course, there are theological questions raised by lots of things we believe to be true). My response to that, given the very strong evidence for evolution, is that we should move beyond the debate about evolution, and get to work addressing those questions. Other Christian traditions that take the Bible seriously have been doing that (e.g., Catholicism), but the serious theological discussions have been stunted within evangelical circles because of the anti-evolution views many hold.



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Alan K

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:05 am


How about we all go home and read Church Dogmatics volume 3 and discover that before most of us were even born these questions were all addressed intelligently and with theological depth. Judging by the myriad of comments (which have been very good), there seems to be no consensus on what sort of book the Bible is, what is the Word of God, do the scriptures provide a unified worldview, what the cosmology of the Bible is, etc. We may or may not agree with everything Karl Barth says, but I believe he enables us to take giant steps forward with regards to talking about matters of history, of creation, of why we have Genesis like it is and not some other sort of book.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:58 am


Jeff #85
You might want to look at RJS’ earlier post What About the Genealogies?
My short answer is that genealogies did not serve the same purpose they do today … to provide a generation by generation historical account of our biological origins. Consider the ancestry of contemporaries Joshua and Moses back to their ancestor Joseph. 1 Chron 7:20-27:
Summary Joshua:
Joseph
Ephraim
Beriah
Rephah
Resheph
Telah
Tahan
Ladan
Ammihud
Elishama
Nun
Joshua (Hoshea)
Moses Summary:
[Joseph]
Levi
Kohath
Amram
(Eight generations missing.)
Moses
The genealogies were constructed to communicate important theological truths and the status, or social location, of a key person.
Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind. He constructs his genealogy to show that Jesus is the messiah and a descendant of Abraham. One theory is that Luke, writing to a gentile audience, seeks to show Jesus as the messiah for all humanity, as well as being the Jewish messiah, links him to Adam. Matthew uses three sets of double sevens to divide his genealogy. Seven indicated perfection in Hebrew culture and three indicated completeness. Thus a complete set of double perfection if you will. Meanwhile, Luke records 77 generations possibly indicating the forgiveness of sins.
In other words, the genealogies did not serve to ground the person in history but rather in the communities narrative of what God was unfolding.



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Derek Ashton

posted August 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm


Michael W. Kruse #68
Thanks for your response.
It seems you are raising a host of easily explained misconceptions in order to maintain your position, which is grounded in the assumption that evolution is true. The Scripture twisting is profoundly creative. Although I’m mystified by this and would love to answer in detail, I don’t have time to address all of your objections. However, I’ll give a few brief points in response.
The evidence doesn’t point overwhelmingly in the direction of evolution. It’s a doomed theory that’s being propped up by bold but ungrounded assertions that are even being parroted by Evangelical scholars now. Christians ought to see through this bluff.
Sure, there is more to the genealogies than mere identification of historical people. But there is not less. Take away the historicity and the rest falls like a house of cards. You’re assuming I think Biblical genealogies are used as today’s genealogies are. I’m looking at them from a Biblical perspective in their original cultural context. Even my 6-year-old has been trained to study Scripture in this way.
Pointing out a supposed contradiction between I Tim. 2:14 and Romans 5:12 doesn’t remotely lead to the conclusion that Adam and Eve are figurative. If you can drop the axe you’re grinding, you may gain some edifying insights by studying the relation of these two passages. Seeming contradictions in Scripture are always meant to point us to important logical connections.
Physical death is a consequence of spiritual death. Otherwise, why did Jesus have to die in both senses? He could have died spiritually and left it at that.
Simply asserting that the Genesis narrative is fictional doesn’t do anything. To understand genre, you will need to study the textual evidences that lead a scholar to conclude that a text is allegorical, poetic, historical, or fits into some other genre. Poetry (or even allegory) doesn’t necessarily equal non-history. You need to look at the way genres are used in Scripture and then you will see how fallacious the arguments against the historicity of Genesis are.
Finally, I’m still wondering – where IS the line between figurative people and real, historical people? Were Cain and Abel real? Was Noah real? Was Abraham the first real person in the Bible? Do we go all the way to Jacob, or Joseph, or Moses? Where do you draw the line, and what textual, historical/grammatical evidence do you have to show your line is a valid one? FWIW, I draw this line right before Genesis 1:1.
On a side note, I believe the existence of the Ancient Near Eastern creation myths can be traced back to the real story as recorded in Genesis 1 (not vice versa as some scholars assume). The myths are probably modified accounts of what was orally passed down from Adam and Eve to subsequent generations, but each culture adapted the true story to their own purpose and attributed creation to their own false deities.
Blessings,
Derek



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pdr

posted August 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm


Derek @90, greatly appreciate your and everyone’s willingness to participate…Thank you.
“On a side note, I believe the existence of the Ancient Near Eastern creation myths can be traced back to the real story as recorded in Genesis 1 (not vice versa as some scholars assume). The myths are probably modified accounts of what was orally passed down from Adam and Eve to subsequent generations, but each culture adapted the true story to their own purpose and attributed creation to their own false deities.”
This brought up to me a question I occasionally revisit with little final closure.
Why or how would myths get passed down, when the people telling the story to their children actually were the people in the story, and their kids who were actually in the story, and their kids who were in the story? I face the same question with regard to the flood. Noah and his crew were the only humans alive at the time after the flood… all of the other subsequent generations of Adam and Eve, not through Noah, were lost in the flood. So Shem, Ham, and Japheth who were on the ark and were Noah’s sons began to teach their kids about creation and history and the flood they had just been through that killed everything on earth that wasn’t in the boat. I could see how a story would get twisted and turned over time, and even more so the farther from the actual events. But, the ANE myths seem a little far fetched to be that ancient (close to the time it occurred) and that different in many aspects from the actual events recorded in Genesis. These myths were found to exist (I am told) very early in recorded history. I could see how modern creation myths would be wide ranging as they are farther from the actual events. This also leads to another question of how it became recorded in Genesis.
There was either special newsreel revelation to Moses (or the author of Genesis) which he very well may have had given his other special revelations, or the facts as they are rightly recorded including feelings and dialogue were passed down orally in their correct form to at least one specific person per generation, (while myths were created and passed on) by siblings and cousins until it got to Moses.
As I follow this path, the option of special revelation to Moses actually becomes as believable, if not more so, than the passing down of the historical facts. But when I consider this option against the literary genre line of reasoning, science, and figurative truth possibility discussed in this thread…this is about the time when I can at least understand the sentiment of the post and say that POSSIBLY forcing a choice of a particular reading of scripture over science may be a misuse of the text.
(submitted though not that enamored with it after typing it…)
blessings to you



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dkbwarrior

posted August 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm


First, regarding a histroical Adam, the genealogical issue brought up by others is compelling to me. Jesus genealogy was/is important to the prophetic progression of the promise of Messiah. The “certain figurative” narration in Genesis, would have one conclude that the Messianic ancestral line reverts to mythylogical creatures somewhere between Abraham and Adam. In all likelihood there are centaurs and mermaids there, cavourting with neanderthal and lucy.
Also, regarding evolution. While I don’t discount it outright, it is currently still only an unproven thoery. What science does, or is supposed to do, is concieve hypothesis; add a line of logical thinking to produce theory; then test it in a controlled environment. It does not become fact until it can be dependably reproduced.
Eveolution would/will produce new species that can reproduce themselves, and whose reproductive integrity is isolated from that of other species. This has yet to happen.
Peace…



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dkbwarrior

posted August 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm


Let me rephrase please:
Eveolution would/will produce new species that can reproduce themselves, and whose reproductive integrity is isolated from that of other species. This has yet to be observed in real time, or reproduced in a controlled environment.
Peace…



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Jason H

posted August 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm


Derek @90
“Physical death is a consequence of spiritual death. Otherwise, why did Jesus have to die in both senses? He could have died spiritually and left it at that.”
What makes you think Jesus died spiritually?



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Derek Ashton

posted August 20, 2010 at 6:13 pm


Jason H #94
Good question. I take it from His cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – after which He said “It is finished.” In my view, being forsaken by God is the ultimate spiritual death – a death Jesus experienced in our behalf, “tasting death for everyone.” Sinners walk under the wrath of God, the wrath our Lord experienced on the cross, following which He gave up His spirit and included physical death in His atoning work.



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EricG

posted August 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm


Derek (#90) –
You say regarding evolution “It’s a doomed theory that’s being propped up by bold but ungrounded assertions that are even being parroted by Evangelical scholars now. Christians ought to see through this bluff.”
Please describe to me what you believe proponents of evolution say is the strongest genetics evidence in support of evolution of humans, and why you think it is wrong. As it is, you’re just throwing around accusations without engaging evidence. The only assumption I can make as of now is that you haven’t grappled with the support for evolution of humans.



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Derek Ashton

posted August 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm


EricG #96
I’ve been studying the arguments for evolution and creation since 9th grade, when I aced the evolution test in Biology and was singled out by my teacher as the one who “doesn’t even believe in it, but knows more about it than the rest of you.” We had a nice time debating the issues. I’m 36 now, and I’ve seen plenty more arguments from both sides since then. I’m an avid listener of NPR (which constantly advances the latest arguments for evolution), I have watched countless hours of Nova and National Geo, and I look for opportunities to hear from evolutionary theorists – so I’m fairly well acquainted with the evidence and both sides of the debate. If you have something to add to my repertoire, I’m ready and willing to listen. However, I’m not looking to take any pop quizzes right now.
But don’t take my word for it. There are plenty of highly qualified scientists who disagree with evolution, so it’s plainly prejudiced for anyone to act like it’s a closed case. A few weeks back, I sat through about 25 hours of live lectures by an experienced paleontologist with a Ph.D from Harvard. He believes in an inerrant Bible and a literal Genesis, and I’d guess no one in this comment box has done as much field work or study of actual firsthand evidence as he has. The point is, the debate is far from over.
Thanks,
Derek



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EricG

posted August 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm


Derek — I suspect your understanding of the evidence isn’t quite the same as RJS, the author of this post, who is a professor at one of the top U.S. research Universities, or Francis Collins, the former head of the U.S. genome project. And good for you on your high marks in a class a while back (you may also be surprised at the qualifications of others on this blog if they also wanted to brag). I’d also be surprised by your assertions regarding “plenty of highly qualified scientists,” since the vast majority of biology profs don’t question that fact that macro evolution happens.
Anyway, if you don’t want to engage the genetics evidence, I don’t see how anyone can put stock in what you are saying. It is just conclusions.



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RJS

posted August 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm


Derek,
I assume you mean Kurt Wise? Even he – from what I’ve read thus far – doesn’t actually think the evidence supports his young earth position although he is looking for ways to support it. He is not alone, but his position is held by a minority of Christians who are scientists, a very small minority. A somewhat larger group hold to some form of old earth progressive creationism.
I have not studied as much paleontology as Dr. Wise – but I have studied more chemistry, physics and biophysics. I been a scientist for 24 years post Ph.D. and a professor (and researcher) for 18 years.
Your claims about the evidence for and against evolution are simply unfounded. Now if you really want to start to discuss evidence we can do that – but you cannot simply throw these accusations around.



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Derek Ashton

posted August 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm


RJS #99
My apologies for not recognizing some of the esteemed participants in this forum. It was not Dr. Wise that I heard, but Dr. Joel D. Klenck. I don’t pretend to know as much about science as others, but I am always interested in seeing/hearing the evidence and arguments from both sides and weighing it for myself.
I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but commenting on the apparent state of things. From everything I’ve seen, it simply isn’t true that evolution is a slam dunk. There are some good scientists who agree, and many who don’t. I don’t have anything near your level of expertise, but at the same time I’m not afraid to address the issues if ANYONE claiming to be a believer defies the very Words of God. I believe BioLogos has treated Scripture in a highly irresponsible manner.
Blessings,
Derek



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RJS

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm


Derek,
I had not heard of Dr. Klenck, but a quick web search provides some information – his degree is in anthropology and archaeology. If I’ve found information on the right person, he has published one peer-reviewed article that I can find; a scientific paper on the factors that can complicate the identification of the function of prehistoric stone tools. I suspect that this was his dissertation research, and it looks like a good solid paper. He isn’t an expert in physical sciences or genetics, and perhaps not even paleontology related to the claims of evolution. He has more expertise in the area of human civilization, which is an important and relevant field as well.
While the paleontological or fossil evidence for evolution is strong, the genetic evidence is even stronger. We can talk about evidence – in fact we have been having discussions on this blog for a few years on the related topics; from what it means for scripture to be the word of God (which is a position most of us hold, including me) to the evidence for old earth and evolution. Our complaint is when you drop claims like (comment 90):

The evidence doesn’t point overwhelmingly in the direction of evolution. It’s a doomed theory that’s being propped up by bold but ungrounded assertions that are even being parroted by Evangelical scholars now. Christians ought to see through this bluff.

This simply is not true – or if you want to make the case that it is true, that I am wrong, then you should be prepared to offer evidence and reasons and defend them.
Of more significance though is the interpretation of scripture and our understanding of what it means for scripture to be the word of God. Many who read and comment here hold to a historical Adam – it is much harder to defend or rationalize a young earth. I am not presenting an answer on the historicity of Adam, I sometimes waver on it. But it is important to open a discussion so that we can think about all of the issues. On the issue of this post it might be good to listen to Dr. Longman and explain why and where you think he is wrong.
Blessings



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Derek Ashton

posted August 21, 2010 at 9:54 am


RJS,
Thanks for sharing these thoughts.
My statement may have been overly strong, and I can see why you might take issue with it. But it was no more exaggerated than the statements I have seen from the leadership of BioLogos. I would expect an atheist to entirely rule out Biblical creation as a possibility, but not an Evangelical Christian. Calling evolution a fact, as Darrel Falk has done, is bad science and even worse theology. By nature, scientific theories change, sometimes radically, as new evidence is introduced. By contrast, the Word of God is eternal and unchanging. So, when the two contradict, I’m sticking with the God’s account.
I gladly accept the scientific proof that the earth is presently revolving around the sun, that the earth is round, that the earth is rotating, etc. I even praise God for these discoveries. But when it comes to questions of origins, science is ill equipped to tell us anything definitively. The theory of evolution is not objectively provable, observable, or repeatable, so it can’t be taken as incontrovertible fact.
Today’s Evangelicals seem view science as inerrant, and the Bible as mistake prone. That to me is tragic.
Blessings,
Derek



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Rick

posted August 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm


Derek #102-
“By contrast, the Word of God is eternal and unchanging. So, when the two contradict, I’m sticking with the God’s account.”
I don’t disagree with you, but you seem to be assuming they contradict on this matter. Many Evangelical Christians do not think they do.



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DRT

posted August 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm


Derek,
You said “Today’s Evangelicals seem view science as inerrant, and the Bible as mistake prone. That to me is tragic.”
I invite you to put that belief on the back burner and instead, for awhile, read this blog with the thought that the people here believe that the bible is the word of god and are trying to uncover truth then you might be surprised at the way you view the posts. I don’t recall seeing a single person on this blog that thinks science is inerrant. Not even close. They do take it seriously when it presents compelling evidence, but most here would never say science is inerrant, they would say it errs often.
Having said that, give some of the people here the benefit of the doubt for awhile and be open to the possibility that genesis is not a literal history and see where it takes you. It does not cost you anything to do that.



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J Brummel

posted August 22, 2010 at 12:17 am


I just came across this blog. A great exchange.
I am an agnostic but I heard Klenck speak and I found him compelling.
He just knows his stuff.
We are talking about Joel Klenck from Harvard…right?
I just read his book The Canaanite Cultic Milieu (Archaeopress, Oxford). It was very detailed and dealt with the animal bones, their differentiation (measurements, morphology, etc.) and their use in rituals.
He is a zooarchaeologist, animal bones in archaeological contexts, but he publishes on all sorts of subjects related to bones (paleontology, zooarchaeology, etc.).
His book was reviewed by Prof. Popkin from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. It was positive, very rare for Popkin, who is extremely critical.
One of the points that Klenck made struck me…he pointed out similarities between the biblical Hebrew and paleontological data.
Klenck noted that for believers like Derek, the Bible is a map of creation. For agnostics the Bible shows that ancient Hebrews perhaps knew some aspects of paleontology and geology, which today we imagine are “modern” scientific disciplines.
He was very even handed and I appreciated the tone of his talks.



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dopderbeck

posted August 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Scanning through the comments, it seems that everyone has missed the fact that Tremper didn’t say the Biblical Adam “must” be figurative. He said only that the Biblical Adam “could” be figurative. He did say that at least some parts of the story obviously are figurative, but everyone agrees about that (nobody thinks God actually “breathed” on Adam because God doesn’t have lungs, etc.). I’m certain Tremper would agree that “literal versus figurative” is a false dichotomy. For my money, this is the best approach to this question: I assume “Adam” was a real person, but I acknowledge the many symbolic elements in the story and I don’t expect it to teach me a “science” of human origins. I let the science say what it says, I let the Biblical text breathe for itself, and I don’t demand that these different ways of knowing are trying to say exactly the same thing.



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dkbwarrior

posted August 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm


DRT,
When someone(s) infer that the theory of evolution is a closed case and inherently unnassailable, they are in effect saying that science is innerant; or to be more precise,that their interpretation of the scientific evidence is innerant. This claim is brought up in every evolution/creation debate I have ever participated in, or witnessed.
It is similar to the claim by global warming advocates that the case for man-made global warming is settled, the science is proven. And I can think of a host of other such claims in other areas, where a theory may be sound, and may even be correct, but has yet to be observed in real time, or reproduced.
When someone claims a theory or issue to be settled, or unassailable when there is as yet no observable proof or evidence of such only betrays the presuupositions and fear (yes, fear) of it’s defenders.
I try to keep an open mind. The proponents of evolution should too, until such time as they can reproduce evolution in the laboratory, and/or observe it firsthand in nature taking place. In the meanwhile, those that claim the issue is settled should take a good long look at why they are so emotionally invested in defending and propogating a theory that has yet to be proven.
Peace…



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Derek Ashton

posted August 22, 2010 at 11:47 pm


Rick #103
Whether evolution and Genesis contradict is a matter of hermeneutics. The hermeneutical arguments for a literal Adam and Eve, a 24-hour-per-day, 6-day creation, and the historicity of the events recorded in Genesis, is airtight – at least if one takes the Bible as entirely truthful.
Inevitably, whenever a scholar has tried to dismantle these arguments, he has been forced to deny inerrancy, claim that Jesus and Paul had mistaken views on the matter, or otherwise compromise the Bible’s authority and reliability. Drs. Enns, Waltke and Longman have each done their part to further this misadventure in Biblical interpretation, but none of them have offered sufficiently compelling arguments. The types of arguments they advance are built on the speculation that the Biblical narrative is a mere adaptation of concepts borrowed from Israel’s neighbors, or that evolution is an undeniable fact. Enns assumes that the humanity of the Book equates to errors. He apparently fails to recognize that the wisdom and power of God are certainly sufficient to produce an inerrant document by using only the correct beliefs in His chosen human subjects.
Blessings,
Derek



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Chris de Vidal

posted August 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm


Something no “old earth” creationist has yet to be able to explain to me: At what point in the genealogy in Luke 3 does it stop being literal and start becoming figurative?



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Magda

posted April 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm


AFAIC that’s the best awsner so far!



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qetioy

posted April 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Joshua Tilghman

posted January 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm


Excellent points. Insisting that Adam and Eve were literal people (wouldn’t they look strange without belly buttons)can be quite damaging to a free thinker sitting in a church pew wanting to get something out of the message. Adam and Eve were allegories of the conscious and subconscious mind. Mystics wrote the Biblical narratives to explain these concepts to us.



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