This, from my new book, Mere Science and Christian Faith, is a taste of how I step into the current debate over the historical Adam (and Eve).
I decided to keep the footnotes in this time.
The center of our faith is Christ, not Adam.
|I have to say I love this kitschy picture.|
noting that Adam does not make extensive appearances in the Bible nor the
creeds (1). As I've mentioned there's those who are biblical literalists insist on an historical Adam and Eve and in the process need to deny the consensus of science on the age of the earth (position one). There are those, like C. S. Lewis, who believe that take mainstream science as describing the reality of our universe and see that the biblical texts don't describe two historical persons, Adam and Eve, but instead typological first humans (position three). And position two (like biologist Gary Fugle) hold to the consensus of modern science and also assert a historical Adam and Eve.
Which view of Adam and Eve's historicity then fits best with the work of the historical God-man Jesus the Christ and
his offer of redemption through his life, death, and bodily resurrection?
keep our eyes on Jesus as a real historical figure. He is our center.
This means we have to start with Jesus Christ—with his life, death, and
resurrection, with the fact that he has saved us from sin, the world, and the
devil—and then see what this implies about Adam.
This in fact returns me to my big
affirmation: as Christians, we believe that redemption comes through the grace
of Jesus Christ, received by faith. This is the universal answer for the
universality of sin. It is also the best way to approach original sin. In his
magisterial and thorough review of the sources for the doctrine of original sin, Rondet reminds us that even there the emphasis is on what Christ has
“For a Christian of the very first few centuries original sin was not in
the foreground; on the contrary, the redemption was the fundamental assertion." Henri Rondet (2)
This brings me back to physicist Karl
Giberson’s quip (and Karl quips so well) that our belief (or not) in a historical Adam and Eve
“shouldn’t cause us to hurl accusations of infidelity at one another.” (3)
So if one of these view about Adam's historicity makes a portion of us in the church
nervous—believing that if the other side wins we’ll soon jettison all biblical
truth or all engagement with modern science—let’s remember that the process
goes both ways. Here let’s turn not first to theologians or biblical scholars
but to the science philosopher Imre Lakatos, who maintained that certain
teachings at the “hard core” of Christianity (the divinity of Christ as the
historical God-man, for example) are not jettisoned easily, even in the
presence of anomalies. (4)
Position three holds that Adam and Eve’s historicity is not part of the “hard
core” of Christian faith (in Lakatos’s words), while position two (and one)
hold that it is.
Which one do you think is correct in light of science and Scripture?
are twenty-two places where Adam is a name (not a town as in Joshua 3:16 or
Hosea 6:7), but principally this occurs in Genesis 2–3, Romans 5, and 1
Corinthians 15. Here’s the full list: Genesis 2:4; 2:20, 25; 3:17, 20, 21; 4:1,
25; 5:1, 3, 4, 5; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:12, 14; 1 Corinthians
15:22, 45; 1 Timothy 2:13-14; Jude 1:14.
Rondet, Original Sin: The Patristic and Theological Tradition, trans. Cajetan Finegan
(Shannon, Ireland: Ecclesia, 1972), 25.
in Richard Ostling, “Search for the Historical Adam,” www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/historicaladam.html.
Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,”
in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 91-106.