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BOOK REVIEW: FOUR VIEWS ON THE HISTORICAL ADAM

In Search of the Historical Adam

Four Views on the Historical Adam

Book Review by David P. Craig

In this counterpoint book the subject of the Historical Adam takes center stage. There are four views presented: (1) No Historical Adam – presented by Denis Lamoureux, Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph.s College in the University of Alberta; (2) A Historical Adam: The Archetypal Creation View – presented by John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College; (3) A Historical Adam: Old Earth Creation View – presented by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary; and (4) A Historical Adam: Young-Earth View – presented by William D. Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s College.

The format of the book is as follows: Each Professor writes on essay addressing three essential questions: (1) What is the biblical case for your viewpoint, and how to you reconcile it with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it? (2) In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views? (3) What are the implications your view has for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both? Upon answering these questions each scholar counters followed by a rejoinder from the presenter. At the end of the book there are two essays representing two different stances on the debate and impact on the Christian faith by Greg Boyd (Senior Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Philip Ryken (President of Wheaton College and the former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia).

I Appreciated the personal testimony of Denis Lamoureux’s pursuit of truth in the fields of science and theology. He has definitely wrestled with and struggled with all the issues at hand – as a non-believer, as well as a believer in Christ. Lemorourex concludes that his view of evolution disallows for belief in the historical Adam that is revealed in the Scriptures. He argues at length that the reality of history conflicts with modern science. He believes that ancient science (the view of the biblical writers) conflicts with modern science and therefore what we have in the Bible is God accommodating inerrant spiritual truths.

In summary “Lamoureux rejects scientific concordism, the idea that God chose to reveal through the Scriptures certain scientific facts and that modern science, properly understood, can be aligned with the Bible. To the contrary, he says the authors of Scripture had an ancient perception of the world, apparent in their belief in a three-tiered universe, their view of the ‘firmament,’ and elsewhere. When it comes to humanity’s biological origins, the biblical authors likewise had a primordial understanding. They held to ‘de novo creation,’ the belief that God created man and everything else directly, immediately, and completely, that is fully mature.”

Lamoureux argues that Adam did not exist, but that Jesus Christ is a historical person who died and rose again for our sins. He attempts to show how modern science has changed his views on interpreting the Bible through understanding distinctions between ancient and modern science, language accommodation, and his rejection of concordism.

I found his essay to be interesting, but unconvincing. I especially struggled with his weak theological explanation of the historical “Adam” from the lips of Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. I also struggled with his interpretation of Genesis 1-11 as not being historical. Lastly, I found his interpretation and methodology in arriving at his conclusions insufficient – leaving me with more questions than answers. I agree with C. John Collins assessment of his essay when he writes, “Lamoureux has followed a style of reasoning that is oversimplified, specifically in that he generally poses either/or questions with only two options; he does not consider whether there are alternatives.”

In contrast to Lamoureux, John Walton believes that Adam was a historical person. He believe’s that the primary emphasis of the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern literature is to demonstrate that Adam (and Eve) are archetypal representatives of humanity. He believes that Genesis 2 is not about the biological origins of Adam and Eve. He argues that Adam and Eve may not even be the first humans who came into existence or the parents of all humankind. Walton doesn’t reject or accept evolution, but his view does allow for evolution and an old earth. I found Walton’s essay to be difficult to follow and his discussion of archetypes to be interesting, but not totally sustainable.

C.J. Collins, like Walton, agrees that Adam and Eve were real historical persons. He demonstrates in his essay with great theological precision how a real Adam and Eve are necessary to demonstrate our need of Savior (the second Adam – Jesus) to save us from the sin we inherited as legitimate children of Adam’s race.  He does a wonderful job of showing that the story line of the Scriptures reveals three major truths: (1) Adam and Eve as a pair represent humankind as one family; (2) Adam and Eve were created supernaturally by God; (3) Through Adam and Eve came forth sin. As a result all humanity is guilty before our creator God for our experience as sinners, and in need of redemption from the perfect Adam – the Lord Jesus Christ.

An interesting aspect of Collins’ view of Adam is that he may have been the chieftain of his tribe, i.e., there were perhaps many more people around when Adam and Eve were around. He is also critical of theistic evolution because it fails to account for the special creation of human beings as made in the image of God. He does not believe that a literal twenty-four hour days in Genesis One is required to maintain inerrancy.

Michael Barrick, expounds the most traditional of the four views presented. He argues for the supernatural creation of Adam by God, who is the father of all mankind. Barrick gives the most emphasis of the four views to the significance of Adam in understanding and applying the gospel. He holds to a literal twenty-four days and young earth perspective. He holds to a high view of the Scriptures and believes his view best accounts for the consistent testimony of the biblical authors (Moses and Paul) with Jesus’ teaching. Barrick’s essay argues that when science and the Bible have a conflict – science must always concede for Scripture is inerrant and totally authoritative on all matters it addresses.

In the concluding section of the book Greg Boyd and Phil Ryken (Theologian/Pastors) address the following issues raised by the other essayists by answering the following six questions: Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence (1) affect the rest of the Christian faith and those doctrines Christians have historically affirmed throughout the centuries? (2) shape a Christian worldview, especially the biblical story line from creation, fall, and redemption, to new creation? (3) have an impact on the gospel, or how the gospel is preached and applied, specifically in church? (4) have influence on how we live the Christian life and ‘do church’ as the body of Christ? (5) make a difference in our evangelical witness to a watching world? and (6) What is at stake in this debate for evangelicals in the church today?

Of the four views presented I found myself in the most agreement with Barrick, followed by Collins, then Walton, and lastly by Lamoureux. I think that Barrick’s essay was the easiest to read because it was the essay that took the passages of Genesis at face value – literally. The other three essayists seemed to have to do a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make their views work. This is a complicated issue. I appreciated the grace reflected by Lamoureux, Collins, and Walton in particular. Barrick came across more defensive and dogmatic than the other three. At the end of the day, this book deserves a wide reading. It shows the immense complexities of hermeneutics, science, theology, history, and inerrancy. I appreciated what each writer taught me – I gained new knowledge and insights on all five of these topics. I had many questions answered, and yet still have many unanswered questions. My hope is that this book will continue to spark theologians and scientists to work together in the pursuit of truth. I am grateful for the time invested by all the contributors and heartily recommend this book. It is a challenging read, but well-worth the effort.

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Book Review: Four Views On The Spectrum of Evangelicalism – Edited by David Naselli and Collin Hansen

A Scintillating Dialogue on Evangelicalism Historically and in the Present

I love the format of the “Views” books in that they allow the reader to wrestle with and think about crucial issues that oftentimes divide Christians. Instead of having the bias of one author – you get to see an offensive and defensive articulation of each view and weigh the evidence based on the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence given by each author. This new offering in the “Views” series particularly addresses important aspects that unite and divide “evangelicals.” An evangelical is someone who holds to the “good news” as declared from the Scriptures. However, what is the good news? What are the uniting factors of the good news? And what are the boundaries required in disseminating the message, and uniting around the good news in order to penetrate society with the gospel?

The reason this book and the issues are so important is that what is at stake in all of this discussion is the heart of the gospel, and if there is no agreement on the gospel than unity is ultimately a vain pursuit, and the power of the gospel is squelched in isolated enclaves, rather than in a unified front.

In this book the panel of experts specifically focus on three areas in evaluating the spectrum of evangelicalism:

1) They evaluate their views on Christian cooperation with respect to Evangelicals and Catholics in evaluating the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement led by Charles Colson and the late John Neuhaus, which began in the 1990’s. Also, they address the more recent Manhattan Declaration in order to bring more clarity to cooperation among social and theological concerns.

2) They evaluate doctrinal boundaries – what are the “essentials” that make one a doctrinally sound evangelical – specifically with reference to the recent debates over “open” theism (does God know the future).

3) They explain their specific views on key issues related to the atonement with specific reference what it means that Christ took on God’s wrath meant for sinners.

The Four Distinct Views Presented Are:

View #1: Fundamentalism – Kevin T. Bauder (Research Professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis)

View #2: Confessional Evangelicalism – R. Albert Mohler Jr. (President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville)

View #3: Generic Evangelicalism – John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada)

View #4: Postconservative Evangelicalism – Roger E. Olson (Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University)

After each writer presents his view there is a response from each of the others with insightful commentary on the others’ views. I found this book to be historically enriching, doctrinally thought provoking, and challenging in its ecclesiological and sociological implications. I hope this book will summon a wide reading and will help balance the thinking, behavior, and unity of all who care about being an evangelical – and more importantly getting the gospel right so that we may speak it and live it boldly in a world that desperately needs to know Jesus and what it means to be a part of His body on earth.

 

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