46 Responses to Panel Discussion from @SBTS Chapel Today: Is a Historical Adam Necessary?

  1. RD November 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    Good discussion all around. I enjoyed your Star Wars/Sleepless in Seattle comment, Jim.

    Here’s what I don’t understand. I still don’t think that the panel made a compelling argument for why the entire Christian meta-narrative falls apart if it turns out that Adam wasn’t an actual, historical, man. The Adam and Eve narrative is an account for how humanity selfishly disobeyed God and an account of the consequences of that disobedience. Whether the account is factually true or not isn’t really relevent to our position of actual separation from God. What’s important is our position, not how we got in our position.

    Suppose the Christian meta-narrative was this story: One Day RD pushed Jim into a large pile of quicksand, from which Jim was then unable to free himself. God decides to send his son to rescue Jim from the quicksand. He comes to earth and pulls Jim free.

    Now, suppose fifty years after the fact (or hundreds of years, whatever) it is discovered that RD never actually pushed Jim into the quicksand. Jim fell in himself while trying to fish out a coconut which had fallen into the middle of the sand. RD, it turns out, was a mythical figure used as part of the narrative to explain how Jim had gotten into the quicksand to begin with. The fact that RD didn’t push Jim didn’t negate the fact that Jim was in the quicksand and needed to be rescued.

    The fact is that we can see the wages of sin and death around us and throughout our history. Why do we have to have an actual Adam and Eve and piece of fruit in order for our position of separation from God to be true?

    • JMH November 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

      Well, if RD was a mythical figure, your little story has no more significance for our lives than has the Greek myth that Persephone molded man from clayey mud, or that Prometheus stole fire from Zeus.

      If it’s going to retain theological relevance then it has to be historically true. By theological relevance, I mean this: if God is going to have the moral authority to dictate to us how we should live and believe.

      If it’s not historically true, then the story has no more theological relevance than Enuma Elish has. It can tell us how it wants us to live, but we are under no obligation to obey, because it’s not true.

      Jim

      • Stephen November 8, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

        Jim,

        You provide another example of a fascinating and tragic irony. Evangelicals spend more time and energy than anyone else arguing for how the whole Gospel falls apart and peoples’ faith is in vain if X, Y, or Z kind of evangelical position is shown to be somehow inaccurate. Whether it’s inerrancy, the virgin birth, or now evolution and the historicity of Adam, evangelicals like you are the ones working most energetically to teach other evangelicals that their faith is wrecked if these positions are called into question.

        You work hard to enculturate evangelicals into allowing only two options: (1) accept every traditional evangelical view [that people like you consider to be important] or (2) reject everything. You even direct your most polemical wrath against other evangelicals who try to hold out a proverbial 3rd way, wherein Christians need not reject everything and consider all questioning of X, Y, and Z traditional positions to be inherently faith-wrecking and un-Christian.

        Thus, if I may be blunt, I think people like you and Al Mohler deserve much blame when (for example) I see Christians walk away from Jesus in college because they learned X, Y, or Z traditional belief about the Bible, Biblical History, etc., may not have been what they were taught.

      • RD November 11, 2011 at 8:00 am #

        Jim,

        Why does something have to be true in order for it to retain theological relevance? Jesus provided theologically relevant discourses couched within parables. Though not necessarily historically or factually true, these stories contained the theological truth of God.

        My Christian faith isn’t grounded in the Bible, it’s grounded in Jesus, just as the earliest Christians faith was. The Bible is one means through which the Holy Spirit communes with us, but it isn’t the only means, nor has it ever been. Our Bible is different from the Enuma Elish because it’s overarching message points to, and reflects, the one true God. The reason I can personally verify this is because of the spirit’s movement in my life and throughout the long history of the world.

        Adam and Eve don’t have to have been actual human beings in order for our separation from God to be factual. I think this narrative is simply the account that carried the most weight for the longest period of time among early Israelites. They are an archetype for our separation.

  2. Jeanne Z November 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    i liked your S & SS comparison, also!

  3. Don Johnson November 8, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Here is how I see it. I see ALL of Genesis as Mosaic Sinai covenant preamble.
    I see all of Gen 12+ as straight narrative history. But I see indications that Gen 1-11 should not be read as straight narrative history, the moreso for the earlier chapters. So it is a genre and interpretation question.

    For example, I find John Walton’s reading of Gen 1 as a cosmic temple inauguration very compelling. I just ordered his new book on Genesis One.

  4. Don Johnson November 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Evolution claims there was a mitochrondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam. In other words, there is just one human race, so the racial discussion is not correct.

    I also want to point out that Mohler’s statement about Gen 3 meaning that what we see in the world in not trustworthy attacks epistemology. From such a position he can believe ANYTHING he wants to and DISCARD anything he wants to. I find this very scary.

  5. Daniel November 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Stephen,
    I would just like to note that, whatever validity (or note) your observations in general have, a historical Adam is not a narrowly or peculiarly evangelical position, but the position of the whole church until Darwin.

  6. Daniel November 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    (or not)*

  7. Steve Drake November 9, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Don,
    Here’s how I see it. The genre of Genesis is literal historical narrative. From start to finish. There is no separation of Genesis 1-11 from Genesis 12-50. I say this from statistical, literary, and theological arguments, and that this would have been axiomatic to its original readers: a literal historical account. You are right to bring up the question of genre, it is not merely an academic exercise, of interest to just specialists, but the essential first step for anyone wanting to correctly interpret this text.

    You may find of interest another book from a different perspective other than Walton’s, if you wish to see the other side of this: Coming to Grips with Genesis, Thane H. Ury, Ph.D and Terry Mortenson, Ph.D, eds., Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2008.

    • Don Johnson November 9, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks for the book tip, I went to Amazon and see it is from a YEC perspective. My sis is a YEC, and I have read some of their literature a while back, so I am familiar with their take.

      I try to study both/all sides in areas of debate in our faith.

      I realize many people will read Gen 1-11 as literal historical narrative (or try to do so, or simply assume that is what it is). Due to my studies, I find there are many clues in the text that indicate it to be a different genre than that. Mohler and co. did not get into that aspect in their short discussion.

  8. Steve Drake November 9, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Jim,
    Thanks for putting the link to this video up. The implications for Christianity are enormous if Adam was not historical and Adam and Eve were not indeed the primal first pair. You guys only had time to scratch the surface in 50 minutes, yet because this issue is coming under attack, my prayer and hope is that you and your colleagues continue to keep it on the front burner.

  9. Daniel November 9, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    This discussion focused very heavily on the implications for Christian theology if there was no Adam – which is fine, since the panel was made up of theologians.

    But at some point, don’t we need Christian scientists offering solid and plausible and better accounts of the scientific data we possess? If we did all come from Adam and Eve, and there were no other hominids running around, the genomic data will have to be shown to conform to that, at some point, even if a true understanding of it is a long way off.

    I was uncomfortable with Mohler’s statement towards the end that, basically, the natural world doesn’t tell us the truth. It’s simple history – if we did all descend from Adam and Eve in real life, our real life biology cannot ultimately contradict that.

    • Don Johnson November 9, 2011 at 11:34 am #

      Mohler about 42 minutes in “Scripture tells us that world is not going to tell us the truth. That world is showing all the effects of the fall, the flood, all the effects of the ravages of human sin and God’s judgments on that sin.”

      This is very scary for him to say, it attacks epistemology. This seems like a super-duper escape valve, so big it swallows itself.

    • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 11:53 am #

      “But at some point, don’t we need Christian scientists offering solid and plausible and better accounts of the scientific data we possess? If we did all come from Adam and Eve, and there were no other hominids running around, the genomic data will have to be shown to conform to that, at some point, even if a true understanding of it is a long way off.”

      That’s the problem, the data DOESN’T point to a literal Adam and Eve. But you’re suggesting it’s because scientists don’t have a “true understanding of it” and that Christian scientists need to come in show the experts they were wrong the whole time. To me this sound like sticking your head in the sand and refusing to accept the scientific data wherever it may lead.

      • Daniel November 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

        “That’s the problem, the data DOESN’T point to a literal Adam and Eve. But you’re suggesting it’s because scientists don’t have a “true understanding of it” and that Christian scientists need to come in show the experts they were wrong the whole time. To me this sound like sticking your head in the sand and refusing to accept the scientific data wherever it may lead.”

        I think this is too simplistic. There are kinds of data other than “scientific” data, most importantly the data of revelation. The bare facts that we gather from nature and the material world are just that – bare facts, and they will not be understood correctly if they’re not seen in the proper framework. And here’s the point, the proper framework IS NOT one of naturalistic/materialistic atheism.

        I said I was uncomfortable with Mohler’s formulation, but he’s right to the extent that nature – if seen as a closed-box by people intentionally wearing blinders to the word of God – can only mislead. And it can only mislead because the highest interpretive framework (the word of God) is being rejected. Now, I’m all for very, very careful assessment of our hermeneutics. Of course it’s possible that Genesis has been misunderstood. But it’s just as possible that the material world has been misunderstood. Nature certainly can’t tell us the whole of reality.

        You can call it “sticking your head in the sand.” But that would imply that data is being ignored, so that I’m being willfully ignorant. I’m not sure that’s what I’m doing. If I had the time I would love to learn all about how genomics works, how scientists have reached their conclusions, etc. I think what’s actually going on is that I am acknowledging fallibility by all parties – including myself – and acknowledging the mind-bogglingly large number of things/factors that we simply don’t know – and choosing to stick with the Bible as best as I’m able to understand it.

        In another context, John Murray said something that applies: “It is the voice of the eternal God we hear in Scripture and his glory is revealed. When the day will dawn and the day star arise in our hearts, we shall find no discrepancy between the witness of Holy Scripture and the glory then manifested.”

        I’m persuaded that when all is said and done, and all the natural and biblical facts are on the table and seen in their proper light, there will be no final contradiction between reality and the witness of Scripture.

        • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

          You make a telling statement when you said, “the proper framework IS NOT one of naturalistic/materialistic atheism.” You’re assuming these scientists have a framework of atheism when they look at the genome data. This isn’t the case at all. They are simply looking at the data and deriving a conclusion that best fits the facts. And the data gives absolutely no evidence of an orginal pair of human beings who lived 6000 years ago and from whom all humanity descended. No amount of further studying the data will lead to this conclusion either. Why is that you’re not as skeptical about other fields of science? It’s because they don’t directly contradict your religious beliefs the way this issue does. Science isn’t some conspiracy to overthrow your religion. We simply know more today about the natural world than whoever wrote the book of Genesis.

  10. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Stephen

    “Jim,Thus, if I may be blunt, I think people like you and Al Mohler deserve much blame when (for example) I see Christians walk away from Jesus in college because they learned X, Y, or Z traditional belief about the Bible, Biblical History, etc., may not have been what they were taught.”

    There’s more than one way to walk away from the faith. Another way is to treat everything in Christian theology as optional. You may continue to go through the motions, attending church, keeping up appearances, but psychologically you already left the faith behind. What remains is just a shell.

  11. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Gabe

    “They are simply looking at the data and deriving a conclusion that best fits the facts. And the data gives absolutely no evidence of an orginal pair of human beings who lived 6000 years ago and from whom all humanity descended. No amount of further studying the data will lead to this conclusion either.”

    That’s philosophically naive. Science has a default assumption about the uniformity of nature. All things being equal, science presumes continuity. Natural processes happen at a given rate.

    But science itself is constantly messing with nature. A lot of modern technology introduces a counterflow dynamic into the process to yield a different result. Agents interacting with nature can alter the outcome.

    Likewise, drawing inferences from the presumptive state of the gene pool over time involves suppositions regarding the rate of genetic drift. But that, itself, is not an evidentiary datum.

    Some of the commenters sound like the wilderness generation. That generation didn’t take divine agency seriously. They expected things to happen the way things normally happen.

    • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      Adam and Eve didn’t exist, the story is a myth, period. What’s more probable, that all these scientists and vast accumulated knowledge are wrong, or that an ancient creation story is wrong? Believing in a literal Adam and Eve is almost on par with believing in a flat earth in the face of contradicting evidence.

  12. Daryl Little November 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Gabe and Daniel,

    There ARE Christian scientists proving the very things you ask. That the evidence points to a literal Adam and Eve and that in fact the evolutionary time scales are so great that the data tells us we ought to be extinct by now.

    Trouble is, a Christian scientist cannot get published in ways that Darwinian evolutionists can, and somewhere along the line Christians decided to believe that they’re research was less than qualified because of that.

    Creation Ministries International is a good start.

  13. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Gabe

    “Adam and Eve didn’t exist, the story is a myth, period.”

    Gabe is wrong, period. See how easy that was?

    “What’s more probable, that all these scientists and vast accumulated knowledge are wrong…”

    If you’re still discussing genomics, then we don’t have vast accumulated knowledge of genomics. That’s a fairly recent, very fluid scientific discipline.

    If you’re discussing macroevolution, then “all scientists” don’t agree.

    “…or that an ancient creation story is wrong?”

    What’s more likely–that fallible scientists attempting to reconstruct the past from trace evidence and methodological naturalism are wrong, or the Creator telling us what he did?

    “Believing in a literal Adam and Eve is almost on par with believing in a flat earth in the face of contradicting evidence.”

    Once again, you’re just like a member of the wilderness generation. You don’t make allowance for divine agency. For you, God’s presence is indistinguishable from his absence.

  14. Gabe November 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    :What’s more likely–that fallible scientists attempting to reconstruct the past from trace evidence and methodological naturalism are wrong, or the Creator telling us what he did?”

    What’s more likely, that scientists are wrong, or that God didn’t actually inspire what was written in Genesis?

    • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      “If you’re still discussing genomics, then we don’t have vast accumulated knowledge of genomics. That’s a fairly recent, very fluid scientific discipline.”

      Wrong, there is already a vast amount of knowledge accumulated. Certainly there’s a lot more learn in this field, and certainly much more knowledge has already been gained than a few words written in an ancient text.

  15. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    More likely that (some) scientists are wrong.

  16. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Gabe

    “Wrong, there is already a vast amount of knowledge accumulated.”

    You have a habit of substituting adjectives for arguments. You pay lip-service to the “evidence,” but defend your position with one-liners.

    • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      One-liners, when your entire argument essentially rests on, “I’m right because the bible says so?”

  17. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    i) To begin with, that’s not my entire argument, is it? I’ve also presented some philosophical arguments which you simply disregard–because you have no counterargument.

    ii) And if there’s good evidence to believe in the inspiration of Scripture, then that authorizes whatever Scripture teaches.

    And, of course, there are arguments for the inspiration of Scripture.

    • Gabe November 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      But that’s what it all boils down to. Without the book of Gensis do you really think anyone would be saying we all descended from two humans 6,000 years ago? That conclusion is the result of reading the story and then trying to twist all the data to conform. That’s intellectual dishonesty

  18. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    There are many objections to macroevolution. It isn’t just Genesis.

    Moreover, if you’re concerned about intellectual honesty, it should concern you that according to naturalistic evolution, your intellect is the byproduct of a mindless process.

  19. steve hays November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Gabe

    “But that’s what it all boils down to. Without the book of Gensis do you really think anyone would be saying we all descended from two humans 6,000 years ago? That conclusion is the result of reading the story and then trying to twist all the data to conform. That’s intellectual dishonesty.”

    I haven’t said anything about chronology one way or the other. But since you keep harping on the issue, there’s no direct evidence for the age of the world. All we really have is a current ongoing process. We can hypothetically run the clock backwards from the present to a hypothetical point of origin.

    Yet that’s like taking the period set of Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider and retrojecting a backstory. But there’s nothing that actually corresponds to the backstory. The story doesn’t go back any further than where the movie begins–some time in the 19C. There is no time before the movie begins. That’s the actual point of origin, even though you could hypothetically run the clock back in “time” to hypothetical past characters.

    • Gabe November 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

      There most certainly is evidence for the age of the earth. What science do you base your assertion on?

  20. steve hays November 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Gabe

    “There most certainly is evidence for the age of the earth. What science do you base your assertion on?”

    I just explained that to you. Try again.

    • Gabe November 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      You didn’t address any of the actual science of how the age of the earth is determined.

  21. steve hays November 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I explained the operating assumptions, which are unprovable. Try again.

    • Gabe November 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      You can’t even address the mechanism used to determine the age of the earth, fossils, etc. If you actually studied it you would realize you are wrong in your assumption. Try again

  22. Theology Samurai November 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Gabe, could you explain the “actual science” used to determine the age of the Earth?

    thanks

  23. steve hays November 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Gabe

    “You can’t even address the mechanism used to determine the age of the earth, fossils, etc. If you actually studied it you would realize you are wrong in your assumption. Try again.”

    You just never get it, do you? My assumptions (whatever they may be) are not the question at issue. Rather, what’s at issue are the unprovable assumptions feeding into the “mechanism” used to determine the age of earth, fossils, &c. Unless and until you can mount an actual argument to the contrary, you’re spinning your wheels and kicking up mud. Try again.

    • Gabe November 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      How about actually study about the methods used to determine the age instead of spouting your assumption argument. And by studying the methods, I don’t mean reading about it second-hand through an apologist who doesn’t even understand the topic.

  24. steve hays November 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    How bout you presenting something that resembles an actual argument for a change?

    As far as reading goes, I own The Bible, Rocks, and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley. This is a 500pp defense of the antiquity of the earth, with a full rundown of all the conventional dating techniques. So it would behoove not to impute your ignorance to me, since that merely makes you look doubly ignorant.

    • Don Johnson November 11, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      You have formed a cocoon that allows you to play a game of solipsism.

      Why do you think this brings glory to God?

  25. steve hays November 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Don Johnson

    “You have formed a cocoon that allows you to play a game of solipsism. Why do you think this brings glory to God?”

    You have made a tendentious assertion in lieu of a reasoned argument. Why do you think this brings glory to God?

  26. steve hays November 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    To recap this thread, it’s possible to leave the Christian faith by the back door as well as the front door.

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