Barrett and Caneday: Editors of FOUR VIEWS ON THE HISTORICAL ADAM, Part 2

Published on May 28, 2014 by Igor Mateski

Zondervan, 2013 | 288 pages

Yesterday we began our interview with Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday, editors of the new Four Views on the Historical Adam. Their discussion yesterday was very helpful – if you missed it you catch up here. Today we asked them to summarize for us the “four views” that are represented in their book.

Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
What are the various evolutionary and creationist understandings of Adam that are offered in Four Views on the Historical Adam

Barrett & Caneday:
1. No Historical Adam, Evolutionary Creation View, by Denis Lamoureux.

Lamoureux argues that while Christians in the past affirmed a historical Adam, the evidence for evolution precludes such belief today. Rather, God created the universe through the natural process of evolution, and humanity’s existence also results from evolutionary development. Evolutionary genetics and the fossil record indicate that humans “share with chimpanzees a last common ancestor that existed around six million years ago,” and that we descended not from one couple (Adam and Eve), but from a group of around 10,000. While Lamoureux acknowledges that some have tried to incorporate a historical Adam with an evolutionary view (e.g., Bruce Waltke, Darrel Falk, Denis Alexander), he argues that such an attempt is misguided because it seeks to combine modern science with ancient science, the latter of which God accommodated as an incidental vessel through which He communicated inerrant spiritual truths.

Specifically, 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, 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 this fact does not damage the core and essential beliefs of the Christian faith. Though the biblical authors affirmed an ancient view of the world and man’s biological origins (e.g., Paul’s view of Adam in Rom. 5:12-19), this in no way should erode our confidence in Scripture. Adam is not a historical person, but another example of an incidental vessel through which Scripture conveys inerrant spiritual truths. While Adam is not historical, the Second Adam, Christ Jesus, is a historical person who died for our sins.

2. A Historical Adam, Archetypal Creation View, by John Walton.

In contrast to Lamoureux, Walton believes that Adam was a historical person. However, his historicity is not where Scripture places its emphasis. Rather, Scripture’s primary concern is to speak of Adam and Eve as archetypal representatives of humanity. Walton argues that not only do Old and New Testament passages support his view, but also evidence from Ancient Near Eastern literature strongly buttresses his claim.

Nowhere is this archetypal emphasis more evident than in Genesis 2. The author is not concerned with the material formation of Adam and Eve as biological beings. Rather, the author is concerned with the function of mankind. Consequently, the purpose and intent of Genesis 2 is not to make a statement about our biological origins, nor about the biological origins of Adam and Eve. Evangelicals are misguided if they pit the Bible over against modern science when it comes to the issue of human origins.

Therefore, Walton makes space for the possibility that Adam and Eve, though historical persons, may not be the first humans who came into existence or the parents of all humankind.

While Walton acknowledges that evolution can be used in wrong ways (e.g., to argue for a purposeless, godless process), he believes that there is nothing inherently troubling with evolution “guided purposefully by an infinitely powerful and sovereign God.” While Walton does not take a stance on evolution, rejecting it or accepting it, his model allows for incorporation of evolution.

Additionally, the theological points Scripture makes in appealing to Adam (sin, death, second Adam, etc.) do not rest upon the belief that Adam and Eve are historically the first and only persons, or the parents of mankind. Their parenthood is to be viewed archetypally, not materially. Walton emphasizes that Scripture’s inerrancy applies to explicit claims and affirmations of the text; since the Bible makes no scientific claims about our material human origins, inerrancy is not brought into question by various views on origins. One should not apply inerrancy, he argues, to claims the text does not make.

3. A Historical Adam, Old-Earth Creation View, by C. John Collins.

Collins argues that Adam and Eve were real, actual, historical persons. Not only does a historical Adam and Eve make the best sense of the storyline of Scripture, but also of our human experience as sinners, children of Adam, in need of redemption through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

Collins takes Genesis 2 as describing historical persons, whom God created as those made in his own image. Genesis 2 sets the stage for the entire biblical storyline and worldview, and Collins believes the biblical authors were aware of this. They were narrating salvation-history, specifically God’s “great works of creation and redemption,” and not merely a catalog of timeless truths. Sin came into the world through Adam and the entire Old Testament is the story of how God enters into a covenant relationship with his people precisely because they have been estranged from him due to sin. God is on a mission, therefore, to rescue sinners and he does so ultimately through the death and resurrection of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

Collins also believes the New Testament authors affirmed a historical and biblical storyline beginning with Adam. Christ himself believed in a historical Adam, according to Collins, and Paul compares and contrasts our death in Adam to our life in Christ. Collins, therefore, concludes that the storyline of Scripture demonstrates that (1) humankind is one family, originating from one pair of ancestors (Adam and Eve), (2) God created Adam and Eve supernaturally, and (3) Adam and Eve, the “headwaters” of humankind, brought sin into the world. Apart from this biblical narrative, which features a historical pair, the storyline of Scripture makes little sense, as does our human experience as sinners, children of Adam, in need of redemption.

Collins’ affirmation of an old earth sets his belief in a historical Adam apart from the next contributor, Bill Barrick (and Young-earth Creationism). Collins reads Genesis 1-2 in such a way that would not preclude some evolutionary processes or long intervals of time elapsing in the biblical days of creation. Moreover, Collins entertains the possibility that Adam and Eve, though the headwaters of the human race that follows, may not have been the only pair of humans in the beginning. So while Adam is a historical person, he may not have been the only person, but perhaps was the chieftain of his tribe. Nevertheless, while willing to affirm an old earth, Collins remains critical of theistic evolution, at least in its strongest forms, because he believes it fails to account for the uniqueness of human beings, as those made in the image of God, something that goes beyond mere natural processes.

Collins upholds inerrancy but argues that a literalistic view of, for instance, 24-hour days in Genesis 1, is not necessitated by a careful and accurate reading of Scripture.

4. A Historical Adam, Young-Earth Creation View, by William D. Barrick.

Barrick makes a case from Scripture for Adam as a historical person and as the originating head of humankind. Adam is not primarily an archetype (Walton) nor a product of biological evolution (Lamoureux). Rather, he is the first person, supernaturally created by God, and the father of all mankind. Barrick argues that such a view is apparent not only in Genesis 1-2 but throughout the New Testament as well, especially in the writings of Paul.

Moreover, like Collins, Barrick believes numerous biblical doctrines follow from and are dependent upon a historical Adam. Perhaps most importantly is the gospel itself. Appealing to Paul’s argumentation in Romans 5:12-19, among other texts, Barrick stresses that without a historical Adam—and consequently a historical fall into sin—there is no need for a historical second Adam, namely, Christ Jesus, to undo Adam’s sin and its consequences for Adam’s children. Barrick contends that the arguments made against a historical Adam today are similar to those used by Liberals of a past era to argue against Christ’s historical resurrection.

Barrick argues that a historical Adam is foundational to a plethora of other doctrines as well, including a biblical understanding of God’s creative activity, the history of the human race, the nature of mankind as made in God’s image, the origin and nature of sin (e.g., original sin), the existence and nature of death, the reality of salvation from sin, the historical events recorded in Genesis, and Scripture’s authority, inspiration, and inerrancy.

Barrick affirms a historical Adam within the bounds of a young-earth perspective, a view he believes Scripture strongly supports. In other words, the days of creation are twenty-four hour days. Therefore, Barrick rejects not only Theistic Evolution (Lamoureux), but Old-earth Creationism (Collins). He concludes that a historical Adam and a young-earth perspective are integral to one another.

Concerning the relationship between faith and science, Barrick argues that because Scripture is inspired by God and therefore inerrant, the author of Genesis (Moses), superintended by the Holy Spirit, wrote an accurate, historical narrative of the days of creation. Accordingly, Moses, Jesus, and Paul did not adopt a mistaken view of the cosmos, but their assertions and assumptions written in Scripture, properly interpreted and understood, were correct and without error. Furthermore, Barrick affirms that the author of Genesis intended to record the material creation of the world, not just an archetypal representation of humanity’s origins, and that Genesis is always to be given priority over ANE stories. The same principle applies to science: Where the claims and theories of modern science (i.e., evolution) contradict what the Bible says, one is to side with Scripture, for it alone is inspired by God and therefore inerrant and authoritative.


Buy the books

Four Views On The Historical Adam

Zondervan, 2013 | 288 pages

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