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From the Dust: Paul’s Adam

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October 19, 2012 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's video features Ryan Pettey. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's post features a clip from the documentary “From the Dust”, directed by filmmaker Ryan Pettey. It is our sincere hope that, above all else, the film can become a focal point for discussion of some of the big questions that inevitably arise at the intersection of science and faith.

To help foster such dialogue, we are including several discussion questions with this week’s clip. In the transcript below, you’ll find several prompts that are meant to help viewers dig deeper into the material being presented. Mouse over each highlighted region and a question will appear on the side. We encourage you to watch this video with your friends, your churches, your small groups and Sunday School classes, your pastors -- or anyone else for that matter – and take some time to discuss what is being said (and maybe even what isn’t). You may not all agree, but you will find yourselves engaged in fruitful and spirited conversation. And it is this kind of conversation that will help move the science and faith discussion forward.

Editor's Note: The full documentary is available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can order the film here, and learn more about the project here.

"Paul's Adam" Transcript

N.T. Wright: “The message to the Romans has many, many things going on in it. It is an amazing masterpiece, and at the heart of the first half in chapter five, Paul draws together what he has been saying with kind of a big picture summary. He has been talking about Abraham and Abraham’s family and the way in which the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes Abraham’s family as a worldwide forgiven family, and that enables him to stand back from that and say now, ‘Look—as in Adam, so in the Messiah.”

Chris Tilling: “Paul contrasts Christ and Adam. Scholars call this the Adam-Christ typology. Paul’s point seems to be that both figures—Adam and Christ—are significant for the destiny of all creation. To understand what Paul meant when he was speaking of Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, we have to read the Adam tradition in light of the story of Israel—the significance that Adam played in the story of Israel, the way Adam was interpreted by contemporary Jews in the time of Paul.”

N.T. Wright: “And so Paul is taking us right back to the big picture of Genesis, and saying that that whole problem which started way back, has now been addressed and more than addressed. God has actually got the project of Genesis one and two back on track at last, after it had been derailed.”

Alister McGrath: “Paul is seeing Adam and Christ as representative figures. Adam is the representative, the figurehead—whatever you would like to say—for humanity in general. What went wrong in Adam was rectified in Christ. Basically, what I see here is Paul saying that salvation is in effect a putting right of what has gone wrong with humanity.”

N.T. Wright: “That is the inner logic of Romans chapter three, Israel was unfaithful—is God then going to say, ‘Okay, let’s forget the idea of an Israel and do something different…?’ No! God is committed to saving the world through Israel. What he needs is a faithful Israelite. In Romans 3:22, this is precisely what you have got. God’s covenant faithfulness is revealed through the faithfulness of the Messiah for the benefit of all those who believe. Paul says this is how the Adam problem gets dealt with.”

Alister McGrath: “Now the key question, and it won’t go away, is whether Paul is seeing Adam as a representative figure—in some way, here is a figurehead of humanity as a whole—or whether Paul is seeing him as a specific historical figure who in some way gave rise to the human race as we now know it.”

David Wenham: “What was Paul’s view exactly about how the world was created? What was his scientific point of view? Now, Paul was somebody who lived in the first century, and Paul did not understand modern science. When he thought about creation, he wasn’t thinking in terms of modern science. It wasn’t the question he was asking. I suspect that Paul would have shared many of the views of his day. He may well have believed in a flat earth. But, his theology does not depend on his science. His theology of Adam has mainly, I think, to do with his understanding of humanity and how it was created, rather than in any way being a scientific statement. I do think we mustn’t underestimate the sophistication of people like Paul. He was highly trained. He will have known and did know aspects of Greek philosophy where they discussed questions of creation and so on. He will have understood the Old Testament with a very sharp eye, and I think he will have understood that the stories of creation are not scientific descriptions, but are theological affirmations about God’s truth and about how God created the world.”

Chris Tilling: “If we try and understand Paul’s Adam talk in terms of later scientific terms relating to creation and evolution, then we are actually putting the Adam talk into a different story, and we will ultimately end up misunderstanding Paul. So it is actually quite vital if we want to understand what Paul is saying to put it firmly in the Jewish story and the Jewish narrative.”

Alister McGrath: “I think we can say that, fundamentally, whatever Christ did is about the rectification of the natural state of humanity.” Michael Lloyd: “And, therefore, it seems to me just natural that Paul would refer to Jesus as the new Adam because here at last is a human being doing what Adam was called to do, but didn’t.”

N.T. Wright: “It is Jesus who is the truly human one and anyone who is in Jesus the Messiah is truly human.”

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.

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Norman - #63455

July 21st 2011

The concept that one must keep in mind in understanding Adam and Christ as figureheads for humanity is that the corporate humanity that we have under consideration is only those whom have faith in God.  Paul did not stray from this Hebrew mindset and it is the default idea that often gets overlooked.  That is why Christ and Adam are figure heads for what one would call the corporate “church” and is not inclusive of those whom have no interest in faith or God.

Israel was the ancient church but at the time of Christ there was a division between the remnant faithful and those whom thought they exclusively owned the right to God through birth.  True Israel in Paul’s mind turns out to be the seed of Abraham through the “promise” and not biologically. Rom 9:6-8.

Actually it matters little what science Paul espoused because his view of Adam was corporately of Israel and therefore Adam was simply the first Law breaker of a commandment given to a faithful human. The pattern is continued and expanded through Moses and then Paul said it was time to put an end to the way of Adam and the Law [Rom 5-8].  Christ became the new figurehead by living perfectly the Law and demonstrating the new and better way through life in the spirit of Christ Himself.

N. T. Wright’s statement that  “It is Jesus who is the truly human one and anyone who is in Jesus the Messiah is truly human.” could not be more to the point.  Being truly human was bearing fully the Image of God through Christ and so the defining terms of humanity in Paul’s mind are not the same concepts which we might define.  God’s plan of redemption was to strengthen humanity in the Image that Christ demonstrating that anything less is simply missing the mark for God’s desire for any human.  God could have left humanity to its own devices and that is what the OT illustrates for us.  That is the futility of Israel and the Pagan cultures in their attempts at controlling and manipulating humanity in ways that were worse than beneficial.  

Do we believe that Christ brings a better means to humans is the question each needs to ask themselves. Is the purity of Christ which is beyond human interference an eternal truth that is beneficial or do we need to look for another figurehead?

Random Arrow - #63459

July 21st 2011

David Wenham: “What was Paul’s view exactly about how the world was created? What was his scientific point of view?”

Yeah right. Welcome to the hell of – “Paul of Theological Polymorphia” – in asking today’s Tower of Babel state-space (like organic chem state space) of I-know-it theologians for answers to that question.

Everyone’s got a book to sell.

Something about the modest restraint and high-patience of James Barr. When Barr gave the Gifford Lectures on natural theology – and answered for Paul’s science with extraordinary modesty. No pulling the wool over eyes by Barr. Highly restrained.

What ever happened to, “I don’t know?”

This is a knotted dongle with evangelicals.

Who have come to the Darwinian party – late and lately.





ScottL - #63466

July 22nd 2011

I guess that this part of the video is not available on Vimeo to repost in a personal blog?

Thanks for the video and I look forward to its release.

Gregory - #63469

July 22nd 2011

Some people here have asked in the past if I could provide links to Orthodox Christian views of evolution, creation, the real, historical Adam and Eve, etc.
Well, perhaps timed to coincide yesterday with what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century, Marshall McLuhan, here is a reply:

“Logos, Evolution and Finality in Anthropological Research Towards a Transdisciplinary Solution” - By Fr. Doru Costache
21, July, 2011
(so many cool cartoons and images!)

“It must be emphasized that both evolutionism and creationism, when examined without bias, reveal themselves as ideologies that feed parasitically on science and theology, respectively, and should be denounced as such.”

“a sharp distinction needs to be drawn between evolution, as proven scientific fact – even if its mechanism isn’t elucidated yet – and current cultural paradigm according to which the universe is constantly moving, changing, and becoming, and evolutionism, as an atheistic and nihilistic interpretation of this history.”

“Today, physicists are no longer reluctant to talk about a universal design as well as a Designer, with or without reference to the anthropic principle.”

“Biologists seem oddly anachronistic, arrested by the ‘classic’ division between science and philosophy/theology. Consequently, anthropology has remained unilateral (man is chemistry) and nihilistic (man’s only glory: his ability to discover the nonsense of his existence).”

“The reason why theology insists on God’s plan regarding man (“let us make man in our image, after our likeness”) and his involvement at every step of man’s genesis (“and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”) is precisely in order to reveal the finality of human existence.”

I guess this would contradict the ‘creationism’ that BioLogos is promoting in the work on ‘evolutionary creationism’ by Canadian evangelical Christians, would it not?

P.s. pof: both N.T. Wright and Alistair McGrath are Anglicans, *not* ‘USAmerican evangelical Christians.’ Though this BioLogos Foundation site mainly focuses on evangelical Christians, it often uses non-evangelical Christians in the message.

Random Arrow - #63477

July 22nd 2011

Gregory, thanks for your work on this. Putting my ignorance on display – “a sharp distinction needs to be drawn between evolution, as proven scientific fact” - how to read that? - agreement that evolution is a proven fact, but the scientism/scientistic extrapolations are wrong? – or that the scientism/scientistic materialist prior foundations are wrong, so evolution is not even a scientific fact because it’s grounded on them? Or I’m totally clueless? Either way, how widespread across the family is any homogenized way of thinking? - what about plurality and dissent? ~ Cheers, Jim

GJDS - #73802

October 19th 2012

Thanks for the link; you will be aware, I am sure, that a ‘perfect solution’ on the interactions between theology and science, has yet to be found. IMHO, the language we human being us, is insufficient, for both areas to attempt a synthesis, although people like Davies acknowledge a place for the ‘mysterious’ or ‘experiential’ that is often associated with a religious outlook. The approach of dialogue however, has been shown to be useful. Ultimately, scientists and those professing Faith, need to develop a deeper appreciation of each activity, rahter than assuming an ‘I know it all” attitude.

Chip - #63470

July 22nd 2011

FONT face=Calibri>[Paul’s] theology does not depend on his science.

Agreed; the theology doesn’t depend on the means or timing of Adam’s creation.   But as much as BL commenters might want to recast Adam as a mere “theological affirmation,” the text simply doesn’t allow it.  According to the text, he was an actual man, he lived in a particular time, he made decisions, which had consequences, which in turn reverberate across history right up to the present day:  o:p>


FONT face=Calibri>Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man… death reigned from the time of Adam… the many died by the trespass of the one manthe result of one man’s sin: …by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man… Consequently, just as one trespass…. through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners…


FONT face=Calibri>Question in response to BL:  Given the obvious parallelism in the text of Rom 5, if Adam is a non-historical “theological affirmation,” do the biblical principles of the redemption of humanity depend on the historicity of Jesus? 

G8torBrent - #63473

July 22nd 2011

I agree, Chip. It’s all well and good to speak of Adam as representative of humanity. But he was representative in the sense that he exists. It should come as no surprise that if evolution is truly how life diverged and God creates(created?), there had to be a first person with whom God initiates an impartation of His image and an ability to relate and exist with Him beyond the material. That person (Adam) chose the pursuit of equality with God over fellowship with God and we’ve all fallen suit ever since.

Gregory - #63474

July 22nd 2011

“there had to be a first person” - G8torBrent

Unfortunately, BioLogos doesn’t seen to publically accept or promote this.

Gregory - #63476

July 22nd 2011

Maybe another way to say it, that will confront BioLogos with its obviously biologistic IDEOLOGY:

“there had to be a first person” - G8TorBrent

Why do the BIOLOGISTS at BIOLOGOS pretend otherwise?!?!?

Are the biologists at BioLogos ANTI-ANTHROPIC?

Gregory - #63479

July 22nd 2011

“Gregory, thanks for your work on this. Putting my ignorance on display – “a sharp distinction needs to be drawn between evolution, as proven scientific fact” - how to read that? - agreement that evolution is a proven fact, but the scientism/scientistic extrapolations are wrong? – or that the scientism/scientistic materialist prior foundations are wrong, so evolution is not even a scientific fact because it’s grounded on them? Or I’m totally clueless? Either way, how widespread across the family is any homogenized way of thinking? - what about plurality and dissent? ~ Cheers, Jim”

Jim, You´re well, on the run this evening! Nice to meet you here at BioLogos, even if I clearly and toughly-resist reject their kindergarten Darwinian evolutionary biology exagerrations. Biologists are not too difficult to defeat in terms of values these days for a sociologist like myself.

Biological evolution is DISTINCT from so-called ‘human evolution.’ Biologists have taken the notion of ‘human evolution’ to mean THEIRS. To view ‘biology evolves’ in a contemporary is rather different to saying ‘human beings evolve.’ The latter is an atheistic, not a theist perspective!

Obviously this is a simplistic and transferrence of the biological ideology ‘evolutionism’ to sociology and social science. If you don’t agree, I don’t really consider you as a ‘real’ social scientist, but rather as a social scientist who has ‘soul his soul’ to ideological evolutionism. Can evolutionism and ‘soul’ be reconciled? Western sociologists are still far behind ‘eastern’ sociologists about the anthropic study of ‘sociology.’

Thanks for you posts here at BioLogos!

Random Arrow - #63488

July 23rd 2011

Gregory, a great response!

‘Tis not my Darwinian ethos-logos that ethologically makes me resist classification as a ‘real’ social scientist (that was too perfect - touche!) – it’s rather my self-esteem!

And selling my soul means only that I already know what an ‘old’ – 250,000 to 400,000 (give or take a few million years) - whore I am!

Shall not old whores and sinners shall sup with the Master?

I’m troubling myself now to find better eusocial responses ... (prayer: “God, help me! – Who is there to deliver me from this body ...?”).

Excellent post. And most delightful. Thank you!





(looks like I have some thinking left to do!?)

Random Arrow - #63489

July 23rd 2011

... “##### I am” – should have read wh0re, as in an old wh0re I am for so-selling my soul ... Biologos software scanning and forced editing to “#####”?

Random Arrow - #63490

July 23rd 2011

... Biologos scanner did it again!

See the next line and you’ll know what I wrote @ “##### (Biologos inserted the “##### - not me!)

“Shall not old whores and sinners shall sup with the Master?”

Read that word – who** — back in instead of #####.

beaglelady - #63484

July 23rd 2011

I see red!

Random Arrow - #63487

July 23rd 2011

... and I see tooth and claw!

.. actually, ‘twas a great response! – how ever do I respond to that? ~ Jim

Chip - #63494

July 25th 2011

“there had to be a first person” - G8torBrent

Unfortunately, BioLogos doesn’t seen to publically accept or promote this.

Yes.  Some of my favorite quotations from the piece:  “I suspect that Paul…”, “He may well have believed…”, “I think he will have understood….”  All of it without one citation from the man—or maybe he was just a “theological affirmation” too? 

In the end, much of this is mere speculation couched in the language (and world view) of the adademy, which cannot reasonably be called “Paul’s Adam.” Something like “Toward A Revisionist View of a Naturalistically-Palatable Adam” would have been more accurate.

G8torBrent - #63534

July 27th 2011

I have to disagree with you, though I think we’d be arguing over semantics of words like accept or promote. It was here that I first was exposed to the idea I expressed. Specifically, that at some point of evolution, God imparts His Image into humanity, of all species, in order that the creation might relate to the Creator in this unique way that transcends the material.

I don’t agree with Enns’ view about Adam. Nor do I think the Adam=mankind view agrees with Paul. But Adam certainly does behave like mankind. And we behave like him. So the net-net, as they say, we all fall short of the glory of God.
I don’t know what Paul assumed. I do know that biblical writers think they mean one thing and later we learn there’s a greater meaning to it. Take Paul’s application of “do not muzzle an ox when he is treading out the grain”. Or one of the prophets using inspired words while describing an impending judgment he imagines which actually better fits a judgment that occurs much later. So if Paul means that sin entered the world way back when through one man, that’s certainly true whether evolution occurred or the world was created in six days (or one as the second story seems to go).
KevinR - #63501

July 25th 2011

“A Leap of truth” - perhaps shouldbe more appropriately called a “leap of fantasy”. As Chip has put it so succinctly - it’s more an attempt to fit Paul into the naturalistic scheme of things than any attempt to glorify the word of God. If there was no real Adam through whom sin and death entered the world, then there is no need for Christ. Plain and simple. This is the knot that theistic evolution brings into the world - it kills off the very Christ which the adherents to that atheistic evolutionary belief would like to extoll.

How do you feel about having atheists in your camp/corner, shouting and encouraging you to keep up the good work of promoting their religion? These are the very same people who are still the enemies of the God you claim to worship, yet there you are, in the same camp, mingling blissfully and denouncing those who would like to show you a better way.


G8torBrent - #63535

July 27th 2011

One could ask how you feel about singing the same song as Richard Dawkins? Namely, he suggests if you recognize evolution to have occurred, you can’t believe in a god. How is it that young earth creationists have so much in common with someone so devoted to trashing the Creator?

I don’t think Chip has done the bang up job you suggest. Science illuminates our understanding and helps us shape a more truthful and accurate interpretation of Scripture. Think of our understanding of certain texts before and after Galileo. We had to understand what God was trying to tell us through passages about the earth not moving and so forth. Previously, the church assued it meant something scientific AND something spiritual. Afterwards, the more important spiritual truth remained.
With Adam, we have to wonder who he is. And there’s certainly reason to wonder if he is simply representative in general, more than historical. (This is not a view I share.) But if the Bible was written today, his name would be Man, and that’s kind of weird.
Personally, I think you’re forgetting that Paul did a pretty good job of “making” us all sinners in need of Christ’s redemption without Adam. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” What was it you said…“if there was no real Adam through whom sin and death enter the world, then there is no need for Christ.” That’s like saying, if Adam hadn’t sinned, no one else would’ve sinned. I can pretty much guarantee you that I got that one covered. I have sinned plenty enough to mess up the entire world and create a need for my Savior.
Keep seeking the truth, brother.
Cal - #63536

July 27th 2011

Christ is both described as being the New Adam and as being the New Israel. This is mixing images but one can begin to connect the two. Adam to humanity as Israel (Jacob) to Israel (covenant people). In Christ, the two are joined as all of humanity is grafted into the tree of covenant. This isn’t to say there was no actual Adam (as to say there was no actual man Jacob/Israel), but it opens the mind to a wider picture.

lancelot10 - #75400

December 18th 2012

G8  - google up “galileo was wrong the church was right” - einstein hubble and hoyle all said that geocentrism works but they chose heliocentrism since it kept the Divine at bay.  Dawkins said that evolution is not compatible with the Bible but creation is.

It is one point I can agree with dawkins on.  Adam and Eve were real instantly created people if you cant believe this simple fact where can your faith rest -  God never lies and certainly has the power to produce an inerrant Bible.

beaglelady - #63540

July 28th 2011

If there was no real Adam through whom sin and death entered the world, then there is no need for Christ. Plain and simple.

So only Adam’s sin counts? What about a savior for the rest of us?

PNG - #73817

October 20th 2012

I haven’t noticed any encouragement from the atheists. As far as I can tell they despise us almost as much as you do. 

PNG - #73818

October 20th 2012

I was responding to KevinR. Why are there comments here that are dated over a year ago?

Eddie - #73830

October 21st 2012


I would guess that the article above is a “reprint”—that is has appeared on the BioLogos site before, and is being represented because it fits in with new columns on how to read Genesis.  If that is the case, BioLogos has probably left the old comments up, while allowing new ones.  Confusing, I know.

As for the atheists, I agree with you that they despise TEs, even if they occasionally ally with them (as in the NCSE) for political purposes (attacking ID and creationism).  That is why the overtures of certain TE leaders to the atheists—which I might paraphrase without much caricature as, “We TEs, unlike those creationists and ID people, believe in good science, too, so please please please respect us as colleagues!”—are never going to get anywhere.  Coyne thinks that Collins is mentally deficient for believing in Jesus as well as in the laws of genetics, and that is not going to change.

richardoster - #63549

July 28th 2011

Wenham’s statement, ” I suspect that Paul would have shared many of the views of his day. He
may well have believed in a flat earth” reflects a lack of awareness that few if any people in the late Hellenistic-Roman period believed in a flat earth.  Beginning at least with Eratosthenes  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes the educated as well as uneducated knew the earth was a sphere.  This scientific fact was mentioned not only in literature, but was visually documented in numerous statuary and numismatic remains throughout the Roman world.  We “moderns” should not think that the notion of “scientific method” was unknown in the ancient world.

Cal - #63551

July 28th 2011

I suppose an interesting sort of thing is trying to take a culture’s understanding, making it “scientific” and then projecting it forward. This is what Rome did in the understanding of the Earth as flat as a scientific fact.

On a human, rhetorical level, for all intents and purposes, the Earth is flat. It is a level plane that goes up and down. It’s like the fact that many of us say the grass is green. It is not innately ‘green’, bu absorbing all light and reflecting green. Yet this scientific diagnosis does not negate the truth of the former.

A little over simplified but some food for thought.

wesseldawn - #73792

October 19th 2012

Adam = “from the dust of the ground”. I don’t know how that can be miscontrued!!

Paul would most certainly have defended this view!

What is always suspect is interpretation!


Roger A. Sawtelle - #73799

October 19th 2012

IMHO Paul used Adam (and Eve) as the archetype for Natural Humanity. 

It is not possible to determine from the Genesis account exactly what happened, but we do know that sin happened and it had to begin somewhere.   

lancelot10 - #75401

December 18th 2012

Roger - why is it not possible by a simple reading of Genesis - if you can’t believe in that God made adam from dust how can you believe in lazarus coming to life from dust - he was smelling - or Jesus coming to life from dust which IS the Chrsitian Faith.

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