Was Adam a Real Person? Part 2

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September 11, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's entry was written by Denis Lamoureux. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Was Adam a Real Person? Part 2

The historicity of Adam and Eve is a critically important topic in the discussion of Christianity and human origins. Although BioLogos takes a firm stand on the fact that Adam and Eve could not have been the sole biological progenitors of all humans (see here), science does not rule out the possibility of a historical Adam and Eve. Indeed, there is a wide range of Christian perspectives on this topic, several of which have been explored here on the BioLogos Forum in posts from Tom Wright (here and here), David Opderbeck, Pete Enns, Daniel Harrell, and Alister McGrath.

In the final chapter of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008), Christian scholar Denis O. Lamoureux presents another important perspective, stating, “My central conclusion in this book is clear: Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” Also summarized in a slide-audio web lecture with a two page handout A and B, today's post is the second of a three-part series taken from Lamoureux's I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution (2009), in which he argues forcefully against the historicity of Adam, primarily on biblical grounds.

Part 2: The De Novo Creation of Adam

Generations of Christians have firmly believed that the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 is an elaboration of the brief account of human origins on the sixth creation day in Genesis 1. This traditional literal interpretation asserts that human history begins with the events in the garden of Eden. According to young earth creationists and progressive creationists, these passages offer indisputable biblical evidence against human evolution. However, the de novo creation of living organisms (see my “Part I: The De Novo Creation of Life”) was the science-of-the-day in the ancient Near East, and this calls into question historicity the creation of humans as stated in the Bible.

Like every account of origins, Genesis 2 is etiological. It offers an explanation for the existence of things and beings known to the Holy Spirit-inspired writer and his readers—vegetation, land animals, birds, and humans. And typical of ancient accounts of origins, the Lord God created these de novo; that is, they were made quickly and completely formed. But Genesis 2 focuses mainly on the origin of humanity. Adam is made “from the dust of the ground” (v. 7). Notably, the use of earth to rapidly form mature human beings appears in other ancient Near Eastern creation stories. For example, the Atrahasis creation account tells of a goddess who mixes clay with the blood of a slain god to fashion seven males and seven females. In Enki and Ninmah, a drunken divine being uses earth to make imperfect human beings. And a pinch of clay is used to create a man in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The gods in many of these pagan accounts create humanity in order to free themselves from work. The message is that men and women are basically slaves of the gods. In sharp contrast, Genesis 2 features the Message of Faith that the Lord cares for humanity. He meets their physical and psychological needs by offering food and companionship. The God of Love is being revealed at this early stage of biblical revelation.

So what exactly am I saying about Adam? Yes, the forming of a man from the dust of the ground in Genesis 2:7 is an ancient understanding of origins. Adam’s existence is based ultimately on ancient science, and his quick and complete creation from earth made perfect sense from an ancient phenomenological perspective. The ancients saw that humans never change into other kinds of creatures, and that humans give birth to humans, who give birth to humans, who give birth to humans, etc. It was reasonable for them to retroject (Latin retro: backward; jacere: to throw) these day-to-day experiences back to the beginning of creation and conclude that the Creator had made an original human or pair of humans. In addition, ancient peoples saw that after an organism died, it decomposed and became dust. This observation, coupled with their own activity in shaping clay into pottery, provided a conceptual framework for the fashioning of humans and other living organisms from earth. In fact, Genesis 2 uses the Hebrew word yāṣar to describe the forming of a man, animals, and birds from the ground (v. 7, 8, 19). This is the same word that is used for the term potter, and it even appears in other passages where God is the Potter who forms man in His hands (Isaiah 16:29, 45:9, 64:8; cf. Jeremiah 18:1–6).

The de novo creation of Adam is example of the Holy Spirit accommodating, that is, descending, to the level of the ancient Hebrews in the biblical revelatory process. He takes their view of human origins, which is the best science-of-the-day, and employs it as a vessel to reveal that He is their Creator. And just like His use of ancient astronomy, when He separates the waters above from the waters below with the firmament in Genesis 1, His forming of Adam from the dust of ground never happened either. No doubt about it, this idea is shocking to most Christians. But the Message-Incident Principle offers perspective on this situation. How God made humans is incidental to the message that He made us. Adam is simply an ancient vessel that delivers inerrant, life-changing, spiritual Truths.

The central purpose of Genesis 2 is to reveal infallible Messages of Faith about the human spiritual condition. Radically different from the pagan beliefs of the nations surrounding the Hebrews, this chapter complements the Holy Spirit-inspired theology of Genesis 1, which reveals humans are created in the Image of God (v. 26-27). Genesis 2 underlines our special and privilege status in the world, because we are the only creatures in a personal relationship with the Lord. The second creation account in Scripture also discloses that men and women were made to enjoy the mystery of marriage. So beautifully stated, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (v. 24). And most importantly, Genesis 2 reveals that the Creator sets limits on human freedom. He commands Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you shall surely die” (v. 17). In other words, we are accountable before God, and failure to respect His commands has serious consequences.


Denis Lamoureux is the associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds a PhD in evangelical theology and a PhD in evolutionary biology. Lamoureux is the author of the books Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008) and I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution (2009). More on his work can be found here.

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dlwood - #29605

September 12th 2010

Bev and merv, both, thanks and yes there is a need to keep things in perspective, to graciously receive a brother and sister in the Lord.  The body of Christ is truly a wonder in its outworking in this world.

Yet my whole point is that faith comes from hearing (which the Spirit gives) and hearing from the Word of God.  There must be an objective truth that is heard and believed in order to be born from above; and that objective truth does matter, even though at the time of birth, we may have but a small understanding of it.  It is critical that those who would be shepherds of the flock clearly identify with Truth.  God did not stutter and truth can and should be known and declared.  There are wolves in sheep’s clothing; there are false teachers; there are blind leaders of the blind in every age and we do well to require of those who would instruct us in spiritual things some declaration of the truth which they do believe. 

I don’t presume about the writers for Biologos.  I do not know them and thus it would be helpful to know upon what truths they stand firm.  This forum may not have been the right place to post that desire.  I have since used the Contact Us opportunity to make that request.


dlwood - #29607

September 12th 2010

John
Thanks, that is encouraging.  I’ll have to mull over some of Denis’s thoughts for awhile.  A separate article on the fall seemed to leave the issue of where sin came from up in the air, or whether all men were equally affected.  Anyway, maybe everyone can get back to the topic at hand now.  Sorry if we got too far afield.


sy g. - #29619

September 12th 2010

dlwood

I think your point is well taken, and I agree with John, that the VOM statement doesnt seem to be contradicted by anything I have read on Bologos. I have heard Dr. Lamoureux (the author of this article) expressly affirm those beliefs in his lectures.


John VanZwieten - #29620

September 12th 2010

dlwood,

Don’t be sorry; the questions you ask are important.  If Genesis is modern-style history, it’s easy to say where sin came from.  Moving in Denis’ direction requires us to wrestle with the questions you ask.

It’s obvious (to me at least) that we all really are sinners in need of rescue, that without Christ we (as Augustine said) “cannot not sin”.  The Bible also seems clearly to teach that this sorry state is the result of human rebellion against God, so that man is fully at fault and God not at all at fault.

This seems enough to me to underpin the VOM doctinal statement you quoted.  The details can be left murky as far as I’m concerned.


sy g. - #29628

September 12th 2010

Amen, John.


merv - #29680

September 12th 2010

dlwood, I don’t think your request to know what truths those representing Biologos will stand behind is unreasonable.  Others not contributing to this thread have made similar requests to know this, and I’m not sure they ever got a reply.

Your reply (29605) encouraged me in another line of reflection I have incubating.  That is on the whole symbolism of ‘milk’ vs. ‘meat’.  The thief on the cross could probably be said to have been newly started on a fresh milk diet—probably being a spiritual infant right at the end of his earthly life.

So a believer ‘growing up’ in Christ is supposed to be getting a meat diet.  To me, that could be applied to the study and reflection of some of the many truths that are important (though not salvific) for us to know or accept.  Yet I’m uncomfortable with the notion of saying that we never again need the milk (as if we grew into some kind of independence from God.)  I don’t think Paul would have pressed his own analogy nearly that far, since it is probably healthy for all of us to continue to identify at times with the thief or to occasionally be those who, at times, return to square one of their faith and just let God pick them up again.

—Merv


dlwood - #29690

September 12th 2010

Thanks to all of you for your Christian responses.  It is nice not to have to cross swords in order to discuss questions or potential differences.  I’m new to the site.  I’m comfortable with Young Earth Creationism but open to hear opposing arguments from individuals not willing to surrender vital Scriptural truths to man’s limited powers of reason and observation.  My concerns with the evolutionary model are that:  1) it seems to have become a presuppositional system, much like creationism, that automatically dismisses contrary evidence, silencing the opposition not with science but with arrogant bigotry of thought; 2) the power structure in the US scientific community rather than encouraging freedom of thought in this critical field, stifles it and in so doing greatly hinders an open approach that might yield new ways of looking at the data; 3) Christians who desire to be taken seriously in their field are thus hindered from exploring options that may be valid but which contradict the status quo of the powers that be.  I’ve also found the occasional books evolutionists come out with as the ‘end of the debate’ books to come far short of being convincing.  But, let grace prevail.  Let God be true and every man a liar.


John VanZwieten - #29701

September 12th 2010

dlwood,

I was YEC or OEC for most of my life.  I was taught it in church and Christian school, even visited the ICR once while on a youth trip.  I thought that’s what all Bible-believing Christians believed.

It was only in the last year when I really began taking an “honest as I could possibly be” look at the evidence and arguments for and against creationism that I discovered the degree to which it is basically just propaganda masquerading as science.  I found that many of the evidences which I was given years ago (such as the dino/human footprints) are now admitted to be false.  I found that the creationists use deliberately deceptive means to get poorly educated (in science) Christians to keep following them, such as sending newly formed rocks from Mt. St. Helens into a lab for radiometric testing.

I also found (in Dr. Collins and others here at BioLogos) a group of sincere believers who are honest scientists as well.  As I read the articles here, and fact-checked them the best I could, at least two things became clear to me:
1) the evidence points strongly to an old earth, with no global natural flood in the last 10K years
2) the genetic evidence for the common descent of living things is very strong


merv - #29704

September 12th 2010

It is nice to have civil discussion, DL; I wish more folks from any side of his could keep it that way.  I’ve become comfortable (perhaps too comfortable) with this particular site and the attendant views of most folks here which tend to be about as comfortable with evolutionary creationism as you are with YEC.  Yet I think most of us agree with about everything you said above and also lament all the arrogant bigotry that frightens too many away from attempting discussion of these things at all.  And speaking just for myself, I also agree with you that there is a reactionary power structure in academia which is probably over-frightened of association with anything “creationist” and tends to respond only with mockery instead of reasoning discussion, though I don’t go so far as some creationists as seeing it all as a huge conspiracy to prop up an otherwise tottering evolutionary theory.  I don’t think that has any grounding, other than seeing “conspiracy” in its loosest unorganized sense, perhaps.  But even there, I wish we creationists would do a better job (like Kurt Wise) acknowledging the vast array of evidence out there.  But as you say, may both truth and grace prevail.


John VanZwieten - #29708

September 12th 2010

cont.

Of course this evidence required me to rethink the very literalistic way I was taught to read Genesis.  In no way has it devalued scripture or reduced its authority in my life, except I no longer expect to learn science or find AP-Wire type reporting of events.  I would say letting go of those expectations instead makes me ask the more important question: What is God trying to get across here?  I find that some of our “vital scriptural truths” are supported better that way than with the literalistic approach (which is also a non-starter for many people interested in the Christian faith).

As to your assesment of the power structure in the scientific community, I sense some of that as well, though maybe less strongly.  It seems to me there are many questions still to be answered regarding the “hows” of evolution, and since I don’t work in related fields, I’m free to watch from the sidelines w/o taking sides in many of those debates.

And certainly “evolutionism” as a quasi-religious belief seems to be quite prevalent in segments of the scientific community.  Of course we don’t want to buy into that.


dlwood - #29727

September 13th 2010

John and Merv, thanks for your comments and likely we’ll interact more down the road, though I usually don’t have time to follow up on interactions on blogs.  I’ve learned things that will help me as I consider truth in the days ahead.  May we each be faithful to the truth without compromise and gracious to those who differ.  Thanks again to all for your kindness on the web.


Sarah J. MacDonald - #29736

September 13th 2010

Hi again Denis (long time no type) and thanks for another interesting blog posting.

On the “image of God” point. I ran across one Jeff A. Benner,  a while back who posted a word study of Genesis 1:27.

He translates the passage as “the powerful one filled the man with his shadow”, which would imply that while we retain some aspects of God’s nature, we do not “look like God”. I have run into this as a common objection to creation through evolution. (That this verse implies our physical appearance is in some way based on God’s)

Mr. Benner also has some interesting takes on Genesis 1:1. I wondered if you or anyone else reading was familiar with this man’s writings.

Here are the videos for reference:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jonhHVpdkIw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGHFMOdnPIc


Robert Byers - #29745

September 13th 2010

To answer a point. If you were God and planning on making a being in your image but going to put in on a planet with common attributes between all creatures like eyes, ears, legs, organs, and so then either you pick the best creature body type or you make something entirely out of context to the rest of living creatures.
Therefore it follows that we would be given the best type of body and this is the ape type.
Yet unrelated to ancestry.
What else would we look like? or what other creature would one put a man into?
Likewise since we look like an ape we could only but have the same genes. Like equals like genes.
Genes are merely a parts department.
Evolutions conviction of mans ape origins from body type is not logical if there is a creator.

This biblical creationist(YEC) welcomes myself having a ape like body. Yet I am not related to apes by word of scripture and logical deduction of natural observation.
They must show evidence, worthy,  of the unlikely possibility of common descent from primates.
It seems to me , as posters here say, that evolutionism simply looks at apes and men and goes AHA and conviction takes hold.
Yet as in religion convictions can be plain wrong where only one religion is right.
Christians know that.


John VanZwieten - #29755

September 13th 2010

Robert wrote:

Genes are merely a parts department.
Evolutions conviction of mans ape origins from body type is not logical if there is a creator.

There is just so much evidence you are failing to address with posts like this—it simply goes way beyond “similar genes to make similar bodies.”

For example, why do human embryos develop yolk sacs, but no yolk?  Well, it turns out we have the genes for making yolk, but they are defective.  Since we give live birth it doesn’t matter though. 

Did God just have some extra yolk-sac “parts” lying around and decided to throw them in?  And maybe a package of defective yolk “parts” had been returned, and He just tossed them in for good measure?

Did you miss all the posts on pseudogenes, and what they say about common ancestry?  Have you really taken an “honest as possible” look at all the evidence?  Would you ever consider doing so?


Luke - #29758

September 13th 2010

“They must show evidence, worthy,  of the unlikely possibility of common descent from primates.”

How about these?
Signature in the Synteny
Signature in the Pseudogenes, Part 1
Signature in the Pseudogenes, Part 2


Denis O. Lamoureux - #29824

September 13th 2010

Andre - #29412
September 11th 2010
Please pardon what must by now be a tedious question to regular readers (I am not one), but assuming and accepting all of this to be true : why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

Dear Andre,
Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. How God created us is secondary to the truth that He did created us. And we all sin and have fallen short. Now, whether God created a de novo man or created through evolution still results in the creation of humans. But we sin. And we all know it. For me, encountering the Lord was the most freeing experience of my life. He freed me from a lifestyle that was destroying me. And it’s only when I started grasping and meditating on the Cross that it started to make sense to my soul and mind.
Blessings,
Denis


Robert Byers - #30301

September 16th 2010

John VanZweitan and Luke.
What I said makes sense and will to most creationists.
These little things of our growing body are to be expected in such a complex machine. They are not evidence of common descent etc but have reasons behind their operation.
What you see as psuedogenes is not proof they are minor reactions of a growing creature.
You did not witness their previous “use”  and are guessing about their function.
These things are beyond our need to comprehend.
The great point is that the human body is wrongly seen as a relative of a ape just because of looks or genes. It follows that we could only look like a ape because its the best body for a being in Gods image and it follows like body equals like genes. No retreating to egg yolks. the great point trumps the speculative minor point.


John VanZwieten - #30405

September 16th 2010

Robert Byers wrote:

What I said makes sense and will to most creationists.
These little things of our growing body are to be expected in such a complex machine. They are not evidence of common descent etc but have reasons behind their operation.

Of course what you said will make sense to creatonists—it is standard operating creationist procedure to take a mountain of reasonable evidence and dismiss it with a handwave the way you just did.


Bruce Harold - #30501

September 17th 2010

My mother was a preacher’s kid (Lutheran). My father was an astro-physicist, known around the world in his field. I have to say that some of the folks here have some odd ideas about science and scientists.

I believe that Genesis is beautiful poetry but not literal history. Every culture that has ever lived on earth has a creation myth. Many cultures have resurrection myths and miraculous birth myths.
But for Constantine and Rome, Christianity might not have become one of the few dominant religions of the world and the Jewish creation myth might not be nearly so well known.

For me what is important is what Jesus said while he lived, according to the sayings attributed to him. “Truth” seems to be pretty slippery, otherwise we wouldn’t currently have hundreds of Christian denominations vying of over whose set of dogmas and creeds is the real “truth.” Most of the same people who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God would deny that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

The writers of the Bible did their best to describe their numinous, ineffable experiences with the Divine, using the language, knowledge, and world view of their time.

As the old saying goes, “God is love. The rest is commentary.”


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