Was Adam a Real Person? Part 3

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September 17, 2010 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's entry was written by Denis Lamoureux. You can read more about what we believe here.

Was Adam a Real Person? Part 3

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 last 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.

Did the apostle Paul believe that Adam was a real person? Yes, well of course he did. Paul was a first-century AD Jew and like every Jewish person around him, he accepted the historicity of Adam. In fact, he places Adam’s sin and death alongside God’s gifts of salvation and resurrection from the dead through Jesus. In Romans 5:12 and 15, he writes that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. . . . For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and gift that came by the grace of the One Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Paul also claims in 1 Corinthians 15:21 that “since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

It is understandable why most Christians believe that Adam was a real historical person. This is exactly what Scripture states in both the Old and New Testaments. To defend their position, these believers often offer three arguments by appealing to the apostle Paul. First, they use a conferment argument. They contend that since Paul believed in the existence of Adam, then Adam in the opening chapters of Genesis must have been a real person. In other words, the apostle’s belief in the historicity of Adam confers historical reality to Adam. Second, these Christians employ a consistency argument. They argue that since Paul refers to Jesus as a historical person in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, then it is only consistent that his references to Adam in these chapters must also be to a real individual in history. Third, believers point out that the Gospel appears in these New Testament passages. In particular, it is explicitly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:1–7 and introduced by the clauses “the Gospel I [Paul] preached to you” (v. 1) and “by this Gospel you are saved” (v. 2). They contend that we can’t just pick-and-choose the Bible verses we want, such as accepting the Gospel and rejecting the existence of Adam. On the surface, these three arguments are quite reasonable. In fact, I used all of them thirty years ago when I was a fiery young earth creationist.

But let’s reconsider these popular arguments. First, the conferment argument. Many Christians argue that since Paul believed in the existence of Adam, then Adam must have been a real person. But what else did this apostle believe? In one of the most important passages in the New Testament, the wonderful Kenotic Hymn, he states that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (1) in heaven, (2) on earth, and (3) in the underworld (Philippians 2:10–11). Paul clearly accepted the 3-tier universe. But, does his belief confer reality to this understanding of the structure of the universe? And since he believed the world had three tiers, do we also have to believe it? More specifically, Paul accepted that there was a subterranean region where beings exist. Does his belief bestow reality to such a place with such individuals under the surface of the earth? And if we decide to reject the 3-tier universe in Philippians 2, but to accept Jesus as Lord, are we to be accused of being inconsistent? Or worse, of picking-and-choosing the Bible verses that we want to believe? I doubt anyone would answer “yes” to any of these five questions.

Second, the consistency argument states that since Paul refers to Jesus as a historical individual in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, then references to Adam in these chapters must also be to a real person in history. However, this common line of reasoning fails to distinguish real history (the existence of Jesus) from an ancient understanding of human origins (the de novo creation of Adam). In other words, the often-used consistency argument is in fact inconsistent! It conflates (collapses together) actual historical events of the first century AD with an ancient biology. This is similar to using the Kenotic Hymn in Philippians 2 and the historical fact that Jesus actually existed in order to argue for the existence of the 3-tier universe presented in verses 10-11; and then to extend the ancient astronomy in this New Testament passage back to Genesis 1 to claim that God actually created a world with three tiers. I am doubtful that anyone would appeal to consistency in such a way.

But let me appeal to consistency in a way that is not often heard in Christian circles. Consistency argues that since Paul accepted ancient astronomy and ancient geology, then he must also have accepted ancient biology. The static 3-tier universe was the science-of-the-day embraced by this apostle and his readers, and so too was the notion that living organisms were static (immutable) and reproduced “according to its/their kind/s”. Paul refers to this ancient biological (taxonomical) conceptualization in 1 Corinthians 15:39 by stating that “all flesh is not the same: men have one kind of flesh, animals have another [kind], birds another [kind], and fish another [kind].” Since he viewed living organisms as separately created kinds, it is only consistent that he understood the origin of life through the ancient biological notion of de novo creation. In fact, the apostle presents this ancient science of human origins in Acts 17:26 when he states, “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” Paul definitely believed that human life began with the quick and complete creation of Adam. In other words, he accepted the biology-of-the-day. In this light, I am doubtful that there are any Christians today who accept the ancient astronomy and ancient geology so clearly stated in Scripture, and consistency argues that neither they should accept the ancient biology in the Word of God.

Third, it is necessary to underline that Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross are not dependent on the existence of Adam. Now, there is no doubt that Paul believed in the historical reality of both Adam and Jesus. In particular, this apostle recognized that the Gospel is based on the Lord’s existence and His physical death and resurrection from the grave. Stating concisely the Good News and its implications, Paul writes:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born...

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins

1 Corinthians 15:1–7, 14, 17

Please Note: This is the Gospel as stated in the Bible, and there is no mention whatsoever of Adam and whether or not he existed. Christian faith is founded on Jesus, not Adam. This religion is called Christ-ianity, not Adam-ianity. Also note that this passage refers to many people who lived during a well-known point in real history (first century AD) and who had actually met the Lord (Peter, the Twelve, 500 brothers, James, Paul). This is not the case with Adam. Of course, Paul believed that Adam existed, and mentions him later in 1 Corinthians 15. But Adam’s existence is based on de novo creation, the origins science-of-the-day for Paul and his readers. Therefore, in the same way that we must separate, and not conflate, the inerrant message that Jesus is Lord from the fact that the 3-tier world presented in Philippians 2 does not exist; we must also separate, and not conflate, the historical reality of Jesus and His death and bodily resurrection from the fact that Adam never existed, because Adam’s existence is rooted in an ancient biology of human origins.

Considering these three counterarguments above, it is possible to suggest a new approach to Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 by employing the Message-Incident Principle.

The central message in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is this: we are sinners and God judges us for our sins; but the Good News of the Gospel is that we are offered the hope of eternal life through the sacrificial death of Jesus and His physical (bodily) resurrection from the dead. In order to deliver as effectively as possible inerrant spiritual Truths about human sinfulness and the divine judgment of sin, the Holy Spirit accommodated to Paul’s level by employing an incidental ancient biological notion from the early chapters of Genesis—the de novo creation of Adam. To be sure, this is a very challenging and counterintuitive way to read Scripture. Nevertheless, we must not conflate, but instead separate the inerrant, life-changing Messages of Faith from their incidental ancient vessel in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. These passages in the Word of God do not reveal how God actually made humans, but that He created us; and that we are sinners in need of a Savior, whom the Lord has graciously sent to die on the Cross for us—the latter is The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen!


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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BenYachov - #31350

September 22nd 2010

@Robert Byers

>Is the disbelief in Adam from Christians from anything else but the claims of men that there was no Adam?
Is this disbelief coming from a greater confidence in evolutionary etc beliefs?

I reply: I think the tragedy here is there is no reason to deny a real Adam if you accept the Bible,  Evolution & an Old Earth.  There is no scientific reason to deny an Adam either.  There is no Biblical reason(which is as redundant as saying there is no Biblical reason to deny a God).


There is just no reason, so why do it if your a Christian Theistic Evolutionist?


Robert Byers - #31664

September 24th 2010

VanZweitand
The authors point is that Adam isn’t true despite the claim of genesis to the reader on the origin of human beings.
Ideas of what ancient peoples thought is speculative and unrelated to the author of Genesis.
This author meant the reader to think there was a original two people with no belly buttons.
I smell the rejection of adam is from a confidence in small circles of people who try to prove genesis isn’t true.
Faith in them is trumping faith in the word of God.
Sure seems like these desperate attempts are so motivated.


Barry - #31685

September 24th 2010

BenYachov - #31343

My comment regarding “gaps” wasn’t a reference to an imaginery god, it was a reference to the vacuousness of you comments. Accusing you of being a “space” that filled a “gap” was just a less direct way of saying this. Now hurry up get on with ignoring me.


BenYachov - #31754

September 24th 2010

>it was a reference to the vacuousness of you comments

Ah the kneejerk dodge, projection & overcompensating behavior of the fundamentalist New Atheist(i.e. simply call your opponent “stupid” when you can’t give an intelligent response).  Gotta love it!


Barry - #32106

September 26th 2010

BenYachov - #31754

What am I supposed to be giving an intelligent response to? I’ve re-read your posts but I can’t find your question or argument.


BenYachov - #32252

September 27th 2010

As I recall I challenged you to show me where or how I misquoted Dennett(you made that charge & showed no proof while demanding proof for God’s existence).  You responded with abuse & misdirection which seems to be your way.  I also showed how it is philosophically incorrect to define humans purely in genetic terms and how it is question begging on your part.  That is clear from what I wrote.  You refused to interact with what I wrote.

I’m threw giving you the benefit of the doubt you are an anti-intellectual disingenuous poster & a dodger of arguments.


Don from Chicago - #32525

September 29th 2010

The positions stated in the above article are so shallow-minded as to be shocking.

It’s as if we are listening to a tenth grader fumbling about with theology.

No Adam, no Seth. No Seth, no Jesus.

We are as connected to Aadm as Jesus is. “Christ” is not the last name of Jesus. There is just as much a biological connection to Jesus and Adam as there is a theological one.

Christianity is as Adamanity as it gets. Seperating the two is preaching another Gospel.

The First Adam and the Second Adam.

Even with a PhD, the word DUH, is more than appropriate, applied to the response of said piece.


John VanZwieten - #32534

September 29th 2010

Gudnews wrote:

No, not a geocentrist or flat-earther… still looking for how to make needed distinctions without giving away the store entirely

I’m totally with you on not “giving away the store entirely.”  So maybe that’s the better perpective: start with what is most important and hold most tightly to that.  Then hold lesser things a little more loosely, and inconsequential things loosest of all.


Denis O. Lamoureux - #33000

October 2nd 2010

Don from Chicago - #32525

Don’s message above is what is wrong with blogs. People who should be listening and learning are beaking off and embarrassing themselves (and their city). Some have asked me privately to get involved in this discussion, but I haven’t the time to waste. It’s messages like Don’s that make me grateful that I am a university professor because we don’t have to with his type of “mind” on campus.
d


BenYachov - #33019

October 3rd 2010

>The positions stated in the above article are so shallow-minded as to be shocking.

>It’s as if we are listening to a tenth grader fumbling about with theology.

I reply: It’s legitimate to say Dr. Lamoureux claim about “no Adam” is completely wrong on every level but it is clearly a personal attack to compare an obviously educated man with the level of education recieved by a Sophmore in high school or to call him “Shallow-minded”.

I have absolutly no problem with saying I think he is wrong about Adam & I fail to see any logical, philosophical, biblical or scientific reason to deny Adam existed as he does.  I have no problem saying his view won’t fly with Evangelicals & it is unnessary to deny Adam if you affirm an old Earth, hold too Evolution and even if you reject scientific concordantism.

But calling the man stupid is wrong and as Dr. Lemoureux self appointed chief critic & legend in my own midn I must ask you not to help me.


Richie Batson - #33423

October 5th 2010

Lamoreux stated:

“Don’s message above is what is wrong with blogs. People who should be listening and learning are beaking off and embarrassing themselves (and their city). Some have asked me privately to get involved in this discussion, but I haven’t the time to waste. It’s messages like Don’s that make me grateful that I am a university professor because we don’t have to with his type of “mind” on campus.
d”

Lamoreux’s (eisegetical) theologoumenon is what is wrong with Biologos.  Professing Christians should be listening to and learning from (submitting to) God’s revealed word, instead of working from a man-centered hermeneutic which requires extrabiblical speculation and abandonment of the gospel. 

The embarrassment belongs solely to Lamoreux, in that he is willing to gut the gospel in favor of squeezing his conclusions into his presuppositions.  Really nothing new of substance here (” separate the inerrant, life-changing Messages of Faith from their incidental ancient vessel”—-Barth, anyone?) Also, I remember reading this somewhere:  “Did God really say…?”

Finally, should we now begin praying to Lamoreux, since he apparently is omniscient and omnipresent (“the fact that Adam never existed”)?


gingoro - #33461

October 6th 2010

I have found it very profitable to read “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” by Denis Lamoureux to get a much more complete understanding of the authors thought.  Right now I am almost half way through his book.  Of the books I have read on the topic of origins and Christianity this is one of the three that I recommend to people who are interested in the subject.
Dave W


gingoro - #33476

October 6th 2010

Denis

See my comment to Pete Enns at:
http://biologos.org/blog/adam-eve-and-the-culture-wars/#comment-33473

Affirming some of the things you do believe are historical in the Bible, would (IMO) increase acceptance of what you write about.  Not sure if you have the time or energy but such an affirmation would be helpful.
Dave W


Denis O. Lamoureux - #33522

October 6th 2010

gingoro - #33476 October 6th 2010

Dear Dave,
I wrote in my piece:
“Also note that this passage refers to many people who lived during a well-known point in real history (first century AD) and who had actually met the Lord (Peter, the Twelve, 500 brothers, James, Paul). . . . .  we must also separate, and not conflate, the historical reality of Jesus and His death and bodily resurrection. . . .”

Not sure how to make this clearer that I believe in the historicity of NT events.
Best,
Denis


Gregory - #33531

October 7th 2010

Then again, ‘history’ means almost the same thing as ‘evolution’ in some peoples’ minds.

Did Jesus ‘evolve’ onto the cross? I don’t doubt that Denis Lamoureux would say ‘Yes, of course.’

Who then was the first ‘real, historical’ human being described/discussed in the Bible? Abraham?

Lamoureux’s uncatholic speculations are inconsistent and unnecessary. BenYakov clearly notes: “there is no reason to deny a real Adam if you accept the Bible,  Evolution & an Old Earth.  There is no scientific reason to deny an Adam either.  There is no Biblical reason…There is just no reason, so why do it if your a Christian Theistic Evolutionist?”

A: Because they feel the pressure of ‘scientism’ & don’t know Orthodox how to respond.

Re: Lamoureux as ‘what’s wrong with Biologos,’ I disagree. What’s wrong is that some ProtAmericans have gone to such anti-science extremes that such a project is needed & wanted.

Lamoureux has been YEC, atheist, CC, & now TE or ‘evolutionary creationist’; a consummate flip-flopper. He can survive as a ‘creationist’ in Canada where less harm is done. His faith is what saves him, not his poor biologist’s philosophy works. This isn’t ‘BioLogos’!

God created a ‘real’ Adam, amen.


Rich - #33546

October 7th 2010

Denis:

I think I know where gingoro is coming from, and I think your answer to him should be amplified.  You wrote:

“... the historical reality of Jesus and His death and bodily resurrection. . . .”

“Not sure how to make this clearer that I believe in the historicity of NT events.”

Keep in mind, Denis, that many Biblical scholars and pastors write columns on Biologos.  All would characterize their position as TE/EC.  But they may not all agree with you regarding NT historicity.  And they are often very slippery.  For example, some of them beat around the bush when asked if Jesus walked on the sea.  Others are vague about what actually happened with the loaves and the fishes.  Etc. 

Now you may accept every NT miracle “straight up,” but given the elusiveness of some other columnists here, no one will be sure unless you say it.  Yet what you’ve said above confirms only one miracle—the bodily resurrection—and is silent about the rest.  Even “the historicity of NT events” is not ironclad—is that of *some* NT events, or *all* of them?  And if only *some*, which?

In the somewhat liberal atmosphere here, you might well be interpreted as more liberal than you are, unless you make more explicit statements.


Gregory - #33582

October 7th 2010

If we became optimists & realists instead of pessimistic critics, we could speak not only @ “what is wrong with blogs,” but also what is right. Lamoureux has been faced here with questions by at least two persons with multiple degrees, even PhDs. If there were no Blog world, we’d have no opportunity to call Denis out on his uncatholic, unorthodox views of reality & his acrobatic dismissal of A&E as ‘unreal’.

The Blog world in which he has chosen to participate flattens the hierarchy of participants so that each person can express his or her voice & raise his or her questions to a ‘leader in the field’ (thanks for our ensouled human character of being ‘Created Equal before God’!). One would think ‘scientific elites’ such as Denis (even if that’s an exaggeration) would have more patience & gracefulness in their postings.

Instead, I don’t find Lamoureux’s 33000 at all charitable, but rather arrogant & elitist. Charity of course may also be something he is willing to liberally expunge from his Christian theology based on genomics & genetics. E.g. how could altruism even have arisen in the first place if our ‘Human Character’ is subsumed by ‘Nature-only’? Denis should be humble on this topic, but let us see.


Nancy R. - #33591

October 7th 2010

As Richie Batson noted - #33423 - “Professing Christians should be listening to and learning from (submitting to) God’s revealed word, instead of working from a man-centered hermeneutic which requires extrabiblical speculation and abandonment of the gospel. ”
    Yes, exactly. Learning from God’s word may require careful study rather than a rote literal reading of each word. Many of the posters here assume that a non-literal reading of the story of Adam and Eve is the result of a self-centered, casual attitude towards God’s word. But that assumption is completely at odds with Lamoureux’s point of view. Rather than abandon the gospel, Lamoureux has connected the incarnational beauty of God among us, in the person of Jesus Christ, with the incarnational message of God’s truth, told in our words and in ways that we can understand, in the Genesis stories.
    Speaking of extrabiblical speculation - most of the arguments I’ve heard to support views of a 6000-year-old earth, descent from 2 people, a world-wide deluge, dinosaurs and humans co-existing - depend heavily on ideas that have nothing to do with the Bible.


Denis O. Lamoureux - #33960

October 8th 2010

Rich - #33546

Dear Rich,
I believe in the miracles of Jesus. This is not a problem for me.
I’m charismatic/pentecostal.
Best,
Denis
PS Did you notice how Greg affirms my comments in 33000.


Rich - #33998

October 9th 2010

Denis:

Thanks for your clarification regarding the miracles of Jesus.  I add that I wasn’t setting myself up as a judge and jury if you *didn’t* believe in them all; I think it’s possible to be a faithful follower of Jesus and have some doubts.  I was just asking for clarity, for the reason I already gave; some Biologos columnists are nebulous when it comes to the question of Biblical miracles.  I think that if you are getting flak from some here, it may be that they are inferring, from your stance on Adam and Eve, that you are skeptical of a great deal of the Biblical narratives (since one or two other Biologos columnists who deny Adam and Eve appear to be so).

I would distance myself from Gregory’s comments.  I can understand why he might disagree with you about Adam and Eve, but I don’t understand why he is saying the other things he says about you.  Perhaps he is equating your position with that of one or two of the others I mentioned above.  In any case, I think it would be nicer if he *asked* you if you were an extreme liberal before accusing you of being one.


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