From the Dust: Paul’s Adam

| By Ryan Pettey Featured author: N.T. Wright, Chris Tilling, Alister McGrath, and David Wenham

In honor of the digital debut of From the Dust on the iTunes store, today we're reposting another clip from the film, titled “Paul’s Adam”, as well as a letter from the movie's director, Ryan Pettey. You can purchase (or rent) the movie today on iTunes, or if you prefer, a physical copy through Amazon or Highway Media.

My name is Ryan Pettey, and I am a documentary filmmaker who has been amazingly blessed to work on a feature-length documentary over the last year and a half called From the Dust.

With From the Dust, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today. We wanted the film to address the topic hermeneutically, historically, and socially in order to gain a better perspective on the issues, and, hopefully, address some of the fears (justified or otherwise) concerning what science is telling us about our physical origins.

Personally, this project has been a spiritual shot in the arm and has whole-heartedly reignited my walk with God. I have been truly humbled by my opportunity to speak with so many incredible theologians, scientists, biblical scholars, and authors. As a result of this project, the book of Genesis has become more alive and more dynamic than I had ever allowed it to be. It is my hope that this film will both challenge and inspire people of faith, no matter where they are on their journey, to revere the complexity of God both through his word and his creation.

Through the BioLogos Forum, I am posting a few short, topic driven clips from the film in the coming weeks as conversation starters.

Thanks for watching!

Ryan Pettey
From the Dust

“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.”


About the Author

Ryan Pettey

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.