Second Plenary Session: The Case for Adam (Joel Beeke)

Trueman has said that the historicity of Adam is the most important doctrinal issue facing the church today. Beeke means by the historical Adam that a real human being existed who was the progenitor of the human race. The alternative that many Christians claim today is that there were a thousand hominids in the beginning. Genesis 2 is then a symbolic allegory of the entrance of the human soul into a previously soulless animal world. Enns, for instance, believes that evolution is scientifically proven. And therefore the interpretation of the Bible must conform to what science has irrevocably proven. Beeke’s specific focus is go back to what the Bible itself says about the historical Adam. He will make an historical case for Adam from the Bible (4 points), and then a theological case for Adam from the Bible (6 points).

Historical case 1: Genesis portrays the creation of Adam as an historical event. To overcome this historical interpretation, opponents raise three points. 1. They say Adam is a symbol for man (given the name for Adam). Answer: but the Bible distinguishes between man in general and Adam in particular. the reason Adam was given the name he has is because he is the progenitor of the human race. 2. Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1. Answer: they are not contradictory, but rather describes the same events from complementary perspectives. 3. The serpent talks: it must therefore be symbolic. Answer: the Bible tells us that the devil was not the snake, but that the devil used the serpent.

Historical case 2: Biblical genealogies present Adam as the father of other historical persons. Genesis 5 is not myth, but historical record. 2 Chronicles 1 follows Adam to Abraham, to David, and to the exile. Luke 3 traces the lineage of Jesus back to Adam. This latter is particularly crucial. Luke 3 is nonsense if Adam is not historical.

Historical case 3: Christ himself spoke of Adam and Eve as historical persons. Jesus’ teaching concerning marriage quotes Genesis 1-2.

Historical case 4: If Adam is not a real man, who else is not real in the Scriptures? Why not make Abraham, Moses, and even David into mythical figures? Skepticism makes a tidal wave that covers over all the Bible. In what chapter of Genesis does historicity begin in Genesis? Will you not eventually deny Christ’s resurrection?

Theological case 1: Adam is not just an interesting figure, but is foundational to our theology. If Adam is myth, then our view of human identity and human sin (and through the parallel to Christ) our Savior. The historical Adam is the basis for believing in humanity’s original nobility. If Adam is myth, then there is no difference between humanity and the animals. The image of God is part of our very constitution, not an add-on. We will treat man like animals and animals like man if we lose the historical Adam.

Theological case 2: The historical Adam is the root of mankind’s unity. This is not just Israel’s story (contrary to Peter Enns). Genesis 3:20 says specifically that Eve is the mother of ALL LIVING. Acts 17:26 says that all are made from one blood (some translations say “from one man”). Christ takes on Himself common human nature, not the nature of part of humanity. Our unity in Christ depends on the historical Adam. How shall we stand up against racism if we are not from one origin? True philanthropy depends on the unity of the human race.

Theological case 3: the historical Adam is the foundation of gender relationships. The Bible loses its authority to tell ALL humanity what God’s will is in regard to sexuality (or anything else, for that matter) if we lose the historical Adam. We need an historical basis for our sexual ethics.

Theological case 4: The historical Adam is the basis for understanding the Fall. Paul says that death reigned from Adam to Moses. Paul means (among other things) that Adam is just as historical as Moses. Otherwise, Paul’s entire argument in Romans 5 is meaningless. We can’t understand the second Adam in His person and work unless we understand the first Adam. We lose the doctrine of original sin. We lose his imputed guilt, which then means that we lose the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Theological case 5: The historical Adam is a type of the Savior. Paul says explicitly that Adam is a type of Christ who is to come. Paul is not just using Adam as a cautionary tale, but rather Adam and Eve is the story on which all history hinges.

Theological case 6: The historical Adam is a test-case for biblical authority. Without the lenses of Scripture, our sin-clouded eyes will only see what the world sees. Enns actually says that we do not need to follow Paul in his statements about Adam, because he is an ancient man, and we know better. What is the husk and what is the kernel, and who gets to choose which is which?

Are we going to believe the Bible and are we willing to endure the shame that the world heaps on us for believing things that the world believes is completely outdated (and that is only the kindest term)?

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Drake said,

    April 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Beautiful. The connection to the gospel in Theological Case #4 above is well worth repeating. Our gospel efforts to unregenerate men and women;dead in trespass and sin, cannot be maintained unless the whole Genesis narrative with an historical Adam is affirmed. Adam’s sin was the willful transgression of man to the known revelation of God. No historical Adam = no historical Fall. No historical Fall = no responsibility for the unregenerate man’s sin today. Without a recognition and a ‘taking responsibility’ for one’s own sin in unregenerate man today, the gospel is meaningless. Man’s sinfulness then becomes virtually identical with ‘fate’.

  2. May 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

    We can think of the passages cited above as circumstantial evidence that the biblical authors thought of Adam as a real person in history. Circumstantial evidence is useful and important, but we have something more conclusive. That is, the role Adam plays in Paul’s theology makes Adam’s historical reality integral to the basic storyline of Paul’s gospel. And if that is in fact the case, then the historicity of Adam cannot be a side issue, but must be part and parcel of the foundations of Christian belief.

  3. March 23, 2014 at 11:20 am

    […] A good example of how poisonous this sort of theological lotus-eating can be is highlighted in this entry. Be sure to read the seventh paragraph down, titled ‘Theological Case 2.’ Here, the […]


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