The Search for the Historical Adam | Christianity Today

The Search for the Historical Adam | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

In the cover story for the latest issue of Christianity Today Richard N.Ostling, writes a fascinating yet disturbing summary of where the theistic evolutionist/creationist debate is presently at in evangelical circles in the U.S. This is how CT introduces the article:


The center of the evolution debate has shifted from asking whether we came from earlier animals to whether we could have come from one man and one woman.


What is so striking to me, is that many of the leading proponents of theistic evolution and its corollary teachings (including this one now) are from the “Reformed” camp. Whether it be Calvin College (my alma mater) or Westminster Seminary or some of the other Reformed institutions mentioned in this article, this is where much of the new evolutionist thinking is originating. And that is disturbing, to say the least. But when once the Scriptures have been relegated to second place next to the modern “god” of science, what else can you expect? It is not just a slippery slope; it is a plunge over the precipice! So read this with interest but also with sadness. And yet, rejoice with the few voices still maintaining the truth (see the last two quotes). CJT


Here are some of the comments Ostling made, and some of the comments of others he reported on; read the rest of this article at the link above.


So, is the Adam and Eve question destined to become a groundbreaking science-and-Scripture dispute, a 21st-century equivalent of the once disturbing proof that the Earth orbits the sun? The potential is certainly there: the emerging science could be seen to challenge not only what Genesis records about the creation of humanity but the species’s unique status as bearing the “image of God,” Christian doctrine on original sin and the Fall, the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, and, perhaps most significantly, Paul’s teaching that links the historical Adam with redemption through Christ (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 42-49; and his speech in Acts 17).


…Collins and his colleagues dismiss those three views in favor of “theistic evolution,” which affirms that the biblical God was the creator of all earthly organisms, humanity included, and used as his method the standard evolutionary scenario of gradual natural selection among genetic mutations across eons. A non-random Internet survey of teachers at evangelical seminaries in 2009 showed that 46 percent accept that concept. Giberson estimates that “the overwhelming number in biology departments at Christian colleges would be fine with this,” though a 2005 survey found that only 27 percent identified as evolutionary creationists. In a mail survey of ASA scientists last year, 66 percent of respondents affirmed that “Homo sapiens evolved through natural processes from ancestral forms in common with primates,” while 90 percent agreed that the Earth is some 4.6 billion years old.

…Though that dispute concerned theistic evolution, not the historical Adam, Waltke is open to the new thinking. In an interview, the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society affirmed the “inerrancy of the Bible, but not of interpretations.” He sees Adam and Eve as historical individuals. But if genetics produces the conclusion that “Scripture has a collectivity represented as an individual, that doesn’t bother me,” he said. “We have to go with the scientific evidence. I don’t think we can ignore it. I have full confidence in Scripture, but it does not represent what science represents.” Waltke insists, however, that if a collective interpretation of Adam is established eventually, then fidelity to the Bible still requires “an origination point” with “a historical reality of man rebelling against God.”


Another participant, much-respected local pastor Tim Keller, offered a workshop paper laying out in irenic but firm terms a conservative stance on Paul’s view of the first humans. “[Paul] most definitely wanted to teach us that Adam and Eve were real historical figures. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of the biblical authority,” Keller wrote. “If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’ but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.”


South Carolina pastor Richard Phillips, a blogger with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, sees serious doctrinal danger if the historical Adam disappears. “Can the Bible’s theology be true if the historical events on which the theology is based are false?” he asks. If science trumps Scripture, what does this mean for the virgin birth of Jesus, or his miracles, or his resurrection? “The hermeneutics behind theistic evolution are a Trojan horse that, once inside our gates, must cause the entire fortress of Christian belief to fall.”