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A Preview of the Four Evangelical Views of the Historical Adam

Categories Theology Old Testament Book Excerpts

9780310499275 (1)In the past decade a new front in the science vs. faith debate has opened up within evangelicalism. While the historic struggle between evolutionists and creationists is still present, this new conversation centers around the historicity of an ancestral primordial parent, Adam.

Leading this conversation through the opposing viewpoints is the new resource Four Views on the Historical Adam, releasing next week (12/10/13). The book clearly outlines four primary views on Adam held by evangelicals, featuring some of the leading scholarly voices who present their positions in their own words and critique the positions with which they disagree. Contributors include Denis O. Lamoureux, John H. Walton, C. John Collins, and William Barrick.

Each essay focuses on answering the following questions:

  1. What is the biblical case for your viewpoint, and how do you reconcile it with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it?
  2. In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views?
  3. What are the implications your view has for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both?

Below is an excerpt that previews these four major evangelical positions. Engaging this book will help you better understand the key biblical and theological issues at stake, as well as the implications of Adam for contemporary Christian witness and church life. Pre-order the book today and look forward to December 17 and 18 where we will explore and highlight each of these positions.

1. No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View, by Denis Lamoureux, Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta, and author of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Lamoureux argues that while Christians in the past affirmed a historical Adam, the evidence for evolution precludes such belief today. Rather, God created the universe through the natural process of evolution, and humanity’s existence also results from evolutionary development. 

Evolutionary genetics and the fossil record indicate that humans “share with chimpanzees a last common ancestor that existed around six million years ago” and that we descended not from one couple (Adam and Eve), but from a group of around 10,000.

While Lamoureux acknowledges that some scholars have tried to incorporate a historical Adam with an evolutionary view (e.g., Bruce Waltke, Darrel Falk, Denis Alexander), he argues that such an attempt is misguided because it seeks to combine modern science with ancient science, the latter of which God accommodated as an incidental vessel through which he communicated inerrant spiritual truths…

2. A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View, by John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Walton is the author of numerous books, including The Lost World of Genesis: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

In contrast to Lamoureux, Walton believes that Adam was a historical person. However, his historicity is not where Scripture places its emphasis. Rather, Scripture’s primary concern is to speak of Adam and Eve as archetypal representatives of humanity. Walton argues that not only do Old and New Testament passages support his view, but also evidence from Ancient Near Eastern literature strongly buttresses his claim….

3. A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View, by C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary. Collins is the author of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care and Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?

Collins argues that Adam and Eve were real, actual, historical persons. A historical Adam and Eve make the best sense not only of the story line of Scripture, but also of our human experience as sinners, children of Adam, in need of redemption through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. 

Collins takes Genesis 2 as describing historical persons, whom God created as those made in his own image. Genesis 2 sets the stage for the entire biblical story line and worldview, and Collins believes the biblical authors were aware of this. They were narrating salvation-history, specifically God’s “great works of creation and redemption,” and not merely a catalog of timeless truths…

4. A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View, by William D. Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s Seminary. Barrick contributed to the book Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, is the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series, and is the author of the Genesis commentary in that forthcoming series.

Barrick makes a case from Scripture for Adam as a historical person and as the originating head of humankind. Adam is not primarily an archetype (Walton) nor a product of biological evolution (Lamoureux). Rather, he is the first person, supernaturally created by God, and the father of all mankind. Barrick argues that such a view is apparent not only in Genesis 1 – 2 but throughout the New Testament as well, especially in the writings of Paul. (Pgs 27-35)


Four Views on the Historical Adam

Edited by Ardel B. Caneday and Matthew Barrett

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