Four Views on the Historical Adam: William Barrick Says "A Historical Adam, Young-Earth Creation"
If you've been following along here the past day you know that this week we are engaging in what one theologian calls "a groundbreaking science-and-Scripture dispute." This so-called dispute is over the historical Adam. And a new resource is helping us navigate this important discussion, Four Views on the Historical Adam.
This new timely book lets four leading evangelical scholars advocate for the dominate positions concerning the historicity of our biblical ancestor. Like every Counterpoints book, these key contributors present their positions, respond to each other’s arguments, and seek to clearly delineate the central biblical and theological issues at stake.
Yesterday we heard from Denis Lamoureux, who argued for no historical Adam and evolutionary creation, and John Walton, who advocates a historical Adam and archetypal creation. This morning we heard from C. John Collins, who says Adam is historical and creation is old. And now we wrap up our four views with William Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master's Seminary.
For Barrick, Adam's historicity is foundational to a number of biblical doctrines, which is why he insists Adam is real and the head of the entire human race. He rejects what he terms "accommodation" to evolutionary science and instead upholds that the Holy Spirit superintended the author of Genesis to write an "objective description of God's creative activities in six consecutive literal days." (197)
He holds to a literal Adam—rather than an archetypal or a biological evolutionary product—not only because Genesis represents him as such and the New Testament relies on his historicity, but also for theological reasons: "without a historical first Adam there is no need for Jesus, the second Adam, to undo the first Adam's sin and its result." (197)
Barrick believes this is the most important reason "evangelicals should uphold and defend the uniqueness of the Genesis record and give it priority over ancient Near Eastern materials and modern science." And because the New Testament writers depended on those early events theologically, so should we.
Barrick notes that Matthew echoes the toledot formula of Adam from Genesis 5 in his description of Jesus's own genealogy in 1:1. "Since Matthew makes such a connection," he argues, "it should be no surprise that Paul identifies Jesus as the 'last Adam.'" (218) Furthermore, Luke also refers to Adam by name in Christ's genealogy. Barrick insists "there is no reason to take the name of Adam any differently from any other name in the entire genealogy as being anything but a real person (including God himself.)" (218) If the Gospel writers took Adam to be historical, so should we.
Then of course there's Paul, who made an unmistakable connection between Adam and Christ in regards to sin and salvation in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Regarding sin, Barrick argues "Sin and its consequences enter the created order through the willful transgression of Adam. As such, the biblical description of sin depends entirely on the historicity of Adam. He must be a real individual who rebels against a clear divine directive at a specific moment in real time in a real place." (221)
Barrick insists Adam's representation as a righteous Image-Bearer who falls through disobedience "consists of something more than viewing the events and people in Genesis 1-3 as archetypal, as solely theological for us." (221) Such a view has "serious implications," he says, not only for the doctrine of sin, but of Christ and salvation.
Not only is Adam's historicity a sin issue, there are soteriological implications, as well, because "God promises in his Word to restore the descendants of the first Adam through the substitutionary sacrifice of the second Adam (Jesus Christ)..." (222) He agrees with John Mahoney, questioning that if Adam isn't historical and his fall isn't historical, why was Jesus needed to undo the work of the first man?
And one step further: If the Bible says Christ historically rose from the dead in the same passage that mentions Adam (Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:2-22), why wouldn't Adam's non-historicity negate the historicity of Christ's resurrection?
This is why Barrick and others insist the debate surrounding historical Adam is a gospel issue. (222) "The implication is inescapable," Barrick writes. "Denial of the historicity of Adam, like the denial of the historicity of Christ's resurrection, destroys the foundations of the Christian faith." (223)
I hope you have a sense for how engaging and cogent of a conversation Four Views on the Historical Adam fosters within this resource. These posts have only scratched the surface by highlighting important and intriguing points from each contributors' main argument.
While this concludes our look at the four views, in a few days we'll end with one final post that outlines two pastoral responses by Greg Boyd and Philip Ryken. As a pastor I am particularly excited about this feature because their responses carry with them the benefit of explaining the pastoral implications of this important theological discussion for life and ministry.
Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and writes about faith and life at www.jeremybouma.com.
Sign up complete.