The Historical Adam?

Creation and Adam and Eve discussions continue to engage the attention of the Presbyterian and Reformed community at large. William Evans at Reformation21 takes note of Kevin DeYoung’s recent post 10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam and Eve. The aim of both of these posts is laudable – to defend the historicity of Adam and Eve in the face of those who argue the Genesis account is mythical rather than historical. However, despite noble aims, the posts seem more likely to contribute to further erosion of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

Why? Because despite appearing to tackle the core issue, they don’t. Kevin DeYoung, despite some thoughtful points in his post, goes on to commend C. John Collins’ works as key resources for the discussion. While Collins’ writings are certainly part of the current discussion, there has been significant critique of his work, including by myself, and somewhat ironically, Peter Enns in his recent review of Collins. Enns’ comments, though coming from the extremity of the “other side”, target Collins’ hermeneutic and theological weakness with devastating precision:

In the long run, however, I am not convinced that all—or even most—of these readers will feel comfortable following Collins. Collins’s synthesis requires an ad hoc hybrid “Adam” who was “first man” in the sense of being either a specially chosen hominid or a larger tribe of early hominids (Collins is careful not to commit himself to either option). Although I am sympathetic to Collins’s efforts to blaze such a path (and he is not alone), I do not see how such an ad hoc Adam will calm doctrinal waters, since the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul, and therefore entails a clear rejection of evolutionary theory.

Further, this type of hybrid “Adam,” clearly driven by the need to account for an evolutionary model, is not the Adam of the biblical authors. Ironically, the desire to protect the Adam of scripture leads Collins (and others) to create an Adam that hardly preserves the biblical portrait. Evolution and a historical Adam cannot be merged by positing an Adam so foreign to the biblical consciousness.

Enns states that Collins’ “middle way” is a failure in maintaining the historic understanding of biblical orthodoxy on Adam and Eve. I agree — as does Richard Belcher (Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte). Belcher tackles the hermeneutical issues in greater detail, as well as the implications of “held” and “acceptable” positions, in his excellent new review of C. John Collins’ writings on Adam and Eve: “Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? A Review” at Reformation21.

Along with Belcher’s piece, and also contrasting with Kevin’s list of sources, another more solid piece on creation, hermeneutics, and the defense of the historical Adam and Eve, is the half-hour discussion of the issues held at the Reformed Forum with Rick Philips, Nick Batzig and Kenneth Kang-Hui:

The most significant developments, however, are the ecclesiastical. The question remains as to whether Collins’ erosive stand will be deemed acceptable in the life of the church. Will, and if so, how will, Presbyterian and other denominations respond? So far, as related by the Aquila Report, the Savannah River Presbytery and the Rocky Mountain Presbytery of the PCA have sent overtures to the PCA General Assembly upholding the historicity of the special creation of Adam and Eve by God, apart from any evolutionary origins.

Pray that the end result of all of this will be that biblical truth is maintained and regained in love for Christ, his church, and one another, “to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)