Were Adam & Eve Real, Historical People?
[This post is one in a series of blog posts entitled, "Genesis Genre."]
"Were Adam & Eve Real, Historical People?"
To question the historicity of Adam and Eve may seem to some as brainless as questioning the historicity of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you are even surprised to read that anyone is asking the question. Perhaps it would be even more alarming for you to know that this question is being raised by Christian leaders, scholars, writers, teachers, and seminary professors.
This skepticism has led to a body of teaching that is referred to by those who embrace it as "theistic evolution." Others have referred to it as "Biologos" or "Evolutionary Creation." A basic definition of theistic evolution is: "the belief that God used the process of evolution to create living things, including humans." These professing believers have become persuaded by the scientific evidence that Homo sapiens evolved, arising about 200,000 years ago and that they share common ancestors with all other life on Earth. Furthermore, they believe that it increasingly appears that the genetic diversity among humans today could not have come from just two Homo sapiens individuals, but a population of thousands." (Biologos.org)
How did these Christians come to blatantly deny the creation account? As in most cases there's not one reason for such a shift. But a primary cause is the result of the confidence our culture has placed in science. Amazing, life-altering and life-extending discoveries and advancements in the fields of medicine, travel and technology have caused science to be considered by most in our world as the ultimate authority. Add to that the air we breath in the academic, scientific and secular communities today is the worldview of naturalism. Naturalism is the belief system that sees everything originating from natural properties and causes. It rejects anything “supra” (‘above or over’) natural. Everything supernatural is discounted and excluded. That certainly includes God.
Amazing, life-altering and life-extending discoveries and advancements in the fields of medicine, travel and technology have caused science to be considered by most in our world as the ultimate authority.
Naturalism is a beast. And it’s insatiable. It’s never satisfied until it eats every piece of Biblical orthodoxy from yours and your family’s hearts. The atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett makes this clear in his impactful book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. He called Darwinism (the grandchild of Naturalism) a “universal acid” that he prophesied would corrode virtually every tenet of traditional beliefs. According to Dennett, there is no line that can’t be crossed by Christians who begin to accommodate evolution. He predicts that Darwinism’s universal acid would ultimately destroy the Christian worldview.
Naturalism is a beast. And it’s insatiable. It’s never satisfied until it eats every piece of Biblical orthodoxy from yours and your family’s hearts.
“In the beginning…” (de novo) or "Once Upon a Time?" (ficta)
The Scriptures report the creation of Adam and Eve by God on the first Friday of the first week, as a direct act of God. They were created as fully formed human beings around 6000 years ago. Having no biological ancestors, they were the first humans, the first married couple, the first parents and the sole progenitors of the entire human race. This is what is referred to as the "traditional view." In fact, those of us who hold to the "traditional view" have been increasingly referred to as those who view the Bible as "excessively literal." The genre of Genesis has been viewed by the Church as Historical Narrative for the balance of its history. Now, however, Genesis is being referred to as as a new genre called "mythopoetic." That is a compound word resulting from a head-on collision of two other words: mythology and poetry. Here are some of the more popular alternatives to the "traditional view."
Genesis 1-2 are Mythology: The creation narrative is borrowed from ancient Near East mythology.
Genesis 1-2 are Poetry: Genesis 1-2 are Hebrew poetry and were never intended to be understood as history.
Genesis 1-2 are Compression: Genesis 1-2 are a compressed literary depiction of a long historical process.
Genesis 1-2 are Ancient Adoptionism: God entered a relationship with a pair of ancient historical representatives of humanity about 200,000 years ago in Africa. Genesis retells this historical event using cultural terms that the Hebrews in the ancient Near East could understand.
Genesis 1-2 are Recent Adoptionism: In another version Adam and Eve are recent historical persons living perhaps 6000 years ago in ancient Near East rather than Africa. By this time, Homo sapiens had already dispersed throughout the earth. God then revealed himself specially to a pair of farmers we know as Adam and Eve.
What is lost if we deny the historicity of Adam and Eve? Is this one of those areas as Christians in which we should show deference to one another? Is this an "agree-to-disagree"category? Consider what we lose if we capitulate.
BIBLICAL LOSS: If there is no Adam and Eve there is no trustworthy Bible. That’s because the Bible loses its authority if it says that Adam and Eve were the first humans created and it turns out they were not. It is important to remember that neither evolution nor creationism is science, in the technical sense of the word. They are more accurately categorized as history because they describe past events. History of course, is chronicled by historians. Because the theory of evolution had no historian to record its version of the history of origins, it attempts to re-create the past based upon the belief of uniformity. (The way things are today is the way they have always been.) Creationism, however, was recorded by an Historian. That Historian is the Creator-God. He was the only One to witness those six days in which He created it all. He tells us not only that He did it, but how He did it. That historical record is found in the Bible, in Genesis 1-2. We wouldn’t even know about Adam and Eve apart from the Bible. The fundamental issue is, do we believe the Historian’s record, or do we dispute it? If there is no Adam and Eve we lose our Bible.
THEOLOGICAL LOSS: Closely associated with the Biblical loss, if there is no Adam and Eve, the theological foundations of our faith collapses. The doctrine of God (theology proper) falls apart because He is glorified in the Scriptures for making everything when He didn't. The doctrine of man (anthropology) implodes because if humans are the result of evolution, they are not God's special creation. They are just higher levels of animal. The doctrine of sin (hamartiology) also disappears with no real Adam and Eve, because a mythical Adam couldn't be a literal Federal Head that represented humanity in the Fall. The doctrine of Christ (Christology) is a fairy tale if there was no real Adam who was a type of the anti-type, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. Which means there is also...
GOSPEL LOSS: If there is no Adam and no Eve the Gospel is lost. The entire teaching about our salvation (sotieriology) is lost if there was no Adam and Eve. The life of Jesus Christ is connected by genealogy with Adam (Luke 3). If Adam wasn't a real, historical person, Jesus wasn't either. If there was no Adam who "in his fall, we sinned all," then there is no real reason for a last Adam to rescue us from our condemnation. If Adam wasn't a real historical person in whom we all died, there is no real last Adam in whom we all are made alive. (I Corinthians 15) So, if there is no real Adam, there is no real Second Adam, and we are still in our sins. "We are of all men most miserable." If there is no Adam and Eve, Christianity is annihilated. The gospel is based upon historical events and if we remove those events we lose the gospel.
"A distinctive feature of our Christian faith is that our theological beliefs are grounded in historical events. And if the historical events did not happen, then there is no basis for our theological beliefs.” -J. Gresham Machen
ETHICAL LOSS: If there was no Adam and Eve we lose the motive for treating one another with dignity as fellow human-beings who were created in the image of God. Evolution is built upon violence and death. Natural selection, and especially the survival of the fittest are characterized by bloody teeth and bloody claws. If the theistic evolutionist is correct, there are members of the human family (Homo sapiens) who were not given the image of God. (imago dei.) This line of thinking logically leads to an open door for eugenics, racism, and abortion. If there is no Adam and Eve, we lose our motivation to treat one another with dignity and respect.
PASTORAL LOSS: If there is no Adam and Eve we have no explanation for the evil, pain, natural disasters, disease, war and death in our world. The Bible explains this by giving us the exact chain-of-events: "...sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12) If there was no Adam, then the only explanation for all the evil in the world is that God created it this way. Or either, He is not powerful enough to remove it. Both conclusions are blasphemous. If there was no Adam and Eve it is also devastating to have no Biblical explanation to pastor those who are suffering. (Romans 8). People are hopeless. Everything unravels. If there is no Adam and Eve, there is no hope to the family struggling with a leukemia diagnosis, or who lost a child in an automobile accident. If there is no Adam and Eve, God is the sole cause of all the evil we see and experience. If there was no Adam and Eve, we lose our ability to comfort the hurting.
What is lost if we deny the historicity of Adam and Eve? Everything.
But we expect better things of you...
"By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." (Hebrews 11:3)