The word Genesis means “a beginning or origin of anything,” and in the first several chapters of the first book of the Bible, many vital Christian doctrines get their start, along with the details of creation history. Obviously these doctrines are much more fully developed as we go through the Bible.
I had originally planned to briefly cover several key Christian doctrines that first originate in the early chapters of Genesis, but due to a serious problem within Christendom at this time, I am only going to discuss a limited number. A controversy of monumental proportions is brewing within mainstream evangelical Christianity concerning some subjects that in the past had only been found to any significant degree within liberal Christianity. Consider the following ideas concerning the origin of man, and also concerning some of the writers of scripture:
- Adam and Eve did not ever exist as the first two historical human beings.
- God brought human beings into existence through the process of theistic evolution.
- New Testament writers Paul and Luke were mistaken about there ever being a historical first man named Adam, and a woman named Eve, or perhaps were using established cultural ideas to figuratively speak of the early humans.
- Jesus himself was wrong about Moses being the author of the Pentateuch, and merely inherited the idea from His forebears.
Since we ARE talking about evangelical Christianity these ideas should be laughable. But, they are deadly serious as some of the elites in various organizations, Christian institutions of higher learning, leaders in denominations, various authors, and leaders in various movements take these ideas seriously and are pushing them on the church at large. Christianity Today had an article in June, 2011, called “The Search for the Historical Adam,” seen here (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/historicaladam.html):
Here some of the ideas listed above are discussed at some length. Consider the following excerpts from that article, along with some brief comments I will make (and I will underline the specific portions I am commenting about):
Subtitle of 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.
This debate shouldn’t be happening at all in light of the scriptures.
Collins’s 2006 bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief—which so vexed those secularist critics—reported scientific indications that anatomically modern humans emerged from primate ancestors perhaps 100,000 years ago—long before the apparent Genesis time frame—and originated with a population that numbered something like 10,000, not two individuals. Instead of the traditional belief in the specially created man and woman of Eden who were biologically different from all other creatures, Collins mused, might Genesis be presenting “a poetic and powerful allegory” about God endowing humanity with a spiritual and moral nature? “Both options are intellectually tenable,” he concluded.
Scriptural belief, not traditional. Might the New Testament writings be presenting “a poetic and powerful allegory”…..and thus a wishy-washy gospel of no real substance? What does Peter say (2 Peter 1:16)?
The Adam account in Genesis has long been subjected to scientific challenges, but “there was a lot of wiggle room in the past. The human genome sequencing took that wiggle room away” during the past decade, said Randall Isaac, executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation (asa), which has been discussing Adam issues for decades. The organization’s 1,600 members, Collins among them, affirm the Bible’s “divine inspiration, trustworthiness, and authority” on “faith and conduct,” though not on scientific concepts.
So, the Creator (the Original Scientist) of all the natural laws of the universe was able to confer to us truth in all matters, except science? Wow!
Giberson, a physics professor at Eastern Nazarene College, downplays the potentially vanishing Adam and Eve as “a secondary or peripheral disagreement that shouldn’t cause us to hurl accusations of infidelity at one another.” He thinks “this will percolate along as an issue and more of the evangelical church will become fine with it, despite Main Street objections. I don’t see this issue splitting the church in some major way.”
I actually agree with him. As long as the evangelical church is willing to continue to compromise biblical truth, yes, there won’t be a major split; just unbiblical “unity” at any cost.
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).
Here is where the rub is: is God truthful and trustworthy, and well able to use chosen men to communicate His truth to humanity? (2 Peter 1:21) Ultimately the whole plan of salvation rests on the foundational doctrines in Genesis. I will speak more to this latter.
The second—and perhaps more troublesome—issue treated by Venema involves “population genomics.” Over the past decade, researchers have attempted to use the genetic diversity within modern humans to estimate primordial population sizes. According to a consensus drawn from three independent avenues of research, he states, the history of human ancestry involved a population “bottleneck” around 150,000 years ago—and from this tiny group of hominids came everyone living today. But the size of the group was far larger than a lonely couple: it consisted of several thousand individuals at minimum, say the geneticists. Had humanity begun with only two individuals, without millions of years for development, says an ASA paper, it would have required God’s miraculous intervention to increase the genetic diversity to what is observable today. A BioLogos paper by Venema and Falk declares it more flatly: The human population, they say, “was definitely never as small as two …. Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear on that.”
The Fall and the Curse (Genesis 3), the Noahic Flood (Genesis 6-8), and the Babelic Dispersion (Genesis 11:1-9) are God’s miraculous interventions which help to explain the genetic diversity in the human race.
The New Testament passages are different, he allows. Enns has little doubt that Paul indeed thought Adam was “a real person.” But Enns suggests that the apostle was reflecting beliefs about human origins that were common among the ancients. After scanning various interpretations of Genesis, Enns joins those who see the Genesis passages on Adam as “a story of Israelite origins,” not the origin of all humanity, in which case there is no essential conflict with evolutionary theory.
Sigh….. Sorry, this can only be explained by biblical ignorance. The Bible is profoundly clear that the origin of the Israelites is Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3 and onward), and even in these three verses is the veiled prophecy of the Messiah (Deut 18:15-19) who would come through this chosen (Deut 7:6-11) people Israel, the Jews.
Another BioLogos writer, Denis Lamoureux of the University of Alberta, the author of Evolutionary Creation (2008), thinks that “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.” In his view, “the Holy Spirit descended to the level of the biblical author of Genesis 1 and used his incidental ancient science regarding biological origins” to reveal “infallible messages of faith about the human spiritual condition.” As with Enns, he sees Paul’s epistles as reflecting the common biological understandings of that era. (Articles on the BioLogos website typically include a disclaimer that the views are the writers’ and not necessarily the foundation’s, but they are generally consistent on evolution and Adam.)
Sarcasm: “I think Jesus Christ never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity. And poor Paul, not only was he not the brightest bulb in the pack, but the Holy Spirit is woefully inadequate to take him beyond his natural/cultural understanding of things.” As I will discuss later, the scriptures make the plan of salvation a package deal, tying the Fall and the Curse intimately in with what Christ did on the cross and His resurrection, and His plans for the future.
That dismissal was overshadowed at the seminary by a related dustup over noted Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke. The administration abruptly accepted his offer of resignation due to a BioLogos video in which Waltke remarked that “if the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.” Waltke began teaching at Knox Theological Seminary this year.
Examine the New Testament, Christianity was considered a cult and heresy in the first century by most of the Jews (John 16:2), including Saul (Acts 22:3-5, 24:14, 26:9-11), who became Paul after his conversion! And Jesus was plain on many occasions that His followers of His truth would not be thought well of, but rather hated and persecuted (John 15:18-26).
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.”
No man can serve two masters…..
Harlow proposed that understandings of the Fall may need to be “reformulated” and the church must be willing to “decouple original sin from the notion that all humans descended from a single pair.” In his view, the early chapters of Genesis should probably be regarded as “imaginative portrayals of an actual epoch.” Whether or not Adam was historical, he asserted, is “not central to biblical theology.” Paul and Luke may have thought Adam was a literal man because they had no reason not to, he explained. But “we have many reasons” to interpret Adam as a literary figure.
Or perhaps all of Genesis, or the Pentateuch, or maybe the Old Testament…..
A little compromise usually leads to driving off a cliff. But Paul said it better: “7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Gal 5:7-9 (ESV)
Those who say humanity arose from a sizable population often claim this understanding accords with Genesis itself: It tells of Cain’s marriage (Did he wed his own sister? Where did she come from?), his fearfulness over “whoever finds me” when he left Eden for Nod, and the reference to his building of a “city.” On that, John Collins suggests that Genesis is purposely using anachronisms, describing prehistoric times in terms that readers in a much later epoch would be familiar with. In his view, that does not detract from historicity.
Once again a little bit of scripture goes a long way. Adam and Eve were fruitful and multiplied, as did their children, and grandchildren, etc. They lived ten times as long back in that day, giving plenty of time to form a substantial population, and build cities (Genesis 4-5). And yes, Cain did marry a sister as he had no others to choose from this early in history.
The Adam issue is hardly new. In 1940, C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain that “for long centuries, God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of himself.” Lewis thought that in the process God eventually caused the new divine consciousness to descend upon this organism, but “we do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state.”
Despite some of his work being brilliant, Lewis also has some rather severe problems, this being one of them. Any time you leave the scriptures for the beliefs of the unregenerate world around us you have a formula for disaster.
An ASA paper likewise observes that some Christians who understand Adam and Eve as symbols or allegories suppose that Genesis describes what happened to a particular grouping of humans during the “bottleneck” period, so that “maybe God transformed everyone in this group into the first biblical humans.” The ASA notes another variant in which humanity’s creation and fall happened within different groups over time, as God added moral responsibilities and spiritual revelations.
Nice try, but once again, a fail. The Bible makes it clear throughout that as God gave further revelation and law, man was totally unable to keep that law because of what happened in the garden, where sin entered the human race through Adam. And thus, the need for a Savior.
In his book-length conservative rejoinder to the new interpretations, John Collins warns against “pure literalism” in reading Genesis, arguing that the book “intends to use imaginative description to tell us of actual events.” This is essentially what J. I. Packer contended in his 1958 classic, ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God. But Collins comments that if Adam and Eve lacked “an actual existence we nullify so many things in the Bible it results in a different story.” To him, the pivotal point is that “however God produced the bodies of the first human beings, it wasn’t a purely natural process.” If genetics eventually forces reconsideration, Collins remarks, he could perhaps reconceive of Adam and Eve as “the king and queen of a larger population” and thereby preserve Genesis’ historicity.
Oh my, not those evil fundamentalists again, those who actually believe what the Bible says? And no, reconceiving Adam and Eve as king and queen would not preserve Genesis’ historicity, but rather preserve heresy.
Back when genetics played little part in Adam disputes, physicist John A. Bloom, director of Biola University’s science and religion program, wrote that if there was merely a population of pre-Adamic hominids that “collectively evolved into modern man, then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged: If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?”
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.”
What next with Adam and Eve? “It seems urgent that the best people stop trading emails and get together for a real meeting in the same room,” Cromartie said. He wants leading evangelical thinkers in science and Scripture to jointly work out an accord, because otherwise this problem “could produce a huge split right through the heart of conservative, orthodox, historic Christianity.”
So be it. Unity must be based on biblical truth, not man’s lofty philosophies and science so called. Denominations are splitting on a regular basis these days because of the acceptance of heresy by some. In the end only a few will be left who embrace biblical truth and love the Lord at any cost. Paul’s words to the Corinthians ring true; indeed the sheep must be shown to be separate from the goats:
17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized 1 Cor 11:17-19 (ESV)
In his article “The Enns Justifies the Means?” Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis quotes from page 13 of a book entitled The Evolution of Adam, written by Dr. Enns(http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/01/19/evolution-of-adam-review):
These and other questions . . . led modern biblical scholars to question seriously—and eventually reject—the traditional view that Genesis and the Pentateuch were written in the second millennium BC by one man, Moses.
Well, there is a major problem here, in my opinion. Jesus quotes from Moses writings often, for example as in Matthew 19:3-9 where He quotes or refers to Genesis 1:27, 2:23-24, 5:2, and Deut 24:1-4. He names Moses and explains why he gave a bill of divorcement. Or consider this from John 5:45-47:
There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:45-47 (ESV)
If the Son of the Living God, Creator of the entire universe and all that is in it (Col 1:16-17), our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, had full confidence in the writings of Moses as being true, shouldn’t we? Indeed “how will you believe His words?”
In part 2 of this article I will take a closer look at the doctrine of man, and of the Fall and the Curse. I intend to show that the scriptures are so interwoven, and later ones build upon earlier ones in such a way, that as to reinterpret Genesis in the ways described in part 1 are to destroy the foundation of the rest of the bible, and nullify the plan of salvation.