Responses to the Traditional View of Adam (RJS)

Responses to the Traditional View of Adam (RJS) July 17, 2014

In the final major essay in Four Views on the Historical Adam William Barrick argued for a traditional young earth view of Adam as the unique, supernaturally created, seminal father of all humankind. His view was outlined in the previous post on the book: The Historicity of Adam is a Gospel Issue. In this post we will look at the responses offered by Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, and Jack Collins as well as William Barrick’s rejoinder to their comments.

Denis Lamoureux agrees with Barrick’s summary of the reality and meaning of sin but not with his conclusion that this depends entirely on the historicity of Adam. He feels that Barrick’s strategy of connecting the historicity of Adam with the historicity of Christ and the resurrection, thereby making it a gospel issue is unwarranted. A serious regard for scripture does not require this.

The gospel is about Jesus Christ, not Adam. The gospel is about the reality of sin, not about how sin entered the world. The gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, not specifically for Adam’s sin. And it is because of the gospel that we are called “Christ-ians” and not “Adam-ites.”(p. 229)

At many places in his essay Barrick responds to statements made by Peter Enns in The Evolution of Adam – in fact this seems to be in his sights more than any of the immediate views presented in this book. Denis is correct however that a criticism of Pete’s view is often a criticism of his as well. He disagrees with Barrick that accommodation to a human perspective, allowing ancient cosmology into the text for example, denigrates ancient Israel or the Bible and it certainly does not impugn God’s moral integrity (all claims Barrick makes). Rather, we have to take the text we have before us (which does include ancient cosmology) whether we like it or not.

Lamoureux also points out that Christian tradition is not inerrant – and the traditional view is not necessarily the correct view. Martin Luther’s 1534 Bible features a diagram of the universe  using the ancient cosmology and Luther’s lectures on creation in Genesis indicate that he believed this cosmology was accurate – including the firmament and waters above. We need to be open to revisions in tradition as we study scripture in each new generation.

John Walton believes that Barrick consistently misunderstood or misrepresented what he means by archetype. He equates archetypal with allegorical and this is not what Walton means by archetypal. Rather he (Walton) argues that the authors in scripture were using Adam in an archetypal manner and that this is the role that Adam plays in their arguments. An archtype can be historical, but need not be historical.

Walton lists nine other ways that he thinks that Barrick uses faulty logic and fails to make a case for his position. He objects to the slippery slope argument that Barrick uses at times. Barrick has a tendency to state his conclusions as obvious – which makes it difficult to carry on a useful conversation.  Barrick bundles together issues that are not necessarily connected logically – such as when he jumps from Eve’s role in the temptation to gender hierarchy. In a section discussing the ways that Barrick uses logical non sequiturs providing four examples he ends with an example where Barrick quotes Walton’s own NIVAC commentary on Genesis and misapplies it … “When he says “in other words,” he draws illegitimate conclusions from the statement he quotes me as making – a form of non sequitur.” (p. 242 referring to a quote and conclusion by Barrick on pp. 225-226)

In conclusion, my objections to Barrick’s positions derive largely from how he conducts his argumentation and the absence of evidence for the details of the positions he maintains. (p. 243)

Jack Collins agrees with some of Barrick’s points including the importance of the historicity of Adam. He disagrees with the tight connection between historicity and a literal hermeneutic. He feels that the definition of inerrancy that Barrick uses suffers from some serious problems. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is more nuanced – Scripture should be evaluated according to its usage and purpose, not according to our standard of truth or error. While Barrick correctly worries about improper use of ancient Near Eastern documents, this shouldn’t prevent the proper use of such documents.

When it comes to whether we should compare the material we find in the Bible to the materials we find from surrounding cultures, it seems almost obvious that of course we should. The biblical writers spoke into a specific context and regularly had to warn their audiences against the blandishments of the competing worldviews. Whether it be an Old Testament prophet inveighing agains idolatry and syncretism, or a New Testament apostle reminding people about Greco-Roman depravity, these warnings are common stuff. Surely a sane interpreter will do what he or she can to discover what these dangers were. (p. 250)

He also thinks that Barrick is too hard on science and scientists – an issue that needs a good deal more nuance (he refers to his book Science and Faith).

In his rejoinder William Barrick reiterates his main point. We must put scripture first, and none of the old earth positions do this.  Biblical scholars like Lamoureux, Walton, and Collins minimize to some degree or other the historical accuracy of the text. “Minimalists rely more heavily on human authority as the lynch-pin for their argumentation than on the divine authority of Scripture. … Their statements indicate that the yardstick for determining biblical truth resides with the most current scientific beliefs, not the objective biblical revelation itself.” (p. 252)

Minimalists pick and choose which statements are truly inerrant based on human reasoning. Young-earth adherents do not do this.  Thus, Barrick’s argument for his position on the historicity of Adam is ultimately quite simple.

Young-earth evidence for the historicity of Adam comes from Scripture itself and its own direct statements. Such biblical evidence does not require confirmation from any external scientific, historical, or sociological evidence. When the Genesis record declares that God created the woman out of the material that he took from Adam, we require no other evidence to conclude that they shared DNA and that she was specially created. The fact that Scripture speaks only of a first man and first woman and that it presents them as the actual historical parents of the entire human race is evidence enough to believe those truths. (p. 253)

The Scripture contains God’s very words and these are always completely truthful – no ancient cosmology and no use of myth (a word he views entirely as a negative) or story.  The chief difference between his view and that of all who hold to an old-earth is that “old-earth viewpoints accept modern scientist’s interpretations of observable data.” (p. 254)  Barrick and others who hold to a traditional young-earth view stand on Scripture alone.

And a final comment of my own. William Barrick is quite clear about the foundation for his view. It is an approach to Scripture as the bedrock of faith that many of us grew up with. But it is not clear that the Scripture we actually possess can stand up to the load that Barrick places upon it. Denis Lamoureux (the only contributor to this book with a strong science background – Jack Collins has a BS and MS computer science and systems engineering from MIT which is impressive, but not quite the same) comments that it was his study of Genesis 1-11 that first led him away from the young-earth view. I agree with Denis – it is my reading of the biblical text itself that leads me away from the young-earth view and from the hard view of inerrancy that Barrick defends. Not just Genesis 1-11, but the entirety of Scripture. Scripture is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As Paul states it is the Holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Useful for training  so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  But we stand on the reality of God and Christ, this is our only foundation.

I take scripture seriously enough that I have listened to it through many times over the last couple of years in order to allow the sweep from beginning to end to penetrate into my understanding of who and what I am and we are – as God’s people. I don’t find the hard view of inerrancy that gives rise to Barrick’s young-earth view consistent with the Scripture we have inherited. We need to take Scripture seriously but on its own terms.

I accept an old-earth and an evolutionary creation because I see this as where the scientific evidence leads. But I do not think that this is in conflict with the sweep and message of Scripture, including most importantly the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah for our sins.

The question we need to ask about the young-earth view is quite simple: Is this really the right way to interpret Scripture?

I don’t think that it is. Nor do Lamoureux, Walton, Collins (or Enns who is clearly in Barrick’s sights), although we don’t all agree on exactly what this means for the historicity of Adam.

What do you think?

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