What’s the REAL Problem with No Historical Adam, Really?

What’s the REAL Problem with No Historical Adam, Really? May 15, 2012

I’ve read a lot of responses to my book Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins and nearly all, supportive, critical, and in between, have something to say that is worth listening to.

But few are nailing the problem that a non-historical reading, or at least a non-first man reading, of the Adam story poses for Christian theology. Some have circled around it, but I am surprised no one (that I can recall) has simply came out and said it.

The problem isn’t that it threatens inerrancy. (There are plenty of other problems in the Bible that threaten inerrancy.)

The problem isn’t that it threatens theology by divorcing it from history. (The problem of history and theology is a staple of modern interpretation and isn’t caused by this particular instance.)

The problem isn’t that it threatens the sanctity of humanity, since God created humanity in his image. (The image of God is not an issue with Adam in Genesis 2 but humanity as a whole in Genesis 1.)

The problem isn’t that it threatens Paul’s integrity, since he read Adam historically. (Paul typically reads the Old Testament at a creative hermeneutical distance from what the Old Testament authors were saying.)

The problem isn’t that it threatens our continuity with the history of the church, since the church has taken Adam as historical. (The wouldn’t be the first time Christians have reversed earlier church belief–remember Galileo.)

The problem for Christian theology is God’s wrath.

A historical Adam, who is first human created without evolutionary predecessor, whose disobedience is somehow put on the shoulders of all humans, gives some rationale for why God is so angry and why that anger needs to be dealt with.

If there is no first man who fell, why is God so mad at everyone?

This is not a minor problem, for God is mad an awful lot in the Old Testament. Typically he is mad at Israel for disobedience to the law. He is also angry with the nations, typically for how they treat the Israelites but also for failing to act justly.

For whatever reason, God is mad–and he demands something be done about it.

You can chalk up all of the wrath business in the Old Testament to Israel reflecting its tribal cultural context. Every nation had gods who needed to appeased, gods who were angry at the drop of a hat for a myriad of reasons. It’s possible, perhaps, to dull the wrath theme in the Old Testament by saying that Israel was stuck in its cultural moment.

But wrath shows up in the New Testament–not as much, I would say, but it’s there.

Jesus is plenty angry, though the object of his wrath is Jewish infidelity to God, much like the Old Testament prophets were angry with Israel (and it seems that Jesus’ hell-talk was largely, if not entirely, aimed at his fellow Jews.)

But still, if you want wrath in the New Testament, one simply need point to the gospels and Paul: Jesus died for the sins of the world.

He had to. God said. Failure to have one’s sins dealt with means to be on the wrong side of the dividing line between God’s wrath and God’s good pleasure.

Take away an Adam as the cause of all of it, and you have to account for why God is so mad at us.

Actually, even with an Adam it’s not exactly clear in the Bible whether Adam is actually the cause of it all (including Paul’s words in Romans–read some commentaries if you don’t believe me). And it’s not at all clear in Genesis itself that Adam’s disobedience caused the universal problem of wrathful alienation from God (since that is not what the Adam story or the Old Testament as a whole say.)

So, maybe God’s wrath has to be explained with or without an Adam. But the view that lays the problem on Adam’s shoulders is the traditional Christian way of looking at it.

It is no good fighting the fact that the problem of wrath is at the very least exacerbated without an Adam.

I’m hardly the first person to point this out, but it’s worth stating plainly. Take away an Adam and you have a theological problem. But….as I never grow tired saying…the fact that no-Adam causes a theological problem does not mean there must have been a first man. It means we have a theological issue to deal with.

As I said toward the end of my book, that is where I would like to see our energies focused. I’m open to suggestions. I think we all should be.




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  • Bob

    Maybe the real problem is that we begin the Bible with Genesis instead of perhaps the first books actually to be written, the Prophets. If Genesis is a literary creation of the Exile, then the original and earliest recorded issue of God with His people is not first sin, but relationship with God and with each other. Looking back from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, that seems to be what Genesis is ultimately about, whether it’s Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob/Israel, Joseph, then – moving into the rest of the Pentateuch – Moses, Joshua. That also seems to be underlying the gospels looking back five centuries later as well: what is the true relationship with God, through the keeping of the law or through faith in the power of the Messiah? It also seems to be the same problem among His adopted children nearly twenty centuries later.

    • Paul D.

      Agreed. Most Christians seem to assume that Genesis, being located at the beginning of that compilation of literature called the Bible, must be the earliest and most foundational bit. In fact, what we know from Biblical scholarship is that Genesis (and particular the opening sections) reached its current form very late — even in the Hellenistic period, according to some. If you want to read the Bible more or less in order to see how its theology developed, you need to start with the old prophets like Hosea and Amos, then the Deuteronomic histories (Deuteronomy through 2 Samuel, excluding Ruth), then early exilic prophets like Jeremiah, Proto-Isaiah and Ezekiel, then Exodus through Numbers, then Deutero-Isaiah, then Genesis and Chronicles, then Ezra-Nehemiah, then the novellas and court stories (Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Tobit, etc.).

  • When I began my investigation into Science & Christianity a few years ago I quickly realized that theodicy is at the heart of the issue and reasoned it is no more a problem than the problem of evil (particularly for Calvinists) and therefore shouldn’t warrant the nullification of our faith. Unfortunately, it is also no less a problem…

    • reyjacobs

      It is more a problem for Calvinists. For a Semi-Pelagian it clearly doesn’t matter whether Adam is historical or not because he doesn’t buy into ‘original sin.’

  • The problem of evil/death is definitely the most difficult issue when we scrap the idea of a historical Adam. If human free will doesn’t play the role we thought it did then we are left on some pretty shaky ground when we’re trying to figure out who to ascribe evil to; Satan or (dare I say) God. I wouldn’t necessarily say that God created evil but would bend it by saying that God created knowing that evil was inevitable although controllable and finite. That question just cannot be answered by men. But I do have a hard time reconciling the idea of Jesus being crucified to appease God’s vengeful wrath. I think I’ll always side with the Christus Victor theory which to me seems much more theologically accurate.

    • John Bove PhD

      Having had a Jesuit education,it was taught that Christ was sacrificed for all our past, present and future sins. The Christus Victor theory submits ,I think, that more sacrifices have to be made to atone for additions sins etc that are committed after the death of Christ.If Adam was without sin why was humanity so punished by God. The way he treated the Israelites was not humane and if it was predestined that Christ was to die on the cross,why weren’t the Israelites spared all those defeats and deaths if Christ died for all past,present and future sins of humanity?

    • Jay

      The nature of evolution adds to the issue. Evolution creates by random change, then killing off the least fit. Evolution means that death was in large part our creator. What life exists, exists because everything else died.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Theodicy certainly seems to be the heart of the problem. This is a spiritual matter, the rebellion against God is a spiritual rebellion. It apparently began before humans appeared, but we were and are inevitably affected by it, and it pulls us away from God. Unfortunately, we know little about the spiritual realm or  spiritual reality. We are therefor afraid of it, even afraid to admit that we believe it exists, beyond admitting that God is Spirit. We even avoid talking about the Holy Spirit whenever we can. Now that we are inundated with a mountain of very good physical, biological, archeological, literary, anthropological evidence that creates big challenges to interpretation of Scripture, we are even less inclined to ‘get too spiritual’ and compound the problem even more. But, we cannot, it seems, have a reasonable theodicy without acknowledging what Scripture says about spiritual reality. This is a conundrum we must find a way out of. Here is one way of looking at the problem that may, at least, provide some fat targets to shoot down. I don’t think it is helpful to take this question out of context, so this did get a little lengthy. I beg your indulgence 🙂

    The Creator/Servant’s Universe 

    This universe came into existence in the face of a rebellion against God’s will. Our creator is waging a cosmic battle against rebellion, chaos, disorder and confusion – a physicist would say, a battle against entropy. Maximum entropy equals maximum disorder. There is a spiritual battle, a rebellion against God, that comes from a great deceiver who wants only chaos and darkness (Rev 12:7-9). In the first verses of the Bible we see God’s response to chaos, darkness and emptiness – he simply and powerfully says “Let there be light.” This is the first bit of evidence that our Creator, through divine love, will win because he is the one God, YHWH, and in response to his first command we are told “there was light.” This work will be completed as our Creator’s perfect masterpiece when rebellion is no more and the Son of God, the resurrected Man-God, reigns supreme in perfect love. 

    Our Creator is neither a God of the gaps nor a God of the zaps nor the grand tweaker. The vast majority of the gaps left by current scientific work will be filled in, so these are ultimately embarrassing  places to shelter our understanding of God’s mighty acts. As for imagining a God who ‘zaps’ things into existence (or out of existence) this only reveals our sad desire for magic. At least, we should expect our Creator to behave in a more interesting manner. More recent proposals that God deems evolution a reasonable way to get to our present world, but reserves the right to tweak things along the way, don’t really capture the big picture of an immensely great God either.

    According to the growing mountain of scientific evidence, God does indeed work in far more interesting ways. The observable universe studied by physicists and cosmologists is unfolding, and has been unfolding for 13.7 billion years. The living world that biologists explore is constantly changing, and it has been changing for more than 3.5 billion years, with no end in sight. Furthermore, all living things are related; none have been found that don’t belong to the same big family. Now that is the work of a very interesting Creator. No zaps, no gaps, except those due to our lack of knowledge, and tweeks unnecessary.

    The evolving cosmos and the evolving bios to which we belong are clearly works in progress;  not independently either, but part of a huge, long-term, unfolding masterpiece. And amazingly, all of the participants are part of the process. All are unfolding in relation to everything else in an unimaginable, magnificent symphony. If, on our own, we tried to imagine how a Creator might operate, we would never come up with this – it’s way beyond us. We would probably imagine something more like a grand zapper who controls everything. It’s a good thing we weren’t asked for advice on the method to use! We were just given the opportunity to participate and ended up with the blessed ability to appreciate the results, the ongoing results.

    It turns out that our Creator doesn’t stop creating. It’s also obvious that he is not in a hurry. At 13.7 billion and counting, we probably have a while to go. Diversity and change also seem to be high on the Creator’s list of good things. It seems, as well, that our Creator is more than a little interested in us. We can’t reach him, but he reaches us in self-revelation. His works in the natural world certainly get our attention, but he actually comes to us, first through Israel, the chosen nation, then in person, the new Adam. The creator actually becomes a creature. 

    We have noticed, all of us, that we have serious problems with what Scriptures call the ‘knowledge of good and evil’. Having this knowledge, like Israel having the law, makes us acutely aware that knowing the difference between good and evil is of little help in actually doing good. We are born failures at doing good, far too often. We expect points for trying, but basically we lack something fundamental when it comes to being good the way we know we should – in ways that will please a holy God.

    Enter the Creator become Creature. Since he is making everything in perfect love, he knows a thing or two about always doing the right thing. The Creator’s physical presence among us, is a unique, once-in-a-creation event – what scientists refer to as a singularity. In fact, from a Christian perspective, the singularity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, the God-man, is the very heart of creation as well as the essential beginning of the Gospel. He is the apex of creation while also being the one through whom creation flows. This Creator we worship is truly interesting beyond our imagining! 

    Then, because of our inborn inability to deal with the temptation to not do the right thing, and the resulting dysfunction and horror this brings to our world, our Creator as Servant voluntarily suffers with us. In fact, suffers maximally and ultimately, participating even in death for us. But our Creator/Servant did nothing that should lead to death, he accepted it on our behalf – a willing sacrifice. Then, our Creator/Servant, in a glorious continuance of his very interesting creative work, rose from the dead in a glorified body – a victorious King. Scriptures call him the ‘first-born’ from among the dead because he is indeed a new creation – the Creator/Servant/Perfect Sacrifice/King, our Lord.

    This resurrected Lord now takes up residence with the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and looses the Spirit, the very Spirit of Creation, upon the earth for our edification, guidance and empowerment. As we have been through all of time, we are called to continue with our own role in creation, now under the guidance of this Spirit of Creation. The Creator is not done yet. He keeps making moves that are more and more interesting. Now we are called to get on with the good over evil thing, but with the Spirit of Creation within us, because, in Christ, we too are new creations. Not completed yet, but, as with all of creation, works in progress.

    This great, ongoing and ever more interesting creation story needs to be told. The  Spirit of Creation within us moves us to tell the story, with boldness. The treasure we have within is a treasure to tell people about. It’s all connected. It has been going on for 13.7 billion years. We are a part of it simply by being born, and as Christian believers we are a part of it with a wonderful new re-birth and a new role. We have been given Good News to tell to the whole world. The Creator, Immanuel,  has come to us. The Creator, Jesus the Saviour, has redeemed humanity. By repenting from our self-centeredness and acknowledging the work and centrality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we can live and grow in him as he lives and grows in us. Ultimately, we shall behold him and we shall be like him. We will then know him as he is. His love will have won!

  • The classic OT answer to why we suffer comes from Job. Job, the epitome of righteousness, has his life painfully destroyed by God, but unlike the rest of us, Job gets to ask God what’s going on. Though perhaps unsatisfactory to modern readers, God’s answer is clear: in essence, “what makes you think you could possibly understand anything as complicated as that? You can’t even understand how I created the oceans, or the stars, or….” The Book of Job teaches that we’ll never understand the nature of suffering.

    The fascinating “Life of Adam and Eve” (written probably just after the Gospels) clearly blames Satan for coaxing the snake to entice Eve to goad Adam. And Satan even explains why he did it: he was jealous that God had created him in the divine image. “You did nothing to me, but it was because of you that I have fallen,” Satan explains. This seems to work whether Adam was a single person or (as his name suggests) representative of humanity.

    The Book of Enoch suggests an even more radical answer along the same lines: Evil comes because the Watchers, a group of angels tasked with guarding humanity, instead mated with humans. These are the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4.

    At any rate, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, I don’t think that denying the historical Adam is the same thing as denying Adam.

  • Leo

    I think the preaching of Jesus did not involve Adam as the origin of THE problem of sin. The preaching of the apostles neither. It is only in Romans when Paul tried to invoke the imagery of two reigns, sin and righteousness, that Adam and Christ became two focal images. That Adam and Christ as two opposing types were used in 1 Corinthian, in Romans Paul said of the coming to reign through one man Adam that the reign of death began. The theme of BEGINNING of something in the person of Adam became later THE ORIGIN OF ALL OTHER PROBLEMS. In Romans, Paul said of the beginning of a cosmic reign of death. In this, the imagery of slavery is the key theme (Roman 6 and 7). But when Augustine read Paul, he put the emphasis under the fabric of change in human nature, and the internal struggle in Roman 7 added fuel to this interpretation. Adam and Christ became two type of human existence. All these, in fact, do not deal with the HISTORICAL ADAM. It is the TYPOLOGICAL sense that is important. Adam as a TYPE. But as the doctrine of Original sin became the controlling center of doctrine development, the importance of ADAM loom large. When Luther read his internal struggle into Paul, he amplified the introspective aspect. And Sin became known through the human internal struggle over good and evil. Sin, depicted by Paul in Romans 5-7 is a slave master who reigned but God set us free from that evil master and became His own slaves (and sons and daughters), became some kind of universal problem of human nature manifested through the internal struggle over conscience and God give us an internal peace (Four Spiritual Laws, etc). We need a something to explain God’s Wrath and the beginning of A PROBLEM to which God gave his answer. Evil is the reason of God’s Wrath but it seems to me that the beginning of evil is hidden from scene in the Hebrew bible. It takes the grant of it. The New Testament neither interested in the beginning of evil. The Apostle began at the solution, not the plight. … my random thought…

  • Anonymous

    I realize you are addressing a particular issue, and I do not mean to take away from that.

    In my view the problem with no historical Adam of any sort boils down to the bible being just another meaningless text. Revolutionary in many ways, but meaningless. What I mean is that if the bible is simply no different than any other religious text, then one has no real reason to believe any of it other than just because they were raised that way.

    I am not saying people are not a product of their environment and cannot communicate in there time periods ways. I am simply saying if the bible can constantly be said to not be addressing anything that really happened or is reliable, then why should I accept any of it? What truly distinguishes it from any other religious claim or holy book? Why should I believe it? Could not a Mormon just as easily say that the history is not necessary to be accurate, only a few theological points? One might say my definition of inerrancy (bible is true in everything it confirms) is putting too much expectation on the text. Perhaps, but why then should I believe the bible over any other book like the Quran or book of Mormon?

    Let me be clear; I am a Christian who accepts evolution. I consider myself somewhat accommodationist in my approach. At the moment I still accept a historical Adam. I cannot take a leap to a non-historical one because it really does all seem to fall apart. I don’t mean to make a slippery slope argument, I just want to know if there is no historical Adam, something the text does seem to take historical (no matter how much is said to be just a story), then why should I trust even the Old Testament alone for anything? Why should I be a Christian?

    I just don’t see a problem with an accommodationist accepting truth claims of history in the text, but realizing that the scientific picture isn’t given (because it wouldn’t make sense. Meaning, I have no problem with a historical Adam “foreign to the text” because the bible is not addressing the scientific model. It’s not part of the ancient cultures concerns. Am I wrong in thinking this?

    I have an atheist friend. To illustrate some of this random rant I have just made, I fear the following conversation if I can be completely honest:

    Friend: why should I be a Christian, there is no evidence, and the biblical record is loaded with errors it authors thought were true and made claims about
    Me: yeah, maybe, but it is a great story God gave. They just did not know any better
    Friend: so, other religions claim the same thing, why should I treat the bible any differently?

    I cannot answer that question; I would have to become an atheist. The only reason I am a Christian is because I was raised this way. Liberal theology will not do because then I would just be trying to retain my beliefs because I like them, not they are true.

    Sincerely, confused

  • leanne

    If Adam did not alienate man and God, then we do not need Jesus to redeem man and God. OR. If Adam’s story is fiction, then the story of Jesus dying FOR our sins may be fiction too. How Can Adam be fiction and Jesus saving death be fact? I’d really like to know.

  • David S.

    I do think you are correct, Pete. Though, the biggest problem I have with no historical adam is that I have to accept that God planned for there to be death all along. That doesn’t make sense to me. At the same time, I do realize that, like you said, Romans 5 has been interpreted in various ways, and so has the fall. I am a still a believer, but this definitely conjures up some difficult thoughts on theodicy. We must be honest about these issues.

    • Kyle

      No historical Adam does not entail that God intended there to be death necessarily. Death could have its source in other evil beings (Lewis/Plantinga: fallen angels).

  • Anonymous


    While I would probably agree with you about their being a historical Adam, you arguments not that big a deal for those that reject a historical Adam.

    Jesus resurrection is a historically reliable event, at least the fact that he walked the earth is roundly agreed upon even by atheists.

    this is not the same for Adam. And I have to say that while I think there is a historical Adam, I also agree it is not beneath God to use stories as Enns essentially claims. I however have different issues. If it could be shown to me that the “stories” explanation can still give me a reason to believe the Bible other than just a development over time from an ancient culture, then I’ll gladly accept it. I’m fine with the human elements, but it seems there needs to be something to grab onto besides “I was raised this way” or “christianity is the best right way just cause.”

    For me it does not rest solely upon a historical Adam alone; but rather an entire bible of truth claims of various degrees from historical to theological. there are elements in the text that are inaccurate that are not truth claims (such as the ancient cosmic geography), but if the text is making a claim (such as I feel of adam) then I have a hard time saying its ok that the author was wrong about history, but not about a theological claim. It’s a difficult stance to square away for me.

    but, again, if the authors really took adam as a story, I would be fine with that. That’s a hard argument to make, even after reading Enns book

  • James

    Problem is, there is an Adam in the Hebrew and Gospel stories and he is responsible (partly at least) for the wrath of God poured out on sinful humanity. So let’s not remove Adam from the drama even if he’s not strickly historical. No, the evangelical problem with a non-historical Adam is hermeneutical and the ‘experts’ who tell us which interpretive methods are in or out and why. No serious Christian wants to knowingly violate God’s Word.

  • Andrew S.

    To me, God’s wrath seems (dare I say it?) straightforward with or without an historical Adam. I am a sinner, God is righteous and holy, God’s wrath is revealed against unrighteousness. I don’t need the story of Adam to prove to me *that* I sin, I can figure that out easily enough.

    The problem is, *why* am I a sinner? Why did a holy God create me such that I could inspire his wrath? The story of Adam is an explanation of that, but it is itself a problematic explanation. If Adam sinned, then God is wrathful against Adam–but why does God allow that taint to affect me? The problem is as it was: a good God created me, a sinful person. Why?

    It seems to me that the story of Adam is saying that: (a) God creates *good* creatures, not sinful ones; but (b) a component of our (good) nature is the ability to freely *choose* evil. Adam (historical or otherwise) made that free choice. I can see myself make that free choice a hundred times a day. Without Adam, I am still fallen–I just lack some details about how I ended up in this predicament.

  • AT

    For me the challenge isn’t in God’s wrath – it’s in the fall. Specifically how this challenges our understanding of suffering and God’s will. This is a challenge that RJS mentioned in her blog posts over at Jesus Creed. If there was no fall, then suffering is completely built into God’s design, e.g. God creates a horrible problem that he only can solve so that he gets the glory. To me this is stepping into extreme Calvinism (not sure where you stand within the Reformed spectrum, Peter). As an Arminian, I seriously struggle with this theology. Within this theology – Jesus isn’t plan ‘B’ – he is plan ‘A’ – we were built with ‘no choice’ but to be corrupt and he is the only answer. The philosophical ‘problem of suffering’ would now be in clear contradiction to an ‘all loving’, ‘all powerful’ God. For CS Lewis and Chesterton a literal fall was essential for this philosophical question.

    Lately, I’ve been considering a view of the ‘garden’ , being a place of God’s people which was intended to spread His Kingdom to the brokeness that existed outside the ‘garden’. This perspective can maintain a literal fall with some sense of God intending his people for intimacy and relationship without suffering. I admit there is a fair bit of speculation here but it seems to align with the idea of Cain being marked by God to keep him safe from other external communities. It seems to reflect God’s desire to ‘partner’ with humanity to bring his Kingdom to Earth. It also seems to align with the idea of God’s Kingdom spreading from God’s people to the nations/gentiles which thematically flows throughout the Bible. It seems to align with Genesis being more about Israel (even though I still hold to some sense of a literal Adam).

    Of course this opens up the weird question of suffering in these ‘external communities’ and questions around the human soul/ God-awareness in non-gentiles.

  • AT

    By the way, Peter I love your courage and transparency to open up this conversation and enter those deep challenges…

  • Ryan

    The view of the garden also aligns with the introduction of the initially shadowy and mysterious Tree of life (why is it needed if there is no death?). It seems that eternal life is at leasted hinted at in God’s earliest dealings with the creatures bearing His image, so I don’t think a created order featuring death is necessarily a challenge to His character.

    I also agree with Andrew S in that I fail to see God’s wrath as a problem- historical Adam or not, we are all “in Adam” in our apparent inability to worship God satisfactorily and keep His law blamelessly. This is more than evident in our daily experience. And, yes, the question is more “why did God create us this way?”

    There were creatures created that could enact His will flawlessly and yet were free to choose otherwise – the angels. However, it seems that our creation in weakness is somehow key to our greater destiny as redeemed SONS of God. There’s a real progression from naive stewards in a Garden to adopted children in a City, something that no angel can claim.

  • mgill(pseudo)

    Every time I read such arguments I roll my eyes and say, “same old stuff again”.
    To correct you, the traditional Christian view does not place the so called problem of God’s wrath on Adam’s shoulders. The traditional Christian view is that God being holy is equally wrathful in the presence (loosely) of unholiness. Mankind seems to understand things better when contrasted to their opposites-to somehow understand, though finitely, how holy God is, wrath contrasted against his holiness was and still is inevitable. We simply won’t get it. We even display wrath, to some degree, to our own offspring, by grounding them, time outs and the like. Wrath is a sign for “you are not meeting the standard”. Taking away an Adam is indeed and may to some degree be theologically problematic but definitely and wholly logically problematic. It may be theologically problematic since the Christian faith will have to come up with an explanation about the existance of mankind without the creation of a first man, in this case Adam. The logical incongruity of removing Adam from the narrative does not affect God’s holiness, which is the reason he is wrathful.

    If you believe that there were angels kicked out of heaven, possibly before Adam, you have to look into the narrative of that event. Did the angel’s lead mutineer, Lucifer, desire the place of God, to be God? If your answer is yes then you have just explained God’s wrath in the absence of mankind. Before the creation of anything, God did not communicate his holiness to other beings-there were no other beings. And when he created beings, angelic and human in this context, he communicated his holiness-which seems to be best grasped in contrast to his wrath. Theodicy leads us to question God’s intent, holiness and goodness, and these are legitimate. The question I always ask is when is the last time I counted to infinity; when is the last time put the pacific in its entirety in my 2 quart canteen? Never to both questions. Am saying this to say that we can continue having legitimate discussions about God and his nature-this is good- and come to various conclusions-, but will never grasp the infinite in its entirety. We may get better with each day, but no man speaking truth will ever say, I know and have fully understood God’s infinite will, plan, etc.

    The premise, the very core of this article is fundamentally flawed. I see fundamental problem of trying to discover the totality of God’s will , as is the case here. Can anyone see the problem with this? This is perhaps possible if you are working with the premises that God is neither omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, nor holy. Negating one or any combination of the above will allow for your argument and that’s a different discussion (now you have ammo for the next piece).

    • peteenns

      A lot of speculation here, mgill(pseudo), esp. re: Lucifer’s rebellion (is that in the Bible?). Also, holiness implies wrath in the traditional Christian metanarrative because of the fall. Without that, why must holiness lead to wrath rather than, say, compassion, love, etc.

      • mgill

        Indeed Lucifer’s rebellion is not in the Bible, I acquiesce.However, allusions of lucifer (Day Star , Morning Star) as opposed to the name Lucifer are in the Bible. At best, my intention was to label the lead mutineer. Satan will suffice.

        On God’s holiness: God’s holiness leads to both wrath and love. This holiness is what makes God’s love vastly grander than that of humans. Holiness well understood is perfectness. God love is unfathomably great because he is holy. We will be in error to think that because God is holy then his attributes would contain only those we think as positive or most desired-love, compassion, mercy, goodness. But his holiness defines/gives further weight (I lacking words) to these attributes. Theologians have termed God’s holiness a higher attribute because it makes the others count. Immanuel Kant in his endeavor to fathom God he proposed a few things, he must have the attribute of aseity, all knowing, inerrant, infallible and righteous. These add up to the attribute of being holy.
        Holiness as we understand it must be beyond a divine pleasantness that we would like to partake in. When God’s holiness is violated, it is humanly expected that his love and compassion to manifest and not wrath. But that is not the picture God wants us to have of him. It is self-deceiving to accept God only by a few of his revealed attributes. Reading through the bible, even if one decides to stick to the NT, we see God’s wrath pop up here and there. Its hard to miss the lake of fire and such. That is manifest divine wrath. The cross is manifest divine compassion and love.

  • James Willard

    Our problem is that God is not angry and our theology is based on a duelist approach to God. If we look at God as the Trinity and that from the beginning He wanted to have relationship with us, it becomes easier to understand His need for His Son to come to earth as a man so we could become what He is. He became earthy so we can become heavenly. Much can be extrapolated from this truth.

  • Greg Peterson

    I have to say that as an atheist, this looks a little like the argument the boys in “Stand by Me” got into over whether Superman or Might Mouse would win in a fight. It can’t have escaped everyone’s notice, can it, that the thing that solved this entire issue so very neatly, that removes the Gordion knot with Occam’s razor, is atheism. Can it?

    • John Inglis

      Except that it doesn’t, and besides it has enough problems of its own to be unnattractive in its own right (can’t explain consciousness, can’t explain “good”, can’t provide an objective pan personal basis for morality, can’t explain the presence of life, can’t provide a basis for free will, can’t explain the beginning of things that don’t have a non-material cause, can’t provide an adequate basis for the existence or knowledge of truth, etc.).

  • Jacob Therakathu

    I think you point out a very important problem for christian theology in this post. But honestly I feel a little relieved that i need not believe in the doctrine of original sin. ever since I started thinking about these matters I have been deeply troubled by how a just God can hold me guilty for something that my ancestor did. It is evident to me that i have a nature that has a predisposition towards sin.. but to say that I will be thrown into hell because somebody who lived long ago displeased God is obviously not morally acceptable. The fact that traditional christians like Paul and Augustine could suggest such things makes me deeply suspicious of the truth of the christianity itself. Atleast with Adam out of the picture, I can hope that there can be some other explanation for my sinful nature.. even if I have no idea what that can be… But it gives me hope to persist with my faith..

  • reyjacobs

    When Paul brings up Adam — whether he thinks of Adam as historical or not — it is a cue that his arguments are about to devolve into nonsense.

    In Romans 5 damnation and salvation is ALL on Adam and Christ. Adam sinned and damned us — Jesus obeyed and saved us. As if our own sins had no hand in damning us and our own obedience has nothing to do with saving us. Totally absurd illogical hogwash.

    Again, in 1 Timothy 2:13 women are not allowed to teach men “because Adam was formed first and then Eve.” Again, the mention of Adam is a cue to the fact that Paul’s brain has farted and his argument is absurd. What does it matter which sex was formed first? This is like arguing that Gentiles are not allowed to teach Jews because the Jews were God’s people first. Or Greeks are not allowed to teach Phoenicians because Phoenicians had the alphabet first!!!!! Its just silly.

  • Heath

    Jesus believed in a literal and historical Adam when He quoted from Genesis. To reject original sin is tantamount to rejecting the original Savior.

  • lemean

    As a conservative Christian (read: inerrantist) who believes in evolution, I have generally avoided the issue of the historicity of Adam/Eve, Noah’s ark and Tower of Babel etc. When pressed I’d confess that these stories conflict with known scientific evidence, that I have no way of reconciling the two, that I believe the Bible account to be wholly trustworthy even if I do not understand it perfectly, but that I hold to the Biblical interpretations of said events like that given by Paul in Romans.

    While I am not sure that literalism ought to be the only, or even the default way of reading the first chapters of Genesis, NOT reading them as such does pose other problems. On what (biblical) ground do we find these narratives exceptions to the rule (i.e. of the generally trustworthy nature of biblical historical narratives)? If these stories ought be read as myths, on what (biblical) ground should we read anything else (at least the historical books in the OT and gospel accounts in the NT) as anything more than myths? In other words, is it possible to be consistent in one’s hermeneutics in interpreting the Bible without compromising the biblical message of sin, death and redemption? Or is it entirely reasonable to maintain hermeneutical consistency and give up on the myth of human redemption as being entirely contrary to reason?

    To that end, I applaud your article “What’s the REAL Problem with No Historical Adam, Really?” As you said, if there is no first man who fell (at least as an archetype and a forerunner of all human fallenness), why is God so mad at everyone? Yet God’s wrath, justified + righteous (as I believe) or not (as many Progressive Christians believe), is really the basis of historical Christianity. Without God’s wrath, redemption is entirely unnecessary (or at least just a footnote to our psychological needs).