Paul Believed in Adam, and So Should You (?): latest slideshow from Denis Lamoureux

Paul Believed in Adam, and So Should You (?): latest slideshow from Denis Lamoureux May 24, 2013

Today we continue Denis Lamoureux’s series of brief slideshows on his popular book I Love Jesus & I Accept EvolutionIn the previous five slideshows, Lamoureux covered chapters 1 and 2, chapter 3, a supplement to chapter 4 (the sources of Genesis), chapter 4 (“Biblical Accounts of Origins”), and the first portion of  chapter 6  on human evolution.

In today’s installment, Lamoureux continues his summary of chapter 6, zeroing in on what is the issue for most Christians who object to evolution: what about Paul? Since Paul understood Adam to be the first man, and since he ascribes to Adam to cause of sin and death, does this not force Christians to choose between Paul and evolution?

Lamoureux says no. He applies his “message-incident principle” to point out that Paul’s “ancient science” does not determine the validity of his theology. 

Lamoureux is associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds three earned doctoral degrees—dentistry, theology, and biology–which uniquely qualifies him to speak to the issue of human origins and Christian faith. He gets the science, he gets the hermeneutics, and he articulates both clearly for non-specialists (full bio here).

I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution is a great introduction to his view of origins called “evolutionary creation.” For those of you who are beyond the beginner’s stage, you can read his much thicker book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.

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  • Jonathan Becker

    I understand the Old Testament use of ancient cosmic geography; however, do you think that all the NT writers had that same understanding of a three-tier universe or was their understanding heaven and earth (especially) a bit more confused and polysemic?

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    DL wrote EC before he wrote ILJAAE as a summary of EC, so some people like me will want to get both books, as the latter has his latest thoughts in book form.
    I think the 3-tiered cosmology continued in the NT, one sees examples of it when one knows what to look for in terms of phrases.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Dear Donald,
      Those books are 5 yrs out of date.
      If you want my latest material, it’s all online.
      Notes, handouts, and audio slides–all FREE.
      Save yourself some $$$.

  • Tyler C

    I really like Dr. Lamoureux’s distinction between Message and Incident. It seems like a helpful way forward andI am very open to the evolutionary creation model, but I have a feeling my skeptic friends would cry foul on these kinds of distinctions. How do we go about distilling the message from the medium? Is the origin of Paul’s message anchored in his 1st century incident? Can a true message really be saved from from a false incidental communication? How? I suppose we do this already when we accept modern cosmology vs. a 3-tier universe, but making this differentiation with Adam, sin, and death seems much harder. Just questioning out loud.

  • Well illustrated and presented, Denis. I continue to enjoy your series.

  • Bev Mitchell

    The best of the series so far! I really appreciate the clarity and flow of this little piece. Will you be putting the mini series up at your site as a package? Perhaps Pete too? I understand that students can follow your entire course online, but for all kinds of situations, this series of brief slideshows will be invaluable.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      I’m going to be redoing all my online lectures this summer, both for the public and high schoolers. One will be on human origins.

  • Darryl Stringer

    What a brilliant series and presentation! I’ve been an evolutionary creationist for many years now (ever since reading “Reason, science and faith” by Forster and Marston) but I’ve greatly appreciated the way Denis has carefully worked through some of the difficult stuff surrounding Adam, sin, and death. And thank you to Pete for sharing this content.

  • This is super helpful. I wonder what other things we need to be aware of that the NT writers took for granted. What were their assumptions?

  • Nancy R.

    I think Paul provides a useful perspective in how to read his words in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” He readily admits that he does not understand all things completely. We should take him at his word.

  • James

    When we attempt to separate out universal truth from ancient science we run into a problem with ancient history, which is also a kind of science. We believe, like the ancients, that our faith is anchored in the real, space-time resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, on this essential point of truth, at least, theology conflates with science. If we want to free theology from the evolution of general knowledge we may end up with two separate Savoirs–the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith–but I don’t think we want to go there. Somehow all of reality is interconnected and we can understand snippets of it here and there. Bravo Dennis for a good try!

    • Nancy R.

      James, I imagine that we all have to draw lines when we read the Bible – some “science” in scripture aligns with reality, some does not. And not everyone reads all the history as factually accurate either – if we reject the creation “science” that purports to prove the actuality of a world-wide flood, then we cannot read the Noah story as being accurate in either or historical or scientific sense.
      But there’s a big distinction between these stories from Genesis that were probably part of a pre-literate, oral tradition, and the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The gospels are far more recent and are based on the recollections of eyewitnesses. One can assume a far higher degree of historical accuracy than with the first chapters of Genesis.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Bravo James for a POOR try.
      You obviously have not been following my series. I believe history begins roughly with Abraham in Gen 12, and I definitely believe in the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      Small suggestion James: get your facts straight before you press the “send” button.

  • Norman


    This is where I disagree with your analysis.
    You’re thesis is based upon Paul and 2nd T Jews believing the Death encountered in the Garden is physical and not spiritual. I believe the wrong choice makes all the difference in the world in how we interpret Paul’s framing his understanding of Adam in Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15. Jubilees written 200 years before Paul’s writings sees Adam as a Priest (Jewish concept) to the Nations (Gentiles) who are represented by talking animals but in need of having sacrifices for them. The Gentiles illustrated by animal motifs are found scattered throughout OT and 2nd T literature. Especially Enoch’s “Dream Visions” and Peter’s reference to them in Acts 10. Adam represented “the first covenant man” in the mind of many Jews and we read too literally when we superimpose our literalness upon Genesis 2 & 3. His Death was Covenant Death”.

    Here is the alternative Jewish reading IMHO. Adam as the first man to walk with God did not have his sins attributed to him and is a microcosm of Israel, representing his fall into legalism (Rom 5:13 & Rom 7:9). That is what Paul’s 4 chapters are all about from Rom 5-8 where there is a specific sin called “the sin” that lead covenant seeking men out of relationship with God and that according to Paul was Law Keeping (self righteousness). That is why the eternal life that Adam grasped in the Garden was taken away because Adam is relegated back to the status of mortal humanity with no hope and without God.

    This is also why he returns to the dust because he no longer has eternal life and is just like the Gentile man who dies and goes down to the pit/Sheol (see Ecc 3:19-21). Instead to regain that eternal status He must be lifted up out of the Dust (Dan 12) to regain the relationship with God in which sins are not counted. That is what Christ restored.

    Since IMO Paul is dealing with covenant death and not physical death via Adam there is not sufficient reason to follow your logic as it’s a moot question and has little bearing ultimately.

    Just another thought for you also. The OT doesn’t get much beyond death as going down to the pit and sheol and there were no Enoch compartments until later in the 2nd T period. The Jews invented and extrapolated Greek Hadean
    concepts and stories were built off of these concepts just as the Jews did with
    other ANE story lines like the flood extract for their purposes. Do we ever
    stop and think about these writers just coming up with these inventions and all
    of a sudden they just appear in Jewish folk literature. I doubt the writer
    thought he was penning true concepts but was obviously using these for props to
    portray vivid story lines that meet a theological purpose. There is just too
    much ancient evidence to generalize about how the ancient Jews were monolithically of the mindset that we like to portray them. Doesn’t mean Paul and others didn’t think along the lines you portray but Paul was way too easily taken with the analogy of many Genesis stories to attribute a hard fast concept upon him.

    Back to my original point. Paul saw the sin of the Law as the problem that Adam/Israel introduced and Christ put away as the fix to the problem of the Jews. Our human sin according to Paul has always existed yet when we are right with God it is not counted. It’s the result that Christ brings us (sin not counted against us) and that is Paul’s point and is why he is constantly ranting and raving about Judaizers trying to reintroduce aspects of legalism back in again.

    Not all biblical investigative scholars that embrace evolution agree with your take on Adam. I recommend this ASA article to readers. “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science” by Daniel C. Harlow.

    quote from pg 188: “then physical death as such cannot be meant. What the man and woman experience on the day of their eating the fruit is not physical death but a kind of living death— an estrangement from God, the garden, and each other that brings with it the painful consciousness of their own mortality and its eventual outcome.”

    Adam was the “First Covenant man” is about all we can ascribe to



    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      I disagree with your analysis. That’s not what the text states.

      • Norman

        Yes, and evangelicals would say the same about a lot of your interpretations of various scripture. 🙂

        I think it would be worthwhile to see you interface with Harlow’s ASA piece that I quoted from. One evolutionary accepting scholar against another: should be interesting.

        • Denis O. Lamoureux

          Dan is a friend of mine and I know his work well. Regrettably, he’s been muzzled by Calvin. He would reject your position.

          • Norman


            I’m not quoting Harlow to validate my understanding of Paul’s Rom 5-8; no I’m saying he disagrees with a fundamental part of your thesis which concerns the nature of Adam’s death. My quote from his article illustrates
            that fundamental difference which as I have pointed out can, and I would suggest does have significant impact upon understanding Paul’s definition and use of death contextually in his writings. Now whether Harlow follows up with Paul regarding this concept as I have, then I’m not sure, and would have to see more of his work. However both of you can’t be right on Adam’s death nature in

            If Adam was a type of Christ as Paul states then my previous point holds traction that Adam was a federal Headship of God’s covenant people (the Jews) and thus sin could not be alleviated because the headship had
            screwed up thus leaving all God’s faith seeking people in their sin and estranged from God. Paul is not making a biological connection with Adam in Rom 5:12 but he is highlighting a Jewish High Priest failure that leaves the faithful seeker in their sins because all men sin, and thus there is no other alternative but to have a High Priest who doesn’t relegate the “sinner” to their sins. That’s what Romans, 1 Cor 15 and the Hebrew letter is largely about and not ANE biology.

            Yes I do remember Harlow having a little scrape with Calvin. That’s the price cutting edge theologians pay
            for working for the mother ship, as we all have observed over and over again. I imagine the quickest way to get in trouble in these Reformed and Calvinist institutions is to mess with their soteriology and Adam is part of their misguided construct: IMHO 🙂

          • Denis O. Lamoureux

            You really don’t understand what Harlow and I are saying.
            We are on the same page. And if wasn’t a “little scrape.” Dan got muzzled, John Schneider got fired over the Adam papers in ASA.

          • Norman

            Just to bring a little more clarity to this discussion it is
            true that Denis discusses this very issue in his Book “Evolutionary Creation”
            on page 316 where he states “Of course, the interpretive challenge with these
            verses is to distinguish between physical and spiritual death. … This ambiguity
            has led to one of the most critical issues in the origins debate. Are Paul’s statements about death entering
            the world because of the sin of Adam in Rom 5:12 – 19 referring to physical or
            spiritual death? And if they do refer to
            the latter, is the causal connection between sin and death in Gen 3 merely
            spiritual? … The context of Gen 3 deals
            clearly with physical death.”

            There you have Denis recognizing this “critical issue” regarding the debate between Gen 3 being
            about physical Death or spiritual death.
            However his examination within that section is lacking in detail
            regarding a “critical” theological “issue”.
            Since I’m not a progressive creationist but a TE I don’t fall under
            Denis attempt to undermine the concept that Genesis 3 is dealing primarily with
            “spiritual death”. I base my realization
            upon OT, 2nd T and NT theological concepts we find embedded. I’ve
            already explained how the idea of “from dust you are to dust you will return”
            does not infer that Gen 3’s Adamic death is purely physical, that would be circular reasoning and is
            contrived IMO. The theology of that
            chapter is that he lost the gift of immortality thus he returned to mortality
            (dust). The reason he lost immortality
            is purely “spiritual in nature revolving around his relationship with God. If that isn’t “spiritual death” then I don’t
            know how else you would define “spiritual death”. This is exactly what Harlow spelled out in
            his Quote thus I’m perplexed why Denis is hanging on to a purely physical
            reading of Gen 3’s death. Denis covers
            well that Paul has the concept of spiritual death in view in many locations but
            it seems that when it comes to Rom 5:12 he insist that Paul has to be talking about physical death. Again this
            particular point of Denis is “critical” in understanding Paul, and good
            theologians disagree on this concept though I would concede that most would
            likely come down on Denis side regarding Rom 5:12 ( but I think this a relic of
            not knowing when Paul switches gears). I’m
            just here to point out that this issue is not as locked down as Denis portrays
            and it is very likely that Paul saw Adam as a priestly representation and thus
            sin passed on to the world because the Character of Adam or Jewish Priest had
            fallen into Law Keeping for righteousness sake and dropped the ball if you
            will. Spiritual death was not dealt with
            properly until Christ came and thus Rom 5:12 has Paul speaking “spiritual death”.

            Now that I’ve pounded on Denis for 2 days I want to step
            back and state that Denis is one of the best in many regards. It’s obvious that he thinks seriously, deeply
            and theologically about his subject matter and we all are indebted to him for
            his untiring work. Perhaps in his next
            book he will “flesh” out more substantially this issue that I have raised. I
            know that most aren’t into this level of discussion but these are bedrock
            issues for the church as we move forward and I thank Pete and Denis for
            allowing give and take on subjects like this without running folks off who may
            desire a deeper look and may have different takes.



          • Susan Gerard


          • Nancy R.

            Norm, you use that one selective quote from Harlow’s piece to misrepresent his position. Like Lamoureux, Harlow promotes a non-concordist reading of scripture, and he makes it clear that both the Genesis account of Adam and Paul’s discussion of his role are about both spiritual and physical death. From page 190: “In Paul’s thought, though, spiritual death and physical death are ultimately related: sin leads to spiritual death, and spiritual death finally includes biological death.”

            His position, like Lamoureux’s, is clearly opposed to that of modern concordists who argue that the Adam story is not about physical death (and can therefore claim that Adam was a historical person who lived in a populated world, rather than a mythical “first man”).

            I don’t think you have to read much more of Harlow to see if he holds to your position that Paul considered Adam to be the first covenant man. From pages 190-91: “To judge from his surviving correspondence, Paul does not seem to have made Adam the object of much theological reflection. Nor did he make exegesis of Genesis 3 a centerpiece of his theological analysis of sin. Rather than reasoning forward in his theology from the plight of humanity to God’s solution in Christ, Paul appears to have reasoned backwards ‘from solution to plight’ – from Christ’s saving work to the human race’s need for redemption. And ‘Rather than Adam being a model or image for humanity or even the first real human being, it is Christ who is both. Christ is the first true human being, and Christ is the image of God and the “model” for Adam.'”

          • Norman


            Thanks for the interaction. However as I stated previously I’m
            not quoting Harlow ‘s specific quote to validate my reading of Paul’s Adam even
            though I think Hebraically it flows naturally to my presentation of Adam as a
            Priestly understanding. I would be a little surprised if Denis and Harlow were
            not aware that Adam was viewed as a Priestly position so I’ll have to let them
            explain why they discard that line of reasoning and discovery that Paul appears
            to embrace.

            Rom 5:14 … the
            likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is
            a type of him who is coming.

            Also you have misread my concept as well. Physical death or
            our mortal nature was defeated because it was the end of life when one is
            outside God’s covenant people. See Eph 2 and Paul’s description of the Gentile
            plight outside of God’s covenant people.

            Eph 2:11-12
            Wherefore, remember, that ye were
            once the nations in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that
            called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands,
            that ye were at that time apart
            from Christ, having been alienated from
            the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the
            promise, having no hope, and without
            God, in the world;

            So Denis saying Adam’s death was a physical death has a
            semblance of truth to it because if it had not been for the loss of
            relationship with God then Adam would have eternal life but not here on this Good
            earth. Just as you and I do through Christ now if we die in faith. However
            Harlows quote is more accurate in that it gets to the heart of the issue in
            that the Death of Adam is framed primarily within OT and NT scripture as “spiritual
            death” just as Harlow lays out in that quote.
            I’m hardly a concordist in the least and in fact Denis idea of the
            context of Adam dying physically is much much more concordist in nature than my
            understanding of “spiritual death” infers.
            And no I don’t think the author of Genesis intended the story to reflect
            Physical death primarily except in our ultimate demise when we are separated from
            God. Without being restored to the Garden and to the tree of Life through
            Christ then we all return ultimately to the dust of the ground.

            Also Nancy I would like to point out that although I think
            the Adam character is a construct of priestly/scribal Jewish exilic writers I
            do think there is historical context unpinning that story line. Just as Romulus and Remus are mythical constructs
            of the Romans to illustrate their origins we know for a fact that Rome did
            indeed have people that begin that city state at some point in time. That is a historical fact. Conversely the
            Adam character though a mythical construct also has historical context because
            guess what Israel had a historical beginning somewhere and somehow as well.
            Israel after the faith in YWHW is presented in Gen 4:26 as the time when men
            began to call upon the name of YWHW (the God of Israel).

            No the story is not accurate historically but it does not
            rule out the plausibility of the first faith people of Israel starting with
            someone somewhere. Just like Abraham but more primordial which is what Gen 2
            & 3 are loosely depicting. The
            problem with much of our modern scholars who see problems with the Genesis
            story is that they don’t read it through the Jewish big picture enough IMO.
            They often think that it’s purely an ANE story about the beginning of the human
            race when it’s not in the least. It’s a story about faith and is the beginning of the journey of people
            of faith toward what you spelled out as the Image of God. You are absolutely
            correct in that Christ is the end point of God’s creating humans in His Image
            and Adam represents the failed beginning baby steps. There is a section in Genesis 5 in which Adam
            is made in God’s likeness (but not His Image) however Adam’s offspring is made
            in the image of his fallen father Adam (mortal and not Immortal). When Paul examines Adam in 1 Cor 15 we see
            that the mortal man is exchanged for the Immortal man/Christ. In other words
            those who put on Christ shed their human mortality and exchange it for the
            spiritual Immortality of Christ who is the Image of the Father. I hope
            Christians know they have the “gift” of eternal life through faith in

            This story line from Adam to Christ is really a simple story
            that gets twisted into a thousand different pieces because we are not versed in
            Hebrew theological views. I just think
            Denis is taking us off on an unnecessary rabbit trail when he presents Paul as
            he does ( this is not to say that Denis doesn’t get large portions right but he’s
            not the only scholar out there doing this kind of work so there is room to grow).
            If you follow Paul theologically from the OT and 2nd T literature
            you see he is a product of that worldview and it’s not exactly as simple as I
            believe Denis is presenting. Paul is
            much more astute theologically than he is being made out to be by many today
            who I believe simply don’t understand him well enough at times.

            Oh well, Denis and I are not the first, nor the last to
            disagree on how to read Paul. 🙂 That is an ongoing investigation, but I think in the long run my synopsis will
            eventually win out. 😉

            Oh by the way Paul did indeed frame death through spiritual
            eyes. People were alive yet they were “Dead”
            in their sins and then made “alive” through Christ. So we can’t say Paul doesn’t have the concept
            of “spiritual Death”.

            Eph 2:1 Also you–being
            dead in the trespasses and the sins,

            Col 2:13 And you, who
            were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made
            alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

            Col 3:10 and have put
            on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its



          • Denis O. Lamoureux

            Dear Nancy,
            It never ceases to amaze me when people state my views better than I can! And I am NOT being sarcastic. You have responded to Norman better than I ever could.
            Thank you!

  • unkleE

    Denis, since you are following this discussion, may I thank you for having the discipline to get degrees in both theology and evolutionary science and for the clarity and faith of your writing. I have been much helped and encouraged.

    But one small problem. You say “Those books are 5 yrs out of date.If you want my latest material, it’s all online…..Save yourself some $$$.” And I read this after I have just received your book in the post from Amazon!! 🙂

    • Paul Bruggink

      Not to worry. Denis’s books are still worth reading.

  • Susan Gerard

    I, too, am enjoying this series, and have started on your slides (at your site). Thanks so much for sharing.

    I have a question for you. Paul states that sin caused the fall of creation. We know that he had an ancient understanding of science. The “fall” of creation was in place long before man arrived. Will you be covering this at some time? I struggle with theodicy in light of the creation of a ‘fallen’ world, or, perhaps more accurately, I have a problem looking at things like natural catastrophes and not seeing them as ‘natural evil’.


  • Susan Gerard

    Dennis, someone just asked me a very good question. What was the significance of the Tree of Life? I understand a de novo Adam; was the barring from the Tree of Life an ancient understanding of the problem of death? Why didn’t the story start out with mortal beings? Was immortality seen as part of being in the image and likeness of God? Or did it have it’s origin in Babylonian myth? Sorry to ask so many questions.

    • Thomas

      Susan, maybe they were not immortal but only had the chance to be immortal if they stayed in the garden and ate from the tree of life.

  • tedseeber

    Exactly how is the story of Adam and Eve incompatible with evolution? Don’t most species start out as a mutation in a breeding pair?

  • Does anyone know of a justification for the so-called “message-incident principle” other than to adapt the Bible to evolution and other currently popular ideas?

  • Rich

    I’m not aware of any justification for the “Message-Incident Principle.” In fact, I actually have a few questions about it. See blog post on here: