Discussion over Counterpoint's "Four View on the Historical Adam"

In the interests of getting a conversation started, I thought I would attempt to kick off a discussion on the perspectives found in Zondervan’s “Four Views on the Historical Adam.” For the uniniated, four scientists and theologians explain and defend a range of viewpoints on the historical nature of Adam and Eve. I won’t summarize each position as I couldn’t successfully capture the subtleties in each person’s argument. Thus, such a summary would fail to help someone who hasn’t read the book. Instead, I’ll briefly review what I’ve read thus far and let the conversation proceed from there.

Personally, my wife and I have really enjoyed reading and talking about this book. The arguments are well presented and create a LOT of room of discussion. Now to the authors…

I thought Denis Lemoureux did a fantastic job introducing the topic and creating a solid case as to why it is theologically sound to accept Adam and Eve as fictional examples used to teach larger truths to early Jews. However, I understand his train of thought to then assume that because we can believe that, we must. I was not sold on his argument that ‘consistency demands’ we take this particular viewpoint.

I was most intrigued to read John Walton’s argument on Adam and Eve as archetypes. This to me would most easily fit modern theories about a minimum human population of 10,000 while also allowing for Cain’s wife without the awkward “incest was okay because the DNA was so pure” train of thought. However, I had a hard time with this chapter. He had some strong sections but ultimately lost me with his attempt to define Eden as ‘spiritual space.’ I was never entirely sure if ‘spiritual space’ meant some Narnia type realm, a dream, or a someplace related to the soul.

John Collins writes in a style that is very easy to follow and enjoyable to read. My wife has enjoyed his work prior to this book and he has not disappointed us. We are currently about halfway through his chapter and could easily find ourselves convinced. However, he has yet to deal with that 10,000 minimum number and so I withhold judgement.

We have not gotten to William Barrick yet. Frankly, I have found his counterarguments unconvincing. However, I have found him more persuasive and more sound than other young earth creationists. I’m looking forward to seeing how he fleshes out his position when given the chance.


Very Respectfully,
Jim Lock

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@jlock Thanks so much for getting the discussion started. I believe the term Walton uses is “sacred space”. I think he uses it to describe Eden to intentionally point out that Eden is an enclosed space (even before the fall) that is, in some way, more “sacred” than the space around it. Given that Walton does believe that Adam and Eve are historical figures, I’m fairly sure that he also sees Eden as a real place, even if the Genesis account is speaking very poetically about this particularly sacred place. So it’s more than an imaginary place or dream. I would recommend our series on Zondervan’s book for more info on the different views, as well as an interview with Walton himself.

@MikeBeidler @Christy @jstump Have you read the Zondervan book? Do you think it laid out the positions well?

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I read the book a year or so ago. I have read a number of Counterpoint books and I think they are great in one way and frustrating in another. They are great in that the format gives you the chance to see the strengths and weaknesses of an argument because the response sections mean that scholars can’t conveniently avoid all the stuff that runs counter to their thesis and they get called on it when they cite old or uncorroborated scholarship. They are frustrating in that the essays often end up being a summary of a scholar’s work or other books he/she has written, and so you are sometimes left with a sense that they left a lot out and didn’t fully develop their thesis.

I thought the views on Adam book gave a good overview of the different positions, but I thought the authors came from such different places and presuppositions, they ended up talking past each other most of the time in the responses. I thought that Walton’s book (The Lost World of Genesis) was easier to follow and more developed in its discussion of Adam and Eve than his chapter in the Counterpoints book.

For me, the issue of the historicity of Adam and why we should care is so tied up in other issues (inerrancy, the best hermeneutic approach to ancient Scripture, original sin/the Fall, whether or not a sinful nature is transmitted somehow generationally through biology) that when people talk about Adam, they are often arguing from assumed premises about those related issues that have never actually been established and sometimes aren’t even alluded to. There were very few shared premises in the Counterpoints book on the related issues I think, which led to the talking past one another.


Thanks for your thoughts, Christy. I’ve read through an advance copy of Walton’s new book, “The Lost World of Adam and Eve” (coming out in late March) and loved it. I thought it was a much better (and more detailed, obviously) treatment of the subject. I highly recommend it.


Ooh, I’ll have to put that on my Amazon wishlist. Thanks for the heads-up.

Actually, now that I think about it a little harder, it probably wasn’t the Lost World of Genesis book I am remembering, but something Peter Enns wrote on image bearers. I remember both of them tweaking the concept of “image of God” to fit a more ANE idea of what that meant in terms of authority and representation. So they focused more on the idea that humans rule as representatives of God than that humans are created in God’s likeness (as the more traditional understanding emphasizes). I thought this was a key interpretation difference back when I was thinking about the Adam stuff.

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Hey, @BradKramer! Yes, I read the Counterpoints book last year. Excellent book. Of course, I fully endorse Dennis Lamoureux’s entry, but I also find affinity with John Walton’s archetypal approach. Perhaps that’s why my own approach to the historical Adam synthesizes the two approaches, only discarding portions of Walton’s argument more for scientific reasons than theological or biblical. Collins also brings something to the table, and I suppose there are aspects of his take on the issue that I can synthesize as well. Barrick, on the other hand, does not (IMHO) have command of the issue because he (1) completely misunderstands the others’ arguments, resulting in a complete mis-characterization of evolutionary creationism, and (2) fails to possess a basic understanding of what evolutionary theory actually teaches. Such a solid “fail” in those two areas makes whatever theological arguments he makes less forceful, regardless of their legitimacy.

In my dialogues with others, I make sure that I understand the other side as thoroughly as possible (to the point that I could effectively argue in their favor should I choose to do so) in order to obtain their respect. Barrick did not do this.

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@Christy I definitely see what you’re saying about the authors talking past each other. Several times during the responses I’ve been disappointed that the original author didn’t fully address a criticism and instead wrote it off as ‘inadequate.’ Mostly I’ve tried to approach those sections as being the product of a word count restriction. I really enjoyed your thoughts on how additional issues can complicate the discussion. I’ve had similar thoughts but more focused on social issues within the Church. What I mean by this, is that at some level people can’t accept evolution as a means of creation because it might challenge some of their positions on current social issues. Thus, the existence of Adam and Eve and the possibility of evolution can NOT be considered because of what it might mean for someone’s stance on modern debate.

Of course, it is worth saying that ALL of these (social issues, inerrancy, original sin) complicate the discussion and generally result in entrenchment.

Thank you for your thoughts @MikeBeidler! If I can pick your brain a little bit, can you elaborate a little more on your position? Specifically what you take from Walton and what you disagree with? As to Barrick, perhaps I’m reading into the text a little to much but I got the distinct impression that he was the 4th wheel so to speak. Lemoureux, Walton, and Collins all referenced previous interactions that they had shared. In other words, they had a previous relationships to build on and had obviously had conversations about this and related topics. Barrick had the unfortunate distinction of being the newcomer to the group.

Thanks @BradKramer (sarcastic inflection). :wink: I told my wife about that book and immediately got a look as I’ve got 2 history books from Christmas to read in addition to the Counterpoints books and ‘Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil.’ Looks like my list just got a little bit bigger…

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@jlock, I’m a solid evolutionary creationist, but I also believe that there’s room to incorporate the concept of an “historical Adam and Eve” without conflating it with the “biblical Adam and Eve.” I think acknowledging the difference is crucial. I differ with Walton primarily in that he tends to conflate the two.

Perhaps my essay in the ASA’s most recent God & Nature magazine will provide the elaboration for which you’re looking. If not, bring me back into the conversation. :smile:

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I moved a post to a new topic: Evolution and Social Issues

Walton consistently overlooks or ignores that biblical data concerning Abraham’s ancestors as Proto-Saharans. He should explore the antecedents of the Horite Habiru people.

@Alice_Linsley… do you really think there is much information in the Bible for tracing Abraham back to the Sahara?

Genesis doesn’t seem to put origins in Africa - - which is another reason not to rely on Genesis for information.

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