Questions about Universal Ancestry

(George Brooks) #21


No, I don’t think I am. The whole point of Swami’s efforts is to separate the conventional arguments about genetic contributions (from Minochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam)… from the more relevant issues - - more relevant to issues like Original Sin (with Federal Headship as one of the more popular corollaries) - - which are not about genetics but about Genealogy.

So, after he posts a dozen or so discussions on these distinctions between Genealogy and Genetics, to have someone say:

. . . it would seem someone is missing the point - - but how could this be, after all these preparatory discussions have already been laid down?


Then I don’t think I am being overly difficult. Problem solved. ;)[quote=“gbrooks9, post:21, topic:37071”]
. . . it would seem someone is missing the point - - but how could this be, after all these preparatory discussions have already been laid down?

I am not confusing genetics and genealogy. I understand the difference. That is why I used MRUGA instead of MRCA.

(George Brooks) #23


Something you wrote (above) kind of stopped me in my tracks! Okay . . . if Federal Headship is a “representative” mechanism, is that the same as saying that Federal Headship does not work like magnetism … and only attracts the right kind of metal?

If God uses evolution to create 10,000 humans in one valley (this is the group that Cain marries into)…

and God creates 2 humans in the other valley (the offpsring here will eventually be the Adam & Eve population).

If God releases the Adam & Eve group and releases them into the other valley - - mixing thoroughly with the other population,

Is God going to

A: Consider that “spiritual Adam” (since he is dead now) has Federal authority over all the humans, regardless of genealogical connection?

B: Consider that “spiritual Adam” (since he is dead now) has Federal authority over all the humans, but only for those who have Adam in their ancestry?

There is a precedent on this “representative” status as established by God. Israel was the Chosen People. Then they fell away, and followers of Christ became the chosen people. It seemed clear that Jews, unless they became followers of Christ could not be chosen.

But what if someone from one of the first Christian groups Ever (!) became Jewish? Even though he is genealogically connected to the new Chosen People (the Christians), stepping away from the Faith disqualifies him.

So, would we agree that Representativeness is really not about genealogy, but about faith and devotion within the mental state?

(Dennis Venema) #24

Another thing to add to this (excellent) comment is that even though God worked through the Israelites as his people, there was always an option for non-Jews to become part of the people of God. Ruth is one example of many. God doesn’t seem to care about genealogical ancestry as a barrier to being one of his followers.


True. Another example is the Kenites. Moses had a Kenite father-in-law, and the Kenites were allowed to settle in Israel. Of course, when foreign wives introduced the worship of foreign gods things were not so friendly.

(Christy Hemphill) #26

Whatever concept the first century Jews had of ancestry, they definitely did not conceive of everyone in the world as having Abraham as their ancestor. Take for example John 8. The people’s pride in being descendants of Abraham, “legitimate children,” and their insult of Jesus as a Samaritan don’t make any sense if everyone counts as a descendant of Abraham.

So whether or not modern genealogical science can show everyone then did indeed have Abraham as an ancestor seems pretty irrelevant to me. How does this new concept of ancestry help illuminate Scripture if it wasn’t the concept of ancestry the people had back then?


What do you mean here? Jesus was insulted as a Samaritan?

(Christy Hemphill) #28

John 8:48: The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil!
Jesus wasn’t a Samaritan. But it was an insult to call him one because they were not legitimate children of Abraham.


Oh, okay. The Samaritans were actually half-breeds: Israelite commoners not carried off by the Assyrian conquerors and the non-Israelite foreign peoples imported into the area. And the Jews did hate the Samaritans. But the Samaritans also were children of Abraham.

(Christy Hemphill) #30

But they didn’t “count” theologically as children of Abraham in the minds of the Jews. So why would everyone in the world “count” theologically as a child of Abraham just because in 2017 we can model the ancestry and show Abraham was an ancestor of all? That’s my point. What we can model ancestry-wise today is irrelevant when it comes to interpreting first century Jewish texts.

(Christy Hemphill) #31

What mattered to first century Jews was membership in the covenant community, which was defined by Torah observance, not genetics or genealogy. Paul re-defined how community membership was attained (through faith in Christ) and attested (access to the Holy Spirit) and that was his basis for welcoming Gentiles into the covenant community. Ancestry did not matter. So why should it matter now?


Samaritans accepted the Torah. (And they still do.) Those were the only books they accepted as scripture.

(Christy Hemphill) #33

What’s your point? Samaritan’s didn’t write the New Testament, and they weren’t considered Jews by Jews, so their religious practices aren’t relevant to interpreting the New Testament either.

(GJDS) #34

The matters that matter, and cause so much bother (oops :relaxed:) are the genesis of Abrahamic faiths, the genealogy of Christ that goes back to Adam, and the gospel message that we are all sinners, starting from Adam, and in need of salvation in Christ. All of these matter, and we are not (and should not) in a position to re-write biblical passages, or introduce novelty to the Gospel message.

(GJDS) #35

In one sense this is the crux of the matter, but I would rephrase it:

We as humans are still debating the question, “What is a human being?”

The biblical view gives us an idea of what constitutes a human being, and what we can consider of human communities, and the central idea has been, how we respond to God and goodness. Part of this view is that we are responsible for our actions and choices, before God and man. The fact that we can speak of individuals who were firm in their faith in God, even when entire communities turned away from God and His righteousness, is also a historical fact.

The debate should not be imo simply on details of an ancestral Adam (since the biblical narrative contains all the information we need), but the stark difference regarding “what is a human being” put forward by materialists, which differs greatly from that taught by the Gospel.

(Peaceful Science) #36

Great to have your participation @Kathryn_Applegate !

Before I answer, I just want to clarify my purpose here. I understand that people are very passionate about these theological points and that I am explaining “minority” positions on the forums. I want to emphasize that I am not actually promoting my personal position here. I am instead advocating for the empty chair, those historically excluded from this conversation. I’m explaining what I have come to understand from places like TEDS, Concordia, Multnomah and other interactions I have had with theologians outside the BioLogos tent.

Also, I want to request (from everyone) to hold off on pressing their concerns about identifying populations as sub-humans. I do not want to get into that now, and it has been dealt with on my blog and Jeff Hardin’s post last weekend. It has no relevance to this conversation.

Federal headship is a theological concept that most theologians agree too, but is not the same thing as a “representative model of Adam” or “headship model of Adam” in evolution. The reason why many people who affirm federal headship reject it in relation to Adam in evolution is because that is a fairly large innovation on the standard conception of Federal headship.

The Starting Point

The theologians I’ve talked to always identify federal headship as a feature of covenantal communities. Covenantal communities are formed in different ways and have different ways of propagating. Usually, there is some combination of:

  1. Adoption into the community (as is emphasized in the new covenant and at times happened in Abrahamic covenant).
  2. Genealogical Descent (usually consecrated by, for example, baptism or circumcision).
  3. Founders of the Covenant themselves.

Examples of different covenants are, Abrahamic covenant, Mosaic Covenant, the Marriage covenant, Covenantal friendships (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi), and the new covenant in Jesus. All appear to follow some variaiton of just these three rules.

Moreover, in all these cases, the covenantal community requires some sort of positive action to maintain connection to it. That is why, for example, some of Abraham’s offspring were able to leave the covenantal community, and so we are not all considered Jewish. That positive action an dparticipation is why it is called a covenantal COMMUNITY. There is presumption that we must be part of the community to be subject to the covenant. In no case that I know of (correct me if I am wrong), nothing binds one to a covenant community. One can leave the covenant when they want.

In these contexts, we can imagine the importance of “federal heads,” and we can see naturally how the actions of the “head” can transfer blessing and punishment upon the whole community. This is how most people understand covenantal communities and headship.

The Problem with Representative Adam

In this section I am referring to Representative Adam as is usually understood within BioLogos, see Origins by @LorenHaarsma for a primer.

The problem with transposing federal headship onto Adam in evolution is that this requires a large revision of our understanding of federal headship, essentially divorcing the concept from covenantal communities.

  1. There is no global covenantal community that links all our ancestors across the globe when Adam lives. If they are not in a covenantal community with him, how is their head? In every other case there is a “head” there is a covenantal community. How is that possible?
  2. Why are all our ancestors across the globe inextricably bound to the Adamic covenant and cannot leave it? They never joined the community (which does not appear to exist), but some how they are bound to it nonetheless. How is that possible when every other covenant can be broken and left?
  3. It appears that God imputes original sin on all humans independent entirely of their participation and collaboration with Adam’s sin. It makes sense why Eve is bound to Adam (she participates with him), but why are people in America held equally responsible? It does not make sense unless somehow we think God wanted to make them subject to original sin, so he set up the covenant to implicate those who did no wrong. That is just too hard a lift for many theologians, though I imagine some who affirm predestination might have no problem. At the very least, it is hard to motivate from God’s nature, and seems to be therefore very ad hoc.
  4. It raises a substantial Christological problem, and this is a tipping point for many people (if #3 was not enough). How could Jesus have been fully human without being subject to Adam’s representative Fall. Most theologians hold Jesus as an unfallen human, and all orthodox humans hold that his fully human. Other than divine fiat, what makes him different yet fully human but not subject to Adam’s representation?
  5. Once again a Christological problem, the traditional way this issue of Jesus’s nature has been resolved is by way of the Virgin Birth. This is lost in the representative model. If God can just by fiat declare that Jesus was not naturally born so he was not fallen, it raises the question about why he did not by fiat just say that naturally born children of Adam/Eve are not fallen either. There does not appear to be a satisfying answer. Traditionally, the Virgin Birth is supposed to be the key hook to resolve the riddle, even though several different approaches have been put forward.
  6. All this extra twists (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) all raise a great deal of concern among many theologians about the coherence of this solution. At the very least, it is a fairly large revision of federal headship that disconnects it entirely from an visible covenantal community. This disconnection undermines its continuity with historical conceptions of federal headship quite substantially.

How Genealogical Transmission Is Helpful

Now, one way to think about a representative Adam is that it is exactly right, but all its problem arise because the transmission mechanism is not specified. That failure to identify a transmission mechanism calls for too many deus ex machina jumps in how we become to Adam’s headship.

Genealogical transmission of that headship is a pretty direct way to make sense of that. All the problems identified in the prior section evaporate, and we immediately link into an immense amount of traditional theology here too. We still claim that Adam is our federal head. We say that he becomes our head as his offspring spread across the globe.

There is some important questions about why God would have set it up this way. I will say that there are some very interesting (and unpublished) solutions to this that root it directly in God’s nature and the Genesis nature. To see those, we will have to be patient. The key thing is that there are some first principles ways to understand why…

  1. we cannot opt out of Headship by Adam,
  2. God did not set it up this way per se, but i tis a natural consequence of the interaction between Adam and His nature (unpublished),
  3. this still allows for adoption into Adam’s line, but from our point of view it is all (at least) genealogical now, and
  4. Also this makes sense of the Virgin Birth in a more coherent way than before.
  5. we are still subject to headship by Adam in the absence of a covenantal community.

I will defer to @Jon_Garvey to fill in some of his thoughts. THough I do not think he knows of the genealogical Fall theory I am referencing.

I hope that is helpful @Kathryn_Applegate.

(Peaceful Science) #37

This, many would say, is a contrast between the Adamic and the Messianic covenants. Adam is by genealogy, Jesus is by adoption. We do not have to agree with it, but that is how many see it.


Cultural pollution also has similar problems in Christology, which is why is not accepted by many theologians. It also renders irrelevant the Virgin Birth, which is a fairly large departure from traditional theology. I think they are partily correct, but this cannot be the whole story. It leaves too much unanswered on the table. May people call it semi-pelagian, and I see why.

No one is talking Augustinian here. I am certainly not. His mode of transmission is impossible.

Nor am I talking about biology. I am talking about genealogy. There is some fairly important distinctions here.

Your contribution is welcome. Glad you can join us. I hope you can follow up too!

I also want to repeat that I mean no disrespect with this critique. I am just trying to explain why representative Adam has not been acceptable to many theologians. I understand many people hold to it, and I am okay with them continuing to do so.

(Christy Hemphill) #38

Overstatement of the year.

Yeah, but you still have the issue that people are “inextricably bound” to this ancestry by no choice of their own and can’t leave it. How is it any less problematic that you have specified a different mechanism? Sin nature is still spreading through procreation choices that an individual had no control over. People are still being counted as part of a community they never joined and can’t leave (fallen humans).

Yes, but universal ancestry doesn’t “solve” this. It still appears that God imputes original sin on humans independent of their collaboration with Adam’s sin, just based on who their ancestors had sex with. How has the “problem” evaporated and God’s character been vindicated? It still looks pretty arbitrary to me.

How is he not fallen if Adam is his ancestor through Mary’s family tree? You still have the same issue. The Incarnation was special, not just because of the Virgin Birth. The Virgin birth was a sign, it wasn’t some biological necessity to prevent Jesus’ from being tainted by the evil that comes from sperm. Jesus was unfallen, because he was God incarnate. I personally think he was able to live as a faithful image bearer in all the ways humans always fail because he was God incarnate and he had a uniquely intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit empowering him to overcome his human frailty. Through being united with Christ, we have the opportunity to experience that same intimacy with the Holy Spirit and we too can overcome our human frailty. But we absolutely needed God to become incarnate and make the way for us. [quote=“Swamidass, post:36, topic:37071”]
Other than divine fiat, what makes him different yet fully human but not subject to Adam’s representation?

He is God incarnate. He is God’s reboot of the creation of humanity. He is a new kind of image bearer, an unbroken eikon. I think God is allowed to do that, by fiat or whatever you want to call it.

Because every single one of them proved by their actions that they were fallen.

How is transmission by ancestry any better than transmission by sperm?

As I understand it, we can’t opt out of being in Adam because we are exactly the same kind of humans as he is. We share the same identity, we all fall in the same way, and we need to be given a new identity by a different kind of human, Jesus. It doesn’t have anything to do with our relatives, it has to do with our identity as humans in a broken world.

These are metaphors for identity construction. It is our identity that Jesus and Paul are concerned with, whose children we are, whose slaves we are, what nation we are citizens of, what kingdom we pledge allegiance to.

(Dennis Venema) #39

I think - and I may be wrong here - that it hinges on what, exactly, is being passed down genealogically. Josh, have you specified somewhere what is being passed through genealogy?

(GJDS) #40

But saying we are all like Adam is the same thing as saying all of us have the same nature and thus descended from Adam. Talking of sperm (begetting) is simply another way of saying we are descendants as human beings with the same nature.

Christ is the Son of man, just as He is the Son of God. The difference is that He was able to choose to follow God, unlike Adam - this is a huge difference.