Reviewing Adam and the Genome


(Peaceful Science) #59

As an example, I know of no one that holds theologically…

Their DNA is our DNA (genetic Adam and Eve); and that often means
Those two sinned, died, and brought death into the world (fallen Adam and Eve); and
Those two passed on their sin natures (according to many) to all human beings (sin-nature Adam and Eve),

The claim that sinful nature passes through DNA is quite bizarre and very difficult to corroborate as a well settled belief. Is that really what you were taught? I was raised YEC and no one taught me this.

Most people who review Adam and the Genome negatively point out that this is not their belief, and that they mean “real” when they say historical. The authors in this symposium so far have all made this point. Not a single person has tried to connect DNA to sinful nature. Hans Madume, also, is a YEC and the last one is a theistic evolutionist.

A better account would emphasize more reasonable voices that affirm a historical Adam, like Jack Collins. He is perhaps the leading scholar that affirms a historical Adam, but would not affirm McKnight’s 7 points. Why is his definition not used?


(Peaceful Science) #60

It took me several reads too.

Ultimately, he appears to be agreeing with Venema but thinking there is a better way to make the case. I found him hard to follow, and at times I think I disagree with him on the science.

However, I think he is right that there are more options than McKnight lays out.


(Christy Hemphill) #61

I was taught as a child that the sin nature was carried on the X or Y chromosome you got from your dad, which was why we need the virgin birth and Joseph could not be Jesus biological father. No joke. Maybe no one smart actually says that in print, but I was definitely told that.


(Christy Hemphill) #62

Can you list the other four facets he mentioned? I don’t have the book anymore. I’d like to do an informal survey on my homeschool forum and see which ones people have as part of their construct.


(Dennis Venema) #63

That was my take on it too, but even after several read-throughs I’m still not entirely sure where he is going with it all (for the half of the review dealing with my half of the book).


(Peaceful Science) #64

Alright, I believe you.

That is not, however, what any scholar I know of teaches. I do not think this is even what AIG teaches. It is our job to represent the best versions of the arguments we disagree with, not the worst. Otherwise, others can justifiably feel like we are misrepresenting their beliefs.

Here it is…

  1. Two actual (and sometimes only two) persons named Adam and Eve existed suddenly as a result of God’s creation;
  2. Those two persons have a biological relationship to all human beings that are alive today (biological Adam and Eve);
  3. Their DNA is our DNA (genetic Adam and Eve); and that often means
  4. Those two sinned, died, and brought death into the world (fallen Adam and Eve); and
  5. Those two passed on their sin natures (according to many) to all human beings (sin-nature Adam and Eve), which means
  6. Without their sinning and passing on that sin nature to all human beings, not all human beings would be in need of salvation;
  7. Therefore, if one denies the historical Adam, one denies the gospel of salvation.

I think the last point #7 is particularly dangerous for us to bundle with “historical Adam”, bordering on slander (I do emphasize that it is not intentionally so, but more likely just not understanding the other side). A large number of people affirm historical Adam without denying the salvation of those that do not affirm historical Adam. It is just not right to act as if everyone that affirms historical Adam thinks we are going to hell. This is just false.

The authors of this series are being very kind to us here, considering our mistake. In fact, they invited Deb to give the keynote of their major conference this week (http://henrycenter.tiu.edu/dabar-conference/). They certainly do not affirm #7, even though they are arguing for a historical Adam.


(Peaceful Science) #65

Just to clarify some more of the appendages to historical Adam here…

Not all people who affirm historical Adam think they must appear suddenly (see the Harsmaas).

This is almost impossible to parse in a meaningful way. If Adam and Eve exist they were “human” in some sense and have a biological relationship to us in that we are all the same kind. It comes off as a tautology.

Not everyone who affirms historical Adam believes this. Most hold that all would sin if put in Adam’s place. This is clear in the reviews so far in this series.

As we have discussed previously, genetic != genealogical. No one insists that Adam and Eve are genetic unless they do not know that genealogical != genetic. McKnight, it should be clear, does not know the difference.


(Christy Hemphill) #66

I think you are misunderstanding it. It’s not about denying salvation to those who don’t affirm it. It’s saying that when you mess with Adam you mess with the doctrine of salvation. They say the doctrine of salvation as it is currently understood requires Adam to understand Christ’s work.

For example, this is from AIGs webpage “The Importance of an Historical Adam”

Later in the same article:[quote]Theistic evolution doesn’t just undermine Genesis and a literal Adam, but it also undermines this vital concept of the kinsman-redeemer. The idea of there being a first man is critical to the doctrine of salvation and to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 21–22, 45).[/quote]
And then:

I’m fairly certain this kind of teaching is what McKnight was referring to with #7.


(Peaceful Science) #67

AIG absolutely believes this, and it is right to argue against their theological innovation here. This departure from orthodoxy has consequences for the church.

However, it is not fair, accurate, or correct to associate the term “historical Adam” with AIG’s theological innovations. It would be much better to take Jack Collin’s definition. He is, by the way, a friend of BioLogos and certainly does not agree with AIG.

My point is not that no one teaches #7, but that it is not fair to choose a definition for historical Adam that groups everyone in with AIG.


(Christy Hemphill) #68

I never got the impression that McKnight was insinuating that everyone who affirms a historical Adam affirms all seven facets of his construct. Over 60% of evangelicals are YECs and I think he described the YEC view of Adam accurately. Why would he use Jack Collins as a starting point when he is old earth and that is not where the majority of Evangelicals are at?


(Peaceful Science) #69

I did get that impression, and it grew stronger after talking to him on the phone about it.

Many (most?) YECs, also, do not affirm all of McKnight’s definition of a historical Adam. Most reviews of the book by those on the other side of the fence prefer the term “real” to his definition. A great example of this is Hans Madume’s review here (I understand he is a YEC):

Paul’s Adam ≠ Historical Adam?
Even with the best of wills, it’s hard to know how to respond to McKnight’s literary-vs.-historical distinction. The conceptual move strikes me as tendentious and deeply implausible. It’s perplexing why he adopts this bloated definition of “historical.” Properly speaking, that adjective means something closer to #1 and #2. Granted, many in the tradition for both exegetical and theological reasons believed some or all of those other points follow too. I don’t disagree with their significance in this discussion. But why fill the adjective “historical” with all seven meanings?

Understood minimally (e.g., #1 and #2), the “historical” Adam is necessary for the full-fledged Augustinian doctrine of original sin, but it’s bewildering to equate the two (without allowing for the intricacies of doctrinal construction and development). The more relevant question for the earlier part of McKnight’s argument is what Scripture has to say about a real, historical Adam from whom we all descend and who brought sin into the world. Dragging in those other items from the outset, and as a result sullying the adjective “historical,” only muddies the water and allows McKnight to avoid wrestling properly with a more minimal understanding of “historical” clearly present in Genesis.

Hans strikes me as a reasonable YEC that is trying to engage the scientific evidence and is demonstrating remarkable charity as his views are not being well represented. I want to do a better job meeting people like him half way. AIG will do what AIG does, but we should not define all YECs by their mistakes.


(Christy Hemphill) #70

Agreed. But the “no Adam, no gospel” stuff is everywhere in Evangelicalism.

From this CT editorial to this Gospel Coalition conference talk and this TGC Kevin DeYoung article

I just don’t think it’s fair to call it a straw man because Genesis scholars and career theologians aren’t talking about it. It is what people in the pews and influential Evangelical voices are saying.


(Peaceful Science) #71

It is a straw man to equate that view (#7, which is false) with “historical” Adam, and then think that one has successfully dispatched any notion of a “real” Adam by demonstrating that belief in a real Adam is not required for salvation. Just because #7 is false does not meant #1 is false too.

I for one do affirm a historical Adam (#1 sort of). But I also dispute #7 because I find our foundation in the Resurrection and a historical Jesus, not a historical Adam. I embrace Venema and McKnight as family, even though we disagree on Adam, because of the Resurrection.

We just need to do a better job at representing the views with which we disagree. This is really important for us because we all do care about gracious dialogue.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #72

I’m on my phone so can’t eloquently insert the hyperlink but Reasons to believe also affirms this no Adam no Christ which I’ve reproduced the relevant portion below (http://www.reasons.org/blogs/the-cells-design/conservation-biology-studies-elicit-doubts-about-the-first-human-population-size):

“Adam and Eve’s existence and role as humanity’s founding couple are not merely academic concerns. For the Christian faith, the question of Adam and Eve’s historicity are more significant than any business decision that relied on analytical methods my lab developed. (Data from my lab was used to make some decisions that involved millions of dollars.) The historicity of Adam and Eve impacts key doctrines of the Christian faith, such as inerrancy, the image of God, the fall, original sin, marriage, and the atonement.”


(George Brooks) #73

Considering how Paul turned the eternal covenant of circumcision on its head … and denounced it, I can certainly see that someone as clever as Paul could and would do the same regarding the meaning of Adam.

Do we have any pre-Jesus writings by Jewish writers offering the Jewish view of Adam and his role in humanity?


#74

Evolution has falsified the notion that the modern human population arose from a single pair of humans who lived 6,000 years ago. If that is not what you mean by a “historical Adam”, then you may need to clarify.


(George Brooks) #75

@Swamidass,

The key part of the phrase proposed by @T_aquaticus is “who lived 6,000 years ago”.

If you include that phrase, Adam has been falsified.

If you exclude that phrase, you are promoting increased electron and bit usage on science and religion websites all around the Earth …


(Jay Johnson) #76

Responding to both of the above at once, the reviewer is advising Dennis how to make his case even stronger, but the suggestions only confused the reader (us) even more. Thus, I think his advice can be safely discounted here.

[quote=“Swamidass, post:64, topic:35961”]

  1. Two actual (and sometimes only two) persons named Adam and Eve existed suddenly as a result of God’s creation;
  2. Those two persons have a biological relationship to all human beings that are alive today (biological Adam and Eve);
  3. Their DNA is our DNA (genetic Adam and Eve); and that often means
  4. Those two sinned, died, and brought death into the world (fallen Adam and Eve); and
  5. Those two passed on their sin natures (according to many) to all human beings (sin-nature Adam and Eve), which means
  6. Without their sinning and passing on that sin nature to all human beings, not all human beings would be in need of salvation;
  7. Therefore, if one denies the historical Adam, one denies the gospel of salvation.

I think the last point #7 is particularly dangerous for us to bundle with “historical Adam”, bordering on slander [/quote]

Hitting two at once again, I think we have to ask ourselves who is the intended audience, and what were the authors’ goals. (Luckily, we have one of the authors available, so I invite him to correct me where I’m off base.) In my view, the audience was not theologians or scientists, but the person in the pew, as Christy put it. We therefore should not criticize the book because it was a popular treatment of the subject, not an academic one. We also shouldn’t criticize the book because it addressed the most popular form of the average person’s beliefs about “historical Adam.” Two-thirds of Evangelicals disbelieve evolution. The vast majority of them hold opinions similar to what McKnight describes, even if professional theologians and scientists do not. If your goal is to persuade the average Evangelical, then you must address their beliefs, not those of some other group (i.e., professional theologians).

I agree that we should not caricature or ridicule the views of those with whom we disagree. It’s dishonest and counterproductive. Nevertheless, I agree with Christy that McKnight has not misrepresented the “baggage” that the average Evangelical attaches to Adam. For example, here is the first paragraph of the review of Adam & the Genome that you linked from the Gospel Coalition:

“I believe I’m genetically descended from Adam and Eve, but not just me: every human being can trace his or her lineage through Noah’s family all the way back to this first couple. I also heartily confess the doctrines of the fall and original sin, with Adam at the heart of what went tragically wrong with humanity. I would even say we misunderstand how Jesus put things to right, and what he did on the cross, without taking the full measure of this backstory.”

At the least, he affirms #1-4 on McKnight’s list, and there is no question that he believes that one cannot understand Jesus’ work on the cross without affirming the “full measure of this backstory,” which is a fairly strong indication of how he feels about #7 on the list. It is commonplace, and I think McKnight did well to address it. Others may disagree, of course.


(Christy Hemphill) #77

I posted my informal survey on my homeschooling forum. In the seven responses so far (representing people who are Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Plymouth Brethren, Reformed Presbyterian and non-denom) everyone accepted 1-5. Two had reservations about 6, saying something like, “Even without an inherited sin nature, all humans would sin by their own free will and need salvation.” Five people rejected or had reservations about 7. Several said that even though Adam was essential to their personal understanding of why salvation is necessary, they didn’t think what a person believed about Adam or sin entering the world played into a person’s individual salvation. Two said that although they personally rejected 7, it was what was taught at their church. Two people said it was their understanding that 1-7 were basic beliefs of Christianity.

It’s only seven people, but it reinforces my sense that McKnight is not completely off-base in his assessment of where the average Evangelical is at.


(Jay Johnson) #78

Yes, I would have chosen different phrasing than “the gospel of salvation,” which seems to me to be the root of the problem. What McKnight is doing, it seems to me, is following the train of thought that says without a historical Adam, without a historical Fall, and without original sin, then why was redemption even necessary?

Perhaps we can criticize McKnight (or his editors) for that particular turn of phrase, but I don’t think he’s describing a minority within a minority of the Evangelical church.