The Historical Adam: John Schneider
The Self-Defeating Evangelical Fight for Falsehood
If we read Genesis is in its own ancient terms, it becomes clear immediately that it is not a simple record of events, designed to arm us against Darwinism. The Genesis story is a complex text, with clear indications of its human antiquity (the earth is a flat disk sitting on primal “waters below” and covered by a hard shell that shields it from “waters above,” and it existed fully formed and flourishing with plants before God made the sun, moon, and stars—the physical universe!) The description obviously has no value to us as science.
But it sure does have value as a source of religion. The master key is light. In the myths of ancient Babylon (the enemy and captor of Israel, and obviously in the writer’s crosshairs), the sun, moon, and stars created light, and so the Babylonians worshiped them as gods. The writer of Genesis 1 rudely reconstructs this worldview: the creator of light is the Hebrew God, and the celestial “lights” (the Babylonian gods) are His creatures. They obey Him, and we humans are not to worship them, but the true God, who is in a religious class all by Himself. There are scores of eye-opening things that come out when we read Genesis in its own original historical and literary terms.
It is not hard to see that Adam (Mankind) and Eve (Our Mother) are (like the super-serpent) symbolic figures created in order to help us to see ourselves, to see our universal desire to be our own gods, and to recognize our need for the redemption offered by the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. Surely we need not think of Adam as a historical man in order to affirm Paul’s claim that all men and women have been disobedient and subject to sin and death from the beginning; and to see that hope of release from this bondage resides in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (who obviously was a man, even if Adam was not).
This article is part of our Symposium on the Historical Adam:
John Schneider teaches philosophy at Grand Valley State University and is publishing actively on the implications of evolutionary science for Christian faith. Long a leading evangelical theologian, Professor Schneider taught at Calvin College for 25 years. He is the author of many papers and three books, including The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth.