The Historical Adam, Round 2: Hans Madueme
Demythologizing Adam: Case Unproven
Most of these opening reflections assume that Scripture is only concerned with answering "why?" questions while science addresses the "how?" questions. Each should stick to their own turf. There is some truth to that way of seeing things, but the distinction doesn't work as a generalization for all of Scripture. Sometimes the biblical narrative is equally interested in both "how?" and "why?" questions. My broader concern is a tendency toward a "neo-Gnostic" view of the Bible; Scripture is reliable on matters of "spiritual" or "religious" significance but impotent on everything else. Natural science explains the historical and physical aspects of the world, so that the Bible has less and less to say about the actual world we live in. My fellow participants who argue this way like what the Bible says religiously but completely discount its witness to the material world.
I want to close with a lingering Christological worry. Scientific plausibility is the key; can we still believe doctrines that are implausible by the lights of current science? We can invert the question: If scientific plausibility should guide the expectations we bring to Scripture, then why would we be Christians? Why would we believe that the Son of God became a man? That he died and rose again after three days? That he ascended into heaven? These fundamental Christian beliefs contradict everything we know from mainstream science. If we can no longer believe Adam was historical, then why should we believe in the resurrection? In The Evolution of Adam, Peter Enns answers this way: "For Paul, the resurrection of Christ is the central and climactic present-day event in the Jewish drama—and of the world. One could say that Paul was wrong, deluded, stupid, creative, whatever; nevertheless, the resurrection is something that Paul believed to have happened in his time, not primordial time." That misses the point. We're told that we can't affirm a historical Adam because it's scientifically unbelievable, but why trust Paul on the resurrection when that, too, is scientifically unbelievable? Or, to flip the script, if we believe the resurrection, then a historical Adam is no biggie.
This article is part of our Symposium on the Historical Adam:
Hans Madueme is an Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and previously served as the Managing Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has published numerous journal articles and reviews, and edited the 2014 book, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin: Theological, Biblical, and Scientific Perspectives.
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