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The Historical Adam: Hans Madueme

Death of God by Poison

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And there's the rub. One side judges an original couple impossible by dint of the scientific testimony; my side judges their scientific claims impossible by dint of Adam's theological significance. We can unpack this last point with reference to soteriology and the doctrine of God. The incarnation and redemption were necessitated by Adam's ruinous disobedience of God (Rom 5:12, 16). Notice the redemptive-historical logic. Adam, through whom we became sinners, sinned in history; Jesus Christ, through whom we have justification, brought salvation in history. "The two truths or facts by which all of Christian dogmatics is governed," remarked Herman Bavinck, "are (1) the fall of Adam and (2) the resurrection of Christ" (Reformed Dogmatics 3:38). The tapestry of salvation history extends between Adam and Christ; take away Adam and the whole thing unravels.

Our picture of God is also in jeopardy. Whatever verdict we make on Adam's fall has a direct bearing on our theology of evil. Why are human lives riddled with sin that never ceases and with the agonies of pain, suffering, and death? What is the origin of evil? There are only three possible answers to this ancient question. The first is Dualism, the idea that evil is an eternal, godlike principle that has always existed alongside God (e.g., Zoroastrianism; Manichaeism). The second is Monism—good and evil are forces jostling within God himself; God becomes morally ambiguous, unholy, light and darkness springing from the very being of God. Without Adam's fall, evil is part of the fabric of creation, and the holiness of God—the Creator—is thus poisoned, incurably.

The only answer left, an answer fraught with theological moment, is that in history evil ruptured God's good creation; that evil was the rebellion of a historical Adam, an event wondrously rescinded by the atoning work of a historical Jesus. Current scientific orthodoxy may judge this position impossible, but it is the only possible position for theological orthodoxy.

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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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