Image via Wikipedia
You need to examine four posts before we proceed.
- Jason’s first post.
- My First Response.
- Albeit not a response as it were, but nevertheless, Jason’s post from this morning.
- My introduction to this post.
I begin not with Jason, but with Rodney. Rodney and I disagree as far as the East is from the West on a good many things political, and while many times, it appears that we are uncivil to each other, Rodney and I speak telephonically frequently. When I post a challenge to his political naivete, and he responds to mine, it is not to attack one another. I say this, because while the tone on your screen may seem harsh towards Rodney, it generally is not meant to sound rude or as a method of attack. Neither his to me, I supposed. I now segway to Jason.
I’ve met Jason and have spoken with him numerous times, and will meet him again one day or Another. My tone here should not be taken as an attack on Jason. Instead, it is a polite disagreement and as such, I hope that it remains on friendly terms. I believe that both of us have a desire to seek the Truth and in the end, preserve the faith of many. With that said…
Jason postulates that in denying a non-literal Adam, that people may deny the Fall, human sinfulness, and our need for redemption. How is that so? What if Adam does in fact represent the fall of Israel in accepting an image of God instead of God himself, as kings were seen as in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Look at the connection of the language and thought behind both stories. If the Garden of Eden is God’s perfect will for humanity, where no Government exists, but is in fact fully reliant upon the shoulders of God, then the Fall can be taken as the displacement of God for an institution and thus the the moment sin entered the world because we then required a Law. The Fall, then, as expressed in Adam, is God’s shining example refusing their birthright of utopian anarchy in favor of being like the others nations, and in co-opting their knowledge and their systems as their own. This doesn’t remove the Fall, but the testimony to this can be found in Revelation wherein we read that in the return to the primal state, God once again walks with humanity and serves as King and Priest with no Law being required. Gone are the governments and institutions of humanity. Again presented is the communication between God and His creation with no interruption. What then sin? Sin is shown by the Law, but before the Law, sin was not counted as such (Romans 5.12-14). In fact, it was the Law which called sin Sin (Romans 7.7). We know and cannot deny the basic sinfulness of humanity, although we may wish to define it more than depravity, regardless of how we understand the myth of Adam, because Sin is not dependent upon Adam, but upon the Law. Further, I do not simply see the Incarnation as a mere solution, but like others, a part of the grand narrative. And to be forthright, I do not see Genesis 1 and 2 about origins in the scientific arena, but they do celebrate the theological origins of Israel.
What startles me with both Jason and Christianity Today, among others, is the use of ‘intellectual’ as if it is a code word meant to cast doubt about the faith of those who are speaking or writing. Perhaps this is not their intent; however, we must remember that the Scriptures were not anti-intellectual and neither for the most part, is Church History. Just the opposite, as a matter of fact. The issue we have today in American society is that when we wish to cast doubt upon either the motivations or the the intelligence of an opponent, we actually use the word ‘intellectual.’ In Jason’s comment, he writes regarding the emotions of those who “appear intellectual.” Appear? So then if their facts do not line up with your facts or opinions, then they merely appear intellectual? I hope that we can dispense with the use of the word as a pejorative, as after all, Jason in trying to examine this issue critically and analytically, is himself attaining to the level of intellectual.
He is concerned about the “radically re-engineer(ing of) the foundation of Christian doctrine.” I would disagree with Jason and everyone else who says that either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, or the other Creation accounts in Text, is the foundation Christian Doctrine. I was only aware of Christ being the foundation of all things. Thus, to re-examine doctrines and theology is not re-engineering, but reforming what may have been previously held in error, but not eternal error. He then goes on suggest that we much look behind us and examine what the ancients had to say. The ancients didn’t coalesce around one particular viewpoint, but while we are at this station in the argument, let us examine briefly where this leads us. Would Jason then examine what the ancients said about baptismal (re)generation or the Eucharist? Or the Priesthood? The Saints, Mary or even Rome itself? Yes, examine the ancients. Examine our history, but if you must do so in one area, why are we afraid to do so in another? To be forthright, the ancients were more in harmony an any of the above given positions than they were on Creationism. Further, as the Reformation as proved, we take the ancient voices and add our own to them, but always we rest on Scripture. It is up to us, as it was up to the Ancients and to the Reformers, to understand more assuredly what Scripture meant, not what it merely means. We do so not by resting upon history of interpretation only, or the great Theologians of the past, but upon biblical scholarship. God is the ultimate source of Truth, and if Christianity is the way which God has ordained to bring His creation in line with Him, then it will withstand all forms of critique and reformation. We must be mindful that we are not inerrant or infallible, and neither are our interpretations of Scripture, therefore, if we must reform our understanding of Scripture which will then lead to a reformation of doctrine, let us do so with the words of Christ (John 16.13) upon our hearts, minds and hands.
We next approach the notion that Adam wasn’t “real” and the issue of Jesus and the origins of the world. We know of the argument of Mark 10.6, but that argument is only as potentially damning to Truth as the recipient allows it to be. We may ignore the fact that Christ had placed his own words within the context of marriage, but we cannot ignore the fact that if this verse points to a Young Earth Creationism, then Jesus was wrong. In Genesis 1, humanity wasn’t created first, but last. Instead, it is preferable to not ignore Jesus’ own context, but to understand that Jesus was speaking in his own time, to the issue presented before him, and that of marriage (Mark 10.1-10). My point with this post is not to argue Creationism, but the allowance for examining doctrines in light of biblical scholarship, and this doctrine, of course, which we examine is the reality of Adam. Then, I return to the thought of the “real Adam” and say that I believe that I have covered another possibility which preserves doctrines and allows for biblical scholarship which brings to light the original context and not how we wish to continue to read it.
In thinking about this issue, however, we must ask ourselves whether or not the science that has led to this decision to reject a literal Adam is truly scientific. We should ask, also, if the theology that leads to a rejection of Adam is truly biblical.
The issue here is simple. Jason begins with his notion of how it should end and then proceeds to work backwards from there, judging the facts by his own final destination. Further, he demands that we inquire as the consequences of a change of understanding and then decides that the “truthfulness of that matter” rests on those consequences. This is a logical fallacy, in both instances. Consequences have no bearing on Truth. Further, I have to question who is rejecting? Literal, as you may know, is etymologically connected with the word literary. I would counter, as I often do with Young Earth Creationists, that unless you take Adam as he was meant to be taken, as Scripture and the writers of Scripture intended, then you are simply not being literal, but instead, especially in this case, rejecting the “literal Adam.” If a theology is developed which is based in Scripture, due to a closer examination of the Text itself, and shows itself to be counter to a physical, identifiable Adam (versus a “literal” or “real” Adam) then which is more biblical? The same charges were leveled by the Reformers, which in the end, is why I find laughable the arguments between denominations and groups as to who is more ‘biblical.’ In the end, those who ‘reject’ an identifiable and physical Adam may in fact be the more ‘biblical.’
Finally, to this point, the consequences must never outweigh the drive for Truth – that the price of abandoning wrong doctrine, as the Reformation taught us, is never too high to pay. The issue which Jason then laments, that the abandoning “of Adam and Even will lead to a large scale reshaping of Christian theology” need not take place. His lament is misplaced because Adam and Eve are not being abandoned, but re-examined in light of scientific and biblical scholarship which must take place in order to reform our errors. Further, the charge of abandonment and reshaping has been leveled before, during the Reformation, but it proceeded without the complete reshaping prophesied by the laments of the day.
In a comment, noted above, Jason comments that the issue, for him, is about the infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible scientists.” I would urge Jason, then, to consider it as ‘infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible Theologians.”‘ It is not about Piltdown Man, which is a hoax and could be countered with the recent Lead Codices and the James Ossuary if we were to take objects for which fallible people have become convinced of their historical place. Instead, it is about error. Further, he considers a physical Adam and Eve as something which was a belief 2,000 years ago and proceeds to imply that Christian doctrine is the same today as it was in the beginning. Hardly so, on both accounts. When I read Christ, I read his words as Jason does, through our individual eyes and knowledge. Let us not pretend to be completely objective here. I read Christ and I have no need to ignore his words because I see him as saying what I believe he is saying. So does Jason. Or Paul for that matter. I do not believe that Paul was identifying a historical figure, physically identifiable. Jason does, because that is how he reads him. As much as Jason needs us to admit that scientists are fallible, so too he must admit that theologians are equally fallible, if not more so. He ends with a plea against watering down biblical authority, but again, I counter than when we must defend the Text against changes of interpretation which we feel may undermine it, we simply don’t allow it the authority which we think it has. Either the Text has Authority, or it does not. If it does, then it can be questioned without it becoming a house of cards, dependent upon one interpretation or another.
In the end, it is not the infallibility of the Scriptures which we are defending, but our own.