Saturday, March 21, 2015

Adam, Even, and Genesis - the implications of revisionism

It's always an interesting exercise to review the implications of revising the traditional account. We all know of Catholics we've met or heard about who dismiss the historicity of Adam and Eve, and who consign the first eleven chapters of Genesis to the murky primordial world of "myth."

The importance of thinking more deeply about the implications of such moves on the Biblical-theological chessboard, however, is not always readily seen. For example, an alternative to the traditional Catholic view that Adam and Eve were historically real, first parents of humanity (as Jesus Christ is the "New Adam" and new root of regenerated and redeemed humanity), is the view that they are only "symbols," whatever that is taken to mean. On that view, the Fall (Original Sin) is not to be taken as anything so naively parochial as a "historical event," but rather to be understood as a "fatal flaw" in our nature, empirically confirmed by the pervasive selfishness of human beings we see all about us and in ourselves. Problem with that: it makes God the author of sin, of our sinful nature, because it means there was never a human being with a pre-lapsarian (non-fallen) nature and so God made us selfish and sinfully-disposed. In this case, as Baudilaire famously quipped: if God exists, he's the Devil! (Something like that)

Well here we have an example of someone toying with revisionist interpretation of Genesis, only he's not nearly so radical as the aforementioned views, because he still believes that Adam was a "historical" person. Yet the implications of even his views are far more revolutionary that he suggests. Have a look: "The Lost World of Adam and Eve" (Christianity Today, March 19, 2015): "Old Testament scholar John Walton affirms a historical Adam -- but says there are far more important dimension to Genesis." Yeah. Right. Interviewed by Kevein P. Emmert, John Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, the flagship academic institution of Billy Grahm Evangelicalism in the United States.

Here is what one of our readers writes about this piece:
Let's be frank and let's be honest. If you are going to say "I believe Adam was a real person, but literarily he represents more than just who he was," shouldn't we ask, "How can someone literally be more than who he was?" Are we so determined to try to reconcile the Bible and 'science' that we will swallow such sophistry? And that [sophistry] is without question just what this is, well-intentioned or not. If Walton's take is accepted, it will not only be the world of Adam and Eve or Genesis that will be lost -- all the eager and impassioned endorsements to the contrary. I am increasingly convinced that Original Sin as classically understood is the acid test of orthodox Christianity. [Amen to that!]

From Christianity Today, of all places. Reported as if it is nothing unusual at all [emphasis added]. With no com box option! The ghost of Carl Henry would be spinning in its grave if it hadn't been here diced and quartered under a cone of silence. [Not to mention what Billy Graham would think of this, if he could attend to its import at age 97.]
For further reading:[Hat tip to JM]


Anonymous said...

The biblical Adam is only a few centuries older than Abraham, so maybe we have to go back to the idea that the world was created in the fourth millennium BC at the earliest...

Pertinacious Papist said...

Anonymous Superious Criticus,

By this reasoning, does this mean that the Hittites must have existed only a few centuries earlier than Sir Leonard Woolley because he wrote about his excavations in Ur of the Chaldees in 1921; or that time itself must have begun only a few centuries before Stephen Hawking because he wrote his A Brief History of Time in 1998?

Let's do you one better: Sir Bertrand Russell poses the following question: "Did the world simply pop into existence five minutes ago with all the appearance it then had of antiquity?" Prove that it didn't.