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James Anderson (asst. professor of theology and philosophy at RTS-Charlotte) offers “twelve prima facie reasons why an evangelical view of the Bible commits one to the existence of Adam has a real historical individual. Go to the post to read his 12 reasons. Here’s the conclusion:

Taken together, these twelve points add up to a strong prima facie case for the traditional Christian view that Adam was a real historical individual. Any scholar who holds to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but denies this point, surely has a lot of explaining to do. If all we had to deal with were the first few chapters of Genesis, appeals to genre and other literary considerations might provide sufficient wiggle room. But the twelve observations above indicate that the historicity of Adam is a thread woven all the way through the Bible's history, theology, and ethics. Pull out that thread and sooner or later the whole garment will unravel.

Update: Dr. Anderson responds to some objections here.

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26 thoughts on “12 Reasons to Affirm that Adam Was a Real Historical Individual”

  1. Scott Christensen says:

    Dr. Anderson’s reasons are so compelling, that it is hard to believe any Evangelical scholar could believe otherwise. I can’t help but think that the driving force behind denying Adam’s historicity among modern Evangelicals has nothing to do with hermeneutics and sound exegesis and more about accomodating one’s view of Genesis with the accepted orthodoxy of Darwinian Evolution. This goes back to the Neo-Evangelical movement of the 40’s and 50’s whose desire was appear respectable within the mainstream academic sub-culture. Let’s face it, the mainstream had nothing but scorn for PC Evangelicals back then and they have nothing but scorn for them now. Why do so many Evangelical continue to insist on making nice with the world?

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      “Why do so many Evangelical continue to insist on making nice with the world?”

      Like the liberal feminist egalitarians? Or the liberal theistic evolutionists? Or the liberal historical-criticism hermeneutic that many liberal mainline Protestants favor?

  2. Bruce Russell says:

    There is an equally disburbing implication for the Christian hope in the denial of the 4th day creation of Sun, moon and stars: because these like the current creation itself are temporal…until the universe is transformed into a resurrection physicallity. Truly, we and our world are a shadow of our future existence. Indeed, neither Darwin nor science can explain or interpret what the resurrection of Jesus implies for our future and our past.

    Revelation 22:1
    Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life – water as clear as crystal – pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 22:2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 22:3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 22:4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 22:5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.

  3. Mike Garner says:

    It is a bit disturbing that Longman III allows for Adam to be a non-historical figure. He’s not exactly a crazy-liberal who rejects the historicity or inspiration of the bible.

    1. Mike Garner says:

      Sorry! I didn’t see that there was a whole thread about this already. I’m still getting used to the new blow.

      And, unsuprisingly, TUAD managed to use this as a springboard to remind everyone of the evils of egalitarianism. How surprising. I think i’ll just avoid the other thread.

    2. Luke says:

      How would an egalitarian argument handle Adam’s historicity or lack of it?

      1. Mike Garner says:

        The same way anyone else handles it. I don’t think that there are any of those 12 points that egalitarians would deal with. If, for a second, we can assume that one must not reject a literal understanding of the bible and remain an egalitarian, then it is quite easy to do.

        However, some people do not seem to allow a mental category for a conservative egalitarian, despite evidence to the contrary.

  4. Glenn says:

    That such a list has had to be put together is a timely reminder that we must always be vigilant and on guard because attacks on the historicity of Genesis (and therefore the Bible as a whole) can come from any source, even those who would be considered as normally above reproach.

    Never forget Charles Templeton, a contemporary of Billy Graham (and in his time surpassed Billy Graham) who ended his life writing books against God and the Christian faith. He couldn’t follow the Bible and evolutionism, sadly he chose evolutionism, He correctly surmised that the two were completely incompatible (well, unless you compromise severely with the text)

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    What’s the demarcation between error and heresy?

    In this particular instance, is the denial of the historicity of Adam a theological error or is it theological heresy?

    Or neither?

  6. Paul says:

    Before I can enter into agreeing with the conclusion of the 12 points, I must first decide if the premise or authority behind the proof is acceptable. Similarly, if I were to enter into the line of thought which tries to synthesize a Christian worldview with contemporary naturalism, a decision must be made in advance whether or not to respect the authority that is trying to persuade me.

    A long time ago, it was apparent to my senses that the Author of the bible was wiser and more worthy of respect than the geniuses who attempt to rival the scripture. I decided to take sides with the wisest and most powerful authority. It’s not very complicated. But each one provides their own criteria for acceptability and casts their lot accordingly.

    What gets folks riled up so much on both sides of the authority issue is that each cannot imagine how someone similar in one quarter of reality can opt to abandon their accepted authority in another quarter. Something is inconsistent and it grates against us.

    It does seem sad, however, that some who love the gospel promise of eternal life in Jesus alone will attempt to appear moderated and worldly wise by embracing modern assumptions about nature – effectively disparaging the authority which undergirds the promise of eternal life in Jesus alone (however unintentionally they may do so). B.B. Warfield’s view of evolution and the subsequent liberalism that would dominate Princeton comes to mind.

  7. Luke says:

    This is a typical “slippery slope” argument that is so common amongst the conservative reformed. Not believing in the historicity of Adam will not cause the “whole garment to unravel.” That is ludicrous. It’s like the argument that says egalitarianism leads to accepting homosexuality, or leads to flat-out liberalism. Slippery-slope argument are almost always dead wrong, and this is not an exception. I believe in the historicity of Adam, but I know many people who don’t and many of them are a lot better Christians than myself who love God more than I do. Make your case and explain it’s importance, sure, but don’t say that it leads to a denial of the faith. That’s just a complete lie.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      Luke: “Not believing in the historicity of Adam will not cause the “whole garment to unravel.” That is ludicrous.”

      Professor James Anderson: “But the twelve observations above indicate that the historicity of Adam is a thread woven all the way through the Bible’s history, theology, and ethics. Pull out that thread and sooner or later the whole garment will unravel.”

      Sorry Luke, I’m going to agree with Professor James Anderson. BTW, Jesus used “slippery slope” arguments/warnings in His teaching.


    1. Wayne Talbot says:

      Though Luke claims that “slippery-slope argument (sic) are almost always dead wrong”, I beg to differ, and his anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove his point. It is undoubtedly true that variations in particular points of theology do not necessarily weaken the faith of some individuals, witness the variations relating to evolution, theistic evolution, evolutionary creationism, six day creation, etc held by many who staunchly defend the essential narrative of sin and redemption. The point of the slippery slope is that those struggling with belief have less ability to hold on when the anchors are removed, and the critics and skeptics are given ammunition to deny our faith. On the question of Adam, give one good reason why we should question his historicity; if it makes no difference, why raise it? As with much of the debate over Scriptural integrity, the desire to deny it precedes the reasoning, the process seldom starts with the narrative in the Bible itself. Denying the slippery slope is akin to saying that the decline in moral standards in entertainment has no effect on society standards: it may not affect some, but those on the fringe, those always looking to push the boundaries, now have the boundaries moved further out for them, and it is these that we should be looking to rescue and secure, not content ourselves in the knowledge of our our security. Denying the slippery slope is evidence that it exists.

  8. Elliott N. says:

    While we might not like the thought of a non-historical Adam, it may be what we need to face if the discoveries of paleoanthropology are correct. If the fossil evidence really does demonstrate that modern humans have been around for the past 50,000-200,000 years, then a 4004 BC Adam seems to be in serious trouble (as well as the doctrine of an imputed sin nature to all other humans through biological relationship to him).

    I think the significant fossil (and more recently genetic) evidence needs to be wrestled with. It is “evidence that demands a verdict” to quote Josh McDowell. We can’t just hold our Bibles to our ears and say “Na, na, na, na, na. I’m not listening.” It is evidence that may not make us comfortable, but does need to be given careful consideration.

    1. Jake Hunt says:

      Elliot, your comment demonstrates that for you, the Bible is not an ultimate standard; it is subject to the discoveries of humans. You might not have any problem with admitting that, but it’s devastating for the Christian faith.

      Science teaches us that people do not rise from the dead. Modern psychology teaches us that sin doesn’t exist. On and on and on. There are so many things the Bible teaches that you must reject if you follow the principle of your comment.

      The issue isn’t that we’re unwilling to listen to science. It’s that we have a higher standard than what men claim to have discovered, a rule by which we judge everything, including our own senses. Scientific evidence can send us back to the text with new questions, but we can’t throw up our hands and say “Well, guess the Bible got it wrong on this one.”

      1. Elliott N. says:

        Jake, you are correct when you say, “Scientific evidence can send us back to the text with new questions.” That’s exactly what I am advocating. We don’t interpret the Bible in a vacuum. What we learn about the world around us affects our understanding of Scripture and sometimes causes us go back and reconsider our interpretation of it.

        For example, the reason you believe the sun revolves around the earth and not the earth around the sun is because of science. Yet that information has forced us to re-interpret passages like Psalm 93:1 and 104:5 (where it says the earth cannot be moved) and Joshua 10 (where “the sun stood still”). Would then your accusation that “the Bible is not (my) ultimate standard; it is subject to the discoveries of humans” also apply to you?

        Do you believe that there is a solid dome that stretches across the sky? Do you believe it has openings in it that God uses to allow the waters above that dome fall down to the earth in the form of rain? This is what “raqiya” means in Genesis 1:6-8. A solid firmament was the universal belief of ancient people, including the Israelites. Do you interpret that literally or has science proven to you that no such solid firmament exists? If you don’t believe in a firmament, then again, are you willing to charge yourself as being guilty of placing human wisdom over the Bible?

        The question isn’t whether Scripture is the Word of God. The question is whether our interpretation of Scripture is the correct one. Just as science has forced us to reconsider long-standing interpretations of Scripture for a geocentric universe and for a solid domed sky, so also we may need to reconsider some of our interpretations of Scripture in light of the scientific evidence from paleoanthropology.

        1. Jake Hunt says:

          Thanks for your reply, Elliott. Those examples– which are always the ones trotted out by folks encouraging us to ditch long-held doctrines because of “what science tells us”– are silly in comparison to the historicity of Adam. The fact that the Bible describes events mostly from the perspective of a human being on earth is not earth-shattering; it’s pretty basic hermeneutics.

          The case of Adam carries a lot more weight. It is clear that the original readers of Genesis, the later writers of Scripture, Jesus himself, and the early Christians thought Adam was a real person. Paul thought it was important enough to spend a good deal of ink on it. It really is a very big deal in terms of its theological significance. It’s a much bigger thing than believing in a solid domed sky.

          The point of my reply to you is that there is no doctrine of Scripture that “science” wouldn’t have us reject or reinterpret. Do you think the scientific community as a whole would take Christians more seriously if we accepted evolution, but still believed Jesus rose from the dead? They wouldn’t. So who gets to decide what we hold onto and what we can reexamine? Who gets to decide what we have to believe even if the world tells us it’s foolish? Your first comment takes that authority away from the Bible and gives it to “science.”

  9. Luke says:

    Tell me, James, how did I misinterpret you? It doesn’t seem tough to misinterpret “But the twelve observations above indicate that the historicity of Adam is a thread woven all the way through the Bible’s history, theology, and ethics. Pull out that thread and sooner or later the whole garment will unravel.”

    One can infer from this that the historicity of Adam is one thread among many in the Bible that makes up an entire garment. But once you take that thread of Adam’s historicity out, eventually the whole garment is going to come apart. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week, but sooner or later it is going to happen.

    You may not have meant what you said, or you may have written it the wrong way or used a bad analogy, but this is the natural interpretation of your words. So it’s very easy how I got that idea. I believe in the historicity of Adam, as I said before. I just don’t think the entire garment will unravel if you pull out the thread, just like I don’t think the entire wall will crash down if you pull out a brick, nor do I think every domino will be knocked down if you knock down one of them.

  10. Luke says:

    Luke: I agree on one likes the slippery-slope argument used on them. However the slippery-slope argument is still valid because (progressively sanctified beings that we are) we are inconsistent people and an error in our theology takes its time to do its damage. The damage of denying Adam’s historicity will eventually be observed elsewhere in theology and biblical studies.

  11. Wayne Talbot says:

    When all said and done, the essence of the argument starts with whether or not Jesus believed Adam to be a real person. If Jesus so believed, then we have no reason to argue, for to do so would be to say that Jesus was wrong and thus deny either God’s omniscience or Jesus’ divinity, either of which would most certainly send us cascading down a slippery slope, unravelling the whole plot. On the evidence available, and admittedly it is open to interpretation, the more commonly accepted rules of exegesis / hermeneutics would suggest that Jesus did so believe in Adam as a unique human being. It would seem to me that any argument on the subject must start from here: state why this latter interpretation is incorrect and why one would favour the interpretation that Jesus believed differently.
    This area is, to my mind, the one that proponents of theistic evolution / evolutionary creationism either fail to argue convincingly, or ignore altogether. Francis Collins’ “The Language of God” being a case in point. Whilst it is valid to ponder and debate from a Biblical perspective, the meaning of the texts listed in the 12 reasons given by James Anderson, it is another matter to doubt them based on scientific theories of evolution, and here I will admit to my scepticism of the “science”. I don’t want to open a creation vs evolution debate, but would point out that the science of macro evolution is anything but and is a poor basis for establishing the precedence of science over scriptural interpretation. Despite the naysayers of the slippery slope argument, this is more evidence of its reality.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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