Posts Tagged With: Adam & Eve

A Good Parent Condescends, God Does too


You probably won’t answer your son as elaborately as the dad in this commercial, but I wonder if you condescended in a similar way when your 4-year old asks where babies come from. Why do you do that? Why don’t you just come on out and talk about sexual intercourse and all the things around it? Well–duh!–he’s four years old! It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to learn about all the aspects of human sexuality (which you, of course, have mastered)! I’m not a child psychologist but I think I know why you might do it:

-For one thing, he won’t really understand what you’re talking about.
-It will introduce him to concepts that are either inappropriate or irrelevant to his current lifestyle (let’s hope!).
-Also, he might not be emotionally ready for full-disclosure on the topic.

So maybe you’ll just be as vague as possible. That’s a safe move. You don’t want to bring out the textbooks and talk anatomy. You don’t want to use dolls for any illustrative purposes. You’d rather not use specific terms. The main thing you try to do is condescend to your son. You want to put complex matters into understandable terms. And why would you do such a thing to your son? Are you trying to lie to him? Confuse him?

Just the opposite, actually. You want to answer his questions in a way that is relevant to his life experiences and his current mental acumen. This is a little heavier than working with fractions and pie charts, after all.

As you explain some things, you’re holding back. You’re not being dishonest or deceptive. You are giving him the amount of information that he can handle. He uses some terms that are not technically correct, but you’ll overlook that and actually use his terminology to communicate the main point clearly. As he grows up, you’ll talk about these things more and correct some of his misconceptions.

So we condescend to our children because we love them and want them to understand matters that are relevant to their current situation.

In the same way, God the Father is the best dad of all (Matt. 7:11) and condescended to answer people’s questions. The ancient Hebrews wondered where they came from and where they were going. God answered with the creation narrative–Gen. 1-3. The Hebrews weren’t asking questions about science–at the time, nobody was! So God answers their questions in ancient symbols that they would understand. He could have told them how old the earth was. He could have described the creation in much more scientific detail. He could have explained how there could be light before any sun existed, or how a day could pass before the sun even existed (Gen. 1:14). But apparently, those things didn’t matter to the Hebrews.

Instead they asked, “Are we special?” And God said that he created them in His image and ordained them to rule the earth in his place. They learned that they are included in a divine struggle between the serpent and God. They learned that their disobedience leads to separation from God. They learned that sacrifice would be necessary to cover their shame before the Almighty. God was answering their questions based on the terms and knowledge they had. That’s what a good dad does. God condescends, he does not lie.

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Categories: Biblical Studies, Creation, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Must Adam Exist? Part 1

The works I’ve read so far on the creation account have assumed that Adam and Eve were historical characters, but Peter Enns‘s latest book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins argues that they are not.  Many of you who know me will be surprised that I find his points persuasive.  His argument makes more sense to me than all the other approaches to Genesis 2-3 I’ve considered.  His earlier book Incarnation and Inspiration: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament created more than a stir in the evangelical community, and this book may have a similar effect.

Enns puts it plainly that the modern church faces a challenge with what science has unearthed about human origins.  If a Christian comes to believe that evolution is reality, does that mean he should abandon his faith?  Does he have any reason to continue believing in a Bible that portrays a man created out of the dust of the earth and woman formed from part of man’s side?  A number of Christian leaders believe that a nod to evolution is a step away from the Christian faith.  Embracing evolutionary thought leads to apostasy.  It’s that simple.  But Enns argues that this is not the case.

He begins by showing that the Pentateuch was largely written with history in mind, though it is not all historical.  The compilers used a number of sources which may include Mosaic material (though Enns seems to steer clear of this).  The final product was produced sometime after the exile.  At that time, you can imagine that the Hebrews were looking for their own identity–their own history–and the compilers of the Pentateuch provided it, including a creation account.  That creation account had similarities with neighboring creation accounts, but was (and is) theologically instructive.  Since the Pentateuch was written to give the Hebrews a history and identity, it only makes sense that Adam would embody the very character of the Hebrews’ disobedience which ultimately led to their exile.  Adam was a kind of prototype of the Hebrew people, a “Proto-Adam,” who made the same mistake that the Hebrews made.  To those Israelites who remembered the tragedy of the exile brought on by their disobedience, they could certainly relate to Adam’s exile from the Garden.  His sin, also led to tragedy and expulsion.  The connection is tremendous.  Such a “Proto-Adam” is not likely a real, historical character, but is–for those of you familiar with this terminology–a type of Israel.

"Adam" by Lucas the YoungerMany of the lessons drawn from Genesis 2-3 through exegetical study are largely unchanged by such a conclusion.  Men and women are sinners, disobedient to God, and incur his judgement because of that disobedience.  There is a cosmic villain that pursues to do us harm and destroy God’s good work.  God has made mankind in his image and appointed them to rule the earth as He rules it, with goodness and wisdom.  But what about the prospect of sin and death in the Garden?  Didn’t Adam’s sin curse humanity with death?  It certainly doomed Adam and Eve.  God condemned them both and cast them from the Garden, forbidding them access to the tree of life.  They were doomed to physical deaths: “…for you are dust; and to dust shall you return” (Gen. 3:19 ESV).  Didn’t they die spiritually, too?  Perhaps, but that is not explicitly stated in Genesis 3.  Rather, it comes from the Apostle Paul’s expositions hundreds of years later.

It is perhaps better to view the Adam and Eve event as an illustration of wisdom and the lack thereof.  Enns compares the terminology and concepts between Genesis 3 and the Book of Proverbs, also appealing to the writings of second-century apologists Theophilus of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons.  In their view, Genesis 3 did not recount the historical origin of humanity and the loss of their perfection.  Instead, they see it as the loss of humanity’s innocence.  It was the story of the couple’s initiation into adulthood, beginning the process toward maturity.  They represent Israel.  They represent us. We fail, but as we heed God’s instructions, we learn to become wise. (This is not a comment on salvation as taught in the New Testament.  Remember, this is Old Testament theology!)

I was really intrigued at Enns’s argument at this point.  I found this next point to be a staggering truth.  A traditional approach to Genesis 3 teaches that Adam’s sin was catastrophic to the world, bringing the judgment of God upon all mankind.  If that is true, why don’t we see it referenced as such even ONCE in all of Old Testament?  Why isn’t the Garden event referenced repeatedly by Moses, or the prophets, or the writings as the cause of God’s wrath in all of creation?  It’s true that Paul cites Adam this way, but the Old Testament authorities do not. If Paul is just reiterating what the Old Testament had taught already, then shouldn’t we find it repeated within the pages of the Old Covenant? …We don’t.  If we consider just the Old Testament, then Adam does not seem to have a major influence on theology.  It is Paul’s interpretation of Adam’s importance that makes Adam so critical to New Testament Christian theology.  Enns has a good answer for that one too.  I’ll discuss that in my next post.

I highly recommend this book.  You can find it at the link above or even on Kindle.  I don’t know if I’m ‘all in’ with it’s arguments yet, but it seems quite convincing to me!

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