10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam
Many Christians have embraced the discoveries of science and began to question whether Adam really existed. It is more popular now to read the beginning chapters of Genesis as being more poetic and open to interpretation, but Kevin DeYoung will have none of that. Kevin DeYoung, pastor at University Reformed Church in Michigan, says that the existence of Adam is a gospel issue—what science says doesn’t matter when we accept the theology of the Bible (and Christianity). He gives 10 reasons why it is important to Christian theology to believe that Adam truly existed:
1. The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology. Of course, Genesis is not a history textbook or a science textbook, but that is far from saying we ought to separate the theological wheat from the historical chaff. Such a division owes to the Enlightenment more than the Bible.
2. The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them. Moses wants to show God’s people “this is how things really happened.” The Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture. It would be surprising, then, for Genesis to start with one more mythical account of creation like the rest of the ANE.
3. The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry. Compare Genesis 1 with Psalm 104, for example, and you’ll see how different these texts are. It’s simply not accurate to call Genesis poetry. And even if it were, who says poetry has to be less historically accurate?
4. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. You can’t set Genesis 1-11 aside as prehistory, not in the sense of being less than historically true as we normally understand those terms. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.
5. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.
7. The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam. The literature of second temple Judaism affirmed an historical Adam. The history of the church’s interpretation also assumes it.
8. Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people regardless of race or ethnicity have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming from the same parents.
9. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.
10. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together
Wow. Those are some really convincing reasons to discard science in favor of Biblical inerrancy.
Christian bloggers who opt for a less literal interpretation of the story of Genesis have jumped at the opportunity to do a good, old-fashion internet take-down of DeYoung’s article. Biblical scholar James McGrath posted “Ten Really Bad Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam" and fellow Biblical scholar Peter Enns posted his "Thoughts on Kevin DeYoung’s Restless Comments on the Historical Adam" both of which rely, not on theology, but on scientific analysis and historical interpretations of scripture (which DeYoung specifically ignored).
When you put your faith in a religion that is so old and confused, this sorry display is quite typical. Today, Christians trip over each other trying to make their beliefs and opinions work with their religion and Bible. While these may be interesting debates, what real good do they serve? None. They aren’t making mankind and the human experience better. In fact, they are making it much worse. Good minds are being wasted on theological mumbo jumbo. This is the deepest and most destructive aspect of religion.