Monday, February 27, 2012

Did Paul Get Adam Wrong?

I appreciate both the biblical acumen and practical ministries represented by those within The Gospel Coalition. They are men I respect and often look to for biblical/theological insight. Recently, though, I have begun to see the importance for my own spiritual journey in not simply re-affirming the declarations of TGC (or other people/organizations I normally agree with), but, rather, completing the appropriate due diligence on the issue-at-hand.

A few weeks ago, I began a series on thinking through the historicity of Adam. On a much more popular level, this was followed up by Kevin DeYoung, as well as responses from James McGrath and Pete Enns (amongst many others).

After reading (and re-reading) their posts, I wanted to offer a few ruminations.

To begin, we ought to be cautious when declaring that those “others” are either not E/evangelicals or that they are trying to destroy what the Bible is teaching. Admittedly, I am not far-off from having done this (e.g. see my review of Rob Bell’s book); however, I have eased a bit since then by attempting to build bridges, rather than walls. In other words, although I might stridently disagree with someone over a specific issue, my conviction is that Christ will not be honored and people will not be satisfied with snarky, arrogant attitudes. I am, however inadequately, trying to do my part in building bridges.

Moving on…

I do not think that denying the historicity of Adam is necessarily a capitulation to evolution (theistic or otherwise). God, in his divine majesty and incomprehensibility, could have determined to historically create our founding father and mother as well as prescribe for the Genesis account to be written a specific way. In other words, I am not yet comfortable affirming evolution (theistic or otherwise) primarily out of ignorance to the scientific data (or lack thereof).

With that being said, I think that both McGrath and Enns, in their respective responses to DeYoung, are correct in stating that narrative does not necessarily equate with history (although it can be historical at times), and that poetry does not always have to be non-historical in nature. We cannot simply affirm the historicity of any ancient document because it is in narrative form. We must allow other factors to contribute to, and perhaps determine, our affirmations about historicity.

This is also why DeYoung’s quotation of Keller irks me. He quotes Keller as stating that, “When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority…” But this is most certainly an interpretative difficulty, wholly dependent on whether one believes that the author clearly wants the reader to understand the specific text in question as literal. For me, it seems most appropriate to suspend judgment on the literary genre of Genesis (in particular), being that I have not had sufficient time to study it on my own, nor do we have anything less than a “hung jury” on this matter of genre interpretation.

To be sure, though, Enns is not allowed to get away free and clear. It appears that Enns’ affirmation consists of viewing the Bible through a scientific lens, rather than viewing science through a biblical lens, or, perhaps, attempting to permit both science and the Bible to run as parallels. Now, as stated in my previous post, I am by no means a scientist, nor, at this point, even in the same realm of Old Testament scholarship as Enns. With that said, I am not yet comfortable affirming a scientific view of the Bible contra to a biblical view of science.

Enns, along with another dear friend who has been helping me think through this issue, seems to think that Paul misunderstood the historicity of Adam based on his scientific ignorance and possible misinterpretation of the Creation story. This, from their perspective, is what leads Paul to provide the following argument in Romans:

Paul expects to face the following argument from the Judaizers in Rome:

If the Jews received the Law/circumcision from God, then they are righteous/justified before God.
They did receive the Law/circumcision.
Therefore, they are righteous/justified before God.

Which also provides the following corollary:

If the Gentiles did not receive the Law/circumcision from God, then they are not righteous/justified before God.
They did not receive the Law/circumcision.
Therefore, they are are not righteous/justified before God.

Paul’s response to them is as such:

If Adam is the father of all, then Jews are equal to Gentiles before God.
Adam is the father of all.
Therefore, Jews and Gentiles are equal before God.

Now, if Paul did misinterpret the Creation story, we could still make an argument for the inclusion of Gentiles (i.e. the scope of salvation) based on the authority of Christ and Old Testament prophetic literature, but should we assume that Paul got it wrong?

Could Paul have had a better understanding of the genre and intent of Genesis than we do?

Should we take a scientific view of Scripture, or should we take a biblical view of science?

Can they run as parallels?

What do you think?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Take a Moment...

So, the computer I was using on Tuesday did not want to be helpful, ergo no Tuesday "Take a Moment..."

If you came looking for links, my apologies.

Hopefully we are back on track...

Two posts on Lent (a day late I know...): Tim Gombis and Joel Willitts

4 ways blogging has made me a better person...

Love your theological enemies...

An infographic of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation)...

Go beyond the sex questions...

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Disagree With Your Disagreement...

Sometimes I enjoy disagreeing just to be a provocateur. And, as I near my one-year anniversary of blogging, I have noticed, followed, and contributed to not a few online disagreements. Some, admittedly, have had little couth (my actions included), and some, more recently, have had a bit more tact.

To be clear, I am not opposed to disagreement. In fact, one of the most important things I learned in seminary was that interacting (via reading, discussion, etc.) with those from a differing perspective is just as important (if not more so) as interacting with those from within your own boundary markers. If your actual desire is to engage people with issues (i.e. hand-to-hand, eyeball-to-eyeball), rather than simply fire rhetorical artillery from a safe point, we must cultivate our ability to understand their argument(s) from their vantage point.

So, then, how are we to disagree?

Each semester, I begin my various philosophy classes with three academic virtues for studying the discipline. It might not be obvious, but there can be a fair amount of disagreement (student v. student and, often, student[s] v. Instructor) as our differing philosophical perspectives (e.g. the existence of God, ethical systems, epistemological frameworks, etc.) become more apparent. Therefore, if these academic virtues can work towards fostering a healthy classroom environment, perhaps they might also be useful as we think through web-based disagreement. The three academic virtues are:

  1. Contextual sensitivity,
  2. Presuppositional awareness, and
  3. Open-minded humility
Now, I cannot take credit for creating the definitions behind these virtues, but I can offer some insight into how these virtues might affect our disagreement(s).

First, contextual sensitivity ought to help us accept others’ differences (e.g. race, gender, philosophical/theological perspective, etc.) at face value. Second, presuppositional awareness ought to help us recognize both the presuppositions we bring to the “dialogical table,” as well as the presuppositions embraced by our dialogue partners. Third, open-minded humility ought to help us remember that we might be wrong in our suppositions, and, therefore, ought to come to the “dialogical table” with a deep sense of humility.

So, proceed in your disagreement(s), and may we do so with wisdom, grace, and humility.

Postscript: Please also be sure to read Stephen Altrogge's helpful insights (here and here) on how to disagree.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Take a Moment...

Much discussion surrounding Piper's recent message (note - I love John Piper; he's been a "game-changer" for me; but he still can make mistakes...): Rachel Held EvansTim Gombis, Michael J. Kimpan, Michael F. Bird, and J. R. Daniel Kirk - Part 1 and Part 2.

Kevin DeYoung offers 10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam; James McGrath responds...

Know your enemy...

Win the man, not the argument...