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.
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?