Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Very Right Response to a Very Wrong Thing

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should CareThe question over the historicity of Adam and Eve seems to be somewhat of a hot topic these days in evangelical Christianity.  In June there was a story on it in Christianity Today, and one of my favorite professors from seminary, Dr. Jack Collins recently penned the book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care, published by Crossway.

Yesterday I saw a blog post from Andy Nasseli, quoting the following snippet of the book, originally included in a funeral homily that Dr. Collins delivered:
On Saturday, I heard Jackie say, “No parent should ever have to outlive their own child.” I heard the same words from my father’s mother when my father died; and my wife and I said the same thing when we lost our first child. The pain is horrible; the loss is beyond our ability to describe.
When we feel this grief, we are feeling that it’s just not right for this to happen. We don’t want our loved ones to suffer; we don’t want to be separated from them by death. We want to be sure that they are happy, and we want to be able to enjoy their company always.
The Bible tells us that these feelings we have are right. Death and suffering are intruders in God’s good world; they don’t belong here. And the story of Adam and Eve, the first human beings, tells us how these evil things came in: When these, the parents of us all, disobeyed God, they opened the door to all manner of sin and evil, not only for themselves, but also for us.
You don’t need me to prove it; it’s all around us. It’s why we are here today.
But the Bible story doesn’t end there: instead it tells us about how God wants to help us, to heal us of what is wrong with us.
Though I have not yet read the book, I very much look forward to doing so.  Dr. Collins spoke on this topic at the 2009 Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology, hosted by our church.  Audio for that (as well as messages from other years' conferences) is available here.

John Starke had an interview with Dr. Collins regarding the book today (7/8) at The Gospel Coalition website.


Brett Barton said...

This book looks like one that I would love as I find that particular discussion very interesting. The first few chapters of Genesis are perhaps the most difficult to interpret. (Incidentally, I have the same question about the historicity of Job.)

Pete Scribner said...

Brett -

I've never really thought about the question in terms of Job. Though I would argue for neither, I guess it would seem to me that it would be a lot easier to argue for a mythical Job than a mythical Adam. Due in large part to the way Jesus and Paul deal with Adam in the New Testament, I find it hard to believe him to be anything but historical without having devastating theological implications.

That being said, my guess is that Dr. Collins argues in his book that the genre of Genesis 1-2 is what we might call "exalted prose." In order to cooperate with such a text, the reader must understand that while it is literally true, he or she must not impose a literalistic meaning to each word. For example, though Adam definitely existed, it need not necessarily have been in the last 7000 years.

Again, I've not yet read the book, though I intend to. I recommend you do the same.

Dr. Collins also wrote a commentary on Genesis 1-4 which I've found very helpful.

Brett Barton said...

Pete, I completely agree that it would be easier to argue that Job was mythical over Adam. After all, the lessons we learn from the book of Job are profound and no less true if it was not based on an actual person and actual events. Having said that, I honestly have no idea but find the question an intriguing one (just for my own curiosity).

I will look into the book and commentary you have referenced by Dr. Collins.

As you can see from my recent blog posting, I enjoy wrestling with these things.