According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review (RJS) - Four Views on the Historical Adam, Part 2

Adam Both Archetypal and Historical (RJS)

by RJS
June 5, 2014

The second section of the new book from the Zondervan Counterpoints series: Four Views on the Historical Adam looks at John Walton’s view of AdamWalton presents an archetypal view of Adam derived from Scripture and consistent with a number of scientific views of human origins. Again in this first post I will outline Walton’s view without much comment. This will be followed by a post that discusses the responses of the other three contributors and the rejoinder by original author along with some of my own observations.

Walton's Historical-Archetypal Adam

John Walton emphasizes at several points throughout the chapter that he views Adam and Eve as historical figures. He opens with this affirmation.

My view (John Walton) is that Adam and Eve were real people in a real past; they were individual persons who existed in history. The basis for this conclusion comes from the fact that in the Old Testament Adam becomes part of a genealogy and in the New Testament a real event featuring real people is the clearest reading to explain the entrance of sin and death.

Nevertheless I also believe that the biblical text is most interested in Adam and Eve as archetypes – those who represent humanity. In particular the “making” accounts in Genesis 2 reflect their roles as archetypes and therefore give us no scientific information about human origins. (p. 89-90)

In this post we will leave aside Adam and Eve as real people for the most part and look at the archetypal view Walton outlines. Walton believes that the authors of Genesis and in the New Testament were more interested in the role of Adam and Eve as archetypes than as unique individuals. “An archetype serves as a representative of all other members of the group, thus establishing an inherent relationship“ and “an archetype can be a real person with a real past, although not all archetypes are.” (p. 90)

Adam as an archetype in Genesis.

The first reason is that the man is called Adam [using the word] "a-dam" is the Hebrew word for "mankind". But the Hebrew language developed after the Exodus and the events described in the text are long before the development of Hebrew as a language. Walton concludes that it cannot be viewed as the actual name of the man. The name is archetypal and everything this man does in Genesis 2-3 is archetypal – “as a representative for all humanity or on behalf of all males.” (p. 91)

Second – the man is formed from the dust. There are issues with the material formation of man from dust:

  • Dust certainly doesn’t refer to chemical composition (not much water or carbon in dust), and
  • Dust cannot be sculpted the way clay can.

The text doesn’t speak to material composition or to the mechanics or process of human origins. Walton sees the importance in the man being mortal (from the dust) and designed for a role. The tree of life in the garden is the antidote for mortality – it would be unnecessary if the man was created inherently immortal.

Third – the man is taken and placed in a garden.

"I would propose that Adam, the archetypal human, is being removed from the everyday realm of human existence and placed in a specially prepared place (the mouth of the rivers) as a blessing. If other people are around, he is being elected from them to play a special role. (p. 94)"

Genesis 4 makes it reasonable to assume that other people are around.

Fourth – the man is assigned a priestly role in the garden. The words translated “work and take care of” in the NIV can be interpreted as agricultural work, although the word šamar translated “take care of” does not generally refer to such agricultural work. It is used in the Pentateuch to refer to priestly service in sacred space, guarding sacred space.

What about Eve?

Walton also sees an archetypal role for EveGenesis 2:21-22 doesn’t refer to the material origin of Eve, but to a vision showing Adam that he should view Eve as a part of himself. Eve is not a “reproduction partner” but “a coworker in the task of maintaining and expanding sacred space.” (p. 103)

The Theological Meaning

The archetypal role of Adam and Eve brings attention to the theological teaching of Genesis (pp. 102-103)

1. Humankind was created mortal.

2. Humankind was provisioned by God.

3. Humankind was given the role of serving in sacred space
(which implies relationship with God).

4. Humankind genders work together to fulfill their God-given role.

5. Humankind was divided into male and female so we would seek to
reconnect in a new familial relationship.

Number 4 is worth some elaboration.

Walton concludes that the countercultural gender roles in Genesis 2 makes the “Adam as Israel” interpretation of Genesis 2-3 unlikely (Peter Enns supports such a view in his book The Evolution of Adam).

Eve is a coworker in maintaining and expanding sacred space and Israel does not have women priests. “Genesis 1-3 shows no sign of patriarchy, and the archetypal woman is given a role as coworker in sacred space, placed in equal relationship with God.” (p. 104)

A Final Note on Walton's Interpretation of Genesis

  1. Walton does not see Genesis 1 and 2 as synoptic accounts of creation with Genesis 2 providing more detail on day 6. This is a typical conservative Christian reading that is not really supported by the structure of the two passages.
  2. Nor does Walton see the accounts as competing traditions that “came to be incongruently next to each other with unresolved tensions” (p. 109) as critical scholars often claim.
  3. Rather he sees them as sequentialGenesis 2 is a sequel to Genesis 1Genesis 2 recounts events that could have occurred much later.

In such a case, Adam and Eve would not necessarily be envisioned as the first human beings, but would be elect individuals drawn out of the human population and given a particular representative role in sacred space. (p. 109)

The New Testament. According Walton the New Testament authors saw Adam and Eve as real people, “but the theological use that is made of them is archetypal.”

The reference in Acts 17:26 (From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth) refers to Noah not Adam – the nations are delineated after the flood.

Romans 5:12-14 uses Adam in an archetypal manner – he is a pattern of Christ and he represents all people. Because this passage affirms an event where sin and death entered human experience Walton believes that it supports a historical Adam. However, it says nothing about the transmission of sin, biological relationships, or material discontinuity with the rest of creation.

1 Cor 15:22 (For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive) makes a comparison. This is a representative comparison not determined by biological relationship.

1 Cor 15:45 (So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.) In this passage the biblical point is to contrast and compare and to exalt Jesus – not to make claims about biology.

2 Cor 11:3 implies a historical Eve, “but it refers to her archetypally as an analogy.” (p. 107)

1 Timothy 2:13-14 “Adam and Eve are used as archetypes to make a point about all of humanity, here providing an illustration of how a deceived woman can lead a man into error.” (p. 107)

The major passages of concern are those in Romans and 1 Cor 15 where comparison is made with Christ. While Walton sees this comparison as relating to a unique individual, he does not think that the use as archetype requires biological descent from Adam or that it says anything about material origins. We are not all descended from Christ in a material sense and as the “last Adam” Jesus was neither the only or the last man in biological descent.

Closing Thoughts

Walton concludes his chapter with a hypothetical scenario looking at how all the elements that he sees in the text of Genesis and the uses of this text in the New Testament might be brought together. I am not going to summarize this in the post. The bottom line for Walton is that “the Bible is not revealing science, it is revealing God” (p. 116). This includes the material origins of humanity – this is not a subject that the ancient Israelites were concerned with and it is not a subject that the Bible speaks to directly. It is the archetypal role of Adam and Eve that takes center stage in every instance. “The theology is important, but the theology is built on the archetypal profile – we are all represented in Adam and Eve” (p. 117).

Scientific discussions of human origins can be separated from the theological message of the text. Clearly a godless [...if evolution is deemed atheistic. However its origins were expressly deistic per the era of its development. Meaning that the theory was based in a theistic premise as to how God created this universe. Hence, it was never atheistic until atheists began to use the science as a bully pulpit against Christianity. - re slater], purposeless [...not so. Contemporary views of evolution do now hold to its purposefulness within its science of teleology and origins. - re slater] view of evolution and human origins is not consistent with Scripture [a select view stated by YEC but not the view of Evolutionary Creationists - re slater], but a powerful and sovereign God can work through evolutionary process as he works through other so-called “natural” processes including weather and embryonic development.

The next post on this book will look at the responses from Denis Lamoureux, Jack Collins, and William Barrick along with some of my own reflections.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Responses to Archetypal Adam (RJS)

by RJS
June 17, 2014

In the last post on the new book in the Zondervan Counterpoints series: Four Views on the Historical Adam we looked at John Walton’s view of Adam as Both Archetypal and Historical (the original post is found at the link). In the post today I will summarize the responses offered by Denis Lamoureux, Jack Collins, and William Barrick (following the order used in the book) and offer some of my own comments as well.

DL's Rebuttal

Denis Lamoureux notes his great respect for John Walton, but also disagrees with the way he structures a significant part of his argument. He does not find Walton’s argument that Genesis refers to function rather than material creation compelling. Both Walton and Lamoureux see ancient science, especially ancient cosmology in the text, and both agree that this is “incidental” although Walton phrases it differently. The real difference seems to be in the understanding of the intent of the ancient authors.

As I (RJS) understand it:

1. Walton’s hypothesis is that the intent of the ancient author was to describe the shaping of function from chaos and that the material description, using the ancient understanding of science, is incidental to this intent. The functional message carries theological importance and is the intended message of the author (divinely inspired by God).

Lamoureux believes that the intent of the ancient author or editor was to describe creation including material origins. The author was inspired by God, but God accommodated his message to the understanding of the ancient Near Eastern audience and used their understanding of science and and of origins to carry the inspired theological message.

2. The different view that Walton and Lamoureux take toward accommodation leads to distinct differences in the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and in the approach each takes to the question of Adam. Lamoureux suggests that Walton stretches the interpretation because he views the text as free from error in the intended message of the author. Examples include Walton’s argument that dust refers to the mortality of Adam rather than the material origins of Adam, the assignment of a priestly role or function for Adam, and his suggestion that the creation of Eve refers to a vision given to Adam while in a deep sleep.

Lamoureux takes the position that the description of Adam and Eve largely reflects an ancient understanding of material origins and is incidental to the theological message. There is no reason to view Adam and Eve as historical persons or as archetypes. (Both Walton and Lamoureux seem to agree quite closely on the intended theological message of the text.)

Collin's Rebuttal

C. John (Jack) Collins also respects Walton. But he also thinks that Genesis describes material origins, and is not sure why Walton emphasizes a distinction between functional and material origins. Collins most significant disagreement however, is with the idea that Adam need not be the first human or the only human, but “a real person given a real test, as representative and archetype of all humankind.” (p. 130) In particular Collins disagrees with the idea that humans before or contemporary with Adam could have been engaging in activities which we would call sinful. In his view moral innocence – inherent in the words good and upright (Genesis 1Eccl 7:291 Tim 4:4) – preceded the first sin, and this seems contrary to Walton’s proposal.

Collins also finds a representative view troublesome because it “raises serious questions about the justice of God in accounting the sin of this couple to their contemporaries, without having some kind of natural relationship between them.” (p. 130)

He concludes:

“In sum then, I do not see how Walton’s approach accounts for the unified origin of humankind, or for the foreignness of sin in God’s plan.” (p. 131)

Collins goes on to bring up the nature of humans as the image of God. The image of God is not, in his view, merely a role and function, but a material difference between humans and other creatures.

"[W]e must see the image as something that clearly distinguishes humans from every other “living creature.” Whatever distinctive functions we humans exercise, and especially “dominion” (Gen 1:26; cf. Ps 8), requires that we have the capacities that everyone recognizes as setting us apart from other animals. The “special creation” whatever material it operates on, must impose new features on both body and soul of the new creation; the body-soul unity is needed as the vehicle of this image. (p. 131)"

This criticism of Walton’s emphasis on function and role is interesting – and at odds with the argument of J. Richard Middleton and many other Old Testament scholars as well. We have capacities which set us apart from other animals, but these capacities are distinctive in quantity and aggregate, not as unique features unknown in the rest of the animal kingdom. The features are not, many agree, what define us as the image of God.

Barrick's Rebuttal

William Barrick appreciates some of the insights that Walton brings regarding the importance of function and role. He does not see that this is separate from the importance of Adam as the biological head of the human race. He also emphasizes what he sees as the importance of the seminal headship of Adam. He holds that we are endowed with a sin nature at conception transmitted from our parents and we go astray in the womb. “Only the unique conception and birth of Jesus kept him free from receiving the same sin nature.“ Thus the special creation of Adam from the dust, without sin and the virginal conception of Jesus are ideas tied together in Barrick’s view.

According to Barrick, Walton’s archetypal view of Adam and his emphasis on function rather than material origins does not do justice to a number of significant theological concepts. It does not do justice to the character of God (“wholly truthful, all-powerful, and all-wise“). It does not do justice to the nature of mankind (fallen through Adam), and thus to the necessity of Christ’s sacrificial death to restore a “fallen mankind and a sin-corrupted and Creator-cursed universe.” Functionality is part of the meaning of the text but … “The physical creation reflects the moral character of God, and his goodness cannot be limited to mere function.” (p. 138)

Walton's Rejoinder

John Walton responds to a number of the issues raised by Lamoureux, Collins and Barrick. Here I will concentrate only on the theological issues raised by Collins and Barrick. These really center on the same issues surrounding the entry of sin into the world and the propagation of this sin to all mankind. Although Collins sees this as, perhaps, a cultural phenomenon rather than a biological one (he makes analogy to the passing down of citizenship), he does think that it requires a connection between Adam and Eve and all subsequent humanity. Barrick finds the direct biological relationship of importance because sin is passed down in the womb in the very nature of the incipient human.

Walton looks at the scriptures raised by Collins and argues that these passages do not require original sinlessness, only original innocence. The unified origin of humankind is addressed in Genesis 1 – in the creation of humans in the image and likeness of God, male and female. We could rip Genesis 2-3out of the Bible and still have a united humanity (Walton doesn’t put it quite like this, but the point is the same). The spread of sin is another issue – but Walton admits he doesn’t have a complete answer. Of course the inheritance model also has serious issues as Ronald Osborne points out clearly in Death Before the Fall.

Final Comments

Walton’s approach brings much important insight into the meaning and significance of Genesis 2-3. His emphasis on the archetypal importance of Adam and Eve appears well supported. I have long found his insights into the Garden of Eden enlightening and his emphasis on the priestly role of Adam helps to shape this out. I do agree with Lamoureux that he stretches some points in order to preserve a “truthfulness” in the text, but overall I find his approach more helpful than Lamoureux’s. This is not because I agree with everything Walton says (especially his discussion of the origin of Eve) but because he wrestles with the meaning of the text in the ancient context whereas Denis seems to simply brush it aside as ancient science.

Collins (and I assume Barrick) sees the new heaven and the new earth as a restoration of Eden [more of a cyclical than helical view of eschatology. Walton's is the helical view. - re slater]. Walton has what I consider a view more consistent with the whole sweep of scripture. The move from Eden to new heaven and new earth is a story of sacred space reaching its intended culmination. We are not returning to Eden but moving forward to God’s intended climax.

The view of Adam and the spread of sin is a problem that is more significant if we view Eden as God’s intended climax rather than His starting point. We don’t live in a plan gone wrong requiring an emergency patch (Christ) – although we do live in a world tainted by the inability of humans, from the beginning, to maintain God’s sacred space. A view of Adam as archetypal is more (in my opinion) consistent with the whole sweep of scripture than a view of Adam as the origin of sin (as Bouteneff put it in Beginnings – Adam is the original sinner, not the origin of sin).

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