Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 7 - Christopher W. Skinner

Christopher W. Skinner

“aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (6): Christopher W. Skinner

by Peter Enns
July 9, 2014

Today’s “aha” moment–the 6th in the series–is by Christopher W. Skinner (PhD, Catholic University of America), Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina. Skinner is the author or editor of 6 books, including John and Thomas: Gospels in Conflict?: Johannine Characterization and the Thomas Question (Wipf and Stock), What Are They Saying About the Gospel of Thomas? (Paulist), and Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John (T & T Clark). His current book project is Reading John and will be published in the Cascade Companions series. He blogs, along with Nijay Gupta, at Crux Sola.


I was raised in a tiny town in southeastern Virginia where I spent much of my childhood inside the small Southern Baptist church nestled at the corner of Chesapeake Avenue and Guerriere Street. From the earliest age I was taught to love and revere the Bible—that it was the repository of everything God wanted us to know and do in this world.

In addition to affirming its truthfulness and authoritative status, we used terms like “inerrant” and “infallible” to describe the Bible. We were fond of saying things like, “The Bible is a perfect description of our realities and the perfect prescription for our ailments.”

The Bible was always correct in whatever it affirmed, and if a situation arose in which the Bible appeared to be incorrect, this discrepancy could easily be answered by those who knew more than I did. Any apparent inconsistency could be explained, resolved, or harmonized if given the right amount of time and attention.

This perspective carried me through my time in undergraduate school, where I involved myself heavily in a campus para-church group, and even my early days in vocational ministry where I served as an overseas missionary with the same organization.

In those early days, there were few challenges—either internally or externally—to my received convictions about the Bible. But as I entered seminary and began to immerse myself in the study of ancient languages, the history of interpretation, and other complex areas of inquiry, a nascent sense of cognitive dissonance began to emerge.

I had been led to believe that there was something like a one-to-one correspondence between what I read in the Bible and what I saw in the world, but my own experience seemed to contradict this.

In fact, when first learning about how to “do” theology, we were introduced to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral—the idea that we must keep Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience in dialogue while constructing our theologies.

We were cautioned that, above all, the Bible MUST play the most important role of the four.

My problem was that my personal experiences and my own (admittedly feeble) attempts at reason very often disagreed with what the Bible seemed to be saying.

During my second year in seminary, I began a love affair with the Gospels from which I have yet to recover. I began to read them all the time in English, and as my skills improved, in Greek. I read every commentary I could get my hands on and trolled the campus and local bookstores for other books that could help me better understand these four texts.

At this time, I began to experience an even greater sense of cognitive dissonance. In these Gospels I was seeing four very different, yet very compelling portraits of Jesus.

At times the differences were so great that I felt they might never be harmonized. However, I remained resolute in my conviction that any discrepancy I might find was either the result of my ignorance, my inattention to the text, or my own personal sinfulness.

In short, I found myself constantly doubting the veracity of the Bible I had been taught to trust implicitly, and there was no little guilt associated with these doubts.

If only I could have had more faith….a faith that would have allowed me to believe through my doubts.

One of the most poignant epiphanies came during my third year of seminary in an upper-level class called, “Exegesis of Gospel Narrative.” The course was team-taught by two members of our New Testament faculty—one a Synoptic specialist (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the other a scholar of John’s Gospel.

The class was illuminating in so many ways. We were introduced to Jewish backgrounds to the Gospels, philological concerns, and important insights from 19th century German scholarship.

However, there was still a baseline assumption that for all of their “perceived” differences, these four Gospels could (and should) be harmonized. On the side, I had also begun reading the work of Alan Culpepper and the early NT narrative critics, an exercise that was contrasting sharply with my experience in class.

It was in this class that I ran into my first truly insurmountable problem. Since I had always been taught about the Bible’s coherence and internal consistency, I thought, “Surely the New Testament gives us reliable information about Jesus’ origins?”

This meant that despite my misgivings, there had to be a way to reconcile the conflicting genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

From Abraham to Jesus, Matthew lists only 41 names while Luke lists 57. At the time I thought Matthew’s omission of names must be some kind of rhetorical device. However, more problematic for me was the realization that of the 41 names Matthew and Luke should have had in common, they agree on only 17.

How could this be? Surely this level of disagreement was something more than a rhetorical device?

Whenever I raised this question, one solution that evangelical friends and commentators alike continued to affirm was that one genealogy recounts the line of Mary while the other recounts the line of Joseph. However, this solution was immediately unacceptable to me since both texts clearly indicate that the lineage is being traced through Joseph (if you doubt this, please see Matt 1:16 and Luke 3:23).

I also spent considerable time researching the history of scholarship on this issue only to realize that it was not just a problem for my 21st century historiographical sensibilities. As early as Julius Africanus in 225 CE, this contradiction had been a serious problem for commentators on the Gospels.

I wasn’t the only one who saw this problem for what it was—a REAL problem—and I cannot tell you the relief that realization was. I had been wracked with guilt and confusion this whole time.

Finally, I decided to approach the Synoptic specialist in the class—an individual I greatly respect, who is both a brilliant scholar and a man of tremendous Christian conviction. When I told him my concern, he replied that the best solution was to regard one genealogy as Mary’s and the other as Joseph’s.

I objected to this facile solution by pointing to the details of actual text. His response was simple: “We need to trust the Bible even when we don’t understand, even when it seems to be contradicting itself.” Not only did this seem to me like an easy answer, it smacked of the same sort of intellectual dishonesty I had been taught to avoid at all costs.

This was a travesty. I had been taught to ferret out every exegetical nugget, to mine every nook and cranny for insights into the text. I had spent hours and hours learning Greek, textual criticism, and numerous other exegetical skills, only to be told to abandon them when I ran into a problem that contradicted my overarching approach to the Bible.

This was the beginning of the end of my rigid reading of the Bible.

The “aha” moments began to come with increasing frequency and intensity over the next few years. I am genuinely thankful for that moment because it allowed me to begin the process of reading the Bible without my hands tied behind my back.

The assumption (and protection) of a unified, harmonious, problem-free reading of the Bible is endemic to the life of most evangelical Bible readers. However, the Bible we have—as opposed to one we want or are often led to believe we have—does not fall into line with that assumption.

When we ignore or explain away these problems, we do ourselves, our churches, and future generations of Bible readers a serious injustice.

I have come to think that defending the Bible as inerrant is more about maintaining an identity than it is about searching for truth. I like to tell my students that one of my goals is to help them “eschew the culture of easy-answerism.” One of the best ways to do this is to study Scripture together without flinching and let them know that they have nothing to fear.

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 6 - Charles Halton

Charles Halton

“aha” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (5): Charles Halton

by Peter Enns
July 7, 2014

Today’s “aha” moment is the 5th in our series and brought to you by Charles Halton (PhD Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion), assistant professor of theology at Houston Baptist University.

Halton is the managing editor of Marginalia and just completed editing Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Zondervan, February, 2015). He is working on several other projects, one of which is with co-author Saana Svärd The First Female Authors: An Anthology of Women’s Writing from Mesopotamia (Cambridge, forthcoming). His essays have appeared in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, Cuneiform Digital Library Notes, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Bulletin for Biblical Research, and Books & Culture. He lives with his wife and daughter in Louisville, Kentucky. Charles tweets from the incredibly creative handle @charleshalton and virtually resides at www.charleshalton.com.

Halton’s “aha” moment will be familiar to many who have studied Genesis–and for that very reason is worth raising…again and again.


When I was in seminary I was told that if I wanted to learn of the origins of the universe and how humans came to be, then I needed to consult the Bible, and most specifically, the book of Genesis. On questions of science and history, they said, the Bible is entirely accurate. Furthermore, they continued, at no point should scientific discoveries change the way we understand the Bible’s clear, unified story concerning the origins of the world.

In this last point, my professors were merely recapitulating the view expressed in theChicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a document that professors at many conservative Evangelical schools must agree with. Article twelve of the statement includes this assertion: “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

As a young and eager seminary student this made sense to me, particularly when I considered the syllogistic reasoning that often went with it: God spoke the Bible, God always is true, therefore, the Bible is true in all it says including its teaching on the origin of the world. Fair enough, that made sense.

Until I read the Bible.

What I found out, when I paid attention to the details, is that there is no one, singular teaching on creation in Scripture. There are several creation narratives and they conflict with one another. And they conflict on the most superficial level—the order of creation.

For me—like so many others have done—all I needed to do was read the first two chapters of the Bible, the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2.

Genesis 1 presents the world as created in six days. If we take the sequence literally, things are created in this order: light, sky, earth, plants, stars and sun and moon, aquatic animals, birds, land animals, and, finally humans in large number. In other words, humans—and many of them—are created last.

But when we come to Genesis 2, the one human (Adam) is created first, even before plants had grown (Gen 2:5). After the human is made, God sows a garden and plants begin to sprout. After this, God begins the process of identifying a suitable companion for the human.

At this point, it gets a bit tricky if you are reading the Bible in translation. One of the difficulties in studying the Bible is that modern translations sometimes obscure what the Bible really says.

In most cases, the translators have good motives for this and they believe they are doing their readers a favor—making the text more clear and steering them away from error. In many cases this is entirely appropriate and is beneficial.

But then there’s Genesis 2:19. This is where God is trying to find a companion for the human, and so he forms the animals (maybe that will provide a suitable companion for the human?).

Genesis 2:19 reads, “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the sky….” This conflicts with Genesis 1 where the animals were already created (days 5 and 6) before the humans were.

Two of the most popular translations within the Evangelical world—the ESV and NIV—obscure the natural flow of the passage. The Hebrew verb is a “narrative preterite,” which indicates sequential action (e.g., “and then this happened”). But these translations say “had formed”—i.e., “had previously formed” back in Genesis 1.

In other words, “had formed” is a translation aimed at harmonizing the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, thus reconciling the contradiction between them. In doing so, these translations opt for a rather forced reading of the Hebrew. (For what it’s worth, ancient Greek versions render this verb with the construction kai + an aorist verb, which shows that they interpreted the verb as a narrative preterite and not as a pluperfect. The KJV also translates it as “formed.”)

Once I saw these conflicting accounts of creation I was fearful. The entire artifice I had learned, which asserted that the Bible alone has the true story of the scientific origins of the world collapsed. If the biblical authors couldn’t agree on the sequence of creation, how could I trust the rest of what they said?

But then, through the help of some very patient friends, I began to understand that God communicates to us in the forms that make up our contextual environment, such as language and culture. It could be no other way.

And this applies to the biblical authors as well. They were people who lived in a pre-scientific age for which discussion of big bangs, the speed of light, and genetic codes would have made no sense. They explored the nature of the universe with the tools that were available to them—the literary forms and tropes of their day, their observations of nature, and their religious understandings.

The authors of Scripture were not concerned, as many are today, about conflicting orders of creation—they put them side by side for goodness sake! This reveals, at least to me, that Scripture begins not with a scientific treatise but with two theological stories. And as we turn to Scripture’s pages we should separate the theological messages of its authors from the accouterments of their cultural context. The fact that the author of Genesis 1 had no knowledge of the human genome nor astrophysics does not diminish the worth of their theological vision. At the same time, we are not required to believe that the earth was created in six days when every single facet of the scientific study of nature tells us otherwise.

I think it is exciting that, in Christian confession, God speaks to us through the writings of people long dead. Instead of trying to change the word of God to accommodate our expectations, the voices of Scripture call us to think beyond our own cultural contexts and contemplate what it has meant and what it now means to follow after God in the myriad of contexts in which the people of God live. This challenges us even on the level of the expectations we bring to our study of the Bible. Should we really prize philosophical consistency and weed out contradiction if the biblical authors saw no need to?

It is also exciting that we as humans have the freedom and capability to study the Scriptures and in them learn of our life with God and also to explore the world that God has made and try to figure out how it came to be. But with this freedom comes great responsibility. Interpreting the Bible well is difficult and we will constantly disagree with one another as we do it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

a brief word on my current series “aha moments from biblical scholars”

by Peter Enns
July 6, 2014

I’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback from many of you, which is always encouraging to hear. I’ve also gotten some messages from pastors and doctoral students who have had their own “aha” moments in their study of Scripture.

It was an oversight on my part to restrict this series to biblical scholars, and so I am broadening the field to include others who have had some formal training in biblical studies (i.e., involving the study of original languages and ancient contexts) and whose view of the Bible has been significantly affected as a result of their study.

Pastors (some of whom also have earned doctorates) have a great existential crisis because their “aha” moments are never too distant from their pastoral responsibilities. Their stories can be quite compelling for this reason.

So just letting you know that as this intermittent series continues (I will post contributions as they come in), you will be seeing pastors and students contributing.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Index to Series -

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change

Rethinking Hell: Evangelical Conditionalism (Annihilationism), Part 2

Clark Pinnock

Clark Pinnock’s Outrageous Doctrine

by Scot McKnight
edits to article by R.E. Slater
Jul 9, 2014

"Eternal Torment" Began with Augustine

Well-known evangelical — originally conservative and then more progressive — Clark Pinnock came to view eternal conscious punishment (ECT - eternal conscious torment) as an “outrageous doctrine” (Rethinking Hell, 60).

He begins his famous essay with Augustine upon whom he lays responsibility for the traditionalist view:

Augustine believed God would torment sinners/the wicked mentally, psychologically and physically endlessly — and when Augustine was challenged how that could happen without their being destroyed, Augustine believed God would ongoingly perform miracles to keep them alive.

Puritan Reformer Jonathan Edwards Continued Augustine's View

Quoting John Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards believed the same.

Pinnock thinks this is like the person who delights in watching a cat being tortured in a microwave and taking delight in it.

Pinnock sees no reason to soften hell into blaming the person or talking about diminishment (which seems to have CS Lewis in view). Augustine was enough of a determinist/predestinationist that human responsibility wasn’t the escape on this doctrine; God chose and God didn’t choose [sic, Calvinistic doctrine of Election], and those whom God didn’t choose are those God has chosen to torment endlessly.

"My, I just don’t know people can believe this sort of thing."

Pinnock says Edwards would simply respond that we “think God as more loving and merciful than he actually is…” and “torturing the wicked presents no problem to God” but he observes that Edwards himself simply did not say things that his system affirmed, so Gerstner — an Edwards student — clarified what Edwards taught.

To accuse the critics of the traditional view of sentimentality won’t work

Pinnock asks right back: “What drives my opponent? Is it hard-heartedness and the desire for eternal retribution?” (60). “Surely,” he says, “a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God” (60).... Here he appeals to ordinary human standards, which if we reject we tend to reject rational thinking.

He asks again, “Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on his own enemies for all eternity?” (60).

Not a Matter of Sentimentality or Liberalism

This is not a matter of sentimentality or liberalism, in spite of what folks like J.I. Packer have said.

Notice this view is held by folks who, on all other doctrines, are considered straight-laced: J.W. Wenham, J.R.W. Stott, P.E. Hughes, S. Travis and E. Fudge.

That kind of knife cuts both ways. Truth is not determined by those who believe something but by what the text says. Pinnock thinks things went wrong from Augustine onwards, and [since] the man was wrong on a number of [other doctrinal] fronts perhaps [he also was] on this one.

[Thus,] we are back to the standard conclusions: the Bible’s emphasis is the idea of destruction, not eternal, conscious torment:

“At the very least it should be obvious,” - Pinnock concludes after marshalling the basics
on destruction-perishing in the Bible - “to any impartial reader that the Bible may legitimately
be read to teach the final destruction of the wicked without difficulty” (65).

I’d like to see how folks respond to this claim: Does the language of destruction at least suggest the possibility of reading the Bible as teaching final destruction? What evidence counters his view?

Pinnock thinks conditional immortality is not the best way to frame [the discussion of hell], but the Platonic theory of the immortality-of-the-soul is at the core of ECT.

[Hence,] Pinnock's view is one of annihilationism.

In review

1 - ECT makes God “a bloodthirsty monster” (67).

2 - Softening hell won’t solve the theodicy: it makes a theodicy hopeless (theodicy = why a good God permits evil). (Hodge and Warfield sought to minimize the numbers; CS Lewis focused on human responsibility).

3 - Unending punishment is pointless in a theory of justice. It is crude retribution.

4 - Does ECT not suggest an eternal cosmological dualism?

continue to -

Book Review (RJS) - Four Views on the Historical Adam, Part 3

Amazon Link

Adam and Eve as Special Creation (RJS)

by RJS
July 1, 2014

The next section in Four Views on the Historical Adam centers on the view of Adam put forth by C. John CollinsHe takes an old earth special creation view, but is willing to consider a wide range of scenarios that fit within certain limits. For example, he seems fine with an evolutionary description of the appearance of animal life if this is where the evidence leads. However, he does not think humans can be fit neatly into an evolutionary picture, scientifically or theologically.


C. John (Jack) Collins is a Professor Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri. He has published a number of books relating to the interpretation of Genesis in general and Adam in particular: Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary, and Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. I posted previously on his article in the ASA Journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (How Much History in Gen 1-3) and a long series on his book on Adam: The Search For the Historical Adam One,ThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNine (Two in the series focused on the Christianity Today article on Adam which was not by Collins). His essay in this book draws heavily on these previously published materials and you can find a more detailed interaction with his ideas in the previous posts.

I will say at the outset that Jack Collins is among my favorite writers on the issues of science and faith, Adam, and the interpretation of Genesis 1-4; not because I agree with his position – there are a number of places where I take a significantly different view – but because he deals fairly with those who disagree with him and lays out his argument clearly. His aim is not to provide “right” answers, but to help Christians think through the issues critically and carefully and to explain the reasoning behind his view. This provides the opportunity to start a meaningful conversation on the issues.


Collins begins his essay by discussing the meaning of history and historical as this lays the necessary ground work for approaching Genesis 2-3. He makes three major points (p. 148):

  • “historical” is not the same as “prose,” and certainly does not imply that our account has no figurative or imaginative elements.
  • “historical is not the same as “complete in detail” or “free from ideological bias,” neither is possible or desirable anyhow.
  • “historical” is not necessarily the same as “told in exact chronological sequence” unless the texts claims that for itself.

The presence of figurative and imaginative elements does not mean that there is not a historical core based on events that really happened. Clearly there are figurative and imaginative elements in Genesis 2-3; but the text can, and in Collins’s view does, relate history using these elements.

Genesis 1-11 is a unity

Genesis is an ancient Near Eastern document both similar to, and different from, the contemporary stories and writings that have been uncovered and translated. Collins notes that the overarching pattern of Mesopotamian culture and literature “provides a literary and ideological context into which Genesis 1-11 speaks, and it does so as a whole.” (p. 150)

  • It doesn’t do for us to rip it apart and examine the bits and pieces separately without considering also the whole.
  • It may well have been edited together from different sources, but they were edited together to make a coherent whole on a conceptual, literary and linguistic level. This isn’t an amateur patchwork quilt of texts. Each piece comes together to make the whole.

Genesis 1-11 is a front end to the rest of Genesis and indeed to the whole of scripture that aims to set the stage for the story in the right way, founded in a worldview with God and his action at the center. One key distinction from the Mesopotamian background is that humankind as a whole was created in the image of God and placed in God’s creation. This unity of humankind and the imago Dei are important for the conclusions Collins draws later.

The Biblical Story Line

Collins’s understanding of the overall story line of scripture drives his understanding of Adam and Eve. The Bible has a story line that “tells us who we are, where we came from, what is wrong, and what God is doing about it.” (p. 158) Adam and Eve are essential elements in the story line:

"The Old Testament is thus the story of the one true Creator God who called the family of Abraham to be his remedy for the defilement that came into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. God rescues Israel from slavery in Egypt in fulfillment of this plan, and established them as a theocracy for the sake of displaying his existence and character to the rest of the world. God sent his blessings and curses upon Israel in order to pursue that purpose. God never desisted from that purpose, even in the face of the most grievous unfaithfulness of Israel."


"The New Testament authors … saw themselves as heirs of the older story and as authorized to describe its proper completion in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Messianic era that this ushered in. … [T]hey saw the Old as constituting the earlier chapters of the story in which Christians are now participating." (p. 158-159)


The unity of humanity, the presence of Adam and Eve at the headwaters of the human line, the reality of their sin and the transmission of this sin to all of humanity is, in Collins view, an essential historical element of this story line. The estrangement from God that we experience is unnatural and out of step with how things ought to be. Sin is an alien intruder that disturbs God’s good creation order.

Revelation 22 portrays the consummation as a Eden come to fruition. The place described in Revelation (using symbolism and figurative language) is a sanctuary, a holy place, as the garden in Genesis 2-3 was a sanctuary, a holy place.

Paul places the human experience in this story line. And his comparison of Adam and Jesus depends on this narrative.

"That is, someone did something (one man trespassed, Rom 5:15), and as a result something happened (sin, death, and condemnation came into the world of human experience), then Jesus came to deal with the consequences of it all (by his obedience to make the many righteous).

"The argument gains its coherence from its sequence of events; it is drastically inadequate to say that Paul is merely making a “comparison” here. Further, consider the notion that people are “in Adam” or “in Christ”: to be in someone is to be a member of that people for whom that someone is the representative. All the evidence we have indicates that only actual persons can function as representatives." (p. 163-164)

An important consequence of this story line is that sin is not inherent in being human with a free will. It is a horrific aberration resulting from someone’s disobedience. If this is not the case it undermines the entire notion of atonement through the blood of Christ as described in scripture. According to Collins if this is not the case “[w]e must say that the Bible writers were wrong” and that “Jesus was wrong” when he described his death as a ransom for many in Mark 10:45.

Adam and Eve and the Origin of Humanity

The story line leads us to expect that humankind is all one family, that “God acted specially (“supernaturally”) to form our first parents, and our first parents at the headwaters of humanity brought sin and dysfunction into the world of human life.

Collins argues that there are factors in our make up that are universally human and uniquely human. These go beyond the powers of natural processes. Our capacity for language is one of these. The difference between human and animal language are not merely differences of degree but differences of kind, that is “human language is discontinuous with animal communication.” (p. 165) This difference is inherent in what we are – a human child is built to acquire sophisticated structured language. A chimpanzee or gorilla simply does not have the capacity to move beyond a rudimentary level. Art is another example.

According to Collins:

"It is simply unreasonable to suppose that one can arrive at human capacities without some “help” from outside; that is good reasoning includes recognizing that God’s creative activity is involved." (p. 170)

Evolutionary intermediate processes may (or may not) have occurred. Collins isn’t dogmatic on this point, and he acknowledges that he isn’t conversant in the biology.

In his view animal death is not a theological problem and is not a consequence of the fall. But there must be an event of special creation in the formation of humans, an event that involves distinction from all other animal life.

He does object to some forms of theistic evolution – and Adam and Eve are at the center of this objection. As he puts it: “I find that the strongest form of theistic evolution is inadequate, both for Bible and for historical science, since it fails to account for human distinctiveness.” (p. 173)

Freedoms and Limitations

There are a range of possible interpretations of Genesis 2-3 that are consistent with the overarching story line of the Bible. Collins provides four criteria that he provide ground rules for thinking about Adam and Eve and the origin of humanity. (Quoted from pp. 171-172)

  • The origin of the human race goes beyond a merely natural process. This follows from how hard it is to get a human being or, theologically, how distinctive the image of God is.
  • Adam and Eve are at the headwaters of the human race. This follows from the unified experience of humankind.
  • The “fall,” in whatever form it took, was both historical (it happened) and moral (it involved disobeying God), and it occurred at the beginning of the human race. Our universal sense of loss makes no sense without this. Where else could this universality have come from?
  • If someone should become convinced that there were, in fact, more human beings than just Adam and Eve at the beginning of humankind, then in order to maintain good sense, he or she should envision these as a single tribe of closely related members. Adam would then be the chieftain of this tribe (produced before the others) and Eve would be his wife. This tribe “fell” under the leadership of Adam and Eve. This follows from the notion of solidarity in a representative.

Collins does agree that there is some support for the existence of a larger group of humans, more than just Adam and Eve and their children in Genesis 4. This is indicated by the concerns and actions of Cain after he kills Abel and with his legacy. And, of course, however we imagine Cain got his wife we have to go beyond the text of Genesis in our inference.

This is, as it is billed in the book, an old-earth creation view, but it is a fairly flexible view of old-earth creation.

In the next post on the book we will look at the responses offered by Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, and William Barrick as well as the rejoinder from Jack Collins and my own thoughts on the subject.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Responses to Adam and Eve as Special Creation (RJS)

by RJS
Jul 8, 2014

In the last post on Four Views on the Historical Adam we looked at the view of Adam put forth by C. John Collins. He takes an old earth special creation view, but is willing to consider a wide range of scenarios that fit within certain limits. For example, an old earth and an evolutionary description of the diversity of animal life poses no theological problems if this is where the scientific evidence leads. However, he does not think humans can be fit neatly into an evolutionary picture, scientifically or theologically. Scientifically he feels that “it is simply unreasonable to suppose that one can arrive at human capacities without some “help” from outside” and theologically that it fails to account for human distinctiveness as the image of God.

DL's Rebuttal

Denis Lamoureux has a great deal of respect for Jack Collins as a fellow Christian but disagrees with his position on four major points.

First, he agrees with Collins on the big story of scripture, but doesn’t feel that this requires a historical Adam. Collins has asserted this as a foundation, but doesn’t really make the case in a convincing manner.

Second, Lamoureux thinks that Collins falls into the trap of scientific concordism. Although Collins is willing to consider figurative and imaginative elements in the text, he feels that the text must relate an account of human origins that is in agreement with the historical events. In Lamoureux’s view this amounts to scientific concordism.

Third, Collins wanders into God-of-the-gaps thinking when he asserts that the complexity of human uniqueness must require divine intervention. Such features as language, art, and a craving for community are not as discontinuous with the other animals as Collins supposes. There is good evidence for roots of some of these in the evolution of mammals and especially primates, and the absence of a complete picture does not mean that there is no “natural” explanation – of God, but not requiring special supernatural intervention.

Finally, Lamoureux feels that Collins is somewhat arbitrary in the passages of Genesis 1-11 that he sees as historical and those he sees as figurative or imaginative.

Walton's Rebuttal

John Walton also has a great deal of respect for Jack Collins. John and Jack are fairly close in their overall interpretation, but disagree on a few points. Walton sees the most significant disagreement as one involving the overall approach to Genesis 1-11. While Collins spends a good deal of effort focused on how people today think about history and science, etc. Walton thinks that the focus needs to be on getting inside the mind of the ancient Near Eastern author and audience. We need to think outside our 21st (…18th, 19th, 20th) century box to understand what they intended to convey in the text we have.

Walton agrees with Collins that the bible conveys a universal impact of sin, but doesn’t think that Collins made the case that this requires a unified origin of humanity descended from Adam and Eve (as unique progenitors or as chief of a smallish group). In Walton’s view Collins makes a strong case for the historicity of the fall, but not for material human origins.

Barrick's Rebuttal

William Barrick takes a young earth view of creation. He feels that Denis, John, and Jack all fail to take scripture as the authority it is meant to be. In Barrick’s view Collins is right to stress the importance of historicity, but fails to realize that accuracy in detail is an important component of this and that lack of accuracy is a weakness that invites counterattack – in the ancient Near East and today. Collins appeals to the readers intuition to distinguish between the intent of Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-50. Barrick thinks that this is too subjective and “leaves the door open for too many unacceptable options.” (p. 189) He asserts that “the Hebrew's worldview does not give them the freedom to mythologize history the way the ancient Mesopotamians did” (p. 189) and that “Genesis 1-11 set out to record events exactly as they happened.” (p. 190) Barrick sees the formula phrase “and it was so” as intending to convey this precise historicity in the Genesis 1 account of creation. A “very good” creation is not, in his view, consistent with millions of years of death and disease. He concludes:

The old-earth view yields to the opinions of evolutionary scientists about the age of the earth and about the process of evolution – just like the views presented by Lamoureux and Walton. It boils down to the acceptance of an authority outside the Bible – a dominantly secular authority often very antagonistic to the biblical record – to force the account in Genesis 1-11 to conform to that external authority. The young earth view does not accept reinterpreting the Scriptures to force it into an evolutionary mold. (p. 191)

Collin's Rejoinder

Jack Collins offers a rejoinder to the comments by Lamoureux, Walton, and Barrick. He feels that Lamoureux is misinterpreting him when claiming that he is guilty of scientific concordism or God-of-the-gaps reasoning from an absence of knowledge. We expect historical concordance in scripture, not scientific concordance. His view of the special creation of Adam and Eve does not rest on the expectation of scientific concordance with scripture, but on theological and philosophical grounds. He also appeals to the presence of different kinds of gaps in knowledge. As Christians we affirm that the resurrection was supernatural because of the very nature of the event. Collins feels that the path from molecule to mankind is also the kind of event that requires supernatural intervention on philosophical grounds, not on the grounds of an absence of scientific knowledge.

Collins doesn’t have much to say in response to Barrick or Walton. He finds the claim that his view is formed because of the acceptance of external authority (science) to be a dead end. The only way forward is to deal with the substance of arguments. He and Walton agree on most things and their disagreement on Adam and Eve has already been elaborated in each essay and in his response to Walton’s essay.

And some comments of my own. I think that Lamoureux is misinterpreting Collins when he accuses him of scientific concordism. I do think that the assumptions that Collins brings to scripture require more historical concordance than is warranted. This doesn’t come up much in the current essay, but was made more explicit in his book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. The way Collins describes the need for supernatural intervention in the creation of mankind does strike me as God-of-the-gaps reasoning. This was also discussed in my recent post Fairness Tastes Like Ice Cream, where one of the commenters with more expertise than I provided links elaborating the reasons why the difference are more ones of degree than kind.

But ultimately the reasons Collins upholds some form of special creation and a historical and unique pair are more theological than scientific, or even hermeneutical (dependent on the view of scripture). This is where it is most profitable to focus the discussion.

Over the last few years I have to say that I have become less than convinced that the Bible intends, anywhere, to portray the origin of sin. We don’t know why, for example, the snake is in the garden trying to corrupt Eve and thus Adam also. Rebellion began before Adam. That sin enters the human line with an original pair simply doesn’t seem to be the point in either the Old or New Testaments. On the other hand, the Bible clearly portrays the universal impact of sin and the places the blame firmly on mankind as a species, as communities, and as individuals. Rebellion is the point. We are formed to need God, to be in fellowship with God. But this relationship, like our other relationships, is broken. Broken by us, not by God. Broken time and time again.

I am not convinced by Collins’s arguments for a unique historical Adam because I am not convinced that Adam is theologically important in the story line of Scripture.

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).