Many of our readers probably know that some in broadly Christian circles debate whether Adam and Eve were real, actual, historical people. Some believe, based on the theory of evolution, that Adam and Eve were either not the first humans or they are simply myths or symbols God used to describe some truths. Historic Christianity, however, has strongly and firmly insisted that Adam and Eve were actual, historical people – the first two humans, the first people God created.
Michael Reeves, in Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, makes an excellent biblical, theological, and logical case that Adam and Eve were in fact historical people. His essay is too large to summarize here, but it is worth quoting a few parts of it.
“[In Romans 5:12-21] Paul could hardly have been clearer that he supposed Adam was as real and historical a figure as Christ and Moses (and Abraham). Yet it is not just Paul’s language that suggests he believes in a historical Adam; his whole argument depends on it. His logic would fall apart if he was comparing a historical man (Christ) to a mythical or symbolical one (Adam).”
“If Adam and his sin were mere symbols, then there would be no need for a historical atonement; a mythical atonement would be necessary to undo a mythical fall. With a mythical Adam, then, Christ might as well be – in fact, would do better to be – a symbol of divine forgiveness and new life. Instead, the story Paul tells is of a historical problem of sin, guilt and death being introduced into the creation, a problem that required a historical solution.”
There is more to Reeves’ excellent argument. His closing statement, which I’ll conclude with below, is a summary of the main points:
“The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian understanding of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross, and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.”
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)