Mythical Adam = Mythical Gospel

Should Christians Embrace Evolution?: Biblical and Scientific Responses 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.”

Michael Reeves, “Adam and Eve” in Should Christians Embrace Evolution? (chapter 3).

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

1 thought on “Mythical Adam = Mythical Gospel”

  1. No. If St Paul compared you or me to Christ, his argument would have been the same. That is, after all, the ultimate destination, isn’t it? Adam– or you or me– only matters to the argument as a representative of the human condition of sin, and any member of any generation of the species will do as an exemplar of that condition touching all generations. By definition, if you or I or any other human could not exemplify the problem of our whole species just as the first generation could do, then humanity as a whole would not have the problem and Christ’s assumption of humanity would not remedy it. So what St Paul elegantly indicates by choosing the first generation of humanity (rather than, say, Abraham) is not how the solution of grace works in Christ– the mechanism is the same for all of us– but rather the species-wide scope of the problem of sin. Since that scope could have been indicated in other ways, Adam need never have been mentioned in scripture for your or my confidence in salvation through Christ to be well-founded. If that is truly your only concern, then you not only don’t need to read this book, but can feel deeply relieved that scientific discoveries about human origins will never ever trouble your faith in Christ. You don’t have a dog in that fight.

    So then, why have these authors written a book to trouble your faith anyway? Because it is not your faith in Christ that evolution endangers. It is their belief that a man named Adam caused the guilt for which we are all judged. Does this belief strengthen your faith? Of course not. Is this belief in scripture? It was once believed that it is in Romans 5:12, but both ancient Greek fathers and modern academic exegetes agree this Western misreading was a blunder. Are there traditional Christians who have never believed this no-longer-scriptural doctrine? Yes– Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Mennonite Anabaptists, Conservative Quakers– and all of them have a wonderfully deep sense of sin and gratitude to Christ for salvation. You still don’t need the book.

    Is there any possible reason why you might decide to complicate your faith with an unscriptural doctrine that entangles you in a wholly avoidable religion v science culture war? Yes. You might not know that, in the Greek text of Romans 5:12, *eph ho* means ‘because’ not ‘in whom’ nor that it could refer to either *hemarton* (sin) or *thanatos* (death). You might vaguely know these facts without grasping their immense significance. You might not practice sola scriptura by changing your mind as your knowledge of scripture improves. You might know about Romans 5:12 but think of biblical exegesis as a team sport, and feel that you just cannot concede a point to another team. You might be nostalgic for hell-fire religion that depends on Adam’s transmitted guilt. You might be paid to at least not question out-dated theology. You might be a happy warrior in search of an enemy, and ‘evolution v original sin’ is a culture war battle you can join. If any of these are you, then you may want the book.


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