Genesis, History, and Morality (Schaeffer)

 If a person denies the factual historicity of Genesis 1-3 that person has cut himself or herself off from some of the major truths of biblical Christianity.  Others have explained this well: if you deny the fact that Adam was a historical human being, you are far out of step with Jesus’ teaching (Mt. 19:5) and the apostle Paul’s (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22).  It is not a Christian position to believe that Adam was a mythical figure.  Denying the historicity of Adam and Eve opens the door to many theological problems.  Francis Schaeffer expanded on this and said denying Genesis 1-3 also leads to moral problems:

There was a time before the fall, and then man turned from his proper integration point by choice, and in so doing, there was a moral discontinuity; man became abnormal.  Remove that and the Christian answer in the area of morals is gone.  Often I find evangelicals playing games with the first half of Genesis.  But if you remove a true, historic, space-time fall, the answers are finished.  It is not only that historic, biblical Christianity as it stands in the stream of history is gone, but every answer we possess in the area of morals in the area of man and his dilemma, is gone.

Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, p. 35

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015


The Original Homeland of Man

Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview The following paragraph from Kingdom Prologue is one that I’ve appreciated for a long time:

The original homeland of man might well have been named Immanuel.  God was with man, man’s dwelling-place was God’s dwelling-place.  That was the greatest glory of paradise and the supreme and ultimate blessedness of human life.  The covenant servant had been created for friendship and fellowship with his Lord.  He was qualified for this holy communion by the nature with which God’s creating hand endowed him.  And he found to his delight that his transcendent Maker was not a god far off, but the immanent Immanuel.  Man did not have to make a long pilgrimage to come to God’s dwelling.  There was no great wilderness to pass through, no perilous ascent on high or journey down into the depths was necessary to find God.  For man was by creation’s arrangement a house-guest at home in the house of God.

Kline goes on later to echo Augustine – and ultimately Paul – by nothing this fact: we’ve gained more in Christ than we lost in Adam!

Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue, p60.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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

The Positive Elements of the Covenant of Works (Vos)

Reformed Dogmatics (5 vols.) In volume 2 of his Reformed Dogmatics, Geerhardus Vos discusses (in detail) the covenant of works.  Here’s an outline of the main propositions concerning the federal headship of Adam in that covenant (I tweaked the formatting a bit to make it easier to follow the outline).

    a)      Adam by nature was obliged to obey God, without thereby having any right to a reward.
    b)      God had created him mutable, and he also possessed no right to an immutable state.
    c)      His natural relationship to God already included that he, if sinning, must be punished by God.
    d)      All this was a natural relationship in which Adam stood. Now to this natural relationship a covenant was added by God, which contained various positive elements.
  e)      These positive elements were the following.
1.      An element of representation. Adam stood not just for himself but by virtue of a legal ordering of God, for all his posterity.
2.      An element of probation with limited duration. While previously or otherwise Adam’s period of testing could have lasted forever with a constant possibility of a sinful choice, so now a fixed period of perseverance would have led to a condition of immutable virtue.
3.      An element of reward, ‘ex pacto’ [by covenant]. By the free ordination of God, Adam received a right to eternal life if he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant of works.
    f)      Now when it is said that these three elements are positive, that does not mean that within God’s being there was not an inclination to reveal Himself in such unremitting kindness to man. He is the God of the covenant, and it is intrinsic to His being that He wants to be. But man had no right to expect and to demand it; in so far is the covenant of works positive.

Vos, Geerhardus. Reformed Dogmatics. Ed. Richard B. Gaffin and Richard de Witt. Trans. Annemie Godbehere et al. Vol. 2. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013. Print.

shane lems

Bavinck on Adam Pre-Fall: Merit or Maturity?

Herman Bavinck’s valuable survey of Christian doctrine, Our Reasonable Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956) has a wonderful section on the state of man in Eden before the fall.  Let me summarize his summary from pages 216-220.

Bavinck starts by noting that we have to distinguish between the “condition in which the first man was created and the destination to which he was called.”  That is, “the image of God” in man “had to come to a constantly richer and fuller unfolding of its content by means of its striving towards its destination.”  “Man had to cultivate the earth so that it would more and more become a revelation of God’s attributes.”  Adam’s work wasn’t some endless, aimless toil, but it had a developmental intention, a “course of action, final purpose, destination.”  “If, then, man at his creation was called to work, that implies that he himself and the people who should issue from him should enter into a rest after the work.”  Rest was the destination.

Further: “The final purpose of man lay in the eternal blessedness,” to praise and glorify God.  However, Adam did not live in heaven, but in paradise.  He was in a state where there was night and day, whereas in heaven there is neither (Rev 21.25 and 22.5).  Adam was in a state where there was work to be done; heaven is rest.  Adam was in a state where there was marriage; heaven has no marriage (Matt 22.30).  Adam had a natural, earthly body; heaven’s citizens have a spiritual body (1 Cor 15).  Adam could stray, sin, wander; those in heaven cannot and do not.  Adam was placed at the beginning of a road, not the end; “he was able-not-to-sin, but not-yet-not-able-to-sin.”  “He did not yet possess eternal life which cannot be corrupted and cannot die, but received instead a preliminary immortality whose existence and duration depended upon the fulfillment of a condition.”  One thing Adam lacked – spiritually and physically – was “absolute certainty.”

Does this mean that Adam needed to mature and one day grow up to faith[fullness]?  “We must maintain that” Adam was “not at first a small, innocent child that had to develop into maturity.”  “He was immediately created in the image of God in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.”  How then would Adam before the fall reach that certain state of blessedness?  “In order to enter into the rest of God he first had to finish God’s work.  The entrance to the Sabbath is opened by the six days of work.”    Moreover, whether Adam “was to reach that appointed destination was made dependent upon his own choice and upon his own will.” “One comes to eternal life by way of work.”

Of course, Bavinck goes into even more depth in Reformed Dogmatics, where he says clearly: the matter and substance of the doctrine of the covenant of works is certain.  Also, as I’ve noted on here before, Kuyper and Vos sound very similar to the above, because the covenant of works runs through the veins of Dutch Reformed orthodoxy.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Kuyper on Covenants (Works/Grace) Part III of III

Ending (for now) this series of posts on Kuyper’s clear affirmation and appreciation of the CoW/CoG distinction, we see how Kuyper views pre-fall Adam in contrast to the Christian.  Again, this is taken from The Work of the Holy Spirit (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1900).  It should be read with the first two similar posts (parts I & II), though also note it is from a different context in the book (pages 273-4). 

“God’s word teaches the following differences between the two [pre-fall Adam and the Christian]: 1) Adam’s treasure was losable, and that of God’s children is unlosable.  2) The former was to obtain eternal life, while the latter already possess it.  3) Adam stood under the Covenant of Works, and the regenerated under the Covenant of Grace.  These differences are essential, and indicate a difference of status.  Adam did not belong to the ungodly that are justified, but was sinlessly just.  He did not live by an extraneous righteousness which is by faith, as the regenerated, but shone with an original righteousness truly his own.  He lived under the law which says: ‘Do this, and thou shalt live; if not, thou shalt die.'”

“Hence Adam had no other faith than that which comes by ‘natural disposition.’  He did not live out of a righteousness which is by faith, but out of an original righteousness.  The cloud of witnesses in Heb. xi. does not begin with sinless Adam, but with Abel before he was slain.”

Still more: “The fathers have always strongly emphasized this point.  They taught that Adam’s original righteousness was not accidental, supernatural, added to his nature, but inherent in his nature; not another’s righteousness imputed to him and appropriated by faith, but a righteousness naturally his own.  Wherefore Adam needed no substitute; he stood for himself in the nature of his own being.  Hence his status was the opposite of that which constitutes for the child of God the glory of his faith.”

Now he criticizes: “[Some] imprudently teach that sinless Adam lived by the righteousness of Christ.  Let them be careful of the consequences.  Scripture allows no theories which obliterate the difference between the Covenant of Works and that of Grace.”


sunnyside wa