Saturday, April 3, 2010

The danger of going too far

For decades the debate over our interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 has been lively, not only in American culture but within conservative Christian circles. A number of hermeneutical issues are at play, including debates over genre, language, literary context and theological intent.

While there may be room for differences of opinion regarding some of these interpretive elements, we must be careful to hold with an indefatigable grip to the historicity of the account and the reality of Adam, Eve and the serpent. Considering the fact that Paul grounds our justification in Romans 5 and our glorification in I Corinthians 15 by assuming a literal Adam (our federal head in death) failing God's test in a literal garden, setting the stage for our salvation in a literal Jesus (our federal head in life), the historicity of the persons and events of Genesis 1 & 2 must be maintained.

In light of that, I am saddened and concerned by recent comments made on this subject by one of my scholar-heros. Watch and consider carefully if he is not giving away too much in his pursuit of scholarship:


Nathan Pitchford said...

I've seen that too, and found it very troubling. Sad...

Vince said...

I have had three conversations about this very topic in the last month. Each person I talked to leaned in this same direction. It's a slippery slope isn't it.

Nathan Pitchford said...

And not just a slipper slope, but problematic in its own right. Romans 5 just doesn't work without a historical Adam. And the gospel doesn't work without Romans 5.

thefourwinds said...

I'll confess that I don't know who Tremper Longman III is, but this belief is monumentally common in evangelicalism.

What is not so evident to most is that the slippery slope, in my opinion, seems to have begun farther back - the slippery slope of theologians 150-200 years ago to trust scientific-sounding conclusions about the age of the earth rather than trusting the clear, infallible words of Scripture itself. That's why I give such strong apologies for the age of the earth (i.e. a few thousand years instead of millions or billions, not focusing on whether it was 4004 B.C. or 4006 B.C., etc.).

Believing in a certain age of the earth does not affect our actual salvation, but it sure affects the consistency of doctrine on the slope described above. One person or group undercuts Scripture in one area and may go no further. However, the next person or group will undercut Scripture in both that place and in the next logical place(s).

The next logical place after accepting long ages is rejecting an historical Adam.

The next logical place after the non-historical Adam is non-literal sin. No sin = no savior necessary. No savior = no gospel. At the same time, one may as well begin discounting anything miraculous (e.g. Virgin Conception, Resurrection from the dead).

Bottom line, IMO - the slippery slope all started at the introduction of millions/billions of years, which was a concept introduced by anti-Christian philosophers about 200 years ago making completely unprovable (and unfounded) geological assumptions. Most (but not all) Christian scholars at the time accepted those ideas uncritically. Therefore long ages became a common belief in the church and in seminaries, etc. But commonality is not necessarily accuracy.