Message 2, God's Design for Adam (Pre-Conference):
This morning, as we turn to focus and to look at God’s design for Adam — as we’ve just spent some time marveling and looking at the wonder, and the joy, and the delight of what God has done in creating — we’re now going to turn to look specifically at the creation of man. And, while we’ve had some fun thinking about various things about the glory of creation, I now want to turn with you to really an area of contention, an area of debate, and step back a bit into history with you.
In the 19th century, a great challenge arose to the gospel as European and American theologians sought to use scientific and literary methods to try to discover Jesus — a Jesus they believed was not entirely revealed by the text of the New Testament. They began to believe increasingly that this text of the New Testament lacked sufficiency; it lacked clarity; it certainly lacked infallibility and inerrancy.
And so the quest for the historical Jesus was born. A man named Albert Schweitzer titled a book by this name, and he recorded this quest for the historical Jesus and noted that many Jesuses resulted from this search. Sadly, Schweitzer’s own Jesus also really looked nothing like the Jesus of Scripture.
Well today, among evangelicals not only in America but also globally, we face another quest — the quest for the historical Adam. There’s a flurry of publishing as evangelicals are once again revisiting Genesis driven by the issue of how to reconcile the text of Genesis on human origins with mainstream views of cosmic and human origins. And the result is now that — whether from publishers like Zondervan, or organizations like BioLogos, or at some Christian colleges and evangelical seminaries — we have developing a crowd of possible Adams. Some like the theologian Peter Enns posit a mythical Adam.
He says the days, the dust, the rib, Adam and Eve themselves are all figures; simply representations of an early humanity. Others like the Wheaton College professor John Walton in his Lost World of Adam and Eve, and John Collins in his Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?, argue that there were two historical people named Adam and Eve, but their origins — exactly how they came about — are not really of great concern. They may have come into being through evolutionary processes. They may have been chieftains of a tribe of contemporaries.
Well, I’m grateful there are those like Walton and Collins who do maintain an historical Adam and Eve, but I want to press you this morning to consider that what matters is not just believing in an Adam and Eve, but in the Adam and Eve of Scripture. You know, the challenge we face is not a new challenge. We could trace it all the way back through history to the earliest extra-biblical accounts of origins.
The ancient civilization of the Acadians, the Akkadians — their epic Atrahasis around 1800 before Christ contended that the gods, plural, created humanity from clay and the flesh and blood of a slain god, because they needed someone to do the work that the lesser deities of the time were refusing to do.
This certainly was a challenge at the time, and if we were to continue to trace history in many forms, going onwards — both outside the church and within — a question arises again and again regarding Genesis 1, 2, 3 and following. Has God really said? And, by grace, through the centuries we see men and women being raised up to say, “Yes, He has.”
Well, while much can be said about the enduring history of the debates, and the longevity in Christianity of a literal tradition understanding of human and cosmic origins, perhaps one of the most pressing questions — really what we want to focus on this morning — is what difference does it make?
What difference does it make if we believe in an Adam and Eve of evolutionary origins or the Adam and Eve of a special, intimate, immediate creation on the sixth day — the Adam and Eve of the literal tradition of understanding Genesis.
As we answer this, begin by turning with me in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1. Just read again the opening words, and then we’ll move to verse 26, to the sixth-day creation of man. Genesis 1, verse 1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And now, moving to verse 26, here on the sixth day, we read:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them.
And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I’ve given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I’ve given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Now, jumping to Genesis 2, verse 5. Here in Genesis 2, we have this detailed description of God’s marvelous work in the context of the sixth day that’s situated within the broader work of creation. We read, verse 5:
“When no beast — bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant to the field had yet sprung up — for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground — then the Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
We jump ahead to chapter 2, verse 18. We read there that the Lord God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” And we have the animals brought before Adam, and there’s no helper there; verse 20:
“But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and He brought her to the man.
Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Well, having heard the Word of God, now consider with me — as we step through a few areas together in our time remaining here — what difference does it make how we understand these passages of Scripture? What difference does it make if we hold to a plain reading of the text on the origins of humanity here?
First of all, in the area of our holistic understanding of Scripture. If we take a literal, historical reading here of the text, it necessarily means that Adam and Eve were created from actual dust for Adam, and from Adam’s very real rib for Eve on the sixth day.
They are the first humans — the first man and the first woman, created intimately and marvelously by God — and they have no ancestry. Now holding this in, doesn’t in any way negate the literary beauty, the marvelousness, the structure of these chapters, but it harmonizes seamlessly with the wider themes of Scripture. The intimate and marvelous work of God here fits with the marvelous themes of the beauty of the garden, of the temple, of the Person and work of Christ, even right to the last things of the return of Christ.
There’s a beautiful coherence there, and it coheres specifically with what we read throughout the pages of Scripture on man himself, on ourselves. If we’d flip ahead to the giving of the Ten Commandments, we’re reminded that God created all things that exist in the space of six days; or the genealogy of 1 Chronicles, which begins with Adam; or Christ speaking on the ordinance of marriage in Matthew and Mark and referring to these verses from Genesis 2; or the rich Pauline theology of Adam and Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians. It fits seamlessly, perfectly with this reading and understanding of Genesis.
It also perfectly harmonizes with the way that God reveals Himself after Genesis 1 and 2, because we understand that as God who acts supernaturally, miraculously — He acts above and beyond the natural — he’s the One who intervenes. He’s the One who sustains and rules.
But what happens if we say that the dust is figurative, the rib is figurative? I would argue that when we say something like this, when we adopt this kind of a hermeneutical principle, we’ve adopted an erosive hermeneutical principle of interpretation of the text. Why is it erosive? Well it’s because if we say these things here are figurative, there is no textual, there’s no exegetical reason for drawing a line, an end point of using a figurative approach to the text here.
I’m glad that there are those who nonetheless, though holding another view of the days, maintain a special creation of Adam and Eve. I’m thankful for such brothers in Christ that they do hold that. But I would argue here that, as we shift, there’s no exegetical ground for stopping this movement.
Some may say, “Well the theology of the New Testament is what, really holds us to a specific Adam and Eve.” But what do the critics say from the other side? Well they say, “Isn’t our theology to be directed by our exegesis? If it’s legitimate for us to hold a figurative approach to human origins — or, more broadly, here at the beginning — why can’t we continue on?” And I think they have a point. And so we see this happening.
There are those who are sailing on forward through the text of Scripture. Some like Peter Enns posit that Adam and Eve themselves are simply figurative for humanity. So we move from a figurative dust and a figurative rib to a figurative Adam and Eve, and the trajectory goes on — a figurative snake and a figurative garden. And some move on to simply outright reject the inerrancy of Scripture. Others are seeking to redefine it. Those who advance onwards call their fellows to move to this greater consistency.
Friends, one way or the other, if we hold that God did this marvelous work as we read it here — simply, plainly, and gloriously in the text — there’s a marvelous consistency with the whole of Scripture. But if we move, it’s true, why not continue with the consistency of our shift? But that’s a devastating consistency. It threatens to, and has every reason to erode the entirety of the teaching of the Word of God, and it’s happened over and over again. What we’re seeing today in the early 21st century happened in the 19th century. It happened in the 17th century. It happens over and over again.
Let’s look at a second area. Aside from the doctrine of Scripture for our understanding of the interpretation of Scripture, what about the doctrine of man himself? The millennia-long battle over our origin is crucial. It’s crucial because it is about you. It’s about us. Are we evolved animals? Were your ancestors the great apes, and at some point you became an image-bearer of God? Or were you specially created by God — intimately, immediately, gloriously; a creature created uniquely in the image of God?
Again, if we hold to a literal understanding of human origins, as presented here in the text, there’s a marvelous distinction between man and animals. God creates each animal according to its kind, but God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” There’s much that could be said here.
I just want to focus in on one aspect. Adam and Eve, according to Genesis, were created within a short space of time, within the parameters of a sixth day, and in an immediately mature state. They were fully human, fully God’s image-bearers — body and soul — from the moment of receiving life. When God breathed into Adam, the breath of life, as Adam came alive, he was immediately, fully human. Everything that that means.
Now theistic evolutionists are all over the map here on how human origins are to be reconciled with Genesis. Some say Adam evolved but he had non-human, hominid parents. And then God imparted a soul into him at some point of maturity and then created Eve from his rib, perhaps, in a special act of creation — that’s perhaps the most conservative view.
Others argue that Adam became human simply because God entered into relationship with humanity at some point in its evolution and made man religious. But all of this raises a question: if man evolved and became human through God imparting a soul, or by God bringing man into a spiritual relationship at some point in time, this means that Adam, at some point, was not actually a human.
At some point, there’s a line in existence of a humanity or human-like being. And this raises a question for our ethics of humanity, our ethics of life: when does human life begin now? At conception? Later on? Adulthood? You might think this is strange. It’s not so strange. Francis Collins, a leading theistic evolutionist — a founder of the BioLogos organization — argues that embryonic stem cell research is acceptable because he believes that embryos, in their early stages, are not humans. You see, only with a literal view of Adam and Eve’s creation origins do we see an integrity of all of human life from the very beginning.
Let me turn with you to a second and final key area here. Again, there’s much that could be said; much that could be said about the fall into sin. How does the fall into sin work with an evolved humanity? Some are now saying that sin was imputed backwards. All sorts of theories are being developed. Theories that hit directly at the goodness of God.
You see, if God declares that creation is very good, that very goodness that He declares must be consistent with His own being. And it was! When God said that something was very good — and He declared at the end of the sixth day that it was all very good — He could say that because that goodness was its — in its fullness, consistent with who He is. And this, again, raises significant issues.
Finally, let’s turn to consider Christ as Creator and Redeemer. Colossians 1:15 through 17 tell us that Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. By Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible — all things were created through Him and for Him.” Hebrews 1 reiterates this, as does Ephesians 3:9 — “God created all things through Jesus Christ.” Friends, the doctrine of God begins at Genesis 1, verse 1.
The doctrine of Christ begins at Genesis 1, verse 1. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ begins at Genesis 1, verse 1. God has inspired, has specially revealed this entire book for our salvation, from Genesis 1, verse 1 through the end of Revelation. And so, we see that this is all about the gospel — to know God as Creator and Redeemer. The two are inseparable.
And so, there’s a marvelous mystery here. God the Son, intimately involved in fashioning Adam’s body from the dust of the ground, the breath of life being breathed into him, Eve being formed from his rib, the Son of God with the Father and the Spirit together involved in this work of creation knowing, the Son knowing that this very creaturely body of flesh and blood created in His image would be the very nature He would take to Himself as our Redeemer. This is the gospel begun here in Genesis.
Let’s pray together.
Our triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; how we thank You for Your Word. We were not there when You laid the foundations of the earth, but You have revealed Yourself to us as Creator of the marvelous universe, as Creator of ourselves. We are Your creatures.
Oh God, we pray that You would help us to hear You voice in Your Word without confusion or distraction. Cause us to worship You with awe and wonder, and to be reacquainted marvelously with the fact that You intimately care for us — body and soul — and that You have shown that to us in You own dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.