Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Adam was not a real person? Lamoureux's view

In this post we turn our attention to just one of the four views of our book, that of Denis O. Lamoureux. I must admit that I’ve found it rather tricky to know how to adequately interact with Lamoureux’s argument within the necessary limits of this post.  And so, because I have had to be rather selective in focusing on particular aspects of his view let me strongly encourage you to read his chapter for yourself so that you may better appreciate his argument and decide what you think about my response to it.

Lamoureux is the only contributor who asserts that Adam was not a real life person.  His view, in very brief summary, is below:

·         God ‘created the universe and life, including humans, through an ordained, sustained, and intelligent design-reflecting natural [evolutionary] process’ (Pg 37).
·         God has revealed himself as creator through The Book of God’s Words (Scripture which presents the core truth that God is creator) and the Book of God’s Works (Creation itself which explains how God created).
·         The biblical statements about nature are written from an ancient phenomenological perspective  (i.e. As the authors’ experienced and understood it from their point of view rather than as an accurate presentation of how nature really is and works)
·          ‘[R]ather than confusing the biblical writers and their readers with modern scientific concepts, God accommodated’ (Pg 49. Emphasis mine) by using the science of that time to communicate inerrant spiritual truths. As such, Genesis 1-11 does not recount actual history (i.e. what ‘actually happened’) but uses words, concepts and even fictional events and people as ‘incidental vessels’ to convey core truths.
·         ‘Since ancient science [regarding Adam] does not align with physical reality, it follows that Adam never existed’ (Pg 58). In other words, Adam was a fictional ‘incidental vessels’ whom God used to convey inerrant truth about humanity, our creation and our fall.

Some of Lamoureux’s conclusions are:

·         The earth is very old and real human history only begins with Abraham around Genesis 12
·         ‘Holy Scripture makes statements about how God created the heavens [and living organisms] that in fact never happened’ (Pg 54 & 56).
·         This means that how humans came to bear ‘the Image of God and human sin were mysteriously manifested’ (Pg 43) and remain a theological mystery.
·         Likewise, just as Scripture ‘does not reveal how God actually created life, the Bible does not reveal the origin of biological death’ (Pg 62).
·         Adam never existed and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity’ (Pg 38)

(OK. Now go and read back over that again for a second or even third time!)
As I was reading Lamoureux’s view I found myself occasionally nodding along, at other times murmuring an indecisive ‘hmmmm’, and on a number of instances shaking my head vigorously. Whilst I was concerned about a number of the aspects of Lamoureux’s argument, unfortunately I am only able to offer some brief thoughts here, all of which focuses on our how we understand God’s ‘revealing’ of himself to us and our confidence in that revelation.

Firstly, I have some reservations about the ‘Two Divine Book Model’ that Lamoureux espouses.  He writes that ‘The Book of God’s Works reveals how the Lord created us; the Book of God’s Words discloses that He created us in His Image and that we are all sinners (Pg 63-4).  I’m not sure we can or should divorce the that from the how as he does. The implications of Lamoureux’s view is that the ‘mechanism’ of humanity’s creation, fall and judgment as revealed in Genesis 1-3 didn’t actually happen like that at all and so is destined to remain a theological mystery to us. This seems totally unsatisfactory to me. In Genesis 1-3 God has provided us with an account of humanity’s creation, fall and judgment and it baffles me that we would push it to the side as having no bearing on the actual reality of how what really did happen (even after taking into account a degree of accommodation and the need to understand different literary styles as we read Scripture).  I’m left with questions such as “Without knowing how I came to bear God’s image, how do I know I truly do bear God’s image? Without knowing how sin came into the world (and death through sin) then how do I know that there truly is no-one righteous, that all are deserving of death and that Christ was the only one who could make atonement for sin?” and so on.

(Furthermore, I think we need to bring a careful reading of Romans 1 and a proper understanding of the relationship between Special and General Revelation to bear upon the ‘Two Divine Book Model’.  The articles here and here are a good place to start if you would like to ponder that further.)

Secondly, I am concerned that Lamoureux relies too heavily on a grossly oversimplified, ‘all or nothing’ understanding of accommodation. As we consider how the God of the entire universe went about revealing himself to finite and sinful human beings we need to understand that some level of accommodation was essential. However, Lamoureux’s failure to recognize subtlety and complexity in God’s accommodating language throughout Scripture ‘creates tension in regard to God’s truthfulness in His Word’ (Barrick on Pg 83). It leads us to question whether the God we have come to know through Scripture (in both his character and action) actually is the God who truly exists. If, because of accommodation, Genesis 1-3 bears such little (even no) resemblance to God’s actual creative efforts and the reality of how sin entered the world, then on what basis can we have confidence in any of the rest of Scripture when it comes to grasping the truth of how God truly interacts with humanity and the rest of creation? On what basis can we be confident that our understanding of how we have come to be justified and forgiven in Christ is actually how we have come to be justified and forgiven rather than something that didn’t actually happen in reality? On what basis can we be confident that the resurrection which gives us the hope of eternity was actually a bodily resurrection rather than yet another instance of accommodation? As Barrick writes, Lamoureux’s oversimplified approach to divine accommodation ultimately ‘strikes at the integrity and dependability of Scripture’ (Pg 83).

Alongside a number of other concerns, these reservations mean that ultimately I cannot help but disagree with Lamoureux’s conclusion that ‘Adam never existed and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity’ (Pg 38). After all, how can I hold confidently to God as creator, humankind as made in his image, the depravity of humanity and the justice of God’s character in judging sin if all of this was ‘mysteriously manifested’ in a way that bears no real resemblance to God’s revelation in Genesis 1-3? What confidence can I have in the clarity and the truth of Scripture?

About this month's contributor, Dani Treweek
After training at Moore Theological College, Dani went on to serve as the Women's Minister at St Matthias Anglican Church for over six years. Recently she has said a sad goodbye to her brothers and sisters at St Matthias in order to (God willing) pursue PhD studies commencing in 2016. She loves reading, and so is constantly perplexed that the pile of unread books waiting next to her bed (or on her kindle) doesn't ever seem to get any smaller. She's also a Les Miserables tragic, would choose Pepsi Max over Coke Zero any day and continues to maintain that her best ever organisational decision was ditching all those misshapen, mismatched wire coat hangers in favour of lovely, matching, consistent and aesthetically pleasing plastic black ones.

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