Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Theistic Evolution and its Embrace of a Mythical Adam

Theistic evolutionist - he calls himself an “evolutionary creationist” - Denis Lamoureaux made a presentation at the Westminster Conference on Science and Faith (2012). He argued that there was nothing that could have prevented God from creating through evolution.

Besides the fact that such a position is oxymoronic – even God can’t guide through an unguided process – this just isn’t the point. Instead, the point is whether or not evolution contradicts the biblical account. However, Lamoureaux insists that you can have both – evolution without compromising the Bible. Nevertheless, he insists that Paul was wrong that an historic Adam actually existed.

His proof: The Bible was influenced by the errant science of its day. He cited Genesis 1 and its teaching on the “firmament” – a hard, solid object, something like the Great Wall of China, separating the waters of the seas from the waters of the skies – which he claimed that the Bible naively borrowed from ancient near-eastern cosmology. He also claimed that Paul was blinded by this cosmology, as his own writings reveal.

Lamoureaux cited Philippians 2:10 – “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” – claiming this threefold division of the cosmos reflects the errant scientific thinking of Paul’s day.

Even if Lamoureaux is correct, and this terminology is derived from an errant worldview, this fails to prove that Paul was duped by it and was teaching mistakenly because of it.

There is a great distinction between common usage and errant thinking and teaching. According to common usage, we say that the sun “rose.” Admittedly, this language might reflect errant science, but now it remains in our vocabulary because of its ability to communicate.

We know that the sun doesn’t literally rise, but scientifically precise language would fail to convey the idea, “what a glorious sunset!” Also, using this terminology doesn’t mean that we are ignorant of planetary reality or that we are misleading others.

Paul’s intention wasn’t to teach the errant cosmology of his day but rather the fact that every knee will bow wherever there are knees to bow – whether in heaven, earth, or even under the earth, if there are people there. This is the language of exaggeration!

I would imagine that language often did arise out of the rubble of mistaken ideas. We find a lot of this language in the Bible, whether in the form of the “firmament” or even in the Book of Revelation, which teaches that:

  • Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth. (Rev. 20:7-8) 
 Of course, the earth doesn’t have four corners. However, it is probable that this language most clearly communicated the idea that Satan would deceive the entire world, and not just the nations at the very “corners of the earth.” Clearly, Revelation is not speaking literally! Nor is it trying to teach that the earth actually has “four corners.”

However, Lamoureaux reasons that if Paul was wrong about living people being “under the earth,” then we shouldn’t insist that he was right about an historic Adam.

Here’s what is so perplexing about all of this. Lamoureaux assured his audience that he is a bonifide evangelical. He even recited the many evangelical doctrines to which he ascribed, like the Trinity and Incarnation. However, if he denies that Paul was correct about a literal Adam, then he must also deny all of the doctrines that Paul had based on a literal Adam:

  1. The Entrance of Sin and Death into the World
  2. The Fall
  3. The Gift and Justification of Christ Addressing Adam’s Trespass
  4. The Reign of Grace Replacing the Reign of Sin and Death (Romans 5:12-21)
  5. Christ as the Second Adam (1Cor. 15:21-22, 45)
Perhaps even worse, if we can’t trust what Paul had written about Adam, why should we trust anything else he wrote?

This problem cannot be restricted to merely the teachings of Paul. Adam’s genealogy connects him to the Patriarchs and eventually even to Jesus. If Adam is mythical, perhaps also Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and everyone else genealogically connected to the “mythical” Adam.

Jesus also acknowledged the historical Adam. When asked by the religious leaders about divorce, Jesus took them back to Genesis 1 and 2, and how God had joined Adam and Eve together, making them one, to prove that we have no business undoing what God had done (Mat. 19:3-8).

Well, if Paul was mistaken about an historical Adam, then Jesus also! If this is the case, what then can we trust about Jesus’ teachings? I guess that Lamoureaux would then have to position himself as a judge above the entire Bible to determine what is trustworthy. In this case, Jesus would no longer serve as Lamoureaux’s judge, but Lamoureaux would reign as judge over Jesus – not exactly what Jesus had intended!

Based on what, then, does Lamoureaux believe in the Trinity? Habit? Fear?

I therefore began to wonder what the scene would look like if the venue was changed. If instead of presenting a talk at Westminster, where he was received with applause as a respected professor, he had been debating the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, what should have been the response of the faithful? Would it be fitting to extend Lamoureaux applause or an opportunity to repent?

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