As a part of the Counterpoints series, Four Views on the Historical Adam clearly outlines four primary views on Adam held by evangelicals, featuring top-notch proponents of each view presenting their positions in their own words and critiquing the positions with which they disagree. You will come away with a better understanding of the key biblical and theological issues at stake and of the implications of Adam for contemporary Christian witness and church life.
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Four Views on the Historical Adam. By Denis O. Lamoureux, et al. Edited by Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 288 pages. ISBN 978-0310499275. $19.99.
In Four Views on the Historical Adam, part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, Denis O. Lamoureux, John H. Walton, C. John Collins, William Barrick, Gregory A. Boyd, and Philip G. Ryken give insight into the discussion regarding the historicity of Adam by representing their particular perspectives, while interacting with one another. The book is structured with one chapter corresponding to each view, and then concludes with two pastoral reflections. Following each of the four views, there are responses from each individual corresponding to the other three views, which is then followed by one last response by the original view holder. Boyd and Ryken conclude the book with their pastoral reflections, which also differ in perspective.
Denis O. Lamoureux – Evolutionary Creation View (no historical Adam)
John H. Walton – Archetypal Creation View (historical Adam)
C. John Collins – Old-Earth View (historical Adam)
William Barrick – Young-Earth View (historical Adam)
Gregory A. Boyd – Whether or not there was a historical Adam, our faith is secure.
Philip G. Ryken – We cannot understand the world or our faith without a real, historical Adam.
Lamoureux’s argument is one than many evangelicals would certainly shy away from. He argues that Adam never existed, and indeed, we have evolved over millions of years, but the evolutionary process was guided by God. That is, God chose to create via evolution.
Walton suggests that Adam was, in fact a real person, but that Adam and Eve function as archetypes of humanity. His view neither requires Adam and Eve to be the first human beings, nor does it require humanity to have started out with simply two individuals. It also leaves to door open to evolutionary creationism (Lamoureux), since it is not contradictory to it.
Collins and Barrick have similar arguments, differing primarily on the age of the earth. Collins argues that the Genesis creation accounts are historical, but not literal (the events actually happened), whereas Barrick argues that the Genesis creation accounts are both historical and literal (the events actually happened exactly as presented in the text).
Boyd, citing his personal faith journey, discusses why he believes that our faith will not crumble beneath our feet if we do not believe in a historical Adam. He writes that he may not be a Christian today if, during his formative years, he had not found faith in Christ to be compatible with the belief that Adam never existed. Although he is now inclined to say that Adam was a historical person, he concludes that we should not leave people out of orthodox Christianity because they can’t bring themselves to believe that Adam was real.
Finally, Ryken argues that numerous essential church doctrines hang on the fact that Adam was a real, historical man. He discusses, especially, the need for a Second Adam (Christ) because of the historical existence and fall of the first. Heavily advocating for the doctrine of original sin, he argues that the historical Adam and the historical fall of man lays the groundwork for essential doctrines, speaking much about justification.
This book is a helpful introduction overall to the historical Adam debate, as this subject can be quite confusing and overwhelming. The debate-like structure assists in making the subject less overwhelming and easy to follow, although the responses can seem quite repetitive at times. Also, with a topic like this, there are inevitably going to be issues of biblical inerrancy/infallibility that are complexly intertwined, and in order to fully address the topic at hand, there is little space to address these issues.
Unfortunately, I found that some of the contributors spend much time discussing why others are wrong, and telling what they think, rather than attempting to “prove” their view. This is especially true of Barrick’s young-earth view, but is also present from time to time in the other arguments. Beyond that, because of the breakdown of the book (i.e. the four views), it seemingly became a debate regarding creation, which subtly includes the historical Adam. Although, that seems inescapable when dealing with this subject because of the intertwined nature of creation and Adam.
The pastoral reflections bring the book to an end by moving beyond academia to everyday, on-the-ground theology. Assuming this book is an accurate representation of the Zondervan Counterpoints series (this is the first book in the series that I have read), the series is a great tool that facilitates scholarly interaction at a level that is accessible and readable.