Editorial: Debating The Historicity Of Adam: Does It Matter? -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 15:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Editorial: Debating The Historicity Of Adam: Does It Matter?
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Editorial: Debating The Historicity Of Adam: Does It Matter?

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.

Since the rise of the Darwinian theory of evolution and its acceptance by the larger scientific community the early chapters of Genesis have come under increasing debate and criticism. Many Christians, who have sought to maintain their commitment to Scripture while accepting “the assured results of science,” have wrestled with how to interpret the creation account, especially the question of whether Adam and Eve should be understood as real, historical people. Throughout church history the majority view, though varied in details, has maintained that even though Genesis 1-3 is not a scientific treatise, it accurately teaches us how God created the universe and the first couple. In fact, until recent times, to deny the creation account as truthful and historical, was viewed as undermining the authority of Scripture and undercutting the theological grounding to the entire redemptive plan of God centered in Christ. That is why a crucial test of orthodoxy, especially within evangelicalism, was centered on the question of whether one accepted as reliable the space-time creation of Adam and the fall.

However, for those who accepted the evolutionary theory as a scientific “fact,” the way to reconcile Scripture with science was through what Paul Tillich later labeled the “method of correlation.” Theoretically, in such a method equal weight is given to general and special revelation, namely the “book of nature” (science) and the “book of Scripture,” but inevitably it is always Scripture which seems to get re-interpreted in light of current thought. Instead of questioning the “assured results of science,” the Bible is recast in such a way that it now teaches something different than what it says. So, for example, in the case of Adam and the fall, a variety of re-interpretations were given, but all of them inevitably agreed on this point: Genesis is an accommodated account to the mindset of the ancient Near East and as such it does not tell us how God actually created the world including the creation of Adam. We now “know” what the

ancients did not know, that Genesis is not an accurate...

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