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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Adam and Sin and the Origins of Humanity

Time for another book  review post.  This one is on a topic that interests me deeply because of my background in both science and Bible.  These two areas seem increasingly at odds regarding human origins.

The book I've finished reading recently is The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John H. Walton.  In his work Walton argues that the story of Genesis is not the story of the creation of the world and of humanity, but rather of how God brought order to the world and gave humanity a priestly job to do.  If this is true, then the debate between evolutionary science and the Bible is done and gone.  A helpful analogy that Walton uses is that of building a house (creation) and taking a house and making it a home (ordering).  In our scientific age we focus on the former, but Walton argues that in the light of the ancient world's literature it is more likely that the author of Genesis is actually focusing on the latter.

Whether you agree with Walton, his arguments should be taken seriously and read carefully.  Walton writes well and is very interesting to read.  I look forward to thinking through the implications of Walton's thoughts.

Rather than reviewing Walton's entire book, I want to focus on chapter 19 where Walton has an excursion by NT Wright.  In this chapter Wright argues that Paul is more interested in the effects of sin on the cosmos and humanity than in the origins of humanity.

Wright points out that Adam plays a very small role throughout the Old testament and through Jewish literature.  Wright argues that throughout Romans (6:6, 7:7-12, 1:18-25, 8:17-30) Paul compares the glory and position that Adam had and lost with the glory that humans will have once again.  The point of Romans is not how people get saved, but the renewal of all creation (8:17-26 compared with Psalms 2 and 8) and the role of God's redeemed people in bringing in that renewal through the work of the crucified and resurrected Messiah.  1 Corinthians 15:20-28 also underscores this.  Jesus is the second Adam, doing what the first Adam did not - being an obedient human at the helm of the universe (p. 174).  God has not abandoned his plan for his creation.  Although sin blocked his purposes, through the crucified and resurrected Jesus these purposes will be brought to fruition.  Sin and death will be defeated and humanity will praise and worship and work for the true creator God throughout the entire world for eternity.

Adam and Israel repeat the same story.  Although appointed to be priests representing God to the world, they fell into sin and idolatry and needed rescuing.  Just as Israel was chosen from all the nations of the world to be priests and to bless the world, so too it is possible that God chose Adam and Eve from all the other humans alive at that time (p. 177) to be priests for him and bless the world.

If Walton and Wright are right (pun intended) then science and the Bible are speaking of very different concerns.  The Bible is concerned with describing how God brought order into the world and made it a fit place for his presence with humans as his priests.  Science is concerned with the nitty-gritty of how the cosmos and then life arose.  The Bible is concerned  first with how the earliest humans of importance failed in their task and alienated humanity from God and then with how God moved to bring humanity back into relationship with him so that he could continue with his plan of having an ordered creation on Earth with human beings running things for his honor and glory.  Science describes how the world that God created actually works in its running but has nothing to say about the purpose for its existence or how that purpose was at first thwarted then redeemed.

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