Friday, March 15, 2013

Protecting Adam

A few months ago Rev. Wes Bredenhof published a position statement on Creation and Evolution. There he warned that the Canadian Reformed Church is being attacked from within. He addressed the promotion of  theistic evolution, which he calls a dangerous false teaching. Of particular concern are the notions that Adam had animal ancestors, and that human-like creatures (hominids) existed before and concurrent with Adam (i.e., pre-Adamites and co-Adamites).

Now Reformed Academic has posted a lengthy protest entitled Wolves in Sheep's Clothing? False Prophets?  Unhappily, RA does not explicitly repudiate the above alleged views about Adam.

The Adam of Reformed Academic

At issue is whether Genesis presents reliable history.

Over the past four years RA has persistently defended the evolutionary view of mainstream historical science. They have affirmed, "Darwinian evolution is not opposed to Christianity", "Theistic evolution is accepted among an increasing number of Bible-believing, orthodox Christians," "Theistic evolution is not outside the boundaries of the Three Forms of Unity" (see my post Reformed Academic endorses evolution2).

At the same time, RA has disputed the traditional reading of Genesis 1-11, and urged for an openness to more figurative interpretations.

The prime issue is human evolution. Mainstream science asserts that humans evolved from earlier hominids. Also, humans allegedly evolved as a group of at least several thousand. So there never was an original human pair from whom all other humans descended.

Such human evolution has been endorsed by RA member Dr. Jitse van der Meer. He wrote, "Since the Creator does not deceive us, I conclude that He created us by means of an evolutionary process, thereby giving us a real evolutionary history.” (See my post Would God deceive?). He postulates that Adam may have been part of a larger human population, of which Adam was merely the representative,  so that Adam's sin was imputed to his contemporary co-Adamites. This obviously has implications for the doctrine of original sin.

Dr. van der Meer dismisses Gen.1-4, as not intended to meet the requirements of modern historical scholarship (see my post Evolution and the Fall).

In its post, RA claims to reject the notion "that animal life produced human life", and to affirm "that God acted in a special way to create human life" and that "Adam and Eve were the first human beings."

Although this may sound re-assuring, note that RA does not explicitly reject human evolution. RA does not deny that there were pre-Adamites; it just claims they were not human. Nor does RA rule out the existence of co-Adamites, or insist that all humans today descended from Adam and Eve.

It seems that all RA means to say is that evolution by itself did not produce Adam: God worked in a special way to endow a hominid pre-Adamite with the image of God, thus making him the first so-called "human", even though Adam was biologically identical to his pre-Adamite ancestors.

In this way RA hopes to make the Bible conform to mainstream historical science.

The Adam of the Bible and Confessions

The Bible speaks quite differently about Adam. Consider a few pertinent texts:

1. Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7)

As Rev. Bredenhof notes, this text categorically rules out any notion of hominid ancestors for Adam. After all, God formed Adam, not from some living creature, but from the dust of the earth. Yet RA dismisses this conclusion. Regarding this verse, RA responds, "the plain reading of a passage is not necessarily the correct reading". They deny that Scripture is clear here, and want us to consider metaphorical interpretations more open to evolution.  According to RA, "Bredenhof’s problem is that he simply ignores all scientific findings".

 2. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be
alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed[every beast of the field...and brought them to the man... But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs...And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Gen.2:19-22)

Since there was no helper fit for Adam among the animals, there clearly were no pre-Adamites or co-Adamites, whether human or hominid. It is also plain that Eve was  created directly from Adam.

3. The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. (Gen.3:20).

This reinforces the view that all humans have descended from Adam and Eve.

These Biblical teachings are echoed in the Reformed Confessions. The Belgic Confession asserts that "God created man out of the dust"(Art.14), and that original sin propagated as a hereditary disease from Adam to all mankind, which is the posterity of Adam (Art.15-16, see also the Canons of Dort 3/4 Art.2).

Which Way Is Forward?

Reformed Academic urges that the way forward is for our churches not to deny scientific theories that conflict with "a literalistic reading of Scripture", but to "deal with the challenges science presents".

This entails that we adjust our reading of the Bible to accommodate mainstream science. However, the diminished Adam of RA is an implausible compromise that cannot last. The biblical Adam has no place whatsoever in the mainstream view of evolutionary history. Inevitably, this approach will take the next, short, logical step and assert that Adam never existed at all (see my post The Demolition of Adam). Since the biblical Adam is closely associatedwith the doctrines of original sin and atonement, much is at stake.

The Reformed Academic way leads, not forward, but downward, embarking upon the well-known path to unbelief trod by the likes of Harry Kuitert and Howard van Till.

How did we get to this sad point of doubting the biblical Adam? By not standing firm on Gen.1, and allowing figurative views of the creation days, under pressure from mainstream science. This introduces a new, flexible hermeneutic, where Scripture no longer speaks for itself, but takes its cue from worldly wisdom, thereby undermining biblical authority.

The only truly Reformed way forward is to uphold biblical teaching, and to modify our scientific theories accordingly. After all, the plain reading of Genesis is not opposed to science as such, only to various naturalistic interpretations of the scientific data.


In sum, to defend the biblical Adam against the challenge of evolution, we need more than a mere affirmation that Adam and Eve were historical, made by a special act of God, and the first humans. We must be more precise.

I propose that the following position statement adequately protects the biblical, Reformed position:

A. Adam and Eve had no creaturely ancestors, but were created directly by God: Adam from dust, and Eve from Adam's side. There never were any human, or hominid, pre-Adamites. (Gen.2, Tim.2:13-14, BC 14).

B. Adam and Eve were the first two humans, the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no human, or hominid, co-Adamites. (Gen.1-4; BC 15-16).

This rules out the erroneous views about Adam and Eve promoted by Reformed Academic.


G.I. Williamson said...

Presbyterians already have sufficient statements of the doctrine of the creation of the world, and the creation of man. The trouble is that we've inherited a tradition from some truly great men, who made an unwise concession of faith. The decision was made to tolerate views that are not in accord with the catechisms and confession. I do not think we need new statements. We need to insist on upholding the statements we already have. My prayer is that God will graciously enable us to recover confessional integrity.

Henrietta said...

New Testament writers Luke, Paul and Jude write about Adam as a real person.

john byl said...

Hello Rev. Williamson

Thank you for your comment. Presbyterians have the advantage that the Westminster Standards specify creation “in the space of six days”, which one would think automatically rules out human evolution. But the Westminster standards don't specifically speak to the origin of man. Thus when the OPC ruled against Dr Terry Gray, on the topic of human evolution, it did so on the basis of its exegesis of Gen.2:7, rather than the Westminster standards as such ( see the comments under my post

Since both Confessions stress the truth of the Bible, the bottom line is that we must firmly uphold what the Bible plainly teaches.

john byl said...

Hello Henrietta

Yes, you are quite right that the New Testament writers consider Adam to be a real person. Let me stress that Reformed Academic does not deny that Adam was a real person--they just want to fit him into an evolutionary view of history. So they allow for him to have animal ancestors, allow for pre-Adamites and co-Adamites, etc.

Dr Peter Enns goes further by denying that Adam actually existed. According to Enns, the NT writers were simply men of their times, with an erroneous view of history, who wrongly believed that Adam existed, that the world was olnly a few thousand years old, etc.

Steve Drake said...

How did we get to this sad point of doubting the biblical Adam? By not standing firm on Gen.1, and allowing figurative views of the creation days, under pressure from mainstream science. This introduces a new, flexible hermeneutic, where Scripture no longer speaks for itself, but takes its cue from worldly wisdom, thereby undermining biblical authority.

One can see that the door was opened at specific dates in history with certain denominations. Specifically, for the PCA in 2000 with their 'Creation Study Report' and the OPC in 2004(?) with their 'Report of the Committee to Study the Views of Creation.' Both reports allow for 4-5 views on creation to be held by candidates being ordained within the denomination and pastors already ordained. One can hold the Framework view, for example, and say that one is not outside the strictures of his denomination. Neither the PCA nor OPC followed the WCF which followed Calvin by saying only one view, the 'six days are six normal 24-hour days'is the only view, and there has been confusion and further erosion since.

If the CRC is headed down this road, they need only to look at what is happening in the PCA and OPC for examples of what happens once the door is opened.

Anonymous said...

"Neither the PCA nor OPC followed the WCF which followed Calvin by saying only one view, the 'six days are six normal 24-hour days'is the only view, and there has been confusion and further erosion since."

Steve Drake, you are misquoting the Westminster Confession. It simply does not refer to "24 hour days".

There is a significant difference between some of the views that have been permitted by the denominations you mention and the views of those who promote theistic evolution, common ancestry, etc.

Let's not get too eager to call everyone who doesn't believe in "normal", 24 hour days a heretic. The key to the creation debate is a historical Adam. On that particular issue, "6 day, 24 hour" people will find agreement with many who hold various other positions. In that sense, the Westminster Divines showed wisdom in inscribing the text of the Confession as they did.

Jason Vander Horst

Steve Drake said...

Where did the Westminster divines draw the language "in the space of six days" from? Answer: Calvin.

What did Calvin believe regarding the six days? Answer: 24 hour days.

What did the members or participants in the Westminster Assembly who left a record of their views on the subject believe the days were? Answer: 24 hour days. (See Joseph A. Pipa & David W. Hall, 'Did God Create in Six Days', Tolle Lege Press, Whitehall, WV, 1999, 2005)

What did the vast majority of the Church for 1800 years since it's inception believe the days were? Answer: 24 hour days. (Wasn't until the inception of modern geology in the late 18th century that the Church thinking the weight of evidence was on the side of vast ages ala Hutton, Playfair, Lyell, et al accommodated compromise views such as the Gap theory, Day-Age theory, etc.)

Jason Vander Horst, let's not get too eager to throw our lot in with the unregenerate man's mindset, who too readily seeks rebellion against His Creator in the futility and darkness of his mind and understanding.

Anonymous said...


If, as is the case, the vast majority of those present at the Westminster Assembly believed in 6 days/24 hours, why did they not say so in the Confessions? They had the ability to state it clearly - but they didn't. Why? Perhaps it was an issue of subscription. Perhaps they realized that this was a consensus document, and they did not want to impose the one view when a limited number of variations were also deemed acceptable.


Andrew Duggan said...

At the time, it was instantaneous creation and the pagan idea of the eternity of matter that were the errors about creation. The phrase "in the space of six days" was more than sufficient to counter act those.

The length of the days of Gen 1 are absolutely tied down to normal days in Exodus 20:11. The reason annexed to the 4th commandment is meaningless and no reason at all if the the days of creation are ages, literary frames, or even "analogical". God didn't have to give us a reason annexed to the 4th commandment, but He did. There is none for other e.g. 6,7,8. No honest person can read Ex 20:8-11, using a fluid definition for day.

There is nothing in scripture that requires the days of Gen 1 to be anything other than normal 24 hour days. However there is something that does require the days of Gen 1 to be the same length as days that we now experience. That is Ex 20:8-11.

Jonathan Harton said...

Exodus 20 doesn't say that Gen 1 refers to six 24 hr days, it says that we rest on the seventh day because God rested on the seventh day.

Is there anything in scripture that necessitates six 24 hr days?

Dr. Byl--I have read Dr. Enns carefully and I think it would be safer to say that he supports Adam as a representative in Pauline theology, the first man to know God. His name could literally be Adam, although the similarity with the Hebrew for earth/dirt (h'adam) suggests a possible play on words.

The Westminster divines and Calvin, Luther, etc did not know anything of genetics or geological science, they likely knew the earth was round (not flat as a misinterpretation of scripture would suggest) and that it orbits the sun, not the other way round (also a misinterpretation of scripture). Are these men more full of the spirit than Christians today? Are they infallible?

Andrew Duggan said...

Dear Jonathan,
Yes Exodus 20 does say that by good and necessary consequence.

Lets actually examine Exodus 20:8-11. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the sabbath of LORD thy God: in it though shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle or thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

How long was the day of the week that God is commanding to be remembered? (v8) Is that not a 24 hour normal day? Of course it was, to suggest otherwise is insane.

How long are the six days that we are to to work? (v9) Are the not six 24 hour days? Nothing suggests that the days that the Israelites experienced in their lives during the Exodus were anything other than the 24 hour days we also experience.

Why does God require us to work six days and rest one day out of seven? Because in six days the LORD made all things. and rested the seventh day(v11). The definition of day and days in v11 is so established and bounded by what is in v8,9 that day/days cannot mean anything other than normal days -- the same kind of days (length) that both the Israelites of the Exodus and we experience. If they mean any other than God is not commanding rest on one whole day in seven.

But the fact of the matter is this: God does require us to work six days and rest on each week, and the whole reason we have weeks is because God set that pattern.

Jonathan Harton said...


You suggest that all your faithful brothers and sisters who subscribe to non-literal days (e.g J.I. Packer, Tim Keller, and many more), are mentally deficient. The Israelites were there to experience a 24 hr day in Ex. Who was there when God laid the foundations, who gave him counsel....who determined what the time was? The conventional time keeper-- the sun-- wasn't made until day 4. How can it be a 24 hour day. Does day for God equal a day for us?

The intent of Ex 20:8-11 is about rest, not about day length. Interpretation is about seeing the context as well as the words. Do you thin this passage was given to settle this particular debate? The WCF says that beyond the plain means of salvation there will be things that are not plain to all. In these debate able areas is it not OK to disagree?

Andrew Duggan said...

Jonathan, I think those who disagree are spiritually deficient. Any mental issues are not that important.

You asked who was there when God laid the foundations... nicely echoing Job, but the answer is God was there, and God told us what He did, and how long he spent doing it. The 4th commandment is not only about rest, it is about work also. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work.

The bottom line is there is nothing in scripture that requires anything ages instead of days, or anything other than six 24 hour days for creation, but Ex 20:11 does require it.

The fact that God didn't create the sun until day 4 doesn't mean there were no days prior. God calls days one through three days, so who are you or TK or JIP to say they really aren't days, especially when God goes out his way in Exodus 20:11 to say that we are to work six normal (24 hour) days (cf v9) out of seven just like he did. God's usage of day/days in Ex 20:8,9 necessarily ties the definition of day/days in Ex 20:11 otherwise Ex 20:8-11 becomes pius advice to take a break, but that is not what the reformed churches have historically taught, and certainly not the teaching of WSC and WLC on the sabbath.

Just because the intent of Ex 20:8-11 is about remembering the sabbath day to keep it holy doesn't mean that the reason for the 4th commandment (v11) doesn't provide us with inescapable consequences for the detail of how long God spent in creating Heaven and earth.

As I said previously God doesn't give reasons annexed to all the commandments, so why that one? Leaving Ex 20:11 out would still make for a perfectly valid command for God to give, but the point is He gave us his own example to follow, who are you or those others to ask "Yeah hath God said I created all things in six days?"

If you believe that a man rose from the dead, why is it so hard to believe that God actually did what He said in Gen 1 in the length of time that he says that that did it?

Steve Drake said...

It is of profound interest and paramount importance, I think as well, to see what our Lord Himself has to say on this issue. Does Jesus give any indication about His work of creation (Jn. 1:3, Col. 1:16)?

He most certainly does! He demonstrates his six-day young earth position in places such as Mark 10:6, 13:19-20, and Luke 11:50-51.

From the study of these Jesus 'age' verses, one can see that Jesus taught that man has existed essentially as long as the entire cosmos has. In other words, as Creator, His words recorded on earth while in His incarnation, are strong grounds to conclude that He taught and believed in a literal six-day creation week which occurred only a few thousand years ago. His references to the historical truth of all of Gen. 1-11, and the historical reliability of the the rest of the OT (including the chronological information such as the genealogies of Gen. 5 & 11) are to be understood in no other way.

JohnV said...

Brothers and Sister:

I am not so concerned with personal opinions as to what the Bible says. Up 'til now something like this has no place on the pulpit or in the offices of the Canadian Reformed churches. No one has a right to teach or obligate personal opinions on the authority of the offices, and that is as it should be.

The issue here is with what we know and what we do and do not know. On this point I take issue with both sides of the debate, because I can't believe that God had the Bible written without having us in mind as well when He inspired His writers: we should not confine understanding God's Word to just the context of the original hearers and readers. His Word, I fully believe, will stand forever, including our time. I will rather doubt the scientists than doubt the Bible; and I have sufficient reasons to doubt modern scientists even without the Bible.

lastly, and most importantly, we should remember what the introduction of personal opinions and theories into theology have done to other denominations. If it isn't the clear Word of God calling them then there is nothing holding them in the churches either. Whatever our own views are, we need to keep the preaching of the Word of God central: God's self-revealing Word, and not our "better" understandings of it. If that is carefully guarded, keeping the offices to their callings as Christ's representatives, then and only then is there freedom of personal views on subjects we have a little room to speculate on.

Remember, even with the weight of a majority of scientists behind it, speculation is still just speculation. That doesn't even come close to the clear,authoritative teaching of God's Word.