So I ordered John Walton’s book The Lost World of Adam and Eve because I saw that it contained an excursus on Paul’s use of Adam by N.T. Wright. I received the book yesterday, read Wright’s contribution, was suitably appalled, and have come here to tell you about it.
The first thing to note is that I am not being a troubler of Israel. I am not going off on a heresy-busting jag. The hard words, and the heresy hunting, is being done by Wright, not by me. I have merely been guilty of noticing what he is doing.
“If we can study Genesis and human origins without hearing the call to be an image-bearing human being renewed in Jesus, we are massively missing the point, perhaps pursuing our own dream of otherworldly salvation that merely colludes with the forces of evil. That’s what gnosticism always does” (p. 179).
Gnosticism? Colluding with evil? I will leave you to parse out who the bad guys are here, but I can give you just one hint. In Surprised by Scripture, Wright says that “young-earth literalism” is “false teaching,” the kind of false teaching that is intolerable, not to be suffered, not to be allowed amongst us (p. 31). So now you know — for Wright, Marcus Borg was a Christian passionately devoted to Jesus, despite his denial of the resurrection, and someone who believes in an historic Adam made from the dust of the ground is a literalistic and gnostic goon show. So note again that this is not a fundamentalist attempt to draw hard heresy lines — this is N.T. Wright doing it. But where he does it and how he does it constitutes a true intellectual embarrassment.
Let’s start where Wright does. “Ever since the scientific revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Christians have been in danger of focusing on the existence of Adam rather than the vocation of Adam” (p. 170). And all God’s people said, “Wut?”
Got that? Not his existence, but rather his vocation, you rubes. But this is like saying that Americans have for far too long concentrated on whether George Washington actually existed, while they need to concentrate a bit more on whether he won a great victory at the Battle of Trenton. If you are not following this deep theology, I don’t think you should blame yourself.
And he is unbelievably patronizing. “One of the great gains of biblical scholarship this last generation, not least because of our understanding of first-century Judaism, is our realization that the temple was central to the Jewish worldview” (p. 175).
It sure is lucky for us that modern scholarship found out that the temple was central to the Jewish worldview.
Not only is Wright throwing hard punches against us fundies, he is doing so while blinded by a mist of perhapses and seemes. He is exegeting here like a cat on hot bricks, but the one thing he knows is that the cornpones cannot be allowed to be right. So let us reject that adamantly, and find out what Genesis is PERHAPS telling us.
“And it leads me to my proposal: that just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation. This pair (call them Adam and Eve if you like) were to be the representatives of the whole human race . . .” (p. 177).
“And basic to his exposition of Genesis is this point: that God put his wonderful world into human hands . . .’ (pp. 174-175).
Those hands didn’t have opposable thumbs yet, but hey.
Wright is doing far more than giving away the store here. What he is doing is giving away all the foundational patents, the manufacturing plants, the delivery trucks, the loading dock area, and the store.