And All God’s People Said, “Wut?”

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.

Adam and Eve finding out they get to be people.
Adam and Eve finding out they get to be people.

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.

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Morris BrooksdavidsteveDo what? I don't get itBen Thorp Recent comment authors

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Dan Phillips
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Dan Phillips

Absolutely wonderful. Thank you.

If you don’t mind my sharing, I wrote about Wright’s unloving love for Borg here (http://bit.ly/UsZWFr) and here (http://bit.ly/1DWUoXo).

cduncster
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I, too, have written about Wright’s “unloving love” for Borg here (http://wp.me/plsW0-oH)

Andrew Lindsey
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Andrew Lindsey

The first link you mention is my most favorite Pyromaniacs post (after “The most offensive verse in the Bible” http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-most-offensive-verse-in-bible.html ). Re-reading the Wright/Borg post, I enjoy Phil Johnson’s comments-from back when he was fired up contra Emergent movement nonsense-almost as much as the post itself.

Dan Phillips
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Dan Phillips

Oh, I’m right there with you. Sometimes Phil’s comments were my favorite parts of my posts.

(c;

Kevin Peterson
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Kevin Peterson

“Those hands didn’t have opposable thumbs yet, but hey.”

Oh, that brings back memories of that evolution song your wrote.
https://vimeo.com/64764851

weisjohn
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weisjohn

That’s awesome!

AeroBob
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AeroBob

Most people tend to go from a denial of a
historical Adam to a denial of imputation.Wright seems to have gone from a
denial of imputation to a denial of a historical Adam.

Katecho
Member

Wilson correctly identifies the patronizing contempt from theistic evolutionism. It’s not that they simply want to broaden the boundaries of interpretation to allow hominids into the tent. Their job is not done until they mock and ridicule and patronize anyone who takes Genesis as straightforward historical narrative. You know, like 99% of Christians throughout history. The arrogance that it takes to marginalize the bulk of Scripture adherents is astounding. No wonder postmodernists blush against the modernist conceit. Even if they were right, what sort of God do the theistic evolutionists worship if they feel the compelling need to take shots… Read more »

Benjamin
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Benjamin

Augustine did NOT, so far as I can tell, take Genesis as a “straightforward historical narrative.” And given his influence in Christianity, I would imagine the idea wasn’t unheard of. I imagine more than 99 percent of Christians throughout history had different interpretations of Genesis. That is a silly number and you give no evidence for it. I don’t think Darwin invented the idea of evolution, though modern scholars like to suggest that because it makes the idea look more…modern. (They seem to have a big stake in the idea of “progress,” and the idea that everything they think is… Read more »

David Trounce
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Benjamin, who thought of it first really doesn’t matter. It is clearly not in the text.

Benjamin
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Benjamin

I was disagreeing with the concept that 99 percent of Christians took a literal interpretation of the days.
What exactly is, in your reading of the text, the importance of the “straightforward narrative”?

Jill Smith
Member

What I have been taught as a Catholic is that Alexander, Clement, and Origen rejected the literalness of the six 24-hour day creation narrative. This was partly due to the difficulty of conceiving of three solar days before the creation of the sun, to the Genesis 2:4 statement “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven”, and to the seventh day account not being closed as the others are. It is difficult to assess some of the patristic beliefs because the early church… Read more »

Cale B.T.
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Cale B.T.

St. Augustine wrote: “…we reckon, from the evidence of the holy Scriptures, that fewer than 6,000 years have passed since man’s first origin.”

SouthronAmerican
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SouthronAmerican

I would suggest re-visiting Augustine if you don’t believe he took Genesis as a straightforward historical narrative, Specifically City of God, Book 12, Chapter 10&11. One quick excerpt:

“They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.”

bethyada
Member

Benjamin, there is good evidence that a large number of the church fathers were believed that the world was only a few thousand years old and the world was created in 6 normal length days.

Some also thought that allegorical interpretations were valid but this does not deny their concurrent literalism.

Augustine clearly thought the world was only thousands of years old. He did wonder about whether the days took as long as 24 hours in early material, though this may have changed in his later material.

Jill Smith
Member

I believe Augustine said he thought it might have happened in one glorious burst of creative power, taking minutes, not days.

Katecho
Member

Wright wrote: 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… This appears to be the same basic position as the recent Pope. It’s the idea that God was an absentee father for a few billion years, and then decided that He wanted to have a relationship with His creation after all. It’s the idea that He shows up out of the blue and picks a pair of ordinary hominids to show them… Read more »

jsm
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jsm

Has anyone worked out the implications of believing in 6 literal days of creation but also in an old earth?

timothy
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timothy

Yes.

Dr. Sarah Salviander has an intriguing summary on the work “The Science of God” by Gerald L. Schroeder at her website* “sixdayscienceDOTcom/six-days-2/”

*There was a problem with linking and comments, so I am hesitant to provide a link.

JW
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JW

I would read Genesis Unbound by Sailhamer. Intriguing argument for this view.

dougponder
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dougponder

JW, I was just about to post the same when I looked down and saw you had already recommended it. JSM, Dr. John Sailhamer, formerly professor at schools like TEDS, Gordon-Conwell, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, et al., wrote an excellent book on the Genesis account as the creation of “the land” (i.e., the promised land). The book is called, “Genesis Unbound,” and I highly recommend it to you. (So does John Piper, by the way.) The central thesis, if correct, allows for an earth of a very old age or an earth of a very young age. Meanwhile, it holds… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

I failed to note that Bethyada has done some work debunking dating techniques, which does not strictly answer your question but is an important line of argument in getting the lay of the land on this topic.

John Dekker
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John Dekker

There is also P. J. Wiseman’s intriguing suggestion that the story of creation was *revealed*in six literal days. See http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Revealed-Days-P-J-Wiseman/dp/B0012SWUHA/.

mikebull1
Member

As I keep saying, academia has its very own special kind of stupid.

mikebull1
Member

An old Bible teacher used to say, “When someone is taking an unusual position, there’s most likely a bee in his pocket.”

JPM
Guest
JPM

And that’s why in academic circles “smartness” is defined in how much you can camouflage what if normally said would result in excommunication.

bethyada
Member

“temple was central to the Jewish worldview” Walton and others are big on this. But the temple wasn’t built to ~1000 BC, and even if we consider the tabernacle was built 400 years earlier, all of the Pentateuch was written or before that time. It is hard to see how there was time for the centrality of the temple to develop Jewish theology. Now other cultures had their temples but Genesis is much older. Sure Moses either wrote or redacted what we now have, but the material he used antedated him by centuries. While I am not well read on… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Quote alluded to. Surprised by Scripture, Wright, p.31. All this, I think, is what it means for me to call myself an evangelical, and I grieve that that word has so often meant a closing down of scripture reading rather than its opening up. The Bible is there to give you the questions and the agenda, to shape you into being the people with courage and skill to answer those questions and follow that agenda. All too often the word biblical has been shrunk, so that it now means only “according to our tradition, which we assume to be biblical.”… Read more »

melody
Member
melody

Luke 24:44-45 “He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

The understanding of Scriptures is totally impossible for the unsaved, no matter how educated. It’s amazing how understandable Scriptures are for the heart that knows it has been rescued and loves the the rescuer. I doubt that N.T. Wright is a lover of souls.

David Trounce
Guest

Is it wrong to call someone an idiot? Where in Genesis are we given the slightest hint that God teamed up with two homonids from all the available homonids in the world?

Jill Smith
Member

I think it is probably wrong to call someone an idiot. Is it pleasurable? Yes. Does it make me feel superior? Yes. Is my intention to make the object of my name-calling feel bad about himself? Probably. Is it consistent with any duty I have to point out ignorance, error, or mental deficiency for the person’s own good? Hardly.

Shanon
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Shanon

Bigger than the problems of interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 for theistic evolutionists is the problem with Romans chapter 5 (especially verses 12 through 17).

artoffence
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artoffence

Is there not Hebrew language at the beginning of the Genesis account that functions as an announcement of the book’s status as a history? If this is true, are we not called to take it seriously as students of Scripture?

Karen Hoar Buttle
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Karen Hoar Buttle

My 14 year old son read this article, and laughed in appropriate places.

Karen Hoar Buttle
Guest
Karen Hoar Buttle

I enjoyed Mr Wilson’s writing too, but am saddened by the content, iykwim.

timothy
Guest
timothy

“iykwim”

No, I don’t. Please expound.

thx

Karen Hoar Buttle
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Karen Hoar Buttle

I’m just sad that NT Wright (and others) believe and teach these things about the creation.

Barbara
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Barbara

Years ago, my then-17-year-old daughter had surprised me by suddenly bursting into tears at my general unbelief during her life. In my efforts to allay what I believed to be her unnecessary concern, I explained that I believed just exactly what Dr. Wright espouses here – that Adam and Eve were representative of a race of people. Her tears flowed – “Mom! You can’t say you’re a Christian if you don’t believe the Bible!” Six months later the God who created Heaven and earth brought me to my knees in resignation as His wisdom displayed in the things He has… Read more »

Dan Phillips
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Dan Phillips

Very moving, and encouraging, Barbara. And fitting. Thank you for sharing that.

Tim Enloe
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Tim Enloe

From what little you cited, it looks like Wright affirms a literal, historical Adam and Eve, but you interpret his denial of young earth and affirmation of evolution as denial of the literal, historical Adam and Eve. That sort of thing is what bugs me about the reactionary style of young earth rhetoric: it’s just as sloppy as much of what comes from the other side.

John Hendryx
Guest
John Hendryx

Tim, your position is nothing short of inconsistent. You affirm the gospel (correct?) and deny that death came into the world through sin even though the Bible teaches it? But an affirmation of evolution is nothing less than a denial of the gospel since Jesus Christ died for the sin which brought death into the world. And evolution requires death and time for mutations and anagenesis to occur. Even the creation itself was made subject to death because of Adam’s sin. Jesus physical death paid for the sin that brought death into the world. God did not create the world… Read more »

J. Srnec
Guest
J. Srnec

John, from where do you get “the creation itself was made subject to death because of Adam’s sin”? This isn’t what Paul says in either Romans 5 or 8.

I agree with Tim. There is room for much criticism of Wright, but he clearly affirms here and elsewhere the actual existence of a first pair of humans.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

“Call them Adam and Eve if you like…”

So he affirms them, but doesn’t think their names matter?

Katecho
Member

Enloe is incorrect. Wright may hold to a historical pair that may or may not have had the names “Adam” and “Eve”, but Wright doesn’t hold to a literal Adam and Eve according to the literary account actually given in Genesis. Wright has his own theory that is decidedly not taken from the literal text. In Wright’s view, Eve wasn’t divided from Adam’s flesh and then reunited with his flesh. In Wright’s view, God did not say “let Us make man in Our image” as an original premeditated act, but rather “let Us re-make and re-imagine man in Our image”… Read more »

steve
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steve

Because, Tim, he doesn’t affirm the “literal, historical Adam and Eve” of Scripture, but a substitute that would be unrecognizable to the narrator and the original audience. He’s reassigned the referents to something utterly extraneous to the text. His interpretation has no more basis in the text than saying Adam and Eve were really extraterrestrials, or androids created by alien cyberneticists. You can’t just edit out the Adam and Eve of the narrative, splice in a par of hominids, and keep everything else intact. That’s cutting something out of the Genesis account, cutting something out of the evolutionary narrative, then… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Ahh man, and I just received his book: Scripture and the Authority of God. Looks like it’ll be going back to Amazon. Guy is off of his rocker. I bought it off of ONE recommendation (won’t be doing that again) and I was about to dig in.

david
Guest
david

Why? That’s a good book.

Just because Wright goes off the rails sometimes doesn’t make all his writings wrong. When he’s right, he’s really right.

cduncster
Member

“For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an… Read more »

Katecho
Member

C S Lewis was quite free and speculative in regard to our origins, but his later views on evolution were more, should we say, evolved. Eleven years after publishing The Problem of Pain, C S Lewis wrote the following in a letter to Bernard Acworth: I have read nearly the whole of Evolution [probably Acworth’s unpublished “The Lie of Evolution”] and am glad you sent it. I must confess it has shaken me: not in my belief in evolution, which was of the vaguest and most intermittent kind, but in my belief that the question was wholly unimportant. I wish… Read more »

Barnabas
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Barnabas

Young Earth creation is no more evident from scripture than the truth or falsehood of the Rapture. What it is is a very good Schelling Fence. http://lesswrong.com/lw/ase/schelling_fences_on_slippery_slopes/ Augustine could afford to speculate but as the evidence piles up (from the fossil record to the Neanderthal DNA in the human genome) we are in need of a Schelling Fence to prevent a slide into complete materialism. I feel like it wouldn’t be the end of the world to at least weigh other options as to where we place our fence. (That’s not an endorsement of NT Wright since I haven’t read… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

Augustine said, “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Young Earth creation is no more evident from scripture than the truth or falsehood of the Rapture.

I guess the response depends on how evident you see the rapture. But the Scriptural evidence of a creation in 6 days and a world ~6000 years old is not subtle.

And it is not heretical to discuss various other options, or to discuss it general. But it is heretical to hold a heretical belief.

Jill Smith
Member

I agree. As John Henry Newman said, “We can believe what we choose, but we are responsible for what we choose to believe.” But do you consider disbelief in YEC as being heretical? If someone sincerely and humbly considers the evidence for a 6-day creation and finds it impossible to believe, would God, who made us in His image and gave us the light of reason in our minds, want that person to stifle what he thinks is truth?

bethyada
Member

But do you consider disbelief in YEC as being heretical?

I wouldn’t consider such a person a heretic.

And my position on what people believe is far more concerned with the trajectory than the content.

Tim Brenner
Guest
Tim Brenner

I can’t stop laughing at the picture and caption

Seraphim Hamilton
Guest
Seraphim Hamilton

I don’t know why Wright acts like there is an intrinsic connection between young-earth creationism and Gnosticism. If anything, to read a text like a Gnostic is to gather ideas from the text while eliminating the history- in other words, what theistic evolutionists do with the entirety of Genesis 1-11 (at what point the genealogy in Genesis 11 becomes historical remains a mystery.) While there may be an incidental connection, in that evangelicals are often young-earth creationists, and evangelicals are also often anti-body and anti-material, there’s nothing in the deep structure of the theology linking them. Wright’s problem is in… Read more »

Willis
Guest

A DEFENSE OF WRIGHT (sort of) I think his concern with many creationists that we see a bit even in this chain goes like this: ‘If it was a natural process, it must not have been God.’ Evolution does not equal atheism nor does it equate to materialism. The bible is quite the opposite as every Reformed thinker should know. We see God’s hand guiding all things. Natural “miracles” happen all around us and all the time. Whether it is the every day processes of the insect world or the more rare and stunning moments when a rescuer shows up… Read more »

Ben Thorp
Guest
Ben Thorp

Bonus points for using “adamantly” in an article about Adam :D

Do what? I don't get it
Guest
Do what? I don't get it

lost me

Morris Brooks
Guest
Morris Brooks

Cornpones….was thinking about using that word in my sermon this week, but was concerned that it might be too generational to be understood, even though it is self-descriptive. But it does describe how the elites like Wright view us non-elites.