Dennis Lamoureux says he believes in biblical inerrancy but not a historical Adam (63). He argues that God was merely intending to communicate theological rather than historical points, and these theological points don’t depend on the underlying historical facts to be true. Lamoureaux says God was accommodating himself to an ancient audience that believed in geocentricity, a three-tiered universe, and an original first pair. Since no one today believes in the first two, why should we still believe in the last one? (41, 46, 49, 57, 62).
C. John Collins replies that divine accommodation does not mean God said things that weren’t true, and that Paul’s reference to those living “under the earth” in Philippians 2 is not necessarily his understanding of the physical world. This “poetic hymn” is “exalted prose,” and we shouldn’t read too much into it (72-75).
A good response to Lamoureux’s claim is Philip Ryken’s concluding essay, which lists the many biblical and theological consequences from denying a historical Adam. Ryken’s chapter is a nice corrective to Greg Boyd’s preceding essay, which claims we don’t need to believe in a historical Adam because C. S. Lewis didn’t and we can be saved without it. Boyd confuses what is essential to the Christian faith with what is the bare minimum one needs to be saved (259, 260, 265).
The most interesting part of the book may be the contrast between Ryken’s and John Walton’s chapters. Walton teaches for Ryken at Wheaton, and I imagine they’ve had some conversations since this book was released. Walton says he believes in a real Adam and Eve who brought sin and death into the world, but they may not have been the first humans nor even our ancestral parents. In fact, it’s possible that humans were dying and doing things that we would consider sin, even before the fall (106, 107, 114-15).
Collins replies that Walton’s view doesn’t fit with Scripture’s teaching on the original goodness of creation, the unity of the race, or the foreign intrusion of sin into our world. The very existence of Old Testament sacrifices implies that sin is unnatural (130-31, 160).
Collins’ chapter is an example of generous orthodoxy, not in Brian McLaren’s heretical style but in Francis Schaeffer’s method of drawing lines, stating preferences, and then leaving the door open for other potentially orthodox views (168, 173). Collins defends the traditional view of an original Adam and Eve who sinned and brought death into the world, though he remains open to some forms of evolution and the possibility that there may have been other humans with them (32).
Bill Barrick argues for the young earth creation view, and is largely dismissed. The others think he unfairly lumps them with other views and then defeats them by dismantling those other views (230, 237).
This is an important, mind spinning book, which taught me some things even in the introduction. Did you know that around 1960 Moody Press refused to publish Whitcomb and Morris’s The Genesis Flood because they feared the book might offend their constituency? Did you know that William Jennings Bryan believed in an old earth? (19). Me neither. This book contains many surprises, and if the back and forth is any indication, there are many surprises yet to come.