Monday, June 13, 2011

Francis Schaeffer on the Historicity of Adam

With the recent controversy in evangelical circles concerning the historicity of Adam in Genesis the words of Francis Schaeffer from about 40 years ago are still relevant.  Schaeffer addressed this issue in his book Genesis in Space and Time in 1972 and he was concerned to set the importance of Genesis before evangelicals.  Here is Schaeffer's discussion on this important issue.  I put the New Testament scripture citations in bold since these are the primary texts that everyone has to deal with when addressing the issue of Adam's historicity.  The texts haven't changed and I, for one, still believe that Schaeffer's handling of the scriptural material is on target and correct.
Jesus' treatment of Genesis 1 and 2 [Matt 19.4-5; Mark 10.6-8--RJK] also brings to the fore the issue of the historicity of Adam and Eve.  It is difficult to get away from the fact that Jesus was treating Adam and Eve as truly the first human pair in space and time.  If we have any questions concerning this, surely they are resolved as we consider other New Testament passages.
Romans 5:12, for example, contains a strong testimony that Adam and Eve were in fact space-time people: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin..."  Thus, there was a first man, one man.  Paul continues in verse 14, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression...."  Adam, it is obvious, is viewed as being just as historic as Moses.  If this were not the case, Paul's argument would be meaningless.  Verse 15 strengthens this: "But not as the offense, so also is the free gift.  For if through the offense of the one, the many are dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by the one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."  Here, therefore, is a parallel between the historicity of Adam (the first man) and two others--Christ and then ourselves.  He is dealing with men in history when he deals with "the many," and so he makes a triple parallelism--the historicity of Adam, the historicity of Christ, and the historicity of me.
The point Paul makes in Romans is strengthened still further in 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive."  The emphasis is again on the parallel between the historicity of Jesus Christ (whom you must remember Paul had seen on the Damascus road) and the historicity of the man he here called Adam.  Verse 45 continues the same thrust: "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit."  The "so it is written" alludes to Genesis 2:7.  If one wishes to dispense with the historicity of Adam, certainly he must wonder at such a strong parallelism between Adam and Christ.
Often it is said that this parallelism is only Pauline, but the Gospel of Luke gives us exactly the same thing.  Tracing the descent of Jesus backwards, Luke lists a number of characters of history, including such people as David, Jesse, Jacob, and Abraham, and ends as follows: "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God" (3:38).  Thus we have another triple parallelism--a parallelism between the objective, historic existence of a whole group of people we know to be historic through the Old Testament and New Testament references, the objective, historic existence of Adam, and the objective existence of God Himself.  If we take away the historicity of Adam, we are left rather breathless!  If we tamper with this ordinary way of understanding what is written in the Bible, the structure of Christianity is reduced to only an existential leap.
But let us go further.  In 1 Timothy 2:13, 14 we read: "For Adam was first formed, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."  Here is something additional: Not only is Adam historic, but Eve in the midst of her rebellion is seen to be historic as well.  And 2 Corinthians 11:3 further testifies to this: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."  The parallel here is between Eve and myself.  Paul appeals to those of us who are objectively real--who are in history--not to fall into a like situation.  And without embarrassment, Paul obviously expects his readers to assume with him the historicity of Eve and the historicity of the details set forth in Genesis.
Notice too how clearly this is the case in 1 Corinthians 11:8, 9: "For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man."  Here the fact that Eve was created after Adam is an important part of Paul's argument.  One would also have to take into account the way in which Paul quotes the early part of Genesis in 1 Corinthians 6:16 and in Ephesians 5:31.  (And finally, in 1 John 3:12, Cain is taken as historic, and in Hebrews 11, Abel, Enoch and Noah are placed as parallel to Abraham and all that followed him in history.)
We have, therefore, a strong testimony to the unity of Genesis 1 and 2 and to the historicity of Adam and Eve.  They bear the weight of the authority of Paul and Luke as well that of Jesus.   Genesis in Space and Time in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview --Volume 2 (Crossway, 1982) pp. 27-29