Monday, July 25, 2011

Excellent Article on the Historicity of Adam

Dr. Ardel Caneday (Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Theology at Northwestern College) has written an excellent article on the historicity of Adam.  "The Language of God and Adam's Genesis & Historicity in Paul's Gospel" appears in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 15.1 (2011).  A number of aspects of Caneday's discussion make this well-worth reading.  A few items of note:

1.  Caneday interacts extensively with the Biologos view of theistic evolution.  In particular the views of Peter Enns are fully engaged with as he is one of the main theological proponents that Biologos utilizes in combining theistic evolution and a "revised" reading of Genesis.  Caneday argues that Biologos in fact deconstructs Adam to fit evolution.  Along the way Enns and the folks at the Biologos have to argue against the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Furthermore they have to separate death from an historical Adam all the while claiming to uphold the authority of Scripture.  The argument is that Paul is mistaken about the historicity of Adam but that this is okay since God has "accommodated" himself to the "categories available to human beings at that time."

2.  Regarding the issue of "accommodation" Caneday brings out the fact that there are at least two versions of accommodation in the history of the church--one that is historically situated in the early church and the Reformers; the other standing in agreement with Faustus Socinus and Hugo Grotius.  The first recognizes that accommodation applies to all of Scripture because God the Creator must accommodate himself to the creature in all of his revelation.  The latter conception applies to views that see God accommodating himself to errors of the biblical time period.  Caneday demonstrates that these two views of accommodation ought not to be conflated and that the Biologos/Enns view of accommodation is out of accord with the historical view of Augustine and Calvin--even while claiming them for support.

3.  Caneday is an exegete of the finest caliber but he also understands theology.  Caneday utilizes the thought of Cornelius Van Til in a careful and helpful manner in his theological evaluation of Biologos and Enns.  I have often wondered why the thought of Van Til has not been used more in the arena of Old and New Testament studies.  Caneday effectively utilizes the resources in Van Til's apologetic to evaluate the current denial of the historicity of Adam.

4.  Caneday has a discussion of the relationship between Acts 17 with Paul and Athens and the current deniers of Adam's historicity.  Caneday writes:
These ancients responded with more consistent logic to Paul's sermon than to evolutionists in the church today.  For, if Biologos evolutionists insist that Paul begins his proclamation of the gospel with a myth from Genesis, the one man formed directly by God, why do they believe Paul when he culminates his preaching of the gospel with the one man God raised from the dead?  After all, what Paul claims concerning the beginnings, which they cannot test scientifically by direct observation or experience, the nonetheless reject because they suppose that their present focused study delineates laws by which they can deduce how the present emerged from the past.  Yet, what Paul claims concerning resurrection from the dead, which they also cannot access to assess scientifically by direct observation and experience, they nonetheless do not reject. (p. 36)
5.  Caneday is especially good when he speaks to the issue of "literal" vs. "symbolic" readings of Genesis.  He faults all sides for a "false polarity."  Caneday argues:
Lost in this debate is the fact that both appelations--"literal interpretation" and "symbolic interpretation"--are, at best, misnomers, but even worse, they pose a false polarity.  This antithesis entails the tendency to suppose, speciously, that things portrayed in the creation-fall narrative cannot be simultaneously corporeal and symbolic.  People often proceed on the incorrect assumption that if narrative features bear representational significance, those features should be understood not as actually existing but simply as literary devices.  If held consistently, this flawed polarity would render nearly all in Scripture, certainly the Old Testament given its typological or foreshadowing nature, little more than literary symbolism without real existence.  (p. 37)
Caneday develops this thought fully in this essay and it is here Caneday makes a real advance in argumentation for those who affirm the traditional historicity of Adam.

Caneday's essay is not easy reading--it requires work to follow his arguments and nuances--but it is well worth reading.
Addendum:  Dr. Caneday saw my brief review and had kind words.  He wrote this on August 28, 2011:
Here is a welcome review that accurately understands my essay, “The Language of God and Adam’s Genesis & Historicity in Paul’s Gospel.” It is heartening when readers display the fact that they actually understand and accurately represent what they read.