Adam and Eve and Pinch Me

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The schedule for the Gospel Coalition's biennial conference this spring is now available.  The line-up makes for interesting reading and it is definitely good to see that the question of Adam and Eve's historicity will be addressed.  It is one of the big questions in the evangelical world at this time. 

It is encouraging to see that Dr. Albert Mohler is one of the two leaders of the TGC seminar on Adam (the other being Dr. Bryan Chapell). Kudos to TGC for a very good choice.  Dr. Mohler has made it clear that evolution is not simply wrong but has gone so far as to describe it as a myth which is 'not only incompatible with any historical affirmation of Genesis, but ... also with the claim that all humanity is descended from Adam and the claim that in Adam all humanity fell into sin and guilt.'  He has also stated that '[t]he Bible's account of the Fall and its consequences is utterly incompatible with evolutionary theory.  The third chapter of Genesis is as problematic for evolutionary theory as the first two.'  In other words, he thinks that evolution excludes the biblical view of an historical Adam and therefore of original sin.  In short, consistent affirmation of evolution ultimately requires denial of the gospel. You can read the whole statement here.  As always, I appreciate Dr. Mohler's forthright candour on this issue, as on so many others.  And I find his argument on the significance of evolution for orthodox conceptions of the gospel to be persuasive, compelling and timely.

Dr. Tim Keller, one of the two most senior TGC leaders, also sees the church's attitude to evolution as a watershed issue for the gospel. Unlike Dr. Mohler, however, he has made it clear over the last few years that he is not only committed to some form of theistic evolution (though maintaining an historical Adam, reconstructed in light of evolutionary theory) but also regards the church's failure to take evolution on board as potentially catastrophic.  His comments to this effect at a Biologos-sponsored colloquy were reported by Christianity Today here; and Mike Kruger offers an excellent response to that particular gathering here

Dr. Mohler and Dr. Keller are thoughtful, gracious, intelligent and influential church leaders.  Given their respective positions on evolution, the pressing question is: who is right?  Is the church facing a crisis because too few of her people and leaders have learned how to combine the Bible and evolution?  Or is she facing a crisis because too few of her leaders are prepared to take a stand for the Bible over against evolution?  Or, despite the claims of Dr. Mohler and Dr. Keller, does it actually not matter that much at all?

On a somewhat related issue, a little while back I found myself on the receiving end of various critical responses when I wondered aloud on Ref21 about why complementarianism is considered to be a matter of gospel fidelity by groups like TGC.   Just for clarification: I am a complementarian.  In fact, I am fairly sure that I am stricter (ironically) on the matter in both conviction and in church practice than many in those groups to whom I was alluding.  And I hold the position simply because I believe the account of the special creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis and its application by Paul in passages such as 1 Tim. 2:12-14.

Now, I am neither an exegete nor the son of an exegete, a fact which may explain my naive confusion -- but I am puzzled as to how one can affirm any evolutionary account of Adam and Eve's origins and yet be complementarian, let alone see it as a necessary gospel distinctive. Indeed, I may not be willing to say that complementarianism is a gospel distinctive but I do seem to hold the position on more thoroughly biblical grounds than those who combine the position with some form of theistic evolution which would appear to cut the heart out of Paul's arguments on the matter.  So what exactly does an evolutionary-complementarian reading of that passage in Timothy look like?   Or 1 Cor. 11? 

I am the first to confess that complementarianism, like creationism, pinches me in the current cultural climate; I would like to go with the cultural flow and be thought of by the great and the good as an enlightened and intelligent person rather than a bigoted moron; indeed, every fallen instinct in me wants to do so.  Thus, I need a good foundation on which to stand if I am to maintain these positions with any perseverance and conviction in the face of my own selfish ambitions and the overwhelming tide of the wider world's beliefs.  Evolution seems to my amateur exegetical/theological eye to provide no such safe place to stand.   At the risk of provoking further ire, I might rephrase my earlier blog's title: Confused by evolutionary complementarianism?  You most definitely should be.    I do not think you can have both. 

Now, some may want to accuse me of mischievously making differences over the issue of evolution/Adam among the leaders of these new evangelical consortia into a big deal.  On the contrary,  I am merely drawing attention to the fact that high profile members of these consortia have themselves publicly stated that it is a very big deal, indeed, the biggest deal facing the church at the moment; but they also seem to hold contradictory views on the matter. Let us hope that the TGC seminar makes all things clear.

I will not be there, by the way, so I hope someone who is in attendance asks the important questions regarding the diversity of opinion on this matter, and how it connects not just to original sin and thus to how we understand the work of Christ and the gospel but also to the basis for complementarianism and its identification as a 'gospel distinctive.'  After all, when it comes to gospel issues which their own leaders regard as non-negotiable, surely the big tent organisations and the big dog leaders of the same cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds indefinitely?



Posted January 14, 2013 @ 8:22 AM by Carl Trueman
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