Thursday, July 12, 2012

Defining the "historical Adam"

With Peter Enns pushing the envelope, I assume it’s only a matter of time before the PCA (as well as the OPC, URCNA, &c.) has to decide where to draw the line. Thus far discussion tends to coalescence around the “historical Adam.” However, it’s important to keep in mind that that phrase is quite ambiguous.

In principle, someone could affirm the historicity of Adam without affirming that Adam and Eve were the first humans, or the progenitors of the human race. One tactic is to claim that God singled out a couple of Neolithic farmers.

Likewise, someone could affirm that Adam and Eve were the first humans without affirming that Adam and Eve were the first hominids. In principle, someone could affirm that Adam and Eve were real people, consistent with an evolutionary history of early man. One tactic is to claim that God took two protohuman hominids and humanized them.

If, therefore, the PCA wishes to reaffirm the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve, it will need to use a narrower formulation than the “historical Adam.” It will have to add further qualifications to eliminate theistic evolution–if that’s its goal. 


  1. Steve,

    You are correct on this. I recently did a talk on the historical Adam and the various models being put forward today all have implications for the rest of one's theological system. I found that if you start messing with the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve then this usually entails significant modification for other crucial doctrines.

    My lecture and notes are found here:

  2. This is the way we passed it in the ARP:

    I think the PCA overtures contained similar language.

  3. The PCA Creation Study Committee 2000 report included these words:

    "All the Committee members join in these affirmations: The Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God. That Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. That history, not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters; and furthermore that their history is true. In these chapters we find the record of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower forms of life). We further find the account of an historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s sure promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific research. We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority. We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical supernaturalism."

    Full text of report can be found here: