Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is Adam just a symbol?

Difficult Scriptures: Romans 5:12-17
16 May by Jeff Dunn

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:12-17, NLT)

So, we have Paul writing that Adam is a symbol of Christ who was yet to come. Does this symbol have to have been real? Does our faith hang in the balance as to whether or not we believe in a historical Adam?

I normally don’t answer my own Difficult Scriptures question, but today I will, and then stand aside to hear your thoughts. To give my answer, I will have to lean heavily on what I learned from Michael Spencer about reading the Bible.

The Scriptures were given us for one reason, and one reason alone: To point us to Jesus. When we try to use the Scriptures to prove other points, we are going outside of the scope of its purpose. The story and symbol of Adam show us “little Adams” to be sinners in need of redemption. Redemption comes in Christ’s death and resurrection. If I focus on whether or not Adam is/was real, I take my eyes away from what God intends me to look at: Jesus. So I guess I’m saying it does not matter to me whether or not Adam was really real. The story of Adam points me to a very real Jesus.

Now, your thoughts?

This is one of the dumber things I’ve read lately, and the competition for dumb is ferocious. I don’t know if Jeff Dunn normally reasons at this level, or if he felt the importance of the issue merited a special kind of stupid.

i) To begin with, he apparently hangs his argument on a pop English translation. But typos doesn’t mean “symbol.” A type denotes an OT person, place, institution, or event that prefigures a counterpart in the Messianic age. A factual relation.

ii) However, even if it did mean “symbol,” that’s ambiguous. Even though all metaphors are symbolic, not all symbols are metaphorical. A symbol can be a real spacetime object. It’s not just a literary device.

iii) As for “pointing us to Jesus,” if that’s all that matters, why does Jesus need to be real? After all, you can point someone to a fictitious superhero.

iv) If all that matters is looking at Jesus, then who needs the Christian afterlife? As long as you were looking at Jesus when you died, you can pass into oblivion looking at Jesus.

v) Notice Jeff doesn’t make an effort to seriously exegete Rom 5:12-21. Instead, he superimposes an extraneous grid on the passage. Disregard the specific claims of the text and retreat into the mock piety of “looking at Jesus.” This is just an obvious rearguard maneuver by someone who’s lost faith in historical revelation. 

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