Four Views on The Historical Adam

January 30, 2014 — 2 Comments


Matthew Barrett & Ardel B. Caneday eds. Four Views on The Historical Adam. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, December, 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $19.99.

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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

Much like Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, I thought it was best to do a series review for this book. Here’s what it will look like:

In the introduction to this book, editors Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday outline the models of origins from Gerald Rau’s Mapping the Origins Debate. This is a way of getting at the debate behind the debate over the historical Adam. The models, if you’re curious (and even if you’re not) are:

  • Naturalistic Evolution
  • Nonteleological Evolution
  • Planned Evolution
  • Directed Evolution
  • Old-Earth Creationism
  • Young-Earth Creationism

Where you fall on the question of whether or not Adam is historical has a lot to do with how you understand creation itself. If you’re interested in digging into this background debate, pick up Rau’s book (or read my review).

Additionally, even if you are a young or old Earth creationist, that doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with others of the same view on how to understand the days in Genesis 1. Barrett and Caneday outline three gives on how to take Genesis 1:

  • The framework view (the days in Genesis are a literary framework focused on what not how)
  • The analogical day view (the presentation of the days of creation is mainly to present the model work week for man to follow)
  • The cosmic temple view (the creation of the world is also the creation of God’s cosmic temple in which he takes residence on day 7)

If that’s not enough, there four views on how to take the days in Genesis 1:

  • The gap view (a gap between Genesis 1:1-2 that may have been millions of years, 1:2ff is a “recreation”)
  • The intermittent day view (each day is 24hrs but there are gaps between the days of an indeterminate amount of time)
  • The progressive or day-age creation view (each day was a long period of time)
  • 24 hour day view (each day is a successive 24 hour period)

All of this together somewhat outlines the debate behind the debate, and helps to separate 3 of the 4 contributors who agree Adam was historical, but do not agree on other aspects of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis.

The contributors were asked to answer three key questions in defending their position (27-28):

  • What is the biblical case in your viewpoint, and how do you reconcile it with passages and potential interpretations that seem to counter it?
  • In what ways is your view more theologically consistent and coherent than other views?
  • What are the implications your view has for the spiritual life and public witness of the church and individual believers, and how is your view a healthier alternative for both?

To complete the book, we not only have the four contributors making their case based on these questions (and responding to one another), we also have two pastoral responses in light of everything that precedes them. One if from Greg Boyd and the other is from Phil Ryken. Their questions are different, and are as follows (35):

  • Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence affect the rest of the Christian faith and those doctrines Christians have historically affirmed throughout the centuries?
  • Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence shape a Christian worldview, especially the biblical story line from creation, fall, and redemption, to new creation?
  • Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence have an impact on the gospel, or how the gospel is preached and applied, specifically in the church?
  • Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence have influence on how we live the Christian life and “do church” as the body of Christ?
  • Does Adam’s existence or nonexistence make a difference in our evangelical witness to a watching world?
  • What is at stake in this debate for evangelicals in the church today?

Not to offer too much of a spoiler, but Boyd is going to answer more along the lines of “it has little impact” and Ryken will answer the opposite.

On the whole, this looks like it will be an interesting discussion. I’ve already read Lamoureux’s essay and the responses. He is the only contributor who says no historical Adam, but you’ll have to read next month to see why.


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. View-Worthy: 2.3.14 - February 3, 2014

    […] Matthew Barrett and Ardel B Caneday. Four Views on the Historical Adam. Reviewed by Nate Claiborne. […]

  2. Pastoral Reflections on The Historical Adam: Greg Boyd and Phil Ryken | A disciple's study - April 25, 2014

    […] Today we finish up our journey through Four Views on The Historical Adam. Yesterday we looked William Barrick’s young-earth perspective on the historical Adam, and on Tuesday we looked at C. John Collins’ view. For the full table of contents, click here. […]

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