Today, I’m pleased to welcome Chris Brauns, Pastor of The Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, IL (near Rockford, IL) and the author of Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds (Crossway), When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search (Believer’s Lifesystem) (Moody), and Bound Together to our book review blog here at Servants of Grace.
Dave: In your book you spend a lot of time talking about Adam and the consequences of sin. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the current trend among many professing Christians to reject the historicity of Adam? If you have thought about it, do you think this move away from Adam being a real person in real history has drastic consequences on our understanding of the Gospel? If you do think that then what consequences do you think it will have on our churches as a rejection of Adam being a real person in real history becomes more prominent not only in the academy but also in the local Church?
Chris: Dave, thanks for asking such an important question. I believe that if we give up the historicity of Adam, we give up Romans 5 and the Gospel. The whole idea of the “one and the many” is foundational to Paul’s point in Romans 5. If Adam was only some sort of mythic figure, then Paul’s point that sin came into the world through one man (Romans 5:12) breaks down.
Mike Wittmer (who wrote the foreword to Bound Together) recently interacted with Peter Enns’s suggestion that Paul may have been wrong about Adam. He wrote:
I just read Peter Enns’ disturbing book, The Evolution of Adam, which attempts to integrate evolution with Paul’s belief in a historical Adam. If this book is the evangelical path to the future, our children are in a heap of trouble.
Enns says that Paul clearly believed that Adam was the historical first man whose disobedience brought sin and death into the world. However, evolution has proven that Paul was wrong about this, so we must find a way to honor the spirit of what Paul was up to even while disagreeing with his facts.
Paul’s main point in Romans 5:12-21 is to explain how Jesus’ resurrection saves us all from sin and death. Paul merely uses Adam to explain why we all are burdened with this problem of sin and death. Paul was wrong about Adam (he didn’t realize that his Jewish cultural assumptions had misinformed his view of history), but this doesn’t change the fact that we all are sinful and die. And so we all still need Jesus, which is the main point anyhow. Paul’s gospel remains unchanged, even though one of his key facts is wrong.
Enns’ argument reminds me of Langdon Gilkey’s 1961 essay, “Cosmology, Ontology, and the Travail of Biblical Language” (The Journal of Religion). Gilkey noticed that his Neo-Orthodox mentors wanted to keep the spiritual freight of “the mighty acts of God” even though they didn’t believe such events actually occurred. God didn’t miraculously deliver his people from Egypt, but we can still talk about Israel’s redemption as if he did. Gilkey called foul on his friends and said that we aren’t allowed to keep the spiritual meaning if we dismiss the historical facts on which they are grounded.
But 50 years later, this is exactly what Enns is trying to do. He declares that Scripture is correct to say that sin and death are universal, even though its historical explanation for why everyone sins and dies is clearly mistaken (p. 123-26).
So why do we all sin and die? Enns says he doesn’t know, so he throws that question to “the tremendously important work of Christian philosophers and theologians” and promises to “be among the many who listen in on those discussions and try to discern the best way forward” (p. 127). (Read the whole thing here).
I also recently linked to Jeremy Walker’s post, Losing Adam.
I would invite your readers to stop by my web site (www.chrisbrauns.com). In the month of May I am giving away the last of some books as well as some free Nooks (see the Bound Together Quiz). The goal of my web site is to post material that would be helpful to people in our local church. But it ends up being helpful to a lot of other people as well.
Dave: Thanks for your time Chris.. You can check out more of Chris’s work at his blog: www.chrisbrauns.com or follow him as he follows Jesus on twitter: http://twitter.com/ChrisBrauns, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chris.brauns.3 or Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113321437048223088420/