The Existence of Adam: Why it Matters

This is the second post in a series of posts looking at the theological significance with Adam.

Why It Matters

With the amount of debate that surrounds the creation of Adam and his existence, one popular question has often been raised by many who are confused by or put off by such disagreement; does it really matter? The question must be addressed in two ways: why it matters how God created our universe, and why the importance of Adam’s existence matters. To begin, we will look at the latter question first.

C. John Collins gives four reasons why the literal existence of Adam and Eve matters. He writes, “If we abandon the conventional way of telling the Christian story… then we really give up all chance of understanding the world. Specifically, if we deny that all people have a common source that was originally good but through which sin came into the world, then the existence of sin becomes God’s fault, or even something God could not avoid. In either case there is little reason to be confident that any relief is headed our way.”[1]

The practical implication of Adam and Eve simply being a mythology is the consequence that God in fact is the creator of sin and evil, or that he cannot avoid it. If this is so, then our hope of God finally conquering sin and evil comes with little confidence. Collins continues, “Second, the notions of sin as an alien invader that affects all people, and of atonement as God’s way of dealing with the guilt and pollution that comes from this defiling influence, depend on the story of the original family and their original disobedience.[2]

Jesus is often referred to as the “second Adam” of whom God came to give himself and make right what the first Adam corrupted. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.[3]” Without the first Adam, the death and resurrection of Jesus loses much of its meaning. “Third, if we cannot insist on a common origin for all mankind, then we have given up the grounds, from both the Bible and common sense, for affirming the common dignity of all people.[4]

This goes beyond Christian thought and doctrine. If all humans do not have a common origin, why argue for the common dignity of all people. Also, how could Christians argue for the common solution that Biblical faith offers to all people? Lastly, Collins writes, “Fourth, how we relate to the story of Adam and Eve does, sooner or later, face us with what stance we will take toward Biblical authority.[5]” We must decide if we accept the authority of Jesus. Part of this authority includes whom God gave the right and ability to write the Bible and show us how to interpret the Genesis account.

Now that we have seen the importance of why a literal Adam matters, we will now look at why it matters how God created everything in general. Millard Erickson gives five reasons why the doctrine of creation is important: 1) The Bible places great significance on it. 2) The doctrine of creation has been a significant part of the church’s faith; it has been a highly importance aspect of its teaching and preaching. 3) Our understanding of the doctrine of creation is important because of its effect on our understanding of other doctrines. 4) The doctrine of creation helps differentiate Christianity from other religions and world views. 5) The study of the doctrine of creation is one point of potential dialogue between Christianity and natural science.[6]

The creation account in Genesis, while some argue is simply taken and modified from other near Eastern myths, is still unique in its overall story and implications among all other religions and mythologies. Another aspect of creation that is important to note is that God created everything from nothing, he did not create our universe from preexisting matter.

“In Genesis 1:1, the word used for created is the Hebrew word bara, which means ‘creation from nothing.’ The other Hebrew word used in a creative sense in Genesis is asah, translated ‘make’ or ‘made.’ Bara emphasizes the initiation of and object, whereas asah emphasizes the shaping of an object. When people create we are doing asah, not bara.”[7]

God’s work of creation from nothing was unique and cannot be replicated by anyone or anything in God’s creation. The pinnacle of God’s creation however, is the creation Adam and Eve. Erickson writes, “Humans are placed over the rest of creation, to have dominion over it. We cannot in every respect be likened to the whole of creation.[8]” Also, human beings are the only part of creation created in the image of God, which sets Adam, and thus all of humanity, apart from the rest of creation. Not only is it important to biblical theology to understand the importance of a literal Adam, it is also important to note the uniqueness given to humanity among creation.

Other posts in this series:

[1] C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2011), 133-34.

[2] Ibid., 134.

[3] 1 Cor. 15:21-22.

[4] Collins, 134.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 1998), 392-93.

[7] Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (re: Lit) (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 82.

[8] Erickson, 512.


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