Category Archives: Theology

Humanity beyond Adam’s line in Genesis

The genealogical Adam hypothesis, which I’ve been dusting off again in recent posts because of Joshua Swamidass’s focus on it, has been accused of being an “concordist” position, designed solely to make belief in a literal Adam consistent with modern discoveries in fields from ancient history to genetics. But to some extent any interpretation is concordist, because we have to reconcile any text to what we already know, or believe we know.

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What it means to be created human

The creation of man, as envisaged by the Bible, isn’t as obviously biological as is often assumed, which is important if one wants to take a “science and faith” approach that doesn’t lapse into mere scientism. Take, as a limiting case, the Christian who, according to both Jesus in John’s gospel and Paul, is a “new creation”. As far as I know, every man or woman who has ever been a Christian was born by generation in the usual biological way, and if one accepts evolution has ape ancestors – none of which has any bearing on the process of their new creation whatsoever, which is of the Spirit.

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What is man – no, really?

“Adam” means “man” in Hebrew (as “human” rather than “male individual”), and quite apart from the deliberate wordplay in Genesis it is generally believed to have some kind of etymological link in Hebrew with “adamah“, meaning “red” and hence “red (=fertile and tilled) soil”. This would not be far-fetched, since our own English word “human” appears to derive from a Proto-Indoeuropean (PIE) root meaning “earth”, thus distinguishing men from the gods of heaven. One question for the “genealogical Adam” hypothesis of my last post, in which Adam is an historical figure and universal common ancestor, but not the first man, is how he gets to take the word for all … Continue reading

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Original sin and the genealogical (MRCA) view of Adam

Despite modern denials, original sin (known in the East as “ancestral sin”) has been assumed by all major branches of Christianity down the ages. I wrote on its affirmation by Irenaeus in the 2nd century here (against many modern writers who pin it all on Augustine two centuries later).

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Two ways

For most of my life I’ve tried to avoid the idea of Jesus as a moral teacher, both because of the gospel of grace and forgiveness versus moralistic self-help, and because of my awareness of C S Lewis’s famous argument in Mere Christianity: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

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Imponderable probabilities

One of those arguments that seems intuitively wrong, but is hard actually to refute, is the claim that the probability of something that comes to exist in nature, particularly something that seems designed, is impossible to calculate. The fact that something exists, they say, makes its probability 100%, and so it cannot be judged unlikely in advance. Thinking mathematically, since any set of values is as rare as any other, for example in the case of parameters in cosmic fine tuning or the DNA sequence of some astonishing creature, there’s really nothing to wonder about in their existence, as opposed to anything else existing instead.

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Genealogies and Adam

Joshua Swamidass has concentrated attention at BioLogos on the idea that the biblical Adam, as one common ancestor of the present human race, is scientifically viable, irrespective of genetics. That has focused my attention on the genealogies originating from Adam not only in Genesis, but in 1 Chronicles and in Luke’s gospel. The issue concerning me today is not directly how these support, or otherwise, the “Most Recent Common Ancestor” framework, but their purpose.

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Drifting downstream on the celestial ocean

The recurrent pattern of the slowly ongoing discussion on Hebrew cosmology at Biologos is interesting. An allusion to Seely, or to some other secondary source, is adduced to assert that such and such a nation believed without exception in a solid firmament and a celestial ocean “just like Israel”. I refute this from primary sources or specialist literature. Rather than being withdrawn, the claim then gets transferred to another nation, a bit further downstream from ancient Israel, and round we go again.

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The Lisbon earthquake and plausibility

In my last post on plausibility and credibility I had reason to quote N T Wright on how Deism first divorced God from nature back in the eighteenth century. But I didn’t mention the event commonly identified as the trigger for this radical rejection of the immanence of divine action, a rejection which persists (as I tried to show) until this day. That event was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

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Plausibility and credibility

This post is an occasional (and I feel necessary) return to the concept, fielded by Christian sociologist Peter Berger, of the difference between the “credible” and the “plausible”, sociologically speaking. I can illustrate this from my recent recollection of Bishop John Robinson’s book, Honest to God.

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