- Introduction: The Challenge from Evolution
- Can we be made in God’s image if science says we evolved?
- Are we misreading the Bible?
- Not the Whole Debate, Just the Bible
- The Bible is our authority as the very words of God.
- We submit to it whether we understand it or not.
- The first place we go to understand a passage of Scripture is the rest of Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture!
- The clash isn’t science vs. Scripture but one interpretation vs. another.
- What Does the Bible Say about Adam?
- Three genealogies portray him as the first father, the end of a real lineage.
- In two long passages, Paul ties Jesus’ work to Adam’s sin, so our understanding of one is tied to the other. A real Jesus saved us from the real problem of sin and death that came to all men through one man.
- Paul explains that his church order is based on the creation order and the consequences of the Fall.
- Hebrews says we accept God created everything by His word, and it treats Abel as a real live example of faith.
- Conclusion: Faith in Jesus First
- Our faith and trust is in a person that we personally know!
- If someone ever shakes our faith in creation or in Scripture, it doesn’t have to shake our faith in Christ.
Introduction: The Challenge from Evolution
Last week we discussed how mankind is made in the image of God, how men and women are together unique in all of creation. And we noted that this is not what we hear in the broader culture. We’re often characterized as highly evolved animals and biochemical machines.
And if this were just another religion talking, it would be easy enough to shrug it off. We might not even notice. But because we often hear this from scientists, it’s more unsettling.
As Christians we believe that God is the God of all truth, and that the way God has revealed Himself in the natural world works together with the way He has revealed Himself in Scripture. And so when people who don’t have religious motives look carefully at the natural world and come to different conclusions, that bugs us.
And it should.
So today we’re going to talk about that elephant in the room: how can we be sure we’re created in God’s image if science tells us we’re just highly-developed animals? What does it look like for us to take Scripture seriously—to take Genesis seriously?
Not the Whole Debate, Just the Bible
Now, even though it’s tempting to try to tackle the whole creation-evolution debate in one sitting, it’s just not possible. We can get into the science another time, we can get into the philosophy of science another time, we can get into the interpretive theory another time. But today I want to ask and answer one simple question: what does the rest of the Bible say about Genesis?
We as a church very proudly stand in the tradition of Sola scriptura, or “Bible alone.” Sometimes we mistake this for the idea that the Bible is the only source of truth or the only source of revelation. But what it really means is that the Bible is the sole authority. No other book, no group, no person, no angel, no one can contradict what it says.
Why? Because we believe these are the very words of God. And because God has highest authority, His words carry that authority. When God speaks, all other mouths are silenced.
Now, can things outside the Bible help us understand what’s in the Bible? Absolutely! God spoke in our language at a certain time and place, and so we certainly rely on translators, archaeologists, philosophers, scientists, etc. to help clarify Scripture. But before we go to them, we affirm that whatever the Bible says—whether we understand it or not—it has authority over us.
One thing that’s helpful to keep in mind is that when we discuss the conflict we often confuse terms. We think of it as being an issue of science vs. Scripture, but that’s not quite right. It’s the interpretation of the facts of nature by the scientific community on one side vs. the interpretation of Scripture by Christian readers on the other. We believe that the conflict isn’t between the facts of nature and the text of Scripture but between interpretations of both.
So then, we’re not out to interpret the facts of nature today or evaluate the interpretations of the scientific community. We’re only looking at Scripture, and specifically the clues the REST of the Bible gives us for understanding this part of the Bible.
What Does the Bible Say about Adam?
Since we’re specifically interested in what it means to be human, we can narrow things down a bit more. What does the rest of the Bible say about Adam? Was there a real first person? Was he more than just another animal?
Exhibit A: Genealogies
Adam is mentioned in three different genealogies in the Bible: Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1, and Luke 3. In each case he’s part of a long line of fathers and sons. The plain reading is that he’s a real father who had real sons.
Exhibit B: Hosea’s Transgressor
In Hosea 6:7, the prophet declares that Israel has broken God’s covenant just like Adam did. Now this phrasing doesn’t require a literal Adam. I could say Samson was strong just like Superman and it would be true because Superman represents this idea that we can actually apply to Samson. So not much help for this study. (Although I should note that the NET Bible translates this passage differently, in ways that make Adam a much stronger figure here.)
Exhibit C: As Adam, So Christ
Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are the strongest evidence that the Bible truly treats Adam as a real person. Jesus is the second Adam, the one who came to undo the work of the first Adam. This is worth quoting at length:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:12-19 ESV)
Beautiful stuff. But if you start messing with Adam and the problem he created, you end up messing with Jesus and the salvation He brings.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 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. (1Co 15:19-22 ESV)
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1Co 15:45-49 ESV)
Sin and death came through Adam to all mankind. I know there are Christians out there who think Adam is just a myth, but reading these passages, I just can’t see how! How do you have a real effect from an imaginary cause? Either there was a single, real set of first parents who fell and spread the effects to all their children, or Paul is in trouble. And so is our concept of what Jesus did for us.
Exhibit D: Family Order
I don’t want to linger here because I don’t want to start any fights about women in church and get us side-tracked. Bottom line: in 1 Timothy 2, Paul argues for a certain arrangement of men and women in church based on two facts: Adam was made before Eve, and Eve was deceived, not Adam. The only point I want to make is Paul is basing rules of conduct on historical events. If these things didn’t happen, why would Paul appeal to them in this way?
Exhibit E: By Faith We Understand
The famous Hebrews “Hall of Faith” has a few relevant references. First off, we have this:
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Heb 11:1 ESV)
Seems pretty straightforward, affirms what we see in Genesis. Then there’s a reference to Abel’s faith as an example for us all. Now, in a list of people who are examples of how to live, a list where most of the people are most assuredly historical, what should we make of the inclusion of Abel? Only that he was real. The real son of the real Adam.
Conclusion: Faith in Jesus First
I’ve adopted kind of a defensive tone today, but not because I think our class is full of people who deny Adam’s existence. It’s because we live not only in a culture but in a church context that is more and more hostile to these ideas. Formerly conservative seminaries and Bible colleges are ready to concede that evolution is true, and so the challenge isn’t just from outside but from within.
My goal today has not been to demonize scientists. I’m not a scientist and I don’t think it’s my place to judge how scientists do their work. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it’s important to recognize that science isn’t the only voice in this conversation—not even the most important.
My heart is for people who struggle with doubt, and this is one of those areas where believers sometimes get shaken in their faith. If that’s you, I want you to know that I’m here for you and I’m not out to pick fights. I want to listen and help you find your way back to confidence in Christ.
But if you don’t struggle with this, I hope talking about it now helps strengthen you against future troubles. Most importantly, I want you to see that we don’t believe in Jesus because we believe in creation. We believe in creation because we believe in Jesus. The Bible may have introduced me to Jesus, but my faith is in Him first, my personal relationship is with Jesus Christ, and it’s because of that bond that I trust the Bible.
Do you see the difference? A time may come when someone shakes your confidence in the Bible or in creation. If so, just remember it doesn’t have to shake your faith. The foundation is the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And because I know Him, I can trust Him, and because I trust Him, I can trust Scripture.