EFCA Theology Pre-Conference Part 2

Here is the continuation of my previous blog. I’ve tried to quote every place I’ve taken exactly what he said, but as the conference was a week ago, I’m sure there are parts here that I wrote down verbatim. All the thinking in this was done by Hans Madueme, thank you very much for walking us through some background to this very important issue.

Hans Madueme who further explored the historical Adam and Eve did the second part of the theology conference. He gave some very helpful background information to this question, as well as some practical questions to ask for us today.

Hans talked in great detail about Charles Darwin not being the first person to push for an old earth view.

Over 50 years prior to Darwmin’s Origin of the Species, many theologians agreed with geologists who said the earth was older than Bishop Ussher’s date of 4004 B.C.  Darwin was not the only “bad guy” in our history. One of the key figures who began questioning the historical Adam and Eve was Isaac La Peyrère (1596-1676).

Isaac La Peyrère was a controversial figure in his day, born in France to a Calvanist family. He had many questions about the beginning chapters of Genesis. People at his time had begun to ask some very important questions regarding the history of the world. They had become aware of ancient histories (Chinese, Egyptian, etc) who went further back than the Bible’s histories. Columbus had also discovered the “New World” and where did those people come from? There had also been myths about giants, Cyclops and other mythical creatures. How did they fit into the creation story? It was in the midst of these questions that he wrote a two-part magnum opus in 1642-1643 defending the theory that Adam was not the first human. His proof text for this theory was Romans 5:12-14. He was labeled as a heretic and was forced to recant his heresy and fake a conversion to the Roman Catholic Church where he blamed those “Calvinists” who had brainwashed him.

This then leads us to Darwin, who we now know wasn’t the first to ask the questions about the origins of the world. The questions about the historical Adam and Eve are not new to us today, but have been asked many times before. As Hans said in his lecture, “People had doubts about the traditional picture of Adam before 1859, but Darwin made it much harder to believe in Adam and Eve as the first human beings who later fell.” Many liberal scholars today have come to the conclusion that Christian theology needs to be done without a historical Adam and Eve. Now, “it is possible to have “Christian Theology” without a historical Adam and Eve, but it’s not the theology our Church Fathers would recognize.”

Hans then went on to discuss the question, “How should Christians relate science and theology?” Ian Barbour, who published Issues in Science and Religion in 1966 was helpful in the emergence of this study. Hans continued by saying, ‘Regarding the controversy over Adam and Eve, the authority of Scripture is the hinge on which it all turns.” Barbour developed a typology of how Christians are to relate science and theology. Christians can view them: in conflict, as independents, in dialogue with each other, on in integration with each other. Barbour recommends the dialogue position (avoid conflict at all cost) he wanted to show the “reasonableness” of the Christian faith. However, sometimes there are real conflicts between science and theology (e.g. the traditional doctrine of the fall and mainstream evolutionary theory).

**Following are the exact notes I took during the conference, there are a lot of definitions with my explanation next to them that I thought would be helpful for you to see as opposed to me trying to write it out in paragraph form**

Scriptural realism is the proposal for how to relate science and theology. It tries to address a concern that theology keeps being revised because of new scientific data.

  • Canonical Epistemology – Scripture is inerrant. It is true and without error. Scripture in their original content is infallible. Everything we know from the Bible is true in an absolute sense.
  • Critical Fideism – We do not always understand the true parts of Scripture because of human error in understanding. We are sinful, fallible interpreters of Scripture. These things are supernaturally affirmed by the Holy Spirit. We are certain of these things, because and only because we receive them from the living God.
  • Christian Eclecticism – there is no one-size fits all method of approaching scientific theories. Warranted theological agnosticism-when a scientific belief is in conflict with a scientific theory.

How would scriptural realism help us in the debate over evolution and the historicity of Adam and Ever?

  • The doctrine of the fall is a central doctrine (and presupposed in all of Scripture).
  • All major church traditions affirm these doctrines despite differences in detail.
  • Christians can be theologically agnostic about conflicting evidence from scientific data (a warranted agnosticism).

Difference Evangelical Positions

  • Traditional Young Earth Theology
  • Creationist Preadamism (Old Earth Creationists)
  • Evolutionary Preadamism (fully embraces theistic evolution, Adam and Eve share a common ancestry with other animals)
  • Federal Headship Preadamism (there were many pre-adamite creatures who existed before Adam and Eve, the world was full of pre-adamites before Adam and Eve were placed in the garden who became the first human beings)

The final question, then, is how should churches, seminaries and us as Christians deal with the questions of science and theology? Hans suggested 3 things for us to think through as we continue to grow in wisdom with both God and men.

  1. They should set dogmatic boundaries on these sort of questions.
  2. We need more scientists who are confessional and who are wrestling with the most difficult questions in science and theology.
  3. We need to think about how we can best create “intellectual space” for our best theologians and scientist to explore tentative, non-binding hypotheses (from a scriptural realist perspective)

Hans did a great job of helping us think through some of the modern implications of these very old questions. It’s a good reminder that it’s all been done before, there’s nothing new under the sun. Praise God for his Word which is timeless!

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4 Comments

  1. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    “We need more scientists who are confessional and who are wrestling with the most difficult questions in science and theology.”

    You’re going to be hard-pressed to find more within your denomination if you’ve already ruled the science they know to be well supported to be outside confessional orthodoxy within the EFCA.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure where you get that I said it had to be within the denomination. Yes, this was a denominational conference, but we as Christians need more scientists who are addressing these issues.

      Reply
  2. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Ok, fair enough, but what about BioLogos then? They’re Christians who are addressing the science and speaking to it from a Christian worldview. Or do you think they’re not really Christians?

    Reply
  3. Yes, they are Christians who are looking to answer some of the questions, but much of their research seems to be trying to make the Bible fit into what they discover in science instead of using the Bible as the ultimate authority. I’m not debating whether or not they are Christians, and these aren’t even my thoughts, just the summaries of the speakers, but we still need more Christian scientists to delve into these worlds. We can never have enough scientists who are revealing God’s truth to us through his creation.

    Reply

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