The Doctrine of Man (part 9)

April 13, 2009     Time: 00:29:20

[Opening prayer]

We've been looking at the subject of man as sinner. We are dealing with the nature of sin. Last time we talked about traditional understandings of sin and the doctrine of the fall.

What I wanted to just say before some evaluation with respect to modern views, the fall in modern theology would not be understood to be a literal, historical event – something that actually happened so many hundreds of thousands of years ago. Rather the fall would be taken to be either a symbol of the individual history of each person (as you grow from infancy to adulthood you fall into sin; you become corrupted. You begin in innocence and you fall into corruption and sin. So the fall, in a sense, is a symbol for every man as he grows from infancy to adulthood), or the fall can be taken as a symbol of man's condition in general. That mankind in general is fallen. We are not what we ought to be. We find ourselves needy before God and therefore in need of redemption and salvation. But it is not taken typically to be something that actually happened at some point in the past.

What can we say by way of evaluation of these different views? I think, first of all, that as Christians we are committed to the existence of a historical Adam. Although modern theology tends to view this purely symbolically – and I think there is value in this as a symbol – nevertheless I think that we are committed to saying there really were two people that actually lived called Adam and Eve that are the progenitors of the human race and who fell into sin.

Why do I say that?

1. As you read the narratives of the Old Testament, there is no break between Adam and other historical figures like Abraham and Isaac and others that are indisputably historical. There is just a continuous narrative of one begetting another begetting another. So there isn't any point at which you can break it off and say, “This early part here is purely symbolic and non-historical, and these later figures like Abraham are genuinely historical folks.” There isn't that kind of discontinuity.

2. Adam is included in the genealogies along with other indisputably historical people. For example, in Matthew's Gospel when he gives the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth he traces it all the way back to Adam and includes in those genealogies various historical persons who are Jesus' ancestors, and he goes right back to Adam. So Adam is treated like any other person in these genealogies.

3. Paul treated Adam as a historical individual. When you look at the letters of the apostle Paul, Paul certainly seemed to think that Adam was a person that actually lived. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:45. If you have your New Testaments you might want to turn to that passage with me.[1] He says, “So also it is written, the first man, Adam, became a living soul, and the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Here he contrasts Jesus with Adam, and he treats Adam as a historical person that actually lived. Also 1 Timothy 2:13, in dealing with the commands for a woman in her deportment in the church, he says, “For it was Adam who was first created and then Eve.” So he thinks of Adam as an actual person who was the first created human being by God.

4. Paul contrasts Adam and Jesus as historical individuals. He says Jesus is like the second Adam and Adam was the first man. Obviously, Jesus was, for Paul, a historical figure. He is not contrasting Jesus with some symbol; he is contrasting Jesus with an actual historical person.

So I think for those four reasons we can't treat Adam as simply a symbolic or mythological figure rather than a historical individual.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The second Scripture was 1 Timothy 2:13. Adam was created first and then Eve.


Having said that, at the same time it is evident that Adam does, in a sense, serve as a larger symbol as well. Adam is the Hebrew word for “man.” It is not like “John” or “Jesse.” Adam is the Hebrew word “man.” So when the first chapter of Genesis says, “He created Adam” it means “He created man.” His name was “man,” if you can imagine somebody having that name, “man.” So it shows that Adam does, in a sense, stand for humanity in general. He isn't just a particular individual. This is man before God and in his relationship with God.

He serves, I think, as the human representative before God. He stands for mankind in general in his relationship to God. Sometimes this is expressed by saying he is the federal head of the human race. Just as we have federal representatives who serve in Congress that are our representatives so that when they vote (at least in theory) we are voting through them. Their votes represent our will as the electorate. They are our proxies voting on our behalf. They are our federal representatives. So Adam is the federal head of the human race, our proxy before God in representing us before him.

The fall of Adam is a historical event. It is something that actually occurred. Mankind did fall into sin in this way. It is not mythology. On the other hand, it does seem to be related in a sort of literary dramatic form that I think shouldn't be pressed for literal details or accuracy. This is especially evident when you have, for example, God walking in the garden, it says, and looking for Adam and Eve saying, “Adam, where are you?” and they are hiding from him. God is not a physical person who walks around and has a body and doesn't know where somebody is hiding. You got things like the talking snake and other colorful features of this narrative of the fall. I think that what one can say is that this is the relation of a historical event in a kind of dramatic literary or picturesque form that shouldn't be pressed for literal details in the way that you would read a police report.

This view of the narrative commits us to the monogenesis of the human race. It means that all human beings are descended from some primal pair of human beings – the mother and father of the human race.[2] In fact, this is something that is entirely within modern science. Modern science likes to talk about the so-called Mitocondrial Eve who is the mother of all living persons. An examination of the DNA of living persons indicates that all living people on the Earth today are descended from some woman who lived a couple of hundred thousand years ago that scientists call Eve because she was the mother of all humanity. So incredibly this doctrine of the monogenesis of the human race is actually quite consistent with the scientific evidence about the human race – we are all genetically interrelated and all descended from some woman who lived some time ago in prehistoric times.

What can you do, then, with these hominid creatures like Australopithecus or Leakey's Lucy and these other hominid forms that are not human then but look sort of quasi-human. They are very advanced primates. I think what we have to say is that these hominid forms are not human. They are either pre-Adamic products of limited evolution, highly evolved primates, but not human beings. Or else say that these are simply animals created by God that then eventually perished. But they do not represent human beings. That, again, is a view (as we saw when we looked at the doctrine of creation and evolution) quite consistent with the anthropological and paleontological evidence concerning these hominid forms. No one knows how to reconstruct the human tree of evolution (so to speak) to know which branches on the tree represent dead ends – primate evolution to hominid forms that then just died off and went extinct – and which branch on the tree supposedly leads to modern Homo sapiens. Different anthropologists construct the tree in different ways. It is perfectly consistent with the data to say that none of these hominid forms eventually lead to Homo sapiens, and that they all represent either just animals created by God or products of limited primate evolution that eventually went extinct.

With regard to the source of evil, it seems to me that we want to say that the source of evil (of sin) is to be found in creaturely freedom. God has created persons in his own image and part of that image is freedom to make morally significant choices. Although the origin of sin and evil is to be found in creaturely freedom, that doesn't mean that creaturely freedom is a bad thing – that freedom is itself evil. On the contrary, freedom is a great good. It is a way in which we are similar to God, in contrast to the animal kingdom around us. Unlike the animal kingdom, we have significant moral freedom and therefore are like God in that respect. We are moral agents who can make moral choices. This is a tremendous good. It is a reflection of the greatness of man. Taken as a physical organism, he is a puny member of the animal kingdom, hardly significant – a speck on the planet lately arrived in the scheme of evolution. But insofar as he is a moral agent, he transcends all of the animal kingdom and represents a moral agent capable of choosing between good and evil. It is therefore great and majestic and is like God.

It is the misuse of this great good that represents the origin of sin. Sin, I think, is a privation of right order in the creaturely will. What do I mean by that? A creaturely will which is rightly ordered will be ordered toward God as its ultimate good. He will be centered on, and desiring, to love God and to do his will. The creaturely will, when it is rightly ordered, will be oriented toward God.[3] But creatures who misuse their freedom to choose against God and to choose other lesser goods or other forms of behavior that are contrary to God's will in nature thereby bring disorder into their will. It is a privation of right order in the creaturely will.

What do I mean by privation? A privation means an absence or a lack of something of a positive nature. So, for example, in physics cold (or coldness) has no positive reality. Cold is a privation of heat. Heat is the positive reality, and it is the absence of heat that we call cold. Saying that cold is a privation doesn't mean that therefore it is unreal. It is a real privation. Just go outside without a coat on some winter morning and you sense the reality of this privation. Similarly, darkness has no positive reality. Darkness is a privation of light. It is the absence of light. But darkness nevertheless is a real privation that can cause you to stumble if you are trying to make your way around in a dark room at night. Similarly, sin is a privation of right order in the creaturely will. It is the absence of the right order that the creature's will should have.

So sin is not some sort of a positive reality. God has created every positive reality, but he didn't create sin. Sin is an absence of a reality. It is a real privation that comes about through a misuse of creaturely freedom, both on the human level but also on the angelic level as well as you will remember when we talked about the origin of demons.

With respect to Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism, which we talked about, you will remember Supralapsarianism says that God decreed the fall in order to bring about the cross. His primary motivation was to bring about redemption of humanity through the cross of Christ – a great good. In order to have something to redeem people from, he decreed the fall. Infralapsarianism says, no, he decreed the cross in light of the fall. Given that humanity is fallen into sin, God then decrees the cross to rectify that fall and that problem. I used to think that Supralapsarianism makes God the author of sin. If you say that God decreed that man would fall into sin then you make God the author of evil, which is unacceptable. But as I said two weeks ago, if you have a doctrine of middle knowledge which holds that God knows how every person would freely act in any circumstance that he places him in then God can decree the fall but he can decree that it would occur freely because he knew what Adam and Eve would do if placed in these circumstances. Therefore they did it freely. They were not determined by the circumstances, but God knew that they would do this if placed in those circumstances. I think that whether you are a Supra- or an Infralapsarianism isn't going to really make a difference to human freedom if you have a sufficiently robust concept of God's omniscience. The key here is that God doesn't bring this about himself. If you do say with the Augustinian or the Calvinist that it is God who moved Adam to sin – that it is God who decreed the fall and then moved mankind to sin – then I think you've got real problems. You are making God the author of sin. You are making him the source of evil. It seems to me we don't want to say that. At best we want to say that God decreed that this would happen by means of his middle knowledge of knowing what Adam and Eve would freely do if placed in those circumstances.

Those are some reflections on the doctrine of the fall.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The question was: do we really know that there were these hominid forms? Didn't some of them turn out to be fraudulent and fakes? It is true that some turned out to be fraudulent. One thinks of the famous Piltdown Man, for example, which was a hoax perpetrated by someone who faked a pig's tooth to look like some sort of a human artifact.[4] So you are right. Some of these have been exposed as fraudulent. But there is such a vast array of hominid remains that I think it would be hopeless to say that this is a gigantic conspiracy perpetrated by paleontologists and anthropologists. No, these creatures actually lived. I think the question is simply: are they human precursors or are they simply very advanced primates that eventually went extinct without turning into human beings? So I don't think that we can say that they are all fraudulent.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The origin of evil?Let's just have a look at it. [Referring to Job 2:10]. What translation are you using?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: OK. That's a good translation. Here's how my translation – New American Standard – renders that. “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” I think that that probably captures the sense better when it says that God gives you good things in life and he gives you suffering and rotten things in life, and are you going to just accept the good and not accept the bad? I feel quite confident that that is what the author means, rather than trying to make a philosophical statement about the origin of moral evil, if you know what I mean. That is not what the narrative is about. That would be reading some sort of philosophical or metaphysical intention into the text. I think the text there is more the idea of the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. He will give you good things. He will give you bad times. They all come from God. I think the lesson of the verse is properly that all things come from God in your life – suffering as well as good times – and that you need to not turn away from God during the times of hardship and suffering, but bear those trials with courage and dependency on God. I feel confident that the book of Job isn't trying to make a philosophical statement there about the origin of evil.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I'll repeat the question. She has heard it said Adam was not the first man per se but he was the first moral man or moral agent, but there could have been other people prior to Adam and Eve. There have been Christian thinkers who defend this. In fact, the standard position, for example, of the Roman Catholic church on evolution is that the human body of Adam and Eve could well have been the product of biological evolution. These hominids could have evolved into human, Homo sapien, life forms, but it is the addition of the soul that turns this hominid form into a real human being. It is the soul that makes him a human being, not just having a physical shape. Hugh Ross, the Christian apologist scientist, has defended quite similar views. Not with respect to evolution but in the sense that he believed that there were what we could call creatures around who looked like human beings prior to Adam but they weren't actually human. So it is not quite correct to say there were people prior to Adam because he would say they are not really people. But they were human-like looking creatures prior to Adam and Eve, and then Adam and Eve were the first genuine human beings.

This is reading a lot into the biblical text. I think that it is certainly not in the text. The question would be is that compatible with the text. I suppose it is compatible with it, though it is bringing an awful lot in between the lines that isn't there. But I think that one has to be open to it. I guess what would convince one of such a view would probably be evidence that there were such creatures around prior to a reasonable date for Adam and Eve.[5] For example, I am thinking here of something like Neanderthal man. Neanderthal men apparently are not genetically connected with modern Homo sapiens. Instead they are usually treated as some sort of an offshoot of human evolution that separated off prior to the arrival of Homo sapiens on the scene. Yet there are fossil remains of Neanderthal man that indicate that they were very human-like in different ways. It suggests that they buried their dead, for example. In one burial site there were even flowers apparently strewn in the grave beneath the corpse. This would suggest a kind of aesthetic sense, maybe even a sense . . . I don't know. What do you do with that? I think people like Hugh Ross want to say these weren't fully human. These were creatures that looked kind of like men – kind of like people – but they didn't really have a human soul. I think the jury is out on that. I think we need more evidence. I noticed seeing a report recently on television that suggested that elephants can even try to bury their dead. When an elephant dies the others gather around and stroke the corpse with their trunks and seem to really sympathize with the departed one and then may even try to cover it up and bury it. The fact that Neanderthals did that doesn't necessarily indicate they were human. You see what I mean? These are areas where the Bible doesn't speak to this. You are reading things in between the lines. I guess you just have to be open to the evidence to where it leads, and I don't have any strong views on that kind of thing. I think we are committed biblical to a historical Adam and Eve and a historical fall. But beyond that, I think that we are open to follow the evidence where it leads. I am not sure.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The Nephilim? Let's read that. This is the giants in the earth [referring to Genesis 6:4].


The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.


There is the suggestion here that some take to mean that demonic, angelic type beings (fallen angels) may have copulated with human females to produce this race of extraordinary men – giants. Or it could have been that they were just ordinary people. It depends on who you think the sons of God are in this. If you think they are demonic creatures or some fallen angels or something that will bear on your interpretation of that. But I don't think that anybody really knows for sure much about this. It is a source of a lot of speculation. But this isn't really mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures apart from this.


What we will do next week is begin to look more at the nature of sin. We will look at the biblical data on this. Then we will look at traditional and modern views with a view toward understanding what sin is and how it is characterized.[6]



[1] 5:03

[2] 10:08

[3] 15:01

[4] 20:11

[5] 25:17

[6] Total Running Time: 29:20 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)