Dispensations and the Genealogical Adam

Dispensationalism actually helps. @jongarvey and @deuteroKJ might help me out here, but dispensationalism gives a very natural way of handling those outside the garden. They were just operating under a different dispensation than us.

Within Dispensationalism, dispensations are a series of chronologically successive dispensations of Biblical history. The number of dispensations held are typically three, four, seven or eight. The three and four dispensation schemes are often referred to as minimalist, as they recognize the commonly held major breaks within Biblical history. The seven and eight dispensation schemes are often closely associated with the announcement or inauguration of certain Biblical covenants. The variance in number relates to the extent of detail being emphasized by the author or speaker. Below is a table comparing some of the various dispensational schemes:

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Good thought. A poisoned chalice, in that generally I think dispensationalism is a bad way to look at Scripture. But as a way of thinking about the GA matter, it provides a good model.

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Ireneas was the first to talk about it and so did Augustine. How do we reference the notion of eras of history, without going full blown dispensationalism? What about Dispensationalism precisely puts people off?

They did so without promoting what we call Dispensationalism, which is less than 200 years old. The main problem is an undue literalistic hermeneutic with OT (and NT) prophecies, even countering the apostolic handling of OT texts. The older forms (Classical, Revised) also posit an unhealthy disunity between Jewish and Gentile believers, including a reduction of much of the practical value of the Bible (not just the OT, but much of Jesus and the Gospels).


So what is the right way to refer the dispensations pre 200 years ago, without triggering people with the more recent versions?

Difficult to answer this really. The essence of Reformed thinking is that, in the end, all the “dispensations” or covenants are fulfilled in the one covenant in Christ.

Abraham’s promise was, in fact, a restatement of the role of Adam. Moses covenant was, as it were, a codicil to the Abrahamic promise, and when it was abrogated, Abraham’s covenant was renewed in Christ.

In the New Testament all those OT figures are seen to be brought into the covenant of Christ - so those heroes of faith in Hebrews were all, in fact, looking in faith to a better hope than Canaan, or the tabernacle, or the king - all of which turned out to be summed up in Christ. “All the promises are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”

And on that basis, I think, Irenaeus argued that Christ would even save Adam, because God wouldn’t free the children from captivity without the father.

That all differs from dispensationalism, in which each era has its own means of salvation, its own particular rewards and so on.

If we hold under GA that the promise of eternal life and union with Christ has its origin in Adam, then there is a real difference in “dispensation,” for all of Adam’s children are included, potentially, in the promise, and the rest of the cosmos, until the renewing of all things, is not.

Avoid the word “dispensation” and it may well be a useful illustration to point out the difference, say, between the Jew and the Gentile in OT times, as you have in your writing, or between the born again believer and the non-born again man, as I have in mine. Or again, in a loose way between the time when the law applied, and the time when the gospel was available.


That is a great question and I’ll briefly say who is likely to be triggered and what the main triggers are. Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, the mainline churches (Lutheran, Methodists, Reformed) do not believe in the modern system of Dispensationalism. It could also be called Millenniumism. One big problem, mentioned so ably in posts above, is the artificial distinction made between Israel and the Church. Another issue is how Christ’s Second Coming is split up into a secret coming (the Rapture for the Elect) and then a visible return for an earthly 1,000 year reign of Christ where at least some people perfectly keep the Law (one might have a lot of questions about that).

Looking at it through my Lutheran background it looks like they confuse Law and Grace - their hope seems to be in an earthly Millennium where the Elect will become perfect in the Law. Also the Jews will resume Law rituals such as Temple sacrifices - it is as if Christ’s sacrifice didn’t really matter and the main thing is to get everyone practicing the Law rituals again. It is all very complicated and I might not be describing it well.

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What I’m really trying to say (if it weren’t just after a church leaders’ meeting :tired_face:) is that there are precisely two dispensations in God’s world:
(1) The first creation (perishable, natural, psuchikos) and
(2) The new creation (imperishable, spiritual, pneumatikos).

The new creation begins at Genesis 2:3, and has overlapped the old for the few thousand years since, ostensibly because Adam failed to do what he should. The old creation did very nicely in its own right for 12+ bn years, and its pinnacle was mankind, a representative of whom became the first agent for implementing the new creation.

Non-adamic man was of the old, perishable, creation: Christ is of the new, imperishable. The rest of us are either in progress towards the new, or stuck in the old.


FWIW worth the KJV used “dispensation” to translate Greek oikonomia in 1 Cor 9:17; Eph 1:10; 3:2; Col 1:25. Other translations tend to use “administration” or “stewardship.”

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Progressive Dispensationalism, which has been in vogue since the early 1990s, is much more nuanced and less problematic. It still leaves too much of a distinction between Israel and the Church for other Christian systems, but it does a much better job of taking an overall unified metanarrative approach to Scripture and the gospel (though still with the funky pretribulation premillennialism).

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Hey I want some of that defibrillation premillenniallism!

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Do you mean “Adamic” here or “non-Adamic”?
According to the bible, its Adam that is the old perishable man. In fact he is representative of the old creation.
Are you thinking of three categories as below -

  1. Non-Adamic - Consisting of those outside the garden and who are not descendants of Adam. Their Bodies are perishable and there is no hope or prospects of eternal life.
    i.e no different from animals in this regard.

  2. Adamic -Consisting of Adam and all who are his descendants. Their bodies are perishable, bu their is hope of eternal life through Gods covenant.

  3. Jesus and his people : Consisting of Jesus and all who are redeemed by him. Bodies are perishable, but the promises of the covenant are fulfilled in christ and there is a certainty of a future resurrection to eternal life. Jesus christ being the first fruits of the ressurrection and the Holy Spirit being the surety.

Did i understand you correctly?

You might have to expand “Adams children” to include those outside the garden.
How would you go about it?
In Abraham’s covenant, the covenant is expanded to all who will respond to God in faith as Abraham did. And these are called Abrahams descendants. So biological descent is not primary in this case.
Perhaps the Adamic covenant can be applied retrospectively to all “Adams”… “Adams” in this case being all who bear the image of God (refering to those created by God in Genesis 1).
To me, this looks like a bit of a conundrum.


I think you have my meaning right. But in thinking of non-Adamic humans, ie those not of Adam’s line, the question is what one means by “no hope or prospects of eternal life.” Remember that when Paul uses a phrase something like that, “without God and without hope in the world,” he refers it to Adamic people who have lost God and hope through rebellion and enmity, and are a sad case because they’re out of kilter with their true nature, and because they know it.

Animals, of course, are without such hope or prospects because it would be inappropriate for them to have either the prospects, or the subjective hope. It’s OK for them to be of the perishable creation. We expect the new creation to contain animals, perhaps, but not resurrected animals.

Any conundrum such as you find exists in any scenario consistent with the archaeology and palaeontology, particularly if one accepts evolution. At some stage there is a hominid born the day before the cut-off point between the old, persihable, creation, and God’s plan for a new imperishable one.

And the cut-off point is Adam, not only because, by grace, he is chosen as the firstborn (as Abraham was chosen by grace from all the other people of the world), but because he is made suitable for it - not least, I think, because “God puts eternity in his heart” (to quote Ecclesiastes). And that’s one reason I agree with Joshua’s inclusion of the “special creation of Adam” in GA, at least in some degree.

Perhaps part of the reason for a conundrum is a distinction in the understanding of grace. Many Arminians, thinking of the millions surrounding Abraham, or of the millions not included in Israel, or the billions who have not heard the gospel in the present age, will reason that God will do some kind of quasi-Molinist metric to calculate how they would have responded if God had got his word out more efficiently. Salvation comes not from hearing and faith, but from virtual or “possible” faith - it is a timeless truth, and the real world is, in effect, a sideshow which determines nothing.

In that case, there’s a deep injustice on God’s part in non-Adamites not “having the chance” to have blelssings other than those they were created to have.

But for my part, if grace is undeserved and individual, then it covers the whole of the real creation: it was grace for me to be born a human being, to come in earshot of the gospel, and to respond despite my rebellious nature. I wasn’t given grace to be an apostle, or the virgin Mary, or the King of England - and that’s fine with me.

In the case of GA, we have to ask exactly what we mean by “human,” in the case of Adam, and in the case of non-Adams.

@Ashwin_s, this thread might be helpful: Religion Before Adam. Also, I emphasize there are many ways to deal with this question. @jongarvey presents one way. You might take another. Scripture is silent on the details here. All we might infer is that they are under a different dispensation than us.

All christians will find election with respect to service or vocation a biblical reality (including Arminians).
Even grace is not a problem as Arminians hold to prevenient grace as a concept. In fact, your description of grace syncs quite well with how someone like John wesley describes it. The basic difference in the theological perspective is not the necessity of Grace. Both streams of theology hold to the necessity of grace. The Difference is in nature of grace (i.e is it irresistible and arbitrary).

The crux of the issue is how does Adam differ from those hominids that preceded him… is it the presence of a Soul (after all , God breathing into Adam to make him a living soul is very important in Genesis). Perhaps in such a system,the capacity to have a relationship based on faith with God would be a real difference between Adam and those who precede him.
If we accept this happened 7000 year ago and it takes 3000 to 4000 years (i understand its a process that takes a few 1000 years) for all people in the world to have Adam as a GA, it means that people of ancient civilizations such as the Harappan civilisation in India, or the early Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations would be… well… not exactly be human.
I am sure , you can see how such an assertion would disturb people.

I am trying to figure out the pros and cons of understanding Genesis through the concept of GA.
This is definitely an important question… i guess i will have to think about all this and see if there is a better framework to understand the “humanness” of Adam vis a vis the rest of humanity.
The funny part is i can get where @jongarvey is coming from… my only advise would be to be cautious with the time frames… so as to avoid de-humanising real human beings who existed 5000 or 10000 years ago…
I personally will oppose any type of GA with @jongarvey’s description which claims Adam appeared 6000-7000 years ago. I cannot condone calling ancient Indians ,Egyptians, mesopotamians, American Indians. Euorpeans etc as less than human or soulless. (especially considering the million who exist after Adam for 1000s of years and are not his descendants).This is not what paul was talking about in Acts 17.

Some kind of retrospective application of the covenant with Adam might work… but there is not much direct scriptural evidence for anything of that sort.
Overall i lean towards a more ancient Adam… perhaps 50kya and more… when human qualities like speech etc that defines humanity were taking shape. This could be a GA version.

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Except that is not what we have said.

This only matters if we are de-humanizing people. We are explicitly not doing this.

If the ability/potential to worship and have a relationship with God is available only to Adam and his descendants…then we are de-humanising people who don’t have said ability.
Besides, pretty much all major christian denominations associate an “immortal soul” with Adam. Would people who are not descended from Adam have said Soul?

I am not pointing out a wrong intention. I believe there is no inetntion to dehumansie anyone from your part. And i understand you dont see a “scientific” difference between Adam and other humans. However, most cultures view human beings as spiritual beings who have a body.So, a human being without a Soul would be less than human.

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Consider this. Every day we meet people who say, “When I die, I’ll be dead. I aim to live a good life here, enjoy every day, and then say goodbye. Imagine all the people living for today…”

Some of us would suspect an element of psychological denial might be at play here, but assume for now such a belief is natural and sincere. What if they turned out to be right? Would it be an injustice?

But what if that was actually the universal, sincere and natural - and correct - assumption of people, whether 6,000 or 60,000 years ago? It could be held with a sincere belief in God - there are indicators that John Lennon held the theme of “Imagine” together with a general belief in God*, so how much more those who had no “Adamic” heritage of inbuilt hankering after eternity, or consciousness of sin or of a “royal calling”?

Now, at any time you like (I’m happy to use 50K as a baseline) is it possible for those with an Adamic heritage to be in the same world as those without for the two millennia or so necessary to incorporate all mankind into Adam (the same period it’s so far taken to proclaim Christ to all mankind)? If not, why not? None of us would consider John Lennon subhuman, whether we believe he was wrong or right in his view on life.

  • Though it was in his case complicated by confronting feelings of guilt, hearing the gospel, exposure to Eastern faiths, reacting against childhood religion and so on.

That is why we do not propose this. You are doing a great job enumerating bad options. Now, you just need to start listing out some good ones!

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