Why is the de novo creation of Adam and Eve important?

Isn’t it coming out in Dec? Did I miss something?

Yes you did. Pre ordered books are already shipping from IVP. I got my copies last week! We are already into our second printing run.

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I just see it in terms of the following-

  1. The vocational calling to multiply and fill the earth subduing it as representatives of God.
  2. The ability to relate with God an either human beings.
  3. God likeness in term of being able to create, character etc.
    The third is obviously perfected only in Jesus.

I asked because you seem to have shifted from your earlier position that the fall involved some actual changes in the human race associated with the knowledge of good and evil such as enhanced cognitive abilities.

No, I still maintain those views. Good list of “imago Dei” characteristics!

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Why is a de novo creation of Adam important?

1. It establishes a discontinuity between humans and the rest of the living world, signifying our uniqueness of being image-bearers of God.

First, as far as I understand things, it is our being made imago Dei that establishes this discontinuity between humans and other creatures, and it is not clear how Adam being created de novo has any bearing on this. In other words, it doesn’t look like this biblical anthropology would be in any way diminished if Adam was born. Either way, whether he was born or created de novo, humans are unique by virtue of being the only divine image-bearers.

Second, this may be more easily seen if we recall that, on both young-earth and old-earth creationism, it was not just Adam that was created de novo as an adult; so were other creatures. Either there was so much uniqueness going on that the term is practically meaningless or human uniqueness is grounded in something other than Adam being created de novo as an adult, such as our being made divine image-bearers.

Again, nothing seems to be lost by Adam being born.

2. The creation of Adam de novo is how God established a personal relationship with him from the beginning.

I would have to disagree with this point, because I have been convinced that God’s personal relationship with mankind, starting with Adam, was established through covenant, not the act of de novo creation. In fact, the account seems to contain a fair amount of covenantal language and symbols—including their very names, Adam and Eve, which is probably not the names they called themselves (as pointed out by John H. Walton).

Also, that personal relationship you had in mind, what would it look like? Once you have thought about that for a moment, consider whether or not God had that kind of relationship with everything he created de novo. I suspect not, because humans are supposed to be entirely unique in this regard. Again, I think that comes down to covenant, that God’s personal relationship with mankind is predicated upon covenant, not de novo creation. On young-earth and old-earth creationism, a vast array of creatures were brought forth de novo, but God has this very special relationship with only mankind.

3. It establishes a more definite act of “ensoulment.”

I’m afraid I wasn’t able to follow your thinking on this one. Some things to keep in mind if you’re willing to expand on this for me:

  1. From the dust of the ground and the breath of life, God created man as “a living creature” (nephesh chayyah). But this is true of other creatures formed by God from the ground, other nephesh chayyah in whose nostrils is the breath of life. But I think your point about “ensoulment” is supposed to be unique to only humans, so these things can’t be what distinguishes between them.

  2. On young-earth and old-earth creationism, both man and other animals were created de novo, so that also can’t be what distinguishes between them vis-a-vis “ensoulment.” I think we are being gently pushed again toward covenant theology for the clarification needed.

  3. While something might be lost from denying “ensoulment,” is anything lost by not having a definite act to which we can point? I don’t think so. We don’t have a definite act of “ensoulment” for Abel, but we wouldn’t deny him a soul.

  4. Moreover, if Adam was born and the events described in Genesis 2:7 took place when he was a grown adult—a scenario pictured by such scholars as Denis R. Alexander or Joshua M. Moritz—couldn’t that still function as a definite act of “ensoulment”? I am just wondering, again, whether anything important is lost if we assume that Adam was born.

Note: I happen to be something of a “physicalist” myself, having been influenced by the likes of G. C. Berkouwer, Anthony A. Hoekema, and Lynn Rudder Baker, among others.

4. The creation of Eve de novo establishes her suitability as an equal partner for Adam.

You suggested that if Eve was born and raised someplace else and brought to Eden by God to wed Adam, she would probably bring undesirable world-view baggage with her. And I think your point is almost certainly correct. However, that would present a problem for her suitability only if God left her saddled with that baggage—which he doesn’t do for those he has chosen. What if Genesis 2:21–24 is about God giving Adam a vision of Eve being chosen by God who regenerates her and imparts a divine covenant awareness to her. With Adam being a divine image-bearer elected to a special vocation, the only suitable helper would be another divine image-bearer likewise elected—Eve. As tentatively suggested by Denis Alexander, “When Adam recognized Eve as ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,’ he was not just recognizing a fellow Homo sapiens—there were plenty of those around—but a fellow believer, one like him who had been called to share in the very life of God in obedience to his commands.” [1]

5. As Christ entered the world through a special creation (virgin birth), so also Adam came into the world by a special act of creation.

But you missed something there: Christ entered the world through birth, not de novo creation. Could the same hold for Adam? Not a virgin birth, necessarily, but a special birth all the same? Why would a de novo creation be important here? What might be lost from this (admittedly speculative) point you raised if Adam was born?

6. The creation of Adam de novo is required to establish an original righteousness for humanity.

Unless, of course, righteousness is covenantal language—in which case Adam, who was born and raised, would enjoy original righteousness from the moment the covenant is established until he first sins. As Derek Kidner suggested, “God may have now conferred his image on Adam’s collaterals, to bring them into the same realm of being. Adam’s ‘federal’ headship of humanity extended, if that was the case, outwards to his contemporaries as well as onwards to his offspring, and his disobedience disinherited both alike.” [2]


Thanks for engaging me on this question. I gained some good insight from the options you suggested here. I look forward to conversing with you further.

John Bauer


Footnotes:

[1] Denis R. Alexander, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Oxford, UK: Monarch, 2008), 237.

[2] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 29.

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13 posts were split to a new topic: Comments on De Novo Creation

Are you sure about this? I am not.

What else, besides humans, do you find Scripture assigning “imago Dei” status to? Or, are you simply holding this option open because you see no Scriptural prohibition against doing so?

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Clarifying Redux

There are different ways of framing the central question that I have been asking here. I began by wondering, “Why is the de novo creation of Adam important theologically?” It appears to be fairly important to quite a few Christians, particularly those who are young-earth or old-earth creationists, but I struggle to understand why that should be the case. (I used to know, back when I was a young-earth creationist myself, but the problem for me was solved so long ago that I no longer remember what those reasons were.) I have digested material from a variety of Protestant theologians and scholars (e.g., Wayne Grudem) but for some reason their criticisms tend to attack an evolutionary perspective that is quite antithetical to biblical theism and shares more in common with deism. Consequently, their arguments regarding Adam are questionable, since that evolutionary perspective is different from and weaker than the one which informs my view (as informed and influenced by Denis R. Alexander). In other words, when I hear their description of theistic evolution, I think, “Well, that is not relevant to biblical theism,” and I want to move on.

Another way of framing the question is by asking, "What does biblical anthropology and/or soteriological orthodoxy lose if Adam was born? Grudem, for example, points out that if you accept evolution then you are committed to the belief that Adam was born, as opposed to being created de novo. He is wrong on this point, of course. One can affirm both an evolutionary history of life (including humans) and, at the same time, a de novo creation of Adam and Eve without any contradiction or inconsistency. However, Grudem serves as an example of this conviction that many Christians have, that Adam being born compromises or undermines something about biblical anthropology or soteriological orthodoxy. Unfortunately, this seems to be a rather nebulous concern about which I cannot find any specific argument.

So, between these two ways of framing the question, it is my desire that the members of this forum try and specify the actual concern as they see it. Apparently the de novo creation of Adam is indeed important theologically, but why is that? Do we lose anything important with respect to biblical anthropology or soteriological orthodoxy if Adam was born to human parents? If so, what? If I am missing something, I need to know so that I can take it into account. Again, try to be specific. As far as I can tell, one’s theology can remain biblical and orthodox if it is held that Adam, belonging to God as one of his elect, was born and raised in the ancient Near East and was called by God at some point to a peculiar vocation as federal head and covenant representative of his collaterals and descendants who were made God’s image-bearers.

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I often hear that it challenges:

  1. Doctrine of inerrancy.
  2. Doctrine of infallibility (different than #1!)
  3. Doctrine of original righteousness.
  4. Personal conscience, due to unshakable perception of what Genesis 2 teaches.
  5. Magisterial use of Scripture (by letting science override it).

Of these, as you can see, only one of these concerns has anything to do with biblical anthropology (#3). The point is, however, that this isn’t really about biblical anthropology any ways. This is really about the place of Scripture in relation to science and personal conscience.

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On the contrary, for me it really is about biblical anthropology and soteriological orthodoxy—as it is for Christians like Wayne Grudem and others, I think, for we are all operating on the assumption of inerrancy. In other words, for us the inerrancy of Scripture is a given, which then leads to these alleged problems.

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Sure, but I thought you asked about them? Also, at least one point is about biblical anthropology: original righteousness.

I can agree that you are operating this way, and so am I. Among Christians that affirm evolutionary science, however, we seem to be a minority. Most public Evolutionary Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists do not affirm inerrancy. Many actively dispute inerrancy.

Why do you think we are all operating under the inerrancy “assumption?”

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Indeed, and I appreciated that insight. I had already been confronted with that point and have been working through it. And it was such a good point that I posted this redux in order to tease out some more specific ideas like that one. This is the sort of stuff that I need to know, concerns of which I need to be aware, take seriously, and understand properly.

My response to this point is as follows (from an article I am working on that addresses Grudem’s 12 problems with theistic evolution): In all that is essential to Christian orthodoxy, is anything jeopardized by Adam being born to human parents? Not anything of which I am aware. Someone suggested that if Adam was born and raised in some Neolithic community prior to God calling him as an adult, he could not have enjoyed original righteousness because he would have accumulated a history of wrongdoing by that point. However, it would seem to follow from the biblical witness that there is no such thing as sin apart from a covenant relationship with God. Humans alone are capable and culpable of sin. Chimpanzees, earth worms, ravens, whales, these and all other creatures are neither capable nor culpable of sin, despite the fact that many creatures demonstrate characteristics of moral agency. Arguably, this state describes mankind prior to a covenant relationship with God, capable of wrongdoing even though sin at this point is a meaningless term, just as it is for chimpanzees. But once that covenant relationship was established, sin became a potential—but it was not an actuality until Adam disobeyed God (posse non peccare et posse peccare). This fits the description by Derek Kidner, of God conferring his image upon Adam’s collaterals, bringing them into the same realm of being. “Adam’s ‘federal’ headship of humanity extended, if that was the case, outwards to his contemporaries as well as onwards to his offspring, and his disobedience disinherited both alike.” Thus, one is not committed to denying original righteousness under evolutionary creationism.

True, unfortunately.

I mean that it’s assumed “for the sake of argument,” so that we may have this discussion about Adam and Eve without having to first defend inerrancy. That is the sense in which it is an assumption.

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Kidner himself held that Eve was specially created, so he is not a very good reference here for the standard BL/EC position.

This type of federal headship is (in my view) rightly disputed as arbitrary, and implicates God with the intentional spread of original sin. Reliance on arbitrary headship has not been acceptable to many theologians, because it comes with so many theological problems.

Federal headship is well and good, but we need a natural explanation, something about the structure of reality, that explains how and why Adam becomes our proper representative.

I suppose my response is: well, if de novo creation in a sin free environment is important to your theology, you have no evidence against your confession if you can account for people outside the garden. Go in peace, without opposing evolutionary science for this reason any more.

I expect there will remain disagreements about the importance of de novo creation among Christians for a long time. Why do we need to settle that disagreement? Why exactly do we need to justify AE not being de novo created? Both ways work with science, so why does it matter if some people affirm de novo creation?

I don’t know that we need to settle that disagreement, so much as I need to be able to settle it for myself.

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I see. You are trying to figure it out for yourself. That, in fact, is a really good activity. I’ll be curious to hear what you think of it after you read the relevant sections of my book. I engage this question in depth.

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Do any of those people subscribe to the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary?

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Yes, some of them do, the catholics, such as (I’m pretty sure) Ken Kemp, Ed Feser, and @AntoineSuarez.

So doesn’t that resolve the supposed problem? Where there’s one, there can be a couple more.

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Yup. And I also draw close analogy between the Virgin Birth and de Novo creation. They are both “special entries into the world.”

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