How the Bodily Resurrection of Christ Indicates a Historical Adam
by Melissa Cain Travis
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”I Corinthians 15:22
What, exactly, did the writer of the first three chapters of Genesis mean to communicate about the physical origin of mankind? Views vary drastically within Christendom about where Adam came from in the material sense and even whether or not he was a historical individual at all. The debate shows no signs of abating; it is one of the hot-button topics in science and theology these days. Books, articles, and blog posts abound, but my hope is that I’ll offer you a somewhat unique point to ponder in regards to human origins and Christianity.
Adam…Only a Symbol?
Proponents of the “No Historical Adam” view are motivated in part, I assume, by a desire to reconcile an evolutionary origin of Homo sapiens with Scripture’s account of man’s origin. They defend their perspective by claiming that “Adam” doesn’t have to interpreted as an actual person in history in order to preserve the essential doctrines of Christianity. For example, Dr. Denis Lamoureux of St. Joseph’s College in Alberta, Canada boldly states, “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”
Much ink has been spilled in painstaking efforts to work out the details of a so-called “updated” Christian theology—particularly Pauline theology—that can accommodate a symbolic-only Adam. Proponents say that abandoning belief in a historical Adam does no damage to a proper doctrine of Christ. I strongly disagree with these scholars.
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Here I will argue that one of the fundamentals of orthodox Christology—the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ—demands the existence of a historical first man, Adam.
First: A Key Distinction
It should be noted that affirming a historical Adam doesn’t automatically preclude a biological evolutionary history of the first man. Whether or not Adam had hominid ancestry is a separate (though relevant and interesting) question. I mention this simply to highlight the point that it is logically possible to have a historical Adam with biological ancestry, just as it is logically possible to have a historical Adam created from the literal “dust of the ground.” In the evolutionary view, an “ensoulment” event would have occurred, with God bestowing the imago Dei (image of God) upon a naturally-born creature, making him the first true human in both the spiritual and physical sense. In the non-evolutionary view, the first image-bearing man would have been created directly by God rather than being born of a mother. The theological and/or scientific integrity of either of those ideas will not be discussed here. Instead, I am making the minimal (yet vital) argument for the necessity of a historical Adam, who was sinless from the first moment of his spiritual awareness until the Fall…