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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Heft and Substance of Cobweb

The other day I referenced an Andy Stanley quote about the historicity of Adam and Eve. Andy believes Adam and Eve were historical because Jesus believed they were historical — or so he argues.

I agree with Andy that Adam and Eve were real, flesh-and-blood human beings, not mere symbols or allegories. Making the first couple mythical upends a great big nasty can of worms all over the pages of our New Testament. Let’s not do that.

Unfortunately, the way Andy has framed his argument gives it the heft and substance of cobweb.

Not Because the Bible Says … Uh, Say What?

Here it is again, quoted by Scot McKnight:
“Here’s why I believe this actually happened. Not because the Bible says so, but because of the Gospels — Jesus talks about Adam and Eve. And it appears to me that he believed they were actually historical figures. And if he believed they were historical, I believe they were historical because anybody that can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off — I just believe anything they say.”
I’m thinking Andy might have been better to just stick with “because the Bible says so”.

Words With Special Weight

Here’s why: Giving special weight to the words of Christ is an awfully tempting hermeneutical road to venture down, but it doesn’t lead anywhere good. RJS, one of Andy’s critics on the Patheos forum, immediately follows that road to its logical conclusion:
“This [Matthew 19, Mark 10 and a few others] is the extent of the evidence we have concerning Adam and Eve from recorded words of Jesus. (The genealogy in Luke 3 goes back to Adam, but this is not part of Jesus’s teaching.)”
You see what he did there, right? There’s “Jesus’s teaching” … and then there’s all the other stuff, like Luke’s genealogy — as if the words of Christ and the words of the gospel writers (or, for that matter, the writers of the epistles) possess different levels of spiritual authority. (To be fair to RJS, it’s not clear he believes this himself, but the quote strongly suggests Andy Stanley believes this, or at least thinks it’s useful rhetoric.)

Everything That Matters

In one sense this is a fair move. Everything that matters about our faith depends on the truth of what Jesus said. His words are immensely valuable.

But stop and consider: how did we get these words in the first place? The fact is, we only know what Jesus said because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John recorded his words for us, and we believe they got it right because John tells us that Jesus promised they would:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Now, either the Holy Spirit did this or he didn’t, and either we believe it or we don’t, but it boils down to this: if Luke put Adam in the genealogy of Jesus, that bit of scripture carries precisely the same amount of God-given authority as the words of Jesus that Luke reports to us. After all, if Luke didn’t get the one right, how do we know he got the other one right? Both are either the words of the Spirit of God … or they are just the words of a human being named Luke. You decide.

From where I sit, there is no other rational position to be held than that ALL scripture is inspired, period. If you won’t take your stand firmly on that truth, appealing to the words of Christ as some kind of special case will not help you much.

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