Proof Of The Pauline-Augustinian Doctrine Of Human Depravity And Why Apologists Should Stay In Their Lane

Debra J. Saunders is an old-school journalist who, like other writers who are escaping the corrupt and corrupting media structure, has fled to Substack to publish.

She writes today about the phenomenon of women who become enamored of imprisoned murderers. It is a good reminder that the Pauline-Augustinian doctrine of the thorough corruption (depravity) of humanity is true. The murders whom these women seek and sometimes marry are convicted, acknowledged murderers and yet the women are attracted to them. Doubtless mental illness is part of the explanation but that is a consequence of the fall. “The heart is deceitful above and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).

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The Christian philosopher/apologist William Lane Craig has published an article in First Things calling into question the historicity of Adam and calling into question the significance of a historical Adam. He acknowledges that Paul’s appeal to Adam in Romans 5:12–21 assumes the historicity of Adam but seeks to leverage that fact by appealing to Jude’s allusion to the Assumption of Moses (vv.9–10). His argument is that if Jude can appeal to a non-historical event to make a point, so that the other New Testament authors.

I have doubted Craig’s biblical exegesis before (e.g., re his appeal to the optative mood in Hebrew as part of his defense of Middle Knowledge) and this argument is to be doubted too. Craig ignores Jude’s intent in alluding to the assumption of Moses. Further, Jude’s appeal to the Assumption of Moses is one of the more difficult places in the New Testament. It is perverse to argue from a less clear, more difficult passage to interpret more clear, less difficult passages.

The New Testament regularly and plainly presents Adam as a historical figure or assumes his historicity. Luke includes Adam in his genealogy of our Lord. Yes, there are stylized genealogies in Scripture (e.g., Matthew’s) but that does not thereby render the figures in the genealogies mythical. Further, Luke is not a mythologist. He is not interested in the “truth in the story” but in real history, which is what his accounts purport to be.

Our Lord’s appeal to the creational order supposes historical (not mythological) figures whether it was his appeal to creation by which to norm the rabinnical practice of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) or his correction of polygamy by an appeal to Adam and Eve (Matt 19:8). Our Lord did not regard the Genesis account as an etiological (explanatory) myth but as history. With whom did he himself walk in the garden in the “sound of the day [of judgment]”? (Gen 3:8).

Craig glosses over Paul’s repeated appeal to Adam in Romans 5 and ignores his appeal to Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45. For Paul, the fall is no less history than the resurrection. He links the Adam, whom he regards as a historical figure, to an equally real human representative of all the redeemed. To call into question the historicity of Adam or even to suggest that it is immaterial may seem like a clever apologetic move (i.e., to concede what seems most difficult in the interests of what seems essential, e.g., the resurrection of Christ) but it comes at too high a cost. What sense does it make, on Paul’s terms, to suggest that the “first Adam” may or may not have existed historically but the “Last Adam” definitively existed? On the principles Lane announces how long will the resurrection of Jesus remain a historical event? If we fear to call Moderns to believe a historical Adam why should they listen when we call them to believe in a historical Jesus or a resurrection when we have already conceded that unbelief gets to set the terms of the discussion?

Apologetics is very important to a lot of Christians and apologists carry a lot of authority, more than they should, in some circles. This episode, however, is  another warning that apologists have their place but they do not get to determine the content of the Christian faith. Their job is to defend the ecumenical faith. If they can no longer do that in good conscience or if they feel compelled substantially to redefine the faith (e.g., redefining what it means to say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, which Middle Knowledge most certainly does or calling into question the historicity of Adam) then perhaps it is time for to retire from the field. We are called by the Apostle Peter to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15; ESV). We are not called to give away the faith. The Apostle Peter builds his entire explanation of the history of redemption around Noah and the flood. If the historicity of Adam is to be conceded, how long before we must give away Noah and the flood?

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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6 comments

  1. Even the portion on Genesis in Dr Craig’s article was difficult to read without copious head-scratching. When a man begins by vowing to only consult “contemporary science” after having discovered what the Bible has to say about Adam, it is a surprise to find him later justify a loose reading of Biblical genealogy on the basis of “what we know of the history of mankind”. What we “know”? The implicit sources for this knowledge seem to be the Babylonian priests, but I do see a hint of some “contemporary science” poking out of their sleeves.

    Craig elsewhere reads the mind of Moses, claiming he viewed features of his own narrative as “[fantastic] if taken literally”. I must admit I find it fantastic that this garbled article was published. Perhaps it is not to be taken literally. It is certainly more fun as satire.

  2. Prof. Clark,
    I am not sure that you have accurately captured Prof. Craig’s claims. I don’t think that Prof. Craig is “calling into question the historicity of Adam and calling into question the significance of a historical Adam.” As you note, Craig agrees that Paul believed that Adam was a historical person.
    In the second part of the article, Craig – assuming that Adam was a historical person – argues that the reigning scientific consensus and belief in a historical Adam and Eve are compatible. As Craig says, “Given the recent archaeological findings, Adam and Eve may plausibly be identified as belonging to the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, usually denominated Homo heidelbergensis or Heidelberg Man, living more than 750,000 years ago.”
    I don’t know what Craig would say about Noah, but I suspect that he would argue (1) that the Bible presents Noah as a historical person and the flood as historical event, (2) – like Vern Poythress – that the Flood was a regional, not worldwide, event, and (3) that modern science has shown that a significant regional flood took place near the Black Sea which could be that regional event.

    • Cedric,

      The entire point of his essay is to remove a historical Adam from the apologetic chessboard.

      As to Noah, on his method, there’s no reason to keep him either. I didn’t say that he has denied Noah’s historicity but that on his approach there is no reason not to deny it.

      We disagree about what is afoot here. This is all about apologetics driving the theological car. Take a closer look at what else WLC is ready to concede. I didn’t make a complete list. He is also, by his own account, a neo-Apollinarian, which entails a denial of the reality of Christ’s human soul and mind.

      We can see how apologetics drives his theology:

      “This doesn’t raise the bar too high for sceptical unbelievers because we’re offering the model merely as a possible explanation of how Christ can be both truly God and truly man. “

      https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2019/neo-apollinarianism-and-mind-body-dualism

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