January 16, 2021

More Tired Rhetoric

This week Al Mohler threw another stone in the direction of those who don’t read the early chapters of Genesis in literalistic fashion like he and other creationists do. In Mohler’s message, “The Challenges We Face: A New Generation of Gospel Ministers Looks to the Future,” the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary brings out the same tired rhetoric in order to sound the alarm that the heart of the Gospel is at stake if ministers don’t hold a strict “historical” position with regard to Genesis.

It’s starting to sound like the Republican primaries. Oh well, here’s what he said:

The current debates among evangelicals have reached a vital point – the intersection of Genesis and the gospel. We must affirm that the gospel requires a clear affirmation of the historicity of Adam and Eve and the historical reality of the Fall. The Bible’s metanarrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation requires the historical reality of God’s work in every movement of the story.

The Apostle Paul makes the historicity of Adam – and his federal headship – central to our understanding of the gospel. Those who insist that evangelicals must accommodate the gospel to the prevailing evolutionary dogma are actually insisting that the gospel be denied. If we get the story of the gospel wrong in the beginning, we will have what Paul condemned as another gospel in the end.

Let’s go over this again, shall we? We’ll take a look at the sentences I’ve underlined above.

First, “Those who insist that evangelicals must accommodate the gospel…” Stop right there for a dang minute and back up the produce truck. Who is doing that, Al? I’d like to know. I am not aware that any serious evangelical who takes a different view of Genesis is “accommodating the gospel” to anything, much less “evolutionary dogma.” If anything, the fresh perspectives on Genesis I’ve read are much more Gospel-oriented than the literal interpretations.

Who is altering or denying the creedal faith that acknowledges “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”? Who is saying human beings aren’t fallen and sinful and that the world is not beset by evil powers and corruption? Who is denying that people need a Savior, or that Jesus is that Savior? Who is denying “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared” to reliable witnesses?

Mohler once again fails to recognize at least two fundamental points about this matter of “accommodation”.

(1) Everyone “accommodates” their reading of the Bible to their own philosophical presuppositions. The same modernist assumptions that spawned the scientific method and enterprise also inform those Bible students who practice “literal” interpretation, claim that Scripture is “inerrant,” and stress “historical accuracy” as the only legitimate form of writing or communicating “truth” about past events. The fact is that those who are reading Genesis in “new” ways, according to Mohler, are crafting their approaches from what we have learned in reading more ancient materials. These have enabled scholars to be truer to the stated goals of “historical, grammatical interpretation” than the “literal” readings many promote because we now know so much more about the ancient context of the Scriptures.

(2) Everyone “accommodates” their reading of the Bible to the state of learning in their day. Of course we adjust our understanding of Scripture to what we learn of the world through disciplines such as science! We always have. Let us take St. Augustine’s exhortation seriously:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

• St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis

Now, I came to my current conclusions about Genesis based on studying the Bible, not because I became convinced by the scientific evidence for evolution. However, if someone did become convinced that evolution is, at this point in our understanding, an accurate model for describing the development of life, and then felt he or she had to figure out how to adjust his or her reading of the Bible to allow for it, what’s wrong with that? Remember the days of Copernicus and Galileo, when the church’s view of the universe was set on its head. The fact is that we understand the world much differently than those who wrote the Bible. The best way of interpreting Scripture is not to try and make the Bible into something it’s not — a book that will always reflect the “correct” scientific perspective — but to read it as it is, an ancient book that reflects ancient perspectives on many of these matters. That does not make the Bible less “true.” Timeless truths are always conveyed in time-bound forms.

Second, “…to the prevailing evolutionary dogma…” I am in no position to defend the evolutionary theory and have no desire to do so. But Al, come on, this is a straw man and you know it. Al Mohler is no scientist and in no position to dismiss an entire area of scientific inquiry by calling it “dogma.” Of course, there are atheistic dogmatists who use scientific evidence such as evolution to argue a case against Christianity or theism. But what about all the fine Christians who think evolution is a reasonable way to explain life’s development? And do not find it at all incompatible with reasonable ways of interpreting the ancient Scriptures? Who’s the dogmatist here?

Third, “…are actually insisting that the gospel be denied. If we get the story of the gospel wrong in the beginning, we will have what Paul condemned as another gospel in the end.” Ah, we finally get to the gist of the argument: the slippery slope, the divine domino theory. If Mohler and others were really as committed to logic as they assume, they would know that the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy. It assumes a sequence of events must occur if the first event takes place. It draws its strength from fear. People can imagine the sequence happening and are afraid of the ultimate consequences. But the person presenting the argument rarely proves the relationship between each downward step and simply presents the process as intuitive and inevitable. No middle ground is to be admitted, no other developments are presented as possible.

Oy, if I had hair, I’d be tearin’ it out.

• • •

For further reading, I recommend that iMonk readers consider Peter Enns’ post in which he answers Kevin DeYoung’s salvo, “10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam.” In this piece, Enns effectively counters the same kind of rhetoric Mohler spouts in the post I’ve referenced above.

Note my substitutions in the following paragraph at the end of Enns’ comments, and you have a fitting closing thought to what I’ve tried to say today.

Posts like DeYoung’s [Mohler’s] do not defend the faith as much as they calcify particular doctrinal formulations in the face of very clear data to the contrary–to the harm of all concerned. What is needed in this discussion is not the airing of views by the young and the restless [or the older and dogmatic], but more efforts to “come and reason together” by the seasoned and centered.


  1. I’ve taken some flak from other students at my SBC-affiliated university for speaking favorably about Enns’ new book, but I’m at this point now where I just kind of laugh it off.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    …the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary brings out the same tired rhetoric in order to sound the alarm that the heart of the Gospel is at stake if ministers don’t hold a strict “historical” position with regard to Genesis.

    More “Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles! Uber Alles in die Welt!”

    It’s like it’s recorded on an MP3 or CD somewhere and just gets played back periodically.

    Can’t these guys come up with something original? Just once?

    • numbers man says

      I went to school with Al at Southern seminary. He personally walked me through the validity of theistic evolution. Does his current position ean he wan’t a believer back then?

      • numbers man says

        Correction – does his current position mean he wasn’t a believer back then?

      • Good thing Al wasn’t invovled in the faith then. The Neo -facists…ugh I mean Calvinists would have been taken out back, put two slugs in teh back of his head for being a traitor. Or he would have been dismissed and canned like he has done to others.

        Neo-Calvinism is Third Reich authorterianism + Skewed Bible approach…

        That’s all it is…

        • Whoa….really? Are you going to stoop to that level Come on, you ble Mohler and Calvinists for not being gracious or giving better arguments but what do you call your rant? Its an anti-intellectual one if you ask me.

    • …because “original” and fresh “new” ways are necessarily superior, right? *smirk*

  3. Chaplain Mike, I certainly support your right to take apart Al Mohler’s views on Genesis, but your reading of him is to some degree uncharitable. Mohler has identified an issue which he thinks is central to the Gospel — not because denying an historical Adam and Eve means rejecting the Creeds outright, but because he thinks it would mean denying their underlying rationale. With this in mind, the brief excerpt you quoted is not quite so ludicrous. At least when Mohler addresses those he doesn’t disagree with, he doesn’t denigrate their position as “tired rhetoric.”

    • Correction: obviously I mean “those he disagrees with.”

    • Stephen, it’s getting tired because there is simply no willingness to treat other evangelical scholars who differ with any generosity or credibility. It’s “my way or the highway” when it comes to a specific interpretation of Genesis.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        You know what these guys remind me of, CM?

        Classic Communists.

        “Ees Party Line, Comrades!”

        The main difference is they don’t have Power of Life or Death over the rest of us, with all the Power of the State to enforce that Party Line.

        (Though from what I’ve heard about Christian Reconstructionism, might want to qualify that with “Yet”. Gives the whole Culture War Without End, Amen and push for Political Power to Restore a Christian Nation a whole new dark side.)

        • VolAlongTheWatchTower says


        • Or the facists of Germany or Italy. Makes me wonder what is coming next from the Neo-Calvinist crowd..in the name of the gospel of course….concentration camps perhaps? Remember if its done in a misisonal and reformed context than even the gas chmaber is fine.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Makes me wonder what is coming next from the Neo-Calvinist crowd..in the name of the gospel of course….concentration camps perhaps? Remember if its done in a misisonal and reformed context than even the gas chmaber is fine.

            My writing partner told me once of a Reconstructionist website he encountered that’s going down that road and almost arrived. The name of the website? “GOD HATH SAID!”

    • Stephen, Mohler doesn’t denigrate other positions as “tired rhetoric” — he calls them “accommodation to evolutionary dogma” that leads to “denying the gospel” and “another gospel.” Hmm. Sounds a tad uncharitable to me.

      • My distinction has to do with taking potshots (as in “tired rhetoric,” which Mohler does not do in his post) and with addressing the ideas of one’s opponents (which Mohler does do and which most of your post does). The notion of charitable reading does not preclude disagreement; it does preclude disagreeing in an irrelevant way and supposing that your interlocutor is not writing in good faith. The assumption that Mohler is not writing in good faith, and that he should really know better than to rehearse such tired and irrelevant arguments against the enlightened rejection of a literal Genesis 1-3, is what I find most troubling.

        By the way, I’m not taking Mohler’s side of the argument here — I am far from certain of my own position on Genesis 1-3.

        • We Catholics got this wrong with Copernicus and Galileo, and have since learned our lessons. The facts of archeology and zoology show the age of the earth beyond any reasonable doubt. Faith is a gift from God, but there is no way He would ever expect our brains, formed by Him, to hold fact as fiction.

          God created man and he sinned, ruining the paradise in front of him. The rest of the time tells of God’s love throughout the ages, cullminating in Christ. The seven day thing is a nice story, but an allegorical one.

          It all comes down to the failed idea of “Scripture Only”….because if one tiny thing is wrong, then the whole BOOK must be wrong. If YEC is wrong, the whole Bible is sunk for far too many brethern.

  4. It is somewhat risible to see an ELCA pastor hand-waive away slippery slope arguments about the historicity of Genesis that actually took place in the ELCA, and many other denominations. Oh sure, that couldn’t happen again, could it?

    Slippery slope is not a logical fallacy at all. As Wikipedia correctly explains, “The strength of such an argument depends on the warrant, i.e. whether or not one can demonstrate a process which leads to the significant effect.” Lawyers, theologians, politicians, husbands, wives, and children make these kinds of arguments all the time. If you really want to learn about it, read here: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/slippery.htm

    Mohler is correct. Which churches have abandoned the historicity of Genesis yet preserved the historicity of Adam? Which have not sold completely out to liberalism? It’s not hard to see the process.

    In the 1970s, the LCMS divided over the issue, as some sem professors were teaching that Adam, Jonah, and others weren’t historical, even though the New Testament assumes they are. Conservative Lutherans claimed that adopting this method of interpreting Scripture contradicts Christ and Paul’s view of Scripture and permits denying any other part of Scripture.

    The liberal seminary professors left the LCMS to form a predecessor body to the ELCA, which, following the same interpretive methodology, now permits pastors and professors to deny the virgin birth, the historicity of Adam, Christ’s and Paul’s teaching on sexuality, and ordains practicing homosexuals as pastors. The slippery slope predictions were 100% accurate. Many other church bodies saw the same thing happen. It is a line that must be protected. It is nothing but the doctrine of sola scriptura.

    Maybe that is the new goal of this website, to sneak mainline liberalism into mainstream conservative Evangelicalism. I thought it was to put Jesus in the center, which includes his and his Apostles’ method of interpreting Scripture.

    • “Which churches have abandoned the historicity of Genesis yet preserved the historicity of Adam?”

      Well, there’s this one Church in Italy…

      • What, Michael, you mean the Really Absolutely First Baptist Church in Hiding amongst the Constantinian Great Apostasy of Rome, Italy?


        • No! I mean The Absolutely First Baptist Church in Hiding amongst the Constantinian Great Apostasy of Rome, Italy. The REALLY Absolutely First Baptist Church in Hiding amongst the Constantinian Great Apostasy of Rome, Italy are a bunch of schismatics!

          • I think you’ll find that the Original First Baptists in Hiding Amongst the Constantinian Great Apostasy of Rome, Italy (Church sign: “Trail of Blood leads right to our doorstep!”) are the one and only true possessors of the true Gospel; the Absolutely First Baptists are the schismatics who split off over the dispute on where to buy the fresh grape juice (traditional red grapes from Reggio Emilia or white grapes from Sicily?) and the Really Absolutely First Baptists are just a bunch of Emergents.


      • You took the words out of my mouth, Michael — or off my keyboard.

    • boaz, that same Wikipedia article and numerous others identify the slippery slope argument as a logical fallacy almost without exception because of the difficulty of establishing the links between the steps downward. “Slippery slope” would suggest that one thing inevitably leads to another as cause leads to effect. That can’t be maintained and that’s why it is a logical fallacy.

      What you also fail to realize is that you are fighting old battles here, boaz. “Mainline liberalism” is old news. The new generation of thoroughly evangelical scholars who are suggesting a “literal” interpretation of Genesis is flawed are doing so because of new insights into the cultural context of the Scriptural authors.

      And thanks for the potshot by the way. I would argue that the Mohlers and LCMS’s of the world are not maintaining a Christ-centered approach but a biblicist mentality that honors a book above the Word.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The liberal seminary professors left the LCMS to form a predecessor body to the ELCA, which, following the same interpretive methodology, now permits pastors and professors to deny the virgin birth, the historicity of Adam…

      Evolution, check…

      …Christ’s and Paul’s teaching on sexuality, and ordains practicing homosexuals as pastors.

      Homosexuality, check…

      Want to include Abortion and make it three-for-three? With bonus points for gamers, furries, and bronies?

      The slippery slope predictions were 100% accurate. Many other church bodies saw the same thing happen. It is a line that must be protected. It is nothing but the doctrine of sola scriptura.

      Sola Scriptura or The Party Line, Comrade?

    • boaz,
      You seem to be presupposing that liberalism is a bad thing.

    • boaz, another thing. No conservative seminary I know of would give a passing grade to a student who used “Jesus’ and the apostles’ method of interpreting Scripture.” They weren’t literal enough. They found all kinds of things that you and I would never dream of in the text.

      • boaz, also the “apostles’ method of interpreting Scripture” got it wrong at times. From the NIV (UK) translation (because the ESV doesn’t quite emphasise the apostles’ line enough):

        Matthew 16:5 – “When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread.”

        Matthew 16:6 – “Be careful, Jesus said to them. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

        Matthew 16:7 – “They discussed this among themselves and said, It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

        Matthew 16:11 “How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”

        Matthew 16:12 – “Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

        In other words, too literal is not the correct reading.

        Jesus – Guys, after all the miracles and the Pharisees and Sadducees looking for more evidence, I need to tell you not to fall for the leaven of the Pharisees.

        Apostles (amongst themselves) – Leaven? What’s leaven? Isn’t it that stuff you put in when baking bread? Boy, passive-aggressive much? This is because we forgot to bring the sandwiches, isn’t it?

        Jesus – *face-palm* No, guys, remember when I fed the five thousand with a few loaves? And then the four thousand with some more loaves? Believe me, if I wanted a sandwich, I could get one. I am not talking about bread here.

        Apostles – Ooookay…nott bread? You’re, like, talking in code or symbolism ,aren’t you? Hey, this is more of that parable thing, isn’t it? Mmmm – what do the Pharisees do that they’re really known for…well, they interpret and enforce the teachings… oh! Oh, right, got it! You mean not to follow their teachings!

        Jesus – (thinks) Finally!

    • Jack Heron says

      You see a slippery slope leading down to the depths of liberalism, Biblical criticism and acceptance of homosexuality – I see a series of controversial but ultimately Christ-centered steps upwards to a more thoughtful church less inclined to assume we already know it all.

      Some slopes go upwards – it just depends on whether we think we’re starting from the top, from the bottom, or from somewhere in between (lost in the wilderness of “My Christianity is already correct and I must never rethink it”).

      • Word.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Isn’t The Slippery Slope also a convenient justification for The Reign of Terror, the Great Purge, Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, or Strict Shari’a? Because any compromise or hesitation or tempering with mercy allows Corruption in and starts you on The Slippery Slope.

        And that’s even before you factor in “Can You Top This?” and “I’m More Pure/Rigid Than Thou.”

      • I think of this as a Spiritual Domino Theory. We all know how Vietnam ended…how will this end? I wonder….

      • While the acceptance of theistic evolution can lead to acceptance of homosexuality as normal and even healthy, and rejecting the Virgin Birth, denying the Resurrection and so forth, it does not necessarily follow. This is where a healthy respect for Tradition really helps.

        Saint Augustine would have never dreamed of ordaining a homosexual (or a woman) as a priest. He believed in the Virgin Birth of Jesus and the perpetual virginity of Mary. But he also believed that Genesis 1 wasn’t literal. So there you go.

    • The Previous Dan says

      To a fair degree, I agree with you boaz. I don’t think the “slippery slope” predictions were 100% accurate, but more often than not the denominational groups that followed those paths ended up shrinking and becoming less and less impactful for the Gospel. I think an objective view of history is pretty clear on that point.

      Personally, my positions are still evolving on many of these issues and probably will until the day I get to ask Jesus personally. At present I am strongly inclined to reject the 6 day YEC view but I am loath to reject an historical Adam and Eve, especially in light of Paul’s explanation of the Gospel. On macro evolution I think the jury is still out.

      What I find amusing in the responses to these posts are all the people who fear that some group of Christians is going to somehow “force” them to accept this view or that as though this was the 15th century. Force is a tactic that has been the exclusive domain of non-christians for hundreds of years now and I really don’t think there is any chance of that trend reversing itself.

      • There may be no 15th century forced compulsion, but try to get a ministry position in many circles when you have questions about these matters.

      • @The Previous Dan:


        I’m gonna have to disagree that segments of the population are past using force to espouse this view. Bruce Waltke is one of the foremost Old Testament scholars in the country, and the school he was at dismissed him, not even for teaching or professing evolution, but for saying that it can be compatible with faith. It may not be Spanish Inquisition-type force, but i don’t see what else one can understand it as if not the application of force to preserve a particular understanding.

        • The Previous Dan says

          Freedom of association is a fundamental right in this country and it should be (see the United States Bill of Rights). That is a far cry from persecution. You can’t call that force.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Force is a tactic that has been the exclusive domain of non-christians for hundreds of years now…

        At which point, you leave yourself open to “No True Scotsman” or “Them (who do do it) and Us (who don’t).”

        In WW2, you know which side was REALLY known for machine-gunning bailed-out enemy pilots in their parachutes? Not the Germans, the British & Russians. Re the British, the usual reaction to that bit of history is “But the British are The Good Guys (TM).”

  5. “they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position”

    Evidence that proof-texting has been around since the fifth century.

    Now, as to the historicity of Adam, there Mr. Mohler (am I correct he is a layman, not a minister?) is on somewhat firmer ground. Polygenism (the theory that humans as a species evolved from different “first populations” which resulted in the different races. Early scientific theories of polygenism veered towards, if they were not explicitly, outright racism (usually that certain races were degraded or intermediate types, e.g. Negroes were intermediate between apes and the more ‘evolved’ civilised types of the Caucasian race). This is, of course, problematic and the tendency in scientific terms nowadays is to maintain a theory of mongenism which states that all humans arise from a single ancestral population of the same species.

    Where this and religious monogenism diverge is that the historicity of Adam and Eve as the original First Parents is not recognised as a scientific fact; that even if an ‘Adam and Eve’ precursor pair existed, they would have been part of the original large population from which all humans arose and so there was no single pair from which we all descend.

    So in religion, to quote Wikipedia’s definiton, “polygenism is the belief, religious or scientific, that the human race descended from two or more ancestral types” and to quote the encyclical Humani Generis issued in 1950 by Pope Pius XII which dealt specficially with evolution and the works of some Catholic theologians who were deemed too progressive:

    “36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

    37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”

    That is more or less where matters stand at present in the Catholic Church, though religious polygenism is still a debated and debatable question. There is a 2004 report by the International Theological Commission called Communion and Stewardship that discusses this through the lens of the theme of the imago Dei (man is made in the image and likeness of God and this is what humanity consists of, not physical traits or specifically historical events, but rather in relationship with God and each other); Chapter Two, Section 3, “Person and Community”:

    “43. Every individual human being as well as the whole human community are created in the image of God. In its original unity – of which Adam is the symbol – the human race is made in the image of the divine Trinity.”

    Chapter Three, Section 1, “Science and the stewardship of knowledge”:

    “Catholic theology affirms that that the emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) represents an event that is not susceptible of a purely natural explanation and which can appropriately be attributed to divine intervention. Acting indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, God prepared the way for what Pope John Paul II has called “an ontological leap…the moment of transition to the spiritual.” While science can study these causal chains, it falls to theology to locate this account of the special creation of the human soul within the overarching plan of the triune God to share the communion of trinitarian life with human persons who are created out of nothing in the image and likeness of God, and who, in his name and according to his plan, exercise a creative stewardship and sovereignty over the physical universe.”

    Referring to Adam as a “symbol” may seem to veer towards denying the historicity of Adam (and Eve), but theologians are allowed more latitude in their speculations precisely because it is the bishops who hold the teaching office of the Church; a theologian may offer a definition or new exegesis, but the last say belongs with the body of the bishops in unison defining and handing on the magisterium.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position”

      Evidence that proof-texting has been around since the fifth century.

      Except now in the age of Twitter, they don’t recite the passages from memory, only the Zip Codes of the passages.

    • Regarding your third paragraph, (Dr.) Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    • numbers man says

      Actually, Al’s first ministry position was as a youth minister at United Methodist Church in Louisville. He then preached at a church that met once a month.

      • Thanks for that. I knew that he was Dr., but didn’t know if being President of the Seminary automatically meant he was an ordained minister.

        You have to excuse my rustic ignorance; I only know the customs about minor jobs like being Pope 😉

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Thanks for that. I knew that he was Dr., but didn’t know if being President of the Seminary automatically meant he was an ordained minister.

          Further confusing the issue, a lot of the “Dr”s bandied around by preacher-men are HONORARY degrees. (And there are also diploma mills for that sort of thing.) And it’s those “fake” or lightweight Honorary Doctorates that get bragged about the most.

        • numbers man says

          Al ‘s degrees are ll real. He only got one B. He also studied at Oxford. He is one of the 2 strongest intellects I have ever known.

          • Thank you for that. That does help with perspective on the discussion.

          • Jack Heron says

            From what I can find out, he does seem to have solid enough qualifications. If anything, I find that *more* worrying – he’s a man who has clearly come into contact with a whole range of Christians and Christian thought and yet somehow believes that you can’t manage to remain a Christian without affirming a historical Adam? Surely he’s noticed the ones who have managed it in all his studies and travels?

            (Pedantically, the only references to Oxford I can find are those relating to ‘having done research’ which suggests to me that he was a visiting scholar granted access to resources rather than someone who was actually part of the university or given any accreditation – else there would be a degree, college/department or title in there. Not that they are free with their resources to just anyone, mind)

  6. “Maybe that is the new goal of this website, to sneak mainline liberalism into mainstream conservative Evangelicalism. I thought it was to put Jesus in the center, which includes his and his Apostles’ method of interpreting Scripture.”

    …yeah.Totally…give this site six months and CM will TOTALLY deny the death,ressurection or even existence of Jesus of Nazareth. -_-

  7. Kelby Carlson says

    I’m a theistic evolutionist, but I can actually kind of see what Mohler is saying here. A historical Adam is important, because covenantally we are either “in Adam” or “in Christ”, as Christ is the last Adam. I actually think the Catholic position on this is quite reasonable. I doubt Mohler would agree with my particular interpretation of “a historical Adam”–as I don’t see a problem with evolution–but I do think it’s important to maintain.

    • I too hold to a “historical Adam.” In and of itself that is not too difficult with any perspective. The difference comes in understanding who Adam was and what the text is saying.

      • Kelby Carlson says

        I believe Adam was the covenantal representative of the human race (whether others existed is a scientific question for which I have no answer) and that Adam broke the original covenant God made with humanity. I know ardent young-earth creationists disagree with this, and … I’m not sure why, really. Taking this position one can still affirm the reality of Romans 5 (as Adam was a real representative and since we are fallen we are “in Adam”), and I don’t understand why it’s so important that man must absolutely not be evolutionary related to other species. So from that vantage point Mohler’s opinion is rather perplexing.

        • And I think Mohler would say that believing in a “historical Adam” means that you must hold that Adam was the first human being, literally.

          I basically agree with your position, Kelby.

          • But read that story of the garden. IF I have to take it literally then 1) Adam was put there by God, with Eve. Why – to Till or Heard (some sort of domestic animal I would assume). 2) they don’t seem to do much of what they were supposed to be doing, instead after getting into a debate about God – as opposed to just asking God himself – with a talking serpent, they decide to go do the only thing they weren’t supposed to be doing. 3) they get kicked out and Adam has to farm a cursed earth and one of their son’s goes off and (suddenly the world is crowded) builds a city.

            Um, problem 1) NO ONE was tilling (farming work) or herding anything for the first 160,000 years of modern human existence. 2) No city was built until a permanent farming settlement had successfully freed people from a hunting/gathering nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the Old World that was about 8,000 years ago on the plains of Sumer (Wheat was barley altered from it’s wild state and was an easy crop to succeed with). In the New World that was about 1600 years ago in the Mayan Riviera (they had to take the wild corn plant and genetically alter it until it was edible – the stuff we know, it was much more complicated than wheat). There is NO evidence of city building until there was successful agriculture. Semi-Permanent settlements were common in resource rich areas – riverbanks full of fish or beaches full of shell-fish, for example, but they could not sustain huge populations indefinitely, so people were always forced to move on.

            Early human show no signs of farming or herding animals – although herding started about 20 – 30,000 years ago and farming only began 10,000 years ago, that means the majority of our history we did neither (modern humans being present for about 200,000 years).

            Due to this data, the Eden story doesn’t fit a first human existence at all. Adam and Eve may have been around in Mesopotamia about 4-5,000 years ago, but they weren’t the parents of the human race at all. The First Nations had crossed the land bridge to the Americas about 20,000 years ago, the Aboriginies have been in Australia for about 40,000 years. There was no cross-contact (notice how susceptible the Natives were to Old World diseases). If Adam sinned in Sumer five thousand years ago, it wouldn’t have changed life on the plains of North America. It wasn’t like one day they all just began to sin towards each other out of the clear blue.

            So, although the first people may have sinned and had to live apart from God, nothing else in that Garden story is historical.

          • If Adam was historical, then when do you think he lived? Was he some kind of early hominid, who is literally the progenitor of the human race? If so, in what sense could he be said to have lived in a paradise? After all, death was hardly introduced into the world then. And did his parents not have souls, because they were just apes or something? The post above raises the possibility of Adam living in ancient Mesopotamia, which at least fits the genealogies, but requires other Adams for each of the other races, which is just weird.

            On the other hand, if Adam is just a symbol, then Genesis starts to look a lot like the Greek myths. We might as well say that Christ died to atone for the sins of Pandora.

            • Adam was historical in that Israel traces their lineage back to him and no further. As for the scientific questions you ask, they are nowhere even in sight in the Bible. I think it can be shown that physical death was in the world before Adam and we have posted on that several times before (check the archives).

              We do not need to try and make the Bible and scientific understanding fit. I am not a concordist.

          • So you would say Adam was a Mesopotamian who was a forefather of Noah and Abe? But not anywhere near the first person on earth and certainly not related to 70% of humankind? OK. But I don’t think Mohler would like that answer at all. So, no matter where we land on this, nothing is going to appease every evangelical.

            Frankly, why even bother with a “real” Adam at all. The Gen 1 -11 story is a literary Chaisis and Noah is the main event. Adam is just a tool to show how man never lived under God’s design, but went straight to the prohibition. Everything else in the garden is lifted straight from Mesopotamian literature. Serpent, Tree of Life, four mega rivers having a source there, God in a paradise garden, tree of life at the centre, these are motifs found again and again in the Ancient Near East. Abraham sounds like a real historical figure, living life out on the edge with God, running into real life conflicts etc. Adam just sounds like a literary tool.

            As for sin, they already got that wrong. Back then they actually didn’t understand genetics, they assumed sperm was alive, since it moved, and though a Adam was born with all the fully formed little babies he, and his sons and their sons, etc. would ever have when they were in his loins. Men had the babies and women had the fertile soil (hence the word barren, which means an unplanted field) for women. Women gave life to the living sperm, which they called seed. So, when Adam sinned, the entire human race was inside his loins and fell with him. This is why Eve doesn’t pass on sin to everyone. It is seen again in Hebrews, where the writer says Levi was in Abe when he tithed to Melchizadech (Not!). The whole premise of an original sin (which Augustine came up with, not Paul) is a faulty premise based on a lack of understanding – we are only formed once our parent’s DNA meets and recombines, up until then, we aren’t there. So, we weren’t there at the first sin. And we aren’t all related to mesopotamians anyways. So, original sin is a problem in the church, not a problem in history.

            • I would agree that the early stories of Genesis are mostly “myth.” I also think there is probably a historical core. I doubt that they just made up these people out of whole cloth.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “History became Myth.
            Myth became Legend.
            And much that should not have been forgotten, was.”
            — Prologue to the first Lord of the Rings movie

  8. Richard Hershberger says

    What we see here is the natural consequence of imagining that one reads the Bible “literally,” or even its more nuanced cousin of reading its “plain meaning.” If I am reading the plain meaning of scripture, and you reach some different conclusion than do I, then it follows that you are either a fool or a scoundrel. I might lecture you about your errors, but there is no possible reason why I would engage in actual discourse with you.

    • As Chaplain Mike would say, “Word.”

      Too often the modern world has been reduced to simple binary positions.

      Politics isn’t about convincing arguments, its about “yes” or “no”s. One must be “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. Those are easy to grasp and hard-hitting one second stances. But it was never about being “anti-life” or “anti-choice”, it was about a difficult balance between respecting the dignity of potential human life and injustice of potential human suffering. To say that, however, takes more than one second, and is an uncomfortably vague position to hold.

      As HUG is always making clear, it seems religion has gone much the same way. “Party Line, Comrade” indeed.

  9. I just can’t see how a literal, historical “Adam” is absolutely necessary for understanding the covenants of “in Adam” or “in Christ.” Isn’t the term for that “typology” or something? Do things of highly symbolic nature need to be absolute historical fact? If Adam was not a real, historical figure it does not follow that therefore Christ was not either. That’s just baloney; secular historians all attest to the existence of a real “Jesus of Nazareth.”

    The two view points that bother me are the extremes: The far right treats Genesis one as a scientific treatise and misses the beauty of the symbolism. Indeed, so much of the major themes of the Gospel are hinted at in Genesis one, but if it’s merely an ordo creatus, then the forrest get’s lost amongst the trees. On the other hand, the far left would deny the possibility of any miracles to the extent that God couldn’t possibly have created the world in 6 literal days 6000 years ago. I have a problem when our empirical knowledge of the scientific realm begins to rule out all possibility of the supernatural. That’s the nature of divinity: It goes beyond what we could possibly explain by mere observation. If you create a tree on Tuesday and chop it down on Wednesday, and the tree has 100 rings, how old is it? If you said 1 day, you would be correct. If you said 100 years, you would still be correct. The important things is that we agree that God is the creator. That’s what our common creed says. How he did it is irrelevant, not to mention beyond the scope of the text.

    • + zillion

    • petrushka1611 says

      I’ve heard Young-Earth Creationists argue that God created the universe with the appearance of an age that it doesn’t actually have–one of the reasons being to give evolutionists enough rope to hang themselves. It occurred to me one day that, by that logic, God could just as easily have had the Bible written so that the creation story appears to give the earth a YOUNG age that it doesn’t actually have, giving the creationists enough rope to hang THEMselves.

      Then I remembered that the heavens declare the glory of God, not the deception of God. However everything went down back in the day, I’m thankful that “in Christ shall all be made alive.”

      • SOME YECer’s feel this way. But not all and maybe not most.

        They are a diverse group who mainly only agree on the approximate age of the Earth and/or universe.

    • Miguel we live in the age of extremes. The trouble is that the Neo-facisits…ughh Calvinists in mnay ways are duplicating the world. They do so in dress, alcohol, and sex as Mark Driscoll has down. Why shouldn’t they duplicate that in extreme theology. Our soceity is polarizied in so many ways….culutrally, politically, economically, etc…. They Neo-Calvinists have introdueced that to theology…but that’s because they have adopted the ways of the world.

  10. In the beginning,[whenever that was] God created the heavens and earth. Man sinned, God sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him would have everlasting life. The rest is/are details.

    • Isn’t this the most important thing for us to remember? In the beginning, God created? Is it apostasy to believe that the myth of Genesis 1-2 describes the great truth that God created? What kind of faith is so fragile that it denies that the bible is a library of many styles of literature written to specific audiences at specific times and stakes its authenticity on literal interpretation of texts written to tell an ancient people WHY creation happened instead of HOW?

      • Wait a minute! Are you saying that God doesn’t LITERALLY ride on a cloud, as specifically documented in Isaiah 19:1, Deuteronomy 33:26, and Psalms 68:4? If that is the case, then the gospel is a myth, and we’re all going to be devoured by Trolls! Are you happy now? (sarcasm)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And the Only Begotten Son got thrown under the YEC bus. And the Culture War bus. And the Christian Nation bus.

  11. These Biblical literalists crack me up.

    They almost remind me of the idiocy of the leftist Democrats who have seen the failures of socialism and statism throughout history and the world today, but still buzz around that dim bulb…because they are brainwashed and have some idea that utopia depends on it.

    God’s reality does not depend on every word in the Bible to be understood literally.

    There, how do you like it when we compare errant theologies to certain political groups. it’s an awesome way to alienate a whole bunch of Christians until you are only left with Christians of your political ilk.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      it’s an awesome way to alienate a whole bunch of Christians until you are only left with Christians of your political ilk.

      Which easily gets interpreted as the One True Remnant.
      “DIE, HERETICS!”

      • Yup.

        Be political ( I say )…just don’t connect your politics or someone else’s to the gospel.

        Way too much of the ELCA is the Democratic Party at prayer. And way too much of the LCMS is the Republican Party at prayer. (it worksmuch the same for other denominations, as well)

    • petrushka1611 says

      Steve Martin: at the same time, it takes some of us a long time to wake up from some things. That’s why I keep the “1611” as part of the handle I’ve had for nearly 20 years (I grew up in a very strong KJV-inerrancy church)–to remind me that all of us are sometimes zealously misguided on things, and that God seems perfectly content to love all of us his saints believing “wacky” things. And whether or not YEC people can tolerate me questioning things, they are still my brothers in Christ, and I still owe them my love and service…as long as God doesn’t test me on this in real life, of course. 😉

      • petrushka1611 says

        *LEAVE all of us his saints believing “wacky” things.

        Although “love” works, too.

      • It’s perfectly alright to be misguided on things. Lord knows I am, have been, and will be.

        But ministers of God’s Word cannot take political stances on issues of law (‘what we do’ on the horizontal plane)

        If a minister of the Word brings politics into the message, it ought be to place a pox on both (all) their houses. There is NO future in what the princes of this world will bring.

        I happen to be very fortunate to have a pastor who understands this. And that is why so many diverse people with radically opposed political views are members in our church, sitting side by side in the pews.

        • petrushka1611 says

          Steve, I may have missed some sarcasm in your first comment, but I’m not quite sure.

          • Maybe a little…but I was serious, and am serious about this type of thing. I have been given to that kind of thing in the not too distant past and have driven away some folks from hearing the gospel. I pray that I didn’t wreck them completely in that respect.

      • numbers man says

        Actually, your church probably never used the 1611 version. Except or the 400th anniversary editions, almost no bookstore carries the 1611 version. Thomas Nelson did not have enough sales to keep it as a product. Unknowingly, most use the 1789 revision. That’s what you get when you buy a KJV.

        • petrushka1611 says

          Right, and my dad (the pastor) didn’t shy away from that fact. It’s kind of like, I can play a piece by Beethoven written in 1819, but the edition I play from was done in 1996, and it would have made corrections that earlier editions got wrong. But I would not say the piece was written in 1819. If Beethoven made serious revisions in 1823 and both versions are in circulation, I’d say I’m playing such and such a piece, written in 1819, 1823 revision. So the edition issue isn’t major for anyone I’ve met who knew about it. Also, I’ve really dragged this off-topic from the original thread. And I want Indian food. 🙂

    • donalbain says

      Leftist democrats? Oh, it is to laugh!

  12. Those of you who think you are right are amusing to those of us who KNOW we are right. Etcetera,etcetera ad infinitum.

  13. Per the Mohler quote:

    If we get the story of the gospel wrong in the beginning, we will have what Paul condemned as another gospel in the end.

    This statement is the very definition of irony. The “other Gospel” Paul was writing about had to do with those who try to pile on requirements above and beyond the simple Gospel proclamation that Jesus was Lord and because of that God is indeed justifying the ungodly. To Paul’s opponents, this simply wasn’t good enough – they wanted people to essentially become Torah-following Jews in order to be consider “real” Christians. It’s very similar to how Mohler wants people to become, well, basically like him for them to be considered having true faith.

    Mohler’s assertions are almost breathtaking in how wrong they are…

    • petrushka1611 says


      • +a lot more!

      • Nailed it!

      • Exactly.

        Christ + (anything)

        That ‘anything’ can be :

        * decisions for Christ
        * your seriousness
        * your good works
        * Popes
        * certain experiences
        * a certain church
        * a historic epicopacy
        * alignment with particular political views

        …and more….lots more

        If one is a Christ (+), sort of Christian, one should ask themself why Jesus’ death wasn’t quite enough to handle the job…alone.

    • Right on! Paul had something very specific in mind when he said “another gospel.”

    • The other issue is that they are going to so dilute themselves that they won’t be able to recognize nor condemn false gospels. When I think of a false gospel (Trust me all of Christianity seems false to me…) in the Christian context I think of Mormonism, Jehoveh’s Witness, etc…

      When science arrives at the point that we are discussing how to do cloning of humans and if we should muhc of Christinaity will have removed itself from the debate.. by hoice becuase they still have their head stuck in the 1500’s.

    • I was wondering when I would read someone’s comments who noticed this particular irony.
      I wrote last year concerning the dangers of the Modern worldview’s conditioning of biblical studies:
      “human emotion and cultural phenomenon do not interfere with a mathematical formula. To think that we can objectively approach the bible the same way, as if our own human-ness can be held at bay, (or worse, is inconsequential) , is extremely naïve and dangerous.”
      (And, there so much more to add to that.)
      How does the president of a prominent seminary glide over basic exegesis on a passage in their attempts to defend the bible??
      is controlling peoples’ thoughts more important than biblical integrity, or has Mohler forgotten the cardinal rule of double checking how much our feelings (etc) get in the way of our pursuit of the truth?

  14. By not reading Genesis literally makes one an evolutionist? It’s like not agreeing to all of the five points of Calvinism makes one an Arminian. An ultimatum is also a logical fallacy. That’s adding up to a lot of fallacies in Mohler’s short statement. But for those who don’t believe in human reason, there really is no such thing as a logical fallacy.

  15. As I have said before, one can’t read Genesis literally without cheating by inserting some interpretive gymnastics. The literalists break their own rules to prove their point (e.g. stars and planets created after earth and circling around it). The YEC folks have to come up with rational trickery to make this not sound like geocentricism.

  16. Great discussion!!! It is a shame that anyone with a high school education and above does not realize that the bible is not a science book and that the earth is older than 6000 years. YEC is a sad bankrupt position.

  17. That is the position that these literalists out themselves into when they buy into this stuff.

    There’s no need for it.

    God does not need a literally inerrant book to accomplish His will. Only small gods need that sort of “help”.

    The finite contains the infinite.

    • If its going to be an “eithor/or” situation than that is going to result in people leaving faith and God. There’s no way around it. Ultimateums like that get no one anywhere and do so muhc harm.

  18. The next elephant in the middle of the room waiting to be acknowledge is the definition of “error”. The only thing that makes the Genesis account in error is the insistence by the YEC community to turn it into a science book. If interpreted in the context in which it was meant to be read, then it is not in error. If it does not communicate that context, then it would be in error.

    I honestly don’t know what that context would be. I’m still scratching my head over the sacrifice of Isaac.

    • petrushka1611 says

      dumb ox, I’ve been tossing that over in my mind lately, too. I really need to look up the other scriptures that shed light on that story, but here’s what I’ve been thinking when I view it through the lens of gospel:

      Maybe it was less about testing Abraham than God showing His provision, and showing that when He demands something that seems impossible, He will meet His own demands outside of us, not through our actions.

      Now, when I hear songs like “Is Your All on the Altar,” or hear preaching about how we’re supposed to sacrifice all that is dear to us, I remember that Christ already gave all, and did it perfectly. God met his own demands for us. And I know that when I’m fed on the gospel instead of getting my hide preached off and obsessing about whether “I’ve done my best for Jesus,” I begin to respond to God in love, and I grow in (His) grace, not in bitterness.

  19. I’m trying to be polite to both CM and AM, but is this article really fair? I ask because as far as I know, nobody – and I mean nobody – goes to Al Mohler’s blog looking for critical thinking, sound logic, or theological orthodoxy. People go to Mohler’s blog to get their itching ears scratched, and boy does he deliver. If the SBC good ol boy network demanded evolution or a gap theory, you can bet that would be on his blog – and somehow it would be tied into his Utlanning-infested binary worldview in which any who disagree are de facto bad guys.

  20. Maybe we should consider the possibility that not everyone is capable of complex ideation or nuanced views. And maybe a lot of people take “literal or nothing” stances because those are actually the only two options they are able to wrap their minds around. And when we go on about things like accepting paradox and considering literary styles and forms and evolving historical perspectives, these people aren’t really hearing us — or, rather, they’re hearing noise their brains automatically catalogues as heretical or dangerous or compromised.
    For them, Christ can’t be who He is without a literal, historical Adam or a literal seven-day creation. For them, all of scripture — or, rather, their idea of scripture — is a strangely fragile structure in which no single brick can be removed or altered without the whole building crashing down.
    Unfortunately, for many people, it takes a complete collapse of their belief system before they can start building a more sensible, stable structure.

    • Excellent insight, humanslug. Why do you think some people are that way?

      • Joseph (the original) says

        i am of the opinion that the pack mentality has much to do with it. pride & ego should also get equal billing. people want to be right, correct, accurate, regarding critical issues. nothing can be quite as critical as one’s faith which all other matters hinge upon…

        my theological viewpoints regarding the creation account have evolved over time. the more alternate understandings i allowed myself to review without fear or simply to catalog any perceived error, the more i came to appreciate the breadth of viewpoints. and there is a beauty in the way people formulate ideas & then make the effort to explain them sufficiently for others to understand…

        i never felt ‘my’ particular viewpoints were the Golden Standard all others should be measured by. i never had a soapbox to climb & make absolute statements from. i never thought the differences in how saints understood the Creation Account made them less intellectual, spiritual, scientific, mystical, rational, whatever. but once there were staunch champions of only one POV by denigrating all others, then such posturing i found very distasteful. i found i had no tolerance or patience for those that not only declared clearly their POV, but insisted all other ideas were heretical, demonic, mere human reason, delusional, crazy, evil, bad, etc. it was this passing judgment in the name of God that made me realize that no, i do not wish to be identified with those types of people or their brand of religious expression…

        Lord, have mercy… 🙁

        • Maybe faith — or, rather, the methods by which people defend and protect their faith — is also a factor in this.
          If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that maintaining and keeping my faith in Christ alive and well is not easy. Sometimes it takes some serious mental gymnastics. Sometimes it requires help from others. Sometimes the only thing between me and unbelief is pure choice or a stubborn exercise of will.
          And, more times than I can count, it has been God himself coming through in some unexpected way that has kept my faith from going under.
          For some people, however, their only method of maintaining their faith is to build mental walls against new ideas and information — which, in an odd way, is actually a lack of faith. Deep down, they don’t believe that their faith will stand up to serious questions and challenges — so they develop the defensive mental habit of automatically dismissing new ideas and information without ever really opening their minds or hearts.

  21. First of all, let me say that I believe in a young Earth. However, it’s ludicrous to hold to the position that if you don’t believe in a young Earth, then you aren’t a real Christian.

    My real problem with guys like Mohler is that they take secondary issues and make them primary. Then, at the same time, they go soft on the real primary issues (see Driscoll and MacDonald embracing Jakes and his view of the Trinity).

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