In 2 Samuel 11, we are told that spring is the time that the kings go off to war. After all, winter is a hard time to battle so to spare their own losses, most waited until spring.
Apparently some things haven't changed as this spring, Norman Geisler has started off with a "review" of John Walton's The Lost World Of Adam and Eve. Now I have elsewhere shown my great support for Walton, including interviewing him on my podcast. (For an earlier interview based on The Lost World of Genesis One, see here and for an interview I did with his co-author Brent Sandy on The Lost World of Scripture see here.) I have found Walton's work to be stellar in this area and hope before too long we all just realize he's correct in his approach. It will no doubt be refined, but I have found it thoroughly persuasive.
Naturally, Geisler's main interest is Inerrancy, but not just Inerrancy. It's "Does Walton agree with my interpretation?" Geisler once again equates Inerrancy of interpretation with the Inerrancy of Scripture. If someone goes against what he understands ICBI to be, then they are denying Inerrancy because obviously, there's no other way to affirm Inerrancy other than ICBI.
Geisler's review is hardly a review. He leaps to the end of the book and gives Walton's summary of the matter after 200+ pages of looking at all the data that he gives for his position. Instead, he gives the positions that will make his readers immediately raise up those red flags. Walton says humans were created en masse? He says there were other human beings around at the time? He says science might offer contrary information?
You would get the idea that these positions were just thrown out there with no reason behind them. Instead, it's just a jump to the practical reasons for holding the position. Now if all Walton had done was say "Adam and Eve might not be the first humans and science could say otherwise, so let's just get in line and accept it and here's the benefits for just accepting it", it would be right to be suspicious, but Walton has been defending numerous propositions in his book that Geisler does not even touch.
Hmmmm. Something in this water tastes funny. It's like poison....
Geisler sums up his view of Walton in the following:
1. The Bible does not teach that a literal historical Adam and Eve are Progenitors of the Human Race2. The scientific evidence supports the belief in macro evolution.3. Holding both 1 and 2 is not contrary to the doctrine of inerrancy.4. An acceptance of 1-3 is crucial to fulfilling the mission and proper growth of the Church.
I can't say I agree with this. For instance, in my interview with Walton, he has said his interpretation of the text would not require macroevolution to be true. After all, you could be a YEC and hold to his view. This is just a way of interpreting the text. Walton used to be YEC. Why? He thought the text demanded it. He no longer holds that view and the reason he holds the view is that he once again says he thinks that is what the text is teaching.
Geisler looking at point 1 says:
First, he confessed, “I do affirm the historicity of Adam. But I do not consider interpreters who are trying to be faithful to Scripture to be denying inerrancy if they arrive at a different conclusion” (202). Apparently, then, any sincere exegete could deny the historicity of Adam and still be consistent with inerrancy? How about those who deny the historicity of Christ’s resurrection?
But this again confuses Inerrancy of Scripture with Inerrancy of interpretation. If someone says Inerrancy simply means that all that the Scripture teaches is true, then if they really believe the text does not teach the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, they could indeed hold to such a position. I think it would be difficult to defend such a position, but they could hold to it. Inerrancy tells you about the nature of the content of revelation. It does not tell you the message of that revelation. It just says that whatever the message is, it is true.
If Geisler wants to argue against someone with this position on Adam, then he's free to consider someone like Denis O. Lamoureux, who holds to the Inerrancy of Scripture and does not hold to a historical Adam as shown in Four Views on the Historical Adam. In fact, John Walton was one of the scholars who argued against his position. Unfortunately for Geisler, he will have to argue textually and scientifically against Lamoureux and while I am not persuaded by Lamoureux’s position, Geisler will have to do more than shout, "Inerrancy!" He will have to address Lamoureux’s textual and scientific arguments.
Second, “…perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that This pair (call them Adam and Eve if you like) were to be the representatives of the whole human race, the ones in whom God’s purposes to make the whole world a place of delight and joy and order…” (177- 178). So, to establish this first point we must show that (a) the Bible teaches us that there was a literal couple, commonly called Adam and Eve, (b) who were the progenitors of the entire human race. Let’s take them in order:
Keep in mind, all of this is without looking at Walton's arguments at all. There is no interaction with Walton’s view that the Bible is not talking about material processes. There is no dialogue with the concept of sacred space. There is no dealing with the idea of creation being good instead of perfect. All we see are Walton's conclusions without looking at why he comes to those conclusions, as if Walton just wants to see a position considered to be Biblical and just undermine it. The arguments Walton gives for his positions are never once addressed.
So how does Geisler refute the claim that Adam and Eve were not the first humans? Let's see what he says.
The first argument is that Adam and Eve were historical persons. It is odd that Geisler goes into all of this when he says Walton acknowledges this as evidence of Adam's historicity and Walton does hold to a historical Adam and Eve.
Yet things get interesting when we move to Eve.
For “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20 NIV). Even translated in the present as “She is the mother of all living” (ESV), her name (, living or life-giver) “signifies that the woman became a pledge in the continuation of the race, in spite of the curse.” Allen Ross ( , 148). Her name also reflects the earlier prediction that the “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15) would bring life and salvation into the world through her “seed” (offspring). Contrary to Walton (187), whatever else it may imply it does not exclude being the genetic progenitor. Likewise, a similar phrase “father of all” used of Jubal (Gen 4:21) implies a genetic progenitor since he was the genetic father of all “those [humans] who played” the harp; he was not the father of the organ.
This is quite odd for Geisler to bring up Jubal as a refutation of the point hoping his readers will see it immediately because the very point is made by Walton using Jubal as his example. Where does Jubal imply a genetic relationship between him and all harp players? Does that mean that all harp players must be genetically descended from Jubal? Not at all. This would make as much sense as saying all historians must be descended from Herodotus, the father of history. This will work if Geisler’s followers don’t read Walton themselves and never see the arguments he makes. Unfortunately, too many of them will indeed never read Walton themselves.
President Philip Ryken of Wheaton College presented six significant arguments for a historical Adam: 1. It explains humanity’s sinfulness; 2. It accounts for the presence of evil in the world; 3. It clarifies the biblical position on sexual identity and family relationships; 4. It assures us that we are justified before God; 5. It advances the missionary work of the church; 6. It secures our hope in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting (203). He added, “We cannot understand the world of our faith without a real, historical Adam.” But Wheaton Professor Walton summarily dismisses his arguments, claiming that “some of these are a matter of interpretation” and “even if we accept without question all these points, we could still maintain that no theology is built on the scientific implications commonly associated with Adam and Eve: that they must (theologically speaking!) be created de novo, as the only people at the beginning of humanity and those from whom we are all descended” (203-204).
Why Geisler is investing so much in a historical Adam when Walton holds to one would seem odd, unless he wants his readers to get the impression that Walton is skeptical of this, which he is not. Again, it would be helpful for them to read Walton. The views of Ryken come from the above counterpoints book that was mentioned earlier. Walton does not dismiss these. In fact, he says all of them are worthy of book length discussion. It's just that since he's not arguing against a historical Adam, they're not really relevant. (I would in fact argue that Ryken needs to focus more on Jesus than on Adam) What he does say is none of this is changed even if we accept these points by having Adam and Eve not be the first human beings.
In response, the literal historical-grammatical interpretation endorsed by ICBI (CSBI, Article 18) demands a de novo creation of God because: (1) Adam was created from “dust” [not from lower animals], and he will return to dust (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Job 34:15; Eccl. 3:20); (2) Eve was made from Adam’s “rib” (Gen. 2:21); (3) God “created” (not developed through evolution) every living things (Gen. 1:21); (4) All acts of “creation” () in Genesis 1 (1:1; 1:21; 1:27) resulted from God “speaking” and it occurred. Paul describes the creation of light as ex nihilo (out of nothing), “Let light shine out of darkness” (2 Cor. 4:6). Darkness does not evolve into light; rather, lightning strikes it from the outside; (5) Every form of life “produced its own kind” (it did not evolve into another kind); (6) Humans were made in God’s image, “male and female” which involves bodies (Gen. 1:27); (7) Humans could speak and name things from the beginning (Gen. 2:19-20; 3:3, 10); (8) Humans had moral capacity and responsibility from the beginning (Gen. 2:16-17); (9) Humans had God-consciousness from the start (Gen. 3:1-13). (9) Jesus affirmed this was all “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:4) from the “beginning of world” (Matt. 24:21). The only normal, literal interpretation of these verses is that the creation of Adam was de novo.
And as expected, we now turn to the Scripture of ICBI and since they have spoken, well the case is closed. We know what the text means because ICBI said so. It's because of positions like this that Geisler has earned the nickname, and rightfully so, of the Evangelical Pope. Some of these positions were dealt with in The Lost World of Genesis One. Still, let's point out some problems.
Adam was created from dust? For starters, Walton never says Adam was created by a macroevolutionary process, but ignoring that, Geisler wants his readers to think a key point is made by the text saying Adam is made from the dust and Eve from his rib as if Walton was unaware of this. In fact, Walton has an entire chapter on that section alone and what it means. Does Geisler really consider it good form to raise up a point that he would surely know Walton has addressed in the book without really giving the positions that Walton holds in the book and why? This is just dishonest on Geisler's part. Even if Walton's reasons for holding the view he holds are poor reasons, they should not be ignored.
For creation with bara, Walton deals with all of this in the first book. One could of course deny macroevolution and hold to Walton's view so 5 is not a problem. 6 isn't a problem either based on the first book. 7 only says something about Adam and Eve and not all humanity. This would be begging the question. Same for 8 and 9 would not be a problem either. After all, if the beginning means the immediate instant beginning, well humanity wasn't even there then. If it just means from the start of the human story, then Walton would agree.
Geisler's conclusion about the only normal, literal, interpretation I'm sure would be interesting to his YEC critics who also question his commitment to Inerrancy and see him compromising with a modern scientific consensus on the age of the Earth. After all, they would say "the only normal, literal interpretation is that the Earth is young.
Ultimately, it comes back to a fundamentalist understanding of the text. The normal way to understand the text is in the way modern 20th and 21st century Westerners take the text. Could it be that Walton has a point that maybe we need to see what the viewpoint was of people back then and interpret the text in light of that? Keep in mind the word literal really means "according to the intent of the author."
Geisler starts off his next part saying, “In order to justify his claim that certain biblical references to Adam have no authority (181, 183),” but if anyone read these pages, they would see nothing like this. Instead, they would find Walton wanting to take the text seriously, as he does. Geisler is just trying to get his readers to think that Walton is wanting to dismiss the Bible for his positions. Again, this is a whole lot easier to do than actually do the work of dealing with his arguments. Now Walton does make a point about what the Bible teaches authoritatively and incidentally.
There are many such references in the Bible to views the Israelites held that we do not hold to. This should not be seen as a problem for us. One big example Walton would likely give is the firmament. This is one reason he does not hold to a Concordist position on Genesis 1.
Walton's view is described as evolutionary when in fact, it is not. All the position is saying is that the question of evolution does not matter to the text. Believe it or not, we do not have to choose which side we want to come down on. The Bible doesn't address the question.
Does Geisler think such a position denies Inerrancy?
Then he needs to talk with J.I. Packer. Packer has given an endorsement of Denis Alexander's Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose? Just look at the cover. In fact, Albert Mohler said about this that:
Then he needs to talk with J.I. Packer. Packer has given an endorsement of Denis Alexander's Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose? Just look at the cover. In fact, Albert Mohler said about this that:
Denis Alexander in his new book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? suggests that “God in his grace chose a couple of neolithic farmers to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself so that they might know him as a personal God.” A couple of Neolithic farmers? Is that in any way a possible, legitimate exegetical reading of Genesis? More disturbing is not the contents of the book, but the endorsement from J. I. Packer on the front cover, who says, “Surely the best informed, clearest, and most judicious treatment of the question and title that you can find anywhere today.”
Or consider his endorsement also of Melvin Tinker's Reclaiming Genesis with even writing the foreword and giving a hearty recommendation of it. The book has been described as pro-evolution and anti-intelligent design.
Is Packer denying Inerrancy?
Walton does not believe the reference in Acts 17:26 to making all nations from one man refers to Adam, but to Noah. This is based on the reference to nations coming right after the Noah account. Geisler has none of this and gives his reasons.
However, there is multiple evidence that Paul is including all individuals (of which nations are made). First, the word “made” ( is used in this same context (Acts 17:24) of God making the world ( ). Second, it is used elsewhere in Acts 4:24 of “the Sovereign Lord, who made heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them” (cf. Acts 7:49-50). Third, it urges all men to seek Him (v. 27) and claims that all humans exist only “in Him we live and move and have our being” (v. 28) and, therefore should seek Him (v. 29). All this implies a genetic view of human beings who are connected to each other and to this one God by creation. Fourth, Paul elsewhere speaks of “the condemnation of all men” in Adam (Rom. 5:12, 13, 17), showing their unity and origin in him. In view of the context, to reduce this text to God forming or organizing nations is to reveal more of a Platonic influence (where the Demiurgos orders the eternal chaos into a cosmos but does not bring it into being). As St. Augustine put it, we are born “with a propensity to sin and a necessity to die” ( 14.1).
To begin with, Walton would have no problem with the first point. He would disagree on what is meant by made, which Geisler has not interacted with. The same applies to point two. For the third point, how does this imply a genetic relationship? It implies a common origin in being from God. It is not about our relationship to Adam but to each other. For the fourth, yes, all men are condemned in Adam. One could hold to Walton's view of Acts 17:26 and still hold to the condemnation of all men in Adam.
In the next part, Walton deals with the idea that some readers will be hesitant to accept a new reading of the text. Unfortunately, a reading of Geisler will give the reader the impression that Walton is trying to explain an idea that would deny the historicity of Adam and Eve. It's as if Geisler didn't read the book itself and simply had someone else read it and say "Okay. Tell me everything you can that's wrong with it."
Keep in mind, I have read the book. I have it right here and have been looking up Geisler's claims in it.
1. “The church fathers often disagree deeply with one another” (205).: So do many scientists disagree about the origin of life, but we do not discard scientific evidence because of it. Nor do we disregard good cumulative evidence because of such disagreement.
And yet Geisler should surely accept that the church fathers have often disagreed strongly and what about where they haven't. Does Geisler accept baptismal regeneration? Many of the church fathers also accepted allegorical interpretation. Would Geisler accept that? What would ICBI say about those who interpret the text allegorically? All Walton is saying is that the church fathers are not the final authority. This should not be a problem.
And again, Walton has not endorsed a macroevolutionary view. It's just not a problem.
2. The early Fathers regularly held positions that no one holds today.: So did early scientists hold views that virtually no one accepts today. For example, current evolutionists disown early evolutionary views of inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Again, Geisler misses the point. This is a book on what the text says and not what science says.
3. Their writings were driven by the needs [heresies] of their time, not by what the Bible intended to say Heresies are often the for the Fathers clarifying and defending the truth, but they were not the of it. The basis for truth was the inspired Scripture.
And in turn, the basis for Walton's view is inspired Scripture much the same way.
4. They were primarily driven by Christology, not by a text in its ancient context.The great creeds were , nonetheless were usually sound biblical teaching. There is not necessary disconnection between Christology and their view of Scripture.
Walton's point is that the writers were not often looking to understand Genesis as Genesis but Genesis in light of Christ. There is nothing wrong with this, but a fuller understanding can be found just understanding Genesis on its own first.
5. Most of the time they were not familiar with Hebrew and Greek.: As helpful as studying the original languages is in understanding the nuances and technicalities of exegesis and theology, their value is sometimes overestimated, especially by the teachers of the languages. All the major doctrines in Scripture can be discerned by the common languages. In fact, some of the great theologians of the church past and present were not proficient in Hebrew and Greek—St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas among them.
This is quite flummoxing. Why would Geisler not want to go back to the original languages? Geisler makes the same kind of statement in Defending Inerrancy. Why do we need to try to find what Jesus said in Aramaic? Isn't what we have in Greek enough? Why not try to get a fuller understanding? We might as well say "Why do we even need to read Geisler's books on the Bible? Isn't what we have enough?"
6. They had no access to the ancient world as we do through archaeology. As helpful and insightful as archaeology can be (see Joseph Holden, Harvest House, 2013), no essential of the faith is impossible to discover from Scripture itself. Further, unfortunately some scholars who are most trained in the surrounding culture are the most tempted to misuse it in misinterpreting the Bible. Even Walton himself warns that “We should note, however, that the Israelites often show marked dissimilarities from the surrounding world. Proper interpretation will recognize both” (199).
Walton here is simply saying that archaeology has increased our understanding, such as the tablets we've found that show us more on how ancient people thought. (You know, that material Geisler never interacts with at all during his review.) Once again, it looks like a dismissal on Geisler's part.
7. Walton claimed that the early Fathers did know and expressed some of the ideas he had in his book (205). Contrary to Walton, this would indicate that all of our new ideas are not dependent on studying these new cultures. However, many of these new studies are the source of unorthodox teachings entering the bloodstream of evangelicalism.
And there is the keyword of "unorthodox" again. This is a possible threat, so we must stop it now. Geisler's anti-scholarship position is the real threat to the church today. How about this unique idea of, oh, I don't know, looking at Walton's arguments as arguments and critiquing them? For instance, while I do not agree with what Lydia McGrew says on her review of the book (incomplete at this point), at least she is not playing the Inerrancy card repeatedly and making accusations of unorthodoxy.
Next we move on to macroevolution.
While Walton disavows expertize in science, nonetheless, he claims a high degree of certainty about certain scientific issues. For example, he is firmly convinced of macro-evolution, including the genetic evolution of the first human beings. Consider the following (emphasis added): “The current is that humans share a common ancestor with other species based on the evidence of material (phylogenetic) continuity” (206). “ affirms that there is material continuity between all species of life (technically designated phylogenetic continuity).” “All species have a common ancestor.… [This] idea is (190). He adds, “It [‘evolution’] is not inherently atheistic or deist. It has plenty of room for the providence of God as well as the intimate involvement of God” (191). He adds, the evidence for macroevolution “is .” (182).
Yet in all of this, Walton has not said he is a macroevolutionist. In fact, I could agree with what Walton says here and still say I'm not ready to sign on the dotted line yet. In fact, aside from the last two viewpoints that Geisler might not accept, surely he would accept the first three. Does he want to deny that the current consensus in science is what Walton says it is? You don't have to be a scientist to know this.
And again, if this is a problem for Walton, why does J.I. Packer get a free pass?
Now I will not deal with the arguments Geisler gives for evolution because again, I see them as pointless to Walton's thesis, and second, because I am not a scientist. Yet Geisler says the framers have denounced theistic evolution as not compatible with Inerrancy.
A lot of this however hangs on the idea that Walton does not treat Genesis 1-11 as historical. The problem is that he simply does treat them as historical. He just doesn't accept the idea of the claim of what the history is being said. He is not saying these accounts are untrue. He is persuaded fully of the truth of the accounts. In fact, he would say he could hold to a literal interpretation of these passages based on his engagement with the text.
Sorry, but throwing around ICBI does not refute his arguments. It just says that the magisterium has spoken and the case is closed.
And as said earlier, how can we think the framers thought this when Packer's endorsements and actions say otherwise?
So let's move on to the practical realities. Why does Geisler not find them convincing?
First, one fails to see how denying the direct (de novo) creation of Adam helps motivate one to care more for God’s creation” (207). In fact, one could make a strong argument to the contrary. For knowing “this is my Father’s world” should motivate me to care for it with great concern.
One struggles to see what the connection is. Adam and Eve are not the first human beings, therefore this is not our Father's world? What is going on here? Walton's view is that Adam's vocation was to be the caretaker of the world that he was put in and to serve as the maintainer of sacred space. (You know, that position Geisler NEVER interacts with.) This in fact does depend on this being our Father's world.
Second, it is difficult to see how denying Inerrancy and the biblical teaching about a first literal Adam is a path of “convergence and compatibility” (208). Compromise on crucial beliefs does not lead to real compatibility. It leads to chaos. Try compromising on the quality of steel in a sky scrapper.
Yet this is just more of the question begging that Walton is denying Inerrancy and Biblical teaching. Yeah. Walton made an argument from the text, but I guess the Pope has just spoken....
Third, one fails to see how unless a person accepts theistic evolution and denies inerrancy, they mustabandon their brains” (208-209). The intelligent design movement has attracted some very smart scientists like Charles Thaxton, Philip Johnson, Hugh Ross, Fuz Rana, and Stephen Meyer, to mention only a few.
Walton never once says that not accepting theistic evolution means a person is abandoning their brains. His position here is that many people curious of Christianity are being told essentially that to hold to Christianity, they must abandon their brains. Literally? Probably not, but by saying they have to go against what they see scientifically, then yes. Does Geisler think this is not happening? I assure him it is. I have heard too many times of cases where people present objections and are told "That's why it's called faith." and the story of a boy coming to a pastor with his doubts and the pastor just shows a Bible and says "This is what we believe. Do you believe it or not?" The boy said he didn't, left, and never came back. Too many atheists today think that if you believe in science, you cannot believe in anything religious. What about those who are not anti-theists but do hold to positions that they think are shown to be scientifically true. What will they do if those outside say "Well, we know you think the science shows this, but you must believe otherwise because this book you question that we base everything on says otherwise?"
Yes. People are abandoning Christianity because of this.
Fourth, Walton contents that “They [our young people] have heard their revered pastors tell them that people who believe in evolution cannot be Christians” (209), thus leading them to leave the church. However, this is largely a “Straw Man” argument since few actually say “they cannot be a Christian,” if they accept evolution. The most conservative usually only say that evolution is contrary to Christian teaching—which is something else. Further, the real question is not whether some may leave the church if the doctrine is taught (whatever it is) but whether or not it is an of the Christian Faith. And, as for the doctrine of creation, it is certainly an important truth of the Christian Faith since both the apostles and Jesus connected it with many significant Christian teachings. For instance, the Bible offers the doctrine of creation as the basis of (or connected to) the doctrines of: (1) human dignity (Jas. 3:9-10); ( 2) governmental authority (Gen. 9:6 cf. Rom. 13:1, 4); (3) marital fidelity (Matt. 19:4-6); (4) Ecological responsibility (Psa. 14:1; Psa. 8:4); ( 5) ecclesiastical authority (1 Tim. 2:13-14 cf. Heb. 13:17); (6) family identity (1 Cor. 11:3-8); (7) human mortality (Rom. 5:12); (8) redemptive activity (1Cor. 15:45-49); (9) resurrection reality (1 Cor. 15:22), and (10) human mortality (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
I hate to say it, but this does indeed happen. This is why for so many people, evolution is the breaking point. You either accept evolution, or you accept the Bible. Again, let's remember that Packer endorsed a book that argued that we do not have to choose and is there any reason to think that he is denying Inerrancy?
Geisler concludes with his usual alarmist statement.
However, a new generation has arisen that knows not Kantzer, Culver, and Kaiser. They have convinced themselves from extra-biblical sources, in whose light they reinterpret the Bible, that Adam was not the first man; that his body is genetically the same as other early hominids, that all humans are not Adam’s descendants; that human death is not the result of Adam’s sin, and that Darwin was basically right about common ancestry! All I can say is that this is not the Wheaton I knew, nor is it the one to which I can recommend my grandchildren.
Yes. We're quite sure Walton is just so unfamiliar with the OT scholarship. This is more of Geisler's "A great man has spoken. The case is closed." When a new position rises up, it must be examined on its own merits. It must not be rejected because it disagrees with the prior traditional interpretation. One would think a Protestant like Geisler would accept that, but it looks like he does not and prefers to point to the magisterium of ICBI instead.
In the end, Walton's book remains untouched. None of the arguments for his position were mentioned let alone dealt with and this is simply pushing a panic button, but then again, this is what we are used to.