Essential Elements of Young Earth Creationism and Their Importance to Christian Theology (Part 6)

From DBSJ. This installment discusses the fifth and sixth of nine essentials of YEC. Read the series.

(5) Young Age

Creation was, in a word, recent. The universe is young relative to the standard scientific model. The earth, and all of creation, is on the order of 6,000 to 10,000 years old. We don’t have detailed information to provide more significant digits to those numbers. But we can provide a couple of important details.

First, the young age of the universe is a distinguishing and essential characteristic of YET. No other views hold to a young earth, as the comparison chart in the opening section of this essay showed.

Second, when we correlate the creation of humanity on the sixth day of the earth’s existence with the key scriptural data on the age of the earth—the genealogical records—we can arrive at a close estimate of the age of the earth. Travis Freeman’s article21 suggests that there are two types of genealogies, which he calls “regular” genealogies and “chronogenealogies.” The latter are important witnesses to the age of the earth because they can be stitched together with relative ease to show the distance of time from Adam to the flood. The numbers in the genealogies, Freeman argues, must be there for some reason and must, because of the doctrine of inerrancy, be accurate.22

Even if there were proven gaps in the genealogies, this does not greatly affect the argument about the age of the earth. To support an old earth, the gaps would have to be overwhelming compared to information given, and such huge gaps would make the numbers pointless. Since we hold to an inerrant Scripture, we cannot hold to genealogies that would be in such error. Furthermore, even if names are missing from some of the genealogies, that does not mean that the numbers are incorrect. A name may be missing, but the grandfather-grandson time measurement can still be accurate.

(6) A Real Adam and Eve

The Bible teaches a theology of man in which Adam was the special creation of God, the first human being, followed by Eve, and that these two are the parents of all humanity. This theology begins on the sixth day of creation, when God miraculously created a single human male that we call by the proper name Adam. God then created Eve out of Adam to make the second person, and joined Adam to Eve as his new wife. This is an essential element of young earth theology because the doctrines of sin and of the second Adam rest upon it. YET’s understanding of the literal Adam distinguishes it from most forms of old earth creationism.

Are There Other Options?

Are there any options other than a literal Adam? To many conservative Christians, it comes as a surprise that some interpreters do not believe that Adam was necessarily a real individual man. In order to harmonize the Bible with modern evolutionary theory, other options have been proposed. Two main options are to connect ancient near eastern cosmologies to the Bible, and to raise science as an authority alongside or above the Bible.

For example, a few years ago, a video of evangelical scholar Tremper Longman caused a stir in this regard. The transcript of what he said follows:

A lot of people believe that Genesis 1–2 sort of insists on the idea that there is one literal historical Adam. And they might go on and say that that literal historical Adam was created by a special act of God, and not a result of an evolutionary process. There are a lot of difficult questions associated with it, but I think you could only insist on the idea that there is one historical Adam if you read Genesis 1 in a very highly literalistic way rather than understanding that it is using ancient near eastern concepts to express how God did create the first human beings. I just personally don’t think that Genesis 1 and 2 prohibits the idea that there is an evolutionary process…and whether there is sort of one moment when God says, “This is the first human being,” and it is one individual, or whether, you know, Adam stands for mankind. After all the Hebrew word Adam does mean mankind. That’s a different question, and one that, at least, I haven’t completely resolved in my own thinking yet. There are still open questions.23

Although Longman does not explicitly mention the ancient near eastern concepts to which he refers, some of them would include creation as a temple-abode for God, creation coming out of disorder or chaos, and creation connecting man to God’s likeness.24 I would add that ANE [Ancient Near East] religions were rife with polytheistic ideas.

Evangelical scholarship does recognize that Genesis offers several distinguishing features when compared to the ANE creation accounts. For instance, although the ANE chaos is a mark of disorder or a representation of evil, God makes it into a good creation. Genesis distinguishes God’s creation from ANE ideas in distinguishing that man and woman were made the image of God, not merely the kings of the nations. At the same time, the concept of ANE ideas being included in Genesis becomes an attack vector against young earth theology.

Conservative biblical theology goes farther than broader evangelical scholarship and demands that there is basically a complete distinction between pagan religious thought and God’s acts in creation. The polytheism of the ANE could not be more distinct from the monotheism presented to the Jews in the Torah. The universe is not a suitable temple for the infinite God, for neither earth nor all the heavens can contain him, much less a small building in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 8:27). The Scriptures present the earth as a dwelling place for mankind under his stewardship, not as a dwelling place for God. God did not initially create chaos and have to re-fashion it into something useful. On the young earth accounting of the matter, everything was well under control throughout the creation week and nothing was chaotic.

Another manner in which the doctrine of a literal Adam is attacked is through evolutionary science, particularly through the field of anthropology. I have addressed the impossibility of this under the headings of the young age of the earth and the supernatural method of creation. Young earth creationism leaves no room for evolutionary process, whether naturalistic or punctuated by special creative acts of God. The earth is so young relative to the supposed geologic ages that evolution cannot be the explanation for how humanity was created.

Scriptural Support

A plain reading of Genesis 1–3 along with the rest of the Bible makes clear that God presents Adam as a single individual and that the generic noun “man” became the personal name of the first man. Throughout chapter one and the first portion of chapter two of Genesis, the noun could be explained as a generic (the entire human race). But by the later half of chapter two and into chapter three, it is clear that the text presents Adam as a single individual who did activities consistent with a single person. He named animals, was put to sleep for surgery, named his wife, disobeyed God, hid himself from God, talked with God, wore clothing made by God, procreated with his wife to produce children, had a genealogy, lived to an advanced age, etc. It is most plain that we should understand this man to be the first man created by God and who is the father of the human race.

Moving ahead in the Hebrew Bible, the opening verses of 1 Chronicles assume Adam to be a literal man as the starting point of the genealogy. Any claim that this “point of singularity” must be treated as a special case is met with the response that the special case concerns a special creation by God, not that Adam was evolved or was actually one of many. A similar case can be made regarding the genealogy of Christ in Luke 3:38.

Jesus indicates support for this interpretation in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6. The gospel message in Acts 17:26 opens with a reference to God as creator and mankind sharing solidarity in one progenitor. Paul is clear in Romans 5:12–21 with his analogy between the one sin of one man Adam and the righteous act of another man, Jesus Christ. Adam is mentioned explicitly in Romans 5:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 he is explicitly called “the first man.” 1 Timothy 2:13–14 rests male church leadership on the creation account and on the literality of Adam. Jude remarks that Enoch was the seventh from Adam, obviously considering the genealogical information as literal truth.

Theological Importance

What is the importance of a single, real Adam? Briefly stated, it is a gospel issue. What I mean is that there is a connection from every human back to Adam, a connection through which each human receives the imputation of Adam’s sin and the inheritance of the sin nature. Without these truths, there is no need for the gospel. Also, without the single, literal pair Adam and Eve, other parts of the Scripture central to the gospel are falsified, most especially Romans 5:12–21. Furthermore, if there were several “Adams” that arose out of a pre-human race through evolution, Christ would have a racial or organic connection with only one of them. He would not be part of the other “races” and thus could not be a savior for them. The whole gospel is gutted in such a scenario.

Notes

21 Travis Freeman, “Do the Genesis 5 and 11 Genealogies Contain Gaps?” in Coming to Grips with Genesis, ed. Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), 283–313.

22 I do not believe that stating some facts about these genealogies entails a violation of the Scriptural prohibition about contentions over genealogies (1 Tim 1:4 and Titus 3:9). The genealogies to which Paul referred were probably mythical accounts not rooted at all in Scripture.

23 Wilberforce Fellowship Video of Tremper Longman III, “Is There a Historical Adam?” September 12, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8Pk1vXL1WE, accessed April 9, 2016.

24 These three characteristics are mentioned in the article by Joseph Lam, “The Biblical Creation in its Ancient Near Eastern Context,” https://biologos.org/uploads/projects/lam_scholarly_essay.pdf, accessed April 9, 2016.

Matthew Postiff bio


Dr. Postiff has served as Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church since 2006. He holds a PhD in computer engineering from University of Michigan and ran an engineering consulting firm specializing in design and simulation of computer microprocessors. He earned his ThM from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010.

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