The Beginning of the Gospel

I posted a couple of weeks ago on the NPR story about the controversy within evangelicalism regarding Adam and Eve – A Search for Acceptance? In this story Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, provided a clear proponent of the position for both a young earth and a literal historical Adam and Eve. The soundbite in the interview provide little room for developed views or discussion and Dr. Mohler expanded on his views in a recent post on his blog: False Start? The Controversy Over Adam and Eve Heats Up. It isn’t my intent here to respond directly to his post – but I would like to put up some thoughts for consideration.

Dr. Mohler headlines his post with a picture of a bible open to Genesis and the synopsis:

The denial of an historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and the solitary first human pair severs the link between Adam and Christ which is so crucial to the Gospel

He concludes his post with the following statement:

If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.

I think he is dead-on right with his concluding statement, but not in his opening synopsis. If we do not know how the story begins then we do not know what the story means.

Does the story of the Gospel begin with Adam and Eve? If so how and why?

If not, then how does the story of the Gospel begin?

Here is my premise, the framework through which I consider all of these questions – a Christian understanding of  the Gospel, and of creation, does not begin with Genesis 1-3. It most certainly does not begin with Adam and Eve. A Christian understanding of creation and thus the story of the Gospel begins with John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5,14

And with Colossians 1

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:15-18

A Christian understanding of the Gospel begins with Jesus, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us and through whom all things are reconciled. The gospel according to Paul is centered on Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. Again we can turn to Paul – this time in 1 Cor. 15.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, … Whether then it was I or they [the other apostles], so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:13-4,11

As a theological and doctrinal question, the question of Adam is of secondary importance.  The link between all mankind, past present, and future, as sinners separated from God in need of reconciliation and Christ as the one who reconciles us to God is crucial. The link between Adam as a unique historical person and Christ is not crucial to the gospel. Many different views of Genesis 1-3 are consistent with mankind in broken relationship with God. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if we all agree here – I could be wrong, Jack Collins could be wrong, Pete Enns could be wrong, Al Mohler could be wrong.  Anyone of us could be dead wrong about the historicity of a man, Adam, and if we agree on Christ who died for our sins  and was raised on the third day as the central figure in the story of the gospel we are all still on the right track. I reject categorically the notion that having the right view of Adam (or any specific view of Adam) is a requirement for having the right view of Christ and his redeeming work in the world.

I think the question of Adam is important – and I will continue to post on the topic and explore the various facets of the question. I think the questions raised at the interface of science and the Christian faith, especially the questions raised by evolution are important. They are important for individual Christians struggling with the intellectual coherence of what they learn about the world from science and what they believe as Christians. They are important for evangelism in at least part of our secular society and this will be an increasingly important factor.

A false start to the story produces a false gospel. The start to the story is Christ who was in the beginning with God, who emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of man, who became flesh and dwelt among us. Frankly, I don’t think that the incarnation is a solution to a problem created by our original forefathers, whether two unique individuals created from the dust or a community who evolved into humans. I think that the incarnation was part of God’s plan from the beginning.

No doubt there are those reading here who disagree with some part of my statement, but this makes for good and enlightening conversation.

Where do you start the story of the gospel?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you have comments please visit The Beginning of the Gospel at Jesus Creed.

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