One of the major issues facing the church today is the debate over the creation of the universe. Much of this conflict centers around whether or not the earth was created by God in a span of six days less than ten thousand years ago. Sometimes this discussion focuses on the existence of a real, historical figure named Adam who was the first human being and the paternal ancestor of all other humans.
In order to be saved does someone have to believe Adam existed? This is no trivial question. The existence of Adam has a direct relation to the story of creation and is applied to key teachings about salvation. Believing in the existence of a historical Adam is not in the same category as believing Gideon led 300 Israelites in successful battle against 135,000 Midianites.
The Bible does not teach that a positive confession of six day creationism or the existence of a historical Adam is necessary for a person to be saved. One can be saved without having given great thought to the genuineness of the existence of Adam.
What about one who denies the existence of a historical Adam? The one who believes God used evolution to create all things is not necessarily excluded from salvation. One may believe Adam is an allegorical character used in the Bible to teach of the awfulness of sin. One may believe that Adam and Eve were the first hominids to be given a soul. One may believe Adam is pure myth and still be saved. However, major theological problems arise when a person denies the existence of a literal Adam and a literal, recent creation.
Romans 5 says that “by one man that sin entered into the world.” The Bible traces the guilt of humanity back to Adam. Because of Adam’s sin all humanity is condemned in sin. If Adam did not exist as described in Genesis the entrance of sin into the world has no explanation. The common sinfulness of all mankind has no basis. If Adam is not a real, historical figure the Biblical truth of sin is undermined.
Adam is a picture of Jesus. (Romans 5:14) Adam pictures Jesus in this way: he acted as the representative for all humanity. In 1 Corinthians 15 the saving work of Jesus is shown to be directly related to the condemning deed of Adam. Just as by Adam’s sin were all men made sinners and brought under the consequences of sin so by Jesus’ death and resurrection all those in Christ are made righteous and given life. If all men were not actually in Adam then the death and resurrection of Jesus is insufficient to redeem all men.
Jesus is the last Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45) Like the first Adam Jesus stands in the place of all humanity. He is able to be mankind’s substitute who suffers the punishment of sin in place of men because He is the physical descendant of Adam and shares the same humanity as all mankind. If there is no literal Adam the doctrines of man’s sin and Jesus’ substitutionary atonement are compromised.
The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.
Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term races is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a wide variety of variations, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. These groups, though each possesses clearly defined features, are all comprised of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family who descended from the same parents.
If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a very clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major races of the world today. That answer is found in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been described as the table of nations because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world. Genesis 11 is the account of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. That punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to the settle in lands all across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 seem to mark the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced produced people groups who developed their own culture and nations. The combinations of these events caused the formation of the ethnicities we see today.