To the Assembly of the Peasantry (1525):
In sum, as soon as the Romans fell from a communal [i.e. republican] government to emperors, all their miseries began and remained among them until they became poor serfs, they whose power had previously ruled mightily over the world. I am showing all this here only because all the great lords usually pride themselves on their ancient, preeminent descent from Rome. Yes, they pride themselves on an ancient, heathen descent. And thy do not consider that we are all descended from God, and that nobody is a minute older in his lineage than anyone else, be he king or shepherd, etc. This [concern about descent] is only a poisonous puffing up of a clod of earth [from which Adam was created]. Adam is the father of us all, and we will all, certainly, in one part of us [i.e. the body], fall apart again into rotten pieces of earth. (The Radical Reformation, 114 [emphasis added])
The author of this anonymous tract was once thought to be Andreas Karlstadt, but now it is believed the thought is closer to the views of Thomas Müntzer. No one knows for sure who the author was but it comes out of the “Radical Reformation” and was addressed “To the Assembly of the Common Peasantry which has come together in revolt and insurrection in the high German nation and in many other places.” I highlight this paragraph as example of the Christian consensus in previous centuries, across the theological spectrum, that Adam was a real historical person from whom every person was physically descended.
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19 thoughts on “Anabaptists for a Historical Adam”

  1. WhiteStone says:

    Succinctly, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    Oooh, quoting an Anabaptist. You are certain to get a nasty note from someone for that.

  3. Nate Smith says:

    First, this quote does not demonstrate “the Christian consensus in previous centuries, across the theological spectrum.” Is this supposed to be read as an answer to McGrath, Enns, and others? If you want to make a point, you should engage their reasons for disagreeing with you, not simply restate the same problems. What you are doing here, Kevin, is simply obscurantist, even irresponsible. Can I cite the consensus of the church that the earth was flat and young or the solar system geocentric? Would you accept those views, too, on the basis of the church’s consensus on these matters?

  4. Sean Rice says:

    Hate to say it, Kevin, but Nate Smith has a point. You need to respond to Enns and McGrath statement for statement, and reading up on C. John Collins’ book on the subject (and responding to that) wouldn’t hurt either. The “Christian Consensus” argument is far below your well-rounded reasoning abilities.

  5. jeremiah says:

    While Muntzer supported the Anabaptist, he was not one. You can read the following if you wish.
    http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M858.html

    I find that most Reformed brother and sisters tend to write off the Anabaptist by referring to Muntzer, which is unfortunate. It is like writing off Christianity by referring to the crusades.

  6. Krister S says:

    Mr. DeYoung, I respect you from afar as a bright, committed Christ follower with a gift for communication and leadership. But is this kind of approach what we need as The Church of Christ? You are such an influential voice, especially for young people who need models for love. Models for And graciousness. And for Unity. There is too much division, not enough Love. Arguments in your recent form, although probably well intentioned, are divisive. The Church, for the sake of the Christ and his gospel, needs dialogue, deep and rich theological conversation that bridges divergent world views. It is unbecoming in my view to address this particular hermeneutical issue as you have in today’s appeal to an anonymous Anabaptist, and your recent 10 Reasons post. We all must at certain times “take a deep breath.” Step back. Be silent and listen. When we read a brother’s or sister’s divergent theology or hermeneutic – and perhaps feel that sensation in our stomachs that makes us want to fight or argue – don’t enter into disputations, but rather, choose Love. In this case, choose listening to those with whom you disagree. Those in leadership positions like yourself, and others in The Gospel Coalition, must choose loving and irenic dialogue, honoring diversity in the Body. Saying “no” to circling the wagons is what is needed. Say “yes” to Love and building up of the Church – in His Name and for His Glory.

  7. interesting perspective, but yet another flawed denomination in the history of man’s attempt to reach God…

  8. Tony Casados says:

    I’m just guessing here, but I doubt Pastor DeYoung intended this post to serve as a general defense to any alternative view on the historicity of Adam. Instead, I see it as a particular observation of a view that has held sway across denominational lines for two millenia. That belief has been particularly significant in the theology of the Church during that time. If anything this post illustrates the significance of departing from such a view and its potential consequences on historical theology. I don’t mean to say that we ought not to depart from such a belief if the evidence so compels us, only that to do so will require a major theological restatement. One of the concerns with much of the new theology I am seeing (be it Bell’s hell, Enns’ Adam, etc) isn’t the taking of such a position, but the taking of such a position in a theological vacuum, without considering its impact on theology proper. A systematic theology implies an interdependence and interrelatedness that demands a thoughtful and if necessary lengthy treatment to changes in the tributaries that form from the source if for no other reason to ensure that the tributary does not break off into an entirely different belief system.

  9. Nate Smith says:

    Tony, I’m not sure about Bell, but to suggest that Enns is somehow unconcerned or unaware of larger issues is to not understand what Enns has been writing for years. He is highly theological in his writing, which is one reason why theological gatekeepers have such concerns with him. If Enns had just done what other evangelical biblical scholars do–relegate theological discussions to footnotes–he wouldn’t be in anyone’s rader. It’s because he is theological aware and engaged, and is seeking different theological paradigms to deal with hermeneutical issues, that he gets the attention he does. Enns is a highly theological biblicist.

    I’d also disagree with your first comment. Read Kevin’s final intro sentence: “I highlight this paragraph as example of the Christian consensus in previous centuries, across the theological spectrum, that Adam was a real historical person from whom every person was physically descended.” He is clearly responding to criticisms.

    I do appreciate your comment, though, Tony. Very thoughtful and reflective.

  10. Tony Casados says:

    Nate,

    I did not mean to imply that Enns is not both thoughtful and comprehensive in his approach, though I can see in reading my comment how that could be construed. I only meant that if one accepts his premise on the historical Adam, it requires the same thoughtfulness and diligence that Enns has shown in developing it as part of a systematic theology since it impacts for example your view of inspiration.

    I can’t speak for certainty on on Pastor DeYoung’s motivation for this post, but I hope it was not intended to be any defense of the historical Adam. Typically, he is more thoughtful and comprehensive himself.

    Thank you for the comment.

  11. Steve says:

    I disagree entirely that the “Christian consensus” is somehow an invalid argument. It is naive to think that removing central planks of the historic Christian worldview will not have profound effects in other areas of theology. Most obviously, without a historical Adam you have a heck of a time explaining what we mean by “The Fall,” the loss of which doctrine would require a systemic reworking of Christian (at least Western) soteriology. If Pastor DeYoung’s point is that “across the Christian spectrum” theology has proceeded within certain parameters, and so the altering of those parameters would drastically impact not only the Reformed, but Lutherans, Anabaptists, Catholics, and even to a certain extent the Orthodox, then it is a point well taken. Throwing out the story the Church has told for two thousand years (from the apostle Paul on, whom even Ens agrees believed in a historical Adam) because of the latest theory among geneticists, which may or may not survive the decade, is rash, to say the least. Bravo Kevin DeYoung.

  12. Nate Smith says:

    Thanks, Tony. I definitely see your point more clearly now. Thanks for responding.

    Steve, have you read Enns’s book, or Denis Lamoureux’s “Evolutionary Creation,” or others in the evangelical orbit who have addressed these issues? This is what is very frustrating in this discussion: we keep going over the same arguments as if “what about the fall?” or “science and genetics are a fad” are sufficient counter-points. Also, I maintain that DeYoung’s theological spectrum is narrow and read through the filter of his conservative (I would even say fundamentalist) Reformed pre-commitment.

    I know too many people–real Christians–who are “on the ground” and have to give an account of either the scientific data or the biblical texts in context, and for them arguments like what we see here by DeYoung are maddening–especially for those who come from similar ecclesiastical settings who see the need for the discussion but are cut off because of this kind of attitude. Some people don’t have the luxury of making hail Mary “arguments” like this and walk away to write the next post.

  13. John says:

    Muntzer was a rank heretic whose pathetic theology was only outmatched by his foul mouth. He is certainly not one I would turn to for any kind of theological point (for the record, Muntzer’s theological anthropology was entirely against the historic Christian consensus; whatever he believed about Adam, he never got the theological point of original sin).

  14. Tim says:

    Wow just wow. Our seminaries need to do a much much better job.

  15. Loo says:

    He would also have thought the earth flat, the sun orbited the earth and the common cold was a deamon stuck inside a person (that is where saying “bless-you” when you sneeze comes from).

    Consider this, you have 2 bio parents, 4 bio grand-parents, 8 bio great grand-parents, then 16 then 32 then 64 then 128, and on and on. At some point way back in Africa you share some of those great grand-parents with everyone else, but a common ancestor does not equal a single couple we all descended from. It is obvious through our genes we didn’t all share the exact same ancestors in the past. Some may have shared Ugg and Bugha’s genes, other Lug and Dugha’s genes and all of us have Eve’s Mitochondrial DNA – so Ewugha is one of our “great-grandparents” – but she isn’t our only “great grandparent”, just on of many of our ancestors alive when she was (we probably have 3,000 “great- grandparents”) alive when Mitochondria Eve was.

    Muntzer’s wrong, you didn’t descend from one guy, but many and they aren’t the same as the ancestors your next door neighbour (unless he/she is you sibling) or the person in Fuji or the person in Cambodia descended from. People have unique combinations of genes from different ancestors. Don’t forget, a family tree only follows one branch of the genetic “you” back. For Example, I am related to Sir Issac Newton (great etc. Uncle) – but, that is only through my dad’s, mom’s, dad’s mother (my great-great grandma’s) line. I have 16 great-great grandparents. So, how related to someone else who also has Sir Issac Newton as an ancestral uncle? Not much. Plus, someone else could be another race than me and still share Issac as an ancestral uncle. They could have NO common DNA with me, since they inherited it from a combo of their other 15 great – great grandparents. We not only don’t have one common Mom and Dad, we also can be completely genetically different from others who we share a much more recent common ancestor.

    Don’t bother looking for the mythical sin gene. It doesn’t exist – it is a spiritual fall from God that occurred, and a spiritual revival from Jesus that will lift us back up. If not, why didn’t Eve and Adam die they day they disobeyed God? God said they would.

  16. Jason Squires says:

    And as you have failed to address, what is in the Bible can be historical without being literal. Of course most Christians thought of a literal Adam, it was before modern science! Is the world flat Kevin? Should we justify slavery with the Bible? You are, unfortunately, as much of a false teacher as you claim others to be. This is what happens when you take the focus of the Bible in places it wasn’t meant to go. The center should be how scripture relates to Christ, and then to how we can live into God’s purpose. It’s funny how you attack anyone who takes an interpretation of scripture that isn’t literal, even though you literalize scripture that was never meant to be taken that way. I hope you, and the others in T.G.C. will learn to criticize yourselves as much as you exclude and judge others. The fact that someone in the 15th century thinks a certain way without today’s info should not be surprising, and as such, does not add anything to the dialogue. If anyone wants more balanced perspective (neither liberal or fundamentalist), head to Jesus Creed.

  17. MJA says:

    Kevin, it’s not like you’d go to a doctor today and insist she only treat you using medicine from the 1500s. We know a lot more now than we did then, and yes, it was science that provided those answers. You seem to think there is one scientific method that produces these medical benefits, and another, completely different scientific method that produces threats to your theology.

  18. Loo says:

    Genetic fad? seriously, are you sure you aren’t the one being rash? See, It already lasted the decade, and three more before that – the 1970s was when population genetics showed us we were never down to one breeding pair. The evidence just keeps piling up, more evidence now then back then, but showing more strongly, we aren’t descended from one breeding pair (or one man, if you are going to try and marry Adam off with Lilith or some other wife) . Your decade argument is 40 years too late.

    Also, let’s do some math 2000 (years since Christ’s birth) minus 400 (Augustine’s Original Sin doesn’t show up till then) equals = 1600 years. Except, the church follows an older Christus Victor model of atonement (called Ransom Theory) up until the 1100s. Then, the Catholics only (not Eastern Orthodox) begin to adhere to the Satisfaction atonement theory, and not until the Reformation do we get Substitutionary Atonement theory. So what? Well, for one, Ransom and Christus Victor do not require an original sin/fall to make Jesus’ death significant (atonement theory). They see Christ as battling the Satanic forces and setting the captives free. Does it matter if Adam is real or not in this view? So, Adam has really only been essential to Reform Protestants for 400 years. A bit of a stretch here to make Adam so essential to all branches of the faith. Catholics will need to do some reworking – but they have it on their books, Lutherans might be in trouble too. Anabaptists, who are knowledgeable, will be fine. I don’t know enough about the Orthodox to comment.

  19. Ken Duncan says:

    While I’ve just become aware of this discussion, I was already aware of the views of people like Karl Giberson on the science side from reading and hearing him. I continue to be puzzled at the position of people like Enns. If you accept fully Evolution, and fully reject the existence of Adam and Eve, you have no Fall. God did not make us, so we are not in God’s image, if there is a god, nor can we be responsible to him. You have no sin. The world is fine the way it is because that’s just how it evolved. Since there’s no Fall or sin, there’s no need for a Savior, so Jesus is not a savior. Indeed, Enns says that Jesus himself was wrong about Adam (and marriage too, logically), and therefore, who knows how many other things Jesus was wrong about, like the meaning of his death. So what is the value of a “roll your own” version of Christianity that logically requires no Fall, no sin, and no need for a Savior? At least have the honesty to admit the facts and stop relying in any way on the Bible.

    In addition, if the facts of science require that there was no Adam or Eve, the facts of science also require that there are no non-material causes. So, we don’t have souls. We don’t have a spiritual problem because we are not spiritual beings. Jesus certainly could not have risen from the dead. That violates numerous scientific facts about causality, the nature of living and dead matter, and more. You cannot insist on accepting the facts of science but do special pleading for Jesus’ resurrection, without being in severe logical inconsistency. Based on science, there is nothing but the material world, and if evolution, as Enns, Giberson, and others see it is correct, there’s no reason to believe in any god at all and in fact, intellectual suicide to do so. Accepting the facts of science, including the fact that there is nothing else but the material world, and Enns’ view that Jesus was a product of his culture (so nothing he said is to be relied upon), Richard Dawkins has a better grasp of reality than Jesus did. I wish that Enns and company would acknowledge the massive implications of what they are proposing and declare the fact that we should accept science without question and therefore, to be intellectually honest, the Bible is good for nothing but pressing flowers. It’s ridiculous to deny the historical value of vast chunks of the Bible but consider it to teach something true. That model of myth cannot be defended in ANE literature (I’m still waiting for Enns to provide a text from Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria, Ugarit, or the like that provides any statement to the effect that their creation stories were intentional myths. This category is a modernist idea shoved on to the text in order to give the Bible value while denying core items in it.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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