Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Adam of Faith versus the Historical Adam

In recent decades, some theologians and skeptics have attempted to sharply divide Christ in two: the historical Christ and the Christ of faith. In a watered-down return to the fifth century heresy of Nestorianism, there is the Jesus of Nazareth as the human of history and Jesus the Son of God believed by faith. Two very distinct persons. In his recent books, however, Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of the deep connection between history and faith, saying that “the very essence of biblical faith [is] to be about real historical events. It does not tell stories symbolizing suprahistorical truths, but is based on history, history that took place here on this earth.”

But another history versus faith controversy has been brewing. This time about the existence of Adam, from whom the rest of humanity descends. Now beyond the debate over evolution, there are an increasing number of theologians who have thrown out the historicity of Adam (and the Devil) as a mere morality tale of ancient Hebrew myth. Both Adam and the Devil, however, are crucial figures for the basis of the faith, and the categorical denial of either Adam or the Devil enables one to evade the question of evil altogether. For if Adam and the Devil becomes a matter of myth then we can likewise place evil into the same mythic category with them since the chain of evil, if we could call it that, runs squarely back to them.

Both figures are so important as historical actors in the drama of salvation history that two particular popes within the last hundred years have spoken definitively of them. Leo XIII taught us to be on guard against the Devil through recourse in prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, who cast Satan and his minions out of Heaven. Until the 1960s, every Catholic recited this prayer together before leaving Mass. The other pope was Pius XII, who, in an encyclical called Humani Generis, definitively rejected a notion called polygenism which states that:

…after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
The current most controversy over polygenism has surfaced over at Dave Armstrong’s blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. Mr. Armstrong’s blog is a wonderful resource for any Catholic seeking to learn how to defend the Faith from Scripture so be sure to check it out. This particular issue of polygenism, however, concerns Fr. Robert Barron of Catholicism fame (see my previous post). According to Fr. Barron’s video weblog, Adam is not to be read literally. In Fr. Baron’s words: “We're not talking about a literal figure. We're talking in theological poetry.” This kind of language has lead to a large debate on facebook, but the full article from Mr. Armstrong on the matter can be read here.

Fr. Baron has yet to reply in any capacity.

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