EFCA Theology Pre-Conference Part 1

This past week I had the privilege of attending the 2012 EFCA Theology Conference at Trinity in Deerfield, IL. Dr. Bob Yarbrough and Dr. D.A. Carson were the speakers for the topic of ‘Understanding the Complimentarian Position.’ It was a very helpful conference and took a look at what the Bible says about gender roles and how that affects us today. Over the next couple weeks (if I can get it done) I’ll be putting up some summaries from the different sessions up here.

The first pre-conference session was about the “hot topic” of the historicity of Adam and Eve. This presentation was given by my “dear old dad” Greg Strand and Hans Madueme.

The purpose of this preconference was to discuss this debate with the issues of inerrancy and the authority of the Word of God. The goal was to not become minimalists or maximalists, but instead major on the majors and minor on the minors. In light of that, how are we to think about the historical Adam and Eve, as under attack from the modern liberal views of them being a group of people?

At the core of this denial of Adam’s historicity were listed 3 groups or individuals: Francis Collins, BioLogos, and Peter Enns.

Francis Collins was a part of the Human Genome Project and has written a couple books about science and God, specifically in relation to creation. In his first book The Language of God, he claims that humans emerged from primates about 100,000 years ago, and in his later book The Language of Science and Faith, says that Adam and Ever “do not fit the evidence” that science has presented.

BioLogos was launched in 2007 by Francis Collins, the “atheist turned Christian” to promote theistic evolution. Many people look to BioLogos as the authority in this scientific discussion, and while there are many good Christian scientist who are a part of this organization, we need to be careful of their theological view.

BioLogos group does affirm that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. They have not yet adopted a statement of faith, but affirm 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 and the ancient creeds of the early church. While those are good and necessary to affirm, they aren’t the only things that need to be affirmed. The Bible as a whole is God’s inspired Word given to us. There is no realm that isn’t affected by Scripture. Many people at BioLogos are seeking to make the Bible fit into their science instead of seeing how science ultimately points us to Christ (Romans 1).

The final person that was addressed was Peter Enns who wrote Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. In this, Enns suggests that we read the Bible incarnationally. We must avoid the error of Docetism (that Christ only appeared to be human). The final conclusion he comes to is that because the Bible was written by humans, we must accept errors because of their ignorance, i.e. the biblical writers weren’t as scientifically advanced as us and therefore wouldn’t have written what they did if they knew the whole story. He therefore suggests that Adam is not the beginning of humanity, but the beginning of the nation of Israel. This leads him to say that a strictly literal reading of the Adam story no longer fits with what we know from secular science.

It seems that at the root of the previous 3 arguments is the questioning of the validity and authority of Scripture. This is exactly why point 3 of the new EFCA Statement of Faith states “We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan.” For more information about the EFCA’s position on these issues, see Evangelical Convictions, pages 34-35 and75-77.

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  1. Larae

     /  January 24, 2012

    Thanks for taking the time to share this. I enjoyed the summaries and tought they were very informative. I look forward to hearig more. I would be interested in knowing what books you would reccommend reading to help a person combat intelligently and in practical terms the assertion that Adam & Eve weren’t historical people.

    • Thanks for your comment! We were actually given a bibliography at the conference of some helpful books and journals to answer these questions which included: ‘Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?’ by Denis Alexander, ‘Darwin, Creation and the Fall: Theological Challenges’ by R.J. Berry and T.A. Noble, ‘Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care’ C. John Collins. If you want the full list of resources, let me know, I’d be happy to share them with you!

  2. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    These are interesting times for the EFCA – as far as I know, this is the first time where the denomination has specified that its members MUST deny a certain aspect of science in order to remain within confessional orthodoxy. What happens if the evidence that we come from a population, and not one couple, continues to accumulate? The evidence is pretty strong already, and I was disappointed that the pre-conference sessions did not even try to address that evidence. You may not like Biologos or Collins, etc, but they are trying to work out what Christian faith looks in light of what we know about our origins now.

    • The denomination isn’t saying its members must deny certains aspects of science, it’s saying that we need to treat the Bible as the ultimate authority instad of science. As Hans said, there are a few different evangelical views that are acceptable, according to the Bible, and one of those is that Adam and Eve came from a group. The key is that God created Adam and Eve. That’s what the Bible says.

  3. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Hey, thanks for engaging with my comments!

    I’ve listened to the lecture by Dr. Strand and I’ve read the section of Evangelical Convictions that deals with Adam and Eve. Both assert that the EFCA position is that Adam and Eve are the only progenitors of the entire human race. If you accept that position, and Dr. Strand says it’s an essential that one does, then you’re going against what the science says. That’s telling people they have to deny that conclusion of science, for theological reasons, isn’t it? Or am I reading / hearing Dr. Strand incorrectly?

  4. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Seriously? Al Mohler and Kevin DeYoung aren’t scientists, much less geneticists!

    So, if we don’t all descend from a couple, the Gospel is lost? That seems a little extreme.

    • Why do the scientists have to trump the theologians here? Both Kevin and Al are VERY intelligent people who have thought through this issue in great depth. Kevin’s blog even has some great books to read on this very issue. Again, what science are you referring to that says Adam and Eve did come from a group of people instead of being created? Romans 5, which is the message of the Gospel, says that there was only a need for Christ because of the sin of one man, not the sin of a group.

  5. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Do you really think that science and faith a in a conflict where one can “trump” the other? I thought God was the author of the material world and the author of Scripture.

    I hope posting links works. This is written by two christian geneticists, and they (attempt) to explain this complex area of science to laypeople:


    • That’s exactly my point though, they aren’t in conflict to each other. But what do we KNOW as the true, inspired Word of God, the Bible, or science? Ultimately, it takes faith in either one of these options because none of us were there at the beginning (besides God). This is where I agree with what was said before, that we need more discussion between theologians and scientists.

  6. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    or, if you want the more scholarly version, see here:

    Click to access pscf9-10venema.pdf

  7. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Science isn’t a faith-based enterprise. It is philosophically grounded in the idea that the universe is rational, yes, but folks of any faith, or no faith at all, can practice science equally since it is an even playing field where only evidence accessible to testing is fair game.

    I’m glad to hear you want more dialogue – so do I. I don’t want to have to deny science to be part of the EFCA. Maybe you could read those sources (above) and let me know what you think?

    • I did read the sources above, but am still not sure where you get that this is the only view of science. There are many other scientists who do believe in a historical Adam and Eve. There’s a list of many resources here:

      Click to access Adam___Eve_bibliography.pdf

      There is no need to reject science to be a part of the ECFA, although I am just a pastor in the denomination, not an authority on this issue or speaking on behalf of the denomination.

  8. MJA

     /  February 8, 2012

    Maybe I’m not being clear enough – the EFCA is asking us, as members, to reject *mainstream* science on this issue in favor of its own theologically-preferred view. These “alternative” views of science proffered by non-specialists might be convincing to laypersons, but not to professional scientists who know the data.

    The only biologists / geneticists I see on that reading list are Denis Alexander, Darrel Falk, Dennis Venema and Francis Collins, but they’re not helping your case! They all accept the mainstream, consensus view of biology that humans (a) share common ancestors with other life (i.e. we evolved), and (b) that we evolved as a population, which the EFCA explicitly says its members cannot accept!

  9. MJA

     /  February 18, 2012

    So, are we agreed that the EFCA is asking its members to deny mainstream genetic science as an essential part of our statement of faith? That’s what it seems like to me.

    • The Statement of Faith leaves it open to a little bit of interpretation. The key as laid out in the statement of faith is that there was 2 people chosen by God, Adam and Eve. This is something to talk to your pastor about in your local body.

  10. MJA

     /  March 2, 2012

    Thanks for your answer, I appreciate it. I will ask my local leadership – but aren’t they going to look to Evangelical Convictions for help? That’s what Dr. Strand says to do in the conference recordings. I agree the SOF leaves (just a bit) of wiggle room, but Evangelical Convictions doesn’t – it says we all have to descend from one couple. Is Evangelical Convictions then just an opinion, or are its views binding on the EFCA? Now I’m genuinely curious! Will the EFCA release a statement on how to navigate this issue for local churches?

    • There is intentionally some parameters, some wiggle room, but the denomination also says “this far and no farther.” Any contemporary confessional statement does that. Regardless of any wish, some in BioLogos are beyond the acceptable parameter. Peter Enns, for example, is beyond as he denies any historical Adam and Eve. That does not mean he is not a Christian. But as a confessional denomination, we have stood underneath Scripture and with the history of the church in our doctrinal statement. The reason one can safely refer to The Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed (as BioLogos does) is because neither one addresses contemporary issues. We can agree with one or both of those statements and still be heretical on some other matter. Though they are necessary, they are not sufficient. As stated, they did not address the historicity of Adam and Eve because they did not have to! It was the accepted biblical teaching of the church!
      Evangelical Convictions says:

      “There are legitimate differences of opinion about how one understands the nature of the language used in the early chapters of Genesis to describe the actions of God in the world. However, our Statement affirms that Adam and Eve were historical figures16 in the following sense: 1) From these two all other human beings are descended (Acts 17:26).17 2) These two were the first creatures created in God’s image such that they were accountable to God as responsible moral agents. And 3) these two rebelled against God, affecting all their progeny.18

      “What is essential to the biblical story-line is that the problem with the world is not ontological-that is, it is not a result of the material nature of creation itself nor is sin an essential part of our humanity.19 The problem is moral. The first human beings from the very beginning, in a distinct act of rebellion, chose to turn away from God, and this act not only affected all humanity (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), but creation itself (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). This leads us from considering the dignity of humanity to acknowledging our depravity.

      “16 The historical reality of Adam and Eve has been the traditional position of the church (so Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine, Calvin) and is supported elsewhere in Scripture. Particularly, Paul compares the “one man” Adam with both Moses and Jesus (cf. Rom. 5:12, 15-19; 1 Cor. 15:20-22). In addition, Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam (Luke 3:23-37; cf. also 1 Chron. 1).
      17 We take no position on the manner in which the human soul is passed on, either by natural heredity (“traducianism”) or by a unique work of God in each life (“creationism”).
      18 Consequently, no human beings existed prior to these two, and, consequently, no human beings were sinless and without the need of a Savior.
      19 This also gives us hope that human beings can be redeemed from sin.”
      (Taken from Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, Article 3, B. The Significance of Adam and Eve, 76-77)

      As I mentioned before, I can’t speak on behalf of the denomination, I’m just a pastor in the denomination, but one of the things I most appreciate about the denomination is the ability for churches to to have some differing opinions on non-essentials of the faith. The statement of faith is what every church and pastor who is ordained has to agree to in order to remain in the denomination. Hopefully this is helpful for you and your local church body as you wrestle with this issue. Blessings upon your further research.

  11. MJA

     /  March 5, 2012

    I want to express my thanks for your being willing to discuss these issues. I hope you don’t feel like I’m badgering you. I’m truly trying to sort this out – what does the EFCA allow? Not allow? Here, for me, is the sticking point, as you quoted from the longer section from Evangelical Convictions:

    However, our Statement affirms that Adam and Eve were historical figures16 in the following sense: 1) From these two all other human beings are descended (Acts 17:26).17

    That’s the problem. It’s not about the historicity of Adam and Eve, it’s that I no longer accept the affirmation that all humans descend biologically from one couple. I agree with mainstream science on this point – we came from a population. There are some ways to have a literal Adam and Eve as part of a population (C. John Collins’ book is one such approach), and Tim Keller’s approach is another one that is even discussed in the audio from the meeting, but it’s left as an open question if he’s “in or out” from the perspective of the EFCA. But I need to know if he’s in or out, because I’m in the same boat! If Evangelical Convictions is the final word, then it appears I’m out (and so is Tim Keller, not that he’s part of our denomination, but you know what I mean).

    Can’t you ask your father to clarify this for the denomination as a whole? Is holding to biological monogenesis an essential for being in the EFCA? Is Evangelical Convictions the final word? If it is, I probably have to look for another denomination. Help!

    • This question was one that was discussed at the conference at some point (it may have been over a meal thought, I’m not sure). They’ve purposefully left it somewhat ambiguous because they want the churches and Pastors to decide where exactly is “too far”. There are some key issues that need to be addressed in order to fit the theme of Scripture (i.e. Romans 5:12) but again it needs to be evaluated on an individual basis with your Pastor. Some people will agree with Tim Keller and not be able to stay within the EFCA and others will agree and still be within the confines of the EFCA. I’m sorry I can’t outright say whether you’re “in” or “out” but I hope this is helpful.

  12. MJA

     /  March 9, 2012

    Again, thanks for the reply. It doesn’t really help, though, unless you can share what the criteria local pastors will use to determine if one is “in or out.” What if my local pastor didn’t attend the meeting? How can they get assistance on this issue?

    • I’m sorry that’s really all I can do to help. I hope and pray the discussion with your pastor is a blessing to you both!

  1. EFCA Theology Pre-Conference Part 2 « Pastor Mike's Musings

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