THE THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF ADAM
Thesis Statement: Christian recognition of Adam as the first parent plays a significant theological role in advancing the relevance of Christianity
Unlike politics which can change its face to reflect the socio-economic aspects of the day, religion is required to sustain a steadfast ideological stance in all circumstances. Perhaps this is due to the phenomenological differences of the two institutions: while politics is oftentimes shaped by the aspirations of a people, religion, on the contrary, is the agent that shapes people’s attitudes, beliefs and customs. As it were, religion is an inherent aspect of social life that is imbedded into a society’s culture, thereby making it a permanent entity in people’s lives.
However, the acceptance of a religion is determined by the appeal of its doctrines. Its survival is dependant on how relevant it renders itself in explaining different phenomena that affect people’s lives. It is on this aspect of attaining relevance that the significance of ideology and doctrine come into play in an attempt to promote religious agenda. In the face of opposing advances formulated by science to explain the nature of different phenomena, religion’s counter-responses have largely been a reference to divine powers as the designer of the universe and the forces that control it.
In this regard, nothing has been more controversial than the question on the nature and origin of human existence. Scientific speculations and research studies tend to appeal to the scholarly mind, given the fact that the conclusions which a scientific approach makes are backed up by evidential premises, most of which are observable and verifiable. Of remarkable influence is the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, which postulates that humanity owes its existence to a gradual evolutionary process extending over several centuries. On the other hand, the Creationist approach contends that human existence is linked to a divine source, which authored the universe through creation. The effect of these two contradictory approaches is the emergency of various discourses that compete to overdo each other in explaining the origin of life in the universe, and by extension, the destiny of man. So controversial is the issue such that even within religion itself there exists rivalry explanations on the origin and destiny of human existence. Christianity, in particular, is pitied against intra-religion conflict, especially from Islam on the question of man’s salvation through the advent of Jesus Christ, whom it (Islam) dismisses as an imposter, but more controversially, as a mere mortal who deceived the world into worshiping him.
The impact of this scientific and inter-religious opposition to Christianity is the emergence of philosophical arguments in support of Christian dogma. Theology in particular, as a subset of the philosophy of religion, endeavors to promote the relevance and authority of Christianity in the face of diverse ideological oppositions. Needless to say, however, most theological propositions in support of Christianity are based on mythical reference to divine and historical figures as the entities that mark the beginning of human existence. Accordingly, the research paper examines the significance of Adam in informing theological discourse in relation to the origin and destiny of human existence. The paper advances the argument that the Christian recognition of Adam as the first parent plays a significant theological role in advancing the relevance of Christianity.
The Theory of Creation
The significance of Adam in theology is pinned on his assumed divine origin. The idea is that Adam was created by a divine being eliminates the prospects of questioning the truth of the argument, since divine powers are deemed to be beyond human speculation. Regardless, science tends to undermine Christian teachings on human existence, by the seeming lack of the cause-effect trend in the creation story. The common opposition is that if Adam was caused by God as postulated by the creation story in the book of Genesis chapters 1-3, then, in accordance with the laws of nature, there must be something else that caused God. it begs the question, “who created God before He was able to create Adam?” This approach exposes holes in the creation story, since it fails to account for the prior existence of the universe and its Creator. In fact, it stops at the first day of creation, failing to go beyond and explain how God came into being. It has been suggested that a creationist is like a traveler who boarded a vehicle, and upon reaching his destination, never concerned himself with the journey ahead. Likewise, upon reaching its goal of explaining the origin of human existence, the creation theory stops at the feet of an unexplained divine creator. In other words, the creation story is dismissed by scientists as incomplete for its failure to account for the origin of God.
On the other hand, science claims to put every piece of the puzzle into place through the cause-effect approach, which stipulates that the universe came into being by accident, and is since then controlled by self-moderating forces, namely the laws of nature. Thus, since neither Adam nor his creator is a consequence of the laws of nature, then the validity of the Adam’s existence is questionable, since the supposed creator could not be substantiated either. By casting doubt on the prior existence of God, Adam’s creation is doubted as well. In the long run of the debate on the origin and destiny of human life, the Christian belief in divine origin is shaken, thereby making even Christianity itself sound like a work of fiction, since the ideologies upon which it operates are seemingly wild theorizations. Consequently, to make Christianity a relevant and credible institution, it is paramount to promote the Adam myth, since its acceptance presupposes the recognition and acceptance of a divine Creator. In this sense, therefore, it can be argued that the significance of Adam in theological discourse is its indirect justification of the existence of God. If ever there was a created Adam, then the Creator must have equally been as real as His creation. On the other hand, if Adam did not exist, then the alleged creator is a myth as well.
Nonetheless, the creation story of Genesis identifies God as the uncaused cause of everything in the universe. The opening passage simply states that “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth the earth.” This statement does not raise questions on the prior existence of God, but rather assumes that He previously existed. In a similar pattern, the gospel of John asserts God’s existence prior to creation, by stating that “In the beginning there was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …….. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The assertion by John eliminates any doubt about the divine origin of human existence, by pointing all creation to God. By extension, it places Adam in the center of God’s creation, thereby identifying him as the first parent of mankind, which in turn supports the Christian version of human existence. Adam’s theological significance, in this regard, is the placement of the universe in a divine origin, which counters the natural law and Darwinian accounts that identifies the universe’s chaotic nature as prove of its origin under natural laws. It particularly identifies the Biblical narration that the earth was originally without shape and form as evidence to the work of nature, since nature sometimes defies logical design. The involvement of a supreme being in the creation story makes it immune from logical arguments, which otherwise makes it unconvincing.
The story of Cain and Abel, Adam’s first descendants, presents a significant challenge to the Biblical account of the origin of human existence. It is narrated that after killing his brother out of jealousy, Cain was cursed and made to wonder into far lands. The twist of any harmony present in the claim of Adam as the first parent is the contention that Cain married while away and founded his own generation. This is inconsistent with the belief that Adam was the first man, and therefore it is not conceivable that Cain would have found a wife in the land he went to. This is because he was Adam’s first child, and there were no potential partner to marry, unless they were his sisters, which of course is not documented in the creation story. Otherwise, this could mean that there were other human before Adam, from whom Cain got his wife. It is at this point that theology comes in to re-examine the Adam version of mankind’s origin, and contend with the visible inconsistencies in the creation story of Genesis . The threat that Christianity faces is its survival if it is proved that the creation story is nothing more than a mythical rumor.
In theology, the person of Adam is employed to assign humanity an unquestionable source, which in turn could work for the benefit of Christianity. Adam’s significance in this debate is to serve as a reference point in Christianity’s quest to identify a ground upon which to make its argument about the origin and destiny of mankind. Without Adam, theological discourses in support of Christianity will fail, since they would lack a firm foundation. As noted before, Adam’s importance in the grand scheme of things is to justify the existence of God, and therefore add substance to the Christian beliefs and doctrines. Every phenomenon must have a background, and Adam in this case serves as the background of Christianity. There is always some beginning of things: Adam is the Christian believer’s earliest reference point, and therefore the foundation of what Christendom teaches and believes. As the Catholic Insight points out, “If Adam and Eve never existed, then Christianity is nothing more than a fable, useful perhaps for little children but to be rejected by adults.”
The Darwinian account of the origin of living things presents another antagonistic view to the Christian belief in divine source. In his book, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin argues that life on earth began from low forms of organisms, which evolved into complex life forms over extended periods of time. The creation theory identifies man as a complete being from the start of life. On the contrary, the evolution approach presents man in different stages of metamorphosis, implying that man never existed as a complete being at once. The absence of divine intervention in Darwin’s evolution suggests that the universe is an independent entity operating under independent laws. This further suggests that there is no definite origin of life, but several possibilities that merge in the process of evolution. Christianity, however, does not operate on speculative claims, but rather on held convictions and beliefs. In this regard, Adam provides a definite reference point of origin, which is significant in strengthening Christian beliefs. Thus, as it turns out in theological discourses, Adam is a form of evidence to formulate arguments in favor of the Christian’s need to belief by faith as opposed to scientific-oriented evidence and reasons, since faith believing in the absence of reasons . He signifies the origin of life, thus presupposing a divine creator and effectively, justifies the recognition and reverence of a divine being (God) in Christianity.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to Christian theology posed by Darwinism is the claim of a common ancestry to all living things, including man. By tying human origin together with other living things, evolution theory undermines the uniqueness of man as the handiwork of God. The evolved species of man is inferior to the created Adam, which sets humanity apart from other creatures. Darwinism further lowers the status of man by linking his existence to low forms of life that existed many years ago, suggesting that man may have existed before creation, but in a different form . This gives the impression that God’s creation was a continuation of the evolutionary process that resulted in a complete man . Moreover, this perspective implies that the earth existed before day one of creation, suggesting the eternity of matter and effectively, rejecting the view that God created everything . The significance of Adam in theology, therefore, is to assert the dignity of man and his elevated position in relation to the rest of the universe. The biblical account states that Adam was molded by God’s own hands, and not a result of His verbal command that created the earth and other living things. This suggests a close tie or relationship between man and God, which in turn validates the reverence shown by man to his creator. The need to pay homage to God as practiced in Christianity finds relevance in the intimate relationship between man and God that is evident in the creation story of Adam. The evolved man, on the other hand, has no relationship to a divine being, hence is under no obligation to pay homage. In a sense, evolution denies the relevance of religion since its existence will be futile effort in the absence of a supreme creator. From a Darwinian point of view, a species that evolved through natural processes has no need of a religion that glorifies a non-existent divine entity. Further, the Darwinian claim about “survival for the fittest” suggests that nature, and not the hand of God is at work in determining the destinies of living things. Similarly, the idea that individual qualities are responsible for survival deny the benevolence and beneficence of God, and consequently makes the death of Christ irrelevant in Christianity’s understanding of salvation. But then, this is the kind of argument that theology seeks to refute, and in turn promote a worshipping culture.
However, to make a convincing argument towards this end, theology must not only find ground to dismiss the evolutionary perspective on human existence, but also present an alternative explanation that is in harmony with religious/Christian beliefs and teachings. Accordingly, the figure of Adam is significant in formulating a stance that emphasizes an intimate God-man relationship that warrants a sense of reverence from the latter. By determining that such a kind of relationship exist between man and God, theology exploits the creation of Adam to justify the place of Christianity in society. Without Adam, the assumed relationship will cease to exist, and by extension undermine the relevance of Christianity.
This notwithstanding, the supposed creation of Adam in the image of God underlies many theological perspectives on the debate about the nature of God. The notion of God as an alien and strange being is heightened by the mystery surrounding his nature, i.e. His awed omniscient-omnipresent qualities. However, Christianity’s teachings that God has a physical resemblance to man helps to demystify this notion and bring man into a clearer conception of His nature. This simplified understanding of God as man-like is founded on Adam, whom the creation account describes as the image of God. In the book of Genesis, it is written that “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This description about the creation of Adam contributes significantly to theological arguments that aim to define God’s nature.
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