Friday, December 14, 2018

Myth and image. . . or not. . .

When St. Paul said death reigned from the time of Adam (Romans 5:14), he was not speaking symbolically or even using images but spoke of Adam as historical figure and the fall as history.  Adam is not myth but person, the first person of God's creation, and not simply a archetype of the common man but the one man from whom all men have come.

There are all kinds of people who insist that you do not have to have a historical Adam to read Genesis or get its meaning.  I suppose that there is a bit of truth in this but it presumes an awful lie -- that God's Word is either unclear or downright deceptive.  While some may prefer to see Adam as mythological figure and to reduce Genesis largely to fable with a moral to the story, all over the Scriptures Adam is referenced clearly as an historical figure.  It may be interesting to talk about what Adam represents but it is surely more important to know who Adam was and how his story gives context for our world in which sin and death have become our default mode.  And it is not insignificant to see how the second Adam (Christ) references Adam as real figure and not simply myth or legend.

While the speculative might enjoy the question of whether or not we need an historical Adam, the reality is that we do have to wonder about it.  We know the Adam of history and the Adam whom the Scriptures know as a real man, the dust of the earth into which God breathed the breath of life.  We  may think that we are doing the skeptics among us a favor by dispensing with the need to buy into the historicity of Adam but we are doing nothing to help them meet the message that most certainly requires a bigger stretch of belief than the creation of a mythological creature from the mind of God.

I often wonder why it is so difficult to accept Adam as historical man and so easy to believe that Jesus is God in flesh who is come to suffer for the guilty, die for sinners, and rise to raise us to everlasting life.  Why, indeed?  The reality is that the historical Adam is far easier on the imagination that the prospect of sin so great no amount of noble intentions or good deeds can make a difference.  Adam presents far fewer problems to the skeptical mind than the mighty God over all the universe who inhabits the womb of a Virgin before ascending the throne of the cross only to bleed all over it.

The novel thought is to let the Word of the Lord stand and make no apologies for it.  The radical thing is not to explain away the rough edges of the kerygma but to confess its truth without complaint and trust that in the speaking the Spirit is at work to accomplish His purpose.  There is nothing more edgy than to hold to the truth of that Word in its literal and not simply its figurative sense and to insist that this Word has saving property for those who hear and believe.  So those who think they are rebels are being entirely predictable in their rebuke to the history they find so objectionable.  The only rebellion worth its salt is to believe the Word in what it says and, if you are ready for it, to believe that this Word actually delivers what it promises and does what it says.  That is the rebellion that has become my own personal cause and the one my church has adopted as its own.  But I thoroughly hope you will join us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are some "Cafeteria Christians" who pick and choose what to
believe in the Bible However, mature Christians who are Christ-
centered and Bible-based accept as truth everything written in
Holy Scriptures.