The youth pastor responded with four main points and a request. First, he apprecited my concern and my prayers. Secondly, he agreed that rebellion remained the "real issue" with our relationship with our Creator... but I do not yet know for sure from where he thinks this rebellious nature comes.
He did not agree with the conclusion of the author from the Calvin Institute... namely, that if we lose a real Adam, we lose much of what we believe in the Christian faith. He basically says we can do away with the latter portion of Romans 5, and that we just need to focus on historical Jesus. He argued that Adam really isn't mentioned that much in the New Testament, so he must not be that important.
He also added that new discoveries that Archeology has uncovered in Ancient Near East literature has helped us "rethink/reread some of the texts with greater understanding."
Lastly, he wanted me to read a book by Kevin J. Vanhoozer on hermeneutics, which was written only recently, and he wanted me to "slow down the email interaction" because he didn't have time. My reply is below, which was only my 4th email in 31 days:
In my prayers this morning I was reminded to include this preface: Let me first confess that I am nothing but sin and weakness... in me dwells no good... and my best works are but sin. Grace, grace has been my experience and my cry, and I am "...a poor, feeble creature when faith is not in exercise." I rest on Jehovah's power and faithfulness... and if the Almighty grants me grace in this endeavor, I cannot fail.
Now... As to your first point... I care about you deeply because I consider you my brother in Christ. I'm also trusting you to help me teach and lead our daughters while we are here, so what it is exactly you affirm is of great concern to me.
Addressing your second point, I would ask you to consider anew why it is that all men are in fact rebellious? Where does this sinful nature come from? What does the Bible say? Why are we ALL rebels by nature? The answer to this largely determines how and what we preach.
On your response to the CI article, I am very disappointed in your disagreement. The Christian faith is in fact built around all of Scripture... "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)... Creation - Fall - Redemption - Consummation. The "Gospel" is the Scripture in its totality. Christ our Lord is of course the Cornerstone, the central figure, and we "...preach Christ and him crucified," but Jesus said of Scriptures, "...it is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39; see also Luke 1:45). So you cannot begin to speak of the historical Jesus Christ of Nazareth knowledgeably and accurately without considering Him in the context of all redemptive history. This history began in the Garden of Eden, and we know the "first gospel" was actually revealed in Genesis 3:15. Remove a real man named Adam and his sin, and you remove the beginning upon which the rest of redemptive history is built.
If you asked Luke, Jude, the Apostle Paul, and the Holy Spirit if they agree with me, I feel certain they would answer precisely with Romans 5:12-21.
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin... death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come... Jesus Christ..."
You can fill the gaps and read the rest again, and then take up your disagreement with God.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17), so I would be hesitant to call something (or someone) secondary just because you think it's not mentioned that often in the NT. The Apostle Paul dedicates the lengthy discourse above to Christ's work in relation to Adam (you can't ignore it), and the Letter to the Hebrews does in fact refer to the work of Christ in restoring the glory Adam forfeited. Christ was "...crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (see Hebrews 2:6-9), He fulfilled the image-bearing purposes of man, and enables God's elect to do the same. Could it be that little more is mentioned in the NT because historical Adam was never questioned by the faithful in the first century?
(Speaking of which, who do you think the first man was? Did he sin? If he did not sin, why did he die? If he did sin, what was the sin? If you do not know, I would suggest reading Genesis, because it seems clear that God has told us.)
If you choose to judge historical Adam, his sin, and thus man's actual fall as secondary, then that's your call. But I would suggest that if you deny Adam, you then deny the actual fall, you then deny the resulting depravity and helpless condition of all of Adam's posterity (being spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, "by nature children of wrath"), you then deny the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit, and you then preach a gospel contrary to the one Paul preached. And for anyone who does that, Paul says, "let him be accursed." Maybe you think a lost man needs some grace, but you don't quite understand what Newton rightly called "amazing grace." Taking away Adam doesn't take away Jesus... but it does take away one's fuller understanding of who Jesus was (see the errors of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.), and why He came... and especially why the virgin birth was a necessity!
"What should be unmistakable, however, is that defending or denying the historical Adam has a direct bearing on many areas of faith and practice. His person serves an integrating function in Christian theology. Far from being readily isolable from the rest of biblical doctrine or peripheral to a thoroughly Christian view of the world, Adam’s history and identity help us understand everything from creation to the consummation.” - Philip G. Ryken, Four Views on the Historical Adam
This is a big deal. You may not agree with my (our) conclusions, but that doesn't mean they're not true. "My conscience is captive to the Word of God."
In regards to studying hermeneutics, I think I'll pass on your book proposal. I read the preface and first chapter of the book, and I confess that I found his writing style laborious to follow with little reward. He seemed to say much while actually saying little. It's probably because I'm not really an "academic," and you may get some good stuff from his work.
I really do like to study Scripture and read theological works though, especially the Puritans (tried and trusted). As an aside... contrary to our pastor's most recent sermon which concerned this subject... I would assert that the only way to our hearts is through our minds, for we are commanded to "be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind" (Romans 12:2), and also to love God with all our mind. We are indeed thinkers first. Knowledge can puff up... but I don't believe that's the pressing problem in churches today, as this discussion evidences. To reuse his stick figure analogy, I'd say the problem is that most of us have stick heads and fat bodies instead of the other way around. All Christians are theologians... not in a technical sense... but we must know God to love Him. We must know His Word to believe truth and live lives pleasing to Him for His glory. And if a good theological book doesn't change the heart, then either it is not good or we are not "reading it rightly," seeking the Holy Spirit to imprint truths on our hearts to change us. Of course, other literary works can be powerful as well to convey truth. We must, however, have discernment that comes from knowing God and His Word.
But I've studied and read a book or two on hermeneutics already, and I particularly enjoyed R.C. Sproul's simple book titled "Knowing Scripture." I would commend it to you. And it's interesting... I actually started taking online courses through Ligonier Connect over a week ago, and the course I began with was "Principles of Biblical Interpretation." But here are some of the basic rules he teaches and that I ascribe to, just so you'll know where we stand:
1. Scripture interprets Scripture (the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things... interpret the difficult with the clearer... interpret implicit in light of the explicit)
2. Truth is not contradictory.
3. We accept the "Principle of Perspicuity".
4. There is only one correct interpretation, but many applications.
5. It is necessary to distinguish between exegesis and eisegesis.
6. We use the "grammatico-historical method" of interpretation (the classical approach).
7. We agree with Luther, to seek the literal sense (sensus literalis) of Scripture (there is no "hidden or mysterious meaning in the text").
8. We must recognize the literary form(s) in which the Bible comes to us, which is not always easy. (But unbelief of the traditional meaning is not to be a reason for reinterpreting a passage to fit our beliefs.)
This last point is especially important to us. The Bible is redemptive HISTORY, and the "historical narratives" describe ACTUAL events that occurred. As Sproul points out (20 years ago), it is the historical aspect that is under attack today. Our faith ("the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints") is dependent upon these events having actually occurred. Characteristics of historical narratives are:
- A setting in time or real historical place
- A prose style
- The presence of genealogies
- No obvious moral teaching
Well, this letter turned out much longer than I intended, but it is my preferred method of communication. My wife often needs my presence at home, it's useful when I'm on the road, I can gather my thoughts, and also pray before I "speak." I didn't realize that my correspondence was too fast or too much... my apologies. But I would suggest that issues of faith and truth should take priority over a lot of other things in our lives. I hope you find this helpful.
I would be happy to meet with you for coffee again... I would love once a month, Lord willing... to discuss these issues, and others... and pray with one another, and for one another.
I really appreciate your devotion to the youth, and I admire your wonderful family and the stand you've taken on TV in the home. God's grace is evident. I am praying for your series on God's discipline of us. Exposit Scripture, and you can't go wrong. Paul says... The Holy Spirit says... "Preach the Word!" PREACH!!! I need it... we all do... and I am always...
Your Servant in Christ,
Marty L. Smith
Your Servant in Christ,
Marty L. Smith