Tremper Longman, Adam, and Teaching the Truth (2)

What a remarkable event the new birth is!  What a reversal, a triumph, an utter transformation!  I (I should say “we”), who am a continuing stain on God’s landscape (Rom. 3:10-18) – contributing nothing but a deepening of the stain (Matt. 6:11a)  – I have been born from above (1 Pet. 1:23)!  I have been cleansed and forgiven (Heb. 9:11-15)!  God has given me a new life and He has adopted me as His dear son (Rom. 8:15-17).  According to the Apostle Paul I have been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred… to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).  Jesus says I have eternal life, that I shall not come into judgment, but have actually “passed from death unto life” (Jn. 5:24).

The reason I believe these great truths is because I believe Jesus and those He appointed and inspired.  Jesus is the Truth (Jn. 14:6), and He comes from Him that is true (Jn. 7:28-29).  As the Truth He attests to Himself (Jn. 8:14, 16), and to know Him is to know the truth (Jn. 8:31-32).  Therefore, all that are of the truth hear His voice (Jn. 18:37c).  Jesus’ very character is “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).

Now for my point: When Jesus says that “in the beginning God made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4) He is referring to Adam and Eve in the Garden (cf. Gen. 2:18-24).  Jesus also refers to the murder of their son Abel in Luke 11:51.  When Paul, who received his teaching from the risen Jesus (Gal. 1:15-17),  gives a reason for not admitting women to the teaching office of the church he goes back to Adam and Eve (1 Tim. 2:12-14).  But why did they bother arguing along these lines if they knew their doctrines were resting on mythical foundations?  And what is Jude doing telling us about Enoch being “the seventh from Adam” (Jude 14) if he didn’t believe in Adam?  (Perhaps he didn’t believe in all the other historical data he refers to either!).

Now comes the magnificent phalanx of scholars, with (on this occasion) Tremper Longman at the head.  In the first part of this article I noted that Longman has gone one better (or worse) than those evangelicals who denied the literal six day creation, and even those who taught theistic evolution, by casting real doubt on the historicity of “a little historical Adam” as he rather contemptuously refers to him.  Is Longman calling Jesus a liar then?

“No no, not at all young man” comes the self-assured reply.  And then comes the inevitable spiel about Jesus accommodating His teaching to the beliefs of His auditors.  “After all, doesn’t God “stoop” when declaring Himself to our finite understandings?”

Yes, God stoops.  But then there is stooping and stooping.  God uses anthropomorphism and anthropopathism to describe Himself.  He is “as a mother” or “like a farmer” or ” a man of war,” etc.  That is one kind of stooping. But what Longman would have to recommend, if he is to remain within the perimeter of “Evangelicalism,” is another kind of stooping!  Jesus would be the purveyor of falsehoods.  He would be a contributor to darkness and ignorance, not the dispeller of it.  He would be a dealer in half-truths and outright error.  He whose word I have relied upon wholly would be a proven peddler in misinformation.  Imagine the unimaginable for a moment:

Longman’s Jesus:  “in the beginning when God created them male and female…”

Skeptic: “Excuse me…Sir…are you saying that God actually created a little historical Adam and Eve?”

Longman’s Jesus: “No, I’m just making a point about marriage.”

Skeptic: “Couldn’t your point be made without reinforcing the false notion that Genesis 1-3 is literal history?”

Longman’s Jesus: “The words I speak to you are true…everyone who is of the truth hears my words….I am the truth.”

Skeptic: “But you have just taught us something that is untrue.  It does not comport with historical reality.  If you do not believe in a little historical Adam in Genesis 1-3, am I to understand that you deny the fall?”

Longman’s Jesus: “Certainly not!  Man is a sinner.  Anyone can see that.”

Skeptic: “Really?  Then why don’t you just say that?  Why perpetuate a myth? Surely you realize these folks and many after them will try to construct a whole world and life view on the foundation of the opening chapters of Genesis?  It sounds to me like you are seeking to authorize your teaching by an illegitimate appeal to the ignorant beliefs of these poor people.  You are taking advantage of them!”

Conclusion

And so on it would go…

This is the Jesus scholars such as Tremper Longman would leave you with!  He just couldn’t cut it.  He would be a false Christ (Mk. 13:22); another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4 – n.b. verse 3!).  He would have no credibility!

This is the choice we are left with: Longman’s Conman Jesus or the Real Jesus – who can do nothing but speak the whole truth and dispel the darkness (Jn. 3:19-21).  Perhaps Longman hasn’t made the connection, but we should!  And we should have nothing to do with preaching a Jesus who traffics in what he believes is historical humbug and then proclaims Himself to be “the Truth!”  That is Longman’s Jesus even if he is unaware of it.  My Jesus is “the second man,” “the last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15:45-47).  He is worthy of every statement I began this piece with and more.  He is not like me!  He is not like Tremper Longman.  Jesus is “Him that is true” (1 Jn. 5:20), and that to the ultimate degree!

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5 comments

  1. I have not included Longman among the neo-orthodox, although there are some similarities in their positions on the opening chapters of the Bible. However, Longman does not (as far as I am aware) entertain a dialectical notion of time as “Historie” & “Geschichte” (e.g Barth). But I agree it would be easy to base a neo-orthodox system on Longman’s muddled interpretation.

  2. I too would admit that if one presses God dialectically, we end up with far too many contradictions and paradoxes. But sometimes we still must find ourselves pressed within this mystery. Thus Barth’s God of both mercy & judgment. Make no mistake, Karl Barth is a modern (so-called) Church Father! Not infallible certainly, but always honest and profound in and with the Text. And the Text is always the mystery of God triune!
    Fr. R.

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