When I was a seminary student, we had the privilege of having Dr. Margaret Helder as a guest speaker. Having grown up in Edmonton, Dr. Helder was not a stranger to me. She had occasionally been a guest speaker at our Christian school in Alberta. However, on this particular occasion at the Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, I heard her say something that I couldn’t recall having heard before. I don’t remember if it was part of her original presentation or in reply to a question, but she pointed out that the so-called Big Bang and Genesis are incompatible. I don’t remember the exact reasons she gave as to why that was, but it sounded quite reasonable to me at the time and, since then, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind.
I thought about this again recently as I encountered a book which suggested that the Big Bang and Genesis are compatible. Gregory Koukl’s new book The Story of Reality is generally a recommended overview of the Christian worldview (a review will be appearing shortly on my blog Yinkahdinay). In chapter 7, Koukl is answering two objections to the Christian view of God as Creator. The second has to do with miracles. After all, creation is a miracle. He notes that all scientists “pretty much agree that the universe had a beginning.” That beginning was the Big Bang where “all things exploded into existence in a fraction of an instant.” Then he says this (page 51):
I know the Big Bang idea is controversial with some Christians, but I think that’s because they haven’t realized how well it fits the Story [the Christian worldview laid out in the Bible], which basically says the same thing.
So according to Koukl, the Big Bang fits with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Reading this gave me occasion to look a little more into this and refresh my memory as to why Dr. Helder had told a group of seminary students and professors otherwise.
I found this article on creation.com to be especially helpful: The Big Bang is not a Reason to Believe. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read the whole article, this chart about sums it up — each flash on this chart represents a conflict between the chronology of Genesis 1-2 and Big Bang cosmology:
Does the Big Bang really fit the story that well? Perhaps if you define “Big Bang” in some way that doesn’t reflect how it’s really being used in astrophysics. Maybe that’s what Koukl has done. Or perhaps if you insist that Genesis 1-2 don’t give us a chronologically accurate, historic account of the origins of the universe. Of course, that second option could find you up against Jesus Christ, who clearly taught that Adam and Eve were created at the beginning (Matthew 19:4). No, I still think that Dr. Helder was right. There’s no reconciling the Big Bang and God’s Word.
One of the reasons history is exciting is that you often find others who have dealt with similar questions to the ones you’re dealing with. No, they’re not usually identical questions, but they are sometimes similar. When it comes to these similar questions, it’s also interesting to compare the answers given in history to the answers we come up with today. Here at Creation Without Compromise we’re especially interested in the questions and answers that have to do with the relationship between science and Scripture.
Today’s venture into history takes us to the late 1700s. By and large Reformed theology had been devastated by philosophical influences associated with the Enlightenment. There were only a few holdouts who could be described as confessionally Reformed and orthodox. One of them was Bernhard De Moor (1709-1780).
After serving for several years as a pastor, De Moor took up a position as professor of theology at the University of Leiden. In this capacity, De Moor lectured at length on a textbook published by his teacher and friend Johannes à Marck. These lectures were later published in massive seven-volume set with the catchy title, Commentarius perpetuus in Johannis Marckii Compendium theologiae christianae didactico-elencticum. De Moor’s book is regarded as the high water-mark of Reformed orthodoxy. It was a comprehensive overview of Reformed theology as it stood at that time.
Dr. Steven Dilday has taken on the massive task of translating De Moor’s magnum opus into English. He has been making it freely available online here. He began in late 2012 and, at this moment, he is currently in chapter 2. This is obviously going to be a project that stretches over many years!
One of the topics dealt with in chapter 2 has to do with the relationship between science and Scripture. I would like to briefly survey what De Moor writes on this. Here we can observe a Reformed theologian from about 200 years ago dealing with questions similar to what we face today. If you’re interested in reading the English translation of Dr. Dilday for yourself, the topic begins at this blog post. But I think you will find my summary a little easier reading…
Broadly speaking, De Moor is dealing with Scripture in chapter 2. In section 21, he begins by noting that the Bible does have a primary subject: true religion. The Bible is mainly about “the right manner of coming to know and of worshipping/serving God for the salvation of man as sinner and the glory of God…” However, Scripture does also speak of other things related to this primary subject. These other things include natural, historical, and genealogical matters.
From there, section 22 of chapter 2 deals with the fact that Scripture speaks truly. De Moor insists that God’s Word speaks truly about all things, including natural things. This is directly connected to the fact that the One who inspired these writings is the Spirit of Truth.
Here one has to remember that De Moor is commenting or lecturing on a textbook of Johannes à Marck. De Moor mentions that à Marck points out an alternative hypothesis, namely that “Scripture in natural matters speaks according to the erroneous opinion of the common people.” The philosopher Baruch Spinoza advocated this position, and so did theologian Christoph Wittich. De Moor also notes that the English theologian Thomas Burnet took this position in regards to what Scripture says about creation and the Flood. Just prior to that, he also points out that this was the view of Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698), a Dutch theologian heavily influenced by Cartesian rationalism.
Now I want to pause here for a moment and mention something important about Bekker. Bekker argued the hypothesis mentioned by De Moor in relation to demons. Specifically, Bekker taught that the angels (including demons) are not real, but the good angels in Scripture merely speak metaphorically of God’s omnipotence. Bekker also taught the Eve was not tempted by a literal snake in the garden, nor was Christ literally tempted by Satan – it was merely a dream. At issue was Bekker’s way of interpreting Scripture. Dutch theologian Wilco Veltkamp has written a dissertation which delves into this. In a December 2011 article in Nader Bekeken(see here), he explained the connection between the hermeneutics of Bekker and that of theistic evolutionists today. The connection is a refusal to start with the authority of Scripture and submit to Scripture through to the end of an issue.
Going back to De Moor, this hypothesis gets several points in response, beginning with the observation that its foundation is preconceived human opinion rather than Scripture. De Moor points that the Bible was inspired in all things by the Spirit of Truth. Scripture calls God the God of Truth. This hypothesis makes him a liar. Moreover, God is omniscient and he knows that of which he speaks. He would also never deceive us or leave us in error. If this hypothesis were true, De Moor writes, we are at liberty to interpret Scripture as we please and there would no longer be any certainty as to what it actually says. De Moor quotes Augustine as he insists that none of the canonical writers erred. He finishes responding to this hypothesis with a reference to article 5 of the Belgic Confession, “We believe without any doubt all things contained” in these canonical writings.
De Moor then adds some nuance to the discussion. He notes that while the Holy Spirit “never speaks according to the errors of the common people,” he can accurately relate errors made by people. Further, De Moor acknowledges that Scripture does sometimes speak according to external appearances. For example, the Greek in Acts 27:27 literally says that the sailors with Paul suspected that some country was “drawing near to them.” Of course, the land wasn’t approaching the ship, but it is common to speak in that fashion and no one errs in so speaking.
There is one more objection that De Moor addresses – this one also comes from Spinoza. It’s one that is still trotted out today, albeit in a different form: Scripture is not designed to teach us concerning natural matters or science. Instead, the intent of Scripture is to make people obedient. Today’s version usually refers to faith or salvation rather than obedience. But certainly we do hear today as well that the Bible is not a “textbook for science” and such things. How does De Moor respond? He affirms again the primary purpose of Scripture is to teach true religion. However, that primary purpose does not exclude subordinate ends such as teaching people the magnificent natural works of God. One does not rule out the other. Finally, it would out of place to suppose that the Holy Spirit would use errors to carry out his purposes. He would never give anything contrary to the truth – it would be out of character for him.
De Moor concludes this section with an intriguing reference to an Order of the States of Holland and West-Friesland, dated September 30, 1656. This order actually prohibited the interpretation of Scripture by nature, rather than the other way around. In other words, at one point there was Dutch legislation maintaining that Scripture is to be the lens through which we interpret nature. De Moor deems this legislation “altogether pious.”
It’s important to remember the era in which De Moor lived – it was the heyday of Enlightenment rationalism. The Bible was under attack by those who said that it could stand in the face of reasoned scrutiny and scientific developments. Intelligent people could not take the Bible seriously at face value. In that milieu, De Moor stood for the absolute authority of the Word of God. He promoted confidence in the infallible and inerrant Scriptures, also when it came to the relationship between Scripture and science. He was not a rationalist – no, he was addressing rationalism and doing so on the basis of Scripture. Those promoting theistic evolution today, especially in Reformed churches, need to ask themselves whether they are carrying on the heritage of theologians like De Moor or betraying it.
Noted American evangelical pastor, author, and activist Dr. Tim LaHaye died on July 25 at the age of 90. LaHaye was best-known for his Left Behind series of end-times novels. However, he was also involved in the political sphere, cooperating with Jerry Falwell Sr. in the establishment of the Moral Majority movement in the 1970s.
Far fewer people remember him as a fervent supporter of the biblical understanding of origins but he was that too. In September of 1970, LaHaye asked Dr. Henry Morris to join him in founding an institution which would come to be known as San Diego Christian College. The name of Morris will be familiar to many RP readers since it’s associated with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Originally a department of the San Diego Christian College, ICR has grown to become one of the world’s leading creationist ministries. In its obituary for LaHaye, ICR acknowledged the significant influence he’s had on that ministry throughout its existence.
While we can be thankful for his contributions to the defence of God’s truth about creation, we also have to acknowledge that LaHaye was, like all of us, a fallible human being. When it came to the doctrine of the end times (eschatology), Dr. LaHaye was a premillennial dispensationalist and this came through clearly in his Left Behind books. Premillennial dispensationalism teaches that Jesus Christ will come back before (pre-) a literal 1000 year-reign on earth. By contrast, most Reformed theologians today teach that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is symbolically referring to the present reign of Christ. LaHaye’s eschatological scheme also makes a marked distinction between the Church and Israel, whereas Reformed theology insists that the New Testament church is the continuation of Old Testament Israel.
Although some Reformed believers were perhaps duped into thinking that the Left Behind series was an accurate, biblical portrayal of things to come, the reality is that these books do not stand up to the scrutiny of what we confess from the Scriptures in places like article 37 of the Belgic Confession. While the Left Behind series authored by LaHaye (with Jerry Jenkins) cannot be recommended at all, resources from the creation ministry that LaHaye helped found can be very useful, but have to be used with discernment. The Institute for Creation Research does not feature premillennial dispensationalism in its “Core Principles,” but it does appear in some of their publications, such as the Henry Morris Study Bible. It’s good to be aware that while ICR gets many things right on creation (like the late LaHaye) there are other important areas in theology where they are less reliable.
A while back, my fellow blogger Dr. Ted Van Raalte wrote a series of posts on Tim Keller. In one of those posts, he mentioned (in passing) the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. Dooyeweerd was the founder of a school of thought which is often termed “cosmonomic philosophy.” As noted in that blog post, this school has been subjected to some criticism from within our Reformed tradition, most notably by Dr. J. Douma.
I just finished reading John Frame’s A History of Western Philosophy and Theology. I’ve read a number of works by Frame and this is definitely among his best. He surveys the most influential thinkers — both those from within Christianity and those who’ve impacted Christianity. Among those thinkers is Herman Dooyeweerd. He gets about five pages of attention in the last chapter.
Frame’s approach in this volume is to summarize the important features of a philosopher/theologian and then provide some brief analysis and commentary. When it comes to Dooyeweerd, Frame begins with as simple an explanation as you’ll find of the key features of cosmonomic philosophy. Dooyeweerd distinguishes between fifteen “modal aspects” or “law spheres” in the world. For example: faith, moral, history, biotic, energy, spatial, and numerical. Says Frame, “Each modal sphere defines a particular science: mathematics the science of number, physics the science of kinetics, biology the science of life, and so forth. Theology is the science of faith” (519). As I hinted above, this is far more complicated — I’ve only highlighted a couple of features.
When he makes his brief critique of cosmonomic thinking, Frame zeroes in on the most important problem of all. It is a foundational problem with Dooyeweerd: his view of Scripture. Does Dooyeweerd do justice to what Scripture teaches about itself? If he does not, then he has, in some measure, succumbed to the myth of human autonomy. What Frame thinks is clear enough from this excerpt, although you may have to read it two or three times:
Though I hesitate to criticize this undoubtedly impressive intellectual structure, I have found fault with it in detail, and particularly in the doctrine of revelation that emerges from the project. As I mentioned, for Dooyeweerd the Word of God is a supertemporal reality that speaks to the human heart in a realm beyond all theory and concept. Scripture, however, is a temporal book. It is directed toward the faith aspect, studied by the science of theology. Now, Dooyeweerd might have argued (in the spirit of Kuyper) that since the faith aspect retrocipates all other spheres and all other spheres anticipate it, Scripture addresses all areas of human life, though it deals focally with faith. Dooyeweerd chose, rather, to say that Scripture’s focus on faith is exclusive, so that Scripture may not address the concerns of other spheres. So disciples of Dooyeweerd have argued that Scripture does not teach morality, the difference between right and wrong. Dooyeweerd himself taught that the “days” of Genesis 1 cannot be literal, since Scripture is about only faith, not numbers. The days of Genesis are faith numbers, not numerical numbers.
The disturbing conclusion that I reach from all of this is that for Dooyeweerd, revelation in the highest sense is a supertemporal, non-conceptual reality that transforms the heart, but does not direct the philosopher or scientist in any propositional way. The Bible, on the other hand, contains propositional revelation in the sphere of faith (theology), but does not direct us in every area of human life… (520-521)
The bottom line: Dooyeweerd did not have a biblical view of the Bible. Scripture says in Psalm 36:9b, “in your light do we see light.” And in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a lamp to my path.” With no justification, Dooyeweerd qualifies those sorts of passages so that they refer only to the faith (pistical) sphere. As a result, he also ran up against the biblical doctrine of creation. This school of thought sometimes goes by the name “Reformational,” but unless it really starts and finishes with the Bible and what the Bible says about itself, it certainly cannot be called Reformed.
Creation Without Compromise exists because of concerns about origins in our Reformed churches. In the “About” tab on this website, we state that we are “committed to the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis.” In the November 6, 2015 issue of Clarion, Rev. Peter Holtvluwer wrote a review of our website and under the heading of “Improvements,” he suggested we fill out the meaning of that statement. What do we understand by “the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis”?
Essentially, what we mean is the consensual understanding of the first chapters of the Bible that prevailed amongst confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian churches especially prior to Darwin. In the Reformation era, our theologians agreed in emphasizing the literal understanding of Genesis as the ground for doctrine — this was coupled with an emphasis on careful methods of interpretation. Hence, prior to Darwin, there was a definite consensus regarding how to read the first chapters of the Bible. Occasionally there were dissenters from that consensus, but this dissent was not encouraged or tolerated. After Darwin, we recognize that this consensus was challenged in significant ways. Yet it must be remembered that the Reformed consensus was maintained in the church courts even after Darwin. For example, we think of synodical decisions against Rev. J.B. Netelenbos and Dr. J.G. Geelkerken in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (1920 and 1926) and Dr. Ralph Janssen in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (1922).
What are some of the features of this historic consensus? First and foremost would be the insistence that the first chapters of Genesis describe history in a literal and straight-forward fashion. While they may have some literary features, these chapters are not metaphorical or mythical, but plainly historical and should be interpreted as such. What follows from that is creation in six ordinary days. When Genesis 1 speaks of “days,” it means days more or less as we experience them today. Moreover, if we take Genesis at face value, Adam was created from actual, physical dust of the earth by God. He was the first human being. He became a living being when God breathed life into him. He did not have a biological father or mother, human, hominid or whatever else. The first woman Eve was created by God from Adam’s rib. She did not have biological parents either. Together, they were the first human beings and the parents of all human beings who have since lived. God also created all other kinds of creatures in the six day creation period – and these were created by his Word. More could be said about what follows in Genesis – a literal snake speaking to Eve, a fall into sin, a worldwide flood, etc. – but I trust readers get the picture. Everything I have said up to here was the historic consensus view in Reformed theology.
Some elements of this historic consensus have found their way into the Reformed and Presbyterian confessional heritage. On the matter of creation days, we can think of the Westminster Confession’s statement in chapter 4.1 that “it pleased God…to create or make of nothing the world…in the space of six days, and all very good.” In article 12 of the Belgic Confession, we confess that “the Father through the Word, that is, through his Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures, when it seemed good to him, and that he has given every creature its being, shape, and form…” Article 14 goes on to say that “God created man of dust from the ground.” Heidelberg Catechism QA 7 confesses that our depraved nature comes from “our first parents” Adam and Eve. Other elements of the historic consensus are not found in our confessional heritage, arguably because they were considered to be so self-evident from Scripture as to not require such codification. When most of the Reformed confessions were first written, the challenges that we face today regarding origins were virtually unthinkable.
Since this is just a short blog post, I’m not going to lay out all the evidence for the existence of this historic consensus. William VanDoodewaard has done that for us at length in his excellent book The Quest for the Historical Adam (see my review here) and I refer readers to his research. Amongst others, VanDoodewaard discusses John Calvin, Wolfgang Capito, Girolamo Zanchi, Lambert Daneau, William Perkins, William Ames, the Leiden Synopsis, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Manton, John Owen, Bernard Pictet, Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus à Brakel. According to VanDoodewaard, figurative interpretations of Genesis existed even before Darwin, but they were found amongst Roman Catholics, Socinians, and Anabaptists. Reformed and Presbyterian churches would not countenance such interpretations. He writes, “Anything that contradicted or failed to cohere with the literal reading of the Genesis text was rejected as subversive to God’s revelation.” (p.86)
Now the big question is: why do we think that “the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis” is so important to maintain and defend? It’s not because we’re conservative and just want to hold on to old-fashioned things because old-fashioned must be better. No, it’s simply because we are convinced that the old consensus is biblical. Old-fashioned often is better, but only when it lines up with God’s Word. That’s where we stand.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads and look, and ask for ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…’” Jeremiah 6:16a
A few months ago, we included a review of a book edited by Richard D. Phillips, God, Adam, and You. You can find Dr. Van Raalte’s review here. I’ve had the book for a while, but have only just begun reading it myself. So far, it definitely lives to up to what was said in the review.
I’d like to share an excerpt from chapter 2, “The Case For Adam.” Dr. Joel Beeke presents ten persuasive historical and theological arguments in favour of the orthodox view of Adam. His final theological argument is that “the historical Adam is a test case for biblical authority.” He specifically critiques scholars like Peter Enns who argue that God “‘adopted mythic categories’ from the ancient world, myths that we may now discard, so long as we retain the kernel of truth they contain.”
Beeke goes on to remark:
Those who take this route perhaps may not realize that they are departing from the path of biblical orthodoxy and following the same road as unbiblical neoorthodoxy. Emil Brunner (1889-1966), a prominent neoorthodox theologian, said that the Bible’s teaching on creation is “not a theory of the way in which the world came into existence,” but only a summons to know God as your Lord and Creator. Thus, he said, the Adam of Genesis 2 is inseparable from ancient beliefs about the universe and cannot be viewed as a real individual in light of our modern understanding. For Brunner, Paradise was a “myth” not “historical fact.”
It is not necessary for us to go in this direction. Why couldn’t the ancient Hebrews have understood it if God had told them that he created by a long, slow process of evolutionary change? Every day, as they planted and harvested crops or worked with sheep and cattle, they could see change and improvement in the various seeds they planted or the animals they bred. Why couldn’t God effectively communicate to them that he had conferred a human soul upon an existing animal rather than breathed life into a body formed directly out of the earth? Why not reveal in Genesis that God made many human beings at first, instead of just one? Why would these things have been harder for them to accept than the idea that there is only one true and living God, given that all their neighbors worshiped many gods? And why must we separate the way in which God created from the fact that he is Creator? Does it not glorify God as Lord to know that he created man, not through any natural process, but by a supernatural act of creation? Yes, the account of the historical Adam’s creation greatly honors God as Creator and Lord.
Furthermore, this is a dangerous direction to go. If the Bible is a mixture of cultural dressing wrapped around divine truth, then how can we be sure which part is the husk and which is the kernel? What one generation embraces as the kernel of divine truth could very well be rejected by another generation as merely more human culture and tradition. We see this happening around us even now with respect to the definition of marriage and homosexuality. (pages 38-40)
Beeke is spot on. Indeed, theistic evolutionary views can only gain acceptance as believers succumb to lower views of the Bible. Such views typically over-emphasize the human element behind the authorship of Scripture and under-emphasize the divine. We should never forget the Reformed (and biblical) teaching that the primary author of Scripture is the Holy Spirit. And yes, “primary” is the right word. The Bible is not 50% human and 50% divine. It is first and foremost the Word of God. It has come to us through human involvement, but it remains entirely 100% the word of our Father in heaven. The more clearly we see that, the better equipped we are to stand fast against false teachings like theistic evolution.
One of the most important reasons we need to study church history is because Satan repurposes just about every error and heresy he has ever engineered or promoted. Seldom do you encounter a totally original false teaching. The evil one regularly takes advantage of the fact that human beings have short memories and are easily distracted. But by studying church history, we can equip ourselves to discern and resist his evil ways.
In 1655, two hugely controversial books appeared in Europe. In these two books (which can be found here), Isaac La Peyrère argued that many other human beings had existed before and alongside Adam and Eve. He claimed that Adam was merely the ancestral father of the Jews. However, the Gentiles traced their lineage back to various “pre-Adamites.” To make his case, he appealed to Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, although he did question the authority and authenticity of Scripture in many places.
Today we hear talk again of pre-Adamites, although the arguments have shifted because of the wide acceptance of biological macro-evolution. If human beings have an evolutionary history, then we are necessarily looking at the existence of pre-Adamites. If macro-evolution is true and also applies to our species, then an historical Adam (if there was one) cannot have been immediately created by God from literal dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 2:7). Instead, this historical Adam was biologically created by the normal process of a sperm fertilizing an ovum. In other words, prior to being constituted as a human being (being endowed with the image of God), the being we call Adam had a biological father and mother – pre-Adamites.
Plenty has been written recently to demonstrate that this contemporary argument for pre-Adamites is unbiblical. However, is there anything we can learn from Reformed engagement with previous forms of pre-Adamitism? Francis Turretin addressed La Peyrère’s arguments in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology in 1679. In the English translation, Turretin’s discussion takes up about six pages (pp. 457-462 of volume 1). This is a good summary of the issues, as well as an orthodox biblical response. But it was by far not the only response.
Just one year after La Peyrère published his pre-Adamite books, a full-length book response appeared from the pen of Samuel Maresius (1599-1673). Maresius was a Reformed theologian from France (his original surname was De Marets). When he responded to La Peyrère, he was a theology professor at the University of Groningen, in the northern Netherlands. Maresius’ book was entitled, A Refutation of the Fable of the Pre-Adamite: Accomplished in Seven Basic Questions. This volume appeared in several editions – the one I used in preparing this post contained 689 pages (you can find it here).
As the title indicates, Maresius treats the topic through seven basic questions. However, he first of all writes a lengthy (109 pages) preface in which he defends the authenticity and authority of Scripture. That provides a window into his method in this volume. His answers to the questions are based first and foremost on Scripture. Yes, Maresius does bring in other supportive material as well, but the authoritative foundation is Scripture alone.
Let’s now briefly look at the seven questions Maresius asks and see what can be learned from them in terms of our present-day engagement with pre-Adamitism. Even though the background is different, some of the questions have not changed and the answers are still relevant.
1. Is Adam the first of all men and is he to be acknowledged as the parent of the whole human race?
Maresius answers in the affirmative. He supports his answer by appealing to Scripture passages, including Matthew 19:4-5. Matthew 19:4 says that God created male and female (Adam and Eve) at the beginning – which means the beginning of the universe, during the six days of creation. Adam was at the beginning and is therefore the first of all, the parent of the whole human race. Maresius understands that the issues at hand are not solved merely by looking at Genesis 1 and 2. Rather, Scripture must interpret Scripture. Jesus clearly believed that Adam was the first of all men, and therefore we ought to as well.
2. Is the forming of Adam and Eve described in Genesis 2 different in order and time from the creation of man in the image of God referred to in Genesis 1?
This is to be denied, says Maresius. You cannot drive a wedge between the first two chapters of Genesis in an effort to make room for pre-Adamites. The man in Genesis 1 is the same as Adam in Genesis 2. La Peyrère argued to the contrary and it’s important to remember that background. Maresius argues that the first two chapters of Genesis present the same history of human origins from different perspectives. Moreover, he again appeals to other Scripture passages outside of Genesis to support his position.
3. Should the foundation of the world and human affairs be regarded as having taken place long before Adam?
To this Maresius says, “No.” In other words, in answer to La Peyrère, he maintains a young-earth position. Any time someone starts introducing pre-Adamites, we run into the question of the age of the earth. Maresius had to deal with it, and so do we today. The biblical evidence runs in favour of a young earth.
4. Does it follow from what Paul says Romans 5:12-14 that other men existed before Adam?
This was a nearly-clever argument introduced by La Peyrère. He reinterpreted Paul to be saying that there were other human beings before Adam who were lawless and sinful. But their actions were not considered sin until Adam came along and broke God’s command to him. This comes across as a radical attempt to reinterpret a problematic text for La Peyrère and Maresius recognizes it as such. It is simply sloppy exegesis to use Romans 5:12-14 to argue for pre-Adamites. Lesson: beware of the Scripture-twisting needed to support a refusal to believe what Scripture plainly reveals in Genesis 1 and 2.
5. Is it possible for the sin of Adam to be imputed to men not descended from him, or those who are pretended to have existed in the world long before him?
Another way of putting this question: can the imputation of original sin be universal if Adam is not the head of the entire human race? Maresius denies this and argues that universal imputation requires a single head of the human race. In both old and new forms, pre-Adamitism is going to have human beings who are not biologically descended from Adam. If they are not descended from Adam, then Adam’s sin cannot be imputed to them. In La Peyrère’s version of pre-Adamitism, he also has human beings existing before Adam, and these too cannot be regarded as sharing in Adam’s sin. In whatever age pre-Adamites are proposed, it should be noted that a reconfiguration of the imputation of original sin becomes necessary.
6. Scripture frequently distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles. Can it be inferred from this that the latter are not descended from Adam, but instead from pre-Adamites?
This question is peculiar to La Peyrère’s position. While we can note that Maresius denies this, I don’t think there’s anything that can be drawn from this in terms of relevance for our present-day discussions.
7. Was the flood of Noah universal?
Maresius affirms a global flood in the days of Noah, contrary to what La Peyrère argued in his books. Like at least some contemporary advocates of pre-Adamites, La Peyrère maintained that the flood was a local phenomenon. Noah’s family, preserved in the flood, continued to represent the line of Adam. However, the Gentiles continued to exist in other parts of the world, unaffected by the flood in Noah’s locale. But Maresius points out that Scripture simply does not support this view. After all, Genesis 6:12 speaks of what precipitated the flood: universal corruption. Universal corruption requires universal punishment. After the flood, Genesis 10 provides genealogies which account for the existence of all peoples after Noah, including Gentiles. Maresius proves that arguing for a local flood requires the twisting and perversion of Scripture, and his arguments remain applicable today.
There is a bit more to be gleaned from this episode in church history. When La Peyrère wrote his books in 1655, he still identified as a Calvinist and was a member of the French Reformed Churches. He soon ended up being arrested by the Roman Catholics – they regarded him as an enemy of their faith too. Faced with their threats, he apologized to the Pope, recanted his views, and became a Roman Catholic in 1656. “Recanted,” however, is a term that can only be used loosely here. La Peyrère went through intellectual contortions to officially disavow his pre-Adamite views while actually still holding them. He wanted to save his life and his intellectual legacy. He actually wrote a defense in response to Maresius’ book, but did not publish it because of a promise to the Pope not to promote pre-Adamitism. There is sometimes more than meets the eye or ears. Sin is deceitful and the sin of unbelief no less so.
Perhaps you’re wondering: if his views were so wrong, why was La Peyrère never disciplined by the French Reformed Churches? Well, it had been tried. Already in 1626, he was suspected of teaching and holding to unbiblical ideas, although it’s not clear whether pre-Adamitism was on his mind yet. His case went to a provincial synod of the French Reformed Churches. However, some 60 pastors defended him and he was acquitted. In his monograph on La Peyrère, Richard H. Popkin suggests that it was the La Peyrère family name which led to this outcome – they were well-respected and influential. Although no formal discipline took place, La Peyrère’s views were roundly condemned by Reformed theologians like Maresius and Turretin. They did what they could to broker no room for pre-Adamitism in the Reformed Churches of Europe. If there ought to have been no room then for La Peyrère’s form of pre-Adamitism, why should there be room now for a different form of pre-Adamitism with many of the same features?