Coming April 2015 – “The Quest for the Historical Adam”

Last week I mentioned a book coming out from P&R Publishing on the subject of the historical Adam. Next month Reformation Heritage Books will release The Quest for the Historical Adam by William VanDoodewaard.  Here’s the catalog description and table of contents:

“Was Adam really a historical person, and can we trust the biblical story of human origins? Or is the story of Eden simply a metaphor, leaving scientists the job to correctly reconstruct the truth of how humanity began? Although the church currently faces these pressing questions—exacerbated as they are by scientific and philosophical developments of our age—we must not think that they are completely new. In The Quest for the Historical Adam, William VanDoodewaard recovers and assesses the teaching of those who have gone before us, providing a historical survey of Genesis commentary on human origins from the patristic era to the present. Reacquainting the reader with a long line of theologians, exegetes, and thinkers, VanDoodewaard traces the roots, development, and, at times, disappearance of hermeneutical approaches and exegetical insights relevant to discussions on human origins. This survey not only informs us of how we came to this point in the conversation but also equips us to recognize the significance of the various alternatives on human origins.”


1. Finding Adam and His Origin in Scripture

2. The Patristic and Medieval Quest for Adam

3. Adam in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras

4. Adam in the Enlightenment Era

5. Adam in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

6. The Quest for Adam: From the 1950s to the Present

7. What Difference Does it Make?

Epilogue: Literal Genesis and Science


The literature on this is growing and shows no sign of letting up. I expect this will be a solid contribution to the existence of a literal Adam and Eve.

Watch for it in April. The Quest for the Historical Adam will be a hardcover with 400 pages and sell for $30.00.

Dr. William Van­Doo­d­e­waard (PhD, University of Aberdeen) has served as Professor of Church History at Puri­tan Reformed The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary since 2010. Prior to this he served as a university professor and Christian educator for thirteen years, including teaching positions in European and Ancient History at Patrick Henry Col­lege, near Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and Hunt­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity in Indiana. He is a contributor to published works on historical theology, expository studies on the persons of the Trinity, and has also written for academic journals including the Journal of British Studies, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Westminster Theological Journal. An ordained minis­ter in the Asso­ciate Reformed Pres­by­ter­ian Church (ARP), Dr. VanDoodewaard serves as the lead church planter at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in downtown Grand Rapids. He and his wife Rebecca blog at The Chris­t­ian Pun­dit.

Here’s a short video from the author.

Quest for Historical Adam

Want to Be a Really Great Philosopher? Advice from Alvin Plantinga

One of my favorite philosophers is Alvin Plantinga. We just received his new book Knowledge and Christian Belief (Eerdmans). Interestingly, the day I received them I put some on the end cap across from my desk. Later that day Dr. Plantinga came in. He does visit us occasionally. I told him we had just received his book. He happened to notice a new Baker release also on the end cap, Reading Barth with Charity by George Hunsinger (Baker Academic) which led into a short discussion about Barth. (Five minutes with Plantinga talking about Barth–I was in heaven.) Unfortunately, I didn’t even have time to look at his book so I couldn’t talk to him about it. Yesterday, however, I started it and read the following paragraph which I found incredibly funny. “Now Kant is by no means easy to understand, which is no doubt part of his charm. If you want to be a really great philosopher, make sure not to say too clearly what you have in mind (well, maybe that’s not quite enough, but it’s a good start); if people can just read and understand what you say, there will be no need for commentators on your work, no one will write PhD dissertations on your work to explain your meaning, and there won’t be any controversies about what it was you really meant. Kant must have heeded the above advice, and the fact is there are dozens, maybe hundreds of books written about his philosophy, and endless controversy as to his meaning.” (p. 2) Knowledge and Christian Belief is a “shorter and more user-friendly version” of Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press). This one may have just jumped up in priority on my reading list.  It is a paperback with 141 pages and sells for $16.00.

Alvin Plantinga is John A. O’Brien Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. His other books include Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism and Warranted Christian Belief. Knowledge and Christian Belief

Understanding the Orthodox Church

As I’m reading through Frederica Mathewes-Green’s new book, Welcome to the Orthodox Church, I’m learning some new things as well as getting helpful reminders about things I’ve heard but did not completely understand. Here’s just a sampling.

Why do the Orthodox face East in worship? “Because Christ told us that’s where we will see him when he comes again (Matt. 27:47). . . While the Jewish tradition was to face Jerusalem to pray, and Muslims face Mecca, Christians have always faced east; even in Japan, Orthodox Christians face east.” (p. 14)

Why do some Orthodox churches have no pews? “Sitting down in church is a fairly recent idea. Recall that, for the first fifteen hundred years, the universal expectation on Sunday morning was that God was going to appear in a tangible way, an edible way, of all things, turning ordinary bread and wine into his body and blood. You can understand why people would be standing at attention for that. That God is offering his body as food—offering it even to the lowliest sinner—is astounding, when you think about it. . . .If the focus of the worship was instead on the sermon, and helping the people to understand the Scriptures and how to live a Christian life, it would make sense to give them a place to sit down. Pews began to appear after the Protestant Reformation, in the sixteenth century, and their obvious usefulness made them ubiquitous in time.” (p. 17)

Do the Orthodox worship icons? “Icons are never the object of worship; we don’t pray to them. We don’t even pray in a different way in the presence of icons . . . To us, icons are more like companions—more like a photo of a loved one. . . Icons are treated with respect, the kind of respect you would give to your favorite Bible.” (pp. 4-5)

What’s the role of Mary? “Orthodox Christians look to Mary as our best example for living a Christian life. She is hailed in our hymns as our ‘Captain,’ our ‘Champion Leader,’ an active and vigorous heavenly friend. She is more than a role model, for Christ told St. John at the Cross, and us through him, ‘Behold, your mother’ (John 19:27). . . . you might be shocked by some of the language addressed to her and others saints in Orthodox worship, for it does tend to be effusive. Worship language is often exuberant; it’s not always careful and precise . . . it’s more like the speeches made at a rollicking testimonial dinner, where the guests of honor are praised beyond all bounds. . . So our worship sometimes sounds over the top (‘Save us, O Virgin,’ ‘You are our only hope’), but we know what we mean. Mostly, we mean, ‘Pray for us.’ We don’t mean that Mary has the power to grant eternal salvation, that she was created differently than other humans, or that she supplied some additional saving factor at the Cross. It doesn’t mean that she can (or would) do anything independently from the will of her Son.” (pp. 30-31)

Why pray to the saints? “It [Christ’s victory over death] means that the departed in Christ are actually not dead. Even now, at this moment, they are in God’s presence, worshipping before his throne (Rev. 7:9). . . If you had a big prayer need coming up—say, a job interview—you might ask others to pray for you. When you ask for the prayers of family and friends, you convey the request by phone or e-mail. When you ask the saints, you send the request by prayer. . . .The English word prayer used to refer to any sort of request. A previous generation might well say to a dinner companion, ‘I pray thee, pass the broccoli.’ But with time, the word became restricted to requests made of those in heaven. You’re not worshipping a saint when you make these requests any more than you’re worshipping your friends when you ask for their earthly prayers.” (pp. 34-35)

Welcome to the Orthodox church is from Paraclete Press. It is a paperback with 386 pages and sells for $19.99.

Raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Frederica Mathewes-Green received her B.A. in English from the University of South Carolina and her M.A. in Theological Studies from Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary.

Considering herself a Hindu, in 1974 Frederica married Gary Mathewes-Green and set off for a back-packing honeymoon in Europe. There she experienced a “totally undeserved miraculous conversion” that changed the course of her life. Returning to the U.S., she and Gary both attended seminary, and Gary became an Episcopal priest. After spending fifteen years in the Episcopal Church, Gary fell in love with Orthodoxy and became a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 1993 the couple founded the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Frederica’s initial struggle with and eventual reception into the Orthodox Church became the catalyst for her widely acclaimed book, Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mystery of Orthodoxy. Two years later, she published At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy.

Frederica is a regular columnist for and a book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times. She has written hundreds of articles in secular and religious periodicals and has been interviewed extensively in national newspapers, magazines, and television programs, including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, Time magazine, CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN.

Welcome to the Orthodox

What Sin was the Woman Guilty of in Luke 7:37?

The older I get the more I discover that things I thought were fairly certain turn out to be based on less than satisfactory evidence. In a court of law the evidence would not be beyond a reasonable doubt or even enough to provide a preponderance of evidence. One such case is the nature of the sin of the woman cited in Luke 7:37. The text simply reads, “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life . . .” (NIV) Many commentators say she was a prostitute. For example, The MacArthur Study Bible says “i.e., a prostitute.” (note on Luke 7:37) No evidence is offered. In one of the newest entries in the Paidea Commentaries on the New Testament on Luke (Baker Academic) Mikeal Parsons offers some interesting thoughts on this passage. I offer an abridged account here. He first dismisses the suggestion that the phrase is the equivalent to a modern day “street walker” or “public woman.” He notes that the word order resists this interpretation and “no primary sources have yet been offered to corroborate this interpretation.” He also says there is no suggestion that she was brought in to offer entertainment for this all-male banquet. The text suggests that she is not there by Simon’s invitation and “whatever other elements this Pharisaic meal shares with the Greco-Roman symposium, it would not seem to include the provision of prostitutes for after-dinner entertainment.” The last matter he deals with is the issue of her loosened hair.

“The evidence for how prostitutes wore their hair in antiquity, however, is scant and mixed. Further, Luke knows the word for ‘prostitute’ (15:30) and could have used it here had he wanted to specify the nature of her sinfulness. Thus, we should be cautious in making this identification, especially since the nature of the woman’s sinfulness is left unstated in Luke 7 (as is the nature of Peter’s sinfulness in 5:8), and the gesture of unbound hair may evoke a variety of images for the authorial audience. . . . In a fascinating passage at the end of the Greek novel Chaereas and Callirhoe, the heroine Callirhoe visits the temple of Aphrodite to give thanks for her reunion with her husband: ‘Callirhoe went to Aphrodite’s temple before entering her house. She put her hands on the goddess’s feet, placed her face on them, let down her hair, and kissed them. ‘Thank you, Aphrodite!’ she said’. . . . The woman’s actions in Luke 7 parallel those of Callirhoe and other women who demonstrate veneration for a deity. Jesus is the object of her devotion and thanksgiving.” (Luke, pp. 128-30)

While some won’t be convinced by Parsons’ reasons I suggest he at least renders the interpretation of prostitute uncertain or tenuous at best. Perhaps Luke had a reason to leave the nature of the sin unclear. It is enough to know that this sinner could come to Jesus and offer her devotion and tears of repentance. As sinners (whatever our sins may be) we, too, can come to Jesus and show our repentance and devotion. It is an appropriate message for this season of Lent.


What to do When You Make a Mistake – A Reflection from Thomas Merton

I’ve never read much by Thomas Merton. When Fr. Barron comes to Grand Rapids in July he will be speaking at Aquinas College on Merton. So I picked up my copy of A Year with Thomas Merton (HarperOne) and began to read some selections from it. The book offers a selection of daily meditations from his journals. The following entry was made on October 7, 1949.

“It is not complicated to lead the spiritual life. But it is difficult. We are blind and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to be making mistakes all the time. We must be content to fail repeatedly and to begin again to try to deny ourselves for the love of God. It is when we are angry at our own mistakes that we tend most of all to deny ourselves for love of ourselves. We want to shake off the hateful thing that has humbled us. In our rush to escape the humiliation of our mistakes, we run headfirst into the opposite error, seeking comfort and compensation. And so we spend our lives running back and forth from one attachment to another. If that is all our self-denial amounts to, our mistakes will never help us. The thing to do, when you have made a mistake, is not to give up doing what you were doing and start something altogether new, but to start over again with the thing you began badly and try, for the love of God, to do it well.” (p. 313)

Opinions about Merton are mixed especially within the Catholic community. See this article on “Can You Trust Thomas Merton?” Fr. Barron is less skeptical. In the video below he talks about two items that have caused caution regarding Merton: his “affair of the heart” with a young nurse and his interest in Buddhism. Start at 5:40 to hear his response to those concerns.


Memo from Martin Luther to Pastors: Members Who Refuse to be Taught Should Not be Fed

I’m about half way through Carl Trueman’s book Luther on the Christian Life (Crossway). I can appreciate Luther’s appreciation and insistence on the importance of catechesis. The evangelical church has seen an increasing number who want to downplay the importance of doctrine. Luther would have nothing of this and suggested some rather stern measures for those who refused teaching. I’m not suggesting we follow them. Just found it interesting. All my kids are still eating. Trueman writes,

“Luther’s purpose in catechizing is connected to his theology: faith has content. To understand law and gospel, one needs doctrinal knowledge. To understand Christ’s work, one needs doctrinal knowledge. To have a ‘relationship’ with God, one needs doctrinal knowledge. Indeed, the antithesis between doctrine and relationship that is a mark of certain strands of contemporary Christianity would have been incomprehensible to Luther. . . . Luther even contends that those who refuse to be catechized should be refused the sacrament, denied food, and subject to banishment by the prince.” (p. 112)

He gives the following quote from Luther.

“If any refuse to receive your instruction, tell them that they deny Christ and are no Christians. They should not be admitted to the sacrament, be accepted as sponsors in Baptism, or be allowed to participate in any Christian privileges. On the contrary, they should be turned over to the pope and his officials, and even to the devil himself. In addition, parents and employers should refuse to furnish them with food and drink and should notify them that the prince is disposed to banish such rude people from the land.” (Preface to the Small Catechism, BC, 339. BC = The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg, 2959)