Re: Substitutionary atonement

Dave Koerner 818-354-8820 (
Mon, 3 Jun 1996 21:44:42 -0700 (PDT)


(warning -- a little long)

I am guessing that the motivation for identifying a literal Adam (whether
Glenn's, Dick's, or anybody's version) is largely to uphold and protect
2 main principles:

1) A particular theological view of the saving work of Christ.
2) The inerrancy of scripture.

I believe that proclamation of a literal Adam in this day and age is not only
wrong, but undermines the credibility of the Christian message in much the
same way as would dogmatizing a belief in a flat earth. I have brought up
the issue of the theology of the atonement to suggest that Christology does
not require a literal Adam. For some, this doesn't matter because number
2 above is their real reason -- that's another discussion entirely! Others may
certainly believe in a literal Adam for reasons I haven't even thought of (feel
free to educate me! -- I don't know how to see a copy of that June issue
article on Adam BTW; it's present in the archives as a title only). But for
now, let me get back to number 1 above.

Pat says,

The strongest argument for the literal ADAM is Rom. 5: 12-21 where Christ
and ADAM are juxtoposed. I Cor. 15:47 also attributed Christ as the
second ADAM. He was made like man in all respects except sin (Heb. 4:15)
He was reckoned as a descendant of ADAM (Heb. 4:15). Without the
historical act of rebellion of an actual ADAM (of course, corporately
including EVE for they have become one flesh.(Mk. 10:6-8, Gen. 2:24)) there
is no need for the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the second ADAM. Thus
the historical Fall by the first man of disobedience is the foundation of
the human sinful predicament which needs the atonement by Jesus Christ, the
second man of obedience that brings man into righteousness, as a
propitiation of man's sin. (Rm. 3:25 NASB).

I would reply that the juxtaposition of Christ and Adam in these passages
is metaphorical and not AT ALL meant to be a historical and metaphysical
explanation of how Salvation occurs. Mankind is OBVIOUSLY in need of
redemption -- with or without a literal Adam! Again, I feel the need
to quote others on this:

Karen Armstrong, in "A History of God" says,

"When Paul explained the faith that had been handed on to him, he said
that Jesus had suffered and died 'for our sins,'... It seemed that Jesus'
death ... had released a 'new kind of life' and a 'new creation' -- a
constant theme in Paul's letters.

There were, however, no detailed theories about the crucifixion as an
atonement for some 'original sin' of Adam: we shall see that this theology
did not emerge until the fourth century and was only important in the
West. [This is similar to what Steve Schaffner was talking about -- gotta
find that Pelikan! DK] Paul and the other New Testament writers never
attempted a precise, definitive explanation of the salvation they had

(Armstrong, K. 1993, p. 87)

Again, I am attempting only to refute any Christology that requires a
literal Adam in the Garden of Eden. A precise statement to the effect that
Christ's death paid the price for the single act of a literal Adam
simply cannot be found in the Scriptures.

Keith said,

I am very unclear about the distinction you are making between the concept
of Christ as a ransom and substitutionary atonement. The image of Christ
as "our Passover" and the extensive analogy between the sacrifice of Christ
and the Yom Kippur temple service in Hebrews seem to demand a substitionary

What McBrien said is that these are separate metaphors -- in the early
Christian proclamation, the substitutionary or vicarious atonement image
is used (e.g., the "Servant" image of deutero Isaiah). McBrien claims
that this image was abandoned in later texts as being "too Jewish." In
writings from a later tradition, the image of "ransom" is used, a distinctly
different image. These images are both metaphors -- the notion that this
was a juridical transaction to appease God for a literal sin of Adam is
a much later idea that only took hold in the West. This is the only
kind of interpretation that I can imagine that would require a literal
Adam, so that's the one I'm objecting to at the moment. But I'm preaching
to the choir on that score since Keith also says,

Also, a literal Adam is not necessary for a substitionary understanding of
Christ's death and resurrection. All that is required is the reality of
our own sin and rebellion against god.

So then why all this effort to justify a literal Adam??? Number 2 above???

In Christ,