Carl Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), has an excellent post on the importance of the question of Adam. Trueman’s main thrust is not to defend the traditional view, but to insist on the centrality of this issue for theology. He writes, “the question of Adam is arguably the biggest doctrinal question facing the current generation.”
Trueman discusses “doctrinal atomism,” which he defines as
…the ability to hold with sincerity individual points of theology without fitting them in to an overall doctrinal structure. It is not that people who, say, deny the unity of the origin of the human race in Adam necessarily abandon an orthodox understanding of the gospel; it is rather that they ultimately have no stable basis for not abandoning or redefining the gospel. Individuals can be remarkably inconsistent and thus this type of inconsistency can sometimes have little impact on their personal faith…
He goes on to argue, rightly in my mind, that it is incumbent upon elders, pastors, and teachers to ensure that “they are transmitting the gospel in a stable form from one generation to another.” In other words, while we might allow that genuine believers can differ on certain important points of theology, we ought to insist that those in positions of authority in the Church have a coherent and “stable” theological system, within which the gospel has a sound foundation. Trueman continues by noting two areas that will be affected by one’s view of Adam. He is worth quoting here:
To make this matter pointedly relevant, the answers to the key ethical question of the day (What is the nature of human gender and sexuality?) and the key question of all time (Who is Jesus Christ?) cannot stand apart from the answer to the key question of human origins: Who was Adam? Those who wobble on the last one really have no grounds for not wobbling on the first two. And those who shift on the issue of Adam need to reflect on how that impacts the rest of their theology. When it comes to Adam, doctrinal atomism is not an option.
By now, I’ve almost quoted the whole post, so you might as well just go and read the rest of it. This is an important issue for our day, and Trueman brings up some pertinent points that are worth reflection.