Posted January 27, 2020
The Quest for the Historical Adam is the title of a book by William Van Doodewaard, professor at the Puritan Reformed Seminary and minister Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. I do not own the book and have not read it yet. But based on the review of Wes Bredenhof I plan to obtain and read it soon. Bredenhof highly recommends it as “a book for every minister, elder, & deacon.” If he “had the means” he “would get a copy of this into every single Canadian Reformed home (Bredenhof is a pastor in the CanRC).”
The review indicates that this book defends the orthodox interpretation of Genesis’ account of creation. According to Bredenhof the author provides a historical overview of how Christians have interpreted Genesis and demonstrates that if “anything is clear . . . there has been a consensus view for a millennia. The consensus is that the first chapters of Genesis must be taken seriously as a historical record (emphasis mine).” The historicity of Genesis is the most important issue in the debates about origins. The questions surrounding the origin of the human race and the existence of Adam are answered according to whether one accepts or rejects that Genesis is a “historical record.” It is heartening that VanDoodewaard demonstrates that historically Christians have always viewed Genesis as history.
The most important point made by VanDoodewaard is that this consensus of Christian thought is reflected in the Reformed Confessions. If the Reformed Confessions require viewing the early chapters of Genesis as history, then Reformed churches and Christians are bound to reject theistic evolution. Here is Bredenhof’s explanation of VanDoodewaard’s treatment of the confessions:
Chapter 3 deals with “Adam in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras.” While the author does spend some time with the Westminster Standards (especially the issue of “in the space of six days”), he disregards the Three Forms of Unity or other Reformed confessions. This is important in our day when we hear it asserted by some that theistic evolution falls within the bounds of our confessions. Nevertheless, VanDoodewaard’s research certainly does support the position that in the era in which these confessions were originally written, it would have been unthinkable for forms of theistic evolution to be tolerated in Reformed churches (emphasis mine).
Another interesting aspect of the book, according to Bredenhof, is that it provides some analysis of how the ARP and the PCA have dealt with questions about origins. This is of interest to Bredenhof because his CanREF denomination will consider a proposal at its 2016 Synod that is intended to rule out Theistic Evolution. Perhaps I will write more about these denominational struggles with the doctrine of creation another time.