N.T. Wright has a new book out

Here’s an interview with the New Testament scholar who is popular in Catholic circles as well:

RNS: You address the question of whether Adam was a historical figure in one of the first chapters of the book, and you’re also an authority on the Apostle Paul. Another Theologian I respect, Dr. Albert Mohler, has written, “If Adam was not a historical figure, and thus if there was no Fall into sin and all humanity did not thus sin in Adam, then Paul’s telling of the Gospel is wrong.” How do you respond?

NTW: It is possible to get to the right answer for the wrong reasons. For example, if you think that 2+2 = 5 but also that 4+4 =7 then if someone asks you “what is 2+2+4+4?” you will say “12” and be correct, but for two wrong reasons.

I don’t know what logic Mr. Mohler is applying in the quote you give. I think it’s probably that of the “covenant of works,” found in the Westminster Confession and elsewhere, according to which God gives Adam a kind of moral test which he fails. Then he runs the test again with Jesus and he gets it right, so his “getting-it-right” (aka “righteousness”) is available for the rest of us. Obviously if you take Adam out of that equation it falls apart.

I do not believe that that is a good way of describing how biblical theology works, for reasons I’ve gone into at length in other books. In particular, I don’t think it’s how Paul expounds “justification by faith.” So I think the “covenant of works” line is a kind of 2+2 = 5 thing. But that doesn’t mean Mr. Mohler and his friends are wrong about a historical Adam. Somewhere along the line there’s a 4+4 = 7 thing as well so the calculation comes out right for the wrong reasons.

The way I see it is that there were many hominids or similar creatures, part of the long slow process of God’s good creation. And at a particular time God called a particular pair for a particular task:  to look after his creation and make it flourish in a whole new way. Actually, this fits with the scientific evidence according to which there were some significant changes in the hominid population and lifestyle around 6000 years ago, though I wouldn’t myself put too much weight on that.

The point is that if you start, not with Adam and a “moral test,” but with Adam and Eve and a vocation (see Psalm 8), then a lot of things in Paul look significantly different. There is more to Paul—and to Genesis—than you might have thought. It all works, it’s all good, it’s all about God’s grace—and it’s about a justification through which humans are “put right” in order to get the original project back on track, so that we might be “putting-right” people for the world. That’s something that’s often been strangely absent from a Westminster Confession type of theology.

– See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/06/02/n-t-wright-bible-isnt-inerrantist/#sthash.m8c0UBra.dpuf

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