The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Generous Orthodoxy?

Um, our friends over at Stand Firm have asked the question "is it possible to reject the historicity of Adam and Eve and remain orthodox," and overwhelmingly have answered it "no." Father Matt Kennedy offers several scriptural basis for this conclusion:
Not only does the text of Genesis 2 itself bear the markings of historical narrative, but to suggest otherwise is to falsify Jesus' teaching on marriage. Jesus affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Genesis account of their creation and marriage in Matthew 19:1-6.
He adds:
And, moreover, the divinely revealed doctrine of the Fall hinges in large part on the existence of a real Adam who truly sinned as the counterpart to the real Jesus who was/is truly righteous and who truly died and rose again. . . Obviously Paul understood both Adam and Jesus to be historical figures. To suggest that Adam is a merely figurative character representative of humanity as a whole not only cuts against Paul's clear meaning, but it also destroys the argument of the text itself. The historical man Adam plunged humanity into sin and death through an historical sin. The historical man Jesus redeemed humanity through his historical death and resurrection. Take away the historicity of Adam and the parallel upon which the argument is built no longer works.
Later in the comments, Fr. Kennedy states that he is "tending more and more toward a Y[oung] E[arth] position," although he allows some room for doubt on the point.

Now, frankly, I find this kind of depressing. Remember what the enterprise is; Father Kennedy is defining not his belief, but the outer limit of Christian orthodoxy. The Stand Firm crowd is saying that the second Oxford Movement of the 19th Century are too radical to count as Christians. Of course, there is no effort to engage with Gore's kenotic theory. Or Aubrey Moore's use of evolutionary theory in defense of orthodoxy. Or Illingworth's relation of evolution to the Incarnation.

In short, sola scriptura. In science, as in all else. Stand Firm seems to me to be defining itself out of Anglicanism in any meaningful sense.

Also, of course, a reliance on the literal truth of Genesis leaves re-opens the justice questions arising therefrom. First, as Mark Twain famously noted, how is the punishment of Adam just? God "commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; To disobey could not be a sin, because Adam could not comprehend a sin until the eating the fruit should reveal to him the difference between right and wrong. So he was unfair in punishing Adam for doing wrong when he could not know it was wrong." Moreover, even if this hurdle is surmounted, the notion that "in Adam's fall we sinned all" taken literally opens another justice question: how can descendants be held personally accountable for sins committed before their birth? Should human justice be meted out so? However, these are side issues of course; my complaint is not so much what Kennedy et al come to believe, but with their conflation of their own views with the bounds of orthodoxy. If their views indicate where the reasserters are headed--well, that untempered schism may be just as well; I have no desire for what Clarence Darrow called "the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind."

UPDATE, 9/25/10: They're not alone, apparently:

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