The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics and Human Origins by William VanDoodewaard. Reformation Heritage Books. 2015.

Book review by Mr George Gillespie

Who do you think Adam was? That is, the Adam of the Bible? Do you accept literally the narrative of Genesis? That has been, and remains, the orthodox position. Or do you interpret the early chapters of Genesis mythically, allegorically or poetically? That is the approach of some.

Or do you dismiss the Biblical account altogether? Throughout the ages, and especially since the theory of evolution propounded by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century, this is a view held, obviously by atheists, but also by many who profess to be Christians. And what are the conclusions to be drawn, especially for Scriptural authority and the Christian faith, from such a view.

If you are interested in pursuing these questions in further depth. VanDoodewaard’s The Quest for the Historical Adam might be the book for you. Do not be put off by the author’s unusual name (it is Dutch) nor by the academic subtitle of the book. Although this is hardly an easy read it isn’t all that difficult and it certainly is worthwhile.

In just over 300 pages VanDoodewaard traces from an orthodox perspective how the Church has understood Adam throughout history. He takes us on a journey through time, from the Apostolic age through the Medieval, Reformation, Puritan and Enlightenment periods, right up to the present day. Theories about creation which run in tandem with the origins of humanity (creation being the front rider) are also considered.

The opinions of various theologians – some well known, some less so – are described and analysed. There are a few surprises along the way but VanDoodewaard’s anchor holds firm.

Of particular significance is the last chapter entitled What Difference Does It Make? The reader is left in little doubt about the logic of where each presupposition about Adam leads, not least about its implications for salvation.

The book is available from various sources but, if interested, why not support the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast. Through testing theological times this spiritual treasure trove of a shop has held steadily to a Reformed line. Alan Hamilton one of the two men who run the shop, regularly attends our church and the shop operates a postal service.