Doctrinal Musing on Theological Anthropology: Part 2 of 4

The Judeo-Christian faith has historically believed that humans were created from the dust of the earth by the God of Israel (Gen 1:26-27, Gen 2:7-8, 21-22, Deut 4:32, Isa 45:12). The Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve as archetypes was unique in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Other ANE writings portray human beginnings in collective terms meaning that an entire, already civilized, population of people were created (polygenesis).[1] Sumerian texts describe humans breaking out from the earth. Some Egyptian texts mention people being formed from clay that was mixed with the tears of deity. Akkadian texts describe people being formed from the flesh and the blood from a slain deity as a result of the chaotic conflicts between the gods.[2] Moreover, other ANE texts portray the origins of humans by describing humans as created by the gods for servitude or slave labor. These accounts portray humans taking over the drudgery work of the gods while the gods rest.[3]     

The ANE context contrasts with contemporary discussions about beginnings and origins. In today’s context, there is an emphasis on scientific explanations particularly that of naturalistic evolution which claims that the cosmos and humans began purely by naturalistic processes apart from any involvement of a supernatural being. However, on the other side of the debates, is fiat creationism which argues that God created everything by a direct act apart from any naturalistic processes. From a more evolutionary perspective, deistic evolution and theistic evolution argue that God used evolutionary processes in creating everything, but they differ from each other in the degree of God’s involvement in the process. The prior claims that God started the evolutionary process, but then he withdrew allowing natural law to take over. The later posits that God began the evolutionary process, but he continues his involvement. A more mediated position is progressive creationism which emphasizes God’s creation of everything in several steps over time and argues for microevolution (evolution within kinds) rather than macroevolution (evolution across kinds). However, progressive creationism particularly agrees with fiat creationism in the direct creation of humans by God.[4]

In view of the contemporary debates, I do not take a dogmatic position on the beginnings of humans due to the belief that the aesthetics of the creation narrative should be emphasized. The creation narrative is part of the overarching theo-drama of redemption, and I posit that there is a de-dramatizing of the script when people engage in the contemporary debates on beginnings. Thus, my preferred method of discourse when engaging with Genesis 1-2 is to use narrative or theo-drama language rather than to use creation vs. evolution language.

The theological meaning and purpose of human creation is manifold, but suffice it to say, humans are part of God’s creation, and so they are dependent upon him for their existence. Humans must recognize their unique place in the universe and the reality and value of kinship within the human race. While humanity is truly wonderful in God’s creation, they are not the highest being in the universe, and so humans must recognize and accept their finiteness and their limitations. They must live to glorify, worship, love and serve God.[6]


[1] John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 205. [2] Walton, Ancient, 205-206. [3] Walton, Ancient, 214-215. [4] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 443-447. [5] Erickson, Christian, 451-456.