Many a theologian has felt need to cut their teeth on the major scriptural motifs in order to leave their unique legacy and acquire reputational immortality. Honest and scrupulous introspection might find me little different in this regard, with morsels of vainglory sloshing about the deep recesses of my psyche. But in my defense, such venal ambitions can be easily accommodated nowadays, simply by remaining faithful to the text in a cacophonous sea of footloose and fancy-free expositions.
Many an eisegetical elephant has been squatted upon the Edenic narrative. In the ensuing melee that escapes from the pachyderm’s rump, an observer might detect a flying limb from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil here; Adam tumbling head over heel there; the midriff of the woman coming right as us; and the head of the serpent. Oh! That’s just a Cheshire Cat. And the Wicked Witch of the West brooming about. Woe! How did these get into the plot?
But mostly, what one notices is the eloquent flatulence.
One popular Reformed professor, author, and self-styled systematic theologian fancies that “Adam’s first sin was not in eating the forbidden fruit but in allowing the [serpent] false witness to become a resident of the garden in the first place.” Adam, as God’s servant priest, was culpable for his unwillingness to cleanse the Edenic sanctuary and protect those (mentally) weaker wards (a.k.a. Eve) under his wing.
The commission given to Adam and Eve above all else was to “work” and “keep” the sanctuary (Ge 2:15; the same verbs used in the commission given to the priests in the Jerusalem temple). Instead of cleansing God’s temple-garden as God’s faithful servant and son, Adam entertained Satan himself and failed to protect Eve from his influence. This story will be repeated in many variations, as God’s people show themselves unwilling to uproot idolatry and violence (including child sacrifice) entirely from the land and then fall under the spell of foreign beliefs and practices themselves.
Groan. How does one irenically disembowel this assertion and its underlying assumptions without shredding the credibility of its propagator; assuming that the latter would not be a good thing? WWJD? What would Martin Luther do? I remain unconvinced of the virtues of a blanket irenicism, which has become a prevailing buzzword among the ivory set. Even Scriptures indicates that it is periodically necessary and prudent to shred those theological follies and their propagators which cause the name of God to be scorned, and dissuade many from coming to faith.
According to Horton, it was Adam who sinned first. Stop the presses! This gnostic epiphany appears to have escaped Apostle Paul. (“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”) Furthermore, this first sin was not in the partaking of the fruit of the Tree, but in failing to expel all illegal aliens with foreign beliefs and practices from his territory, alluding to the “ceremonial” tranche of the Mosaic Law.
Adam apparently violated an undocumented law in his undocumented appointment as High Priest of Eden. The logical inference; in that there existed no published law, other than the command concerning the Tree, and that a person is not morally culpable of sin except in violating against what he/she knows; is that Horton believes, or at least dangles, that all of Mosaic Law resided in the conscience (lex interior) of our First Parents. Horton must be applauded for rational consistency. Whereas Reformed orthodoxy conscripts an inscrutable subset of laws from the “moral” tranche of the Mosaic code into the conscience of natural humanity, Horton conscripts them all; even if in Eden, they would make little sense.
Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.
– Genesis 17:10b–12a
If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then . . . on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
– Leviticus 12:2–3
A defining attribute of a covenant being holism; if one law of the Mosaic covenant has jurisdictional authority, all laws of the of the Mosaic covenant have jurisdictional authority. If all of Mosaic Law was in legal force and imprinted upon the hearts of our First Parents, we must draw the conclusion that Adam must have been circumcised. For God to install an uncircumcised and ceremonially unclean Adam into God’s temple-garden would, by Horton’s estimation, make God a sinner, assuming God self-governs with rational and ethical consistency.
Therefore, Abraham is not the father of the circumcision, but rather Adam. Since Adam is the father of the circumcision, we are all children of the circumcision, both Jew and Gentile. The many verses in Scriptures, which distinguish between the physiologically circumcised Jew uncircumcised and Gentile, let alone three millennia of non-canonical Jewish, Christian, and pagan writings become incoherent and moot.
Shall we continue?
How comprehensible to Adam’s inner compass would be the dietary laws concerning meat, since eating meat was not instituted until Noah? And the First Parents must have been puzzled about those lex interior regulations concerning the Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and descendants of Esau, let alone generic concepts like buying and selling, borrowing and lending, and wages.
What would this naked couple make of the law inscribed upon their heart, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak?” If there was no death, how apropos and coherent are commands not to “mistreat any widow or fatherless child?”
Even Moses acknowledged that the Law was not fully applicable until the children of the wilderness crossed the Jordan into their inheritance.
Shall we go on?
Does it not seem odd that when God later confronts Adam, He didn’t mention this other sin of omission? Did God have a senior’s moment? Does God suffer from periodic bouts of Alzheimer’s?
And if it be the general duty of Righteousness to immediately expel and exile the bearers of false witness and alien ideas, what was Satan doing in God’s presence in the Book of Job? How is Christ any less culpable for not protecting those (mentally) weaker vessels (disciples) under his wing from Judas before the foreknown betrayal?
And why was John Calvin so certain that “hitherto, [the false witness] had held no communication with men,” and “the woman does not flee from converse with the serpent, because hitherto no dissension had existed?” Does Horton, a semi-committed Cessassionist, have special gnosis that muttered into his ear otherwise?
Such is the woeful state of modern Evangelicalism, when even its supposed orthodox seminarians are as faithful to the biblical script as a Disney movie. How then can orthodox seminarians credibly castigate Matthew Vine’s contortionism of Scriptures, when found guilty of doing likewise?
This is not a bid to destroy all credibility of a popular professor, author, and self-styled systematic theologian with a BA, MA, and PhD. It is, however, a clarion call for silly seminarians to clean up their act and stop their fanciful handing of the Word of Truth.
Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
– Proverbs 30:6
© Copyright John Hutchinson 2017
From upcoming book Faith from First to Last
 Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 3.13.1a.
 Ibid., 3.13.1a.
 Matthew 23, Ezekiel 23, Galatians 5:12, Romans 2:24
 1 Timothy 2:14
 Romans 5:13
 James 4:17; John 9:41; Romans 4:15, 5:13
 Galatians 5:3, James 2:10
 Romans 4:12
 Genesis 9:3
 Deuteronomy 23:3, 7
 Leviticus 25
 Deuteronomy 15
 Deuteronomy 24:15, Leviticus 19:13
 Deuteronomy 22:5
 Exodus 22:22
 Deuteronomy 12:8–11
 Calvin, Commentaries on Genesis, 3.1.