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Myth, Meaning, and Man

The theme of the spring college retreat was “Ex Nihilo,” the Latin phrase meaning, “out of nothing.” The idea being that God is not only entirely sufficient in and of himself (he had no need to create), but when He created, He did so out of His own sheer will and power, hence “Ex Nihilo.” The subtitle for the retreat was, “Without the beginning, we can have no meaning.” This claim was addressed from a number of perspectives, and one of those perspectives was the beginning of man.

From a Christian perspective, one of the most fundamental truths about our faith is the fact that Adam and Eve were real people created by God. Said another way, to deny a historical Adam is to jeopardize the entire Bible, including salvation itself. The issue is that serious. Once Adam becomes a good myth, an evolutionary being, or some cosmic accident, then everything from Abraham to Israel to Christ is founded upon something less than truth, something less than God.

However, if we start with God as Creator, then we can account for who man is and what man does. Yet the world fights this at every point. In western society, evolution rules the day. Now, we see postmodernism using evolution to bypass God as Creator to say, “Man is,” or “Man does,” and that is what informs our purpose as creatures. Whatever you feel you are is what you are meant to be. Because, remember, you’re just the product of evolution’s chance plus time. Who could possibly demand you change?

And yet, if man is left to self-define, this destroys man in several ways:

First, evolutionary origins undermine who man is. Evolutionary origins open the door for the devaluing of human life in things like eugenics (the “good race”), WWII medical practices, abortion, and the extermination of the mentally handicapped and terminally ill. If our value is only the sum total of our material potential, then why not prize some humans over other humans? Furthermore, if humankind is the evolution of various strands of hominids, a theory held by many evolutionists, who’s to say one strand is not superior to the other? They are part of different “human” lines and therefore lack essential unity as a race. From this worldview, mankind springs from competing evolved persons rather than a single human pair. This is how many people attempt to defend racism.

Secondly, evolutionary origins undermine what man does. In other words, evolution connects to our morality. If man’s beginnings are random and from only the material, and if man’s ultimate desire and dignity are the result of chance plus time, then on what basis do we define morality? The best you can claim is that your moral instinct is more evolved than mine. However, I can claim the same. What is even worse in this equation is the fact that evil, rather than being something that was introduced to man (original sin) and therefore something destructive to his nature, now becomes definitional to man. Said another way, if man is only the product of chance plus time, then real evil is an illusion since anything that happens in the universe is not moral – it is only chance plus time. Life is meaningless.

>span class="s1">Romans 5:12-20 answers all of this, but it also roots us in the personhood of both Adam and Jesus Christ. In other words, the reason you can deduce real significance from Genesis through Revelation is because everything from Origins (Adam) to Consummation of the New Kingdom (Jesus) takes place in real time, real space, with real people. Consider the implications of denying the historical legitimacy of either of those individuals! You don’t merely lose the origins debate; you lose the Christ debate.

Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” from this verse we can account for the entrance of evil into this world. Not only this, but the entrance of evil into the world was real and contrary to the established goodness of God’s created order. This ought to give you hope. Consider the alternative: evil is a myth. Your suffering is an illusion, chance plus time. Your crushed dreams, pain, anxiety of the universe are all unfortunate side-effects of your evolved state. But what does the Bible affirm? It tells you that the corruption you feel both physically and spiritually is legitimate, and it needs a legitimate solution.

Romans 5 continues in verses 19 and 21, saying, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous… so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5 leaves you no doubt as to the parallels between the sin-introducer and the Savior. It says that as one man’s disobedience entered the world, in a similar manner, man will be made righteous through another man. The Apostle Paul is comparing the historical actions of two real men and their respective outcomes.

That outcome is astounding. The reign of death has been decisively defeated by the reign of grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. The blessing is this: insofar as death, sin, pain, evil, and suffering are real and reigning in this life, grace now really reigns in this life into eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To summarize, God did not create anything less than good. True meaning, therefore, is found in our origins as creatures of a good God. Mankind’s rebellion then plunges man into death. He is no longer what he is supposed to be. He exists as a rebel against whom God says He is, which is an image-bearer or representative of God on earth. We are then left looking to Christ. He is not saving us from an illusion or a myth. He is not the Savior of perceived evil or victimhood. Christ is a real Savior from real evil, the God-man, who is both the exact representation of God’s nature and faithful high priest. In Christ’s new creation through grace, you and I now find our new identity in the Lord. Our new origin and destiny are secure.