I have tremendous respect for Prof. Alister McGrath. He is surely one of Christianity’s foremost apologists, and is a brilliant scholar of the Reformation. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of driving him to and from a conference and enjoyed the short time spent together. He has PhD’s in both the sciences and theology from Oxford and taught there for a long while, before going to London. He has authored a large number of scholarly books on the Reformation, the history of atheism, theology, spirituality and the sciences. He has also debated famous atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
In this video (yes, that’s spittle dribbling down my chin–look at that library!!), Dr. McGrath discusses the significance of Adam and Eve for theology and takes a more Barthian approach to seeing Adam as theologically significant, but not necessarily historical. This isn’t surprising as Dr. McGrath also holds to theistic evolution, and is an admirer of Thomas Torrance, a well-known Barthian who wrote much on science and theology.
Without wanting to sound presumptuous–who am I to take issue with Alister McGrath???–it strikes me that when he draws the parallel between Adam and Christ there is an incongruity. If Christ is an historical person, as McGrath would affirm, and he undoes the work of Adam, as McGrath said, how can it be that Adam didn’t exist? Everything in the story of redemption is historical but Adam, which hardly seems to make sense. John Piper, at the end of this video, makes the same point. An historical Christ, an historical redemption, requires an historical Adam and an historical Fall.
For a more thorough exegetical treatment that supports Piper’s view, see Don Carson’s essay “Adam in the Epistles of Paul.”