Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Columbo Tactic

Peter Falk, creator of the unforgettable Lieutenant Columbo, a brilliant detective with a clever way of catching a crook, died on Thursday, aged 83.
In this enjoyable TV series, the inspector arrives on the scene in complete disarray, his trench coat rumpled beyond repair, his cigar wedged tightly between his stubby fingers. His pencil has gone missing again, rendering his notebook useless, until  a bystander takes pity on him and loans one to him. 
To all appearances, Columbo is bumbling, inept and completely harmless. He couldn't think his way out of a wet paper bag, or so it seems. However the lieutenant has a simple plan that accounts for his remarkable success. 
Greg Koukl, radio broadcaster and Christian apologist, has written about this technique in Tactics, an intriguing book  in which he provides a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions. (This technique could, of course, be used by anybody who wants others to think through the logic of their opinions.) 
Here is how Greg presents The Columbo Tactic:
After poking around the crime scene, scratching his head, and muttering to himself, Columbo makes his trademark move.
"I got a problem," he says as he rubs his furrowed brow.
"There's something about this thing that bothers me."
He pauses a moment to ponder his predicament, then turns to his suspect.
"You seem like a very intelligent person. Maybe you can clear it up for me. Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
 The first query is innocent enough. For the moment, he seems satisfied by the answer. Then as he turns on his heels to leave, he stops himself mid-stride, turns back, raises his index finger and says, "Just one more thing."
This leads to another question and another.
Columbo's tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Koukl concludes with this advice: Never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.
This is my light revision of Koukl's own words. A thought-provoking book. I've read it twice, so far. There are some interesting reviews of Tactics at

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Did Adam and Eve Really exist?

John Collins wrote some terrific articles and notes in the ESV Study Bible, including the terrific article and notes on the Book of Psalms.

His book on the historicity of Adam and Eve looks well worth reading and digesting. I have so far only read samples and endorsements, but am confident it will be well worth our time.

Tim Keller's article which I linked to in the previous post is an extract from Creation, Evolution and Christian Laypeople.

More food for thought.

You wouldn't Adam and Eve it

Disclaimer: I was not a great Science student and happily gave up going to class in Fourth Form [aka Year Ten] in 1968.

However, I do like to ponder these matters.

In my opinion, if the Bible is reliable, it is there that we must start.

It seems to me that many Christians begin with current scientific thinking, and then attempt to get the Bible to conform itself to Science.

Other Christians, while aiming to affirm the Bible, adopt a particular understanding of the world's origins, which they think is in harmony with the Bible, but which actually goes way beyond the biblical data.

Christianity Today has several recent interesting articles on the issue of the historicity of Adam and Eve.

The current issue has an editorial provocatively entitled No Adam, no Eve, No Gospel.

The article begins with
Science as we know it grew from pagan, occult, and biblical roots.

Christianity Today likes to emphasize the biblical sources. The story of creation, told in Genesis and elaborated in the New Testament, pictures a rational intelligence creating an orderly and predictable cosmos.

Without that predictability in the natural world, neither Newton nor Einstein would have been possible. There are times, however, when a careful reading of the natural world seems to conflict with our reading of Scripture.

Sometimes, Christian ways of thinking must adjust.

It continues, by outlining the new challenge to theology made by Francis Collins, a Christian who was involved in describing the human genome:
Now we come to another great moment of tension between Christian readings of Scripture and science. This issue's cover story, "The Search for the Historical Adam," reports the claims of recent genetic research that the human race did not emerge from pre-human animals as a single pair, as an "Adam" and an "Eve." The complexity of the human genome, we are told, requires an original population of around 10,000.

The article comes down on the side of a conservative understanding of the biblical data by stating that
there must be an original pair of humans endowed with souls—that is, the spiritual capacity to relate to God in the special way Genesis describes.

Does it matter?
What is at stake?

First, the entire story of what is wrong with the world hinges on the disobedient exercise of the will by the first humans. The problem with the human race is not its dearth of insight but its misshapen will.

Second, the entire story of salvation hinges on the obedience of the Second Adam. The apostle Paul, the earliest Christian writer to interpret Jesus' work, called Adam "a type of the one who was to come" (Rom. 5:14, ESV), and wrote that "[j]ust as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]" (1 Cor. 15:49, ESV). He elaborated an "Adam Christology" that described a fallen humanity, headed by Adam, and a new, redeemed humanity with Christ as its head.

This understanding, that Christ's obedience undoes Adam's disobedience, is not some late development, but is integrated with the earliest interpretations of what God did and is doing in Christ. This conceptual framework is almost impossible without a first human couple.

The article finally allows for the possibility that there may have been an original population of which Adam and Eve were the leaders, but this seems to me to conflict with what Genesis 1-3 tell us.

See also Richard Ostling's The Search for the Historical Adam, Justin Taylor's discussion of Jack Collins' new book Did Adam and Eve Really exist? and Tim Keller's Sinned in a Literal Adam, Raised in a Literal Christ.