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Did the apostle Paul believe in a 3-tierd universe?

Most Theistic Evolutionists believe that the apostle Paul accepted faulty ancient science, and as such, should not be taken literally when he speaks about Adam’s creation, his fall, and death. Well known Theistic Evolutionist and BioLogos writer Denis Lamoureux says this:


“Therefore, in the same way that we must separate. . . the inerrant message that Jesus is Lord from the fact that the 3-tier world presented in Philippians 2 does not exist; we must also separate. . . the historical reality of Jesus and His death and bodily resurrection from the fact that Adam never existed, because Adam’s existence is rooted in an ancient biology of human origins.” https://biologos.org/articles/was-adam-a-real-person.


Now many of you are probably thinking, what!? And I agree. Clearly, Lamoureux has crossed into murky water. But I want to take a minute here to outline the reasons why Lamoureux makes such an astounding claim, and why I believe Theistic Evolutionary Theory in general, although unintentional, is slowly undermining the integrity of the Scriptures.


Lamoureux uses Paul’s words in Philippians 2:10, where Paul says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (ESV).


According to Lamoureux, Paul, in the phrase “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” is referencing an ancient and scientifically inaccurate cosmological view that came to be known as “the 3-tierd universe” (see image below). Lamoureux concludes that since Paul was wrong about the 3-tiered universe, and since we now know this, we shouldn’t have to accept Paul’s unscientific opinion about other things. Rather, we should simply look to Paul as one who accurately reveals spiritual truths, not scientific ones.



Lamoureux then uses this example to suggest we do the same thing with Paul’s teaching on Adam, original sin, and human death, since, according to Lamoureux, these ideas are “unscientific” and thus wrong. This is what he says:


“In order to deliver as effectively as possible inerrant spiritual Truths about human sinfulness and the divine judgment of sin, the Holy Spirit accommodated to Paul’s level by employing an incidental ancient biological notion from the early chapters of Genesis—the de novo creation of Adam.” https://biologos.org/articles/was-adam-a-real-person.


And yes, I have purposefully underlined the word “incidental” as though the historicity of Adam, original sin, and human death are “incidental.”


At first glance, Lamoureux's logic sounds reasonable, until you realize that Paul is not teaching us about a 3-tiered physical universe? Let’s look at the passage again, Paul says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” ESV.


Paul is a theologian, not a cosmologist. Paul is simply reiterating a common and well understood biblical fact. The spiritual realm can be broken into 3 parts, heaven, hell (or the grave), and our physical state in the present. Paul’s use of heaven in this verse has got nothing to do with the physical universe and everything to do with the place where God dwells. This fact alone should have alerted Lamoureux to his incorrect assessment of Paul’s words. It is true, Paul does give each of these realms a locus, in the air, on the ground and under the ground, but this is no different than when Lamoureux raises his hands to God when praying. God does not live “above” us. Rather, he exists in a spiritual dimension, not a physical one. Yet as humans we often use orientation to convey spiritual realities.


Lamoureux's poor exegesis of this passage has led him to use it as a pretext for giving up on an historical Adam, a literal fall into sin, and Adam’s literal death. All of which, are not just “incidental ancient biological notions.” These historical facts are incredibly important spiritual realities that are the life blood of the gospel.

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