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Defending the Christian Worldview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

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Defending the Christian Worldview, Creationism, and Intelligent Design » Young and old earth Creationism » A review: In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration William Lane Craig

A review: In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration William Lane Craig

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A review: William Lane Craig In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration

Dr.Craig has probably been overly influenced by theistic evolution. God could have created the universe in an instant. He could have created it progressively over ions. But, either way we need not hold to naturalism for an explanation of God's methods. God's creation is a miracle. However He chose to do it, and as such there's no issue with God directly creating Adam. The text of Genesis does not allow for an evolutionary explanation of anything significant let alone humans (even if marco-evolution were physically possible). I think Craig has gone one step too far. So sad.

Dr. Nathan H. Lents Hello friends.
Below is my latest article for Skeptic Magazine, where once again I applaud the work that some conservative Christians are doing to reconcile with scientific realities. This time, it is none other than William Lane Craig who has delivered a sweeping and erudite discussion of paleoanthropology and human evolution in his quest to find the historical Adam and Eve

Mytho-history: The “Evolution” of Adam and Eve BY NATHAN H. LENTS

Was Adam a real historical person? And if so, who was he and when did he live?
William Lane Craig sets out to answer these questions through a biblical and scientific investigation. He begins with an inquiry into the genre of Genesis 1–11, determining that it can most plausibly be classified as mytho-history—a narrative with both literary and historical value. He then moves into the New Testament, where he examines references to Adam in the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul, ultimately concluding that the entire Bible considers Adam the historical progenitor of the human race—a position that must therefore be accepted as a premise for Christians who take seriously the inspired truth of Scripture.

Working from that foundation of biblical truth, Craig embarks upon an interdisciplinary survey of scientific evidence to determine where Adam could be most plausibly located in the evolutionary history of humankind, ultimately determining that Adam lived between 750,000 and 1,000,000 years ago as a member of the archaic human species Homo heidelbergensis. He concludes by reflecting theologically on his findings and asking what all this might mean for us as human beings created in the image of God, literally descended from a common ancestor—albeit one who lived in the remote past.

Steven H Propp
By dealing frankly and realistically with both the biblical and scientific evidence, Craig may well ‘turn away’ some Young-Earth proponents (not that he had a lot of support from them anyway), and his anthropological suggestions may repel some conservative theologians. But one cannot fault him for honestly tackling the ‘hard questions’ in depth and detail. Anyway, on to the book itself…

He wrote in the Preface of this 2021 book, “People on both the left and the right can be expected to be upset with this book and… its author. All I can do is plead that they give an honest and open-minded reading of the case I make for my conclusions… I have tried to avoid labels like ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ and ‘conservative’ because these politically charged terms are prejudicial… I have adopted the labels ‘traditional’ and ‘revisionist’ as the least problematic. There is, after all, a traditional view of Adam and Eve that has dominated church history, and there are various revisionist views… that modify the traditional view to different degrees.” (Pg. xi-xii)

In the first chapter, he notes, “Many traditional theologians would think the historicity of Adam crucial for… the doctrine of sin. For if Adam was not a historical person, clearly there was no historical fall into sin in the traditional sense… [and] the doctrine of original sin must go by the board … The attempt to make the doctrine of original sin a necessary condition of the doctrine of the atonement is, however, an overreach. Nowhere in the New Testament (NT) is Christ said to have died for original sin… Interpreting Adam as a purely symbolic figure… that expresses the universality of human sin and fallenness would not undercut the gospel of salvation through Christ’s atoning death. Therefore, denial of the doctrine original sin does not undermine the doctrine of the atonement. We may nonetheless agree that the historicity of Adam is entailed by and therefore a necessary condition of the doctrine of original sin.” (Pg. 4-5)

He continues, “Thus, while the doctrine of original sin depends crucially on the fact of a historical Adam, Christianity need not embrace the traditional doctrine of original sin but may content itself with affirming the universal wrongdoing of human beings and their inability to save themselves… however, we must consider whether other considerations might not justify its importance to Christian faith… if, as seems plausible, Jesus himself believed in the historicity of Adam and Eve… then even if Jesus were not guilty of teaching doctrinal error, he still would have held false beliefs… which is incompatible with his omniscience. Notice that the concern here is quite different from Jesus’s having limited knowledge. Traditional Christology recognizes that Christ had a human mind … that developed throughout his lifetime.” (Pg. 6-7)

He states, “the primaeval history of Gen 1-11 is compatible with the concept of time that finds expression in myth… The history of Gen 1-11 is thus set in primaeval time, a characteristic of myths, especially myths of origination.” (Pg. 64) He asks, “do the primaeval narratives exhibit ‘fantastic elements’ and do they remain untroubled by logical contradiction or incoherence?... Consider, first, apparent inconsistencies… God is portrayed … in Gen 2 as a humanoid deity worthy of polytheistic myths, as he forms man from the dirt and breathes the breath of life into his nostrils… in Gen 3… God strolls in the cool of the day and searches for the man and woman hiding among the trees… in Gen 6-9 … [God] is pleased with the smell of Noah’s burnt offering… Such anthropomorphic descriptions of God, if interpreted literally, are incompatible with the transcendent God described at the beginning of creation… the pentateuchal author… doubtless assumed that his readers would have understood such anthropomorphic descriptions of God to be just part of the storyteller’s art, not serious theology.” (Pg. 102)

He continues, “the author seems untroubled by the apparent inconsistencies that occur in his narratives. It would have been easy for him to bring the account … in Gen 2 into accord with Gen 1, rather than leave the apparent inconsistencies concerning the order of creation of man, the vegetation, and the animals… Scholars would have dearly liked the author to clarify what he meant in saying, ‘At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD (Gen 4:26), despite his later affirmation that the name ‘Yahweh’ had not been previously revealed (Ex 6:3)... God’s instructions to Noah first to take aboard the ark two animals of every kind and then to bring aboard seven pairs of all clean animals (Gen 6:19, 7:3)… The point is not whether these apparent inconsistencies are somehow resolvable but that the author is just untroubled by them.” (Pg. 104)

He states, “What is fantastic and therefore mythological in Gen 1 is the creation of the world over six consecutive days. The pattern of evening and morning shows that ordinary solar days, not long ages, are intended… It may be that even the author himself found creation over six literal days fantastic, for he recounts as accomplished in one day events that he well knew could not have naturally have happened in twenty-four hours… such as the draining of the primordial ocean into seas on day 2… or the earth’s bringing forth seed-bearing vegetation and fruit-bearing trees on day 3. If so, he may have taken the creation account as mythological, which would also explain his insouciance about the existence of day and night prior to the ostensible creation of the sun on day 4.” (Pg. 109-110)

He goes on, “Another fantastic element of the primaeval narratives is primordial vegetarianism for man and beast alike… The removal of this restriction [in Gen 9] for humans implies that a similar restriction was in place for the animals… [The Pentateuchal author] gives no indication that animal predation is the result of man’s fall, and it would be anachronistic to ascribe to him the view that lions and other carnivores… evolved from animals that were herbivores… What makes the primaeval age different is … that it was ‘long, long ago’---that is to say, mythological in character.” (Pg. 111)

He continues, “In the story of the Garden of Eden we have multiple fantastic elements… First and foremost… is the snake, who not only talks but is a conniving and malevolent agent. Although a literal interpretation of this figure might be purchased by taking the snake to be an incarnation of Satan… such an interpretation not only reads such a personage into this passage but… seems implausible in light of the author’s characterization of the snake as ‘more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made’ (Gen 3:1)… ancient Israelites doubtless knew that snakes do not talk and so would… have found such a description fantastic and therefore understood it nonliterally and perhaps symbolically.” (Pg. 111-113)

He acknowledges that the flood story is ‘one of the most fantastic episodes in the primaeval narratives… Young earth creationists [assert that] … the ark would have had ample room to include members of every identified genus of terrestrial animals. But as Hugh Ross rejoins, ‘… Animals as advanced as horses and felines, simply … cannot, by any observed or postulated mechanism---evolve or diversify at such a rapid rate’ so as to produce the earth’s current 5.8 million land animal species after the flood… Modern geology and anthropology have rendered such a catastrophe all but impossible. Geologically we have evidence of vast but nonetheless local catastrophic floods… no such evidence exists for a worldwide deluge.” (Pg. 120-121) Later, he adds, “The question is, what lies at the root of such figurative descriptions? Is it that the ancients were simply prone to hyperbole? Or is it, more plausibly, that we are dealing here with the language of myth?... This classification better explains the description of a worldwide flood than mere hyperbole.” (Pg. 127-128)

He states, “we should be remiss if we did not mention the most fantastic element of the entire primaeval history---namely, the ostensible claim that the entire world was less than two thousand years old at the time of Abraham’s birth… this puts a literal interpretation of Gen 1-11 into massive conflict with modern science, history, and linguistics. In order to explain how we can even see the stars, some of which are billions of light-years away, creation scientists have been led to radically reinterpret modern cosmology… Since Noah disembarked only 292 years prior to Abraham, the entire history of dinosaur evolution and extinction must be compressed into the space of less than three hundred years (unless, that is, dinosaurs were still about at the time of Abraham). In order to explain how most of the marsupials… crawled all the way from modern-day Turkey to Australia, plate tectonics is held to have not yet separated the primordial supercontinent into the world’s continents; this tectonic activity is said… to have also taken place within about three hundred years following the end of the flood, while at the same time mountain-building crustal movements were forming the Himalayas and Mount Everest, with remains of marine life of the flood on its heights… Truly, young earth creationists are living in a different universe than the rest of us.” (Pg. 130-131)

He notes, “We find several examples of the illustrative use of extrabiblical literary traditions in the books of Jude and 2 Peter… ‘First Enoch’ [is]… quoted explicitly by Jude… [Of 2 Pet 2-11] No such story is to be found in the OT Scriptures…. the story is to be found in the apocryphal book ‘The Assumption of Moses’… The conclusion to be drawn … is not that the expansions of the canonical text are historical … but rather that we are not committed to their historicity simply in virtue of an NT author’s relating them.” (Pg. 210-215) He continues, “references by NT authors to mythological or pseudepigraphical figures caution us to avoid overly easy proofs of OT historicity on the basis of NT citations. Such figures may be merely literary and illustratively employed. Similarly, some NT references to Adam and other figures and events of the primaeval history may describe merely the story-world of Genesis… But in 1 Cor 15:21-22 and… Rom 5:12-21 we do have clear assertions of the historicity of Adam. What is asserted … in these key passages does not, however, really go beyond what we have already affirmed… namely, that there was a progenitor of the entire human race through whose disobedience moral evil entered the world…. Adam is regarded by Paul as a historical person whose actions affected the course of history… Adam’s sin is… the fount of … spiritual death that beset our world, which suffices for the affirmation of a historical Adam.” (Pg. 241-242)

Turning to ancestral humans, he asserts, “the beautiful cave art … at Lascaux … in France was undoubtedly created by human beings… Viewing these paintings, we sense ourselves standing in the presence of a ‘thou,’ someone who is one of us.” (Pg. 262-263) Later, he states, “The paleontological evidence … are thus consistent with pushing the boundary for the origin of humanity back before the origin of Homo sapiens so as to include Neanderthals and Denisovans as members of the human family.” (Pg. 279) He adds, Given that the use of imagery and representation in art is a signature of modern human behavior among Homo sapiens, it would be prejudicial to deny the humanity of the Neanderthal artists.” (Pg. 304) He continues, “one of the singly necessary… conditions for human speech is already present… in Neanderthals.” (Pg. 323)

He suggests, “the existence of a historical Adam and Eve need not imply their sole genetic progenitorship… once Adam and Eve’s descendants replaced Homo heidelbergensis, we know that there was interbreeding among the extended human family, but we can only conjecture as to what happened in the interim.” (Pg. 355) He continues, “At some time and place in the gray mists of antiquity, we hypothesize an original human pair uniquely endowed with cognitive capacities that would come to be associated with Homo heidelbergensis. Exactly when and where the hypothetical founding couple lived cannot as yet be determined… The uneven paleoanthropological record of human cognitive achievement … plausibly indicates that changing environmental conditions serve to call forth behaviors latent in human cognitive capacity… Adam and Eve may therefore be plausibly identified as members of Homo heidelbergensis and as the founding pair at the root of all human species.” (Pg. 357-359) He also clarifies, “Homo heidelbergensis was not some hybrid ape-man but was recognizably human… [This] brings the startling realization that, as members of the human family, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and others were, like us, people whom God loves and for whom Christ died… We may see some of them, therefore, in the eschaton, and I think we shall be delighted to do so.” (Pg. 364-365)

He concludes, “God’s creation of Adam and Eve plausibly required [God]… to furnish them with rational souls different from any sort … that nonhuman animals might be thought to possess. Thus, Adam and Eve were something radically new… We might think it unfair of God not to extend to Adam and Eve’s contemporaries the same opportunity of a relationship with God… [unless] we recognize a biological difference between Adam and his progenitors… for there is nothing unjust about treating animals as animals.” (Pg. 378-380)

This book will be “must reading” for anyone (including skeptics and atheists, as well as Young-Earth creationists) seriously studying these issues.

Robert in Houston
First, to our Young Earth Creationist Friends who are writing confused and misleading reviews:
Begin with a simple truth. If the physical evidence conflicts with your view of the Bible there are one of three possible explanations (broadly speaking):
1) The physical evidence is false.
2) The Bible is false.
3) The evidence true, the Bible is true, but your reading of the Bible is in error. You are trying to make it say something it does not really say.

Now, let's get to reality. The earth is not 6,000 years old. Moreover, it is a false and ahistorical doctrine to insist that one must believe it is to be a Christian (or a Jew, or a Muslim).
Craig explicitly and repeatedly emphasizes that his argument does not assume or endorse evolutionary origins but he does recognize the indisputable reality that modern humans have Neanderthal DNA, Denisovan DNA, etc. We know that homo sapiens interbred with these other species.
We know that the world was not submerged in a flood during the time of Noah.
We know that various languages pre-date ancient Babylon.
If you think that the Christian faith depends upon a literalistic reading of these texts, I would refer you to any number of the early Church Fathers whose writings would help you see that it is your view and not Craig's which is a modern invention. Just read Augustine's Confessions as a starting point. He is relentless in his critique of the 4th Century young earth creationists (yes, they were around even then).

Craig's book makes a number of very welcome and important contributions. In the first instance this is about Genesis 1-11 (from Adam to Abraham). Popular skepticism of the faith can nearly always be traced back to something in these 11 chapters of pre-history and it is important and necessary to tackle them directly. His survey of similar (and dissimilar) stories the Ancient Near East is balanced, insightful and very useful. His introductory discussion of the theological implications of the historical Adam is a must-read for anyone concerned about the subject (spoiler, it is not an essential doctrine). His review of the New Testament passages referencing Adam is also exceptionally cogent, nuanced, and welcome. The distinction between literary character references and references to historical individuals is valuable and insightful. The (now obvious but surprisingly novel) dissection of NT references to other fictitious characters from folklore who are deployed to make theological points is especially welcome. Craig's tracing of a "plausible" historical Adam to Heidleberg Man is interesting but, he would acknowledge, is not essential to embrace. There are a great number of unanswered questions here - for example the apparent premise that ensoulment is a biological process - but the book is an exceptionally valuable contribution to the discussion.

I have a master’s degree in theology with an emphasis in Old Testament studies so I am used to reading scholarly books. I get the impression that Craig has an agenda, which is to square the Old Testament text with evolutionary science. To get there he has to make up a genre he calls Mytho-history. He spends a great deal of time trying to prove that this type of genre is legitimate and that Genesis 1-11 is that genre. His first error and foundational error is when he states the generations organization of Genesis does not determine the structure of Genesis. He should read Waltke’s commentary on Genesis. In fact he should just read Genesis (I say that tongue and cheek.) The generational structure is key to understanding Genesis and determines its structure. There are short genealogies and there are extended genealogies and narratives. The short sets up the extended. But why does he do this? Well the way Israelites wrote history is through genealogies, and Craig wants to say Genesis 1-11 is not history like Genesis 12 onward. He can’t do that if the genealogies are key to understanding Genesis. He states the genealogies only give a chronology, but then says, “Mere chronology, however, is not sufficient to indicate a historical interest.” That is just plain nonsense. It even sounds nonsensical. The first nine chapters of Chronicles are genealogies from Adam to David. 1 Chronicles 1:1-24 deals with the genealogies from Adam to Abram. There is NO rational to treat the genealogies of Genesis 1-11 any differently when the writer of Chronicles doesn’t! Not only that but read Luke 3 and its genealogy of Jesus. So Craig’s entire thesis falls apart early in the book. And frankly he spends an incredible amount of time trying to convince people that mytho-history presents truth even though it isn’t historically true. Confusing? Yep. Frankly save your money. If you want to read the book get it used. There are much better books than Craig’s book.

Dr. Terry Mortenson Undermining Scripture Regarding Adam: An Initial Response to William Lane Craig  October 19, 2021 1

Recently Dr. William Lane Craig has published a book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, in which he argues that Adam was historical and mythical. By that, he means that there really was a man named Adam but that the details in Genesis 2–3 about the origin of Adam and Eve and the nature of their fall in sin are symbolic myths.

It is truly sad that Craig, who has two PhDs (one in philosophy and one in theology) and who claims to believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, has almost completely ignored what inerrantist, young-earth, biblical, and scientific scholars have to say about the literal truth of Genesis 1–11 and particularly about Adam. In his book and his First Things article10 summarizing his book, he has failed to deal with critically important verses such as Genesis 2:7 and 2:22, Mark 10:6, and Romans 1:20, and he attempts to neutralize other important verses (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:8–9) by his fallacious distinction between a literary Adam and a historical Adam. Also, the 23-page bibliography in his book contains plenty of books and articles by theological liberals, secular scientists, and theistic evolutionists but cites only two book chapters by two leading young-earth Old Testament scholars11 and two books by two leading young-earth scientists. But as noted above, the 14-scholar, in-depth biblical and historical defense of young-earth creation, Coming to Grips with Genesis (2008), and the scholarly 16-author, biblical, historical, and scientific defense of the literal truth about Adam, Searching for Adam (2016), are not cited or discussed. So, his book In Quest of the Historical Adam is not as scholarly as his extensive footnotes and bibliography imply and is not a model of Christian scholarship.

Finally, one other point should be made about a critical omission in his book. Because he has accepted the evolutionary idea of billions of years of cosmic and earth history, he has thereby accepted billions of years of animal death, disease, and extinction before Adam. This evolutionary story massively conflicts with the biblical teaching about the curse at the fall of Adam and the final redemptive work of Christ. This conflict is apparently not even on Craig’s radar. In his book, he doesn’t discuss the critically important truth in this regard in Romans 8:19–23 and Genesis 3:14–19. But this biblical truth is a major reason why Christians must reject the myth of evolution, including its billions of years of earth and cosmic history.

Much more could be said about Craig’s disastrous book on Adam. Christians must cling to the authoritative and clear Word of God and not follow this brilliant scholar whose reasoning about Adam is sadly undermining the inerrant Bible and gospel that he professes to believe.  Reasonable Faith or Faithful Reason? Reflections on William Lane Craig and the Historical Adam NOV 19, 2021 2

Craig is attempting to explain how belief in an actual historical Adam and Eve as parents of the human race is compatible with evolutionary science. Yet therein lies Craig’s problem. Notice carefully the structure of Craig’s purpose statement in his book: “We need to consider how Scripture’s teaching that there was a historical Adam is or might be compatible with the scientific evidence.”  The structure of Craig’s statement here reveals his primary authority: “scientific evidence.” Scripture’s claims, Craig assumes, must answer to science. Notice that Craig did not phrase the question the other way: “Are scientific conclusions compatible with biblical revelation?”

In other words, if Scripture were Craig’s ultimate authority, he would begin with the assumption (based on Scripture itself) that Moses is the author of Genesis and that his narrative in the first eleven chapters actually happened as written. He would then interpret the scientific evidence through that lens. But since “scientific evidence” is Craig’s authority, he must try to make sense of the biblical narrative within evolutionary presuppositions.

Second, Craig argues that a historical Adam and Eve could have existed, but at the earliest 500,000+ years ago (based on “scientific evidence”) and having evolved from “pre-human” hominins. In other words, evolution happened as science “proves,” and at some point, God appointed Adam and Eve as the progenitors of the human race. Here is a brief summary of his argument:

We may imagine an initial population of hominins—animals that were like human beings in many respects but lacked the capacity for rational thought. Out of this population, God selected two and furnished them with intellects by renovating their brains and endowing them with rational souls. One can envision a regulatory genetic mutation, which effected a change in the functioning of the brain, resulting in significantly greater cognitive capacity. Such a transformation could equip the individuals with the neurological ­structure to support a rational soul. Thus the radical transition effected in the founding pair that lifted them to the human level plausibly involved both biological and spiritual renovation. 2

We may “imagine” indeed.

Will we make our ultimate authority “scientific evidence” or divine Scripture?

William Lane Craig’s fundamental problem is that he assumes “scientific consensus” to be absolute truth—that is his ultimate authority, and he attempts to make Scripture “fit” with what is ultimate for him—science. As the title of one of his most well-known books illustrates, Craig is after a “Reasonable Faith,” placing human reason as the ultimate standard to which faith must answer.

But what we must be after is not a reasonable faith; we must strive for faithful reason—reason that is faithful to our ultimate standard, the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.
A review: In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration William Lane Craig Craig10


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