New book about Adam and Eve by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig, the Christian philosopher and theologian, has a new book out arguing for the historicity of Adam(*). Craig argues that the Genesis narrative is largely written in terms of mythology and is there not to be take literally, but that Paul’s statements about Adam necessitate the latter’s existence. He therefore looks to science to determine when Adam could have lived, concluding that it must have around 700,000 years ago, probably making him a member of Homo heidelbergensis.

I’ve got a review of the book with more details, accessible here. (A link that only may only work once – after that, you may have to restart your browser if you want to use it again. They’re working on this glitch.)

(*) and Eve, who is an afterthought throughout the book.

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Would you mind unpacking by this a bit more for me, please?

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Well done, and respectfully critiqued.

He seeks to answer two questions: whether his theological commitments as a Christian necessitate believing in a historical Adam and Eve and, if so, what science can tell us about that couple.

As far as the Genesis story of Adam and Eve is concerned, Craig concludes that it…was not meant to be taken literally…By contrast, he concludes that some statements about Adam in the New Testament, specifically ones in Paul’s letter to the Romans, do entail a real, historical Adam, one who was the first human.

Your concern that Dr Craig does not ask if Second Temple Judaism may have informed Paul’s understanding, and thus could have been archetypal/mythological as well, is, I think, appropriate (I have not read the book. but that is the big question).

You go into more depth, which I think is also very pithy. I’ll leave it to others to discuss. I also appreciate that you praise Craig for taking science and evolution seriously. Thanks.

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Nice review @glipsnort, and in Science no less. Surprised they were interested, but I guess that’s a good thing.

Haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve seen of the reviews and Craig’s essay The Historical Adam in First Things, I think you noted the main problems.

First, Craig starts from an a priori conviction that Adam must be a real, historical individual. Does he draw that conclusion from his interpretation of Gen 2-3? Nope. It’s based on his systematic theology and interpretation of Paul. That’s pretty much backwards.

From that flawed start, Craig traces the scientific narrative to find the headwaters of what he considers “humanness.” By all accounts, he does a fairly good job with the science, but then we come to the main problem. As you put it,

Even leaving aside the religious motivations, biologists are likely to be highly skeptical of the idea that humanness is a binary condition that can be induced by a change in a single pair of ancestors—declaring the change to be miraculous and to incorporate an immaterial soul, as Craig proposes, will not make it more appealing.

I would’ve put it this way: Craig jumped the shark.
image

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I think he just means Eve is barely mentioned.

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We all know Eve is only important to theology when it comes to things like why women are subordinate to men and why women are more gullible and weak. Not for important discussions like humanness or redemption.

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Bingo. Craig explicitly states early in the book that by ‘Adam’ he means both Adam and Eve. I think this is an unfortunate choice to start with, given the prominent role of Eve has played in Christian arguments for women’s subordination and inferiority. Simply removing her from your theological account of the origin of humanity is not a good look.

I think Eve’s erasure also leads to a logical gap in Craig’s argument. The Garden story is basically myth, and Adam is only necessary because of Paul’s words in Romans. Okay. But Paul doesn’t say anything about Eve there, so why is she needed? And yet Craig brings her back in as a historical figure when he’s putting his final model together, describing a pair of hominins who are made human by divine action, with no justification. He seems to have literally not given her a second thought.

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Yeah, I was surprised they asked me. And a little nervous – not everyone will appreciate having a book like this reviewed in Science.

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To be clear, he does describe other contemporary treatments of Adam, but what he doesn’t address is what other interpreters meant by their interpretations. That is, he doesn’t ask the kind of genre question he did of Genesis. I don’t think they were exactly writing myths, but I also doubt that they were intending to write straightforward historical accounts.

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I find the review enormously… too generous:

I suspect that for many scientists, including religious ones, the exercise will be seen as misguided or simply incomprehensible… [so far so good]

While my own reaction is along similar lines, I very much welcome the book. I think that it is entirely a good thing that an individual with Craig’s theological commitments and credentials turns to science to answer questions about the physical world, takes evolution as a given, and puts in the hard work to understand scientific findings.

I’d welcome an apologetic from anyone that says me too.

Thanks. I think Pete Enns wrote something about this quite well in “Evolution of Adam.” I will have to read (or listen to) Craig’s book.

In a way, this book may be a great leap forward in terms of mainstream American Christianity accepting evolution. Like Tim Keller, he also accepts Adam (perhaps as necessary for the Fall); and like Dr Swamidass and others who examine the “genealogical Adam,” they accommodate to this concept, which is really important to many folks’ understanding.

I don’t know how the book would be accepted at all, if this was not in it.

I wonder what AiG will write in review.
Thanks.

Oof. That was a one-punch knockout. Body blow to the side. Kidney shot, to be specific. WLC never stood a chance.

She enters the picture when a “breeding pair” becomes necessary. That’s just sad, especially considering that the climax of the narrative in Genesis 3 revolves around “the woman.” The man’s eating of the fruit is anticlimactic. He gobbles it down without thought. “If you already ate it, me too!” Maybe it says something that both Paul and church tradition focused on Adam’s role, which was nil? The woman represents all of humanity – both male and female – in her confrontation with the serpent. We’re all in this together.

Having not read the book, does WLC address any aspects of the “fall,” or does he stop with simply locating a literal Adam & Eve?

I second that opinion.

Hope you don’t take too much flak. Even Jerry Coyne wasn’t that hard on you.

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It takes a long time to turn an ocean liner around. Hopefully, this will find a middle ground to allow lots of good, smart Christians to take science seriously and enter into STEM.

In contrast, a Sunday School book I just saw for our church is teaching the 6 days—again. I just don’t know what will happen to these kids when they go to college.

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Pushing Adam back that far tends to create as many problems as it addresses. I am reminded of our late dear friend Glenn Morton aka @gbob who in his desire to have a historical Adam pushed him even further back to when the Mediterranean was a dry basin. The text in Genesis clearly puts Adam at the dawn of agriculture which if you try to keep things literal, is problematic. Perhaps it will be helpful to get people thinking of Genesis as something other than literal history, but ultimately it seems unlikely that it will be a stable place to land.

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Though I disagree with him quite a bit on lots of stuff, I’ll just second Pete Enns here: if evangelicals (not even sure if WLC considers himself one, tbh) think it’s legitimate to say they’re holding on to the “biblical” Adam, particularly of Paul, by arguing that he was a 700,000 year old Heidelbergensis bloke, then I really don’t know what they’re doing anymore with biblical interpretation–and, I say that as self-confessing evangelical!

I appreciate Craig’s willingness to go wherever he thinks the evidence leads and I’m hopeful that as a very well-known Christian his acceptance of common ancestry will lead the way for many others to do so, but I mean seriously, if his thesis is accepted as another faithful option for evangelicals, then it’s about time that well argued non-historical options are too. It just beggars belief that in the desperate pursuit of holding on to some form of historical Adam, some evangelicals will probably be willing to believe that a 700,000 year old couple, who weren’t a part of our own species, and who lived at a time when stuff like language and modern cognition probably hadn’t developed, is somehow more “faithful to the text” than a non-historical interpretation that attempts to grapple seriously with wisely applied accommodation, digging into ancient contexts and so on.

I’m not even saying I’m sure myself about Adam, but we’re at a point now in the issue where, if Craig can present this idea and it be taken seriously and accepted as a legitimate option for evangelicals, then so should non-historical ideas.

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I hear what you’re saying @Randy.

I am continuously astounded, appalled at the state of American evangelicalism, having been a dupe of worse for decades, in that a position like Craig’s is considered a positive development.

The course is still on a southerly heading from having gone west three hundred years ago.

When Craig repudiates the compass distorting jetsam of historical-grammatical method, fundamentalism, literalism and Kalam; putting anti-intellectualism before intellect, rather than pursuing faith in its full razor light, that’ll be the day the megaship is going somewhere, on a true voyage of discovery.

Perhaps he does so since this is also what the book of Genesis does? but perhaps that is also an unfortunate choice…

So God created man ( “ha adam” / הָֽאָדָם֙) in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Just so I follow, is this meant to be a criticism of Paul, specifically?

Good point

He does talk about it and consider some possibilities for it, but he doesn’t think the specific mechanism by which sin entered and spread is important for his purposes.

Did Coyne wade in? I’m kind of curious about his reaction – but I think I won’t go and read it. Doing so is unlikely to improve my life in any respect.

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Since Craig wasn’t writing in Hebrew, since ‘Adam’ doesn’t also mean ‘human’ in English, and since Craig uses ‘Adam’ exclusively as the proper name of a single person rather than a generic term for humanity… no.

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At this point I’d say the ship has struck the rocks and is dead in the water and listing badly. Instead of working to put out the fires raging below decks, the survivors are fighting over the wreckage.

But maybe I’m a little jaundiced.

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