New book about Adam and Eve by William Lane Craig

Interesting – I hadn’t seen Opderbeck’s article before. One thing I noticed about Craig’s book was that it seemed heavily weighted toward Protestant scholars, and I was wondering about Roman Catholic treatments of the issues.

Yes, Craig comes across as “heavily weighted toward Protestant scholars”. That’s a fair way to say it.

“I was wondering about Roman Catholic treatments of the issues.”

And then there’s the Orthodox, after (or before) that. Swamidass uses St. Gregory of Nyssa for an anti-slavery message. But he otherwise barely touched the Church Fathers in his “genealogistic” exposition.

There is at least a significant branch of old earthers that accept the age of the universe but deny evolution. It is easy to treat the Hebrew word “yom” as long epochs but fitting evolution into the Genesis accounts is impossible. Of course Genesis 1 has problems like the sun on day four. Hugh Ross and his ministry Reasons to believe come to mind. Using apologetical ingenuity he says the account was given from the perspective of the earth’s surface so they sun wasn’t created after the earth, it just appeared in the sky (atmosphere went from opaque to transparent).

I don’t associate old earth creationists with evolution based on my past experiences and readings. Maybe others do, however. Old earth means you believe in an old earth.

That was me thanks to the cult of Armstrongism. The side-bet on A&E only fell away 10 years ago.

I don’t think the challenges are in Genesis. If old-earthers can see long epochs in Genesis days, they could also choose to see evolution in “let the earth produce every kind.” If they can use a language-of-appearances approach to see the sun and stars made visible on day four rather than created that day, they could equally read Genesis as describing the present diversity of all kinds of life without comment on their deeper, hidden relatedness.

Unlike most young-earthers, most old-earthers already have the interpretive tools needed to come to terms with evolution. What holds them back, I suspect, usually has more to do with fear of slippery slopes and their locating evolution on the opposite side of the culture war. Or, they just haven’t been convinced on the science.

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:100: This checks out, from what I have observed.

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In our case we simply wanted our cake and eat it too. The Bible was a flat cookbook and every part was on the spectrum of true and figurative, that made Him extremely pragmatic. Genocidal but nice with it, totally inclusive in the resurrection. God evolved everything beyond the ‘kind barrier’, but to deny geology made God a liar.

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Most OECs no doubt do genuinely believe that Scripture forbids them from accepting evolutionary theory. The difficulty for them, and I’ve said this before on the forum, is that by accepting the scientific consensus for the age of the universe and earth but not the history of life, their position is built on a fundamental inconsistency. In my opinion, the evidence for the evolutionary history of life is as strong as, even stronger than, the evidence for an old universe and earth. To accept one but not the other as OECs do is seriously problematic. By picking and choosing when and when not to believe mainstream scientific opinion, OECism just looks selective and irrational, and that’s why I don’t think it has a long term mainstream future in the church. How long the timeframe might be, I don’t know.

Wrong as they are, to their credit at least YECs are consistent by rejecting the scientific consensus and making up their own scientific explanations!

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Yes, but why do they believe this? Because it is a message they have absorbed from their communities, communities which are highly invested in certain culture war battles. Just look at Evolution News and Views.

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Thanks, Gregory, for the question and also the reference to Opderbeck. I am always happy to get some new ideas, new data, etc. I am not YEC but tend to think the Bible is talking about something that happened — even if not spelling out details etc – and so I am listening to various views. Swamidoss has an interesting take on things — some of it new to me, but maybe not to you. Will look into Kemp at some point here.

I must admit I haven’t played too close attention to the details of the creationist spectrum – not coming from that culture and not having much patience with the crowd hostile to science. But it seemed to me they were all talking about the difference between micro and macro evolution so if any of them talked about accepting evolution it was “micro-evolution” while a magical creation of “kinds” was the real difference with science. So that was where the real divide was – the question being, do we have common ancestors with the rest of life on this planet (as all the evidence tells us) or not?

Of course, most of us have common ground with the creationists in thinking God played an important role and is still the creator of all things. Thus I have no problem with the idea of God’s intervention in bringing the homo sapiens species into existence. But why ignore what the Bible says about the A&E family and descendants to push A&E back to the total obscurity of 500,000-700,000 ya unless you are trying to dodge the genetic evidence making a such a tiny population bottleneck impossible?

I suppose a big part of it is how much they make of the biological differences. But the obsession with this is difficult for me to understand, since for me the whole point of religion has always been that there is so much more to our existence than the biology and the physical in general for that matter. Thus even the rest of Craig’s argument about the development of physical traits do not seem so significant to me either. I do not believe our humanity is reducible to a genetic criterion. And this is not an argument for dualism either – not that of NeoPlatonism or Descartes anyway. There is only the duality of physical and spiritual described by Paul in 1 Cor 15, and an effective duality of body and mind from the fact that we definitely have life, needs, and an inheritance for both.

Interesting…

That would mean that I take much more of the story and its details seriously than he does. I only insist on treating the magical elements as symbolic. No magical fruit, talking animals, or “life stuff” to animate golems of dust and bone. It is not to erase, dismiss, or ignore their part in the story but only that these talking about something more abstract: fruits representing important aspects of life, the snake being an angelic being, and the breath of God representing His inspiration and communication to Adam and Eve. On the the philosophical/theological level, I dispute that sin is about disobedience, that death is a consequence of the fall, or that God sees understanding of good and evil as something A&E should not have.

I agree with you for sure. Though, I guess the culture war over creation/evolution isn’t as much of a thing here in the UK. Do you think that the culture war is the primary thing stopping them from embracing an evolutionary account of origins? I.e., if it wasn’t so much of a big deal, do you think that OECs would become ECs?

I think the culture war part isn’t over creation/evolution, it’s over being allies or enemies of scientists who are often characterized as atheists, elite intellectuals, and secular people who try to undermine Christianity and Christian morals. I think a huge part of it all is “identity” issues and learned in-group marking and virtue signaling habits that tell people who they are supposed to oppose.

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Really interesting, Christy. Thanks for sharing! As an observer of the US, I think I’d have to agree with your assessment. Those dynamics certainly exist here too, but nowhere near as much. (Not sure what my fellow Brit, @LM77, thinks!)

That was my case, having had a strong background in the physical sciences.

 

(That was not my case, nor several others that I know from online and who are now accepting evolutionary science.)

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I don’t disagree that is an issue but to push back, in my experience the challenge is with Jesus and Paul. What I meant is its easy to reconcile Jesus/Paul with an Old Earth but not biological evolution. One one side many people believe evolution is a random process and has no end game in sight. This understanding does not correspond well with the portrait of God carefully shaping and crafting the earth for us. This is probably less difficult to get around as well but it is there.

At any rate I was at Bible study Monday night and a lady asked a very honest question. “If Adam and Eve were the first two humans then how did their children reproduce?” So everyone offered their thoughts. I first told her the literal view which is incest and also I added the caveat that evangelicals claim the risks of incest were nil since in their view the genetic code of humans was “cleaner.” Next I told her there are many people who do not take the story as history, There are two separate creation narratives in there. The first is depicting God’s sovereignty and in the second Adam is representing Israel. Since I am surrounded by conservative evangelicals I knew they heard of William Lane Craig so I even mentioned his new books and said based on genetics he concluded Adam and Eve would have lived 700,000 years ago and also pointed out any flood described in Genesis also must have been localized. I think I also realized why @glipsnort appreciates the work and pushed myself into that view as well. My point in going to Bible study is application of scripture.That is the group’s goal overall I am not there to change anyone’s mind so I left it at that.

The person after me says I used to believe along the lines of Vinnie and would have told you the story is not historical. But the problem is Jesus. He took the Old Testament very seriously. He referenced the creation. Jesus’ lineage is traced back to Adam. He mentions Abraham, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Given that I trust Jesus I have to look at the Old Testament the same way he did. If Jesus, with supernatural knowledge, being God and all, knew a lot of these things never actually happened but still referenced them as if they did, this strongly borders on lying.

I pushed back a little on two points. I asked if it was thought Jesus was lying when he mentioned the sun rising (did Jesus come to teach science, archaeology or history?) and also that lying assumes Jesus was omniscient in his earthly, incarnated form. The gospels make it clear he was not (grew in wisdom in Luke, didn’t know who touched his robe or the day or hour).

The first thing that has to be addressed is

  1. Jesus’ view of the Old Testament.
  2. An understanding of Jesus’ knowledge level.
  3. Paul’s view of the Old Testament.

Most are convinced that Jesus accepted these stories as true.
Jesus is God’s Son, this makes them more trustworthy than any other source, including a mountain of scientific data piled so high it reaches the moon. I still have not witnessed, to my own satisfaction, the first of those issues above addressed adequately on this forum and to me it is the key issue involved.

Saying “Jesus is just using literary references and that doesn’t necessitate historicity” is ultimately meaningless to most people and I find it unsatisfying. I would have received blank stares if I said that. Why would Paul make the comparison to Adam he did if he thought there never was an actual Adam, that sin didn’t really enter the world through one man? It undermines the whole force of his exegesis in Romans 5. What are other examples like this throughout Biblical times? I never had my lineage traced back though the Kings of Numenor to the second age of middle earth. Is that what Luke did? What are some very practical and obvious examples that ancient Jews made where they appear to make clear literary references in the same context while they simultaneously reject the historicity of the incident? Especially when that incident is told as a story in their Sacred Scripture that over time becomes conventional knowledge (historicized).

She did lump all the OT in with the Adam story and I let that go but good exegesis of the time will tell you that the majority of Jews most likely believed figures like Moses was very real. We could read Josephus’ history of the Jews for some perspective. I mean Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy to Adam. If that isn’t real what else isn’t in Luke? (and yes, that is the slippery slope you speak of). So I think the first step is to soundly and fairly go through Jesus and his beliefs about the Old Testament with an eye on not making Jesus out to be a liar if you think he was omniscient while on earth as many conservatives do. It reminded me of the “created with the appearance of age” thread here where people just don’t like to admit that God could make a fully grown tree with rings if he wanted to because they are convinced it is deceptive. How is an omniscient Jesus appealing to stories most people view as historical and sharing in this mistake not equally deceptive? He would be arguing from the perspective of things that never happened and he would know it. Was it all an exercise in reductio ad absurdum? That explanation will not go over well.

This is not a simple issue but the Hebrew word “yom” bypasses a lot of this. Because you are just making days epochs that correspond to the creative week without changing anything else. You aren’t erasing people from existence. People references in other parts of scripture in historical contexts. And it absolutely and unequivocally does not stop at Adam. What on earth can be confirmed to be historically true in Genesis as a whole? How about the exodus from Egypt? Modern scholars do not support Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. I mean its dead in the scholarly world. Many don’t think he even existed and if he did we don’t know anything about him as the exodus never happened as it is written. Jesus mentioned Moses. How small is the historical kernel of many of these stories?

Vinnie

I see no problem in Jesus’ full humanity involving His enculturation. He couldn’t not believe in what everyone else did, reading the text at face value, why would He? How could He? And none of them would have believed that any of it was allegory, even the final editors centuries before. Even when He was restored to divine omniscience, whatever that is, He continued to use the cultural expectations and limitations of His hearers on the road to Emmaus. That’s not lying. Even though He’d have known that He wasn’t actually foretold by then. That’s being pragmatic, wise.

If you don’t mind violating everything we know about Hebrew and linguistics, sure. The word means day in that context. The arguments that it means anything else are based on really bad semantics that say you can extract “meaning” from an idiomatic expression and then apply that meaning in another context to a single word in the idiom. It’s like saying “in my day” means “in my youth,” so “day” means “youth.” That’s not how idioms work.

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It probably doesn’t actually mean epoch but it meaning epoch to a conservative is an easy apologetical sell when the alternative is the Bible being wrong. As you know, this is how apologetics work. Make bad arguments defending incorrect statements as you retreat up a never-ending hill where your imagination is the only limit to reality. They get to maintain the factuality of the story and combine it with the abundant evidence for an Old Earth. Add in life being acred and in God’s image and its easy to battle biological evolution for some while simultaneously believing God didn’t create light in transit and the chemistry and physics behind radiometric dating is valid.

I don’t mess with interpretation issues. I have no knowledge there but enough sense to cringe when I see an army of untrained amateur apologists using concordances. The point to me is not whether or not yom means day or epoch. I side with day but I am not an expert and my voice here carries no weight. The point is that correct facts in the context of science, archaeology, historicity and biblical criticism are clearly not the driving factor for conservatives who think a fairy tale with talking snakes, magical fruit, a mythical garden an angel with a flaming sword, woman being made from a rib, man from dust from the ground and punishments far outweighing the crime by a trillion fold is historically true as told. Bad stuff happened long before the fall. That alone should end this interpretation. Humans aren’t responsible for bad stuff and natural evil. That belongs to God. Pushing Adam back tens or hundreds of thousands of years or trying to salvage a historical kernel is not any more believable or sophisticated to me than just accepting the hole story as true. It gets the genre entirely wrong. The problem is, many Jews, early Christians–including in all probability–Jesus and Paul and the Christian church most of the last 2,000 years has gotten it wrong as well. Congratulations, we discovered some secret knowledge about Genesis very few, including Jesus himself probably never did. That is the problem conservatives have with rejecting the factuality of the account. That is the issue that needs to be addressed. How could so much of the church, the Jews, Jesus and the Sacred Scripture authors get this wrong. Then comes your slippery slope (what else do they get wrong?).

I am fairly certain almost everything about the modern Christian interpretation of Adam and Eve is wrong.

Vinnie

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Sin is the real issue and unless someone really deals with this, all this speculation is futile.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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