William Lane Craig misunderstands John Walton

In the latest episode of Defenders William Lane Craig is discussing The Lost World of Genesis One. He finds Walton’s views bizarre, as if Walton is saying that before the creation week the sun was there but not really shining, the animals where lying around not eating, etc. As if the function of being food should be taken literally as happening when God declares it to be so, but not before. Craig has a hard time getting out of his own preconceived ideas. He does not have to agree with Walton, but I think that it is a shame that such an eminent apologete as Craig with a massive audience is not giving Walton a fair hearing.

Please listen and let me hear your take on Craig’s take on Walton.


BTW, is it possible to alert John Walton about this episode. I would like to hear/read his response.

A few thoughts from me:

Just how bizarre Walton’s interpretation is becomes evident in his statement that the material creation of the biosphere may have gone on for eons prior to Genesis 1:1 and then at some point in the relatively recent past there came a period of seven consecutive 24-hour days during which God specified the functions of everything existing at that time.

I don’t really see a problem with this. Walton’s viewpoint seems to be in agreement with the somewhat less popular, though perhaps more accurate translation of Genesis 1:1. Creation ex nihilo was not a thing until after the first century AD.

(To be continued)

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I don’t either, since Walton is not talking about functions in the scientific sense, but the functions as to how they relate to worship and the habitation of God in the earth as his temple. Problem is that Craig does not make that distinction. He is criticizing Walton as though he was talking about the ordering of nature. It is sloppy!

The thing is, I like WLC. In his better moments he is superb, IMO. But he just does not get OT-exegesis. He did not when he talked about “sacrifice” either, when he discussed the atonement. What role did various sacrifices serve in the ANE, and to what extent will that affect our exegesis? That was a question Craig simply skipped, and his theology suffered as a consequence, once again IMO.

If anyone is interested, Craig is not much better in his treatment of Walton in the episode that follows either. Craig is cherry picking quotes from Walton and not really engaging with his views. As I’ve said, he can do better.

I don’t know if anyone finds this interesting or not. Perhaps this thread is more of a brain dump from me, however, I just stumbled across John Sailhamer. His view is that Genesis 1:1-2 describes God creating the whole universe, and billions of years later God creates the garden of Eden in present day Israel/Palestine in 7 literal days. Evolution plays some part before that, but Adam and Eve were created ad novo. Sailhamer, as I undestand his view from the reviews, is some kind of combination of gap creationist and progressive creationist. See Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account.

Concerning this view John Piper says: “I lean that way”.

It seems to me that Craig is criticizing Walton as though Walton was Sailhamer.

I’m not sure about his views of OT sacrifice. I don’t agree with his view of the atonement. With regard to his view of Genesis 1, I think his defenders series is excellent. Perhaps he is too harsh on Walton, but I must admit I felt the same way after reading his view. Lamoureaux actually concurs with Craig on this point. Walton’s view is completely out of nowhere and for 2,000 yrs, no Church Father or modern scholar ever took an exclusively functional view of Genesis 1.

Which is something to keep in mind but we were wholly ignorant of the ANE until the past century. And it became the standard to interpret Genesis 1 as creation ex nihilo in response to Greek philosophy about eternal matter.


For me, all of these interpretations of Genesis are too materialistic. To say that Eden is in present day Israel does not fit at all with the text:

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)

Where are the Cherubims with flaming swords protecting the Tree of Life (Jesus) in our physical universe? For me and the Early Christians, everything prior to Genesis 3:24 happened in Paradise (Luke 23:43) - in the non-material world. The beginning of God’s non-material creation is discussed in John 1 and in Revelations. Genesis 1 is the beginning of the restoration, where darkness already exists and God needs to separate the darkness from the light. Remember, Jesus is the light of the world and all light comes from God. So, Neither God nor Jesus created darkness.

It is not uncommon in the Bible that physical time plays no role in the story telling. The time gap between Genesis 3:24 and 4:1 is 13.7 billion years, when Adam and Eve’s story continues in the harshness of the physical universe.

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I’ve interacted with WLC in the past on Adam and Eve issues, and as such I try to (every so often) see where he’s at on things. So, I’m finding this interesting to be sure.



If you’re interested, check out his latest newsletter. It seems he’s trying to decide now between a C. John Collins-type Adam or a Daniel Harlow-type Adam. March Monthly Report

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Thank you - I hadn’t seen that. Seems like the genealogical Adam isn’t working for him…

I am interested, but haven’t had time to listen to WLC’s talk. Craig is an apologist, not an exegete. He’s looking for a straightfoward, one-to-one correspondence between Genesis and history. All I can say is, “Good luck with that!”

That’s just silly.



You say you aren’t going to listen to his talk and then proceed to attack Craig’s views at trying to make a 1-to-1 correspondence between Genesis and history (whatever that means). I’m glad you’ve taken the time to really listen before making snap judgments.

According to your description, he’s looking for a straightfoward, one-to-one correspondence between Genesis and history.

There. Fixed it. Do you feel better now?

A little. MY description? What did I say?

I was responding to itpastorn in the post you picked on. So, I fixed the language in my original post to meet your specifications. itpastorn’s description, not yours.

I just don’t get how anyone even begins to do that without taking extreme liberty with the Hebrew text or cherry picking random events throughout natural history.

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Did I really say that? I am disappointed with Craigs reading of Walton. But that is not saying that Craig wants a 1:1 correspondence. In other places he is quite nuanced and takes issue with YEC-ish literalism.

So to say that the genre of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is not a straightforward scientifico-historical account implies nothing about how you should read the Gospels. In fact, what I went on to say in my answer is the Gospels are a different type of literature than the primeval history of Genesis 1 to 11. The eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen described Genesis 1 to 11 as history clothed in the figurative language of mythology – a genre he dubbed mytho-history.

I don’t even require of anyone to accept Walton’s interpretation. Not sure if I do myself, yet. But it should be critiqued for what it is. As noted above in a comment, Sailhamer’s view is silly, even though it impresses John Piper. Craig calls Walton’s view “outlandish” and a few more adjectives to that effect. If one ends up thinking an eminent scholar that has gotten quite a hearing from other scholars as well as lay people is promoting “outlandish” theories, one had better think to himself if the impression one has got is reasonable or not.


Not in so many words. But I know something of Craig’s approach, which is along the lines of what Reasons to Believe does, so I’m extrapolating from that based upon your description.

Can you summarize the Collins-type and the Harlow-type for me?

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