William Lane Craig on the Historical Adam

William Lane Craig is often regarded as the most prominent living Christian philosopher on the planet defending the Christian faith today. However, a recent article that Craig wrote for the magazine First Things has resulted in a firestorm of controversy.

Craig, the founder of the apologetics ministry, Reasonable Faith, and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, has recently published a book regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve, and the literary genre of Genesis 1-11 more broadly:  In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. His essay at First Things summarizes his thesis, and Craig concludes that the Adam and Eve of Genesis are both historical and mythological figures in the Bible, and Craig also concludes that Genesis 1-11 is an example of the literary genre of mytho-history found in the Bible. Furthermore, Craig argues that Adam and Eve go back to a common ancestor shared between modern humans and Neanderthals, between 750,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. Craig’s view can be quickly summarized in this 4-minute linked YouTube video.

Dr. Owen Strachan, Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, has taken Dr. Craig to task at his Substack blog, describing Dr. Craig’s summary view as being “tortured.” According to the Substack blog, Strachan believes that Craig is not sufficiently nor clearly affirming the historicity of Adam and Eve.  The controversy provides an illustration at just how divided Christians are over the question of human origins, as it corresponds to the teaching of the Bible. This is not a new development, as such controversy extends back even to the days of Jesus.

Some Christians, such as Reformed apologist James White, of Alpha Omega Ministries, and one of the most capable Christian debaters today, hold largely to a presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics, where one begins one’s apologetic method with an assumption, or presupposition, that exists as revelation that can not be refuted. This is different from an evidentialist approach to Christian apologetics, that William Lane Craig tends to follow, urging Christians and non-Christians to “follow the evidence wherever it leads” towards the discovery of truth. Interestingly, White is not consistent with his own apologetic method, as White comes across as holding an evidentialist position when defending the reliability of modern Bible translations, in contrast with the presuppositionalist approach taken by KJV-Onlyists (see the comments in this linked Veracity article), who only view the King James Version of the Bible as being THE one-and-only divinely preserved version of the Bible. Nevertheless, James White gives his own broadly framed critique of William Lane Craig in this linked YouTube video, selected from one of his Dividing Line podcast programs. White’s critique here is a bit “off-the-cuff” but it can give you a flavor as to how different Christians approach apologetics differently.

Many Christians are convinced that the truthfulness of the Christian faith hangs and falls on the historical narrative of Adam and Eve. Others view Adam and Eve as merely metaphorical symbols representative of the story of humanity more broadly. Is there a common ground solution to be had here?

What makes this issue so challenging to navigate is that while many Young Earth Creationists, and even some Old Earth Creationists, will make an appeal to the beliefs of the earliest Christians among the early church fathers, in support of their views, the question of relating history and metaphor together is far from simple even among the early church fathers, when it comes to interpreting Genesis 1-11.

For example, even Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Jesus, and perhaps the leading apologist for Scriptural faith in his day, had serious reservations about the literal interpretation of the “days” of Genesis, as well as the creation of Eve materially from Adam’s rib, and this was well over 1800 years before Charles Darwin ever came on the scene, well before the age of modern science!! Philo would later become a major influence upon Christian bible teachers in the early church.

In the following YouTube video, Protestant theologian Gavin Ortlund offers a friendly rebuttal to Owen Strachan’s critique of William Lane Craig, by focusing on the complex views of Saint Augustine, the most influential Christian theologian in the Western church, dating back to the early 5th century. After that, I have linked to a YouTube interview by apologist Sean McDowell with William Lane Craig about his new book. The Ortlund video is 15-minutes long. The Craig interview with McDowell is an hour long.

I would be interested in any Veracity reader feedback on any of this content. For further reading, I recommend the work of Joshua Swamidass in finding a peaceful solution to the controversy surrounding the historical Adam and Eve. For a deeper dive into the content of William Lane Craig’s book, you can follow this series of interviews with New Testament scholar Ben Witherington starting here.

 

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

4 responses to “William Lane Craig on the Historical Adam

  • Clarke Morledge

    Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron makes a similar argument about the literary genre of Genesis, as does William Lane Craig:

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  • Boris Badenoff

    The biblical authors knew nothing of the recent past let alone the distant past. The story of Adam and Eve was taken from the Egyptian creation story of Geb and Nut. They disobeyed the creator deity and Nut was punished with difficulties with childbirth. Nut was made from Geb’s body. One of their sons killed his brother. The patterns between the Egyptian stories and Genesis are many and obvious.

    WLC’s book, like the rest of his arguments, is just more antiscientific nonsense. Craig has convinced himself that Adam and Eve actually existed, not from science but from the epistles of Paul, in particular the letter to the Romans. So he starts with a conclusion and then simply makes stuff up to support that conclusion. This is the hallmark of pseudoscience. If this guy is the best apologist Christianity has to offer it’s no wonder this religion is currently being laughed off the planet – gone right over the edge of its flat earth.

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  • Clarke Morledge

    Answers in Genesis reviews William Lane Craig’s book. No surprise here as to what the review would say:

    https://answersingenesis.org/why-does-creation-matter/undermining-scripture-regarding-adam-initial-response-william-lane-craig/

    Here is Ken Ham’s critique from 2014:

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