Tag Archives: evidentialist apologetics

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.

 


Andy Stanley and Jeff Durbin: An “Unbelievable” Discussion About Apologetics

Veracity readers will know that I have posted several times about Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. Last month, my wife and I attended the Buckhead branch of Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta, Georgia. Though pastor Stanley was not preaching that week, it was eye-opening to experience how Stanley’s NorthPoint community network of churches function, to reach a large city like Atlanta.

Andy Stanley has become rather “infamous” for coining the phrase that Christians should “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament, a theme present in his bestselling book Irresistible. Despite what one might think of this controversy, Andy Stanley is more fundamentally known as a preacher who engages in what is called evidentialist apologetics, in an attempt to reach the non-believer with the Gospel. Evidentialist apologetics is a way of establishing common ground with a skeptical non-believer, seeking to share the Truth of Christ, by making an appeal to scientific and historical evidences that support the validity of the Christian faith. Some good examples of Christian apologists who make use of evidentialist apologetics include J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, Michael Licona, and the most well-known of them all, William Lane Craig.

In Andy Stanley’s particular approach, Andy Stanley says we should not start with the Bible, but rather start with the Resurrection of Jesus. We build our case for Christ by making a series of arguments in sequence, beginning with the reality of Christ’s resurrection, which leads to establishing the divine authority of Jesus, which then leads to the authority of the Bible, and its salvation message. The simplest way to put it is that it is the event of the Resurrection that gives us the text of the Bible, as we have it today, and not the other way around.

So, I was really excited to learn that Justin Brierley, of the British apologetics podcast, Unbelievable?, was able to get Andy Stanley together with presuppositionalist apologist Jeff Durbin, in order to discuss the nature of apologetics. In contrast with evidentialist apologetics, presuppositional apologetics takes a different approach, whereby you begin with the self-attestation of the truthfulness of Scripture first, and only then speak of the various doctrinal claims of the Christian faith, including Christ’s resurrection. Jeff Durbin himself is a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, who has been mentored by perhaps the most influential presuppositional apologist, of a Calvinist persuasion, of our day, James White, of Alpha Omega Ministries, also headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Durbin, a popular YouTube Reformed apologist, has the unique distinction of being cast in several martial arts movies.

While I do believe that presuppositionalist apologetics does have its place, I am more of an evidentialist. Perhaps that is because that is how God reached me with the Gospel. I tend to differ with Durbin’s brand of apologetics, as presuppositionalist apologetics often begs the question: How do you build a case for Jesus, based on the Bible, when the non-believer does not believe the Bible to be trustworthy in the first place?

Sure, you could begin an evangelistic discussion by asking your listener to pretend that the Bible is reliable and true. But there is a big gap between pretending to believe the Bible, versus actually believing the evidence that exists, to support the authenticity of its message.

Even Christians often come to the Bible with their own negative judgments. An evidentialist approach seeks to build a bridge, that can help the skeptic or puzzled Christian to rethink their own reason for looking down at the Bible, or certain parts of the Bible. A presuppositional approach works great, if the person shares the same presuppositions. But a purely presuppositional approach tends to lead people to talk right past one another. In the worst cases, the presuppositional approach blows up bridges instead of building bridges, in our evangelistic or discipleship conversations.

A more troublesome question for presuppositional apologetics is this: Why start with the Bible? Why not the Book of Mormon? Or the Koran? Or the Bhagavad Gita?

Even if you start with the Bible, as opposed to starting with the evidence for the Resurrection, you still have to figure out which systematic view of the Bible you plan to go with: A Calvinist view? An Arminian view? A dispensationalist view? A charismatic view? Which one?

Andy Stanley’s particular approach does have some problems, as I have discussed before, so it is great to have someone like a Jeff Durbin, with whom I still have more disagreements with, on the other side of the debate, to challenge him. In the end, it is quite clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to Christian apologetics that works for everyone. The discussion between Stanley and Durbin is great way to figure out where you stand, with respect to how you defend your faith, when engaging a skeptical non-believer. A riveting 90-minutes. This really is an amazing discussion!!


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