Tag Archives: Young-Earth Creationism

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.

 


The Unseen Realm: Rediscovering the Supernatural World with Michael Heiser

Why did I wait so long to read this book?

Every now and then a book comes along that just revolutionizes your thinking. After having this book on my “to-be-read” list for at least five years, I finally got around to reading Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s The Unseen Realm.  Talk about a revolution. I will never read my Bible the same way again. I am not sure that Michael Heiser has EVERYTHING right, but he pretty much nails a lot of things smack dab on the head.

If have not heard of Dr. Michael Heiser before, might I suggest that you look him up on YouTube, as he is big in the world of Christian YouTube apologetics. If you are concerned about reaching the next generation for Christ, you should pay attention to what is going on with the newer, younger generation of thoughtful Christian apologists, in an Internet age. Michael Heiser heads the list of influential Bible scholars, who are leaned on by these young Christian apologists, who make a defense for the Gospel.

Michael Heiser got on my radar a few years ago with the Naked Bible Podcast, where this Old Testament and Semitic languages scholar goes through books of the Bible, mostly passage by passage, and focuses on a lot of the “weird” stuff in the Bible that is simply left untaught in most evangelical churches from the pulpit these days.

Heiser is a great Bible teacher, unafraid to challenge traditional denominational categories. Furthermore, a lot of what you find in popular media regarding the Old Testament is downright skeptical of Scriptural revelation, ranging from your typical college introductions to the Old Testament to televised programs on the History Channel. But Michael Heiser knows his stuff, tackling such skepticism of the Bible head on. Yet he introduces you to a paradigm of understanding Bible that affirms the full trustworthiness of the Scriptures, while maintaining a solid footing in the best of contemporary scholarship. Along with Wheaton College’s John Walton (see here and here), Michael Heiser is pretty much the “go-to” scholar when it comes to all things Old Testament, and relating that world to the New Testament, in the fiery world of Christian apologetics.

Michael Heiser’s Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, will revolutionize the way you read Scripture, making sense out of many puzzling passages, and refuting materialistic skepticism that rejects the Bible.

How Contemporary Evangelical Avoidance of the Supernatural in Holy Scripture Has Obfuscated the Meaning of Many Difficult Texts in the Bible

In 2020, I decided to read one of Heiser’s more recent in-depth books first, Angels, and it was great, but I became aware that a lot of what you find in Angels assumes you understand the basic ideas presented in The Unseen RealmThe Unseen Realm seemed a bit daunting to me at the time, as it is somewhat academic (but not too academic), and I was not ready to dig that deep into the topic. But my goal of reading (errr… listening via Audible) The Unseen Realm on my bike rides this year left me stopping on the bike path, several times, to rewind the last paragraph or two, to fully digest the topic.

Before diving in, let me say that most readers at Veracity will probably get more out of Heiser’s other book, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches About the Unseen World – and Why It Matters, as it is less academic and does not have footnotes, while still covering the same material. But I like footnotes, so The Unseen Realm was my thing.

So, what is the main idea behind The Unseen Realm?

If you had to pick one passage of the Bible that is totally weird, I bet that I can tell you what might rise to the top of the list, or pretty close to it. Would it be the story of Elisha and the She-bears in 2 Kings 2? Possibly. That one is weird. How about the thing about women wearing head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11? That’s weird, is it not? Some might even toss out the entire Book of Revelation as a good candidate. Yes, there is some weird stuff in that book, too.

But let us look at something right near the beginning of the whole Bible. Before you get a few chapters into Genesis, most every Christian I know gets stumped on this one: How about the story in Genesis 6, where the “sons of God” took the “daughters of men” as wives, and the offspring produced were called the Nephilim?

Pretty weird, huh?

In fact, I have always thought that this passage was SO weird, that I wrote a blog post almost 6 years ago explaining that most Christians have no clear idea as to what this passage is talking about, and urging humility when studying it. I still think we need humility, but I am pretty well convinced that Dr. Heiser’s approach is correct (I will leave the old blog post up anyway, just so that you can compare and see where my mind has changed). The amount of explanatory power behind Heiser’s thesis is simply breathtaking.

So, who are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6? A tradition going back to Saint Augustine suggests that these were descendants of Seth, the other son of Adam and Eve, aside from the well known Cain and Abel. In a nutshell, these “sons of God” were godly descendants of Seth, who had sexual relations with women descended from Cain; that is, “daughters of men,” such that God’s anger against humankind was stirred enough to trigger Noah’s flood, as a sign of divine judgment against the world.

Saint Augustine is surely one of the greatest teachers of Scripture of the Christian faith. The entire Protestant movement, for example, finds its backing squarely in the thought of Augustine’s view of justification by faith. Augustine was no slouch! However, Augustine was not proficient in his understanding of Greek, knew close to nothing about the Hebrew language, and lacked the cultural background of Second Temple Judaism, that was pretty well assumed by the original Jewish audience, living in the time of Jesus. Instead, according to Dr. Michael Heiser, a much older tradition, predating Augustine’s views, going back to the Book of Enoch, and other writings in the inter-testamental period, between the Old Testament and New Testament suggests that the “sons of Gods” were actually divine beings that rebelled against Yahweh, the name for God in the New Testament.

Genesis does not give us that many further details concerning these “sons of God,” but Heiser’s overview of the Jewish literature written within a few hundred years prior to the earthly ministry of Jesus reveals that Jesus’ listeners were thinking a lot about the “sons of God.” Are there other “sons of God,” other than the Genesis 6 rebels?

If you take a glance at just about any modern Bible translation, for the most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, you might see a clue here. For years, older translations of this verse spoke about Jesus this way, like in the KJV: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Most newer translations have removed the word “begotten“, an older archaic word, typically having something to do with “birth” or “generation.” But it is not because “begotten” is archaic that this word has been removed. Though still a topic of some debate, recent scholarship indicates the original Greek word, monogenes, actually has a meaning closer to “unique” or “one of a kind,” close to what the NIV 2011 translation has as “one and only Son“.  Michael Heiser probably prefers a translation along these lines: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one of a kind Son“.  In other words, Jesus is the unique, one of a kind, Son of God. Unlike any other divine being, Jesus has a unique relation to God the Father that no other divine being has ever had.

So, what is the big deal about that? Well, have you ever wondered why the Gospels talk so much about demons and demon possession? Today, Christians normally fall into two camps when they think about demons. Either they see demons everywhere around us, even to an extreme, under your bed, in your neighbor’s mini-van, etc., a belief that is particularly strong among certain hyper-charismatic Christians. At the other extreme, other Christians (along with many non-believers) are embarrassed about such talk of demons, as demonic possession is typically thought of today as being an out-dated relic of unscientific, pre-modernistic cultures. Is there another alternative?

In The Unseen Realm, Michael Heiser makes the strong case that the dead Nephilim that were wiped out during the Great Flood of Noah are actually the source of demons. So, when Jesus comes on the scene in 1st century Palestine, he came to do battle against the demonic powers, which is why demons are out in full force in the Gospels. When Jesus makes his appearance as the unique, one of kind “Son of God,” he not only came to resolve the problem of human sin. He also came to conquer and destroy the demonic powers that seek to enslave humanity in that sin.

Furthermore, Heiser argues that this understanding of demons explains the perplexing passage in 1 Peter 3:19-20, where Jesus is said have preached to the “spirits in prison.” This passage is most probably the basis for the (in)famous descensus clause from the Apostles Creed, whereby Jesus descends into Hades (“hell“), between his crucifixion and resurrection. Who are these “spirits in prison?” For Heiser, and according to a large body of contemporary scholarship, these are the dead Nephilim that Jesus preaches to, condemning the demonic powers to their eternal demise and judgment. While not ruling out other possible explanations, that could run side by side with this one, the idea that Jesus was sent to preach a message of condemnation to the demons is a pretty awesome thing to consider.

That is some powerful stuff to think about!

Yes, it does sound quite weird. But then, that is partly why the message of the Bible still has a striking message for our fallen world today, that secularizes just about everything, and robs our day to day life of mystery and deeper meaning.

How an Old Testament Approach to the “Divine Council” Makes Better Sense of the New Testament

Behind Dr. Heiser’s approach to the Bible is the notion of a “Divine Council” being expressed in the pages of the Old Testament, whereby we understand Yahweh, the God of Israel, to have a court of other divine beings, that Yahweh himself created (see the Bible Project). These divine beings, whom we encounter in the Bible, including angels, cherubim, seraphim, and even the rebellious ones, like Satan and the demons, were created originally to serve Yahweh, as most clearly articulated in Psalm 82.

Traditionally, the “gods” of Psalm 82 have been primarily understood to be Jewish elders. On the other hand, Heiser makes the case that these “gods” are not human creatures, but rather they are divine creatures, that bring their supernatural influence to bear among the nations, as members of God’s “Divine Council.”  Heiser makes the bolder case that this “Divine Council” interpretation predates the “traditional” interpretation of Psalm 82, as it is thoroughly rooted in the worldview of Second Temple Judaism, a perspective that many of the great Gentile patristic teachers of the early church never fully grasped.

Once one understands the workings of the Divine Council in the Old Testament, this then unlocks a lot of the mystery behind dozens of passages in the New Testament, that typically confuse the vast majority of Christians. Heiser gives multiple examples of how a Divine Council framework of thinking helps to make more sense out of the New Testament.

Are you ever confused about Paul’s statement that we are to “judge angels” (1 Corinthians 6:3 ESV)? What about the rebellious angels that Jude highlights in his short letter (Jude 6)? Have you ever wondered why the tribe of Dan is omitted from the list of the 144,000 in Revelation 7? Had you ever considered that the plain of Meggido, in northern Israel, may not be the proper location of the battle of Armaggedon? And to top all of that off, what about that strange passage mentioned above in 1 Corinthians 11, requiring that women wear head coverings while praying/prophesying in church, because “of the angels” (verse 10)?

Sure, other competent scholars might suggest other interpretations. But Heiser’s work is most impressive for the broad explanatory power his thesis has in bringing together so many loose ends in Scripture, that continues to puzzle many students of the Bible.

Solving Old Testament Mysteries, Too

Of particular interest to those who are concerned about faith/science issues, as they relate to the Bible, is Dr. Heiser’s understanding that at least some of the Nephilim survived Noah’s flood. The Nephilim, products of the angelic/human procreation rebellion in Genesis 6, were considered to be giants. Heiser links these to the giants that the Israelite spies saw, when they identified the land as being filled with milk and honey. When the Israelites were commanded to wipe out the Anakim, when entering the Promised Land, Dr. Heiser suggests that these Anakim, as giants, were descendants of the Nephilim who survived the flood. Goliath, the great giant that David faced, is also identified as a descendant of the Anakim.

These observations helps to resolve two persistent apologetic quandaries, that have stumped believers and supposedly justified skeptics in their critique of the Bible. First, this would help to rule out a global flood, in favor of a large local flood, to fit within the Noahic narrative. For if the flood was global in nature, that would rule out survivors of the flood, apart from Noah and his family. However, if the flood was local in nature, this easily explains why some of the Nephilim survived into the period of Israel’s journey towards the Promised Land, prior to Joshua’s conquest.

This view of the Nephilim also dampens claims that the Bible advocates genocide of humans, as the wiping out of the Anakim would be for destroying these giant angelic/human hybrid offspring, instead of normal humans. Sure, it is some weird stuff to think about, like something out of a science-fiction movie. But it makes more sense than some of the peculiar ideas put forward by some Young Earth Creationists, regarding a global flood, and answers at least some concerns that skeptics have about the conquest of Canaan by Joshua.

What makes Dr. Heiser’s work in The Unseen Realm so compelling is that none of this research that he brings to bear on the Bible is unique or new to him. Everything you read about in The Unseen Realm is a result of peer-reviewed Biblical scholarship, researched and studied over the past few decades, that often remains locked up in the halls of academia. Instead, Michael Heiser takes this vast treasure of Biblical insight and makes it available to common, everyday Christian believers, putting it lower down towards the bottom shelf, so that everyone can benefit. The Unseen Realm is jam-packed with details that frame the Biblical story in a whole new way.

The main caution I would again point out is that The Unseen Realm assumes that the reader has some advanced understanding of the Bible. The Unseen Realm is therefore loaded with footnotes, which might be off-putting to the casual or uninitiated reader, but that will really help more knowledgeable students of the Bible put all of the pieces together. As an added bonus, Dr. Heiser has a website that gives even more extended notes for Bible students to dig deeper into the meaning of the text.

Fortunately, Michael Heiser’s more accessible version Supernatural will really help newer believers and other Bible novices comprehend his paradigm shifting argument. In other words, if you are fairly new to the Bible, get Supernatural instead, and leave the The Unseen Realm to the Bible nerds. If even that sounds too intimidating, Michael Heiser has also written a short introduction to what the story of the Bible is all about, What Does God Want?, that introduces the Gospel within the framework of his research.

Michael Heiser’s Supernatural is a “beginner’s guide” to Heiser’s thesis about the supernatural worldview of the Bible, otherwise known as the less academic version of his groundbreaking The Unseen Realm.

Seeing the Bible in a New Way Can Unsettle Older Ways of Thinking

Like any paradigm shifting work of theology published today, there are bound to be critics who will emerge to pushback on Heiser’s work. A Google search easily brings up a number of Heiser’s critics. I will just cover a few of the interesting one’s I found recently:

In a gracious response, Kenneth Berding at the Talbot School of Theology believes that while Heiser’s works has much to commend itself, Heiser misunderstands how the identification of the “adversary” in the Book of Job, as tied to the Christian concept of Satan, actually works (video link to Heiser’s response). Andrew Moody, the Australian editorial director of The Gospel Coalition’s website in Australia, is grateful for The Unseen Realm, but not convinced that the New Testament term “saints” in the Apostle Paul’s letters should better be translated as “holy ones,” that would include members of the Divine Council, along with human believers, as Dr. Heiser suggests. The Scholarly Dishwasher’s Blog contends that Heiser leaves the Triune nature of God out of the Genesis Creation account. James White, of Alpha Omega Ministries, one of the sharpest Christian apologists out there today, appeals to his staunchly Reformed theological position to dismiss Heiser’s reading of a “Divine Council” being taught in the Old Testament as spurious, if not downright heretical. Then there is a King James Only-ist advocate who admits that,  “Although [Heiser] is probably a saved man and he has decent goals, he is a typical member of the Alexandrian cult who wouldn’t know good Bible doctrine if it hit him on the head with a sledge hammer,all with plentiful exasperations expressed throughout in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, meant to emphatically decry how anyone might benefit one iota from contemporary evangelical scholarship. *SIGH*

To varying degrees, some much more than others, each one of these critiques suffers from the same fundamental flaw. Each critique is at least somewhat nervous, or perhaps even scandalized, that Dr. Heiser seeks to ground his interpretation of these weird Scripture texts within the context of both the Ancient Near East and Second Temple Judaism. Yet this is precisely Dr. Heiser’s point, that we should best interpret the Bible within its ancient context, as opposed to depending on later traditions of thought, centuries removed from the original context, with little contact with ancient culture. The majority of Michael Heiser’s most severe critics therefore fail to appreciate the process of progressive revelation that took place among the Jewish writers and readers of Scripture, stemming hundreds of years back to the era of Moses, and on through the eve of Jesus’ public ministry (including the inter-testamental period, the so-called “Silent Years”).

Dr. Heiser is pretty adamant that we need to have the ancient Israelite “living in our head” if we ever expect to understand and interpret the Bible responsibly. Otherwise, we are simply reading “someone else’s mail,” thus imposing our own 21st century ideas on the text of Scripture, at the expense of neglecting the mindset that the ancient writers of Scripture held.

My teachers back during my years in seminary constantly hounded me for irresponsibly reading things back into the ancient texts of the Bible, and now I understand why. The original readers of the ancient Scriptural text were not able to consciously understand their Old Testament, in its fullness. Prior to the coming of Jesus, they got bits and pieces, but they lacked the full picture. It is a whole lot easier to skip that fact and try to read things back into the Old Testament, than it is to appreciate how God worked in the minds and hearts of His people over hundreds of years, to eventually disclose the mystery of the faith to Jesus’ earliest disciples in 1st century Palestine, and those like the Apostle Paul.

Am I convinced by every reading of controversial texts, cited by Michael Heiser? No, probably not. At times, Dr. Heiser dismisses too easily some of the more significant insights of certain early church fathers, like Augustine, as well as Reformation leaders, like Calvin and Luther. In other words, most of my Reformed friends think he is not “Reformed” enough. But traditional Roman Catholics might be unsettled by the implications of Heiser’s thesis, as he has a very different take on the Matthew 16:18 prooftext used to justify the primacy of Peter.

In other ways, Heiser likes to stand aloof from various controversies that plague the church today. For example, Dr. Heiser often states in his Naked Bible Podcast, that he “does not care” about the various eschatological systems that give us conflicting interpretations about the nature, timing and events associated with the Second Coming of Jesus. He also takes no position on the complementarian/egalitarian discussion regarding “women in ministry” dividing churches today, for pretty much the same reason. Some might find that to be a relief, whereas others might think that he is just dodging controversy. Presumably, I think that Dr. Heiser simply has no interest in trying to resolve any of the “hot-button” issues that trigger many Christians today, in the church, preferring instead to focus on his research into the Divine Council, which in my view, is a whole lot more intriguing and substantial anyway. Finally, some of the “science-fiction-like” interpretations that Heiser offers can sound a little crazy. People who get into fascinations regarding UFOs and paranormal experiences likely will be totally spellbound by Dr. Heiser’s research, whereas skeptics of those type of things might tend to be dismissive of Heiser’s ideas.

However, getting a glimpse as to how so many previously confusing passages of the Bible fit together in a coherent whole is really mind-blowing. More than any other contemporary Bible scholar, who writes for a popular audience, Michael Heiser’s detailed work in the supernatural character of the Bible, and love for verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture, has created in me a deeper love and interest in the study of the Scriptures. The broad explanatory power of Heiser’s work that simultaneously undermines secularist skepticism about the Bible, and takes Jewish readings of the Bible more seriously, while illuminating the meaning of once difficult passages, makes an appreciation of Michael Heiser’s work both theologically stimulating and exciting. For Christians tired of shallow, thematic-based sermons in church, that dodge the more tricky parts of the Bible, and non-believers who struggle with making sense of the Bible, The Unseen Realm does an excellent job of opening up a whole new way of reading the Bible.

I have not been able to read my Bible the same way ever since.

 

 

Over the past few months, as I was writing the first draft of this book review, I learned that Dr. Heiser has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. An August, 2021, update showed that Dr. Heiser’s medical status was uncertain, and that he has been having trouble eating for the last few months.  But as of early September, 2021, we have some good news, that the cancer growth has not spread beyond the pancreas, which means that the cancer might be treatable. Please pray for healing for Dr. Heiser. His teaching work has been a real gift for the church, for the past decade or so, helping many thousands across the world grow in their deep love for God and His Word. For a quick 5-minute introduction to the book(s), from when Dr. Michael Heiser worked at Logos Bible Software and FaithLife, the following video sums up everything well (But for a deeper dive, check out the following videos, too):

 

Dr. Michael Heiser currently teaches at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Here are three introductory sessions to his teachings, summarizing the basic contour of his book Supernatural, which is essentially his The Unseen Realm, without all of the footnotes.

 

 

 


A Genetic or Genealogical Adam and Eve? (… An Alternative to “Deconstruction”)

In the era of social media, we find out about a number of (relatively) well-known Christians walking away from their faith, commonly described as a process of “deconstruction.” In 2020, we have heard of Jon Steingard, lead singer and guitarist for the Christian band Hawk Nelson, and his “deconstruction” (for an excellent dialogue with Steingard, watch this conversation between him and Sean McDowell). We also have heard of Rhett and Link, former staff workers with Cru, a Christian ministry focused on outreach to college students. Rhett and Link are originators of the popular YouTube channel, Ear Biscuits, where Rhett describes in a video how doubts regarding Darwinian evolution led to his faith “deconstruction.

What do we make of all of this?

Readers of Veracity will know that I write a lot about the creation vs. evolution controversy on the blog. To date, I have authored over 100 posts on the topic, in nearly 8 years. While many Christians display little interest in scientific matters like this, the polling data shows that a loss of confidence in what the Bible says about human origins, is one of the number one reasons why kids from Christian homes walk away from the faith, when they grow up.

One of the biggest concerns is about the existence of a historical Adam and Eve: Did Adam and Eve really exist, or is this simply a biblical fairy tale? (See this video segment from Rhett’s deconversion story).

S. Joshua Swamidass’ The Genealogical Adam & Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry, aspires to build bridges between Bible-believing Christians and scientists

The current scientific consensus, in the exploding discipline of genetics research, indicates that it would have been genetically impossible to account for today’s biological diversity, among humans, based on a solitary human couple, less than six thousand years ago.

A number of Christians see implications from this scientific pronouncement, but they differ on the specifics. For example, Canadian evangelical theologian and scientist, Denis Lamoureux, contends that science rules out the possibility of a single, Adam and Eve couple, since there had to have been an initial human population, of about 10,000 people, to produce the type of genetic diversity we see among humans today. For Lamoureux, without an Adam and Eve, you have no cosmic Fall event. Ironically, Lamoureux still believes that humans all sin; thereby, upholding historic Christian doctrine.

Lamoreux’s conclusion is therefore puzzling. For without a cosmic Fall event, where Adam and Eve were eating the forbidden fruit, it is difficult to determine a historical reason for exactly how sin entered the world, and corrupted the human race.

Rejecting an historical Adam and Eve bothers many Christians, and it is not that difficult to imagine why.

Many evangelicals remain blissfully unaware, but even C.S. Lewis, the Oxford don and great Christian apologist of the 20th century, did not believe that an historical Adam and Eve is required by a faithful reading of Scripture. However, the picture painted by a number of mainstream scientists today, including many Christians, goes beyond Lewis in insisting that the scientific data makes an historical Adam and Eve impossible.  What makes this situation all the more striking, and perplexing, is that the vast majority of prominent Bible teachers, over the past fifty years, all believe that Adam and Eve, as historical persons, are central to the biblical story. A massive array of essays, published as Theistic Evolution, in 2017, by Crossway publishers, slams Neo-Darwinian formulations for evolution, for having denied the existence of an historical Adam and Eve. Furthermore, some of the greatest preachers in the past fifty years, like J. I. Packer, John R.W. Stott and Tim Keller, have all believed in an historical Adam and Eve. My late pastor/teacher, Dick Woodward, thought the same.

Where does this leave us? Does this impasse signal an irreconcilable conflict? Does the historical reliability of the Scriptures crumble under the weight of not having a “real” Adam and Eve? Is there a way that science and Christian faith can come together, and make peace with one another? Or should we expect the inevitable, with more and more “deconversion” stories coming to light?

Enter S. Joshua Swamidass, a doctor and scientist teaching at Washington University, who runs a website at PeacefulScience.org.  Unlike those who favor the deconversion narrative, Swamidass is optimistic. He has proposed a very interesting answer to these questions, an answer that might resolve the difficulty. In short, to quote from his new book, “Evolution fractured the origin story of Adam and Eve, but we can recover it now” (The Genealogical Adam and Eve, ch. 14).

Dr. Swamidass grew up in a home where Young Earth Creationism was taught, and interestingly, he even shares the same birthday as Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, the world’s leading Young Earth Creationist ministry. However, Swamidass suffered a crisis in his faith as a young person, as is the case with a number of young people today, who have his type of background. Yet in 2019, Swamidass published a book that he believes will help to bridge the divide between the church and science, regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve. The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry is Swamidass’ proposal to try resolve this perplexing problem, and it deserves serious attention from thoughtful Christians, and skeptics and seekers alike… as well as those who might be prone to faith “deconstruction.”

Over the past few years, Swamidass has been bringing Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Evolutionary Creationists, and even atheists together, to try to find a solution to this question about Adam and Eve. Scholars from across spectrum, including veteran apologist William Lane Craig, Reasons to Believe’s A. J. Roberts, the Discovery Institute’s Ann Gauger, and atheist and molecular biologist Nathan H. Lents, have joined in these discussions, which form the thesis behind Swamidass’ book. The atheist here, Nathan H. Lents, actually wrote an endorsement of Swamidass’ book, as found in USA Today!! Lents is not planning to run forward for an evangelical altar call, anytime soon, but he does believe that the science behind Swamidass’ book is perfectly sound. Therefore, mainstream scientific critics of Christianity should take notice of what is being said here.

As I wrote about a few months ago, some post-Reformation era scholars, several hundred of years ago, began to reexamine the Bible, and noticed that there is evidence in the Scriptures that there were humans living on earth, as created by God, prior to and concurrent with the arrival of Adam and Eve. The exploration of this  idea helps to answer the age-old question of “where did Cain get his wife? This was the infamous question that Clarence Darrow asked William Jennings Bryan, while Bryan was on the witness stand, at the 1920s’ Scope Monkey Trial, the turning point moment in both the classic play and movie, “Inherit the Wind,” which were based on that trial.

Swamidass takes this idea of other humans, living alongside of Adam and Eve, outside of the Garden, and explores it, both in terms of its biblical and scientific possibilities. His conclusion? Pay close attention here: Neither the Bible, nor does science, indicate that all people today are genetically related to one another, as coming from a single human couple. Yet both the Bible and science can find room to agree, that all humans today are genealogically related to one another, from a single human couple, namely Adam and Eve, who lived about 6,000 years ago. Science, therefore, does not rule out the possibility of Adam and Eve being created de novo, by God, with no direct biological link to any other creatures.

Though Swamidass hopes his proposal will have a wide appeal, there are those at various extremes of the debate, who probably will not be convinced by what Swamidass lays out. For example, it is highly unlikely that Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis, will be persuaded to change his mind, by Swamidass’ thesis. The idea of people existing outside of the Garden of Eden could be a bridge too far for those fully committed to Young Earth Creationism. A variety of creationists, Young Earth and Old Earth, have their doubts about Swamidass’ thesis. Furthermore, the folks at the Discovery Institute, who pioneer thought about Intelligent Design, are less than enthusiastic. Veteran apologist William Lane Craig critically interacts with Swamidass’ proposal in several videos (#1 and #2), applauding Swamidass for his peaceful efforts, but ultimately remains unconvinced.

But on the other side, those several contributors (but NOT all!) to Biologos, the Evolutionary Creationism think tank, founded by NIH director, Francis Collins, who are convinced that Adam and Eve never really existed, will be reticent as well (for a compilation of reviews at Biologos: #1, #2, and #3). Then, of course, there are atheists, like Jerry Coyne, who are quite dismissive of any proposal, suggested by a Christian.

In other words, Swamidass’ proposal seeks to build bridges across wide divides, but in doing so, he breaks all of the older molds. But perhaps the older molds all need  breaking. Perhaps those who are less in entrenched in their particular silos might be open to what Swamidass has in mind.

This is the reason I am really excited by professor Swamidass’ peace proposal. We see all kinds of issues where Christians will divide from one another: separating churches, damaging friendships, and even causing tensions in family relationships.  In an age when the church is divided about a number of issues (charismatic gifts, the EndTimes, women in ministry, etc.), it is really encouraging and refreshing to see how someone is creatively willing to try to get a number of Christians, with very different views of human origins, into a room, to try to hammer out a peace proposal, as a sincere attempt to try to build unity among believers, without compromising truth.

That is a pretty tall order.

But it is necessary, if we really believe that Jesus meant business when he prayed for his people to be united as one, in John 17. It is also necessary, if we really want to stem the tide against the increase of deconversions. In an age where it seems like Christians (myself included) can easily get caught up in debates, that can so easily divide us, in a world that is already dividing at an accelerated rate, such peace attempts are worth the effort.

When it comes to Adam and Eve, the dispute is quite simple. The theologian or pastor insists on an historical Adam and Eve. The scientist insists that there is no way that a solitary Adam and Eve can account for the evidence, regarding today’s biogenetic diversity among humans. Swamidass frames the dilemma sharply: “This is the impasse. It has been the impasse for over a century. Pastor explains his honest understanding of Genesis. A scientist objects. The conversation ends. A fracture.” (Kindle location 171). Having been stuck in the middle of these type of conflicts before, I can feel the pain. But Joshua Swamidass’ peace proposal has helped me to re-read the first few chapters of Genesis with new eyes.

Will Swamidass win over the critics? Who knows, but this does stand as a possible way forward. For readers of the book, you should know about the errata page that Dr. Swamidass has, where he is making updates, whenever readers find errors in the book itself. I have read a good chunk of the book, and it is totally refreshing and different, and I would encourage everyone who is interested in this topic to check it out, or at least start with one of the videos below.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve is also a good response book to the Biologos book project, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight, which I have only had only a small amount of time to dabble in. You can find some very interesting discussion at PeacefulScience.org.

For digging deeper……The following YouTube videos explore the questions raised by The Genealogical Adam and Eve. First, there is an episode of the Unbelievable? podcast, where Dr. Swamidass, and an atheist colleague, explains the thesis of The Genealogical Adam and Eve. I would start with that video first. Second, with a greater amount of depth, there is an interview with Dr. Swamidass, by two of my favorite young Christian YouTube apologists, Cameron Bertuzzi, of Capturing Christianity, and Michael Jones, of Inspiring Philosophy.  The third video dives into more of the nitty-gritty, as it is an engaging conversation between Dr. Swamidass and Dr. William Lane Craig, hosted by Capturing Christianity. Enjoy!!


We Believe in Dinosaurs: A Film Review

Dinosaur at Toronto Airport

Veracity founder and blogger, John Paine, shows where he found a dinosaur at the Toronto airport….. Many Christians never bother with the thought of dinosaurs, but some Christians lose a lot of sleep over the existence of dinosaurs. Do you believe in dinosaurs?

We Believe in Dinosaurs is an independent documentary chronicling the story of the Ark Encounter museum in Kentucky, and will be featured as part of PBS’ Independent Lens programming in February, 2020.

Ten years ago, the world’s most well-known Young Earth Creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AiG), announced that they would build a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark, as a Christian theme park, in Kentucky, deep in the heart of the American Midwest. Ken Ham, the president of AiG, envisioned that along with the AiG Creation Museum, the Ark Encounter would inspire a new generation of Christians to rethink how they read the Bible, to show how the story of a global flood, as taught in the Bible. according to Ken Ham, provides a better explanation of earth history, as the most Scripturally faithful alternative to a secular worldview, the latter which is currently undermining morals and other Christian values in the Western world today.

A full size replica of Noah’s Ark!!? Many Christians look to the work of Answers in Genesis as a way of supporting their belief and confidence in the Bible, whereas other Christians have the opposite reaction, and struggle with doubt, as to how accurately Answers in Genesis portrays science and faith. Others are curious and not sure what to think.

In February 2014, Ken Ham publicly debated famed TV personality Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” which has since garnered millions of views on YouTube. The debate gave Answers in Genesis the exposure needed to make the Ark Encounter a success. Once the Ark was completed, Nye even returned to the Ark Encounter, for yet another impromptu, casual debate with Ken Ham, as they walked together through the exhibit.

Ken Ham has envisioned the possibility of “seven billion people” coming to the Ark Encounter. Given the record breaking attendance, over the past few years, Ken Ham maybe on the way to see this vision becoming a reality.

Humans existing side-by-side with dinosaurs, at Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum, in Kentucky, in stark contrast with the narrative nearly every public school educated child learns from the modern scientific consensus, namely, that the dinosaurs died out millions of years ago before modern humans entered the scene.

Since the opening of the Ark Encounter in July, 2016, I have known dozens of my Christian friends who have visited the museum. Regardless of how my friends view the Scriptural accuracy of Young Earth Creationism, everyone I know who has seen the exhibit has walked away overwhelmed with the top quality and workmanship of the park. The Ark Encounter makes for quite an impressive visit, though it does represent a significant development away from the version of the Young Earth Creationist story that I learned during my years in college, at my college church.

Back some 35 years ago, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) was one of the premier Young Earth Creationist groups in the world, as the American version of Answers of Genesis, did not exist in those days. The Young Earth Creationists at ICR could not imagine how evolution could work, to account for the biological diversity we see today, except at the micro-evolutionary level, a biological process generally found within species. For example, Young Earth Creationists readily accept that the flu virus mutates every year, requiring a new flu vaccine on a yearly basis. This is a type of micro-evolution, which is compatible with a biblical view of history. The version of Young Earth Creation I was taught in my college church, as promoted by ICR, did not allow for any case for evolution beyond that.

So, what has changed over the years? Well, one big challenge for the Young Earth view of Creation, is in demonstrating how the placement of the animals on the Ark, in a global flood model, can adequately explain the great wealth of biological diversity we see in our world today, less than 6,000 years after the global flood occurred. Today, at Answers in Genesis, the solution has been to propose that Darwinian natural selection took place after the great flood event, but at a greatly accelerated rate.

Instead of the standard Darwinian view, which sees all of biological life within a tree of life, where all living organisms share a common ancestor, the Answers in Genesis view proposes an orchard of life, whereby the diverse animal populations on-board the ark, represent different trees within the orchard, that are responsible for generating all of the future diverse animal populations we find on planet earth today.

Old Earth Creationists do not accept a global flood, but rather say that the message of the Bible is consistent with a large local flood. Such Old Earth Creationists, who accept the standard view of a 4.34 billion year old earth, as being compatible with Scripture, are skeptical of the Answers in Genesis orchard of life proposal, in that it assumes that the animals on-board the Ark, were somehow genetically supercharged to accomplish this amazing feat. But Old Earth Creationists maintain that such genetic “supercharging” could never have been sustainable, in such a short period of time, in less than a few thousand years. That is part of the reason why a large local flood makes more sense, wiping out only a part of the earth’s creaturely world, at least from a scientific perspective, compatible with Old Earth Creationism.

While biology informed by the scientific consensus affirms a “tree of life,” the Christians with Answers in Genesis believe in an “orchard of life.” Yet other Christians believe in a “lawn of life.” What diagram of life do you affirm, and why?

But Old Earth Creationists are not the only ones who find the ideas offered by Answers in Genesis, to visitors of the Ark Encounter, to be less than convincing. The Institute for Creation Research, (ICR), whose material I read back in the 1980s, argues that Darwinian natural selection, in any form, including Answers in Genesis’ version, is completely incompatible, not only with science, but with the Bible as well. But if natural selection is off the table, as ICR proposes, what then actually is the mechanism that could result in today’s biological diversity? One should note that Answers in Genesis founder, Ken Ham, once worked with ICR, eventually splitting off to form the U.S. version of Answers in Genesis, in 1994.

It all makes for a confusing situation, for those who try to examine the details of Young Earth Creationist views of the Bible, and how they relate to science. Which version of Young Earth Creationism is correct?

One of those avid Young Earth Creationist thinkers, who has since had serious second thoughts about Young Earth Creationism, is David MacMillan. MacMillan was interviewed by independent filmmakers, Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown, to create the documentary We Believe in Dinosaurs. MacMillan was interviewed by Christian apologist, Randal Rauser, detailing how he got involved in the making of the film.

One of the strengths about We Believe in Dinosaurs is that there is no narrator in the film. The film is made up of interviews with people deeply invested somehow in the Ark Encounter project.  On the side sympathetic towards Answers in Genesis, is the talented Doug Henderson, who headed up the sculpture team, who produced all of the animal representations found in the Ark Encounter exhibit. Outspoken critic of the Ark Encounter, Dan Phelps, a geologist with the Kentucky Paleontological Society, is also interviewed in the documentary.

Though several Christians are interviewed in the film, Christian viewers of We Believe in Dinosaurs might feel uncomfortable about the film’s secularized approach to the topic of Creation. The film sides clearly on the side of promoting evolutionary science, but its stance towards biblical Christianity is undecided, offering multiple Christian viewpoints in the film’s interviews.

Yet regardless as to how Christians might think about this documentary, one think is for sure: Christians themselves today are divided about how to think about the relationship between Creation and the Bible, and this division threatens to have a profound impact on the Christian witness for the Gospel, in an increasingly non-believing world.

Some Christians are quite content to believe in a 6,000 year old earth, and never give it that much thought. Other Christians have wrestled with the Scriptural text, and have come to different conclusions as to how God might have created the world, and how long that process took place. Even other Christians are aware of such problems, that face the Christian believer today, but who are wholeheartedly convinced that the scientific argument is still there, waiting for us to discovery it in nature, and that argument will eventually win over, even the most skeptical scientists, towards a more traditional, six-24-hour day interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis. And yet, sadly, there are also others, for whom the cognitive dissonance between the Bible and science is so great, and so disturbing, that they walk away from the faith, in disbelief.

As a Bible-believing Christian, with an interest in sharing my faith with others, I tend to steer clear of such topics, like the age of the earth, or evolution, unless the discussion of such topics would provide an opportunity to talk about Jesus. I want to stay focused on the Gospel, and not get sidetracked by conversations, that would leave Jesus off to the side. Nevertheless, science-based topics can be a real stumbling block for those, who wonder how the Bible and science fit together. With that in mind, We Believe in Dinosaurs might give some good food for thought.

We Believe in Dinosaurs would be a helpful discussion starter, for Christians to view, to help gain a more balanced perspective, as to why the topic of Creation and the Bible, is so divisive in Christian communities today. Is Christianity and science fundamentally at odds with one another, or are they in harmony? Watch We Believe in Dinosaurs to explore that question. We Believe in Dinosaurs will be broadcast on PBS television stations, on February 17, as part of their Independent Lens programming.


Tenacity: John C. Whitcomb

John C. Whitcomb Jr., one of the early pioneers of the contemporary Young Earth Creationist movement, died on February 4th.

John C. Whitcomb, Jr. 1924-2020

In 1961, John Whitcomb teamed up with a hydraulic engineer, Henry M. Morris, to write The Genesis Flood, the foundational book that launched today’s Young Earth Creationist movement. Whitcomb was a theologian at Grace Theological Seminary, and he sought out Morris, who was then the chair of the civil engineering program, at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Combining Whitcomb’s knowledge of the Bible and Morris’ knowledge of science, the two collaborated in articulating the now, well-known thesis, that a global flood, as described by a traditional interpretation of the Book of Genesis, could sufficiently explain the existence of the fossil record, in an attempt to show that science could be synchronized with a traditional understanding of the Bible.

Other leading evangelical thinkers, such as Edward John Carnell, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, were determined to persuade Whitcomb and Morris, that their project was ill-advised, and at one point, the preferred publisher, Moody Press, refused to publish the book. But Whitcomb and Morris persisted with tenacity, and so the idea that the earth was only 6,000 years old, and not 4.34 billion years old, as maintained by the scientific consensus, took off in the imagination of thousands of Bible believing Christians.

In subsequent years, organizations such as Ken Ham’s Answers In Genesis would expand on the themes articulated by the Whitcomb/Morris “flood geology” thesis, proposing that dinosaurs lived together with humans, in recent earth history, before the great flood. Such ideas have stood to be contrary to the reigning contemporary scientific consensus, that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, long before the appearance of humans on planet earth.

Despite the fact that The Genesis Flood has had virtually no impact on the modern scientific enterprise, as taught by a plethora of public schools, universities, and Smithsonian museums, Whitcomb and Morris’ thesis has continued to generate controversy in evangelical churches across America. Dr. Whitcomb was also known for his defense of a classic 6th century B.C.E. date and traditional authorship of the Book of Daniel.

The Genesis Flood. The 1961 classic text that upset well over a century of sophisticated evangelical views supporting “millions of years” of earth’s history in favor of a radical concept of “flood geology,” in attempt to bring back an appeal to a literal, 24-hour day view of a Young Earth Creation.

I first made an attempt to read The Genesis Flood during my years as a mathematics major in college, while studying other scientific disciplines as electives. While I was attracted to Whitcomb’s appeal to the Bible’s authority, I remained unconvinced by his thesis. It was not until 20 years later that I actually began a written correspondence with Dr. Whitcomb. In his letters, between the two of us, over several months, I was impressed by his earnest appeal, and even more impressed by his gentle piety, in commending his ideas towards me. In particular, Dr. Whitcomb was clearly tenacious in holding his interpretation of the Bible, despite my attempts to encourage him to consider other alternatives.

“Agreeing to disagree,” on non-essential matters of the Christian faith, can lead to having some difficult conversations. But in my interactions with Dr. Whitcomb, I came to treasure his candor and gentle demeanor when engaging in controversial subjects. God used that time of correspondence with Dr. Whitcomb in my life, to help me to have a greater love for others, and encourage an interest in building bridges with other believers, even when agreement in sensitive matters, is not always easy to be had.

While I am open to the possibility of Dr. Whitcomb’s thesis, I am still not convinced that his understanding of Scripture, nor his understanding of the science, is correct. Nevertheless, I consider Dr. Whitcomb as a dear brother in the Lord, who genuinely desired that others may come to know and love the Creator of the universe, and so I grieve his death, yet knowing that he is surely with the Lord Jesus now. One day, I hope to be able to have a conversation with Dr. Whitcomb, where we will both surely learn the exact extent of what the flood really was, and exactly how old the earth really is.

The Baptist Bulletin has published a generous remembrance of Dr. Whitcomb’s life. Ken Ham, at Answers In Genesis, also wrote a remembrance of Dr. Whitcomb.


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