I’m both amused and bemused by William Lane Craig’s latest “Monthly Report” on his Reasonable Doubts website, a report that deals with a “Creation Project” conference he attended. Click on the screenshot to see the report:
The meeting was a Dabar Conference called “Reclaiming theological anthropology in an age of science“, with the aim of “orienting evangelical theologians to the relevant recent work in the natural sciences and to promoting scholarship in the field of the doctrine of creation.” In particular, it was convened to deal with the increasingly disturbing (to Christians) knowledge that Adam and Eve could not have existed as historical figures who were the ancestors of us all. This comes from population genetics, which tells us, given conservative assumptions about mutation rates, that the smallest bottleneck in our species in the last several hundred thousand years is at least twelve thousand individuals. That, of course, is greater than two (Adam and Eve) or eight (Noah and his family). Ergo, the human population could not have descended from either the Primal Couple or the Noah Clan.
This finding has cast into doubt the entire premise of Christianity: that we’re all afflicted with Adam and Eve’s original sin—a sin that can be expiated only by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior, whose Resurrection portends and suggests our own resurrection in the life to come. Here’s the conference agenda:
No topic within the doctrine of creation has been more unsettled by modern science than theological anthropology. Increased knowledge of the physical world has made traditional views of the human person more difficult to affirm—our minds do not appear to be quite as separable as previous ages believed. Is belief in the soul scientifically naïve? More recently, genetic research has raised new questions about our biological origins and whether belief in a historical Adam and Eve is warranted. But what exactly is at stake in affirming (or not) a “historical Adam”? What are we to make of original sin, for example, if one removes historical referentiality from the opening chapters of Genesis? In this third year of the Creation Project we’re seeking wisdom about the origin, nature, and ultimate purposes of human life.
The meeting, of course, was supported by Templeton: the Templeton Religious Trust (another investment of Sir John’s legacy, but separate from the John Templeton Foundation). The Dabar Conferences are, in turn, under the aegis of “The Creation Project”, also underwritten by the Templeton Religious Trust.
So, what does William Lane Craig think? His previous discussions (e.g., here) suggests he accepts the “microevolution but not macroevolution” form of creationism. That is, he admits that there might be change within a species, or even production of related species by splitting, but rejects the notion of the common ancestry of substantially different life forms, and argues that the whole process is guided by God anyway.
Here are several ways that Craig handles the “threat” to Christianity presented by population genetics vs. Adam and Eve. None seem completely satisfactory, even to Craig himself.
1). The Bible could be metaphorical, but only in part. As he says (Craig’s words are indented, emphases are mine):
Vital to this question is understanding exactly what the Bible requires us to believe about the historical Adam, and so the contribution of Old Testament and New Testament scholars is absolutely vital. This question is not so cut-and-dried as most of us imagine. For example, one of the Old Testament scholars discussed the genre of literature represented by Genesis 1-11. Comparing these accounts to creation stories in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology, he finds in the biblical stories the same interest in what is called etiology(explaining something in the author’s present by telling a story about past prehistoric events) which is an earmark of myth. For example, we keep the Sabbath because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. He argued that Genesis 1-11 is of the genre of what he called “mytho-historical” writing—the stories are mythological but there is an underlay of historical events beneath the myth. If this is correct, then one cannot press the details of the stories (e.g., Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib, a walking, talking snake, etc.). Rather, it would be like seeing the motion of people behind a curtain: you can tell there are people back there, but you don’t really know what they’re doing.
This of course, simply means that the Genesis story might not be taken literally. In fact, if he admits that Genesis is largely mythical, it becomes hard to tell what it means. One thing is for sure: it’s become mythical only because science has disproven its assertions. Theologians of earlier eras, including Augustine, Aquinas, and various “church fathers”, certainly took the story of Adam and Eve, and the Fall, as literal truth. It’s up to Craig to explain to us why what was once fact is now myth.
2). The New Testament’s claims about Adam and Eve, and the meaning of their existence, might be literary conceits.
But what about the New Testament? Paul surely believed in a historical Adam, didn’t he? That seems right, but does Paul’s argument in Romans 5 or I Corinthians 15 commit us to that belief? Some scholars think that Paul’s references to Adam are merely to the literary Adam of Genesis 1-3. For example, I might tell someone, “Jan is my man Friday.” Does that commit me to the reality of Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday? Obviously not!
But how does he conclude that the “literary Adam” is not a “historical Adam”? Is Craig admitting that Adam and Eve are just as fictional as Robinson Crusoe and Friday? If so, then what is the meaning of Genesis, and are Romans and Corinthians wrong in telling us that Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, but Jesus and his crucifixion and Resurrection expiated our sins, and gave us the possibility of eternal life?
Here are the arguments of Paul to which Craig refers (again, my emphasis):
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
. . . 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
. . . 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
I Corinthians 15:
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
This seems pretty clear to me: Jesus’s coming, divinity, and resurrection gave us the possibility of eternal life by washing us free of the sin inherited from Adam. Indeed, if there is a non-negotiable belief inherent in Christianity, this is it. If Adam and Eve didn’t exist, then you have to find a reason why we’re all born sinful and need the ministrations of Jesus to be washed clean.
3). Maybe the population-genetic calculations were wrong. To obviate this, Craig claims that extra genetic diversity which hides the real bottleneck of Adam and Eve came from —get this—hybridization of Homo sapiens sapiens with our Neanderthal subspecies:
As I shared in our last Report, some scientific popularizers have claimed that the genetic diversity of the present human population could not have arisen from an isolated primordial pair. Joshua Swamidass, a geneticist from Washington University, who was at the conference, helped me to understand that this claim is completely wrong-headed. Rather what is at issue is the genetic divergence in the present population, that is to say, the mutational distance between alleles (= the variants in our genes that are responsible for various traits like eye color). These data present a severe challenge for a historical Adam and Eve more recent than 500,000 years ago. (But here’s a new wrinkle: Swamidass says he neglected to take account of the genetic contribution of Neanderthals and other archaic humans who interbred with homo [sic] sapiens and so have contributed to the human genome. He’s going to run new calculations to see if that makes a difference to the date.)
Given that the genetic variation in our own species contributed by Neanderthals is only about 2-3%, and none in Africans, I wouldn’t hold my breath to see if the “new calculations” reduce the bottleneck from 12,000 to 2!
Craig’s penultimate redoubt is this:
4). Well, even if the geneticists are right, and Adam and Eve didn’t exist as the Bible says, we can still confect a story from Genesis, even if the Bible be metaphorical:
If there was no historical Adam, then obviously we cannot be held accountable for his sin, nor did sin and death enter the human race through Adam. To a large extent, I think, the importance of this issue is going to depend on how committed you are to Catholic/Reformed theology. The doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to us is not one that is clearly attested biblically. What is essential, I think, is affirming the universality of sin and the need of every human being of God’s saving grace. That doesn’t require a historical Adam. For me, then, the central theological issue raised by the historical Adam will be, not original sin or the Fall, but rather biblical inspiration and authority. Can we in a scientific age trust what the Bible teaches?
Here he’s simply making up stuff, picking and choosing the parts of the Bible he likes (universal sin, but not obviously inherited “original sin”, as well as “God’s saving grace”) and rejecting the parts he doesn’t like (Adam and Eve). And if that’s the case, what is the “authority” of the Bible? For if the Bible be but “inspiration” and not truth, how are we to be Christians? What are we to believe? The answer to his last question is clearly “no”. Evolution itself tells us we can’t trust what the Bible teaches.
In the end, if we interpret the Bible by how we’re “inspired” by it, then each person has their own dogma and there is no one way to be a Christian. After all, why couldn’t “God’s saving grace” be metaphorical, or even the existence and story of Jesus himself? Who gets to be the arbiter of Biblical truth? In the end, it can be only science.
5.) Finally, for Craig Biblical interpretation comes down to “understanding how their original authors and audiences would have understood Biblical texts.”
Handling this issue will involve two components for me: biblical exegesis and scientific findings. What’s important is not to let the science guide one’s exegesis. One must set that aside and try honestly to understand these texts as their original authors and audiences would have understood them. Once that is done, then the challenge will be integrating them systematically with a scientifically informed view of the world. I’ve got my work cut out for me!
Indeed he does, for he’s trying to understand what the Bible says by ignoring from the outset the empirical facts. First you figure out what the authors of these texts meant (note: here he’s almost admitting that the Bible was a human production not guided by God), filter that through the “inspiration” that you get from the metaphors that you discern, and then somehow twist the science into that interpretation. This is the reason, for instance, that Craig simply cannot buy the main parts of biological evolution: it conflicts with any form of creation by God. Indeed, I now have trouble deciding whether Craig is a traditional Christian rather than a Smorgasbord Christian who’s completely reinterpreting Christian doctrine.
As reader Mark, who sent me Craig’s link, remarked:
Oddly Craig doesn’t seem to think the story of the fall is central to Christian belief (or his belief anyway), so his concern is simply to shoehorn the science as we know it into his understanding of the Christian myths and legends. You can see from the second quote above that science is always the handmaiden to Craig’s beliefs, rather than the guide to them.”
94 thoughts on “William Lane Craig waffles on Adam and Eve”
Oh what a tangled web we weave explaining the foundations of original sin (apologies to Yeats)
Or Sir Walter Scott ?
…and to think I used to get upset at god for not cleansing my heart to the satisfaction of his infinite standards. The least he could have done was told me it didn’t need to be cleansed. Think of all the sins I could have enjoyed, guilt-free.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Original sin is pure BS, but, frustratingly, that bastard of a Creator* gave us a really inhibiting thing called a conscience. Bugger.
*Either that or Evolution did. Either way, we’re stuffed.
Theological Anthropology –Sounds like a great example of oxymoronic phrasing.
Indeed. As theology concerns reflexions about God/the Divinity, I can’t even conceive what could be the subject of “theological anthropology”. Is there also some “Mythological (i.e., entirely imaginary) anthropology”? Perhaps it’s a sciencey word for bible study.
At least, it is not presented as “modern science” but opposed to it.
What it means is presumably reflections on the nature of humans from a theological (or rather, religious) perspective.
There’s a field called “philosophical anthropology” which sometimes also gets into trouble by not adopting constraints from the more scientific discipline. I’d guess that this field and the former are connected in some circles – including the motivation to ignore (especially) physical and bio-anthropology and evolution, etc.
Apologetics should be renamed excusonomics.
It certainly should be renamed. Thing is, there’s plenty they need to apologise for, mountains of nastiness in fact, but they never apologise, they try to justify it. (It’s a ‘notpology’, and I apologise for using that ghastly neologism).
That would suggest that there are laws (“nomos”) of excuses. Are there? 🙂
It is ironical that it is Christians who keep pointing this out (*This finding has cast into doubt the entire premise of Christianity: that we’re all afflicted with Adam and Eve’s original sin—a sin that can be expiated only by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior, whose Resurrection portends and suggests our own resurrection in the life to come.*) through their opposition to the theory of evolution. Most of their “believers” have no idea what evolution is, nor do they care, but their ministers and apologists like Craig are making them care, so they will lose that argument. I suggest that they would be better off by emulating Elmer Fudd by being “wery, wery quiet … he, he, he, he”.
On Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:
> whyevolutionistrue posted: “I’m both amused and bemused by William Lane > Craig’s latest “Monthly Report” on his Reasonable Doubts website, a report > that deals with a “Creation Project” conference he attended. Click on the > screenshot to see the report: The meeting was a Dabar C” >
The biggest problem with their whole endeavor is encapsulated right at the beginning of the report, where Craig says that it is “vital” to understand “what the Bible requires us to believe” about Adam.
As soon as you admit that you’re “required” to believe something, you’ve conceded that your whole approach is intellectually dishonest. You’re just trying to answer the question, “How can I harmonize my observations with the core beliefs that I’m not willing to give up?”
I was trapped in that prison for fifteen years or so, and when I look back, I can’t believe it took me so long to get out. But I’m thankful I did. Some people are held captive by motivated reasoning for a whole lifetime. And some, like Craig, profit quite a bit from people’s desire to believe.
Do Christians never stop to ask why, if the Bible “requires” us to believe certain things, their god couldn’t have expressed his all-important message to humanity with crystal clarity, in simple unambiguous terms leaving no room for doubt or misinterpretation?
The fact that clerics and theologians have spent centuries arguing over important points of doctrine and belief (to no clear resolution), plus the fact that Christianity is splintered into thousands of sects and sub-sects all equally convinced that they know what the Bible “really” means is strong evidence that the whole thing is a dog’s breakfast and attempting to make sense of it is futile. Clearly you came to that conclusion: why do so many others fail to see it?
Of course they do. The answer in the faith is “God reveals what we’re ready to understand”. The idea is that revelation of God’s will wasn’t an all-at-once thing; humans after the Fall couldn’t understand the full meaning of God’s will, so they were led rather gently to a full understanding, as presented by Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Christians believe they are still not capable of understanding it. God, in the Christian view, is beyond comprehension, so any attempt we make to understand Him is doomed to failure from the outset. Sure, we can sometimes get closer (via divine grace), and those that do get closer are considered to have superior understanding to the rest of us. The entire Christian epistemology consists of folks with special insight trying to explain that insight to the rest of humanity–but even the saints were human, and therefore lacked full comprehension of God’s will, so confusion is inevitable.
None of this is justification for divisions within Christianity. This is all a necessary consequence of Christian cosmology/theology. But it does serve to neatly short-circuit any attempt to logically examine the edifice.
It’s funny, because their god is perfectly comprehensible: its behaviour is just like that of a middle-Eastern potentate circa 3,000 BC (slaughtering all enemies, etc.).
Don’t forget also, for many sects, the get out of problems free card: Satan. (“*We* know the correct view; the rivals across the street are deluded by sin.”)
That’s the thing with the bible, it doesn’t “require” you to believe anything. You believe what you want and then look for a verse or two that can be made to support i
Regarding your fist question, I’d say that yes, Christians frequently ask themselves why God didn’t reveal things more thoroughly or more clearly. The problem is that they already take it as an axiom that everything they’ve been taught about God is true and that the Bible is an inerrant revelation. So the question becomes a delightful puzzle: How do I make these two seemingly incompatible pieces fit together? Of course, it all just turns into an elaborate fabrication of excuses for a god who isn’t really there. (That’s my definition of theology.) On the other hand, there ARE some Christians who don’t consider the question at all. They think everything IS perfectly clear. They’re a little harder to talk to. =)
As for why so many people fail to see it, a few reasons come to mind:
1. When you grow up being told by quite literally EVERY older person around you (if you live in the Bible Belt, for example), with seeming absolute certainty, that the world is a certain way, it’s really hard to accept the conclusion that they’re all wrong.
2. There’s a lot of motivated reasoning involved. People think they already know what’s true, and they gravitate toward evidence that supports the desired conclusion while being blind to evidence that refutes it. This isn’t necessarily conscious or intentional.
3. There’s a bit of the “Prior Investment Fallacy” involved here too. Once you’ve dedicated years or decades of your life to the Gospel, it becomes more and more difficult to recognize that you’ve made a bad investment and that you’d be better off withdrawing entirely.
4. Finally, I’ve recently become convinced that it has a lot less to do with the way the INDIVIDUAL thinks than we tend to believe. Nicholas Christakis and Steven Pinker have done a lot to show that people’s beliefs and habits are formed by their communities, even when they think that they’re making decisions for themselves. We seem to be programmed to behave and even BELIEVE in ways that help us fit in and gain status with our tribe. The “rational” reasons behind our behavior are often fabricated after the fact.
When I look back on my own experience, I feel tremendously embarrassed, even ashamed, that I spent so much time believing and doing some idiotic things. (And I mean TRULY idiotic.) I’ve written a memoir about my journey. If you’re interested, email me at henryrambow (at) yahoo (dot) com, and I’ll send you a PDF of it.
I have to add that these people are claiming that their god sacrificed himself to himself to protect us from himself (his curse) and this is the same god who previous banned human sacrifice. Oh, and of course, their god cannot die, so he could not be actually sacrificed, so the whole thing was a stage show on the order of the Wizard of Oz (pay no attention to the death of the man who cannot be killed …). Do they even listen to what they are claiming or is the confirmation bias just that strong. (In Lane’s case you can’t ask a many to disavow what he is being paid to believe in … without giving him a better job, I guess.)
On Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:
> whyevolutionistrue posted: “I’m both amused and bemused by William Lane > Craig’s latest “Monthly Report” on his Reasonable Doubts website, a report > that deals with a “Creation Project” conference he attended. Click on the > screenshot to see the report: The meeting was a Dabar C” >
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the absurdity of it all when the whole package is pounded into your brain from birth. But much of what people think they believe is actually based on what their professed beliefs gain them within their community. Steven Pinker describes it beautifully in Enlightenment Now, showing how the expression of irrational beliefs is an unconscious (and sometimes conscious) way to advertise one’s loyalty to the tribe.
I suppose that’s why I never fit in and why I still get so much grief from family. I’m not willing to pretend just to fit in–whenever I’ve tried pretending, it’s been an abject failure (in non-religious pretenses too).
I got sent to Sunday school (mostly I think to placate my grandfather, since my father was (I think) a closet atheist and my mother was probably closer to a deist/pantheist but certainly a humanist). I was also exposed to science and evolution right from the start – thanks, Mum & Dad.
And I didn’t believe a word of Sunday School because, as you point out, it makes no sense. Adam and Eve, talking snakes, Noah’s ark, the flood (where did all the water come from?), why did some guy die for my sins-that-I-haven’t-committed-yet? Hardly seems fair.
All Sunday School achieved was to make me feel vaguely guilty that I didn’t believe any of it. Eventually I reasoned that, since (so far as I could tell) it wasn’t true in the slightest, I had nothing to feel guilty about. I still remember the massive feeling of relief that realisation gave me.
Oh, and it may also have been the origin of my strong scepticism which renders me virtually immune to TV advertising and most television news.
I had a very small amount of respect for Craig because I thought that at least he accepted evolution, as we currently understand it. I’ve just checked and, sure enough, he’s a denier.
He’s a verbose, very articulate, nutcase.
yeah, but he has a really good “radio” voice. Surely his beliefs are true.
Articulate as in a broken record is very articulate lol.
If Jesus died for our sins why are there still sins?
If Jesus died why is there Jesus?
That answer to that my friend is very very
stupidcomplicated I can assure you.
Even if Adam and Eve existed I think it is morally repugnant to believe that sin can be transferred to your descendants. I am not guilty of anything my father did much less something someone may have done ~4000 or more years ago.
Good point. The whole notion of corporate solidarity or federal headship clearly has roots in barbaric tribalism, not any concern to be fair.
Could the doctrine of Original Sin be characterized as theological Lamarckianism?
Coming to think of it I was taught that for just being in existence, I had sinned
If you can do a great job in making someone feel worthless, hopeless and irredeemable it would be very easy to sell your solution “Jesus” to them
In first-grade catechism, a nun explained it: if your father lost his job, it wouldn’t just hurt him, it would hurt his children too, even though it isn’t their fault.
I don’t know if it’s a lack of intellegence on my part, or what, but I am just unable to digest this nonsense; I don’t have a damn clue what those bible passages meant.
Well Jesus said the gospel consists of his own teachings (Matthew 28:20), so you can only do good kicking everything out of your NT except Matthew.
Paul is responsible for an outrageous level of unnecessary depression and suffering through the centuries as well-meaning people blindly blamed themselves for finding Paul difficult to understand. Stupid rambling nonsense was never capable of reasonable interpretation in the first place.
Yeah, Jerry could have picked a more readable translation. I’d recommend NIV or NASB.
Biblegateway is a handy website for accessing different translations.
Some of the easier translations are, however, more fraudulent. Richard Carrier (whatever you may thing of him) has done some exploring of this.
For example, the passage in Paul that a lot of historicists cite about Jesus “born of a woman” does not say that, at least not directly.
Also, what bibles are a variorum? 🙂
Today, Craig reminds me of the republicans in congress that are able to ignore the evidence and push at all cost, their own story and avoid truth without shame. We will distort and make up false indictment of others where necessary. Belief in the unbelievable should be considered a mental problem.
I have better things to do than keep track of Craig’s career, but he has acquired a reputation for ignoring any points made against him in debate, and reiterating his assertions for each new audience.
He has now made a number of admissions on the record, and will find it very difficult to retract them. I wonder what his credulous acolytes will make of it, given the assurances he has given them in the past. And now that he has admitted that science has answers to some of the questions, where can he draw the line, and with what credibility?
Ever so slowly, the ratchet turns.
Craig’s admissions would rationally justify Christian apostasy, even if Craig didn’t personally recommend it. Yes, you can indeed go your whole life thinking some biblical crap is solid truth, only to find out later that it was just myths. (!?)
I don’t wonder anymore why the number of serious fundamentalists with serious convictions has been steadily dwindling.
Hell, he ignores points made against him and reiterates the same assertions for the same audience, during one debate.
You are way too kind and way to polite to King Weasel. WLC truly deserves nothing but ridicule.
I tend to agree. But I’ve got to give him some respect for taking his Christian mythology at face value and owning it. For example, to paraphrase him, “God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the Amalakites and therefore, by definition, exterminating them was moral.”
IMHO, the only thing King Weasel is deserving of is derision for his blatant stupidity. He’s a very sad joke…. and if he wasn’t so pathetic he’d be a half decent comedian.
And what if his name wasn’t actually Adam but Bert? Where would their theology be then?
The first two people were Bert and Ernie. Adam and Eve came later. New scrolls confirming that have just been unearthed in a cave in Argentina.
Good question. “Adam” means something like “dirt” or “ground”, no?
I’ve no idea what “Herbert” means – I see that it is supposed to be something about a warrior or army, but …
“Wouldn’t hold my breath” is being generous. My expectation is that if you did a DNA analysis of only sub-saharan Africans (i.e. the homo sapiens sapiens with no homo sapiens neanderthalensis in them), you’d STILL rule out a 2-person bottleneck within the last 10,000 years.
What makes genetic descendancy a legitimate reason to blame someone for something? I’d argue that it is highly immoral to hold us accountable for A&E’s sin even if we are their descendants.
This is decidedly odd. If it’s okay to punish the kid because of the crimes of the parent, then under what logic is it not okay to punish a nephew or tribemember for the crimes of the parent? It seems to me you either accept collective punishment as legitimate – in which case blood doesn’t matter – or you reject collective punishment as illegitimate – in which case, blood doesn’t matter. IOW, either way blood doesn’t matter.
That’s a good idea. But I think the obvious outcome of this approach is to say that those parts of the bible the authors did literally believe to be true were often factually incorrect. There’s not reason, for example, to reject the notion that the ancient Hebrews thought everyone was descended from a single set of parents a few thousand years before they wrote the story down, but they were simply wrong about that.
No, you can believe that they were poets using stories to answer questions symbolically. Do you really think the Sioux medicine men and spiritual leaders really though the earth ride on the back of a huge turtle? I don’t think so.
I don’t think it’s safe to ‘modernize’ ancient folks by assuming they thought about these stories the same way we do. Yes I think that’s entirely possible ancient Hebrews thought everyone was descended from a first couple created by God. I also think it’s entirely possible the ancient Hebrews saw it as a myth. I think also it’s (thirdly) entirely possible they disagreed with each other on which it was, and some didn’t take the story literally while some did.
Regardless, though, I think WLC and his ilk are ignoring the very reasonable possibility that the authors wrote things they thought were true but weren’t. Between “they wrote myth” and “they wrote fact” is “they wrote factual errors.”
I’d agree with eric there. Given the scarcity of old documents and the probability that they are not entirely representative; given the schisms of belief in almost all the societies we do know about; given that in many countries the laws are dictated by an influential faction; – then I think it’s untenable, without significant supporting evidence, to conclude that ‘they all believed X’.
Suppose, in 5000 years’ time, the only surviving document from our day was a copy of ’50 Shades of Grey’. Or, alternatively, a Scientology pamphlet. Or [one of thousands of other examples I could think of]. What would future archaeologists make of our bizarre beliefs?
What is likely to my mind is that prior to the introduction of writing there were all sorts of similar-but-different stories and some which were reasonably compatible made the cut. This is what we see in non-literal societies elsewhere.
non-liter*ate*, excuse me.
“I’d argue that it is highly immoral to hold us accountable for A&E’s sin even if we are their descendants.”
Exactly what was A&E’s ‘sin’? Acquiring knowledge, so far as I can recall (last read it ~60 years ago…). I could never figure out how that was a sin, per se, though obviously knowledge can be a double-edged sword. And anyway, seems pretty trivial to condemn all of humanity for.
Of course every experimental scientist is guilty of the same ‘sin’, just as we are all beneficiaries of their ‘crimes’.
“Who gets to be the arbiter of Biblical truth? In the end, it can be only science.”
That is somewhat arrogant, and leaves you open to the dread charge of scientism. Surely some propositions about the Bible can be settled by the methods of history, archaeology and textual analysis.
History and archaeology are sciences. Specifically, they are historical sciences, akin to astronomy, geology, and paleontology. For the purposes of NEPA paleontology is considered a subset of archaeology, in fact.
Textual analysis is not; however, it’s highly unlikely that any factual claims in the Bible (or any book, for that matter) will be determined by such analysis.
I happen to agree with your sentiment, however. Science, as such, is not the final arbiter of anything. Facts (data) are. Science is the best way to discover and interpret facts that we have come across. It is certainly not the only way–legal records, for example, are an ascientific way to determine facts, as are family photos, driver’s logs, flight plans, and many other things. Philosophy may be as well–remember, science is an epistemology, and that’s only one branch of philosophy. Mathematics discovers ascientific truths–a mathematical proof is not a scientific experiment of any sort.
All that said, anything true in the Bible will be discoverable by other means. And the Bible contains so much that is factually untrue that we cannot rationally accept that it is any better than chance at being correct when it makes a statement of fact.
I am aware of the view that history and archaeology are sciences, but I’m not sure it fits with the common usage of the word “science”. History in particular was flourishing long before science was a recognized discipline.
Most historians and scholars would not agree that history is a science. Can’t test a hypothesis or theory of history or run a controlled experiment.
Sure you can test historical hypotheses. For example, the hypothesis that the Biblical exodus occurred has been falsified by the dearth of archaeological evidence consistent with the exodus having occurred.
But you can, in some isolated cases – e.g., Heyerdahl’s Contiki experiment. (That he drew the wrong conclusion is irrelevant.)
Ummmm – No
History & archaeology are dependent upon sciences to support their findings. Without confirmed, scientific verification these 2 disciplines are nothing more than storytelling.
Textual analysis is interpretation thus is entirely subjective and hence cannot be an arbiter of Biblical truth
Comparing Adam & Eve to Crusoe/Man Friday is a bad move by WLC! I bet he’ll drop that line eventually as we know Defoe’s fiction was based on an amalgam of real life maritime survival stories of the day. Craig fails to mention this – perhaps fearing that it would lead to comparisons with the Jesus narrative itself which is also [I believe] a hodgepodge cobbled together over a thousand years or so.
No need to consider the bible as anything but piffle if you haven’t first disproved the core theory of modern physics. Good luck with that….
It staggers me that, in 2018, this even attracts debate. I would not have thought you could convince the average 12 year-old that any of this fairy tale had basis in truth. We are all faced, daily, with mountains of evidence suggesting that the concept of a loving God is utterly ludicrous.
Isn’t it about time that we moved on?
I totally agree, it is beyond ridiculous that religion is still around. Theists have no idea how asinine they sound in the 21st century. We should have moved on no later than 1859…
I have grown cynical in my 60s & I believe an attraction to theism [or some ill-defined belief in an underlying teleology to ‘existence’] is part of the human condition. Until we got past this toddler stage we are still in, we’ll hark back to magical beliefs upon the unjust death of a child we know & love.
As an example beyond religion: there are three cards in my newsagent window advertising various types of ‘readings’ for those who want an agent to lay out the future for £20 [discounts available for groups of course]. Defeating religion will have little impact on the overall amount of scheming nonsense that assails us on all sides. Botox anybody? I’m cheap.
Symbolism is not piffle. It is a way to attempt to understand life and existence.
Symbolism without supporting evidence is worse than “piffle” it is little more than intellectual masturbation
My question for Craig is: How could we possibly put confidence in any biblical thing, when even NT concepts that have been settled truths for centuries, can be uprooted by scientific progress?
Exactly how much fun is it, really, to get paid handsomely to travel around making “well maybe god…” sound like it actually contributes to knowledge-acquisition?
Craig’s Eggs: A literalist/mythicist rapprochement?
The mythicist approach of Doherty and Carrier is an attempt to be literalist and contextually appropriate. That’s precisely why one concludes that (e.g.) Paul held that Jesus was crucified in what we’d call outer space.
I posted a link to this WEIT article in an ongoing discussion on this topic at WLC’s forum.
I had a deep thought a while ago, I think I’ll put it here – perhaps someone’s heard it before :
If there ever were any shape or form of intellectual activity, at any level, where it was impossible to ascertain truth claims – yet it continued unabated – I assert it would look a lot like theology.
from a different angle, if ever groups of people carried on with no way to acertain the truth of what binds them together, it would look a lot like religion.
The story of Adam and Eve makes no claim that they were the only two people from whom we are all descended. Adam and Eve had only boys. They went into other lands and found wives. Otherwise they would have to have their sisters. Invest would not do for the story. Also a snarl was put on CAIN and he went to live with other people’s. By the mark they would know he had committed a crime.
So why does the Bible insist that Adam and Eve were the original creation and why does it make no mention of other magical acts of anthropogenesis?
If you read the story it is very clear that the sons of Adam and Eve did not marry their sisters. That is all I can tell you. And Cain was expelled from the group and sent to live with other people. You have to guess at that discrepancy along with the rest of us. Could be the storytellers did not want incest in the story but hoped no one would notice they had no explanation of where the wives came from or when the people Cain went to live among cane from. This was part of the argument the lawyer in the Scopes monkey trip in Tennessee used against William Jennings Bryan.
I am surprised you would be interested in details is stories using symbols as you consider it nothing but mental masturbation having no significance.
It is offensive to describe it as “masturbation”. Such a description implies that it feels great.
I propose “sticking ones finger down ones own throat”, instead.
Or whatever the word is … I’ll have to look it up.
So much for the study of humanities.
With apologies to J.K. Rowling, would a course in “theological anthropology” be in the same degree plan as “care of magical creatures”?
It is certainly in the same class as “Biblical Archaeology” – which probably would fall under “Muggle Studies”
TIL William Lane Craig is a creationist, and therefore deserves the ridicule that all creationists do.
Two bottom lines:
1) There are two creations of Adam in Genesis one and two.
2) The doctrine of original sin as understood in the West is nowhere promulgated in the text of Genesis.
Due to my foreign travel schedule I have not red this whole post yet.
meant only to bold “bottom line”
This is a fallacy of hierarchy where humans are declared to be “more highly evolved”(=superior) to all other animals. More specifically it is the eugenic fallacy, claiming that one species is superior to another; if carried to its (not very) logical conclusion this becomes racism.
This dogma of racists, where races should not intermarry because one race is superior to others and such “pollution” harms the race, seems to me this to underlie to WLC’s identification of the (unfit) Neanderthals as the source of genetic diversity (pollution). It is notable that both he and his geneticist informant were ignorant of the Denisovans who fit the role of Neanderthals for Asian populations. Such ignorance is also apparent in WLC’s lack of comprehension that some, genetically diverse, African populations lack any input from either Neanderthals or Denisovans.
WLC also faces the problem that the Bible fails to mention any other deific anthropogenesis. His only escape from that would be to class Neanderthals & Denisovans as “animals.” Hence humans with a larger contribution of such genes were the result of interbreeding with animals. For Neanderthal genes that would be those of European origin – like William Lane Craig
– Create the concept of Adam and Eve.
– Give them Original Sin.
– Take away Adam and Eve but leave Original Sin behind.
– Create a Cheshire Cat.
– Give it a smile.
– Take away the cat but leave the smile behind.
WLC’s logic is somewhere away with Alice.
Craig lives in his own particular theological niche. They wrestle with their tradition and adapt it to allow the next generations of clergy to stay somewhat in tune with the times. A theologian doesn’t grapple with the pursuit of truth, but with the acceptance of other theologians and the clergy. He has to come up with a fancy new idea that is just good enough to keep the identity of the followers, and their allegiance to a particular tribe intact. That’s all. When the sheep continue to be sheep, then he was successful. What anyone believes is irrelevant.
It’s easy to laugh this off. But such elaborate schemes of nonsense are typical for our species.
WLC was corrected repeatedly by Vic Stenger to stop misrepresenting physics. Since he did not (or at least, not after many such exchanges) it is not surprising he is “weaselly” elsewhere.
That said, if he’s moving to a more scientifically respectable position that’s a good thing (though if it is for the wrong reasons that’s not much improvement).
Yeah, but he still holds to various odious positions. I detect no improvement over the years in WLC’s level of compassion – he’s a protestant extremist clothed in a fake intellectualism. There’s a monster behind that polished smile.