October 22, 2021

Craig and Zacharias

I have long so appreciated the apologetic ministry of William Lane Craig. When I had heard, however, that he was researching the “historical” Adam—that is, the real Adam in contrast (supposedly) to the “literary” Adam as he appears in Scripture—I was concerned. 

I had good reasons to be. Referring to many disparate disciplines—from Pseudo-Philo to Paleoneurology, from the Enuma Elish to the gene ARHGAP11B, from Cranial  globularization to 1 Enoch—Dr. Craig claims to have discovered the “historical” Adam. “Adam and Eve,” he writes in his new book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, (2021, Eerdmans), “may be plausibly identified as belonging to the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, usually denominated Homo heidelbergensis.”1 This couple existed, he writes, hundreds of thousands of years ago.

But what about the Adam and Eve of Genesis 1-3, or in the New Testament, especially Romans and 1 Corinthians? What about the six-day creation, or God creating Adam from the dust, or the fall in Eden, or the flood, or the Tower of Babel? These are, he writes, “mytho-history,”2 nice stories that depict spiritual and theological truths, but are not real events and, in many cases, are “palpably false.”3

He denies that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7); or that God walked in the Garden (Genesis 3:8); or that He came down to see the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:7). Why? Because, Dr. Craig writes, they feature “a humanoid deity incompatible with the transcendent God of the creation story.”4

A “humanoid deity” incompatible with the transcendent Creator? Isn’t John 1:1-3 about the transcendent Creator having become a “humanoid deity”? And even if the Incarnation is a one-off event, what about Genesis 18, when three men appear to Abraham and converse, face to face, with him?  The problem for Dr. Craig’s “mytho-history” begins in verse 13, which reads, “And the Lord said to Abraham. . ..” The word translated “the Lord” is the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters (Yod Heh Vav Heh) for Yahweh, the name of the Creator God Himself! (See Genesis 2:4).  A few verses later, Yahweh says “I will go down now and see” (Genesis 18: 21) Sodom for Himself, a very” humanoid” thing for Yahweh to do.  Genesis 18:33 says, “So the LORD went His way.” The word for “went” is a common Hebrew verb that means, simply, to “walk.”  Unless Dr. Craig extends his “mytho-history” hypothesis to Genesis 18 (which he might), his argument that the creation story, if taken literally, makes the Lord look like a “humanoid deity worthy of polytheistic myths”5 is itself palpably false.

Early in his bookI knew we were in trouble when I came across this sentence: ”Alternatively, we might maintain that while the authors of Scripture may well have believed in a six-day creation, a historical Adam, a worldwide flood, and so on, they did not teach such facts.”6 And this one: “We could perhaps similarly maintain that Jesus, while not believing that Adam was a historical person, nevertheless as a condition of his incarnation accepted this and many other false beliefs of his countrymen.”7

The result of such bowdlerization of Scripture? After billions of years of evolution, about 750,000 years ago, “Adam and Eve emerged from a wider population of hominins.”8 Then, he explains, “we may envision a regulatory mutation that radically increases the cognitive capacity of the brain beyond what other hominins enjoy.”9 Or, he writes, “God may have induced mutations, not in them, even at an embryonic stage, but in the gametes of their parents, so that Adam and Eve were human from the moment of conception.”10 However they came to be human, this first couple, using their free will, sinned, Craig asserts. Having morally corrupted themselves, they then needed God’s love and forgiveness.

But what about Paul writing that Adam brought death? Dr. Craig argues that the Adam-Jesus contrast in Romans 5—"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)—was, really, not physical but spiritual death. But how could Adam have created death when billions of years of death are, he believes, what created Adam in the first place?

Meanwhile, regarding the Adam-Christ contrast in 1 Corinthians 15, such as “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive,” (1 Cor. 15:22)—Dr. Craig writes: “Although we might think that physical death is the result of Adam’s sin, Paul does not affirm this.”11 For Dr. Craig, Paul can’t affirm this because that would mean that the billions of years of some kind of evolutionary process—the apparent template from which Dr. Craig interpreted the Bible—was false.

How did such a brilliant man, and one who has done so much good, get here? These next words, I think, explain almost everything: “Moreover, it is even more fantastic that the earth suffered a worldwide deluge that wiped out all of humanity not aboard the ark as well as all terrestrial animals. Modern geology and anthropology have rendered such a catastrophe all but impossible.”12

Two human disciplines, geology and anthropology—with their strengths and weaknesses, speculation, and unproven assumptions—are accepted over the explicit teachings of four chapters (Genesis 6-9) in the Word of God.  Genesis 6-9 make no sense if not about a world-wide deluge (why, for instance, build a boat for a local flood? Just get out of the flood zone.). Science is a human endeavor based on two grand assumptions—only natural causes may explain natural effects, and the continuity of nature; two assumption which, when it comes to origins, happen to be wrong. Click here to read “Why Science Gets Origins So Wrong.”

What happened? Dr. Craig has unfortunately fallen for the great meta-myth of our era: that scientific “truth” trumps all other forms of knowledge, including revelation. He seems to have accepted, a priori, and without question, the evolutionary model of origins.  He ends by writing a book that dismisses explicit biblical truths as “mytho-history” in favor of speculations about a mutation that turned two hominins into humans about 750,000 years ago.

 I used to tell friends that my ambition was to be the “poor man’s Ravi Zacharias.” That is, I wanted to go to secular college campuses, as he had done, and defend the faith. Given the trajectory of Zacharias’ life, I don’t say that anymore.  And though I was saddened by Ravi Zacharias’ fall, it doesn’t sadden me anywhere near as much as William Lane Craig’s theological descent, for that’s how I see his “mytho-history” theory. What Dr. Craig has done will be, I believe, much more damaging. Who knows how many thousands will now think that Christianity is compatible with evolution, when even most atheist evolutionists can see that it’s not. How many people, too logical to accept both evolution and Christianity, will throw out faith entirely?

I’m not judging William Lane Craig. I’m judging this book, which—representing the surrender of divine revelation to man-made speculation—affirms Paul’s warni
ng, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).  

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Risen: Finding Hope in the Empty Tomb (2020) has been published by Pacific Press.

1 Craig, William Lane. In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration (p. 522). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition

2 Ibid. p. 283

3 Ibid. p. 139

4 Ibid. p. 283

5 Ibid. p. 136

6 Ibid. p. 30

7 Ibid. p. 33

8 Ibid. p. 537

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid. p. 538

11 Ibid. p. 334

12 Ibid. p. 151