Explore

William Lane Craig and his historical Adam conference

Southern Baptist College fosters compromise with Templeton pieces of silver

wikipedia.orgwilliam-lane-craig
William Lane Craig

by Jonathan Sarfati

William Lane Craig is one of the best-known Christian apologists in the world today. However, in the last few years, he has been undermining a historical Genesis, and in particular a straightforward Genesis (and a superficial interaction with The Genesis Account), global Flood, and the doctrine of original sin. Last year, he wrote In Quest of the Historical Adam, which we have reviewed both in writing and in a podcast. In summary, he believes in some sort of literal first man Adam, but he was a Homo heidelbergensis who lived 750,000 years ago, and probably arose by evolution.

As we have said in most of those places, we appreciate the good work Dr Craig has done in defending Christianity and refuting atheists in formal debates. But his rejection of a historical Genesis endangers all his good work.

Templeton Foundation and Baptist seminaries

Naturally, the theistic evolutionary organization, the John Templeton Foundation, has now shown interest in Craig’s anti-biblical view. We have written before about how Templeton money helped start the syncretistic and Pelagian theistic organization BioLogos. They have also paid for once-Evangelical colleges like Tabor College in South Australia to teach theistic evolution, and awarded a prize to a panentheistic Darwinist.

The latest to accept Templeton money to undermine a historical Genesis is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. In April, they held a conference with Craig and other scholars debating the historical Adam. The conference is intended to lead to a “Four Views” book on the historical Adam.

This is disturbing. The Southern Baptist colleges in the USA had returned to the Bible under the leadership of biblical creationist Dr Al Mohler. He shocked all the liberal professors by pointing out that they were there under false pretenses, having signed a statement of faith while undermining it in the classroom. Dr Mohler has also denounced atheists in many pulpits.

Thanks to Dr Mohler and those behind him, the Southern Baptist colleges became leaders in proclaiming biblical truth. Not surprisingly, the Southern Baptist churches have been among the most welcoming to CMI ministry. They might not appreciate what is going on in some of the seminaries supported by donations from Southern Baptist churches. And well they should not, because undermining biblical truth often starts with the seminaries, which then become cemeteries.

Craig’s conference on the historical Adam

Sir-John-Marks
Businessman and philanthropist, Sir John Marks Templeton (1912–2008).

I will let Dr Craig explain in his own words, from the May 2022 Monthly Report of his ministry, Reasonable Faith:

The ministry highlight of the month of April was the conference on the historical Adam sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The background of this conference lay in my desire to put together a “four views” book on the historical Adam which would feature not only my view but conflicting views of three other scholars. I wanted to have a representative of the “recent genealogical Adam” view, so we secured Andrew Loke of the University of Hong Kong to defend that position. I also wanted a representative of a “liberal” or “progressive” view that denies the existence of a historical Adam, so I got Kenton Sparks of Eastern University in Pennsylvania.

One should note that Craig gives the impression that this is a disagreement among Evangelicals. But Sparks denies biblical inerrancy, normally a defining feature of Evangelicalism. God doesn’t inspire error! Also, the rest of the Bible’s authors and Jesus Christ clearly took Genesis as history, but this doesn’t deter Sparks, who dug himself even deeper into a theological pit:

If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John wrote Scripture without error. Rather, we are wise to assume that the biblical authors expressed themselves as human beings writing from the perspectives of their own finite, broken horizons.1

Saying that Jesus made mistakes is undermining His deity, an essential doctrine of Christianity itself. But many theistic evolutionist have gone down that dark path—they can’t escape the fact that Jesus affirmed a literal Genesis.

It is surprising that Dr Craig seems fine with this. Later on the same newsletter, he has an excellent discussion on the Trinity, focusing on making a powerful case for the deity of Christ!

Craig continues:

Kenneth-Keathley
Kenneth Keathley

Finding someone to represent the “young earth creationist” view was harder. The first two persons I invited were so paranoid that they feared this was a set-up, so they refused to participate. But I was adamant that we had to have the young earth view represented. We were finally able to get Marcus Ross, a professor of geology at Liberty University, on board. Ken Keathley, a theologian at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who has been long engaged in these discussions, agreed to serve as the editor of the book, which will be published by Broadman & Holman. It was Ken who then organized the conference as a sort of working panel in preparation for the eventual book.

We need to present some background to this inflammatory accusation. One of the biblical creationist (‘young-earth creationist’ (YEC)) organizations Dr Craig contacted was CMI. Now just because we are paranoid (arguendo), it doesn’t prove that they were not trying to set us up. However, our CEO, in correspondence with Dr Craig, pointed out that Dr Keathley had clearly misrepresented the views of biblical creationists either deliberately or, at least, in ignorance. But either way it made him an unsuitable candidate to be an ‘impartial’ editor. Dr Craig was intransigent and would not consider anyone else for the editorial role. Thus, it made us somewhat suspicious if Dr Craig was so keen to have all views represented fairly. Particularly as Dr Craig himself has also misrepresented what biblical creationists believe. For example, like Craig, Keathley insinuates that YECs really believe in fast evolution (more below), and have redefined the biblical kind to try to save appearances.

Another reason for objecting is that we will not give any credence to any discussion among “Evangelicals” if it includes those like Sparks who implicitly deny the deity of Christ.

Craig’s Facebook announcement in April

Previous to his newsletter, Dr Craig posted the following on Facebook, 8 Apr 2021

WHO’S THE EVOLUTIONIST NOW?

Later this month I’m participating in a panel discussion on the historical Adam featuring a range of views. I’ve been reading the panelists’ papers that have been circulated in advance. Some of you Young Earth Creationists who have been so vocal in denouncing me as a tool of Satan and betraying Christianity would be shocked to learn what the YEC panelist believes. He not only agrees with me that Neanderthals and Denisovans were fully human, as shown by the archaeological evidence of their modern cognitive capacity, but he believes that hominins even earlier than Homo heidelbergensis were also human. In fact—are you ready for this?—he thinks that Noah was Homo erectus and that after disembarking from the ark Homo erectus developed into all the other subsequent human species! In other words, he believes in a vastly greater degree of human evolution than I do! (Of course, he tries, absurdly, to smash this all into about 400 years between the end of the Flood and the call of Abraham). He makes me look like saint!

This is another reason for CMI to avoid participating: the sure knowledge that Dr Craig would poison the well like the above. Much of that is the weak man fallacy. A straw man fallacy is refuting an argument that no one believes; but some less informed people might believe the weak man fallacy. It may well be that some YECs said the inflammatory things and were as uninformed as Craig claimed. But the informed YEC organization have not. The intellectually honest way to debate is to deal with the strongest case for the position you oppose; Craig insists that atheists do this when attacking Christianity.

As a matter of record, none of Craig’s claims about fossil humans is news to the major creationist organizations. E.g. 16 years ago, I wrote an article Neandertals were fully human in thinking: Symbolic items show human cognition and symbolic thinking. And as long as we have been writing on the Denisovans (discovered in 2010), we have affirmed their full humanity, e.g. this 2011 article.

Way back in 2000, we showed that the Homo erectus skull was in the range of human sizes. A year before, we published a paper showing that even on evolutionary terms, there were no ape-human transitions, just australopiths (Australopithecines plus H. rudolfensis and H. habilis) and humans (H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. Heidelbergensis, and H. Neanderthalensis).

So don’t be confused by all those different names. Evolutionists tend to be taxonomic ‘splitters’, i.e. multiplying names for the same kind of creature. Biblical creationists tend to be ‘lumpers’, because we recognize that the kind is much broader than the species. In most cases, it’s broader than the man-made term ‘genus’, and sometimes broader even than the ‘family’. Applying this to the previous paragraph, the human kind—Adam and Eve and their descendants—comprises H. sapiens today, and once included H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. Heidelbergensis, and H. Neanderthalensis.

And even further back in 1994, we documented that H. erectus was intelligent enough to make ocean voyages, so should be classed as a variety of real humans.

We have consistently maintained these points for about as long as I have worked for CMI. E.g. in a 2006 paper, brain scientist and human fossil expert Dr Peter Line explicitly grouped H. erectus and the Neanderthals with humans, and distinct from the australopithecines:

The differences in morphological features of the fossil species included in Homo, excluding the invalid taxon Homo habilis, are believed to represent, among other factors, genetic variation within the one human kind. Homo habilis is believed to represent a collection of assorted fossils that either were human (e.g. Homo erectus) or were australopithecine apes. If fossils such as those categorized as Homo erectus and Neandertals were all fully human, then the case for human evolution essentially collapses, as there is an unbridgeable morphological gap between the australopithecine apes and these humans.

Now some YECs on Dr Craig’s Facebook page didn’t realize that the mainstream creationist position was that H. erectus was human, and questioned whether the chosen YEC was genuine in thinking that Noah was one. I responded by documenting the above CMI papers. I also defended as a legitimate YEC view that Noah was H. erectus.

This doesn’t mean I agree with Dr Ross’s view, and neither do the major creationist organizations. However, we all agree that human fossils are post Flood, but CMI and other creationist organizations regard Neanderthals, Denisovans, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. Heidelbergensis, as post-Babel varieties of true humans. There are several views we can disagree with and still believe that they are within the ‘broad tent’ of genuine YEC theories. At the time, I also wrote that I had an idea who it was (because CMI scientists are more aware than most of internal chatter among creationists).

I was proven right that it was Dr Marcus Ross, who is definitely genuine—a Creation magazine interviewee and a most welcome guest scientist in our Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels documentary. So, to Craig’s credit, he selected a formidable proponent of YEC, as he said he intended. This is a contrast with a Three Views book in 1999 that selected YECs that hardly anyone had heard of, and who scored many own goals. It’s also a contrast to his Facebook post, in that the conference and book make an attempt to address a strong opposing case not a ‘weak man’.

Tired old canard: YECs believe in rapid evolution

The headline of the above post. WHO’S THE EVOLUTIONIST NOW? is getting very stale. It has become like the game of whack-a-mole. Every time we refute the fallacy in one place, it pops up again.

Atheists for a long time have tried to overload Noah’s Ark with millions of “species”. But creationists both before and after Darwin pointed out that the kind was much broader than the usual man-made term “species”. So evolutionist retort that creationists must believe in hyper-evolution so that comparatively few kinds gave rise to many more species.

A quarter century ago, we refuted atheistic evolutionists resorting to this, and it is still an atheistic favourite. Then progressive creationist Dr Hugh Ross parroted the atheistic arguments way back in 2004. Then Craig parroted Ross, and continues to do so even after being corrected.

So let’s summarize the main points (again!):

  1. The only animals on board were the land vertebrates. References to millions of species include insects, plants, and marine creatures, which would not have been obligate passengers on the Ark. There is a much lower number of land vertebrate ‘species’, and very plausible that they arose from an even lower number of Ark kinds. This was understood by creationists even before Darwin.
  2. There are numerous examples of rapid speciation today, much faster than evolutionists expected. But this would be expected because of the precedent of rapid speciation after the Ark landed.
  3. God pre-loaded the created kinds with immense genetic diversity. This enabled their descendants to comprise many varieties, which could adapt to many different environments. Most of today’s animals have lost much of their diversity, so would not be as able to have as much diversity in their descendants. We see this even in humans: a biracial couple can have children of different skin shades, much as Adam and Eve probably did. But couples of a single skin shade will generally have children of the same shade (with some exceptions).
  4. Even evolutionists understand that most varieties and even species arise in small isolated populations—allopatric speciation. Evolutionists also recognize that mountainous regions are ideal for speciation, because the mountains provide strong natural barriers as a population disperses. Therefore we would expect rapid speciation as the animals dispersed from the mountains of Ararat! I explained this in Refuting Evolution 2, ch. 4, 20 years ago, so it is disappointing that Dr Craig has not updated himself with our literature.

Literal interpretation?

Craig’s newsletter continues:

For example, I thought that Sparks would treat Genesis 1–11 as pure myth, having no historical value and so requiring no commitment to the historical Adam. What a surprise to discover that Sparks takes Genesis even more literally than Ross, the young earth creationist! Sparks believes, like Ross, that the Genesis creation stories were intended to be read literally. The difference between them is that Ross thinks that they are literally true, whereas Sparks thinks that they are literally false! The fact that Sparks is more of a literalist than Ross is evident from the fact that Sparks thinks that Genesis teaches that there is a literal, hard dome over the earth in which the sun, moon, and stars are embedded, whereas I’m confident that Ross does not.

Once again, compromisers knock down a straw man of ‘literalism’. As documented, the classical meaning of literal interpretation included figures of speech, if that is what the original readers would have understood. E.g. the great Reformer and Bible translator William Tyndale (1494–1536):

Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the scripture hath but one sense, which is but the literal sense. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Nevertheless, the scripture uses proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle or allegory signifieth, is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently.

The literal interpretation, when properly defined, is also called the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. It is also called the originalist approach, after a method of legal interpretation to interpret the USA Constitution and statutes according to their “original public meaning”—what the text meant to those voting on them and to the people first affected by them.

When this is understood, it is hardly to Sparks’ credit that he interprets Genesis more ‘literally’ than Ross. In reality, he interprets it in a hyperliteral manner invented by 19th-century atheistic Bible critics trying to discredit the texts as God-breathed.

It is puzzling why Craig seems fine with this, because one of the good points of his historical Adam book was refuting the hyper-literal critics. E.g. on pp. 188–191, he explicitly refutes the claim made by Sparks that the raqia God created on Day 2 is a solid dome. Instead, raqia = expanse, derived from the verb raqa = expand, or stretch out, so the emphasis is on the expansion not on any material substance.

Many such arguments are based on comparisons with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature. But Craig shows that the critics interpret ANE literature with wooden hyperliteralism too. E.g. no real Babylonian expected that he could travel to the source of the Tigris and Euphrates and expect to see them flowing out of a dead goddess’ eyes (Tiamat). Neither would an Egyptian have really expected to look up in the sky and see the huge sky goddess Nut above, nor hit her knee with an arrow if shot far enough to the east or west. Craig also agrees (p. 101) that the ANE myths are “several orders of magnitude” more fantastic than Genesis.

Conclusion

Nothing good can come from any Evangelical College that accepts Templeton Foundation money. And that a Southern Baptist Seminary, normally a bastion of theological inerrancy, seems to have taken their 30 pieces of silver without doing due diligence on The Templeton Foundation and William Lane Craig. Those who have or had affiliations with Southeastern should be registering their disapproval at their departure from traditional evangelical views.

They should heed the secular Golden Rule: he who has the gold, makes the rules. As shown, the conference includes someone so far outside Evangelical or any other brand of Christianity that he says Jesus taught errors. And Craig himself continues to misrepresent or ignore the strongest YEC arguments, even after being corrected.

Post Script

Dr Craig also reported in his newsletter that he contracted a bad case of COVID-19 plus secondary pneumonia, which produced such low blood oxygen levels that it landed him in hospital. Dr Keathley also reported this on Twitter. He is out of hospital now and I wish him a full recovery.

Published: 24 May 2022

References and notes

  1. Sparks, K., After Inerrancy, Evangelicals and the Bible in the Postmodern Age, part 4, Biologos Forum, 26 June 2010. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $30.00
Hard Cover
Refuting Compromise
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Contested Bones
by Christopher Rupe, Dr. John Sanford
US $29.00
Soft Cover