On a recent podcast, famed debater and philosopher William Lane Craig, in the news recently on account of his article in First Things where he decries Genesis 1-11 as “myth” while explaining that “Adam and Eve” were basically beatified cavemen that lived 750,000 years ago, mockingly laughs at all dumb young-earth creationists who take the first 11 chapters of the Bible literally, and who believe there was a talking snake and a literal Adam. Watch the video—his chortling is quite gruesome.
The story of Adam and Eve, I think it should prompt us not to be over literalistic in the way we read these narratives. And once you begin to look at them in terms of mytho-history, it’s difficult to look at them in any other way.
I mean, when you read a story, about two people in an arboretum, with these magical trees, whose fruit if you eat it, will grant you immortality, or knowledge of good and evil.
And then there’s this talking snake who comes along and tempts them into sin. And then you have this anthropomorphic God walking in the cool in the garden and calling out audibly to Adam in his hideout, you think
‘Well, of course, this is figurative and metaphorical language.’ This isn’t meant to be read in this sort of literalistic fashion.
And so once you begin to see these narratives this way, I think you’ll begin to ask yourself, ‘how can I read them any other way?’ It would be like reading Aesop’s Fables literalisticly, as really about talking animals, for example, rather than as figurative or metaphorical, in order to teach some moral lesson.
This is not the first time that Dr. William Lane Craig has sounded off on Young-earth creationists. During his 2019 weekly Sunday school class on Christian doctrine and apologetics, he mocked them endlessly, saying among other things:
I think it’s evident that unless one adopts the literal young earth creationist interpretation, Genesis one doesn’t really say anything about how God created life on Earth…Truly, young-earth creationists live in a different universe than most of us do. This is crank-science, and Christians should not be attracted to it.
Bonus comments from the interview
I think that’s right. And I am not willing, Shawn, to write Neanderthals out of the human race. I think that kind of dehumanizing attitude is, frankly morally unconscionable. It’s a kind of racism in a way. These were people just as much as ancient Homo sapiens were, just as much as we are, and we should not dehumanize them in that way.
For those who hold to the doctrine of original sin, that is to say that we are culpable for Adam’s sin, or that Adam’s sin corrupted human nature. And we all bear that disease, the historical Adam is absolutely crucial, because if he is merely a fictional character that never existed, obviously, we cannot be culpable for the wrongdoing of a fictional person or be corrupted by his fault. Now, I myself don’t hold to that classical doctrine of original sin. I think that that is neither taught in Genesis three or in Romans five.
Now, I would be disingenuous, Shawn, if I were to say, I don’t want the young earth creationist interpretation to come out true. Okay. To me, that is a nightmare. My greatest fear is that the young earth creationist might be right in his hermeneutical claim—that Genesis does teach those things that I described earlier. And I say that would be a nightmare. Because if that’s what the Bible teaches, it puts the Bible into massive, I think irredeemable conflict with modern science, history and linguistics, and I don’t want that to happen.
This is a distinction which is widely made among New Testament scholars, when it comes to dealing with how the New Testament treats figures in literature that the New Testament authors cite. So, for example, when they talk about Moses, is this the Moses that actually lived? Or is it the Moses as described in the Pentateuch? When they talk about Adam, is this the actual historical Adam? Or is this just the Adam of the story, and you cannot assume too quickly, that the literary figure is the same as the historical figure.
[Editor’s note: The denial of Original Sin is a form of Gnostic heresy (that in fact led to Arminianism!), and seems to be very common with the “intellectual” crowd these days.]