A Shocking Creationist Dispute about Genesis

This one is at Answers in Genesis (AIG), but it wasn’t written by ol’ Hambo. It’s titled Undermining Scripture Regarding Adam: An Initial Response to William Lane Craig, and it was written by Dr. Terry Mortenson. According to his bio page, he has an MDiv and a PhD in the history of geology, and he’s “an author, speaker, and researcher with Answers in Genesis.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Recently Dr. William Lane Craig has published a book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, in which he argues that Adam was historical and mythical. By that, he means that there really was a man named Adam but that the details in Genesis 2–3 about the origin of Adam and Eve and the nature of their fall in sin are symbolic myths.

We’ve written about William Lane Craig before — see Fox Offers “Five Reasons Why God Exists”. Mortenson says:

Here I respond to some of this thinking about Adam as expressed in an interview with Christianity Today magazine. The article is blockquoted (indented) here in full, with the introduction in italics, the interviewer’s comments in bold, and Dr. Craig’s replies in regular text. My comments are interspersed.

That’s a lot of stuff! Mortenson’s article is far too long, so we’re going to ruthlessly excerpt the parts that we find particularly entertaining. Near the beginning, Craig is asked:

One reason you support the mytho-history classification is the presence of what you call “fantastic elements” in the text. What are these, and how do they differ from supernatural elements?

And he answers:

I define “fantastic elements” as those which, if taken literally, are so extraordinary as to be palpably false. … [T]he primordial history of Genesis 1–11 includes elements which, if taken literally, would be so extraordinary as to be clearly false. Take, for example, magical trees with fruit that, if eaten, would impart the knowledge of good and evil or immortality, or the presence of a talking snake that tempts the man and woman to sin. Now, these are different from supernatural or miraculous elements, which concern events God brings about directly.

Shocking, isn’t it? Mortenson chimes in:

But the Bible doesn’t say that the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are “magical trees.” Unique trees for sure, but not magical. [Hee hee!] Why is the tree of life so “fantastic” when today we have many kinds of plants with healing properties, and in the new heavens and earth, there will be a tree of life whose leaves are “for the healing of the nations?” And why is it unbelievable that a supernatural being (Satan) can make a snake talk when another supernatural being (God) made a donkey speak to the prophet Balaam (Numbers 22:28)? Does Craig think that description of divine action is palpably false, too?

Wowie — serious criticism! Here’s more. Craig is asked:

In examining the relevant scientific data, you accept the theory of common descent — the belief that life on earth, including human life, evolved from a common ancestor. [Gasp!] As for the “founding pair,” you propose that God might have “lifted them to the human level” through a “radical transition” that “plausibly involved both biological and spiritual renovation.” Why is this scenario a better explanation than a de novo (“from scratch”) creation of Adam?

Craig answers:

Several questions here need to be teased apart. First, it’s very important to understand that this book is not concerned with how man came about, but when. I assume, for the sake of argument, common descent. But that isn’t to say that I defend or propound it. [Huh?] Given the assumption of common descent, I ask if we can identify when human beings first appeared in the process.

Moreover, I think that the question about the first appearance of man is not equivalent to when the genus Homo appears on the scene. Early hominins were lumped into that category rather artificially, so we shouldn’t assume some form is human simply because it’s classified as Homo. We need other criteria for humanity. In terms of the biological and spiritual renovation that lifted these prehuman hominin forms to a fully human status, I assume the evolutionary scenario simply to show that there isn’t any incompatibility between it and the existence of a primordial human pair from whom all humanity is descended.

Mortenson chimes in:

First, if you don’t know how Adam came into existence, you can’t possibly know when. Craig is assuming an evolutionary how and when for the origin of the first human and then trying to relate that to the biblical statements about Adam. But Genesis most definitely does tell us how and when Adam and Eve came into existence.

This is ghastly stuff! We’ve got to cut this short. so we’re leaping all the way to Mortenson’s final paragraph. He says:

It is truly sad that Craig, who has two PhDs (one in philosophy and one in theology) and who claims to believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, has almost completely ignored what inerrantist, young-earth, biblical, and scientific scholars have to say about the literal truth of Genesis 1–11 and particularly about Adam. [Yes, it’s truly sad!] … So, his book In Quest of the Historical Adam is not as scholarly as his extensive footnotes and bibliography imply and is not a model of Christian scholarship.

Harsh criticism indeed. He continues:

Finally, one other point should be made about a critical omission in his book. Because he has accepted the evolutionary idea of billions of years of cosmic and earth history, he has thereby accepted billions of years of animal death, disease, and extinction before Adam. This evolutionary story massively conflicts with the biblical teaching about the curse at the fall of Adam and the final redemptive work of Christ.

Okay, that’s enough. That’s more than enough. If the subject matter thrills you, click over to AIG and read it all — but be warned, it’s going to take a long time. Then get back here and let us know what we missed.

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

16 responses to “A Shocking Creationist Dispute about Genesis

  1. At least those YE creationists are becoming aware that there are Christians who don’t take a literal approach to the Bible. That’s progress.

  2. All that yappin’ and not a peep from Jesus.

  3. I find it remarkable that one claims doctrine X on the basis of the Bible; and one claims that the Bible proof text must mean Y, for otherwise there would be no Biblical support for X.

  4. WLC is locked in desperate struggle with a fact: early hominins were sufficiently unlike modern humans and the other extant apes to make it difficult to say either that they were humans or else some other kind of unknown ape. They’re both, or neither, depending on what criteria you select and assumptions you make. The struggle is caused by the obvious inference: this is explained and actually predicted by evolution; it is completely inexplicable by fiat separate creation of modern humans de novo, and the Bible is silent on the subject.

    So Craig has to invent a narrative. God made everything, but He did something unspecified to early hominis to make them become human.. This happened at some unspecified time. It seems mostly to have consisted of installing a conscience and a soul. What exactly that entailed is mysterious.

    Well, it’s a story. Mortenson will have none of it, of course, because it’s not a Bible story.

    There are times when I wish people like this could be isolated on some sort of enclosed and secure reserve where it’s always 1550 CE. Then they could burn each other at the stake if they want, and the rest of us would be left in peace.

  5. Why would they argue with the renowned Dr. William Lane Craig? He’s so renowned he could have a Dr. in front of each name. Dr. William Dr. Lane Dr. Craig. They guy is practically Jesus Himslef.

  6. google: renowned Dr. William Lane Craig

    About 9,000,000 results (0.72 seconds)

    That’s a lot of renowneds!

  7. We’ve got people who’ve been eating the fruit of the tree of stupidity.

  8. Puck Mendelssohn

    There is something hilarious about watching the halfwits fight with each other. Craig is such an odious, vile person, and even someone that odious has enough sense to know that the story of human origins promoted by other odious, vile people won’t fly. I concur with Dave Luckett’s sentiment that it’s too bad we can’t isolate them somewhere so that they can hack each other to bits, burn each other at the stake, or whatever the Talibangelical kids are doing these days, and leave the rest of us alone.

  9. This is a bit of a peripheral take on the argument from two clowns. But why so much focus on Genesis? I have a suggestion. The Bible is notoriously boring, but Genesis with its obvious mythological origin with the mundane temporarily suspended and superseded by the superlative. It reads like a comic book, and so it is actually entertaining compared to the rest of the vast tome.
    It reminds me of the thesis of “Life of Pi”, the embellished characters make you pay attention long enough to get the meaning of the story. That said, I wish “Richard Parker” would consume both Craig and Hambo.

  10. @Troy
    The first 11 chapters of Genesis are different. The rest of the Bible has divine interventions of more subdued sort. But there is enough variety that one can find a proof text to back up just about anything that one wants.

  11. I find the Bible distinctly lacking in laser beams. Plenty of “fiery” things and flying things. I feel like they were trying for sci-fi. Close, but you got to have the laser beams.

  12. @richard
    There are those who say that there is nothing written in the Bible which is unexpected from the Ancient Nesr East.
    For example, no reference to the majority of living forms: the microbes.
    No reference to the majority of elemental matter: hydrogen and helium.
    No reference to mathematics beyond pre-algebra.
    No reference to the geography of the majority of Earth.

  13. @TomS I guess from the perspective of their level of sci it could be called sci-fi. Assuming there is fiction in there. (Seems likely haha.) It would have been cooler if there were laser beams though.

  14. I guess we will have to settle for flaming serpents. Right up there with laser beams.

  15. The Bible speaks of living things in the heavens. Jo

  16. @TomS I totally forgot about Revelation. Even wilder than Genesis and wackier than Ezekiel. 😀