Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig
Dear Friends of Reasonable Faith,

This past month I finished my longer book on the subject of the atonement, tentatively entitled Atonement and the Death of Christ.  I needed a different title for this book than the title of my shorter book The Atonement, out later this month with Cambridge University Press.  I thought that the focus on the death of Christ was singularly appropriate since that is where our atonement is achieved. The longer book carries the subtitle: An Exegetical, Historical, and Philosophical Exploration. That makes clear the scope of the book. I examine Christ’s atoning death in the Bible, in the history of doctrine from the Church Fathers up until the Enlightenment, and finally philosophically, defending the biblical doctrine against charges of incoherence and injustice. The longer book is currently under consideration at Oxford University Press.

Adam and Eve by Jacob Jordaens, c. 1640-1650
Having completed my work on the doctrine of the atonement, I’ve decided to tackle a new topic which has become very controversial in recent days: the question of the historical Adam (and Eve). Traditionally, Christian theology has understood the Bible to teach that Adam and Eve were historical persons from whom all anatomically modern humans are descended. (One has to state the doctrine in this rather anachronistic way in order to distinguish the traditional view from various contemporary alternatives.)  Two challenges to this doctrine arise from modern science, one fairly old and the other very recent.
First is the old problem of the antiquity of man. It’s estimated that anatomically modern humans originated around 300,000 years ago.  Archaeology and genetics reveal that there were once human-like beings such as Neanderthals that are now extinct. They exhibited many human qualities and even interbred with modern humans (our DNA includes segments derived from Neanderthal DNA). Were Neanderthals human? Where in the lineage leading to modern man do we place Adam and Eve? Even if we deny that Neanderthals were human, despite their similarities physically and culturally to modern humans, the stories of Adam and Eve in Genesis do not fit stone age people 300,000 years ago but rather an agricultural society of several thousand years ago.
Second is the new challenge posed by population genetics. Geneticists comparing the DNA of different people have shown how widely divergent their DNA is in terms of the mutations it exhibits. These mutations are why we differ in skin color, size, facial contours, etc., etc.  Mutations in human beings occur at a very slow rate. In order for the present, divergent mutations to develop, it’s estimated that more than 500,000 years would be required if the human race began with a solitary couple. For that reason, geneticists think that the human race did not begin with an isolated pair but stretches back to a population of ancestors no fewer than 10,000 in number. Thus there was no Adam and Eve.
There is great turmoil among contemporary theologians about how best to deal with these challenges. In fact, later this month I’m going to be participating in a conference put on by The Creation Project at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School which will bring together theologians and scientists to discuss these and related issues. A number of alternatives have been proposed to deal with these challenges.

  (1) Mythological interpretation. Some scholars hold that the Genesis narratives about prehistoric events are of the genre of myth, not history. Thus, there can be no conflict with science. What is important about these stories are the theological truths they teach, e.g., people, though morally fallen, are in God’s image and therefore of intrinsic value. This view must explain how it is that Paul in his epistles seems to affirm the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Isaac de LaPèyrere's Prae-Adamitae.
(2) Men before Adam. In 1655 a maverick theologian named Isaac de LaPèyrere argued in his book Prae-Adamitae that Adam and Eve were historical persons who were part of a wider human population. God specially selected them to be in relation to Him to fulfill His salvific purposes. Today this view is receiving new attention.  So long as there were other people about to interbreed with Adam and Eve’s descendants, there is no problem is holding that everyone alive today (or even at the time of Christ) is descended from an original pair. These two could be located anywhere in the human lineage prior to several thousand years ago. Since our DNA is the product, not only of their DNA, but also of all the other people with whom their descendants interbred, the genetic divergence observed today is no problem. This view is consistent with the archaeological and genetic evidence, but is it really the natural reading of the biblical text? 
(3) Non-human contemporaries of Adam.  This view is like the second, except that the wider population of which Adam and Eve were a part were not truly human. They may have been anatomically indistinguishable from humans, but they were not in the image of God, as were Adam and Eve. Perhaps they lacked a human soul and so were not truly human. This view allows one to affirm that only Adam and Eve and their progeny were created in the image of God; but it has the drawback that it seems to consign their progeny to engaging in bestiality.
I am currently exploring the genetic evidence that is said to rule out an original pair of modern humans. In talking with genetic scientists, I’ve found that there is enormous confusion about this question today.  Popularizers have misrepresented the arguments, thereby inviting misguided responses. The issues are very technical and difficult to understand.  I’m just beginning to get my feet wet and don’t want to misrepresent the science. I want to know how firm the evidence is and what it would cost intellectually to maintain the traditional view. For example, one scientist estimates that for the entire human race to have originated from an isolated pair 100,000 years ago, the mutation rate would have to be five times what it is observed today. Is that too outlandish to affirm?

So I’ve embarked on a new research project that will prove very interesting. I’m really looking forward to the Creation Project conference this month and to dialoguing with scientists and philosophers there.  Thanks for your prayers!

For Christ and His Kingdom,
Bill and Jan
I’ve been listening to and reading your work for nearly 10 years (since I got saved at the age of 19). The first time I heard you speak was when you debated Richard Dawkins in his absence. I was a brand new believer at the time and was thoroughly impressed with how you so logically dismantled Dawkins’ central claims in The God Delusion. I own all of your What is God Like? books and my both my kids are fully aware of how important your work is to Christian apologetics. You’re such an inspiration to me through all life’s challenges. I realize you’re merely human, but I truly believe you are genuinely successful in practicing what you preach. I consider you to be my favorite theologian and philosopher and have found your work with Reasonable Faith to be invaluable in my own walk with Christ. I grew up in the LDS saturated culture of northern Utah and cannot thank you enough for your clear teaching on biblical doctrines and gracious attitude while doing so. Your uncanny ability to critique a point of view while maintaining a sincerely loving attitude is, unfortunately, far too uncommon. I really look up to you, Dr. Craig and hope some day to not only meet you in person, but to accomplish a fraction of what you have for God’s Kingdom. I know you hear it all the time, but you really are making a huge difference in the lives of so many in this seemingly hopeless world. 
In Christian love and brotherhood,

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