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

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of devoting this past month to my ongoing research on the historical Adam. Let me share a bit about what I’m learning and thinking.

As I explained in a recent Question of the Week (#588), an investigation of the historicity of Adam involves two independent tasks which are, unfortunately, too often conflated: first, determining what the Bible teaches about this subject and, second, formulating an empirically adequate doctrine of man. 

The first task belongs to biblical theology, the second to systematic theology. The biblical theologian will seek to determine the proper interpretation of the Old and New Testament texts pertinent to Adam, not only deploying linguistic studies, but also drawing upon extrabiblical materials from the Ancient Near East and Second Temple Judaism. The systematic theologian will then attempt to construct a doctrine of man which is not only biblically adequate but also adequate to the established findings of contemporary science, such as paleoarchaeology and genetics.
Adam and Eve - Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo
I’ve decided to focus for now on the task of biblical theology (as opposed to the task of systematic theology), as the proper place to begin.  So I’ve purchased a slew of Genesis commentaries, which I’m working through. To place the Adam and Eve stories in their context, I’m studying Genesis 1-11, often called “the primeval history,” which extends up to the call of Abraham and the age of the patriarchs.  Obviously, this is a lot of material to digest!  So far I’ve completed the commentaries by Gerhard von Rad, Umberto Cassuto, Claus Westermann, and Gordon Wenham.
It’s crucial that the tasks of biblical theology and systematic theology be pursued in pristine isolation from each other. There is an almost irresistible tendency to allow science to guide our biblical interpretation. This sort of interpretive approach to Scripture is often called “concordism.” Beginning with what modern science tells us about the origin of the world and mankind, we approach the biblical text and read that science into the text, or, at least, read the text in such a way that it comports with modern science. The flaws in such a hermeneutic are obvious: (1) It does not interpret the text as the author and its intended readers would have understood it but imports meanings foreign to them; (2) As science progresses, every generation will read its own science back into the text, e.g., 19th century biology and geology. 

I suspect that many of the outlandish interpretations of the opening chapters of Genesis (e.g., so-called “functional creation” or the day-age theory) are motivated by the dread fear that biblical theology pursued independently of modern science would reveal that the Young Earth Creationists are right and, hence, the task of the systematic theologian becomes hopeless. If the Young Earth biblical theology of creation is the correct interpretation, then we face two very difficult choices: either (1) try to defend the scientific viability of a 10-20,000 year old universe, which seems, as I said, hopeless, or else (2) revise one’s doctrine of biblical inspiration and authority so as to allow Scripture to teach error.  As you can see, this is a very high stakes venture!

We cannot allow modern science to guide our biblical theology so as to avoid the Young Earth interpretation. But we can, in light of modern science, be motivated to consider afresh our interpretation of the biblical texts to see if we have properly understood them. Scot McKnight adroitly avoids concordism when he explains, “My encounters with trustworthy scientists taught me to go back to the Bible with other questions and other possible interpretations and to ask what Genesis meant in its world.
All commentators think that Genesis 1-11 should be read against the cultural backdrop of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths from Babylon, Canaan, and Egypt. Not that the biblical narratives are dependent on these pagan myths; the consensus of scholarship is that the biblical accounts are not sanitized versions of such stories.  But such stories do help us to understand the world in which the biblical stories originated and what Genesis meant in that world.

Many commentators emphasize how anti-mythological the biblical accounts are. But here a discerning eye is needed. Most commentators seem to use the word “mythological” almost as a synonym for “polytheistic,” which the biblical narratives are obviously not! Other times, they use the word “mythological” to mean something like “supernatural” and characterize the biblical accounts, by contrast, as “natural” (for example, agriculture, music, and metallurgy are not gifts from the gods, as in the pagan myths, but human inventions).

But the question remains: why couldn’t there be a Jewish creation myth which is monotheistic? Such an account would be clearly supernaturalistic at its foundation and in that sense “mythical.” It all depends on how you define your terms. I think the average pastor and Christian layman would be quite shocked at how anti-literalistic most commentators on Genesis 1-11 are! They do not agree with the Young Earth interpretation of the text because the text was not meant to be taken as a purely factual report.

The Atonment, William Lane Craig
As I continue to pursue these difficult questions, I’m pleased to report on other ways in which Reasonable Faith is reaching out via print and electronic media.  My book The Atonement has now been released by Cambridge University Press in an affordable paperback edition. It’s apparently selling well. Reasonable Faith has at last appeared in Spanish with an Oregon-based publisher that distributes throughout Latin America. I’m told that there is huge interest in getting our materials in Spanish, so this is a very welcome development! We recently released our newest animated video by the Zangmeister entitled, “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?” It is gratifying that at last we’ve reached the point of moving beyond mere theism in our series of animated videos to Christian theism. The Zangmeister is now working on the script for two forthcoming videos on the resurrection of Jesus.  Finally, the fully edited video of my debate with Eric Wielenberg, complete with all the fabulous powerpoints developed by our British colleague Peter Byrom, will be available on YouTube in the next few weeks. So you won't miss it, we will send a special email exclusively featuring this two hour and twenty-minute exchange.
We count it a tremendous joy and privilege to serve the Lord through this vibrant ministry! 
For Christ and His Kingdom,
Bill and Jan
Thank you so much for what you do! The other day, I decided to re-dedicate my life to my Christian faith. I have always been Catholic but I felt like I needed to re-focus on faith as the center of my life. In addition to prayer and reading Bible Verses daily, I was researching the best Theologians and looked at some abbriveated writings of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, but I wanted to keep up with a modern Theologian as well. I had known about you from somewhere previously so I took a look at your articles and am excited to keep up with them as a key aspect in the growth of my faith. Thank you so much for what you do! God Bless you!

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