Friday, October 23, 2009

In which I disagree with William Lane Craig

The Jolly Nihilist has asked me about what I think of William Lane Craig and his views on Darwinian evolution.

Time for a brief walk inside my mind. :-) Watch your step - there's manure everywhere.

I respect Craig's apologetical and philosophical mind, but in fact that's kind of what gets him into trouble. He centers too much on philosophy and thus kind of leaves his moorings behind alot of the time. It leads him to say things like this, and more notably it leads him to hold to Molinism and to say "Well, I disagree with Calvinism" when Hitchens asked him if he thought any Christian denoms were wrong. (Woulda been a lot better to say "Rome" or "Eastern Orthodoxy".)

I agree with him when he says "Christians enjoy the advantage over the naturalist of being truly open to follow the evidence where it leads". Little is more apparent than this.

Craig says:
Thesis of Common Descent, one should be cautious about accepting it, although biomolecular evidence is in its favor

Here I'd say he fails to challenge the question that CD begs.

Finally, I disagree with this: "an evolutionary theory is compatible with the biblical account in Genesis 1". When it really gets down into the meat of the "biblical acct" he'd tease out of the text, it ends up in a mishmash of inconsistencies and hermeneutical gymnastics. I've seen a fair amount of that and rarely been impressed. You may have heard of the various stripes of this: theistic evolution, day-age theory, gap theory. Plenty of ppl hold to one of these, but I can't really say they're convincing to me.
Anyway, you asked me if I thought Craig's hermeneutic is flawed, and the answer is unequivocally yes, in several areas. Certainly not in all, and I'm sure we have much more in common than not, but here and in his Molinism, certainly. What I'd need to see is a good engagement with at least these three things:
1) the order of the acct - for example, plants appear on the 3rd day. Sun on 4th day. Doesn't match.
Water creatures and birds on 5th day. Doesn't match.
Land creatures on the 6th day, as well as humans. Doesn't match.

2) Jesus spoke of the first ppl as "the beginning" and God's creation. Also spoke of Noah's flood as an actual event.

3) Paul also treated Adam and Eve as real ppl and a historical event. Peter treated the flood as a real event.

There could be other things, but that's a decent start.


RkBall said...

Well stated.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I must agree with you, Rhology, that Craig’s progressive creationism (or day-age creationism or whatever one might wish to call it) is a non-starter. The order of events as articulated in Genesis is not compatible with our current scientific understanding of the natural order.

According to Genesis:
1. a beginning
2. a primitive earth
3. light
4. an expanse or atmosphere
5. large areas of dry land
6. land plants
7. Sun, moon and stars
8. sea creatures and flying creatures
9. wild and tame beasts and mammals
10. man

According to modern science:
1. a beginning
2. light
3. Sun and stars
4. primitive earth, moon and atmosphere
5. dry land
6. sea creatures
7. some land plants
8. land creatures and more plants and sea creatures
9. flying creatures (insects) and more plants and land and sea creatures
10. mammals, and more land and sea animals, insects and plants
11. the first birds
12. fruiting plants and more land, sea and flying creatures
13. man and more of the various animals and plants

These two chronologies of events cannot be reconciled.

Brian said...

I would agree with Craig that Gen. 1 is compatible with evolution, but on different grounds. I too disagree with the day-age theory (and gap theories, etc.). I think sound exegesis would indicate that the framework hypothesis is the best explanation of the text. This avoids the fallacy of trying to shoehorn ancient texts into modern constructs (such as evolution, scientific method, chronology, etc.) Ultimately, I think Gen. 1 is compatible with evolution because it transcends it; it's not interested in answering questions of how and when so much as who and why.

justfinethanks said...

Just out of curiosity, are there any prominent apologists/theologians/philosophers with whom you agree with on the subject of cosmic and biological origins?

I know James White has written against evolution, but hasn't mentioned anything about the age of the Earth (that I'm aware of), which is usually a sign of an OEC.

John MacArthur is a pretty unambiguous YEC:
In an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1-3 teaches about Adam's creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.

What "old-earth creationists" (including, to a large degree, even the evangelical ones) are doing with Genesis 1-3 is precisely what religious liberals have always done with all of Scripture--spiritualizing and reinterpreting the text allegorically to make it mean what they want it to mean.

But I wouldn't exactly call him an intellectual heavyweight in the Plantiga/Craig (or even White) vein. I mean, in the passage above he basically says that Craig, Plantiga, and Spong are cut from the same cloth in terms of how they interpret scripture, which seems a bit extreme even for a fundamentalist.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

If, as you say, Genesis is meant to “transcend” the how and when questions of a chronology, why would the Bible, which, according to Christians, is the inspired word of god himself, provide a chronological record of Creation events that, to be frank, is flatly wrong and contradicted by our current understanding of the natural order, which, no matter what your position on religious matters, is a far fuller and better understanding than anybody had during the fearful, bawling infancy of our civilization (i.e., biblical times)?

Rhology said...

It all depends. Have you stopped torturing your mother yet?

Rhology said...

(That was a bit of a joke. And yes, I recognise that your comment was directed at Brian.)

Darlene said...

Brian, "Ultimately, I think Gen. 1 is compatible with evolution because it transcends it; it's not interested in answering questions of how and when so much as who and why."

Excellent comment and spot on! The Bible is not a science book. Our Heavenly Father isn't very much concerned with whether we are young earth or old earth advocates, but rather, do we believe as it says in the Creed, "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."

Our salvation does not hinge on what scientific view we have of creation as long as we acknowledge Who is the Creator. At this point, I'm not much concerned with all the debates and hoopla regarding young earth/old earth, etc. It's not as if a Christian believer has to be in fear of his mortal soul if he/she does or doesn't hold to one or the other view. "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." That's it in a nutshell. To burden the conscience and soul of a Christian and make it imperative for them to take the "fundamentalist" stand with warnings regarding their salvation has nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. It is spiritual bullying.

I once belonged to a Reformed, Fundamentalist church that had a schism over the pastor's beliefs, which were old earth. The fundamentalists would have tarred and feathered him if they could have gotten away with it. Their behavior was reprehensible for ones that called themselves Christians.

Rhology said...

The Bible is not a science book.

I usually find that to be a convenient escape hatch for those who like to "take it figuratively" whenever the occasion suits them, to be honest.

Our salvation does not hinge on what scientific view we have of creatio

True, but that doesn't mean that it's not important to get our thinking right about the place of God's authority and knowledge and revelation vs those three things from the origin of humans.

I once belonged to a Reformed, Fundamentalist church that had a schism over the pastor's beliefs, which were old earth.

That's silly. The problem lay with the conduct of the ppl involved, not Scripture, though.
My pastor is in the middle of two sermon series, one Sun morning and the other Sun evening. I disagree with his conclusions in each of them, but I'm not about to leave the ch or try to blow up the congregation.

But I would be very interested to see your and Brian's responses to the Jolly Nihilist's last question.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I, too, am quite curious as to their answers.

You can look past my "fearful, bawling" jibe. Sometimes, I cannot restrain myself. ;-)

Darlene said...


"If...Genesis is meant to "transcend" the how and when questions of a chronology, why would the Bible....provide a chronological record of Creation events....?

Honestly, I don't have all the answers. It's not, however, that I think Holy Scripture is entirely unconcerned about science, just that science is not its main focus. If I want intricate, detailed answers regarding astronomy, geography, geology, (the formation of the earth, the galaxies and their development, etc) I won't use the Bible as my main textbook or manual. Brighter, more astute minds have pondered these questions throughout the centuries and I don't doubt that many scholars have far better answers than I could give you.

My point is, the Holy Scriptures are MAINLY concerned with man's salvation. The Holy Scripture's focus is on the redemption of humankind. It is in these Scriptures that one can find comfort in the midst of suffering, peace in the midst of strife, wisdom and discernment while living in an unstable, volatile, and secularist society. Most importantly we encounter the One who was, and is, and is to come.

Perhaps, Jolly, you will encounter Him one day just as I and many others have. Our lives have never been the same since and all else pales in comparison!