Why William Lane Craig Interprets Genesis Non-Literally

So let me try to clarify my argument. The question I’m asking is whether we have to take Genesis 1-3 literally. My claim is a modest one: No, these chapters can be plausibly interpreted figuratively.

@pevaquark you might find a lot to agree with him here.

6 Likes

That’s a pretty good explanation of why not to take it literally.

That’s about why I never took it literally, though I would never have expressed it as eloquently as WLC.

3 Likes

My main objection to a figurative interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is not addressed. Jesus is the antithesis of Adam, which is clear in the writings of Paul. Through one man we have death and through another we have life. If Adam and the Garden were figurative, why could not have Jesus suffering been figurative as well?

I feel there is no conflict if Genesis 1, 2 and 3 are taken sequential, which I have argued is more consistent with the rest of scripture. This eliminates the conflicts in the creation sequence and the clear gaps (no sea life created in the Garden creation). Reference “Larkin’s take on Adam

In addition, I feel that the Garden creation is clearly a local creation. This approach for a local creation is actually being taught in classes at Dallas Theological Seminary (free online classes are available at DTS to anyone who is interested at DTS.edu).

2 Likes

Why would a local creation be necessary, since all the various animals and plants already existed outside the Garden?

To test man under perfect conditions. I do not believe anyone could argue that the fruit of the tree was required to sustain life.

Notice again the contrast to Jesus, where Jesus was tempted for 40 days fasting in a desert.

All gardens are local creations. (No garden has ever covered all of planet earth.)

All gardens contain various animals and plants which already exist outside of them. (OK, some modern gardens are testing grounds for new hybrids and GMOs—but you get the idea.)

3 Likes

That’s not what “local creation” means. He created plants and animals, apparently, just like the plants and animals that were already there, outside the Garden. Why not just invite some of those previously existing organisms into the Garden?

Exactly. And all those animals and plants came in from outside the garden, not poofed into existence right there. (And yes, seeds are organisms that come from outside the garden.)

Not sure why perfect conditions require the creation of new plants and animals apparently identical to those already in existence. Can you explain?

The Book of Genesis says that God planted a garden in a region called Eden. Planting doesn’t require any ex nihilo actions. (I’m not saying that ex nihilo is your description. And I’m not quite sure what people mean when referring to a “local creation.” Of course, modern English equates “creation” with synonyms like “making”, “building”, “design”, and “invention” in many contexts.)

I don’t know if “invite” necessarily applies—but certainly planting includes seeds, starts, and saplings.

I agree. Nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis suggests that “poofing” was involved.

Yes. I’m interested in an explanation also. Nothing in the text refers to anything being “perfect” about the conditions. Even in Genesis 1 there is nothing described as “perfect”. It is all declared very TOV (good, suitable, appropriate)—which is not the same thing as perfect. (Of course, it is also not entirely clear what “perfect” would entail in such a context. I’ve known many Young Earth Creationists who believe that the “perfection” of pre-fall Eden included an absence of The Laws of Thermodynamics. They consider entropy somehow less than perfect.)

True. Genesis 2 describes no such thing. It describes God acting in quite human ways, planting trees, making a man out of dirt, making Eve out of a rib, and so on. The creation of the animals isn’t even described at all, just stated. Still, it seems that those animals were indeed newly fashioned, in some way, after Adam was made. The story seems hard to fit to the concept of God elsewhere.

I don’t have much time to explain everything, but here’s this video:

Start from 29:15 for retelling of Genesis 2 and 3 as it was written in Hebrew.

Spoiler alert: it’s not the version you learned in Sunday school.

2 Likes

Perfect conditions only means that the needs of the man and woman were met, they had fellowship with God, they had no reason to revolt against God and disobey His rules, But they did. To be clear, I do not blame Adam for my sin, it was from my own discretion. However, I can thank Jesus for my righteousness through Him, not of anything I have done.

Whether the plants and animals were the same inside and outside the garden is irrelevant, the Bible does not state because it is not important. We only know that two trees that were unique to the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. There is no requirement to have all the plants and animals created in Genesis 1 inside the Garden as well, I am sure from the context there were no whales, sharks or seaweed inside the Garden as no oceans are mentioned (again it is a local creation), so I am sure there were many other forms of life outside the Garden that were not inside, but this is speculation.

I would like to introduce the principle of Scriptural dissipation. I propose that like light and heat, Scripture and Scriptural arguments reduce in intensity by the distance removed from the source squared:

  • Original Text
  • Transliteration and Translation (D=1, I=1)
  • Exegesis (D=2, I= 1/4)
  • Doctrine (D=3, I= 1/9)
  • Commentaries and Writings (D=4, I=1/16)
  • Other sources (D=5, I=1/25)

His arguments tended to be from the D=4 or 5 sources.

One example, he reads the text as a polytheistic narrative, where I see based on other content in Scripture, the reference of we and us refers to the Trinity. This is downplayed in the Old testament due to the contrast between Israel and its polytheistic neighbors. But you can see when you prioritize other Scripture as your context for interpretation, there is quite a radical difference in interpretation when you use sources at D=4 and 5 as equal to scripture, which I feel David Bentley Hart did.