William Lane Craig: Predetermined Conclusions on Adam?

I will be engaging this idea sometime more in the upcoming weeks, but wanted to point out that there is a potential challenge that exists here. The challenge is related to how Christian schools/various organizations have statements of faith. Presumably, Dr. Craig would agree with Biola’s (or at least has to sign a contract most likely saying he agrees) statement of faith given his job there.

Specifically Biola has written in their statement of faith (which Dr. Craig likely cannot agree with):

Therefore creation models which seek to harmonize science and the Bible should maintain at least the following: (a) God providentially directs His creation, (b) He specially intervened in at least the above-mentioned points in the creation process, and© God specially created Adam and Eve (Adam’s body from non-living material, and his spiritual nature immediately from God). Inadequate origin models hold that (a) God never directly intervened in creating nature and/or (b) humans share a common physical ancestry with earlier life forms.

So I wonder if any ‘honest’ look at the data must come to predetermined conclusions. If Mark Noll was on to something in his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, or if Pete Enns is on to something when he summarizes, [the scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions then we know exactly what kind of conclusion Dr. Craig must arrive at. I know this atheist blogger has written a lot about Dr. Craig and others, but there is something here worth listening to or at least being aware of I think.

So by faith, this position is not an intellectually honest one, where one must reject all evidence for common descent a priori and defend the special creation of Adam. It seems as if the evidence against a bottneck of two was given at least lip service, but was easily dismissed citing something he read of yours and then proposing an idea perhaps you can speak to of - modern humans don’t necessarily share common descent, all of the similarity between us and other primates could be due to simply inheriting some genetic material from Neanderthals or Denosvians? It also seems like he misunderstood your particular model @swamidass. I want to be charitable to his inquiry that he actually could come to certain conclusions, but Dr. Craig admits (~12 min or so) that his focus is first to go to the Biblical text, see what conclusions he might be allowed to permit- and then turn back to scientific inquiry and fit scientific inquiry into neatly packaged permissible theological boxes.

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You have just accused WLC of intellectual dishonesty. This is extremely presumptuous. You are flat wrong on the facts.

I’ve asked him about this. WLC has not been asked to sign the belief statement, nor does he agree with it. He has stated in the past he has no problem with a refurbishment model, where Adam shares common ancestry with apes. WLC would gladly disagree with the Biola statement, and Biola would look the other way. WLC is much bigger than Biola.

It is also possible to make a Genealogical Adam model variant that is consistent with this belief statement. Essentially, a modified version of A Catholic Approach to the Genealogical Adam would work just fine with mainstream science. So even if he had signed the belief statement, there is not reason to think it is conflict with evolutionary science.

WLC wasn’t discussing my model in this podcast. @pevaquark, you really need to catch up. Have you read this yet? http://peacefulscience.org/three-stories-on-adam/

He was discussing the work we did that demonstrated the evidence in Adam and the Genome was overstated (Story One: Ancient Sole-Genetic Progenitor Adam). There were several scientific errors made in Venema’s book, and BioLogos has been unwilling to publicly correct the record. WLC, here, is describing that fixing these errors was important.

What you call “my model” is just the Genealogical Adam, and it revealed a different set of errors that Venema made (Story Three: Recent Sole-Genealogical Progenitor Adam). That is another story. WLC does not engage it here. He has elsewhere.

You do not know what he is referring to at all. That is a variant of the RTB model: Story Two: Genetic-Interbreeding Adam, which might in fact be viable. Though it has problems to be worked out. In contrast with RTB, if WLC went down this path, he most likely will not insist on the de novo creation of Adam.

@pevaquark, I encourage you to refrain from calling Christian leaders dishonest before even hearing them out. We need to build bridges. We need to be honest with people. We have no right to patronize them by ignoring everything they say to insist we know already what they truly believe.


I see. Well thanks for clarifying that he isn’t actually bound by a statement of faith that has very specific requirements on what conclusions are allowed about Adam. I guess that he gets a pass since he is WLC, but for anyone else to actually work as faculty at Biola, they need to agree with the statement.

:thinking: Not quite sure what kind of statement this is, though I’ll have to think about it.

I don’t think that the problem is related to what is allowed to fit in mainstream science. I think your model seems to address this quite thoroughly. I’ll try to skim through that thread sometime soon.

Since you were mentioned around the time of it being a logical possibility that there could have been a primordial couple some 500,000 years ago, I thought that perhaps he was getting some of these ideas from you. I’d have to listen to it again but did at least realize that what I understand your actual model to be wasn’t brought up. Perhaps you could clarify what he was saying about your interactions with him.

Thanks for the wonderful and seemingly mildly condescending exhortation.

I at least listened to all twenty minutes before posting.

Well since WLC is not bound by a silly school’s statement of faith as he is much bigger than an entire university, time will tell where this ends up. Granted it appears that he is still bound by whatever he happens to find in his investigation into reading Genesis 1-11 in its original context- but I can at least appreciate his effort in doing so. But what about other ancient scientific perspectives that are in the Bible? What if there is no way to shake it that this people group really did think they came from a single couple a few thousand years ago? Perhaps someone could point me to where in any time in the history of scientific inquiry that filtering evidence from the book of nature through our understanding/interpretation of scripture provided to be a fruitful idea.

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This is very very true. I think institutions often rely on theologians to create such statements and they don’t often consult with, or revise based on, findings in science, psychology, history, etc. I get it, but can make true dialog difficult.


He is also not full time employed there, and BioLa’s belief statement does not have normative force. The internal politics here are complex, and not worth getting into. Suffice to say that a lot of people at Biola disagree with the belief statement. The fact is that he is already public in disagreeing with this precise clause. I’m not sure what more could happen to him for disagreeing with it again.

He is a big name famous apologist that they have teach a bit in their masters program. He doesn’t even live in CA. He lives at Atlanta. They have him on faculty for bragging rights.

That is from me. Do you remember the work we did on TMR4A? Heliocentric Certainty Against a Bottleneck of Two? It is referenced here: Story Three: Recent Sole-Genealogical Progenitor Adam.

That is exactly what he is looking at, and I have to say there were some remarkable revelations the Dabar conference. He is devoting 2 years to studying this.

If he comes to this, he will probably end up in the Genealogical Adam camp. This is exactly what some are predicting, though I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

It is an issue, but it is not relevant in this case with WLC.

Sorry how that came off. I’m just trying to pull us back from calling WLC intellectually dishonest. There is a lot here you haven’t yet engaged.


He is technically part of the HBU faculty, as well, for the exact same reason. He does come to visit Houston once every couple of years or so!


Which is also to say that when he writes a book on a historical Adam, it is likely there will be immense pressure on Biola to adapt its belief statement. WLC is one of the few people who has the ability to move the needle institutionally on this specific topic.


This is a desperately-needed adjustment. I would love to see it!


I know the person who wrote that part of the Belief Statement. He was at the Dabar Conference, and thanked me for the Genealogical Adam work specifically, in addition to the work supporting @Agauger. It would not be surprising for them to explicitly acknowledge the Genealogical Adam in the next few years.

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I don’t think that he actually disagreed with any clauses yet, but again thanks for clarifying.

I think probably I should clarify what I still find to be intellectually dishonest. The part I think is a perfectly wonderful idea is his inquiry into the ANE and the best theological conclusions he can come to. He is being open to where the evidence leads him. BUT he will then (if he does what he said in the video) aim to interpret scientific evidence through that filter. That is, he will have predetermined conclusions on what science is allowed to say or not say. That is no different from AiG for example that, after their comprehensive Biblical analysis, concludes that all scientific ideas, no matter how well tested must line up with their interpretation of Scripture. As I mentioned in the other thread, they for example reject the Big Bang theory, which despite it’s remarkable number of predictions and experimental tests/confirmations, they reject (or filter) the evidence through their Biblical filter.

So at present, it appears an honest inquiry into what the Bible teaches and I hope that he is honest in what he finds and can conclude based upon the evidence he looks at. But it could be just an example of the scandal of the evangelical mind- where one musters up all the effort and intellectual freedom one can find but everybody could guess what one would find. But again, I think that all this does it help propagate a bigger problem that Christians have with science- we only accept science that agrees with our interpretations of the Bible. I do not think that geneological Adam is a healthy step forward in that sense- basically it allows Christians to accept some aspects of genetic science but only because it can theoretically still agree with their predetermined conclusions when they go to ‘study the natural world.’

I suppose I find myself in a different place than you.

I have no problem with Christian leaders saying they want to understand Scripture for what Scripture says, and to treat it as authoritative. I personally do not believe that science holds the same authority.

WLC does not appear to have pre-determined conclusions about what Scripture will say. This is nothing like AIG. Is that really what you think?

@pevaquark what is wrong with this? It sounds like this is the exactly right thing to do if one is a Christian.

Perhaps we just understand Scripture in a different way than you.


That’s the part that I can applaud him on.

Which is one of its strengths. While scientists individually might have personal ideas they can be rather passionate about, as a whole there is no authority or sacred tomes that cannot be touched. Sometimes it takes time for old ideas to die (i.e. let’s say with Fred Hoyle and steady state cosmology), but this is how progress is made. Not being limited by any authoritative dogma.

Not at the moment- but how I am comparing it to AiG will be after he’s done his biblical research. Once WLC comes to his biblical conclusion, whatever that may be, then he will have pre-determined conclusions about what science is allowed to say.

Do you have any evidence that this is the right way to approach our inquiry into the natural world? I know this is how evangelical Christians approach most areas of reality, but with regards to scientific inquiry- is this a good thing? Historical examples would be helpful for me here.

Which is fine but I think that what you mean by this could mean a lot of different things.

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I suppose I do have relevant experience with this. That is my approach, and I am certainly not in conflict with science over it. I just might be working under a different authority structure than you.

As for historical examples, I see a difference between Kepler and Galileo. I take a Kepler approach, but it seems BioLogos takes a Galileo approach.


6 posts were split to a new topic: Do Scientists Dispute the Big Bang?

Do you mean you take a Kepler approach in the sense that he was the last astronomer to believe in astrology in the western world and who paid his bills by writing horoscopes for the rich and famous? Or in the sense where he had a lifelong ambition to improve the science of astrology so that it could stand up to the light of scrutiny during the age of reason? Perhaps you could clarify for me what you mean and what you imagine a Galileo approach to mean.



On the scientific side, he solved a key riddle of the cosmos with a mathematical and geometric anlysis of retrospective data from Brahe. This is precisely the type of scientific work I do.

On theology, he was far more measured and coherent that Galileo in engaging with theology in his findings. His case for a phenomenalogical reading of Scripture has stood the test of time, and is all that is needed now to make sense of Genesis in light of modern science.

In contrast Galileo was far more brash, arguing in The Letter to the Duchess, as you do now, that science trumps Scripture. He also discussed a phenomenalogical reading, but then goes much farther, throwing anything he can out to see what sticks. He also is among the key champions of concordism, reading science into scripture, in the precise sense as was on full display in Venemas book, Adam and the Genome.

In my view, we need more Keplers and fewer Galileos. Keplers approach stood the test of time, but Galileo’s is both unnecessary to reconcile with science, and is not consistent with a high view of Scirpture. It got him an immense amount of trouble and was never wildely accepted in the church.

The conversation started online with @TedDavis on this here: Follow Galileo or Kepler? It still continues offline.

@Philosurfer as a Lutheran here, I was hoping you could comment. @rcohlers my historian friend, how would you qualify my short description?

I do get the sense that @pevaquark is advocating for some sort of scientism – the idea that science is the gold standard of everything. Under such a position, science will dictate one’s understanding of Scripture requiring Scripture to continually “update” itself in terms of current science. I take this to be what @swamidass is referring to as the Galileo approach as it requires a certain concordism that is driven from science to Scripture with no real sense of a reciprocal relationship.

I take Josh’s concern to be that even if, pace @TedDavis in the other thread on this topic, Galileo was further developing Kepler hermeneutical ideas, Kepler did not go as far as Galileo in promoting/suggesting that science become the norm of Scripture. Galileo, perhaps unwittingly, collapsed the entire Two Books model into a One Book model, while Kepler was very intentional about keeping Two Books on a level playing field.

Hopefully this is an adequate brief summary of positions?

That being said @pevaquark has a point:

However, I’m not quite sure that I find this intellectually dishonest as that would require some sort of deliberate intent to alter the data at the level of science. The problem is that WLC is NOT doing science. It is not that he is trying to alter the course of scientific understanding through funny business at the scientific level – he is not tinkering with experimental practice. Thus, his “predetermined” theological conclusions are not affecting the science one iota.

What he is doing is trying to square his theological convictions with what the actual science is (and perhaps is not) saying. Thus, the level of inquiry here is something larger than science. He is seeking understanding, exhibiting wisdom in his search. The dishonest move would be to ignore the science (or the theology).

He will filter, but it will be a sort of filtering that all of us do with scientific data (even the scientists) in our daily lives (again a much larger context than science or theology alone). Switch the metaphor to politics. I imagine that everyone on this site has pretty strong ideas about what certain scientific findings have to say about various social policies they believe important. The science is actually silent on any given policy and what to do, but all of us will filter the scientific data through our x, y, z, political lens, deciding about the best course of action to USE the scientific data. Is this being dishonest? Or have we entered into a new sort of conversation that requires a different sort of rule-set to govern the conversation, a rule set that is larger than the one governing science?

It is yet to be determined if WLC chooses a more Galileo or Kepler style approach once he finishes his investigation. Perhaps, after the investigation, he moves in a more AiG way and attacks the actual science as inadequate. This would be more akin to a reverse Galileo move where those theological convictions demand to “change” the science. My assumption is that @pevaquark is more concerned about such a theological Galileo move as that would then move us closer to something akin to dishonesty. However, what if WLC simply states that after investigation it is still unclear how to bring a conservative reading of Scripture in line with the current human evolutionary history. That it is a perplexing situation where nature looks to be saying one thing and Scripture is saying another and that some sort of skepticism/agnosticism, not against science OR Scripture, at the level of understanding how science/religion relate to each other is the call. This seems to be more closer to a Kepler approach. Again, it isn’t clear where WLC will fall, but I’m still struggling with the idea of dishonesty here.


I’ve listened/read most every popular level thing WLC has done in the last 15 yrs and I’m fairly confident that if he ever found himself unable to sign a statement, he’d admit it, and walk away.

It’s not like he couldn’t stay at Houston Baptist if he didn’t believe in an historical Adam. Pretty sure they don’t have any such statement. And no matter what, he wouldn’t be out of a job!! He’d be scooped up probably much faster than either Enns or Longman.

And I don’t agree with Enns that doctrinal statements should be bare bones. Make them whatever you want, and just have profs with integrity.