22 Mar The (Continual) Quest for the Historical Adam: Was He Real and How Long Ago Did He Live?
Published March 22, 2022
By Dave Burggraff, PhD
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 19051
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God,
So that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
(Hebrews 11:3, ESV)
In an October 2021 article titled, “The Historical Adam,” Dr. William Lane Craig hypothesized:
Given the recent archeological findings, Adam and Eve may plausibly be identified as belonging to the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, usually denominated Homo heidelbergensis or Heidelberg Man, living more than 750,000 years ago. . . .
As human beings, Neanderthals and other archaic humans are in God’s image and therefore have intrinsic moral value and share in man’s vocation. But what of Adam and Eve’s contemporaries who were not their descendants? On an evolutionary scenario, Adam emerged from a wider population of hominins. Since Adam and Eve are the font of all humanity, it follows necessarily that their contemporaries were not human and therefore not in the image of God, since to be human is to be in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).
We may imagine an initial population of hominins—animals that were like human beings in many respects but lacked the capacity for rational thought. Out of this population, God selected two and furnished them with intellects by renovating their brains and endowing them with rational souls. One can envision a regulatory genetic mutation, which effected a change in the functioning of the brain, resulting in significantly greater cognitive capacity. Such a transformation could equip the individuals with the neurological structure to support a rational soul. Thus the radical transition effected in the founding pair that lifted them to the human level plausibly involved both biological and spiritual renovation. Some behavioral outworkings of this transformation would be immediate, whereas others would emerge slowly through environmental niche construction and gene-cultural coevolution.
Given the incompleteness of the data and the provisionality of all science, the quest for the historical Adam will doubtless never end. Yet given the archeological evidence, our tentative conclusions are not particularly susceptible to sweeping changes. Adam plausibly lived sometime between around 1 million years ago to 750,000 years ago, a conclusion consistent with the evidence of population genetics. The most recent plausible date for human origins will probably be pushed back with further palaeontological and archeological discoveries.2
As an evangelical scholar known for his vast number of publications in philosophy and Christian apologetics, Dr. Craig demonstrates that he, too, is one of the many evangelical scholars who align with theistic evolution. Earlier in this article, Dr. Craig briefly developed his hypothesis, and of importance are several assertions. Of note in his development, he states:
If Genesis 1-11 functions as mytho-history3, then these chapters need not be read literally. The accounts of the origin and Fall of man are clearly metaphorical or figurative in nature, featuring as they do an anthropomorphic deity incompatible with the transcendent God of the creation account. . . .
Since the Pentateuchal author has an interest in history, he intends for his narrative to be at some level historical, to concern people who actually lived and events that really occurred. But those persons and events have been clothed in the metaphorical and figurative language of myth. . . .
When we turn to the New Testament, we find the figure of Adam widely deployed, most importantly by Paul. Many scholars have attempted to distinguish between the literary Adam and the historical Adam. The literary Adam is a character in a story, specifically the stories of Genesis 2-3. The historical Adam is the person, if such there be, who actually existed—the actual individual whom the stories are allegedly about. . . .
[W]e can see how naïve it is to argue that merely because some New Testament author refers to a literary figure, whether found in the Old Testament or outside it, that figure is asserted to be a historical figure. . . .
Turning to the many texts concerning Adam in the New Testament, we find that some of them do not necessarily go beyond illustrative reference to the literary Adam of Genesis. The statements of our Lord concerning Adam are plausibly illustrative. He begins by drawing attention to the literary Adam: “Have you not read . . .?” He then cites Genesis 1:27, “male and female he created them,” and weds this statement with Genesis 2:24, . . . Jesus is interpreting the story of Adam and Eve to discern its implications for marriage and divorce, not asserting its historicity. Similarly, many of Paul’s references to Adam may be understood not to go beyond the literary Adam. . . .
After thus building the case that Genesis 1-3 is not a literal narrative (literal details of an actual historical event), Dr. Craig then raises the question that is at the heart of the article.
If the biblical Adam is, or was, a historical person who actually lived, then the obvious question arises: When did he live? Given the mythical nature of the primaeval history of Genesis 1-11, it is to modern science that we must turn in the attempt to answer this question.4
It is that to that last statement that this paper is written. The purpose of this paper is to briefly point out the incompatibility of theistic evolution with the biblical account of creation (the historical narrative of Adam and Eve) and with important Christian doctrines.5
Here We Go Again! Have We Learned Nothing from History?
In order to set the stage for this study, a brief survey of the last century is important. It will serve as a “reminder” of what transpired a century ago – and here we are again, repeating history.
Background: Evangelical America in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
“Evangelical” (from the Greek for “gospel”) eventually became the common British and American name for the revival movements that swept back and forth across the English-speaking world and elsewhere during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Central to the evangelical gospel was the proclamation of Christ’s saving work through his death on the cross and the necessity of personally trusting Him for eternal salvation. In America, the way for the revivals had been prepared in part by the strong Puritan heritage of New England. Nevertheless, the revivalists’ emphases on simple biblical preaching in a fervent style that would elicit dramatic conversion experiences set the standard for much of American Protestantism. Since Protestantism was by far the dominant religion in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century, evangelicalism shaped the most characteristic style of American religion. Being a style as well as a set of Protestant beliefs about the Bible and Christ’s saving work, evangelicalism touched virtually all American denominations. Most major reform movements, such as antislavery or temperance, had a strong evangelical component.
Evangelicals had a major voice in American schools and colleges, public as well as private, and had much to do with setting dominant American moral standards.6 Especially in its nineteenth-century heyday, 1860’s-1870’s evangelicalism was a very broad coalition, made up of many sub-groups. Though from differing denominations, these people were united with each other, and with persons from other nations in their zeal to win the world for Christ.
1860-1919: A Crisis Within Evangelicalism – The Threat of Liberalism
The vast cultural changes of the era from the 1860s to the 1920s created a major crisis within this evangelical coalition. Essentially it split in two as Protestants were forced to confront the rise of modernism. On the one hand were theological liberals who, in order to maintain better credibility in the modern age, were willing to modify some central evangelical doctrines, such as the reliability of the Bible or the necessity of salvation only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. On the other hand were conservatives who continued to believe the traditionally essential evangelical doctrines.7 What happened during this period?
- Development of American liberal theology: the conflict between science and the Bible.
With the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, human achievements in science and technology seemed to open up a new age of progress, rendering the wisdom of past ages obsolete. Armed with the mechanistic model, modern scientists busied themselves with the task of unlocking the mysteries of the universe. In the 1700s and early 1800s the progress of science—especially in astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, and biology—accelerated so rapidly that it seemed as if science could explain everything. The intellectual order of the world was relocated in human reasoning (i.e. the sovereign human intellect). Reason alone, so they thought, could now replace the reliance on the supernatural born out of the ignorance of “unenlightened” times. As a result, science commanded near-universal respect in the modern society, and modern people looked to the scientist for the answers to life; and religious liberalism was birthed.
In the late 1800’s German liberalism began to make its push for the hearts and minds of men. This liberalism denied the supernatural, the existence of God, and any notion of an authoritative Bible. This attack came on all fronts: theological, philosophical, scientific, etc. Those influenced by religious liberalism took huge steps away from the truth of the Bible. Darwinism sprang up and redefined the origin of all living things. A growing number of religious scholars had been pushing for the church to ignore the Genesis account of man’s creation—which, to them, seemed out of touch with modern science—and adopt human evolution as an explanation of man’s origins. Liberalism quickly took over every major denomination. This became the age of humanism with emphasis on the social gospel.8 America in twenty years attempted to catch up with what took Europe two hundred years to develop. The real hotbeds of liberal theology were the universities, many denominationally affiliated.
- The response to denominational liberalism: the emergence of “fundamentalism.”
The religious conservatives viewed the doctrinal heresy and the deterioration of their denominations with great concern. They saw it as a battle between true Christianity and an un-Christian, naturalistic religion based on science rather than divine revelation (cf. Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen).
The Event That Would Change Society’s Faith in the Word of God
The “big bang” occurred in 1925 that marked the demise of fundamentalism (and evangelicalism at large) and ultimately orthodoxy in many religious institutions for decades to come. In Dayton, Tennessee a much-publicized trial pitted liberalism and fundamentalism against each other. The Scopes Monkey Trial, as it came to be remembered, was over the issue of evolution. The media’s portrayal of modern, intellectual man’s domination of the backwoods, half-educated, obscurantist fundamentalist sent shockwaves throughout the nation and world. The liberals had won the day.
“It would be difficult to overestimate the impact of ‘the Monkey Trial’ at Dayton, Tennessee, in transforming fundamentalism,” states renowned religious historian George Marsden. He notes:
This bizarre episode, wired around the world with a maximum of ballyhoo, would have far more impact on the popular interpretation of fundamentalism than all the arguments of preaching and theologians. The central theme was, inescapably, the clash of two worlds, the rural and the urban. In popular imagination, there were on the one side the small town, the backwoods, half-educated yokels, obscurantism, crackpot hawkers of religion, fundamentalism, the South, and the personification of the agrarian myth himself, William Jennings Bryan. Opposed to these were the city, the clique of New York-Chicago lawyers, intellectuals, journalists, wits, sophisticates, modernists, and cynical agnostic, Clarence Darrow. . . . But in the trial by public opinion and the press, it was clear that the twentieth century, the cities, and the universities had won a resounding victory, and that the country, the South, and the fundamentalists were guilty as charged.
. . . The fundamentalist cause was synonymous with rural backwardness. . . . “For the first time in our history,” declared Maynard Shipley in his War on Modern Science, appearing the same year, “organized knowledge has come into open conflict with organized ignorance. If the ‘self-styled fundamentalists’ gain their objective of a political takeover,” warned Shipley, “much of the best that has been gained in American culture will be suppressed or banned, and we shall be headed backward toward the pall of the Dark Age.”9
As a result of the religious and cultural hostility toward them, many religious conservatives pulled out of the denominations and educational institutions in which they had been fighting. Modernism had now gained control of many denominations and theological seminaries. Throughout the 1920s, the battles were fought within the mainline denominations – but fundamentalism “lost”: biblical conservatism was stripped of any ecclesiastical influence it once had. According to George Marden:
The period from about 1920 to 1950 became a sort of academic dark age. . . . In place of the network of colleges dominated by evangelicals in the nineteenth century, fundamentalists during the first half of the twentieth century were building a network of Bible Institutes, practical training centers in which the curricula centered on the Bible alone. . . . Fundamentalists still talked about being scientific; but in fact they had become almost thoroughly isolated and alienated from the dominant American scientific culture. Warfare was now indeed the appropriate metaphor for understanding their relationship to the scientific culture.10
After the ridicule, fundamentalism (i.e., conservative evangelicalism) retreated from higher educational institutions. The liberals “got the furniture,” and fundamentalism developed a deep-seated distrust against higher education in general. Emphasis became centered on action (ministry) not education.11
But in the 1940s a new mood began to prevail among some fundamentalists. The new practice of making separation a test of faith did not sit well with them. A new generation of fundamentalist intellectuals began to emerge by the early 1940s and into the 1950s. These “scholarly fundamentalists,” or “new evangelicals” as they came to be called, emphasized the need to meet the intellectual challenges of the age if the movement was to have a lasting impact. The new evangelicals challenged fundamentalists to look beyond their religious world to the social and cultural concerns of the nation. Characteristics of neo-evangelicalism included:
- A friendliness toward (or acceptance of) contemporary scientific views
- A willingness to accept charismatic views and practices
- A more tolerant attitude toward various views of eschatology (future events)
- A reaction to, and shift away, from dispensationalism
- An increased emphasis on scholarship
- A more definite recognition of social responsibility
- A reopening of the subject of biblical inspiration
- A growing willingness to cooperate and dialogue with religious liberals
Over the next several decades evangelicalism became subject to the rise of diversity and branched out different ways to address the growing cultural pluralism. By the end of the twentieth century, it was a movement of great theological diversity; it had changed since its beginning.
A Lesson Not Learned from History: The Yielding of Biblical Inerrancy to Modern Science
History seems to be repeating itself. Similar to what happened a century earlier, we are again witnessing a growth in the number of professing evangelicals who are urging the church to ignore the Genesis account of man’s origin and adopt some form of evolution.12 Leading the charge is BioLogos, an organization founded by Francis Collins, former director of the NIH and leader of the Genome project. Promoting theistic evolution under the title of Evolutionary Creation, BioLogos affirms that “God created all things, including human beings in his own image” and that “evolution is the best scientific explanation we currently have for the diversity and similarities of all life on earth.”13 In recent days, a growing number of evangelicals have written on the subject and their works have encouraged a great many in the church to dismiss the Genesis account and accept human evolution as true.14 Thus, William Lane Craig is not the first evangelical scholar to adopt such a position, but he may be the most prominent to date. William Lane Craig’s recent attempt is not all it claims to be.
Attempting to demonstrate that he is remains truly evangelical, William Lane Craig stated in the introduction of his two-year project, In Quest of the Historical Adam:
We want first and foremost as Christians to know what the Bible has to say about human origins independent of modern science. We want to know what our biblical commitments are concerning the historical Adam, and we can know those only insofar as our hermeneutical approach to Scripture is not shaped by modern science.15
Yet, it clearly appears that Craig has adopted a non-literal hermeneutic of Genesis 1–11 and routinely disavows the plain meaning of the text because of the priority he gives to modern science and uniformitarian beliefs, which colors his entire study of Genesis 1–11. This leads him to do precisely the opposite of what he claims to be doing (“our hermeneutic approach . . . is not shaped by modern science” – it is!).16
In an effort to classify Genesis 1–11 as myth, Craig seeks to identify “fantastic elements” that “if taken literally, are so extraordinary as to be palpably false.”17 And what is the first fantastic element on his list? “What is fantastic and therefore mythological in Gen 1 is the creation of the world over six consecutive days.”18 Craig used the same approach regarding the long life spans of the antediluvians. He writes, “The life spans of the antediluvians would have appeared fantastic to ancient Israelites, just as they do to us. But persons in myths, even historical persons, can be made to live as long as one likes.”19 Without ancient Israelite sources citing this material as fantastic, one should refrain from claiming to know what ancient Israelites would have thought about the long life spans in Genesis.
Like Giberson,20 and other theistic evolutionists before him, Craig argues that a straightforward reading of Genesis 1–11 leads to ridiculous results. Yet despite his insistence that his basis for this is Scripture, Craig’s only support for it is found in his acceptance of modern uniformitarian science. This is made clear in his comments on “the most fantastic element” of these chapters: the young-earth creation view.
Finally, we should be remiss if we did not mention the most fantastic element of the entire primaeval history—namely, the ostensible claim that the entire world was less than two thousand years old at the time of Abraham’s birth…As creation scientists themselves recognize, this puts a literal interpretation of Gen 1–11 into massive conflict with modern science, history, and linguistics.21
Notice, it is not the biblical text that identifies problems with the young-earth reading of Genesis that creates “massive conflict.” It is Craig’s acceptance of “modern science” that creates a problem. Craig ended this section of his book by misrepresenting several positions and then mocking them by stating, “Truly, young earth creationists are living in a different universe than the rest of us.”22
The most serious problem with Craig’s book is not found in his handling, or lack of handling properly, young-earth creationist positions but his mishandling of Scripture – as do most theistic evolutionists.23
A Definition of Theistic Evolution
What is theistic evolution? In summary form, theistic evolution may be defined by the following statement:
God created matter and after that did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes.24
The above definition is written by critics of theistic evolution, and it is consistent with the explanation of Francis Collins, the prominent theistic evolutionist and eminent geneticist, and the founder of the BioLogos Foundation. He explains theistic evolution in this way:
- The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago.
- Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life.
- While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time.
- Once evolution got underway, no special supernatural intervention was required.
- Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.
- But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.25
Mentioned in the introduction of Francis Collins was the fact that he founded BioLogos. What do those at Biologos affirm?
At Biologos, we present the Evolutionary Creationism (EC) viewpoint on origins. Like all Christians, we fully affirm that God is the creator of all life—including human beings in his image. We fully affirm the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. We also accept the science of evolution as the best description for how God brought about the diversity of life on earth.26
Theistic evolutionists may affirm that God is the creator of all life, but differ markedly from creationists in that they mean that God created matter in the beginning with certain physical properties and then those properties of matter were enough by themselves to bring about all living things without any further supernatural activity (direct involvement) by God.27 This then eliminates the problem of any conflict with science, because modern evolutionary theory holds that matter by itself evolved over a long period of time into all living things.28
Another affirmation of theistic evolutionists that differs widely from creationists is in regard to the origin of the human race. They frequently even differ from each other. Regarding the origin of the human race, Christians who support theistic evolution differ over among themselves whether Adam and Eve actually existed as historical persons. Some do not believe that Adam and Eve ever existed, while others believe in a historical Adam and Eve. But even this “historical Adam and Eve” is still not the Adam and Eve of the Bible, because they do not believe that they were the first human beings or that the whole human race descended from them.
It is this last category that William Lane Craig closely associates with, however he hypothesizes that Adam and Eve were the first progenitors of human beings after they had descended from ancestor beings (they evolved) and at some point in time, with the help of God who selected them as the unique couple, placed within the two a “spirit – made in the image of God” and they then became the first truly “human beings in the image of God.”
Differences Between Events Recounted in the Bible and Theistic Evolution
There are numerous points at which theistic evolution differs from the biblical account taken as a historical narrative.29 According to theistic evolution:
- Adam and Eve were not the first human beings (and perhaps they never existed).
- Adam and Eve were born from human parents.
- God did not act directly or specially to create Adam out of dust from the ground.
- God did not directly create Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side.
- Adam and Eve were never sinless human beings.
- Adam and Eve did not commit the first human sins, for human beings were doing morally evil things long before Adam and Eve.
- Human death did not begin as a result of Adam’s sin, for human beings existed long before Adam and Eve and they were always subject to death.
- Not all human beings have descended from Adam and Eve, for there were thousands of other human beings on Earth at the time that God chose two of them as Adam and Eve.
- God did not directly act in the natural world to create different “kinds” of fish, birds, and land animals.
- God did not “rest” from his work of creation or stop any special creative activity after plants, animals, and human beings appeared on earth.
- God never created an originally “very good” natural world in the sense of a world that was a safe environment, free of thorns and thistles and similar harmful things.
- After Adam and Eve sinned, God did not place any curse on the world that changed the workings of the natural world and made it more hostile to mankind.
Each of the twelve claims above contradicts one or more parts of the text in Genesis 1-3, if it is understood as historical narrative. Furthermore, denying historical import to what the biblical text claims would seem to undermine a number of core Christian doctrines.30 The above claims of theistic evolution demand a revisionist understanding of the doctrine of creation which “seems to agree better with a contemporary neo-Darwin understanding of biological origins—but it does not comport well with a natural reading of the text of Genesis or the historic doctrine of the Christian church regarding creation,” argues Wayne Grudem.31
Of great importance doctrinally, if there was no Adam and no Eve, and/or they did not fall from a state of moral innocence into sin, there is no inherited sin nature, which is contradictory to what the New Testament asserts that as a result of a single act of rebellion of rebellion against God (by Adam) “one trespass led to condemnation for all men. . . . by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:18-19). Moreover, it is then hard to understand the later biblical explanations by Paul of the parallel way in which Christ’s atoning sacrifice gained forgiveness for all who were represented by him—for the Apostle Paul explicitly connects representation by Adam and representation by Christ:
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom. 5:17-19; see also 1 Cor. 15:21-22; 45-49)32
If we deny that sin came into the world through Adam, and if we deny that all humans descended from Adam, then Paul’s argument about the unity of the human race as represented by Adam does not work. And then the parallel with the unity of the redeemed who are represented by Christ does not work. In this way, theistic evolution significantly undermines the doctrine of the atonement, and undermines the effectiveness of the resurrection to give new life to all who are saved by Christ.
Theistic Evolution’s Incompatibility with the Truthfulness of the Bible and with Several Historical/Crucial Doctrines of the Christian Faith
Upon reading the views of theistic evolutionists—their arguments against a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 (as historical narrative) and their assertions (hypotheses) for their viewpoints—one may offer the following points in response:
- A nonhistorical reading of Genesis 1-3 does not arise from factors in the text itself but rather depends upon a prior commitment to an evolutionary framework of interpretation.
- Several literary factors within Genesis itself gives strong evidence that Genesis 1-3 is intended to be understood as historical narrative, claiming to report events that actually happened.
Anyone who reads Genesis 1-3 immediately recognizes that in some ways these chapters are different from other historical chapters in the Bible: the subject matter is different, the method of collecting the information had to be different for there were no human observers at the time of creation, and the setting is different as Genesis 2 takes place in Eden, an idyllic place with no sin, suffering or death. But these differences/distinctives do not nullify the fundamentally historical nature of Genesis 1-3.
Take Genesis 1, for instance, when we read of the creation of man (Gen. 1:26-28). This passage occurs in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, a chapter that tells how all things in the universe began. The subject matter is an explanation of how things originally came into being—which is a historical question.
There is in fact nothing that would cause us to think that this is nonhistorical literature. Only a prior commitment to an evolutionary framework of interpretation would lead a reader to search for a way to understand this as figurative or poetic literature rather than historical narrative. “Genesis 1-3 should be approached with an open mind [to what God wants to tell us of how He created at the beginning] rather than with a prior commitment to consider only materialistic explanations,” writes Wayne Grudem, “that are consistent with evolutionary theory.”33
It’s important to note that after Genesis 1 gives an overview of the entire process of creation, Genesis 2 begins a long, continuous historical narrative that carries all the way through until the death of Joseph in Genesis 50:26, the end of the book. The entire book of Genesis is connected together as a single historical document, thus linking together the story of Adam and Eve with the stories about the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s twelve sons, all stories that are unquestionably intended as factual historical narratives. Therefore, the entire book appears intended to be understood as historical narrative.
James Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes:
Genealogical texts in the ancient Near East, by their very nature, are treated seriously by scholars and not cavalierly dismissed as made-up or fictitious, . . . The “family history” structuring of the book [of Genesis] indicates that the narratives should be understood as historical, focusing on the origins of Israel back to Adam and Eve, the first human couple and parents of all humanity. . . . The narratives are dealing with real events involving historical figures—and this includes Genesis 1-11. . . . The author of the narrative goes to great lengths to place Eden within the known geography of the ancient near East, not some made-up mythological, Narnia-like wonderland.34
- Both Jesus and the New Testament authors, in ten separate New Testament books, affirm the historicity of several events in Genesis 1-3 that are inconsistent with the theory of theistic evolution.
Theistic evolution requires us to believe that both Jesus and the New Testament authors were wrong in their affirmations of the historic reliability of the details in Genesis 1-3. Jesus understood the Old Testament to be historically accurate in its descriptions: about creation as a supernatural, ex nihilo, fiat creation; and about Adam and Eve as literal persons created by God, as the first parents. Jesus understood the Scriptures to be completely accurate in its details, historicity, and truthfulness—he did not practice “accommodation to man’s limited understanding at that time” as he spoke or taught.35
Jesus also understood the Old Testament to be historically accurate about historical events, including His teaching on the age of the earth, specifically in three passages. He demonstrated his belief in a “young earth” viewpoint in Mark 10:6, Mark 13:19-20, and Luke 11:50-51. When examined carefully, “from the beginning of creation” in Mark 10:6 refers to the beginning of the whole creation, not just the creation of the first marriage on day 6 of Genesis 1:27-30. In Mark 13:19, “since the beginning of creation which God created” refers not to the beginning of the human race but to the beginning of the whole creation, starting in Genesis 1:1. Luke 11:50-51 focuses on “since the foundation of the world” and refers to the whole creation week of Genesis 1, not just a portion of it. A number of young-earth creationists have referred to these verses to demonstrate that Jesus was a young-earth advocate (e.g., creation was just a few thousand years ago), but old earth defenders (e.g., earth was created 4-plus billion years ago) have usually ignored them. In sum, nothing in the Gospels supports the idea that Jesus viewed man as being created long ages after the beginning of creation.36
In addition, theistic evolution requires us to believe that passages in Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, and Revelation were all in error in what they affirmed about Genesis 1-3. This is more than a challenge about three chapters in the beginning of the Bible, it is a challenge to the truthfulness of ten of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.37
- If the historicity of several of these events in Genesis 1-3 is denied, a number of crucial Christian doctrines that depend on these events will be undermined or lost.
Conclusion: What Can We Say?
First, the creation theories hypothesized by Dr. Craig and those by theistic evolutionists challenge the ability of God to create as His Word states. According to theistic evolutionist, there was no special action of God or intervention by God in the created order after the initial creation of matter. But the Bible does not give us that picture! On the contrary. It shows God speaking living things into existence by His powerful creative words, and the picture in Scripture is that those powerful words of God bring immediate response.38
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. (Gen. 1:11)
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. (Gen. 1:24)
Other passages throughout Scripture affirm this same creative act.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath of his mouth all their host. . . .
For he spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:6, 9)
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God,
so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb. 11:3)
(See also Psalm 148:5-6; Rom. 4:17; 2 Pet. 3:5)
What puzzles me is the fact that proponents of theistic evolution have little problem believing in a future judgment as described in Revelation 20:11-15, followed by a new heaven and earth, and the New Jerusalem—a future as described in Revelation 21-22. They believe God will bring it into existence by some supernatural, powerful creative act. If God does this in the future (for them!), why could He have not done the same type of creative act in the past? This is Peter’s main point of his exhortation in 2 Peter 3:1-16.39 (See Isa 34:4; 66:15-16; Zeph 1:18; Mal 3:19)
Second, advocates of theistic evolution are convinced that the Bible must be reconciled with modern science.40 It can be argued that the theistic evolution approach really starts from “Science.” As William Lane Craig writes, “it is to modern science that we must turn in the attempt to answer this question” (e.g., about creation and Adam and Eve). We are to read the Bible through the hypotheses of modern science, really? – even when it contradicts, or calls into question, historic doctrines of the Christian faith?
Today’s “Science” has become an autonomous source of knowledge. Even if it does not actually rule out God a priori, it assumes that it can apply rationalistic thinking to interpret his revealed Word, and thus find a god that is suitably subservient to the higher knowledge of “Science.”41 Kirsten Birkett, a Christian historian of science, agrees: “We are still trying to [build the tower of Babel]. Instead of seeing science as the noble pursuit that it is . . . we try to make it our means of becoming God ourselves.”42 So to science and scientists we now turn for truth. As one commentator says, scientists are now presumed to be supremely authoritative on any subject, a “priestly class” using the “magical attributes” of science “to counsel our politicians, judges, financiers and military leaders.”43
We now have a Bible that seemingly has lost its authority, is marked by obscurity rather than clarity, and is certainly insufficient for a true understanding of the world. From these methodological flaws spring the other theological problems arising from theistic evolution.
Third, many evangelicals speak against theistic evolution yet advocate for an old earth with no qualms or claim to see any hermeneutical inconsistencies with the truth of Scripture. Those hermeneutical inconsistencies are difficult to reconcile for many of us “young-earthers” with the position asserted by old-earth advocates (again the proposal is that the earth is millions/billions of years old). In his article, Terry Mortenson examines statements of sixty-one evangelical biblical and theological scholars who advocate for an old-earth explanation. He writes:
Sadly, many of the old-earth proponents refer to each other’s writings (therefore circulating their misguided arguments), and the vast majority of them do not attempt to refute the best young-earth arguments and, in fact, give little or no evidence of having read the most current, leading young-earth writings. The old-earth writers have influenced the church through seminaries and Bible colleges and through the endorsements of such prominent Christian leaders such as James Dobson, Bill Bright, Charles Colson, and R. C. Sproul.
The sixty-one old earth authors hold on to the idea of millions of years for only one reason, and it is not because millions of years is taught in the Bible (for it is not). It is, as many of these men plainly indicate, because they operate with the assumption that the evolutionary geologists and astronomers have proven scientifically that the creation is billions of years old. Yet this is an uninformed and false assumption. . . . I plead with my old-earth Christian readers to learn recent data on the scientific arguments for a young earth.44
Lastly, the Enlightenment project of modernity was and remains the triumph of reason and the mastery of the human mind over the external world. As scientific knowledge began to increase and the scientific method became the dominant way reality was assessed, man began to explore his origins in an attempt to answer the age-old questions: Who am I? and, Where did I come from? Premodernism had held that Man originated as the special creation of God and was placed on earth to serve as God’s representative. The Enlightenment deconstructed that reality. Man was now explained as the product of a closed system – hence the Darwinian theory of evolution.
Over a century ago, those influenced by liberalism took huge steps away from the truth of the Bible. At the beginning of the 20th century, evolution was the issue of the day.
After the “big bang” that occurred in 1925 that marked the demise of orthodoxy in many religious institutions for years to come, Creationists were portrayed as “out of fashion” (out of touch) in the modern, scientific world.
Ironically, today, many evangelicals treat young-earthers similarly. Such can be seen in Mark Noll’s widely acclaimed book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, as he criticizes young-earthers for the misuse of their minds, as he portrays them. He says of them:
[They] use a fatally flawed interpretive scheme of the sort that no responsible Christian teacher in the history of the church ever endorsed before this century came to dominate the minds of American evangelicals on scientific questions. . . . [The young-earthers are] almost completely adrift in using the mind for careful thought about the world . . . thinking they are honoring the Scriptures, yet who interpret the Scriptures on questions of science and world affairs in ways that fundamentally contradict . . . the Bible itself.45
Question: When it comes to the subject matter of this paper, where does the scandalous use of the evangelical mind really lie? And just who is using a flawed hermeneutic to interpret Genesis?
1 George Santayana was a renowned Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist. The famous aphorism is found in his work, The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress (1905-1906), at Project Gutenberg. It is often paraphrased as, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Winston Churchill furthered the fame of the quote with his written paraphrase, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It is a self-explanatory truism: Lessons from the past may not always ward off doom, but they can provide insights into the present and even the future.
2 William Lane Craig, “The Historical Adam,” First Things 316 (October 2021): 47-48. William Lane Craig is professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University and research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. His newly released (Sept. 28, 2021) publication is titled In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2021). Hereafter, citations will be taken from this newest release.
3 Mytho-history proposes that Genesis 1-11 be read as a compilation of Israelite myth, not to be read literally, but the author also intends for his narrative to be at some level historical about the people and events, but those have been clothed in the metaphorical and figurative language of myth; hence, a literary Adam and the historical Adam.
4 The several above quotes of Dr. Craig’s are all from his article, “The Historical Adam,” 43-46. (Note: The bold is mine for emphasis.)
5 My purpose statement for the paper is taken from the title of an article that Dr. Wayne Grudem wrote in the massive volume, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 217), 61-77. This is a lengthy work, 1007 pages, with 25 contributors, all specialists in their respective fields, critiquing or arguing against theistic evolution as the best explanation for Genesis 1-3. I recommend reading two articles by Wayne Grudem in this book: “Biblical and Theological Introduction: The Incompatibility of Theistic Evolution with the Biblical Account of Creation and with Important Christian Doctrines,” 61-77; and chapter 27 in the book, Grudem’s “Theistic Evolution Undermines Twelve Creation Events and Several Crucial Christian Doctrines,” 783-837. I mainly draw the arguments presented in this paper from those presented in those two chapters. Obviously, I highly recommend this book for those interested in further study.
In addition, I would direct the reader to several articles by Terry Mortenson, PhD, particularly: (1) “When was Adam created?” in Searching for Adam: Genesis and the Truth About Man’s Origin, Terry Mortenson, ed. (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016), 139-64; (2) “Adam, mortality, the Gospel, and the authority of Scripture” in Searching for Adam: Genesis and the Truth About Man’s Origin (2016), 459-502; (3) “Why shouldn’t Christians accept millions of years?” in The New Answers Book 1, Ken Ham, ed. (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006), 25-30; and (4) “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth” in The Master’s Seminary Theological Journal 18/1 (Spring 2007): 69-98.
6 Historian George Marsden writes, “In 1870 almost all American Protestants thought of America as a Christian nation. . . . Protestant evangelicals considered their faith to be the normative American creed. . . . The assumption that Christianity was the only basis for a healthy civilization was basic to evangelical thinking—as essential as the belief that souls must be saved for the life to come. Virtue among the citizenry, as almost all political economists said, was the foundation of successful civilization, especially a republican civilization. Religion was the basis for true virtue; the purer the religion, the higher the morality. Christianity was the purest religion. . . . ‘In what sense can this country then be called a Christian country?’ asked the Reverend Theodore Dwight Woolsey, retired president of Yale, in an address lauding separation of church and state. ‘In this sense certainly,’ he continued, ‘that the vast majority of the people believe in Christianity and the Gospel, that Christian influences are universal, that our civilization and intellectual culture are built on that foundation, and that the institutions are so adjusted as, in the opinion of almost all Christians, to furnish the best hope for spreading and carrying down to posterity our faith and morality’” (George Marden, Fundamentalism and American Culture [New York; Oxford Press, 1985; reprint 2022], 11-12).
7 Conservative Bible-believers emphatically stressed five “fundamental” doctrines (set forth at the Niagara Bible Conference in 1895): the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement, and Christ’s physical resurrection and future bodily return. These five became “The Fundamentals.”
8 Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Gospel, (1907): This Baptist professor of Rochester Theological Seminary was preceded by William Newton Clark who taught the same in a Baptist school, Colgate University. His book, An Outline of Christian Theology, was published in 1894. A student of his, Harry Emerson Fosdick, became a famous liberal who in a sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win” on May 1922 set forth words taken as a challenge by fundamentalists to battle. The liberals or modernists accepted the goodness of man which is the “spark of divinity” that could be fanned into flame by the social environment. The kingdom could be brought in by this “social gospel.” Among the American liberals were: Shailer Matthews, Albert Schweitzer, William E. Hocking, W. A. Brown, Henry Drummond, Henry Sloane Coffin, Walter M. Horton, C. A. Briggs, A. C. McGifford, H. C. Vedder, and others.
9 George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980), 184-189. This first edition by Marsden is considered a ‘classic’ among students of American religious history. Marsden has just written a third edition, which I highly recommend, titled, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2022).
10 George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, p. 148.
11 “The modern university was a place of danger. Not only its promotion of naturalism, but also its methods of scholarship were suspect. . . . For these Christians, the appeal of scholarship was a faint whisper in comparison to the imperative for action. The 1920s and 1930s witnessed a remarkable outpouring of conservative activity, whether organizing to defend the fundamentals in “mainline” denominations, or establishing separate agencies outside the denominations. The university world may have fallen to enemies, but vast arenas for service still remained in mission work, evangelism, popular publication, the new medium of radio, Christian colleges and Bible schools, and so on. The effects of this activism could be seen everywhere. . . . When J. Gresham Machen died on January 1, 1937, an era seemed to be over. An evangelical scholarship which was supported by formidable institutions, which enlisted scholars of ability, which advocated thorough academic preparation, which was skeptical of exclusively popular interpretations, and which took an interest in the results of professional scholarship seemed to have come to an end.” (from Mark A. Noll, Between Faith and Criticism, p. 60-61)
12 I am indebted to Tim Chaffey, a doctoral student at STS. Tim is a lead researcher for The Ark Encounter project. In a recent unpublished research paper for a DMin seminar titled, “William Lane Craig’s Severely Flawed Quest for the Historical Adam,” Tim presented a brief historical survey that demonstrates the basic tenets that led once-upon-a-time Bible believers to change their view of human origin. He writes: In the late eighteenth century, a naturalistic philosophy called uniformitarianism began dominating scientific disciplines. Developed by James Hutton and popularized as “the present is the key to the past” by Charles Lyell, this idea assumes that the rate of present physical processes can be used to explain the past. First applied to geology, this philosophy now undergirds every scientific discipline related to the study of origins. The concept was quickly utilized to challenge the early chapters in Genesis—if present geologic processes are slow and gradual, then millions of years must have passed to form all the rock layers, leaving no space for the global flood, which would invalidate nearly every detail in Genesis 1–11, particularly the biblical account of man’s creation just thousands of years ago based on the chronologies in Genesis 5 and 11. Before long, many Christian leaders sought to harmonize the Bible with uniformitarian ideas. Thomas Chalmers introduced the gap theory in 1804. While interpreting much of Genesis 1 in a straightforward manner, he proposed that a time gap existed between the Bible’s first two verses into which countless eons could be inserted. Two decades later, in 1823, Anglican clergyman George Stanley Faber developed the day-age theory, suggesting that each of the days of the creation week were long periods of time. Both of these views see the Genesis text as describing actual history while simultaneously reinterpreting the traditional understanding to allow for billions of years. In the following century, new theories arose viewing the text as something other than historical narrative. The framework hypothesis, developed by Arie Noordtzij in 1924, reclassifies Genesis 1 as “semi-poetic” so that “the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins.” While these and other attempts to harmonize Scripture with billions of years have long been held by many Evangelicals, the special creation of Adam and Eve was generally considered non-negotiable until recent decades. (Note, for example, how Tim Keller accepts as true that earth is billions of years old and that plants and animals evolved, yet he stated, “Before God I’m trying my best to read this as I think what the Scripture says. Right now, it says to me, you know, there is an Adam and Eve, and everyone came from Adam and Eve, and they were a special creation, and so even though I don’t have an answer to my scientist friends, that is where I stand.” Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Ligon Duncan, “Keller, Moore, and Duncan on the Non-Negotiable Beliefs About Creation,” The Gospel Coalition, August 29, 2017, www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/keller-moore-duncan-non-negotiable-beliefs-about-creation.)
13 BioLogos, “What is Evolutionary Creation?” n.d. https://biologos.org/common-questions/what-is-evolutionary-creation.
14 For example, see Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008). Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012). Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, Creation and Doxology: The Beginning and End of God’s Good World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018). Joshua Swamidass, The Genealogical Adam & Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019). Swamidass espouses a unique position that accepts human evolution over vast eons. Some of those hominids from ape-like ancestors mixed with the offspring of the historical Adam and Eve 6,000–10,000 years ago, so that Adam and Eve are ancestors of every human today (p. 79). Note: Once again, I am indebted to Tim Chaffey for bringing this information to my attention.
15 Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam, xii. Once again, I am thankful to Tim Chaffey and his unpublished DMin seminar paper, as I have relied heavily on his work for the content of the paragraphs in this section.
16 At the end of this paper is a handout from Craig’s presentation at the November 2021 annual ETS meeting. The handout is a brief two pages but highlights the major points he set out to emphasize in his book.
17 Ibid., 104–105.
18 Ibid., 109.
19 Ibid., 120.
20 Giberson wrote, “Talking snakes, visits from God in the evening, naming the animals—the story takes on such a different character the moment one applies even the most basic literary analysis. The literalist interpretation I had formerly embraced and defended so vigorously began to look ridiculous, as did the person I had been just one year earlier.” Giberson, Saving Darwin, 8.
21 Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam, 130.
22 Ibid., 130–131. William Lane Craig’s disdain, at least his complete disregard, for any sort of young-earth creationism is evident by the fact that Craig routinely cites the work of both theistic and atheistic evolutionists as well as critical biblical scholars. The book’s 24-page bibliography appears impressive at first glance. However, strangely absent from the more than 350 texts cited are the works of young-earth creationists, while turning a blind eye to any scholarly young-earth creationist material. It has existed for more than fifty years (see geologist Andrew Snelling, biologist Nathaniel Jeanson, biologist Duane Gish, theologian John Whitcomb, engineer Henry Morris, biblical scholars William Barrick and Terry Mortenson, etc.).
23 I am indebted once again to Tim Chaffey. Much of the information in the above section relied on his research work found in his DMin paper (see footnote 11 above). I highly recommend his paper.
24 This is the definition written by the editors of Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, 67.
25 Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006), 200. Emphasis added; consistent—with slight modifications—with Dr. Craig’s view.
26 “How Is BioLogos Different from Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Creationism?” BioLogos, http://biologos.org/common-questions/christianity-and-science/biologos-id-creationism.
27 It should be noted that some theistic evolutionists (TE) agree in principle with other TEs but do not label themselves as theistic evolutionists. Such is Gregg Davidson, who chooses simply to call himself an evolutionist. He explains: “Historically those advocating a biblical view referred to themselves as creationists and labeled those who held to long ages of earth history, or specifically to evolution, as evolutionists. The problem with these terms is that they have come to embody meanings that create an artificial dichotomy between faith and science. Creationists believe in the Bible. Evolutionists believe in nature. Yet there are many who believe that God initially created supernaturally, followed by continued, personally directed creation via divinely ordained natural means. Those who adhere to such a position are simultaneously creationists and evolutionists! . . . We clearly need better terms to identify the different positions being argued. . . . I will identify those claiming a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 as either young-earth proponents/advocates or as evolution opponents, depending on the context of the discussion. . . . We could refer to those completely disavowing all forms of evolution as antievolutionists. . . . Those who believe in God and evolution are often lumped into a position known as theistic evolution, though I dislike the term for its vague definition and for the sense that it is somehow different from “normal” evolution. If God created life-forms without violating any of the natural laws he set into motion, the study of life through earth history will look the same to theists and atheists alike (though inspiring less admiration in the atheists). A relatively new term, evolutionary creationism, is a subset of theistic evolution, more narrowly defined as a view that acknowledges the truth of the Bible while also embracing the findings of astronomy, geology, genetics, and evolution. These labels are important when discussing the ultimate driving force behind the origin and adaptation of life, but are not as critical for understanding how evolution works. . . . For this reason, I have chosen to simply use the term evolutionist to identify anyone in agreement with the science of evolution.” See Gregg Davidson, Friend of Science, Friend of Faith: Listening to God in His Works and Word (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2019), 128-129. (Bold mine for emphasis.) Gregg Davidson is a scientist, and Chair of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi, and author of several books on our subject.
28 Grudem, “Biblical and Theological Introduction,” 68.
29 Here, again, the information is from Grudem’s article “Biblical and Theological Introduction,” 72-72.
30 Grudem offers a well-developed case that denial of the twelve events listed above “also denies or undermines eleven significant Christian doctrines.” For purposes of this presentation, only a few are cited in this section. See Wayne Grudem, “Theistic Evolution Undermines Twelve Creation Events and Several Crucial Christian Doctrines” in Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, 783-837.
31 Grudem, “Biblical and Theological Introduction,” 74.
32 Our salvation—the gospel itself—rests on the literal death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4), because of what we inherited from one man, Adam. Paul defends/explains the resurrection by telling us that Jesus Christ “has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor 15:20). Why? “For since by a man [Adam, our head and representative] came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Paul further asserts: “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:45-49; the citations here are from the NASB).
33 Grudem, “Theistic Evolution Undermines . . . Crucial Christian Doctrines,” 789.
34 The citation of Hoffmeier is found in Grudem, “Theistic Evolution Undermines . . . ,” 796. For further study, See James Hoffmeier, “Genesis 1-11 as History and Theology,” in Charles Halton, ed., Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 30, 32. (Italics added for emphasis.)
35 The information here is from Terry Mortenson’s article, “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth” TMSJ 18/1 (Spring 2007) 71-72. I commend Dr. Mortenson work – the research and scholarship – displayed in this article. I recommend the entire article to students, but this section is especially noteworthy and profitable for an understanding of Jesus’ high view of Scripture.
In John 10:34-35 Jesus defended His claim to deity by quoting from Ps 82:6 and then asserting that “Scripture cannot be broken.” That is, the Bible is reliable and truthful. The Scriptures cannot be contradicted. In Luke 24:25-27 Jesus rebuked His disciples for not believing all that the prophets have spoken (which He equates with “all the Scriptures”). SO, in Jesus’ view, all Scripture is trustworthy and should be believed.
Another way that Jesus revealed His complete trust in the Scriptures was by treating as historical fact the accounts in the OT which most contemporary people think are unbelievable mythology. Those historical accounts include Adam and Eve as the first married couple (Matt 19:3-6; Mark 10:3-9), Abel as the first prophet who was martyred (Luke 11:50-51), Noah and the Flood (Matt 24:38-39), Moses and the serpent (John 3:14), Moses and the manna (John 6:32-33, 49), the experiences of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28-32), the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:15), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25-27), and Jonah and the big fish (Matt 12:40-41). As Wenham compellingly argued, Jesus did not allegorize the accounts but took them as straightforward history, describing events that actually happened just as the OT describes. Jesus used these records to teach His disciples that His death, resurrection, and second coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.
All the above-mentioned statements reflect some aspect of Jesus’ attitude toward or belief about the Scriptures. But far more frequently Jesus reveals his conviction about the authority of Scripture. Its authority is shown in the way Jesus used the OT. He constantly quoted it as a basis for His own teaching on such things as church discipline (Matt 18:16), marriage (Matt 19:3-9), God’s requirements for eternal life (Matt 19:16-19), the greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-39), and the fact that He would cause family divisions (Matt 10:35-36). He used it as His justification for cleansing the temple (Matt 21:12-17) and for His disciples picking grain on the Sabbath (Luke 6:3-4). It is the “weapon” He used in responding to Satan’s temptations (Matt 4:1-10). And in a totally unambiguous manner, He stated that the OT sits in judgment over all the man-made traditions and ideas of public consensus (Matt 15:1-9). Jesus knew of nothing higher than Scripture to which one can appeal as a source of truth and divine standards for what is to be believed and obeyed (Mark 7:5-13). The thoughts of men are nothing compared to the commandments and testimonies of God. It is a very serious error, according to Jesus, to set them aside in order to submit to some other alleged source of truth, whether natural or supernatural.
Evidence is nonexistent that Jesus dissected the OT and trusted only the so-called theological, moral, or religious portions. For Him all the Scriptures were trustworthy truth, down to the last jot (Matt 5:18). Nor does He ever appeal to some higher authority to bring out some “hidden meaning” of Scripture. Also, Jesus indicates that the Scriptures are essentially perspicuous: eleven times the Gospel writers record Him saying, “Have you not read . . . ?” and thirty times He defended His teaching by saying, “It is written.” He rebuked His listeners for not understanding and believing what the text plainly says.
Jesus boldly confronted all kinds of wrong thinking and behavior in His listener’s lives, in spite of the threat of persecution for doing so. Even His enemies said, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and defer to no one; for you are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth” (Matt 12:14). As Wenham has cogently argued, Jesus never adapted His teachings to the common, but ignorant and mistaken, beliefs of His audiences. Jesus knew the difference between parables and history and between traditions of men and the truth of God’s Word (Mark 7:8-13). He spoke in truth (Luke 4:25), because He was and is truth (John 14:6), and frequently, He emphasized His truthfulness with “Truly, truly I say . . .” (e.g., John 3:3). He also explained that believing what He said about earthly, time-space reality was the ground for believing what He said about heavenly realities, such as eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and spiritual rebirth (John 3:12). In other words, if we do not believe what He said about things we can verify, how can we legitimately believe what He says about the things we cannot verify? He also said that believing the writings of Moses was foundational to believing His words (John 5:45-47). Jesus (like all the apostles and prophets) clearly viewed the Bible’s history as foundational to its theology and morality.
36 For an excellent discussion and demonstration of the view that Jesus advocated a young-earth view, see Terry Mortenson, “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth” in The Master’s Seminary Theological Journal 18/1 (Spring 2007): 69-98.
37 For a helpful survey/debate of the various views of evangelicals on Genesis concerning creation and Adam, see Matthew Barrett and Ardel B. Canaday, Four Views on the Historical Adam (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013). The Introduction to the book is exceedingly valuable – I highly recommend pages 13-36.
38 Theistic evolutionist, and other evolutionists, reject scientific concordism, the idea that God chose to reveal through the Scriptures certain scientific facts and that modern science, properly understood, can be aligned with the Bible. In actuality, when it comes to humanity’s biological origins, the biblical authors appear to affirm “de novo creation,” the belief that God created man and everything else directly, immediately, and completely, that is, fully mature.
39 Peter’s point is that it was the divine decree (by the word of God) which first brought the world in to existence. The word of God which created the world has also once destroyed it by flood. It is the same word of God which has decreed that the world will in the future be destroyed again, this time by fire. Then God, once again by his word, will create a new heaven and earth. And I argue it won’t take him billions of years to create the new heavens and earth. He will speak it into existence! If he can do this in the future, why could he not have done it in the past?
40 Some of today’s well-known and respected church leaders advocate some form of acceptance of science’s explanation of creation, at least that the earth is millions of years old (i.e., old-earth creationists). For instance, (1) John Stott sought to wed belief in a literal Adam and Eve with some form of evolution: “My acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief in several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously. . . . It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. . . . the first man to whom may be given the biblical designation ‘made in the image of God” (John Stott, Understanding the Bible, expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 55-56; (2) C. S. Lewis is claimed by evolutionists and creationists alike, see The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, ed. Walter Hooper, 3 vols. (San Francisco: Harper, 2007), 3:138; (3) Tim Keller thinks, “God guided some kind of process of natural selection,” yet he also “rejects the concept of evolution as an All-encompassing Theory.” The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Penguin, 2008), 94. Keller relies heavily on Derek Kidner’s Genesis, a commentary in the Tyndale OT Commentary series, pages 26-31; (4) Scot McKnight, who denies a historical Adam, also the doctrine of “original sin” (or “inherited sin”), that is, the idea that Adam in the garden of Eden represented the entire human race. McKnight does not think we have all descended from Adam and Eve. See McKnight, in Venema and McKnight, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2017), 93, 100, 145-146.
What is to be made of the views of these Christian pastors and leaders? They may not explicitly embrace theistic evolution as explained by BioLogos defines it. Indeed, at least some of them give evidence of confusion over the nature of theistic evolution and/or express hesitation about it. Additionally, none of them denied that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, that Adam and Eve were originally sinless, that all human beings descended from Adam and Eve, and that human death began as a result of Adam’s sin. Though in many respects the church looks up to pastors and leaders like these men, the overwhelming consensus of church history still argues against following their lead in embracing some form of theistic evolution.
41 Colin R. Reeves, “Bringing Home the Bacon: The Interaction of Science and Scripture Today,” in Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, 727.
42 Kirsten Birkett, Unnatural Enemies (Sydney: Matthias Media, 1997), 136.
43 Bernard Boudreau, “Pursuit of Science: New Social Factors,” Canadian Family Physician, 45 (2010): 1134-1136.
44 Terry Mortenson, “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth,” 96-97.
45 Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 13-14. Cited by Mortenson, 98; my final observation is similar to Mortenson’s closing comments, to him I owe the credit.
Dave Burggraff is Professor of Systematic Theology at Shepherds Theological Seminary and also serves as Executive Pastor of The Shepherd’s Church. He received his doctoral degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Prior to his ministry at STS, Dave has served as pastor and professor in four colleges and seminaries, even serving as President of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.