apologetics teacher Dr. William Lane Craig has a quite serious problem
on his hands. He's painted himself into a corner. Dr. Craig has built
a career and made and name for himself in apologetics and is well
respected in the field. He now faces a problem that could undo all the
good work he has done in defending the faith. What problem could
possibly be so severe you wonder? Like the man cutting off the branch
he's sitting on, Craig is heading in the direction of undermining most
if not all the work he has done in defending the existence of God and
the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He appears ready to embrace the
creation account as "mytho-historical."
Background for the Problem
The problem starts
with Craig's premiere argument for the existence of God: The Kalām
Cosmological argument. This is because part of his defense is founded
on a fairytale, a falsehood that directly contradicts the Bible: The Big
Bang theory. I have pointed this out a number of times, most recently in
Fairytale Apologetics, the Doctrine of Demons and Biblical Inerrancy.
unfamiliar with Craig's approach, his signature argument for the defense
of the existence of God, the Kalām Cosmological argument, is formulated
Premise 1. Whatever begins to exist
has a cause.
Premise 2. The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore the universe has a cause.
Though he typically doesn't mention it,
the only cause sufficient to create the universe is God - which he
establishes in other arguments. But the real problem is how he
supports premise 2 - that the universe began to exist. He uses both
unobjectionable philosophical arguments (like the impossibility of
traversing an actual infinite), and the objectionable evidence from
science that he most unfortunately strongly supports: the Big
Craig has hitched his wagon so firmly
to the Big Bang's magical caravan and its billions of years that he
can't help but speak of a young earth understanding of creation without
displaying disdain. Consider his remarks on Young Earth Creation when
asked about his view of Adam:
"If the Young Earth biblical
theology of creation is the correct interpretation, then we face two
very difficult choices: either (1) try to defend the scientific
viability of a 10-20,000 year old universe, which seems, as I said,
hopeless, or else (2) revise one’s doctrine of biblical inspiration
and authority so as to allow Scripture to teach error."
"I’ve been reading this week the
Genesis Commentary by the eminent Old Testament scholar Gerhard von
Rad. Again and again von Rad seems to side with the Young Earther
that Genesis is to be interpreted scientifically and factually
rather than mythically or figuratively. Does he therefore agree with
Young Earth Creationism? Of course not! "
So we're to understand that defending a
young earth understanding is so "hopeless" we may have to give up
inerrancy? (Perish the thought!) And a scholar agreeing with the young
earth understanding? That's so absurd in his mind that it warrants an
emphatic "of course not!" Clearly Craig has married his apologetics to
the big bang theory for so long he can't even seriously consider that
the young earth position might be true.
So what's the problem with that you
ask? The problem for Craig is he's undercutting his own apologetics. On
the one hand he wants to defend the miracle of the resurrection of
Christ, and he does so by considering the gospel accounts historical
narratives; but on the other hand he wants to deny the miracle of the 6
day creation. He has to - because it does not fit with his support of
the Big Bang which claims the universe to be 14.7+ billion years old -
instead of the approximate 6,000 years the Bible indicates.
In his book The Son Rises -
which is a defense of the resurrection of Jesus - which he subtitles
"The Historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus",
Craig makes the case that the resurrection of Jesus is the best
explanation for the facts of the empty tomb, the resurrection
appearances of Jesus (which I cover in
AD Apologetics Part 2, Jesus' Triumphant Resurrection), and the
origin of the Christian Church. In his chapter on "Blind Allies"
(false reasons why philosophers and some people give for disbelieving
that the Jesus rose from the dead, most of which I cover in
AD Apologetics Part 1 Jesus' death and the Empty Tomb) he
lists the "The Legend Theory" promoted by D. F Strauss as the only
real threat to the validity of the resurrection. As he puts it:
"This [the legend theory]
then is the real issue in contemporary scholarship. The position of
the most influential New Testament critic of this century, Rudolf
Bultmann, with regard to the resurrection is virtually
indistinguishable from that of Strauss. Modern critics who deny the
resurrection have followed Strauss in arguing that the resurrection
of Jesus is a legend."
So for Craig, the greatest threat to
academic (and general) acceptance of the resurrection is the theory that
the resurrection is a legend. He spends the rest of the book defending
against that proposition. And what's another word for legend? Myth.
And where is Craig going with his studies about Adam? Where else can he
go? As I said, Craig has painted himself into a corner. He's spent years
promoting the Big Bang and it's 14.7+ Billions as a defense for the
existence of God. Now when he comes to the account of the creation of
Adam - created on the 6th day of creation (Gen 1.26-31) what's an old earther to do? He can't admit the text means what it clearly indicates
it means - that would destroy his years of defense of the Kalām argument
via the big bang.
So what will Craig do? He has already
hinted at where he's going. He will embrace the myth that scripture
"For example, if Genesis 1-11 is
mytho-historical writing, then a lot of what it says needn’t be
taken factually, for it wasn’t intended to be read that way. Adam
could be a historical person, but we shouldn’t take the narratives
to be factual in every respect (e.g., a talking snake). Paul seemed
to regard Adam as a historical person, but, as I shared, even here
there is, as you put it, some “wiggle room” for the biblical
Why does he need "wiggle room"? In
order to deny a young creation, and insert his Old Earth secular
theories - like the Big Bang of course. His approach is almost certainly
to be to understand the genre of the creation
narratives in Genesis as "mytho-historical." That is the direction Craig
has telegraphed he is moving toward. What is "mytho-historical"?
Well first we have to understand "myth" as it is used by theologians.
The theological concept of myth was popularized by Rudoph Bultmann who:
"...made a radical dichotomy
between the historical Jesus of Nazareth, about whom almost nothing
can be known, and the "kerygmatic" Christ of faith, who was preached
by the first disciples and, as the product of the early church, was
covered with mythology (e.g. Jesus's resurrection and ascension).
Accordingly, biblical interpretation demands acknowledging that its
preaching and its mythological elements conceal a deeper meaning
under the cover of mythology."
So a theological "myth" may be a story
that starts with a grain of truth - upon which embellishment upon
embellishment is added - and these embellishments are not to be believed
- just the grain of truth - which you must find. In Craig's mytho-historical
approach the grain of truth is the historical part, and the myth(s) are
embellishments meant to convey some spiritual truth. Craig makes clear
that not all in a mytho-historical section should be taken as factual or
true. As he puts, it, it "needn’t be taken factually, for it
wasn’t intended to be read that way." And "we shouldn’t take the
narratives to be factual in every respect (e.g., a talking snake)."
So Craig has outlined where he's going.
Unless he has an epiphany, he will treat the creation in Genesis the way
unbelieving scholars treat the resurrection: he will consider it myth
except for the portions which he deems to be true. Of course that won't
include the 6 day creation. That's bad news because like the dark
side of the force, once Craig starts down the path of denying the truth
of the entire bible (John 17.17) it will dominate his approach to his
theology. More importantly, as noted above it will undermine his entire
apologetic. If the creation is myth, how can he be so sure the
resurrection is not also myth? As for the Kalām argument - has he
not realized that for secularists, the Big Bang singularity provides the
cause his argument says is required. The secularists are not bothered by
the fact that the singularity defies the laws of causality and
conservation of energy (the first law of thermodynamics). Like the
physics-defying theory of
inflation, it's required by the theory so they believe it, no
Thus if Craig continues down this road
of a "mytho-historical" Genesis, he will have sown the seeds for the
unraveling of all his tightly knit arguments.
How should we interpret Genesis? How do
we interpret any written work? Literary critic E.D. Hirsch Jr. puts it this
"An interpreter's notion of the
type of meaning he confronts will powerfully influence his
understanding of details. This phenomenon will occur at every level
of sophistication and is the primary reason for disagreements among
Thus if given a written work, if you
expect to find fables, you will likely find fables. If you expect
parables, you will find parables. If you expect to find history, you
will find history. Thus if Craig is intent on saving his big bang
apologetic as I believe he is, he is expecting to find in the creation
narratives - myth - and will thus interpret the days of creation
as myth. That will provide him with the saving mechanism he needs to
retain his old earth view which will accommodate his use of the Big Bang
theory. Appeals to how it has been traditionally read will no doubt
be unconvincing to him since he is no doubt already aware of it. As are (apparently) evidences that the Big
Bang Theory is false (see a few reasons why
here). Likewise for the sequence of events. Though the Big bang
sequence does not match the biblical one (as cosmologist Dr. John
Hartnett points out
here) that will likely not phase him. In fact as he is
influenced by the dark side "mytho-historical" interpretation, he may
take such differences as further evidence that Genesis is incorrect.
In such a case like secular believers in the big bang, his faith in the
big bang fairytale will no doubt remain intact or grow, while his
confidence in the inerrancy of scripture wanes.
How Should the Creation
Account in Genesis Be Read?
Young Earth Creationists use the
historical-grammatical method of interpretation - meaning we understand
the meaning within the context it's found in - both historically and
literarily. Historically is self explanatory - by literarily I
mean history is understood as history, parables as parables, poems as
poems, satire as satire, etc. So the question becomes, what type
of literature is the creation account in Genesis? It clearly reads as a
straight forward historical narrative, which is how it has traditionally
been taken, But for those for whom a straight forward reading is not
sufficient, Hebrew scholar Dr. Steven Boyd has done extensive word
studies on Genesis and other Old Testament passages. His goal: to
determine if there is evidence other than a straight forward reading to
determine that Genesis is historical narrative. There is. His finding:
What I've done is a statistically
rigorous study of the text. Looking at poetic texts versus narrative
text, identifying poetic and narrative texts throughout the Hebrew
Old Testament and then statistically determining that those types of
texts are different based upon certain specific features, regarding
types of verbs that occur. And it turns out that the verb
distribution, that is the types of verbs, what is called a preterit,
that type of verb is distinctive for Hebrew narrative, and marks
Hebrew narrative. Now this has been known a long time but not
actually established statistically. So it shows that Hebrew
narrative, Hebrew prose are distinguished by that particular ratio
of preterit to the rest of the finite verbs. The finite verbs are
the preterit, the perfects, waw-perfects and imperfects. And so when
we take the number of preterites over the total number of finite
verbs we find out that ratio is much higher - usually about 40% for
narrative versus poetic texts.
Having established that... we can
to a high level - about 6 figures of statistical validity - we can
determine that Genesis 1.1 to 2.3 is a narrative to a 99.9973
percent accuracy. So this is extremely important foundationally to
show that Genesis 1.1 to 2.3 is narrative not poetry. You get a
young earth if you read the text in a straight forward way and
understand it to be narrative.
So there is clear literary
and scientifically significant statistical evidence that the creation
narrative in Genesis is historical narrative, not myth, not legend. But
you don't need to do a statistical analysis to come to that conclusion.
You need merely read the text. It reads as straight forward
history. The question for Craig is simple: Will he drop the
standard he has been using - accepting the supernatural in the
resurrection narratives, while denying it in the creation narrative?
Will he stop taking the secular, anti-supernatural approach to the
creation account which denies the clear intent of scripture, and accept
the meaning as it is clearly intended? Or
will he attempt to salvage the secular fairytale to leave it intact in
his apologetics and kiss inerrancy goodbye? If he adopts the "mytho-history"
approach, we know he has opted for the latter.
For Craig like many, the
teaching of a young earth is like the teaching Jesus gave to his
disciples when he claimed to be the manna from heaven (John 6.58). As Jesus' disciples put it: "This is a hard teaching." (John
6.60). For many, the young earth is a hard teaching. But what
was Jesus' response to his disciples? Did he try to persuade them?
No he simply reminded them of who he is
- God - the second person of the trinity - who came down from heaven to
be with man, who would soon be returning to heaven. (John 6.62) As
God has said elsewhere, Is anything too hard for the LORD? (Gen 18.14,
Jer 32.27) Once you accept that God created the heavens and the earth,
(Gen 1.1) is it really too hard to believe that he did it in 6 days?
Update November 22,
Dr. Craig was kind enough
to define "mythohistory" in his own words in the below video. He
references old testament scholars who believe in it, but doesn't
indicate whether they believe in the inerrancy of scripture. More
importantly it remains to be seen if Dr. Craig will crash his belief in
biblical inerrancy on the rocks of "mythohistory" in order to retain his
ill-held belief in the big bang and an old earth; or will he embrace
what the biblical text clearly indicates and formulate an apologetic
based on the fact that Genesis clearly teaches that the earth - indeed
the entire universe -was created in 6 days.
Duane Caldwell | November 18, 2019
1. William Lane Craig, Q
& A "#588 The Historical Adam", Reasonable Faith, July 22, 2018,
2. Craig, Q&A "#588 The
3. William Lane Craig,
The Son Rises, The Historical Case for the resurrection of Jesus,
Chicago: Moody Press, 1981
4. Craig, The Son
definition c. of legend: "a popular myth of recent origin."
Merriam Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, MA: G&C
Merriam Company, 1973 p 656
6. Craig, Q&A "#588 The
7. Gregg R.
Allison, The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms, Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, Kindle Edition, Loc 878
8. Craig, Q&A "#588 The
9. E.D. Hirsh Jr.,
Validity in Interpretation, New Haven and London: Yale University
10. For evidence that
the Judeo-Christian understanding of the creation origin account has
already been that of a 6 day creation see footnotes
6, 7 and 8 in
Are Young Earth Evidences Needed to Defend Christian Faith
11. Steven Boyd, Ref
from, Thousands...Not Billions, ICR documentary DVD, 2005