Dr. William Lane Craig is brilliant in his criticism of atheism. I as a mere layman (neither professional philosopher nor scientist) have enjoyed many hours of education and enlightenment watching his work. I’ve seen enough of his debates to know the last place I want to find myself is on the opposing side. However, Dr. Craig’s position on Young Earth Creationism (YEC) while certainly well considered is I think a strain of the biblical text, and likely for extra biblical reasons. It’s one thing to reject the young earth view, as Dr. Craig does, but mocking it is quite a different thing. I was content to simply disagree with him for a while until I found Dr. Craig claiming it was “embarrassing” that a majority of evangelical pastors believed the earth was less than 10,000 years old. Them’s fight’n words. As such, his comment has persuaded me to wade into the discussion.
This writing is largely based on a Youtube video titled Why Young-Earth Creationism is Not Supported in the Bible. That video comprises a series of discussions on this topic. It is clear that those who edited and titled the video were not Dr. Craig himself, as in the discussions he freely acknowledges a literal six consecutive 24 hour days interpretation of the creation account is a biblically legitimate view (though he certainly does not subscribe to it), while the title and description of the video make the opposite claim. So it was those responsible for posting the video who were un-careful in this regard, not Dr. Craig.
There are several aspects of Dr. Craig’s case I gladly acknowledge. For instance I freely recognize the fact language is not always meant to be taken literally. The many forms of writing invented by humanity each have different rules of reading. Likewise I agree with Dr. Craig on his point that even literal descriptions can be used allegorically. The various uses of the word “day” are a good example especially since this particular word is one of the main points of contention in the debate of how the biblical creation account ought to be interpreted. Thankfully Dr. Craig recognizes the literal interpretation of the creation account is legitimate (even if he does not subscribe to it) and I also agree with him that such an understanding of the text ought not be used a spiritual litmus test for other Christians.
However, one curious point that should be mentioned is even with the various ways the word “day” can be used, it is seldom a problem for native English speakers. There is usually no confusion or disagreement when that word is used in its various forms. Given the fact the biblical creation account of Genesis is the only significant area I know of where the word “day” is so strongly debated I think it worth taking a closer look.
One of Dr. Craig’s points is that those arguing the Genesis account of creation should be taken prima facie need to provide evidence that it should be read this way, rather than merely asserting so. Dr. Craig himself provides such evidence. One way he does this is by acknowledging Genesis chapters 1-3 are intended to be historical at some level (such as recognizing Adam and Eve are both symbolic representations of humanity and are real people at the same time, linked by genealogy to indisputably historical persons). He also rightly recognizes the reality that the central figure of the creation account, God, is Himself also a real entity and not merely symbolic. Likewise, the biblical claim that God physically created the world is taken literally, not figuratively. But let us not disregard the plain fact that science, at its core, is a description of nature. An account of the creation of nature can obviously be seen as scientifically significant as biblical scoffers make these intuitive connections when criticizing it; and they do so by comparing scripture to their own materialistic interpretations of nature. Let us not fall into the trap of thinking debates between the theistic and nontheistic worldviews are really about the evidence; rather they are fundamentally about the underlying worldviews. Those of us on the theistic side freely acknowledge faith is part of our view on these matters; atheists typically lie to themselves in claiming their view of nature is based purely on the evidence. We should be careful about relying on their so-called evidence, especially when they are so oblivious to their own bias and wishful thinking.
These examples should be sufficient evidence for the legitimacy of a more literal-leaning interpretation of the creation account (I say literal-leaning because it is very rare for even creation literalists to be absolutely literal in their reading of the biblical account, as Dr. Craig acknowledges).
I should mention that I also recognize the possible stylized form of the creation narrative that Dr. Craig explains. For instance when the account states God walked in the garden I think in this particular case the idea that God had physical legs is not the best reading of the description in this passage as it seems more clear it is meant metaphorically. However, on the matter of a formal “style” of writing, there is reason to be cautious in our attempts to identify the type of text we have in the creation account of Genesis. Given the possibility these early chapters of Genesis may have been collated and edited by Moses (feasibly originally written by Adam) we should be careful not to superimpose our modern understanding of writing on such early text which could have been written before formal stylistic rules were invented. In fact, the poetic styles of books such as the Psalms are not the type of writing found in the early chapters of Genesis. Many YEC proponents (myself included) are inclined to accuse Dr. Craig or other old earthers of using one hermeneutic for the first few chapters of Genesis (possibly as much as the first 11) and a different hermeneutic for the rest of scripture. After all, the majority of Genesis appears less like stylized, figurative writing and more like literal, historical narrative.
It is not so clear with the word “day” or the use of “evening” and “morning” in the creation week that these terms are meant to be read figuratively much like God walking in the garden. Regarding these three terms, a straightforward reading of six consecutive 24 hour creation days seems to me the best interpretation. When Dr. Craig argues those preferring a more straightforward, literal reading of the creation week need to justify that preference by offering evidence we should not neglect the other side of the coin. Any other reading likewise needs its own justification.
Raising doubt about the one is not in itself evidence of the other, as Dr. Craig acknowledges. If the clearly historical aspect of the account is not sufficient evidence to justify a literal-leaning interpretation of the creation week (as some will argue), I would argue the clearly metaphorical or stylized aspect of the account is not sufficient to reject the literal-leaning interpretation. When Dr. Craig alleges the literalists or YEC advocates treat the Genesis creation account as merely a scientific report or historical description of creation he suggests they are being naive or reductive. In this way I think Dr. Craig is being reductive, as over-simplifying the opposition makes it easier to criticize them. Granted, while I personally subscribe to a more literal reading of the creation account I should acknowledge there are some overly simplistic arguments I’ve heard from the YEC side which I also take issue with, so I don’t want to be thought of as blindly supporting any and every argument offered by the general YEC community.
Dr. Craig tells us most evangelical biblical scholars argue Genesis 1 should be taken in a more figurative, historical sense, given the poetic imagery and figurative speech used, and that this passage should not be pressed for literal precision. I have to ask, why is this the case? Why does there appear to be such an eagerness even among evangelical biblical scholars to make room for long ages of time in the interpretation of the creation account? I can only speculate on this point, but there seem to be some parallels between this situation and another situation in the Church’s past, when the Church centuries ago adopted a geocentric view of the universe because the extra-biblical scientific argument seemed so compelling at the time. It could very well be the same today with so many in the Church trying to make room for another extra-biblical belief of nature because the scientific evidence for it seems so compelling. Keep in mind the Church is often erroneously blamed for inventing the geocentric view of the universe, when in fact that blunder falls to the science of the time. In fact, the geocentric model was invented before Christianity ever existed.
So in this video, even without citing scientific reasons to make room for long ages of time in the biblical interpretation of creation, there is still the specter of extra-biblical impetus to do so, given there is nothing explicit in the text (only hints) that drives that view. Of course there is scientific impetus for Dr. Craig’s eagerness to make room for long ages of time in his interpretation of the biblical creation account, even if he does not cite it in this video. I’ll address that more later.
Dr. Craig argues the presence of poetic language in the creation account of Genesis makes it unwarranted to take the descriptions literally. Yet that is precisely what some creation scientists have successfully done. For example Dr. Russell Humphreys made accurate predictions about planetary magnetic fields based on a young earth/young universe paradigm. His predictions were confirmed by Voyager II in the 1980s.
Another piece of evidence Dr. Craig generously cites on behalf of the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account is found in Exodus 20, where the creation week is referred to in the context of the 10 commandments.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
He is right in saying this passage is a good proof text for the literal interpretation of the creation week as described in Genesis 1. While Dr. Craig is certainly correct in claiming this Exodus passage capitalizes on the pattern of the creation week, he curiously argues it would be pressing too hard to suggest it confirms the literal six 24 hour days interpretation. It could just as well be the pattern makes sense because the creation week was also six literal 24 hour days. The language of Exodus 20 is not as poetic or figurative as Dr. Craig believes the Genesis creation account to be. “In six days” is quite likely meant to communicate a specific period of time, as in “in the span of six days”. Both the pattern and literal interpretation of “day” are affirmed in this Exodus passage, meaning this passage does not refute the literal interpretation of the word day and it does not exclusively indicate a figurative meaning of the word in this context or in the Genesis creation account. It clearly favors the literal interpretation of creation.
The Sabbath day in particular is singled out in Dr. Craig’s preferred view. He argues the Sabbath day of the creation week extends even to this moment, since we are still in the period when God rested from His work of creation. This, I think, is a problematic argument for two reasons and ends up being self contradictory.
It is true that the Genesis account does not indicate an “evening” and “morning” ending to the Sabbath day, as it had for the previous six days of creation. Yet we know from common sense and experience that there is an evening and morning for every day. Since there is admittedly some literal, historical aspect to this account we need not discount literal implications here. If we look at the creation week as a sequence (as is the context for Genesis, rather than as a pattern as is the context in Exodus 20), and given each act of creation in the creation week was a choice (Dr. Craig rightly brings up intentionality of creation in other debates when arguing for the existence of God), we can rightly ask how many times did God choose to cease the creation sequence? As far as I can tell this happened only once, literally on the seventh day. The pattern is certainly emphasized in the context of Exodus 20 but I think the sequence mindset is more appropriate in the context of Genesis, and thus a literal interpretation of the Sabbath day and therefore the six day creation week is not a strain of the text, or is at least less of a strain than Dr. Craig’s view.
Secondly, Dr. Craig seems to have a double standard at work here. He dismisses the YEC argument on the language of “evening” and “morning” for the six days of the creation week (which holds they are meant to communicate literal 24 hours days). But on the seventh day, the day God rested from His work, Dr. Craig cites the absence of “evening” and “morning” as proof positive the seventh day is not meant to be read as a literal 24 hour day, with the unintentional implication that the presence of “evening” and “morning” ending the seventh day would imply a literal 24 hour period, thus undermining Dr. Craig’s argument. Therefore I suggest the presence of “evening” and “morning” for the first six days of creation do support a literal interpretation.
Dr. Craig argues it is unwarranted to hold the Hebrew word “yom” MUST always be interpreted as a literal 24 hour day and I agree with him. I do not argue that word must always be interpreted literally (and I know of no one who does). But I also see no compelling need in the text to interpret yom as anything other than a literal 24 hour day in the context of the six days of creation (except where "day" is contrasted with "night" as in Genesis 1:5, as both the "day" and "night" would collectively constitute a 24 hour day). Showing plausible reasons for reading this word figuratively does not equal showing a compelling reason to do so, and neither does showing plausible reasons for reading it literally. The straightforward reading of the account is far less of a strain than Dr. Craig’s preferred figurative reading of it.
Dr. Craig shows another example of following preference rather than a straightforward reading of the text in Genesis 2:4 which states “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven”. Dr. Craig claims it is clear this verse is referring to the entire creation week and that the word “day” used here is not meant as a literal 24 hour period. However, we should remember Genesis 1:1 tells us the heavens and the earth were created in one day, the same day. So while the metaphorical reading of “day” in Genesis 2:4 is certainly feasible it is not so clear this verse is meant to be read this way. Also, many translations of scripture have some curious variances in this particular passage between verses 4 and 6. This section seems like a parenthetical aside, and can be parsed in any number of ways. Let’s add a bit more of the context:
4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.
So the passage could be broken down as so:
The day the heavens and the earth were created (day 1)
Before any plant of the field was in the earth (before day 3)
There was no man to till the ground (before day 6)
With more of the context we see a sequence paradigm is affirmed in the creation week, as the timing of the some of the creation events is reiterated here. In this case the timing is still not quite clear, as verse 7 juxtaposes the creation of man in the narrative to help lead into the story of the garden of Eden.
I’ve seen verse 4 set up as a completion of the creation week narrative, and I’ve seen it set up as an introduction to the garden of Eden. I personally don’t have a preferred way to parse this passage but I’m not so sure the interpretation of the word “day” in verse 4 should be taken without the context of verses 5 and 6. Dr. Craig mentions verse 4 apart from the surrounding verses making it easy to think of day in that verse as figurative, which of course serves as evidence for his preferred interpretation of the entire creation narrative. I think it is unwarranted to argue the word “day” MUST be interpreted figuratively in verse 4 as referring to the entire creation week, given the following verses. But it can be interpreted that way depending on how one parses the passage. Either way I don't think it's as clear at Dr. Craig claims.
Another implication that I think favors the literal interpretation of a 24 hour Sabbath day is the fact that it is hallowed. Genesis 2 puts it this way:
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Exodus 20 puts it this way:
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
To hallow something, of course, is to set is apart from the norm for a special purpose. The hallowing of the Sabbath day of creation could fit either the literal or figurative interpretation of the creation week. The fact that this day is set apart and sanctified certainly could suggest a definite period of time rather than an indefinite time that continues even to now. But since the context in Genesis is of a sequence of intentional acts of creation, followed by the hallowing of a seventh day, again it is not as clear as Dr. Craig claims that this seventh day of creation is figurative and therefore continues to today. After all, God instituted the Sabbath for mankind as a once a week observance, not something to be observed every day.
Dr. Craig says he doesn’t see any authorial intention in the Genesis context to interpret the days of creation as literal days. He is right in that the literal interpretation is not explicitly made clear, but neither is his preferred interpretation. That is an entirely different matter from the author having no intention for the narrative to be read literally. Let us not overlook the fact Dr. Craig has a conspicuous aversion to the literal interpretation of the creation account. The allegation of wishful thinking can go both ways and I think it can apply to Dr. Craig as well as to myself.
Dr. Craig proceeds with what I think is a weak argument on semantics of the Hebrew language. The use of ordinal numbers and days (second day, third day, etc.), even without regard to grammatical rules of the language, are in practice typically meant to refer to definite periods of time. Obviously, to argue something is “typical” is not to claim it always works that way. His argument that this evidence for a literal interpretation is not convincing is based primarily on the absence of evidence for his own argument (few extant examples of ancient Hebrew writings where ordinal numbers used with days is intended to be read figuratively). While I have to recognize the plausibility of Dr. Craig’s argument since we don’t know what we don’t know, nonetheless I find his argument that the use of days with ordinal numbers might not refer to literal 24 hour days in Genesis 1 and 2 rather lacking, especially since his view on the matter is based on a general lack of evidence. Although Hosea 6:2 as Dr. Craig mentions could be a good exception we should acknowledge an exception, by definition, is not the norm. But he seems quite insistent this exception makes his preferred interpretation of “day” in the Genesis creation account more likely than a literal-leaning interpretation; I don’t think this is compelling.
All of Dr. Craig’s points I’ve addressed thus far are valid points favoring a figurative understanding of the creation week but not so compelling as to preclude a literal-leaning interpretation. My view of the matter is that his case is not based in a necessary reading of the text but rather on the resistance to a literal six 24 hour day sequence of creation and I suspect this resistance is due primarily to extra biblical pressure - his argument appears eisegetical rather than exegetical.
I want to address what is certainly a problem for a literal-leaning interpretation of the creation narrative, that of the light created on day one, plants created on day three, but the stars in the sky created on day four. I think the problems arising in this description are different depending on the interpretation.
In a literal interpretation of six consecutive 24 hour days there could be a problem with the biblical sequence of events of plants being created on the third day while thinking the sun in our solar system was created on the fourth day, like every other star. In this idea, one obvious problem here is that none of us knows what the first day light was as there is not enough information in the text. It could be the sun was created separately from the other “lights in the firmament” or it could be God’s shekhinah glory. After all, the brief description of the shekhinah glory given in Revelation 21:23 tells us it is enough to make the sun and moon moot.
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
This verse tells us God Himself is light in the New Jerusalem. If this glory was the same as the first day’s light that could feasibly set the stage for evening and morning if the earth was already rotating on its axis. The real problem here is not that the assumed shekhinah glory would preclude the possibility of evening and morning, as Dr. Craig argues. I don’t know precisely how the shekhinah glory would be manifested in empty space but neither does Dr. Craig, so he doesn’t really know the shekhinah glory would invalidate the literal interpretation. The real problem is the question of how would the earth rotate on its axis without also having a star to orbit around - according to modern science these things seem strongly linked. This problem would apply to both a figurative and literal interpretation of days.
As to the evening and morning, these designations of time relate to the earth rotating on its axis (literally, not figuratively), regardless of whether its orbit around the sun had been established on day one. The light of the first day could be the sun created separately from the other stars, which is feasible given the “lights in the firmament of the heavens” allow for this (this firmament could be anything above the ground, or anything outside Earth’s atmosphere, or anything outside our solar system, or something else - none of us knows) or something unknown to us that enabled the events of evening and morning. Regardless of whether the sun was created on day one, scripture tells us there was light. That light certainly makes a literal 24 hour day interpretation feasible. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea of a cloud canopy covering the earth before day 4 of the creation week. The timing of the day one light and the day four lights of the firmament can accommodate the other details. Clearly these are two different instances of light. Precisely what this means none of us knows. Even if the sun were created on the fourth day there is still light on day one making the assumed rotation of Earth on its axis meaningful.
Contrast this with a more figurative interpretation of the creation week, which raises different problems. For example, if all the stars of the universe were created on the fourth day/age/whatever, how would the plants have survived during the third day/age/whatever without the sun for possibly billions of years? Surely, one day without sunlight (as in the literal interpretation) would be easier for plants to survive than billions of years without sunlight. On the other hand, if the sun was created separately from the other stars, and the sun was the source of the day one light, where was the sun in relation to the Milky Way galaxy during the supposed billions of years before the “lights in the firmament of the heavens” were created? This question has implications as to the times and seasons for which those lights are meant to be signs. Whatever form of light which pre-existed the stars of the heavens in the figurative reading of Genesis could just as well have made a literal evening and morning possible in the literal interpretation of the creation week.
On the other hand, if the day one light was God’s shekhinah glory Dr. Craig argues that form of light implies the evening and morning do not indicate literal 24 hour days. But he does not explain why this is the case (at least in the aforementioned video). My reading of this passage is the very fact that light existed gives meaning to the earth’s rotation on its axis in terms of time, which appears to affirm the establishment of the literal 24 hour day. The straightforward reading of this passage seems to imply the opposite of what Dr. Craig claims so I believe the burden of proof here really falls to the figurative interpretation. I would ask him for clarification on his point as I see nothing in the text that impedes a literal 24 hour day understanding. Why does Dr. Craig insist on making room for the metaphorical day in the creation account? Is it because he accepts a large part of the secular scientific view (namely that the universe is billions of years old)? Making room for long ages and being insistent this is the best reading of the passage are two different propositions. I’m willing to do the former, Dr. Craig seems to be doing both.
While I am not claiming the Hebrew word “yom” must always refer to a literal 24 hour day as it is used in the Genesis creation account I am saying this, to me, is the most reasonable interpretation. I freely acknowledge my own resistance to a figurative interpretation allowing for long ages of time is primarily based on the anti-theistic bias of atheists who insist on long ages of time (given they also need to explain the universe’s existence). Ironically, this idea of long ages of time seems to be sacred to the atheistic worldview, as Dr. Jason Lisle aptly describes.
One example of this sacredness is evidenced by the blind resistance of some scientists to recognizing soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils, given the obvious challenge it poses to the assumption of long ages. For others, this discovery makes for a willingness to question nearly everything about our scientific knowledge EXCEPT the assumption of long ages. I’ve seen many reasons to doubt this long age assumption despite scientific insistence of it, thus I resist interpreting scripture in a way that makes room for it if I don’t have to. Since long ages of time is fundamental and vital to an atheistic worldview I think we as Christians ought to challenge that essential assumption rather that go out of our way to accommodate it. As yet I’ve seen nothing in scripture which makes the assumption of long ages necessary. I see mainly a preference for it based outside of scripture, much as was the case with the Geocentric view of the universe.
On a different matter of creation, Dr. Craig reaches into what I think to be some simplistic interpretations with the intent to ridicule the literal-leaning view of the creation account. He brings attention to Genesis 1:11-12 where plants are created. Specifically, Dr. Craig mentions the fact God did not simply declare vegetation to come forth (creatio ex nihilo), but that the earth should bring forth vegetation. I think it perfectly legitimate to mention the agrarian Hebrew audience of 3000 or 4000 years ago may very well have had a particular way of considering the event as Dr. Craig suggests but I think he reads it in a contextual vacuum.
Clearly Dr. Craig doesn’t want to make room for a literal 24 hour day interpretation of the creation account so he invokes the agrarian mentality of knowing how long it naturally takes for plants to grow from the ground - ironically, he does this in the context of supernatural creation. In doing so we are to understand it takes months or years, not mere minutes or hours, for such a thing to occur. Dr. Craig mockingly uses the analogy of time lapsed photography to ridicule the idea of a literal 24 hour reading of the passage. The only problem with this line of reasoning is there are well known biblical examples of time lapsed miracles. I’ll mention two of them here.
First, in Numbers 17, when some of the people of Israel were in the wilderness challenging the authority of Moses and Aaron, Moses gathered up staffs of each tribe (12 in all) and placed them in the tent, as God commanded. The passage continues with:
8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. 10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” 11 Thus did Moses; just as the Lord had commanded him, so he did.
Obviously the mention of “day” in verse 8 refers to a period of 24 hours (there is no widespread debate on this instance). This is clearly a miracle, as a staff (cut off and therefore having no access to any tree) would not blossom to buds and ripe fruit on its own simply because it was in a tent. But if God Himself was in the tent there is no problem with this event occurring; in fact, if God wanted to perform such a miracle obviously there is no need for Him to be in the tent. The passage continues in telling us those who challenged Moses and Aaron were persuaded by the sign of the staff, that God gave Moses and Aaron their authority. They all accepted it as a time lapsed miracle - largely because it was time lapsed.
A second example of the time lapsed miracle is the withering of the fig tree in Mark 11 and Matthew 21. While on the road from Bethany Jesus sees a fig tree and walks up to it. He finds no fruit so he curses it. When the disciples comment on it later they are shocked to find the tree has withered. The Matthew account tells us, while the disciples didn’t actually see until the next day that the tree had withered, it in fact immediately withered when Jesus cursed it. But even seeing it the next morning surprised the disciples given they had no natural reason to expect the tree to wither within one day.
Given these biblical examples of time lapsed miracles there really should be no problem with other time lapsed miracles occurring during the creation week when God calls on the earth to produce vegetation, or calls on the sea to produce sea creatures, or calls on the earth to produce land animals. So I am left wondering why does Dr. Craig find a time lapsed miracle of vegetation quickly growing during the literal third day of creation so untenable?
Dr. Craig makes a good point about day 6 of the creation week on the matter of Adam waiting for Eve. However, it is still plausible that such events occurred in one 24 hour period. But two points need to be addressed.
First, there is a common assumption that Adam would have had to name thousands of kinds of animals when God told him to give them names. Dr. Craig has mentioned the breeds of dogs and horses that exist today, results of artificial selection, and I’d like to bring further attention to that. Given the modern understanding of genetics we know over the millennia genetic information would be lost or diffused over time (many supposed evidences for biological evolution are in fact examples of the loss of genetic information, not the addition of it). This can plausibly indicate higher degrees of genetic complexity in genera that existed thousands of years ago declining to less genetic complexity but greater diversity in modern animals. It is certainly plausible there were 1,000 or fewer of kinds of animals for Adam to name rather than many thousands (keep in mind we don’t know the biblical term “kinds” should translate to our modern idea of “species” as is often assumed). It could very well be there were only a few genera within the family of canines, for example, and over the millennia these canines have interbred and been bred by human design to produced the many variants we see today. In fact, the biblical "kind" could translate to the "family" level of modern taxonomy, which would reduce the number of animals Adam had to name by orders of magnitude. Given the very real possibility there were fewer kinds of animals on the earth in Adam’s time with greater genetic complexity he plausibly could have named them in one day (and perhaps invented literacy in the process).
Even in this interpretation we can understand Adam would have been tired after a busy day. It is still within logical credibility for Adam to declare “at last” as some translations describe, when God presents Eve to Adam. I grant this is not a satisfying interpretation of the narrative even to myself, which I will continue to investigate, but it is no less feasible than some of Dr. Craig’s explanations for other aspects of the creation narrative. This is especially true when considering Mark 10:6 which tells us God made the man and woman from the beginning of creation. Allowing for the paradigm of billions of years would place the creation of mankind at the end of creation, since this paradigm necessarily requires billions of years of cosmological and biological development, leaving human beings at the end of that process. Granted, Mark 10 has nothing to do with the creation narrative, but how else can the statement “from the beginning of creation God made them” be interpreted?
I challenge Dr. Craig’s assertion the literalistic interpretation of the creation account of Genesis claims it is a quasi scientific narrative of God’s creation of the universe. I propose the predominant reason literalists today argue for the consecutive 24 hour day interpretation of the creation week is primarily in response to atheistic criticisms of scripture and of the existence of God. Those criticisms are often supposedly based on modern scientific knowledge. This manner of discussion sets the stage, thus the literalist defense of scripture is largely a reaction to the allegedly scientific line of attack raised by scoffers. This is why there is so much talk about the creation narrative along scientific lines, not because the literalists presume for no reason there is scientific information in the account, but because scientific attacks merit scientific defense. As it turns out the description in the Genesis creation narrative is packed with understanding about nature and about God - such as the fact the universe is governed by logical laws because of a law giver, making science itself possible.
Additionally, the very common view even among believers who find the non-theistic views of scientific matters so compelling that they seek to reinterpret scripture to accommodate long ages of time is not only a troubling compromise of incompatible views (an anti-theistic foundation versus a theistic foundation) but also such compromise is often used by young people (high school and college aged) who leave the faith largely due to such weakening of the perceived credibility of scripture (not to mention their own weak understanding of science and ignorance of ideological contamination of science). Surveys that I’m aware of suggest not only is the young earth view of creation part of the problem, but in many cases it is the compromise of allowing an old earth (the figurative interpretation of creation accommodating billions of years) while insisting on a literal interpretation of miracles (such as the virgin birth and resurrection) that also poses a major problem for those groups of people. We don’t need studies to tell us this; scripture already warns of this problem in John 3:12.
If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven?
Ironically, the old earth view is inherently (even if unwittingly) a challenge to the credibility of scripture. Rather than serve as an entry point to challenge the foundation of modern atheism (as the young earth view challenges the blind faith materialists have in their ancient universe perspective) the old earth view often teaches people to disregard the supernatural perspective of scripture's origins.
I’ve mentioned Dr. Craig believes the universe is billions of years old and I’ve accused him of relying on this belief to argue for a figurative reading of the creation account. There is another video on Youtube (Young Earth Creationism is Embarrassing) where he appears to confirm this, as he goes further and declares it embarrassing that over half of evangelical pastors think the universe is less than 10,000 years old. There is a social point Dr. Craig raises which requires some attention.
Dr. Craig mentions the fact that scripture is often viewed by our secular American culture, and others, as unreliable because of the idea it teachings a young universe, whereas modern science teaches an ancient universe. And what is his solution? Stop telling people the bible teaches a young earth, as his own reading of scripture excludes a young earth view. Contrast this matter with other social hot topics. What about the fact that sin exists, and that humanity needs a savior? What about the biblical claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation? What about heaven, hell, angels, demons, miracles, and an afterlife? Modern secular science (as understood by secular scientists) does not support any of these claims and the Church’s insistence on teaching them in fact damages the bible’s credibility among the scoffers. But does Dr. Craig suggest Christians should stop teaching these things? Of course not! (It should be mentioned that while Dr. Craig urges YEC proponents to avoid using a literal interpretation of creation as a spiritual litmus test he nonetheless seems to approve of using it as an intellectual litmus test, with the YEC interpretation presumably indicating intellectual failure).
Given the general hostility and intellectual dishonesty among atheists I see little reason to think a young earth view would be any more embarrassing than a virgin birth or resurrection from the dead. This I think reveals the reason why Dr. Craig insists on making room for long ages in the creation narrative: extra biblical pressure both in the form of scientific views and social embarrassment. Why he does not share the same embarrassment on the many other supernatural claims of scripture I don’t know. To even question biological evolution should also be a point of major embarrassment for Dr. Craig but he has no problem doing that (and I applaud him for doing so).
I see no need for the Church to accommodate the intellectually fraudulent foundation of atheism. Dr. Craig does a fabulous job at exposing the fraudulent nature of atheism in a philosophical setting; but we need to understand atheism’s flaws permeate modern science as well. When real scientific evidence is distinguished from an anti-theistic interpretation of that evidence (distinguishing between face and opinion) we discover the evidence itself matches biblical teachings with no conflicts - which is precisely what we should expect to find given God is the creator of all the universe. This is also the case with a young earth view of the evidence.
In a third video (Young Earth Creationists Wrong on Animal Death) Dr. Craig shows what I think is simply an interpretation of scripture driven by his preferred view of an old earth rather than the teaching of scripture. The question in this video pertains to God’s “very good” declaration of His creation. Dr. Craig’s points are as follows:
Animal death is not included as part of the curse
Animal predation was always a necessary part of God’s created order
Death that entered into the world applied only to humans and is not physical but is spiritual death
I’ll address the third point first. How does Dr. Craig know the death that entered the world by sin is only spiritual death and not physical? The very phrase seems stylized in a way similar to the creation story of Genesis, implying linguistic latitude. Also it seems clear because of this sin, not only was a spiritual separation from God introduced into the created order but physical death was inflicted upon Adam and Eve when they were denied access to the tree of life (which appears to have been a real, literal tree whose fruit provided immortality to their bodies). Can this idea of death entering the world by sin apply both spiritually and physically? Yes it can.
Contrast this with the resurrection mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. This reference shows the connection between death and resurrection and it is obviously talking about human beings, not the animals. However, since scripture teaches there will eventually be a physical resurrection of human bodies it is not clear this verse refers only to spiritual death. The emphasis here on resurrection does not negate the pervasiveness of physical death which is mentioned numerous times all over scripture. It would be absurd to suggest anytime death is mentioned in scripture it must always refer to spiritual death, and Dr. Craig does not make this argument. The main distinction here between spiritual death (applying to human beings only) and physical death (also applying to animals) appears to be the the context of resurrection, which is not mentioned every time death is mentioned in scripture. Just as Dr. Craig rightly recognizes latitude for the word “day” I also ask each of us to recognize latitude for the word “death”. It is not as clear as Dr. Craig portrays it.
Next, on Dr. Craig’s claim animal death is not included in the curse (which would link it to his claim death as a result of sin is only spiritual) let us not forget that Romans 8 tells us all creation is suffering from the curse:
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
So not only does it seem animals, plants, and planets are suffering somehow as a result of sin, this passage also suggests human death resulting from sin can be both spiritual and physical. It is not clear physical and animal death are excluded in the curse as Dr. Craig prefers to believe.
Thirdly, this passage leads into the final point mentioned above: animal predation was always a necessary part of God’s created order.
If all of creation is groaning for release from corruption/futility (which I take to mean the curse) clearly “all of creation” includes the animals. But does that mean predation was part of the curse or was it part of the original created order? Dr. Craig mentions Psalm 104 where it tells us the young lions roar for their prey and God provides it, and he uses this to suggest predation was part of the original created order. We know lions are obligate carnivores today, meaning their digestive systems limit them to consuming only small amounts of plants, if any. But this Psalm seems more a context of God’s provision and sovereignty rather than creation, although it does address the creation a little. Given the nature of the comment I don’t think this is a good reference for Dr. Craig’s point about predation always being part of the created order.
Dr. Craig claims the creation narrative in Genesis does not address predation. I think it does in chapter 1.
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
If I’m reading this correctly it appears God made humans and the animals to be vegetarian. How can lions be vegetarian before sin entered the world if they are obligate carnivores now? For my assertion to hold, something must have changed in the created order. Do we have evidence of such change? We do.
One major difference is the water cycle. As Genesis 2 explains, in the early days there was no rain. Instead, water rose up from the ground in the form of a mist. The fact that we have rain today does not mean the water cycle as we know it was always in place from the beginning of the created order. We don’t know exactly when this change occurred but I think it was most probably around the time of Noah’s flood.
After the worldwide flood we see another example of major change in the created order. Genesis chapter 9 opens with:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
This passage shows us two changes God introduces into the created order. First, there would be a fear of man placed on all the animals. Second, God now allows man to hunt animals for food. These two ideas are quite different from what was originally expressed in the creation narrative of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. The implication here is there was no predation or enmity between humans and the animals from the beginning, but that these things occurred later. Genesis 3 gives us even greater indication of changes in the created order.
In Genesis 3:14 God cursed the serpent, saying “you are cursed more than the cattle, more than every beast of the field.” There is an implication here that all the animals were cursed because of Adam’s sin, which is consistent with Romans 8 telling us all creation was cursed. And again we have the fear of man being put upon an animal, the serpent. But look at what Adam’s curse involves:
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.
Thorns and thistles shall be brought forth for Adam to make him toil. It appears thorns and thistles were not part of the original created order but were new, specifically made as part of the curse. That’s a very significant change introduced into creation, where creation is partially turned against mankind. Likewise, the pain of childbirth (inflicted upon Eve) appears to be an addition to God's created order.
Both of these passages (the Genesis 9 account with Noah or the Genesis 3 account with Adam) indicate major changes occurring in the created order and both are viable candidates for predation being introduced among the animals and for the complicated food web we observe today. Genesis 3 is especially persuasive for explaining natural disasters and numerous forms of misery and pain we seen in the world, as introduced after creation was completed. This understanding of the created order seems to me as less of a strain than Dr. Craig’s view that a “very good” created order would include predation and disease and disasters. Predation, disease, and disasters seem more like part of the curse than part of God’s “very good” created order.
In Isaiah chapter 65 we have a glimpse into a new heaven and new earth. In Christian thinking, when looking at this aspect of God's plan there is often a feeling of returning to something long lost. The idea of a new heaven and new earth, a time when the curse has been lifted off of creation, invokes the notion of restoring something akin to the original created order. In that sense Isaiah's description of this future time fits with the case I've laid out above, where predation is not part of God's ideal of creation:
Wolves and lambs will eat together.
Lions will eat straw like oxen.
Serpents will eat nothing but dust.
None of those animals will harm or destroy
anything or anyone on my holy mountain of Zion,”
says the Lord.
Likewise, in Revelation 21:4, in describing the new heaven and new earth, John tells us God will "‘wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Is this death merely spiritual or both spiritual and physical? It could easily be the latter, as there is no biblical reason to deny this. If the new heaven and new earth contain no physical death, there is no need to insist the beginning of the first earth had physical death, and thus no reason to assume there was predation in the beginning.
One might argue the phrase "for the old order of things has passed away" could support Dr. Craig's position that the original order included predation, and disease, and disaster. But, as I've argued, the original order is quite different from the order we see today. Given that the original order contained no sin, there would be no need for it to be replaced by a new heaven and new earth. It seems clear to me the "old order" mentioned in Revelation 21 refers to what we might call the second order, a fallen world with sin, not to the original order without sin.
Dr. Craig argues a “very good” created order involves a completed system. And I agree entirely. But we have legitimate reason to suspect the “very good” system God first created has undergone tremendous changes and did not originally include predation or disease or disasters, which challenges the need to assume long ages of time and therefore long ages of cosmological, geological, or biological development. While predation is clearly necessary for the maintenance of ecosystems today it is not so clear such a thing was necessary in Adam’s lifetime, especially early in his lifetime.
Dr. Craig mentions some Church fathers, such as Augustine, Origen, Justin Martyr, believed in an old earth. I admit there is a great deal of reading I need to do along these lines so I merely ask for Dr. Craig’s view of these comments of Augustine:
In the City of God, Book XII, chapter 10 is entitled “Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past.” Here is a short excerpt, though the whole chapter is worth reading:
They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which
profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning
by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.
Also, in chapter 12, entitled “How These Persons are to Be Answered, Who Find Fault with the Creation of Man on the Score of Its Recent Date” he further states:
As to those who are always asking why man was not created during these
countless ages of the infinitely extended past, and came into being so
lately that, according to Scripture, less than 6000 years have elapsed
since He began to be, I would reply to them regarding the creation of
man, just as I replied regarding the origin of the world to those who
will not believe that it is not eternal, but had a beginning, which
even Plato himself most plainly declares, though some think his
statement was not consistent with his real opinion.
In the effort to integrate biblical interpretation with modern science it seems, for many people, it is usually scripture that has to be reinterpreted. The ever changing nature of human science is in itself good reason to avoid treating science as a settled standard of knowledge by which scripture should be measured. But there is also the overt anti-theistic bias permeating science which should raise doubt about its reliability, the same flawed thinking that often makes an entertaining target for Dr. Craig in a philosophical context. The data is one thing; the secular interpretation of that data is quite another. In fact, as recently as the mid twentieth century the predominant view among scientists was an eternal universe, as a created universe would be an intolerable notion given the obvious religious implications. But today most scientists are resolved to accept the idea the universe in fact had a beginning, something the bible has taught for thousands of years regardless of a figurative or literal interpretation of the creation narrative. This is a good example of how atheism leads to bad science, given the widespread scientific resistance to accepting a beginning to the universe (because of the obvious religious implications) but now the widespread acceptance only after that evidence could be shoehorned into a non-theistic albeit highly speculative explanation (the time tested Anything But God method).
Rejecting Darwinism or evolution theory is not the same as rejecting science, as I hold that evolution theory is fraudulent science based primarily in wishful thinking. Rejecting the notion of long ages of time is likewise not a problem for the person genuinely interested in the pursuit of understanding, and for the same reasons. I see nothing in the text of the Genesis creation account to suggest billions of years of time. It seems to me when Dr. Craig prefers to allow for long ages of time in the creation account he is reading into the scriptures implications that simply are not there because of extra biblical pressure and because the latitude of the language permits it.
The fact YEC proves a point of embarrassment for Dr. Craig is, I think, pointless considering the other miraculous things he himself admits we as Christians should adhere to. I assert all materialist scientific evidence with these ideological implications is contaminated with logical contortions and selective attention in order to maintain a non-theistic worldview. Dr. Craig already has expressed a healthy skepticism of the evolutionary mechanisms proposed by materialistic science intended to explain life so I humbly suggest, for the same reasons, he reexamine his view that science has persuasively shown the universe and the earth are billions of years old. I would be happy to provide him materials for such an investigation.
One question I should raise is, why insist on the figurative reading of the creation narrative in Genesis? There is nothing in the text which compels this view. The motivation for this reading of the creation account is found outside of scripture. The idea of long ages of time did not catch on in the sciences as the predominant view until Charles Darwin's works had time to ruminate. But Darwin did not invent the idea of long ages of time; his primary source for this notion seems to be found in the works of Charles Lyell, whom Darwin read on his journey to the Galapagos Islands. In his "Principles of Geology" one can see Lyell's disdain for the common biblical view, as he obviously preferred a purely naturalistic approach to science. Lyell refers to the work of geologist James Hutton, who seems to explain to us the intent behind this perspective:
This treatise was the first in which geology was declared to be in no way concerned about "questions as to the origin of things;" the first in which an attempt was made to dispense entirely with all hypothetical causes, and to explain the former changes of the earth's crust by reference exclusively to natural agents.
By "hypothetical causes" is meant the works of Moses, specifically the Genesis account of creation (as is evident in Lyell's writing), as it was most commonly understood as a more literal and historical description of "the origin of things". Hutton originated the notion of uniformitarianism, presuming physical systems currently at work have always been at work in the same ways (the present is key to the past). Thus, the demand for long ages of time. Hutton insisted the Bible was not to be considered in anything pertaining to science, that only a naturalistic view was to be used. Hutton was intentionally and overtly undermining the the credibility of the Bible, and this trend he established continued through Lyell, Darwin, and on to today. The fact that atheism, rather than the quest for understanding, is at the heart of modern science should not go unnoticed.
Another major concern (among Christian young earthers) of insisting on a poetic or figurative interpretation of the creation account in Genesis is the room it creates for undermining the Gospel. The figurative interpretation of the creation account is not merely an alternative reading of the early chapters of Genesis, an intellectual possibility just for the sake of keeping an open mind. Obviously the figurative interpretation of the creation account is meant to accommodate millions and billions of years of time. There is nothing in the text that demands billions of years of time. It is not even science itself that does this, as the people who invented science were themselves believers in God and it was quite common to find they also believed in a literal six day creation week. No, it is the modern secular view, an evolutionary paradigm, that is being accommodated with the insistence on a figurative reading of the creation account. Among Christian young earthers, this raises the troubling question atheists have already naturally been asking: if there is no literal creation week, then there is no historical Adam and Eve, which means there is no original sin, which means there is no need for a savior: so why do we need Jesus? This is not merely a possible understanding of the conflict between the literal and figurative readings of the creation account in Genesis - this is the crux of the rejection of scripture, of Jesus, and of God we see in so many non-believers who think science has "proven" there is no God. This is how questioning the need for salvation ends up working in tandem with rejecting the existence of God. It's very common for skeptics to presume raising doubts about the need for salvation somehow debunks the claim God exists.
My studies show major flaws in every known method of scientific dating hailed by secular science. When considering the secular refusal to look at nature as a confirmation of God’s glory let alone His existence we should be even more suspicious of an atheistic view of science and be leery of borrowing from it when discussing the age of the earth or of the universe. While I maintain that Christians should always support the actual truth whatever it is I think it equally important to question all things and discard that which is false (as suggested by 1 Thess. 5:21). This is especially important since so many atheists have made the impression the basis for modern science is the denial of God, pretending it is the search for knowledge. Advancing technology or agriculture or medicine is one thing, trying to explain how the universe created itself out of nothing or how life emerged on its own is quite another thing. Let us not allow atheists to equivocate on clearly different things (pretending doubting evolution is rejecting science itself) and let us not embrace their contorted and biased views of science.
The apostle Peter warns us about scoffers in a way that makes them sound like modern naturalism. 2 Peter chapter 3 warns:
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
This sounds like the fundamental uniformitarian presumption of modern naturalism. The philosophy continues to further confirm Peter's warning:
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
Given these warnings from Peter, it is not unjustified to see the compromise and reinterpretation of scripture to accommodate the skeptic's view of science as an embarrassment. The big bang theory (and its competing view of the steady-state universe), the multi-verse theory, the theory of bio-genesis, and "amoeba-to-man" evolution are all examples of an atheistic approach to science that demands a long ages interpretation of scientific data. These theories collectively, within the frame of "scientific consensus", hold everything that happens today has always followed the same processes. And given that assumption, it naturally follows that naturalists presume God had nothing to do with the creation of the universe, or of life, and that Noah's flood never happened.
But notice one more charge Peter lays at the feet of the scoffers: those who deny God created the world, who deny Noah's flood, do so deliberately. But not because the science is so compelling or because the scriptures can be interpreted in this way or that; they deny these things because of intellectual dishonesty, because of a rejection of God, as Hutton, Lyell, and Darwin had done. I have personally witnessed many examples validating Peter's allegation. That should make borrowing from the long ages view of the evidence somewhat suspicious, at the very least.
The apostle Paul gives a similar warning in Romans chapter 1:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...
Like Peter's warning, Paul's also shows how the anti-theistic bias of modern scientists distorts the evidence in a way that reveals a disinterest in true understanding among the skeptics. Thus, we have good reason to question the "scientific consensus" on any of these matters with ideological implications as to the existence or non-existence of God, particularly on the presumption of long ages of time. As Christians, rather than go out of our way to make sure scripture matches the modern scientific consensus, we should go out of our way to review and critique that consensus and make sure anti-theistic bias is checked. After all, since no one on the plant is unbiased in these matters, the allegation of bias works just as well against the atheist as it does the theist.
Another line of inquiry could be interviewing former atheists who have converted to not only theism but to Christianity, keeping in mind some of these converts still allow for an old earth and ancient universe but others (including physicists, geologists, biologists, etc.) have gone as far as adopting a young earth perspective. Interviewing the latter group may prove especially enlightening.
I hope I’ve shown a literal-leaning interpretation of the creation account in Genesis is not unfounded and not strained on biblical grounds, at least no more than Dr. Craig’s interpretation in some cases. I am prepared to further discuss with him how such a view of creation is not scientifically strained either, if he so wishes.
[UPDATE: April 17, 2017. Added paragraph about Isaiah chapter 65]
[UPDATE: April 19, 2017. Added next to last paragraph about undermining the Gospel]
[UPDATE: April 21, 2017. Added paragraphs about Charles Lyell and James Hutton]
[UPDATE: May 2, 2017. Added paragraphs about 2 Peter 3]
[UPDATE: Dec 7, 2017. Added paragraphs about Revelation 21]