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Are Faith and Reason Opposed to Each Other? (Part 2)

December 01, 2019     Time: 15:04


Dr. Craig continues commenting on an atheist blogger's writing on the biblical Adam and human evolution.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues:[1]

But Keller suggests (contrary to all the scientists he knows, evidently) that you can still say you believe in evolution even if you keep the human race completely separate from all other animal species, some of whom share nearly 99% of our DNA.

DR. CRAIG: Here I think would be appropriate for me to mention the forthcoming book by the informational biologist Josh Swamidass who is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. His book on the genealogical Adam and Eve shows that it is entirely compatible with modern science to believe that Adam and Eve were created de novo by God in the relatively recent past and that they are ancestors of every human being alive today. That surprising conclusion is demonstrated in Swamidass’ book. All that it requires is that the progeny of Adam and Eve (their descendants) interbred with the hominids that had evolved simultaneously with them and so contributed their DNA to their lines of descent. If one has that hypothesis – which I’m not endorsing here but simply drawing attention to it – Keller’s view is perfectly scientific. Swamidass’ book carries endorsements by a number of scientists who say, We were wrong when we said that Adam and Eve are incompatible with findings of modern genetics and evolution.

KEVIN HARRIS: We touched on this earlier. He says,

In the end, Keller cannot allow science to contradict the Bible because that would undermine his entire theological framework.

DR. CRAIG: I think that’s an exaggeration. What it would undermine would be his view of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. That is a pretty serious revision. Keller would need to substantially revise his view of inspiration and inerrancy. But it wouldn’t undermine his entire theological framework. He could still believe that God exists, that God is a Trinity, that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead. The doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy is a collateral doctrine of the Christian faith which doesn’t lie at the core of the Christian system of beliefs.


But I make it a practice to always approach apologists sincerely, remaining as open as I can be to the possibility that they will say something which finally changes my mind back again. But alas, the disappointment continues.

DR. CRAIG: In this case, the disappointment is entirely of his own manufacture because the views that Keller expresses are not incompatible with modern science.

KEVIN HARRIS: There is something I want to know from Neil, and Neil would need to be just brutally honest, because I get the impression just from looking over the blog (and I’ve seen this time and time again) many of these so-called “ex-Christians” do not engage Christian philosophy and Christian apologetics until after they’ve deconverted and committed to that deconversion. Then all of a sudden they’ve joined this community online to take on Christian theology. Well, what were the grounds, the intellectual grounding of your faith, before you left and studied it all? It is something I ask everyone to reflect on that claims to be an ex-Christian.

Rejecting the Science

[quoting Keller]Where I would stop is with Adam and Eve. And I would say not only was there an actual Adam and Eve, otherwise I do not understand how the Pauline understanding of salvation works—I just don’t know how Romans 5 works—but I’d even say, “Look, I know what my Christians who are scientists tell me, and that is, they say, that all human beings were not genetically related to a human couple.” That’s right now the consensus . . .


DR. CRAIG: I would like to underline the words “right now.” Keller recognizes that that is right now the consensus, but he's not convinced that this view is immutable or firmly established and thinks that in fact the idea of a historical Adam and Eve who were not evolved is defensible.

KEVIN HARRIS: It's very honest of Tim to say, How does Romans 5 work? It talks about “death came through one man.”

DR. CRAIG: Yes. He thinks that Paul's teaching in Romans 5 commits you to a historical Adam. And then I guess it's his reading of Genesis 2 that commits him in his thinking to there being no biological ancestors of Adam and Eve, which I think is a lot less clear given the figurative nature of Genesis 2 and 3. But be that as it may, he is simply saying, I don't think that given the current science I need to revise my theological views at this point.

KEVIN HARRIS: Tim Keller continues,

But when I read the text, I look, and it says—it sure looks to me like it’s saying—that God created Adam and Eve, and he didn’t just adopt a former human-like being, and adopt him and put [in] the image of God. It doesn’t seem like that is what it is saying. It says “he created out of the dust of the ground.” And I do think in the end, even though I could be wrong on reading that text, I feel like I’ve got to have my reading of the text correct my understanding of what the science says. (emphasis mine)

DR. CRAIG: I think that's just an admirably open attitude. He admits he could be wrong; he could be misinterpreting the biblical text. But given his best understanding of it, he will correct what the current science says on the basis of that inspired text with I'm sure the hope that in the future the scientific evidence might come back into accord with his view.

KEVIN HARRIS: Neil Carter says,

For Keller, if there is to be any dialogue between science and the Bible, the latter must always inform the former rather than the other way around.

DR. CRAIG: That’s unfair. That's very unfair. Clearly Keller is open to learning from the sciences, and as we'll see later he's quite open to the science correcting one’s interpretation of Scripture. You may see that in fact you were misinterpreting Scripture based on science. But he's not to that point yet with regard to human origins.

KEVIN HARRIS: Neil says, “That's why they call it faith seeking understanding.”

DR. CRAIG: And that's not obviously why they call it that. That Anselmian motto is an expression of the priority of God's truth and how we then seek to unfold it and understand it. But it's not about faith triumphing over reason as Carter seems to think.


He starts by resolving that the Bible has to be right, and then he looks for ways in which science can be made to support what he already believes (which isn’t how science works, btw) . . .

DR. CRAIG: That's right. I think he's right about Keller's procedure. He starts with the assumption that the Bible as God's inspired word is right, and then he looks to see how this can be put into accord with modern science. Then Carter says, “but that isn't how science works.” This isn't science! This is theology! So that's quite right. That's not how science works, but Carter is just assuming that science trumps theology or that science is the only source of genuine knowledge. And Keller denies that.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is basically scientism that Neil Carter is embracing here.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, I think here Carter's scientistic slip is showing in saying this. He's assuming that the only source of knowledge is from science, and that the Bible is not a source of genuine knowledge and therefore cannot be appealed to to correct science.

KEVIN HARRIS: Neil says,

For a brief, misleading moment he talks as if he’s going to allow new information to reshape his thinking:

Science is a way of telling me truth. And the Scripture is a way of telling me truth. But if they are clashing, even though I know the science might show me that I’m reading the Scripture wrong—and that has happened in the past, where the science came in and said “Are you really … does the Bible really teach that the sun revolves around the earth?” So it’s possible for the science to make you ask, “Did you read the text right?”


DR. CRAIG: That’s exactly correct, and that belies what Carter said earlier about Keller not allowing science to inform his reading of the text. As this quotation illustrates, it is perfectly possible for science to make you ask, “Did you read the text right?” And in certain occasions the answer will be “I did not read it right. I was incorrect in the interpretation I ascribed to the text.”

KEVIN HARRIS: Carter says,

But then he keeps going and, despite the lessons of history, he reverts back to his default position which is to take whatever the Bible says over anything the sciences tell us is true.

DR. CRAIG: I didn't hear Keller say that – that whatever the Bible says is to be taken over anything that the sciences tell us is true. On the contrary, what I just heard in that quotation is that sometimes the sciences will correct our interpretation of Scripture so that we'll see that we've misunderstood it. So this is just representing a strawman here that Carter is attacking.

KEVIN HARRIS: Tim Keller says,

But if you go back and read the text and you come to your conclusion, that as far as you can say before God “I’m trying my best to read this as I think what the Scripture says.” Right now it says to me, no, there’s an Adam and Eve, and everyone came from Adam and Eve and they were special creations. And so even though I don’t have an answer to my science friends, that’s where I stand.

Neil Carter says,

I suppose there’s nothing novel about this admission since it’s the default position of most of the evangelicals I know. But Keller’s science denial here stands out because he has always argued that faith and reason are not natural enemies.

DR. CRAIG: And here again we see the pejorative language used by Carter: Keller's “science denial.” I don't hear here a science denial. What I hear is a dialogue between science and theology or the Bible, and that each of them can guide us in interpreting the other. Moreover, we see again in Carter this false opposition between faith and reason which misrepresents Keller's view.

KEVIN HARRIS: Carter continues,

It’s also significant because the folks at Biologos, who have devoted their careers to persuading fellow evangelical Christians not to fear common ancestry, have for some time partnered with him to keep a dialogue going with Reformed theology in order to show that they can peacefully coexist.

But after this video aired, they issued a response expressing their disagreement with Keller’s decision to reject common ancestry:

There is strong evidence for human evolution, particularly from the field of genetics, that has convinced almost every professional biologist, both Christian and secular. The genetic evidence also shows convincingly that the Homo sapiens population was never as small as a single couple.


DR. CRAIG: And BioLogos, as a result of the work of Joshua Swamidass that I mentioned before, has rescinded these statements. They have recognized that they erred, that they jumped the gun, in saying that the scientific evidence is incompatible with a specially created Adam and Eve who are the ancestors of the entire human population today.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here's how he concludes the article. Neil Carter says,

At some level faith is always fighting against reason, resisting its push away from whatever the church has taught them to believe about themselves and the world around them.

DR. CRAIG: And I think that's overly simplistic and naive. Once again we see the artificial dichotomy between faith and reason which is not at all what we're talking about. No one's opposing to reason some sort of groundless leap in the dark called faith. Rather, we are trying to construct a synoptic worldview that takes account of the deliverances of the Scriptures as well as the deliverances of modern science, and that is a thoroughly rational project to be engaged in. So I disagree with him when he says faith and reason aren't really friends. On the contrary, faith and reason can work intimately with one another.

KEVIN HARRIS: Does this make you question how Neil Carter is defining faith when you look at this?

DR. CRAIG: It makes me question his definition of theology and Scripture. He equates those with this sort of groundless leap in the dark which is a misconstrual of what theology and Scripture are. I think you're right that this is even a misconstrual of faith because as I understand faith in the biblical sense it is trusting in that which you have good reason to think is true. Faith is trusting in that which you have good reason to think is true. Therefore they are not at all at odds with each other but can work in tandem with each other.[2]


[2]           Total Running Time: 15:04 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)