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#343 Concordism

November 11, 2013

January 20, 2013 William Lane Craig Podcast:

"Over 50% of evangelical pastors believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old. If you think about that Kevin that is just hugely embarrassing that over half of our ministers really believe that our universe is only around 10,000 years old. This is just scientifically non-sense and yet this is the view that most of our pastors hold."

Concordism: The attempt to correlate the bible and modern science by considering the days to be aeons of perhaps millions of years each. (Wimmer p. 68)

Dr. Craig though you do attempt to give lip-service to the fact that you are "not" a concordist (you often recognize that this is just as heretical as Arianism, Nestorianism, etc), by your own definition you obviously are? Over and over again you use the terminology that "modern science tells us" but then you quickly say "I'm not a concordist!" I have seen you dodge this question time and time again so I am almost positive I will not get an answer to this thus confirming my viewpoint, I must ask you "How are you not a concordist?" (I have seen you attempt to re-define what an evidentialist definition means (thus classifying yourself as a "traditional" evidentialist, but not a modern one). Similarly you have not problem with the hypothesis espoused in Bill Dembski's book End of Christianity for example, that the past was created after the "Fall." I find nothing wrong with this hypothesis at all and apparently you do not either but this would somewhat agree with the concept of YEC it would seem? AGAIN you have dodged this question as well how can you agree with Dembksi but hold that we mustn't agree with a YEC b/c it is "scientific nonsense"?

I am not a YEC per se, but I cannot rule it out based on modern science or cosmology simply b/c I am not a concordist in anyway. I just pray that you really do evaluate the holes in your viewpoint and distance yourself from concordism as far as possible, (I am a fan and supporter of you so don't be afraid to be critiqued by a supporter). "Three Views of Creation and Evolution" which has ID proponent Paul Nelson speaking on behalf of what he calls recent creationism not a strict view of 4004 BC viewpoint of such groups as AIG; this viewpoint is responded by your colleague Dr. JP Moreland with: "I really think the YEC view could be right." So before you call Paul Nelson or JP Moreland "scientifically nonsensical" or simply "ignorant of bible exegesis" as you do in this podcast perhaps a little more humility on your own behalf is in order? (I can of course supply you with any/all references/bibliography if needed)

My group has long financially supported your ministry and had a great time meeting with you in the States as well as on the Mediterranean cruise, but I must earnestly insist in the same way I would my Jehovah Witness or Mormon friends that concordism is not only non-biblical but I think it is even more implausible than scientism so instead of stating that "perhaps Adam and Eve were the first emergence of hominids" and thus your exegesis holds firm, that maybe it is your exegesis that needs tweaked? Humility is a trait all Christians must have and that is why I stand more in the Francis Schaeffer camp on the issue; one of humble openness perhaps you are right; perhaps Paul Nelson is right; perhaps Dembski is right; either way until you are able to defend some of the questions I have asked (me amongst countless others that do not know if WLC is a old earth/theistic evolutionist or what (I am FAR from being alone in having no clue where you stand)), then I must conclude that Paul Nelson's viewpoint and Dembski's is MUCH more plausible and biblically exegetical than your own. So please prayerfully consider these in your personal studies and prayers but also please do not continue to "throw others under the bus" in a very non-Christian way and PLEASE abandoned the modified version of concordism you seem to endorse (but not endorse) and spell out in crystal clear terms where you (WLC) stand on these issues and do not be afraid of what others think.

***I have worked with the Discovery Institute on several occassions and Casey Luskin, John West, and Jay Richards agree with me on this viewpoint (that your view is very complicated and unclear though they do not consider themselves YEC of course) so I really do not think I am alone here, am I?



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Dr. craig’s response


I don’t normally take questions like this, CL, but your letter is so full of misconceptions that, having recently spent several months lecturing on creation and evolution in our Defenders class, I find your question irresistible. I hope that by addressing it, some positive good may come by directing readers to my lectures, where I articulate my thinking clearly.

First of all, the definition of concordism that you give is not the customary one. I don’t know who Wimmer is, but he is using the word in an idiosyncratic way that departs from normal usage. Concordism is not the attempt to correlate the Bible and modern science through a Day-Age theory. The Day-Age theory is one particular interpretation of Gen. 1. Concordism rather is a hermeneutical approach to scripture. It is a hermeneutic which advocates interpreting scripture in light of modern science. One attempts to read modern science into the text. Concordism is a hermeneutic which may be adopted by Young Earthers or Old Earthers. For example, the Old Earther might take the biblical expression that the Lord “stretched out the heavens” to be a description of the expansion of space postulated by modern cosmology. The Young Earther might take the biblical expression that things reproduce “after their kinds” to be referring to modern biological species.

Now I reject the hermeneutic of concordism. Instead we should adopt the hermeneutical approach of trying to determine how the original author and audience would have understood the text. Rather than trying to impose modern science onto the Genesis account of creation or to read it in light of modern science, we want to read the account as it would have been understood by the original people who read it. That requires us to bracket our knowledge of modern science and put ourselves in the shoes of these ancient Hebrews.

(By the way, concordism is not a heresy. It’s just bad hermeneutics which will obscure rather than illuminate the text.)

I trust this answers your question “How are you not a concordist?” (Ironically, I’m not a concordist in Wimmer’s idiosyncratic sense either, since I reject the Day-Age interpretation. I’ve been perfectly straightforward about this in my Defenders lectures.) So I’ve got nothing to “distance” myself from.

Your point about William Dembski’s theodicy is puzzling. As I understand him, his proposal aims precisely at explaining how there can be a world of death and suffering ages before man’s fall. His solution is that the wider world outside the Garden of Eden is proleptically fallen, that is to say, God, foreknowing that man would fall into sin, created him in a fallen world that would be most appropriate to his fallen condition. His view is not the absurd view that “the past was created after the ‘Fall’,” as if by backward causation! Dembski’s provocative view is an Old Earth theodicy.

I find it odd that you advocate Francis Schaeffer’s approach of “humble openness,” since that is precisely what I advocate in my Defenders lectures on the interpretation of Gen. 1. I outline around eight different interpretations of Genesis 1 advocated by evangelical exegetes, from the literal interpretation to the mythological interpretation. In the end I leave the question open as to which is the correct understanding, though some of these views (like John Walton’s) strike me as much more implausible than others. How about you? Are you open to Henri Blocher’s literary framework interpretation? Or Walton’s functional interpretation? Or are you open only to Young Earth views?

Beyond the question of how one should best interpret Gen. 1 is the logically subsequent question of how that interpretation is to be integrated with the findings of modern science in order to achieve a synoptic worldview (which should be the aim of every systematic theologian). Notice that these are two distinct questions, handled separately in my lectures. As one who for over thirty years has been plumping for Big Bang cosmology, I have been perfectly clear that I believe that the universe is some 13.8 billion years old. No informed reader could be confused about that. But unlike a concordist like Hugh Ross, I don’t think that the Bible teaches the Big Bang. To repeat: there are two distinct questions here: (i) how Gen. 1 is to be properly interpreted (which requires shunning concordism) and (ii) how that interpretation is to integrated with the findings of modern science (which requires taking account of the data of both modern science and scripture, properly interpreted).

As for the origin of life and the development of biological complexity, I again have no strong views on the subject. I maintain a humble openness and am ready to follow the evidence where it leads. Perhaps some of the lack of clarity about my views that you mention is due to the fact that I am undecided about these questions and so genuinely open to alternatives. But as explained in my lectures, it seems to me that some sort of progressive creationism is perhaps the view that best integrates the biblical and scientific data.

- William Lane Craig