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#605 Hermeneutical vs. Scientific Young Earth Creationism

November 18, 2018

Dr. Craig,

I am excited about your decision to tackle the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. I will attempt to ask my question without getting into Young Earth vs Old Earth. Basically, my question is how will you answer any questions about Adam and Eve without taking such a position? I personally think any exegesis or substantive meaning derived from the Genesis account will demand that one takes something of a position. Of course one could present the best evidences from both sides, but it seems to me that you must step momentarily into a camp during the process. I appreciate your defense of "mere Christianity" in that it keeps the bar low for the non-believer. My prayers are with you as you tackle what seems to be one of the most "landmine" laden topics in Christian apologetics.


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Dr. craig’s response


My current study of the historical Adam does burst the bounds of “mere Christianity” and represents my own personal desire for more understanding of this doctrine of Christian theology. I would certainly not take my conclusions, whatever they will be, to be part of the proclamation and defense of the Gospel.

Now with respect to your question, Joe, I find it crucial to distinguish between Young Earth Creationism (YEC) as a hermeneutical hypothesis and as a scientific hypothesis.  The hermeneutical hypothesis concerns the correct interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. Do these passages affirm, either explicitly or implicitly, that the universe was created in the recent past (say, 10,000-20,000 years ago)?  The scientific hypothesis concerns the empirical adequacy of the view that the universe is so young. Is the scientific evidence plausibly explained by the hypothesis that the universe originated only 10,000-20,000 years ago? 

Now I have long ago taken a stand on YEC as a scientific hypothesis. My defense of the kalām cosmological argument on the basis of Big Bang cosmology presupposes that the universe is more than 13 billion years old. Indeed, I think that YEC as a scientific hypothesis is quite hopeless.

But YEC as a hermeneutical hypothesis is quite another matter. I want to approach the text with an open mind, despite the terrifying prospect that YEC might actually be correct as a hermeneutical hypothesis. In that case, we would face some very hard choices. Given YEC’s failure as a scientific hypothesis, we should have to conclude that the Bible teaches scientific error and therefore revise our doctrine of inspiration to accommodate this fact. That is a route one would prefer not to take.

So I’m very interested in exploring the suggestion of some commentators that the primaeval history of Genesis 1-11 is mytho-historical, a sort of fusion of history and mythology that should not be interpreted literally.

- William Lane Craig