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#317 Confused about Concordism

May 13, 2013

Dr. Craig,

I am confused... You have repeatedly said you are not an "evidentialist" but you have said that our theology should be molded by modern-day science. (If you need references I can of course provide them). Secondly you have mentioned that we should not use the biblical text as a reference point back into science, but at the same time in both your published work and speaking you specify the biblical account of "creation ex nihilo" as being accurately conjectured in the Genesis account? Now while I agree (to a degree) with you I think, if we use the same logic on the virgin birth (which you admit to believe by faith alone) then shouldn't we conclude in light of modern science that the biblical text was simply using the virgin-birth account as perhaps a symbol of Jesus' purity but it was not really a virgin birth?

Do you see where I am getting at? It is quite confusing to get a solid idea where you stand on many of these type of issues; sometimes it seems more like you are close to a Karl Barth and other times to a more traditionalist viewpoint. I am and have been a RF chapter leader for several years now and though we can of course agree to disagree on points, I do want to accurately represent your position. (My specialty is in the philosophy of history with degrees in history/philosophy post grad in ancient history)

I hope you see where I am coming from and you or a colleague that checks these emails for you can help break this down a little for me. I personally have no problem (much like Francis Schaeffer or a Wayne Grudemen) in just saying "I don't know" on certain areas, but once we commit ourselves to one area (such as letting our exegesis be guided by modern science) we are just one step from deism it would seem? Because even if you have ample room for the historicity of the resurrection you do not for the virgin birth so how can you say the virgin birth is "factual" but most of the Genesis accounts must be looked at through the lens of modern science? (I am not a young earth creationist asking this mind you). My wife and I will be on the RF cruise this month which we are excited about but if you or someone could help clarify these point that would be fantastic and it would save me having to ask you on the trip. ;o)


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Dr. craig’s response


Boy, James, it worries me that someone who has so grossly misunderstood me as to think that my views are similar to Karl Barth’s should be leading one of our Reasonable Faith chapters! Seriously, I’m glad you’re coming on the cruise so that we can sit down and thoroughly discuss these matters.

Right; I’m not an evidentialist in the sense that I do not think that faith needs to be based upon argument and evidence in order to be rational. Rather I think that belief in what Alvin Plantinga calls the great truths of the Gospel can be properly basic and warranted for us due to the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. I am an evidentialist in another, more classical sense of the term: I think that there are Christian evidences which warrant Christian belief for the person who is apprised of them.

Similarly, I oppose the idea that “our theology should be molded by modern-day science.” If you will listen to our Defenders podcasts on “Doctrine of Creation: Excursus on Creation and Evolution,” you will find that I reject in no uncertain terms the hermeneutic of Concordism, that is, the view that modern science should shape our interpretation of ancient biblical texts. What I have affirmed is that in doing systematic theology we should take a synoptic approach which seeks to integrate modern science with what the Bible teaches. That is a very different project! Thus at the end of the excursus mentioned above you will hear me offer an integrative model which attempts to take seriously both the biblical text and modern evolutionary theory. But I reject the view that exegesis should be guided by evolutionary theory or any other scientific theory. That’s just bad hermeneutics.

I’m not sure what you mean by the expression “we should not use the biblical text as a reference point back into science.” I do think that we should try to understand what the biblical text teaches and then integrate that teaching with what we learn from modern science into a coherent worldview that takes both theology and science seriously. My and Paul Copan’s claim in Creation out of Nothing (Baker: 2004) is that, wholly apart from modern science, the Bible teaches that God created the world out of nothing (= not out of anything). That is the burden of Paul’s lengthy exegesis of the biblical text over several chapters. I then argue that this biblical teaching coheres well with what modern science teaches. That exemplifies the integrative approach to systematic theology that I advocate.

How should we apply this approach to the virgin birth? We begin by ignoring what biology has to say about conception and ask what these ancient narratives teach about Jesus’ birth. (To do otherwise would be to embrace the hermeneutic of Concordism.) When we examine these narratives and their literary genre, we find that the virgin birth is not intended to be merely a symbol of Jesus’ purity but is presented as factual. Turning, then, to modern science, we find, obviously, that like the resurrection, such an event is naturally impossible. Therefore, if such an event took place, it had to be a miracle, that is, an event with a supernatural cause. That will be a thorn in the eye to any naturalist, but for the theist it is hardly problematic.

I trust that you can now see how inaccurately you have represented my position in characterizing it as “letting our exegesis be guided by modern science” and holding that “the Genesis accounts must be looked at through the lens of modern science.” I am not a Concordist.

- William Lane Craig