Book Review: "In Quest of the Historical Adam"

In Quest of the Historical Adam is one of several books[i] published in recent years that attempts to grapple with recent findings in genetics that directly question the historicity of the Judeo-Christian belief that all mankind originated with a single pair of humans as described in Genesis. William Lane Craig’s contribution is not entirely unique, but its depth of theological analysis, paired with Craig’s extensive overview of human evolution, makes it a significant contribution. Craig is a Visiting Scholar in Philosophy in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He is a Wesleyan theologian who has published extensively on such topics as Natural Theology, Christian apologetics, the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, and the historical plausibility of the resurrection of Jesus. He also believes that evolutionary biology is compatible with Christian belief, something that soon becomes apparent when reading this book.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you again Bryan for another well written book review. Reading it gave me a pretty good idea of the book’s content. Challrnging theme indeed but certainly rich of reasons to trigger our deep thinking related to our “… G-G-G-Great Grandpa Adam.”

The author’s propositions fit well into the package of knowledge that has been unpacked by Science in the past few decades. As I say, the more Science uncovers the secrets/realities of (universal) Nature, the more challenging the propositions based on Faith become.

Yes, denial of reality, and of facts uncovered by Science, will make people more skeptics of the religious propositions that cannot be proved other than by mere “faith.”

Thanks again for motivating good thinking.



I’m waiting for a review on this book review before offering an opinion. Has your cabinet member informed you when he will send the manuscript?



Elmer, this is a very challenging, thought provoking material. I bet it will attrattract many of the best thinkers here at Spectrum. Let’s see what they can come up with in terms of posting ideas (hopefully not attacking Bryan @bness on a personal basis as it happened last time… ).


A couple of incorrigibles . . . with friends like you . . . well, you know the saying. :rofl:


Well, I just hope people can recognize I am just the messenger. I am no theologian, or so I’ve been told, so I truly do want to see more Adventist theologians ponder issues like this. We scientists know the science, now help us with what it means in relation to our theology.


Fascinating review, Bryan. I see in Craig’s work, as represented here, answers to questions that have been cropping up for myself and others for some time now.

My takeaway is that we really do not know, do we? I for one have growing questions regarding literal biblical history, and while, even in what Craig hypothesizes, there are questions there is a certain ringing of possibility.

In the end, I think it important that all of us be able to live within the tension of not always knowing. A literal interpretation of scripture is a setup for disillusionment, while taking the approach that maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do about such things as the historical Adam can be freeing indeed.


[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:23077”]
Simply ignoring the difficulties will not make them go away, and more and more believers when confronted with scientific realities may simply choose to abandon Christianity entirely. [/quote]

And this is a bad thing how?

What? All those people who believe that they’ve been miraculously “born again” will have to admit their “conversion” was something as mundane as changing channels in their heads?

And without a bunch of memory verses they can call on, or sans Jesus’ robes to hide behind, they’ll all be forced to accept responsibility for the judgments they make of others rather than blame god or Satan?

But best of all, people will have to stop hoping for a better world to come and instead might work to make the best of this one, as its most likely the only one we’ll ever get?

You may say I’m a dreamer but I don’t see the downside of 2 billion people voluntarily renouncing a religion that has caused so much self doubt and suffering in the world for the past two millennia.

Instead, I’d call it a good start, after which we could all hook up with Salman Rushdie and help him with his philosophical jihad on Islam.



Yes, I hope there will be some Adventist Theologians jumping in here, sharing with us their takes on the issue(s). It can be a very interesting, instructive conversation. Thanks again, Bryan, for investing so much time in working on this review.

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John, after many years of always “knowing” things in my youth, some years ago I finally had to surrender and accept that it’s better not to have an answer than having a bad answer and keep insisting on it. At that time I decided to add some components of Agnosticism to my cognitive foundation, and I must say that it was a breeze. The “tension of not always knowing” simply disappeared.

Many Adventists could benefit from a little “shot of Agnosticism,” thus learning to say “I don’t know” when they don’t know. But I understand that, considering the background, it must be very difficult for some people to do trhis.


However, “Not knowing” really does put a damper on the ego…especially when one was been weaned on “We have the TRUTH”. :grin:


Without going into the question of whether or not the term “Adventist Theologian” is an oxymoron (that is, are they theologians or EGW-ogians) I’d suggest you not hold your breath waiting for their input on this @GeorgeTichy .

I’ve seen a lot of WLC’s stuff on YouTube where he engages in some rather unsuccessful attempts to impress “non-theists” with his variations on the Kalam Argument and I suspect if any Adventist scholar decides to take him on, it would also be in an adversarial, even disciplinarian tone with the underlying assumptions being that WLC needs to understand his Bible and EGW better!

It seems to me that the Adventist scholar could either adopt that approach or be accused of not being a “true” Adventist.



It looks like this might be the topic that draws the line in the Adventist sand box. The editors should think about doubling the 13 days remaining, or taken it down now. It’s going to be frustrating getting to day thirteen and not have solved the problems with this - but the cat is out of the bag now, so I’m buckling up. And my first question is - what about “Lucy”?

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I don’t think 30 days, or 30 millennia are going to help.

The only real resolution, as far as I can figure it, is for Jesus to return in all his divine glory and tell everyone that none of the other prophets or preachers knew him at all and that only EGW, in addition to two, or possibly three other commenters on Spectrum’s Forum, actually understood his good news.



I plan to continue breathing normally, “if time should last” as I was taught to say in SS….



Yeah, hath God said?

The secret things belong to God, but that which is revealed belongs to us and to our children.

One basic problem with this book is that Adam is not, and cannot be, an historic figure. The entire OT is about the Jewish national history.

When it comes to genealogy, based on the Bible, it goes back to Noah’s sons depending on the actual time between Adam and Noah. But, here again, it’s about the Jewish national history, with a lot of faith thrown in. And it’s all a out faith.


Thanks for the review! After reading ‘The Language of God’ by Francis Collins and ‘The Lost World of Adam and Eve’ by John H Walton, I don’t have any real issues with what you have reviewed. Sounds like another book for my list to read. Very fascinating, to say the least!!


lol…it’s a winning formula, isn’t it: use speculation on the secret things that belong to god to question, and ultimately deny, the things he has revealed…

i don’t see how our church can be expected to accept a mythological Adam any
more than they can be expected to accept a mythological resurrection…wholesale denial of inspiration can’t be expected to fly…

this is one area where our mainstream theologians are in severe disagreement with both Paul and egw…there is so much conflation of individual and derived responsibility, as if these cannot both be true, that the situation now, especially in conservative circles, is a complete mess…many misunderstandings and outright errors stem from a refusal to accept the derived, or inherited, guilt component of original sin…

i don’t think the evidence is so overwhelming when the assumptions behind the offered interpretation of that evidence are understood, and taken into account…and i don’t think our theologians are necessarily waiting with bated breath to find out the consensus of the non-adventist world…well, maybe our theologians are, but our rank and file membership isn’t…

is it my responsibility to adjust the explanation for my faith because the person sitting next to me, looking at that explanation, abandons Christianity entirely…i don’t think so…this is a free country…people can believe what they want…even Christianity articulated by Christ didn’t convince everybody…and if faith in Christianity is predicated on choice, which it is, by definition it means there will be those who choose to reject it, whatever they think they’re doing…

we cannot strip from Christianity the need to make a choice whether or not to believe by offering an explanation so compelling, and so full-proof, that no-one can possibly resist or deny it, or face the need to exercise faith in order to believe it…the initiative to believe is a required part of Christianity that cannot be circumvented…it may be at least somewhat true that our society is conditioned to believe that everything valid must be offered on a silver platter of invincibility that has little or no need for a refuse option, but Christianity isn’t part of that conditioning…


There are theological implications to this, yes, but the biggest (IMO) is dodged yet again. The problem of evil becomes much larger as one grapples with the implications of a deity who didn’t have to make the world a place of suffering and death yet chose to do so anyway. Adam and Eve did not bring suffering and death into the world as most SDAs believe, but this creator did on purpose. The evidence works against the idea that this deity, if it exists, is one who is loving and good.

As someone who is no longer a believer primarily, though not entirely, because of this, and as one who knows quite a few in the same boat, I can say with some backing that this problem is a big one. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that pretty much anyone I know who has lost their faith cites some version of the problem of evil as a main reason. This is particularly true for SDAs who grew up with YEC, came to realize it isn’t scientifically tenable, and then had to wrestle with the theological implications of that. Those Christians who grew up learning about evolution as biology and theology as something mostly separate often don’t have the same theological struggles because they aren’t really trying to reconcile the two.

If one accepts as a given truth that the Christian God exists and that God is loving and good, then one can wrestle with the problem of evil as a theological hobby while maintaining faith. Believing that God exists and is good, how do I understand this difficult thing? But if one starts actually questioning those two assertions in light of evolution and the ongoing tragedies of life, weighing the evidence and the implications, it is my experience that often the result is an inability to continue to believe. This is particularly true now that there is much less societal cost in non belief compared to generations past.


I am sure that “Christian humility” can take care of it… :wink: