William Lane Craig flubs on the Flood
Genesis compromiser again deceives about biblical creationist views
Published: 21 May 2020 (GMT+10)
William Lane Craig is one of the best-known Christian apologists in the world today, and has successfully debated many christophobes. Those presentations are instructive, because Craig systematically presents deep arguments in only a few areas. And even though his opponents know just what Craig will present, they have been unable to present sound arguments against them. This has made him very popular in Christian circles.
Unfortunately, one of his apologetics methods uses the big bang, which entails billions of years. For a long time, he stuck to his strengths and was quite low-key in defending long ages.
But in more recent years, he has openly attacked biblical (‘young-earth’) creationists. His attacks show that he has failed to do his homework. We can be sure that if one of his atheistic debate opponents had been so sloppy, Craig would have nailed him.
I suggest new readers check my critiques William Lane Craig’s intellectually dishonest attack on biblical creationists and William Lane Craig contra The Genesis Account for more details.
Since then, Dr Craig has branched out even further from his fields of expertise, and attacked biblical creationist views on astronomy, the Flood, speciation, and dinosaurs. He has seriously misrepresented creationist claims and arguments, and sometimes the misrepresentation is so egregious that one must wonder whether this misrepresentation is deliberate.
Sometimes Craig gets it right, even on Genesis
In an overall inaccurate article on the Genesis 5 and 11 (chrono)genealogies,1 he has a few things right. For example, against an anti-Masoretic, pro-Septuagint conspiracy theorist, he replied:
I would just say that when you read Old Testament commentaries on Genesis, I think that I’ve never seen anyone yet disagree with the priority of the Masoretic text. Everyone seems to think (that I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few) that the Septuagint text (that’s the Greek text of the Old Testament; that’s not the original language—that’s a Greek translation) and then the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch—everybody seems to think that those numbers have been changed because of these difficulties. But, as you indicate, everything is open for discussion.
Research by CMI scholars likewise supports the Masoretic text as original—and they also reject anti-Septuagint conspiracy theorizing even to prove a position we agree with (as CMI rejects conspiratorial thinking in general and other types of inadvisable arguments).
I don’t think that there’s anything in the text that indicates that the laws of nature changed before and after the Flood that would allow people to live longer. And here I might appeal to Jonathan Sarfati, who is himself a Young Earth Creationist who has written a commentary on Genesis 1–11. Sarfati himself argues against Young Earthers who say that somehow the antediluvian conditions were different that enabled people to live for centuries and then after the Flood somehow they changed. There just doesn’t seem to be anything in the text to support that, much less in science.
This shows that Craig can correctly represent a creationist argument when it suits him. For those who have not read The Genesis Account (which should include no one reading this site ), the relevant parts are extracted in Why don’t we live as long as Methuselah?
But there are other parts in this article where he is not so good. These don’t come under misrepresentations, but rather ignoring answers in the same book. E.g.
Student: … Genesis 6:3 – what do you think about that verse where it says “God says my spirit will not abide and man forever for he is flesh but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”
Dr. Craig: That is presented as the reason for the diminished lifespans of the postdiluvians. God has said, I’m not going to put up with these people in the same way and now their lifespans are going to be diminished to no more than 120 years. That would be the rationale. Maybe that would help to answer an earlier question about what’s the theological point that’s being made here by the diminished lifespans. Maybe it underlines the sinfulness of mankind and how their lives need to be shortened lest they utterly destroy the world and civilization.
Progressive creationist and fellow compromiser Hugh Ross has also taught that Genesis 6:3 teaches this,2 and some biblical creationists have also thought the same. But in The Genesis Account, p. 481, I respond:
But this cannot be right, because people lived past 120 for many years past this time. Even in modern times, the Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment (21 February 1875–4 August 1997) lived to 122 years and 164 days. She was very fit for a large part of this, taking up fencing at 85 and riding her bicycle till her 100th birthday.
No, the 120 years was the time from this intermarriage till God would wipe out most of mankind in the Flood. Hamilton explains:
Is this an age limit, or is it a period of grace prior to the Flood (i.e., his [remaining] days shall be 120 years)? The first alternative faces the difficulty that most of the people in the rest of Genesis lived well beyond 120 years. It is possible to interpret the longer life spans of the patriarchs as mitigation or suspension of the divine penalty, just as an earlier announced divine penalty (“on the day you eat of it you shall surely die”) was not immediately implemented.
But the (imminent) withdrawal of the divine Spirit as a means of lowering the life span of humanity does not make a great deal of sense. Rather, it seems to presage some event that is about to occur. Accordingly, we prefer to see in this phrase a reference to a period of time that prefaces the Flood’s beginning. It is parallel to Jonah 3:4, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” God’s hand of judgment is put on hold.3
Evolution in Genesis?
In another podcast a few days earlier,4 Craig makes a number of mistakes.
First, he tries to read evolution into Genesis:
I think it’s evident that unless one adopts the literal Young Earth Creationist interpretation, Genesis 1 doesn’t really say anything about how God created life on Earth. The Genesis account doesn’t really explain anything about the mechanisms by which God created. In fact, in two places, as we’ve seen, the account says that God declared let the Earth bring forth (in one case vegetation and in the other case terrestrial animals) suggesting that there may indeed be natural causes in bringing these things forth. So it seems to me that unless we adopt the Young Earth Creationist’s literal interpretation, there is no incompatibility between Genesis 1 and scientific theories about the origin and evolution of life.
Of course, Genesis doesn’t say anything about God’s mechanisms for creation, because there are no mechanisms for miraculous creation. God spoke, and it was so! The details are also wrong. Evolution states that life began in the sea; the Bible says it was land plants. And this was before God created the sun. Furthermore, the plants were to reproduce after their kinds, not one kind evolving into a different kind, and the creation of kinds was finished by the close of Day 3. Thus early Christian writers such as Augustine and Basil saw this as instantaneous creation, since God as the creator of time needs no time. This is the antithesis of evolution over vast eons. Basil was clearer that the days were 24 hours long, but that the creative acts were instantaneous, and that plants preceded the sun:
Speaking of Day 3: ‘“Let the earth”, the Creator adds, “bring forth the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself.” At this command every copse was thickly planted; all the trees, fir, cedar, cypress, pine, rose to their greatest height, the shrubs were straightway clothed with thick foliage.’ (Homily V:6)
‘“Let the earth bring forth.” This short command was in a moment a vast nature, an elaborate system. Swifter than thought it produced the countless qualities of plants.’ (Homily V:10)
‘“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to divide the day from the night”. Heaven and earth were the first; after them was created light; the day had been distinguished from the night, then had appeared the firmament and the dry element. The water had been gathered into the reservoir assigned to it, the earth displayed its productions, it had caused many kinds of herbs to germinate and it was adorned with all kinds of plants. However, the sun and the moon did not yet exist, in order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth. That is why there was a fourth day, and then God said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven.”‘ (Homily VI:2)
This is similar to what one (polite) questioner at a recent creation conference claimed. He somehow saw evolution in Genesis 1:20. The passage, he claimed, said that fish and birds evolved in the seas. Note that the latter might be read into the KJV translation:
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
But more modern translations more clearly disconnect the birds from the seas, e.g. CMI’s current standard ESV:
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
In any case, the same arguments against evolution apply, and more. For example, evolutionists believe that cetaceans, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, and mosasaurs evolved from land reptiles. God created land animals on Day 6, but the creation of all kinds of land and sea creatures was finished by the close of Day 5. Similarly, even if birds coming from the sea is read into Genesis 1:20, evolutionists believe they evolved from land creatures. So where is there room in Genesis for the supposed land creature intermediates? This is yet another example of how Genesis contradicts the evolutionary/uniformitarian time scale not only in time frame and detail, but also in the order of events. Like many evolution appeasers in the Church, Craig doesn’t seem to have many clues about what he is appeasing.
Furthermore, CMI has explained at length why evolution is incompatible with the Bible, not least the problem of human and animal death before Adam’s sin. But Craig ignores all that, to propose two poor ideas—anything but believe what the Bible teaches.
If we do adopt the Young Earth Creationist interpretation then it seems we have no choice but to radically revise the doctrine of inspiration so that the text either (1) is consistent with teaching error – that though inspired, the Scriptures teach error, or (2) we could say that the antiquated science and history in Scripture is not part of the teachings of Scripture so that Scripture is not in error in what it teaches but it doesn’t teach the antiquated science and history that is found in Genesis 1–11.
The first, “though inspired, the Scriptures teach error,” makes no sense. God doesn’t inspire error! The second, pretending that Scripture doesn’t teach what it clearly does in Genesis 1–11 makes no sense. The rest of the Bible’s authors and Jesus Christ clearly took Genesis as history.
Then Craig proceeds to hurl lots of elephants:
For Young Earth Creationism is not merely incompatible with evolutionary biology; rather, as creation scientists themselves recognize, Young Earth Creationism is in massive conflict with modern science, history, and linguistics. They therefore have to propose an utterly different alternative science and history that is frequently bizarre. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives in this class but those of you who are tempted by creation science should understand just how wild it is. You need to look at it with open eyes.
We recognize no such thing. There is not a single observation in real science or linguistics that we dispute. That’s why most of the founders of modern science were creationists, and why even today we have creationist nuclear and other physicists, chemists, geologists, paleontologists, geneticists, medical doctors, engineers, and biochemists—and linguists. We certainly dispute the materialistic framework of history in which observations are interpreted.
But Craig hopes to get into specifics, and zeroes in on the supposedly insoluble distant starlight problem:
The idea that the universe is only six to ten thousand years old would not only force us to abandon modern geology, paleontology, archaeology, and dating techniques, but it would make it impossible for us even to see the stars at night since light has not had sufficient time to travel from the stars to Earth. In order to explain a fact so simple as that we can see the stars at night Young Earth Creationists have had to propose implausible alternative cosmologies. For example, some have said that the universe is an expanding rotating ball of matter in empty space with our solar system located at its center. Now, never mind that such a model fails to deliver on its promises of how we can see starlight coming from galaxies that are billions of light years away, the more fundamental point that I’m making is that Young Earth Creationists, in order to explain a phenomenon so simple as that you can see the stars at night, are forced to revamp the entire universe.
As usual, such critics ignore the fact that the big bangers have their own ‘distant starlight’ problem. This is the horizon problem, which as New Scientist admitted in 13 things that do not make sense (19 March 2005, updated 14 April 2009):
This “horizon problem” is a big headache for cosmologists, so big that they have come up with some pretty wild solutions. “Inflation”, for example. You can solve the horizon problem by having the universe expand ultra-fast for a time, just after the big bang, blowing up by a factor of 1050 in 10–33 seconds. But is that just wishful thinking?
Inflation, involving faster-than-light expansion of space, is indeed a fudge factor, as secular cosmogonist and big-bang critic Eric Lerner says. Big bangers have no plausible mechanism for starting or stopping it, and gravity must run in reverse to repel rather than attract. Others have proposed that light itself was much faster in the past. So for all Craig’s bluff about creationists being undone simply by the speed of light from stars, the big bang proposes either faster-than-light space expansion, or “faster-than-light” light.
Craig also ignores that the current creationist models all involve cutting edge real science, in particular Einsteinian relativity, both special and general. My 2018 article summarizes some of the latest ones, with links to more detail.
One might try to defend Craig by saying that he is simply not aware of all the creation models and answers that deal with his straw man objections. He claims to be an apologist and a theologian, but then seemingly doesn’t bother to study the very thing he is criticizing. Can you imagine if creationists didn’t understand evolution before the latter was critiqued? As such, one does get the impression that these are false arguments designed to malign the creationist position on the presumption that most people will just take his word for it, sadly. In short, this is not acceptable.
Craig on the Flood
It doesn’t just stop there. Take for example the attempt to explain away the Earth’s sedimentation on the basis of so-called flood geology – Noah’s Flood. The idea that there was ever a worldwide flood that destroyed all terrestrial life on Earth and laid down the Earth’s sediments is a fantasy.
The author of Genesis, as well as the NT authors and Jesus Himself, would beg to differ.
For a devastating critique of flood geology I would just commend to you Hugh Ross’ Navigating Genesis in which he has one chapter devoted to a scientific critique of flood geology.
Good grief, Craig must be really desperate to appeal to someone as demonstrably unreliable as Hugh Ross. See some of his latest bluffs. In any case, Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1–11, is basically an updated version of The Genesis Question (1998), which I reviewed at the time, including its local flood arguments. Refuting Compromise has a whole chapter refuting Ross’s attacks on a global Flood, which he ignores. The Genesis Account, which Craig acts as if he has read, also explains both the scientific and biblical evidence for a global Flood.
The new version barely interacts with critics, or with creationist geologists. But CMI contributor Fred Butler has reviewed Navigating Genesis in depth, including the local flood chapter.5
Craig relies on Ross’s local flood fallacies
It’s also notable that Craig is blind to the impossibility of the Rossite Flood. Ross believes in a geographically local but anthropologically universal Flood. That is, he believes the Flood was in the Mesopotamian valley, but wiped out all humanity not on the Ark. When did this occur? According to his website:
These three beliefs have led Ross to suggest that Noah’s flood transpired around 50,000 years ago.6
But Ross also believes the following about Adam:
RTB holds that all humans (including the Australian Aborigines and American Indians) descended from Adam and Eve, who were a historical couple existing sometime between 6,000 and 100,000 years ago.7
This entails that Adam and Eve could have existed after the Flood he claims was 50,000 years ago. He needs to get his story straight! Well, he tried to, in a newer article on the site:
The consistency of these three independent lines of evidence instills some confidence that Adam and Eve lived somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 years ago.8
We have already noted how Ross has changed his dates over the years, desperately trying to keep up with secular claims. But he can’t cope with radiometrically ‘dated’ Homo sapiens in Ethiopia to 195,000 years old (though elsewhere he has appealed to radiometric dating). Ethiopia is outside Mesopotamia last time I checked, so these fossils show that humans were living outside the region of the Rossian flood that was supposed to wipe out all humanity.
Another absurdity of the Rossian flood was that it left no trace:
The Flood, though massive, lasted but one year and ten days. A flood of such brief duration typically does not leave a deposit substantial enough to be positively identified thousands of years later.9
But if so, then the same argument applies to those of tranquil flood theories in general: 2 Peter 3:3–6 holds “scoffers” culpable because they “deliberately ignore this fact, … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” But if this Deluge left no trace, then they would have a good excuse for being unaware of this.
Also, as John Woodmorappe pointed out long ago, even the Rossian flood would have been far more powerful than the Lake Missoula Flood, near the end of the Ice Age. But far from leaving no trace, the latter flood left a huge amount of evidence, such as the Grand Coulee, which is 80 km (50 miles) long, up to 9 km (6 miles) wide, and 275 m (900 ft) deep. So it beggars belief that an even more powerful flood would have not left any identifiable trace.
Even geographically, the Rossian flood makes no sense. One major problem is that the geography of Mesopotamia is a half-bowl open to the south. Since the Rossian flood requires a wall of water ~100 m,10 what would hold it up for a year, and stop it flowing out to the Indian Ocean? But the Ark ended up in the mountains of Ararat, in the opposite direction, and also somehow levitated another 100 m.
So just like with the distant starlight problem, Craig is not only unaware of creationist answers to his views, but also of the glaring weaknesses in his own. Perhaps he is trying to shore up support for his arguments using the ancient Hindu proverb, “Enemy of my enemy is my friend.”11
Craig and Ross on the Ark animals
And in this and other books, including A Matter of Days, Ross also deceitfully attacks creationist views on the Ark animals and speciation. In my review at the time of the relevant chapter of the book, I exposed his many distortions, many from overt atheopathic hatchet jobs on the Ark that still do the rounds. Adding to Ross’ distortions, seven years after this and another review of A Matter of Days, Ross claimed:
Sarfati and the rest of the young-earth creationist community have yet to respond to, or even acknowledge the existence of, A Matter of Days, despite the book’s having resided at the top of Amazon.com’s list of “books young-earth creationists do not want you to read.”
It seems that Craig has parroted some of Ross’ claims, as seen by his continuation:
Just how bizarre Young Earth Creationism is becomes evident from reading Jonathan Sarfati’s Young Earth Creationist commentary on Genesis 1–11. In order to explain flood geology Sarfati supposes that after the flood the animals that Noah had taken on board disembark and then filled the entire world. Now, how do you suppose that the hippopotami on board made it from the mountains of Turkey where the ark landed to the rivers of Central Africa or how the little koala bears and platypuses crawled all the way from Turkey to Australia or the sloths to South America.
We can expect such dishonest distortion from atheists, but we shouldn’t expect it from a Christian apologist. One of CMI’s core books, the Creation Answers Book, includes Chapter 17: How did the animals get to Australia? which covers:
- How did animals get to Australia?
- How did the animals get from remote countries to the Ark?
- After the Flood, did kangaroos hop all the way to Australia?
- What did koalas eat on the way?
The book explains that over a number of generations, many animals traversed land bridges during the Ice Age—which was caused by the Genesis Flood (as the previous chapter explains). Similarly, a single pair of rabbits or red foxes didn’t need to cross from one side of Australia to another. Animals can also cross vast stretches of water on natural rafts, which sometimes happens in modern times. Craig also overlooks the huge problems of world animal and plant distributions for evolutionary assumptions, including continental drift.
So those are my real answers. But what does Craig claim my answer would be?
Well, Sarfati’s answer is that plate tectonics had not yet separated the supercontinent into the world’s separate continents thus enabling the animals to migrate to their various habitats. But they had to do it in a hurry. All the continental drift and mountain building such as the raising of Mount Everest all took place rapidly since the flood just a few thousand years ago.
Here, it’s hard to believe that his misrepresentation is not intentional. The Genesis Account was very clear that the separation of continents occurred during the Flood (Ch. 18). And this has long been CMI’s preferred position: that catastrophic plate tectonics was a major cause of the Flood, not something that happened after the Flood.12
Furthermore, earlier I had explicitly rejected a continental division after the Flood during the “days of Peleg” (which actually refers to the division of “the whole earth (erets) had one language and one speech” (Genesis 11:1), i.e. Babel), partly because:
However, such splitting would most likely lead to another global flood! But in Genesis 9:13-15, God formed a rainbow to indicate there would be no repeat of ‘a Flood to destroy all flesh.’ This gives us the clue as to when the continents did move apart—during Noah’s Flood—see What about continental drift? from the Creation Answers Book.
Craig of course swallows the usual evolutionary agitprop that dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, so long before man existed (although Jesus said man was there “from the beginning of creation”). So he has no time for the biblical Ark account:
What about the dinosaurs, you might ask? Well, since they were contemporaneous with Noah he must have taken them on board the ark, too. Sarfati solves the problem of room on board by suggesting that Noah took juvenile specimens—two of every genus. Not two of every species; two of every genus. Now, since there were at least 500 dinosaur genera, Noah must have had at least a thousand dinosaurs on board the ark which he then released into the world upon disembarkation.
Of course not two of every species. It is unfortunately typical of atheistic bibliophobes to overload the Ark with loads of ‘species’. They also frequently include creatures that weren’t part of the cargo that God mandated to Noah. Noah had to take only land vertebrates on board, i.e. animals with a backbone—so no fish, plants, insects, or Congressmen ?
Ross has parroted these objections, and now Craig has parroted Ross. The main difference is that Craig is fine with biological evolution, while Ross goes to the equally unbiblical opposite extreme of ‘fixity of species’, held by Darwin’s mentor Charles Lyell.
But in The Genesis Account, I explained extensively why the biblical kind is much broader than the ‘species’. I further explained how mountainous regions—such as where the Ark landed—are ideal for rapid allopatric speciation, because of the geographical isolation of small populations. Furthermore, “two of every genus”, including dinosaurs, is well within the Ark’s carrying capacity, as documented in Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study. Dinosaurs were likely on board as juveniles, before their massive growth spurt that has been documented from growth rings in their bones. And it is quite likely that the kind was as high as the ‘family’ in most cases, meaning even fewer creatures needed to embark.
Craig is also blissfully unaware of how dinosaurs are actually a real problem for evolution. While dinosaurs are extinct today, the overview article Can dinosaurs falsify evolution? summarizes two lines of evidence for dinosaurs living much more recently than 66 million years ago, with links for further information and documentation:
- Clear evidence that humans must have seen dinosaurs, both biblical (Behemoth) and secular
- Soft tissue, proteins, DNA, and radiocarbon in dino bones, which could not have lasted millions of years.13
Only this year, researchers including Mary Schweitzer discovered cartilage from a hadrosaur (Hypacrosaurus) ‘dated’ to 70 million years, with relatively intact DNA.14 But real experimental science shows that DNA would be totally fragmented into single nucleotides (building blocks) after 6.8 million years, even frozen at -5°C. The diagnostic test for DNA requires, according to the paper, double-stranded DNA at least 6 nucleotides long.
It’s a pity when a famous apologist like Craig switches from defending and proclaiming Christianity to appeasing uniformitarian science. It is no accident that the quality of his arguments has also gone badly downhill. Much of this is sloppiness and failure to address the strongest arguments for the opposing side. Unfortunately, some of his arguments seem to be intentional knocking down of straw men.
References and notes
- Craig, W.L., Excursus on Creation of Life and Biological Diversity (Part 16): Genealogies in Genesis 1–11 (continued), Podcast transcript, reasonablefaith.org, 12 Jun 2019. Return to text.
- Ross, H.N., The Genesis Question, Ch. 15, 1998, 2001. Return to text.
- Hamilton, V.P., The Book of Genesis, chapters 1–17, p. 269, 1990. Return to text.
- Craig, W.L., Excursus on Creation of Life and Biological Diversity (Part 27): Scientific Evidence Pertinent to the Origin and Evolution of Biological Complexity, Podcast transcript, reasonablefaith.org, 9 Sep 2019. Return to text.
- Butler, F., Reviewing Navigating Genesis, hipandthigh.wordpress.com, 13 Sep 2017. Return to text.
- Bontrager, K., Biblical Foundation for RTB’s Flood Model, https://reasons.org, 1 Jun 2011. Return to text.
- Zweering, J., RTB’s Position on Humanity and Hominids, reasons.org, 4 July 2007. Return to text.
- Age of Adam, reasons.org, accessed 13 Feb 2020. Return to text.
- Ross, Ref. 2, p. 159. Return to text.
- Ross, Ref. 2, pp. 159–160. Return to text.
- The principle, albeit not that exact expression, was first recorded in the 4th-century BC Sanskrit treatise of politics, war, and economics called the Arthasastra (book 6), by the royal adviser and philosopher Kautilya (Chanakya):
The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy.
The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).Return to text.
- Not just CMI’s preferred position. After The Genesis Account was first published, ICR geologist Dr Tim Clarey wrote Empirical data support seafloor spreading and catastrophic plate tectonics, J Creation 30(1):76–82, 2016. Return to text.
There is a maintained spreadsheet on ‘ancient’ soft tissue and biomolecule discoveries, available from RSR Reports on ICR’s Fresh Fossils, kgov.com. Summary, from Joel Tay:
There are currently 111 publications cataloging original biomaterial in ‘ancient’ fossils. Of these, 54 papers spanning 29 journals (see cell A169) deal specifically with dinosaurs biomaterial. The current record holder is from ‘2.5 billion year old’ algal and bacterial organic molecules (see cell D83).Return to text.
- Bailleul, A.M. and 5 others,, Evidence of proteins, chromosomes and chemical markers of DNA in exceptionally preserved dinosaur cartilage, National Science Review, nwz206, 12 Jan 2020 | doi:10.1093/nsr/nwz206. Return to text.