HomeArticlesA Critique on Tremper Longman’s Theistic Evolution

A Critique on Tremper Longman’s Theistic Evolution

A Review of Tremper Longman III, Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence (2019)

I have only been acquainted with Tremper Longman III from his book How to Read the Psalms. That was a decent book and full of great advice for hermeneutics. This new book falls short of what I had expected. He takes four separate subjects: evolution, the historicity of the exodus and conquest of Joshua, divine violence, and homo sexuality. His chapter on evolution presents his position as a theistic evolutionist. He literally defies every method of sound hermeneutics, considers Genesis 1-11 mythology (though he calls it theological history), rejects original sin, inherited sin, replaces a literal Adam and Eve for a group of hominins, lies about the historical views on the topic, reveals his ignorance of biology and other fields of science, and tortures the text beyond recognition.

The second chapter defends the historical exodus but denies the nation of Israel as being numbered in the millions, saying it was in the thousands. For the most part of this chapter he takes a conservative view but in so doing, he contradicts his previous chapter’s applied hermeneutics.

The third chapter is on divine violence, asking does God act violently against people. His answer is affirmative, which I agree with him. But, again, reading this chapter and the arguments he makes reveals consistent contradictions of his first chapter.

The fourth and final chapter is on homosexuality in which he upholds the traditional conservative position. He seems to present an egalitarian position, but most of the chapter was decent.

The problem throughout the entire book was when I agreed with him, he was contradicting his hermeneutic methods in chapter one. His inconsistencies were so numerous, the book was actually irritating to read. He makes some good points but I would never recommend the book. In the last three chapters he interacts with other authors, but the first chapter he avoids any such interaction with authors he disagrees except an extremely brief discussing on the book Theistic Evolution. Im sure this is because he knows his position could not hold much weight against others.

A Critique on Tremper Longman’s Theistic Evolution

Tremper Longman III has recently released his latest book entitled, Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence, Baker Books (Grand Rapids, MI: 2019). All references to this book will be in parenthesis noted the page number.

In the introduction, he tells us “this book is written for the church and not the broader culture…. It evaluates attempts from within the evangelical church to reinterpret texts in a way that is more culturally acceptable.” (p. xvi) He then derides that many authors dealing with controversial topics get labeled as “heretic” or “fundamentalist” (p. xviii) indicating he views fundamentalist as a derogatory term and the fact that it is the extreme opposite of heretic would obviously imply that a fundamentalist would not take a compromised position on controversial issues when interpreting the Scripture. In other words, he is not disturbed about the reinterpretation of the Bible to make it fit culturally acceptable to contemporary opinion.

In his attempt to establish reasons to reject the literal meaning of the word “day” in Genesis 1, he says, “The Protestant church has always taught that the information and ideas that are essential for our salvation are clearly taught in the Bible but that clarity does not extend to disputed issues such as the nature of the days of Genesis 1. We should pay attention to what the Westminster Confession of Faith, an influential Reformed creed from the seventeenth century, says on the matter: ‘All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.’” (p. 9) However, the Westminster Confession found the plain meaning of the word day self-evident in its statement: “It pleased God… in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.” (Westminster Confession, 4.1)

The same Confession states of the Bible: “The Old Testament in Hebrew… and the New Testament in Greek… being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical…” (Westminster Confession 1.8) This is relevant as he later cites the Belgic Confession (article 2) about special revelation in the Scripture and the second book of general revelation in creation both being necessary for our need to interpret. He follows this thought stating,

God reveals himself in Scripture and through nature. Both are ‘books’ that involve interpretation…. The philosophy of science yields the scientific method that provides the methodological principle to explore nature in order to support theories from nature.

God is the ultimate author of both Scripture and nature. When both are correctly interpreted, they will not conflict. (p. 22)

The error in this logic is that it is the Scripture that God has preserved and can be interpreted more accurately while nature has become corrupted by sin. His expression is an attempt to say scientists that have written on the topic of evolution are to be accepted as they interpret the book of nature which was written by God. But to quote the Belgic Confession (article 7), “For since it is forbidden to add to the Word of God, or take anything away from it [Deut 12:32; Rev22:18-19], it is plainly demonstrated that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects. Therefore we must not consider human writings—no matter how holy their authors may have been—equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of times or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else. For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule…” I would agree with Longman that when nature is accurately interpreted, it will not contradict the Bible’s teaching about creation, but I would utterly reject the idea of theistic evolution as even he admits evolution is not taught in Scripture. I have shown elsewhere evolutionary philosophy was developed by ancient pagans (see Heath Henning, “Evolution is Paganism” Feb. 29, 2016; https://truthwatchers.com/evolution-is-paganism/ ). How are they capable of interpreting nature correctly without having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:14-16)? It is the need of the Holy Spirit to help us interpret the Scripture (1 John 2:20, 27), so why should we assume interpreting the alleged other book of nature is any different?

It is the emphasis on correctly interpreting both Scripture and nature which is the issues I have with Longman’s view as he practiced obscene hermeneutic methods to justify what he admits is not in the Bible. He says, “science helps us see that the Bible does not claim that humanity goes back to a single originating couple. Indeed, reading the Bible in the light of modern science helps us understand the doctrine of original sin better.” (p. 24) The Bible clearly says humanity started with a single originating couple—Adam and Eve. The type of hermeneutics he uses to deny that the Bible teaches what is clearly taught is what we will analyze in the article to show that he constantly contradicted his self in practicing his hermeneutics throughout this book. I will not dwell on the science as I have written many articles on the issues already.

In discussing his hermeneutic method to interpret Genesis 1-3 (and chapters 1-11 by extension though he is only dealing with chapters 1-3) he approaches the matter of the genre of the text in question, which he labels “theological history.” (p. 26) Explaining this he notes that he rejects the literal interpretation of a six 24-hour days of creation and states, “Often the term myth is used to identify Genesis 1-3 as nonhistorical. My view is that a close reading leads us to a third, middle way. Genesis 1-3 does make historical claims, but it describes these past events using figurative language.” (p. 26) Of course, he cannot deny that the grammar is clearly a historical narrative, so he has to strip the historical content out of the text somehow. By using the term “theological history,” he avoids calling it a myth himself, but this is what he means to say. He informs us this is truly what he means in a footnote which reads:

I prefer “theological history” to [James] Dunn’s “mythic history,” though I am pretty sure we mean the same thing. The reason I avoid the term myth is that it is so often taken in its popular rather than in its academic meaning. The popular meaning implies for many people that the story is false, while the academic meaning would defend the idea that myth does not make clear whether or not there is some kind of historical reference behind the story but emphasizes the fact that these are important foundational stories telling the reader truths about ourselves and our world, including the divine realm. (p. 69, fn 81)

But history is actual event that occurred as they are reported, not stories told through figurative language to mean something that is contradicting what the words actually are saying. Dunn’s term “mythic history” is an oxymoron, as is the definition Longman applies to his term “theological history,” which he invents simply to call Genesis 1-3 (and by extension 1-11) a myth, but he softens the phrase to make it more palatable to his conservative readers.

Even using the phrase “theological history” seems contradicting when coming from Longman as he discusses the historicity of the exodus.  He writes:

Is the theological message of the exodus independent of its historicity? I would have to answer this question in the negative. If the exodus did not happen, then there would be no theological value to the story. Why? Because the power of the story of the exodus is that it establishes a track record for God.

Let me illustrate my point by looking at Psalm 77, a psalm that looks back on the exodus event as a source of comfort in a difficult present and hope for an uncertain future. (p. 93)

He criticizes Seibert for rejecting what the Bible clearly teaches. Longman argues, “So at this point he [Seibert] appeals to our more enlightened understanding over against the biblical worldview…. In his argument that we should not easily adopt the biblical worldview as our worldview, he gives two examples, cosmology and polygamy, and says that it is pretty obvious that we should accept neither as part of our view of the world today.” (150) Since Longman also rejects the cosmology of the Bible, his hermeneutic contradicts his argument against Seibert’s argument here. Longman also lands himself into a position arguing for polygamy by interpreting Adam and Eve as a group of primitive humans (as will be discussed below). He elsewhere complains, “As I read [G. A.] Boyd, [E. A.] Seibert, and [P.] Enns, I have the impression that they are concerned to make the Bible and its message more acceptable to a twenty-first-century Western audience.” (p. 204) How can we not see this statement as a major beam in his own eye?

Longman further confirms his opinion of a mythic interpretation when comparing it to other ancient near eastern creation accounts which he plainly calls “myths.” (p. 40-44) The first myth he refers to is Enuma Elish, which if anyone reads will see any similarities are superficially stretched to draw imaginary parallels 1)see The Ancient Near East (ed. James B. Pritcher), Princeton Press (Princeton, New Jersey: 1973), vol. 1, pp. 31-39. Jewish scholar Umberto Cassuto scoffed at any comparison due to the vast differences 2)Umberto Cassuto (Trans. Israel Abraham), A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part 1: From Adam to Noah Genesis 1-V8, The Magness Press (Jerusalem, 1944, first English edition 1961), Vol. 1, p. 32 Longman claims “the biblical account was at least shaped in part to serve as a polemic rejoinder to their [the pagan myths] claims.” (p. 40) Cassuto argues for Genesis, “The language is tranquil, undisturbed by polemic or dispute…”3) Umberto Cassuto (Trans. Israel Abraham), A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part 1: From Adam to Noah Genesis 1-V8, The Magness Press (Jerusalem, 1944, first English edition 1961), Vol. 1, p. 7 Jonathan Sarfati states, “even if the polemic view were true, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be history.”4) Johnathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical, and Scientific Commentary on Genesis 1-11, Creation Ministry International (Powder Springs, Georgia: 2015), p. 60 The other myths he views as parallels conform even less than Enuma Elish. For example, he mentions the Ugaritic story of Baal (p. 42), which if anyone reads will not find parallels 5)see The Ancient Near East (ed. James B. Pritcher), Princeton Press (Princeton, New Jersey: 1973), vol. 1, pp. 92-118 In fact, Longman cannot find parallels to the biblical creation account as he writes, “It is at this point that the tablet breaks, but we assume, based on analogy with the Babylonian texts, that after the creator god defeats the god of the sea, there was an account of creation of the world and perhaps of humanity.” (p. 42) This missing creation account is in Longman’s top three list of evidence that the Bible is dependent on pagan myths. He says, “Notice, first of all, how order emerges from the watery chaos in all these creation accounts.” (p. 43) We seem to have missed that from a broken tablet. He, then, compares Enuma Elish creation of man by “the blood of a demon god; in Atrahasis [the second example of a myth he offered], the spit of the gods…” (p. 43) Yeah! Just like the Bible…?

He argues other biblical creation accounts which are all found in poetic text (Ps. 74; Prov. 8:22-31; Job 38:8-11) to further identify figurative language in the bible’s creation accounts. The problem backfires on Longman as these poems reveal how figurative language would appear if Genesis was meant to be understood in such a way. Longman says of Psalm 74, “the Psalmist utilizes the divine conflict myth to describe creation.” (p. 45) Psalm 74 is not about the creation account, but rather Israel’s enemies they were having wars and conflicts with, as is evident in verses 4, 5, 8, 10, 18, 23. Longman assumes the creation is intended because he parallels the mention of Leviathan with the pagan myths of a god battling the sea monster Tiamat in the Enuma Elish myth. But the very text he is connecting to the creation account (Ps. 74:13-14) is referring to the Red Sea crossing and God overthrowing Pharaoh. Similar language depicting Pharaoh is found in Ezekiel 29:2-5; 32:2-6. His presuppositions of rejecting the Genesis creation account perverts his exegesis of multiple other text scattered throughout the Scriptures. He concludes his discussions about these poetic texts allegedly presenting creation accounts, by stating, “the most natural reading recognizes the use of figurative language and the interaction with ancient Near Eastern creation accounts.” (p. 48) That does not come from the most natural reading, but rather a strenuous torturing of the text.

He also argues for the creation account being figurative language based on the “literary framework” idea. This premise only works when handling the text superficially. Wayne Grudem thoroughly refutes the “literary framework” interpretation of the creation account6)Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, ondervan (Grand Rapid, MI: 2000), p. 300-304 concluding “while the ‘framework’ view does not deny the truthfulness of Scripture, it adopts an interpretation of Scripture which, upon closer inspection, seems very unlikely.”7)Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan (Grand Rapid, MI: 2000), p. 304

He also asserts evidence for figurative language in the use of the Hebrew word raqia’ translated “firmament.” Longman writes, “As the name indicates, deriving as it does from a verb that refers to hammering in order to make a metal sheet, raqia’ refers to a solid dome. The passage depicts God using this solid dome to separate the waters above from the waters below. He also places the celestial bodies created on the fourth day into this solid firmament (1:17).” (p. 31) Apparently, Longman is following the definition given by the liberal lexicographers of the popular Hebrew lexicon which defines raqia’ as, “the vault of heaven, or ‘firmament,’ regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting ‘waters’ above it…”8)Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, C.A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Claredon Press: Oxford, 1980, p. 956 However, a more recent lexicon produced by conservative scholars define this word expressing:

The basic concept in raqia’ is stamping, as with the foot, and what results, i.e. a spreading out or stretching forth….

In pre-Christin Egypt confusion was introduced into biblical cosmology when the LXX perhaps under the influence of Alexandrian theories of a ‘stone vault’ of heaven, rendered raqia’ by stereoma, suggesting some firm, solid structure. This Greek concept was then reflected by the Latin firmementum, hence KJV ‘firmament.’ To this day negative criticism speaks of the ‘vault, or firmament,’ regarded by Hebrews as solid… 9)J. Barton Payne, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke) Moody Press (Chicago, IL 1980), Vol. 2, p. 862

It is obviously not being presented as a solid object in the sky which the celestial bodies were placed into since the birds are said to fly “in the open firmament of heaven.” (Genesis 1:20) It is amazing how dishonestly selective Longman is with the Scripture in his presentation to defend his presupposed position he desires to force into the text. D. A. Carson warned about this fallacy over thirty years ago: “Here the interpreter assigns to a word in his text a meaning that the word in question used to have in earlier times, but that is no longer found within the live, semantic range of the word. That meaning, in other words, is semantically obsolete….So also in the biblical languages: Homeric words no longer found in the Septuagint of the New Testament are of relatively little interest to the biblical specialist, but a Hebrew word that means one thing at an early stage of the written language and another at a later stage, or a Greek word that means one thing in classical Greek and another in the New Testament, can easily lead the unwary into the pitfall of this third fallacy.”10)D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, Baker Book House, Grand Rapid, MI: 1984 fifth printing 1988), pp. 34-35

Longman quotes Genesis 1:1 from the NRSV “In the beginning when God created heaven and earth.” He speaks of the version of Genesis 1:1, “Notice how the NRSV translation presumes that the earth was in a disorganized state at the point that (‘when’) God began the creation process.” (p. 49) He then says, “I personally lean toward the NRSV understanding of the opening of Genesis and believe that one cannot dogmatically assert that Genesis 1 presents a picture of creation from nothing.” (p. 50) The essential argument for this translation is due to the lack of an article prefixed to the word bereshith. However, every time the word resith is prefix with the Hebrew be it implies and article, without exception (Gen 1:1; Jer 26:1; 27:1; 28:1; 49:34)! The NRSV is simply not a valid translation of Genesis 1:1 which is obvious as they do not translate any other verse with similar grammatical structure in such a way.

Even though the creation account defines the days of creation with the terms “evening and morning” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31), he argues that the days of creation could not be literal 24-hour days since, “the sun, moon, and stars aren’t even created until the fourth day, and it is these celestial bodies that define days with evening and morning.” (pp. 28-29) This is wrong, especially if he wants to pretend to interpret the text through science (the book of nature) as the day defined with evening and morning is not established by the celestial bodies in the sky, but rather by the rotation of the earth. One complete rotation equal one complete 24-hour day. “Evening and morning” describing the “day” is actually a literary device called a merism, which states the names of the opposites to express the entirety of a thing. An example of this would be “from Dan to Beer-sheba” which presents the farthest north city of Israel and the farthest southern city, meaning “all Israel” (1 Sam 3:20).

He then claims, “The insistence that the days of creation are six literal twenty-four-hour days is pretty much a modern idea.” (p. 29) This comment is a pure lie, and I have to assume he is aware of that. He follows with: “Of course, these early theologians did not think that the cosmos was old and that humanity evolved over a long period of time. Indeed, quite the opposite.” (p. 29) The only “early theologians” he referenced are Origen, who has been condemned as a heretic, and Augustine, who actually believed in an instantaneous creation. If Longman had actually read early theologians beyond those two, he would be well aware of the fact that their rejection of long ages is structured into the understanding of six literal days of creation.

Barnabas (70-130 A.D.) “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.”11)The Epistle of Barnabas, chapt. 15; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 1, p. 146

Irenaeus (180 A.D.) “Thus, then in the day that they did eat, in the same did they die, and became death’s debtors, since it was one day of the creation. For it is said, ‘There was made in the evening, and there was made in the morning, one day.’”12)Against Heresies, 5.23.2; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 1, p. 551

Theophilus (180 A.D.) “Of this six days’ work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days’ work above narrated.”13)To Autolycus, 2.12; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 2, p. 99

 Victorinus (280 A.D.) “God produced that entire mass for the adornment of His majesty in six days; on the seventh to which He consecrated it… with a blessing.”14)On the Creation of the World; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 7, p. 342

Methodius (290 A.D.) “Moreover, it is evident that the creation of the world was accomplished in harmony with this number, God having made heaven and earth, and the things which are in them, in six days…”15)The Banquet of Ten Virgins, chapt 11; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 6, p. 347

Archelaus (320 A.D.) “Thus, to take an example, after God had made the world, and all things that are in it, in the space of six days, He rested on the seventh day from all His works; by which statement I do not mean to affirm that He did so because He was fatigued, but that He did so as having brought to its perfection every creature which He had resolved to introduce.”16)The Disputation with Manes 31; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 6, p. 203

Furthermore, these early theologians taught that the eschatological millennial period was a typology found in the seventh day of creation as the Sabbath. The thought projected six days of creation represented six thousand years when sin would reign with the Sabbath picturing the thousand years of Christ reigning on earth as a worldwide rest. A small sample of such teachings is as follows:

Barnabas (70-130 A.D.) “This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years…. Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished.”17)The Epistle of Barnabas, chapt. 15; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 1, p. 146

Irenaeus (180 A.D.) “For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded…. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.”18)Against Heresies, 5.28.3; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 1, p. 557

Hippolytus (205 A.D.) “And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day ‘one which God rested from all His works.’ For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they ‘shall reign with Christ,’ when He comes from heaven, as John says in the Apocalypse: for ‘a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.’ Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled.”19)On Daniel, 2.4.; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 5, p. 179

Victorinus (280 A.D.) “that true and just Sabbath should be observed in the seventh millenary of years. Wherefore to those seven days the Lord attributed to each a thousand years; for thus went the warning: ‘In Thine eyes, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day.’… Wherefore, as I have narrated, that true Sabbath will be in the seventh millenary of years, when Christ with His elect shall reign.”20)On the Creation of the World; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 7, p. 342

Methodius (290 A.D.) “on the first day of the resurrection, which is the day of judgement, celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true Sabbath.”21)The Banquet of Ten Virgins, chapt 5; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts) 1994, fifth edition 2012, Vol. 6, p. 347

Longman referenced Augustine and Origen to press his point, but both of these theologians followed the Neo Platonic argument presented by Philo, “And he says that the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement; and number is akin to arrangement; and, of all numbers, six is, by the laws of nature, the most productive: for all the numbers, from the unit upwards, it is the first perfect one, being made equal to its parts, and being made complete by them; the number three being half of it, and the number two a third of it, and the unit a sixth of it, and, so to say, it is formed so as to be both male and female…”22)Philo, On the Creation 13; in The Works of Philo: New Updated Edition (trans. C. D. Yonge), Hendrickson (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1997), p. 4 Philo, Josephus, and other early Jewish author held a literal six day of creation, but all viewed it not necessary for God to need six days but could have just as easily done it instantaneously. It was taking the Neo Platonic hermeneutic to an extreme to dictate over what the text actually said which led Origen and Augustine (and by extension, Longman) to reject what the text plainly says as if God could not do and mean what He said.

While speaking of the third day of creation, Longman states, “To suggest, as some do, that God produced fast-growing plants on this day in a kind of miraculous introduction of plant life goes beyond what the text is describing.” (p. 32) But the text is describing a miraculous act of creation. How is it beyond the text to believe that it is describing a miracle? Especially when he is identifying Augustine to reject the literal six day creation, but Augustine believed in an instantaneous creation. Longman’s arguments simply contradict themselves because he is desperately grasping at anything to reject the plain meaning of the text.

He further attempts to justify the existence of the seven day week by claiming that it “is based on the movement of the moon.” (p. 32) There is no seven day phase of the moon. Most scholarly discussions that seek to understand were the seven day week came from have concluded with the idea of the ancient world’s view of the seven planets—Saturn, the sun, the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus.23)see Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (revised Edition), Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody , Massachusettes: 1964, 1998), p. 12-14 This is what Dio Cassius suggested in 235 A.D. (Roman History 37.17-19).

He also claims the “two creation accounts” contradict each other (p. 33-36), which I have refuted elsewhere and will not duplicate here.24)see Heath Henning, “Internal Evidence for Genesis 1-2,” Sept, 26, 2016; https://truthwatchers.com/internal-evidence-genesis-1-2/ Any claimed contradiction is only due to a superficial reading or presuppositions that cause one to assume such contradictions in the “two creation accounts.”

He further asks, “would the first readers have understood Eden as an actual location on the map? I seriously doubt it, and I do not believe that the author intended readers to take it that way.” (p. 36) After mentioning the rivers named in Genesis chapter 2, he rejects these identify actual geographic locations, concluding, “the garden of Eden symbolizes that at the point when God endows his human creatures with his image… they are living in harmony with creation.” (p. 36) and so we see he adapts the Neo Platonic method of interpretation along with Augustine and Origen. However, if people take seriously the world-wide flood of Noah’s day (which Longman does not) than we would not expect to find these same geographic locations after being destroyed by the flood. Of course, Noah’s descendants would have retained the names of these rivers after exiting from the ark and likely reused these same names of the new rivers they find.

Longman asks, “How do we know that God created humans, even though there is no scientific evidence (or gap in the scientific evidence) to support that idea? The Bible. We know that God created humans because ‘the Bible tells us so’.” (p. 56) Oddly, he all of a sudden want to believe the Bible for the first time in this book. But why does he use the word “create” as if he believes God created humans? He presents the evolutionary development of mankind through God’s providence, comparing it to the book of Esther which makes no mention of God but is obviously riddled with His providential acts behind the scenes. (p. 57) But the creation account has no similarity to Esther. In fact, the creation account repeatedly refers to God Who miraculously created all things through His omnipotent power. The comparison of conversion in 2 Corinthians 4:6 to God creating light also shows both creation and conversion as a new creation, being born again, as a miraculous event. Does Longman view conversion as providential with no need to evoke God.

He claims that any Christian that “suggest that the theory of evolution is in crisis are misleading their audiences.” (p. 58) He says, “only outlier scientists doubt… an evolutionary process that involves common descent.” (p. 61) He asserts, “There is no serious doubt among research biologist, Christian or not, that our species emerged not through God literally blowing on dust a few thousand years ago but through a long process involving a primate past that eventually traces back to very simple organisms (common descent).” (p. 58) He emphasizes biology as the means to prove evolution (p. 75), recommending BioLogos as the best evidence. The authors of BioLogos reject the Bible, inerrancy, and any form of sound hermeneutics to argue for evolution, just as Longman has done in this book. He also reveals his ignorance of biology, as many biologist reject evolution, even non-Christian biologists. “Current estimates are that approximately one-third of professional academic biologists who do not believe in intelligent design find Darwin’s theory is inadequate to describe all of the complexity in biology.”25)Benjamin R. Diereker, “Why One-Third Of Biologist Now Question Darwinism,” April 16, 2019; https://thefederalist.com/2019/04/16/one-third-biologists-now-question-darwinism/ Intelligent design advocates at the Discovery Institute have a list of over 1,000 scientists that reject Darwinism26)https://dissentfromdarwin.org/ and creationist Jerry Bergman has compiled a list of over 3,000 Darwin denying scientists,27)https://www.rae.org/essay-links/darwinskeptics/ and that is just noting those who are willing to be open about their doubts of Darwinism even though it may be risking their careers. The views of BioLogos are actually very marginal among Christians and any general theist/agnostic scientists.

Though Longman is clearly ignorant of the biology field, he makes wild claims that “the bottom line is that the genetic evidence is clear that humanity does not go back to a single couple from which all Homo sapiens descend.” (p. 62) He considers a “possible view is that they [Adam and Eve] represent the whole population endowed with the image of God. After all, Adam’s name means ‘humanity.’ But another view take Adam and Eve as a representative couple within the larger population.” (p. 64) He assures his readers, “there was never a time when there were only two humans, a male and female.” (p. 67) If we applied his view that Adam and Eve were a group of hominins, then Christ is teaching polygamy in saying that Adam and Eve were united as one flesh in the beginning.

While disapproving against G. A. Boyd’s hermeneutic of “using Christ as the standard to judge the Old Testament” about interpreting the Old Testament’s expressions about violence, Longmans reproves Boyd by noting that “Jesus himself fully embraced the Old Testament without qualification…” (p. 162) Odd, as Christ without qualification also embraced the creation account of Adam and Eve as two literal individuals being the premise that marriage was between one man and one woman that should not be separated by men (Matthew 19:4-6). In Mark 10:6-9 Christ adds this was “from the beginning” which shows Christ accepted Adam and Eve as literally created in the beginning of creation, as two individuals, not a group of pre-human hominin type of creatures evolving into humanity over millions of years. If we are to accept what the Bible teaches as our worldview for today, it necessitates that we must also accept the creation account without a Hegelian synthesis of evolutionary philosophies. His only means of justifying his contradicting position of debating Boyd on his hermeneutic method is if Longman is willing to admit that he is adopting a Socicinian accommodation principle of hermeneutics. He obviously would not admit that he holds such a heretical method of interpretation, but that is what he has done.

Longman also scoffs at Boyd’s claim that we have to read Scripture with a “magic eye.” Longman says in a foot note of Boyd’s comment: “I find this a particularly unfortunate term that reveals that you have to read with a certain mind-set in order to see a message that one would otherwise miss seeing, a message behind the surface of the text. Such an approach, though not as crass, bears a kind of similarity to recent attempts to uncover ‘Bible codes.’ While Boyd recognizes that this term may evoke the idea of treating the Bible like a cryptogram, I don’t think he completely escapes this criticism.” (p. 167, fn. 48) I don’t think Tremper Longman himself can completely escape this criticism when he is attempting to justify theistic evolution with the consistent contradictions in his hermeneutics.

On pages 91 and 118 he mentions that the crucifixion and resurrection are placed on historical grounds being a necessary historical event to have any significance for redemption based on 1 Corinthians 15:14. But this same chapter Paul places Adam on historical ground with Christ to argue for the doctrine of resurrection in verses 45-49. The mention of Adam in 1 Corinthians 15 seems to have been purposefully neglected by Longman in order to avoid this obvious conclusion from Paul’s discussion. He further rejects “original sin” (p. 66), rejects inherited sin (p. 71-72); and then state that “the story of Adam and Eve tells us what we would all do if we were in their circumstance. Indeed, it tells us what we all do from birth.” (p. 72) But if sin is not inherited, why do we do it from birth? Furthermore, how can this mythological story of a group of hominins tell us what we would do if we were in their mythological circumstance?

He admits: “While the Bible does not teach evolution, our awareness that God used evolution to create humanity and also the scientific conclusion that humanity does not go back to a single couple, while not undermining any teaching of the Bible, do lend evidence about certain theological implications from what the Bible teaches. …it does disqualify at least one theory often presented for how we relate to that original sin—namely the so-called inheritance model.” (pp. 76-77) Amazing! He admits the Bible does not teach evolution but reading it into the Bible makes him reject a theological reading of inherited sin nature. His theology is based on what he acknowledges is not in the Bible. This is nothing less than heresy!

In discussing the creation of Adam and Eve, Longman speaks mockingly: “Picture the scene. God takes dust and breathes into it. Should this be taken at face value as the means by which God actually created the first human being? Of course not! To do so would violate our understanding of God as a spiritual being, not a physical one.” (p. 37) He then claims, “The author wants us to know that God created the first human, but he is not at all interested in telling us how God did it.” (p. 37) This seems simply ridiculous. First of all, the author surely used a whole lot of words and space to describe how God created man. If all the author was intending to tell us is that creation of man occurred and not how it was done, he could have simply left Genesis 2 unwritten, since Genesis 1 says God created man. Furthermore, Longman’s changing the verb from “formed” to “takes dust” makes the scene in his depiction to force a physical being with hands. If God can frame the worlds with His words (Hebrews 11:3), then forming man from dust does not imply the need of physical hands being involved. But to “take dust” impresses this thought further than the text demands. He is reading his overactive imagination into the text at this point. Notice the interesting expression from the ancient Jewish author of 4 Ezra: “O sovereign Lord, did you not speak at the beginning when you formed the earth… and commanded the dust and it gave you Adam, a lifeless body? Yet he was the workmanship of your hands, and you breathed into him the breath of life, and he was made live in your presence.”(4 Ezra 3:4-5)28)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 528 Here we see God commanding the creation of man from dust with His words being the literal action, with His hands workmanship being used idiomatically.

Furthermore, is Longman denying the possibility of an omnipotent sovereign God being capable of manifesting Himself in a physical form, which is called a theophany, and later Christ becoming Incarnate. Longman’s rejection of this possibility in Genesis 2 is indicated that the idea comes from E. A. Seibert, that because God is spirit, He “does not literally breath into dust to form Adam or walk in the garden in the cool of the day” (p. 148-149) Longman reiterates that Seibert “is correct” about Genesis 2-3 (p. 153). He considers Genesis 2-3 are “anthropomorphisms,” because it depicts “God as blowing on dust (as if God has lungs)… taking a stroll in the garden… and unaware of where Adam was hiding. Elsewhere we learn that God is a spirit and that he is omniscient.” (p. 160) Can an omniscient God use rhetorical questions to speak to Adam’s conscious and free will? Christ frequently used questions to refute His adversaries. Can God manifest Himself in a visible way to Adam and Eve? Longman obviously agrees that God can, revealing his contradictions. “On the eve of the first battle against the walled city of Jericho, a figure ‘with a drawn sword in his hand’ appears to Joshua…. This military figure is none other than God himself, the divine warrior.” (p. 127) Does God have a hand? Does God have a literal sword? How is God visible if He is spirit? This is explained later: “God sometimes makes his presence known in a direct way, as he does to Joshua at the beginning of the conquest (Josh. 5:13-16).” (p. 177) Longman also notes that God appears to Gideon. “An angel of the Lord, clearly to be understood as the Lord himself, comes to tell Gideon he will be with him to ‘strike down the Midianites’ (Judg.6:16).” (p. 180) So why does he decide to not think this is possible in the creation account? There are no grammatical factors that would limit a theophany in the garden of Eden. He again is stretching for unreasonable arguments to suggest justification for reading the creation account figuratively. That is his issue throughout the entire book. The inconsistency of his own practice in hermeneutics. His frequent contradictions make it difficult to take his positions seriously as he refutes himself by his contradicting hermeneutic.



Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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