The Gospel of the Young Earth

Are young earth creationists actually leading people away from the Gospel? This is not necessarily the argument that made by Vance McAllister at the Euangelion blog, but he does bring up some very good points. In a blog well entitled “Creation v. Evolution: the danger of misplaced dogmatism,” Vance challenges readers to consider the debate from a more philosophical perspective. He writes:  

I want to remove the stumbling block to the Gospel message that is being created by a dogmatic presentation of Creationism. Not the belief in a young earth and creation without evolution per se, but the “either/or” teaching that comes with it. I am not here to argue for an old earth or evolution, necessarily, but against the false dichotomy that so often comes along with Creationism. More and more people are being taught that an old earth/evolution and Christianity are wholly inconsistent and that if you believe one, you can not really believe the other. Such a blanket statement puts two very distinct groups in crisis and I am convinced that souls are being lost to the Kingdom as a result. This may sound a bit over-dramatic, but I have seen too many people distracted from the Gospel message by this issue.

I really don’t think it sounds over dramatic at all. In fact, for a long time I was one of these people. I can still remember the names and faces of those whom I have encountered in the past with whom this became the dividing issue. I would present the “Gospel of the Young Earth.” Sometimes I would not even get to Christ. Yes, I was a dogmatic young earther. Why? Because that is what all Christians are. You believe that Christ rose from the grave and your believe in a young earth. Well, if only I could redeem the time with those people.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t have this issue figured out. In fact, I don’t talk about this issue much unless it is trying to help people (both young earthers and old earthers) see that it is not quite as cut-and-dry as people like to make it.

I agree with Vance. He tells of a (the?) major danger of “the Gospel of the Young Earth” with regards to young people:

First, there are Christians, especially young people, who have been raised in a dogmatic Creationist households or attend such a church, and have been taught that evolution, or even an old earth, are evil and absolutely contrary to Scripture. That if you believe Scripture, you can not also believe in these “lies”. They are taught that those who do believe both are deluded or compromising Christians, probably not even worthy of the name of Christian. They are taught these as absolute truths, rather than one interpretation among the many that sincere Christians hold. These young people are ingrained with this teaching and accept it fully. Then they come into contact with the scientific evidence and begin to suspect that evolution or an old earth scientific might actually be supported by the evidence. This creates a severe crisis of faith. They have been taught that if evolution or an old earth were true, then the atheists are right and the Bible can not be trusted and God did not create everything after all. I have seen this crisis in action. I have discussed this matter with those who either had abandoned Christianity or were about to because of this dogmatic teaching, and did my best to explain to them that the conflict was not inherent and that they could, indeed, believe in both. Most did not even know that there were Christians who accepted evolution, which shows how sheltered their lives had been.


181 Responses to “The Gospel of the Young Earth”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. Faith in a literal interpretation of Gen. 1 has justified and regenerated precisely 0 people in all of human history. Sometimes you might get only one chance to share with someone. That opportunity should be used wisely.

    Jesus saves, and Jesus alone. Our witness needs to stay on target. How to interpret Gen. 1 is intramural sports.

    Sola Christe!


  2. Another fine article that should generate much debate, I remember in biology the teacher said that God could have used evolution to make man. I was devastated when I found out there was never was a brontosaurus (wrong head on a skeleton). My beautiful Nebraska Man vbillage was all based on the tooth of a pig. The Piltdown Man was a college boy hoax. The latest example is Lucy. She made her “discoverer” millions on the college tour (our tax dollars at work). Lucy, when examened by outsiders turned out to be a monkey. The man who found her said he mis measured her bones because he was trying to find a missing link in the 250,000 year range( meaning liar, cheat, deceiver, and low down thief).
    For something that may explain something of a young earth and not a 4000 BC creation, I suggest reading an interesting article. Not inspired, just helpful.
    When it comes to these thing, why can’t we have strong beliefs personally and yet have charity toward those who disagree with us. Our minds work best like parachutes, when they are open, so why not ask questons to see if things are what someone claims they are? I have been married 32 years and it is okay to be wrong. So why not, when we are right, listen to what the other person is saying, ask them to define terms so we really understand what they are saying, and show respect even though we disagree? We can pray to a sovereign God Who can change kings hearts like water in an irrigation ditch (Prov.21:1), why can’t He show the truth to our friends? Or does He need us so badly we must behave rudely?

    I know what I believe, and I don’t believe my doubts when I can help it. I hope I will always be open to learn in love. Also to share in love.


  3. One thing I think people should try to get out in the open in this debate: the scientific theories about the age of the earth and the common descent/evolution of life are NOT part of a grand conspiracy to destroy Christian faith. Some bad things may have been done with them, and some bad people may be associated with them, but on the whole, these theories are not about people “just being against the Bible.”

    They were formed by scientists looking at the available evidence and trying to put together rational theories to explain the evidence. They did not arise from an evil cabal gleefully rubbing their hands together and thinking, “What can we do to get those Christians?” We may hold our own personal opinions about those theories, but I think certain Christian parties need to step back a little, detach, and look at how they are looking at this debate. This is not a clear-cut battle of good versus evil, and we should not try to turn it into one.

    I encourage Christians who are really interested in this issue to visit the “Talk Origins Archive” (google it for the link) to try to understand some of the science and evidence behind the theories. It is a mostly fair and irenic site; they present the vast amount of evidence in a clear and charitable manner. (It’s really a lot nicer and less hostile than I thought it would be.)

    On the other hand, what some creationists have done in spreading misinformation and attacking their opponents is an absolute embarrassment to the cause of Christ.

  4. How dare you blaspheme the name of Henry Morris!

    I had a (recent) Sunday School teacher who taught on Genesis, and Morris big orange book was used extensively. It’s why I left that class.

  5. Sean, good points. I have written a short piece on the history of anti-evolutionism, discussing how we got to where we are, and what most people don’t realize is that the Creationist movement really only took off in the 70’s. one of the earliest supporters of evolution was Asa Grey, a devout Christian. It has always been controversial, but I think what happened is that since an old earth and evolution DO create a possible alternative for atheists (since it could happen without God), and some atheists began to USE evolution to support their own agendas (like Dawkins does today) that it pushed many Christians to other extreme. Rather than point out the simple fact that a system which COULD work without God is not a system which DID work without God necessarily.

    Regardless, I don’t want to have this thread devolve (a little joke there) into a discussion about which position is right, but rather the concept that we need not preach which is right to preach Christ, as Sean correctly pointed out!

  6. This is a good post, and I confess that I had this mentality for a long while: “I will just “prove” to them that they are wrong and then they will believe”. At the time I didn’t think through that mentality very well, but after reading the Bible more and listening to many great Christian thinkers, this issue became less and less “a hill to die on” for me. I think perhaps the main thing that hit it home for me was understanding that the Bible was written in different genres and that those genres had different methods of communicating Gods Truth (i.e. not everything is meant to be taken as literal).

    That being said, I still think evolution (in the molecule to man sense) poses serious difficulties to the Christian worldview (as Moreland & others have said). But to use it (or that line of arguments rather) as the primary (or at least the opening) method when trying to express the Gospel seems to reflect the focus away from Christ, which is the only thing that can truly awaken their heart to it.

    It’s interesting, because this whole debate arises from how we define and determine the word inerrancy. While I do not believe inerrancy is necessary for salvation, I find it extremely difficult to grow in the Christian life. I also do not think the strict fundamental literalism is the correct definition, but it’s painful to watch what happens to good seminaries like Fuller when they drop it.

    Your brother in Christ,


  7. I recently commented on my blog about how I saw Tim LaHaye say on David Reagan’s television program say that you can judge a person’s orthodoxy by where they stand on “the creation of the earth without the help of the evolutionists” (as well the virgin ‘birth’ (aren’t we all born virgins ;) ) and the pre-trib rapture). I have personally been accused of being an evolutionist/Darwinist/atheist for simply denying a YEC (I’m a Gap Theory guy myself — anyone else with me on that?).

    But I think that most Christians (and definitely those of the fundie persuasion) associate evolution with naturalism and see it as a way to explain how everything came to be apart from God (and I’m sure for some atheists it is exactly that). Now I’m certainly no expert but as I understand it, even if evolution is in fact true and is the best theory to explain the data — it still doesn’t thwart the existence of God or his ability to create via evolution. Maybe I’m wrong and please correct me if I am, but doesn’t evolution simply deal with the process by which things are presently what they are? It doesn’t actually seek to explain the origin of all things, does it?

    Oh, and has anyone else noticed a connection between YEC and KJV Onlyism or am I alone in that?

  8. Vance said, “I have written a short piece on the history of anti-evolutionism, discussing how we got to where we are, and what most people don’t realize is that the Creationist movement really only took off in the 70’s.”

    That’s true. Of course, the majority of the support for Darwin’s theory came from Anglican clergy, and the majority dissent came from scientists, particularly biologists. Funny that.

    YECism is much older than the 70’s. Statements on the age of the earth being young can be found in the intertestamental literature and the church fathers.

  9. Well said. I’m finding it hard to grasp that there are actually people out there who don’t ‘discuss’ origins/creation at the top of their lungs (or in all caps). As others have said, this is an interesting academic and philosophical discussion, but doesn’t have a bearing on salvation or our call to share the gospel with a lost and dying world. Thanks for you clarity on the issue.


  10. I don’t have a cite handy for any of this, but I have heard that from the 19th/early 20th century, both Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield were open to evolution. That’s kind of ironic considering how much impetus they gave to the fundamentalist movement.

    Also if you read Darwin, he does mention “the Creator” and “the Creation” a few times. What caused Darwin to lose his faith was the problem of evil, not his theory.

    As far as a biological theory, evolution does an admirable job of explaining the preponderance of physical evidence.

    As a theory of history… well, let’s just say I’m very skeptical when anyone says, with such great confidence, that they can know anything about what happened so many eons ago.

  11. What I find the most interesting in this post is that CMP being a Five Pointer should not be so concerned about missing opportunities to effectively witness to people and going off track and possibly ‘missing’ an opportunity. If grace is truly irresistable, then a young earth/old earth argument should be as effective as anything else.
    How can you lead someone who is one of the elect to miss the gospel over such an argument?
    I know, I’m just being difficult…still it seems contrary to the professed position to me.


  12. While I am definitely not a five-point Calvinist, I do believe that God is the one that calls when the message is presented, and he just uses men to present that message. However, I think God does want us to actually present “the Message”, which is the Gospel.

    There are two things the Scriptures seem to be telling us, regardless of “who does what” when it comes to evangelization:

    1. We ARE to preach the Gospel to the unbeliever, as Paul and the others did.

    2. We are to AVOID putting stumbling-blocks in the way.

    So, regardless of our view about how the evangelization process works, we are given our marching orders and should follow them.

    Now, that does not mean these peripheral issues are not important for us to discuss, as long as we keep them in perspective and avoid linking the truth of the Gospel to our particular viewpoint of origins or how Genesis should be read. Like Augustine said, we should not hold a view of Genesis such that if we ended up being wrong, it would bring our faith down with it. And if we should not even HOLD such a view, we should definitely not TEACH such a view to others.

    The way I often see people raise the issue of origins to a “salvation” issue, or an essential, is to approach it from an “if/then” angle. They say “if you believe X, then you can’t believe Y” or worse, “if X is true, then Y can’t be true”, where X may be a non-essential and Y is an essential. So, someone might say “if you don’t believe in Genesis as I do, then you can’t believe in a Fall, and so there would be no need of redemption, and the Gospel is undermined”.

    This is what I call the “phantom menace” since it is simply not what happens. Millions of Christians all around the world, including nearly all of our Catholic brothers and sisters, and a large percentage of our fellow Protestants DO accept the scientific conclusions of an old earth and evolution, but STILL fully accept that there was a Fall, original sin, a need for redemption, etc, all the way down the orthodox line. There are many ways to explain this, which is better explored elsewhere, but the point is that this is not an overlooked issue by all of these millions of Christians who, upon hearing that point, pull a Homer Simpson and say “Doh! I hadn’t thought of that!” Basically, the concept is that HOWEVER it happened, Genesis does describe actual historical events, albeit using figurative, symbolic and typological language. So, when it says there was a Fall, there WAS a Fall. Although I can consider different ways this could have taken place, I don’t fret too much about it.

    In fact, the problem only really arises when dogmatic Creationists DO create this dichotomy, and convince people that a belief in evolution does, indeed, negate any concept of a Fall, etc. To the extent people believe this to be true, then an acceptance of evolution CAN be a faith-shaking proposition. Thus, the danger.

  13. Ed,

    You still have the same problem if you stick with a traditional arminian framework. As they hold to mans inability (depravity) as well, until God’s grace (within the arminian framework) frees them from their bondage so that they have to ability to “freely” choose or reject Him.

    A better question to ask would be, “why do you think you (or I) can lead anyone to Christ?”

  14. Its too simplistic to limit it to evolution vs creation. The old earth argument from science is much stronger on the cosmoligical side than evolution. Personally I lean to the Old Earth, non evolution, some natural selection side (Wheew). I was actually impressed with with and how compelling an apologetic for the Bible it can be too see that our universe was specifically designed and not random

  15. I do want to point out that, while I think these should be moved to another level of our Christian dialogue, that does not mean these peripheral issues are not important for us to discuss, as long as we keep them in perspective and avoid linking the truth of the Gospel to our particular viewpoint of origins or how Genesis should be read. Like Augustine said, we should not hold a view of Genesis such that if we ended up being wrong, it would bring our faith down with it. And if we should not even HOLD such a view, we should definitely not TEACH such a view to others.

    The way I often see people raise the issue of origins to a “salvation” issue, or an essential, is to approach it from an “if/then” angle. They say “if you believe X, then you can’t believe Y” or worse, “if X is true, then Y can’t be true”, where X may be a non-essential and Y is an essential. So, someone might say “if you don’t believe in Genesis as I do, then you can’t believe in a Fall, and so there would be no need of redemption, and the Gospel is undermined”.

    This is what I call the “phantom menace” since it is simply not what happens. Millions of Christians all around the world, including nearly all of our Catholic brothers and sisters, and a large percentage of our fellow Protestants DO accept the scientific conclusions of an old earth and evolution, but STILL fully accept that there was a Fall, original sin, a need for redemption, etc, all the way down the orthodox line. There are many ways to explain this, which is better explored elsewhere, but the point is that this is not an overlooked issue by all of these millions of Christians who, upon hearing that point, pull a Homer Simpson and say “Doh! I hadn’t thought of that!” Basically, the concept is that HOWEVER it happened, Genesis does describe actual historical events, albeit using figurative, symbolic and typological language. So, when it says there was a Fall, there WAS a Fall. Although I can consider different ways this could have taken place, I don’t fret too much about it.

    In fact, the problem only really arises when dogmatic Creationists DO create this dichotomy, and convince people that a belief in evolution does, indeed, negate any concept of a Fall, etc. To the extent people believe this to be true, then an acceptance of evolution CAN be a faith-shaking proposition. Thus, the danger.

  16. Like too many debates, polarization has set in. Belief in one aspect causes you to be quickly labeled by the loud voices on either side. What far too few fail to realize, is that Naturalism and it’s reliance on an atheistic view is not evolution from a scientific perspective. Scientists as well as Creationists make this mistake all the time. I saw this false connection all the time back when I was in graduate school studying gene flow & genetic drift, and publishing papers on molecular evolution. Many biologists and researchers on evolution know that micro or small scale evolution has strong scientific backing, and there is also strong evidence for an ancient earth, but proving what is called beharioral evolution, and other social darwinism and other pseudo-scientific efforts, are on shaky ground. On these topics, from a purely evolutionary science standpoint, the evidence is weak at best.

    How did human thought arrise? Why are we intellectual? Is “thought” selectively advantageous? Why do we all agree that murder is bad? These sorts of questions are where science begins to fade out, and where assumed atheism creeps in if we don’t stand up and point out the answers Christianity provides for these questions. There is no scientific evidence for these being atheistic. In other words, where the leap to atheism exists is at the level of what caused the higher order items that make us different from all other animals ( thoughts, morals, ethics, etc. ) and the answer to why we are this way.

    I don’t want to spend too much time on where I stand (which is on the lines of theistic evolution and a belief in the poor and incomplete story we have in comparison to the immensity and power of God) I think we need to be careful lest we try to shut the gates on potential seekers.
    Because there is no disproving the existence of God (sorry Dawkins), most scientists and many other non-believers would gravitate towards an agnostic view if it weren’t for all the vitriol and battles against anything that wasn’t a 6,000 year old earth and a 20th century reading of early Genesis from my Picture Bible. We might even be able to calmly discuss what we believe and why this makes intellectual sense if some weren’t so quick to label. We only push these people away when we label them evil pagans. I wholeheartedly agree that dogmatism in this area only furthers those who wish to stop the spread of the gospel…..

    Michael Liptack

  17. Oh, and has anyone else noticed a connection between YEC and KJV Onlyism or am I alone in that?

    Actually, I noticed a connection between YEC and Christ-mythers. Christ-mythers are always quoting the same oft-refuted sources like Kersey Graves, Frecke and Gandy, etc. Likewise, almost every book I’ve ever encountered that tries to counter evolution and propose a young earth has some sort of connection to Ken Hamm or AiG.

    Ultimately, that is what lead me to reconsider my position of YEC. I’m still very skeptical of evolution, however, because I just don’t see why animals would suddenly stop giving birth to the same type of animal and give birth to a slightly modified version, which over generations would give rise to a new species.

    Maybe I need more faith? ;)

  18. Cory, if you want to know why, I can tell you! :)

    But, really, I think Mike raised the good point. I DO think there is a battle to fight here, but it is not with the purely scientific concepts being presented, and it is not over a particular reading of Genesis. There is nothing atheistic or anti-Christian about scientific theories like evolution or an old earth. Where the battle can and should be fought is over the worldview of philosophical naturalism, the idea that however it happened, it DID NOT happen because of God. Atheism is what contradicts Christian belief, not evolution or an old earth. Evolution is not a synonymous with this philosophical naturalism worldview since it is a concept that is accepted by people of very different worldviews, including the Christian worldview.

    Science should be non-religious, not anti-religious or pro-religious, because science only does one thing: it tells us how nature works, and only how it works naturally. From a Christian point of view, this means that it can tell us how God’s Creation works, and give us some clues (if not always final answers) regarding how He did His creative work in the first place.

    What has happened is that science has come to be viewed as more than it really is, it is now viewed as something that can provide final answers, rather than just one form of evidence for those answers. Rather than just using methodological naturalism to find out what nature can tell us, science has been overlapped with philosophical naturalism too often. Then (and here is where the problem really lies), the Christian community bought into this Modernistic thinking, and figured that if science is where the answers lie, then we must go to science and get the Christian answers!

    Science can’t disprove God since science simply can’t analyze such things. Science deals with the natural only, not the supernatural. It can not confirm or deny God. What we need to do in our society is move away from this Modernistic, post-Enlightenment idea that every thing that is “REAL” is subject to scientific analysis.

    We need to remind the world that “there is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  19. I haven’t read through every word above, so forgive me if this is a bit of a repeat…

    “These young people are ingrained with this teaching and accept it fully.”

    To me, that’s probably one of the biggest underlying issues here, and whenever we get too dogmatic about (almost) any issue – especially with kids these days. More often than not, it seems kids (and adults for that matter!) are being taught what to know, not what to learn, or how to learn. Therefore, when their “knowledge” is challenged, it all crumbles, as in Vance’s example.

    Michael – I think a TTP preschool program is in order :)

    On a side note, let’s not also forget that Satan will also use these seemingly important (albeit sometimes fun) discussions and debates to detract from the core message of Christ.

  20. “Yes, I was a dogmatic young earther. Why? Because that is what all Christians are. You believe that Christ rose from the grave and your believe in a young earth.”

    Michael – do you really believe that Christians are defined by their belief in young earth creationism?

    While I agree that the issue is not as clear cut as some people want to make it, I believe it is also misleading to say that there are no definite conclusions to make about the (billions-of-years-old) earth.

  21. Historic slave…sorry that my post was not clear. I was describing how I used to believe. I don’t believe what you believe about young earth or old earth is part of the Gospel.

    While I must say that I am not leaning toward either position concerning the age of the earth, I do definitely believe that theistic evolution is the most indefensible, both biblically and scientifically (which I am not very qualified to speak about), of the positions we are speaking about.

    However, if someone believes that God created everything using evolution, this is within the bounds of orthodoxy.

    I think everyone should learn from history and remain somewhat apophadic about these issues. It is just not clear enough to make a definitive decision either way. Either side COULD be right. Humility is important.

    The main point that I was making with my post (and what Vance is making) is that it is not essential one way or the other. We need to recognize this.

  22. Nathan,

    You said:
    “On a side note, let’s not also forget that Satan will also use these seemingly important (albeit sometimes fun) discussions and debates to detract from the core message of Christ.”

    Right on!

  23. I think there are two issues here.

    1) We need to ensure that we do not shackle the gospel with something that is not inherent to the good news. As Christians we are all creationists. This is the critical issue on which we all must be dogmatic. However, on the issue of “how God created”, we must, as Vance has noted, have true humility. So I, as an Evolutionary Creationist, should not insist that other Christians come to my conclusions on the interpretation of scripture or the scientific data. In many situations, it’s surely wrong for me to press the issue. In some situations, it may even be sinful to present the issue at all since it will simply cause division. The “Gospel of a Young Earth” is not the gospel, but neither is the “Gospel of Evolution”.

    2) We do however, as Christians need to think through the issues of our day. In our 21st century society this does include science. We can not hand over any field to the atheists, whether that be cosmology, biology, anthropology, or neuroscience. As evangelicals, we have unfortunately done this on way too many occasions, and that, as Mark Noll has shown, is scandalous. “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no Evangelical Mind.”

  24. Steve, good points. I agree. We do need to be informed and perpetually discovering God’s world.

    BTW: I really love your movies. I just did not know you were an evangelical ;)

    (I am sure you have never heard that before)

  25. I would agree that there are conclusions that can be reached on these issues, but the important point is to remain humble about it and remember that we are fallible humans and can be wrong. So, our conclusions should only be held to the extent (no more and no less) than the evidence, both from Scripture and from Nature, really justify. That is on a private viewpoint level.

    Then, when we consider how this is presented to others, we must add in the potential “stumbling-block” factor. Since presenting a young earth creationist viewpoint CAN be a stumbling-block, it should not be presented dogmatically unless we are sure that we are right, and sure that it is important enough to risk the stumbling block.

    It is true that some doctrines ARE that important, regardless of how difficult it is for a non-believer to get their heads around. The resurrection is just such a “scandal”. So, I am definitely NOT saying that we should avoid the controversial issues. But, with this particular issue, the danger is SO high, and the importance is SO low, and the breadth of belief by dedicated and Bible-believing Christians is SO wide, that it behooves us to hesitate before taking dogmatic stances.

  26. Michael, forget Steve’s movies, you should check out his site!

    While I did like “The Jerk” from that other Martin, this stuff is much better! :)

  27. Marvin the Martian September 5, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    I am sooooo ticked. I just spent an hour writing something, and I forgot to put in the email address. I clicked submit comment and a screen popped up saying I needed to submit the email address. I went back to add it and my entire comment was gone!!! GRRRRRR.

    I will try and summarize it…..again.

    Jewish/Church history up to the 1800’s always held to a young earth interpretation. Why is that? If Genesis wasn’t mean’t to be taken literally, then why was it taken literally until the dawn of the “enlightenment” when some new scientific theories emerged about the age of the earth and the origin of species? Could it be that people are interpreting Genesis through the lens of fallible science? Don’t be fooled, don’t think that Darwin and the geologists who first postulated the old age of the earth did so without their anti-biblical biases firmly in tow.

    In my mind, at stake in the young vs old debate is the reliability of scripture. And I speak as one who once held to the theistic evolutionary, billions of years belief system. If you hold to an Old earth, Genesis is allegory interpretation, then you basically hold to a view that God inspired Moses to redact what amounts to a bunch of clearly embelished campfire stories, none of which have a basis in historical or scientific reality. Fanciful stories of all the universe being created in six days, a talking serpent, outrageous stories of people living several hundred years, a flood covering the entire earth, none of which are true if you are an old earth evolutionist (OEE).

    To an OEE, the fossil record records death, disease, violence, mutation, bloodshed, and natural disasters of monumental proportions millions (if not billions) of years before humans entered the picture. That hardly seems the picture of the “very good” creation before the curse after the Fall spoken of in God’s inspired Word.

    When the tsunami struck a couple years back and hundreds of thousands of people perished, a common question was “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” The common answer would be that those disasters were not a part of God’s original plan, but that we live in a fallen, cursed, sin-filled world where sometimes tragic things will happen. The OOE cannot logically say that. God created the world with death, disease, and natural disaster in it. When the hurricane kills hundreds and leaves millions homeless, or the newborn is plagued with Downs syndrome, or the young father gets cancer, God is the ulitimate cause, that is the way things always have been from the beginning. Crap happens.

    The reason Young Earthers are so passionate about this is issue is that we view it as an attack on the reliability of scripture itself. If God took “artistic liberties” in Genesis, maybe Jesus did too when He said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man come to the Father but by Me”. So while I do agree that it isn’t an essential doctrine for salvation, to say that the importance of it is “SO” low is, I believe, a gross overstatement.

  28. Hi Marvin,
    First, the questions / challenges you pose to OEC’s / EC’s are good ones. From my perspective, the key issue is “death before the fall” which ultimately leads to making theodicy that more difficult to resolve. This is the toughest question that those of us that are EC (or OEC) have to answer. I think Vance has touched on this and has mentioned some resources for this as well. But, I understand fully why it is very difficult for many (including yourself) to accept. That being said, I think a key corollary to this post is that there are many of us who do take the authority of scripture seriously AND accept an old earth (and for some of us evolution). We haven’t figured out all the answers but then again who has? But faith isn’t about having all the answers; its about trust is Christ to whom the inspired scriptures are witness.

    Anyways, addressing each of your concerns is probably beyond the scope of this post, but I’d like to point out that your statement:

    “Jewish/Church history up to the 1800’s always held to a young earth interpretation.”

    is not really accurate. By the end of the 18th century (ie. before 1800) many, if not most, scientifically educated Christians, including evangelical Christians, believed in an old earth (not billions of years, but certainly many tens of thousands of years). Michael Roberts has written some good stuff on this. Ron Numbers “The Creationists” also documents this. Basically, before Darwin wrote “Origin of the Species”, the antiquity of the earth was settled for many Evangelical Christians.

  29. Well, first things first, I hold to the reliability of Scriptures as much as anyone, so that is not what is at stake. The only thing that is at stake is a particular reading of Scripture, not it validity. In fact, I think the YEC position is much more damaging to the reliability of Scripture than any other.

    The reading of Scripture that I am talking about is not based on myth or fable or untrue stories. I am talking about reading Genesis the way the ancient Israelites would have read it. They would not have read it as strict literal historical narrative, but instead as true stories of actual events in the past, but simply using figurative, symbolic and poetic language. Not allegory or false stories just meant to contain theological truths, but ways of telling about these actual events in a way that highlights the grandeur of the events, and the major drama of creation itself, in a way that a mere mundane recitation of facts could never do. They would find our Modernistic telling of history pretty uninspired and boring. So, this raises the obvious question: why should we insist on reading it differently than the ancient Israelites who first wrote and read these texts would have?

    Second, as for how many Christians LONG before Darwin read Genesis, I would direct you to my article here:

    If you have a problem with Augustine, then we can discuss that there if you like.

    You discuss the issue of whether we should allow the discoveries made about God’s Creation to inform how we read God’s Scripture. While caution is always called for, I would submit that if we did not EVER do this, we would still be insisting that a heliocentric solar system is contrary to Scripture, as Calvin, Luther and most of the Church did at the time of Galileo.

    Yes, many views of Genesis do allow for physical death before the Fall, and yet all of those who hold this view (including MANY very conservative pastors and biblical scholars) still have no problem with God calling it “good”, and for them it does not impinge on their view of original sin, the Fall, the need for redemption, etc.

    Keep in mind, we ALL believe all of these same essential Christian doctrines, it is just that many of us are able to hold those views just as strongly coming at it from a different reading of Genesis. So, it is a non-starter to argue that any view other than the YEC view will necessarily lead to disbelief in any of those areas. Millions of Christians around the world prove that proposition wrong.

    Lastly, you seem to agree that the age of the earth is not, itself, a major issue, but your concern are the “implications” of such a belief. You seem concerned that a belief different than yours regarding how to read Genesis will undermine issues that truly ARE important, it will cause a slippery slope to unorthodox or even heretical views. Well, that is an important concern, but it is not one based in reality, since it simply doesn’t happen, in my experience. I have seen just the opposite, in fact. It is not the OEC or the theistic evolutionist who then comes to disbelieve, but so often those ingrained with YEC doctrines who end up abandoning their faith. I have a collection of testimonies to this effect, and it is scary.

    So, that is the reason why I have taken the approach I do, it is based on “real world” situations. I have reached my own conclusion based on my review of the evidence, and I expect others to reach their own conclusions. But, if we insist on such conclusions dogmatically, we risk being in the same positions as those geocentrist Church leaders who condemned the new scientific evidence for heliocentrism that SEEMED to conflict with their reading of Scripture. Eventually (and it took a LONG time) they eventually realized that it was not science that had gotten it wrong, but it was their reading of Scripture that was wrong.

    Oh, and as for the motivations behind the presentations of an old earth, it was long before Darwin, and those geologist were all Christians who set out to confirm their assumptions that the earth was young. They were a bit taken aback by what they found!

  30. This is a great discussion. I spent about 30 min reading through everything, and I first want to say how sweet it is to actually see Christian brothers discussing creation/evolution without any name-calling or ad hominem attacks.

    Secondly, this is wierd, but I now feel like I have a twin brother out there in cyberspace named Vance who says everything I think.

    If any of you have time to sit and watch my 3-part internet video series on “Science and the Bible” I think you will find it interesting and very relevant to this discussion.

    You can get to it here:


  31. When you look at the night sky, the light from the most distant stars is at least 12-13 billion years old. This is simply the nature of light. I have studied physics and cosmology, and the majority of facts from these sciences are built on very fundamental principles. If anyone would take the time to dedicate a year or two to a secular science, one would discover a very fact-based truth-seeking scientific community. There is no conspiracy behind the lab coats.
    That being said, I must admit this same community is extremely dismissive of anything remotely religious or Christian (I’m talking first hand UC Berkeley/ Lawrence Labs).


    It is usually not a problem with the faith itself, rather the image certain (most?) Christians leave them with. After spending years meticulously studying the night sky and working out math and physics based on logic alone, the mere idea of something possibly believing in a 6000 year old Earth is laughable and downright sad (for them, not necessarily me). Therefor, every single thing that follows that believing in a 6K world will seem equally ridiculous. Try converting a cosmologist after dropping the young-earth line (oh boy!)

    Christians lament the unwillingness of the scientific community to consider or embrace Christian belief, but it is not very surprising that such an event has occurred when ideas like a 6000 y.o. Earth are thrown around. That idea runs directly contrary to ALL academic understandings of science– be that geology, astronomy, and even history (there are whole civilizations that predate 6000-12000 years).

    At this point in my life, I am not a fully-convinced follower of the infallible doctrine, specifically in regards to Genesis. Nevertheless, I am concerned with the state of Christianity and its transition to this scientific world.

  32. Paul,

    I share your concern for the current state of evangelical Christianity, but I think that the doctrine of infallibility is one that we can’t afford to abandon. That being said, I do think that we need to work hard to try and take back this precious truth from those who have turned into something that it was never intended to be. The problem is not the doctrine of biblical infallibility per se, but the misguided expectations that modern Christians have about what this doctrine actually requires.

    Modern standards of academic scholarship or journalistic accurracy would have been completely irrelavent to the original ancient Near-Eastern people who committed God’s Word to writing. Even before archeologists uncovered the ancient Mesopotamian creation stories that help to put Genesis in a very relavent and timely contex, the great Reformer John Calvin was perfectly comfortable in allowing Moses to be “wrong” on matters of astronomy for the sake of his original audience; and this in no way detracts from the ultimate intent of revelation, which is to point all men to Christ.

    For instance, in Genesis 1:16, Moses clearly describes the moon as a second luminary, greater in magnitute than the stars. When the Medieval astronomers concluded, based on irrefutable evidence, that the “star” of Saturn was actually much larger than the moon, and only appeared smaller because of its great distance, and that the moon actually produced no light of its own but rather “borrowed” its light from the sun – many Christians rejected these discoveries because they contradicted a straightforward and unbiased reading of Genesis.

    John Calvin, who held the Scriptures in very high regard, responded to this controversy with the following statment:

    “Moses makes two great luminaries; but astronomers prove, by conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account of its great distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon. Here lies the difference; Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labour whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God…There is therefore no reason why janglers should deride the unskilfulness of Moses in making the moon the second luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes things which lie open before our eyes. Let the astronomers possess their more exalted knowledge; but, in the meantime, they who perceive by the moon the splendour of night, are convicted by its use of perverse ingratitude unless they acknowledge the beneficence of God.”
    Calvin also makes the point that it was God’s perfect wisdom to accommodate His revelation to the ignorance of His primitive audience. And that to do otherwise would damage the credibility of His prophets, who would have quickly lost their authority had they proposed such “rediculous” ideas as a round earth that moves through space at thousand of miles per hour. So in that sense, the Scriptures can still be considered inerrant, since it would have been a tragedy for God to have revealed any other cosmological reality other than that which was commonly held at the time.


  33. Josh, I’m not Arminian. There are more than two choices, you don’t have to be one or the other.

    I just find it odd how many times irresistable grace falls in real practice, it seems that someone who will defend the TULIP so vehemently should not be so concerned about messing up the Gospel. If the Spirit is drawing that person in, it shouldn’t matter if the evangelist gets sidetracked during their delivery.

    That’s all, I personally agree that the debate over young earth/old earth has no place in the sharing of the gospel, and only adds potential for being sidetracked.

  34. Ed, you should not frame the discussion as one of belief in Calvinism, but one who believes in unconditional predestination (the foundation for irresistible grace). That is the issue you are struggling with. There is no middle ground there. You either believe it or you don’t. If you do, then you present the Gospel because it is God’s chosen means to change the person. If you don’t, you present the Gospel because it ultimately depends on you and your persuasiveness.

    Ed, frankly, I would study more on this before I spoke in public about it. You certainly don’t seem like you took the soteriology class very seriously.

  35. Gordon, it really is amazing how similar our approaches are! Steve just linked me over to an article you wrote on the ANE and I am eager to see what you have to say, as well as check out those videos!

    Here is an article that might be right up your alley as well, entitled Making Sense of Genesis 1, giving one possible analysis, but then also providing some useful ANE perspective:

  36. Oh, and Gordon and Paul, on the issue of infallibility, I think it is very possible to hold to both infallibility and inerrancy with our reading of Genesis. Something is only in error if it is attempting to do or say something and then gets it wrong. Something can’t be in error scientifically or historically if it was not intending to provide that type of strict level of detail.

    Yes, this becomes a squishy standard by which we simply say that ANY actual error or contradiction must, therefore, be solved with this “intended purpose” approach, and circularity can ensue. But, if it is backed up with historical, cultural and literary analysis, I think it is very supportable.

  37. Great points. Another way to avoid the “squishyness” of this type of hermeneutic is to recognize that scientific truths are always culturrally bound – regardless of what generation is expressing them. This is something that I emphasize in my video series. What is “true” for one generation, might be “false” to another generation – simply on the basis of discovery (progressive natural revelation). In fact, most Nobel Prizes that get handed out go to those folks who are able to completely overturn years of accepted scientific paradigm. Science is simply a community activity of fallen individuals who have a very impressive, but ultimately limited, ability to acertain the world around us.

    The Bible, however, is God’s timeless and unchanging Word – relavent to every generation. So how can something that is timeless and unchanging be expected to keep up with something as tentative and progressive as science? You and I know that it can’t – and to expect that it can is dangerous – since liberals and atheists will gladly take us up on this challenge. But when a particular biblical author writes under inspiration, he really has no choice but to employ the science of his own day – which is “truth” at that instant.

    The Bible, however, contains many timeless truths that stand for all time, irrespective of what each particular culture might believe. Things like the law of God, our fallen nature, our need for Christ, the person and work of Christ, etc… These things simply can’t be deduced from natural revelation, and thus they are non-negotiable. The shape or age of the earth, however, I think we can handle that one.


  38. Marvin the Martian September 6, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Vance and others…

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that your hermaneutic in regards to Genesis is accurate. There are still many questions that you have to answer. First, what is the symbolic meaning of people having life spans of several hundred years? What truth is being told through that symbolic or figurative language? What truth is being told through the telling of a global flood (which according to OOE didn’t happen) that God used to eradicate almost all life on earth?

    Second, at what point in Genesis do the “true stories” switch from the fugurative/poetic/symbolic language to a more literal, historic, “boring” language? Certainly the history of the Patriarchs from Genesis 12-50 is meant to be taken quite literally, yes?

    Third and most importantly, you still have no answer for the fact that if you are correct, then God created a fallen world with death, disease, violence and natural disasters before the Fall of man (whether it be literal or figurative. No amount of interpreting Genesis using your approach can adequately answer this troubling notion.

    BTW, I am quite familiiar with Augustine’s view on creation and that he viewed it in a more figuratively than in the literal six day sense. That being said, Augustine still held to a Young Earth view, “They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed” from City of God Book 12, Chapter 10.—Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past.

  39. Right, Augustine had no scientific evidence regarding the age of the world to work with. I like to think that if he were alive today, he would agree with me! :)

    Anyway, what is important to realize is that each Scriptural text must be taken on its own terms, and the “degree of strict historicity intended” should be done afresh for each. I believe that we have a spectrum of genre that moves more and more toward a intention of strict historicity as we move forward in time, such that the Acts was meant to be more strictly historic than Chronicles, which were meant to be more strictly historic than Joshua, which was meant to be more strictly historic than the patriarchal stories, which were meant to be more strictly historic than flood narrative, which was meant to be more strictly historic than the creation stories, as an example.

    And the exact degree of historicity is not always crystal clear, and that is why we need to be so careful to insist on strict historicity in the very early texts.

    Let me ask it this way. If you were able to go back in a time machine, and determine without the possibility of doubt, that the earth was old, God used evolution, the flood was only covering a local area and the biblical personages did not live hundreds of years, would you lose your faith? Or would you step back and say, “hmm, maybe I need to reconsider how I am reading these texts”?

    Personally, I am not sure exactly what happened in history that is described by Genesis in the Garden and Fall stories. I don’t know whether it happened all at once, or is it figurative for a larger process. I don’t know whether “Adam” was meant to be a type for all of Mankind, or whether there was a literal Adam set apart as a representative. I don’t know whether there was eternal physical life provided at the time of the “breathing”, which was then nearly immediately lost as a result of the Fall. I just don’t know, and really, I am not worried about it.

    I know there WAS a Fall, and that Man is in a state of sin, separated from God and in need of redemption, and I think Genesis makes THIS clear. How it all played out historically I find an interesting thing to ponder, but I don’t think it is on our “need to know” list.

    Speaking of God’s “breathing”, here is something to consider as an example of figurative language. We know that God is spirit, and that he does not have a corporeal body (although God is God and He could take such a form whenever He likes, I suppose). But here in the early Genesis text, we have a phrase that God “breathed” into Adam. Now, I don’t know of anyone who thinks that God took human form so that He would have human lungs to create human “breath” to perform this action. Yet, we all agree that SOMETHING happened. Something real, some true event. Something that is DESCRIBED using the powerful and evocative language of “breathing”. This language is figurative for something, maybe something our limited human understanding would not really be able to comprehend. Or maybe something that we can just more easily get the “feel” of with this type of language. That is what I mean by using figurative language to describe a real event.

  40. Hi Marvin,

    I’ll take the “historicity” part of your question, and let someone else tackle the much, much more difficult sin – death – theodicy relationship question. (Vance, Gordon: Aren’t I a generous? :-) )

    On the historicity of Gen 1-11, even many (most?) agree that it is historically based – some would even use the word “literal” – see my post at However, many other EC’s would consider it to be not historical at all. Here is how one EC (Paul Seely) put it to a mailing list on which I participate:

    “Perhaps it should be added that there are two issues involved. Science as such and historicity. My belief is that the science in the Bible is always the science of the times. It is always accommodated by God. I have tracked this in my studies from Genesis to Revelation. Or to put it in other words, God had no intention to reveal scientific truth in Scripture and did not do so. ”

    “Historicity is a separate, if overlapping, problem. Biblical historians say or imply that they got their historical facts from human sources. Accordingly, their history can be no better than their sources, and this is why Gen 1-11, which evidences being based in part on outdated Mesopotamian sources, is so bad, later Genesis based on oral traditions and Kings based on royal chronicles is better, and the Gospels based on eye-witness accounts are best of all. This also answers the question of how we can with logical consistency make a separation between Gen 1-11 and what follows.”

  41. Marvin the Martian September 6, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Let me ask it this way. If you were able to go back in a time machine, and determine without the possibility of doubt, that the earth was old, God used evolution, the flood was only covering a local area and the biblical personages did not live hundreds of years, would you lose your faith?

    I don’t know. I can say this, as a person who grew up believing macro-evolution is fact and that we evolved from pond scum over billions of years (what choice did I have, public school teaches it as dogmatically as you can), when I got saved and when faced with Genesis and other fantastical stories in the Bible, I held a very liberal view of scripture. I denied miracles, parting of the Red Sea didn’t really happen, fire from heaven consuming false prophets didn’t really happen. Jesus miracles were more psycho-somatic in nature. The only real miracle I couldn’t deny was the empty tomb. To not take Genesis as literal as possible does start a slippery slope. Vance, I don’t understand how you can hold the view you do and not follow the same road I did. The Genesis stories are fantastical, but so is Exodus. The destruction of Jericho, Elijah and Elisha, and on and on. Where do you draw the line?

    I understand what you are saying Vance. And I still am looking for the answer to the ultimate question as to why, in you view, would God create a world with all the awful things we attribute to the results of the Fall (disease, death, mutation, natural disaster) BEFORE the literal or figurative fall of man?

    Of all your eloquently penned posts about how the ancient Israelites would have interpreted Genesis, there is still no answer for this most troubling of consequences to believing as you do that God created a fallen world before we ever evolved.

  42. Marvin,

    Your questions are very thoughtful, and get right to heart of the matter. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to them. But as soon as I figure out the trinity (1+1+1=1) and the incarnation (1+1=1), I’ll get right to work on these other mysteries. But seriously, like these other difficult, but almost universally accepted doctrines, sometimes I think we over-think and over-analyize the OT, rather than just try and understand the points that the authors were intending to make.

    For instance, I like to read bedtime stories to my kids. Paul Bunyan is one of their favorites. However, when I finish reading it to them, there is no confusion. They do not come away thinking that the Grand Canyon was literally created by a giant lumberjack who dragged his axe across the desert. Nor do they think that the Great Lakes were made by his footsteps. But they do have an appreciation for the larger themes that these stories are intending to communicate, like the stregnth and vitality of the American Frontiersman who brought order to the wild west. What better way to communicate these things than by larger-than-life characters who perform larger-than-life acts.

    Now, if our expectectation is that all Bible stories must resemble journalistic-style reporting with referenced footnotes, then would be holding Scripture to a standard of communication that did not exist in the ancient Near-East. The result is that we will either miss the point of these stories entirely, dismiss them as irrelavent falsehoods, or read things into them that were never meant to be communicated.

    Now obviously unlike these bedtime stories or the stories that circulated throughout the ANE, Scripture was given to us under inspiration. But what does that mean exactly? If we are willing to cast aside our modern preconcieved notions of what divine revelation SHOULD look like and instead study the Bible to find out how God actually communicates to us, then none of this shoud be a problem.

    If this hermeneutic is valid, then the doctrine of inerrancy is maintained, and God’s infinite wisdom can be seen in how he accomodates himself to His people. However, if only strict literalism is allowed, then we have to conclude that God knows less about science, history, medicine, physiology, weather, and a host of other academic disciplines than we do. Unfortunately, many people do reach this misleading conclusion and reject both God and His revealed Word.


  43. Marvin,

    If God had no problem with death and decay before the fall, which appears to be the case based many independent lines of irrefutable evidence, then why should we? If God is God and we are not Him, then obviously He has reasons for why He does things – and we may never know them.

    To deny that there were billions of years of death and decay before the mankind came onto the scene is to ignore the testimony of nature itself. But the 17th century controversy over the double motion of the earth should remind us how the physical realities of the universe God created and sustains moment by moment do not always line up exactly with the way we interpret the Scriptures.

    You might not have any problem with an earth that moves through space, but for the Medieval Christian, this was just as offensive to him as the notion of death prior to man is to you. You see, if hell was located “under the earth” and the heavens were the holy dwelling place of God, then it was a very troubling thing to elevate the world, which was a “sink of impurity”, into the heavens! You can find many statements by Medieval theologians to this effect, some of them like Calvin and Luther are my personal favorites.

    But unless you are member of this group ( few Christians have any problem with the heliocentric arrangement. We simply made the appropriate adjustments in our expectations of those 67 geocentric Bible passages, recognized them as ANE cosmology, and moved on.


  44. Just to clarify, I meant that Calvin and Luther were some of my favorite theologians. And no that I somehow favored their unfortunate statments about heliocentric theories.

  45. On your first point of the slippery slope, I think you are equating a figurative reading with a disbelief in the fantastic or the supernatural. I agree that if the reason why someone wanted to avoid a literal reading of Scripture was because it involved too many fantastic and supernatural elements, this could definitely be a slippery slope.

    But that is not at all the basis for reading the early Genesis texts in the way I do. I have no problem AT ALL with miracles or the most fantastic events in Scripture. My analysis starts from the other way. Here we have all of these types of literature in Scripture, and only one of those is strict literal historical narrative. We approach each text and we say “OK, what form of literature, what method of telling God’s message, do we have here?” From that starting point, without a presumption of literalism, I don’t see how you can get to literalism to begin with. It doesn’t read like an historically literal text when compared to, say, Acts. It reads much more like the Psalms or even Revelation.

    As for the death, et al, I think we have to consider the natural order of Creation as “good”, and this includes every natural process we have today. What is evil, and bad, and the result of the Fall is Sin. It is disobedience. This is what corrupts our lives, not death or disease. And what did Jesus come to give us? What “death” did Jesus come to “undo”? I believe it was spiritual life, eternal life with God. That is the only death that Adam and Eve suffered “on that day”. They were kicked out of the Garden, they were separated from full communion with God. And what do we gain from accepting this redemptive gift of salvation? Eternal life, surely, but what does that mean? It can’t mean just physical eternal life since that everyone gets that, both the redeemed and unredeemed, who will spend eternity alive, but not so well. What will distinguish the redeemed from the unredeemed is not physical life, but spiritual life, an eternity in full communion with God.

    So, I would propose that we have jumped the gun a bit in determining what “must” have been meant, and what “must” have happened at the time of the Fall.

    And there are other views as well, by people who also fully accept all the orthodox doctrines that you and I do. Some propose that Adam and Eve were literal, and were the ones who God chose out of humanity for His purposes, the way He chose Israel out of the nations. He developed a covenant with Adam and Eve, from whom the line developed toward Abraham, etc., and the Covenant continued. He gave them opportunities and they failed, just as Israel did repeatedly after them. BTW, this would also explain the others around at the time of Adam and Eve for Cain to marry and those he was fearful of, etc.

    There are many possibilities here, but as I said, for me, it is mere speculation (although interesting) because it does not impact in the least my views on original sin, our need of redemption, etc.

    No slippery slopes in sight! :)

  46. Marvin the Martian September 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    To deny that there were billions of years of death and decay before the mankind came onto the scene is to ignore the testimony of nature itself.

    No, it is to deny a particular INTERPRETATION of a set of data that neither you nor I was there to witness. You seem to believe that scientists exist in a mental vacuum with “just the facts” forming their interpretation of said facts.

    All people, even scientists, have biases that color their interpretation. A large majority of scientists operate with a naturalistic/atheistic worldview. Christians who accept that God used evolution don’t do so because the “evidence” says so, they do so because they have adopted that view a priori, and then they interpret the evidence to fit that view.

    Secular science does have an agenda, which is why they mock and scorn creationists. There is a palpable disdain from secular science towards the creationist camp. Why is that? How does teaching a Creationist model hinder the progress of “true science”, which last time I read, was done in a lab where you could test theories with repeatable experiments. What is it about macro-evolution that is really testable and repeatable?

    I choose to take God at His Word because He was there when He made it.

  47. Marvin,

    I understand and appreciate your trepidation, but there are 67 verses in the Bible that describe the earth as fixed and immovable, and all of the heavenly bodies in motion around it. For thousands of years of human history, the world’s leading scientists also viewed the world this way. There was no controversy because there was no data to suggest otherwise.

    That all changed in the 1500’s. The controversy lasted about two centuries, but when the dust settled, most Christians decided to put their faith in the astronomers over the Bible’s descriptions of celestial mechanics. Why? Neither you or I was there to see God put all things in motion? Neither you or I can feel the earth hurling through space? Only God has the proper vantage point from which to make such ultimate declarations – so why do we cast our lots with the astronomers?

    There are only two ways to explain the ovewhelming evidence for an old earth and cosmos: (1) God actually made it a really long time ago and takes great pleasure in ruling over it according to His perfect patterns of providence that we like to call the “laws” of nature, or (2) He created it instantaneously in such a way that several different lines of evidence all give a coherent “appearance” of antiquity.

    If (1) is true, then we are treating these biblical descriptions of the young cosmos no differently than we treat other biblical descriptions of the geocentric cosmos – we understand that they were written during a time of scientific ignorance. If (2) is true, then we need to add the “appearence of heliocentricism” argument to the “appearence of age” argument. Perhaps we are being misled by the astronomers and the earth really is fixed and immovable just as the Bible repeatedly declares?

    And perhaps the organ of the heart really is the seat of all thought and conciousness, and the brain only “appears” to serve this function; or perhaps a mustard seed really is smallest of all the seeds, and orchid seeds only “appears” to be smaller; and perhaps the moon really does generate its own light, and only “appears” to borrow from the sun; and perhaps it really is greater than the stars, but only appears much closer than them, etc… The list goes on.

    Why should we trust the evidence when it contradicts these passages, but not when it indicates that the earth must be older than 6000 years? And that things have been living and dying on this planet long before Adam and Even walked with God? If you really have problem with this hermeneutic, then perhaps you need to wrestle with these other passages of Scripture as well?


  48. Marvin the Martian September 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm


    Your sardonic comments aside, I am sure you have heard of the “language of appearance”, yes? The bible’s descriptions of celestial mechanics were consistent with the earth being the frame of reference. And given that you would certainly agree that the Bible isn’t meant to be a science text book, why do you place such rigid limitations on biblical authors? Even modern day astronomers don’t look at a sunset and say “what a lovely earthspin.” But you expect biblical writers to do so?

    Furthermore, while I agree that the Bible isn’t a science book, there are other Scripture passages that seemed to get things right scientifically long before science got them right. Job 26:7 declares in that God “he suspends the earth over nothing.” Isaiah 40:22 says “He stretches out the heavens like a canopy”, which is in agreement with modern astronomy about the expanding universe. God told Abraham in Genesis 15:5 “He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” In ancient days, 3000 stars was about the max that could be counted. God obviously knew there were many more than that. Or Jeremiah 33:22 “I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” Clearly God wasn’t mearly referring to the 3000 visible stars.

    I find it amazing that people say in effect, the people were too dumb to understand how God did things, that God couldn’t directly reveal certain aspects of Creation. God revealed himself directly to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to Moses, the prophets, to Paul. Why when it comes to how God created, we limit Him to the “ignorance” of the authors He is inspiring to record it? As you said “Only God has the proper vantage point from which to make such ultimate declarations, which is why I choose to believe the Bible first.

  49. Marvin,

    Actually, I’m allowing the authors to speak in the context from which they wrote. It is the literalists who demand that they meet modern western standards of scientific and historical accurracy.

    There is a big difference when you or I say “sunrise” or “sunset” and when anybody living in the ancient world said this. When we say it, it is obviously phenomenological because we know that it is actually not the case. However, before Copernicus and Galileo started to question the longstanding assumption that the earth moves and turns, there was no reason to believe otherwise. Everybody was a geocentrist! That was the contemporary “scientific” view for thousands of years.

    ANE cultures had a very detailed cosmologies, and the Bible is filled with references to them. The very passages you quote above require much manipulation to fit into a modern framework. Even the passage about God “stretching out the heavens like a tent” is a perfect reference to the solid dome that arched over the earth, which was assumed to be a flat disc (or circle). In fact the passage in Psalm 104:3 follows this phrase with, “and lays the beams of his upper chamber on thier waters.” Now I ask you: what model of the cosmos featured a solid dome over the sky and all the heavenly bodies on top of which an ocean of water rested? This is not the expanding universe, nor is it Aristotle’s universe. It was in fact the ANE universe, believed by all ANE cultures from Egypt to Mesopotamia – and yes, this included the Hebrews.

    What worries you so much about having the Biblical writers drawing from the popular cosmology of the day?


  50. Marvin,

    Oh, I think God could have found a way to describe things in more detail if that was His purpose, but I don’t think it was. I think He inspired the authors with the images and concept and, if you like, even the words (although I am not sure we HAVE to go that far), that would be most familiar and common to that group. I do think that in addition to the language of appearances (which, as you say, we still use today), there was also some language of accommodation, such as when they described the sun as standing still, when really it would be the earth stopping its rotation. Well, I can guarantee you this was not JUST the language of appearances, it was also an accommodation, since the author and every reader for the next two thousand years simply didn’t know the earth was moving in the first place!

    But, really, I think that it mostly comes down to a matter of style, and literary genre.

    Expecting God to have the author of the creation accounts tell of it using strictly literal historical narrative would be like God having Solomon write the Song of Songs as a clinical analysis of his physical attraction for his woman, including the medical and chemical causations behind that attraction.


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