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Young Earth, Old Earth, and Not Having To Know the Answer

Posted on Nov 22, 2010 by Tom Gilson

A Long-Standing Debate
At the Evangelical Philosophical Society conference last week I ran across a pair of exhibit booths, placed judiciously far from each other, promoting two different views of creation. One was for a young-earth creation society, the other for an old-earth group. My conversations with reps at these exhibits caused me to think back to my first debates on this question a long time ago. The lesson I learned then is still valid, and it might be encouraging to Christians who are confused about the question now.

I was a music major at Michigan State University in the mid-1970s. “Creation science” work by Morris and Whitcomb was attracting a lot of attention then, even among us music majors. One of my fellow Christians in the music department, a bassoonist named Will, was the son of an MSU professor of biology (or possibly geology, I don’t remember for sure). The debate was especially tough on him, since he felt torn between his dad’s science and what others were telling him he had to believe as a Christian. We all had a lot to sort out, or so we thought. We were all looking at competing claims about radiometric dating, dust on the moon (that was a live question at the time), and how a catastrophic flood might have affected the surface of the earth.

Not Having To Know It All
Then one day it struck me: “I’m not a geologist, paleontologist, biologist, or cosmologist. I’m a musician. I’m not equipped to decide this issue.”

Even with respect to the first chapters of Genesis, I realized there were technical questions that took specialized knowledge to judge. I’ve always been struck, for example, by the poetic structure and style displayed by Genesis 1. Poetry is often meant to be taken figuratively. Was this chapter an instance of figurative language or not? I didn’t know. I wasn’t doubting that we should treat the text as trustworthy and authoritative; rather, I wasn’t sure I knew how the text was intended to be interpreted. It seemed to me that was a question for Old Testament scholars and Ancient Near East specialists—not for trombonists.

That’s when I gave myself permission to say, “I don’t know, and that’s okay.” It was tremendously freeing. About fifteen years later I ran across Hugh Ross’s The Fingerprint of God: Recent Scientific Discoveries Reveal the Unmistakable Identity of the Creator (the link is to an updated edition). It was the first old-earth creation book I had read. Again, it included science outside my own expertise, but it reinforced for me a sense of permission to suspend judgment on the question. I met Dr. Ross a month ago and thanked him warmly for that.

Hard Questions Don’t Have Easy Answers
I’ve always been confident that chance was not in charge of origins; God was. I have always been convinced there was an original human couple created in God’s image, originally innocent, who fell into sin and death through disobedience. There was much more that I could affirm then and now, and I could explain why I am sure of these things; but I don’t want to stray from my point, which is this: We know a lot, but we don’t have to have know everything.

We have God’s sure revelation, so there is much that we do know. I’ve never been afraid to stand for truths of which I am confident (regular readers here know that). God said it would take diligence and work, though, for us to rightly handle his word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). There’s no guarantee in the Lord that Genesis’s truths are available right on the surface.

And the Bible is not our only source of truth. Theologians say it this way: God wrote two books: the book of Scripture and the book of nature. Both books need to be interpreted (or rightly handled, one might say). The Bible is more personal, more revelational, more propositional, and therefore superior in many ways to the book of nature, but we still need to interpret passages like Genesis in context, including the rest of Scripture, God’s self-revelation in nature, and the literary and historical setting in which they were first composed. There is a reason we turn to commentaries to learn about the situation in which the Bible’s books were written. The context and content of Genesis 1 and 2 are (obviously) the most distant and distinctive of any passage in Scripture. Many questions remain open, as far as I can see.

It’s okay to say we don’t know. Some questions are difficult, technical, and contentious even among specialists. Christians who love the Lord and believe the Bible disagree on many things—modes of baptism, for example—and yet we can still have fellowship with each other. Likewise, godly men and women who love the Lord and trust the truth of God’s two books of revelation don’t always agree on what they mean with respect to creation, and still have fellowship together.

Bad Policy
Now, here’s the nub of it all. I have offered some advice that I think is freeing: It’s okay to say we don’t know when we don’t know. Now I want to apply the principle and issue a challenge. There are too many of us Christians standing dogmatically for young-earth creationism based on short pamphlets or web pages we’ve read about errors in radiometric dating. Deciding difficult, technically involved issues that way is bad policy. Even if the young-earth model turns out to be the correct one, making one’s decisions that way would still be bad policy.

I could extend the point far beyond pamphlets and articles. Earlier this year, a young-earth creation society invited me to raft the Grand Canyon and see (among other things) how its features could be explained by the Flood. Man, would I have loved the adventure! But I declined. I told them, “I am not a geologist today, and I’m not qualified to judge the arguments for and against your position. If I took this rafting trip I would still not be a geologist, and I would be, if anything, less qualified to judge the merits of your position, for I doubt I would be getting a balanced view on it.” It’s bad policy to think we could know the hard answers to the hard questions even after a week of study. What’s a week, after all? How long is a Ph.D. program?

It’s Okay To Say We Don’t Know
I’m all for study and learning, advancing our understanding of science, Scripture, and all of life. I’m totally in favor of being confident in what we really do know. Claiming we know more than we do, however, does not advance the truth, it undermines it. It’s an act of intellectual dishonesty toward oneself, and it damages our credibility with others.

Mystery is not a bad thing either for worship or for science. God’s ways exceed our understanding—what a great reason for worship! The world is full of unanswered questions—what a great motivation for study!

Let’s give ourselves the freedom to say we don’t know.

P. S. This will probably raise several questions: Is there anything at all that Christians can know about creation as non-specialists? Do I have any opinion at all on the age of the universe? How far does the principle of “I don’t know, and I don’t have to know,” extend? Does that principle undermine all non-specialist biblical knowledge? Am I saying that Christians are more guilty of false confidence than others? My answers to questions 1, 2, 4, and 5 in that list are (respectively) yes, yes, no and no. The third one doesn’t have a short answer. They’re important questions, but I am leaving them otherwise unanswered for now. This article is intended to emphasize one central point, and if I were to lay out my full position on those matters, it would undoubtedly kick up debate on other questions and dilute the point I want most to make. Feel free to ask, but please expect I will make some of my answers on other blog posts, not this one.

51 Responses to “ Young Earth, Old Earth, and Not Having To Know the Answer ”

  1. Jim Jordan says:

    Young Earth is a bad interpretation of Scripture. First, there is the third day when trees drop seed and new trees grow up; not a 24-hour day event. Then we have the warning from God Himself in Job 38:1-7 (see below).
    Contrary to what the young-earth creationist says, God did not give us all the information. Add to that Psalm 90:4 (2 Peter 3:8 also) stating that, to the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, some humility is expected in regard to God’s handiwork.
    Moreover, humility is expected when interpreting God’s Word; humility that is a little lacking in the Young Earth corner. In fact, the journalistic concept of numbers is a modern mindset. The ancients used numbers to appeal to various sentiments, something quite alien to us. We do understand this because we don’t believe we don’t have to forgive that 491st sin (Jesus said you must forgive not 7 times but 70 times 7 times). The Lord was not saying we don’t have to forgive the 491st offense, He was telling Peter in a polite way to “get over it”.
    I read a scientist once who has a great way of vetting scriptural and scientific interpretations. If the science is verifiable through repeated measuring yet appears to conflict with the scriptural interpretation, revisit the logic of the scriptural interpretation (and vice versa). Using this metric, we can see that Darwin’s definition of evolution is bad scientific interpretation while young earth is a bad scriptural interpretation.
    This is a snare for a lot of Christians. I recently counseled a young Christian who was having trouble because he was being ridiculed for his young earth beliefs. I explained that, at the very least, it wasn’t an essential belief. And at the worst, it’s a bad interpretation. Christians are to be seekers of the truth, not dogmatic fundamentalists. If people can plainly see the world is more than 6,000 years old, and we say, “Nope, October 18, 4004 BC!”), don’t we look ridiculous?

    1 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
    2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
    3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
    7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jim.

    Regarding Jim’s first sentence, “Young Earth is a bad interpretation of Scripture,” I would say this to those who would be inclined to disagree strongly with him. If you think he’s wrong that it’s a bad interpretation, I hope at least you can see that it is not a necessary interpretation. It’s still open to further question and exploration, for reasons both he and I have stated (among others).

    Therefore, even those who lean toward the young-earth view ought not be dogmatic about it. As clear as the interpretation may seem to you, I can’t see how you would want to consider the question settled while there is such strong debate about it, and while there is more study to be done and more information to be added to the mix.

  3. Russ White says:

    There are a couple of things to consider with this stance:

    1. The problem isn’t the age of the Earth, but the age of humans. The two places where the ages of things impact Christian theology are both contained within the concept of original sin –when did death enter in, and was there an original couple that God created directly and specifically? I would suggest we don’t much care about the “age of the Earth,” but rather only the “age of life” –and I don’t think science has nearly a strong idea of the “age of life” as many people think. It’s a lot of circular reasoning.

    2. There is a problem with all the _other_ texts in the Scriptures that treat Adam and Eve as historical people who took actions within real history. If Paul lied –or was misinformed– about the existence of Adam and Eve, then Paul could have lied –or been misinformed– about everything else. Hence, Paul’s writings are now “up for grabs,” and should not be believed until you can prove the accuracy of every point.

    3. You leave yourself open to a very specific and dangerous criticism by saying, “I’m not an expert, so I can’t answer that question.” The same logic could be applied to any and every question, not only in the Scriptures, but to life in general. Apply it to another claim, for instance –”Did Jesus claim to be God? Well, that’s a matter for experts to decide, based on the language used, the use of language at the time the writings were created, a determination of when the writings were made, and a determination of the accuracy of our copies of the text itself. There’s freedom in saying I don’t know.”

    So there are theological, epistemological, and Scriptural problems down the path of “I don’t know,” that you need to resolve before you are “safe” in this stand.

    :-)

    Russ

  4. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Regarding YEC, Jim is correct–primarily because he’s following St. Augustine’s sage advice (see below). The YEC is the interpretation, the scientific findings are not. The non-YEC vision is, in fact, settled. (Not all scientific knowledge is contingent: some things the MESs tell us we know with absolute certainty.) Darwinism is the bad interpretation, Darwinian evolutionary theory is currently the best science on the block. YECer’s are, at the end of the day, fideists: observation doesn’t matter to them if it contradicts their interpretation of Scripture. Recall one of the most important principles we have: while all knowledge is obtained through the senses (exception: mystical knowledge), not all knowledge is sensory knowledge. We need our senses and empirical data and a solid understanding of the world (meaning: MESs) in order to then reason to higher immaterial verities. Some of those verities ARE accessible to our reason; others MUST come through Revelation. The YEC interpretation is not revealed knowledge.

    St. Augustine:

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.[De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19]

    With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation. [De Genesi ad literam, 2:9]

  5. Roz says:

    Thanks for this. I remember when it first occurred to me that “I don’t need to develop an opinion on this.” What a load off my shoulders. It works for non-essentials of the faith, politics, and whether my neighbor ought to quit smoking.

    I remember Jesus’ impassioned prayer “that they may all be one.” Certainly many of the things that divide his followers are not essentials of faith and salvation. Sometimes, “God created the earth!” booms big enough to look after itself.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    Thanks for that; but again, my purpose here is not to persuade YECers that they’re wrong to believe what they believe; it’s to persuade them they are wrong to believe it dogmatically as if the question were settled in their direction. I can appreciate that your point and mine are not the same. I want to keep that difference clear.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    Let me amend that last comment: my purpose is to persuade YECers not to make their position a test of orthodoxy, or a way of proving whether one believes in the Bible or not. OECers do not tend to do that the way YECers often do.

    My purpose is also a more general one than that: to encourage all of us to recognize what we don’t know, not to presume to know things that are beyond our own learning, and feel free to say “I don’t know.”

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Russ:

    Regarding #1, I am very open to that point. Regarding #2, I affirm my belief in Adam and Eve as historical people. I said that in the blog post (though without naming their names). Regarding #3, please read the P.S. I attached to the blog post. I knew when I wrote it that I was leaving that door open. You are correct in saying that needs to be resolved, and I intend to do that in another blog post, as I said. We are in agreement on that point, too.

    You close by saying something about being “‘safe’ in this stand.” I would love to be safe in every stand I take. I’m confident you would agree that claiming to know what we do not know is not the way to get there.

  9. BillT says:

    For those who might be interested, a well thought out position on this from Tim Keller.

    Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople

  10. JAD says:

    From the OP:

    And the Bible is not our only source of truth. Theologians say it this way: God wrote two books: the book of Scripture and the book of nature. Both books need to be interpreted (or rightly handled, one might say). The Bible is more personal, more revelational, more propositional, and therefore superior in many ways to the book of nature, but we still need to interpret passages like Genesis in context, including the rest of Scripture, God’s self-revelation in nature, and the literary and historical setting in which they were first composed. There is a reason we turn to commentaries to learn about the situation in which the Bible’s books were written. The context and content of Genesis 1 and 2 are (obviously) the most distant and distinctive of any passage in Scripture. Many questions remain open, as far as I can see.

    This so called 2 book approach (or general revelation/ special revelation) goes back a long way. It was first talked about by some of the early church fathers and then revived by Kepler and Galileo and others involved in the so called scientific revolution.

    I especially love this quote from St. Augustine:

    Saint Augustine (354 – 430)
    The Book of Nature

    Some people, in order to discover God, read books.
    But there is a great book:
    the very appearance of created things.
    Look above you! Look below you!
    Note it. Read it.
    God, whom you want to discover,
    never wrote that book with ink.
    Instead He set before your eyes
    the things that He had made.
    Can you ask for a louder voice than that?
    Why, heaven and earth shout to you:
    “God made me!”

    De Civit. Dei, Book XVI

    I don’t know about you, but I think that is absolutely beautiful. However, I have talked to a number of young earthers who do not think much of the 2 book approach. They believe either nature speaks with little authority or that special revelation is always primary. I disagree. I think we need to understand both books the best we can and where they appear to conflict try to harmonize them with the assumption that both reveal truth.

    My point is simply this. How can we have any kind of dialogue or discussion without first coming to some agreement about the book of nature?

  11. Bryan says:

    The problem is that Old Testament authors, the apostles and other New Testmant authors, the early church fathers, Calvin, Luther and virtually every other prominent figure in Christian history, and, …wait for it…Jesus…understood and referenced Genesis as if it was literal history. Old-earth ‘compromise’ positions are all post-Enlightenment developments. I think that should settle the issue for those of us who have a high view of Scripture. I believe biblical (or if you prefer, young earth) creationism is the only defensible position based on that (without even throwing in the theological and other issues into the mix regarding the old-earth view: death before sin, the irreconcilable differences in the order of creation vis-a-vis the big bang and what the Bible says, etc). Nature should be interpreted in light of what is clearly revealed to us in Scripture. Christians should accept the plain reading of the text, as the author intended it to be understood, using proper exegesis, and not try to awkwardly force human ideas and theories into the text (eisgesis)

    Of course it’s true that no particular stance is required for salvation.

  12. JAD says:

    Bryan is a case in point. He even introduces a favorite word of those who share his position– compromise, which is something they absolutely disdain.

    It is a little hard to get a dialogue or discussion off the ground if you cannot even agree on the preliminaries.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Bryan,

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your commitment to Scripture, which I share. I’m afraid I don’t share all of your conclusions, however.

    First, Jesus did not advocate for a 6,000 or 10,000 year-old universe. His references only go back to early humanity, which is not a point in dispute here. The same is very clearly true for every OT author and the apostles, except in the cases of Moses’ writings in Genesis 1, where there is disagreement on what he intended to mean.

    Second, Augustine has been referenced twice in this thread; he too (forgive the understatement!) is a prominent figure in Christian history.

    Thus your opening sentence is irrelevant to the question at hand.

    Third, the old-earth position is not a (scare quotes) “‘compromise’ position.” It is an interpretation of the available evidence. There is more evidence available now than before. It is entirely proper to include it in the analysis.

    Fourth, the theological issues you have mentioned would be show-stoppers if they were indeed show-stoppers; but responsible, Bible-believing, God-fearing thinkers have not come to agreement that they are.

    Fifth, I agree nature should be interpreted in light of what is clearly revealed to us in Scripture. Think about it a moment and you’ll realize that you also understand Scripture in light of what is clearly revealed in nature. I will demonstrate that with just one example of many I could present: what do you take the greater and lesser lights in Genesis 1 to be? Try to answer without reference to any knowledge you acquired through nature, and you’ll see what I mean.

    I’ll add one more example. Why do we regard Jesus’ walking on water a miracle? It’s because of what we know from nature: that this was extremely exceptional, impossible apart from a special work of God for that purpose. Suppose you had never read the stories of the Red Sea, the floating axe-head, or Jonah sinking in the sea. Don’t you think you would still have the capacity through natural knowledge, knowledge gained apart from Scripture, to recognize Jesus’ act there as miraculous?

    These are just two examples. I think others could be drawn from every paragraph of the Bible, for truly we could not understand the Bible if we did not know something about the world through our experience in the world. And vice versa, we cannot really understand our experience in the world apart from the truths in the Bible. The two sources of knowledge complement, inform, and build upon one another.

    I don’t mean to say that nature trumps Scripture for revelatory purposes. I’m saying instead that some things in both Scripture and nature are clearly true, and that what is clearly true is clearly true. I mean also to say that, for reasons stated in the OP, the correct understanding of the events in Genesis 1 and 2 is not as clear to everyone as you think it is to you.

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    Bryan, you wrote,

    Of course it’s true that no particular stance is required for salvation.

    I appreciate that. I’m curious whether you believe the YEC stance is required for anything else. I am not referring to the events beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve (there’s a lot of highly essential theology there), but rather to what preceded their creation.

  15. BillT says:

    “Jesus…understood and referenced Genesis as if it was literal history.”

    Does that include any references from Christ about Genesis 1? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. One of the points made in the Keller article is that different parts of Genesis require different readings based on the intent of the author among other things. This is true of Genesis and every other book in the Bible. Blanket statements like the above do little justice to the Bible or the person making the statement.

  16. JAD says:

    Tom from the OP:

    One of my fellow Christians in the music department, a bassoonist named Will, was the son of an MSU professor of biology (or possibly geology, I don’t remember for sure). The debate was especially tough on him, since he felt torn between his dad’s science and what others were telling him he had to believe as a Christian.

    Bryan:

    Of course it’s true that no particular stance is required for salvation.

    I am wondering if being respectful of each other (YEC and OEC) for supposedly for purposes of love and unity isn’t sending the wrong message to those outside the faith. I think we could even tacitly being suggesting that to become a Christian you need to believe that the earth, and even the universe, is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old. This in my opinion, presents a prohibitively tall mountain to climb for someone well versed in the sciences. My experience, with some of the places where I have attended church, is that I get a tacit message telling me: “we’ll tolerate someone with an old earth/ progressive creationists position but we don’t want you to be open about it.” Is that healthy? Why do I need to keep those type of views to myself? If I am treated that way how would someone outside the faith feel, even if they knew what I know about the churches so called tolerant position?

    What I am suggesting is that what the church really needs is an open and honest debate about these kind of things. I actually think it would be healthy. One of the ironies is that the church, by which I mean the suburban middle class church, has become more relevant in what it has to offer with it’s worship services– more contemporary music etc. But we have seemed to have lagged behind with the intellectual stuff including, of course, the issues where science meets religion. Once again, I think we need a big dose of openness and honesty here.

  17. Bryan says:

    JAD,

    Trying to ‘interpret’ the Bible in a way completely foreign to Christian exegetes prior to the 1700′s and the majority of Hebrew scholars today so that we can try to get man’s fallible ideas and theories to ‘jive’ with it is just that–compromise. The fact that Old Earth interpretations only developed in the last few hundred years should tell you that it isn’t what the Bible teaches. You would think some exegete would have picked up on that if it were. But no–flawed, feeble Old Earth interpretations are an attempt to reconcile the Bible with ‘science’ (or rather, secular interpretations of observations which conflict with the straightforward reading of the Bible).

    Tom,

    Thank you for your reply.

    “First, Jesus did not advocate for a 6,000 or 10,000 year-old universe. His references only go back to early humanity, which is not a point in dispute here.”

    I think saying that ‘Jesus’ references only go back to early humanity’ begs the very question at issue. *Is* that how his sayings are to be understood?

    ‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. (Mark 10:6)’

    Which is more ‘in the beginning of creaton’: 6 six days after, or billions of years later? (Billions of years later would place humanity near the *end* of creation, see the handy diagram in this link: http://creation.com/the-earth-how-old-does-it-look). If someone tells you they’ll do something at the beginning of something (week, month, whatever) do you interpret that as it will be done soon, or that they’ll do it billions of years later? It seems that the most natural reading forces one to accept that Jesus believed mankind has been around since essentially the beginning of the cosmos.

    See the following link for other passages related to Jesus and responses to potential objections: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v2/n1/jesus-and-the-age-of-earth

    “The same is very clearly true for every OT author and the apostles, except in the cases of Moses’ writings in Genesis 1, where there is disagreement on what he intended to mean.”

    I don’t see how this statement can be reconciled with the following passages:

    8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

    If God made everything in six days–literal days, with evening and morning specified with the Hewbrew word ‘Yom’ (and made us on the sixth day), then Genesis 5 makes it clear that the Universe is less than 10,000 years old (since the list goes from Adam to Noah, Father to son).

    See passages from the apostles here: http://books.google.com/books?id=VvvJPTvvDJcC&pg=PA348&lpg=PA348&dq=apostles+and+the+age+of+the+earth&source=bl&ots=3CbaguxZFv&sig=iJpc3eBlFh-7n0IRr2w_VZrLfxM&hl=en&ei=h2_rTOXwHZGesQPGzOmoDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=apostles%20and%20the%20age%20of%20the%20earth&f=false

    “Second, Augustine has been referenced twice in this thread; he too is a (forgive the understatement!) prominent figure in Christian history.”

    St. Augustine was no Hebrew scholar by any stretch of the imaginatio–he was familiar with Latin and some Greek. Augustine thought that creation was *instantaneous* instead of six days(!), and he affirmed the young earth position in City of God (12(10)). I don’t see how he can be enlisted in support of Old Earth interpretations.

    “Third, the old-earth position is not a (scare quotes) “‘compromise’ position.” It is an interpretation of the available evidence. There is more evidence available now than before. It is entirely proper to include it in the analysis.”

    The evidence is the same for all of us–young earthers and old earthers. YECs have the same rocks and fossils as OECs. What it comes down to is how we choose to interpret those ‘facts’–in light of a straightforward reading of Scripture, or fallible, unbiblical uniformitarianism–which makes folly out of Genesis 5.

    “Fourth, the theological issues you have mentioned would be show-stoppers if they were indeed show-stoppers; but responsible, Bible-believing, God-fearing thinkers have not come to agreement that they are.”

    The Bible states plainly that death is the result of sin–this is not so in certain old earth views. OEC largely makes God responsible for death. Also, the Big Bang theory flatly contradicts what is recorded in Scripture. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/does-big-bang-fit-with-bible

    Regarding your fifth point, Tom–we do understand Scripture in light of nature. The problem is that unlike Scripture, nature is not a propositional revelation, so it is not subject to objective hermeneutical principles. Rather, in the study of nature, propositions must be formulated from the observations by *interpreting* them in a framework or paradigm. This framework depends largely on the axioms, or starting assumptions, of the scientist. This is because no one was around when the Universe or life came into being…there were no eyewitnesses: except God.

    We should look to the Scriptures for clarity. God is infallible. Man is fallible. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto good works.”

    “I appreciate that. I’m curious whether you believe the YEC stance is required for anything else. I am not referring to the events beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve (there’s a lot of highly essential theology there), but rather to what preceded their creation.”

    I don’t think it’s required for anything–I just think it’s the way Scripture was meant to be understood. Old Earth ideas are completely absent from the text and didn’t become in ‘vogue’ until the rise in popularity of Lyell’s anti-biblical geological scientific philosophy where he clearly states his a priori intent to ‘do away with Moses’ in a number of places. The only thing that preceded the creation of Adam and Eve was 5 days.

    BillT,

    “Does that include any references from Christ about Genesis 1? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. One of the points made in the Keller article is that different parts of Genesis require different readings based on the intent of the author among other things.”

    Oh man–the theistic evolutionists over at Biologos have the lowest view of Scripture…it’s pretty sad. Anyway, Jesus does reference Genesis 1 in Mark 10:6. The part about ‘different parts of Genesis requiring different readings’ is too vague…can you elaborate? According to the Hebrew, the whole thing is constructed as a historical narrative–including the first 11 chapters.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Bryan,

    My purpose here, by way of reminder, is to suggest that we have freedom to say “I don’t know” on this issue. You agree that YEC is “not required for anything,” so I take it you would also agree on my post’s main point.

    Different writers use quotation marks differently. In your most recent comment you used them to surround ‘interpret,’ ‘jive,’ ‘science,’ ‘facts,’ ‘vogue,’ and ‘do away with Moses,’ besides a number of straightforward actual quotations. Normally, quotation marks around single words like this indicates something like, “you use this word but it’s not really correct.” I use the same technique when I refer to “same-sex ‘marriage.’” They call it marriage, but I don’t (since it isn’t marriage really), so when I use the term in that context I put quotes around it.

    That’s the normal usage of the device. I’m going into all this explanation so that I can ask if that’s what you really mean: that OEC advocates claim to interpret, to use science, to have facts at hand, but really they don’t. Your use of quotes around ‘jive’ and ‘do away with Moses’ doesn’t fit any standard usage I know of, unless you’re actually quoting someone, so I’m not sure how to take any of it, really.

    But if your position is that OEC advocates falsely claim to interpret and to use science and facts, then it’s both uncharitable and false. That’s why I’m checking in with you on it.

    As to your charge of compromise. In John 14:13-14 Jesus says straightforwardly,

    Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

    That’s as plain as it can be. Jesus will do whatever we ask. Period. Now, elsewhere we find that there are conditions on prayer: that we pray with right motives, in the will of God, with faith, etc. I think that a reader who at first saw John 14:13-14, and only later encountered these other passages, might say, “Don’t compromise. Don’t water down the promise Jesus made in John 14:13-14!” That would be silly, as I know you would agree. We believe that Scripture interprets Scripture.

    The advance of science in the last several centuries is analogous to discovering the existence of those other passages on prayer. When we have new information shedding light on old information, the proper thing to do is to explore what the two say about each other. That’s not compromise any more than it’s compromise to interpret John 14:13-14 in light of 1 John 5:14-15. It’s good exegesis.

    It would seem that you’re saying that we ought not to exegete nature at all; that the information we derive from nature should not influence us at all with respect to this question. Sure, it’s not propositional information handed to us. But that doesn’t mean it’s not information. How strong, secure, and solid is it? The vast majority of scientists see a vast constellation of facts that agree with great unanimity: the universe is more than mere thousands of years old. Propositional or not, that’s pretty solid. We can exegete that and include it as part of the information store by which we interpret reality. That’s not compromise, it’s good thinking.

    Now, if there’s something wrong with that science or its interpretation, then we ought not add it into our exegesis. I think this is the case with evolutionary explanations for life: the science fails on multiple counts. Creation scientists say the same is true of age-of-the-earth studies. I haven’t studied it the way I have evolution, so I’m not about to make a pronouncement. I will say, though, that the mass of science says one thing, and as I read the Bible it does not require me to contradict that science.

    Which brings up the other general topic area you’ve addressed. In Mark 10:6, I think Jesus was referring to the beginning of creation of humans. It’s at least arguable; it’s not necessary at all to take the position you’ve advanced. In view of the context, which was a discussion of marriage in light of how God created us, I think it’s unlikely he was commenting on the age of the universe.

    It is not difficult to reconcile the Sabbath commandment with OEC. “Day” in the commandment represents “day” as it was used in Genesis. There are a variety of ways “day” might have been used in Genesis (views differ), but none of them preclude the “day” of the Commandment being used to represent what is being taught about God’s work and his rest.

    Augustine’s support for old-earth interpretations consists in this: he does not consider the literal six-day creation view to be necessary from Scripture. I brought him up, by the way, to show that your contention of univocal six-day beliefs down through history was incorrect.

    You say,

    The Bible states plainly that death is the result of sin–this is not so in certain old earth views.

    I suppose then that certain old earth views are wrong. That wouldn’t surprise me. But there are responsible old-earth scholars who take this question into account and offer responsible answers to it.

    Rather, in the study of nature, propositions must be formulated from the observations by *interpreting* them in a framework or paradigm. This framework depends largely on the axioms, or starting assumptions, of the scientist.

    Of course. Is the same not true of Scripture?

    I’m not advocating epistemological hopelessness when I say that. I’m saying that interpretation is an essential part of how we understand everything in the world. Our starting points or axioms, and our interpretive methods, will determine how successfully we apprehend reality. And that’s true for Scripture, too. I’m sure you’ve seen Scripture badly twisted by people with false approaches. One of my axioms is that truth is truth. Another one is that God created us to explore truth, not just in Scripture but in all of reality, and with an ability to discover truth. This is one aspect of the imago Dei; marred but not obliterated by the fall.

    Another axiom is that truth agrees with truth; and that where there appears to be contradiction, then further work must be done. Either one apparent truth or the other will be found not to be true, or else there is something to be done in our interpretation to bring them into agreement. That process may take time, and while it is ongoing it is necessary to suspend judgment as to the outcome.

    You say,

    According to the Hebrew, the whole thing is constructed as a historical narrative–including the first 11 chapters.

    Is there something all the English translations I’ve read are missing? If so, then what?

    Finally, as to the low view of Scripture at BioLogos, don’t commit the error of guilt by association or of poisoning the well. Timothy Keller has an extremely high view of Scripture, and you would do well to interact with his arguments rather than cast aspersions on the collection in which they were published.

  19. BillT says:

    “…the theistic evolutionists over at Biologos have the lowest view of Scripture.”

    Again more blanket statements (and this time with guilt by assocaition added) that does nothing to advance the discussion. I can assure you that Dr. Keller has an extremely high view of scripture. The article itself, which it’s pretty clear you didn’t read, explains quite carefully the basis for differing understandings based on the text. But really Bryan, advancing understanding is not what you are really interested in is it?

  20. BillT says:

    Just an additional comment on Tom’s initial point. Not only is it ok not to know all the answers, it’s ok to be wrong about the answers. Now I find that the YEC position has more problems assocated with it than the OEC view does. Thus, I’m inclined to accept that view. However, what will I think if when the truth is finally revealed to me that the YEC position is really the truth? I’ll think “great, praise God” which is the same thing I’ll say if OEC is the revealed truth. Just as “good theology never saved anyone”, the correct view of creation is not where our salvation lies.

  21. Roz says:

    JAD said:

    I am wondering if being respectful of each other (YEC and OEC) for supposedly for purposes of love and unity isn’t sending the wrong message to those outside the faith. I think we could even tacitly being suggesting that to become a Christian you need to believe that the earth, and even the universe, is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

    I respectfully (even strenuously) disagree. The salient point of the OP is that a statement that we ‘don’t know for sure’ is both a scripturally and scientifically valid position. I’d suggest that it goes further than that — it is a humble and righteous position. Jesus didn’t say, “Go ye unto the world and preach correct details of doctrine and interpretation.” If we gently accept that other well-meaning Christians hold a different opinion than we do, even if we hold our own quite strongly, the witness that’s offered isn’t confusion but love. Since when did “arguing that we’re right” become one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

  22. JAD says:

    Why did the church change it’s view on geocentrism?

    During the time of Galileo Roman Catholic theologians cited a number of scripture verses that appear to literally support the geocentric position. (Protestants at the time also embraced geocentrism.)

    For example:

    Ecclesiastes1:5:
    The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

    Psalms 19:4-6
    yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

    Joshua 10:12-13
    Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day..

    Why do we no longer interpret these verses literally? I would argue that it is because of what we have learned by the way of science.

    Think about that for a moment. There is no passage of the Bible the unequivocally teaches the heliocentric view. There are passages that appear to at least strongly imply a geocentric view. So again, the vast majority of Christians interpret these passage figuratively because of the science.

    Heliocentrism is a view that is the direct result of modern science. It was something of which Biblical writers and the early church fathers were ignorant. Is there a parallel here when it comes to the age of the earth? I think so.

  23. Holopupenko says:

    Not only is it ok not to know all the answers, it’s ok to be wrong about the answers.

    With all due respect, BillT, that’s not correct. To be “wrong” about the physical universe is to be living with a misunderstanding, i.e., false conception, of what the universe actually is and how it operates… which, I hasten to add, is not the same as not knowing everything about the universe.

    Point 2: An important principle presented here over and over is that while our knowledge comes through our senses, not all knowledge is sensory knowledge. If one does not have a good understanding of the universe through our senses (i.e., through the MESs), one cannot properly reason to immaterial verities. Holding a false idea of the universe is productive of more false notions–either about the physical universe or about immaterial verities.

    Holding to or not holding to a YEC vision of the universe is not necessary for salvation–that’s true. BUT, the YEC vision IS false, and if one reasons from the false, one cannot even hope to reason to immaterial verities… which means one leaves open the door to damaging faith. As a case in point: the outcome of the Scopes trial quite literally impacted the faith of many people. The YEC will continue to be relegated to the dustbin of history, with the unfortunate outcome (I’m speaking generally) that some people’s faiths will be abandoned as well.

    That’s one reason why I worry for those who hold to Intelligent Design: it’s bad joo-joo not just in terms of science but the bad impact it may have on people’s faith… as ironic as that may sound. For example, Intelligent Design engenders the error of occassionalism–which is not a Christian vision of reality.

  24. JAD says:

    Roz: I respectfully (even strenuously) disagree. The salient point of the OP is that a statement that we ‘don’t know for sure’ is both a scripturally and scientifically valid position. I’d suggest that it goes further than that — it is a humble and righteous position.

    I am absolutely certain that the earth orbit’s the sun, and not vice-versa. I am just as certain that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and that the universe is 15-20 billion years old. Why should accept an “I am not sure” position when I am sure that these things are true? Once again the more humble position is to have an open, honest and healthy debate about these things.

    I am laying my cards on the table here. There is no doubt about the science, so I have no other choice but to interpret the scripture in the light of science. I have to harmonize what is revealed in the book of nature with what is revealed in the book. If they can’t be harmonized then one of them is wrong.

  25. BillT says:

    Holopupenko,

    But isn’t it fair that “not knowing everything about the universe” might lead to us being wrong. I didn’t suggest that we knowingly take the wrong position. I only said I could be wrong about my understanding and that if I was it would not lead to a lesser apprecaition of God’s creation.

    BTW, I couldn’t agree with you more in your position on YEC and ID and the effect of taking those positions.

  26. SteveK says:

    Tom,

    I’m curious whether you believe the YEC stance is required for anything else.

    My hunch is that it’s required in order to hold onto a particular view of biblical inerrancy. If the YEC stance is false, then the thinking goes, the bible can’t be inerrant.

  27. Bryan says:

    Tom,

    “My purpose here, by way of reminder, is to suggest that we have freedom to say “I don’t know” on this issue. You agree that YEC is “not required for anything,” so I take it you would also agree on my post’s main point.”

    While I’d again agree that the YEC position is not required for salvation, I think taking the Bible at face value, as most have done since Genesis was written, forces one to accept the YEC position. It’s the least ad hoc and I believe it’s the most logically and theologically consistent reading available for the text. We *are* free to say that “we don’t know” for sure, indeed, but I believe we have enough evidence to come to a sound conclusion. And I have no problem admitting the YEC position may be wrong. I just personally don’t think that’s likely–based on science *and* Scripture.

    “That’s the normal usage of the device. I’m going into all this explanation so that I can ask if that’s what you really mean: that OEC advocates claim to interpret,”

    I apologize, and I’ll try to be more clear. I put ‘interpret’ in quotations because I don’t think OECs ‘interpret’ Genesis so much as try to force the text to fit man’s fallible ideas–this is eisgesis, not exegesis, and it’s an improper hermeneutical approach. I’ve yet to see a sound OEC interpretation of Genesis. See this page for various criticisms: http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers#/topic/creation-compromises

    “to use science, to have facts at hand, but really they don’t.”

    The science employed by OECs to attack the plain reading of Genesis isn’t operational science–science based repetition and observation, done in the present; the type of science that atomic theory is based on, or has put man on the moon and has lead to medical cures. Age of the Earth/evolution hails from the historical/origins sciences, which is based on *interpretations* of present day evidence of *past* events. One should not confuse interpretation with observation–’evidences of an old Earth’ are interpretations of evidence, and nothing more. These interpretations are based on our worldview, because no one was around to observe the events purported to have happened: again, except for God.

    “As to your charge of compromise. In John 14:13-14 Jesus says straightforwardly,

    Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

    That’s as plain as it can be. Jesus will do whatever we ask. Period. Now, elsewhere we find that there are conditions on prayer: that we pray with right motives, in the will of God, with faith, etc. I think that a reader who at first saw John 14:13-14, and only later encountered these other passages, might say, “Don’t compromise. Don’t water down the promise Jesus made in John 14:13-14!” That would be silly, as I know you would agree. We believe that Scripture interprets Scripture.”

    Agreed.

    “The advance of science in the last several centuries is analogous to discovering the existence of those other passages on prayer. When we have new information shedding light on old information, the proper thing to do is to explore what the two say about each other.”

    It’s not so much the advance of ‘science’ as it is the advance of the secular worldview and it’s accompanying interpretations, and its trying to impose it’s will on Scripture. There is no such analogue here ( Scripture interpreting Scripture =/= Scripture verses unscriptural interpretations of observations)

    “That’s not compromise any more than it’s compromise to interpret John 14:13-14 in light of 1 John 5:14-15. It’s good exegesis.”

    That’s actually Scriptura sub scientia, which is antithetic to sola Scriptura. We should not let secularist interpretations take priority over the plain meaning of Scripture. Jon Sarfati put it this way: when the plain sense makes common sense, take no other sense, lest it be nonsense. It’s also eisgesis, because it’s trying to force the interpretation of evidence which leads one to believe that the Earth is very old into a book that teaches unambiguously that the Universe was created in six literal days (again, see Exodus 20:8)

    “It would seem that you’re saying that we ought not to exegete nature at all; that the information we derive from nature should not influence us at all with respect to this question.”

    Of course we should. But it should always be done in light of the clear teachings of the Bible. If a historical interpretation conflicts with the plain meaning of Scripture, this interpretation must be discarded, because it can’t be true. Let God be true, and every man a liar.

    “Sure, it’s not propositional information handed to us. But that doesn’t mean it’s not information. How strong, secure, and solid is it? The vast majority of scientists see a vast constellation of facts that agree with great unanimity: the universe is more than mere thousands of years old. Propositional or not, that’s pretty solid. We can exegete that and include it as part of the information store by which we interpret reality. That’s not compromise, it’s good thinking.”

    Appeals to authority and the majority will not persuade those of us who are committed to the authority of Scripture. Old Earth evidence is hardly as sound as you’ve been lead to believe (you’re already aware of the *assumptions* that goes into radiometric dating).

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers#/topic/age-of-the-earth

    http://creation.com/age-of-the-earth

    “Now, if there’s something wrong with that science or its interpretation, then we ought not add it into our exegesis.”

    Exactly. Spend a few hours on Creation.com or AiG and you’ll realize Old Earth/Universe interpretations are junk science.

    “I think this is the case with evolutionary explanations for life: the science fails on multiple counts.”

    But the majority of scientists believe it’s true. Shouldn’t we reinterpret the Bible then? evolutionary biology is no less a historical science that Long Age science.

    “Which brings up the other general topic area you’ve addressed. In Mark 10:6, I think Jesus was referring to the beginning of creation of humans. It’s at least arguable; it’s not necessary at all to take the position you’ve advanced. In view of the context, which was a discussion of marriage in light of how God created us, I think it’s unlikely he was commenting on the age of the universe.”

    Scripture interprets scripture. Is not the Universe part of Creation? Didn’t God say he created us on the sixth day? Is not that (very well near) the beginning of creation? Your interpretation is unpersuasive. You haven’t addressed my specific arguments or engaged the arguments from the link provided.

    “It is not difficult to reconcile the Sabbath commandment with OEC. “Day” in the commandment represents “day” as it was used in Genesis. There are a variety of ways “day” might have been used in Genesis (views differ), but none of them preclude the “day” of the Commandment being used to represent what is being taught about God’s work and his rest.”

    Context is everything. Day can mean things other than literal days. But when the Hebrew word Yom is combined with evening and night in numerical order, it can only mean literal days.

    http://creation.com/the-days-of-creation-a-semantic-approach

    http://creation.com/how-long-were-the-days-of-genesis-1

    Also, if God didn’t mean a literal week when he was speaking to Moses, then that passage is absolute nonsense. I the Lord created everything in six days! (though I really mean billions of years *wink* *wink*) so you must rest on the seventh. Wholly unpersuasive.

    “Augustine’s support for old-earth interpretations consists in this: he does not consider the literal six-day creation view to be necessary from Scripture. I brought him up, by the way, to show that your contention of univocal six-day beliefs down through history was incorrect.”

    I did say ‘*virtually* every prominent figure in Christian history’, because I was aware of Augustines pseudo-dissent. He’s the very rare exception to the rule, nor was he an expert in Hebrew. This man is:

    ‘probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that

    1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience
    2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story
    3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.’7′

    http://creation.com/is-genesis-poetry-figurative-a-theological-argument-polemic-and-thus-not-history

    “You say,

    The Bible states plainly that death is the result of sin–this is not so in certain old earth views.

    I suppose then that certain old earth views are wrong. That wouldn’t surprise me. But there are responsible old-earth scholars who take this question into account and offer responsible answers to it.”

    I’ve seen the rationalizational gymnastics required to reconcile death with a ‘very good’ creation. Why not just accept what the text says? (Romans 5:12, 1 Cor 15:21)

    “Rather, in the study of nature, propositions must be formulated from the observations by *interpreting* them in a framework or paradigm. This framework depends largely on the axioms, or starting assumptions, of the scientist.

    Of course. Is the same not true of Scripture?”

    I’m not sure what you mean.

    “I’m not advocating epistemological hopelessness when I say that. I’m saying that interpretation is an essential part of how we understand everything in the world. Our starting points or axioms, and our interpretive methods, will determine how successfully we apprehend reality. And that’s true for Scripture, too. I’m sure you’ve seen Scripture badly twisted by people with false approaches. One of my axioms is that truth is truth. Another one is that God created us to explore truth, not just in Scripture but in all of reality, and with an ability to discover truth. This is one aspect of the imago Dei; marred but not obliterated by the fall.

    Another axiom is that truth agrees with truth; and that where there appears to be contradiction, then further work must be done. Either one apparent truth or the other will be found not to be true, or else there is something to be done in our interpretation to bring them into agreement. That process may take time, and while it is ongoing it is necessary to suspend judgment as to the outcome.”

    All interpretations are not created equal. When sound hermeneutics and exegesis are employed, the YEC interpretation comes out miles ahead. Since we have that crystal clear revelation in our hands, we should let that guide out interpretation of nature.

    “You say,

    According to the Hebrew, the whole thing is constructed as a historical narrative–including the first 11 chapters.

    Is there something all the English translations I’ve read are missing? If so, then what?”

    The entirety of Genesis is littered with the Hebrew grammar constructive ‘waw consecutive’– this indicates history:

    http://creation.com/from-the-beginning-of-the-creation

    http://creation.com/genesis-poetry-father-hermeutics

    “Finally, as to the low view of Scripture at BioLogos, don’t commit the error of guilt by association or of poisoning the well. Timothy Keller has an extremely high view of Scripture, and you would do well to interact with his arguments rather than cast aspersions on the collection in which they were published.”

    This might change your mind (a refutation of the keller article):

    http://creation.com/timothy-keller-response

    Keller is the posterboy of Scriptua sub scientia.

  28. Bryan says:

    JAD,

    The Bible speaks in phenomenological language–so those verses are still true from our perspective. We even say ‘the sun rises’ and such today even though we know better.

    Heliocentrism is based on rock-solid operational science. The motion of the planets are repeatable and observable. While ‘Long Age science’ is based on dubious historical scientific interpretations from one-time events. No one has observed billions of years pass by. That is the difference. It’s easy to reconcile heliocentrism with alleged geocentric verses, but Scripture is vehemently against Long Age interpretations (i.e Gen 1, 5, Exodus 20, etc).

    The Bible is the infallible propositional revelation from God, that is, it reveals facts about things. Therefore, its teachings can be understood from its grammatical and historical context by the laws of hermeneutics and its supremely authoritative. Nature is not propositional, and therefore the data must be interpreted within a framework.

  29. Holopupenko says:

    BillT:
    I agree. Apologies for not drawing the correct distinction you raise.

  30. JAD says:

    Bryan,

    Heliocentrism is based on rock-solid operational science. The motion of the planets are repeatable and observable. While ‘Long Age science’ is based on dubious historical scientific interpretations from one-time events.

    Not true. The evidence for the old age of the universe and earth is just as rock solid as heliocentrism.

    The Bible is the infallible propositional revelation from God, that is, it reveals facts about things.

    Is your interpretation infallible?

    Nature is not propositional, and therefore the data must be interpreted within a framework.

    What frame work would that be? Your interpretation?

  31. Holopupenko says:

    JAD:
    No offense intended… but you’re kidding, right?

  32. JAD says:

    Holopupenko,
    Kidding about what?

  33. Bryan says:

    “Not true. The evidence for the old age of the universe and earth is just as rock solid as heliocentrism.”

    Regardless of whatever has you so persuaded that things are very old, ‘Old Ages’ are not observable. These uniformitarianist scientists that you trust so much weren’t around to observe the things they claim happened. The evidence for Old Ages is nothing more than an interpretation given to rocks or whathaveyou. There are other interpretations.

    The motions of the planets *are* observable. This is one of the major differences between the historical and operational sciences: Real-time observation and repetition of the event in question.

    Your analogy is a false one.

    “Is your interpretation infallible?”

    I don’t think YECs ‘interpret’ Scripture as much as we just accept the Bible’s most natural reading, as our Christian forebearers understood it, and as you would accept if it were not for ‘science’, without letting secular ideas influence it. Could we be wrong? Sure. But I think it’s unlikely God put hidden meanings into the text, given what we know about the Hebrew language, the traditional understanding of the text, proper exegesis and hermeneutics, etc.

    “What frame work would that be? Your interpretation?”

    Well, there is the biblical framework–so yes, mine is one of them. The secular worldview (framework) is the other dominant one–where man can derive truth independent of the Bible, and uniformitarian assumptions lead one to believe things are very old…

  34. Bryan says:

    Sorry Tom, I replied to your post but I think it somehow got lost (unless you have to approve it or something, because it was kinda long). It’s strange though, it wouldn’t let me repost because it said it detected a ‘duplicate message.’

  35. Tom Gilson says:

    I just found it and approved it. I think the number of links might have gotten it flagged, but I’m not really sure. I haven’t read it yet.

  36. [...] Gilson presents Young Earth, Old Earth, and Not Having To Know the Answer posted at Thinking Christian, saying, “Some questions are hard to [...]

  37. Holopupenko says:

    JAD:

    This not intended as a justification, just to let you I shouldn’t be trying to do this from rest stops and cafe… with turkey on the brain. Mea maxima culpable: I believe I may have misunderstood you. I’m sorry. Blessed Thanksgiving!

  38. JAD says:

    Holopupenko,

    No problem. But now I’m mystified, because I don’t understand what you misunderstood. So just out of curiosity feel free to enlighten me. But, if you don’t feel like it, that is okay too.

    And, by the way, be sure to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  39. Crude says:

    Bryan,

    If you don’t mind a few questions from an interested bystander…

    * Are you saying that no science, even in principle, could demonstrate the age of the earth/universe, and I would assume evolution? Since it would be more ‘historical’ than operational science, as you say?

    * If that’s the case, I don’t understand how you can say you reject age of the earth or evolutionary claims based on ‘science’. Wouldn’t it just be based on reason? I mean, if science can’t demonstrate something due to a limitation, it’s not that ‘science demonstrates this isn’t true’ but reason would, I imagine.

    * Do you nevertheless support arguments by other Christians who take the stance that God’s existence is either compatible with these other facts (evolution, age of the earth, etc) or can even be strongly inferred by evidence we discover relating to that? Or if not, why not?

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone else.

  40. Holopupenko says:

    JAD:

    It’s a linear combination of ( a ) turkey on the brain, ( b ) pushing a thought without thinking it through (colloquially known as a “brain fart”), ( c ) incorrectly attributing to you a point Bryan made (I’m not going to chase that). The weighting of the terms, a la DL, is: 0.25, 0.25, 0.5. The weightings themselves are a function of my level of exhaustion, turkey-induced drowsiness, and level of consumption of C2H5OH… err, I’m mean cranberry sauce.

  41. JAD says:

    Bryan: Heliocentrism is based on rock-solid operational science. The motion of the planets are repeatable and observable. While ‘Long Age science’ is based on dubious historical scientific interpretations from one-time events. No one has observed billions of years pass by.

    You’re going to have to concede that the same thing is true for “flood geology.”

  42. Cris says:

    I appreciate the tone and charity of this original post. However, I believe YEC represents an unecesssary stumbling block to evangelism. It’s anti-intellectualism and bad biblical interpretation. It’s also blatantly logically incoherent.

    The bible never dates creation. Genesis one clearly says the heavens and earth were created “in the beginning”. The earth, the waters, the chemical elements, are all present and accounted for before day one is pronounced. It does not require expert knowledge to see this.

    The analogy to geocentrism is apt, I suppose many were tolerant and said,” I don’t know” to them as well. The thing is we really do know better. I wonder how long the fideists held out before geocentric interpretations faded?

    Personally, I think we should take a stand on it. We are not called to be fideists.

  43. Carl says:

    I found this blog/post through the recent Christian Carnival. To this post I have to say: Right on and well said! Thank you for your humble and open-minded thoughts. I offer a few thoughts of my own, despite having not read every letter of the 42 comments thus far, nor the few links given therein:

    1) You may be getting to this in a later post, but there is certainly much to be said of the fact that there is a poetic structure in Genesis 1 and so a “figurative” element to the chapter (though I might not use “figurative” I’m not sure what I’d use instead). Commentators have noted that the chapter is a complex poetic structure creating an order to things that makes theological assertions (Who is this God?). Gen. 1 is about God creating the earth itself to be his very own temple, from which he orders and rules the cosmos. Not that this point necessarily excludes that it is an exact accounting of the order and schedule of when and how long creation came into existence, but it surely implies.

    2) I think it’s easy to at times confuse what the text of Scripture is asserting and what is incidental – usually because we are asking the wrong questions, ones that are foreign to the text. When this is done, it’s easy to make the bible affirm whatever we need. Cultural incidentals of the bible can be used to affirm arranged marriages, slavery, inferiority of women, geocentrism (mentioned above), a flat earth, etc., some of which were long standing dogmas of the church that stood for hundreds of years. But the bible can make profound theological assertions within a given cultural framework without asserting the cultural framework.

    3) I think this is no less true of the last 100 years when science is in vogue and its naturalistic assumptions challenge Christianity. The problem as I see it is that we still assume science but set up the bible as our replacement science. But science is not as privileged to knowledge as most in the West seem to think and assumes an objectivity on the part of humans that is too absolute. Second, the writers of the bible had far different questions to ask than scientific ones.

    4) Undue tension is placed on the subject in this country as we tend to think in very either/or terms. But I think it’s possible to be just as concerned with faithfulness to the bible while allowing that perhaps science gets at least a few things right (here with regard to evolution) without accepting its denial of God, sin, the literalness of Adam and Eve, the flood, etc. They may or may not be consistent, but that’s another matter; there’s no need to resort to “compromise” to describe such people, though no doubt some do.

    5) On almost a side-note, the discussion in the comments above about the 2 “books” of revelation, Bible and creation, seems to miss the mark in a few places. First, discussion of creation as revelation of God often times forgets that creation is fallen and cursed – like the race of Adam, the reflection of God in creation is far from perfect. This certainly does not undermine say, Ps 19. Second, to the extent it does (truly and majestically) reflect God, that reflection hardly need tell us anything about exactly how it came to be except that God made it.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, thoughts seem to lead to more thoughts – although, verbose comments seem to have a precedent. Again, much appreciated post.

    A brother in Christ

  44. Dan Smith says:

    Hi. I just found you through a blog carnival and I know that I’m late to this discussion, but I just finished a semester in seminary on the Old Testament. Of course one of our papers was on creation and our convictions. I am personally an old earth man, but it doesn’t matter. Evolutionist friends challenge me from time to time and I shrug it off. I’m really not concerned about Genesis 1 because I believe, no matter how long God took to do it, that he created the earth and everything in it. That’s all I think that is required in that chapter of the Bible. The rest, as you say, is something that I can admit I know almost nothing about…and that’s ok. Great post and thanks!

  45. Bruiser says:

    Here’s an interesting link to http://creation.com/age-of-the-earth which gives 101 reasons to believe in a young earth.

  46. Michael Snow says:

    Regarding your friend for whom \The debate was especially tough… since he felt torn between his dad’s science and what others were telling him he had to believe as a Christian\–THAT is why ‘not having to know the answer,’ though soteriologically correct, is epistemologically lacking.

    Those who try to impose on Christians a young earth view lack integrity; it is not loving the Lord our God with all our heart/mind.

    The YEC view is a claim that the Bible no where makes for itself. All the talk about science overshadows what the first chapter of Genesis says and what it does NOT say.

    Christians need to first stop reading what the geologists and astronomers are arguing about and read what actual Bible scholars write.

    As Calvin wrote, long before modern scientism, \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 labor 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.\

  47. Bryan says:

    “Those who try to impose on Christians a young earth view lack integrity; it is not loving the Lord our God with all our heart/mind.”

    This comes across as a ad hominem assertion. Can you elucidate?

    “The YEC view is a claim that the Bible no where makes for itself. All the talk about science overshadows what the first chapter of Genesis says and what it does NOT say.”

    It is true the Bible does not explicitly state that the Universe is 6,000 years old, but it can be logically deduced by applying hermeneutical principles to Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 in conjunction with the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and 10. The following links may be helpful:

    http://creation.com/the-bible-and-hermeneutics

    http://creation.com/how-long-were-the-days-of-genesis-1

  48. Bryan says:

    Also, as an analogy I offer the Trinity or the Divinity of Christ as something not explicitly asserted in Scripture, though logically deducible from it.

  49. Michael Snow says:

    Gen 1:1 is not a preface, it is an absolute statement; “heavens and earth” is a merism, a figure of speech that signifies the whole, ie. “the universe”

    v. 2 tells us the state of the earth following that act; Calvin said something like ‘the earth was not perfected’ at its beginning.
    NICOT: “Verse 2 then, describes the situation prior to the detailed creation that is spelled out in vv 3ff.

    Three conditions of the earth are described in v. 2, the last being ‘darkness’ for which God provides the remedy in v. 3, “Let there be light…”

    And in the following verses he provides the remedies for the other two conditions.

    There is a wonderful symmetry here: Days one to three have been called, “Days of Preparation” and the last three, Days of Filling or from the general to the particular . e.g. Day one has ‘light’ ; day four has sun/moon set in order. Day two has sky and day five has birds of the sky, etc.

    IN these verses, unlike v. 1, “heaven” and “earth” are used in a limited sense. “The dry land he called earth” [not the planet; the waters he called 'seas'] The heavens, here, as the NIV translates it, is our “sky.”

    “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep…”

    “And God said, ‘Let there be light’…

    How much time elapsed in the age of the earth between “darkness” and “Let there be light”? We have no clue in Scripture.

    Day One and the days that follow are the week in which God sets his creation in order for the creation of man.

    “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” Deu. 20

    This verse is often wrongly used. Here, speaking of that week, “the LORD made” not created as in Gen. 1:1. “Made” has the same connotation as our “making” our bed. We set in order what is already there. [here we have the remedy for the conditions of the earth described in verse 2]

    Thus the verse in Deu. is parallel with the “days” of the week…heavens, earth, sea, and all that is in them [It is not a merism; it is not the same as the creation of the universe stated in v. 1 but reflects setting the earth that is described in v. 2 in order]

  50. Bryan says:

    “Gen 1:1 is not a preface, it is an absolute statement;…”

    I think it functions as both, since there are 30 verses after Genesis 1:1. I also think it can’t refer to more than the empty Universe and the formless Earth, since it says God was hovering over the formless Earth immediately after verse 1, and because God didn’t create the starry hosts until Day 4.

    “How much time elapsed in the age of the earth between “darkness” and “Let there be light”? We have no clue in Scripture.”

    It would seem that the most natural reading would be to assume that it occurred immediately, lest we be forced to posit that the Spirit of God hovered over the water for several billion years. Why not just get on with it? The context of the rest of Genesis 1 would seem to support this reading, in my opinion. Focusing too strongly on one or two verses I believe tends to distort the overall context that the verse is found in.

    If I’m interpreting you correctly, you seem to be proposing some form of the ‘Gap theory.’ AIG has written extensively on GT, I invite you to see if you find the arguments against it compelling.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers#/topic/creation-compromises

    “[Regarding Ex. 20], This verse is often wrongly used. Here, speaking of that week, “the LORD made” not created as in Gen. 1:1. “Made” has the same connotation as our “making” our bed. We set in order what is already there. [here we have the remedy for the conditions of the earth described in verse 2]”

    My NIV renders verses 9-11 (edited),’Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.’

    In certain contexts, ‘made’ can absolutely refer to interacting with something already present. However, I’m not convinced that such an interpretation is supported in this context. It’s saying here that God ‘made’ (created) everything, the ‘heavens’ (Universe) and the Earth and all within it, in six literal days (corresponding, as God notes, with our own week). If God doesn’t mean ‘created’ here, then what was God doing when he was ‘making’ (as one makes a bed) the heavens and the Earth, specifically? If He did not create everything that he is refering to here in six literal days, then when did he create? You may answer, ‘when he created the heavens and the Earth, per Genesis 1′, but that takes us again to the position that God was hovering over the waters for several billion years, if not more. I find that interpretation unnatural. I see no reason why God would have delayed creation week for billions of years after creating the formless Earth (and the empty Universe, possibly). It seems rather ad hoc and motivated by concerns external to the Bible (i.e., secular astronomy).

  51. Tom Gilson says:

    I am skeptical of any claim that one sentence in a larger work could be “an absolute statement.” It almost sounds as if it’s to be interpreted as if the rest were not there.

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