Friday, April 13, 2012

The Problem with (some) Young Earthers

It is a subtle, but important distinction. I approve the desire to think God’s thoughts after Him. I fear though that I am sometimes tempted to approve God’s thoughts only when they agree with mine. A few weeks ago during a Question and Answer time at Ligonier’s annual conference I honestly answered a question as to my views on the age of the earth. I’m a young earth guy. Have been for twenty years. Though there were other young earth guys on the panel, and all the gentlemen on the panel are in my judgment fine, godly men, I found myself humbled by the enthusiastic support of the young earthers in the crowd, as if I had taken some sort of odd, bold and prophetic stand.

Despite my respect for those with whom I disagree on this issue, it is difficult not to fear that those on the other side weigh the Bible too lightly, and what they are hearing in His revelation through His creation too heavily.  I know they don’t intend that. They may not even be guilty. But I am at least guilty of finding it less than easy to maintain toward them a presumption of their innocence.

What troubles me more, however, is when my comrades within the young earth camp (and please let’s all remember that these “camps” are all together within the walls of the kingdom) make the same kind of mistake. I fear that too many of us embrace young earth creationism not because of the dependability of the Bible, but because of the fine scientific work of those in the young earth camp.

I’ve seen and been blessed by the work of several “creation” ministries. Insofar as they are about the business of thinking God’s thoughts after Him, all I have is praise. Indeed I suspect my concerns reflect not those who produce pro-young earth teaching, but those who receive such teaching. If a stunning slide show about Mount Saint Helens persuades you that the Bible is true, that’s a problem. If a compelling video about the Great Flood convinces you there was a Great Flood, that’s a problem. The problem is your ultimate allegiance is to stunning slide shows and compelling videos.

Of course because the Bible is true we should expect His revelation in creation to match right up. Because there was a world-wide flood we should expect to find evidence of a world-wide flood. But we should not conclude that there was a world wide flood because our studies affirm such. Instead we’re supposed to believe the Bible.

Now it may well be that we young earthers are the geo-centrists of our day. It may well be that the best, most faithful understanding of Genesis is a Framework view, or some other view that requires an old earth. In short, I could be wrong. Geology, however, biology, astro-physics will not be how I come to know I am wrong. It would take the Bible to do that.

God is true wherever He speaks, whether in His Word or His world. Both natural and special revelation are inerrant and infallible. Only one of them, however, is clear, forthright, straightforward. Before we wrestle over this vexing issue, may we all learn to agree with two things. First, whatever the Bible teaches, that is what we are going to believe. And second, we are going to believe it because the Bible teaches it. 


Lee Shelton said...

Excellent points, and I agree. I also understand that one cannot be persuaded or argued into the kingdom. But when it comes to creation science, do we pursue it simply to further understand and appreciate what we already know to be true, or is there any room for using that information to convince others of the truth?

Brett Adams said...

WEll said~

Anonymous said...

Hello, and thank you for your stand upon God's word. We were at the Ligonier conference and appreciated your concise summary of the reason for holding to the young earth position. It is true we should believe the Bible regardless of what the latest wave of "science" is teaching. "Science" has "disproven" lots of things the Bible teaches - virgin births, resurrections, etc... For me and my family, we accept the biblical account of creation at face value and believe the earth was created recently and in 6 normal days, not because we also understand that science correctly understood supports such a view, but because that is just what the Bible teaches. We appreciate the work of such groups as AIG, ICR, CRS, etc..., not because they are trying to prove the Bible is true, but because they are bringing a biblical worldview to bear on so many aspects of God's world - astronomy, physics, biology, genetics, chemistry - and are thus participating in the proclamation of God's glory. Additionally, and sadly, many of those in the "old earth" camp cite "science", not Scripture, in defense of their view, so for me and my family, we hope to be able to articulate to these individuals how science rightly understood indeed lines up with clear biblical teaching. It's not that we want to appear intelligent or academically gifted in the eyes of the world. We fully expect to continue to receive disdain from many in the ivory towers of academia, but still we desire to be able to defend Scripture first and foremost, and only introduce things from natural revelation as useful for affirming what we already know Scripture teaches. It is our prayer that God will work in the hearts of those who haven't accepted His plain account, for our best reasoning will fall short of persuading them. We have observed that a step away from the biblical teaching on the age of the earth nearly always leads to questioning of Noah's flood, change in the doctrine of sin, and undermining many other important biblical teachings. If we can't believe what God plainly said at the beginning, why believe the rest?

Anonymous said...

Karen C. said - mine is the previous comment; anonymous b/c I am unfamiliar with the "choose an identity" system; just read the article in Tabletalk regarding anonymity on blogs!

Milton said...

Genesis 1:1-5 does seem to be very specific in denoting the first day of creation, when God spoke light into shining and separated the light from the darkness, as one 24 hour day. Verse 5 is especially specific and requires more stretch than taffy to interpret as a day-age:
"And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day."

Last I checked, "there was evening and there was morning, one day" requires 24 hours, no more and no less. :>)

Anonymous said...

The Bible teaches how to get to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.

Science and the Bible will and do(we may just not understand it yet in it's entirety) walk in harmony, hand in hand.

I find it difficult to think that we have to swallow a pill that contains no science to believe scientifically in something. Reading Genesis, it's just as easy to see the metaphor in it as it is to take it literally.

How do we know that the Earth isn't a few millions or billions of years old. And at a certain point in time, God chose to reboot it. Start over. And from that point forward, we are now only 6-10,000 years from that reboot date. The answer to that is, we don't know for sure. The universe is God's creation. He is the ultimate engineer and can move in and out of His own creation doing as He wills.

Let's not also forget (and this will scare some of you) that Moses was raised an Egyptian. Taught as an Eqyptian. And MAY HAVE inserted some Egyptian influence's into his creation account. Some similarities do exist, and are only that similarities. But one can never no for sure, unless they take a book, canonized centuries after the life of Christ by a very politically driven and corrupt Catholic Church and exalt it higher that it was ever meant to be.

The Bible does not inspire belief in Christ, rather belief in Christ inspires the Bible.

Anonymous said...

The Bible was believed to be the Word of God before the church canonized it. And at that time there was just one church. This church accepted as the Word of God what God spoke through the Apostles and the Prophets.

The process of canonization was simply accepting what the church at large already believed to be the Word of God. No one was pushing anything on anyone, for it was no long before that Christians were going through one of the worst persecutions up to that time and being asked to give up the Bible to be burned.

But the Old Testament in particular was accepted long before. Christ had already talked about it as being the Word of God.

"The Bible does not inspire belief in Christ, rather belief in Christ inspires the Bible."
Not really. The only reason you know anything about Christ is because of the Bible. No Bible, no knowledge of Christ.

Of course, the Bible is the Word of God, and hence the Word of Christ. But the only way anyone can know anything specific about God is through His own Self-Revelation in His Word. Anything else is mostly meaningless guess-work.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Sproul -- I spoke to you briefly at this year's national conference -- I mentioned to you the water into wine theory of creation ... an instantaneous creation in 6 days that was created "in process". Wanted you to know they're getting closer:

They just haven't gotten the glass upright yet!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

We will never escape having to look at creation / investigation of the reality that is around us to help us to interpret the Sacred Scripture and God's work / plan. "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he said to the man who was paralyzed - "I say to you, rise up, pick up your bed and go home." Luke 5:24 (ESV)
My point is this - throughout Scripture we are called to look at that which is around us to interpret / understand the truth. We must weigh heavily on what has been seen and told to us in Scripture, and we must balance it with what we see in creation. To say that "Geology, however, biology, astro-physics will not be how I come to know I am wrong. It would take the Bible to do that." seems to negate the calls in Scripture to look at what is around us to help us interpret. To say that "If a stunning slide show about Mount Saint Helens persuades you that the Bible is true, that’s a problem" seems to be limiting the power of God to work in lives in a variety of ways. The Heaven's declare the Glory of God - who are we to say what of that Glory is right and what is not right for God's call on people's lives?

Tim Beilharz said...

R.C., I'm confused over your methodology.

You say "Now it may well be that we young earthers are the geo-centrists of our day. It may well be that the best, most faithful understanding of Genesis is a Framework view, or some other view that requires an old earth. In short, I could be wrong. Geology, however, biology, astro-physics will not be how I come to know I am wrong. It would take the Bible to do that."

May I respectfully ask, why do you believe in a helio-centric solar system? Is it because of the Bible, or because of the scientific endeavours over the past 500 years?

If the old/young earth debate is analogous to the geo/helio-centricity debates of the 15-1600's (as many have argued and you yourself appear to imply) then surely we should listen reservedly but respectfully to the scientific community when they come to conclusions regarding their investigations of the natural revelation (whether they recognise their work in this way or not).

I am not fundamentally committed to either young or old earth and I certainly am not qualified to make any intelligent judgments on the various scientific arguments. However, in matters where theology and science cross paths, I would have thought that the example of Copernicus and others has taught those of us who are theologians to do theology well and to allow scientists to do science well and respectfully listen to the reasoned arguments of the other side.

Is it appropriate to expect the Bible to answer scientific questions that its writers presummably were less concerned about than we are in a post-enlightenment age?

Or to put it another way:
Is it inappropriate for reasoned and responsible scientific endeavour to change the way we understand the readings of Scripture that we have traditionally held?
We've accepted that a helio-centric solar system changes our readings of certain texts. I'm unconvinced that old-earth cosmologies should have any less of an impact on our reading of Scripture (e.g. Gen 1).

I'm very keen to hear more of your thoughts. I'm also very happy to be wrong and convinced of this fact!!

Paul Richard Strange Senior said...

I appreciate the kindness extended toward those of us who believe that God has spoken in His holy Word AND that He has spoken in His handiwork....and that they cannot possibly contradict, whatever the actual age of the earth! Some of us do not believe that the point of the early chapters of Genesis had anything to do with communicating to the covenant people the actual physical age of matter or form at all! Rather, if we apply the Reformational principle of letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it may just lead us to the view called "covenant creation" wherein God is speaking about Himself and His creation of His covenant people, with the wonders of the natural universe being the "stage" so to speak. The bowing of the stars in Joseph's vision and the unfolding of Genesis into the Twelve Tribes seems to be a red flag for a covenantal view of God creating Israel to give us His Son, and NOT primarily science at all! God bless, Paul Richard Strange, Sr. Waxahachie Texas

Anonymous said...


It is interesting to see your thoughts laid out like this. The amount of evidence, and hundreds of thousands of man-hours that have gone into deternining that our Earth is not thousands, not millions, but several billions of years old, is staggering. While it doesn't paint a terribly pretty picture - we can see that the human race evolved not from some powerful deity, but rather from the brine and mud acted upon by physical and statistical processes - it is the only honest description of what happened.

You truly live in a more beautiful world than the rest of us.

Paul said...

Yes, Ptolemaeus also put in hundreds and thousands of hours to describe how the stars and moons move, in the end it was wrong. Also the Scientific Community put in thousands of working hours to proof the Steady state theory of the universe and it was wrong so what, evolution is not scientific and never will be. 150 years after darwin you still dont have one compelling evidence of bacteria to human evolution. You better start working on a new theory soon or even better start recognizing that we are not the result of some random irrational factors. As long as you proclaim this irrational thoughts you are doing the work of the devil.

May God enlighten your heart and your mind.