A dose of humility is needed
I am not a trained scientist and so I am not competent to comment significantly on the scientific aspects of the debate. I also do not claim to be a theological ‘expert’ on the subject. Despite both of these limitations, I do feel able to make some cautionary comments on the subject. Job 38:4 records God’s challenge when He asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” I believe this applies equally to both scientists and theologians.
Human beings were not present when God created the Heavens and the earth. Scientists were not present at the creation to observe and analyse. They develop their hypotheses from the geological record and logical assumptions.
Theologians were not there either and we develop our doctrines from a logical understanding of the Scriptures. So an essential requirement in the evolution/creation debate, on both sides, is humility.
Lately, debate has heated up
A second preliminary consideration concerns who the parties are in the debate. On the one hand, Christians are engaged in debates with atheist or agnostic sceptics like Richard Dawkins, but it seems to me that the more heated debate is occurring between Christians themselves.
Evangelicals are taking issue with Liberals, but Bible-believing Christians are also fighting with other Bible-believing Evangelicals. I say ‘fighting’ because some of the debate is beyond robust.
Evolution vs Creation
The main ‘camps’ in the Christian debate over evolution and creation are the Young Earth Creationism camp, The Progressive Creationism camp, the Intelligent Design camp, and the Theistic Evolution camp. Bruce Waltke has written a paper on ‘Barriers to accepting the possibility of creation by means of an evolutionary process’ (http://biologos.org/uploads/project /Waltke_scholarly_essay.pdf) and as an appendix he attaches the findings of four surveys administered to Pentecostal seminary faculties between 2004 and 2009. The last of these surveys revealed that only 23% of the respondents were Young Earth Creationists and 19% were evolutionary creationists. So we need to note that neither of these positions enjoys majority support even among Pentecostals.
Be careful how we label others
I recently read comments by a scientist who described himself as a Christian Theistic Evolutionist claiming that a prominent Young Earth Creationist was implying that those Christians who do not agree with his views do not therefore believe in a real Adam or an actual Fall.
He then points out that as a Theistic Evolutionist he does believe in a real Adam and Eve, a Garden of Eden, a real Fall, and in the authority of the Bible. So we all need to be careful how we classify and characterise other sincere Christians.
Taking a deeper look at the issue
I believe that, instead of fighting each other over the ‘how’ of Creation, Christian scholars with a particular interest in this area of study should engage each other in a non-confrontational way on some of the underlying issues in the debate. For instance, we need to discuss what the various views say or imply concerning the character of God, the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, and key doctrines such as sin and salvation.
As an example, the idea that God created the earth some 6 000 years ago with the appearance of great age says something about God’s integrity and transparency. On the other hand, evolution through survival of the fittest perhaps says something [negative] about His standards of goodness and love. Disbelief in an actual Adam and original sin seriously affects the Evangelical understanding of salvation in and through the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), the Lord Jesus Christ, and so on.
Considerate and careful debate is needed
These, and other serious doctrinal and faith issues, should be resolved through considerate and careful debate. I for one would certainly appreciate more of this kind of exchange and less polemic dogmatism in Christian circles.
What does the creation issue say about God’s character and the trustworthiness of the Bible?
My appeal to Christians is to air the underlying faith issues in the debate rather than the endless ideas on how God might have created, or when He created. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ I am far more interested in, and impacted by, what the creation issue has to say about God’s character, the trustworthiness of the Bible, and the key doctrines of the evangelical faith. My appeal is that we make the subject of creation a great debate rather than a great ‘barney’.
Why would some New Age atheists persist on clinging to Middle Age concepts? It seems to be in stark contrast to what they try to advocate – to be logical and truly analytical…If evolution can explain the origin of species, praise God for the way He did it as we can praise Him for the creation of Canis Majoris – a red hyper-giant star, currently the largest known star, located in the constellation Canis Major with a radius of 2.7 billion kms. The Hebrew word ‘yom’ translated into the English ‘day’ can mean more than one thing. It can refer to the 24 hour period of time that it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis (e.g., “there are 24 hours in a day”). It can refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk (e.g., “it gets pretty hot during the day but it cools down a bit at night”). And it can refer to an unspecified period of time (e.g., “back in my grandfather’s day…”).
It is used to refer to a 24 hour period in Genesis 7:11. It is used to refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk in Genesis 1:16. And it is used to refer to an unspecified period of time in Genesis 2:4. It certainly seems logical with current knowledge that the days of Genesis 1 are unspecified periods of time. It is equally wrong and damaging for the religious fundamentalist to ignore the facts of science as it is for the science fundamentalist to ignore Biblical truth. The Bible is God inspired and science God created and our task is to figure out this oneness.
Your issue of May 2012 contains two articles that [in my opinion] unfortunately contain serious misinformation.
First, Ken Ham in his article ‘Battle over Genesis is Heating Up’, implies that those Christians who do not agree with his Young Earth Creationist views also do not believe in a real Adam and Eve or an actual Fall. I must point out that I am a Theistic Evolutionist who does believe in a real Adam and Eve and a real Fall, so Ken Ham would be well advised to acknowledge this viewpoint held by many Christians who have accepted the scientific evidence for the great age of our earth and who accept that various evolutionary processes have been used by the Creator in order to bring about His preordained outcomes.
Second, Tas Walker’s article on ’80 Whales Buried Mysteriously in the Chilean Desert’ suggests that this is evidence for a world-wide flood. This is amazing reasoning since whales often become beached and the fossils are located less than a kilometre from the shore. There are many ways that marine animals such as whales get fossilised, either by beaching themselves and then getting covered with sand from a flood or wind storm, or by being washed inland in a Tsunami. The article also tries to throw doubt on dating systems used by geologists. All scientists that I know will quote articles like this as further evidence that Creationists are unscientific in their reasoning.
I know it is very unlikely that Joy! will publish letters such as mine but it is high time that you have articles from Christians such as myself who do believe in a real Adam and Eve, a real Garden of Eden and a Fall and do accept the Bible as my ultimate authority in all matters of faith, doctrine and practical Christian living. At the same time I am a scientist who rejoices that he can reconcile all this with the overwhelming evidence for our earth being billions of years old.
If Joy! magazine could have the courage to print such alternative viewpoints it would do the Gospel message a great favour and help remove a major ‘stumbling block’ placed by Creationists in the path of many millions of our generation taking the Bible seriously.
I hope you will realise the seriousness of this issue in our scientific and technological generation. At present Joy! Magazine has articles on creation that give the impression that the Young Earth Creationist viewpoint is the only legitimate one for Christians. Many non-believers who are presented with this as the only legitimate view of Christians, will often conclude that they will have to undertake some sort of ‘intellectual suicide’ if they become Christians. In my view the Creationist presentations are the greatest single hindrance to the Gospel message reaching our scientific generation.
I [recently presented a talk] at a Stellenbosch University debate on ‘Can Darwinism be reconciled with the Bible’. For the content of my talk at Stellenbosh or further insights into my Christian Theistic Evolution approach see www.factandfaith.co.za.
Dr Michael Jarvis
A Question of Biblical Authority
Time and time again I have found that in both Christian and secular worlds, those of us who are involved in the creation movement are characterised as ‘Young Earthers.’ The supposed battle-line is thus drawn between the “Old Earthers” (this group consists of anti-God evolutionists as well as many Christian Theistic evolutionists) who appeal to what they call “science,” versus the ‘Young Earthers,’ who are said to be ignoring the overwhelming supposed “scientific” evidence for an old Earth.
We are not ‘Young Earthers’
I want to make it clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as ‘young-Earth creationists.’ Answers in Genesis’ main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively young Earth (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.
What does the Word say?
Recently, one of our associates sat down with a highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar and asked him this question: “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with millions or billions of years of history for the Earth and universe?” The answer from this scholar? “Absolutely not!”
The Bible does not offer any hint of a “millions of years” approach
Take out your Bible and look through it. – you can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years. For those of you who have kept up with our lectures and our articles, you will have heard or read quotes from many well-known and respected Christian leaders admitting that if you take Genesis in a straight-forward way, it clearly teaches six ordinary days of Creation.
Starting outside of the Bible…
However, the reason they don’t believe God created in six literal days is because they are convinced from so-called “science” that the world is billions of years old. In other words, they are admitting that they start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture. When someone says to me, “Oh, so you’re one of those fundamentalist, young-Earth creationists,” I reply, “Actually, I’m a revelationist, no-death-before-Adam redemptionist!” (which means I’m a young-Earth creationist!).
Here’s what I mean: I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside! When I take the plain words of the Bible, it is obvious there was no death, bloodshed, disease or suffering of humans or animals before sin.
God instituted death and bloodshed because of sin – this is foundational to the Gospel. Therefore, one cannot allow a fossil record of millions of years of death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin (which is why the fossil record makes much more sense as the graveyard of the flood of Noah’s day).
Using man’s understanding
Also, the word for “day” in the context of Genesis can only mean an ordinary day for each of the six days of Creation [see www.answersingenesis.org for an explanation].
Thus, as a “revelationist,” I let God’s Word speak to me, with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in. Once I accept the plain words of Scripture in context, the fact of ordinary days, no death before sin, the Bible’s genealogies, etc., all make it clear that I cannot accept millions or billions of years of history. Therefore, I would conclude there must be something wrong with man’s ideas about the age of the universe.
God’s Word is infallible
And the fact is, every single dating method (outside of Scripture) is based on fallible assumptions. There are literally hundreds of dating tools. However, whatever dating method one uses, assumptions must be made about the past. Not one dating method man devises is absolute!
Even though 90% of all dating methods give dates far younger than evolutionists require, none of these can be used in an absolute sense either. [See our website for articles on Radiometric Dating and Young Age Evidence for more.]
Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? Christians who accept billions of years are in essence saying that man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible! This is the crux of the issue.
Questioning God’s Word
When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word. Once this “door” has been opened regarding Genesis, ultimately it can happen with the rest of the Bible.
You see, if Christian leaders have told the next generation that one can accept the world’s teachings in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., and use these to (re)interpret God’s Word, then the door has been opened for this to happen in every area, including morality.
Yes, one can be a conservative Christian and preach authoritatively from God’s Word from Genesis 12 onwards. But once you have told people to accept man’s dating methods, and thus should not take the first chapters of Genesis as they are written, you have effectively undermined the Bible’s authority! This attitude is destroying the western Church.
Whose authority do you accept?
So, the issue is not ‘young Earth’ versus ‘old Earth’, but rather: Can fallible, sinful man be in authority over the Word of God?
A “young-Earth” view admittedly receives the scoffing from a majority of the scientists. But Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 8:2 (KJV), “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”
Compared to what God knows, we know “next door to nothing!” This is why we should be so careful to let God speak to us through His Word, and not try to impose our ideas on God’s Word.
It’s also interesting to note that this verse is found in the same passage where Paul warns that “knowledge puffeth up.” Academic pride is found throughout our culture. Therefore, many Christian leaders would rather believe the world’s fallible academics, than the simple clear words of the Bible.