This is part five of my six part series on the Age of Earth Controversy and here I will be answering another five questions related to this debate.
(For reference remember the terms Young Earth Creationists (YEC), Old Earth Creationists (OEC) and Evolutionary Creationists (EC) and see my First, Second , Third and Fourth posts relating to this blog series on the Age of Earth, Creation and Evolution.)
6. How Credible is the Science Behind Young Earth Creationism?
In some evangelical circles there is proud talk about all of the scientific evidence supporting a Young Earth. Biblical arguments are one thing, but here we are going to discuss the scientific claims made by YEC. Arguments are made in a variety of areas as diverse as the lack of accumulation of moon dust, the “decay rate” within the magnetic field and the inconsistencies found in radiometric dating. The science is performed by actual scientists and if taken alone seems quite compelling, it is only when counter arguments are made that the weakness of the Young Earth presentation of the evidence is revealed.
One thing that becomes clear is that those who are trying to systematically prove the earth is young by empirical evidence alone have a common tendency to cherry pick their data. Organizations such as AiG are guilty of these tactics, though they do at times acknowledge some counterarguments and have fully revoked certain arguments of their own that they no longer find tenable.1 Nearly every one of the scientific arguments presented by YEC are countered by more rationally and empirically superior counter arguments for an OEC position. The only piece of evidence that I have found that is more supported by the YEC position is from one T-Rex fossil that still contains soft tissue matter, blood vessels and protein collagens, that are difficult to understand from an OEC position. Yet, this is an anomaly and does not account for the thousands of evidences against this position.2 Even Henry Morris’s YEC son, John Morris, admits that he does not know of one scientist who has converted to the YEC position from strictly observing the scientific data.3
There is one more significant point which must be considered within YEC science. There are a large number of YEC advocates who agree that the science supports an OEC position and they remain YEC due to their Biblical convictions (which is commendable). These individuals typically appeal to the Appearance of Age Argument or just general supernatural miracles. Jesus displayed his complete command of nature in Mark 4, it is likely that empirical natural data would not understand how the seas and storm were immediately calmed. We do not have science to empirically verify the events that defy our natural sciences. This does not mean that these events don’t happen but this is a more tenable line of reasoning for YEC than trying to manipulate empirical evidence to support their views. The preponderance of YEC who concede that the scientific data supports the OEC position complicates things for those in the YEC camp who wish to claim that it is only those who have compromised Biblical fidelity who do not see the evidence as they do.
7. Is the Appearance of Age Argument Credible?
In 1857, naturalist and marine biologist, Philip Henry Gosse published the first version of the Appearance of Age or Mature Creation Argument in his work titled Omphalos. The title is Greek for “belly button” and understands that in Genesis God must have created Adam as someone who appeared older than he was, he would even have a bellybutton, making it appear as if he had been born of a woman and not created from the dust just moments ago. Goose then applies the same logic to the earth and the universe. As God created man appearing older than he was, God also created an earth and universe that appears older than it is.4
At face value the argument seems pretty solid, and most YEC rely on it either entirely or to some degree. Even Henry Morris relies on it to explain starlight. However, when the argument is more critically studied many issues quickly arise. To conserve space, I will simply describe the problems with no more than one sentence for each issue.
First, there is no direct Biblical support for such an argument relating to the earth and it’s actual creation, therefore the argument is in all actuality extra-Biblical. Second, it denies the reality of the vast majority of events astronomers observe and requires one to believe that the sun light we see every day does not actually come from the sun as it takes over 10,000 years for photons to escape the sun’s core. Third, the theory is entirely untestable and therefore it is outside the realm of science and it creates a “false history” within creation evidence itself. Fourth, a consistent application of the theory creates problems for a YEC when it comes to the Genesis flood and the evidence typically used to scientifically defend the event. Fifth, a consistent application then requires that one perform all scientific studies of the earth “as if” the earth where old yet knowing that it’s not old. Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, the argument has a very Gnostic tendency as it becomes very difficult for those who embrace this theory not to be denying the physical reality of our earth and universe. Clearly those who wish to hold this theory have much work to do in making it a more defensible position.5
8. Are Young Earth Creationists Burying Their Heads in the Sand?
With all of the arguments against the YEC position this question may be asked. While I believe that those who are still trying to use scientific explanations to defend the YEC position are living in a dream world, I do not believe that all YEC are guilty of this.
As I’ve stated before the Bible is our final authority and we must respect Christians when they zealously hold to interpretations that they believe are required. An unbeliever might accuse such a person of having an irrational faith or a strictly fideistic belief system, yet this is not the case. Very respected Christians like Albert Mohler6 and Ligon Duncan7 can offer rational defenses for YEC positions.
All Christians believe that the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is only explained by His supernatural resurrection. Most Christians, who have contemplated their faith are convinced of this due to the evidence presented for the historicity of this event. This belief then logically leads one to believe that Jesus is God the Son as presented in the same evidence provided for in the resurrection. As Jesus demands absolute loyalty, faithful Christians then work from this presupposition, that He is Lord of all, in all of their other studies and beliefs. This is why Christians believe in the Inerrancy of Scripture, not because we can make sense of every single passage with no difficulties but because we are rationally convinced that Jesus Christ is God and it is very irrational to take a different stance on Scripture than the stance that God has. (Jesus clearly seems to have believed in the inerrancy of the OT) It is this fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Word that leads many YEC to maintain their position as they are unable to reconcile His Word with the scientific evidence presented. It is not fear nor ignorance, but a carefully considered look at evidence from different vantage points and faithfulness to God, which allows for an appeal to supernatural workings beyond human understanding, grounded in a supernatural event that is graciously attested to with hard evidences (the resurrection) and which then creates a rational worldview that allows for a systematic understanding of the physical and spiritual realties, yet without a full understanding of how every piece of natural science fits in.
9. How do Old Earth Creationists and Evolutionary Creationists Understand Animal Death Prior to the Fall?
and Question 10: Doesn’t Romans 5:12 Explicitly State that Death Entered the World After Adam Sinned? (both answered together)
Of all the debates within the age of the earth controversy animal death prior to the Fall is one of the most highly divisive areas. Without trying to write a book I will attempt to briefly outline the arguments presented by those who accept animal death prior to Adam’s sin. The very idea of this can push hard at aspects of a YEC worldview and unfortunately this can cause emotions to quickly raise, but do note that the arguments themselves appeal to Scripture.
One of the first arguments made by OEC is that in Genesis 1:31, God declares His creation to be “very good,” not perfect. They note that Scripture utilizes the same expression when describing “exceedingly good” land even though it is post fall. (Num. 14:7)8 OEC see the initial creation as created with “perfect purpose” but not as a “perfect paradise.”9 Further support is found in making a distinction between Eden and the rest of the earth. This is most clearly seen in Genesis 1:28 when Adam and Eve are told to go and “subdue” the earth which implies nature outside the Garden needing to be brought into submission and thus some kind of tension present. They also see the expression of God giving every green plant for food as merely highlighting God’s gracious provision for life and point to Ezekiel 47:10-12 and Isaiah 65:20 which seem to show some version of post eschatological death (at least for fish) in the age to come, if those passages are to be interpreted in applying to the age to come as many interpret them to be.9 This line of thought is also seen in contrasting Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21-22 as the latter seems to depict a superior world, again showing that the initial creation was very good and yet not innately perfect. (Why would the perfect God create an earth that wasn’t perfect? “Our God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases.” Psalm 115:3)
Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15 are typically used by YEC who claim that such passages in Scripture are debate ending passages which clearly teach that all death entered only after the fall. However, to give such weight to those verses is it not exegetically sound as Romans 5:12 clearly shows that the passage is referring to “death spread(ing) to all men” (“ing” added) and not to all creatures. This is further supported by a careful look at Genesis 2:17 where God’s warning regarding the punishment of eating from the tree was that Adam would surely die: “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (emphasis added) Note that Adam is only told that he will die, not that death will enter creation itself and further note that the text implies that Adam at least had a cognitive awareness of what death was prior to eating from the tree.10
Romans chapter 8’s description of creation groaning under the bondage of futility is also used by YEC’s to try to end the debate. Yet there are times when the Bible describes aspects of creation as futile such as the sun, wind and rivers (Eccl. 1:5-7) which had all been established prior to the Fall.11
To explain predatory animals some Christians have gone so far as to give Satan credit for their creation. This is unacceptable, especially when we consider what God has to say about such animals and other turbulent aspects of nature.. God calls natural parts of the earth’s created nature that we or even ancient Jews would typically deem “evil” part of His work in Psalm 148.12 He takes credit for the creation of predatory creatures in Job 38-41.13 Predators receiving their food from God (eating tasty animals) is called “good” in Psalm 104:24-28.14 In praise, God is given credit for creating darkness, night, prowling beasts of the forest, and even creating calamity in Psalm 104:19-21 and Isaiah 45: 6-7.15
David Snoke makes an interesting point that we often anthropomorphize animals and he calls this the “Bambi Effect.”16 Essentially we add an unnecessary human element to animal death that we would not add had man not fallen. This argument sees that we are not as detached from animal death as we would have been if we were not subject to death as well. I do see a connection here in how we view suffering from a distance. Recently I saw pictures of the starvation happening in Yemen. They were devastating pictures and yet the distance, and probably the lack of relating to their suffering, causes a level of removal emotionally from the situation in such a way that would not be if I were physically present in Yemen and sharing in their experience in a more tangible way. This is not perfect analogy, yet I think it shows how humans view experiences differently with their level of relation and connection to a given event.
Wayne Grudem, whose book Systematic Theology has been considered the “unofficial textbook”17 for the Reformed Resurgence, summarized the Young Earth/Old Earth debate as follows: “Although our conclusions are tentative, at this point in our understanding, Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest (but not require) a young earth view, while the observable facts of creation seem increasingly to favor an old earth view. Both views are possible, but neither one is certain.”18 Grudem goes on to say: “Progress will certainly be made if old earth and young earth scientists who are Christians will be more willing to talk to each other without hostility, ad hominem attacks, or highly emotional accusations, on the one hand, and without a spirit of condescension or academic pride on the other, for these attitudes are not becoming to the body of Christ, nor are they characteristic of the way of wisdom, which is ‘first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity,’ and full of the recognition that ‘the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace’ (James 3:17-18).”18 Wise words from Mr. Grudem that I pray we would all be diligent to heed.
- 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker, (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014), 193
- Ibid. 192
- Ibid. 198
- Ibid. 217-218
- Ibid. 220-223
- 40 Questions, Keathley and Rooker, 259
- Ibid. 260
- David Snoke, “Why Were Dangerous Animals Created?”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 56, no. 2 (June 2004): 117-1125; taken from Ibid. 260
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 307-8 (emphasis original); taken from: 40 Questions, Keathley and Rooker, 209
- Ibid.; taken from Ibid.