This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.
I realized as I was reading for this post that I, for some reason, have misrepresented and misinterpreted some of the evidences and arguments of Young Earth Creationism (hereafter YEC). I wrote before that a problem with YEC was “Where is the positive case? Rather than attacking all other views, where is the scientific case building bottom up a YEC explanation of the universe? I think this is absolutely essential for YEC to offer any competition [to other theories].” The problem with my questions is that YEC takes it as given that it already has a case. Not that this case is testable by scientific means, but that the case is simply built upon Scriptural interpretation. This is why, I believe, advocates of YEC most often simply attack competing theories rather than presenting their own. It is a presupposition that YEC provides the paradigm case for the origins of life and the universe.
The issue can (and, I believe, should) still be pressed: what is the case for YEC that can be discussed even among those who may not believe Christianity, let alone theism? The answer, I’ve found, is going to hinge upon The Flood (Genesis 6 and following). Von Fange writes that “These two models of what the early earth was like are gradualism for the evolutionist, and catastrophism, such as Noah’s flood, for the creationist” (161). Once again, it seems that it is a matter of taking the same data and interpreting it differently. The difference in interpretation is incredibly vast. Other versions of the “Life Dialogue” (as I’ve dubbed it) rely on long periods of time, whereas YEC argues that it is instead massive, catastrophic events in the history of Earth which have shaped the world geologically, anthropologically, biologically, etc.
The key is granting that The Flood was truly a completely catastrophic, worldwide event. This seems to me to be the most natural and clear interpretation of the Genesis account of The Flood. Granting that there was a worldwide flood of this magnitude, what does that mean for the world? Such a flood would have absolutely destroyed the world. This would have included the leveling of mountains, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, continents subsiding, and more unimaginable devastation (Rehwinkel, 286ff). Further, the amount of sediment that would be deposited by this worldwide flood would have been incredibly large (Rehwinkel, 288ff). The Flood could have carved canyons and presented the appearance of sedimentation that would parallel that which occurs over long periods of time (Morris). Fossils would be expected throughout this sedimentation for the obvious reason that the entirety of the world was under water. Not only that, but it would have reshaped the planet’s land masses, which would have had catastrophic effects on ecosystems upon the resurfacing of the continents (Rehwinkel, 287).
Thus, again it seems as though YEC depends thoroughly upon the account of The Flood and interpretations of what exactly such a Flood could do to the world. I don’t find this to be a weakness for the YEC position, but rather a great strength. It seems to me as though the YEC position is most capable of dealing with the Genesis account of The Flood, as well as what that would mean to the world. Further, interpreting various scientific discoveries through these lenses is what allows for proponents of YEC to argue for their position. It should also be noted that this proposition of The Flood is taken in conjunction with the belief that God created a “complete world” in the sense that it would have been already prepared for life–which includes the belief that the world was created with continents, bodies of water, and the like already formed (Rehwinkel, 283-284). This conjunction of beliefs provides a powerful theological argument for YEC.
The main problem with such an explanation of the age of the earth is that it seems to contain no ability to establish credibility in the scientific community at large. Such an account cannot be tested as it stands. I think there are prospects for YEC to present a testable model, but I still know of no such model. Such a model, were it to be created, would include predictions related to the effects of the flood, along with predictions for the condition of the universe being pre-made for human habitation. Reading from Rehwinkel in particular gave me much to think about as I’m evaluating all sides of this debate. The conjunction of The Flood with a “complete world” seems to have great explanatory power in theological terms.
Morris, Dr. John D. “Lessons from Mount St. Helens.” http://www.icr.org/article/lessons-from-mount-st-helens/.
Rehwinkel, Alfred. The Flood. Concordia Publishing House. 1951.
Von Fange, Erich. In Search of the Genesis World: Debunking the Evolution Myth. Concordia Publishing House. 2006.
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