This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.
I wrote in my last post on Young Earth Creationism (hereafter YEC) that I had missed one of its primary tenets, which is that the theological, not the scientific, should be the focus of the “origins” debate. This key point means that the challenge to YEC that it doesn’t have a fully developed scientific model doesn’t seem to be as much of a challenge as one may think, for YEC is grounded in theology, not science.
The problem with this is that this makes YEC hard to evaluate in light of the other views (Old Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolutionism) because its advocates rarely try to put forward a competing scientific model. Instead, YEC tends to be a view which focuses on pointing out flaws the arguments of its opponents rather than constructing its own models. While YEC does have some views which are offered for explanations of the world we observe (a catastrophic global flood is one possibility, though one visitor to this site commented on the scientific impracticalities of testing this), its case is largely built on attacking the other views as invalid.
It is to this that we shall now turn. For now, let us focus on YEC’s case against the other Christian views of the age of the earth. First, YEC, because of its theological nature, is absolutely tied to the belief that the Genesis creation account of six days explicitly means six literal 24 hour periods. Ken Ham gives several reasons for taking this belief seriously in The New Answers Book 1. These reasons include the context of Genesis 1, the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, Exodus 20:9-11 pointing to six literal days, and that “Jesus was a young-earth creationist”. I’ll outline and critique these arguments below.
The argument about the context of Genesis 1 focuses on the light/dark cycle for the meaning of days (26). This argument has some merit, though I think one of the key problems is that there was no sun for a few of the light/periods, meaning that at least something else must have been going on here. I do think that this argument has some merit, however.
The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 would seem to point to the dates that Ken Ham and YECss tend to affirm (though Ham says it is about 6000 years, contrary to other YECs I have read who tend towars 10-15,o00). The problem with this is that it is that semitic genealogies tended to list only key people. Also, the individuals listed could refer to entire families or separate genealogies. I don’t think that the genealogies make a strong case for the YEC view.
Exodus 20:9-11 states (ESV), “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
This is a fairly strong argument for the YEC, in my opinion. The parallel meaning of six literal days because of creation order tends to point to a more literal reading of Genesis 1. The only problem I see with this argument is that the 7th day clearly is longer than one 24-hour day according to all the Christian theology I know. What response could non-YECs give? I think one could argue that Exodus 20 is pointing metaphorically or figuratively back to Creation, and that the literal reading is at least slightly weakened by the 7th day.
Finally, was Jesus a YEC? I must say I find it incredibly anachronistic to apply a position in a modern debate over the creation accounts to Jesus. Ham presents the evidence as, among other verses, Jesus saying in Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.'” This has some initial plausibility for pointing to a Young Earth, but one immediate problem I see with taking this as literally as Ham wants to is that Jesus says “beginning of creation”, which, if one were to take it very literally, means that Jesus is asserting that man and woman were created first, contrary to the creation account in the Bible. I still do find this verse an extremely strong argument for YEC, however.
So, where does this leave us? I still think the YEC position has the strongest theological stance due to the ability to more easily read the accounts as six literal days. It seems to me, however, that other views have plausibility due to a day being as a “thousand years” for the Lord (2 Peter 3:8). YEC counters to this have not persuaded me that this could not mean that the Genesis account is longer than a literal week. The question I put forth is whether or not the Genesis account was intended as incredibly literal as the YEC position insists.
Ham, Ken. The New Answers Book 1. Master Books. 2006.
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