I was recently at the Evangelical Philosophical Society conference (see my thoughts on every talk I attended) and one of the sessions was a debate between Gregg Davidson of Solid Rock Lectures and Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis on “Scripture, Geology & the Age of the Earth.” A number of readers requested more information on this talk, and I found it very interesting myself. Here, I’ll touch on the highlights of this dialogue as well as my own thoughts.
Davidson- A Biblical Worldview and an Ancient Earth
Gregg Davidson, a geologist who authored When Faith and Science Collide, and is a lecturer for Solid Rock Lectures, began the dialogue by noting several themes in the young earth/old earth dialogue. First, he noted a tendency to present young earth creationism (YEC) as the only Biblical worldview, while also presenting evidence for a young earth as exceptionally strong in contrast to weak evidence for an old earth. Unfortunately, Davidson pointed out that many people get to schools where they learn geology, astronomy, and more in the sciences and discover that the evidence for the young earth is actually fairly weak, while that for an old earth is quite strong. And, because YECs often link young earth creationism to being the only possible Biblical worldview, they begin to view the Biblical worldview as a whole as extremely weak. If the evidence for YEC was so weak as to falter, then because it is inherently tied to the Biblical worldview, that wolrdview must itself be extremely weak.
Another problem is that YECs fail to recognize that their position itself is an interpretation of Scripture. Their view is not Scripture itself. There is a tendency in debates about theology to view one’s own position as what the Bible teaches, but that fails to take into account the possibility of fallible human interpretation.
Davidson argued for an approach to Scripture that takes note of the fact that God often deigns to make use of “the knowledge of the day to communicate truths about the nature of God.” As an example, he referenced Jesus saying that the mustard seed is the smallest seed of all the plants on earth, despite the fact that it is not (Mark 4:30-32). The point was not the size of the seed, but rather the power of faith. Thus,we must be careful not to make Scripture teaching something it does not claim for itself. He pressed that to read into the Genesis text specific dates and time periods is to make the text teach something that it is not claiming.
Turning to the science, Davidson noted that there are any number of evidences for an ancient earth, but that he chose to focus upon just one area from a number of evidences in order to show how interdisciplinary and cross-confirmed the age of the earth is. He focused upon the Hawaiian Islands and their formation and age. There are multiple, independent ways to investigate the age of these islands. The islands were formed by a hot spot–a place where magma shoots up from underneath the crust and bubbles to the surface. This eventually would form islands when enough of the lava cooled and hardened. The islands are on a moving continental plate and so as they move away from the hot spot, the expectation is the islands get progressively older. Thus, in a series of 3 islands arranged thusly: 3-2-1-0 (0 being the hot spot), 3 would be the oldest island.
Davidson first noted the ages that were found by testing the age of the volcanic rock with radiometric dating. These ages yielded millions of years. Now of course most young earth creationists hold that radiometric dating methods are deeply flawed, but Davidson noted that this procedure can be tested for accuracy with independent methods. Before turning to that, he showed a picture of what the estimate for the movement per year of the plate over the hot spot would be based solely upon the radiometric dating. Basically, this works by just taking the distance of 3-2-1 and measuring how far each is from the hot spot, then dividing the radiometric date by that distance to see how far the islands move per year. The estimate yielded movement of 2.6-3.6 inches per year.
Recent technology has allowed us to utilize Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to actually measure the rate that the islands are moving. These measurements yield approximately 3.1 inches per year, which is exactly in the middle of the estimate given by the radiometric dating. Given the measured rate, scientists can extrapolate how many millions of years old the islands are based upon their distance from the hot spot. It’s kind of an inverse way to get the date. They simply divide the measured distance of the islands from the hot spot by the measured rate of movement per year. Of course, this way of measuring is not dependent in any way upon radiometric dating. Thus, there are two independent sources showing the date in millions of years for the Hawaiian Islands.
The coral growth around the Islands was a third confirmation of the ancient age of these formations. This argument was more complex than the first two. Basically, it seemed the argument was that because different corals form closer to the surface, we can look at the coral reefs formed around the islands as they are farther out and see how much the coral has moved up the island as it subducted (moved under the water with the continental plate). Thus, as the islands move farther away, and therefore sink into the water, the coral that can only survive at certain depths is submerged too far for it to get adequate sunlight, and it dies. One can then measure radiometrically the age of rings of corals. When one measures the coral on the islands, they can correlate that with the ages of the corals and the islands themselves. This measurement also lined up with the previous two.
Davidson concluded that the problem with the YEC paradigm is that they will often focus upon rebutting multiple, independent claims. While this may work for each claim individually, the problem is that all of these types of evidence add up to form one cohesive picture. When they are cross-referenced and they all hit on the same age or date range, they all show the same predictions of distance, and the like, it becomes extremely implausible to say that every single way to find the age of the earth is faulty. They form a full picture. Furthermore, Davidson critiqued YECs for often presenting a selective picture of the evidence–only showing the evidence which favors their position.
Snelling- A Biblical and Geological Defense of a Young Earth and the Global Flood
Andrew Snelling is a well-known proponent of YEC, the author of Earth’s Catastrophic Past, and his presentation was perhaps the best defense of his position I have ever seen.
Snelling began by offering the common argument that Jesus taught the global flood and young earth creationism. He argued that the Hebrew word used in Genesis 7:17 is only used for this event, which hints at the incredible devastation.
Furthermore, the language in Genesis states that the mountains were covered. Snelling’s slideshow had the image shown here on the right, which is becoming pervasive in discussions about the extent of the Flood. The argument is that if the Flood were local, it makes a mockery of the Biblical text. (See a different perspective on this issue with Hugh Ross’ “In the Days of Noah.”)
Snelling outlined several things we should look for if there was a global flood. Among these expectations are:
1) Marine fossils in strata for terrestrial creatures- Snelling named a number of places these could be found. This is an expectation because the Flood covered the whole earth, so the creatures should all be mixed together.
2) Rapid burial of creatures and plants- Snelling noted a number of places where fossils show rapid burial. This is expected because the Flood would have suddenly come upon these creatures.
3) Fossil graveyards- The Flood would have killed huge numbers of animals, so we should expect to find huge fossil graveyards, which we do.
4) Evidence that the ocean flooded the continents- if the Flood were global, we would expect to find its sedimentation upon the continents, and we do.
He argued that these are all evidenced in Earth’s catastrophic past, and he pointed to the Grand Canyon as evidence for a number of these evidences.
Snelling also looked at various geological features he said were evidences for a global flood and a young earth. Among these were several layers of sedimentary rock which are bent. He argued that this can only occur when the rock is liquefied like cement–otherwise it cracks–so this sedimentation had to happen during the Flood.
Next, there was a dialogue between Snelling and Davidson in the form of them asking each other questions. The highlights were a few specific questions:
Davidson asked Snelling about the Grand Canyon: specifically, he noted that the terrestrial fossils were found in similar strata, but never in the same layers, which instead suggests an ebbing and flowing of the water; not a global flood. Furthermore, he pointed out the lack of any pollinating plants in an entire mile of sediment. He asked how Snelling’s account lines up with this data. Snelling responded by arguing that the fossils are indeed mixed together and that we even find footprints in the wrong layers. He argued that due to “devastating tsunamis” which would have swept the earth, some of this could be undone and/or specific types of creatures/plants might have been swept out of the layers.
Snelling gave a brief outline of problems with radiometric dating giving divergent ages and asked Davidson to comment on the difficulties he pointed out with radiometric dating. He argued that often, old earth proponents and “secularists” simply assume an age for the rock and interpret the tests to get that age. Davidson responded noting that he worked with radiometric labs for quite some time and that there is mixing in the chemicals which can be accounted for. He showed a picture showing how some of this can work and how labs have to account for certain elements contaminating the rocks. However, he pointed out there is a margin of error to account for some of these difficulties.
Davidson then brought up a slide with images of bent rocks. One was a “bench” at a graveyard in which the middle had sagged despite being made of stone. He argued that with enough pressure/time rock can sag under its own weight or (as the picture showed) even no weight at all. Given this evidence, he asked why bent rocks should count in favor of YEC. Snelling responded by saying that hard rock can be bent by pressure but that if the pressure is sufficient the rock will crack. He continued to emphasize that in the Grand Canyon one can observe rocks bending without fracture.
I have to say I was struck by how much this interaction turned on the scientific aspects of the debate. I had thought that Snelling would focus more upon an attack of Davidson’s interpretation of Scripture, and while he did some of that, the majority of his responses were related to scientific arguments. Davidson followed suit and kept hammering examples that showed how the YEC interpretations Snelling gave of various natural phenomena failed.
Davidson’s scientific presentation in his paper was extremely strong. It would be very hard to explain away the fact that three completely independent methods for dating the islands lined up so clearly to point towards an ancient earth. If I had been on the border between young earth or old earth going in, I would have come out as convinced of an old earth. I actually did go in as one who holds to an old earth, having been convinced by the evidence a few years ago, and I came away utterly convinced that YEC is false.
Snelling’s talk was a great defense of the YEC position, but it demonstrated the flaws that Davidson was quick to capitalize on. I was really impressed by the fact that Davidson had a number of slides ready to respond to both Snelling’s presentation and his questions. Davidson’s critique of the “bent rocks” was particularly devastating.
Davidson’s critique of YEC: that they focus upon independently repudiating various dating methods, came to fruition in this discussion. He really showed how the YEC paradigm is utterly dependent upon a selective presentation of data at the exclusion of pieces that do not fit.
One thing I would have liked to see was more debate over the Flood and the Bible passages in general. I was surprised by how much the talk focused on the science–though that was extremely interesting.
Let me know your thoughts on the topic. Have you any insights on any of these issues?
I have written on other talks that I attended at the ETS/EPS Conference in 2012. Specifically, check out my post on Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals. I have also written briefly on every talk I attended. See my post on the ETS/EPS Conference 2012.
There are a great many posts on creation issues on my site. You can access them by checking out my page on the Origins Debate.
Naturalis Historia is a site that focuses primarily on the scientific evidence for an old earth. I highly recommend it.
For the theological aspects of the debate (and also more of the scientific discussion), check out The GeoChristian as well as Geocreationism, two fantastic sites.
Finally, for a comprehensive Biblical and scientific old earth view, see Reasons to Believe.
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J. W., off the top of your head do you know of any particular scripture which would be discredited if YEC was proven false? Or, are you aware of any particular doctrine that would suffer?
I know of no verse which would be shown in to be in error if YEC was false. As far as doctrine is concerned, certain views of creation would be harmed, as well as interpretations which take the Fall to account for animal death. However, as far as a “doctrine” itself, I don’t think any would be undermined. For example, creation already has several robust non-YEC accounts.
Very nice summary, JW. I’m a lifelong OEC, and I hadn’t heard about the independent dating methods with the Hawaiian islands before. I find it especially cool that the rate of drift is fast enough to reliably measure with GPS!
Nice summary. The lack of Scripture-focused discussion, as you observed, is unfortunate. But this seems to be common. As an OEC, I find the use of figurative language in early Genesis to be supported by Scripture and Christian spiritual principles, but don’t understand the flood narrative as well. Given the use of the “local” flood illustration, did Davidson touch on the narrative itself at all? Or do you know of other OEC treatments? Sounds like his treatment of the Hawaiian islands was a great illustration of converging evidence, and a collection of such examples would be nice to see.
Re “other OEC treatments” of the Flood, Denis Lamoureux deals with the biblical narrative in covering the issue of the flood on pp. 216-227 and pp. 277-281 of his book “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.”
Margaret Gray Towne’s “Honest to Genesis: A Biblical & Scientific Challenge to Creationism” has 50 questions regarding the Noachian Flood on pp. 298-308.
Davis A. Young & Ralph F. Stearley discuss both sides of the issue on pp. 224-242 of their “The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth.”
In addition, Gregg Davidson & Ken Wolgemuth,did a scholarly essay (http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/davidson_wolgemuth_scholarly_essay.pdf) and a four-part blog series (http://biologos.org/blog/series/biblical-and-scientific-shortcomings-of-flood-geology) on “Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology” on the BioLogos website.
Thanks, Paul. Those are very helpful pointers.
J.W., thanks for the summary. I am curious. Did Snelling provide scientific evidence that directly supported the earth’s youth, or did he only provide scientific evidence for the global flood? It sounds like he was assuming that if he demonstrated a global flood, that YEC necessarily followed…or did he defend this connection too?
Luke, I realize I am 8 months late, but I somehow missed responding to this comment. Looking back at my notes from the talk, I do not see any specific defense of the connection. If I recall correctly, Snelling’s basic premise was that if it could be shown that the Flood accounts for the data in either a better way or in the same way as the old earth evidence, then it follows that a young earth is plausible. I hope I am not misrepresenting him here, and I may have missed the defense of the connection.
“It would be very hard to explain away the fact that three completely independent methods for dating the islands lined up so clearly to point towards an ancient earth.”
It would only if you ignore the fact that all three explanations rest on the presupposition that present rates are identical to those of the past. Present geology clearly demonstrates catastrophic events such as Mt. St. Helens can produce very rapidly effects which would otherwise require many years under normal conditions. The assumption that geology acts within a static time frame is unsupportable in the face of observable evidence.
Thanks for your comment, Gerry. I think that one problem with your objection is that you assume that which is not true: modern geology and other physical sciences are not at all put into practice in the manner you allege. That is, modern geology, for one example, is not purely “uniformitarian.” Instead, geologists take into account both catastrophic events like Mt. St. Helens as well as the general tendency for their to be a norm. The problem is that young earth creationists almost always seem to portray this as an either-or regarding “uniformitarianism” and “catastrophism.” This is simply inaccurate. Scientists do take into account catastrophe. Davis Young and Ralph Stearley provide an excellent, lengthy answer to this type of objection in the book “The Bible, Rocks, and Time.”
A second major problem with your comment is that it completely dismisses observational evidence. The measurements Davidson gave were over a course of time and through independent variables. Moreover, they may serve as a confirmation of the notion that the past operated under similar conditions as the present, as the indicator regarding island movements and radiometric dating indicated. So at least one of these tests actually falsifies the YEC objection regarding “uniformitarianism.”
Thank you for your kind response.
“young earth creationists almost always seem to portray this as an either-or regarding “uniformitarianism” and “catastrophism.”
Yes, that is inaccurate. But it is also inaccurate to claim YECs almost always think that way. I, for one, do not, nor do the YECs I know.
I agree scientists take into account catastrophic events, but I feel they frequently fail to accurately assess the extent to which catastrophic events can reach. Mt St. Helens is a hic-up in comparison to other known events such as Krakatoa. And Krakatoa is nothing at all in relation to what is likely to have happened in the Biblical flood.
“So at least one of these tests actually falsifies the YEC objection regarding “uniformitarianism.”
And what would that one test be?
I should clarify: I was speaking of major creationist organizations, which do tend to emphasize the alleged catastrophism/uniformitarianism dichotomy. Answers in Genesis is illustrative, in their constant use of the term “uniformitarian” related to the alleged assumptions of any non-creationist scientists. I have seen this in the public debate I attended that I wrote about here, along with a few I have watched online. Moreover, I have encountered it in other YEC writings. I have yet to see a dissenting YEC view in published form, though I’d love to be corrected.
Moreover, you say that you feel that scientists fail to “accurately assess the extent to which catastrophic events can reach.” What is your basis for this contention? Are you saying that many geologists are just completely ignorant of the impact Krakatoa would have? It seems to me the opposite is the case. Super-eruptions are taken into account and in fact present problems for a YEC paradigm. See, for example, these posts: The Lake Malawi Sediment Chronometer and the Toba Super Eruption — The Toba Super Eruption and Ice Cores — The Toba Super Eruption: A Non-Flood Catastrophe- The Artifacts Say Yes!
It’s not as though geologists are just ignorant or ignoring things like super volcanoes. Instead, it is simply that these events provide confirming evidence for established time scales.
Finally, the comparison of radiometric dating and the movement of islands is evidence against uniformitarianism, because it shows that the “assumptions” in this regard may be confirmed by observational evidence.The only way to argue against this would be to allege that the island movement rate just so happened to match up with mistaken dating methods with remarkable precision.
I would like to make one thing very clear from the outset. I do not view the age of the Earth question as a core doctrine. I do not believe one’s view on the age of the Earth affects his standing in terms of God’s grace. Where the problems arise however, is when one’s view on the age of the Earth begins to affect other more important doctrinal positions.
“What is your basis for this contention?”
I base this belief on the fact that the vast majority of secular geologists seem to be of the opinion, that though catastrophic events do obviously happen they are not the explanation for such features as the Grand Canyon. The attempt to explain the Grand Canyon as the result of slow, gradual processes is palpable nonsense. That’s simply one example.
“Are you saying that many geologists are just completely ignorant of the impact Krakatoa would have?”
Not at all, and I did not even imply that. I simply said I don’t believe they truly appreciate how minor something such as Krakatoa would be in comparison to the impact of the Flood as described in Genesis.
“it is simply that these events provide confirming evidence for established time scales.”
Only if one operates under certain presuppositions. They support long time scales if you presume uniformitarianism, they do not support long time if you adhere to a belief that events of the past could be vastly different than what we observe today.
“The only way to argue against this would be to allege that the island movement rate just so happened to match up with mistaken dating methods with remarkable precision.”
Dating methods are based on woefully unreliable presumptions. There is no way of knowing the basic composition of material at the time it was formed, nor do we know of events which may effect this material during the course of its existence. Remove these presumptions and radiometric dating methods become severely compromised.
Perhaps you could answer a question for me. You obviously hold to an old earth position and therefore obviously believe you have defensible grounds for holding that belief. According to your profile you wish to pursue a career in Christian Apologetics, for this I commend you. I would also assume you see the Scriptures as the final authority on questions of doctrine and faith.
As the scriptures clearly teach the literal creation of the universe and all it entails ex nihilo by God; that Adam and Eve were literal persons; that sin entered the world via the sin of Adam, and that death resulted from this event. As they also clearly teach this sin event led to the curse of creation and the promise of God for the ultimate redemption of his fallen creation, I would be very interested in whether you could produce a sound theological argument supporting a belief the world is 3-4 billion years old, as such a scenario would appear, on the face of it, to be contrary to the plain teachings of Genesis. Were Adam and Eve created, as is taught in Genesis, on the final day of creation or are they the result of millions of years of disease, death and destruction as lower forms of life eventually resulted in a variety of primates from which God then chose two to be the origin of mankind?
“Sound theological argument supporting the belief the world is 3-4 billion years old,…?
After waiting more than 3 weeks for an answer, I must assume your silence is to be taken as an admission you
in fact cannot supply a sound theological argument to support this belief.
First, I want to note that the tactic of saying that non-response is evidence for incapability of responding is a pretty classic internet trolling technique. I don’t respond to every comment because I don’t have time to do so. Assuming I don’t respond because you’ve won an argument is disingenuous, but perhaps expected.
Regarding your most recent comment: I simply don’t think I need a theological argument supporting the belief that the world is 3-4 billion years old. It either is or is not that old. The Bible nowhere states “the earth at the time of this writing is x years old.” It simply does not give any timeline for the age of the universe. You’re trying to force the Bible to teach things it does not. I refuse to do so.
Regarding your earlier comment, you wrote that the natural formation of the Grand Canyon over a long period of time is “palpable nonsense.” Frankly, I see little point in interacting with someone whose refutation of allegedly “secular” models (such language, of course, begs the question against religious persons who agree with quote-unquote secularists) is to simply write it off as “palpable nonsense.”
Once again, I am not presuming uniformitarianism. That very language is outdated now, and it was outdated in the 1800s when the forebears of the young earth creationist movement tried to use it. The study of geology has come a long way since then. Geologists do not “presume” uniformitarianism. They use both the study of uniform events and catastrophic events to form a coherent picture. Young earth creationists continue to either ignore this fact or have not studied enough to realize it and are therefore ignorant of the position they critique.
The dating methods debate is another example of young earth creationists simply ignoring the broader picture to snipe at the outskirts. Of course there are cases where certain dating methods come up with strange dates or even wrong dates. But those are the extremes; they are not the norm. Young earth creationists who make arguments like this are not unlike pro-choice advocates who continually harp on “What if the woman will die if she has the baby?” or other “hard cases” to try to make their case. It is a clear example of avoiding the interlinking, broad scope evidence against their position. Yet young earth creationists do the same thing. Rather than seeing how the puzzle pieces come together to form a coherent picture, they chip away at the fact that a few pieces are missing around the outskirts.
Your question regarding Adam and Eve shows that you don’t actually understand the breadth of old earth positions, not unlike Todd Wilken from Issues, Etc. You wrote, “Were Adam and Eve created, as is taught in Genesis, on the final day of creation or are they the result of millions of years of disease, death and destruction as lower forms of life eventually resulted in a variety of primates from which God then chose two to be the origin of mankind?”
But of course this question really only makes sense when asked to some variety of theistic evolutionist, and I am not a theistic evolutionist. The disjunct is simply mistaken. Moreover, the options are not exhaustive. I believe Adam and Eve were specially created; I also believe the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Your question, therefore, makes little sense to me. It doesn’t present all the positions. It also seems to betray a lack of even comprehending other positions. I think you need to learn quite a bit more about the positions you so blithely reject before you start throwing your arguments around out there.
Again, going back to the original question as found in your earlier comment: ” I would be very interested in whether you could produce a sound theological argument supporting a belief the world is 3-4 billion years old, as such a scenario would appear, on the face of it, to be contrary to the plain teachings of Genesis.”
Um, no, it isn’t contrary to the “plain teaching of Genesis” because the book of Genesis nowhere assigns a date to creation. Let me emphasize this: it does not say anywhere in the entire Bible at what point in the past the earth was created. Your assertion is simply mistaken. If you would like to contradict me, go right ahead and point me, chapter and verse, to the part of the Bible where I can find it telling me the date of creation. And no, I’m not asking such a simplistic question as for the Bible to say “in the year 5000 B.C.” or something. What I’m saying is the Bible nowhere says “5000 years ago, God created the heavens and earth.” It doesn’t actually tell us a time. Your reading is mistaken and in fact is an abuse of the Word of God. You are forcing it to say things it simply does not teach.
Therefore, I do not think the Bible anywhere teaches the earth is 4.5 billion years old. That would be absurd. It doesn’t tell us how old the earth is. Period. Again, if you want to contradict this, go ahead and show me where it says how old the earth is. I’d love to see that chapter and verse I’ve seen so many young earth creationists appeal to as the “plain reading” of the Bible. I’ve yet to see any young earth creationist show me where this alleged “plain reading” may be found.
“saying that non-response is evidence for incapability of responding is a pretty classic internet trolling technique.”
That may be a legitimate comment if you had not in effect admitted you have no response.
“I simply don’t think I need a theological argument supporting the belief that the world is 3-4 billion years old.”
This is known as being hoisted on one’s own petard.
“I don’t respond to every comment because I don’t have time to do so.”
However, you managed to find time now, and that is appreciated.
“Assuming I don’t respond because you’ve won an argument is disingenuous,…”
Where did I claim to have won an argument? I simply stated a fact which you supported with your own words.
“It either is or is not that old.”
WHAT! You really see this as an adequate response? Following this type of logic one would never be required to present a solid apologetic, everything would be simply either true or untrue. Do you not see the folly of such reasoning?
“You’re trying to force the Bible to teach things it does not. I refuse to do so.”
The irony is that it is in fact you who is practicing eisegesis, not I. It’s true the Bible does not give a time for the creation of the universe. But let’s look at what the Bible does provide.
It clearly states God created the universe and all it contains ex nihilo, and that he did so in six literal days. This creation process includes the creation of man on the sixth day. The Bible then proceeds to provide a history of that creation which extends to the life of Paul, Peter, John, et al., all of whom lived in the first century of the last millenium. In addition to that history there are vast quantities of extra-biblical writings which provide accounts dating back several thousands of years. All are in line with a paradigm supporting a beginning of history dating back perhaps as much as 25,000 years. However there are no written histories which provide evidence for hundreds of thousands of years, let alone billions.
So, perhaps you can tell me on what basis you believe the world is 4.5 billion years old, outside of the claims of evolutionary theory, which by its nature requires billions of years? Where is your history to support this claim? If man was created, as the Bible clearly states, at the beginning of time, where is your 4 billion + years of history involving mankind? Old Earth theology is nothing more than an attempt to reconcile the claims of science with the apparent contrary claims of the Bible. It has no legitimacy in history or theology.
“write it off as “palpable nonsense.”
I simply state the facts as they present themselves. The idea the Colorado River eroded the Grand Canyon over millions of years is palpable nonsense, and I do not apologize for stating as much. I would not hesitate to say so to any geologist of any rank. Perhaps you are swayed by academic standing, I am not.
“That very language is outdated now,…”
Fine, but a rose by any other name….
“Young earth creationists continue to either ignore this fact or have not studied enough to realize it and are therefore ignorant of the position they critique.”
Rather presumptuous of you to make this claim. One does not agree with you, or the general consensus, so they are therefore ignorant. As you know nothing of my education, or my level of understanding regards the topics under discussion you have no basis whatsoever to make a comment such as this.
“What if the woman will die if she has the baby?” or other “hard cases” to try to make their case.”
My, what a woeful attempt at an analogy. Criticisms of radiometric dating methods are based on hard facts, not hypothetical ‘what if’ arguments. Any criminal lawyer will be able to tell you a mountain of evidence pointing to someones guilt can be brought down by a single piece of contrary evidence. So no, the criticism of radiometric dating is not nibbling at the perimeter, it is a legitimate shot at the heart of a key source of evidence for an old earth.
“Your question regarding Adam and Eve shows that you don’t actually understand the breadth of old earth positions,…”
Then why don’t you enlighten me?
“I think you need to learn quite a bit more about the positions you so blithely reject before you start throwing your arguments around out there.”
Again you presume to know to what level my understanding reaches. Why do you assume I have ‘blithely’ rejected any positions? Again, this is simply you not being able to deal with the fact there are those who do not accept your view of the evidence. The fact they don’t, in your mind, equates to ignorance of the facts. If they were not ignorant they would of course agree with you.
“Let me emphasize this: it does not say anywhere in the entire Bible at what point in the past the earth was created.”
And as such you feel the liberty to assert your belief it is billions of years old despite the fact you have no basis for this position other than your presuppositions. As I stated earlier you have no history to support your assertions.
“point me, chapter and verse, to the part of the Bible where I can find it telling me the date of creation.”
An actual date for creation is not the subject at hand. The question is what does the evidence gathered from the written history of the Bible, inspired by God, in conjunction with an open-minded interpretation of the scientific evidence lead one to conclude? Does it point to billions of years? If so, where is the history to support that claim?
“is an abuse of the Word of God. You are forcing it to say things it simply does not teach.”
Now you’re claiming to have Biblical support for your position of ‘billions’ of years via your accusation that my position is an abuse of God’s word. The ball is in you court, put forth your evidence from the Bible supporting your claim my position is an abuse of the Word of God.
“Therefore, I do not think the Bible anywhere teaches the earth is 4.5 billion years old. That would be absurd. It doesn’t tell us how old the earth is. Period.”
So your entire belief is based not on the Bible, but upon what science claims to be the truth. Is that correct?
“I’ve yet to see any young earth creationist show me where this alleged “plain reading” may be found.”
Sit down and simply read the Bible, especially concentrating on that which is history, and see if you can find 4.5 billion years. That is what you must do if you accept as true, the account of creation as clearly presented in Genesis. A ‘plain reading’ makes it abundantly clear man has been a part of God’s creation from the beginning. If that beginning was 4.5 billion years ago, there must be some history to support that claim.
Again, I wish to say I am glad you wish to pursue a calling to Christian apologetics and I wish you nothing but God’s blessings in this pursuit. But let me say in all graciousness and sincerity, you desperately need to improve your reading comprehension, analytical and critical thinking skills. Please take this as sincere advice and encouragement from one who is much older than you and who long ago traveled the exact road you now find yourself navigating. I too held to an Old Earth view tenaciously. I did not let go until I had the courage to admit to myself such a position was wholly untenable in light of scripture, history and science. And even then it was only possible through the grace of God. We are to follow him and put all our faith in him and not in the wisdom of man.
May God richly bless your endeavours,
I see we are talking past each other. You continue to say things like: “Sit down and simply read the Bible, especially concentrating on that which is history, and see if you can find 4.5 billion years.”
You’re not even acknowledging that I do not think the Bible tells us how old the earth is. Your comment does nothing to suggest the contrary. All you’ve done is repeat the very common YEC error of assuming one knows the timeline of creation. You wrote:
There are theologians (like John Sailhamer) who agree that the universe is created ex nihilo and that the days are six literal days, but still maintain that this does nothing to suggest the earth is at most 25000 years old. Again, your failure to actually show me where the Bible gives us anything that provides a date for creation demonstrates without question which position is based upon a presupposition.
To better understand the breadth of positions regarding the age of the earth, check out Gerald Rau’s book “Mapping the Origins Debate.” The book doesn’t cover every position, but it at least may provide you with the background knowledge to stop conflating theistic evolutionists with old earth creationists and it will give you some insight into the range of positions.
Finally, I want to reiterate the point I have maintained this whole time. It is I who am not forcing the Bible to say what I want it to say. I do not see anywhere in the Bible where it sets the date of Creation. Those who want to say the Bible teaches a specific time for creation must bear the burden of proof. You have not done so.
I did want to leave one last response just to point out that there is one of the two of us who is reading into the Bible a date that is not present. I’ll let readers decide who is doing so. Open the Bible and find the date of creation. Until someone can do that, I’ll maintain sola scriptura by actually accepting that the Bible doesn’t tell us how old the earth or universe are.
“I’ll maintain sola scriptura,…”
Good, and while you’re doing so, remember that all through history, such men of God as Paul of Tarsus, John, Peter, Augustine, Tertullian, Anselm, Luther, etc, etc, all held to the same position. However, it was not until the 18th century that Christianity even began to entertain the idea of a universe billions of years old. Why is that?
“Those who want to say the Bible teaches a specific time for creation must bear the burden of proof.”
I never said the Bible teaches a specific date for creation, so please, do not put words in my mouth. It was you who correctly stated the necessity of one looking at the whole of the evidence, not just a part of it. To what does the whole of the evidence point? The Bible clearly says man has been part of God’s creation from the beginning. If that’s true, and the world is billions of years old, you MUST provide history to support that position. You cannot. Therefore your position is absurdly weak from the outset. The complete lack of history supporting a universe billions of years old puts your argument on very weak ground, the claims of science notwithstanding.
Contrary to your assertion, I am not forcing anything into the Bible, I’m simply accepting at face value what it teaches as history. And what it teaches as history does not allow for billions of years, plain and simple. So again, contrary to what you think, the onus lies with the old earth camp to provide the historical evidence to support their position.
“You’re not even acknowledging that I do not think the Bible tells us how old the earth is.”
This is what I meant when I referred to your poor reading comprehension. Look at my response again and you will plainly see I did acknowledge that fact quite clearly.
The appeal to a number of respected figures within the church does not make a position correct. When I said “specific time” I meant an age of the universe. The Bible nowhere gives us a reference point for the age of the universe. Period. Any one who says otherwise is reading into the text. Period. Show me where it sets such a reference point (again, something like “5000 years ago, God created the heavens and the earth”). It doesn’t. Therefore, anyone who puts a time period on it is making up a date and making the Bible support their position.
“The Bible nowhere gives us a reference point for the age of the universe. ”
Claiming the Bible does not give us a date of creation versus it not giving us a reference point for creation are drastically different statements. As for a reference point for creation, I believe an argument can be made for the fact the Bible does just that. It is clear that the Bible recounts the history of man from creation to the time of the Apostles. Do you agree with that? If so, then you would need to find 4.5 billion years of human history in its pages. You cannot.
Now it’s possible you believe that God created the universe and animals at one stage and man much later, which is the nature of Sailhamer’s argument. However, there is really no foundation at all on which to base such an argument without distorting the text. As that is something you are properly concerned about, how would you plan to construct your argument?
Sailhamer tries to argue that the creation account found in Genesis is nothing more than the late development of the Garden of Eden for the arrival of Adam of Eve. To be kind, such an idea is pure folly to say the least. The text simply does not support this idea, nor does the concept of original sin allow such an argument. In Sailhamer’s scenario, and indeed in the all Old Earth scenarios, one is left with the existenc of death and disease before the sin of Adam.
As I believe, and as Christianity has taught all through history, that sin entered the world through the fall of man, and that this fall is the source of our separation from God and the origin of death, disease and sin in general, how can I possibly accept billions of years of death and destruction before that event?
So, contrary to your insistence, it is not young Earth creationists distorting the text to suit their needs. It is in fact the old Earth creationists who, in an attempt to appease modern scientific pronouncements, are willing to compromise their beliefs and the historic teachings of Christianity. Maybe you’re willing to do so, I am not.
Tell me, why is it the Bible that must be made to fit the declarations of science? I would be curious to know at what point the very human practice of scientific enquiry was declared to be infallible, and that as a result all beliefs and opinions were then obligated to conform to its view of the world and its origins?
You repeatedly claim the Bible nowhere claims or even references a point in time in which creation occurred, yet you, for some reason, vehemently argue for a 4.5 billion year old Earth. Why is that the case? I sincerely would like to understand.
Okay, I’m going to take a step back here. You have accused my of lacking “reading comprehension” but demonstrated you missed my meaning earlier regarding the age of the earth. I said that it “either is or is not” old. You took that to be an ambiguous statement. What I was actually saying is that the fact of the earth’s age is an objective fact. It either is or is not a certain age or age range. I’ll ask you to cut off the attacks on my “comprehension” going forward.
The reference point you are appealing to is invented. The account actually says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It does not say “5000 years ago, God created the heavens and the earth.” You are importing a reference into the text to meet a perceived theological need for preciseness which simply is not there. You keep appealing to the notion that humans were around from the very beginning of creation. That simply is not the case. I’m assuming you’re about to cite something like Mark 10:6, but that reference doesn’t support the notion that humans existed at the very beginning. Moreover, I have been granting the notion that the days are 24 hour periods, which I do not think is a necessary entailment of the text. But even still granting that, your argument still doesn’t work to make the Bible teach only thousands of years. Once more, it only teaches that God created “in the beginning” not 5000 years ago or “at the beginning of human history, God created the heavens and the earth.”
You wrote, “Now it’s possible you believe that God created the universe and animals at one stage and man much later, which is the nature of Sailhamer’s argument.”
I am not sure where you’re reading up on Sailhamer’s argument, but he actually says nothing of the sort in his primary work on the topic, “Genesis Unbound.” Perhaps his view has shifted in other works, but there he simply claims that the creation account in Genesis 1-2 is about the preparation of the land for humanity and the creation of humanity… it is an account of the creation of Eden. Thus, for Sailhamer, perhaps the earth is young. Perhaps it is old. Either way, the Bible doesn’t really tell us. I’m not saying you’re misreading Sailhamer, but this is his position in “Genesis Unbound,” so perhaps you have a different source on what he wrote that speaks to a different view. Regardless, his view in “Genesis Unbound” is to clearly state that the Bible is talking about the creation of Eden. Such is also the view of C. John Collins in “Genesis 1:4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary.” Collins insists the days are literal 24 hour days but that they refer explicitly to the creation of Eden. Again, the Bible does not therefore give us a reference point for the exact moment of creation.
So I’m sorry, but even granting 6 literal 24 hour days, your case does nothing to insist upon a YEC interpretation of the text.
I am totally unconvinced that “death before the fall” is at all a successful argument. But you haven’t made any argument, so I won’t respond to it. We are, of course, divided over whether Sailhamer’s position is exegetically possible. You did nothing but state that it is “pure folly.” Again, I see no argument, so I need not respond.
You wrote, “Tell me, why is it the Bible that must be made to fit the declarations of science? I would be curious to know at what point the very human practice of scientific enquiry was declared to be infallible, and that as a result all beliefs and opinions were then obligated to conform to its view of the world and its origins?”
This statement is ridiculous, to be blunt. Nowhere have I claimed the Bible must be “made to fit the declarations of science.” I am, in fact, saying the opposite. It is you who are trying to fit the Bible into a paradigm that it does not teach. My argument has been, and continues to be, that the Bible does not tell us the age of the universe. Your argument is that it does. Presumably, you think that the natural record somehow reflects a young earth. If so, then who is the one who is making the Bible fit science? I’m saying it doesn’t tell us about it; you’re saying it does and have a specific claim about the age of the universe. I’m sorry, but you are the one trying to fit the declarations of science into the Bible (or vice versa). Also, I have nowhere declared science infallible. You are completely misrepresenting my position. Please stop. Nowhere have I claimed these things. You are being utterly disingenuous.
You wrote, “You repeatedly claim the Bible nowhere claims or even references a point in time in which creation occurred, yet you, for some reason, vehemently argue for a 4.5 billion year old Earth. Why is that the case? I sincerely would like to understand.”
Although I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old, I do not think the Bible teaches that. The reason I “vehemently” argue against young earth creationism is because it nearly destroyed my faith and I see it destroying the faith of many others. I have friends who fell away because they were taught young earth creationism is the only possible result of reading the Bible. That is wrong, and the damage it is doing to the Kingdom is growing. I will argue against any position which destroys the faith of Christians. Period.
“The appeal to a number of respected figures within the church does not make a position correct.”
You’re right, of course. But it does give it credence, and it should make you question your position if you find yourself counter to the historic teachings of Christianity. After all, the idea of an ancient Earth is not new, and it is something which these men would have confronted.
“I said that it “either is or is not” old. You took that to be an ambiguous statement. What I was actually saying is that the fact of the earth’s age is an objective fact. It either is or is not a certain age or age range. I’ll ask you to cut off the attacks on my “comprehension” going forward.”
My comment regards your reading comprehension had nothing at all to do with this statement. Your comment has nothing to do with that subject, it is simply a meaningless statement. Obviously the Earth is either old or not old, what else could it be? I said it was a meaningless position vis a vis an apologetic.
“The reference point you are appealing to is invented. The account actually says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It does not say “5000 years ago,…”
No where did I claim it did, and no, that is not my reference point at all. My reference point is the fact that the Bible is a history of mankind, from the creation at Genesis 1:1 to the writings of the Apostles. You cannot in any possible way glean 4.5 billion years of history from the text. You are simply applying one of two arguments or a hybrid of both. Those arguments would be 1), there is a large gap of time between the creation of the Earth and the origin of man; or, 2), there are large gaps of history missing throughout the Bible. Neither of these arguments can be supported.
“You keep appealing to the notion that humans were around from the very beginning of creation. That simply is not the case.”
Demonstrate that to be a fact by use of Biblical text, not an appeal to ‘science’.
“Moreover, I have been granting the notion that the days are 24 hour periods, which I do not think is a necessary entailment of the text.”
Most Hebrew scholars do, so what is your reason for not believing the text refers to 24 hours periods. And please, do not use the argument ‘yom’ can be used to reference various spans of time as does our word ‘day’. Context defines the usage, and in my research the vast majority of Hebrew scholars say the context refers to literal 24 hour time spans. Can you present a case to counter that position?
“it is an account of the creation of Eden.”
Can you even begin to supply a hermeneutic to support this argument? I sincerely doubt you can, nor can Sailhamer, or anyone else.
“This statement is ridiculous, to be blunt. Nowhere have I claimed the Bible must be “made to fit the declarations of science.”
Good, I like blunt. Nowhere did I claim you made such a statement, I merely stated what is common practice among many Christians today. Do you believe that is not the case?
“I’m saying it doesn’t tell us about it;…”
So then, on what are you basing your insistence that the earth is 4.5 billion years old? Are you simply accepting what modern science says is the age of the Earth? If so, you still need to have some basis for accepting that as fact. Can you support your argument that Earth is 4.5 billion years old from a Biblical perspective, or is your only argument the one you’ve consistently presented, that the Bible nowhere says how long ago the Earth came into existence? I can present a sound, logical argument defending my position, so far you have only been able to argue from silence.
“and I see it destroying the faith of many others.”
In what way? It has done nothing but strengthen my faith. Why would a belief that you claim is destroying the faith of multitudes, bolster mine? I would venture to argue your crisis of faith had nothing to do with the age of the Earth and everything to do with a lack of trust in the word of God. You may feel that is unfair, but as I stated before, I am much older than you and have experienced much over my years and have found many times that lack of trust in God was at the root of most crises of faith. If my bluntness has offended you, I apologize, but I will not retract the statement.
“I will argue against any position which destroys the faith of Christians. Period.”
That is a most commendable position. But you must be sure the ground you are building on is solid rock, and not sand.
I am still waiting for an argument. So far your points basically amount to dismissing mine. This discussion is going in circles.
“I am still waiting for an argument.”
I’ve clearly presented my arguments. You either don’t comprehend them, or are simply refusing to acknowledge them. Either way it’s out of my control.
J.W. said; “You keep appealing to the notion that humans were around from the very beginning of creation. That simply is not the case.”
Gerry asked; “Demonstrate that to be a fact by use of Biblical text, not an appeal to ‘science’.”
I saw no response to this question in your last post. You’ve made a claim, can you back it up? Provide me with evidence that mankind was not part of creation from the beginning. Provide evidence mankind did not come not being until billions of years later. I await your response with great anticipation.
I’m confused by this question. Clearly humans were not around from the very beginning, because only the heavens and the earth were around at the beginning. Moreover, humans were not created until the 6th day… so they were not around from the first. Only by layering time periods onto the text do you get any problem with billions of years. It could be billions. It could be thousands, or hundreds. It doesn’t tell us. Your hermeneutic demands that it does.
“I’m confused by this question. Clearly humans were not around from the very beginning, because only the heavens and the earth were around at the beginning. Moreover, humans were not created until the 6th day… so they were not around from the first.”
I can’t say I’m surprised. I see we are now trying to play semantic games. You know full well the term ‘from the beginning’ refers to the whole of the creation account, days 1 through 7. The creation account is clearly a series of acts which combine to constitute one event. So please, do not assume you’re dealing with some amateur who will be deflected by childish semantics. The creation account of Genesis 1, without any ambiguity whatsoever, teaches man was part of the creation process from the very start, and not some later addition as you would have him be.
As for your confusion, the question I posed is very clear. You’ve claimed mankind was not part of the creation process from the very beginning. My request is for you to support your position, not simply assert it. You’ve stated a doctrinal position viv a vis the origin of mankind. Can you provide Biblical evidence to support that position or not? So far the answer is an overwhelming, no!
This is why I do not think this conversation is helpful. It seems to me your purpose is not to engage in dialogue but merely to lecture on your position to me. I’m unconvinced, and your posts are becoming increasingly ad hominem.
I am also not playing a semantics game. My point is that your reading as “from the beginning” is selective. Your reading is based upon a conscious decision to make the “beginning” apply to the week of creation. It seems to me that is a valid reading, of course. The period of creation is indeed the beginning. Humanity was part of that period of creation. But then your argument turns around and makes this reading which is clearly metaphorical (that is, the “very beginning” is surely prior to the creation of humanity, unless your reading somehow makes creation instantaneous rather than temporal in any fashion) into a highly literal reading. That is, your assumption that humanity was around from the very beginning is based upon taking the whole creative period as a single entity, but then you use this same assumption to argue that the whole creative period is apparently no time at all. And of course, you have now explicitly divorced the days of creation from the beginning of Genesis 1:1, for your response doesn’t even mention that.
The entire time, I have insisted the text does not tell us a time for creation. You have insisted that the text necessitates a young earth reading. But your arguments against me continually ask me to squeeze several billion years in. Let me clarify this, as I am not going to repeat it again: I do not believe the Genesis creation account tells us anything about how old the earth is. It could be thousands, it could be billions, it could be hundreds of trillions of years old. The text simply does not tell us.
You need to stop treating my position as though I am trying to somehow read several billion years into the text. I have made it explicit, repeatedly, that this is exactly what I am not trying to do. I do not think it tells us an age of the universe, and you have failed to show me any reason to believe otherwise.
You have continually misread my argument, either from wilful misreading or just misunderstanding it. I leave you with the bolded portion here to clarify my position once and for all. Unless and until someone can demonstrate to me, from the text, that the Bible explicitly teaches the universe is a certain age, I reject any position which asserts that the Bible necessitates a certain age for the universe. My position is, therefore, quite clear. Anyone who alleges that the Bible teaches the earth is only several thousand years old (or anyone who says it entails a universe several billion years old) is mistaken in my book. The text does not tell us either way. Therefore, we should remain open.
I am going to rest my case at this point. I don’t see much worth in responding further. Feel free to have the last word, though be aware I will not be approving any comment that continues to utilize ad hominem attacks. Stick to the facts, rather than berating me as childish or lacking reading comprehension. If your position can’t stand on its own without such things, I see even less reason to consider it. I will not be responding after this comment, as I see essentially no point in doing so. Please do not consider it, as you did earlier, a sign that I have conceded a point. It is not.
“I’m unconvinced, and your posts are becoming increasingly ad hominem.”
Could you please point out an instance of an ad hominem on my part.
“Therefore, we should remain open.”
Are you then open to the belief it could be only thousands of years? You seem to forget that I stated at the outset that one’s position on the age of the Earth is not a core doctrinal position. Yet you have argued vehemently for the case that the earth is billions of years old. Why is that? Upon what do you base this belief?
“You need to stop treating my position as though I am trying to somehow read several billion years into the text.”
I’m not saying you are. I’m simply stating you would need to do so in order to justify a belief that the world is billions of years old while holding to a belief that the Bible contains the history of man from the creative actions of God up to the Apostles. Do you see the difference?
“Stick to the facts, rather than berating me as childish or lacking reading comprehension.”
I have stuck to the facts, consistently. I’m sorry if you think the use of the term childish is an ad hominem. In fact it is merely descriptive. I did not say you were childish, only that the attempt to evade a question via semantics was childish. I hope you can see the difference there as well.
I’m sorry if you wish to refrain from further dialogue. You say is is not due to your conceding the argument, and I will accept that. The simple truth is however, you have failed on every occasion to supply a sound reasoned response to any of the questions I put to you. I truly fined that disheartening.
Take care and may God continue to bless your studies.
To J.W. & Gerry,
I am very interested in your online debate. I grew up believing in the evolutionary theory because that’s what I was taught. When I had children and began to homeschool, I went to several YEC debates which convinced me that YEC made more sense out the time in the late 1980s. I am an educator in the sciences and have not had time to adequately research and compare OEC and YEC. I feel that there are problems with both positions from what little I have read. I am leaning now towards an OEC. I have some questions for both of you.
1. How do the YEC explain the Hawaiian islands?
2. How do the OEC explain the lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record?
3. How do the OEC explain the six days of creation? Are they literal days? Based on the Bible, can they be anything but literal days? Is the interpretation that they are literal days incorrect? If animal were created over a longer period of time and died before the fall of Adam, does that nullify the Bible when it talks about Adam bringing death into the world? Could death have existed before the fall of Adam and the death that was being referred to from Adam’s sin was not a physical death but a spiritual death only?
4. Which dating methods are accepted by both groups? Which dating methods are suspect? Why?
I appreciate any discussion that you could give me on the above questions. I have other ones as well.
Thanks for the comment. Gerry and my conversation is essentially over. We were basically stuck in the same loop of discussion for a bit. But, I am glad to take the time to answer your questions (the OEC ones).
Regarding #2, I’m not sure this question is directed towards the right position. Old Earth Creationists (generally) believe in progressive creation, so the lack of transitional fossils is simply because the transitional fossils aren’t there. God created specific life forms throughout the history of the Earth. Your question may be better addressed to Theistic Evolutionists of various types. Theistic evolution is a distinct position from Old Earth Creationism. For an interesting look at the spectrum of beliefs on this topic, see Gerald Rau’s book, “Mapping the Origins Debate” (though he doesn’t get the whole spectrum, he does give a much better look at the fact that such a spectrum exists).
Regarding #3, it really depends which OEC you ask for the answers to these questions. Perhaps the most prominent OEC position is the Day-Age theory in which each day is a longer period than a 24 hour day. The use of the term “literal day” implies a narrower meaning for “literal day” than the word is actually used for, even in the context of creation (Genesis 2 refers to the entire creative period as a “yom” = “day”). OECs tend to hold that it is human death brought about by the curse, not animal death. Some OECs would hold to it being only spiritual death, but I do not.
Of course, as Gerry + my conversation showed, not all OECs hold to Day-Age interpretations. Some actually agree that the days are 7 24 hour periods but they do not agree that they sum up the creation of the entire universe. John Sailhamer and C. John Collins, each hold that the days of creation are in reference to the Garden of Eden, which shows a greater unity between Genesis 1 and 2. Others, like John Walton, hold that the days are days of ushering in God as King over creation and so are still 24 hour periods but not necessarily connected or literal.
The spectrum is quite broad, so there is not an easy answer to all the questions for #3.
Regarding #4; I’m not sure there are any dating methods accepted by both groups. Any dating method has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the fact remains that the Old Earth position can appeal to multiple, independent lines of evidence which confirm the dating methods YECs tend to suspect.