Young Earth Creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) sometimes make the claim that the reason the universe is found to be so ancient by modern science is because it merely appears to be that old. I myself actually held to this view for a while when I was holding young earth creationism in tension with the evidence I observed.
I have been challenged in the past (for example, in the comments here) to provide evidence to show that this a claim made by anyone other than the “YEC in the street,” so to speak. That is, some YECs have told me that no serious YECs (that is, those who are publishing or working with the larger creationist think-tanks) make this argument.
In the past I appealed to various online sources to show that, for example, the Institute for Creation Research makes this claim. I recently finished reading Three Views on Creation and Evolution and found that the YECs in this book–Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds–do indeed defend the position of the “appearance of age.” Here’s a quote:
Some suggest God could have created starlight in transit to the earth. Perhaps most of cosmic history is apparent rather than actual. (52, cited below)
Initially this may not seem like a claim of “appearance of age,” but the authors go on to defend the plausibility of this “apparent” cosmic history and age of the universe:
…[Perhaps] God needed such a[n ancient appearing] creation to sustain life on earth. It might be necessary to have the universe the size and shape that it is in order for life on this planet to survive… God would have no real motive to ‘actualize’ most of cosmic history… ‘Apparent’ history in the mind of God could not be any different than ‘actual’ history… He would gain a fully functioning universe, but without the ‘waste of time’ needed to actualize the less interesting parts. (52-53)
From these quotes, it is obvious that Nelson and Reynolds are defending the notion of apparent age.
Problems for Young Earth Creationists
The notion of apparent age raises a number of issues for YECs. First is the common charge that this turns God into a deceiver. Nelson and Reynolds anticipated this objection and answered by using an analogy of someone’s mother refinishing an antique chair which would make it appear new. The only deception in this case, the authors argue, would occur if the mother failed to correct someone if they commented on the brand new chair. Similarly, God has provided a “label” to show the universe is not ancient: the Bible.
There are a number of problem with explanations like this one: first, in the case of the chair, further investigation would demonstrate it is not brand new. After all, antique dealers know the value of chairs which have not been tampered with by refinishing! We are able to discover whether additional layers of paint or finishing have been applied over the surface of a chair; similarly, we are able to discover whether things which initially appear young may indeed be quite old. The analogy itself breaks down. Second, the argument begs the question. After all, apart from YECs, those Christians who are asserting the universe is really billions of years old also claim that the Bible does not limit the age to only a few thousand years. This is the reason the challenge of “apparent age” comes up to begin with! So to turn around and say, no, it’s not deception because the Bible says it is young is to merely assert that which is being challenged.
Briefly, one might also wonder why Nelson and Reynolds think God “wasted time” in taking 7 days creating. Their dismissal of, say, star formation as something “less interesting” is frankly astonishing. Would that I could go back in time to see these “less interesting” events!
Another difficulty for the YEC comes in the form of a dilemma: Do you advocate a scientific understanding of young earth (and thus read science into the text) or argue for appearance of age (and thus grant that the Earth appears ancient)?
Think about that line for a moment. If YECs wish to affirm their position, they must either come up with a rival scientific understanding of the age of the universe and therefore read that scientific understanding back into the text (after all, where does Flood geology come from?–certainly not the text of the Bible!) or they must acknowledge the evidence that the universe is indeed quite ancient and merely assert that the evidence is trumped by their understanding of the Bible. The “appearance of age” argument grants that the universe indeed does provide evidence for being quite ancient.
Appearance of age is indeed part of the YEC quiver of arguments, as I have demonstrated. The question is, can this actually save YECs from an inconsistent view? I have argued that it does not. But even if YECs drop the “appearance of age” argument, they must still do that which they often attack others for doing: reading science back into the text of Genesis 1. If you’re a YEC, I hope you will think seriously before using the argument from “appearance of age.” But I also hope you’ll think seriously about whatever your alternative theory for the history of the universe might be. How much of it is actually derived from the pages of Scripture? How does your theory fit the Genesis account? Remember, there are other possibilities out there.
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Origins Debate– Check out all my posts on the discussion within Christianity over the duration and means of creation.
Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Young Earth Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).
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Hello! Thanks for the good post! Another huge problem with “appearance of age” is that there is no logical way to determine when the universe was actually made if the “appearance” of age is 13+ billion years but it only seems to be that way. It could be 6000 years old but it could equally be 5 minutes old.
There is no naturalistic way to determine anything about a miraculous, supernatural origin. But there is a theological way, and that accept the plain-sense reading of the Bible. The Bible does not indicate that the world is 5 min. old; but it does indicate that it is around 6000 years old.
Could you quote me chapter and verse the place this indication occurs in Scripture?
As I’m sure you’re already aware, the genealogies in Gen. 5 & 11 span from creation to Abraham. It’s not that hard to add the numbers of years together…
Isn’t it interesting, though, that people didn’t do that for quite some time in order to determine the alleged age of the universe? In the ANE, the context in which God deigned to bring forth his Revelation, genealogies are demonstrably not functioning in the same fashion as ours do–they are not intended to be complete; they are not intended to set dates; they have recapitulation, tunneling, and more. These are demonstrable facts from the ANE context and even from genealogies in the Bible as well. Yet we’re supposed to instead read a 20th century understanding of what a genealogy is supposed to be onto the text and assume that is what is meant.
The fact that people weren’t interested in the age of the universe “for quite some time” is irrelevant. You stated:
I disagree with your claims and characterizations of the pertinent Old Testament genealogies. It’s not about any “20th-century understanding.” It is about taking the inerrant Scripture at its word, through reasonable exegesis that does not bring in authorities and evidences from outside the text.
Frankly it is very obvious that you are bringing your presupposition of what a genealogy is and importing that into the text. Robert Wilson in his book “Geneaology and History in the Biblical World” has demonstrated that “genealogies are not normally created for the purpose of conveying historical information… Rather, in the Bible, as well as in the ancient Near Eastern literature and in the anthropological material, genealogies seem to have been [used]… for domestic, politico-jural, and religious purposes and historical information is preserved in the genealogies only incidentally…” (199). The previous pages, of course, are dedicated to demonstrating this fact. When someone naively approaches the Bible as though we can ignore its context, that itself is bringing in an authority to the text: oneself, as able to stand above the text and determine its meaning, rather than allowing for God to work in the times and places He did utilize to bring forth God’s revelation.
The Bible is exceptional. It does not sit within the context of other literature of its time as just one of many such books. It is the verbally inspired, inerrant Word of God. It’s purposes do not coincide with any other book, as it alone carries the purpose of conveying the real God’s truth to men, and the real history and plan of God’s redemption of a people for Himself. Ancient and near Eastern literature are not Scripture. Resorting to such comparisons as a reason for denying the plain revelation of the Bible reveals a liberalistic skepticism that has been well-answered by many conservative Evangelical scholars, such as Al Mohler. It is your side that’s seeking to impose outside authority on the text, as if pagan writings and purposes in writing could ever shed light on the Holy Scriptures or their purposes in being written.
Is it a good book?
It is a very good read.
Two questions my friend:
Upon examination, would it necessarily be the fact that the wine Jesus produced at the wedding of Cana would have been identifiable as not actually a result of the process of fermentation?
Upon examination, would it necessarily be the fact that Adam (who presumably was created as a fully functional adult male) would have been identifable as 20ish years younger than he actually was?
I get that the analogy of the de-antiqued chair breaks down, but it breaks down because it ACTUALLY existed in a state prior to its change. That is not the case with the apparent age argument. Adam, or the Wine, or Universe, never existed in a previous state of development, thus the critique of the de-antiqued chair analogy doesn’t really apply.
Regarding the wine it was not done in such a way that anyone would be confused about the miraculous nature of the event or the intent. That is, they saw the water, then the wine. They knew what had happened. That is very different from being created at a point beyond creation and having every indicator say that the universe is billions of years old.
Regarding Adam, one could look at his teeth and the wear on them, his bones, etc. and discover that he was newly created.
How can you say, “Regarding the wine it was not done in such a way that anyone would be confused about the miraculous nature of the event or the intent. That is, they saw the water, then the wine. They knew what had happened?” The Bible tells us that the guests thought that the host had saved the best wine for last. They had no idea that a miracle had happened—only the servants knew because only they saw the miracle. That is not different from the origins question: that which actually has a miraculous origin appears to all naturalistic analyses to have a natural origin.
You claimed, “Regarding Adam, one could look at his teeth and the wear on them, his bones, etc. and discover that he was newly created.” Wear and tear, age, deterioration, etc., are all effects of the fall on the material world. You have no proof that such things existed in the perfect world prior to sin. We have no reason to assume that they did.
The word “anyone” was a poor choice, I admit. However, the fact remains that if someone wanted to investigate, one would have been able to find out from eyewitnesses that a miracle had occurred. This is hardly analogous to there being quite seriously every indication in the physical evidences that the universe is ancient and being told we need to believe the evidence actually does not point in that direction and that we’re instead supposed to base this on an apparently infallible interpretation.
“Wear and tear, age, deterioration, etc., are all effects of the fall on the material world. You have no proof that such things existed in the perfect world prior to sin. We have no reason to assume that they did.”
I’d love to see a Bible verse to tell me that age, wear and tear, and deterioration are effects of the fall. Please show me, chapter and verse, where I may find this passage.
Eyewitnesses are not admissible as scientific evidence when what was witnessed is a scientific impossibility. When I say that a miracle leaves no naturalistic evidence, I mean physical evidence—there are no “miracle particles” to be detected and measured to determine that a miracle took place. If God creates something that is “mature” or “aged,” then it is aged for real, with all the expected physical qualities that correspond to that state. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, anyway.
As for what direction the evidence points to, that depends on the inquirers presuppositions. The evidence does not point to which presuppositions are more likely to be true. ANd yes, the two miracles are alike. Just as all the physical evidence of the wine led the crowd (presupposing that the wine was obtained by natural means) to conclude that the wine had been saved for last—and anyone informing them of the supernatural miracle would be expecting them to believe that the evidence actually does not point in that direction and that they’re instead supposed to base this on the apparently infallible account of the witnesses.
Adam and Eve had a conditional physical immortality. They were immortal only because there was no principle of death operating in the world. Since human beings were the only nexus of the physical and spiritual creation, only the sin of a human being could bring the principle of death into the physical world, changing the very laws of nature so that everything in the universe grows old and decays. As long as they did not sin, Adam and Eve were not subject to physical death, and so they were conditionally immortal.
Just as sin came into the world through one man, death came into the world through the sin of one man. Notice that sin and death are said to have come into the world, and not only to have come into mankind. Sin cannot morally taint a material body or a material world, but the temporal curses upon the race because of sin were a physical corruption of the material world–and one of those curses was mortality (the principle of death).
“…cursed is the ground because of you;…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…” Undeniably, this describes a dramatic change to the surface and environment of the entire earth. The perfect, fertile soil was now corrupted. ”…in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; …and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” Here is introduced into the former paradise of earth the new reality: pain, sorrow, sweat and toil. No longer could man continually live by gathering perfect fruit from trees. Now, surviving would require sweat and toil–much effort and work–to try to grow enough food to survive. Along with these, pain and death are introduced. “…till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Here is more evidence of a fundamental change to all of creation. The principle of death here described brought with it all that is involved in mortality: pain, sickness, injury, fatigue, and aging. Man was the crowning achievement of God’s creation, and God said that what He had created was “very good.” But now, because of the fall, man would grow old like a garment and pass away into the dust. However, this principle of death was not restricted to only man; it pervades the entire creation to include every creature and even the earth and heavens…
This creation was not always subject to such laws of deterioration, but had at its beginning a glorious perfection. Sin and death corrupted the world, but that perfection will be restored on that Day when all believers will be glorified…
The whole creation was subjected to futility and put in bondage to corruption–and this condition will remain until the sons of God are revealed in glory, their bodies finally redeemed. Just as the physical bodies of believers will be resurrected to reclaim every last thing that sin corrupted and took away, making victory over sin and death complete, the entire creation, heavens and earth, will undergo a fiery purging and resurrection into a new heavens and new earth…
Since even the heavenly bodies–planets, stars, galaxies, etc.–will be involved in the fiery destruction of the old creation and rebirth into the new, it is clear that sin’s curses of death, futility and corruption affected the whole universe. But at the Day of the Lord, all these things will be redeemed from the effects of sin and death. Until that Day, the consequences of Adam’s sin will continue to fall on the race in the form of these natural conditions.
Most simply, the answer could simply have been that there is no passage to support the notion that things like the second law of thermodynamics were not in play. The passages cited refer to the death of “man”; to the bearing of thorns (but do not at all state that there were no thorns before–and we also have it in reference specifically to the Garden, etc.). What I am looking for is a passage which actually does what the YEC needs it to: state that the second law of thermodynamics was somehow not in operation at one point and then came into operation. What we have instead, I suggest, is a practice of eisegesis in which the YEC looks to read in scientific claims into passages which are not making these claims at all.
For example, is the “plain sense” reading of Psalm 102 really that the second law of thermodynamics came into existence at some point in the past but after creation? I hardly think so. In fact, that seems about as far from a plain sense reading as we can get.
The hermeneutic is not being consistently applied by any stretch of the imagination.
Let’s look at that:
It is important to compare this with these passages:
Just as our bodies became subject to physical corruption by the sin of Adam, and will we changed at “the redemption of our bodies,” the whole creation became subject to physical corruption and “eagerly” longs for the day of fire and judgment when the earth and even the heavenly bodies will be destroyed by fire and resurrected to a new heaven and new earth—free from the corruptions that sin caused.
Again, here we have a clear example of not doing a plain sense reading but rather assuming that when the text speaks of certain elements, these must be references to things like the second law of thermodynamics. That is not at all a plain sense reading, and it is moreover one that would have been impossible prior to the modern era. As such, how is it that the “plain sense” meaning can change over time?
The plain sense reading does not change. Death and corruption, both physical and spiritual, were brought into the world by sin and sin alone. Until sin was in the world, death and corruption were not. Whether or not that fits with your worldview is irrelevant. Rather than being impossible until the modern era, that is and has been the standard Biblical understanding for millennia. And it has been based on just such an argument as I have here given you. Prior to Darwin, what reason do you think Christians saw as responsible for everything growing old and decaying and dying—for the fact that we’re not living in the perfect paradise of Eden but in the corrupt, disease-ridden, injury-prone, aging, dying world that we live it? The sin of Adam was that reason. So don’t think that this is some strange argument I’ve come up with, or that would have been impossible until the modern age. All that the modern age did was add some new labels, and introduce more skepticism.
I don’t see how the process of fermentation is anything like the appearance of age. I mean, sure, maybe at a primitive level of “wow this tastes good, it must be aged”. But I don’t think there would be evidence of out-gassed CO2 from a fermentation process that didn’t happen. I also don’t think there would be evidence of any squished grapes lying around. Nor evidence that the pots containing the wine were ever heated… etc.
We see evidence of all sorts of things like that though in the earth.
The kind of arguments you are making have been well answered here: http://sbcvoices.com/helping-old-earth-creationists-face-the-supernatural-question-ken-hamrick/
One can see in my comment policies that I prefer it if you do not simply offer links without any discussion, but I’ll let this one stand because the link shows a YEC response. It is one which I think is deeply mistaken, of course, because it boils down to this: offer a false dichotomy, then insist on ignoring the evidence. Case in point: “The real question is whether you are willing to accept revealed truth in spite of the evidence or prefer to reinterpret revelation to make it accord with the evidence.”
This is an extraordinary oversimplification which is either intentional misdirection (hopefully not) or simple ignorance of the positions Christians can and do take. It is a clear false dichotomy.
Unfortunately, YECs commonly refuse to acknowledge that they could, even possibly, be mistaken in their interpretation. This isn’t saying the Bible is mistaken or possibly mistaken; just that a human interpreter could be mistaken. By saying that all evidence must be reinterpreted in light of one’s own interpretation, one has elevated one’s own capacity as human interpreter to an extraordinary degree.
I didn’t just offer a link—I wrote the linked article. I didn’t think you’d want a few thousand words in you comment box. If you’re confident in your position, then why did you not squarely address the strongest part of my argument, instead of only citing what you called “an extraordinary oversimplification?” That was an extraordinarily oversimplified response.
YEC’s begin with a hermeneutic that uncompromisingly affirms BIblical authority and inerrancy, so that the plain-sense understanding is to be taken as default, and alternatives to the plain-sense understanding are not to be resorted to unless the Bible itself gives sufficient warrant to do so. The YEC interpretation is simply reading the text as it is, requiring no special justification for doing so. The burden of proof is on those who resort to anything less than the plain-sense meaning—and the justification must come from Scripture alone, or the authority of the Bible is surrendered to that which is extratextual.
You seem to want to deny that everyone interprets the evidence in the light of his own philosophical/theological presuppositions. I challenge you to prove otherwise. The “objective” scientist interprets all evidence regarding origins theories in the light of his materialistic naturalism, with an a priori disregard for the possibility of a recent creation by divine fiat. Old-Earth Creationists, impressed with the scientific evidence, disregard a priori the possibility that God could create a world full of natural processes—already in progress at the moment of creation—which would lead to faulty conclusions about age if analyzed under a presupposed naturalism. Yet, the same faulty estimates would be offered for the age of Adam and Eve, the age of the fruit-bearing trees in Eden, or the age of the (water turned to) wine, the age of the bread and fish that fed the 5000.
“the plain-sense understanding is to be taken as default… The burden of proof is on those who resort to anything less than the plain-sense meaning….”
In other words: You choose to make an assumption about how to read the text, then assert that anyone who does not agree with this hermeneutic has the burden of proof upon them. Frankly, such a position is vacuous. I could just as easily say [I do NOT hold this position]: “The mythical understanding is to be taken as default… the burden of proof is on those who resort to anything less than the mythical meaning.”
What would I prove? Absolutely nothing, other than that I have taken my own assumptions as the sole and proper basis of authority for Scripture and how to read it. It is, in other words, your assumptions which is the basis for your reading, and as you so blatantly put it, you also hold that this assumption is authoritative. For what reason? Because you assumed it. It’s a circle, and it’s hardly surprising that there is little possibility to even think outside of those assumptions.
“You seem to want to deny that everyone interprets the evidence in the light of his own philosophical/theological presuppositions.”
Please justify this statement. It is false, and challenging presuppositions is something I do frequently (see above).
The last part of your comment was essentially a series of straw men regarding what OECs actually hold to.
That is a revealing statement, Mr. Wartick. I think we’re making some progress (in understanding one another, if nothing else). You said:
It is you and not I who have put opinion above the authority of Scripture. It is a matter of whether or not the intended meaning of the author is held in such importance that the text be allowed to speak for itself—with every effort made to not read into the text ideas that were not intended—and to get our clues as to what was intended only from the text itself, rather than permitting ideas, claims, evidences and authorities from outside of the text to tell us what the text means. This is why we go by the axiom, If the plain sense makes sense, then look for no other sense. When it tells us that Christ physically rose from the dead and left the tomb, we don’t allow science to weigh in and tell us that He must not have actually died, but only “swooned,” since dead bodies do not reanimate (CPR might work for a few minutes, but not three days after death). Certainly, science has a legitimate claim in the matter, since what is claimed is above and beyond all natural laws and a physical impossibility. Nevertheless, science must be ignored in this matter, since it is a supernatural matter outside of their ability to explain, detect, or prove. For us today, it is a matter of pure revelation. The eyewitnesses are dead and unavailable for examination. Christ Himself no longer appears, having ascended to heaven. But we believe the Bible’s testimony because our faith let’s Scripture speak for itself and we refuse to look for an alternative interpretation regardless of how ridiculous or absurd our belief might seem to skeptics. We let the Bible speak for itself—if a particular passage makes sense in its plainest reading, then why would we need to look for any other understanding?
I cannot keep up with the length of these comments, but I would simply point out that I highly doubt that you maintain that the Earth is the center of the universe, that the sun remains still, etc. I suspect you would argue these are phenomenological usages of language, but of course this is not the plain sense reading of the Bible then, is it? It seems to me the YEC picks and chooses when the plain sense is to be used and when it is not.
I had stated: “You seem to want to deny that everyone interprets the evidence in the light of his own philosophical/theological presuppositions.” You replied:
I apologize, then, for misunderstanding your earlier statement, where you said:
We agree that all interpret the evidence in light of our presuppositions. Did you have something different in mind by referring to “one’s own interpretation?” By saying that the evidence can help answer the question of how long ago God created, one has elevated to an extraordinary degree one’s own capacity as determiner of whether or not God’s creating left any chronological clues discoverable by physical evidence. On what authority do you declare, a priori, that a divine supernatural creative act must leave chronological evidence?
Sorry I accidentally double clicked this comment to edit but I do not think I accidentally deleted anything.
Anyway, in response I maintain that the way God has set up the universe with established laws is such that the one who wants to assert that God built in some false age has the burden of proof in maintaining it, and that burden of proof lies almost entirely upon a presupposition about an allegedly infallible interpretation of Genesis 1.
You’ll need to do better than generalizations. I’m not familiar with any passage that assigns the earth’s position to the center of the universe. If you’re referring to the places that speak of the sun moving around the earth (specifically, the sky), they simply speak of the writer’s view from the surface of the earth. If you want to get into specific verses, then cite them.
You can also find it here: http://sbcopenforum.com/2014/09/16/helping-old-earth-creationists-face-the-supernatural-question/
What really puzzles me is why OEC-ers would assume that physical evidence could tell them anything about when or whether God created by fiat—I mean, why assume that God must create “brand new”? The chronology in the Bible is straightforward and plainly indicates a recent creation. The disconnect between that and science only comes when it is assumed that God does not or cannot create anything with age or maturity already present.
It’s not that God *can’t* create with the appearance of age; such a position is internally consistent. However, one problem would be for a YEC to say that God created with the appearance of age and then go on to argue that there is scientific evidence for a young earth. This is what organizations like AiG and iCR do and it’s the pinnacle of having one’s cake and eating it too.
Another problem would be, as J.W. pointed out, that internal consistency comes at the cost of God’s character. God becomes a deceiver on the apparent age view. This is often countered, as your above linked article does, with the example of Adam and Eve being created as full grown adults. But, this analogy misses the point; it’s not that the universe merely looks like it’s old but it also has a record of events that occurred in its lifetime. A better analogy would be if Adam were created with the memories of a full grown adult. This would be deceptive and it’s also what we see in the universe. If there’s a theological problem with Adam recalling 20 years of events that never happened, then there’s a theological problem with the universe showing billions of years of events that never happened (e.g. supernovae from non-existent stars, craters from non-existent asteroids, fossils of animals that never lived, etc).
Unlike my YEC brethren, I don’t bother arguing that the evidence points to a young earth. I prefer the term, Recent Fiat Creationism, since I’m arguing not for a young earth, but for an old earth recently created.
You sound confusing. You seem to be saying that Adam’s body was created only with the appearance of age, but in a way that did not imply a series of events. I disagree. How many billions of microscopic events happen between being a zygote and an adult man? His very existence was a “record” of sexual union between two parents.
Have you ever tried to consider this from the Creator’s viewpoint? Those who look for the supernatural Creator-God will find Him. Those who dare to inquire into His purview—creation origins—while denying Him and looking instead for naturalistic explanations, will find only deceit—but it’s a deceit constructed by their own naturalistic (aka unbelieving) presuppositions.
Right, so, I think you’re missing what I’m saying. I’ll try to clear up some confusion. The issue here is that there are required properties and accidental properties. There are certain elements of the universe that are required to look old in order for earth to be functional (e.g. trees with rings). Likewise, there are certain elements of Adam that are required to look old in order for his body to be functional (e.g. liver, brain, general development). These elements can be created looking old and it wouldn’t be deceptive on God’s part.
On the other hand, there are accidental properties. These properties could be created looking young and it wouldn’t affect the function of the creation. However, these accidental properties looking old would indicate that the object in question is actually old. For example, Adam can be created with no memories prior to his creation and his function would be unaffected. But what if he were created with 25 years worth of memories including a birth and childhood that never happened? That would be deceptive, right? Likewise, under the apparent age theory, the earth is riddled with the remnants of events/fossils of animals that (a) are unnecessary for the function of the earth and (b) never existed.
In other words, the “Adam was created looking old” defense for the apparent age theory doesn’t successfully rebut the “God is deceptive” objection.
Now, your last comments can equally be applied to your point of view. The problems that your perspective (RFC) tries to reconcile come from your own presuppositions, namely, your interpretation of certain passages. Your starting presupposition of “The Bible teaches the universe is 6000 years” creates scientific problems that have to reconciled through RFC theory, apparent age theory, etc. My starting presuppositions do not include “Scripture teaches the earth is 6000 years old”. So, when I look at the science through the lens of Scripture, I don’t have the same problems.
I think I see your point. But I still disagree. I’m not really arguing for a universe that was created looking old, but for a universe that was already old when first created. In other words, God didn’t merely add certain qualities to the universe to make it appear old; but rather, He created a world in which all natural processes were already “in progress.” Instead of creating the world at the starting point for all these natural processes, He created the whole thing out of nothing about 6000 years ago, effectively stepping into the middle of a trillions-of-years chronology, with the past only virtually existent and everything from creation onward actually existent. This would include a full record of random natural events, without which these natural processes would be less than natural.
The supernatural acts of God transcend the natural world. The supernatural nature of creation ex nihilo leaves nothing of the supernatural in the nature of what is created. Nothing of the nature of nonexistence, or of the nature of supernatural creation, is brought forward into the nature of what is brought into existence in such a way as to identify what is created with creation ex nihilo. For example, Turretin, in arguing against traducianism, argued that since Adam’s spirit was created out of nothing, then it became the nature of the human spirit to always be created out of nothing. But this is to confuse natural origin with supernatural origin. Only a natural origin determines the nature in such a way that the origin must be the same in every descendant. A supernatural origin transcends the nature of the thing created and leaves no mark on its nature to identify it with supernatural origin. How old something is in its nature does not depend on when it was supernaturally created. How long something has existed and how old it is by nature do not have to correlate—not when supernatural acts are involved. The Hebrews’ shoes never experienced wear and tear when they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness because God supernaturally preserved them from getting old.
As for Adam recalling memories that he never experienced, I don’t think that’s a good analogy—and it didn’t happen, so it just doesn’t fit. The old condition of the material world is not a falsification of experiences that are testified to—the inanimate world just is not analogous to the experiences of human beings. The material world’s characteristics point to age in the same way that the body of Adam points to previous experiences of birth, growth, puberty, learning of language, etc.
You said, “Likewise, under the apparent age theory, the earth is riddled with the remnants of events/fossils of animals that (a) are unnecessary for the function of the earth and (b) never existed.” If God was not merely setting the stage, but bringing a real world into being, with real natural processes in progress, then such things that you call unnecessary for appearance of age may have been necessary to the reality of what God was creating. I think also that you might be mistaking randomness for arbitrariness. One might point to an asteroid crater in a particular spot and think it unnecessary to have fallen there; but who’s to say that there was not a necessary “full complement” of random asteroid strikes on the earth?
God will not be proven by scientific inquiry. He could have left evidence to prove His existence and His creating, but He chose to only be found by faith. Unbelief is spiritual rebellion—a willful denial of the spiritual truth that God reveals to every man, and a self-reliance on physical senses to the enshrinement of natural evidence as ultimate determiner of truth. God will not be found by such rebels. A man must be willing to drop his rebellion and embrace what God has spiritually revealed. That’s why God demands faith.
That’s a rather intriguing perspective; I will admit that it resolves several issues that I brought up. In fact, now that I have a better understanding of what you’re saying, I can see that the Adam analogy I used isn’t applicable to what you’re proposing. I have two questions:
(1) What distinction do you have in mind between “virtual” existence and “actual” existence?
(2) Would Adam have memory of the virtual history or was he not a part of it?
You asked, “(1) What distinction do you have in mind between “virtual” existence and “actual” existence?”
Actual existence begins when God creates. Reality is substantial. Think about the wine made from water. As wine, it did not exist until Jesus created it. Yet, there was a virtual past of grapes growing, being harvested, beings crushed and the juice being fermented. The results of that virtual past could have been seen under a microscope or chemical analysis, and were tasted by the guests. As we peer into the night sky, we see the virtual past still “in action,” as we see the results in most of the starry sky. Science can never detect that God interrupted this natural chronology at some point and created it all out of nothing, since the supernatural transcends the natural. They may extrapolate back into the past, based on the natural processes at present; but they can, in fact, only speak to what condition the world was in when God created it.
As an illustration, think of God created a ball at some point on a long incline. The ball is created, and rolls down the incline. People at the bottom of the incline can measure the speed of the ball, and calculate from the inertia, etc., when it was that the ball was stationary and began to roll, than thus conclude when God created. But they have assumed that God created it stationary. If God created not a stationary ball but a ball already rolling, then the calculations as to when the ball was stationary would conclude a starting point preceding the creation point—a virtual past. God created a world in motion—in motu.
You also asked, “(2) Would Adam have memory of the virtual history or was he not a part of it?”
Because a human is a spiritual being, having been made in God’s image, humanity could never have evolved to what we are. Even if human beings evolved from less advanced forms, the final form we are now in would require God to step in and create an Adam, breathing into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life. Adam was created as new, without any virtual past except what may be extrapolated from his mature body. But God was clear in specifying that his body was made from the dust by the hands of God. Even if his body bore the evidence of past evolution, his mind was brand new, as he was a spiritual, self-aware, God-conscious being—and there was no virtual past to that.
Ken, you said:
“Wear and tear, age, deterioration, etc., are all effects of the fall on the material world. You have no proof that such things existed in the perfect world prior to sin. We have no reason to assume that they did.”
There are some logical inferences that can be made regarding what we know in scripture that could lead one to this conclusion, but regardless, your argument here falls in on itself because we have no reason to assume that those things did not exist, unless we start from your position on the age of the earth. This points to the issue of animal death before the fall, because things like tooth decay refer to bacteria functioning how they should. Yet again, YECs will make the claim that there was no death before the fall, but this in a non-biblical claim, and is solely based off of the assumption of their position’s accuracy regarding the age of the earth.
The Bible should be allowed to speak for itself. When the straightforward, plain-sense reading is that of an historical account, we ought to give Scripture the benefit of the doubt and assume that the plain reading is the correct understanding unless Scripture itself gives us warrant to look for an alternative meaning. Anything less than this standard of Scriptural authority yields a hermeneutic by which anyone can make the Bible say anything he wants it to. Therefore, my starting assumption in this matter, since it comes from the plain reading of the account given in Gen. 1, is not merely equal to your starting assumption.
Rom. 5:12 explicitly and directly states that by one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and death by sin. Therefore, on the authority of Scripture, I stand on the fact that there was no death operating in the world until Adam sinned. It is a matter of revelation, so it does not matter whether or not I can scientifically prove it or even explain it—I will still believe it. Nonetheless, it is plausible that the sin of Adam so fundamentally changed the laws of nature, such as the laws of thermodynamics, that very little of what we know today applies to that original world. Imagine a world where nothing dies, nothing deteriorates, no energy runs down, etc.
Mr. Wartick, you stated:
On what basis does this “tension” exist? Does it not come from the unfounded assumption that a recent miraculous creation would be detectable by physical evidence? It is an assumption that does not hold water.
Why would this assumption not hold water? Are we to assume that those things we can observe with our eyes are to be inherently doubted? Or is it only when they challenge a presupposition we hold that this is the case?
By observing with my eyes, I see that no person is in this room but me. Are my eyes to be doubted, or is God really here? There is more to the world than the natural. There is the supernatural. But the supernatural requires divine revelation, and is not provable by any natural means.
If you were given two pieces of bread from someone who had just been traveling with Jesus (when He walked the earth), and one piece was of natural origin and the other of supernatural origin, how could you possibly by any scientific means (electron microscope, etc.) determine any real difference between them?
If God had so chosen to leave evidence that He had recently created, then He surely could have done so. However, there is no justification for the naturalistic bias that ASSUMES that He MUST have left some—so that the lack of any evidence of a recent creation is a reasonable basis on which to conclude that He did NOT create recently. That’s why it doesn’t hold water.
Well I do not think God is physically in the room with you. God is not locally present but present in having the knowledge, capacity to interact, power over, and sustaining of everything in creation. But I would not expect to see God in the room with me, because of course God is not the type of entity that is observable in a room. Are you suggesting we should be seeing an omnipotent, transcendent being with our eyes? Obviously that’s not at all what I believe, and it is also an analogy that simply fails in this context.
The analogy of the bread is interesting, but once again misses the point. We are told that the heavens declare God’s glory. When we are able to look to the heavens and see back millions of years, that means the glory of God is, according to the YEC, a made up history.
Remember: this is about the supposed tension between the evidence and a recent, miraculous creation. I argued that it ought not to be assumed that such a creation would not be detectable by physical evidence. You countered, “Are we to assume that those things we can observe with our eyes are to be inherently doubted?” I replied, “Are my eyes to be doubted, or is God really here? There is more to the world than the natural. There is the supernatural.” And so now you have stated:
God is spirit, and cannot be “physically” anywhere. Yet, He is spiritually present everywhere. The spiritual is just as real as the physical—more so, given its permanence. Ps. 139:7-8, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” God is present in every atom and in every place. But it is interesting that you acknowledge that God is a “transcendent being” who cannot be seen with our eyes, but you deny that His supernatural acts, such as a miraculous creation ex nihilo would also be transcendent acts that must be taken on faith and not proven by sight.
You also said:
When you look to the heavens (or to the creation), do you do so with full faith that the supernatural Creator-God—the One who raised Jesus physically from the dead—is responsible for all of it? If so, then you ought not to assume that God requires time to achieve such mature conditions in what He creates. The heavens declare the glory of God because it is God who created them all—but only those who first accept Him as having created it can hope to see the declared glory. Those who refuse to open their spiritual eyes to the prospect of a creation that transcends the natural by a God who transcends the natural will see only stars and natural causes—causes that naturally require an immense amount of time.
The comments are getting just too long for me with a two month old to keep up with. I think we’re talking past each other anyway, so I’ll just sum up. The “plain sense” reading is inconsistent. Those who practice it approach the Bible with a hermeneutical presupposition that essentially places their interpretation beyond question. After all, if it is “plain sense,” anyone who disagrees must be rejecting the Bible, right? This presupposition stands above the text and insures that those who hold to this hermeneutic place their interpretation on the same authoritative level as the Word of God itself. The interpretation is just as infallible as the text it is interpreting, because it is the alleged “plain sense.” Frankly, this is deeply mistaken on all kinds of levels, as I’ve only been able to hint at. Thanks for the interaction, feel free to leave another comment. I will end my responses here because (as noted above), I do not think we are fruitfully engaging and I just don’t have time for a few hundred-1000 words each day.
correction: “I argued that it ought not to be assumed that such a creation would not be detectable by physical evidence”
should read: “I argued that it ought not to be assumed that such a creation would be detectable by physical evidence”
Thank you for the discussion. It has been worthwhile. I look forward to such discussions with you again, at another time—perhaps at my site. Thanks for entertaining opposing comments, in a fair and friendly way.
You assume you can see back millions of years. That is called historical science. Historical science is not actual science but conclusions of men based on their understandings, but not on empirical data. Certainly you admit that God could have created the stars and the starlight at the same time. If that is what happened, then does that not also witness to God’s glory? Of course. But man denying the validity of God’s Word or at the least, using the understandings of the world to judge the Word of God, does not even consider that possibility.
As we consider that science people keep changing the many ways they interpret the data, we can easily see that their ‘science’ is in flux. All the data is not in yet, wouldn’t you agree? Many of even the best ways of understanding it might change, don’t you agree? Therefore the possibility is real that when all the data is in and properly understood, that science might declare that the earth was made in 6 days 6000 or so years ago.
Thanks for your comment. I would note a few things. First, I do not assume I see back millions of years. We do see back millions of years. Each night you look into the sky you do. We see stars that are millions of light years away. Even YECs acknowledge this (people like Jason Lisle). Thus, we actually do observe light that has taken millions of years to get here (of course Lisle argues that the speed of light is relative/changes, but that’s a different issue). So it is a mistake to see that I can’t actually observe this.
Second, a major issue is your assertion without argument that “historical science” is not “actual science.” A good post demonstrating the error of this allegation is found here.
The appearance of age or aging would not have appeared until after the fall, when man became subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Prior to that man and the forms of life existing would have a look completeness and agelessness. After the fall the degeneration would have kicked in and age in both men and plants and animals would have begun to become evident. As to the rocks, stones, etc., this would not have been evident until after the catastrophic flood. there is also the question as to when God stretched out the heavens (starry?). The Noachian Deluge was said to be world wide, and it was in response to looking for evidence of that fact that the field of geology was born. There are all sorts of anomalies that cannot be explained by an old earth/universe. Consider the artifacts from Mexico and from South American, especially, the latter (after all, it would be improbable to consider that the explanation for both are one and the same. In any case, human figurines on the backs of prehistoric mammals is a bit much, if the examples seen in photographs are any indication. As to the age of the universe, there is the reaction and response of the scientific community to Robert Gentry’s findings concerning the haloes in basaltic rocks. He was considered to be the expert ont he subject by the atheistic scientists of the old Soviet Union. However, when he gave testimony at the Arkansas creation trial,. circa 1980, he invited the scientists to falsify his findings. The response was to ignore his invitation and to cancel all of his contracts with Oak Ridge, thus, effectively ending his experiments which had indicated that the formation of the haloes occurred in the miniscule division of time in which they were formed. There are many anomalies which the evolutionary periods of time cannot explain. In addition, there are now serious questions beginning to arise concerning travel that is faster than the speed of light. The physicist at the University of Mexico suggested the means for such a speed in 95. The only problem is that the year before, the late Ben Rich (former head of the Skunk Works at Lockheed which developed the Stealth fighters) stated to some engineering alumni of UCLA that if E.T. were to come to them, looking for a way home (another galaxy), we could take him there. The paradigm shifts that are beginning to occur suggest the utterly incomprehensible and unimaginable. Sort of makes sense of our Lord’s remark that the angels would gather the elect from one end of THE (definite article in the original) starry heaven to the other (Mt.24:31).