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Genesis 1

This tag is associated with 5 posts

Book Review: “Early Christian Readings of Genesis One” by Craig D. Allert

The Christian church has an interesting relationship with the earliest Christians. In the United States, at least, there is a kind of distrust at times of these early Christians, who seemingly got so much wrong. But alongside that there is an attempt to appeal to them, when convenient, to make theological points, claiming that one’s own belief stretches back to the earliest Christian era. Craig D. Allert, in Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation, shares insights into what these early Christians believed and taught about Genesis chapter 1 and literal readings of the same.

Allert begins the book by providing some context. First, he argues for why Christians today should care about what the early Christian writers (Church Fathers) thought about anything. Second, he argues that Christians have tended to distort or appropriate the Fathers into their own view, often without warrant. He explores this through several “real world” examples, including demonstrating that Ken Ham (a young earth creationist and founder of “Answers in Genesis”) and Hugh Ross (an old earth creationist and founder of “Reasons to Believe”) are mistaken in their reading of the Fathers in aligning with their positions. Then, he goes into the meaning of “literal” in the early church and shows how the term cannot easily be unilaterally applied even to individuals.

Next, Allert surveys a few specific Fathers and topics to show how they read Genesis one. Basil of Caesarea (329-379) is one who is often taken to be a literalist, but Allert demonstrates that Basil’s reading of Genesis one, despite his argument about needing to read it as the “common reading” cannot be taken to insist upon a “literal” or young-earth reading of the text. Origen and Augustine are also prominent Fathers in the text, as the former is taken to be a prime example of an analogous or spiritualizing of the text (not always the case) and the latter is taken as an ally for both sides. There is an extended discussion on the “days” of Genesis one, which the fathers read quite differently than most anyone does today.

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One is an excellent look at the way Christians read Genesis one in the earliest periods. It helps dispel a number of incorrect views of the same, and lets readers read large portions of these early writings for themselves. It is a valuable resource.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Young Earth Creationism Does Not Have Historical Pedigree

800px-Carracci,_Agostino_-_The_Flood_-_1616-1618

Young Earth Creationists often claim that their view has been the position of the church since its earliest period. Here, I will challenge that notion and argue that, instead, modern creationism is unrecognizable in historic Christianity. Thus, my contention is simple:

Modern young earth creationism has  no historical pedigree.

It is impossible to go through a comprehensive survey of early Christian teaching on creation, so my discussion here will be necessarily brief. Further reading may be found in the sources cited, below. I note that if someone wants to contradict my contention, above, they must present evidence showing that the claims about Flood Geology, etc. are all present in early church writings, or indeed any church writings before around 1600.

Now, it is a simple fact that for much of church history, theologians held that the Earth was only a few thousand years old. Do not take this sentence out of context. Recall that we’re talking about modern young earth creationism, not just a belief that the Earth is young. To say that because, for example, some church fathers held the world was a few thousand years old and allege that proves they held to modern creationism is a blatant historical anachronism for several reasons.

First, the reason many of these early teachers of the church held to this view is because their view of overall history was such that the 6 days of creation should match up with 6 “days” of thousand year periods of all of history, culminating in the second coming. The literature on this is quite easy to find, but here are a few choice examples:

“the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a Thousand years… in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished…” – Epistle to Barnabas, (quoted in Young and Stearley)

“for in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded.”- Irenaeus (quoted in ibid, 35)

“[Because] in six days God made all things, it follows that 6000 years must be fulfilled.” – Hippolytus (quoted in ibid, 35)

These quotes could be (and are, in the literature) multiplied. The simple fact is that the earliest interpretation of the Genesis text was yes, that it took place in 6 days, but also that those 6 days were important because they outlined the 6000 years of all of Earth’s history, which would end in a seventh day rest of 1000 more years.

Does that sound like modern young earth creationism to you? It shouldn’t. I don’t know of any modern creationist who holds that the Earth should have already ended because it is more than 6000 years old now, or that the days in Genesis correspond strictly to days of 1000 year lengths that define the history of creation.

Second, even the early thinkers who resonate most closely with modern young earth creationism would not have recognized it as it exists now. Early flood theories often had the water simply get placed on earth miraculously and then destroyed by God, held to a “tranquil flood” theory in which the global flood didn’t make any impact on the surface of the planet, held that fossils weren’t actual vestiges of previously living organisms (an interesting piece of geological history), and the like.

brt-youngstearleyWhy is it that YECs take these writers out of their historical contexts? It would be easy to say it is due to a project of quote-mining to find support for one’s view in the past–and I’m sure this is part of it–but perhaps a lot of it is just mere ignorance. The volumes of writings we have from the church fathers, for example, would take years to read, and lifetimes to become well-versed in. Many haven’t even been translated. Thus, it is more expedient to simply find the quote that supports one’s view and use it.

But that’s not at all how we should construct historical theology. The fact is that the constant parade of claims made by YECs that their position is that of the early church is only possible because of a lifting of quotes from church fathers out of their context in order to support the position. Moreover, the people quoted themselves, though they would support the notion of a “young earth” would do so for theological reasons tied to their view of the whole of human history–one which I know of no modern YEC buying into. To cite them as supporting modern YEC, then, is a kind of baptism-by-decontextualization. Only by ignoring the very reasons the early church held their views and the theological worldview that the early church operated under can a YEC find support for their view.

An analogy might be helpful here. To say that the early church agrees with modern young earth creationists would be like saying the early church agrees with modern modalists. Why? Because, after all, many modern modalists claim to be able to uphold the Apostles’ Creed, which, after all, never speaks of distinction of persons in an explicit enough way so as to exclude modalism. Thus, a modalist could say “Our view is from the Apostles’ Creed.” Now of course this is an extreme example, and one could argue at length as to whether the modalist is actually agreeing with the historic Creed, however, the point is that simply finding a single point of doctrine with which one agrees does not mean that one holds to an historic Christian view. It is instead to treat a system of doctrine as something which may be broken apart piecemeal into individual affirmations and then find one of these affirmations with which one agrees. But that doesn’t show one agrees to the system, only to one decontextualized part.

Thus, the best a modern YEC can claim is that the early church also felt the Earth was only a few thousand years old. But to leave it at that is disingenuous, because it paints a picture as though the early church believed this for the same reasons the modern YEC does, but that is not the case. Or perhaps instead it is to, as noted above, just break apart doctrinal systems into component parts and just pick what suits oneself. In either case, it is a mistaken way to approach the question.

The reason the early church held to the young earth was because, as noted above, of their view of the history of the Earth corresponding to 6 days of 1000 years each, not because of alleged geological evidence for a global, catastrophic flood. Although some of the early writers did not hold to this 6 – 1000 paradigm, it is very clear from their writings that there was absolutely no familiarity with the kind of “the Flood did it” reasoning which is so pervasive in YEC today. Modern creationism is founded upon Flood Geology, an absolutely foreign concept to the earliest church teachings.

Indeed, the notion that the early church would have even recognized modern YEC is a bit absurd. Modern YECs use the Noachian Deluge to explain the fossil record, stratification, and the like. But up until John Ray’s time period in the late 1600s, it had been assumed fossils were simply tricks of the rock, not vestiges of once-living organisms (for some interesting reading on this history, check out this post on John Ray). Thus, someone living earlier would simply not have understood what was meant by saying fossils were due to the Flood, let alone knowing what fossils even refer to! Moreover, stratification as a studied feature of geology didn’t really begin in earnest until the 1800s. Again, to then attribute Flood theories back to the early church is wrongheaded.

The Bottom Line

To put what we’ve reviewed above all together: modern young earth creationism does agree with the historical church broadly on the age of the Earth. That’s it. But the categories of thought in which the church has historically envisioned the history of the universe–the very context which YECs try to link their views–have no points of contact with modern creationism. Indeed, they would have been baffling to the early church because these points of contact with Flood Geology simply do not exist. The reasons the early church believed in a “young earth” were linked to their own faulty reading of Scriptures, and an eschatology not shared by modern YECs. In short, Modern Young Earth Creationism has no historical pedigree.

The Young Earth Challenge, Restored

‘Ah!’ one might exclaim. ‘That means that, at least, the early church held to the notion that the Earth was young.’

Well yes, it does mean that. But that hardly justifies belief in modern YEC. Modern YEC is an invention intended to unify the geologic record with an interpretation of the Bible. It is itself an entire system. This interpretation, which leads to speculation about the way the flood formed the geologic record, is not found in the early church. If you disagree, find it for me. Demonstrate that, say, Irenaeus when he wrote about the entire history of the Earth as corresponding to 6 days of 1000 years each, was actually speaking of how Noah’s Flood shaped the geology of the planet in order to layer sediment one atop the other. If one cannot do this, they should not claim to garner support for YEC from the early church.

Once more, YEC has no historical pedigree.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

“Oceans of Kansas,” Unexpected Fossils, and Young Earth Creationism– I discuss the alleged findings out out-of-sequences fossils in the fossil record and how YEC explanations fail to show they are attributable to a global catastrophic Flood.

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Source and Further Reading

Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008).

Stanley L. Jaki, Genesis 1 Through the Ages (New York: Thomas Moore Press, 1992).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- Scripture Reports Things that Didn’t Happen?

4vha-zondervanEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Scripture Reports Things that Didn’t Happen?

I finished reading Four Views on The Historical Adam recently, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. The only view which categorically denied the existence of an historical Adam was written by Denis Lamoureux. Regarding the reports of the natural world found in the Bible, he wrote:

God’s very words… in the [Bible] do not align with the physical reality in the Book of [Nature]. To state the problem more incisively, Holy Scripture makes statements about how God created the heavens that in fact never happened. (54, cited below)

I think it is pretty clear this is a highly contentious claim. Interested readers should read the book to get the full context, but basically Lamoureux was saying that some aspects of the physical world found recorded in Scripture do not line up with reality. What did he do with this statement? Immediately after this text, Lamoureux wrote:

So, to ask the question once more, “Did God lie in the Bible?” Again, my answer is “No! The Lord accommodated in the Bible.” (54)

In other words, his answer was that God accommodated to the scientific beliefs of the people in their time in order to convey spiritual truths.

It seems to me that this way out is questionable, and each of the other authors commented on it. Three quick issues I have are that the reading of the various texts Lamoureux cites do not support his claim; that the notion that God intentionally brought about recording of falsehoods in God’s Word requires a stronger answer than accommodation; and that although accommodation is a valid category, the linking of theological truths to specific claims about natural history makes the reading of accommodation in regards to Adam problematic.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is accommodation in the Bible? Is accommodation a strong enough answer for the claim that God may have allowed false statements recorded in God’s Word? Are there other alternatives you prefer?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Denis Lamoureux, “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam eds. Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

Sunday Quote! – Does reading Genesis Require a PhD?

readinggenesis1-2-CharlesEvery Sunday, I share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Does Reading Genesis Require a PhD?

One of the topics of major interest to me is the debate within Christianity over the means and timing of creation. Recently, a friend sent me a copy of Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation. I started it immediately and I’ve been working my way through the views before I go back to read the responses. One interesting quote came up in the portion from the scholar advocating a “literal” reading (Todd S. Beall):

Genesis 1 should be read… as historical narrative that is meant to be taken literally. This is the normal reading of the account… It does not require a person with a PhD to unlock the key to these chapters by appealing to A[ncient] N[ear] E[astern] literature or a special genre or some other special figurative approach. (48)

The quote is in context of Beall’s discussion of various evangelicals “coming out” as not reading the text literally for various reasons, such as ANE context, notions of genre, or the like. Basically, Beall’s point seems to be that we can (and should?) just read the text straightforwardly without having to study all kinds of topics to understand it. What do you think of this notion? What might this say about the cultural context of Genesis? Does that context matter? Should we be concerned with possibilities regarding such a context, differing genres, or the like?

Bonus Quote

Interestingly, a later author in the same work, Tremper Longman III, confronts Beall’s allegation regarding the PhD:

…isn’t the Bible equally clear to everyone, even those who have not studied the Bible and its cultural background? The simple answer to that question is no, it is not. After all, unless you have studied Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic you cannot read the Bible at all without scholarly help. (121)

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).

Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t)” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).

SDG.

Answering Common Young Earth Creationist Arguments

The debate over the age of the universe is a hot issue for some Christians, and this unfortunately leads to a number of faulty arguments and even some name-calling. This post is not going to argue against young earth creationism specifically. Rather, I hope that it can be a resource for both young earth and old earth proponents in order to avoid faulty reasoning. Each argument’s topic will be in bold with the problem outlined and a response. [Image at head of post credit here.]

Please see the end of the post for a response to an article linking back to this one.

Perspicuity of Scripture

The Argument

Some young earth creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) argue that old earth positions undermine the perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity of Scripture is the notion that the central teachings of Scripture can be understood by any who come to the Gospel. The charge YECs make is that because it seems, on a surface level reading of the text, that Genesis 1 implies creation over the period of 6 literal 24 hour days, those who deny this undermine the Perspicuity/Clarity of Scripture.

Response

The Perspicuity of Scripture does not apply to all areas of Biblical doctrine. Rather, it is the notion that anyone can understand the plan of salvation as laid out in Scripture and come to right knowledge for faith.

Think of it this way: read the book of Revelation. Do you understand everything in this book, or is the apocalyptic literature hard to discern? Throughout much of Christian history, there has been debate over the meaning of Revelation. There are a number of views, like preterism, idealism, dispensationalism, etc. But this doesn’t mean that what Scripture teaches in general is unclear. The clarity of Scripture in regards to salvific issues is absolute. Any reader can read and understand God’s plan for salvation.

Addendum

If the argument is pressed, again ask the YEC whether they are claiming they understand every single doctrine that the Bible teaches. Do you understand perfectly the Trinity, the atonement, the incarnation, the Lord’s Supper, the proper relation of Law and Gospel, etc.? If someone claims they do, they are essentially equating their understanding to God, rather than adhering to Scriptural teaching (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The Meaning of Day

The Argument

The Hebrew word used in Genesis one, yom, means day. It literally means a 24 hour period.

Often this argument is presented in a fairly demeaning and/or ad hominem way to the opponent: “Why do you insist on reading man’s fallible ideas into the text? It says day, it means day. I trust the Bible.”

Response

Actually, the Hebrew word yom has several different literal meanings. For example, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Lexicon, yom can mean “day, time, or year”; day as opposed to night; a 24 hour day; a time or period of time; a year; an age. Thus, if someone reads the text and argues that in Genesis 1 the days mean “ages”, they are still reading the text literally.

Evening and Morning

The Argument

When the Genesis 1 text refers to the days, it applies the terms “evening and morning” to each one of days 1-6, which means that each day is indeed a 24 hour period. That’s what evening and morning means.

Response

The delineation of time periods for days was not possible until the fourth day. As it is written, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,  and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth” (Genesis 1:14-15, I italicized “days”). Thus, the text itself tells us that the sun did not serve as a specific indicator of the length of days until the fourth “day.”

The repetition of evening and morning is an indication of the metaphor for the work week used throughout Genesis 1. Notice that evening and morning are reversed from the order in which they occur in a 24 hour day.

Day is not a long period of time

The Argument

Sure, there are other literal meanings of “yom” and in poetic literature it says that a day is like a thousand years for the LORD, but Genesis is a narrative and so the days mean literal 24 hour periods.

Response

Actually, in the very same account the word day is used in order to refer to the whole time of creation. As it is written, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4). I used the ESV translation here because the NIV translation translates yom as “when” here. In this text, the word “day” refers to the entirety of God’s creative work. Thus, the text itself utilizes the same word, yom, to mean a longer period of time than a 24 hour period in the same context of creation. And because this is “narrative” it can’t be dismissed as “mere poetry.” Speaking of which…

That’s Just Poetry

The Argument

Many of the verses that old earth proponents use are from places like the Psalms. For example, the verse about a day being like a thousand years is from Psalm 90:4. These verses are poetry and therefore not relevant to the actual age of the earth.

Response

Poetic literature still makes truth claims. Are you suggesting that nothing in the Psalms is true? To dismiss a text that is brought up in order to counter your position by saying “that’s just poetry” is tantamount to throwing God’s word out the window. One might wonder why it is that the YEC interpretation of Genesis 1 trumps every other passage in the Bible.

Appearance of Age

The Argument

Sure, some scientific evidence may make it seem as though the earth is old, but it is not actually old. Instead, God made it in such a way that it would support life, and in order to do so, it had to look old. He created light already on its way to earth and the Flood explains sedimentation.

Response

Nature tells us about reality, though we cannot infallibly search it (Psalm 19); God does not lie; therefore, God would not make something which by all appearances would look old, but is not in fact old.

Rebuttal

But Adam looked old. He was created about 30 years [or some adult age] old! Similarly, the plants in the garden, etc. would have looked old, but been new.

Response

The text doesn’t actually say how old Adam was when he was created. But that’s a side issue. More importantly, we would be able to tell how old Adam was by looking at evidences like his teeth, his bones, and the like. All of these would show signs of age.

Regarding the plants, this argument really just begs the question for YEC. As it is written, “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…” (Genesis 2:8-9a).

The text clearly says that God planted a garden. While it says that God made plants spring up, it is prefaced by the notion of planting. The notion of planting implies growth over time.

And suppose this is wrong; suppose the plants were grown instantly: we’d still be able to test them and see how old they actually were by looking at things like cell division and tree rings.

Rebuttal

Your response assumes uniformitarianism.

Response

See section on uniformitarianism.

Presuppose Naturalism

The Argument

This one is extremely common when one listens to/watches debates between YEC and old earth proponents. Essentially, the argument goes like this: “You are presupposing naturalism in order to come up with an old earth. I presuppose the Bible is true instead. The difference is I [the YEC] am aware of my presupposition.”

Response

Strictly speaking this argument is actually completely false. Naturalism is the philosophical position that only the natural world exists. The debates in which this argument is often brought up are very often between Christians of opposing views. Therefore, because they are both Christians, neither one is operating under the presupposition of naturalism.

Rebuttal

The YEC may press this objection, however, and say what they mean is that one is presupposing a naturalistic methodology as opposed to the entire worldview.

Response

Define “naturalistic methodology.”

1) If you mean assuming “uniformitarianism”: see the argument and response below.

2) If by “naturalistic methodology” you mean something else, show how that is the case.

Uniformitarianism

The Argument

The only way to come up with an old earth is by assuming that everything has been uniform forever; in other words, the processes in place now are operating at the same speed they always have.

Response

Let’s apply this argument to one field: geology. Geology does come up with ages around 4.5 billion years old for the age of the earth. Now, the problem is that this is not due to uniformitarianism. Rather, geologists must take into account the fact that catastrophes do happen. For example, a huge meteor hitting the earth would change the geological landscape. Modern geology is neither catastrophist nor uniformitarian; rather, it must take both into account. And it still comes up with an “ancient” earth. The problem is that YECs go to the opposite extreme and actually assume that a catastrophe (or numerous catastrophes) can account for all geologic evidence. By citing specific examples of catastrophism, they then apply a catastrophic geology to the rest of the earth. It’s exactly the methodology YECs critique, but then they do it themselves. This is simply naive.

Furthermore, the burden of proof here is upon the YEC to show that the rates could increase at such a monumental rate on such a monumental scale that everything we observe that looks ancient is, in fact, ‘young.’ They must make the argument.

Rebuttal

You’re just starting with man’s fallible ideas. I just use the text for my guide.

Response

See “Look, it’s what the Bible says” and “Man’s Fallible Ideas” sections below.

Look, it’s what the Bible says

The Argument

I just read the Bible and agree with it. It says days, I say days; it gives genealogies, I add them together. All I do is take Genesis literally. You use man’s fallible ideas to distort the text.

Response

It has already been shown that the word “day” has several literal meanings. It has already been shown that “day” is used for a longer period than a “day” in the context of creation in Genesis. Thus, one could respond by saying “I just read the text literally too. On the first ‘age’, God created…. on the second age, God created…., etc.”

Furthermore, the genealogies are incomplete. It can be demonstrated that a number of genealogies in the Bible skip people or operate in an inexact fashion. By assuming the genealogies are linear, one has read anachronistically a 21st century notion of a genealogy back onto the text. That would be one of man’s fallible ideas.

Furthermore, the notion of an old earth proponent importing ‘man’s fallible ideas’ into the text can be equally applied to YEC. Who says that YECs are infallible? Would you claim you read the Bible perfectly and discern everything correctly?

You weren’t there!

The Argument

You weren’t there at creation. Neither were these “scientists” you cite in your “evidence.” How do you know what happened?

Response

You weren’t there either, my friend. However, when we look at the stars, we are looking at the past. Furthermore, we can measure things like cosmic background radiation, sedimentation rates, volcanic activity, and the like in order to discern how old the earth is. Again, God tells us that nature gives us a record (Psalm 19), so one wonders why we are being told to doubt that record.

Very Good

The Argument

God says that his creation was “very good”; how could there then be animal death, thorns, cancer, and the like. The world would have been beautiful, without death, and without any kind of evils. Think about it, you’re saying that God was calling cancer eating away at dinosaurs and the like a “very good” thing! [Image credit here.]

Response

First, it seems very often that when YECs use the phrase “very good” what they mean is “perfect” in their own eyes. Why think that animal death is necessarily bad? If animals didn’t die, ecosystems would collapse: all the plant-eaters would starve, insects would take over and eat all plant life, and any number of other “bad” things would happen. Animal death is part of a beautiful system of maintaining order in the world.

Using the cancer example to try to argue that it couldn’t be “very good” is importing human emotions into creatures which are not moral agents. Simply put, an animal is not a moral agent. This doesn’t mean it is good to kill them, but it isn’t bad either. The harm comes when a moral agent intentionally brings unnecessary harm to an animal.

I would like to see an argument for what “very good” means to YECs. Why should it mean absolute perfection?

Finally, one must wonder about the fact that God planted the garden in Eden and it is that creation which is “very good”. God planted this Garden, and it was the localized area in which Adam and Eve were placed. That’s what the text says. Nowhere does it say the whole earth was like the Garden.

Compromise

The Argument

Unfortunately, this is one of the less subtle ad hominem types of arguments YECs employ. It basically goes like this: use a scare word like “evolution,” put in in context with an old earth proponent, and then call them compromisers. For example, “Wartick, who believes in a form of old earth creationism–really just a variety of theistic evolutionism–chooses to compromise the text to fit secular science.”

Response

Unfortunately, this very type of argument is used to discredit many fellow Christians. Rather than focusing on the issues at hand, it is indeed easier to just bash the opposition. For the record, I am not a theistic evolutionist. The point is that others who hold views similar to my own suffer from arguments like this against them. It’s dishonest.

The most unfortunate thing to take from this type of argument is that the average Christian on the street is very affected by it. Recently, I recommended an article from an extremely prominent Christian philosopher to another Christian. Their response was that if this other believer thought evolution might be true, they were too biased and they would not read the article.

That’s right, the effect of this type of argument is that it brings about a situation in which people won’t even read what other believers have to say about a topic. One must wonder, at least a little bit, about a position which discourages adherents to read the works of the opposition. Why not read and consider other viewpoints and take what is true?

Plain and Obvious Meaning- or “I don’t need to twist the text.”

The Argument

Basically, the way this one goes is as follows:

I just read the text for what it says. You have to do all kinds of things to interpret it. Why do you twist the text to fit your views?

Response

Actually, YEC is also an interpretation of the Biblical text. It is an inference from the textual data. You are also interpreting the text, and need to justify your hermeneutic. Given the mounting evidence against it in books like The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton, the evidence in your interpretation’s favor needs to be pretty hefty.

You’re Using Science to Change the Meaning of Scripture

The Argument

Old earth proponents may have a viable exegetical position, but why on earth would they pick old earth over young earth? It seems the only reason is because they are caving in to science.

Response

Science can give us a record of reality. When the church lines itself up with views that do not accord with reality, it is discredited. Consider the controversy over heliocentrism vs. geocentrism. This controversy resulted because the church lined itself up with a philosophical position that it thought was taught by the text of the Bible. Similarly, the young earth position is an interpretation of Scripture and its advocates must contend with the scientific evidence.

Augustine issued a strong warning related to this objection [Literal Meaning of Genesis, Chapter 19, Volume 1]:

“If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it

The Argument

This argument has a few varieties:

1) The Bible says the earth is not millions or billions of years. Why do you insist on changing God’s word for man’s fallible ideas?

2)The Biblical text entails a young earth. Why do you read it as a long period of time?

Response

1) Where in the Bible does it say “the earth is not millions or billions of years old”? Where in the Bible does it tell me the date of creation?

2) Please show me: where in the Bible does it tell me the date of creation? Where does in the Bible does it specifically say YEC is true? If you can’t, then you’re using an inference. See “Plain and Obvious Meaning” above.

Man’s Fallible Ideas

The Argument

Perhaps the most frequently used argument is of this variety. Too often, when threatened by exegetical or extra-biblical evidence that contradicts their position, YECs will fall back to this type of argument:

“That’s just using man’s fallible ideas to interpret the text.”

or

“That’s using man’s fallible [geology, astronomy, physics, insert discipline] to alter the meaning of God’s word.”

Response

The Young Earth position is an interpretation of the text as much as any other. Thus, the argument could just as easily be turned around:

“You’re just using man’s fallible interpretation to read a young earth onto the text.”

But, to be honest, this argument just amounts to a subtle ad hominem, even if the one using the argument doesn’t realize it. Why? Because it suggests that the other side is a) wrong; and b) not thinking Biblically.

A better response, therefore, would be to simply point out that the YEC position is also interpreting the text and that old earth proponents are looking at the whole body of evidence God has provided instead of just trusting what others tell them about the text.

Response to article against this one:

Over at “fortress maximus” the author offered a response to this article. I’ll not go point by point, but rather I listed a few areas of major contention. The most contentious point for me is that the author says I reject inerrancy, which is false. When I say “you” after this, I’m referencing his article. As of this point in time (January, 2013), he has not amended his article to remove the false claims made about me therein. Anyway, response:

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have a few comments, but I won’t be too lengthy because I don’t have time.

1) You wrote “the author fails his own claims by only outing the YEC arguments as faulty and then offering the OEC arguments as an unchallenged substitute.”

The title of the post is “answering common YEC arguments.” I think that pretty much makes my intention clear. The stated purpose is that I’m not arguing specifically against the YEC position, which I don’t. I only answer many arguments. It’s a bit disingenuous to claim I’m doing otherwise.

2) You wrote, “Poetry in the Bible certainly is relevant, but only in revealing spiritual truths, not historic ones.”

No historic truths in the Psalms, eh? I guess the Psalms by David when he was fleeing from his enemies don’t tell us anything about his situation? I would like to see an argument for this claim.

3) Regarding appearance of age, you wrote “I’ve never heard any serious YECer use these arguments. Old appearance has nothing to do with God’s creation and how it may appear. This stance is also unsupported scripturally, hence it is blatantly flawed. So, if you are a YECer and you used this argument, stop it!”

I was once YEC and unfortunately used this argument myself, because almost every other YEC I knew used it as well. Thus, it’s an argument used by YECs, and I answered it. I agree, though: stop it!

4) You wrote “We’re finally getting to the greatest point of contention – this argument states that the Bible is inaccurate and as such flawed (“the genealogies are incomplete”). This goes against the premise that the Bible is the holy, inspired, infallible, written Word of God.”

Wrong, absolutely wrong. Unfortunately, YECs tend to do this to me all the time: put words in my mouth. Please show me in a quote where I said the Bible is inaccurate and flawed. Show me. You literally say it right there: “this argument states that the Bible is inaccurate and as such flawed”

But wait, the quote is actually: “the genealogies are incomplete” which we can demonstrate from the Bible. It’s not that they are inaccurate; it is that the modern notion of a genealogy stating one generation after another with no gaps is just that: a modern notion. I never stated the Bible is inaccurate, nor do I state it is flawed. I have been a staunch defender of inerrancy. Your statement here is extremely ad hominem; it is, in fact, so wrong and unsubstantiated by my blog that if I weren’t giving you the benefit of the doubt I’d think you’re just lying about me. I therefore ask you to retract it.

5) regarding dating methods: I hate to say it but anyone who reads non-YEC literature on this topic will not be convinced by these arguments. Yes, there are aberrations in the dating which are not covered up by secular or other scientists whatsoever: they state them in their works; no, they do not undermine the whole system.

Resources

Here is a list of resources for old earth perspectives. I will annotate it at some point. For now it’s just a list of amazon links.

The Bible, Rocks and Time

The Lost World of Genesis One

More Than a Theory

SDG.

——

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