Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Our young earth

If you want to study creationism, don't bother visiting most Christian colleges. A recent Answers in Genesis article revealed that more than 90% of Christian colleges and their professors do not hold to young-earth creationism. With the exception of Seventh Day Adventist colleges, it’s hard to find any denominational colleges (Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, etc.) that teach young-earth creation. Some independent colleges like The Master's College, Cedarville University, and Liberty University, hold to six-day creationism, but these schools are few and far between.

Many "Christian" schools are now opposed to creationism altogether. For example, World Magazine reported last September that Baylor University (Southern Baptist) is hostile to professors who even advocate some form of Intelligent Design. It should not surprise us that many students who enter these colleges holding to young earth creationism are eventually persuaded to embrace some form of evolution.

In spite of these trends, the Bible is surprisingly clear on the age of the earth. In the creation account of Genesis 1, God says He created everything over the course of six days. Light was created on day one. Waters were divided on day two. Land and plants appeared on day three. Sun, moon, and stars were formed on day four. Birds and fish arrived on day five. Finally, all the animals, and God’s magnum opus – man and woman – were created on day six. A common-sense, non-biased reading of the biblical text would seem to indicate these were normal, 24-hour days.

Some, however, contend these “days” of Genesis 1 should be interpreted as “ages” lasting thousands or even millions of years, giving the earth ample time to evolve. Now, it is true that “day” has more than one meaning. For example, in Genesis 1:5, God calls the light “day.” This “day” speaks of the “daytime.” Genesis 2:4 speaks of the “day that the LORD made earth and heaven.” This “day” refers to the “period of time” when God created. And then, of course, there’s 2 Peter 3:18 which says, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” So how can we be sure the “days” of creation in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days? As always, context must determine meaning. Let’s look at the context of Genesis 1.

At the end of each day of creation is a short formula which teaches these are 24-hour days. In 1:5, for example, God says, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” The phrase “evening and morning” suggests one complete day, consisting of one full rotation of the earth. Any other interpretation of “day” would make nonsense out of this phrase. Furthermore, the numerical adjective “one” tips us off that God is chronicling an historical event in plain, journalistic language. These numerical adjectives appear throughout the chapter: “one day” (1:5); “second day” (1:8); “third day” (1:13); etc. As James Stambaugh points out, whenever the Hebrew word yom is used with a number in the Bible, it refers to a literal, 24-hour day.

Perhaps by now you’re wondering, “What’s the big deal, anyway? Isn’t this making a mountain out of a molehill? Couldn’t God have created gradually over millions of years if He wanted to?” Unfortunately, there are some major problems to holding any kind of gap theory or theistic evolution:

  • The problem of sin and death. The Bible says death was a curse after man’s fall in Genesis 3, but if the earth is millions or billions of years old before man arrives, then you have to conclude God’s creation wasn’t so good after all. “Evolutionary scientists claim the fossil layers over the earth’s surface date back hundreds of millions of years. As soon as one allows millions of years for the fossil layers – then one has accepted death, bloodshed, disease, thorns, and suffering before Adam’s sin” (Answers Book, p. 42). This attacks the very core of the gospel, which teaches that “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
  • The problem of sola Scriptura. Those who deny a young earth are attacking the authority of Scripture. They are looking at Scripture through the interpretive lens of science, rather than looking at science through the interpretive lens of Scripture. The Bible must always be our starting point. Only God was there, and we must let Him speak for Himself on how He created the universe. If God had the power to create, couldn’t He create the universe with the appearance of age (e.g. starlight)? Furthermore, when we factor in the global catastrophe of the flood in Genesis 6-9, we have both a biblical and scientific explanation for modern geology.
  • The problem of interpretation. If you abandon the literal-grammatical method of interpretation in Genesis 1, then what will prevent you from doing the same elsewhere in the Bible, whenever science, history, or archaeology seem to contradict the biblical record? Once the hermeneutical dam has one crack in it, the entire structure has been compromised, leading to disaster.
  • The problem of sequence. Looking at the fossil record, evolutionists posit that the sun came first, then the earth; dry land came first, then oceans; land animals came first, then birds. But in each of these cases, this evolutionary sequence directly contradicts the Bible.

Rather than trusting the faulty opinions of man, let us hold to the inerrant Word of God, and heed the warning of Charles Spurgeon:

"We are invited, brethren, most earnestly to go away from the old-fashioned belief of our forefathers because of the supposed discoveries of science. What is science? The method by which man tries to conceal his ignorance. It should not be so, but it is. You are not to be dogmatical in theology, my brethren, it is wicked; but for scientific men it is the correct thing. You are never to assert anything very strongly, but scientists may boldly assert what they cannot prove, and may demand a faith far more credulous than any we possess. Forsooth, you and I are to take our Bibles and shape and mould our belief according to the ever-shifting teachings of so-called scientific men. What folly is this! Why, the march of science, falsely so called, through the world may be traced by exploded fallacies and abandoned theories…" (The Sword and the Trowel, 1877)


David said...

I completely agree.

I attended CBU in it's "liberal" days. They have since made some major positive changes. A literal creationist view was mocked by the O.T. professor (yet honored in Science class -- go figure). I found myself thinking: "If these people don't believe the Bible, and they want to teach me not to believe the Bible, why am I giving them my money?" This discouragment at both the attitude toward creation and the whole hearted acceptance of "JEPD" (Doc Hyp) led me to decide not to attend seminary.

I once heard Dr. Criswell teach a "gap" happened. I had heard this view expressed before, but he did it most eloquently in his sermon "the scarlet thread." In it he argued that God created the World at some distant time in the past, and that Satan destroyed it. I find this almost as dishonoring to the literal simple reading of the text as a liberal saying it is all symbolic.

I think people reject creation because of a rejection of miracles. Creation is proof of the biggest miracle ever. And, like all miracles, it may be studied but never fully understood.

Stephen Jones said...

Thanks for sharing your personal testimony on this. It breaks my heart to hear about your experience, and that it kept you from seminary, but sadly, you are not alone. Praise God for your discernment not to buy into these liberal teachings!

As I'm sure you now know, conservative seminaries such as Southern Seminary and The Master's Seminary would not treat the Bible so flippantly. By the grace of God, CBU has also turned much more conservative in recent years.