How Old Is Earth?

Dr. Albert Mohler delivered what would have to be considered a barn-burner of a theological address at the 2010 Ligonier Conference. You can watch the video of the address here or read a transcript here. The title was “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” and at the heart of his argument is this contention. The most straightforward reading of the creation narratives in Genesis presents a young earth view of creation. It is the view with the fewest complications. In his own words:

“An understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.”

With all of this, Mohler argues that the biblical doctrine of creation is incompatible with any form of evolutionary theory of human origins (theistic or otherwise). Mohler specifically challenges the authors of the Biologos website on this score. He says,

“The BioLogos website has just even in recent days focused its attention on the direct rejection of biblical inerrancy. Understanding that any rendering of the bible as inerrant makes the acceptance of theistic evolution impossible. Certainly implausible. Kenton Sparks writing on that website suggests that, intellectually, evangelicalism has painted itself into a corner—that we have put ourselves into an intellectual cul-de-sac with our understanding of biblical inerrancy. He suggests that the Bible indeed should be recognized as containing historical, theological and moral error. Peter Enns, one of the most frequent contributors to the site, suggests that we have to come to the understanding that, when it comes to many of the scientific claims, historical claims, the writers of scriptures were plainly wrong.

“Our only means of intellectual rescue, brothers and sisters, is the speaking God, who speaks to us in scripture, in special revelation. And it is the scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so. Otherwise we will face destruction of the entire gospel in intellectual terms. When general revelation is used to trump special revelation, disaster ensues.”

As you can imagine, Mohler’s address has provoked a spirited conversation. At the Biologos site, Peter Enns, Darrel Falk, and Karl Giberson have all responded to Mohler. Scot McKnight has also joined the fray with an anonymous guest blogger named “RJS” (here and here), and I expect that we will see many more.

This is an important conversation not least because of its bearing upon the inerrancy and authority of scripture. I think Mohler’s contention is correct. Many of the theistic evolutionists are simply allowing general revelation to trump special revelation. The theological difficulties entailed in this procedure are profound but are too often lost on evangelicals. Mohler has done a great service in raising our awareness to the issues.

74 Responses to How Old Is Earth?

  1. Ron Dodson July 13, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Glad you posted this, Denny. Understanding Genesis as written is the foundation for understanding the rest of the Scriptures!

  2. Andy D July 13, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Many of the theistic evolutionists are simply allowing general revelation to trump special revelation.

    I think this makes the two seem at odds with each other. Some in that camp are just honestly trying to sift through the evidence. The way we read special revelation matters as much as the precedence we offer it. Otherwise, thanks for the summary and links for this important conversation.

  3. Daniel Owens July 13, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Dr. Burk,

    You know as well as Dr. Mohler that no one is allowing general revelation to trump special revelation. It is a false and slanderous claim. I attend a seminary that is known for its stance on innerancy (DTS) and I can only name one prof. (none on the OT staff) who holds to a six day creation period. Do they not believe in innerancy? Or is it maybe that comments like the one you made only shows that you do not understand the arguments from genre that people are making.

    My question is why do you willingly do this? It makes you appear (even though I am sure this is not the case in reallity) disingenuous.

    Thank You,

  4. Nick July 13, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    I strongly recommend this paper by the eminent Christian philosopher Alvin Plantiga:

    When Faith and Reason Clash:
    Evolution and the Bible

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/dialogues/Faith-reason/CRS9-91Plantinga1.html

    Separate from the Plantinga article, I have a question for you Dr. Burk:

    If we were living in pre-copernican times, how do you think we’d interpret verses like this in Joshua?

    Joshua 10:13
    So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
    as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

    Seeing as we live post-Copernicus, we probably look at this verse in a different light than our pre-Copernicus brother’s and sisters in Christ, no? If so, doesn’t this suggest that science already shapes our view of scripture?

    I advocate the model Plantinga proposes in the paper. Read it, I commend it to you.

  5. Matt Svoboda July 13, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Denny,

    Good post… I dont know of a better resource on this issue than John Sailhamer.

  6. RD July 13, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Christians are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the creation account, as given in Genesis, is simply NOT a literal, historical narrative. The longer we try to hold our ground on this fact – declaring to go to the grave defending the Biblical narrative as literal – the more harm we are going to do ourselves in presenting the Christian message to the lost.

  7. RD July 13, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Let me be more specific: evangelical Christians who hold to the belief in Biblical inerrancy are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the creation account is simply NOT a literal, historical narrative. There are many Christians who do not hold to a literal view of this account.

  8. Ben July 13, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    I heartily agree with Nick (#3) and Daniel (#2), and would add to the reading recommendations John Walton’s book on the subject.

    In short, I believe that Mohler has mis-assessed the issue regarding the creation account.

  9. Ben July 13, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    On another note, those posts attributed to Scot McKnight are not by Scot, but rather are posts by a frequent contributor to his blog, RJS.

    RJS is a science professor (of biology? I can’t recall) at a well known secular institution, and posts frequently on Scot’s blog concerning the interaction of faith and science.

    Scot rarely voices disagreement with RJS, but it should be known that the fact he does not contradict her does not equal agreement. Those posts are simply not written by McKnight.

  10. Michael Templin July 13, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Good word Daniel…I don’t think Mohler addresses the problems adequately. For one he is not a scholar in ANE nor a Geologist.

    I am not saying 6 day creation is out of the question, I lean to that position, but I know there are definite problems with it.

  11. Paul Jubenvill July 13, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Christian(?) Darwinists: your heads (which are getting too fat/wise/arrogant for God) will ultimately lead you to point out that resurrection has not been explained by science, and thus… ?

  12. RD July 13, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Here is a very good, short video that addresses this topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyEOdnckKCQ&feature=related

  13. volfan007 July 13, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Dr. Mohler is right on target.

    David

  14. russ July 13, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Many good comments here. Very encouraging.

    I grown more and more concerned that this is Copernicus and Galileo redux. A disastrously damaging misstep for the Church replaying itself.

    Is this really a case of Science challenging God’s revelation or God’s revelation (of a different type) challenging a particular Church sub-tradition?

    And I’ll add to the recommendation list:

    Gerald Schroeder:
    http://www.amazon.com/Science-God-Convergence-Scientific-Biblical/dp/B003E7ESY0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279033642&sr=8-1

    And…
    http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Evolution-Conference-Benedict-Gandolfo/dp/1586172344/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279033706&sr=1-1

  15. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    For the record, my take is that there are various faithful ways to understand the origins stories AND the end times prophecies and that this is a subject for discussion among believers and the test for believers is to not reject someone when they believe differently than you do.

    Many Jewish Tanakh scholars before Copernicus and the scientific revolution wrote that the 6 days of Creation were special/different from what we see today. Jewish interpretation is that there were 6 special “creation days” and that one can hold different beliefs about them and still be Jewish.

    It is critical to read these parts of Scripture written in Hebrew using a Hebrew worldview and not a Greek one.

  16. Ben July 13, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Though it is important to point out, Donald, that Hebrew and Greek cosmology are surprisingly close, plus we have a lot more data about Greek cosmology than we do about Hebrew cosmology. My point is that there are good reasons for using Greek cosmology data to help understand the Hebrew creation account.

  17. russ July 13, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Well said, Donald (#13). And… the Church had a rich history of openness of thought in approach to the creation narrative as well. Making it a litmus test of orthodoxy is a Modern Evangelical novelty.

  18. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    The Bible is written using a “phenomenological” viewpoint, which is a fancy word for saying it discusses material things are they APPEAR and not necessarily as they ARE. This ensures that the Bible can be understood by everyone when it talks on these subjects, as one OFTEN uses such language.

    For example, in cultural context of the time it was written, Gen 1 is a devastatic apolytheistic polemic. It also establishes the 7th day as a holy sabbath.

    It also does other things and it is important to NOT ask the text questions it is not trying to answer, even if we might wish them answered.

  19. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    P.S. General revelation and special revelation need to be in accord, it is NOT that one trumps another, but that they do not contradict each other. God is not trying to trick us by what God reveals in general revelation.

  20. RD July 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Here’s what I think is at the core of the need to hold onto the Biblical inerrancy position: Clearly, if science begins to show categorically that the events as described in Genesis 1 & 2 are not accurate, then it will mean that we must also begin to take other scientific discoveries to heart (like a genetic or biological basis for sexual orientation). This, I think, is what scares Christians who share Dr. Mohler’s Biblical convictions. If we must rethink the theology of creation then we must also be willing to rethink it all.

  21. Tony July 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    I have to agree with you on this one Dr. Burk. To say that we dont hold to a litteral six day creation is to bow to our culture’s scientific majority. Because, frankly without that preconception we will not come to the conclusion of any type of evolution. I am not saying that theistic evolution is absolutely incorrect, i am not certian, but I do believe in a 6 day creation/young earth, no matter what the genre of Genesis 1-3. Even some of the scientist in our culture today do not by into the THEORY of evolution (see the movie Expelled or visit Ken Ham’s website). Thank you for showing that it is not intellectual suicide to take a view with which many disagree.

  22. henrybish July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    For those who are very sure that literal 6-day creation is not a valid option, read this:

    http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/02/sbjt_111_wise.pdf

    The article is called ‘What Science tells us about the age of the Creation’

  23. RD July 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Henrybish,

    The video I linked to in one of my previous posts addresses many of the points made in the paper you link. It really is worth viewing. Takes about 10 minutes.

  24. Derek July 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Daniel, You said:

    no one is allowing general revelation to trump special revelation

    In the speech, Mohler references some individuals, including Kenton Sparks, who argue that evangelicals cannot square the concept of theistic evolution with Biblical inerrancy, and that to do so has “painted us into an intellectual cul-de-sac”.

    Others use this issue to further discredit the Apostle Paul, his understanding of nature/creation and therefore work to unravel the fabric of his NT writings.

    Personally, I became convinced that theistic evolution cannot work and cannot be squared with Scripture by listening to theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander. I admire his bravery for actually trying his hardest to explain how and where Adam would have emerged from the evolutionary soup, but his own best explanation was more implausible than atheistic evolution. I also agree with Mohler that the connection between the Fall and death is one of the most significant problems with theistic evolution- I’m glad he brought this issue up, because theistic evolutionists are seldom challenged on this point.

  25. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    On death, it was spiritual death, as in separation from God, as it was obviously not physical death in the narrative.

  26. Derek July 13, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Donald and Russ,
    I don’t know if you caught this from the transcript or video, but Dr. Mohler did NOT say that a YEC view is a litmus test on orthodoxy. He provided 4 distinct views, 3 of which were old earth views – only one of those 3 does he believe to be outside the pale of orthodoxy.

    If you listen or read the speech, you’ll see quite clearly that he is not trying to demonize or marginalize those with an old earth view – he acknowledges that these views are persuasive to many Christians. His effort here is to explain why the 3 primary views of old earth are less persuasive to him, particularly on theological grounds.

  27. Derek July 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Donald,
    Dr. Mohler acknowledged that old earth creationists limit the curse to spiritual death. He went on to explain why he does not view this to be plausible in the panorama of Scripture. I agree with him. If you believe that, you also need to believe that Adam would have eventually died of old age. You also have to believe that physical death would have had a beneficial effect on earth before sin and a negative effect after sin. Maybe some find that plausible, but it doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  28. Daniel Owens July 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Derek,

    Fair enough, by ‘no one’ I meant rhetorically ‘many.’ But it is not fair to necessarily link a persons theological view of Genesis 1 to a persons scientific view of the origins of Creation.

    My point was most of the Evangelicals who adopt a ‘mythos’ understanding (or something closely akin) do not do it for scientific reason!

    Thanks,

  29. Derek July 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Daniel, again, I think if you listen to the entire speech, I believe you will agree that Dr. Mohler is gracious to those who hold to inerrancy and an old earth. But he does point out that Kenton Sparks’ comments aren’t an anomaly here. Bruce Waltke’s comments also didn’t happen in a vacuum – there is an active effort at work in traditionally conservative circles to marginalize YECs- even to liken them to cult members.

    YECs like Dr. Mohler are entitled to provide their defense and explain why there are significant theological implications at stake here. Personally, I think Mohler is a great statesman and spokesman for YEC in part because his arguments are strong, but also because he was gracious towards those he disagrees with.

  30. RD July 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    I’ve always wondered about the idea that, had man not sinned, there would not have been any death. How could the earth have supported every animal, reptile, insect, bird and human-being that has ever existed had none of them ever died?

  31. Denny Burk July 13, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Daniel (#3),

    I mispoke in that first paragraph. I didn’t mean to equate Day-Age views with the theistic evolutionist views, but I can see that’s what I inadvertently did. Sorry for saying that wrongly. I think it reads better now. On that point, check out Justin Taylor’s view on this. He does not hold to 24-hour days in Genesis 1 and 2.

    Ben (#9),

    I totally missed that when I read JesusCreed in my feed reader. Two mistakes in one post. I need to get my act together!

    Thanks, all, for the conversation.

  32. Denny Burk July 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Daniel (#3),

    I also went to DTS (Class of 2001). I had some interaction with Gordon Johnston in 2008 on the historicity of the Genesis creation narratives. You can read my post and his 7,000-word response here . See comment #56 for Dr. Johnson’s remarks.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  33. Daniel Owens July 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Dr. Burk,

    Now that I think about it I should have said, “Did you mean to say what I think you mean?” For some reason I just new you didn’t but then again I was sure you did.

    Thanks for clearing it up.

  34. Greg Alford July 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    “Evolution? It’s a Lie!” Charles Brock put this on our Church Sign at First Baptist Church of Ponce de Leon Florida two weeks ago and people from out of state (Tennessee, Alabama, etc) have been stopping in our church parking lot to have their picture taken with our sign. I found that just a little unsettling… Have we so bought into the lie of Evolution that no one will even speak out against it in our day for fear of being labeled a religious nut?

    Regardless of how you interpret the creation account in Genesis… Evolution is an insidious lie and perhaps the greatest scientific “Hoax” of all time. The falsified evidence in support of this key doctrine of the secular/atheist worldview has been fully exposed and refuted by modern molecular biology and yet we continue to “tip toe” around this issue. Please get “The Truth Project” videos from Focus on the Family and show them to your church, family, and everyone else you can get to watch them. Dr Del Tackett is just awesome in this video series! (Ok commercial over) 🙂

    Grace Always,

  35. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    I read Mohler’s transcript.

    I agree with parts of what he said. I agree the grand story of Scripture has at least 4 parts, creation, fall, redemption and consumation.

    I do not agree that Gen 1-2:3 says that the 7th creation day was 24 hours, notice it does not have the ending phrase “evening and morning” and other parts of Scripture indicates God’s rest is continuing, see Jesus and Hebrews.

    He should also study what the Bible itself teaches about bara/create, as there is no requirement to see it as instantaneous and in some cases it clearly cannot be such.

    I see Mohler’s basic argument being “I see it as 7 24 hour days, therefore every other interpretation is less appropriate.” but he does not add the qualifying “to me” and instead wants to make it a quasi-litmus test.

  36. Derek July 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Donald, I don’t see a meaningful distinction between him putting the qualifier in there, because he very explicitly said that he only took the most extreme view on old earth off the table for discussion (among evangelicals).

    I only point this out because you said “the test for believers is to not reject someone when they believe differently than you do” and some people will take your words at face value (see Russ’ comment in #17) and assume that Mohler is rejecting old earthers in much the same way that Waltke did YECs. That is not a fair characterization.

  37. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Mohler is effectively claiming that he does not see how Biologos people can be faithful to Scripture, when they believe different than him.

    Waltke did not say YECs were not believers, he said it was not an effective position for evangelism.

  38. Derek July 13, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Donald,
    I’ve said this before and will say it again- it won’t kill you to admit you are wrong every once in a while. And you’re splitting hairs again.

    No objective person would listen to the substance of what Mohler said, compare it to what Waltke said and draw that conclusion. Unbelievable!

  39. Donald Johnson July 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    Waltke is trying to be faithful as is Mohler. They see things differently and see the resulting risks of being different from them differently.

    I agree with Waltke or Mohler on some things and disagree with either of them on other things. This is just the way things work out.

    I see Biologos trying to present ways one can be faithful and also be a scientist, so I admire their goals, even if I disagree with some things that they put on their website.

  40. Darius T July 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Donald, Waltke said that YECers were in danger of becoming “spiritually dead” and “a cult.” If that isn’t calling someone not a Christian, I don’t know what is. Waltke was rightfully let go from his job for that outrageous statement… his beliefs in evolution were secondary to his belief that everyone else who disagreed with him was dangerously close to hell.

  41. Nate July 14, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    What is surprising is that nobody has yet to bring in Ex 20:8-11, “8 “ Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God… 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

    I believe most everyone agrees that Moses is the author of both Genesis and Exodus. It would seem that a straightforward reading of the Ten Commandments cements a Six Day 24 Hour creation in Genesis. Otherwise we are saying that Moses is using metaphorical language here. And if so, it would seem totally out of context considering the way the narrative reads.

    So, Ex 20:6 really means six literal days, but Ex 20:11 really means six periods of time? I don’t think so.

  42. Nate July 14, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Excuse me I mean Ex 20:8 in the last statement instead of Ex 20:6.

  43. Nate July 14, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Excuse me I mean Ex 20:9 in the last statement instead of Ex 20:6.

  44. henrybish July 14, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    RD, you said of your video:

    The video I linked to in one of my previous posts addresses many of the points made in the paper you link.

    I have now watched all of and do not see how it undercuts the article I linked to. It seems a very unconvincing attempt to get away from the inevitability of apparent age.

    He concedes that apparent age would be necessary for various parts of creation (tree rings, language ability, etc…) but seems to be making some fuzzy argument that too much apparent age would be deceptive. But 1) If it is necessary it is not deceptive
    2) If God has explained how he did it (Gen 1-2) then there is no excuse for saying He deceived us.

    And the article I linked to does not argue for the extremes that your video sets up as straw-men (e.g. implanting past memories in Adam and Eve etc…).

    The arguments in the article I linked to still stand (http://www.sbts.edu/resources/files/2010/02/sbjt_111_wise.pdf)

  45. henrybish July 14, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    RD,

    in addition, both you and the man in the video you linked to are presupposing science as the ultimate criterion for truth – that what is inferred from science alone is the ultimate criterion for truth, and all things (including scripture) must be judged by it.

    That presupposition is not shared by Christians who have a biblical epistemology, and as such your arguments appear to us as idol-worship. You have set up science as an infallible god above all else, to which the scriptures must bow down and pay homage.

    I suggest you read some presuppositional apologetics (and some history of science).

  46. russ July 14, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    One thing I would take issue with in RD’s comments is the idea of science showing the events described in Genesis 1 – 2 to be inaccurate. (#20) This statement is too broad. The issue for me is not the accuracy of Genesis 1 but the intent. The proper interpretation and indeed this whole debate as it relates to the Biblical narrative hinges on genre and how we read Gen. 1-2. I am inclined to trust what God is revealing to us scientifically regarding the age of the cosmos (that it is significantly older than a certain type of concrete reading of Genesis 1 might suggest), while still completely trusting the truth being communicated in the Biblical narrative. Rikk Watts at Regent Collage has some fantastic things to say about this. I’ve heard him speak on this quite convincingly.

    Here’s a brief article by Watts:http://www.asa3.org/aSA/topics/Bible-Science/6-02Watts.html

    Is Gen. 1 ‘inaccurate?’ Well… is Joshua 10 inaccurate when it says that the Sun stood still? Or how about the statement in Psalm 104 that the earth shall not be moved?

    At the very least, these statements open the door for us to understand the Biblical message in a richer, deeper and more nuanced way. And they give us a groundwork for taking into account the limited knowledge and perspective of the inspired authors.

    A far as Joshua was concerned, the sun did stand still. To his perspective, that is a fully accurate statement, and the details of what was actually happening cosmologically are completely irrelevant to the story. So is Joshua 10 accurate? Yes and no. 🙂

    I am very thankful for RD’s video link. I was not familiar with those videos, and they are quite good.

    I’ve often tried to explain the philosophical conundrum that arises from the idea that the earth was created with the appearance of age. The video (#12) tackles that in a way I’ve never been able to articulate nearly so well.

    My recommendation of Gerald Schroeder’s book (#14) got delayed in moderation, so may have been missed. I would highly recommend this book. henrybish and Nate, it would address some of your concerns.

    At the end of the day, I don’t have a problem with someone who remains inclined to the young earth idea, so long as they are not making it a foundation stone to Biblical authority and infallibility, and ultimately the integrity of the gospel. With all due respect, Derek, Dr. Mohler is doing this. And that is where I must object.

    I believe Dr. Mohler’s position to be dangerous and a harm to our witness. And, therefore, ironically, damaging to the gospel. Again, let me be clear, it is not the young earth idea that is damaging to the gospel and our witness. It is the improper importance given to that view that is damaging.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Good discussion, all!

  47. Donald Johnson July 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    I recommend John Walton’s new book, “The Lost World of Genesis One”. He argues and convinces me that Gen 1 is consistently talking about functional creation, which is not the same as material creation. He agrees that God is the material creator, but that is not what Gen 1 is about.

  48. Derek July 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Russ,
    I disagree with your characterization. As mentioned previously, he only took the most extreme view of old earth off the table for discussion among fellow believers. He also said this:

    we must concede that those who hold to a Day-Age view or its equivalent, who argue for an old earth, in so far as they are our colleagues in the evangelical movement affirming the inerrancy of scripture, are seeking to do so in a way that does not do violence to the inerrancy of scripture. But I would simply respond most quickly that there is no such need for strained defense when it comes to a 24-hour understanding of creation.

    Mohler knew that his defense and advocacy for a YEC view would be interpreted in a distorted manner, as if he was drawing a line in the sand. That’s why he is giving old earth viewers the benefit of the doubt here.
    Obviously, he believes his view is the least problematic- that’s why he holds a YEC position!
    In order for us to have an adult dialogue, we must be able to articulate why our particular position is more faithful to Scripture. To go beyond that and mischaracterize the other side’s views or impugn their motives is not helpful and not gracious.

  49. RD July 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    I’m still looking for someone to give a thoughtful response to the idea that, had the creation remained “unfallen” and death had never become a reality, how all of the various species that ever existed would have room to exist here on the finite geography of earth. It seems that death was designed as a natural part of life – the cycle of life, as it were – old life dying out to make room for new life.

  50. henrybish July 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    Or, God intended the fall to happen and so designed creation (to include features such as reproduction) with its effects in mind.

    In the new heavens and earth there will be no marriage, hence no more human population growth(?). Maybe God created reproduction with one of the purposes being to prospectively counteract the effects of the fall.

    Since the fallen nature of the world will no longer be present in the new heavens and new earth, perhaps that is why there is no more marriage?

  51. russ July 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Derek,

    We will have to agree to disagree on where Mohler is really coming from in relation to my specific objection. I’m ‘reading’ him differently than you are. Strangely appropriate, given the issue at hand. 🙂

  52. Derek July 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Hypothetical problems – like an overpopulated globe – are not actual problems for a sovereign God. Plus, RD, your question assumes that life could not exist outside planet earth, that in a pre-fallen world. If God could create the precise conditions for planet earth to sustain life, it is possible to recreate similar circumstances elsewhere. The massive size of the universe suggests that God will not be contained or limited.

  53. Derek July 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Russ,
    I have no problem with you saying that you believe Mohler’s view is dangerous and harmful to the Gospel. What I do have a problem with is in choosing to ignore quotes like the one I provided. But that’s all right. Mohler knew that his advocacy for YEC would be distorted in kneejerk fashion by polemics, which is why inserted these clear assertions and repeated acknowledgement that Christians can and will disagree on this topic. I might also add that he set up his entire speech explaining why there are really good reasons why a Christian would reject YEC. So I’m confident that objective people will accept his words at face value – this is simply not a “line in the sand” speech.

  54. Donald Johnson July 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    All truth is God’s truth.

    This is why phrasing things like general revelation cannot trump special revelation is misguided. It is not a case of trumping, it is a case of being consistent with both revelations.

  55. Donald Johnson July 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    For example, the Bible is clear that God sends rain and other weather events. Does this mean the scientific study of weather is bogus? No, God can use natural events to achieve God’s plan.

    The Bible says that rain comes from the heavens via gates. Does this negate the hydrologic cycle? No, the description is how things APPEARED to people thousands of years ago and can be seen as similar today.

    The ancients thought the sky was a hard shell, as that is how it appeared, so when the Bible talks of a firmament of the heavens is it wrong? No, it is discussing things as they appear.

  56. Jordan July 15, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    @Donald Johnson post #18:
    You write: “For example, in cultural context of the time it was written, Gen 1 is a devastatic apolytheistic polemic. It also establishes the 7th day as a holy sabbath. It also does other things and it is important to NOT ask the text questions it is not trying to answer, even if we might wish them answered.”

    You mention the Sabbath right here. God established a literal 24-hour Sabbath with the Jews because of His 24-hour Sabbath (“evening and morning”) at the end of Creation Week. The times of creation *are* answered in Genesis one … “evening and morning” coupled with the Sabbath institution clearly teach that God created the world in 6 literal days.

  57. russ July 15, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Donald… Amen and amen!

    Derek…

    I’m really confused by your response to me. At any rate… the last paragraph in the section of Mohler’s speech quoted in Denny’s original post is sufficient to support my concerns.

  58. Derek July 15, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Russ,
    I probably could have written what I said more clearly. Let me summarize. When you said this: Making it a litmus test of orthodoxy is a Modern Evangelical novelty., you were incorrect because he explicitly stated that only the creation myth was outside the pale of orthodoxy.
    Let me add an important point that I think you are also missing. The fact that Mohler provides instances where select individuals (e.g. Francisco Ayala and Kenton Sparks) are going down the slippery slope is used for points of illustration, NOT to make a blanket indictment of all OE Christians. I don’t know how he could have been clearer on this. Perhaps in the interest of healthy and gracious Christian dialogue, you might simply admit that at least comment #17 was a rather reactionary and incorrect comment on your part?

  59. RD July 15, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    I think Russ is correct in his assessment. I, too, got the distinct impression that Dr. Mohler is making the belief in YEC a litmus test (just one of many). This isn’t surprising to me, really. I think the fact that there are always more comments made on blog posts that address such topics as biblical literalism, homosexuality, creation v. evolution, women in ministry etc. show that these are all issues that evangelical Christians are sincerely praying over and seeking Holy Spirit guidance about.

  60. Ben July 15, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Jordan (#56):

    You mention the Sabbath as being 24 hours, but I don’t see in the text where the concluding formula for the Sabbath is given.

    In other words, most days have the formula “and there was evening and there was morning, X day”. Every day but the seventh day follows that formula, but the seventh day breaks from it. Therefore, we must make assumptions to say that the Sabbath is really 24 hours – the text does not hand this to us like it does on the other days.

    Is the fact that the pattern is broken for the seventh day important? I’ve been convinced by arguments from Walton, Wenham, and Waltke that the pattern break is very important, and should influence how we understand the text and the Sabbath.

    My overarching point is that respectable, well-thought scholarship has been done and is being done to fully understand this profound cross-cultural thing we are doing when we read Genesis 1-11. To assume otherwise is to be unread on the issue. (Not that Jordan falls in that camp.)

  61. Nate July 15, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    Ben, Jordan’s statement about the Sabbath being a 24 hour period comes from Ex 20:8-11 where God tells Israel to work six days and then rest one, just as He (God) created the earth in six days and then rested. The inference is that the pattern was already there.

    Ex 31:12-17 specifically says that God created in six days and then rested on the seventh day therefore Israel will work six days and rest on the seventh. This is a strong indication that Moses is drawing an exact parallel, because he obviously wrote both books.

    By the way the Hebrew word that is used for saying that God created in six days (yamin) is only used in the OT in describing physical 24 hour days, not periods of time. This is not a slam-dunk for 6 day 24 hour creation, but certainly carries weight (IMHO).

  62. Ben July 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Nate (#61):

    I’m aware of the Exodus passage, but my argument is that the parallel is not exact – the seventh day has no close in the text. It never ends. That should influence both how we read Genesis 1 and Exodus 20, 31 (or should it?). It’s not as cut and dry as some make it seem.

    As far as the Hebrew word for “day” in this passage, I have to respectfully disagree. First, I just looked in my Hebrew bible, and the word is “yom” (sometimes spelled “yowm”), not “yamin”. Doing a word search on “yom” yields over 2000 instances of the usage of “yom” in the OT, many of which refer to a period of time other than 24 hours. The first instance that refers to more than 24 hours is in Genesis 2:4, where it says, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the DAY (yom) that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Phrases like “in that day” also use yom, are common, and do not seem to indicate a 24 hour period. Also, my Hebrew lexicon states “yom” may mean “a general or undefined period of time”, as well as a literal 24 hour period.

    Additionally, the day formulas in Genesis are a little strange, using ordinal, not cardinal, numbers. Good translations give most of the creation days the translation, “evening and morning, first day”, or possibly “…a first day”. The cardinal “…THE first day” is not in the text until the sixth day. Is the cardinal vs the ordinal important for our reading and interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2? If so, what is important about the shift in the formula?

    These sort of questions should give us pause before we firmly assert our understanding of what interpretations are problematic or straightforward with the text. I tend towards the polemic view of Genesis 1-11, but humbly realize there is much about the text that clouds our ability to be too dogmatic about our interpretations.

    Sigh – I love this stuff, but have to get back to work.

  63. Nate July 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Ben, my pont was that the word (yom) in its plural form (yamin), which is being used here, contextually is only used in the OT in speaking about actualy days. If you do a keyword search on days in the books of Moses, you will see this clearly. Every use is speaking in terms of time that we (humans) know as 24 hour days. So the point is the Author doesn’t contextually use the plural form in multiple ways. I agree the word (yom) carries multiple meanings, but context drives the usage. And the usage here would be pretty absurd that Moses would correlate days with periods of time. The simplest reading is God created in six days and rested on the seventh, so the Israelites will also follow that pattern. And basic Hermeneutics would read the Exodus passage and call for the same conclusion.

  64. RD July 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    I think it is very clear from reading all of the biblical texts that refer to the Genesis creation narrative that the ancient writers all believed the days were literal days and not eons. They also believed Adam and Eve were literally the first two human beings and that all human beings that ever lived were their offspring. Because this was the understanding at that time doesn’t mean that the stories are to be taken literally as they are written.

  65. Donald Johnson July 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    ALL the ancient writers? There were plenty of Jewish scholars who notices something was different about the creation days.

    Sabbath is an extended discussion, but there are also sabbath years for the land and the starting and ending days of Biblical festivals are sabbaths, so sabbath does not always mean 7th day.

    And according to Jesus and Hebrews God in heaven remains in his Sabbath rest after the 6 creation days. So the 7th day of the creation week in this case is at least 1000s of years long and continues. That is, from God’s perspective, he calls it a day, and from ours we call it 1000s of years at least.

  66. RD July 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Donald,

    I do think that the writers of the Bible (OT and NT) hold to a belief that the creation was a literal 6-day episode. I think the Exodus quote shows one clear example of this. My point is that just because that might have been the understanding doesn’t mean it WAS the way it happened.

    Great points about there being other definitions of Sabbath besides simply the 7th day! In fact, it’s interesting that the purpose for the Sabbath takes on additional meaning as the Jewish people progress. In the earliest writing of Exodus we are told that God instructs his people to work 6 days and rest on the 7th because this is what God did when God created the heavens and the earth and all that is within them. God created and then God rested. But Deut ch 5 says that God commands 7th day Sabbath observance as a remembrance of the exodus out of Egypt not as a remembrance of creation.

  67. Nathan July 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    IMO, the debate shouldn’t be about the age of the earth but about death.

    The Bible clearly teaches me that Life (Jesus) designed and created life on earth and that death is a result of sin. I have arms and legs and eyes and emotions because God made me this way.

    Evolutionary theory clearly contends that death designed life on earth by setting boundaries for life, stopping certain genes from replicating, allowing other genes to prosper, etc. Death has always been an integral part of life. I have arms and legs and eyes and emotions because aeons of death shaped me this way.

    I love science – math and physics and biology fascinate me, but from a theological perspective, the age of the earth takes a backseat to other more important Biblical ideas.

  68. Derek July 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Nathan,
    I agree, the “problem of death” has always been one of my hangups. The scope of death required to make the evolutionary model work is beyond description, an absolute madness of a scene requiring a very toxic, primordial soup to not only produce individual components like eyes and reproductive organs, but then to also piece these very different pieces together perfectly. And then there is the theological issue: Donald Johnson and others will quickly pat your hand with a ruler and inform you that the judgment in Genesis 3 refers to “spiritual death”, not “physical death”, as if that settles things. Problem is: the “spiritual death only” view of the fall in Genesis 3 is a speculative assumption at best and worse, it contradicts Romans 5:12 and 8:20-22. I Cor 15 doesn’t hold together or make sense either.

  69. Nathan July 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    … and if Genesis 3 were speaking of spiritual death only, “dust to dust” wouldn’t be much of a curse…

  70. RD July 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    I don’t see where we get that Genesis 3 is speaking about anything else BUT physical death. There is no instance that I see where the story talks at all about Adam and Eve’s transgression leading to their going to Hell. It seems clear to me that it is a written version of an ancient oral story that explains the reason that life is so difficult and why animals and humans die.

  71. DennyReader July 17, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    I think the death in Gen 2 & 3 must refer to both spiritual death and physical death. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of good and evil, their eyes were opened and not in a good sense. That is when sin entered into the world of humanity. We began to judge what is good and evil according to our own eyes and not the will of God. This is what Paul said in Rom 7:9, when sin came to live I died. It must also include physical death because our spirit and body are inseparably integrated, at least in this side of eternity. This entropic physical death is what is meant by our return to dust.

    I would also agree with Hugh Ross that the death spoken of in Gen 2 & 3 pertains only to human death and not the rest of creation, which allows for plant and animal death over eons before the arrival of Man.

  72. Donald Johnson July 17, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    When I wrote “spiritual death” I meant spiritual death immediately and later physical death, the wages of sin. It could not be physical death immediately.

  73. Bob Lawrence July 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    The Bible isn’t written in cronological order but God always tells us the truth but only as much as we need; no more and no less. Genesis 1:1 “In the BEGINNING god created the heavens and the EARTH” but verse two skips all the way from the BEGINNING to a much later time; after the EARTH has become VOID. This unknown time period isn’t given but later on in the scripture we find that the destroyer was cast down to earth eventually causing it to become VOID and unproductive. Therefore I believe no one is able to determine the absolute age of the EARTH or the amount of time between Genesis verse 1 & 2. In verse one God created the earth but the rest of Genesis is a restoration of a voided Earth and not a creation of earth. On the other subject, death is not annihilation but seperation. The devil told Eve she would not SURELY DIE (Be annihilated) and I believe Eve took that to mean she wouldn’d FOR SURE die thus the devil deceived her away from the SEPERATION truth. When she ate and didn’t die physically. She gave to her husband and he ate and didn’t die physically therefore they thought God and not satan had deceived them. Had they known the WHOLE truth they may not have disobeyed God but they chose satan’s half truth over God’s absolute truth; just as the human race always has.

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