Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Old Earth Arguments: a response to David pt.2

This is the second installment of a five part series in response to a Blog written by David where I will address some of the Scriptural evidences for a young earth. If you have not read David's article in its entirety, I would recommend you do so in order to see the entire context of where he is coming from. Remember, David's words will be in bold.

Scriptural Evidence -- Beginning Presumption

Before discussing the Scriptural evidence for OEC, an important observation is in order: each of us is created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and God does not want anyone to perish but for that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). There is no reason to think that God has made salvation more difficult today than He did in generations past.

But if YEC's are correct, that is exactly what God has done: I cannot help the fact that I was born in an era in which we have the scientific method, an era in which there are serious stumbling blocks to Biblical faith that did not exist just a few centuries ago. Had I lived a thousand years ago, I would never have been inundanted by this scientific evidence, and thus it would have been much easier for me to accept the Creation account thus the rest of the Bible.

Did God really intend the Bible to become a much greater obstacle to our faith in Him today than it was a couple centuries ago? If yes, has God arbitrarily made it more difficult for people in the modern era to come to Him than people in past era's?

I believe that God designed His word to be equally accessible and relevant to all peoples at all times throughout history. Now that's the kind of book we'd expect from an omnipotent God! Furthermore, we should interpret the Bible with an eye toward God's salvific purpose. Thus, we arrive at a presumption that His truth is no easier or harder to accept today than it was for people in previous generations.

David's theology is completely man-centered rather than God centered. It completely ignores the depravity of man, God's freedom in salvation, and the power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate the heart and will of man. So let me first dispel the myth that salvation is more "difficult" based on Young Earth Creationism.

"But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles." (1 Cor. 1:23)

Are we to believe that Young Earth Creationism is the real reason why people don't accept Christ? Is Old Earth vs. Young Earth what this is all about? First of all, even if the most rabid atheist comes to accept the Young Earth position as the most scientifically plausible explanation for the available evidence, is that going to make him more likely to accept the cross of Christ? No, for the Cross of Christ will always be foolishness to Him!

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor. 2:14)

Again we see the inability in the natural man to accept spiritual things such as salvation. Does this mean that convincing him that the Old Earth is really compatible with the Bible is really going to make it "easier" for him to accept Christ? No, for unless God takes out that heart of stone and gives him a heart of flesh, the cross will always be foolishness to him.

"For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 'He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them." (John 12:39-40)

I submit that the "easiness" of salvation has absolutely nothing to do with when we lived, where we live, or whether or not the earth is young. Salvation is impossible for each and every person. All of us are doomed unless something happens (which would not include convincing us that the earth is old); if God chooses by the pleasure of His purpose and will to regenerate and save us.

So if salvation doesn't depend on the Old Earth or Young Earth, why even bother with arguing this? Glad you asked. The reason I, as a reformed protestant, choose not to compromise the Scriptures (which clearly teach a young earth) in order to make salvation "easier" is because I believe that my responsibility is to glorify God by proclaiming His truth. And to do otherwise would be to bring only shame to His name. Think about it this way. Let's say that the salvation of your best friend was dependent on you commiting one sin, would you do it? Or how about we make the illustration more relevant: if the salvation of your best friend depended on you knowingly compromising a clear teaching of Scripture for his sake, would you do it? Now, if your soteriology (your study of salvation) is man centered, then why not? But if you hold to a God-centered soteriology, where God saves apart from man's will (which is enslaved to sin), then there is no amount of compromising that could ever bring him to repent without God's first regenerating his heart.

And how do we reconcile that view of science with Scripture like Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20 which encourage us to examine nature in order to learn about God?

Both of these texts tell us that God's existence can be known from nature so that no one will be "without excuse." I'm not sure where David gets the idea that these texts are telling us that nature can give us infallible, propositional revlation about the unobserved past.

Scriptural Evidence -- The Length of Each Day

As I noted in the syllogism above, it is not necessary for me to show exactly why YEC's are mistaken in order to know that they are mistaken. If Premises (1) and (2) of the syllogism are true, then we know that YEC is mistaken even before considering the text of Genesis 1. I will discuss the Scriptural text not for the sake of other Christians -- I really don't care if they adopt an OEC view or not -- but for seekers. I want seekers to know that OEC is not some convenient slight of hand but rather a comfortably supported, very mainstream view within Christian communities.

This is where David's honesty truly comes to light. Here he admits that his Old Earth views have nothing to do with what the Bible actually says. And even worse, it doesn't matter what the Bible says anyways, because scientists have already proven that the earth is Old! What an amazing admission! I hope my readers can now see how truly dangerous the Old Earth position is. For if we can just make Genesis say whatever we want, then would it not follow that we could do this with other parts of Scripture as well? If not, then why not?

I turn now to the text of Genesis 1. Here are six quick reasons to believe the "day" (Hebrew: yom) of Genesis 1 is longer than 24 hours.

Before we go into David's so-called "biblical" arguments for an old earth, let's lay a few ground rules as to how we should interpret Scripture. First, we need to understand that yom has a semantic range of five meanings:

1. a period of light in a day/night cycle
2. a period of 24 hours
3. a general or vague concept of time
4. a specific point of time
5. a period of a year

A rule of thumb that has always helped me is, "when the plain sense makes common sense, take no other sense, lest it be nonsense." We can all agree that the normal use of the word "day" is a 24 hour period. But we can also agree that "day" can sometimes mean something other than an ordinary day. And the constant objection that Old Earthers always seem to raise is, "Because day can mean something other than an ordinary day, then maybe the days in Genesis are long periods of time!" Such an objection is what New Testament scholar D.A. Carson calls, "An unwarrented expansion of an expanded semantic field." In other words, the meaning of a word must be determined by how it is used in the specific context, not by possible meanings in unrelated contexts.

For those who still might be confused as to how one might determine the meaning of "day," perhaps this illustration will help:

In my father's day, he would go to bed early Sunday evening and rise early in the morning of the following day, and spend the next six days traveling, during the day, to cross the whole country.

No one would deny that "my father's day" is an indefinite period of time. But this does not mean that it is right to interpret "six traveling days" as anything but ordinary days. The reason being that whenever you have "day" modified by a number (such as "six days, the second day, one day, etc.), it must mean an ordinary day. Furthermore, the combination of evening and the next morning is another way of showing that his bedtime was contained in one ordinary day, not an indefinite period of time.

It is interesting to note that the days in Genesis are modified by both "evening and morning" as well as a number:

"God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day." (v. 5)

Interestingly enough, God used even more indicators that "one day" was a 24 hour day. He used "day" to describe the daylight portion, and "night" to describe the nighttime portion. Furthermore, just in case the reader missed the point, He used "evening and morning" to show that we are talking about a literal day. And just in case the reader is a little thick headed, He used a number to describe that we are, without a doubt, talking about a literal day. This continues all throughout the remaining 5 days:

"And there was evening and there was morning, a second day." (v. 8)

"There was evening and there was morning, a third day." (v. 13)

"There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day." (v. 19)

And this continues all the way to the sixth day. So we see the constant pattern: evening...morning...number...day...evening...morning...number...day. Its as if God is trying to tell us something! Maybe they are literal days!

Some may think that such contexts don't really matter. But we need to realize that language is meant to communicate. If we can no longer trust that words have meaning, then we can no longer trust the Bible as a reliable means of communication. And if we can redefine what words mean in Genesis, then why can't we redefine what words mean in other parts of the Bible too? Maybe words like "grace, resurrection, sanctification, salvation" don't really mean what we think they do. Maybe these words mean completely different things to God than they do to us. See the slippery slope that such compromises in Genesis bring? And I know that David would never advocate such compromises in other parts of the Bible. But what happens when we start telling other believers that what Genesis says doesn't really matter? What happens when more and more Christians start being more consistent in their hermeneutic and redefining words other parts of the Bible? And this is exactly what is happening in our society today. Just read the writings of John Shelby Spong and Jesus Seminar scholar John Dominic Crossan. They have completely redefined what words like "resurrection" and "sin" really mean. And by no suprise, they do not believe in the historicity of Genesis either! And this is at the core of the entire debate. Is the Bible our authority? If so, then should we not allow the Bible to define its own terms and interpret itself, rather than starting with the ideas of fallible men ("science") and taking those ideas to reinterpret scripture?

I submit that the only way to know the true history of the Universe is to let the Bible speak. Allow the Bible to tell us how long ago God created the Universe. And once we determine what the Bible says, then we can go to the scientific evidence and see if we can make sense of it in light of what the Bible has already established. And if we find a discrepancy between the scientific evidence and the Scriptures, then the problem is not with what the Scriptures say! Maybe there's a problem in how we are interpreting the scientific evidence! But unfortunately, some people would rather think that there is a problem with the Scripture, and will either reinterpret the text or reject it all together. I like how Martin Luther described the situation, although he was fighting a battle with the church who wanted to shorted the creation week to one day!

“How Long Did the Work of Creation Take? When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”
-What Martin Luther Says – A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active, pp. 1523.

In the next section, we will see David attempting to build a "biblical" case for an Old Earth. But unfortunately, David has already rejected the possibility that the Bible might teach a young earth. So my question is, why even deal with the text? If science has already told us that the earth is Old, then is it even helpful to argue that the Bible teaches it? But for the sake of my readers, I will demonstrate that there is absolutely no way to reconcile an Old Earth and the Bible. And we will also see that David's so-called examination of the text has absolutely nothing to do with the text at all, but instead is based on outside influences. This is what Bible scholars call eisegesis. This is where you read your ideas, such as millions of years, into the Bible as opposed to exegesis where one allows the Bible to speak for itself with no outside influence.

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