For those of you who really believe in a literal interpretation of
Genesis that requires a young earth, my appeal is to recognize that
this flies in the face of an enormous amount of scientific evidence
which essentially all scientists, Christian or otherwise, accept. In
addition, there are hermenutical problems with that view as pointed
out, for example, in Archer and Blocher's works listed below. As you
teach your interpretation of Genesis, be humble enough to mention that
there are many scientific problems, that the ICR position is not
accepted even by most evangelical Christians with scientific training,
and please, mention that there are other interpretations. It is sinful
(slanderous and untrue) to teach that all who believe in an old earth
are liberals who don't care about evangelism. It is precisely because
I do believe in evangelism that I am writing this tract! I would plead
with you to earnestly seek the Lord for a renewal and deepening of your
faith and then have the boldness to begin to study other evangelical
views, such as those found in the bibliography. Cling to the Lord and
look for others who have studied these things for support. Pastors who
are completely ignorant of science are ill prepared to minister to our
generation and must, at the least, remain humble!
CHRISTIANITY IS NOT IN OPPOSITION TO SCIENCE:
In our everyday lives, we constantly apply and even trust in the
results of scientific research. The technologies to build an airplane,
create antibiotics, or evangelize distant peoples via Christian radio
all depend on the accuracy of our understanding of how the world works
as discovered by the scientific method. Thus Christians have gained so
much from the sciences and science continues to be so successful at
generating knowledge in its proper fields that it is unwise for so much
of the church to be so against certain results of science.
It may be objected that the examples given above are from the more
exact laboratory sciences and not the historical sciences. While it is
true that the results of the historical sciences are often tentative
due to the fact that we cannot go back in time to observe directly what
happened, many of the results are quite secure and have impacted our
lives. Success in locating oil deposits, an understanding of where
earthquakes will occur, our understanding of historical passages in the
Bible, a deeper understanding of human and animal behavior, and the
powerful argument for the existence of a Creator based on the Big Bang
(see "The Creator and the Cosmos" in the bibliography below) all depend
on the accuracy of the results of the historical sciences such as
historical geology, plate tectonics, paleontology, archaeology,
anthropology, history, cosmology, and behavioral ecology.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking the age of the earth is just a
matter of "trusting God's Word" versus "trusting science". Christians
need to, and every day do, trust both. The common error of rejecting
many well established results of science in favor of a certain Biblical
interpretation is not a valid Christian position. In the end, the
truth will be a harmony which rejects neither the teachings of
Scripture nor the well established results of science. The results of
science (properly interpreted) should never challenge the authority of
Scripture, but they may well cause us to reexamine our interpretion of
Scripture. This is what I am pleading with young earthers to do.
The Christian position must be that all truth is God's truth and that
we have both general revelation (nature) and special revelation (the
Bible) as sources of truth. Science clearly has its limits in that,
for example, it cannot tell you if adultery is sinful or not. The
Bible clearly has its limits in that we cannot learn calculus or
quantum mechanics from its pages. The only possible trouble comes in
those relatively rare instances when both the Bible and science seem to
have something to say, such as historical questions about the nation of
Israel or the creation of life on this planet.
While Christians may not always be happy with the results of science,
we should respect scientists and oppose scientific theory only rarely,
cautiously, and in humility, if at all. We should also check our
interpretations of Scripture to see if anything has been overlooked.
It may help to consult with believing scientists to understand how
others have dealt with the issue. If there remain stubborn problems,
we should have the courage to admit that we don't have an answer, but
in faith, believe that when we know in full, the answer will be clear.
Ultimately, our confidence in Scripture should not rest on having a
complete harmony between science and the Bible because we simply do not
know enough to complete the harmony.
SCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF ATHEISM:
A brief word must be said about the danger of the anti-Christain
propaganda being distributed by certain atheistic scientists. Yes, it
is true that many atheists try to make the case that science has
disproved certain Christian doctrines. However, the case is very weak.
In dealing with these kinds of arguments, we must learn to separate
the wheat from the chaff. Often, the scientific facts are solid, but
their philosophical interpretation is anti- Christian and unproven.
While confusing the issues for many, these arguments do not mean that
Christians should oppose science. However, we must be on guard to
oppose anti-Christian philosophies masquerading in the name of science.
There is also an unwarranted anti-supernatural bias in academia and
elsewhere which causes many to dismiss certain Christian doctrines
without a fair consideration. Christians, in reaction, tend not to
trust academics and science. This bias must be exposed (see Dr. Phil
Johnson's "Reason in the Balance") and opposed. As Christians we do
believe in miracles such as the resurrection of Christ which go beyond
scientific explanation. But our belief in occasional miracles is no
reason for us to oppose science as such.
NEGATIVE SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS OF YECS:
The worst aspect of YECS teaching is that it creates a nearly
insurmountable barrier between the educated world and the church.
Certainly God in His sovereignty has allowed some to be persuaded to
believe in Christ through the arguments of YECSers. But how many more
have not accepted the Gospel because of the unnecessary demand that
converts believe that the world is no more than 10,000 years old? And
how many have unnecessarily gone through a crisis of faith similar to
that which I described above? How many have choosen to give up their
faith altogether rather than to accept scientific nonsense or a major
reinterpretation of Scripture? How much have we dishonored our Lord by
slandering scientists and their reputation? How much have we sinned
against Christian brothers holding another opinion by naming them
"dangerous" and "compromisers"? How much responsibility do we bear for
having taught others (James 3:1) things that probably are not even
true? Each one must search his own heart.
A CALL FOR ACTION:
Pastors need to rethink these issues as outlined above and teach a
responsible Christian viewpoint with all humility. Seminaries need to
reconsider what they are teaching this generation of pastors and
perhaps include a basic science course in their curriculum. Christian
writers need to create materials for Sunday school, bedtime stories,
home educators, and Christian schools which will not give our children
an anti-scientific bias, setting them up for a crisis of faith later in
life. Christian radio and TV stations need to invite qualified
speakers to wrestle with these issues in a responsible way. Publishers
need to have courage to publish unpopular viewpoints, if they are
consistent with Christian faith. Bookstores need to be willing to sell
Christian books critical of YECS and promoting other views. People who
are qualified to speak need to be willing to follow the Lord's call to
become publicly involved, despite the persecution which will come (from
well meaning brothers in the Lord). Finally, missionaries and
evangelists need to get materials expressing other viewpoints
translated to oppose the virtual monopoly YECS teaching has overseas.
As I write this I see YECS literature becoming more and more widely
distributed in the growing churches in my corner of the former Soviet
Union. We are sowing the seeds of a major crisis which will make the
job of world evangelism even harder than it is already. Lord, give us
Dr. Joshua Zorn
Note 1: The purpose of this list is to provide access to a variety of
evangelical opinions consistent with an old Earth. Inclusion of a work
in the bibliography does not imply my endorsement of all that is
written in that work. In fact, as I am overseas, I have not even read
some of the works listed, but am including them on the strength of good
recommendations or book reviews.
Note 2: There are several references to the Interdisciplinary Biblical
Research Institute (IBRI) which is informally associated with Biblical
Theological Seminary. They have produced several items related to the
age of the earth in addition to the ones we have listed. Address:
P.O. Box 423, Hatfield PA, 19440.
Note 3: An organization of mostly old earth Christians in the sciences
is the American Scientific Affiliation, P.O. Box 668, Ipswich, MA
01938-0668. Phone (508)356-5656. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archer, G. A Response to The Trustworthiness of Scripture in Areas
Relating to Natural Science. In Radmacher E. and Preus R., ed.
Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Academic Books,
Zondervan. 1984. Gives Biblical reasons why this scholar cannot
accept the twenty-four-hour days interpretation of Genesis 1.
Blocher, H. In the Beginning: The opening chapters of Genesis.
Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press. 1984. My preferred interpretation
of Genesis 1-3.
Grudem, W. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Grudem's humble openmindedness, summarized on page 308, is a good
example of how someone with young earth tendencies may want to address
Johnson, P. Darwin on Trial (2nd edition). Downers Grove:
Inter-Varsity Press. 1993. Sets forth the scientific and philosophical
reasons why many scholars are not yet convinced of the fully
mechanistic molecules-to-man theory of evolution.
Johnson, P. Reason in the Balance. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity
Press. 1995. A critique of philosophical naturalism.
Kantzer, K. and Henry, C., eds. Evangelical Affirmations. Grand
Rapids: Academic Books, Zondervan. 1990. Chapter 10 (Modern Science)
is of interest.
Kitcher, P. Abusing Science. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. 1982. A
secular critique of YECS.
Lucas, E. Genesis Today: Genesis and the questions of science.
London: Scripture Union. 1989. Excellent discussion of all the major
Newman, R. and Ecklemann, H. Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth.
Hatfield PA: IBRI. 3rd printing, 1989.
Numbers, R. The Creationists: The evolution of scientific
creationism. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1992. A
meticulous and enlightening history of the young earth creationist
Rademacher, E. and Preus, R., eds. Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the
Bible. Proceedings from the ICBI Summit II, 1982, in Chicago, IL.
Grand Rapids: Academic Books, Zondervan. 1984. This work contains a
key paper by Walter L. Bradley and Roger Olsen entitled "The
trustworthiness of Scripture in Areas Relating to Natural Science" as
well as Gleason Archer's supportive response.
Ross, H. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the greatest scientific
discoveries of the century reveal God. Colorado Springs: Navpress. 2nd
edition, 1995. An argument for the existence of God based on recent
Ross, H. Creation and Time: A Biblical and scientific perspective on
the creation-date controversy. Colorado Springs: Navpress. 1994.
Interprets the "days" in Genesis as ages. Anti-evolution. Excellent
discussion of the history and tragedy of the controversy.
Schaeffer, F. No Final Conflict: The Bible without error in all that
it affirms. Intervarsity Press. 1975. Schaeffer does not take a
position on the age of the earth and claims that from a study of the
Bible one could hold either opinion.
Van Till, H. J. The Fourth Day: What the Bible and the heavens are
telling us about the creation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1986. A
controversial book which claims that there is no Biblical reason to
oppose creation through evolutionary processes.
Wonderly, D. God's Time-Records in Ancient Sediments. Flint: Crystal
Press. 1977. This book contains specific examples of non-radiometric
evidences for great age. It is now available from IBRI.
Wonderly, D. Neglect of Geologic Data: Sedimentary Strata Compared
with Young Earth Creationist Writings. Hatfield PA: IBRI. Revised
Young, D. Creation and the Flood: An alternative to flood geology and
theistic evolution. Grand Rapids: Baker. 1977. Argues for a day-age,
anti- evolution position.
Young, D. Christianity and the age of the Earth. Grand Rapids:
Zondervan. 1982. The book which convinced me that the earth is old.
Young, D. The Biblical Flood: a case Study of the Church's Response to
Extra- biblical Evidence. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1995.