YEC in the "Three Views" book

Allan Harvey (aharvey@boulder.nist.gov)
Mon, 22 Feb 1999 08:21:42 -0700

<bigger>On President's Day, I picked up a copy of the new book _Three
Views on Creation and Evolution_ edited by J.P. Moreland and J.M.
Reynolds. This is in Zondervan's "Counterpoints" series, which presents
different Christian views on controversial issues. The book presents a
"Young-Earth Creationism" view, an "Old-Earth (Progressive) Creationism"
view, and a "Theistic Evolution" or "Fully Gifted Creation" view
(authored by ASA-list contributor Howard van Till). Four other people
provide responses to each section, and the book closes with summary
essays by Richard Bube and Phil Johnson. While I have not finished
reading it, some things have struck me already that I think are worth
discussing here.

The first item is the curious choice made to present the "Young-Earth"
view. The chapter is written by Paul Nelson (a leader in the
"Intelligent Design" movement) and John Mark Reynolds. Nelson and
Reynolds mainly argue for a role for theism and design inferences in
science, admit that the scientific evidence strongly favors an old Earth
(at one point even calling old-Earth creationism "the most rational view
to adopt"), and express a desire for unity with their old-Earth brothers.
They seem to only prefer (weakly) the young-Earth view because it is
"more intellectually interesting" and because it would be a boon for the
faith if shown to be true.

This "young-Earth" chapter is a surprise to those of us used to seeing
"creation science" as advocated by the Institute for Creation Research
and the like. Where are the standard "scientific" arguments for a young
Earth? More to the point, where is the insistence that 144-hour creation
and a global flood are absolute essentials, and that to reject either of
these is to sell out to Satan? Nearly 100% of the time, the young-Earth
creationism one encounters takes the "believe it our way or you might as
well be an atheist" position. To their credit, Nelson and Reynolds do
not go down that road, but that left me feeling like I hadn't really read
a "young-Earth" chapter. It is as though I had tuned to a radio station
that billed itself as "rock and roll" and got songs by the Carpenters.
Perhaps technically eligible for that label, certainly less offensive to
those offended by the excesses of rock and roll, but not at all
representative of the movement.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the plus side, Nelson and
Reynolds present a view that is in my eyes much less divisive for the
church and much less harmful to the witness of the Gospel than the
"standard" young-Earth movement. If the young-Earth movement can be
steered in that direction it would be a good thing, and perhaps this book
can help.

On the other hand, I can't help feeling like a victim of false
advertising since there was no chapter representing the much more
influential mainstream of the young-Earth movement. I recently wrote my
pastor a letter about how the showing of a creationist video in an adult
Sunday-school class was a bad thing. If all he had was this chapter to
go on, he wouldn't understand my criticisms. But the video wasn't by
Paul Nelson; it was by the notorious Kent Hovind. Unfortunately, the
only young-Earth movement with any popular influence today is that of
Hovind and his ilk, and I'm not sure that substituting something
qualitatively different (which Hovind would probably consider an evil
sellout) under that label is right.

Does anybody out there know how this situation came to pass? I know one
of the book's authors reads this list, and I'm doing a bcc to another
author should he wish to chime in. I can think of two possible reasons
for choosing such an unrepresentative young-Earth view:

(1) Perhaps the editors found the "standard" young-Earth view,
particularly the insistence on their interpretation of the details of
Genesis as essentials and lack of respect for Christians with differing
interpretations, to be so unhealthy that they decided to find a healthier
alternative. This may be implied in the introduction, where Nelson and
Reynolds are called "among the most responsible of a new generation of
young-Earth creationists."

(2) Perhaps some "standard" young-Earth advocates were invited to
contribute, but they refused to participate in a volume that portrayed
other views as being acceptable for Christians.

Those are my theories -- can anybody offer another one or supply the
explanation?

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| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | aharvey@boulder.nist.gov |

| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | "Don't blame the |

| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |

| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | say, or vice versa." |

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