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A Few Reasons I Demur

A (quick) Response to “7 Reasons Why We Should Not Accept Millions of Years”

Here is my very quick view of things. First, I don’t think that the Bible teaches the age of the earth anywhere. It never sums the genealogies, nor does it teach about the age of the earth & universe. Nor is the age of the earth something that is logically required like the doctrine of the Trinity. Exegesis is when we extract from scripture its meaning. Eisegesis is when we read into scripture what was not there. So when we ask scripture to answer questions we may have, but to which it does not directly speak (or speak via logical deduction) then we may very well be in danger of eisegesis. I, therefore, hold loosely those beliefs that scripture never directly addresses.

Second, I believe that God is presented in Genesis 1&2 as a temple-building king. Much of the language is a picturesque way of describing his activities. I read the days of Genesis 1 as part of the that picture. It is historical narrative, but that does not mean that picturesque language is never used. As such I don’t think the “days” teach millions of years; that would be a strained interpretation and anachronistic. But by the same token, I don’t think they have to be literal 24 hr days. They could be, but they don’t have to be. Apropos (1) the length of these days is just not the focus or point of the passage.

Third, I understand the flood to be local in the same way I understand the famine of Gen 41:54 to be local. “There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” Does this mean there was famine in Hawaii or Argentina? While that is a possible interpretation, I don’t think it is likely. The writers often use universal language without intending to comment about conditions in Japan or South America, etc.

Fourth, I recognize that there are many different interpretations of Genesis 1 (even among young earth creationists). So I am sympathetic to the fact that Dr. Mortenson’s seems to principally be targeting the Day Age view. His comments are relevant for some old earth interpretations, but not all. Therefore, what follows will be short comments, in keeping with my own interpretation, on each of the seven points he lists. The comments will be brief so I will not try to do a full presentation of why I believe the way I do (and neither has Dr. Mortenson as I have read much lengthier works of his). I hope this will be profitable to all.

For the first 18 centuries of church history, the almost universal belief of Christians was that God created the world in six literal days, roughly 4,000 years before Christ,

Since Dr. Mortenson is fond of reminding us that most unbelievers hold to an old earth, it is interesting to note that the relative young age of the earth was also almost universally held by all pagans. What we should care about is exegesis and evidence.

A growing number of Christians (now called young-earth creationists), including many scientists, hold to the traditional view, believing it to be the only view that is truly faithful to Scripture and that fits the scientific evidence far better than the reigning old-earth evolutionary theory.

A growing number of Christians also think that an old earth view is the most faithful.

1. The Bible clearly teaches that God created in six literal, 24-hour days a few thousand years ago.

No it doesn’t. However, I can understand how such an interpretation could be deduced from scripture.

The Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 is yôm.

The definition of yom is irrelevant to my own interpretation (see the lower third of this post). In fact I’d grant that a 24 hr day is exactly the image it intends to convey.

That these creation days happened only about 6,000 years ago is clear from the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 (which give very detailed chronological information, unlike the clearly abbreviated genealogy in Matthew 1) and other chronological information in the Bible.

There are many known gaps in the genealogies of the Bible. There are also many abbreviated genealogies. They were never intended to be added up. And even when we do, at best they can only give us a floor, not a ceiling.

2. Exodus 20:11 blocks all attempts to fit millions of years into Genesis 1…If God meant that the Jews were to work six days because He created over six long periods of time, He could have said that using one of three indefinite Hebrew time words.

Saying he could have said it in a way that would satisfy our modern curiosity about the age of the earth is not good exegetical practice. True, Moses employed the word than normally means “day” But there is nothing here that prohibits an analogical reading. For instance, consider naphash in Exo 31:17  It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'” Here, “naphash” (refreshed) means to be given breath after being wearied. But does God ever need to catch his breath? Does God ever get tired? Does God ever need to be refreshed? Clearly the answer is no. Rather we see this as a picturesque way of describing God’s activity in creation as though he was a human worker.

3. Noah’s Flood washes away millions of years. [T]he Flood was intended to destroy not only all sinful people but also all land animals and birds and the surface of the earth, which only a global flood could accomplish.

The focus is on the sinfulness of mankind and, therefore, God’s wrath against them. True, the animals were also swept away with the rest of mankind, but they are clearly not the intended target. I think it is reasonable to suppose that only those animals that were affected by the sin of mankind were to be swept away. Again, universal language very often has a limited scope (Col 1:5-6).

The Ark was totally unnecessary, if the Flood was local. People, animals, and birds could have migrated out of the flood zone before it occurred, or the zone could have been populated from creatures outside the area after the Flood.

There is no limit to how God could have saved people, so it does not logically follow that the ark was unnecessary. Because we can conceive of other ways God could have saved them does not make his actual choice unnecessary.

The Hebrew words translated “the fountains of the great deep burst open” (Genesis 7:11) clearly point to tectonic rupturing

Clearly that is anachronistic.

The Hebrew words translated “the fountains of the great deep burst open” (Genesis 7:11) clearly point to tectonic rupturing of the earth’s surface in many places for 150 days, resulting in volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Noah’s Flood would produce exactly the kind of complex geological record we see today worldwide: thousands of feet of sediments clearly deposited by water and later hardened into rock and containing billions of fossils. If the year-long Flood is responsible for most of the rock layers and fossils, then those rocks and fossils cannot represent the history of the earth over millions of years, as evolutionists claim.

Scientifically speaking, this is nothing close to true.

4. Jesus was a young-earth creationist. Jesus consistently treated the miracle accounts of the Old Testament as straightforward, truthful, historical accounts (e.g., creation of Adam, Noah and the Flood, Lot and his wife in Sodom, Moses and the manna, and Jonah in the fish). He continually affirmed the authority of Scripture over men’s ideas and traditions (Matthew 15:1–9).

Most old earth creationists also believe everything stated above (except that Jesus was a YEC). This is disingenuous. Only those who reject the authority and inerrancy of scripture think differently, and it is irresponsible to lump them in with solid inerrantists.

In Mark 10:6 we have the clearest (but not the only) statement showing that Jesus was a young-earth creationist. He states that Adam and Eve were at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning, as would be the case if the universe was really billions of years old.

What is in view, I think, is the beginning of mankind. I think this is the most exegetically responsible interpretation. Besides, Adam was created at the end of creation. Whether the creation period was 1 week or millions of years, in either view Adam and Eve were the last beings created which puts them at the end.

5. Belief in millions of years undermines the Bible’s teaching on death and on the character of God. Genesis 1 says six times that God called the creation “good,” and when He finished creation on Day Six He called everything “very good.”

I think the reference to “good” here is best understood, not as “moral” but “functioning as intended.” I won’t take the time to advance this other than to point out that when God said it is not good for man to be alone, God was not saying it was immoral. Rather, God had a design for mankind that would not have been complete without woman.

Man and animals and birds were originally vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30, plants are not “living creatures,” as people and animals are, according Scripture).

This is reading too much into the text. Tigers were vegetarians? Sharks were vegetarians? These are many other creatures clearly show remarkable design as predators. I think that praying mantids were “good” because they functioned according to God’s design of the which would include eating flies. Holding the other view would require either that God created them as carnivores knowing the fall wasn’t too far away, or a rapid evolution from herbivore to carnivore. (His position on plants is an example of a red herring. Plants were described as dying just as animals and people were. So even on the YEC view there was death before the fall).

But Adam and Eve sinned, resulting in the judgment of God on the whole creation. Instantly Adam and Eve died spiritually, and after God’s curse they began to die physically. The serpent and Eve were changed physically and the ground itself was cursed (Genesis 3:14–19). The whole creation now groans in bondage to corruption, waiting for the final redemption of Christians (Rom. 8:19–25) when we will see the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21, Col. 1:20) to a state similar to the pre-Fall world, when there will be no more carnivore behavior (Isaiah 11:6–9) and no disease, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:3–5) because there will be no more Curse (Revelation 22:3). To accept millions of years of animal death before the creation and Fall of man contradicts and destroys the Bible’s teaching on death and the full redemptive work of Christ. It also makes God into a bumbling, cruel creator who uses (or can’t prevent) disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but calls it all “very good.”

I agree with his first sentence. I also agree with his second sentence, but I would take exception to his use of Isa 11 as a proof text. His third sentence does not follow from the previous ones. His fourth sentence is an assertion in lieu of an argument.

6. The idea of millions of years did not come from the scientific facts.

I would differ. From radiometric dating to lake varves to ice cores to light travel time to dendochronology there is ample independent lines of witness by which we can derive dates. While there are some problems of course, on the whole they give us a pretty reliable picture.

It was developed by deistic and atheistic geologists in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Ad hominem and the genetic fallacy and generally false.

These men used anti-biblical philosophical and religious assumptions to interpret the geological observations in a way that plainly contradicted the biblical account of Creation, the Flood, and the age of the earth.

An assertion that remains to be proven in this article.

Most church leaders and scholars quickly compromised using the gap theory, day-age view, local flood view, and so on. to try to fit “deep time” into the Bible. But they did not understand the geological arguments, nor did they defend their views by careful Bible study. The “deep time” idea flows out of naturalistic assumptions, not scientific observations.

It flows from very good science, and, in my estimation, does not contradict the teachings of scripture.

7. Radiometric dating methods do not prove millions of years.

I beg to differ.

There are thousands of PhD and MS scientists around the world (and the number keeps growing) who believe the earth is only about 6,000 years old, as the Bible teaches. It is simply false to say that creation scientists do not have reputable degrees, do not do real scientific research and do not publish in the peer-reviewed scientific journals. Visit our creation scientist section to read about a few of them, past and present.

Argument from authority.

In recent years creationists in the “RATE project” have done experimental, theoretical and field research to uncover more such evidence (e.g., diamonds and coal, which the evolutionists say are millions of years old, were dated by carbon-14 to be only thousands of years old)

This is a good example. Carbon 14 has a half life of 5730 years. It should never be used to date something to the millions of years. It is the wrong tool. It is like using a car’s odometer to measure the thickness of paper. A major error does not call into question the legitimacy of odometers in general, just the appropriateness of using it in this case. For more information on radiocarbon dating look here.

These are just some of the reasons why we believe that the Bible is giving us the true history of the creation.

I also believe that the Bible gives us true history.

God’s Word must be the final authority on all matters about which it speaks: not just the moral and spiritual matters, but also its teachings that bear on history, archeology, and science.

I agree here also.

What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the very foundation of the gospel.

I disagree. What is at stake is a certain approach to interpreting Genesis 1. I am guessing that he holds to the grammatico-historical method of interpretation as I do. But I suspect that he is guilty of abandoning the “historical” part of the grammatico-historical method. He is reading a modern controversy back into the pages of scripture. Rather than understanding the passage the way the ancient Israelites would have, he is demanding that it answer a question of our own making. The gospel is manifestly not at stake here and it is irresponsible of him to say so.

Dr. Mortenson paints those who disagree with him as compromisers who have (or are dangerously close) to denying the authority of scripture and even the gospel itself. However, among those favorable to an old earth view are the likes of J.I. Packer, Vern Poythress, B.B. Warfield, Lee Strobel, Gordon Wenham, O.T. Alis, James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul, Chuck Colson, Herman Bavinck, C.S. Lewis, Norman Geisler, and many others. Anyone familiar with these theologians knows that they can in no way be viewed as compromisers. They are among the most stalwart defenders of the faith in recent times.

I think there is great grace in this area. I don’t think that the Bible teaches the age of the earth one way or the other. I have great  respect for my young earth creationist brothers. I can see why they come to the position that they do. I appreciate them standing by their beliefs even in the face of fierce opposition. However, the tarring of good brothers who are fighting the good fight with them is unfortunate. Disagree, by all means, but do so charitably. Have vigorous debates, but don’t accuse opponents of things they are not guilty of.

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