The ‘Trojan Horse’ of deep time
The ‘hidden’ reason why people abandoned biblical authority
In the famous tale from Homer’s “Odyssey” the fortress of Troy was defeated by the Greek army by leaving a large wooden horse (secretly filled with soldiers) behind as a supposed gift. The Trojans willingly took it into their city allowing the hidden force to open the city’s gates, letting the Greek army inside to defeat the city fortress.
A “Trojan Horse” has become a metaphor to symbolize a strategy that allows an enemy to infiltrate and defeat a seemingly invincible foe through the unwitting cooperation of those being subverted. It also often implies that if it wasn’t for reasons of pride or inattentiveness on the part of the victim the ploy would not have succeeded. In other words the injured party ‘should have known better’.
Think of the western world church (even up until 100 years ago) as a once strong fortress with her towers proudly displaying the banners of faith, her watchmen trumpeting the call announcing the salvation available for sinners because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Think of how she used to send streams of emissaries around the world, winning souls by breaking down strongholds, freeing captives, defeating the enemy on his own ground. Christian soldiers armed with the sword of the Spirit boldly championed the cause of Christ and made inroads across the globe. On her home ground Christian leaders taught God’s Word boldly so that men and women of God raised Godly children so that more and more believers were raised up as the Scriptures commanded. God’s Word was proclaimed as the ultimate authority over man.
… and now
Today it is completely different. The fortress is being assailed from all sides including assaults from within! Her soldiers are often ill equipped for attack or defense. Wolves are in the fold and in-fighting is commonplace. Many collaborate with the enemy and vast numbers have abandoned their post and freely joined the enemy’s camp. The authority of God’s Word is openly questioned often within its own halls. Proclamation of the Gospel is hindered and the trumpets clarion is unclear.
Today (as it has always been) the main battleground for the church is the concept of biblical authority. If the Bible doesn’t have to mean what it plainly says then obviously it can be interpreted to mean whatever the reader wants it to, and therefore fallible man becomes the authority over God’s revealed truth. We would expect non-believers to question the authority of God’s word, but if a professing believer lacks confidence in the Bible then double-mindedness is the result.
Christians understand from the Bible that there is a real enemy that prowls around seeking to devour and destroy; Satan. The Bible describes Satan as both extremely intelligent and sly. Undoubtedly he knew a frontal attack to discredit God’s word would likely not be very successful. A better strategy would be to concoct a plan that would unlock the gates from inside and allow doubt and strife to come pouring in. And it had to be an idea that would not cause obvious offense or attack the church’s perceived main tenants such as the cross, salvation etc. Something that would be attractive to man’s intellect but not trigger any alarms. An idea that would seem totally harmless and separate from theology so it would be quietly accepted.
The Trojan Horse of ‘deep time’
The attack came from a simple concept, deep time. In the late 1700s the idea of millions of years (MOY) started to be popularized in Western academia. This idea was not the result of radioisotope dating methods or distant starlight arguments etc (those came later as support the idea of MOY). Rather, it came through an interpretation of the sedimentary rock layers seen worldwide.
Images courtesy of Richard Gunther, gunther.net.nz
The concept was simple and easy to teach and understand. If a layer or two of strata in sedimentary rock were to have been laid down over the course of a year then it must have taken millions of years to lay down the rock layers observed around the world.
The idea of deep time did not seem offensive to many church leaders because it did not appear to attack the Lordship of Christ or have any connection to the morals and values the church espoused. And it was popularized by ‘men of science’, often upstanding citizens, some who seemed friendly to the church. And they espoused logical, sophisticated and technical methods that seemed very reasonable.
By and large the church accepted the concept of an old earth as intellectually and scientifically sound. As these ideas became more popular theologians started to figure out how to fit MOY into the Bible. After all, there were many clever and sophisticated ways that could be devised to allow MOY into biblical history. Gap Theory, Day Age Theory, Tranquil Flood, Genesis 1:11 as a localized creation etc. were all proposed as viable options for reinterpreting what the Bible seemed to plainly indicate … and the trap was sprung.
Unlocking the door
These people had failed to realize that in taking the bait of MOY of earth history VS the biblical account they had given up the concept of biblical authority. The gates of infallibility had been unlocked from within by the defenders of the faith themselves, and the doors had been pushed open allowing doubt to flood in.
Saying Scripture should be interpreted according to what scientists conclude about history conceded that ‘science’ (conclusions about history by fallible men based on naturalistic assumptions) had more authority than God’s word! Even though it was plain to see that Genesis (and the relevant supporting verses throughout the Bible) pointed to a recent creation and a young earth what they had announced is that the Bible was not the final authority (while simultaneously declaring it was). Publicly standing against the teaching of the Church Fathers and Reformers, who overwhelmingly believed Genesis declared the earth was young, declarations from ‘champions of biblical inerrancy’ like the following became common:
“It is of course admitted that, taking this account [Genesis] by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, [millions of years] and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.”1
In doing so what they were admitting is that beliefs from outside of Scripture should be used to interpret the Bible and that God’s word does not have to mean what it plainly says. Genesis 1–11 began to be looked upon as ‘an instructive story’ rather than true history. And this was quickly noticed and capitalized on by enemies of the church. As ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ Huxley said:
“If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive ‘type,’ comparable to the profound Promethean mythus, what value has Paul’s dialectic. And what about the authority of the writers of the books of the New Testament, who, on this theory, have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?”2
The Floodgates open…
Allowing for the earth’s age to be of vast antiquity, God’s fortress now fell victim to numerous assaults from without and dissent from within. If the fossil record with all of its recorded death and suffering occurred millions of years prior to Adam sinning then God must have used death to create! Therefore it couldn’t have been Adam’s sin that allowed death and suffering into the creation. What then was Jesus to save us from? How could a Christian answer why there was so much pain and suffering in the world if God was good and yet He used diseases like cancer to ‘create’? How do you determine which parts of the Bible are true?
God’s people had accepted an error that dates back to the Garden of Eden itself when Eve accepted Satan’s doubting words “… Did God really say …” (Genesis 3:1), and that the Apostle Paul also warned about when he said; “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
God’s enemies speak
One of the principle tools used in this strategy to undermine God’s word was a man by the name of Charles Lyell. Lyell was an anti-Christian lawyer who used arguments from geology to discredit the authority of Scripture. In his own words to friends and colleagues we can see he clearly understood the strategy (use an inoffensive and ‘scientific’ argument from geology to discredit the history in the Bible, therefore bringing the entire Bible’s teachings under suspicion). He said:
“I conceived the idea five or six years ago [1824–25], that if ever the Mosaic geology could be set down without giving offence, it would be in an historical sketch, and you must abstract mine, in order to have as little to say as possible yourself. Let them feel it, and point the moral.”3
He knew that there could be some resistance from the church but trusted that if he was careful not to cause offence and appeal to the intellectual aspects of his (now largely disregarded) geological ideas he could actually get help from those he was trying to undermine and use compromising clergy to accomplish his goal.
“If we don’t irritate, which I fear that we may (though mere history), we shall carry all with us. If you don’t triumph over them, but compliment the liberality and candour of the present age, the bishops and enlightened saints will join us in despising both the ancient and modern physico-theologians. It is just the time to strike, so rejoice that, sinner as you are, the Q.R. [a publication he was trying to get ideas into] is open to you.”4
Lyell’s concept of overthrowing the geological conclusions outlined in Moses’ writings in Genesis (regarding Noah’s Flood and a recent 6 day creation) was very successful and paved the way for Darwinian evolution. The Western World was forever changed. And while many Christians seem not to understand what happened, honest Bible skeptics admit the cause:
“… I myself have little doubt that in England it was [uniformitarian, long-ages] geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation.”5
Compromising God’s word with man’s fallible ideas does not help the cause of Christ. Lyell’s ideas of uniformitarian geology are widely dismissed as illegitimate by modern geologists and yet his faulty ideas were allowed to creep in virtually unchallenged into the stronghold of biblical authority. The watchmen should have identified that such ideas did not match up to God’s word and immediately sounded the alarm!
Rebuilding the walls
To rebuild the concept of biblical authority God’s people must first of all know what God’s word plainly says (read Scripture daily) and trust it. (Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding”.)
What we allow into our minds must be filtered by God’s word before we accept or reject it. (Romans 12:2 reminds us not to be conformed to this world, to be transformed by the renewal of your mind and to test and discern what is acceptable to God.) Then we will know if what someone says matches Scripture and be accepted or whether it should be rejected. In this way the foundation of our faith will be pure, strong and unwavering.
Not only are we not to accept man’s authority over God’s but we are to defend the authority of God’s word and attack concepts that try to come against it. 1 Peter 3:15 declares that Christian should always have a ready defense for their faith but that they should honor Christ in their hearts as Lord over all. In fact we should love the Lord with all of our heart, strength, soul and mind. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to “… destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.
Beware Greeks bearing gifts
The concept of millions of years has caused unimaginable damage to the fortress of infallibility. Many Christians simply want to fight against the ‘ills of society’ such as abortion, same-sex marriage etc. and think the age of the earth is a side issue. But if arguments against these social ills are to have any power they must have a source of authority. Abortion is wrong because all people are made in the image of God. Source of authority? Genesis! Homosexual relationships are wrong because God created marriage to be one man with one woman for life. Source of authority? Genesis! The root of these problems is a lack of biblical authority in our culture.
Christians cannot argue persuasively while standing on the sinking sand of a faulty foundation. So although we may grow weary of the battle (Hebrews 12:3), defenders of the faith must not grow fainthearted and give into the temptation of accepting easy-believing ‘gifts’ such as deep time, day-age theory, theistic evolution etc. Nor should we be intimidated by the seemingly unstoppable force at the gates.
The fall of Troy was easily preventable. Had the defenders simply not allowed in what they knew was not theirs to begin with their fortress would have stood tall. Deep time is a concept that atheism cannot exist without. All atheists must believe in some form of ‘self creation’ (evolution), and that evolutionary process must have happened over millions of years. Millions of years is a ‘die on the hill’ battle for atheism.
It does not however fit into biblical history, undermines biblical authority and actually destroys the purpose of Jesus’ coming. Believers should reject the concept because it is in opposition to God’s word.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” For many it is time to re-think the concept of millions of years. For more equipping in this vital area visit creation.com/qa#Geology.
References and notes
- Hodge, C., Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, pp. 570–571, 1997. Return to text.
- Thomas H. Huxley, Science And Hebrew Tradition Essays, 1897, pp. 207, 208. Return to text.
- From Mortenson, T., The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology—Before Darwin, Master Books, Inc., P.O. Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638, USA, 2004, pp. 226–227, citing Lyell, Katherine (Lyell’s sister-in-law), Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. (London: Murray, 1881), I:p. 268–271. Return to text.
- See reference 3. Return to text.
- F. Sherwood Taylor, ‘Geology changes the outlook’, in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, Sylvan Press Ltd, London, p. 195, 1949 (one of a series of talks broadcast on BBC radio). Return to text.