Evidence for young-earth creationism
How to build a case for biblical creation
Published: 15 February 2015 (GMT+10)
Why believe in a young earth? In many ways it can be easier to argue against evolution and deep time than it can be to present evidence for biblical creation. And there are so many misconceptions of what biblical creation is, and there are so many spurious arguments floating around both for and against it, that it can be hard to know where to begin.
And like all forms of apologetics, building a case for biblical creation is not a ‘one size fits all’ task. We need to understand our audience and the specific concerns they have, and tailor our presentation towards that audience. For instance, addressing a room full of atheistic biologists requires a very different approach from dealing with a church audience. Nonetheless, there are several major points that will feature, in some form or another, in most presentations of a case for biblical creation.
1. Cut through the buzzwords to the heart of the debate
What I mean by this is that there are a lot of popular buzzwords used in the origins debate that tend to confuse and quash dialogue rather than clarify and cultivate it—words like ‘science’, ‘creationism’, ‘evolution’, ‘religion’, and others. For instance, when many people hear that someone is a ‘creationist’, they are automatically perceived as a crazy religious fundamentalist completely out of touch with reality; and when someone says ‘evolution is science’, what they actually mean is that ‘microbes-to-man evolution is true’, but using the word ‘science’ instead of ‘true’ implies not just that evolution is true, but that anyone who disagrees has no right to avail themselves of the benefits of the scientific enterprise, such as computers and medicine. Christians do it too: ‘evolution’ is a dirty word among many Christians, and it implies worldliness, immorality, and everything bad about the modern world. At this point I’m not saying whether any of these connotations is true or not; even if they are, they tend to distract from what the basic disagreements in the origins debate actually are.
So, why is there even a debate at all? For a debate, there must be a disagreement, which occurs when people offer contradictory answers to the same questions. Does that happen in the origins debate? Yes. For instance, evolutionists claim that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and biblical creationists claim that the universe is only 6,000 years old. Clearly there is far more to both ideas, but we can already see that they both address at least one question in common—‘how old is the universe?’ Moreover, the answers each perspective gives to the question clearly contradict each other—they give different answers to the same question. As such, either one is true and the other is false, or both are false (though that’s not really a live consideration). It’s important to go through this to establish that the so-called ‘religious’ claims of biblical creation are claims about the real world, and not something that skeptics can write off as irrelevant to the real world. Even if our answer to the question is wrong (though I certainly don't think we are!), we are providing an answer to the same question about the real world that evolution/deep time claims to answer. For more information see ‘It’s not science’, ‘Evolution is science, but creationism is religion’, Creationists are ‘liars’(?), and Skeptical tactic for shutting down debates.
2. Establish why we are biblical creationists independent of the origins debate
This one probably sounds a bit weird because biblical creation is an important logical foundation for the gospel. However, one does not need to know anything about the origins debate to know Christ (which is also why, despite the grave dangers of not believing in a historical Genesis, people don’t have to believe in a historical Genesis to be saved). What matters for establishing the truth of the Gospel is that there is one true God, that Jesus’ really did claim to be the embodiment of the one true God sent to save sinners by dying for them, and that his claims were vindicated by God the Father when He raised Jesus from the dead (on which please also see Christianity for Skeptics, especially chapter 4: “Is Jesus truly God?”).
Once we’ve established these basics of the gospel, we can move from there to the truth of biblical creation, since biblical creation is a logical deduction from the gospel. Since we’ve already shown that Jesus is God the Word incarnate, it follows that His teaching is completely trustworthy. Therefore, whatever He teaches (especially during His messianic ministry) relevant to the creation/evolution debate is authoritative. So, does Christ address the origins debate? He does. The article Jesus on the age of the earth shows that Jesus clearly taught that Adam and Eve were made from the beginning of creation—i.e. humans have been around since essentially the start of history. Jesus also taught that the Bible as a whole is perfectly trustworthy: Jesus Christ on the Infallibility of Scripture. Jesus’ teaching establishes the validity of using the Bible as a constraint in our reconstructions of the past, i.e. biblical creationism, and He also affirms crucial points that show the Bible teaches that the universe is currently about 6,000 years old. Our resources Jesus Christ: Our Intelligent Designer and Genesis & the Gospel Connection DVD address this as well.
Nevertheless, we should also establish that the universe is approximately 6,000 years old exegetically, i.e. from what the Bible itself says, which strengthens our biblical case. After all, there are many people who say it doesn’t, and they say that the Bible (and Jesus) when properly interpreted does not contradict evolution and deep time. So what does Scripture convey about the age of the world, if anything? When we look into this we see that the Scriptures are clear; the Bible does not accommodate evolution and deep time, and clearly and consistently asserts that the world is about 6,000 years old. See e.g. 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, Refuting Compromise, Creation Without Compromise, Creation, Fall, Restoration, and these articles: How does the Bible teach 6,000 years?, Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history, Jesus on the age of the earth, Did God create over billions of years?, Should Genesis be taken literally? and The use of Genesis in the New Testament (and for article hubs addressing these questions, please see Genesis Questions and Answers and Genesis Verse-by-Verse).
3. Outline how to properly interpret the physical evidence to reconstruct the past
You’ll notice that I haven’t really addressed the specific claims of the evolution/deep time view yet, except the (typically Christian) claim that the Bible is compatible with it. The argument thus far has implicitly argued against non-Christian views by establishing Christianity first, and then biblical creationism on that basis. Why? It’s a flanking exercise—it avoids us getting bogged down in technical scientific details before we have to. But now I would begin to address myself more directly to the evolutionary view, though not yet to its specific empirical claims. Rather, I would address the axioms of the evolutionary framework first. Essentially, the aim is to establish both the reasonableness of using the Bible as the primary constraint on how we interpret the physical evidence to reconstruct the past, and why the evolutionary framework fails to provide a coherent framework for historical investigation. On this, please see Rocks Aren’t Clocks, Evolution’s Achilles’s Heels (and the corresponding DVD), as well as these articles Deep time doesn’t make sense!, CSI and evolution, CSI … and CMI, Cuvier’s analogy and its consequences, The Parable of the Candle, Biblical history and the role of science, ‘The dingo’s got my baby!’, What distinguishes origins and operational science? and Same data, different interpretations?
4. Answer empirical objections to biblical creation
Of course, it may now seem like biblical creation looks good on paper, but then we still remember that there are all these empirical arguments against biblical creation that people find so convincing. And given how prevalent objections to biblical creation are, that’s not surprising. Our culture thinks automatically in ‘deep time’ terms; it’s a part of our mental furniture (see also The earth: how old does it look? and The wrong glasses). Since there are so many criticisms, it might help to group them.
First, there are the ‘scientific process’ objections; i.e. the evidence supposedly suggests that certain physical processes have been occurring for much longer than the biblical timeframe allows for. Issues such as radiometric dating, rock formation, fossil formation, and distant starlight are probably the most common objections along this line of reasoning.
The second are what we might call ‘situational’ objections, where the physical data supposedly exhibits patterns that cannot reasonably be explained in the biblical creationist framework. The most common issues along this line of thinking are evolutionary homology (both in genetics and the fossils), fossil succession, and interpretations of how certain rock formations formed (i.e. they supposedly formed in situations foreign to any biblical scenario, especially Noah’s Flood—Rock Solid Answers is a good resource for addressing these issues).
A third type of argument seeks to undermine the coherence of the Genesis narrative. The most common ones include ‘Where did Cain get his wife?’, questioning the feasibility of Noah’s Ark, and the origin of structures in biology that look designed to harm (e.g. pathogens, parasites, and predators). The links I’ve provided offer answers to these issues, and many of these issues are addressed in our Creation Answers Book.
5. Provide some empirical arguments for biblical creation
Some would think it would seem more logical to finish with objections to biblical creation (which I dealt with in the previous section) rather than the empirical case for biblical creation. Personally, I think not, for several reasons. First, objections to biblical creation are so widely-spread that leaving them till last seems to be a copout. It’s better to get them out of the way because they’re so well known, and it ‘clears the ground’ for the positive case. Second, people don’t expect there to be empirical arguments for biblical creation, so it provides an unexpected and thus potent punchline to the argument. Third, this is meant to be an argument for biblical creation, not an argument against evolution/deep time.
So, what evidence for biblical creation is there that isn’t easily explained in the evolutionary framework? As far as the age question is concerned, the article Age of the earth is a one-stop shop for empirical arguments for the biblical timeframe; it outlines 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe, and provides links to articles on all of them. Some of the ones I find most powerful are numbers 3 (genetic entropy), 7 (soft tissue in dino bones), 49 (the decay of the earth’s magnetic field), 51–54 (carbon-14 in coal/oil/diamonds (also dino bones, but not mentioned)), 59–60 (helium diffusion in zircons), 83 (the existence of short-period comets), and 89 (the faint young sun paradox). The other type of evidence concerns the size and geographical extent of many rock formations: they are far too big to be explained by processes we see occurring today, and speak of a global watery cataclysm (e.g. Sedimentary blankets and Massive erosion of continents demonstrates Flood runoff).
So there you have it; an outline of how to present an argument for biblical creation. Always remember: we have far more resources at our disposal to expose the error of deep time and proclaim the truth of biblical creation than just ‘science’. Therefore, draw heavily on the Bible, theology, and philosophy to establish your case—they are friends of the biblical creationist when they are properly used. But of course, science is our friend too … when properly interpreted.
Another well presented article, particularly in the skilful use of links.
This is an excellent aid for speaking on creation. I commend you for it; however, why put in the sentence, "Even if our answer to the question is wrong, we are providing an answer to the same question about the real world that evolution/deep time claims to answer. "? I don't see that it adds anything positive and were I an evolutionist in a debate, I would quote that sentence verbatim and say, "See, these guys don't care whether they are right or not; they just want to confuse the issue by bringing up some "crazy religious fundamentalist" fantasy. No wonder some scientists won't debate a creationist."
Thank you for the compliments on the article. With regard to the comment, if a skeptic said that, they would be demonstrating a very poor grasp of the rhetorical function of the sentence. The "even if we're wrong" part of the sentence is a way to get around the common "but biblical creation is nonsense!" response because it shows that the objection misses the point. I've now added in parentheses "but I certainly don't think we are!", which should hopefully reduce the possibility of that confusion.
One objection that I come across often would fit under - 4. Answer empirical objections to biblical creation - and that is the Historical validation for Jesus. Mainly "outside of the Bible". Given that people are so reliant on the internet with such a wealth of knowledge and instant 'now' news, the notion that the events surrounding His birth, life and death would be not 'world wide' headlines are not found left, right and centre is hard for some to grasp. CMI have the info; I share it near daily. People just need to *look* properly and make good use of their abilities to logically and critically think about the 'facts' and not the interpretation methods.
Thank you for this article!
On which please see Copycat copout: Jesus was not made up from pagan myths and Was Christianity plagiarized from pagan myths?
Appreciated your article Shaun, and I have been studying it (and will linely use at least some of the references). What may also often be a 'buzzword' is a misunderstanding on what 'proof' means:
'Proof' in Science (and Mathematics) is usually proving that a hypothesis, or even theory, is wrong. There is so much proof today against what evolutionists are claiming is true that pantheism is being adopted instead of evolution. Archeologist have also found lots of evidence proving many historical accounts in the Bible (and disproving the criticisms of the Bible by the (so-called) German School Of Higher Criticism). So, when you have evidence like rocks from Mt. St. Helens, and hydrogen from zircon crystals, they disprove the evolutionary dating method and (as stated in the article) provide emperical evidence for what the Bible says about creation. So, when you have two competing ideas, and one is proved wrong, the other one is considered more viable (the third option in this case is Pantheism).
I fully agree that ("despite the grave dangers") "one does not need to know anything about the origins debate" to develop a relationship with God (a longing for God—Deut 6:5). Such ignorance of what the Bible says about it is true even among devout Christians (even some scientist, pastors, and theologians who believe in creation do not hold to the scripture that humans reproduce only after their own kind—Acts 17:26).
But even if such a person is willing to consider God (&/or Christianity) we must be careful not to be critical of him (even if he believes humans are simply a humanoid species). Before addressing that we need to help him develop a relationship with God. Then, if he has problems with what the Bible says about creation, we can address that.
You may find it interesting to know that I actually became a biblical creationist before I became a Christian. I thought the Bible was wrong on basic history, so I thought it was irrelevant for my spiritual needs, and Genesis was the major issue for me. It was only when that issue was settled that I felt intellectually honest in giving Christianity a fair hearing. I'm a fairly rare breed in that regard, but it does show that addressing biblical creation in an evangelistic context can be helpful.