10 answers from biblical creationists—Part 2
Published: 26 February 2019 (GMT+10)
Before reading what follows, we strongly advise readers first to have read our ‘Introduction’ and answers to the first 5 questions posed by Rev. Michael Roberts (Part 1).
6. Why do you assume that animal death only began to happen after Adam ate the fruit?
There is no assumption made here, rather the evidence of Scripture clearly teaches that death came about as a result of the Fall.
The theory goes that because no animals died before the fall, therefore the earth must be young. But Genesis 3 actually says nothing about animals and whether they only died after the fall. This has been read into Genesis. It comes from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and should not be part of Christian belief.
Firstly, it is not some “theory,” rather the record of biblical history and the theology based on that history, that teach death came after the Fall—because of the Curse placed upon the creation resulting from Adam’s sin. Genesis 1:30 clearly states that animals were herbivores before the Fall, not carnivores. Moreover, the first record of bloodshed was in relation to sin—God Himself clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins (Genesis 3:21), prefiguring the atonement of Christ with the shedding of His blood (Hebrews 9:22). The Apostle Paul’s theology is contingent upon the Bible’s history, recognizing that the spread of death to all mankind resulted from the sin of Adam. Not only humanity but all creation suffered from the effects of sin, including animals. In a chapter dealing with salvation from sin, Paul describes the whole creation as “groaning” and being “subjected to futility” and suffering under the “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–22).
Scripture itself indicates there was no death of the nephesh chayyāh creatures before the Fall. Michael Roberts claims that the belief that animals only died after the Fall should “not be part of Christian belief” (because it allegedly derives from the 1667 poem Paradise Lost by John Milton). Such thinking betrays a (wilful) ignorance of what the Church Fathers taught, based on Scripture, which is discussed below in response to Roberts’ next question. Indeed, Paradise Lost reflected the general belief of the church of the day, which undermines his assertion (next question) that our ‘young earth’ view is some recent invention.
7. Is young earth creationism the traditional Christian view?
‘Yes’, but the only quibble here is that 6,000 years is not considered ‘young’ from a Biblical perspective (see question 4, part 1). It is only young contrasted with the secular idea of billions of years. However, the traditional view is without doubt that the Earth’s age is only thousands of years.
The early Christians, right up to 1800, were not clear on the age of the earth as that depended on how literal they thought Genesis was and they had no geological evidence to guide them. Later, as geology began to show an old earth, most Christians accepted that as it did not affect Christian teaching. From 1850 onwards few Christians were young earth and it only came back in for some in the 1960s, with the coming of young earth creationism in Morris and Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood.
In Michael Roberts’ introduction he states, “for the last 2000 years most Christians have not believed in a young earth and it is only in the last half century that it has become a big issue for some Christians”.1
This is a blatant misrepresentation of Church history. Belief in a recent creation was the default historical position of the church from the first century right up until the era of Darwin. It is not overstating things to say that all the Church Fathers, like Augustine, believed in a recent creation less than 6,000 years ago.2 Others include Calvin, Basil, Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Panagiotes Nellas, Origen, and St Ambrose—who also taught Noah’s Flood was global. This has been commented on extensively, so there is no excuse for this kind of fictionalisation of history (see further, Orthodoxy and Genesis: What the fathers really taught, The early church believed Genesis as written).
The implication that belief in a recent creation is somehow a modern aberrant view is quite untenable. The idea that there was no “geological evidence to guide” Christians is contradicted by the fact that the scriptural geologists of the time (see next section) were men who possessed expert geological competence. However, they were ignored by the establishment (many of whom were deists), which followed the academic trend of Hutton and Lyell’s uniformitarianism.
Roberts’ final statement regarding biblical creationism being the minority view after 1850 is sadly correct (certainly among theologians and many scientists, although the Christian populace as a whole remained more faithful to the traditional historical view of Genesis). Consequently, we are thankful for the release of Morris and Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood in 1961 which helped revive the belief of many in the reliability of Scripture’s statements about Earth history, and helped kick-start the modern creation movement. But when it comes to ‘what everyone believes’, consensus science is not (good) science. The majority can be wrong—indeed, the history of science bears this out.
8. Were early geologists opposed to Christianity and did they use their geology to undermine belief?
No, some early geologists were biblical creationists and viewed geology through the lens of Scripture, as discussed below.
I once did a field trip with an atheist geologist and as we chatted he said that belief in an ancient earth leads to atheism. We argued and got nowhere! Yet when you read a history of geology you soon find many geologists were Christians, from Steno in 1680 up until today.
This question borders on the fallacy of generalization, as Roberts implies that all early geologists’ views were similar and that they rejected a ‘young earth’. Terry Mortenson, in his book The Great Turning Point,3 gives detailed descriptions of seven ‘Scriptural Geologists’ who objected to ‘old earth’ (deep time) theories (see also The 19th century scriptural geologists: historical background). However, in the time of Charles Darwin, the rapidly developing field of geology became divorced from Scripture. Subsequently, many early geologists (even some Christians) pursued secular uniformitarian thinking. Sadly, then, they “deliberately overlook[ed] this fact, that … the earth was formed out of water … by the word of God, and … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6).
Roberts recounts a personal conversation in which an atheist geologist said, “belief in an ancient earth leads to atheism”. While this is not always the case, the evolutionary thinking that accompanies deep time can lead to atheism. But belief in deep time is inconsistent with belief in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture—which has potentially dire consequences for Christians who compromise with such views. More importantly, when Roberts tried to dispute the atheist’s statement, he admits that they “got nowhere!” This is ironic, especially as Roberts tells us that we must believe in ‘billions of years’, because arguing for a 6,000-year-old Earth discourages unbelievers. Yet Richard Dawkins is a prime example of how a compromised view of Scripture fails to impress the atheist. Instead of being people-pleasers, should not Christians first seek to heed God’s Word and trust it? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We should ask ourselves, ‘when we stand before our Creator and Judge, what will matter most: to have been people-pleasers, or to have been God-pleasers?’
CMI affirms that a person can be a geologist and a Christian (albeit a creationist geologist would have a different worldview compared to that of a secular geologist). That’s why CMI employs staff who work, or have worked, in geology and related fields (and many other disciplines too). Robert’s mention of Steno is significant because Nicholas Steno—the father of geology—is a prime example of a geologist who was a Christian and held to a biblical understanding of Creation and the Flood as recorded in Genesis (i.e. literal, historic events). And he used this framework in his geological interpretations. This is something which Roberts fails to mention when invoking Steno’s name.
9. Did Christians oppose old earth geology in the past?
Some certainly did, as mentioned under question 8.
From my superficial reading of science books and on religion and science I thought Christians opposed geology. But I changed my mind as I did a historical study. Over several decades I have researched this question and read old theology books, journals, books by the hundred. I had to change my mind. I found that in the 17th Century Christians believed in a youngish earth as there was little geology to guide them. As geology was studied more in the 18th century more and more educated Christians realised the earth was ancient. Most Christians, often after study, concluded the earth was ancient. Very few Christians opposed geology for the last few centuries.
Christians who are committed to belief in Genesis 1–11 as historical continue to oppose ‘old earth’ geology for sound scientific reasons, as many of our articles testify. However, this must not be confused with opposing geology per se, or science in general for that matter. Roberts says, “in the 17th century Christians believed in a youngish earth as there was little geology to guide them”. We must ask ourselves why, historically, Christians believed in a young earth? Was it really from an ignorance of earth science? No, it was due to the straightforward teaching of Scripture—recorded history. Roberts shows his hand here, in that he obviously believes that the majority view of modern science trumps this straightforward narrative (and thus, biblical authority), as indicated above. We must remember though, that science is practised by fallible scientists, who live in a fallen world. Empirical science is repeatable and observable (in different places by different people), and with this there is no argument between those who believe the Bible and those who don’t. But, as we saw with question 4, interpretations about the unobserved past strongly depend on the worldview one adheres to. A logical outcome of uniformitarian doctrine, ‘the present is the key to the past’, is a denial of the biblical doctrines of Creation and the global Flood.
Michael Roberts insinuates that biblical creationists are uneducated and that they are against science. We have already shown this to be far from true regarding CMI’s speakers (well over forty at the time of writing, including many with PhDs from science backgrounds).
10. Why do you claim that so many geologists in the last 350 years got their geology wrong?
We are not sure where Michael Roberts gets his figures “250 years” (under question 2) and here, “350 years”? In the former case, we assume he is referring to the publication of James Hutton’s 1788 Theory of the Earth (230 years ago). Hutton’s publication was a philosophical imposition upon the rocks. It was not based on extensive field observation over many years but upon an unwarranted extrapolation into the past. This uniformitarian approach followed from his a priori naturalism which, after the promotion of Hutton’s work by Charles Lyell, became the ruling paradigm through which geology has been interpreted ever since. Ultimately it comes down to a matter of authority. Both Hutton and Lyell were anti-Bible deists (who were influenced by Masonic belief). They did not ‘read the rocks’, but set out to undo the Bible’s historical credibility, which was accepted at the time of Hutton. Their aim was achieved by subterfuge.
I don’t know how many geologists have studied rocks and the strata in the last 350 years. Today there are 12,000 fellows of the Geological society of London and so there must be over 100,000 qualified geologists in the world. And all except for 20-30 “young earth” geologists accept the vast age of the earth.
Undoubtedly geologists make mistakes today and did so in the past. I can give a dozen examples from Charles Darwin alone. But his and other geologists’ mistakes are minor. So far no young earther has given an argument against geological time which has any validity.
It is important to note that entering numbers into a wrong equation, no matter how skilled the mathematician, always results in a wrong answer. In the same way, biblical creationists do not question the abilities of secular geologists, but we do challenge the paradigm in which they operate (the ‘wrong equation’), which will always produce the wrong answer. It is safe to say that all secular geologists believe the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. As we have seen, this ‘age’ is read into the Bible, not read out of it. It doesn’t matter how many geologists do the maths, the wrong equation will always produce the wrong answer.
More importantly, if Roberts is right to imply that the majority are always right, why did Jesus say, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14)? As we have already made clear, truth is not determined by consensus. Roberts admits, “geologists make mistakes today and did so in the past”—precisely, so we should question them. Many scientists of their day (and many of their followers) were convinced they were correct on some matter or other, only later to be forced to change their story to fit new facts. Assuming that the majority of geologists are not Bible-believers, it is foolish council to take their word over that of Jesus (e.g. Mark 10:6). But if secular geologists are correct, then humans evolved only recently. Billions of years elapsed (so they claim) before mankind arrived on the scene, so which timeline is true? What is your final authority—God’s Word, or man’s word? (see the diagram below).
Roberts’ last unsubstantiated statement, “no young earther has given an argument against geological time which has any validity”, means one of two things:
- Roberts has not read the geology articles (see in particular the age of the earth article) on CMI’s website (or other creationist websites), because there is abundant and growing evidence for the Bible’s true history, or
- He has rejected the validity of all such articles because they contradict his long-age worldview (‘don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up’).
He certainly cannot claim ignorance of these and other biblical creationist publications as his article clearly indicates that he is aware of such ministries and their views. This being the case, one has to question both his geological judgment and his biblical interpretation. Readers of the Premier Christianity article are being taken for a ride, asked to believe the majority of geologists (including Roberts himself) even though they clearly contradict the Bible.
The main thrust of Michael Roberts’ article (which occasioned part 1 and part 2 of this response) is based on two underlying points:
- Scientists now understand things better than they did in the past and this time they’ve got it right.
- The majority of people think that the Earth is billions of years old—and the majority are correct. They do so, allegedly, because of the increase of available information.
Unfortunately, such compromised thinking places death and suffering long before man ‘evolved’,4 contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible and the words of Jesus Christ. The hope of the Gospel entails that, when the Lord comes to make a new heaven and earth, He will do so supernaturally, and will not use a process involving billions of years of death and suffering.5
Roberts has posed 10 questions for ‘young earth creationists’. Having answered these questions, (with numerous links to CMI’s articles),6 it is up to the reader to investigate further. Jesus said: “everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:10). An increase in knowledge does not automatically mean greater wisdom. Rather, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). The interpretations of fallible people with ever-changing ideas can never provide a sure foundation upon which to build one’s life, but God’s Word, which never changes, provides the only sure foundation upon which to build.
References and notes
- Unwittingly, he contradicts himself. Under question 7 he says, “early Christians, right up to the 1800s, were not clear on the age of the earth as that depended on how literal they thought Genesis was and they had no geological evidence to guide them. Later, as geology began to show an old earth, most Christians accepted that …” Return to text.
- Where some of them argued against literal creation days, it was to argue for instantaneous creation and not for the incorporation of vast amounts of time; see creation.com/instantaneous-creation, 19 December 2015. Return to text.
- Mortenson, T., The Great Turning Point: The church’s catastrophic mistake on geology – before Darwin, Master Books, Green Forest, Arizona, p. 55, 2004. Return to text.
- And the same applies to other ‘old earth’ compromises, even where human evolution is denied—e.g. progressive creationism. Return to text.
- See ‘All restored … but to what?’, chapter 10 of Bell, P., Evolution and the Christian Faith: Theistic evolution in the light of Scripture, Day One Publications, 2018, pp. 218–239. Return to text.
- Creation.com now features more than 11,000 articles on various topics, including geology and the age of the earth. Return to text.