Apologist Matt Walsh makes a seriously uninformed attack on biblical creationism
Published: 25 October 2018 (GMT+10)
Well-known conservative blogger and apologist Matt Walsh just came out with a podcast that denounced biblical (or ‘young earth’) creation, and many of our supporters have brought it to our attention.1 It is always deeply frustrating and saddening when supposed prominent defenders of Christian moral values in the public sphere take compromising views on creation. We decided to respond directly to his podcast, with the purpose being to equip Christians to respond to the flawed arguments he put forward—especially since Walsh represents an otherwise respected voice in the evangelical Christian community at the moment. We also felt the need to respond because Mr. Walsh is a frequent speaker at homeschool conventions in the USA, where families expect to receive sound Christian instruction.
Listening to what Walsh has to say on the issue, there is one thing above all that stands out and cannot be ignored: Walsh has clearly never spent any quantity of time studying what the actual modern-day defenders of biblical creation have to say. He displays shocking ignorance of biblical creationism throughout the entirety of his podcast, and in many places is guilty of using strawman arguments which completely fail to engage with what biblical creationists actually believe (or the Bible itself, for that matter). This is unacceptable given the amount of information available today via the prominent creationist organizations that exist.
A Twitter-level understanding of the issues
Walsh complains that he has been involved in many arguments on Twitter with people on this issue. Unfortunately, it appears he did not extend himself much beyond that realm when trying to find out what reasons biblical creationists actually have for our position! It is no exaggeration to say that there is absolutely nothing in Walsh’s podcast which has not already been dealt with extensively in our publications (like Refuting Compromise and The Genesis Account).
The Genre of Genesis
He begins by stating that both sides (young and old-earthers) agree that not all the Bible must be taken strictly literally. He appeals to the parables of Jesus for an example of this. We would not disagree here. However, he quickly goes off the rails when he begins to state that Genesis need not be understood as part of a literal genre. He implies that it may be, like the book of Psalms, a book of poetry. Good Old Testament scholarship does not view Genesis as poetry; Genesis is a historical narrative.
The Hebrew use of the word ‘yôm’ (day)
Walsh argues that the Hebrew word for day need not always mean a literal 24-hour period. That’s true, but what about context? Walsh completely ignores the issue of context in his argument here, and follows in the footsteps of progressive creationist Hugh Ross by committing the fallacy of an unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic range. Just because a word can mean something in some other context does not mean it does in this particular context! Dr. Jonathan Sarfati writes,
When modified by a cardinal number (for example, one, two, three …) or ordinal number (for example, first, second, third …), as used 359 times in the OT outside Genesis 1, yôm always means a literal day of about 24 hours, or the light portion of the day-night cycle. This is true in narrative, legal writings, prophecy, wisdom literature, and even poetry. So there must be extraordinary reasons to justify an extraordinary exception, if Genesis 1 is indeed an exception.2,3
A long tradition of old earthism?
Walsh, again, just like Ross, makes the misleading claim that there is long tradition of Christians not interpreting the days of Genesis literally. While it’s true that there were some early church fathers that did not hold to literal 24-hour days, Walsh is flat out wrong when he implies these were old-earthers. As we have pointed out, these particular theologians were motivated by philosophical considerations to believe that 24-hour periods were too long! The truth is that belief in deep time has really only crept into Christianity as a result of an attempt to compromise with the prevailing secular viewpoint.
What about light before the sun?
Walsh attempts to make much of the fact that God created light on day 1 before the sun on day 4. He views this as a knock-down proof that these could not have been literal 24-hour periods, since that is defined by the earth’s rotation with respect to the sun. But this is, logically speaking, a complete non-sequitur. Is God somehow incapable of keeping track of time without the help of the physical sun? Is anything too hard for God? Since the grammar of the narrative is clear that these are regular, literal days, we have no reason not to take the first three days in the same sense as the rest! God is capable of dividing light from darkness and evening from morning even without the help of the physical sun. In Exodus 20:11, God specifically draws a parallel between his own work week (the creation week) and the work week of the nation of Israel. If God didn’t work for a literal week, then this comparison makes no sense.
Did Adam and Eve literally die?
Another argument brought forth is that God promised Adam and Eve that “in the day you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17). Walsh reasons that since they didn’t literally die that day, it must refer only to spiritual, not physical death, repeating another Hugh Ross argument. But the consequences of the Curse are clearly not merely spiritual, but physical as well. God curses the very ground for our sake. He introduced pain in childbirth as well as thorns and thistles in nature. Are those spiritual thorns and thistles? What would that even mean? He displays no awareness of the fact that the literal translation of the Hebrew there should read, “dying you shall die.” God was basically saying that the penalty for sin would be the loss of immortality; that the process of death would begin at that moment—not that the process of dying would be completed in one day. Walsh also ignores the difference in grammatical construction here: “in the day,” as opposed to “day one,” “day two,” etc.
A “day with the Lord …” lasts 1000 years??
Walsh predictably trots out the well-worn misapplication of 2 Peter 3:8, “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years…” He uses this to try to imply that God does not have to mean literal days when he uses the word ‘day’. But the full reading of the verse brings us back – a thousand years are like a day. This is synonymous parallelism. Peter is merely making a point about how God is not limited in his perspective of time as man is; but that has no bearing on the debate about how the Hebrew is to be interpreted in Genesis 1.4 It’s just a red herring.
A gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2?
Another argument that Walsh alludes to, but doesn’t fully flesh out in the podcast, is that there may be a gap of possibly billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. He is unaware that this argument is thoroughly refuted when scripture is allowed to interpret scripture. Jesus affirmed that God created mankind “from the beginning of creation” in Mark 10:6. How can we possibly insert a gap of billions of years before the creation of mankind when God made it clear we were here “from the beginning of creation”? Only by twisting scripture can one justify taking that approach.
Do we reject science?
Towards the end of the podcast, Walsh really puts his cards on the table. He unloads this whopper of an elephant-hurling5 statement: “In order to defend the 6-day creationist view, we must essentially reject the fields of modern astronomy, cosmology, geology and biology. We must declare that all but a very tiny fraction of experts in these fields are deluded fools … we must wage an all-out war on modern science.”1 Is that really true? Must we choose between science and the Bible? Walsh would have us believe that the science supporting old earth and evolutionary views is indisputable, but that is far from the case. What we have a problem with is not science, but rather the secular consensus views when it comes to the age of the earth and evolution. Walsh clearly shows that secular science is his authority, not Scripture that he is purportedly trying to defend.
The all-important distinction: Operational and Historical Science
As we have tried so many times to point out, there is a fundamental distinction to be made between operational and historical science; Walsh never displays the slightest awareness of this, however. He creates a false dichotomy: science or biblical creation. In reality, good science supports the Bible, and there are many scientific reasons, not only theological ones, to reject an old earth. Reasons like soft tissue being found preserved in dinosaur bones that are supposedly millions of years old, for example. We know from science that the soft tissues and proteins that are being found in these supposedly ancient specimens cannot last that long!
Walsh believes that distant starlight is an insurmountable problem for the young earth view, since obviously mathematics requires it! He doesn’t even attempt to engage with, or even show he knows about, any of the possible solutions that creationists have put forward to this conundrum. He also fails to mention that the Big Bang theory suffers from its own version of this same problem: the horizon problem.
Where did dino fossils come from?
He goes on to make a fleeting allusion in one statement to the question of how all the dinosaurs could have fit on the Ark. Even more shockingly, he seems to believe (spoken at around 35:00) that creation geologists think that dinosaur fossils are the remnants of the dinosaurs that survived the flood (rather than the ones killed by it)! He seems to have no understanding of the process of fossilization and how it requires catastrophic, watery conditions—exactly like what we would expect if there was a global flood as the Bible says.
A blatant strawman argument: the ‘deceptive god’
He attacks the strawman position that creationists believe God deceived us intentionally, in order to test our faith, by creating a universe that looks old (but is actually young). He actually refers to this as, “one of the most prominent explanations for a young earth.” Yet this is an anti-intellectual position that no informed creationist in modern times would ever put forth! In reality, there is a difference between God creating a deceptive appearance of age (which we do not believe) and God creating things with functional maturity.
Disappointingly, Walsh’s entire podcast on this topic comes off as a poorly-informed rant against a viewpoint he has never bothered to actually study. At no point does Walsh refer to the writings of any informed creationist, past or present. At no point does Walsh give even the slightest hint that he has taken the time to see what arguments informed creationists actually use, either scripturally or scientifically. This is why it is so important for people to get the word out about biblical creation, and get the works of creationists, like those of us here at CMI, into the hands of as many people as possible. If Walsh had been informed of the real evidence supporting biblical creation, then this disgraceful embarrassment of a podcast may never have happened.
We don’t want to seem overly negative here, but the point needs to be driven home: opponents of biblical creation are all too often guilty of this sort of ‘smear campaign’ tactic where our positions get mischaracterized and misunderstood. This rebuttal should not be interpreted as a personal attack against Mr. Walsh in any way, but we want to make faithful Christians aware of this challenge, and able to answer the sorts of questions that will be engendered by it, particularly as he is setting himself up as a teacher of God’s Word.
References and notes
- Walsh, M., Ep. 126 – Why I’m Not A Young Earth Creationist, dailywire.com, 18 October 2018. Return to text.
- See also: creation.com/semantic Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA., p.73. Return to text.
- See Ref. 2, pp. 86-87. Return to text.
- When a debater ‘hurls an elephant’ they mention an alleged huge quantity of evidence supporting their position without actually elaborating on any of it. Return to text.