What is your authority?
Christians who invoke millions of years cannot make their arguments from the biblical texts.
Published: 1 August 2013 (GMT+10)
First appeared in a CMI newsletter.
Is the age of the earth an important issue, really?
Pastors often love CMI speakers to take questions as part of our ministry program at their churches. These often flush out the discordant views of some members, surprising the pastors.
Q & A sessions are not always easy for our speakers. We don’t know what’s coming, or whether rabid anticreationists, some with scientific qualifications, are attending, intent on demonstrating the ‘ignorance’ of the visiting creationist. In the hot seat, we now have to be instant ‘experts’ in paleontology, biology, geology, cosmology and even theology. Of course, no one is an expert in all fields, but we do our best to show there are answers!
Sadly, the most hostile audience members are usually Christians agitated by our ‘young-earth’ (biblical) presentation. I’ve come to realize this is because they believe they’ve sorted out the apparent conflict between ‘science’ and the Bible years ago by adding the millions of years somewhere in Genesis. So, who are we to ‘rock their boat?’
Not long ago after the main presentation in a church, we opened the floor for questions. A middle-aged man bolted up (his look of disdain immediately told me I was about to be in the firing line), and sure enough, openly expressed disappointment at my “narrow” view of Scripture. It went something like this.
Questioner: “N. G. [name omitted] is a great apologist. His books are required reading in many seminaries. He has no problem with a billions-of-years-old earth. Who are you to say he is wrong?” [Now please note here that despite his public put-down of my own seeming lack of credentials, he was ‘inviting’ me to criticize another Christian. If I did, it could cause others to lose focus on the question.]
Me: “I agree that he is a good apologist. But I think you could actually answer the question for me. For instance, could you show me anywhere in Scripture, if I read it at face value, where I can read the term millions or billions of years? Or, even get the impression—just from Scripture—that the universe or the earth is that old?’
Me: “So, the idea of some ancient Earth is not derived from Scripture then? Is that correct?”
Qu: “I suppose.”
Me: “So, even though Mr N. G. can be very good in other areas of apologetics, and can even claim that the Bible is his sole authority; when it comes to deciding the age of the earth, he did not derive his ideas from the Bible, but from outside it. And most importantly, those old age ideas came from people who are not Christians to start with, and are trying to explain the universe without God. Respectfully then, on this issue the Bible was not his authority, and if any Christian says that the universe is billions of years old, then the same applies to them.” [The man sat down as he realized what he had just done].
The age of the earth is not the issue!
The point I am trying to make here is that most people don’t realize what authority they accept when they do this. Many Christians wrongly believe there is overwhelming evidence to prove the earth is old. One of our main goals during presentations is to show that operational science cannot give us ages of things such as fossils or rocks. The ages are derived from interpretations of facts based on beliefs about such things. The lights go on when people realize how they’ve misunderstood this all along.
The real issue for Christians is about the authority of God’s Word. In other words, “Did God really say?” (Sound familiar?) Doubting the Bible’s history in Genesis causes many to reject the Christian faith entirely. One of the most famous apostates was a preaching contemporary of Billy Graham, the famed evangelist Charles Templeton. He died a few years ago, publicly rejecting his former belief in a Savior. And the reason? He’d been taught (like most people) that the fossil record was proof of millions of years of evolutionary history on Earth. He knew that Genesis was foundational to the entrance of sin and death into the world, and saw it as being undermined if there were eons of death before Adam. If only he had been exposed to solid creation teaching that showed the fossil record could be explained as an order of burial from Noah’s Flood. What a tragedy!
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)
We’ve belabored the awful statistics of our Christian youth going down the same road as Templeton, and for the very same reasons. CMI exists to provide information to ‘stop the rot’. So, please think of someone you know who needs to hear this information, ask to have a creation presentation at your church, or support CMI through prayer or financial means to enable us to keep producing information. It only takes a little effort to be involved.
You say in the article," And most importantly, those old age ideas came from people who are not Christians to start with, and are trying to explain the universe without God." This is false. Christian Geologists from the 19th century such as Charles Lyell and William Buckland were convinced from the physical evidence that the earth could not be merely thousands of years old but had to be much more ancient. In fact flood geology was debunked in the 19th by christian geologists trying to find evidence of the flood! They were convinced that the physical features of the earth could not be explained by a flood and only made sense if the earth was very ancient.
Alex, you need to get your facts straight. And it is certainly not the first time you have attempted to 'correct' our articles by asserting 'facts' that you are blatantly wrong about. Why is there a seeming desperate attempt to align oneself with a godless philosophy or materialism that provides no ultimate meaning and purpose to one's existence. I note that in the past you have attempted to prop up the evolutionary scenarios of the big bang and the millions of years ascribed to the age of dinsosaurs (soft tissue and DNA in dino bones anyone?).
Perhaps watching our documentary The Voyage that Shook the World would enlighten you as it interviews Darwinists from around the world who would actually agree with my article comments. I.e that all of earth's history must be explained using currently operating processes. Therefore a Flood is rejected on a philosophical basis, not a scientific one.
And just because someone calls themselves a Christian it does not necessary mean that they hold a Christian worldview, which, I would argue is based upon believing the authority of Scripture (the very point this article is about). Lyell wrote that one of his aims was to 'free the sciences from Moses'. So, respectfully your accusation of falsehood is undermined by his single statement alone. It reveals that it was not the 'physical evidence' that spoke to him, but a need to interpret the physcial evidence in terms of naturalism. This was likely due to the times in which he was living. The enlightenment in Western Europe was taking hold and it's main aim was to defer to naturalistic processes. BTW when it comes to interpreting evidence to determine the past, the evidence (or more correctly, facts) rarely speaks for itself. You would do well to avail yourself of a greater understanding of the limits of 'science' when determing the past. Please read It's not science!. Also, if one truly understands how geology is interpreted I cannot see how anyone (if being honest) could say that the evidence fits a long age scenario better than it does a global Flood. Most of the early geologists were creation, Flood geologists. It was Hutton and Lyell who consciously made a move away from that direction. Several aspects of what we actual DO KNOW from observing modern geological events would have to be violated to defer to long age scenarios including the very formation of stratum.
We have a multi part series on our site called The 19th century Scriptural geologists (note: the link here is just the introduction) and as you will see if you take the time, they were not in short supply! Also, I recommend reading Where the idea of billions of years came from.
Unless you provide some solid reasoning for any future comments it is unlikely we will be posting them. Just pointing out that you are wrong (factually) is not a good use of anyone's time.
I have read many different interpretations of the first chapter of Genesis. Some biblical expositors present their understanding of the creation story in very dogmatic terms, almost as if to say that anyone who rejects their particular interpretation cannot be a true Christian. I believe a well thought out understanding of creation is very important to our spiritual maturity, but I do not believe God will say, “I never knew you”, if our understanding of this transcendent subject is somewhat fuzzy. As an engineer, I am not necessarily equipped to delve into some of the questions arising from God’s description of His work in the first and second Chapters of Genesis, but I can document the understanding I have gained from reading God’s Word with an open mind, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts in accordance with 1 Corinthians 2:9-13. That is what is presented herein.
I. The Beginning
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved [was brooding] upon the face of the waters.” (Ge. 1:1,2)
This passage of scripture has been used by some Bible expositors to argue for an earlier creation in which Lucifer (later Satan) was king and ruler. In my understanding of this interpretation, God destroyed this creation after Lucifer became prideful, stating that “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Is. 14:14). Lucifer was then supposedly cast from heaven. His kingdom was destroyed at that time; thus, the first created earth was left without form and void, as described in Genesis 1:2.
An earlier creation has also been postulated based on the use of the word “replenish” in Gen. 1:28. It is argued that this w
Jesse, It would be helpfut to us, but most of all you, if you had bothered to search our site for answers before postulating what you think is some sort of reasonable explanation to fit millions of years into Scripture somewhere. For example, typing in the word 'replenish' would have revealed several articles where this fallacious claim has been dealt with. See What does 'replenish the earth mean?', and Genesis 1:28, replenish. However, please reread the original article carefully because you are falling into exactly the same trap as the example I showed. Your ideas are not found in Scripture. You are inserting ideas into Scripture to fit in a secular idea of millions of years. Moreover, your view (probably unwittingly on your part) inserts millions of years of death before the Fall. Please, as a matter of priority aquaint yourself with Did God create over billions of years? to understand why this destroys the Gospel.
The formulation of the question asks whether millions or billions appears in the Bible. I'm not even sure that the Hebrew language contains numbers that go that high. But let us ask the companion question: Where does it say how old the Earth is in scripture? Answer: Nowhere.
Weston Fields has done some good work on analyzing Genesis 1:1-1:2, but his conclusion is wrong. He states that there is no "gap" between 1:1 and 1:2. Therefore the Gap Theory fails. But therefore, also, standard Young Earth theory fails. That's because 1:2 describes conditions Extant at the same Time as 1:1. But Gen. 1:2 described an Earth where Space was in existence, Time existed (space plus distance equals velocity, and the Spirit was "moving" across the waters, Gravity existed (the Spirit was moving "above" the "Surface" of the waters; you don't have a surface and a direction unless you have gravity), gravity implies Mass. The oceans existed, literally "the waters", just not dry land ("the earth"). But water without energy is just ice. The text doesn't say ice, it says waters. Therefore, energy existed. Space plus time plus matter plus energy is all you really need to define a pre-existing universe that would already be fully in place prior to the first day of creation in Genesis 1:3. This IS the literal interpretation.
It's interesting how dogmatic you are in your claims, but it reveals to me, and lots of other readers, a considerable gap in your understanding in significant areas. Actually, an age or date of creation can be calculated with reasonable accuracy, but looking at the genealogies in Scripture. To say otherwise, is respectfully rather ignorant of the weight of study on this subject (search this site for lots of information on this). James Ussher was able to calculate a date several hundreds of years ago. Plus he had access to a lot more historical records than we have today because they have been lost. See How precise is the Bible about the date of creation. Secondly, you seemed to be oblivious to the point of the article you commented on, because you are doing exactly what I highlighted using the example. And that was bringing in fanciful ideas to insert whatever it is you were trying to prove, into Scripture. (And after reading your 'creation account' several times I still cannot fathom the point of your mini thesis). This is known as eisegesis which is exactly what people have to do when they want to insert millions of years into Scripture or some other exotic notion that does not come from Scripture. What's worse is that you then claim this is some sort of 'literal' interpretation. Do you actually understand where the very concept of an old earth comes from? It is based on a faulty interpretation of the earth's geology. Please read Why long ages violates the Gospel.
Part of the 'problem' is that many Christians would think that the age of the earth is a non question theologically. And this goes beyond their view of the Bible, I think, to the heart of their theology; and that is a pagan heart: that God is detached from the material-ness of his creation (thus denying one of the big messages of Genesis 1) and operates only in spiritual terms. But he created a material creation, and thus the material questions are important as the setting of our relationship with God. The point of the age of the earth is similar to the point of the genealogies: they show relationship and connection with history and ultimately with God's loving act of creation. Inserting vast periods dislocates this and has the effect of sending God into a pure 'god-space' and takes the edge of the change his Spirit makes in our every day lives lived in this material world.
What about the chalk cliffs of Dover,England? Would't they take longer than six thousand years to form?
The issue is not how long they would take to form but how could they last millions or even tens of thousands of years? I encourage you to use the search engine on our site for specifice questions. Typing in 'cliifs of dover' would have provided several articles including Vanishing coastlines and Can Flood geology explain thick chalk beds?.
Whether or not the believer in evolution is a Christian or not, their belief is philosophically based, not scientific. Their belief, in essence, is no different than that of the creationist. Any insistence on it being scientifically based can easily be dispelled, as CMI so frequently demonstrates. The "millions" or "billions" of years claims are at best a fine example of the presumptuous arrogance of man and who wants to stand accused, even a non-Christian, of being arrogant? The incident in church Gary relates demonstrates the concern we should have for being loving without any compromise. It occurs to me, however, that while the biblical response may work with a Christian (but not always I've learned from experience) the philosophical aspects (spiritual and moral) of who we are as individuals can be just as effective with the non-Christian as any scientific argument. Kindness, gentleness, humility, generosity, etc., cannot be explained by the evolution model. Nor can their reality be denied by the evolutionist. So where did this spiritual aspect of man come from? That's a good question for us to leave the non-creationist to chew on. It is not for us, necessarily, to convince or persuade or "win" the debate always. We just need to be willing to plant a seed in that spot of good soil that may remain in another's heart. "One plants, one waters, and one harvests."
Gary,about the last part. Your tips are helpful but,I feel as though no matter,how strong of an argument we make against evolution and atheism,alot of people still believe it. I get frustrated because i just think many people just do not want there to be a god rather then at least listening to what you and this site has to offer.
James, of course. The problem is ultimately a spiritual one. many people don't want there to be a God. the issue is not really about science. Being born sinners our natural born inclination is hostility to God. Evolution provides a great justification for ignoring Him and living our lives as if He does not exist--commonly called sin.
The question should have been: Can our ideas of science completely change with new information? The answer as I have stated it is no.
I like to thank you for claiming that I know nothing about the boundaries of science, having actually worked in science for the last 20 years or so.
It's a shame you have taken this approach in your response. Your statement doesn't make sense unless you define what you mean by science. You are arguing from authority because it appears you did not bother to read the article I sent you. But for example, if you mean evolution or any view of origins as science, can our ideas change? The big bang is nothing like the idea of the big bang 20 years ago, and there are multiple versions of the big bang going around today. Which one is scientitific or more scientific than the other? Not so long ago 'scientists' believed in spontaneous generation. New information changed that view. So, respectfully, the argument as you have stated it is not correct. New information in the field of genetics has revolutionized our understanding of the cell. That most certainly would have changed Darwin's ideas about biological 'science'. But if you mean empirical or operational science, then that is different. But in applying your statement to that idea of trype of science, it is still hard to grasp what you mean.
In reality, there is no authority in science, everything is up for scrutiny and examination. However having said that is can everything completely change in our knowledge of science? The answer to that question is a clear no, Why is this the case? Science is an approximation to how the universe behaves, and so it can only ever become more accurate. Experts in their field are the closest things in science to authorities, they can be wrong but the probability is that they are correct more times than not and that is why we take the word of an expert in the field over someone in the street with an opinion.
Dr M., you mistyped your question but I think you were asking if anything can change our knowledge of science. But that is a very broad brush to use when trying to define what science is. We would like to think of it as the empirical, testable method and we fail to see how making tests or measurements of things can change from one day to the next. I think you might be misunderstanding the limitations of science. Can I ask you to read It's not science! to fully understand the limitations of what we commonly understand as science when it comes to determining alleged events in the past?
I tend to think that fellow Christians who hold an old earth view of billions of years are the ‘victims’ of the powers and principalities in high places who have compromised Gods Word leading them into a confused state. Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV). "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Many Thanks Gary - Your encounter and conversation with the enquirer makes the point that we often miss - a matter of authority. Indeed the Bible as our authority makes the simple wise, equipped and to put our trust in Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life.
(Psalm 19, Psalm 119:11, 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17, John 5:39)
So very well (and graciously!) said, Gary.
The point is whether the Bible is God's Word or not. If it IS God's Word, then it is inerrant and our sole authority in everything that it speaks to. We also need to remember to understand it as it was meant to understood by the original hearers (and any unbiased hearers since) and not re-interpreted to fit any particular bias. It clearly teaches a "young" earth (created around 4000 BC), made in six earth days (as plainly understood) and teaches a global/universal flood that wiped out all human life on earth except for the 8 inside the big boat - as admitted by every known Hebrew scholar, whether they agree with agree with the plain teaching of Scripture or not. Anybody who disagrees with that plain teaching is not holding scripture as their authority in relation to these topics, and their argument is not with us but with God Whose word it is.
Keep up the great job, CMI!!
I truely thank and praise GOD for raising all who stand on the authority of GOD's Word being one who benefitted from it. We need to be constantly reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16, where ALL Scriptures is stated. It is hard to rid ourself of the indocrination of the world around us. Mentioned was made on theology, shouldn't there be expert in doctrine in CMI? Even evolutionists have their dogma, a term loaded with negative connotation.
Albert, thanks for your comments but I'm really not sure what you mean by having an expert in doctrine in CMI. If you meant in order to be able to deal with the thrust of this article, then, simply, one is not really required to understand the plain meaning of Genesis. That was actually the point of the whole article. But for future reference, we do have qualified people on staff and who we can call upon.