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‘What if Jesus tells you you’re wrong?’

Published: 7 September 2014 (GMT+10)
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A.K., United States, writes in:

Hello, I have a question that I would greatly appreciate if you could answer for me. It seems that young earth creationists put so much emphasis and belief on the literal interpretation of the Bible that says that the universe is roughly 6,000 years. I read on the cover of one of your magazines something that said roughly the following: “The God of an old earth is not the God of Christianity.” The question I have for you is the following: What if it turned out that when you die, you go to heaven and meet Jesus, and He tells you that the universe is billions of years old, and that the six days of creation in the Bible is not the literal 24 hour days. What would your reaction be? Would you be prepared to say to Jesus that because it turned out that the earth and universe was not thousands of years old, you were really not worshipping and believing in the true/correct/real God of the Bible?

Lita Cosner, CMI–US, responds:

Dear A.,

What if it turns out that when you die, Jesus tells you that you were wrong, and Muhammad is actually a true prophet of Allah and you should have been a Muslim?

What can we know with certainty from God’s revelation to us in Scripture?

I think both questions really address the same thing: what can we know with certainty from God’s revelation to us in Scripture? You trust in Jesus (I hope—your email sounds like you’re a Christian) because you are persuaded in the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is the Son of God who died on our behalf to save everyone who trusts in Him for salvation. You aren’t an eyewitness, nor are you privy to the heavenly reality that none of us can see. Your sole source for the salvation claims of Christ is the Bible. Anyone who trusts in Him does so (or should do so) on the weight of the testimony of Scripture.

Now we agree that Scripture is a sufficient witness, so much so that when it testifies about things that we can’t see or observe, we take it at its word, even against competing claims. Scripture communicates equally clearly about how God created, and the timeframe in which He created. If words mean anything at all, we can understand what the Bible says. Young earth creationists take the Bible at face value, and that’s the starting point for our interpretation of the evidence we see in the world around us. So when we see massive canyons with exposed sedimentary layers, we would attribute that to the catastrophic worldwide Flood of Noah’s day, rather than long geological processes over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. See Did God create over billions of years?.

Jesus would not tell us the world is billions of years old any more than He would tell us to follow Muhammad—both contradict the clear teaching of Scripture.


Lita Cosner

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Gage C., United States, asks:

Dear CMI,

I have had a question on my mind for the past few weeks. I have heard a number of skeptics claim that we use quote-mining, or trick people into signing pro-creation petitions. How should we respond to such claims? I have read many of the quotes found on your website, and in finding their sources I have found no cases of “quote-mining”. I have not been able to find any cases of the latter “trickery” so far, however, I was wondering if you have any advice on how to deal with such accusations. I look forward to your response and many other inspiring articles on your part.

Lita Cosner responds:

Dear Gage,

I don’t know of anyone who has deceptively gotten signatures for creationist petitions, but of course we would not condone deceptive practices.

When atheists complain about quote mining, they usually are actually complaining about using evolutionists as hostile witnesses against the theory of evolution.

Quote mining is the practice of taking quotes out of context to make them say something other than what the author intended, and then to use them disingenuously in support of one’s own agenda. It would be like an atheist quoting the Bible as affirming their belief in atheism, because 15 places in the Bible say “There is no God”. Of course, the Christian would point out that they are in contexts like, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you” (1 Kings 8:23) or “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 53:1). The surrounding words completely change the meaning, so it is dishonest to quote only the words that say what you want it to say.

However, when atheists complain about quote mining, they usually are actually complaining about using evolutionists as hostile witnesses against the theory of evolution. For instance, Alan Feduccia, a noted ornithologist, has scathing criticisms of the notion that theropod dinosaurs evolved into birds. He is an evolutionist, but we use his writing and expertise to argue against dinosaur-to-bird evolution. That is not quote-mining.

As a writer myself, I do not want to be taken out of context, so I personally want to make sure that I use integrity when I’m quoting others. So I will often say things like “Evolutionist ornithologist Alan Feduccia”, or so on, to make it clear that this particular person’s sympathies do not lie with creationists. But it is absolutely valid to use evolutionists’ quotes criticizing certain aspects of evolution to advance an argument for biblical creation.


Lita Cosner

Readers’ comments

Alan M.
I would like to know why this person is asking the question. Is it not obvious that when He says we are totally wrong we are totally wrong!
On the other hand if we are commanded to live TODAY in the kingdom of God we must be able to know certain things are TRUE today to function in the here and now.
Jesus told us the Scripture cannot be broken. So we believe the Scripture. When Genesis says that fish beget fish and cattle beget cattle, we believe that life forms are stable and not pliable into other forms as Darwin claimed. When Genesis says there was a worldwide flood, we believe that the Earth's crust was massively altered in Noah's day and that modern geologists who fail to believe a flood occurred have left out the most important fact about geological history. The Apostle Peter warns us not to believe geologists when they claim we only have to present to interpret the past and willing forget Noah's flood. So why would I trust geologists who contradict Jesus and Peter by willingly ignoring such truth? If we cannot trust geologists then we cannot trust their conclusions about the age of the Earth.

So my answer is: If Jesus tells me I am terribly wrong I will thank Him that He allowed me into Heaven without merit on my part - but then again I might still be sinfully impertinent and ask Him why He never put this important information in the Bible so that I would not make such a wicked mistake. So let's turn the question around - what would Jesus say in response to my impertinent question? If our questioner cannot answer this he cannot pose the original question.
Michael S.
Thank you so much for a wonderful Q and A to A.K and Lita. And there is never a stupid question. And I agree with Lita that in some things we shouldnt compromise. True He may still be the same God that we worship whether He created the world in 6 days or billion of years. However, once you start compromising you will compromise more. And the danger to this is that you will compromise things that you dont like and accepting only what you believe. The worst will be that you compromise enough not to believe in Jesus Christ anymore. But I have been in A.K situation because there is so much published data (this is before I know CMI of course!!) that seems to show that evolution is right. That shows how important CMI works are! Because once you know the truth, the truth will set you free and no one can take the truth from you and God is truth. Good sharing Paul,N. Keep up the good work Lita and CMI.
Richard L.
Dear A.K., Please ask yourself 2 key diagnostic questions: (1) If the Bible does give a clear signal (about anything) from the Biblical text, do “I have ears to hear” and notice? (2) Am I always willing to reexamine my current understanding through the discipleship COMMAND: “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Th. 521)? HAVE YOU DONE SO, HERE? I used to be an old-earther, growing up in that church tradition. In my impression, by the end of Grade 6, standard biological history was scientifically sloppy, but standard timeframe and geology issues seemed to be tight. I locked into this, thinking the Bible only needed to correct biological history, not timeframe-related issues. Correction of the latter, at a subconscious level in my thinking, was ‘off-limits’ & unnecessarily scandalous. Is this true for you? My locked-down thinking was hardened by the many Christian colleges, and systematic theologies that hew to this line (or used to). It was thus shocking when I realized (through Henry Morris) that I had to reevaluate, via 1 Th. 5:21. It was also shocking—afterwards—when the Holy Spirit revealed to me multiple self-deceptions I used to invoke to maintain both my desired high view of the Bible and my ‘need’ to keep away from timeframe correction. May God show you the secret ways of your heart. I want to stay correctable. However, in the decades since my awakening, NEVER has a person calmly and scripturally rigorously shown me that the Biblical timeframe signal is indeterminate or old-earth, rather than clearly young-earth. Please critically test all this and have ears to hear. Ask, "what biblical text genre could sustain such timeframe-corrective signal?"--and then check out Dr. Sarfati's "Refuting Compromise". Please turn your question back on yourself.
Errol B.
Regarding the first letter, I’ve noticed when discussing origins with a sceptical relative, when he couldn’t answer my ‘return’ challenge- using ‘Grand Canyon’s missing layers without erosion’, he quickly shifted to a philosophical challenge against scripture. Much like the first successful deception in Genesis, ‘Did God really say?’ I certainly understand why the caution in answering this one, I know where it stems from.
Dave G.
Very cogently put, Lita!

I ran across a quote yesterday by someone named Gene Cook, which I think is apropos to this very subject: "There are two different kinds of revelation, natural revelation, which we find in the world, and special revelation, which we find in the word of God. A basic rule of Biblical interpretation is that we should always interpret natural revelation through the grid of special revelation, that is the word of God. We don't look at the world and then say this is truth, therefore we must conform the Scriptures to what we see. This view is a deadly mistake and would lead to atheism. I interpret science through the lens of the Word of God, which presupposes the truth of Genesis 1-3. There is no evidence of higher value or authority than the Word of God."
Paul N.
I used to feel as A.K. did that maybe we were applying literal interpretation too stringently to the 6-days of creation. When I expressed this feeing to a pastor friend of mine he replied with a question: "Why do you constrain God to miracles that you can imagine or understand?". The question was a sufficient answer. Why do we imagine that the greatest thing God can do is create a woman from the rib of Adam? Is God limited to simply bringing us back to life (since that is our greatest hope)? Do you believe the Bible when is says that He created the heavens and the Earth? A being powerful enough to do those things surely should not be constrained by our vain imaginings! The devil wants us to believe God is not as powerful as the Bible claims. If we can be convinced to constrain God to less than we can be fooled into believing that He cannot give us eternal life! Then where is our hope?
peter H.
I had some debate with a crusading evolutionist who went to great lengths to give examples of supposedly dishonest use of quotes by well known creationists one, I remember, was a quote that was apparently bits and pieces of a long passage which he alleged, completely changed the original authors meaning. I did not have the time and skills to check this out, but suspect that if there ever was any misuse, it was unintentional. it just goes to show though, the atheist induced fervour, that grips some people, that they trawl through so much material to try to find some smidgen of dirt to throw at creation believers. of course, it also shows the poverty of other, more objective evidence they might use.
Doug T.
This actually concerns the second letter (accusations of mine quoting and etc.). While Lita Cosner's response is correct per se, I feel like she didn't quite answer the question. If I may be so bold: when faced with an accusation such as this (creationists use trickery and take things out of context) one of the best ways to answer is using the "don't answer/answer" method from Proverbs 26:4-5. In this particular case, your "don't answer" might look like this; "I don't think CMI has ever misquoted something or tried to trick anyone." Now for the "answer"; "What specific incident were you referring to?" The accusation makes use of the sweeping generality, hence, the reason for naming a specific source and then asking them for a specific example. Hope this helps. (Lita: excellent answer on the first letter (What if Jesus says you're wrong?"). Keep up the great work.)
Sandra D.
I read both responses to the questions put to you Lita. I appreciate your articulate, clear and intelligent responses. My response to the first one about Jesus, would not have been as kind, but you answered succinctly and without judgment. That is something I need to wok on. Thanks for the "template".
Cowboy Bob S.
In the first letter, Lita addressed something that I have a personal problem with, and that is the "what ifs". Sometimes these are useful, but are often distractions to provoke needless arguments. One time, someone asked me, "What if Jesus appeared to you and told you to believe a certain interpretation of Scripture?" I would have doubts that Jesus himself was appearing to me! "Jesus would not tell us the world is billions of years old any more than He would tell us to follow Muhammad—both contradict the clear teaching of Scripture". Clear teaching of Scripture is the key, and God's Word is our ultimate authority, not "what if" or "appearances".

The second letter brings up something that our ministry deals with frequently (and yours, far more than ours): Quote mining. It seems that whenever someone cites a hostile witness that admits to problems with evolution, they are accused of "quote mining" as a reflexive retort. (In fact, I have been called a liar for making things up, even after I have provided reference materials. That effectively ends the discussion.) Some will say, "Yes, but the one you quoted is still an evolutionist!", as if I was saying that s/he had converted. Lita gave me something that I want to implement: "As a writer myself, I do not want to be taken out of context, so I personally want to make sure that I use integrity when I’m quoting others. So I will often say things like “Evolutionist ornithologist Alan Feduccia”, or so on, to make it clear that this particular person’s sympathies do not lie with creationists". I will endeavor to be more consistent in saying that I am citing an evolutionist when I do this. Thanks for the good work.
Lita Cosner
Bob, I agree with you about 'what ifs'; I only responded with one because I'd been asked one. The clear point is: we need to trust God's revelation to us in Scripture.
michael S.
I think the question about Jesus telling us we are wrong, the question pre-supposes that God would contradict the plain-meaning of scripture. I could accept being wrong but I would have follow-up questions such as: "Was Noah's ark ALSO allegorical?" "What about the Red Sea? Did it only part as a collective hallucination of the Israelites?" "Did the animals invent themselves despite all of the clear design and wisdom they clearly show?"(as shown at CMI. ;-) Where does it end? "Did you really die on the cross?" If one thing is wrong, then I would want to know everything that was wrong. Because one thing is for sure, the bible doesn't teach evolution or billions of years.
Don R.
It seems like A.K. from the US has bought the evolutionary lie as so many other Christians have throughout the world (sadly). This questions is just another example of someone trying to reconcile long age (billions of years) with God's truth in Genesis (6000 years). This illustrates the powerful influence that the world system (the whole spectrum of education, and all forms of media, in particular) has over many, many people. My prayer is that our Lord will open their eyes to the truth. You ministry is a constant blessing to my family, and I uphold you in my prayers and support as often as I am able.
J. G.
Not meaning to be rude, but I feel the response to the 'What if you're wrong?' letter, did not actually answer their question. It wasn't an exclamation of concern 'Oh no, what if we're wrong!', but rather a sincere question 'Would you really say you were worshiping the complete wrong God, just because God said the earth was actually billions of years old?'.
Depending on your views, this COULD be quite different to your question about Muhammad - of COURSE I'd be willing to say I was worshiping the wrong God, if it turns out Muhammad was His prophet! But even if we agree that the earth is young, I personally find it much to strong to say I was worshiping the wrong God merely because I was wrong about the age of the earth (I know old age can sometimes lead to OTHER wrong assumptions, but this question is only dealing the the age issue).
If you aren't willing to say that age of the earth (on its own) is enough for you to admit you're worshiping the complete wrong God, then it seems your title 'The God of an old earth is not the God of Christianity' has been misleading to your reader.
Maybe you were trying to say something less exclusive, e.g. that the God of an old earth is slightly different to the God of Christianity (but no so different to be 'the completely wrong God'). Or e.g. that the God of Old Earth can sometimes (with other associated assumptions) lead to a God which is completely wrong. Or did you intend to be as strong as the question suggests, and thus be willing to say you were worshiping the complete wrong God if Jesus said the earth was billions of years old?
Lita Cosner
J., I had a good reason for not answering that question. It's impossible that God would tell us something that contradicts His Word. It would be as impossible for God to tell us that the universe is actually billions of years old as it would be for Him to say that Muhammad was actually His prophet.
We've said multiple times in our articles that one's stance on creation isn't a salvation issue. The point of this article is: do you believe God's revelation in Scripture or not? If you believe it about some things (Jesus is Lord) and not others (God created the earth in 6 days), what basis do you have for picking and choosing?
A. H.
Thank you for your answer. The question:- 'What happens when I die?' is an inescapable question. The Lord said what would happen when He died. He would rise again on the third day. If the length of those three days is indeterminate are we still waiting for His resurrection to happen? Clearly those who witnessed the resurrection would be found false witnesses if that were the case. Their faith would be vain. However we know by faith that is not so. Therefore those who say the days were of indeterminate length need to address the same question:-'What if Jesus tells me I am wrong?'
Lita Cosner
Thanks for these thoughts, but in a sense, Jesus already has told old-earth creationists they are wrong through Scripture.

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