I’ve been wanting to interact with a post I was directed to on this blog since maybe last October, but Strange Fire related matters got in my way. Now that those embers have cooled down a bit, I thought I’d jump in,
That article is an attempt to answer and refute all of the common, biblical and theological arguments young earth creationists use, not only in defense of their view, but also as a challenge to deep time, old earth creationists. Even though it is nearly two years old, I thought the points raised in the article were worth evaluating.
The author, J.W. Wartick, is a graduate from the BIOLA apologetics program. I couldn’t find anything specific about his theological and biblical training, though I would think that if he has a MA from BIOLA’s apologetics program, he would be exposed to some Bible and theology, so I just assume he is versed in those subjects.
Looking over his personal blog, he seems like a well-read individual. He’s certainly written on a number of subjects the last few years. Under his “About” page, he says he affirms that “the Bible is the Holy and Inerrant Word of God and the sole source of pure Christian Doctrine.” That’s all well and good, but the question I have is, does his old earth creationism he so ardently defends, which appears to be the Reasons to Believe/Hugh Ross variety, sync consistently with his personal affirmation of inerrancy? I say that it does not, as will be fleshed out over the course of my responses.
His post interacts with 16 typical questions/challenges young earth creationists (YEC) raise against old earth creationist (OEC). He defines the argument and then offers his response. I’ll try to organize and group together the similar arguments and address them as individual posts. That way my little series can be short and to the point.
So with that background in mind, let me tackle the first argument/response,
The Perspicuity of Scripture
Some young earth creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) argue that old earth positions undermine the perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity of Scripture is the notion that the central teachings of Scripture can be understood by any who come to the Gospel. The charge YECs make is that because it seems, on a surface level reading of the text, that Genesis 1 implies creation over the period of 6 literal 24 hour days, those who deny this undermine the Perspicuity/Clarity of Scripture.
The Perspicuity of Scripture does not apply to all areas of Biblical doctrine. Rather, it is the notion that anyone can understand the plan of salvation as laid out in Scripture and come to right knowledge for faith.
Think of it this way: read the book of Revelation. Do you understand everything in this book, or is the apocalyptic literature hard to discern? Throughout much of Christian history, there has been debate over the meaning of Revelation. There are a number of views, like preterism, idealism, dispensationalism, etc. But this doesn’t mean that what Scripture teaches in general is unclear. The clarity of Scripture in regards to salvific issues is absolute. Any reader can read and understand God’s plan for salvation.
If the argument is pressed, again ask the YEC whether they are claiming they understand every single doctrine that the Bible teaches. Do you understand perfectly the Trinity, the atonement, the incarnation, the Lord’s Supper, the proper relation of Law and Gospel, etc.? If someone claims they do, they are essentially equating their understanding to God, rather than adhering to Scriptural teaching (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The idea of “perspicuity” is that the Bible is sufficiently clear in and of itself for believers to understand it. As Wartick points out, it is true that the doctrine of “perspicuity” primarily focuses upon the clarity of the Gospel message and the plan of salvation, meaning that anyone from anywhere can clearly understand the Gospel message, believe it, and be saved (I’m of course assuming the regenerating work of the Spirit in the life of the sinner). The WCF 1.7 begins by stating, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation…”
His mistake, however, is that he restricts the doctrine of perspicuity only to the clarity of the Gospel message and not to ALL of Scripture. Historically, the vast majority of Christian preachers and teachers believed perspicuity applied to the whole of Scripture.
One of the early church fathers, John Chrysostom, called the doctrine of perspicuity the “condescension of Scripture.” He believed that the revelation of God in Scripture allows for all men, regardless of their education or lack of education, the ability to understand it. William Webster, in the second volume of Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, notes that the idea of the “condescension of Scripture” is a recurring theme in the writings of many church fathers including such men as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Hilary of Poitiers, Augustine, Isidore of Pelusium, Athanasius, Lactanius, and Theodoret [Webster, 194-201]. That doctrine of “condescension” or perspicuity, was picked up and articulated by the theologians of the Reformation like Luther and Calvin and eventually affirmed in the historical creeds like the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession.
Now Wartick argues, and in a way, rightly so, that not all doctrine in the Scripture is immediately clear to everyone. For instance, he mentions about eschatology and how many folks disagree with each other as to how the book of Revelation is to be interpreted. Or the doctrine of the Trinity or atonement.
Though I would agree with him that new Christians may not immediately grasp a full understanding of such doctrines as Christ being the second person of the Trinity, those hard to understand doctrines are not kept from a new convert. That convert, by reading the Bible and developing his understanding of those clearer doctrines he does understand, can then come to clearly understand those more difficult, or unclear doctrines. Both the WCF and the LBC state in 1.9,
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
So in other words, any unclear doctrine can be known by the clearer doctrine of Scripture. The point further being is that a Christian can come to a full understanding of biblical doctrine, by reading the Bible alone over time, because it is meant to be clear, or perspicuous.
Yet even more importantly than being taught by church fathers, Reformers, and in the historical Protestant confessions, the doctrine of perspicuity is articulated in the pages of the Bible itself. For example, in Deuteronomy 30:11, God says, “For this commandment which I command you today, it is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.” The word “mysterious” having the idea of being “too difficult to understand,” or basically, “unclear.” If God commands His people, He reveals His revelation so that it can be clearly understood. No one can say, “I wasn’t entirely sure what God wanted because the interpretation of that revelation was difficult and hard to understand.” The same idea is seen in Psalm 19:7-9 where the attributes of Scripture are highlighted.
Coming to the NT, Peter tells brand new Christians who are considered “babes in Christ” to, “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” If the Scriptures were not perspicuous, or clear, so that a new Christian had to find some outside interpreter to tell him how to understand them, Peter’s exhortation would be meaningless.
Probably the clearest example of the perspicuity of Scripture is found in Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 which says, “All Scripture (not just the Gospel message) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” How can a person profit from Scripture so as to be reproved by it, corrected by it, and instructed in righteousness by it, if it was so unclear he had difficulty understanding it?
Now just so I am not misunderstood, I am not diminishing the role God has for godly, mature teachers in the lives of younger believers, [Titus 2]. The Bible exhorts us to hear the teaching of sound doctrine and warns against itching ears that seeks to hear what they want to hear, [2 Timothy 4:3-4]. However, anyone who is saved, who has the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in his life, can take up the Scriptures and though there be difficult things to understand, can come to understand them with steadfast study.
Now, how exactly does this impact our understanding of Genesis 1? I take it by Wartick’s response he seems to believe the creation week of Genesis is one of those “difficult” portions of Scripture. One that falls into the category of figuring out the Trinity or interpreting the book of Revelation. But that is silliness if he believes such things with Genesis chapter 1.
The text itself is not “difficult” to understand; the language is quite clear and straight-forward. As a first year Hebrew student in seminary, our prof. had us translate it. Anyone who reads the narrative of the creation week will conclude that it is saying that God created the world and all that is therein in the space of six, consecutive days.
The “difficulty” Wartick has in mind comes in the worldview shattering meaning of what the text conveys. It is teaching the true history of origins and how life began upon the earth and that narrative radically departs from what is commonly taught by the “enlightened elite” and what is expected to be believed by the masses.
Hence, the difficulty is not with the language of the Genesis narrative itself, nor is it with the history that it conveys. The real “difficulty” is with whether or not a person will believe what it is saying over and against the consensus of evolutionary deep-time advocates. Its a matter of which authority one submits to, not if the text is clear or unclear.
My guess is that Wartick places a high premium upon the opinions of modern day scientists who say the universe is millions of years old because he has a misunderstanding of the value of general revelation, you know, things like nature and stuff. He probably likens it as being a 67th book of the Bible (a favorite saying of Hugh Ross), believing it is self-authenticating and must be considered when interpreting the Bible, especially the creation narrative. Such however, has nothing to do with perspicuity, but has all to do with authority.