I’d like to return to my evaluation of a post I came across within the last few months that outlines what are meant to be OEC responses to YEC arguments. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 will bring folks up to speed.
Continuing along with our next set,
Look, it’s what the Bible says
I just read the Bible and agree with it. It says days, I say days; it gives genealogies, I add them together. All I do is take Genesis literally. You use man’s fallible ideas to distort the text.
It has already been shown that the word “day” has several literal meanings. It has already been shown that “day” is used for a longer period than a “day” in the context of creation in Genesis. Thus, one could respond by saying “I just read the text literally too. On the first ‘age’, God created…. on the second age, God created…., etc.”
Furthermore, the genealogies are incomplete. It can be demonstrated that a number of genealogies in the Bible skip people or operate in an inexact fashion. By assuming the genealogies are linear, one has read anachronistically a 21st century notion of a genealogy back onto the text. That would be one of man’s fallible ideas.
Furthermore, the notion of an old earth proponent importing ‘man’s fallible ideas’ into the text can be equally applied to YEC. Who says that YECs are infallible? Would you claim you read the Bible perfectly and discern everything correctly?
It is with this response that our author, J.W. Wartick, becomes redundant with his arguments, at least with the first response concerning the word “days.” Let me interact a bit with his statements here:
First, as I pointed out in my second article, the word “days” has a specific meaning as defined by context. So while it is true that “days” can mean at times the idea of “age,” that is not the case in Genesis 1. I’ll refer the readers back to what I already wrote regarding “days” rather than retreading it here.
Secondly, it is also true, as Mr. Wartick notes, that not all of the genealogies are complete nor were they meant to be a precise record of all of biblical history. However, we do know there is some tight precision with the genealogies from the creation of Adam to the time of Noah as noted in Genesis 5 because of the manner in which the genealogical lists are compiled. For instance, the name of the father, the age of father when the next important link was born, and then the age of the father when he died. Moreover, 1 Chronicles 1-9 and Luke 3 mirror each other and it is implied that Luke’s list is accurate, without the presence of long gaps, from the birth of Jesus back to the creation of Adam.
Where “gaps” may exist in the genealogies there are not many of them, nor are they lengthy, thousands of years of gaps that will give the OEC the deep time he needs for his view. A good example is Genesis 10 and 11 because the Tower of Babel incident would have hampered the ability of people groups to maintain records at least until the divine scrambling of languages settled down.
You weren’t there!
You weren’t there at creation. Neither were these “scientists” you cite in your “evidence.” How do you know what happened?
You weren’t there either, my friend. However, when we look at the stars, we are looking at the past. Furthermore, we can measure things like cosmic background radiation, sedimentation rates, volcanic activity, and the like in order to discern how old the earth is. Again, God tells us that nature gives us a record (Psalm 19), so one wonders why we are being told to doubt that record.
The point of this argument, if we can call it that, is to show that no one human being was there at creation. As far as “scientists” go, they live in the present and are merely building models of Earth’s history past and then drawing conclusions from those models. But YEC argue, and rightly so, that we do have a creator who was there, because He created, and He told us how he created, and the length of time it took Him to create.
CBR, sedimentation rates, volcanic activity, and the like are not self-authenticating evidences; It’s data that must be interpreted. It is assumed, at least since the time of the Enlightenment, that biblical history has no relevance when considering such data, and that data has to be interpreted on its own merits and under its own “set of rules,” as it were. Historic creationists, however, have understood that the natural world does not stand alone apart from God, because it is God’s creation. Thus, we don’t treat our evaluation of it in a neutral fashion, but must evaluate it in light of what God has certainly revealed.
God says that his creation was “very good”; how could there then be animal death, thorns, cancer, and the like. The world would have been beautiful, without death, and without any kind of evils. Think about it, you’re saying that God was calling cancer eating away at dinosaurs and the like a “very good” thing!
First, it seems very often that when YECs use the phrase “very good” what they mean is “perfect” in their own eyes. Why think that animal death is necessarily bad? If animals didn’t die, ecosystems would collapse: all the plant-eaters would starve, insects would take over and eat all plant life, and any number of other “bad” things would happen. Animal death is part of a beautiful system of maintaining order in the world.
Using the cancer example to try to argue that it couldn’t be “very good” is importing human emotions into creatures which are not moral agents. Simply put, an animal is not a moral agent. This doesn’t mean it is good to kill them, but it isn’t bad either. The harm comes when a moral agent intentionally brings unnecessary harm to an animal.
I would like to see an argument for what “very good” means to YECs. Why should it mean absolute perfection?
Finally, one must wonder about the fact that God planted the garden in Eden and it is that creation which is “very good”. God planted this Garden, and it was the localized area in which Adam and Eve were placed. That’s what the text says. Nowhere does it say the whole earth was like the Garden.
Here we find J.W. making some regrettable and embarrassing remarks about what YEC believe about the phrase, “very good.” What he has written here demonstrates clearly that he hasn’t seriously engaged the YEC literature, let alone the text of Genesis. Let me consider a couple of his comments.
First, he implies that when Genesis 1:31 states that God’s creation was “very good,” that to suggest it means “perfect” or “flawless” is something of a silly notion. But that only shows his ignorance of the biblical text here in Genesis, because that is exactly what it does means.
The word translated as “good” is tob and it is followed by meob, that is translated as “very” or “exceedingly.” Together, here in the context of the creation week, the point that the author is making is that God’s creation is so good that it cannot possibly be improved upon. It has been made in the exact way God had intended it to be made and to function.
Higher critical, Lutheran OT scholar, Gerhard von Rad, who is not particularly known for his evangelical, YEC views, wrote in his commentary on Genesis these comments about “very good:”
Verse 31 contains the concluding formula of approval for the entire work of creation. This formula ‘Behold, it was very good’ is of great importance within the terse and plain language of the author. It could also be translated ‘completely perfect,’ and rightly refers more to the wonderful purposefulness and harmony than to the beauty of the entire cosmos. [von Rad, 61]
But I can already hear J.W. say that he clarified his “perfect” comment by connecting it to the concept of animal death. Animal death, according to him, is a beautiful system that maintains the order of the world. But that is not how the Bible sees death.
Death is an intrusion into God’s creation. Adam’s sin brought a curse not only upon the entire human race, but also upon the creation itself, including animals. Creation longs for redemption and will experience in the eschaton (1 Corinthians 15:42-58). Moreover, Scripture defines “living” as the concept of a breath of life. Genesis 1:28, 30 describes animals as “living things” or “living creatures” because they had the breath of life. That is confirmed in the flood narrative in Genesis 7:22, 23. And further, contrary to what J.W. states in his response, animals did not prey on each other in the original creation, but were given vegetables and fruits to eat just like man was (Genesis 1:29, 30).
One cannot distinguish between “moral” creatures, mankind, from “non-moral” ones, brute animals, when it comes to death. What makes man distinct from all the other animals is the fact that he was created in the image and likeness of God. That is what makes him unique. However, both man and animals are described in Scripture as living and their death was never a part of God’s original creation. I have an article on this subject that goes into more detail that can be read here.
Unfortunately, this is one of the less subtle ad hominem types of arguments YECs employ. It basically goes like this: use a scare word like “evolution,” put in in context with an old earth proponent, and then call them compromisers. For example, “Wartick, who believes in a form of old earth creationism–really just a variety of theistic evolutionism–chooses to compromise the text to fit secular science.”
Unfortunately, this very type of argument is used to discredit many fellow Christians. Rather than focusing on the issues at hand, it is indeed easier to just bash the opposition. For the record, I am not a theistic evolutionist. The point is that others who hold views similar to my own suffer from arguments like this against them. It’s dishonest.
The most unfortunate thing to take from this type of argument is that the average Christian on the street is very affected by it. Recently, I recommended an article from an extremely prominent Christian philosopher to another Christian. Their response was that if this other believer thought evolution might be true, they were too biased and they would not read the article.
That’s right, the effect of this type of argument is that it brings about a situation in which people won’t even read what other believers have to say about a topic. One must wonder, at least a little bit, about a position which discourages adherents to read the works of the opposition. Why not read and consider other viewpoints and take what is true?
Certainly I can understand J.W.’s frustration with being labelled a compromiser when he otherwise affirms Christian orthodoxy (his Molinism tendencies, aside).
That stated, however, he needs to face the raw reality that in order to maintain the deep-time constructs of Earth’s history he has embraced as genuine fact and so doggedly defends, he has to also adapt a lot of secular, evolutionary interpretation to how one reads the Bible. A strict creationism, even if one believes the Earth is old, does not sync at all with the philosophy of evolution, which has as one of its key pillars, the concept of deep-time.
Old earth creationists place a premium upon the research and findings of secular, evolutionary scientists, because they trust that those scientists are reading the data properly (millions of years of earth history), but are just drawing wrong conclusions about that data (that a divine designer wasn’t involved in the process). And because OEC do believe secular views of deep-time are accurate for the most part, when there are evolutionary “findings” that allegedly conflict with the classic reading of the creation account, the OEC are then obligated to accommodate the Bible to those “findings.”
The problem, though, is that those “findings” can play havoc upon historic, Christian theology, say for example the idea of death before Adam’s sin as I noted above. Millions of years of death and struggle existed before the biblical history of Genesis even supposedly took place, and because OEC are certain about deep-time, the fossils have to be explained somehow and so death is redefined and alternately explained than what has been the traditional view of the subject.
That accommodation can also become a problem when previously trusted “findings” of secularists are changed because of newer findings and more precise data. Take for instance the concept of a pre-Adamic race of men. In order to uphold the secular view of man’s ancient history, Hugh Ross, progressive creationist and old Earth promoter, has argued that all of the examples of so-called ape-men who allegedly lived in the millions of years prior to Adam were soulless hominids. Young earth creationists, however, have understood those “hominids” as being either extinct apes or in the case of Neanderthals, extinct ethnic groups that were fully human and died out after the flood.
Ross and his Reasons To Believe apologetic ministry have chided YEC for many years for believing Neanderthals were fully human, insisting instead that they were soulless, pre-Adamic hominids. However, when in 2010 it was announced that DNA findings show that Neanderthals inter-bred with modern humans, that caused a dilemma for RTB and OEC in general. Whereas YEC reiterated that those findings proved their contention about Neanderthal’s all along, Fuz Rana, apologist with RTB, went forth claiming that those finding proved that bestiality took place and hence one of the reasons for the prohibitions in Leviticus 18 and 20 and thus ignoring a major theological problem adopting such a weird view has for his Christian apologetics.
That is the sort of compromise the argument has in mind, and I believe it is one that is nowhere near being ad hominem as J.W. claims it is and one that both he and all OEC need to take to heart.