Evaluating Old Earth Responses to Young Earth Arguments [5]

I come to my final post interacting with J.W. Wartick’s article against the arguments of young earth creationists. For those interested in getting caught up, previous entries to this series can be located here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

J.W. writes,

Plain and Obvious Meaning- or “I don’t need to twist the text.”

The Argument

Basically, the way this one goes is as follows:

I just read the text for what it says. You have to do all kinds of things to interpret it. Why do you twist the text to fit your views?

Response

Actually, YEC is also an interpretation of the Biblical text. It is an inference from the textual data. You are also interpreting the text, and need to justify your hermeneutic. Given the mounting evidence against it in books like The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton, the evidence in your interpretation’s favor needs to be pretty hefty.

plainYes, it is true that YEC is “also an interpretation of the biblical text.” However, as I have already pointed out in previous responses to J.W., my conclusions about what Genesis means and the interpretation we bring to the historical narrative is confidently sound and has really yet to be seriously challenged by anything that J.W. has put forth in his arguments. It certainly is “plain and obvious.”

Now he draws readers to John Walton’s book on Genesis chapter one. J.W. seems to think he presents a compelling case, but honestly, Walton’s case that Genesis one is about functional origins rather than material origins is rather novel. He claims that the Christian church has totally misunderstood the Genesis narrative for centuries and it is he who will now correct this misunderstanding here at the beginning of the 21st century. The reader can see a brief review of the book HERE. In a fashion, Walton is like N.T. Wright who claims that the Reformers have misunderstood justification and that the doctrine must be redefined. In this case, Genesis one has been misunderstood and must be redefined.

By the way, I am curious how J.W. would argue against homosexual revisionists who assert similar things about the Bible and homosexuality? Granted, their arguments are sophomoric and absurd and fall way outside the bounds of any meaningful exegesis, but they argue in pretty much the same way: the church has misunderstood those texts that condemn homosexuality for centuries and now our interpretation of them must be corrected. How is their position any different than Walton’s?

You’re Using Science to Change the Meaning of Scripture

The Argument

Old earth proponents may have a viable exegetical position, but why on earth would they pick old earth over young earth? It seems the only reason is because they are caving in to science.

Response

Science can give us a record of reality. When the church lines itself up with views that do not accord with reality, it is discredited. Consider the controversy over heliocentrism vs. geocentrism. This controversy resulted because the church lined itself up with a philosophical position that it thought was taught by the text of the Bible. Similarly, the young earth position is an interpretation of Scripture and its advocates must contend with the scientific evidence.

Augustine issued a strong warning related to this objection [Literal Meaning of Genesis, Chapter 19, Volume 1]:

“If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

atomsCertainly science can give a record about reality, but that record is severely limited, especially when “scientists” begin making dogmatic assertions about how things existed in the past, particularly the deep, deep past of hundreds of millions of years.

Now J.W. does what a lot of OEC do in these discussions and appeals to his misunderstanding of the events surrounding Copernicus’s so-called Revolution and Galileo and the so-called heliocentric and geocentric debate in the 1500s.

The fact is that neither men were challenging bad interpretations of the Bible that conflicted with “scientific reality.” They were challenging bad scientific and Aristotelian interpretations the church affirmed that conflicted with reality. The inspiration and infallibility of the historical record of Genesis was never discredited, but it was the Catholic’s dependence upon Greek philosophy. (Which, by the way, is an academic pursuit that heavily influences the Biola apologetic program).

Amusingly, J.W. cites Augustine as a witness to his view of Genesis and “scientific reality.” The problem, however, is that Augustine is hostile to his point of view. First, he wrote at least four commentaries on Genesis chapter one, all of them designed to answer views of creation that were prevalent in his day, not the views of evolution and deep-time that is in our current day. See this long paper on Augustine’s commentaries HERE. Moreover, contrary to what OEC say about Augustine, he believed in an 6,000 year old earth. He just arrived as his conclusions for the age of the earth in a slightly different way.

The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it

The Argument

This argument has a few varieties:

1) The Bible says the earth is not millions or billions of years. Why do you insist on changing God’s word for man’s fallible ideas?

2)The Biblical text entails a young earth. Why do you read it as a long period of time?

Response

1) Where in the Bible does it say “the earth is not millions or billions of years old”? Where in the Bible does it tell me the date of creation?

2) Please show me: where in the Bible does it tell me the date of creation? Where does in the Bible does it specifically say YEC is true? If you can’t, then you’re using an inference.

I have to agree with J.W. that that is a terrible argument. In fact, I wonder why he even lists it unless he is looking for strawmen to light up and burn just for the fun of it. I know of no YEC who would seriously raise that argument in a debate. But maybe J.W. has frequently encountered it.

That said, in brief response to his two responses. 1) Even though the Bible does not give an exact day God created the world, as I have argued in the previous 4 posts answering J.W., the exegesis of the biblical text gives us insight to the historic creation. We can ascertain from genealogical records in both the Old and New Testaments when creation began when we compare those records to the standard chronological timeline of ancient history.

Now, does that mean we take Ussher’s chronology uncritically and believe he figured out that creation began in 4004 B.C.? No, not necessarily. There are solid inferences with the biblical text that creation could have happened a thousand years earlier. YEC are divided about an exact date.

2) While I will admit that I am using an inference for my views of YEC, I think I have demonstrated rather clearly that my inference is both exegetically and theologically sound from the text of Scripture. It behooves J.W. to now interact what I have put forth in these reviews.

And then last by not least,

Man’s Fallible Ideas

The Argument

Perhaps the most frequently used argument is of this variety. Too often, when threatened by exegetical or extra-biblical evidence that contradicts their position, YECs will fall back to this type of argument:

“That’s just using man’s fallible ideas to interpret the text.”

or

“That’s using man’s fallible [geology, astronomy, physics, insert discipline] to alter the meaning of God’s word.”

Response

The Young Earth position is an interpretation of the text as much as any other. Thus, the argument could just as easily be turned around:

“You’re just using man’s fallible interpretation to read a young earth onto the text.”

But, to be honest, this argument just amounts to a subtle ad hominem, even if the one using the argument doesn’t realize it. Why? Because it suggests that the other side is a) wrong; and b) not thinking Biblically.

A better response, therefore, would be to simply point out that the YEC position is also interpreting the text and that old earth proponents are looking at the whole body of evidence God has provided instead of just trusting what others tell them about the text.

miracleIn this final response, J.W. essentially refutes himself in one paragraph, which tells me he hasn’t really thought through his overall position as it pertains to YEC.

The YEC argument is basically saying that Christians must allow God’s revelation to be the defining interpretative filter by which we understand the created world. J.W. seems to suggest that YECs are starting with a view of a young earth and then making the Bible prove it, as it were.

But that is not the case. YEC begin with the theology derived from the exegesis of Scripture and then move outward from there. Theology is considered the Queen of the Sciences. In other words, science isn’t its own magisterium; it has to be subservient to God’s divine revelation.

He then states that the OEC are looking at “the whole body of evidence God has provided.” But here in lies J.W.’s self-refutation: He assumes that the evidence in question is self-authenticating and stands alone apart from anyone “interpreting” it. But such is impossible. Then secondly, he, along with all OECs, are trusting what others say about that evidence, particularly what secular unbelievers are saying about it, and what they say about it plays heavily into how OECs read the text of Genesis. J.W. cannot possibly ignore that fact. So, when the YEC points out that OEC are utilizing man’s infallible ideas to alter the biblical text, they are dead-on accurate with their assertions.

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2 thoughts on “Evaluating Old Earth Responses to Young Earth Arguments [5]

  1. Fred,

    You dismiss the Galileo affair with a wave of the hand as if interpretations of Scripture had no bearing. You are correct in pointing out that the story is much bigger than just the church being opposed to science. There were reputable scientists on both sides of the issue. However, the church did declare the geocentric view to be heretical because it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture, according to the literal meaning of the words and according to the common interpretations and understanding of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology. Today, you won’t accept an old earth or theistic evolution because they contradict your understanding of Scripture. This is an interesting analysis of the statements made by the consultants to the Inquisition.

    Regarding Augustine. Based on the information and knowledge he had at his disposal during his lifetime, I’m not surprised that he held a view that the earth was 6000 years old. However, given some of the statements that he has made in his writings, I suspect that if he were alive today, he would be a supporter of the Biologos project. I don’t think Augustine, were he alive today, would encourage sweeping science under the rug because it contradicts the interpretations of Scripture we’re comfortable with.

  2. Pingback: Refuting Theistic Evolution and Old Earth Creationism | hipandthigh

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