We recently had a great discussion with some good friends whose first grade son is just becoming exposed to the differences between the Old Earth (OE) and Young Earth (YE) Creationism. This is not an easy topic to confront with a first grader, but parents must be prepared and equipped to face it. Talking about it reminded me of one of my favorite books so I thought I’d try to summarize a thorny issue.
At its core, the OE/YE debate is about how we view the relationship between science and theology. There is a methodical way to think about that relationship that I have discussed elsewhere but here I’d like to address an internal, theological aspect of the OE/YE debate: “Death before the Fall” of Adam and Eve. I want to say that even though I hold a different view, I greatly respect the YE stridency on this topic because it is vitally important. It strikes at the heart of the entire plan of salvation.
At the center of this issue is the answer to the question about what God meant when He declared His creation “very good” in Genesis 1:31. On the YE view, there is no room for interpretation of this phrase. YE proponents insist that the OE view violates a central doctrine of the Christian faith. They reason that if there was already death in the world God created, that would negate the very reason that Christ died on the cross. As I said, I have great empathy for their concern here.
These are serious issues and they deserve to be answered. I applaud and accept the challenge of the YE side on this because I fully understand their reluctance to accept the obvious OE implication that if the Earth had been around for a few billion years before Adam and Eve showed up, there would have been a whole lot of “death before the fall.” If the YE view is correct about the meaning of “very good” and the implications of death before the fall, the OE view would necessarily be false. We need to be very clear, and very careful, about how we approach this issue.
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The other day I saw a Facebook post which had been “liked” by a friend of mine about how Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis fame) was lamenting the fact that Bill Nye, the fraudulent “science guy,” has been smack talking him in the media since their infamous recent debate. At first I thought, “Well, there’s a shocker,” and moved on. But then, in a moment of admitted weakness, I returned to leave a comment (which has since been deleted … explanation to follow).
My comment, as best as I can recall, was: “The problem here is that people are left with the impression that the only options they have on this issue are to choose Bill Nye’s vacuous scientism or a Young Earth creationism devoid of supporting evidence. Since both are false, the debate has become polarizing.”
By the way, my claim that “Young Earth creationism is devoid of supporting evidence,” is not just my opinion. It is the admitted position of many of the leading Young Earth scientists themselves, but I digress.
Within a few minutes, Ken Ham himself responded to my comment as follows: “just like choosing to believe in a bodily resurrection [of Jesus] … polarizing.”
Do you see what he did there?
In one snide, snarky line, Ken Ham managed to: 1) illegitimately equate a young universe (for which there is no evidence) with the resurrection of Christ (for which there is plenty of good evidence), 2) construct a false non-sequitur that belief in an old universe is equivalent to denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, 3) attach that belief to me unjustly, and 4) thereby create a straw man argument against a view that neither I, nor any other believer in an old universe that I know of, holds.
That’s how Ken Ham rolls.
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This past March, I was involved in a debate with Tim Chaffey of Answers In Genesis about the age of the Earth. At one point in a discussion with my wife and I after the debate, Mr. Chaffey was making a point about the evidence for Christianity and ended a sentence with the phrase, “we have a lot of reasons to be -” At this point he stopped himself and re-phrased his statement to something like, “we have plenty of evidence for our faith.”
Well, if you know the history of Mr. Chaffey’s organization and its leader, Ken Ham, you would understand that Mr. Chaffey has probably been instructed not to use the phrase, “Reasons to Believe” for one reason and one reason only — because it is the name of a “rival” (their characterization) ministry named Reasons To Believe that is headed by Dr. Hugh Ross … Ken Ham cannot allow his counterparts to even utter the name of Mr. Ross’s organization and thereby unwittingly lend that organization credibility. That is the attitude Mr. Ham presents and I think it is sad — for Mr. Ham, for his followers, and for those who are watching all of us and evaluating the Christian faith by our actions.
I am an Old Earth (OE) Creationist. Mr. Chaffey is a Young Earth (YE) Creationist. What is notable is that we are both creationists. I think that means something. For one thing, it means that we share common ground — and I have written publicly about that (in The Lookout) here: “Creation’s Common Ground.” Secondly, it means that we are on the same team. I made that point in my closing statement on the night of our debate. Here is a transcript of exactly what I said:
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It is interesting to me how negatively many folks view the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. There are two groups of people in particular who fiercely resist accepting it – but for completely different reasons. Today I will address the first group – Young Earth Creationists.
Many Christians are violently opposed to the idea of the Big Bang for one or both of the following reasons:
First, they believe that the Big Bang is a ploy, perpetuated by those who worship at the altar of scientific divinity, to promote the idea that the universe is old enough to allow time for Darwinian evolution to explain life on Earth. While many naturalistic scientists do promote this notion, the fact is that time is not what the evolutionists need. What they need is vastly more unattainable than a whole lot of time. They can have all the time they want. What they need is the ability to account for multiple reversals of, or the ability to completely dispense with, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Darwinian evolution simply cannot account for the self-organization that would have to occur to allow life to “emerge” from non-life.
Complex biological life demands explicit instructions and information content that cannot be brought about by random, chance events. As Dean Overman points out in his excellent Case Against Accident and Self-Organization:
“Because there are thousands of different enzymes with different functions, to produce the simplest living cell [requires] that about 2000 enzymes were needed with each one performing a specific task to form a single bacterium like E. coli. Computing the probability of all these different enzymes forming in one place at one time to produce a single bacterium [it has been calculated] that the odds are 1 in 10 to 40,000th power … The total number of atoms in the observable universe are estimated to be only approximately 10 to the 80th power.”
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