A Live Series
The question of the age of the Earth is a touchy one. Expressing an opinion on the topic is likely to attract dismissiveness, derision, and sometimes even charges of heresy.
In addition to being a very controversial topic, it is a very complicated one – at least it is so for anyone who takes seriously both the account of the book of Genesis and the findings of modern science. These two factors – the controversy and the complexity of the topic – may explain why I have been reluctant to delve deeply into the subject until now.
But delving has become unavoidable. A number of Jesus’ followers in Eugene – Springfield (myself among them) have initiated an apologetics project to address the falling away of so many young people from the church. They prove incapable, apparently, of answering the religious skepticism which they confront upon leaving their parents’ homes on graduation from high school. It seems that much of that skepticism has to do with the biblical account of creation. Our profession of concern for such young people can hardly be credible if we do not address this particular problem.
The recent experience of a friend strikingly illustrates the situation. The local newspaper published a letter to the editor claiming that no reputable scientist doubts the neo-Darwinian account of the origin of humanity. My friend responded by publishing his own letter with a link to a web site where were published the names of over 3,000 US college faculty, all with PhD’s in life sciences, who wished to state publicly that they have serious reservations about neo-Darwinism. Three days later he received a letter from the author of the original letter to the editor, expressing in very offensive terms his contempt for anyone who believed that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Of course my friend had not written that he believes that, and in fact he does not believe in a young earth.
Part of the problem, I think, is that relatively few people, whether within the church or without, are even aware that there is a creationist alternative to young earth theory. Consequently, if an evolutionist college teacher discusses creationism, he or she will generally address young-earth creationism only, and will treat it with contempt and ridicule; and meanwhile, our 18-to-20 year old college student, who also hasn’t heard of old-earth creationism, is stuck defending what he was taught in church with appeals to scientific theories which admittedly sound a little far-fetched.
And by saying just that much, already I have offended half of my friends. Bear with me. I do have opinions about young-earth creationism (hereinafter, YEC) and old-earth creationism (OEC). But those opinions are at least somewhat tentative, because I have not studied the subject with any thoroughness, which is what I now propose to do. My views may change. Indeed, the reader is invited to attempt to persuade me to change them.
What I have in mind is this. Rather than waiting until my study is complete and then publishing a lengthy, crafted essay, I am going to publish my thoughts as I come across materials that I find to be especially useful. It will be a kind of “conversation with myself,” spoken aloud for anyone to hear, and then also, I hope, a conversation with anyone who wishes to join me in my quest for discovery.
So what are my opinions on the matter presently? I can think of the following.
1. God exists.
2. God is the author of “Two Books”: the Bible and the Cosmos. What we can learn from the Bible, therefore, should be expected to be compatible with what we learn from science, which is the study of Creation. Any apparent conflict would then indicate that we lack understanding, either of the Bible or the science. Science can inform our theology, and vice versa.
3. As far as I can tell, both YEC and OEC are compatible with biblical teaching.
4. The science on which YEC advocates rely appears very shaky to me.
I am very confident about #1. and #2.; less so about #3. and #4. Let’s see where the journey takes us.