Review by Ruben Baron
First Published February 2009
Chapter 1 gives a general introduction to the debate before the specific points are presented in the following chapters. Unfortunately this chapter simply restates most of the standard YEC viewpoints and mentality that has been known for many years. It does not give a fair representation of the debate from both sides.
This chapter begins with a review of the history of the Church’s understanding of the early chapters of Genesis. In summary it is stated that the majority of Christians believed in a YEC until about the early 19th century. And then because of the influence of the science, many tried to accommodate the Bible with OEC by means of various alternative views such as the gap theory, day-age theory, the framework hypothesis, or progressive creation. It is acknowledged that YEC has experienced a resurgence in recent decades, which has intensified the debate within the Church.
But in this entire chapter as well as in the rest of this book there is a very negative tone that simply destroys any pretense of a “fair” trial. For example on page 14 it is stated that “scholars have resorted to weak and oftentimes fallacious arguments and reasoning.” Where is the spirit of impartiality in this debate with statements like this?
As this chapter continues it is emphasized that “All ideas should be subjected to rigorous self-examination, yet a similar self-critique is long overdue from the old-earth creationists.” I have to ask myself here what they are talking about? I have never seen a rigorous self-examination of the foundations of YEC by those who support YEC, except perhaps in very minor details. And yet OEC arguments have been subject to rigorous scientific tests and Scriptural exegetical tests by both supporters and opponents of OEC. Yes, perhaps OEC’s, like all of us, could do an even more rigorous examination of their viewpoint, but to state this in such a one-sided manner in this book is blatantly unfair and further reinforces the very negative tone of this book.
On page 14 it is further stated that this book “will loosely follow the procedures of a court case,” by examining the various viewpoints for OEC and YEC. Then it is stated that “the defense will have their say.” The problem of course here is that the defense will not have their say. If this book were to really be evenhanded, then it should have been co-authored by representatives of both viewpoints. Instead this book is more similar to a trial in which the accused is not present at the trial and not allowed to confront and respond to his accuser. And to continue the analogy of the trial here, it is stated that “This will serve to illustrate the extremely shaky theological ground occupied by the old-earth position.” This to me does not seem like a trial, but rather a judgment before the trial even begins!
A question on page 15 is then asked as to “Why do Christians keep fighting about this issue when they should be focused on the Gospel?” This is actually a very good question, but the answer supplied here touches at the very heart of this debate. The answers given here are summarized as:
God has included the first 11 chapters of Genesis in the Bible. Both OEC and YEC viewpoints would agree on this point. But the difference is not that OEC’s ignore these chapters, but rather that they do not have the same interpretation as YEC.
Many people do not understand the foundational nature of this debate. The accusation implied here is that Christians deliberately abandon the “correct” YEC interpretation, and because of this, there is no reason why they should not abandon the “correct” interpretation of other parts of the Bible. This argument is also sometimes known as the “slippery slope” argument in biblical interpretation. Again this is a misrepresentation of the OEC viewpoint, which would say that the OEC viewpoint is the best understanding of the Scripture in context and simply differs in interpretation from a YEC viewpoint.
Many Christians … see logical reasoning and careful exegesis as antithetical to faith. The irony of this statement is that OEC’s continually demonstrate that they do integrate science, logical reasoning and exegesis with faith better than other Christians to do, especially in the area the science. Both YEC’s and OEC’s strongly would agree that faith should not be “blind”, but the debate here is on how to reconcile a correct understanding of faith with the world around us.
Young-earth creationists are often asked why they feel it is necessary to correct fellow believers and refute their ideas about an old earth. It is stated therefore that “We should welcome constructive criticism.”, but it is not so simple as that. Judging by the literature, most YEC’s would say that any criticism of their view is not constructive, simply because it questions YEC. Secondly, because YEC’s feel so strongly about the importance of their views, then almost by definition they will be on the offensive in correcting other’s viewpoints on origins.
On page 17 those with an OEC viewpoint are accused of “dividing the church in the early 19th century by bringing in a concept foreign to the Scriptures and contrary to 18 centuries of orthodox belief.” These kind of statements are the very reason why this debate is so difficult to resolve. Just in this one sentence three unsupported accusations are made:
Dividing the church. Was the church really divided over this one issue? The history of Christianity shows that even in the 19th century the church was divided over many, many different issues. Certainly there were differences of opinion on this issue in the 19th century, but the age of the earth was not the main issue that divided Christians, and furthermore these differences of opinion were not as polarized as seen today.
Bringing in a concept foreign to the Scriptures. Again a dogmatic judgment is made that the YEC viewpoint is the Scriptural viewpoint. The whole point of this debate is to decide what is or is not foreign to Scripture, but obviously the conclusion is already given here.
Contrary to 18 centuries of orthodox belief. Even this point is rather dogmatically stated, when in fact there are many indications of differences of opinion on this issue long before the early 19th century. And because of the many issues that have divided Christians over the century, what is the “orthodox” view? Even modern evangelical Christians have differences of opinion of issues that some would consider “orthodox”. The statement “contrary to 18 centuries of orthodox belief” is simply too sweeping of a generalization.
Page 17 deals with the question of “How should both sides treat each other?” Actually most of the comments made here everyone could agree with. But the problem here is that they seem to be aimed to OEC’s, but in reality the YEC’s could use the same advice here, especially with regard to disagreements handled “with a spirit of gentleness and respect.” To be honest this has already not been well demonstrated in many of the comments and accusations made just in chapter 1 of this book.
Page 19 emphasizes that “It’s not about Darwin” in this debate. It is true that the issue is not evolution versus creation and it is also true that this issue appeared before Darwin in the early development of geology. But again the same accusation is made that “Because Genesis began to be reinterpreted, more people started to doubt the validity of the rest of God’s Word.” This is a very common accusation from the YEC viewpoint, but where is the basis for this accusation? There were many reasons for the rise of theological liberalism in the 19th century, and even though it might be said that in Europe there was indeed a decline in Biblical Christianity, the same can not be said in the United States, even before the “resurgence” of YEC in the last few decades.
Page 20 continues with the “reinterpretation” and the “slippery slope” arguments used earlier. It is stated here that “If believers cannot trust God’s Word when it comes to the creation account, then they should have no reason to believe it when it speaks of Jesus being the only way to the Father.” This is simply a very misleading and emotionally charged way to formulate this debate. Both the question of creation and the question of Jesus being the only way to the Father have very deep theological implications that need to be studied and not just superficially read. To then conclude that “Millions of people have made this logical connection …” borders on irresponsibility. The reason many people refuse to trust in Christ is not just because of the influence of science, but because they have not seriously studied the Bible! They have rejected the Bible because of a superficial ignorance of what the Bible actually teaches in these areas. It is true that many non-Christians think that “science (especially evolution) contradict the Bible” and so they do not take the rest of the Bible seriously. But a YEC viewpoint of the Bible will not do anything to correct this impression, but rather may actually reinforce this impression.
This chapter concludes with some general comments about science on page 20. It is emphasized that science requires interpretation and has assumptions. Certainly this is correct, but the problem as related to YEC is that:
Understanding of Scripture also requires interpretation and it also has certain assumptions. The issue is not having assumptions, but rather checking out the assumptions.
A YEC view of science also has its interpretation and assumptions. It is implied here that YEC interpretations and assumptions are “biblical” and not “manmade”, but it simply is not that easy to separate ourselves from the assumptions that we bring along with us when we interpret science or the Bible, whether from a YEC or OEC viewpoint.
On page 21 there is criticism of comments from the Answers to Creation web site. The criticism is simply that “What the writer of this article fails to realize is that scientific evidence does not ‘speak for itself’ — it requires interpretation.” Well, I would add that the Bible itself also requires interpretation. Almost any student of the Bible recognizes that it is not so simple just “to let the Bible speak for itself.” Of course the Bible can speak for itself, but we have to still understand what is being said, which requires interpretation. Why do the YEC’s continually fail to recognize this?
Much of what is said at the end of this chapter has some merit, such as the need to have a correct world view. What is ironic is that the authors of this book simply use this to discredit science, but do not seem to realize that they are doing exactly the same thing (imposing a world view) when it comes to properly understand the text of the Bible. They instead focus on cases in which a few scientists disagree with the prevailing view (such as the “big bang”) to demonstrate how science is wrong or at least cannot be trusted in its conclusions.
Of course there is always dissent in science, but this does not mean either that the dissent has validity or does not have validity. Just because a scientific conclusion is opposed by a minority of scientists does not necessarily make the conclusion wrong. Again the impression here is that the YEC’s are looking for anything to discredit OEC’s. If the YEC’s were more honest about this, they should bring out the fact that even a greater majority of the scientific community would oppose what passes for science among YEC’s, but this is not mentioned at all here.
To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
Feel free to check out more of this website. Our goal is to provide rebuttals to the bad science behind young earth creationism, and honor God by properly presenting His creation.