Review by Ruben Baron
First Published February 2009
Chapter 3 presents the OEC response to arguments from the Bible for YEC given in Chapter 2. Of course this is not really a fair defense because it was not written from an OEC viewpoint. In fact the title of this chapter with quotation marks around the word “Biblical” already sets the unfair tone of the defense.
The first paragraph in this chapter does exactly what this book claimed it would not do in the introduction — give a very condescending judgmental perspective of the OEC viewpoint with statements such as “It is surprising to see the inadequate responses from otherwise brilliant men. Sadly, many old-earth creationists knowingly misrepresent young-earth creationism, while others resort to … fallacious debate tactics.” As they stand, these are very serious charges against representatives of the OEC viewpoint. But I again ask how statements like this can even begin to represent any kind of evenhandedness in dealing with this issue in this book.
The first major charge again the OEC position is that they have changed hermeneutical guidelines in interpreting the Bible, so that the same rules do not apply to Genesis. Pages 32-33 review some of the works of OEC’s that are alleged to support this statement. But reading their critique of these individuals actually misrepresents their viewpoint. Nowhere do they say how these individuals “change the hermeneutics” of the Bible. But rather they simply repeat the same arguments from Chapter 2 by claiming that the YEC hermeneutic is the correct hermeneutic and anything else leads to the same “slippery slope” arguments used in Chapter 1.
On page 33 the issue of the influence on science on the Bible is met head-on with statements such as “he must change his interpretation of Scripture rather than question the scientific majority,” and “God’s Word is inspired by the One who is infallible and is responsible for (and was an eyewitness to) the events that are being researched.” As in Chapter 1, the YEC perspective is attempting to set up a false dichotomy between science and the authority of the Bible.
This book, as well as in most YEC writings, frequently repeats this false dichotomy. But as was already stated in the review of Chapter 1, an understanding of Scripture requires interpretation, and interpretation brings with it the understanding of the interpreter. No one is questioning the infallibility of God, but there can be questions on the infallibility of the interpreter and his interpretation of the Bible. Not just science, but many other things such as historical context, archaeology, or literary genre will influence our understanding and interpretation of the Bible. It is simply unfair to formulate this question as an issue of the “scientific majority” versus the infallibility of God. Interpreting the Bible is a much more profound process than that stated simplistically in this book.
The book continues with even more emotionally charged language, such as “It is sad to see how such a great Christian man could side with the scoffers who mock the works of our Lord,” which is then followed by a discussion of the scoffers from 2 Peter 3, and then an accusation that OEC’s follow uniformitarianism. There is so much wrong with these kinds of emotionally loaded statements that it is hard to know where to begin.
First of all, the language used here is entirely out of place in a discussion such as this, and contrary to the stated intentions of this book to not misrepresent other viewpoints in a very judgmental and condescending manner.
The use of emotionally-charged language here is simply a crude attempt to manipulate the reader to the YEC viewpoint.
None of these “great Christian men” are deliberately siding with scoffers! This is a completely unfair assertion that is at best only an inference. Just because these men accept a scientific conclusion that has indirect connections with those who might be scoffers does not mean that they “side” with the scoffers. How much science and technology is accepted today by all Christians including YEC’s, which may have been developed by those who scoff at Christianity? We could go through a massive list of scientific and technical achievements that are accepted without question today by everyone, but which was developed mostly by non-Christians, some of whom would scoff at Christianity. The answer of course, is that the science is established independent of the scientist’s personal views in most cases, despite a few well publicized cases to the contrary.
The use of uniformitarian assumptions is brought up again as if this were the exclusive domain of secular scientists. First of all, assumptions can be checked out to see if uniformitarian assumptions are valid. Secondly, even secular scientists recognize that there are many occasions where catastrophes overrule a uniformitarian view. Thirdly, all of the scientific “proofs” used by YEC’s that will be reviewed later in this book also use many uniformitarian assumptions, but just different assumptions that in some cases are even scientifically without merit.
On pages 35-36 the book now turns to the frequently heard argument of “That’s not the point of the passage!” with the idea that creation tells us only about Who created and that man is unique in God’s creation. According to this argument, the rest of the creation account consists of debatable details that are not part of the main point. Ironically we have here one of the few points that both OEC’s and YEC’s can agree on, but they just disagree with the details. Details of creation as well as many other subjects in the Bible do have a reason for being there, but the problem is how do we understand these details correctly in context?
Pages 36-40 deal with the Framework hypothesis in some detail. The main point from the YEC viewpoint here is to prove that Genesis is not Hebrew poetry in the same sense as other clear cases of Hebrew poetry. But just because Genesis is not true Hebrew poetry, this does does not mean that there are no literary devices used to communicate even prose text.
The Framework hypothesis is certainly an alternative view on interpreting Genesis and a view that would be consistent with OEC viewpoint, but proving or disproving the validity of the Framework hypothesis does not disprove the OEC viewpoint, since there are other interpretations of Genesis that also support a OEC viewpoint.
Pages 41-42 deal with the Polemic view of Genesis, which says that Genesis was written to refute idolatrous cultures at the time of the Israelites. As with the Framework hypothesis, proving or disproving this view does not disprove an OEC view of Genesis. In fact most OEC’s would agree with the arguments set forth in this book against the Polemic view of Genesis.
The remainder of Chapter 3 beginning with page 43 deals with the attempts by OEC’s to refute the exegetical points brought out by YEC’s in Chapter 2.
First is a refutation of the views of Norman Geisler, again with condescending judgmental remarks thrown in, such as “illustrates this poor reasoning.” Much of this discussion has already been dealt with in Chapter 2. Without dealing again with these same points, several more points are introduced here:
The passage in 2 Peter 3:8 (which alludes to Psalm 90:4) that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” is dismissed as poor exegesis on Dr. Geisler’s part. It is true that the use of day here is a simile, but that does not take away from the fact that a day does not always mean 24 hours, even if it leads to logical inconsistencies as the book tries to demonstrate.
It is asserted that if a period of time other than 24-hour days were intended, there are other better Hebrew words to use to indicate a long period. To support this assertion, the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is utilized. That is, Scripture was written so that anyone, not just the elite, would understand the Bible. This point was already dealt with in the review of Chapter 2 in which it was asserted that only the “plain meaning” of Scripture should be used. Of course there are many passages in the Bible that almost anyone can understand, but that does not mean that all passages in the Bible are easy to understand. It is easy to find verses in the Bible that have nothing to do with creation that are indeed hard to understand, or have genuine differences of opinion. Finally, how do we really know why the Hebrew word יום (yom — day) is used in Genesis 1? Maybe there are other reasons for using this word that we are not aware of currently.
The words of Dr. Walter Kaiser are invoked on pages 45-46 to demonstrate the futility of supporting a meaning of day other than a 24-hour day. Although all will not agree with Dr. Kaiser’s point that the 24-hour day was not invented until the fourth day, the reaction in the book focused his rejection of the definition of “day” in two major Hebrew lexicons, BDB and KB (or HALOT). Dr. Kaiser was doing what any competent Hebrew scholar would do, and that is to look at the context rather than just blindly read the dictionary meaning. But the book made a big issue of his ignoring the authority of these leading scholarly dictionaries in determining the meaning of the word “day”.
What is ironic here is that YEC’s will invoke the authority of those who do not believe the Bible the same way they do, when it suits their purposes. Even though both BDB and KB are considered the leading scholarly lexicons of Hebrew, the authors of both lexicons have a very liberal viewpoint of the text of the Bible definitely not shared by YEC’s.
The conclusion of Dr. Kaiser’s words on page 47 use the same type of condescending judgmental language that is prominent throughout this book: “Obviously, it is because Kaiser’s view is not consistent with Scripture but was simply created to allow him to accept the old-earth view. Sadly, this is another example of a futile effort of a brilliant Christian man to insert long ages into a biblical account that does not allow for them.” I have to ask myself if the arrogance of YEC’s toward leading Hebrew scholars has any limits whatsoever.
A few more attempts to refute OEC arguments are given in the last part of Chapter 3:
Creation of Adam and Eve. Pages 47-51 again bring up the argument already mentioned in Chapter 2 about the New Testament accounts of the association of Adam and Eve with the “beginning of creation,” as mentioned in Mark 10:6 and Matthew 19:4. The focus here is attempting to refute the explanations of Wayne Grudem, Norman Geisler, and John Ankerberg. Despite a rather long effort to discredit the explanations of these scholars, I would still reply to this issue as in the review of Chapter 2 by stating that Jesus is quoting from the creation account in Genesis (probably Genesis 1:27 and 5:2). Because He is quoting the Old Testament in this way, the statements in these verses could just as easily be understood as referring to the account of creation in Genesis without making a statement one way or the other about the age of the earth. This entire section illustrates the extent of the convoluted arguments that YEC’s have to make to support their position.
The Length of the Seventh Day. Pages 51-52 try to deal with the fact that the seventh day does not have either the formulaic “evening and morning”, nor the ordinal number “seventh”. To argue, as is done on page 52, that pressing the point of a different formula is an unintentional admission that the other six days are 24-hour days is simply not true from an OEC viewpoint. Rather the point here is that the seventh day clearly alludes to a day longer than 24 hours, which gives an inconsistency in the way the lengths of the days are given in the seven days of creation in Genesis 1. If the last day is clearly not 24 hours, then there is serious doubt about the other days being 24 hours.
There is also a close association of the seventh day with Hebrews 4:3-5 that refers to the Sabbath rest. Norman Geisler is quoted again here as using this passage to support a long seventh day, while the book (in its usual condescending manner) refutes his conclusion by maintaining that these verses have nothing to do with the length of the seventh day of creation. An additional argument is used from John Whitcomb to the effect that the seventh day had to be only 24 hours, since God could not have cursed man on a day that God blessed and sanctified.
First of all, it is very risky for any of us to say what God could or could not have done on the Sabbath where the Bible is silent. To say anything borders on speculation. Secondly, the entire passage on rest from Hebrews 4:1-10 must be taken together to understand its intent. The focus of this passage is clearly a warning to believers to not fall short of the rest promised by God. Even though the passage does not explicitly declare that the Sabbath of creation is the rest of believers, there are still very strong associations between the two in verses 4:3b, 4:4, 4:9 and 4:10. It is agreed that the passage in Hebrews does not conclusively prove that the Sabbath rest continues today from the time of the creation, but it certainly permits it.
Another point made related to the Sabbath rest is that God is still at work today, so how could He be resting all of this time. Obviously God works in certain ways even on a 24-hour Sabbath, simply because He sustains the world all the time (see Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3). The point of the seventh day rest in Genesis 1 is that God is resting from His creative activity, but not that He stops working altogether. So to use the fact that God does still work in many ways today does not really have any direct relevance to viewing the present world as still in the seventh day of creation.
Poetic Considerations. The assertion is made on pages 52-54 that OEC’s use poetic passages to support their points, because the prose passages in Genesis refute their points. Hugh Ross is quoted in particular as supporting this viewpoint. However Dr. Ross does have a good point in that to understand the Bible, especially on debatable issues, one must take all passages in the Bible into account to best understand the teaching of the Bible.
Are the YEC’s suggesting here to ignore parts of the Bible, if they are poetic? This is a very dangerous suggestion, since a significant part of the Bible is poetry, especially in the Old Testament. They will agree that God inspired the poetic parts of the Bible, but then quickly dismiss their importance because of the use of poetic elements such as figures of speech, metaphors, and other non-literal imagery. It is true that poetry contains all of these things and that the Western mind is not as familiar with this kind of literature. But the point of poetry is still to communicate a specific message, even if poetic elements are used to communicate this message in ways that are more difficult for us to understand.
On page 53 the book dismisses biblical poetry as containing any “accounts” of creation, but rather that poetry only contains songs of praise to God. It is true that poetry is usually a song of praise to God. But this same poetry can also contain accounts of creation that are also a legitimate part of the text of the Bible, just as much as other non- poetic accounts of creation.
It is also stated on the same page that “One of the most important rules of hermeneutics is that the unclear should be interpreted in light of the clear.” This may be true to a certain extent, but even the unclear can sometimes help understand better what passes as “clear.” (That is, hermeneutics is not always a clear “either/or”decision, but sometimes a both/and decision.) Also this statement on “clear” or “unclear” passages is used in a way that strongly implies that poetry is “unclear” and therefore should be ignored in helping us understand creation better.
Even the example given on page 54 of the account of the Exodus 14-15 illustrates the point here, but not in the way that is intended in the book. Everyone agrees that Exodus 14 is prose, while Exodus 15 is almost entirely poetry, sometimes called the song of Moses. The assertion is made in the book that Exodus 14 (prose) helps us to understand Exodus 15 (poetry). I would maintain that even though this is partially true, Exodus 15 gives us many details not found in Exodus 14, and communicates a whole different sense of understanding the events of Exodus 14 that the prose there simply could not communicate. Certainly the poetry of Exodus 15 contains praise to God, but it also is much more than that. This very example demonstrates that poetry can indeed communicate more than just praise to God. To ridicule attempts at taking the song of Exodus 15 in a woodenly literal manner, as is done in the book, does not negate the value of this song in learning more about the events portrayed in the song.
Using the example of Exodus 15, the book now attempts to ridicule the use of Psalm 104 as a legitimate source for better understanding creation. This psalm is usually ignored by YEC’s and promoted by OEC’s, and it is easy to understand why. This Psalm tends to support an OEC viewpoint, even when taking the poetic imagery into account. As one reads Psalm 104, there is no question that it parallels the creation account in many ways, even when taking the poetic imagery into account, and even when taking into account that the psalm is also describing the present creation together with the beginning of creation. One could dismiss the ships moving along as not part of the original creation (Psalm 104:26), but this one reference does not negate the force of the Psalm in referring primarily to the original creation.
The mention of lions roaring after their prey (Psalm 104:21) can easily be used to indicate carnivorous activity in the original creation as well as in the present creation, unless one interprets Genesis 1:29-30 as mandating vegetarianism for all animals. As stated in the review of Chapter 2, this verse in Genesis can simply mean that plants are the ultimate source of food for both carnivorous and noncarnivorous animals, which remains true today. The assumption of YEC’s is that Genesis 1:29-30 is the clear hermeneutic while Psalm 104:21 is the unclear hermeneutic, but it could be easily argued the opposite way despite the poetic structure of Psalm 104.
The Ancient Hills The final assertion in Chapter 3 on pages 55-56 concerns the use of the word “ancient” in passages such as Habakkuk 3:6 and 2 Peter 3:5. OEC’s use these verses to emphasize the antiquity of the earth as compared to the time of humanity. YEC’s dismiss these passages as just poetic expression, simply by asserting that these passages are unclear in light of the “clear” passages in Genesis.
The Hebrew words עד (ed — everlasting) and עולם (olam — eternal) are indeed used in the Habakkuk passage to describe hills and mountains without reference to any specific age. But the very same Hebrew word עולם is also used to describe God in the same verse, as if to say that even if the hills are everlasting or very old, the everlasting God will cause these same hills and mountains to be humbled or shattered. Since God is eternal, there is certainly the sense in this passage that the hills and mountains are very old, since they are compared to the eternal God in the same verse. The same Hebrew word עולם is also used in Genesis 6:4 to refer to men, who are certainly not very old in the OEC sense. But all this verse demonstrates is the contextual flexibility of the Hebrew word עולם, in that the context plays a large role in determining the meaning of a word in Hebrew.
Despite the extensive efforts in Chapter 3 to refute the arguments of OEC’s by YEC’s, the case is far from decisive as demonstrated in the above comments. Furthermore, OEC’s were not fairly represented in this “defense” and there were several examples of a condescending judgmental manner, which should have no place in this kind of discussion.
Chapter 4 will continue with a further evaluation of the main OEC theological arguments from a YEC perspective.
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