Review by Ruben Baron
First Published February 2009
Chapter 4 is titled “Defense — Poor Reasoning” which even in the title continues the negative tone of this book. This chapter focuses on the responses of specific individuals who have dealt with YEC arguments from a theological viewpoint. In particular this chapter mentions many specific individuals by name, which reinforces the general impression that advocates of YEC are willing to attack any who do not agree with them, with what comes across as a spirit of criticism and divisiveness.
Even if one might agree that some of the critics of YEC reviewed in this chapter do indeed misrepresent YEC, this in itself does not automatically validate YEC as the correct view of Scripture. Beginning with page 57 several kinds of responses to YEC are reviewed:
1. Pragmatic Appeals. This is the view that “what works” must be the correct view. Some OEC advocates such as Hugh Ross and Robert Pyne are mentioned by name as advocating a pragmatic approach by saying that OEC has a better appeal than YEC. Even if they are indeed advocating a pragmatic appeal, this is not relevant to establishing the truth of YEC. Unfortunately at the end of this first section, the book falls back into the same old YEC rut, by formulating the debate as a question of Biblical authority. It seems that by saying “Did God really do what He said He did in Genesis 1?” enough times, then this debate will be settled. The formulation of this debate as an issue of Biblical authority has already been dealt with several times in previous chapters of this review, so no more needs to be said here.
2. Creation Agnosticism. This approach, beginning with page 59, is the approach that the Bible does not give enough information about the age of the earth, so one cannot base any conclusions on the age of the earth from Scripture. What follows are quotations from several theologians such as Wayne Grudem, Francis Schaeffer, and J. P. Moreland. What is disturbing about this section is the ease by which the authors of this book dismiss the arguments of all of these major theologians who certainly know theology and the Bible at least as well, if not better, than most YEC advocates. These theologians are simply trying to give their honest assessment of the Biblical evidence for the age of the earth, and they are dismissed simply because they do not support the arguments of YEC advocates. If they do not take a stand for or against YEC, then it is because they see the Bible as not taking a stand on this issue. Again there is the impression of YEC arrogance to be able to so easily dismiss all of these theologians just because they do not clearly take a YEC viewpoint.
3. Misrepresenting the Other Side. It is ironic that misrepresentation of YEC would be brought up as a major point while ignoring all of the misrepresentations of OEC in this book. The focus here is mainly on the comments of J. P. Moreland about YEC. Even if it is accepted that Dr. Moreland is misrepresenting YEC, it seems that this book is also misrepresenting Dr. Moreland’s comments. When, for example on page 62, it is asserted that Dr. Moreland links YEC with flat earth and geocentricism, the response is that YEC does not accept flat earth or geocentricism, so therefore Dr. Moreland is misrepresenting YEC. They do not quote exactly how Dr. Moreland stated this, and certainly it is reasonable to assume that most, if not all, YEC’s do not accept flat earth or geocentricism. But another way to understand Dr. Moreland’s comments is that if one can justify YEC from Scripture, then one could also justify flat earth or geocentricism by using the same hermeneutic approach to Scripture. There are verses in the Bible that could be interpreted this in a geocentric, or even in a flat-earth way, even if we do not agree with this interpretation for good reasons.
What follows on pages 62-63 is a discussion of how YEC’s do not accept the arguments for flat earth or geocentricism, and that they are being tainted as guilty by association. Certainly guilt by association is not a valid approach for determining the validity of YEC. To further disassociate YEC from flat earth or geocentricism, the book claims that the YEC position does not come from a “wooden literalism,” but rather from a historical-grammatical approach to interpreting Scripture. How ironic it is that here, in contrast to other parts of this book, there is agreement with OEC that the question of age is an interpretation issue, just as OEC’s have been maintaining all along. But even though they agree that this issue is an interpretation issue, they also conclude on page 63 that Genesis 1 is clearly historical narrative and not poetry or other figurative literature. But this conclusion in itself is an interpretation. Even if Genesis 1 is not poetry, there can still be other literary elements in this chapter that require careful interpretation. Contrary to what they deny in this section, the YEC position does view Genesis 1 with “wooden literalism,” which is the fundamental reason for this debate.
Another form of misrepresentation given here is the “straw-man” argument, in which one side represents a caricature of the other side, so that it can be easily dismissed. For several pages beginning with page 64, several specific OEC misrepresentations are brought out. Perhaps these have some validity, or alternatively, as suggested earlier with J. P. Moreland, these “misrepresentations” are being misrepresented in this book. But even if OEC’s do misrepresent YEC’s, which certainly should not be condoned, this does not necessarily negate the OEC point that is being made. A brief list of these misrepresentations are:
The Old Earth Ministries web site article regarding a literal interpretation of Job 40-41: The point of the web site article was to deal with hermeneutics, not to accuse all YEC’s of necessarily accepting the hermeneutic. Nevertheless, the author of this web site article is accused of misquoting the Bible, when perhaps a more reasonable response would have been that he was misinterpreting the Bible, if that were the case.
OEC’s misrepresent YEC’s as calling them heretics to be thrown out of the church: A strong denial of this view is presented by quoting Ken Ham, a prominent YEC. But rather than leaving the issue alone, the book goes on further to bring up the “slippery slope” argument mentioned in the review of earlier chapters. That is, if YEC is questioned, then why not question the resurrection of Christ, because of the hermeneutical precedent? The very fact that this argument is brought up again here does indeed imply, or at least gives suspicion to the viewpoint, that YEC’s do view OEC’s as deviating from Christian orthodoxy.
The John Ankerberg debate: This is brought up as a misrepresentation of the YEC view of the Hebrew word for day. It is not clear whether Dr. Ankerberg did misrepresent the YEC viewpoint without seeing the context of his exact words. But what is clear is the additional statement that “As moderator, Ankerberg reveals his old-earth bias on numerous occasions …” shows the intractability of this debate, as pointed out several times in this review. If one does not support the YEC viewpoint, he is automatically accused of “bias.” If he tries to be evenhanded, then he is accused of being “agnostic,” as shown earlier in this chapter.
Geisler’s Systematic Theology: Portions of this work by Dr. Geisler are quoted on pages 66-68 to demonstrate other misrepresentations of YEC. The first misrepresentation presented is that YEC’s refuse to grant long periods because this would support evolution. It is then pointed out that long ages were already around in geology long before Darwin’s writings. This may misrepresent some YEC’s, but this argument has indeed been used in other YEC literature.
The second misrepresentation is that YEC’s say that light was created on the fourth day. Certainly YEC’s would say that light was created on the first day, but that light-bearing objects such as the sun or moon were created on the fourth day. This may also be a misrepresentation, but the context of Dr. Geisler’s statement would have to be examined to see if this is indeed so. But the response to this misrepresentation is rather harsh when it is stated that “Geisler’s blunder on this point reveals that he has seriously and inexcusably failed to accurately understand and explain the position that he is criticizing.”
These examples show that OEC’s may sometimes misrepresent YEC’s, but pointing out a few examples of misrepresentation by OEC advocates does not necessarily negate the OEC point being made. By contrast this entire book is full of misrepresentations of the OEC viewpoint.
4. The Events of Day Six. Pages 68-70 deal with the idea that the events in chapters 2-3 in Genesis could not have possibly fit into one 24 day, which would strongly point to a time period for each day of more than 24 hours. It is noted that this point was brought out by both Gleason Archer and Norman Geisler. An attempt is then made to show how all of the events could indeed fit into one 24-hour day. But in the valiant effort to show how everything could fit into one ordinary day, the YEC explanation violates one of the major premises of their view — that is, the plain reading of the text should be preferred. A plain reading of Genesis 2-3 to most interpreters would indicate a whole sequence of events that would easily take more than 24 hours. It seems more likely therefore that the YEC viewpoint is to prefer Genesis 1 with a YEC interpretation, and then to ignore, reinterpret, or deprecate, any other parts of Scripture that touch upon creation, whether Genesis 2-3, Psalm 104, or many other passages that do not clearly support a YEC viewpoint.
5. Plant death. The idea here is if death came from the Fall, then surely plants would have died before the Fall. If plants died before the Fall, then this indicates that death occurred before the Fall, as OEC’s maintain. The book points out that plant death is irrelevant to the fall, as OEC’s would agree. In particular, Dr. Hugh Ross is extensively quoted to support this view. But at the end of this section, rather than leaving the subject alone, it is stated once more on page 71 that:
“The old-earthers cannot escape this serious argument. The Bible is clear that animal death and human death came as a result of sin. By placing death before sin (for millions of years), old-earthers are unintentionally impugning God’s holy nature. Surely the God who views death as an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) would not proclaim that a world full of death was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Yet the old-earthers’ views force this contradiction upon the Scriptures.”
There are so many problems with this paragraph that it is hard to know where to begin. Furthermore, most of the points in this paragraph have already been reviewed in earlier chapters of this book, so that here one gets the impression (as in much of this book) that if something is repeated enough times, it will become believable. But briefly to respond yet again to the same points dealt with in earlier chapters:
The Bible is not at all clear that animal death came as a result of sin. All of the passages usually quoted on this deal with human death, not animal death.
To say that old-earthers are “unintentionally impugning God’s holy nature” is a very serious charge, and has no place in this debate. This is serious misrepresentation of OEC, even if it is charged that this is “unintentional.”
To formulate statements like “Surely the God …” is simply speculation, or a kind of logical deduction that is based upon questionable premises, and has no place in this debate. The question in this debate is to better understand what is written is Scripture, not to speculate about what God would or would not do.
To use phrases such as “God … would not proclaim that a world full of death was ‘very good’” is another attempt to play upon the emotions of the reader. Of course a statement like this sounds very emotionally appealing in the way it is stated, but the real question is whether this is what Scripture teaches, and what terms such as “death” or “very good” really mean in a Biblical context.
Again OEC’s are misrepresented by stating that they “force this contradiction upon the Scriptures.” OEC’s also look to Scripture as their authority in understanding what God did or did not do, and have said so many times. To make this kind of accusation simply reinforces the impression that YEC’s do want to attack OEC’s with only emotional arguments, contrary to the stated intentions of this book.
6. Revisionist Church History. This section deals with the question as to whether the Church Fathers supported a young or old earth. Much of the argument here seems to come down to how the statements of these Fathers are interpreted. Dr. Hugh Ross is quoted extensively in favor of the view that the majority of Church Fathers supported a long period of time, while this section attempts to show that this is not necessarily so. It is indeed useful to see what the Church Fathers thought about this issue, but it is not so important to know what the Church Fathers thought, as it is to interpret the Bible itself on this issue. Since there is a massive amount of writings by the Church Fathers, this kind of a question demands more extensive research than is provided here.
Again, as in much of this book, there is again the unfair accusation, even in the title, that OEC’s have a “revisionist” view of Church history. This is again a very serious charge that implies an intentional changing of the historical facts, rather than a simple difference of opinion or interpretation.
7. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. This section on pages 73-76 focuses on the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll, particularly on the one chapter that deals with YEC. Mark Noll, also citing historian Ronald Numbers, basically associates the origin of the YEC movement with the rise of Seventh Day Adventism and the writings of Ellen White. In responding to this claim, the book cites early nineteenth century geologists and even Martin Luther and John Calvin as supporters of YEC. However it seems that there is some confusion between YEC as a modern movement and the opinions of individuals before the time of Ellen White. Certainly Martin Luther and John Calvin may have had a 24-hour day view of creation, but what these historians are referring to is the modern-day YEC movement, with all of the theology that goes with it. Also there is good evidence (though still debatable with Calvin) that both Luther and Calvin had a geocentric view of the universe, which no one today, including YEC’s, accept. So to quote Luther and Calvin as authorities in this debate is missing the point. The issue is not just what Luther and Calvin thought, but what does the Bible teach.
The end of this section uses the same condemning, condescending language that is characteristic of this entire book, in statements such as “Mark Noll is seriously wrong on this entire point. Sadly, his book has influenced the Church significantly to reject the plain truth of Genesis.” Is he really wrong? Or did the authors of this book, who are not professional historians at all, miss his point?
8. Improper View of General and Special Revelation. This section on pages 76-78 mainly responds to Dr. Hugh Ross’ statement that modern scientific discoveries are a source of general revelation. After a brief introduction to the concepts of special and general revelation, the book states “Dr. Ross incorrectly claims that modern scientific discoveries are a source of general revelation.” In the rest of the same paragraph, I found myself wondering what kind of convoluted or incoherent reasoning was used to justify this statement, as summarized somewhat in the following statements:
First of all, the very same paragraph states a few sentences earlier that “God’s creation and man’s conscience are sources of general revelation,” citing several verses in Scripture to support this. So if this is the case, then certainly any observation of nature — the creation of God — reveals something about the nature of God, not to mention the nature of nature.
But then the claim is made that Dr. Ross is wrong, because modern scientific discoveries were not available to all people in history. I had to ask myself what does this have to do with anything — either in science or in the Bible verses quoted? Every culture in history sees nature somewhat differently, including our own. One of the points of Romans 1:20 is to show that men cannot use ignorance of God and His nature, from what they see in nature, regardless of their view of nature or their culture. But this does not mean that more detailed observation of nature cannot provide yet more evidence of God and His creation. In fact the scientific discoveries of our time reinforce Romans 1:20 even further, so that today there is even less excuse to reject God from what we see of His creation in nature.
The assertion is then made “But nowhere does the Bible say that we can work out the history of creation simply by studying the creation.” But in response one could say that nowhere does the Bible say that we cannot do this. In fact the mandate to mankind in Genesis is to rule over nature (Gen. 1:26, 28), which includes understanding and responsibly managing nature.
Finally the statement is made that “Only special revelation reveals to us that salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work.” Both OEC’s and YEC’s would certainly agree with this statement, but what does this have to do with the role of general revelation in nature? OEC’s have never claimed that a study of nature points to the kind of information about the work of Jesus Christ that is found in the Bible.
This section continues with the accusation that OEC’s elevate general revelation to the same level as special revelation, mainly by again quoting Dr. Hugh Ross on page 76-77. Before looking at their response to this quotation, it is important to note that Dr. Ross makes two important points in this quotation.
First of all, Dr. Ross explicitly says that he is not putting natural revelation on “equal footing” with special revelation in the Bible.
What Dr. Ross is saying is simply that truth is truth, whether coming from the Bible or from nature. This does not mean that truth from nature has the same authority as truth from the Bible. But it does say that truth from nature cannot be ignored or automatically relegated to be falsehood.
After this quotation by Dr. Ross comes a series of responses to his quotation that are briefly summarized here:
The first reaction is to contradict Dr. Ross’ assertion that he is not putting natural revelation on the same level as special revelation. Apparently the authors of this book do not accept Dr. Ross’ statement at face value, even when given directly in his quotation, which points to a possible misunderstanding of Dr. Ross’ quotation.
The next reaction is to accuse Dr. Ross that “he confuses his interpretation of nature with fact.” Obviously the authors of this book disagree with Dr. Ross, but this kind of a response shows again the fundamental intractability of this debate. First of all, the “facts” in science require interpretation in science to give them a proper context and the line between a fact and an interpretation is not always that clear. Secondly, the irony here is that YEC’s are doing in science exactly the opposite to what they do in Scripture. That is, in science they see “facts” as just mostly “interpretations,” while they see things in Scripture as “facts”, while in reality they are interpretations.
Next a distinction is drawn between Scripture being “God breathed” and nature which “is suffering from 6,000 years of the Curse.” Because of the “Curse”, the implication is made that no reliable information can be drawn about nature, especially related to the creation. But then it is conceded that nature “can provide man with accurate information, but it does mean that it is not of the same caliber as God’s Word.” Dr. Ross has already agreed in his quotation that data from nature was not “on equal footing” with the Bible. So this is not (or should not be) the point of disagreement. The point of disagreement seems to be on the reliability of information about nature, especially with regard to creation. Dr. Ross sees nature as very reliable, since it is God’s creation, while YEC’s see it as unreliable, because of the Curse. But by conceding that nature can provide man with accurate information. YEC’s are put into a position of dogmatically deciding what is and is not accurate or reliable, especially if it does not agree with their preconceptions about what nature should be.
Psalm 19 is then cited as showing how on the one hand “The heavens declare the glory of God,” while on the other hand, later in the same Psalm “The law of the Lord is perfect, …” with the point that only the Law is capable of “converting the soul.” One again wonders what kind of point is being made here. I am sure that Dr. Ross would accept all of Psalm 19 for what it is saying, and he has already said that nature was not “on equal footing” with the Bible. So what is the point of this citation? To show that Dr. Ross is denying part of Psalm 19? If so, this is an unfair conclusion to draw from his simple quotation. None of this is relevant to the main point that Dr. Ross was trying to make.
Next it is stated that his statement is in theological error because “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The argument given here is that since heaven and earth are part of general revelation which will pass away, then general revelation cannot be part of the Word of God which will not pass away. Therefore it is concluded that nature cannot be “likened to” a 67th book of the Bible. First of all, Dr. Ross did not say that nature was the 67th book of the Bible, but rather that it “may be likened to a 67th book of the Bible.” Of course nature will eventually pass away, but so will the human beings that observe nature. Dr. Ross is simply saying that nature as it is now is simply another means of learning about God and his creation, regardless of the future destination of the creation.
Finally it is mentioned that Walter Kaiser and others claim that the human interpreters of God’s Word is also suffering from the Curse. It is then claimed that Dr. Kaiser’s argument claims too much to the point of “undermining his entire career as a seminary professor.” This is of course a ridiculous conclusion, because the YEC’s are making this point into a black and white issue. All Dr. Kaiser is trying to do is to point out that we need to be cautious about coming to conclusions in either nature or the Bible, since we are fallible interpreters. But this does not mean that we are to give up and say that we cannot interpret anything. The presence of fallibility and sin in the world has to be balanced with other statements in the Bible about man’s responsibilities before God and in ruling nature, and the special relationship of man with God in being created in the image of God. To say that a fallible interpreter will be better off with interpreting the infallible Bible rather than interpreting fallible nature simply misses the point here.
The conclusion of this response to Dr. Kaiser again brings out emotional arguments already dealt with earlier, by accusing OEC’s of “relying on the interpretations of nature by people who for the most part are God-haters who could not care less about what God thinks of their interpretations.” OEC’s do not rely upon the interpretations of nature by “God-haters” any more than YEC’s rely upon any kind of science or technology done by “God-haters.” This kind of a pejorative statement is simply uncalled for in a debate that is represented as being “fair-minded”, and illustrates once again how intractable this debate is.
Much more space has been devoted to this section of Chapter 4 than in other sections, because of the barrage of misstatements, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and even examples of poor taste in dealing with the OEC point of view. It is hard to know to what extent YEC’s will go to promote what they see as the only correct view of the Bible and creation.
The last part of chapter 4 on pages 78-79 give the conclusions of this chapter. The very first sentence smugly states that “Young-earth creationism clearly has the upper hand when only the Bible is consulted.” Yet a review of this chapter shows that this conclusion has no justification whatsoever.
Quotations of some OEC’s are again brought up to demonstrate that even OEC’s agree that YEC is the “plain meaning of the biblical text — without considering ‘science.’” Even if some OEC’s do seem to say this (such as Pattle Pun), it has been pointed out that many other OEC’s do not say this. In particular, as pointed out in an earlier chapter, Dr. Archer did not say that YEC was the “plain meaning” of the text, but rather a “superficial reading,” which is quite a different thing. He is again being misquoted here.
Two points are then brought out that indicate what must be done for OEC to be a biblical viewpoint:
First, OEC’s must show that the YEC viewpoint is at odds with Scripture. It is then dogmatically stated that “This has never been done.”
This is an incredible statement, since there have been many books published which do show how YEC is at odds with Scripture. It would perhaps be more accurate and honest to state here that “This has never been done in a way that convinces YEC’s to change their preconceived notions about what the Bible says.”
This conclusion is even more incredible when it is stated that YEC’s “can point to several passages that become problematic when one adopts an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1.” Again several books have been written that deal with all of these passages, while at the same time showing Scriptural problems with a YEC viewpoint. To say that YEC stands on solid theological ground, while OEC stands on a sandy foundation is simply dogmatic wishful thinking that again illustrates the intractability of this debate.
Second, OEC’s must show that their hermeneutic is just as sound, if not better, than the YEC hermeneutic. This is really just a repetition of the point a. above. It is then asserted that OEC’s “force interpretations on numerous passages, which cannot be defended from context.” It has already been shown in the review of previous chapters of this book that YEC’s do exactly the same thing with passages outside of Genesis 1 that do not fit the YEC hermeneutic. It is interesting here that it is stated that context determines the meaning of the passage. Both OEC’s and YEC’s would agree with this statement, but obviously they would disagree on the context, which is the crux of this debate.
Finally the last paragraph of this chapter accuses OEC’s of eisegesis, or putting extra meaning into the text. Furthermore the OEC is accused of having “to add his ideas to Scripture in order to come away with the desired interpretation.” The irony, as shown up to now in this review, is that this is exactly what YEC’s are doing in most of their own arguments, either from science or Scripture. So to conclude that “Young-earth creationism has easily won the first round of proceedings.” is simply self delusion and nothing less.
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