Is Young Earth Creationism the most biblically correct option and how does this impact our understanding of science? A Dialogue

An mp3 recording

 

An Introduction  to understanding creation by David Graieg

  • Reasonable Faith Perth does not take a position on how and when God created so you are free to listen to the evidence and make up your mind. Three of the most commonly held positions are young earth creationism (YEC), Old earth creationism (also called progressive creationism) and theistic evolution (also called evolutionary creation). These are mutually exclusive positions and so you need to decide whether the from the Bible and science supports one of these positions. 

  • Christianity is primarily about a relationship with God through faith in Jesus' life, death and resurrection and I think you can be a Christian and hold to any of these views on creation. But as we said since these are mutually exclusive position only one of them (if any) is correct, but we can lovingly and humbly hold to it in a desire to have true beliefs. I think the topic of creation is an in-house discussion among Christians, that is to say, YEC, the big bang or evolution is not a reason to reject Christianity or Jesus. But as a Christian, this is a big issue in our culture and it is worth in the process of discipleship seek to understand what is the truth in regard to creation.

  • Cheow is going to represent the YEC view, which is basically that that best interpretation of the Bible is that God created in six consecutive literal 24 hour days and that the genealogies in the Bible have minimal gaps, such that when you add up the genealogies you a date for creation around 6000 years ago as measured by clocks on earth. The YEC also usually affirms a global flood at the time of Noah and there was no vertebrate animal death before the fall of the historical Adam.

  • Bruno is basically arguing that YEC while a possible position is not the best one. The Biblical text does not probably demand six literal 24 hr days. These could be metaphorical, there could be gaps before or after, the days could be ages, big bang cosmology and biological evolution while not necessarily correct are nonetheless compatible with the Bible. 

  • Both Cheow and Bruno are good Christians and both hold to the inspiration of Scripture [I'd say inerrancy as well but there are different understandings of what that means and so that is a whole discussion itself]. I want to thank them for preparing and helping us to further understand the issues at hand. There is far too much hostility between Christians and while there may be times to divide there is far more that unites us. In regard to creation both Cheow and Bruno (and Christians in general for that matter) hold to some essentials namely that:

    • 1) The Sovereign God of the Bible, YHWH created all things, and created them “very good.” Not some other Ancient Near East god, nor are these things (the sun/animals) divine, they are merely created things.

    • 2) God uniquely created Adam and Eve as the first human beings; God created them sinless, perfect, and in relationship to him. Adam and Eve deliberately sinned against God and brought judgment upon the world; both humanity and nature are broken and abnormal.

  • There are various passages on the Bible that talk about creation, such as Gen 1:1-2:3; 2:4-3:24; Job 26:7-13; 38:4-11; Prov 3:19-20; 8:22-31; Psa 8:1-10; 33:6-9; 74:12-17; 89:5-12; 104:2-32; John 1:3, 10; 17:5; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:24; Rom 4:17; 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2-3; 11:3; Rev 4:11; 10:6

  • These creation accounts/texts display unity in their most common central assertion: YHWH, the one true God, created all that exists: heaven, earth; sea, land; plants, trees; animals, humans.

  • When some creation accounts/texts offer additional details, we find diversity in their presentations of:

    • the means God used to create

    • the order of events in creation

    • the length of time that transpired in creation

  • Hence tonight's topic on how to better understand these details.

 

Taking the position that YEC is the best option: Cheow Yew

•    The YEC position is based primarily on the Bible.
•    Exodus 20:11 says God created in six days.
•    Genesis 1:30 says man and animals were originally vegetarian.
•    Man’s sin in the Garden of Eden brought death, toil, and pain into an otherwise ‘good’ and ‘very good’ creation (Gen 2:16 – 17).
•    We live in a cursed creation (Rom 8:22).
•    Jesus Christ (the last Adam) came to undo what the first Adam brought about (1 Cor 5:21-22).
•    Creation occurred around 4,000 BC and the worldwide flood around 2,500 BC [based on genealogies, see: http://creation.com/biblical-chronogenealogies )
•    Death is the last enemy – 1 Cor 15:26
•    In the future it will be good once again without the curse and death – Rev 21:4; 22:2-3
•    The atheistic worldview is based on a lot of time (ie billions of years) and chance. Animal death over millions of years supposedly led to man’s existence.
•    The atheistic worldview, sold to us as a scientific fact, has led to Christians reading long age (ie billions of years) into the biblical text (eisegesis).
•    The best way to interpret scripture is to read out of the text (exegesis).
•    Reading long age into the text contradicts Exo 20:8-11.
•    According to Professor James Barr – every professor of Hebrew or Old Testament in every world-class university believes that the writers of Genesis chapters 1 -11 intended to convey the YEC position.
•    The long age position contradicts Mark 10:6 (“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’)
•    The long age position means vertebrate animals died before Adam’s sin (see: http://creation.com/nephesh-chayyah )
•    Proverbs 12:10 does not make sense if animal death is good or very good.
•    God would correct us if a literal understanding within its context, that appears to be reasonable to us, isn’t what He intended to convey – John 11:11-14.
•    Observational science is supported by experimentation.
•    Historical science (eg Gen chapters 1 & 2) is not observable and not provable. The evidence is interpreted by reference to a person’s bias (ie short age vs long age). 
•    The bible is true. Therefore, the evidence is consistent with YEC.
•    Stalactites and stalagmites can form in a short time given the right conditions.
•    Red blood cells in dinosaur bones are consistent with dinosaurs being around in the past 6,000 years.
•    Our dating methods are based on assumptions and measure isotopes (as opposed to age). The results are inconsistent and wrong.
•    The crux of the issue is whether scripture is authoritative [and how it is to be interpreted]. We should listen to the God who created and was there when it all happened.

 

 

Taking the position that YEC is not the best option: Bruno Tomadon

Introduction 

  • God is omnipotent so God could have created: instantaneously as Augustine thought; or in six calendar days: in stages over long periods of time: or through some evolutionary process. The question is what did God do?

  • The Bible is short in detail but is nevertheless sufficient in providing us with a framework that equips us to confidently explore the question.

  • Many details will be filled in by scientific research but that will always remain a work in progress.

  • YEC rightly has a high view of Scripture but is mistaken in its interpretation of the Biblical text.

Well-versed Inerrancy

Understanding how language and literature works is essential to properly understand what God says in Scripture.    

The doctrine of inerrancy must be well-versed because the textual truth of Scripture is comprised of language and literature. Kevin J Vanhoozer

 

Language Levels – C. S. Lewis

  1. It was very cold

  2. There were thirteen degrees of frost

  3. Ah, bitter chill it was!
    The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
    the hare limp 'd trembling through
                    the frozen grass,
    and silent was the flock in wooly fold:
    numbed were the Beadsman's fingers.

 

C. John Collins – Four Views on the Historical Adam observes that:

  1. Ordinary language – low level of detail suitable for day to day communication

  2. Scientific – quantitative with the goal of explaining how things work

  3. Poetic – recreates the experience in order to convey an effective response

 The Bible contains mostly ordinary and poetic language.

 

Same historical event, different literary form

  • A historical event can be described using genres other than normal prose narrative.

  • How do we know what elements are figurative and which at literal? Background knowledge. We know from the rest of scripture that God does not have nostrils. God is spirit. Yet God did use wind to part the sea.

  • The poetic genre where we most expect to see figurative elements can contain real historical events.

  • The prose account tells us it took a long time for God to perform an extraordinary event

  • The poetic account shows how easy it was God to part the Red Sea

  • Normal prose can contain figurative elements. These are identified by context and background knowledge

  • It would make it easy if we could say we should expect figurative elements in poetry and literal elements in prose, but this is not the case. A text has to be read carefully in terms of its genre, literary and historical context and language use.

 

Exalted Prose Narrative Genesis 1:1 – 2:3

  • Historical in the sense the events did happen. Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is the introduction to Genesis which in turn is the introduction to the Pentateuch which is meant to be understood as historical.

  • Exalted language: expanse instead of sky; greater and lesser lights instead of sun and moon

  • God is presented as workman working during the day and resting at night and then rests on the 7th day. God doesn’t get tired so doesn’t need to rest at night.

  • Sun appears on the 4th day. The first three days are not measured by the light of the sun, ordinary days are measured by the light of the sun. Why did God replace the light of day 1 which he declared was good with the sun on day 4?

  • Too much happens on the sixth day

    • Adam names all the animals

    • Adam has time to get lonely, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...”

    • Gen 2 is day 6 expanded. In Gen 2:5 no plants because no rain – plants created on day 3

  • 7th day lacks the refrain “there was evening, there was morning”

  • Too many indicators that the days are not meant to be understood literally

 

Creation Ex-Nihilo

·Gen 1:1, Ps. 33:6, 9; John 1:3; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3 & 2 Mac. 7:28

  • “heaven and earth” is a merism for everything (Ladies and gentlemen is a merism for everyone)

  • Big Bang Cosmology posits that spacetime, matter and energy had a beginning.

  • Vilenkin’s multiverse model also has a beginning.

 

Mutually Supportive

  • Big Bang Cosmology and creation ex nihilo both indicate the universe had a beginning.

  • Big Bang cosmology can be viewed positively

  • The Bible lacks the specificity to determine between competing cosmological theories.

  • Creation ex nihilo is essential; Big Bang cosmology is not.

 

Understanding Biological Evolution

·Scientific

o Universal/Limited Common Ancestry (Variation within a created kind)

o Mechanism/Agency i.e. how did it happen

  • Philosophical/Theological Framework

 

Does the bible say yes to biological evolution?

  • Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:20, Genesis 1:24

  • If this language seems well suited to the hypothesis of creation by evolution (as the present writer thinks), this is not the only scheme it would allow, and its purpose is not to drop a special clue for the present age. Rather it is to show that God has bound together all creatures in a common dependence on their native elements while giving each the distinctive character of its kind. Derek Kidner, TOTC - Genesis

 

Or does the Bible say no to biological evolution?

  • Ancient scientific account, Aristotle:
    that the kinds have always existed, since “if the products were dissimilar from their parents, and yet able to copulate, we should then get arising from them yet another different manner of creature, and out of their progeny yet another, and so it would go on ad infinitum. Nature, however, avoids what is infinite. “... Genesis simply employs the farmer's observation … and leaves it there; Aristotle seeks a description of the process. (C. John Collins in Four Views on the Historical Adam)

  • Mankind is not stated to be made according to their kind but in God’s likeness and image.

  • The uniqueness of humanity and its relationship with God is the focus of God’s creative purposes and the narrative climax of Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 not how God brought about the various kinds.

 

Creation/Evolution (biological) spectrum (Gerald Rau)

POSITION                                  Universal Common Ancestry

Naturalistic Evolution                Yes

Non-teleological Evolution       Yes

Planned Evolution                     Yes

Directed Evolution                     Yes

Old-earth Creationism              No

Young-earth Creationism         No

 

A Good Creation

  • The goodness of creation is affirmed in Genesis and also of the post-Fall creation (1 Tim 4:4)

  • Genesis indicates the pre-Fall creation is not perfect – it needed to be subdued

  • Gen 1:30 does not exclude predation

    1. It is a broad statement that is not exhaustive e.g. it does not include the marine animals

    2. But one might ask why brute beasts inflict injury on one another, for there is no sin in them for which this could be a punishment, and they cannot acquire any virtue by such a trial. The answer, of course, is that one animal is the nourishment of another. To wish that it were otherwise would not be reasonable. Augustine

    3. Some infer, from this passages that men were content with herbs and fruits until the deluge, and that it was even unlawful for them to eat flesh ... Then after the deluge, he expressly grants them the use of flesh. These reasons, however, are not sufficiently strong…I think it will be better for us to assert nothing concerning this matter.  Calvin

  • Psalm 104

    •  All creation is celebrated and God’s work praised including predation

    • The only negative aspect in the whole psalm is the presence the wicked on the earth.

 

Creation Frustrated

  • Gen 6:11-13

    • The earth is not corrupt in itself

    • The earth is corrupt because of the violence and because all flesh had corrupted their ways.

  • Rom 8:20-21

    • In the Septuagint the same Greek word for “corrupt” that is used in Gen 6:11-13

    • God’s purposes for humanity to exercise God’s rule upon the earth were thwarted by humanity’s rebellion

    • Creation’s bondage to corruption is its bondage to the wickedness of humanity.

    • Creation shares in the punishments that God inflicts on humanity

    • Creation’s freedom is tied to the freedom of redeemed humanity

    • Thorns and thistles are not created in Genesis 3:17-18 but they are a punishment on humanity for their rebellion Hosea 10:8

 

Death through Sin

  • The first command was directed at the man as were the consequences of Gen 2:16-17

  • Sin by one man brought death to people Rom 5:12

  • Animal death is not a consequence of Adam’s sin

  • Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences

 

Conclusion

·Understanding language and literature is essential to interpreting Scripture and upholding its inerrancy.

·Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is history expressed in exalted prose narrative.

·The validity of cosmological models and biological evolution is a scientific question.

  • The central affirmation of the Christian faith that Jesus died for our sins and rose again is not affected by which model of creation we hold.

 

Further Reading

  • Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary – C. John Collins

  • Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care – C. John Collins

  • The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation – Edited by David C. Hagopian

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