On Wednesday, we had a special guest from Answers in Genesis named Terry Mortenson speak at least 4 times in one day. First of all, I really appreciate Answers in Genesis, their expertise, and what they stand for. I believe that they are making some significant contributions to Christians, specifically apologetics related to biblical authenticity and against naturalism. Dr. Mortenson was very knowledgable and well-prepared. I felt like I was relentlessly taking notes in hopes to keep up with significant facts and thoughts.
Fairly predictably, I have an issue with one of the major strategies of their ministry. I know I’m far from alone in this; a philosophy professor shared a few of the same disagreements. The issue is whether Christians should be split between creationists that believe in 6 days, 24 hours a piece and creationists that believe 6 days with at least some poetic or figurative language. The second question is to what extent we should allow science to inform our biblical interpretation. AiG would say that anything other than belief in a 6,000 year old universe is compromising with worldly science. In their view, this is a compromise of the very foundation of the Bible which will eventually lead to compromising the overall Gospel.
This is not necessarily true. After learning from various amazing Bible teachers, I have discovered that it is very hard to predict where they will land on the age of the earth/age of the universe (two separate issues) controversy. My fear is that such teaching from Answers in Genesis will bring unnecessary division by scaring people away from some of these amazing Bible teachers (and apologists). From my learning, most of the apologists that I’ve learned about doubt a 6,000 year old universe–some off the top of my head include Augustine, CS Lewis, William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Hugh Ross, Matt Slick, and Lee Strobel. Even apologists that do research in biology, disproving Darwinian evolution, end up believing that the universe is much older than 6,000 years. How can they do this? For better or worse they have allowed scientific research to inform their perspectives. If we did not allow for this, we may have to believe that Europe, Asia, and Africa constituted the whole world (Daniel 4:11, Romans 1:8), or that the sun moves, but not the earth (which some people chose to believe). People seem to be ok with figurative, or local perspective language in these situations. The rule seems to be to only allow for figurative language if the science is plainly obvious–or at least more obvious than the clarity of the literalness of language.
Where do I stand, and what do I consider biblically clear? I want to be brief, but am open to more conversation. I think the age of the universe and the age of the earth may be two vastly different questions. There seem to be clear signs of an old universe, but a serious lack of clear signs of an old earth. The magnetic field and the recession rate of the moon are two good indicators of a younger earth. Distant starlight, the expansion rate, and the various formation stages of stars and galaxies seem to be indicators of a much older universe. The Hebrew word indicating creation from nothing occurs in the first verse; the word in the following verses indicates an arrangement of existent material. I don’t know how long creation days 1-3 would have taken, because, if taken most literally, there doesn’t seem to be any reference point to measure a day (or hours), because there is no sun. Days 1-3 describe broad creation of sky, sea, and earth. Days 4-6 describe particulars of sky, earth, and sea. I can see why people would consider this poetic rather than literal. On the other hand, “morning and evening, a # day” seems to indicate days as we literally know them.
I see no basis for accepting (Darwinian) evolution. To me, it is not at all scientifically convincing. It seems to be a desperate attempt at guarding the sacred presupposition of naturalism. Even if I wasn’t a Christian, I think that I would have serious problems with it. Darwinism also seems to upset the intention that God had in creation. If Adam was not a literal person, then there would be no reference to his age… Pardon me, I was just stopped by a Hebrew professor that had some serious disagreement with Dr. Mortenson. He pointed out that Genesis one is a literary genre that has no biblical parallel. He is concerned with the unity of Christians on the issue and didn’t think Mortenson promoted that. … Anyway, the appearance of old fossils comes from a literal global flood. There is more below sea level than above on our planet; so there is more than enough water left here to cover a smoother earth. There are also layers of sedimentary rock laid out like mud everywhere.
To summarize, I think there are reasons that Christians can give to support the story of the Bible. The story may or may not include a 6,000 year old universe–the text and the evidence allow for this. Answers in Genesis should stay true to their conviction, gifts, and passions. But they should also promote unity in the orthodox Christian faith by not demanding more than is actually written. May God bless these God-fearing science-minded Christians. May He continue to reveal His truths to you and me as well.