Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dirt Doesn't Lie...or does it?

This is a couple of clips from an online discussion from my church's website about young earth creationism.
"S" said:
My personal favorite view of geologic age versus young earth theory is something I first read in a Josh McDowell book. It is called apparent age theory. I am going to butcher it here. Basically if God was going to create a bottle of wine from nothing then he would create a (red wine of course probably pinot nor) bottle of wine that was aged perfectly. Since God created all the natural forces we see at work currently then God created the earth at the exact age it needed to be (with corresponding fossil record) to foster the life we see today.

"C" said also:
Just because science proves that the earth is billions of years old doesn't mean that God didn't create it 10,000 years ago. He didn't create embryo Adam and Eve-They were created as adults-working, talking, walking, etc. He didn't just plant a bunch of seeds and wait around-The Bible said he created vegetation and trees in one day. So, to me, it stands to reason that he created mountains and craters and all of those things as is. People take a good 18 years or so to mature, trees at least a year, so a couple billion years for mountains or whatnot doesn't really seem that different if you see it that way-that they were all created in a day. Also, the entire earth covered in water during Noah's flood would have accounted for some of the mysteries as well.

I've never understood why "apparent age theory" is so popular with some Christians, because it seems to cause more problems than it 'apparently' solves for believers wanting to see how the Bible's creation account matches up with scientific obervation.

My reply was not directly to "S," but I addressed the content of his comment as follows:
Let me first say something that is foundational to the matter. I mentioned in my previous post that Christians have always valued the pursuit of Truth. Underlying this is the long-held notion that Truth exists, and Truth is knowable. So...

The first thing I would question is why we are pitting "science" against God. God is the Creator of the universe who chose to reveal His character in the Bible. If we study His creation, we should find that He is the Creator. If we study His word, we should find that He is our Redeemer. The two seem compatible and are not opposed to each other. What we are really saying is that atheistic scientists are trying to argue against God's existence using aspects of His creation as evidence. Silly thing to do, because if God is the Creator, then we would find evidence for His existence, not the opposite, right? (Incidentally, most, if not all, Christian philosophers say that this is an illegitimate philosophical move for scientists to make anyway.) So as Christians, we shouldn't make the same philosophical blunder as they.

This brings us to the "appearance of age" issue, which you both have brought up. Let's reframe it a little by recalling what Christians use to argue for God's intentional creation of everything: the Design Argument. The human eye is a classic and longstanding example of Christian apologetic for a Creator God. We point out the intricacy, the specificity, and the complexity of the eye's design as evidence of God and for God. Recently, Intelligent Design theory has injected even more emphasis on design by, in effect, negating the chances that some things could have evolved from simpler forms. We make this claim of design, taking for granted that how we reached this conclusion is through the scientific study of things like the eye. Please stay with me here, because this is the part that gets interesting: in spite of the strength of the Design Argument, Darwinian evolutionists dismiss evidence for design by insisting that what we see is only an "appearance of design,"--what we see is not the truth.

Now, as a matter of logic, the "appearance of age" claim of YEC is identical to the "appearance of design" dismissal from evolutionists. It tracks the same pattern of reasoning, and, in the end, suffers the same losses. It violates our underpinnings of Truth by claiming that Truth does not exist (in what we can readily study, like the human eye) and that Truth is unknowable (mountains do not reveal their true age).

I realize that I've been running around in the philosophical realm mostly and not the theological realm, so let me return to it. For the Christian, what the "appearance of age" claim does is erode our confidence in God as the God of Truth, or at least it should. Without the knowable design and consistency of the natural world to rely on, how would we function at all, theologically or otherwise? How would we know the true origin of creation? How can we be confident in the evidence for design? How can we have confidence in Jesus' miraculous conception if we only know how babies appear to be made? How can we be sure Jesus is divine, or did he only appear to be? How can we be confident in the transmission of scripture or does it only appear to be reliable in its origin? Was anything a miracle or just an appearance of a miracle? This line of thinking makes it hard to tell.

From my above reply, you can see I have great misgivings about the Young Earth explanation of the natural world, both rationally and theologically. I'm not getting into the other issues I find promblematic about YEC in this post, but I see problems with principles of Bible interpretation, a promotion of a type of cognitive dissonance with regard to scientific inquiry, and a shift away from responsible theology toward superstition. While ultimately I don't find YEC harmful to any one Christian's life, faith, or eternal destination (you can believe it if you want to), YEC has been a source of faith abandonment for so many in Christianity. I believe that it's time to stop the bleeding, which calls for changing this default view in our churches--the dismantling of the popular teaching of YEC as the "biblical" view.

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