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by Luke Nix
As I have mentioned in a couple posts in the past (here and here), it is important that apologists investigate theological questions and details of the Christian worldview. Without such investigation, inconsistency in the worldview that is being defended will easily creep in. Because consistency is a feature of reality, unbelievers will seize the inconsistency as evidence against Christianity as the true worldview. This can have detrimental effects in public places where honest seekers may be listening to and watching conversations. One of the detailed areas of the Christian worldview that must be consistent is God's character (one area of theology). If God's character is found to be inconsistent with what we are defending, then it serves as evidence that we have something wrong (in part or in whole- see the post Is Your View Falsifiable for more on this). Today, I want to focus on God's moral character, specifically His perfect honesty (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; and Hebrews 6:18).
The Challenge: One of the most contentious debates in the Church today focuses on the age of the universe and the length of the days of creation in Genesis 1. One of the most influential arguments against the young-earth creationist position (YEC) is that if nature reveals an ancient age (~13.7 billion years, as the evidence powerfully [and some would say "only"] supports) yet the universe is actually young (6,000-10,000 years) then God has given us a false revelation in His creation; this means that God is ultimately deceiving us and the truth is not found in Him. If a view of God necessitates that He is lying to us, then the god necessitated by that view is NOT the God of the Bible. And if we defend such a view, we are found to be false witnesses of God and the truth is not found in us. This challenge is not one to be taken lightly and it must be addressed.
The Response: Ken Ham (a popular YEC leader) has offered an epistemic distinction between observational science and historical science as a way to avoid the necessary implication of God being deceptive. I have already addressed this distinction, but for the purposes of this post I will summarize the distinction as simply this: the past cannot be known by scientific means (historical science) yet the present can be (observational science). If this distinction is valid, then the past was never meant by God to be discoverable by scientific means, and the past was only meant to be discoverable via the revelation of God's Word. According to the YEC who accepts this distinction, Scientific means cannot reveal anything about the past, but God DID tell us how old the universe is in the Bible, thus the apparent deception is the result of man misusing scientific means to reveal something it can not- there is no deception on God's part; any interpretation of deception is the result of man's defiant refusal to accept the Bible as the source of truth and instead exalt the creation over the Creator (Romans 1:22).
The Rejoinder: The above distinction between observational and historical science removes the past from being knowable via scientific means. The young-earth creationist who accepts this distinction claims that God is not deceiving us because God DID tell us how old the universe is in the Bible (this interpretation is usually based on the work of Bishop James Ussher). It seems that the young-earth creationist has avoided the accusation of deception, and they have, but only on the surface. Investigating the details of the implications of the distinction between observational and historical science will reveal that there is a much deeper and more subtle deception that is taking place…
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