Tread Lightly Young-Earthers
by Aaron Brake
Is the universe billions of years old or thousands? Are the creation days of Genesis to be interpreted as 24-hour periods? How should science inform our interpretation of Scripture, and how should Scripture inform our interpretation of science?
Christians disagree on how to answer these questions and they have been cause of no small debate within the believing community. The two opposing sides are sometimes labeled “young-earth” and “old-earth” or “young-age” and “old-age.” One of the most central and disputed points is whether the creation days in Genesis are literal 24-hour periods.
Recently I read an article published in a young-earth creationist newsletter entitled “It’s an Attack on the Son.” The title is quite provocative, though this isn’t the first writing of this kind I have come across. As you may have guessed from reading the title, a summary of the article could be as follows:
A rejection of the young-earth creationist interpretation of Genesis is in reality (though perhaps unwittingly) an attack on Jesus Christ.
How did the author arrive at this conclusion? Young-earth creationists typically place great emphasis on the idea that the creation days in Genesis are literal 24-hour periods. While the following argument is not laid out explicitly in the article, I have done my best to reconstruct the flow of thought and logic of the writer:
- If the Word of God teaches the creation days of Genesis are literal 24-hour periods, then rejecting the literal 24-hour view is tantamount to attacking the Word of God.
- The Word of God teaches the creation days of Genesis are literal 24-hour periods.
- Therefore (from 1 and 2), rejecting the literal 24-hour view is tantamount to attacking the Word of God.
- The Word of God is Jesus’ Word.
- Therefore (from 3 and 4), rejecting the literal 24-hour view is tantamount to attacking Jesus’ Word.
- Attacking Jesus’ Word is attacking Jesus Himself.
- Therefore (from 5 and 6), rejecting the literal 24-hour view is tantamount to attacking Jesus Himself.
Hence, the title of the article: “It’s an Attack on the Son.”
The argument hinges on premise two, which is obviously the premise that is under debate in the age-of-the-earth controversy. I’m not so concerned with the logic of the position above or even with defending a particular age-of-the earth view. What does cause me concern is the mindset reflected in this article which, regrettably, can sometimes accompany the young-earth perspective. What is this mindset? It is the mistaken approach to this debate which concludes,
Anyone who disagrees with young-earth creationism is not taking Scripture seriously but rather is elevating human reason and/or science above divinely inspired revelation.
I believe this conclusion is completely unwarranted and can unfortunately result in a hyper-critical and overly dogmatic position in the age-of-the-earth controversy.
Allow me to elaborate.
The writer of this particular article quotes both William Dembski and William Lane Craig as proponents of the old-age view, a view which has been influenced by “ideas outside the Bible, not the plain reading of Scripture.” Their position is one of “compromise” which is “sadly the norm in the majority of our Christian colleges and seminaries.” He goes on to state,
Many times in this newsletter, I have stated that such a compromise is really an attack on the authority of the Word, in spite of some scholars’ sincere intentions to the contrary. It is what I call “The Genesis 3” attack (i.e., creating doubt in regard to God’s Word and asking “Did God really say?”) and it ultimately undermines the authority of the Scripture.
What does this compromise and undermining of biblical authority eventually lead to? The writer tells us:
Many young people in our churches are already doubting and disbelieving God’s Word. The result? At least two-thirds of children raised in theologically conservative churches now walk away from the church (or even the Christian faith together).
In other words, the old-age view, in this writer’s opinion, is a source of compromise which can be directly linked to causing doubt and disbelief in the minds of churched youth, as well as the outright rejection of the Christian faith in some cases. The author gives us the bottom line:
When Christian leaders deliberately reinterpret God’s Word on the basis of man’s fallible ideas (taken from outside the Bible), not only are they undermining the Word of God, they are actually (though unwittingly) conducting an attack on the Son of God!
This is very serious. Yes, when you compromise the Word of God, it is also an attack on the Son of God, whose Word it is.
Not very long ago a professor of mine who is on staff with a very prominent Christian organization (which happens to argue for the old-age view) stated that they receive more criticism and hate mail from young-earth creationists than they do from non-Christians…
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