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Old Earth vs.Young Earth|
Smug Pot Heads…
Q. At a men's Bible Study I sat through and listened to a silly 45 min. lecture about there being no such thing as a gap of millions of years between when God created the Heavens&Earth and when he rested on the 7th day. I didn't even know there was a battle over young earth vs. old earth (the Pot Heads!) Why would anyone spend energy on such foolish theories?
It sounds to me like Darwin or some of his dope smoking buddies got their noses under some Christian's tent and started this whole argument. Then the church started trying to justify something that is really just a fools' game. We should never have taken the bait.
So I was writing to you to find out what you know about where this whole argument came from and how it even got started. I found the entire Bible Study presentation to be a waste of time. In my opinion what counts is accepting Jesus as King of Kings and LORD of Lords - no one comes to our Father but through Jesus. (T.M.)
Smacked Back to Reality
Thanks for your insightful, hilarious and entertaining questions and for helping to "smack" all of us back to reality! You are absolutely right. What counts is our relationship with Jesus Christ - not "winning" arguments over Young Earth vs. Old Earth interpretations of Genesis. We have really "missed the mark," haven't we? I guess this is why we - Christians - will all face the Lord to account for every word we speak, the reasons why we do things, and for everything we do (Matt 12:36, 1 Cor 4:5, 2 Cor 5:10).
The Gap Theory
The Gap Theory was first proposed by Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish theologian, as far back as 1814. He may have developed his argument because contemporaneous geologists concluded the earth is much older than Genesis seemed to imply.
Most proponents of this theory believe that Genesis 1:1 comprises the first creation which includes the creation of the universe. This may have been the period when Satan and the angels fell - possibly a time period spanning millions of years. It is a reason theologians call it a "Gap Theory." Then God may have judged and destroyed the earth causing it to become "formless and void" as found in Genesis 1:2. For the earth to "become" formless and void is proposed as a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew than "the earth was without form and void…"
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross&Followers
After millions or billions of years may have passed, Gap Theory enthusiasts believe God was involved in the "subsequent formation, fashioning and restoration of that same earth which had been turned into chaos" (Barnhouse 1965, 17). Many respected theologians and scientists propose the Gap Theory including astrophysicist and author Dr. Hugh Ross and famous theologians Walter Kaiser and Donald Grey Barnhouse.
Regardless of the view held by some of our colleagues, there are many devout, believing Christians in mainstream denominations who also hold to Theistic Evolution. They do not perceive a conflict with their faith and evolution because they believe the book of Genesis should never be interpreted literally anyway.
Dr. Francis Collins&Followers
Theistic evolution teaches an extremely old universe and earth that have undergone billions of years of evolution directed by God. They believe an Old Earth model fits better with modern scientific belief. Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project who wrote The Language of God, is an example of one who holds to this view.
Young Earth Militants
Although its ideas date much further back than the twentieth century, Young Earth advocates evolved into a more militant faction within Christianity back in the early 1960s. We refer to them as theologically "militant" because some strongly insist that Christians must choose their side: You are either with God, or against Him.
In 1981 science teacher Henry Morris began to preach his thoughts and materials from the Institute for Creation Research which became a strong arm for this particular viewpoint. He and his successors believe that errant Old Earth views are a one-way street which will end in a precipice and void of "rational religion" or atheism (Rusbult 2009, 1). Morris proclaims that if the Bible is in error concerning the earth's age, then maybe it's also in error about the rest. Where does one draw the line? Pastor and theologian John MacArthur holds this view.
In 2004 Ken Ham became a well known author and speaker for Answers in Genesis which carries on the traditions of the Institute for Creation Research. Ham became upset by the continued decay of morality and faith within Christendom. He feels that the church has been compromised by its acquiescence to liberal thought. His primary mission became one of encouraging all of us to fight as soldiers in battle to defend the Christian faith and uphold the Word of God (Rusbult 2009, 2).
Today the attitudes and philosophy of the Institute for Creation Research has been accepted by many churches - arguing and defending the bible against what they perceive as a culturally-compromised church. As a result they do not believe Christians should ever embrace Theistic Evolution or the Gap Theory.
Joining their mission are groups and individuals such as Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, Tim LaHaye's Left Behind author and Duane Gish - a famous ICR debater. ICR enthusiasts grabbed an early foothold into home schooling materials and provided numerous educational materials for churches, science/church seminars and faith/science websites.
We fear that the stakes have become prideful and arrogant - the mission seems to be "winning" the argument at any cost. Young Earth creationists (e.g. Morris&Ham) point accusatory fingers at Old Earth theorists (e.g. Ross) and vice versa, proclaiming that those who hold to a different view of creation than their own are not Biblical.
All too few proponents on both sides seem to care what effect this bristling, angry, accusatory or sarcastic fight has on unbelievers. The primary directives of the Church must be; 1)Worship our Lord God 2)Encourage and Equip the Saints 3) Share the Gospel with the Lost.
Ironically, neither side has "come up for air" long enough to see that there may be another valid, scientific viewpoint that suggests both are right! Both Old Earth and Young Earth theories may "fit" into new scientific data.
How is this possible?
Speed of Light Not Constant
Bible students should be aware that scientists Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield prepared a research paper entitled "The Atomic Constants, Light and Time" for Lambert T. Dolphin, Senior Research Physicist at Stanford Research Institute International (1987). In their research they propose that the speed of light is not constant as once thought. Instead, it is slowing down. Other scientists such as T.C. Van Flandern at the U.S. Naval Observatory have found the same thing (Brown 1980, 2001, 232).
Atomic or Orbital Time
In a recent report to a general audience Setterfield explains that atomic time is usually presented as the same as orbital time or calendar time. "In other words, if a rock dates radiometrically as 200 million years old, it is presumed that the earth has been orbiting around the sun 200 million times since that rock was either formed or metamorphosed (which resets the dates atomically). However research and the data have indicated conclusively that atomic time does not keep step with orbital time. In the beginning atomic processes were operating so much faster than orbital time that one orbital year and more than a million atomic years took the same amount of time" (Setterfield 2009, 3).
Pox on both pot-head Houses
What a fantastic, new development in scientific thought!
So maybe…just maybe those Young Earth vs. Old Earth "pot heads" you made reference to are both right and wrong. I guess it would serve them right, wouldn't it?
Yes, maybe the geological ages and other scientific data do prove millions of years have passed since the beginning. But also, yes, maybe the earth and heavens were created in six literal days because time moved so much faster then. (A pox on both pot head houses)!
At any rate, both sides rely on a scientific model that is inclusive of all data that fits their theory and reject any that don't. As Setterfield cautions,
"Our purpose here is to look at the data. When we do this, we find the data tend to support the Bible, but not the way the majority of creationists believe" (3).
Peace with all Men
We feel that the Bible clearly tells us, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Ro 12:18). We are not to let a "root of bitterness" spring up which causes trouble and defiles many (Heb 12:15).
As Christians we have failed to obey these Scriptures. Instead, we have become entrenched in "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions" and other fleshly battles that we should have avoided.
Paul warns Timothy that in the last days apostate men and women will be "malicious gossips…brutal…treacherous…conceited…holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power."
How are we to respond to divisive people like this? Paul advises us to "avoid such men as these" (2 Tim 3:3-5).
So please fellow Christians…let's return to sanity. What counts is my and your relationship with Jesus Christ and belief in His Lordship and Redemptive powers. We'll learn the complete truth about ancient languages and texts from Genesis in due season. Let's not all resort to being feisty "Pot Heads" like our inquirer observed.
Barnhouse, Donald Grey. 1965. The Invisible War. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Brown, Walt. 2001. In The Beginning. Phoenix, AR: Center for Scientific Creation
Collins, Francis S. 2006. The Language of God. New York: Free Press. (Presentation of Theistic Evolution).
Escuain, Santiago. "On the current debate about an Old Earth and a Young Earth: A Review of different positions in the light of Scripture and its implications." http://www.sedin.org/propeng/y_o_dbt.htm. (accessed 11/1/09).
Rusbult, Craig. 2009. "Education about Age of the Earth." http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/action.htm. (accessed 11/1/09).
Setterfield, Barry and Helen. 2009. The Bible and Geology Genesis Science Research. www.setterfield.org. (Scientific presentation of Atomic Time vs. Orbital Time. Speed of light not constant).
Authors Valorie Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins while Ken received the MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Valorie and Ken work with and teach residents at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where Ken serves as Executive Director. They both believe they are just a "vapor" that appears for a little while and must make the most of days remaining (Jas 4:14; Eph 5:15).
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