Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians:

If you are a Christian with young-earth views,
or if you're wondering what to think about age,
this page is written for you, to share Bible-based
ideas that you'll find both challenging and comforting.

 
by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

 
A Personal Summary:
If you think the earth is young because the Bible teaches it, I admire your desire to determine what the Word of God teaches, and believe it.  But I hope you will humbly consider the possibility that your interpretation of the Bible might be wrong, and you will adopt a loving attitude toward your brothers and sisters in Christ who have other views about when God created, who don't include young-earth belief as part of their Christian faith.  In this page I'll explain why I think that, although a young-earth interpretation of Genesis 1 is possible, an age-neutral "framework" interpretation is preferable, so belief in the truth of what the Bible teaches does not require belief in a young earth;  and God's wonderful plan for us (for converting sin and death into salvation and life) will work, if you humbly accept God's gift of forgiving grace through Jesus Christ, whether the earth is young or old.   {my "old-earth creation" views}
 


CONTENTS of This Page:   A Personal Summary    1.    Questions -- Understanding and Respect -- Bible Information about Age -- Read and See -- Learning from Scripture and Nature -- Nature Information about Age    2.    A Potential Problem -- Five Educational Scenarios -- Personal Experiences -- Three Solutions -- Searching for Truth    3.    Challenge and Comfort -- Respectful Humility    /•/    and the final 30% of the page is an Appendix.

This page is a "sampler" that's designed to quickly provide a big-picture overview.  The sample-excerpts are mainly from my FAQs (brief Introductory-FAQ and medium-sized Overview-FAQ) about Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design but also from other sources.    /   Two Types of Links: italicized links keep you inside this page, but non-italicized links open a new page in a new window, so this page remains open in this window.


 
        QUESTIONS
        Let's begin with a story about a situation that, unfortunately, is more common than it should be:
        Imagine that your pastor confidently declares, "the Bible says the earth is young, so you should believe it."  But at another church you've been attending a Sunday School class because it's taught by a close friend, who has explained (as an expert geologist) why science shows the earth is old, and (as a theologically conservative Christian who has studied the Bible carefully) why Genesis does not teach a young earth.  But your pastor insists that Genesis 1 must be interpreted as six 24-hour days.  And what about the geology?  You're not a scientist and neither is your pastor, but when you ask him about this he loans you a book by young-earth scientists, and their arguments seem to make sense.  Your pastor wonders why the pastor of the other church lets your friend teach, and you have questions.

        UNDERSTANDING and RESPECT
        This web-page is written for anyone who is leaning toward a young-earth view — whether you just "have questions" due to what you're hearing, or have been persuaded by what you've heard, or are a "young-earth evangelist" who is enthusiastically persuading — especially if you think a young-earth view is necessary for being a good Christian.
        One of my goals is to help you understand why some Christians think the earth is old, and respect what they think.  Here are two valuable lessons about understanding and respect that students in my high school learned from one of our teachers:
        • to get accurate understanding, we should get the best information and arguments for all sides of an issue;
        • after we did this and we understood more accurately, we recognized that people with other views may also have good reasons for their views, so we learned respectful attitudes.
        But our teacher was not a postmodern relativist, so he wanted us to evaluate ideas rationally in a search for truth.  We can have a respectful attitude while explaining why we think a particular view is most likely to be true.  In the next three sections I'll explain why — based on a careful study of information from scripture and nature — I think the earth and universe are old.  Hopefully this will help you understand (and respect) my reasons for thinking this view is authentically Christian, and seems likely to be true.

 
        WHAT DOES BIBLE-INFORMATION TELL US ABOUT AGE?
        Here are Sections 3A-3C in my brief Intro-FAQ:
        3A.  In Genesis 1, the most important meaning is theological, but is it also scientific?  Does it describe a recent 144-hour creation, or six long periods of creation, nonconsecutive days, proclamation days, or a re-creation?  Or [as explained in "Read and See" below] do the six days form a non-chronological framework for history?
        3B.  If the earth is billions of years old, and animals died before humans sinned, is this theologically acceptable?  Yes.  Due to human sin, the full supernatural "protection from death" provided by God in Eden — symbolized by "the tree of life" — was removed by God (in Genesis 3:22, because "he must not be allowed to... live forever") so Adam and Eve would begin to perish, with natural processes temporarily allowing life while leading gradually to their death.  But the Good News of Jesus Christ — whose sinless life and sacrificial substitutionary death show us His wonderful plan for converting sin and death (of humans) into grace and life (for humans) — offers salvation for each of us, whether the earth is young or old.
        3C.  Is belief in a young earth an essential Christian doctrine?  Is it taught with certainty in the Bible, and is it important?  No.  There are good reasons to think a young earth is not essential (and isn't even true) and the full gospel of Jesus — including His deity, virgin birth, teaching and miracles, sinless obedience to the Father in life, substitutionary atonement in death, victorious resurrection, ascension into heaven, and second coming — is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth.   { Each of these doctrines (deity,... second coming) is independent of the earth's age.  If you doubt this, maybe you're ignoring the nonreversibility of if-then logic. }

        READ AND SEE — THE LOGICAL HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK IN GENESIS 1
        If you read the text of Genesis 1 carefully, with an open mind, you'll see the framework with two logical patterns (123 456, 14 25 36) in the six days.
        Then you can look at a visual summary in the full-length FAQ and read this verbal summary:  The six days describe actual historical events, arranged topically instead of chronologically.  There are two problems in Genesis 1:2, with the earth being "formless and empty."  The two solutions are to produce form (by separations in Days 1-3) and fill these forms (in Days 4-6) to make a second logical pattern in which related aspects of creation history are in Days 1-and-4, 2-and-5, 3-and-6.
        I'm convinced that THE SIX DAYS in Genesis 1 are an AGE-NEUTRAL FRAMEWORK for describing the historical facts of creation, with the history arranged logically (not chronologically) so the six-day framework doesn't teach anything about the sequence or timing of creation.  Genesis 1 doesn't teach an old earth or a young earth, since it doesn't teach anything about age.
        And, regarding the other main claim for young-earth theology, animal death before human sin is not a theological problem.  Some reasons are briefly summarized above in 3B;  for an explanation in more depth, Sin and Death: Salvation-Theology for Humans not Animals shows why there are THREE views (not just TWO) of death-in-history.  John Morris (son of Henry Morris, and president of Institute for Creation Research) and Ken Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis) ask a question — if the earth is old and "death is not the penalty for sin, for it preceded man and his sin... then what did sin do to the world?" — that is clearly answered in Genesis 3:22 when God establishes a death penalty for humans;  because Adam has sinned, "he must not be allowed... to live forever" so God prevents this by temporarily removing "the tree of life" that would have sustained him (and Eve, and us) with eternal life.

        LEARNING FROM SCRIPTURE AND NATURE
        Because "the full gospel of Jesus... is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth" we can carefully examine the evidence-and-logic of science with an open mind, to learn what information from nature shows us about the world created for us by God.  My brief Intro-FAQ explains how we can wisely use the two sources of information (in scripture and nature) provided for us by God:
        2B.  The Bible and science cannot be compared.  But we can compare our interpretations of the Bible (in theology) with our interpretations of nature (in science).  And we can look at the mutual interactions between our views of spiritual reality (in theology) and physical reality (in science).
        2C.  God has graciously provided us with two sources of information, in scripture and nature.  For the most important things in life — for learning about God and how He wants us to live and love — the Bible is much more important.  But for other questions we don't have to make an either-or choice;  instead, we can learn from both scripture and nature, and our understanding of total reality (spiritual plus physical) will be more complete and accurate.
        Two good ways to think are in Psalm 19, where an appreciation of God's dual revelations in nature ("the heavens declare the glory of God") and scripture ("the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul,... giving joy to the heart") inspires a personal dedication: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."

        WHAT DOES NATURE-INFORMATION TEACH ABOUT AGE?
        When we look at nature, what do we see?  From the Intro-FAQ,
        4A.  The scientific predictions of young-earth "flood geology" don't match our observations of reality, so young-earth science fails in these reality checks.  Abundant evidence from a wide range of fields — studying sedimentary rocks, coral reefs, geological and biogeographical patterns in the fossil record, seafloor spreading and magnetic reversals, genetic molecular clocks, radiometric dating, the development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, and more — indicates that the earth and universe are billions of years old.  Thus, we have multiple independent confirmations, and if all of these fields are wrong (*) we must discard much of modern science.  This isn't likely to happen, nor does it seem desirable. ... [4A then describes four young-earth responses, including two in 4B & 4C]  {* When scientists carefully study the wide range of evidence, almost all think this evidence is overwhelming, and an old-earth conclusion is almost certainly true.  I invite you to examine the scientific evidence. }
        4B.  We cannot observe ancient history.  Proponents of a young universe ask, "Were you there? Did you see it?", and imply that "no" means "then you can't know much about it."  But scientists can logically evaluate the evidence produced by past events, and historical sciences provide reliable ways to learn about the history of nature.   /   and from the Overview-FAQ:  Extreme relativists — including postmodern skeptics who challenge all science, and young-earth creationists when they challenge historical science — claim that in science the evidence is inadequate, so conclusions are determined by nonscientific beliefs.  But most scholars, including myself, think extreme relativists are exaggerating the logical difficulties, and historical sciences — which are based on a logical evaluation of empirical evidence — provide a reliable way to learn about the fascinating world created by God.
 


 
        A POTENTIAL PROBLEM
        Prominent young-earth creationists insist that the Bible definitely teaches a young earth (less than 10,000 years old) so "if the Bible is true, the earth is young."  Unfortunately, this claim is logically equivalent to saying "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true."   This can produce a problem, as described in Section 3D of my Overview-FAQ:
        What happens when a person who thinks "the Bible requires a young earth" examines the scientific evidence and concludes "the universe and earth are old"?  Another conclusion may be that "if the Bible is wrong about the earth's age, maybe it's also wrong about the rest," so the Bible's authority is weakened, and faith is weakened or abandoned.  This is a real dilemma for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, so we should help them and pray that they emerge from the experience with renewed faith in the Bible and faith in God.  Another problem is that non-Christians who are earnest seekers of spiritual truth — and who think a young earth and Jesus are a "package deal" that includes both or neither — may reject the whole package because, based on their knowledge of science, they think the earth is not young.
      Therefore, it seems wise for Christians to not encourage (and not accept) any implication — whether it comes from fellow Christians who want to strengthen the Gospel, or non-Christians who want to discredit the Gospel — that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true."

        FIVE EDUCATIONAL SCENARIOS
        Imagine that you are the friend of a student who is a Christian, who has been taught by her parents (and by her pastor and the teachers in his church-run school, which is the only school she ever attended) that the earth is 6000 years old.  She is very smart, has excelled in learning science and is enthusiastic about it, and will enter college soon.  How do you think she will respond — and what will happen with her interest in science and the quality of her faith — in each of these situations:
        A) she attends a private college that teaches the same ideas as in her K-12 school, but then she leaves this safe haven for a graduate school where conventional old-earth science is assumed;
        B) she goes to a public college where her first science teacher is an aggressive atheist who ridicules Christians and tries to destroy their faith;
        C) in a public college most of the science teachers (for astronomy, geology, and biology, plus chemistry and physics) just "teach the conventional science" with no apparent worldview bias;
        D) same as B or C, but her geology teacher is a Christian who hosts a Bible study for college students in his home (which she began attending before learning about his old-earth views) and he is a respected elder at her new church in the college town;  or
        E) she attends a private college where the teachers, who are all devout Christians, think there is no conflict between their faith and the old-earth science they teach, and are sensitive and thoughtful in their interactions with students who have other views.   {note: these five scenarios are from my Intro-FAQ}

        PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
        In the first story in this page, you are undecided and confused.  In the story above, your friend has already decided, and is deeply committed (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) to a young-earth view of scripture and nature — because everyone in her life that she respects and trusts has emphasized that A YOUNG EARTH IS TRUE AND IT IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR CHRISTIAN FAITH — so she is vulnerable to the weakening of faith (or total loss) that can occur if she concludes that "if the Bible is wrong about the earth's age, maybe it's also wrong about the rest."  In fact, this conflict has happened to many former young-earth believers, as you can see in these true personal experiences:
        Ed, a former young-earth creationist and current Christian, explains how to avoid a spiritual tragedy: "If R [a friend who discarded his faith when faced with the if-if-then dilemma] had been offered an alternative [believing the Bible without believing in a young earth] from the beginning, he would never have experienced the turmoil he went through.  When R could no longer deny that the universe was billions of years old, the only option left for him [because he continued to believe, as he had been taught, that believing the Bible requires believing a young earth] was to deny the Bible."
        Hill Roberts, head of the "Lord, I Believe" outreach ministry, says: "Some of my well-meaning brethren wish we would just drop all aspects of time discussions from our presentations.  That would certainly be the easy way.  Todd [a former young-earth believer who, like "R", decided to stop believing in the Bible and Jesus when he was confronted with the if-if-then dilemma] is why we cannot go that way."
        Joshua Zorn, a missionary involved in church planting, describes his experience as a former believer in the young-earth teaching that "creates a nearly insurmountable barrier between the educated world and the church," and that has a virtual monopoly in overseas missions.  He explains why, as an evangelist, he is worried because "we are sowing the seeds of a major crisis which will make the job of world evangelism even harder than it is already."  Therefore, "from the mission field, to pastors and leaders of the sending churches," he makes "An Urgent Appeal for Humility in Addressing the Question of the Age of the Earth."
        Another way that "we are sowing the seeds of a major crisis" is the virtual monopoly of young-earth teaching in home schools, which may result in a multitude of "if-if-then..." dilemmas (like those faced by Ed, R, and Todd) in the near future.   { You can learn more about their struggles, and those of others, in a fuller sharing of personal experiences. }

        In addition to the possibility for a total rejection of faith, suspicions of a "conflict between science and faith" can affect the everyday experience of devout Christians who are trying to live by faith.  As explained in Science-and-Religion for Understanding and Faith:
        For the most important aspects of a worldview, there is evidence but not proof, so each person — no matter what their beliefs are — must live by faith in the personal worldview they have constructed and accepted.  The life-goal of Christians is to live by faith in Christ, to make decisions, continually throughout each day, on the basis of trust in God's character and promises.
        If our faith is affected by anything, including our views of science-and-Christianity, it will affect the way we live.  If a Christian thinks there is conflict between the claims of science and the Bible-based principles of Christianity, this perceived conflict can be a challenge to personal faith and the quality of Christian living.

        In this page, I have two main goals. 
        As explained earlier, "one of my goals is to help you understand why some Christians think the earth is old, and respect what they think."  This goal is external and interpersonal, about US and what you may be thinking about me, and (more generally) how we can improve relationships in the community of Christians.
        A second goal is internal and personal, about YOU and what you may be thinking about the Bible and science, God and salvation.  I'd like to help you cope with the inner tensions that can occur if you see evidence-and-logic (from science and theology) leading you to suspect that your young-earth views might not be correct, but these views seem too important to change.

 
        THREE SOLUTIONS FOR A PROBLEM
        Earlier, you saw how a rigid insistence on a young-earth interpretation of the Bible can lead believers into a dilemma based on logical "IF-and-IF, THEN..." reasoning:  IF the Bible says the earth is young, and IF in reality the earth is not young (as indicated by a careful examination of abundant scientific evidence), THEN the logical conclusion is that "the Bible is false."
        This is not a problem for atheists, who affirm both IFs and claim "the Bible is false."  But it is a problem for Christians who have chosen a young-earth interpretation of scripture.
        • For a young-earth Christian, one way to resolve the tension — with the Bible saying "young earth" and science saying "old earth" — is to affirm both IFs and conclude "the Bible is false," thereby joining the atheists. 
        • Another solution is to reject the second IF, to deny that "in reality the earth is not young."  This denial can occur in four young-earth responses to the abundant old-earth evidence outlined in Section 4A:  they can reject the science (either claiming "nobody was there during pre-human history so scientists cannot know anything about it" or claiming that young-earth science is superior so "we must discard much of modern science" because in many areas, spanning a wide range of modern science, almost all scientists are wrong about some very important theory-based conclusions in their field) or acknowledge it (but claim that the evidence will be explained in future young-earth science, or that God created a world with a false appearance of old age so it looks old even though it is young).
        • A third solution, and the one I recommend, is to deny the first IF because you understand why a claim that "the Bible says the earth is young" is not justified, as explained in Sections 3A-3B.

        In the personal experiences above, Ed describes the third solution:  If his friend "had been offered an alternative [believing the Bible without believing a young earth] from the beginning, he would never have experienced the turmoil he went through."
        But prominent advocates of a young-earth view want to remove this alternative.  For example, Ken Ham claims that an old-earth interpretation cannot be justified unless we "start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture."  But it's easy to see the logical framework by starting inside the Bible, by simply looking at the text of Genesis 1.
        And when we ask, "Is this passage intended to teach us specific facts about nature?", information from nature (gathered and evaluated using scientific methods) can be useful.  For example, we use two sources of information, from nature and scripture, when we reject two related assertions (which were both popular among scientists and theologians in the early 1600s) claiming that the best science is earth-centered astronomy with a stationary earth, and that this science is taught in the Bible.  This "two books of God" principle for theological interpretation was recommended by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1982) when they affirmed that "in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations."  To see this principle in action, you can ask "Why does Ken Ham think the earth rotates and orbits?" and you'll see why Ken's logic is the same logic used by many of your fellow Christians when we conclude that "the overwhelming scientific evidence for an old earth provides a motivation to reconsider, and then we discover that an old-earth interpretation of scripture is justified."

 
        SEARCHING FOR TRUTH
        We know (because the Bible clearly teaches it) that God wants us to believe what is true.  I encourage you to carefully examine (as in Parts 3 and 4 of my Overview-FAQ) the reasons for thinking that:  3A) in Genesis 1... the history is arranged topically, not chronologically, so the six-day framework doesn't teach anything about the sequence or timing of creation,  3B) God's wonderful plan for us — for converting sin and death (of humans) into salvation and life (for humans) — will work whether the earth is young or old, and  4B) historical sciences provide reliable ways to learn about the history of nature,  4A) abundant evidence from a wide range of fields... indicates that the earth and universe are billions of years old.
        But don't just read what I say.  In this website you'll find links to pages with "ideas about age" from a wide range of perspectives.  Why would you want to do this?  Won't it be confusing?
        Let's compare two approaches to education:   A protective isolation tries to avoid contact with all non-approved ideas;  but even if this goal is achieved inside a school, home, or church, on the outside a student will be confronted with challenging ideas from many sources, including peers and media, while living in the modern world.  By contrast, a supported exploration will help students learn the skills they need for intellectual self-defense;  although we cannot protect students from exposure to ideas, we can protect them against indoctrination by helping them develop skill in critically evaluating the merits of different ideas.  Compared with isolation, exploration is more "educational" because there is more learning and thinking.  But exploring ideas is educationally useful and spiritually edifying only when it is done wisely and well, with adequate support intellectually, emotionally, and (in situations where it's appropriate) spiritually.   { You can learn more about this in The Potential Dangers of Worldview Education in Public Schools and Christian Education for the Whole Person.  And you can re-read the five educational scenarios and think about "what will happen with her interest in science and the quality of her faith." }
        My first major experience with "exploring ideas" was a high school class where the teacher often held debates in class.  Monday he used his rhetorical skill to persuade us that "his side" was correct, but Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  We soon learned that, to get accurate understanding, we should get the best information and arguments for all sides of an issue.  After we did this and we understood more accurately, we recognized that people with other views may also have good reasons for their views, so we learned respectful attitudes.  But respect does not require agreement.  You can respect someone and their views, while explaining why you think another view is better.  Our teacher was not a postmodern relativist, and he wanted us to rationally evaluate ideas in our search for truth.
        In your search for truth — as a teacher and/or student, in school or in lifelong learning — you can use this website in your explorations.  Instead of one-sided "Monday without Tuesday" indoctrination we'll give you accurate descriptions of all positions (not weak "strawman" distortions of what others believe) and you'll find vigorous defenses of each position by its advocates.  This multi-position approach is consistent with the policy of the American Scientific Affiliation, because ASA does not advocate a particular conclusion about the WHEN-and-HOW of creation (even though all of our members agree about the WHO) but does endorse a process of respectful discussion.  We won't tell you what to conclude, but we will provide information so you can make an informed evaluation and reach your own conclusions.   some resources
 


 
        CHALLENGE AND COMFORT (a brief summary)
        Challenge:  Decisions are easy when all indicators "line up" by pointing in the same direction.  But if a Christian thinks that believing the Bible requires believing the earth is young, and evidence from nature says "the earth is not young" this can be a cause for confusion, as you saw in Personal Experiences.
        Comfort:  You can be confident that whatever you decide about the earth's age, God will love you, and "whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  Whatever you decide, you can build a strong foundation for living by faith, because "the full gospel of Jesus... is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth."

 
        RESPECTFUL HUMILITY
        Despite the many reasons for wise humility, for not claiming that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true," Ken Ham and John Morris state with certainty that if the earth is old, with animal death before human sin, "the whole message of the Gospel falls apart" because "these ideas destroy the foundation for the Gospel and negate the work of Christ on the cross."  Ham and Morris are claiming that a young earth is an essential doctrine — taught with certainty, and theologically important — along with the resurrection of Jesus.  Speaking about a truly essential doctrine, Paul says "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."  By contrast, we should not accept the analogous claim of John Morris that if the earth is old and "[animal] death existed before Adam,... the Christian faith is all in vain. (source)"
        Because he thinks a young earth is an essential core-belief of Christianity, John Morris warns everyone that "old-earth thinking is incompatible with the work of Christ. ... [young-earth] creationism should be a requirement for Christian leadership!  No church should sanction a pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, or Bible-study leader who knowledgeably and purposefully errs on this crucial doctrine. (source)"
        When they're trying to persuade Christians, advocates of a young earth often define the disagreement as a noble spiritual battle, with the good guys (themselves, as defenders of the Bible) valiantly fighting against the bad guys (including fellow Christians who are misleading compromisers).  This is wrong.  When we're evaluating young-earth and old-earth views in theology or science, questions about character don't help us distinguish between the views, because proponents of both views include intelligent scholars with expertise (in theology and/or science) who are devout Christians with high moral character, who sincerely want to find the truth.

        The main part of this page concludes with the ending of Section 3D in my Overview-FAQ:
        For essential doctrines we should not be "tolerant" as defined in postmodern relativism.  We should say "this is what the Bible clearly teaches, and it is important."  But for nonessential doctrines, we should be more appropriately humble.  It seems wise, for personal faith and interpersonal evangelism, to focus on doctrines that are most clearly taught and most important, and when all things are considered (including information from nature) seem most likely to be true.
        Some words of wisdom, useful in all areas of life, come from St. Augustine:  "In essentials, unity.  In nonessentials, diversity.  And in all things, charity."  To follow this advice, we must wisely distinguish between what is essential and nonessential, and behave with charity, with respectful humility and a love that transcends our differences, so "everyone will recognize that you are my disciples, when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:35)"

 


        APPENDIX

        A Wide Range of Attitudes
        The attitudes of young-earth creationists toward old-earth progressive creationists (who think that God occasionally used miracles during a long process of creation) span a wide range, from dogmatic hostility to respectful humility, from viewing them as unbiblical "compromisers" to seeing them as valuable allies in the service of Christ.   Young-Earth Attitudes Span a Wide Spectrum

        Why are so many so confident?
        We are confident because eventually, due to adjustments among ideas, most of us become satisfied with the quality and consistency of our own ideas.  Thus, vigorous advocates for every view of origins confidently believe they have The Answer, and (as Del Ratzsch says in Battle of the Beginnings) "each side can see the case as so utterly closed that the very existence of opponents generates near bafflement."  {from Section 1C of my Overview-FAQ}

        Appropriate Humility in Theology and Science
        Our humility should be appropriate, not too little and not too much.  We can make some claims, but not others, with confidence. .....  All Christians should humbly acknowledge that "IF God created using another method (differing from the way I think He created), then God is worthy of our praise."  But this humility (if... then...) is compatible with explaining, using arguments based on our studies of nature and scripture, why we think a particular view is most likely to be true.   {from Section 5G of my Intro-FAQ}

        A Concern for Teachers in Christian Schools
        Imagine that you are a science teacher in a private Christian school, and last year several parents didn't like what you said about the "when and how" of creation, about the evidence for an old earth with a long history.  They removed their children from your school and began a campaign in local churches, encouraging other parents to also boycott your school.  Now your principal is blaming you for the school's damaged reputation and financial problems, and is saying "if you want to keep your job, you will change the way you teach science."
        And for teachers in home schools, it's difficult to find anything except young-earth teaching in homeschool textbooks, communities, and conferences.

 
LATER, following the section below (asking "Why does Ken Ham think...?")  --  What is the meaning of EVOLUTION?  What are my views about evolution?  Why does a young-earth view increase the plausibility of evolution?  --  Saint Augustine (re: nonsense and witness)  --  If-Then Logic is Not Reversible  --  Educational Resources

Why does Ken Ham think the earth rotates and orbits?
( Analogy between Stationary Earth and Young Earth )

        Section 3C (in my Overview-FAQ) looks at three young-earth claims by Ken Ham: 
        • He thinks it is wrong to "start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture."  But he does "start outside the Bible" when he rejects a claim that the Bible teaches a stationary earth that does not rotate and orbit the sun.  He accepts evidence from nature (logically interpreted in science) and uses it as a motivation to reconsider scripture, and when he looks carefully he finds valid reasons to accept a moving-earth interpretation of scripture.  In a similar way, many Christians find valid reasons to accept an old-earth interpretation of scripture.
        • He criticizes "man's fallible dating methods" and asks, "Can fallible, sinful man be in authority over the Word of God?"  Is Ham claiming that an old-earth interpretation of nature is hindered by sin, but his own young-earth interpretation of scripture is not hindered by sin, so his interpretation of the Bible (not just the Bible itself) is infallible?  And his claim about "authority" ignores the fact that we cannot compare the Bible with science, we can only compare interpretations of the Bible (in theology) with interpretations of nature (in science) while trying to search for truth. 
        • He thinks rejecting a young-earth will lead to rejecting essential doctrines, "even to Christ's Resurrection," in a "slippery slope to unbelief."   But do all claims that "the Bible teaches this" have equal support?  No.  We can rationally decide that a 144-hour creation is not true, but The Resurrection is true and is an essential doctrine because (compared with a young earth) it is much more certainly taught and is much more important.
        These claims are also made by geocentrists in the Association for Biblical Astronomy who think the earth is stationary and the sun (along with everything else in the universe) revolves around the earth.  Why do they believe this is true?  Because they "assume that whenever the two [Bible and conventional astronomy] are at variance, it is always astronomy — that is, our "reading" of the ‘Book of Nature,’ not our reading of the Holy Bible — that is wrong."  Does this sound familiar?
        So why does Ham think that he, as a fallible sinful human, can avoid a "slippery slope" by rationally deciding to interpret the Bible in a non-literal way for a stationary earth but not a young earth?

Let's take a closer look at this analogy between young-earth geocentrists (whose creed is to "believe that the creation was completed in six twenty-four hour days and that the world is not older than about six thousand years (creed)" and whose leader, Gerardus Bouw, is motivated by his belief that "at issue is the inerrancy and preservation of Scripture, especially in the light of the pronouncements of science;  at stake is the authority of the Bible in all realms, starting in the realm of science") and young-earth heliocentrists like Ham, in excerpts from 2C (Overview-FAQ) and 3C (full-length FAQ):

        In 1500, science and theology were in harmony, but were wrong, when both agreed that planets orbited a stationary earth.  For awhile, as in the time of Galileo, some interpretations of nature were in conflict with some interpretations of scripture.  In 1700, science and theology were again in harmony, but now both interpretations were true because they corresponded to the realities in nature and scripture.
        Can we learn a lesson from history?  In the 1600s, erroneous interpretations of the Bible were used to support earth-centered science that was wrong.  Currently, are erroneous interpretations of the Bible being used to support young-earth science that is wrong?
        In 1700 we did not compare the Bible (which says "the sun rises") with science (which claims "the earth rotates") and decide science was more important, because the Bible and science cannot be compared.  Instead, we compared different interpretations (of the Bible, and of nature) and wisely used all available information in our search for truth.
        When we ask, "Is this Bible passage intended to teach us specific facts about nature?", information from nature can be useful.  This principle of theological interpretation was recommended by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1982) when they affirmed that "in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations."  And they decided (by agreement of all members except Henry Morris) to not include a 144-hour creation as an essential component of a fundamentalist belief in inerrancy.

        Basic facts of nature — like whether the earth's age is thousands of years or billions of years, and whether the number of teeth in the mouth of a horse is 30, 40, or 50 — have no intrinsic theological importance.  And advocates for a young earth agree.  A prominent creationist, Ken Ham, explains why a young earth is not the issue because "our emphasis is on Biblical authority.  Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’... is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator."
        Ham claims that, to preserve Biblical authority, "We must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside!"  He thinks it is wrong to "start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture" because "once you have told people to accept man's [scientific] dating methods, and thus should not take the first chapters of Genesis as they are written, you have effectively undermined the Bible's authority!"
        But if Ham thinks we should reject "ideas from the outside," why doesn't he also insist that the Bible teaches a stationary earth?  The Bible clearly states that "the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved" with a mobile sun orbiting around it: "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises." (Psalm 93:1, Ecclesiastes 1:5)  Why does he reject these clear statements?  I think he will agree that if we refuse to "impose ideas from the outside" we will certainly conclude that the Bible teaches a stationary earth.  But he rejects this claim about nature, because he accepts the evidence from nature (logically interpreted in science) and uses it as a "motivation to reconsider" his interpretation of scripture.  And when he reconsiders, he finds valid reasons to think a moving-earth interpretation of scripture is credible, to think the Bible authors are simply describing what they see.  In fact, you speak in the same way, without intending to claim anything about science, when you step off a storm-tossed boat and say "it feels good to be on solid ground that isn't constantly moving," or you say "what a beautiful sunset" as you watch the sun move down to the horizon.
        Here is the analogy between young and old, plus my analysis:
        analogy:  Ham thinks the overwhelming scientific evidence for a moving earth provides a motivation to reconsider, and then he discovers that a moving-earth interpretation of scripture is justified.  Similarly, many Christians think the overwhelming scientific evidence for an old earth provides a motivation to reconsider, and then we discover that an old-earth interpretation of scripture is justified.
        analysis:  A young-earth view of scripture is reasonable, but young-earth science is unreasonable because it requires a very large "adjusting" of scientific logic, thus producing conflict between logical science and young-earth theology.  By contrast, there is harmony between a logical old-earth view of scripture (with no illogical adjusting required to see the framework in Genesis 1) and a logical old-earth view of nature.

What is the meaning of EVOLUTION?
    "evolution" is a term with many meanings: astronomical evolution (in an old universe), geological evolution (on an old earth), chemical evolution (of the first life), plus four aspects of biological evolution (for the development of life) — micro-E (within a species) and minor macro-E (to produce a new-yet-similar species), fossil-E progressions (in the geological record), common descent (with all species related by shared ancestors), and a Total Macro-E with all biocomplexity and biodiversity produced by cumulative effects of 100% natural macro-E — plus atheistic evolution making a non-scientific metaphysical claim that "natural = happening without God" and natural process is sufficient to produce everything we observe so God isn't necessary and we should conclude that "only nature exists" and there is no God.
    In my opinion, there is very strong evidence for two evolutions (astronomical & geological) and three aspects of biological evolution (minor-E & minor macro-E, fossil E, and common descent) but not one aspect (Total Macro-E), and there is strong evidence against chemical evolution.
    Unfortunately, prominent young-earth creationists oversimplify by mixing all of these meanings together in their claim that "evolution = old earth" which includes ALL possible meanings of evolution, including all scientific questions plus an atheistic worldview.  In the "two model" view promoted by prominent young-earth creationists, there are only two basic worldviews: creationism (believing the earth is young) and evolutionism (believing the earth is old).  The dividing line is belief about age.  A young-earth view, based on the Bible, is biblical creationism;  all old-earth views — even those of Christians whose beliefs in every way are based on the Bible — are unbiblical evolution.

What are my views about evolution?
I think scientific evidence-and-logic supports two evolutions (astronomical & geological) and three aspects of biological evolution (all except Total Macro-E) but not chemical evolution.  I reject atheistic evolution, and although I don't think a totally natural evolution is the way God created, I think theistic evolution is theologically acceptable, and why Christians who are evolutionary creationists — who think natural evolution was God's method of creation — should be treated with respect as fellow Christians.  {more about my views and "What can a Christian believe about evolution?" in Sections 5A-5G of my Overview-FAQ}

Why does a young-earth view increase the plausibility of evolution? 
Prominent young-earth creationists propose a two-model view of origins when they ignore the option of old-earth creation, and insist on a choice between young-earth creation and all-natural evolution.  Ironically, this either-or oversimplification produces an increase in the perceived plausibility of 100% natural evolution (in all of its scientific meanings above) which "wins points" simply because it proposes an old earth.  Why?  Because if we have only two choices, so we must use either-or logic, all evidence for an old earth (or old universe) becomes evidence for evolution.  If you "draw a line" (that Christians should not cross) at the earth's age, evidence for WHEN is converted into evidence for HOW.   A Practical Result in Education is that young-earth views increase the plausibility of evolution in public school classrooms.
 

If-Then Logic is Not Reversible
For example, "if dog, then animal" is true, but the reversed "if animal, then dog" is false.  For similar reasons, even though weak ‘loosey goosey’ theology is almost always associated with an old earth, so "if weak theology, then old earth" is a good way to bet, this if-then statement cannot be reversed to logically conclude that "if old earth, then weak theology."  Instead, the full gospel of Jesus is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth and many devout Christians with strong theology think the earth is old.

Saint Augustine said:  "Usually a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world. ...  Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn... to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil. ...  To defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof...; the credibility of Scripture is at stake, and as I have indicated more than once, there is danger that a man uninstructed in divine revelation, discovering something in Scripture or hearing from it something that [with a hyper-literal interpretation] seems to be at variance with the knowledge he has acquired, may resolutely withhold his assent in other matters [essentials like worldview, salvation, and Christian living] where Scripture presents useful admonitions, narratives, or declarations."   from St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, with [my comments in brackets]

Educational Resources
• Currently, the home school community is dominated by young-earth views.  John Holzmann, of Sonlight Curriculum (a supplier of educational resources for homeschoolers), courageously and respectfully asks, Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? — and Answers in Genesis responded as part of its Operation: Refuting Compromise.
• This page, with Bible-based theology for young-earth Christians, is only one of the many resources — about THE TWO BOOKS & AGE-THEOLOGY & AGE-SCIENCE & MORE — in the area for CREATION QUESTIONS.
• And I encourage you to supplement the "sampler" excerpts in this page (which are mainly from the brief Introduction-FAQ) with deeper reading in the other FAQs: in the medium-sized (Overview-FAQ) and full-length versions.




 
This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.

Here are other related pages:

FAQ for Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
(check Sections 2, 3, and 4 in all three versions,
especially the medium-sized Overview-FAQ, plus
anything you want to read in the other parts)

This page is Part 1 of a two-part series;  Part 2 is
Young-Earth Creation Science & Old-Earth Scientific Evidence

AGE OF THE EARTH AND UNIVERSE — THEOLOGY
 AGE OF THE EARTH AND UNIVERSE — SCIENCE 

HOMEPAGE for CREATION QUESTIONS

This page, written by Craig Rusbult, is
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/ye-cr.htm

Copyright © 2007 by Craig Rusbult
all rights reserved

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