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Friday, August 12, 2011

(Mathematician) Lennox: ' If I believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, am I denying the authority of Scripture? '

It's the very precise, yet fundamental question that Oxford mathematician John Lennox asks. Here's a blurb from his new book...

"What did the writer of Genesis mean by ‘the first day’? Is it a literal week or a series of time periods? If I believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, am I denying the authority of Scripture? In response to the continuing controversy over the interpretation of the creation narrative in Genesis, John Lennox proposes a succinct method of reading and interpreting the first chapters of Genesis without discounting either science or Scripture. With examples from history, a brief but thorough exploration of the major interpretations, and a look into the particular significance of the creation of human beings, Lennox suggests that Christians can heed modern scientific knowledge while staying faithful to the biblical narrative. He moves beyond a simple response to the controversy, insisting that Genesis teaches us far more about the God of Jesus Christ and about God’s intention for creation than it does about the age of the earth. With this book, Lennox offers a careful yet accessible introduction to a scientifically-savvy, theologically-astute, and Scripturally faithful interpretation of Genesis."

I cannot count on both hands the number of times that conversations with skeptics eventually devolved into the finer points concerning Young Earth Creationism. I am of the opinion that the Hebrew word yom that appears in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis can be translated as a non-specific time period. What are your thoughts on the matter?


Speedy G said...

Until the sun makes it's first complete orbit where someone SEE's and records it... it's like it never happened.

It's like Shrodinger's Cat. It doesn't exist until you open the box and look inside. ;)

Speedy G said...

...and personally, I don't think we've been "looking into the box" for very long.

JD Curtis said...


Certain people like to argue with certainty that various processes occurred and yet we are still trying to understand the process itself.

Gregg said...

First of all creationism is a faith issue and not a science or math issue. Hebrews 11:3 reads, "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."

Many if not most of the debates between creationists and non-creationists should be cautioned by the truth of Matthew 7:6.

Second, the question isn't the age of the earth. The questions is how did the come to be? One must be brought to a place where one recognizes by the Holy Spirit that there is a sovereign God who created the world and all that is in it before one can try to establish an age. If God did not create the world then there is no need for Christ and the cross.

Good biblical exegesis with sound rules of hermenuetics support a young age. I doubt the earth is 4.5 billion years old mainly because it doesn't fit in the overall scheme or plan of God.

Third, I wouldn't make the age of the earth a test of orthodoxy. I don't know if it is a question of denying the authority of scripture by holding to a 4.5 billion year old number but rather just poor hermeneutics.

To say God could not make a young earth look aged at creation and that a universal flood, removal of the original canopy and the fall (with the curse on the earth) would not accommodate age, sediment deposits, fossilization, and etc. is blasphemous and denies the sovereign power of God.

Fourth, neither side will be able to fully prove young or old. Even though there may be adequate "tools" available to support a young earth, no one is living who was there.

Fifth, science is always subservient to the Scriptures since they are in the original autographs inspired, inerrant, and infallible. We may not be able to solve a problem or explain something but science will never find errors in the Scripture.

Sixth, what is Lennox's motivation for believing the earth is 4.5 billion years old? What purpose is he trying to serve? What does he want to accomplish by this position? Is it to honor God and His word? Is it to blaspheme and ridicule the Holy and precious word of God? Is it to create doubt and dissension? Is it to open a door for evangelistic discussion? I can't tell by what we have here. If he is a Christian, I would simply say he is wrong, but I am not going to loose any sleep over his proposition. If he is not a Christian then what does it matter how old the earth is, he has a greater need and problem.

Seventh, I don't want to make light of something as important as the fact that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." God did create, ex hilo, out of nothing. He spoke and this "creation" came into being at the power of His Word. He is the God with whom we have our being and live within His world.

stormbringer005 said...

I'm going to approach this from a strictly Scriptural perspective.

Why do people *not* want to take the early chapters of Genesis at face value?

The word yom means several things, especially literal 24-hour period of time *or* an *indefinite* period of time. If God wanted us to know about "long ages", there were other words available. How to tell the difference? "Evening", "morning", an ordinal number. We have all three in the first chapters of Genesis. When these conditions are met throughout the Old Testament, people do not have a problem with it meaning a literal day. Why should this be an exception?

Further, Exodus 20.11 states clearly that God made everything in six days and rested on the seventh. He also tells us *why* he did this: As an example for us to follow. God did not work for six indefinite periods of time and rest for an indefinite period of time as an example to us, that's getting silly. And it poses some serious Scripture jockeying if someone wants to compromise, interpreting God's Word to favor man's ever-changing opinions.

Throughout Scripture, the Creation is taken as actual history, not figurative nor as some weird day-age thing.

I discuss this more here, with links for further detail.

Hope this helps.

The Maryland Crustacean said...

Given that each "yorn" had an "evening" and a "morning" even before the sun and the stars showed up on the fourth yorn, I don't think we are talking about 24 hour periods.

JD Curtis said...

I believe there's another instance of yom in Genesis 2nd chapter that refers to an indefinite time period. I'll see if I can find the specific reference.

That being said, I've seen well-informed, well-read and well prepared YECers humiliate snarky Darwinists in forums not unlike this one.

JD Curtis said...

Although Vox Day doesnt hold to YEC, he recently took evolutionary biologist and uber-atheist PZ Myers to the woodshed the other day. Link

Bisch said...

As a Bible-thumper and an engineer, it was hard for me to reconcile the apparent old age of the earth, with the biblical account.

Until I found a couple of plausible explanations.

The first is called Gap Theory, explained here http://www.kjvbible.org/

The other is the idea that Adam and Eve were created not as babies, but as fully formed adults, so would the rest of his creation appear to be older than it actually was.

The second explanation seems a bit deceptive, so I don't like it as much. The Gap Theory feels like it's more consistent with what I'd imagine God would do.

Of course, my reasoning isn't infallible, either, so I'm still open to a better explanation.

Mike S. said...

I think the writers of Genesis probably had six literal days in mind. But who knows. Time is relative anyway, and time, space, and objects are not independently existing, so there is no truly objective vantage point with which to answer the question. Believing that the earth is literally just thousands of years old is pretty indefensible, however, and the idea that "God just made it look that way" is no way out. Biological evolution is much more of a chore for Christians to address, not merely the age of the universe...

JD Curtis said...

Biological evolution is much more of a chore for Christians to address, not merely the age of the universe

If you have the time, click on the link to my 7:34 entry up above.

I am of the opinion that faith is every bit as integral to those that hold to macro-evolutionary theory as it is to creationists.

stormbringer005 said...

The "gap theory" has been discredited because (a) there is nothing whatsoever about it in the rest of Scripture, and (b) it was not on the books until people wanted to compromise with man's authority and accommodate evolution.

As for the age of the earth itself, there are evidences for a young earth that are not presented in the textbooks due to uniformitarian and evolutionary presuppositions. That is, if the evidence is contrary, out it goes!

If you feel like watching some videos from a creationist perspective, "How Dating Methods Work" and "Dating Fossils and Rocks" can get you started. Also, an article is linked on the unreliability of isotope decay, here.

Those of us who believe in a young earth are not as married to the belief as evolutionists are to their beliefs. That is, we acknowledge that everyone has biases. We just want to point out that a 4.5 billion year old earth is not the "slam dunk" that its proponents maintain. There is evidence for a six thousand year old planet, and there is evidence for a 25,000 year old planet, for instance. But those indications are disregarded because we "know" the universe is old &c.

stormbringer005 said...

By the way, I could be termed a "catastrophist". That is, I believe in the global flood at the time of Noah.

When people point to the Grand Canyon, how it was carved out by the Colorado River (having to flow uphill) over millions of years, and the rock strata were laid down over long periods of time, I cry, "Foul!" First, there are presuppositions of an old earth, plus defying the laws of physics with the Colorado River.

The Mt. St. Helen's eruption is conveniently ignored, but there are evidences of a mini Grand Canyon in the aftermath of the eruption and rapid water deposition. Rock layers laid down over years? Nope. Laid down in seconds.

All of this to say that the old earth appearance is misleading when using the uniformitarian framework, and the global flood geology model fits the evidence quite nicely.

Try strapping on a different bias feedbag for a while. The evidence may lead you into a surprising direction.

Mike S. said...

Stormbringer, I'm sorry but the prospect of the earth being merely thousands of years old is too outrageous for me to take seriously.

And it's not the case that Genesis was uniformly interpreted literally until modernity. Various church fathers and ancient interpreters saw allegory in Genesis and I doubt they'd really have cared how old the earth is or isn't. Their concerns were with ontology and teleology -- what it is to exist and to what end.

As to the issue of evolution, or even more to the issue abiogenesis, prima facie it seems ludicrous given the enormous complexity of life. The prevalent assumption behind evolutionary biology is that it can be explained entirely by mechanistic processes. I suppose only time will prove this correct or incorrect. The expanse of the known universe is well beyond our ability to conceptualize, and no one knows what lies beyond that known universe. It is presumptuous to dismiss evolution because it is astoundingly unlikely.

I honestly don't know much about the subject of biology and evolution, and it really doesn't make much of a difference to me. From what I've gathered the evidence does strongly seem to suggest that we did evolve, but it is inconclusive as to how we did, notwithstanding the current partiality to mechanistic explanations (which again, may or may not turn out to be true as far as I'm concerned). It could be that the causal closure of the "physical" world is false, and that there are other forms of causation.

Then again there is always the fine-tuning argument about why the universe happens to allow for organic chemistry and biology in the first place, which does seem to have a good deal of merit even if not conclusive either way.

Bisch said...

Stormbringer, you should check out the link I provided about the Gap Theory. It's pretty compelling. He does use scripture, other scripture, to defend his position.

GentleSkeptic said...

The Mt. St. Helen's eruption is conveniently ignored, but there are evidences of a mini Grand Canyon in the aftermath of the eruption and rapid water deposition.

Not so much ignored as refuted.

• The sediments on Mount St. Helens were unconsolidated volcanic ash, which is easily eroded. The Grand Canyon was carved into harder materials, including well-consolidated sandstone and limestone, hard metamorphosed sediments (the Vishnu schist), plus a touch of relatively recent basalt.

• The walls of the Mount St. Helens canyon slope 45 degrees. The walls of the Grand Canyon are vertical in places.

• The canyon was not entirely formed suddenly. The canyon along Toutle River has a river continuously contributing to its formation. Another canyon also cited as evidence of catastrophic erosion is Engineer's Canyon, which was formed via water pumped out of Spirit Lake over several days by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

• The streams flowing down Mount St. Helens flow at a steeper grade than the Colorado River does, allowing greater erosion.

• The Grand Canyon (and canyons further up and down the Colorado River) is more than 100,000 times larger than the canyon on Mount St. Helens. The two are not really comparable.

JD Curtis said...

I don't personally argue for Young Earth Creationism.

However, I find the argument concerning paraconformaties to be in their favor on this one GS.