Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Good-Natured Young Earth Views are Evolving

"Science gives us the full accord of facts- It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another- but no evil need to be apprehended- The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”
Charles Hodge- Princeton 1829
I vividly remember my first encounter with evolution in the classroom. I was in 6th grade at Robinson Elementary and the mere mention of an unguided process that over eons of time turned a germ into a monkey and then into a man was laughable.

I don't know if the two visceral reactions were connected- but my 'red flag' aversion to evolution was equally comparable to my anger toward racism. At the core of my being, these views collapsed right in front of my deep grained instinct that the Creator was there and He was just and good.

This class was prone to tough debates and I remember the interesting realization that I was in the minority. It's funny, but my weakest argument to these elementary debaters was my firm stance on the 6 day creation account. But my God was big enough for the miracle... He could have done it in 6 seconds!

"Everyone knows that the universe is millions of years old"
"Oh Yeah?" I said.

Do you believe me? I so remember it and I specifically remember being a science skeptic from my early years. I trusted God and I did not trust men. If God's story and man's story were in conflict...I'm taking God.

As I got older, and actually became a Christ follower, my argument grew more 'sophisticated'-

'A very smart man still has little perspective on time. He may know 75 years....possibly a select few know 100....but no one truly can perceive 1,000- let alone 1 million"

I will tell you that a young earth believer in Genesis has a pretty simple apologetic. God said it and that settles it. He was there and you weren't. I believe in 1 miracle GOD. You have to believe in millions of miracles without Him.

My next interesting skirmish was in Birmingham. I was teaching at a Christian school and we hosted Hugh Ross for a weekend. It seemed to be fine until Hugh got an audience with our Bible department. I remember sitting in the school library. My recollection was the audience was very small- three or four Bible teachers, our pastor, and a history teacher.

Hugh Ross had barely started before the odium thelogicum attacked with their guns blazing.
"How dare you teach this day age stuff?" "You are out of your field and have no right to make theological applications." "You have undone Romans, you have destroyed the gospel, in your view there is death before sin and death cannot happen before sin."
I was shocked and I was embarrassed. Though I still held to my literal, young earth view- I saw Hugh Ross as a man who proclaimed Jesus and taught a high view of Scripture.
I also need to say that I have deep respect for the Bible teachers- they loved Jesus and the gospel and knew the Bible so deeply. But this was a hot button topic.
It even got to the point that some in our Bible department would not label a college 'christian' unless it taught a young earth and a literal 6 day creation.

My questioning would get me small splashes of indignation. It is the mischievous side of me that kind of sadistically enjoys the turmoil.
 "Who says there can't be death before sin?"
"What if it meant spiritual death... or human death?"
"Did Adam not step on an ant?"
"Did the serpent eat bananas?" I know...stupid!

But they were settled- the slippery slope to liberalism begins when a person compromises Genesis 1. Once you begin... where does it stop? If the day is not literal- how can we say Adam and the garden are not figurative?

For a long time after that, I was the 'good-natured young earth  guy'. I held firm to my position, but did not question the faith of any 'old-earther' I ran into. There were times where I didn't know what was more shocking to them- the fact that I was young earth or the fact that I was accepting of others who weren't.

I moved to Nashville and began teaching apologetics. My department leader was old-earth and he seemed ok with my young earth view. The only time I got him riled up at all was my 'young earth that appears old' argument. He said it makes God deceitful. I never really agreed with that rebuttal because general revelation only declares that God is there- it takes special revelation to give out the details that He wants us to have. It would not bother me at all if I found an antique storage chest in my father's workshop.
"Wow, dad, this is amazing."
"How did you make this? It looks 200 years old!"
"I finished it this morning, son."
So a 5 minute tree in Eden had 35 rings... and it keeps a Biblical theme.. things are not always what they seem.

My apologetics study led me at first into evidentialists and the weapons against macro-evolution. You have to understand, that getting arguments against Darwin were thrilling to me. I hated what Darwin had done to the church. I remember that sheer anger I felt when I watched 'Inherit the Wind' and saw the biased attack on my faith. So how could I not cheer when I read about irreducible complexity, and the Cambrian explosion, and the faulty Miller Urey experiment.. and on and on.

But a funny thing happened- as I read the evidence I had to admit that there was no doubt that evolution was true. The slight, successful changes in species was studied and proven.
But the extrapolation of that theory into a naturalistic world-view which helped kick God out of classrooms and relegated faith to a 'stay at home' private thing was offensive. It didn't help that all of the neo-darwinists would take all kinds of explanations for life.... including aliens.. as long as God wasn't mentioned.

My young earth views were greatly helped by Douglas Kelly's excellent book "Creation and Change". But I also was helped by reading Einstein's biography and going back into Hugh Ross from time to time. I saw the two camps (young and old) as being tools to spread the gospel. Young earthers reach traditionalists and old earthers reach post-moderns. God had people in every sphere with a high view of Scripture and a love for gospel proclamation.

I even developed a 'power point' where I helped to clarify a lot of mistakes we make. It demonstrated how the Big Bang theory actually helps a theistic world view and how ID could be a rival to macro-evolution in the science classroom.

My next funny moment was when I was asked to speak at a Creation Conference at a Christian school across town that was also a big sports rival. I knew that my power-point was going to be picked to death by the 'Answers in Genesis' people. My mentioning of Intelligent Design was anathema and they took me to task in the gymnasium. The students loved it! The CPA football coach was getting grilled! After I answered their main criticism a few other panel speakers came up to me. 'I thought you made a great point". I thought 'thanks for speaking up for me'. But in a weird way, I enjoyed it.

Fast forward three years later and the growing evidence for an old universe and the slow erosion of young earth arguments have me reconsidering the whole thing. The only way I can stay young earth is to keep my "looks old, but is young" view. But most of the other supporting elements are easily explained away.

So I will spend some time going back to Genesis and considering again: Day Age- Analogical Days- Fiat Days- and Framework Views. I will pray and read and wrestle. I am not a scientist or a theologian... so I doubt I will ever be the last word on anything. But I enjoy the process and am so confident in my Heavenly Father that He and I will enjoy the process.

I started the background of this study by reading the Holman book: "Understanding Creation" edited by Jeremy Howard and designed by Doug Powell- two great local resources.

I am starting off with some honest questions:
How does Moses' background/education play into the way God spoke to him?
God dictated to Moses information- how does giving the info relate to the real time-line of the events?
Was there a purpose in God using current cultural structures as the best way to prepare the world for His solution for sin?
In what ways did God place himself in competition with false gods and rivals only to show His power and victory? Did He have to set up a parallel structure so we could see the difference?
If we adopt accomodist views of Scripture- where does the figurative stop and literal begin?
At what point do we end up in old-fashioned liberalism?
Is it possible for any man to think clearly here? Aren't we all influenced by presumptions? What if all the thoughts about the age of the universe are faulty models that don't take into account the possibility of fluctuations in time/space/history?
Is all of this battle over the beginning that important? Isn't the real skirmish over the life/death/words/ and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

Should be a fun run!

1 comment:

Curtis said...

Enjoyed the article. Just as a side note, have you ever considered the gap theory which believes that there is a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which the earth could have been around for a long time? Anyway, I really do enjoy reading of the progressive thought processes of Christians as they grow in their faith as I am experiencing the same things right about now. I will clarify though, that I am not talking about questioning the legitimacy of the Bible, but just coming to conclusions as to why I believe what I believe. What verses do I have to back up the things that I have been told and the like? Anyway, thanks for posting.