[Part 1 HERE. Originally published as Coming to Grips with History: A Response to Luke Nix and Cross Examined]
The remainder of this critique will follow Nix’s main headings in quotes(red headings in the original article), followed by my assessment of his thoughts.
“Areas Of Agreement”
I am pleased to write that I am in nearly perfect agreement with Nix here. It seems we share a similar philosophy of interaction with other views, and I imagine we could get along quite well in a coffee shop.
I have one bone to pick in this section, but it’s an important one. It’s been a capstone of the YEC movement to lay claim to the “literal days” of Genesis one. However, Ross often parries this claim by asserting that he also affirms “literal” days. Thus, in keeping with his sources, Nix lists this as an item of agreement.
However, this seems to be a clear case of empty rhetoric. Can one rationally make the case that “long, finite period of time” is a literal definition of the word “day?”
Even a cursory search of the word “literal” reveals a working definition that most people would agree with: “adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression,” according to Webster’s.
Now, indeed we must realize we are dealing with Hebrew, not English, and the meaning of a word is always determined by context. Thus, the Hebrew word yom is the one in question. Others have shown 3 that the biblical author was not forced to use the word yom and could have opted for a less confusing word if a long-but-finite period of time was intended.
But the context makes it clear to most scholars that, regardless, a 24-hour day is in view. Interestingly, this is even affirmed by many who do not want to take it literally, but figuratively (John Walton, Bill Craig, etc).
I have a suspicion that Ross is well-intentioned here. He is likely attempting to avoid the word “figurative” like the plague, and for good reason. He desperately wants to maintain that Genesis is a historical narrative, which Nix accurately represents in this blog post.
And of course, the use of figurative language is perfectly permissible in historical narrative when warranted by the context. The presence of figurative language does not indicate that history is not being recorded.
This is a question of hermeneutics, which will come up later.
I simply want to establish the point that this particular distinction is unwarranted. I don’t see how one can rationally maintain that a “long, finite period of time” is the primary (i.e., literal) use of the word yom given the context of Genesis 1.
Nix begins his critique with a familiar opening argument raised against the film; namely, that its entire premise rests upon a “false dichotomy.” This particular charge spread like wildfire subsequent to one of the film’s experts, Paul Nelson, writing a popular blog post in which he “dissent[s] from [his] role.”
Something to point out is that a well-educated philosopher of science (and young age creationist), Nelson does not seem to be arguing the false dichotomy is whether one paradigm or the other is true. Rather, he offers that the dichotomy ensues because “IGH‘s definition of the ‘conventional paradigm’ brings together acceptance of a long time scale with an assertion of ‘no design.’”
In other words, Nelson is pointing out the (seemingly obvious) fact that there are legitimate, Bible-believing Christians who would, in fact, not include themselves in either of the “paradigms” presented in the film. For Nelson, the line is drawn between “design” and “no design.”
I will circle back to this after hearing from Nix again. He writes,
At the very beginning of the documentary, it is proposed that only two options exist regarding origins: either naturalism or a young-earth creationist view. Because of the fact that they intend to investigate an important historical event, it is important that they do not preclude any options before their investigation even begins. If an investigation reveals that neither option is viable, then what is the Christian to do? Because of this drastic philosophical mistake from the beginning of the film, if a Christian is ever convinced that the universe is ancient, then it is implied (if not explicit) that the creators of the film believe that the logically consistent person must reject Christ as well. However, other views do exist, so when a Christian sees the compelling evidence from God’s creation that it testifies to an ancient universe, there is no need to jettison Christ or even the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis.
Prima facie, it’s easy to see Nix’s concern.
He (as do all progressive creationists) want to have a seat at the table and believe others should as well.
But this wasn’t their movie.
Here’s what I mean: Had this been The Discovery Institute’s (hereafter DSC, where Nelson is affiliated) movie, they would have likely drawn a line between themselves and theistic evolutionists. Indeed, they draw this line almost daily throughout their publications and held nothing back in their 2018 release of the ironically-titled tome, Theistic Evolution.
By drawing this line, progressive creationists and age-agnostic ID proponents are not claiming theistic evolutionists are not Christians; rather, they are deciding to place their theological stake in the ground on a particular issue and creating materials which advance views on their side of the stake and critically evaluate views on the other side.
Let’s be clear that this is exactly what the IGH movie is attempting to do.
DSC draws the line at “design” vs. “no design,” and any movie they made would surely reflect that. IGH draws the line at a particular understanding of history, and thus, they created a movie which reflects that.
Could the IGH movie have better presented this? Perhaps, which is (I think) all Nelson was pining for. However, surely one could not fault IGH for publicly opposing views which they believe have implications for the gospel (and critiquing them as such), just because someone with the opposing view does not believe so!
Progressive creationists and ID proponents most often join the young age creationist in harsh criticism of theistic evolution, including its implications for the gospel (lest we think the robust theological section of Theistic Evolution was written merely because DSC et al. prefers their understanding of the gospel over the theistic evolutionist’s).
Therefore, I argue the IGH dichotomy exists, but not fallaciously. It is drawn precisely because young age creationists like myself hold the strong conviction that accurate history—where we draw the line—also has implications for the gospel; not merely God’s chosen method of bringing about the natural order.4
Dr. Todd Wood, a participant in the film and notoriously fair-minded young age creationist, has written a helpful article in response to this charge as well. You can find it here.
Next, Nix accuses the film of committing a Hasty Generalization fallacy:
In the documentary, Tackett and the contributors make the logical mistake of arguing that since quick processes created a few things (some geologic formations) that they created all things (all geologic formations). This is problematic for two reasons. First, it is a logical fallacy, so it invalidates their conclusion that the Flood of Noah is responsible for the formation of the Grand Canyon (and all other geological features). Second, in this argument, they assume that old earth creation models allow for only slow processes, when in fact they allow both slow and quick processes. If the young earth creationist finds solid evidence for a quick process, that evidence is perfectly compatible with an ancient earth. The task before the young earth creationist is to provide solid evidence that the other formations also came about by a geographically global flood. In fact, when the evidence of these long processes is examined in the context of each other, we see powerful evidence of a grand orchestrated project culminating in a home for humanity…”
Unfortunately, Nix merely asserts this and makes no attempt to show his reader these claims before refuting them. I’ve seen the movie twice and am quite familiar with the arguments the contributors make, and am aware of no case where a contributor to the film would assert that “quick processes…created all…geologic formations.” Thus, Nix has committed a fallacy of his own, the strawman.
Young age geologists argue that, during flood year, there was a significant acceleration of natural rates and processes, but in the time since, geological formation has happened exactly in the manner it does today. This would include, as Nix points out, both slow formation and fast formation of geologic features.5
Regarding Nix’s second challenge, the young age creationist agrees that many geologic formations will need to be shown as having developed quickly, which is precisely the project of young age geologists! It’s as though Nix is not aware of (or has ignored) the surprisingly vast (though admittedly incomplete) amount of literature—both popular and technical—that has been published to this end.
For a much more extensive introduction to the technical literature, I recommend Dr. Andrew Snelling’s Earth’s Catastrophic Past.
Nix proceeds to charge the movie of a fallacy of conflation. This is merely a rehashing of the “false dichotomy” argument from above, and as such, will not be given extensive treatment.
The bottom line: The movie is not conflating naturalism with the proposition of an ancient universe. It is merely making a clear division between young and old age chronologies (of any kind) because the conviction of the film is that “the age of things” has significant theological implications.
Nix confidently declares, “the argument is made that since naturalism is false so must any view that holds that the universe is ancient.” But again, he has failed to provide context for the claim, the name of the individual who made it, or even a time stamp!
3. See Lisle, Understanding Genesis, page 262, for example.
4. I understand that the contention of Nix (indeed, the point of the article) is that he too is concerned about history. But the fact remains that young age creationists hold an entirely different interpretation of that history, one that has been pervasive throughout church history. This is where the line is drawn.
5. I’ll not major on this, but one could also note the non-sequitur fallacy Nix commits by claiming that the failure of the YEC argument he’s rebutting would lead to an incorrect conclusion, by default, regarding the Grand Canyon. That simply doesn’t follow.