[Originally published as the opening of Defending a Young Earth: A Response to Tyler Vela (Part 1)]
In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young-age creationist arguments.
Stated in his own words, his purpose in writing the piece I am responding to was “to help us understand each other better and to give clearer, deeper, more thoughtful arguments for our positions and against those that we disagree with. I’m here not belittling my YEC brothers but calling them to a higher standard of reasoning and argumentation.” I write this response not to ignite controversy but rather because I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment and have been advocating for the same thing within the young-age creationist community.
He offers some good points and challenging arguments. At the same time, he offers some arguments that have been soundly refuted by young-age creationists, suggesting that he (and likely his readership) have not taken the time (or, to be generous, perhaps have just not had an opportunity) to avail themselves of the answers. I pray that this response is taken to be as gracious as I took his initial article to be, and most of all, I pray it helps others on every side of this debate gain a better understanding of the young-age creationist view. Therefore, I write this two-part response in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
The following is part one of my extended response:
I want to begin by saying that, although I have had basically zero interaction with Tyler, I have listened to a few of his podcasts, read a few of his articles, and noticed him interacting with others in a few apologetics Facebook groups.
I should reiterate right away that Tyler has no stake whatsoever in the age debate. In fact, his article states,
I would also like to remind my readers that I am not YEC, OEC, or TE (Theistic Evolution). I hold to a Literary Framework view that sees Genesis 1 as synchronic and polemical to Israel’s recent Egyptian context. Often the dialogue is framed as if there are only two options – YEC and OEC. This is simply not the case. But since my view is hardly ever addressed, I will use arguments presented by YECs in general though typically to OECs.
There is something interesting happening here, and although this is a point that I plan on addressing in detail at a later time, it ought to be mentioned from the get-go. Tyler may not have a dog in the fight, but the earth is here — therefore, it has an age.
To say there are more than two options may be true theologically speaking, but the earth does have an age. And to my knowledge, the only options on the table are the evolutionary age at around 4.5 billion years and the young age creationist view of around 6,000 years.
With that in mind, strictly speaking, there are only two options. And the reality is that one can affirm the views that Tyler holds about the authorial intent of Genesis and hold to YEC, OEC, or TE. Nevertheless, the “age” question is still important because it deals with the nature of reality, and, in my view, there are pretty insurmountable scriptural issues in accepting old-age chronology.
The reason I brought this point to bear is the following: The arguments brother Vela has chosen to respond to here have almost zilch to do with the age of the earth. As I will point out, Tyler’s views are hardly even affected by these arguments! It seems that he has majored on the arguments that his “agnostic-with-respect-to-the-age-of-the-earth” views are able to easily escape but has failed to mention those which serve to challenge his position.
It may be (and should be) said that Tyler’s main intent with this article is merely to refute common YEC arguments and not to offer a defense of his own view. But I thought the discerning reader may find it interesting that there are other very common arguments that are harder for Tyler’s views to cope with, that have been omitted for one reason or another.
This article will abide by the following format: Each main point will be the argument as stated in Tyler’s article. Below, I will post a direct quote (or quotes) that captures the thrust of his objection and my response below. I will make note of any time I quote Tyler directly within my response.
Claim: Old Earth Creationists are Intimidated by Secular Scientists
…and so they reject what they know the text says.
This is condescending at best. Not only do most people who do not take YEC views driven by textual concerns and a desire to follow what they see in the scriptures, this is also wildly problematic in its view of what science is…I’m also surprised that no one sees that start irony that this was some of the same kind of rhetoric used against heliocentrism several centuries ago. We have by and large altered how we understand some of the cosmology found in the Bible as being less than literal precisely because it could not accord with the findings of “secular” science.
Obviously, I cannot possibly speak for every creationist who gets involved in a shouting match with old-age-believing Christians. With that caveat understood, I have yet to hear even one informed young-age creationist make a dogmatic statement such as that one. Where such a statement may have been taken to be understood, there is likely lots more nuance behind it.
Consider this thoughtful excerpt from Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson:
“I believe surveys say around 97% of professional scientists hold evolution. Understandably many people want to know why, if the evidence for biblical creation is so compelling, so many scientists still reject it. Well, the same surveys show that probably at least 70% of professional scientists are non-Christians. We know from Romans 1 that non-Christians have a spiritual bias and deliberately suppress the truth. So the Scripture tells us that, yes, the vast majority of them have a compelling spiritual reason to ignore what we’re saying. And so, practically, the way it works itself out, is they never bother to consider it.
Also, most people go through the public school system, and they hear from an early age just evolution. They never hear, and they are not taught even to consider, an alternative hypothesis. So they are taught from an early age to suppress the truth, and so this is just the fruit of an educational system that ignores the opposition.
Also, by and large, they just don’t read our literature. They’re ignorant. Now, sadly, the professing Christians who hold evolution (for example, the BioLogos community) also seem to practice the same thing. In the few interactions I’ve had with their scholars, whether it’s theologians or scientists, they are clueless about anything scholarly that we’ve written. I’ll ask them, “Name the last young earth creationist scholarly book you’ve read.” The response: “I don’t know.” Have you read Coming to Grips with Genesis? No. Have you read Earth’s Catastrophic Past? No. So why don’t more people accept this? Because they’re totally ignorant of what we’ve printed. And they don’t want to consider it.”
The above quote by Nathaniel Jeanson, Ph.D. does not purport to address any motive of Christians who hold a different view, but rather the mere reality that they often are ignorant (whatever the reason) of young age arguments. This is not defamation but reality! Unfortunately, this has been my personal experience as well.
Now, that said, please allow me to emphatically state that I would not stand behind someone making the sort of claim Tyler is addressing. At least, not without proper context. There is a way that I can see how this sentiment could be inferred from a different kind of common interaction, however.
For example, I have personally had numerous interactions with Christians who are now convinced the earth and universe are billions of years old but who admitted that they used to hold to a young age view based on the text. What changed? The Bible hasn’t!
Again, this is not conjecture but fact. What does one do with such a phenomenon? Perhaps “intimidated” is not the right word to use, but one sure does sound silly on most university campuses claiming to believe in a young earth. Secularists often conflate the ridiculous “flat earth” controversy with the young age view (despite the fallacy of false analogy this represents) in an attempt to discredit the claims of young-age creationists. Is it reasonable to consider this type of ridicule as not intimidating, that it could never lead a person to reconsider his views?
Is Tyler prepared to admit that not one OEC ever has felt embarrassed at the thought of believing in a young earth and changed his views accordingly? In a popular YouTube video, Dr. William Lane Craig has, in fact, conjectured that YEC is an embarrassment to Christians. If Tyler can get away with affirming this but admitting it would be a rare case, I think I have good grounds to say the same about the claim in question.