[Originally published as 10 Questions to Ask A Young Earth Creationist: Answered]
It has come to our attention that Premier Christian Radio, an Evangelical radio station out of the UK, has published an article on their website entitled Ten Questions to Ask A Young Earth Creationist. It’s worth taking the time to respond to as it represents a fairly common set of questions that evolutionists or other compromises on the biblical text like to ask.
1. Can we start by agreeing that the Gospel is more about the Rock of Ages than the ages of rocks?
Every Christian should be able to agree with this proposition. However, if the rocks are old, as will be discussed more below, then you have a problem. God’s very good world suddenly has death in it, be it animal or, in some cases, human death. This violates the clear teaching of Scripture, as will be explained more below. Thus the age of the rocks is important because it is part of the foundation of the Gospel.
2. Does the age of the earth – or its shape – matter to a Christian?
The shape of the earth is a whole different question here. The question being asked in the way is a subtle hint that biblical creationists are flat earthers. While there are some creationists who accept the flat earth myth, no major creationist organization does, and we certainly do not. Asking the question in this way is a subtle way to stack the deck against creationists in the minds of reasonable people. Premier should be embarrassed to engage in such tactics.
Further, the age of the earth, as mentioned above, does matter to Christians. If the earth is millions of years old and God created through some form of day-age view, progressive creation, or theistic evolutionary view, then you have the death before sin problem. God makes it abundantly clear in Romans 5 and Romans 8 that man, specifically Adam, brought sin into the world and that creation was placed under a curse of death as a result. There is no other way to read those passages and remain faithful to the text.
3. Does the Bible teach that the earth is spherical?
Again I have to ask, why did Premier allow this question? What does the shape of the earth have to do with how old the earth is?
The claim put forward is that creationists often appeal to the earth being round written into Scripture as proof that science is only discovering what the Bible already taught. While I will grant that the spherical earth is only obliquely taught in Scripture, other aspects of Scripture are more clear about things of science. Psalms 8:8 talks about the “paths of the sea”. Turns out there are “paths” in the sea. They are called currents. Matthew Maury mapped them out in the 1800s after having read Psalm 8.
Job 26:7 tells us that God has hung the earth on nothing. The ancients would have had no way to know this, yet God had it written into the text of Scripture long before science knew it. So the Bible is accurate when it speaks of scientific issues, just like it is on every other issue. This question is at best irrelevant and, at worst, a calculated smear on creationists.
4. How could people in 1000 BC grasp the idea of geological time?
This question also puzzles me. They only need to grasp deep time if it exists. The author of the article is assuming what he is trying to prove. Further, he goes on to blatantly misrepresent radiometric dating by saying that it proves the earth is very old and, if it is wrong, all of physics will need to be thrown out. This tactic is very common because the author does not understand the difference between historical and empirical science.
Just as a brief primer, historical science works by taking things we observe in the present and making inferences to the past. This methodology is very different than empirical science, which works with things we can observe, test, repeat, and falsify. Large segments of physics fall into empirical science. We can observe, test, repeat, and falsify the load-carrying capacity of a bridge, for example. That is empirically based.
By contrast, radiometric dating is historical science. We take rock samples in the present, most of which we did not observe form, and attempt to determine how old they are. The method determines ratios of several different parent and daughter elements to one another and, from that, scientists calculate an age. There are a ton of unverified assumptions that these methods make, and they have failed to correctly date rocks of known ages. Further, the age of the earth has been calibrated, not from earth rocks, but from meteorites, which leaves open the possibility that the earth is much younger than the meteorites. None of these facts made it into the Premier article.
5. Does the Bible always speak in a direct literal way?
This question is worthy of an eye roll because I don’t know a single young-earth creationist who believes that the Bible must always be taken literally. The author of the article is setting up a straw man.
Of course, there are sections of the Bible that are non-literal. Song of Solomon is a romantic poem, characterized by personification and repetition. However, despite the Premier article’s claims, Genesis is not structured like poetry.
Hebrew poetry is not characterized by rhyme and meter like English poetry. It is characterized by repeated phrases, such as we see in the Psalms. Genesis 1-11 is not characterized by those things. Certainly, there are brief poetic interludes, such as when Adam talks about Eve when he sees her for the first time, but the vast majority of the text is a straightforward narrative.
6. Why do you assume that animal death only began to happen after Adam ate the fruit?
We don’t assume that. That is what the text says. Genesis 1:29 makes it clear prior to the fall that man and the animals only ate plants. Further, if we go to Romans 8, we find it is clear that the whole creation groans under the curse of sin, a groaning that did not happen in God’s very good world.
Animal death after sin is not an assumption we read into the text, it’s a statement we read out of the text. There are no other acceptable ways to read the text. The text literally says nothing living ate meat before the fall. That means no predation. And in a perfect world, why would we expect disease? That eliminates the other cause of animal death. So yes, the text makes it impossible to hold any other position. That is, if you care about the integrity of scripture.
7. Is young-earth creationism the traditional Christian view?
The answer Premier gives is that young-earth creationism did not arise until the 1960s with Morris and Whitcomb. That is pure and utter malarky.
Augustine wrote that the earth was less than six thousand years old. Numerous others of the early church fathers made similar claims. In fact, Hugh Ross’s old earth group actually published this stunning admission.
Based on my own research, no early church father taught any form of a day-age view or an earth older than 10,000 years. In fact, the first people that I can clearly identify as teaching the old-earth view are Isaac Newton and Thomas Burnet in the late seventeenth century.
Now, of course, the author tries to spin this away but that admission is deadly. Keep in mind, a creationist did not publish that; an old earther did. So yes, young-earth creationism is the traditional view.
8. Were early geologists opposed to Christianity, and did they use their geology to undermine belief?
Absolutely they did! Lyell wrote he “wanted to free the science from Moses.” While a few of the early geologists were Christians, they almost exclusively operated from a purely naturalistic perspective, ignoring the Flood as a possibility for the rock layers. Most of the founders of geology were atheists, deists, or Unitarians. All three are opposed to the biblical understanding of the world, something even Premier should understand.
9. Did Christians oppose old-earth geology in the past?
Why is this relevant? It’s almost as if the argument is, “Christians did not resist an old earth in the past so it’s fine to accept now.” Turns out, repeatedly making the same mistake is called insanity.
This is not a logical argument that Premier presents. Whether Christians accepted or opposed an old earth in the past is immaterial to whether it fits the biblical text or not. Asking this question simply deflects from the real issues.
10. Why do you claim that so many geologists in the last 350 years got their geology wrong?
Because they did?
Basically, this is a slightly repackaged version of “all those scientists can’t be wrong”. Turns out, yes, they can.
There was a time when most scientists accepted geocentrism and spontaneous generation. They were wrong. This argument is essentially an appeal to majority fallacy. In other words, because the majority believe it, it must be true. This mistake is common, but by that logic, the Reformers had no right to break away from the Catholic church.
The author of the Premier article makes this unforced error because he misunderstands the difference between historical and empirical science. Young-earth creationists do not generally have much dispute with empirical science. We love empirical science. It is the historical science we disagree with because it is being interpreted incorrectly
This article from Premier really should have been better vetted. I recognize Premier does not want to take a position on this issue but that position itself is a position: against the biblical text.
Jesus said you are either with Him or against Him, and He took Genesis as history. And allowing some of these questions that were both irrelevant and likely intended as smear questions is really disingenuous on Premier’s part.
At any rate, there are some short, digestible answers to the questions Premier raised. We will also be publishing an article asking ten questions to our old earth brothers, most of which I suspect will be very uncomfortable for them to answer. Stay tuned for that in the near future.