A while back I expressed my frustrations with some annoying, over-used and tired rhetoric used by Calvinists in debates. This rhetoric does absolutely nothing to clear up concerns about Calvinism that Arminians/Molinists have towards the theology. But I think it’s time to address annoying, over-used and tired rhetoric used by young earth creationists (Christians who believe the word “Yom” should be interpreted as 24 hours instead of long time periods). The point of this post, like its Calvinist equivalent, is not to rant or complain but rather to alert adherents of this view point to stop using bad rhetoric that annoys rather than clarifies, that divide rather than resolve problems with their views, things that they say that does absolutely nothing to help their case.
1: You Don’t Care About The Word Of God.
The most common accusation against Old Earth Creationists like myself is that we don’t care about what the holy Word of God says about God’s creation of the world. This accusation comes in a variety of invective phrases, but the point young earthers are trying to make remains the same; we read science into the text (an act of eisegesis rather than exegesis) and we just can’t bring ourselves to accept what The Bible says. Nothing could be further from the truth! We care very deeply about what the word of God. One of the many reasons I’m not a Theistic Evolutionist is because I don’t believe Darwinian evolution is compatible with The Bible. I’m open to the TE view, but I just have a hard time finding out how these two can fit together. I find the allegorical view of Genesis 1-11 to be an exegetical absurdity. I think it's clear they were meant by the author to be believed as actual events. I often wonder how many people would take this view of Genesis if it were not for Darwinian Evolution. If Darwin had never published his theory, I wonder how many people would look at Genesis 1-11 and go "Hmm....I think the proper interpretation here is that it's all myth! A story to convey a special spiritual meaning." Probably few if any. I think this view of Genesis is an exercise in eisegesis.
I primarily became an Old Earth Creationist not only because I thought the science supported the view, but also because I found the biblical arguments for the day age position to be compelling. And I accepted a local flood interpretation of the Noah’s Ark narrative solely because I found the biblical arguments compelling. I’ve heard it said that geology disproves the possibility of the flood being global, but I have no knowledge of geology whatsoever. So I don’t know whether that claim is true or not. Most of my scientific knowledge is in the realm of astrophysics/astronomy and biology. I don’t know much geology. I only accepted the local flood model because I found the arguments from the biblical text itself to be compelling.
One thing I’d like to point out in defending my position is that the word in Genesis 1, in Hebrew, for the word day is "Yom". Yom has multiple literal definitions. One definition is a 24 hour day, another meaning is the 12 hour period of sunlight, and the other meaning is a long period of time.
Now you might be wondering “Why did Moses use the words he did, and not other words. What is the meaning he was trying to communicate to his original audience and to us, as well? Why did Moses use the word ‘day’ and not the more generic term, ‘time’?” – Because in the ancient Hebrew language, there was no other word to denote a long period of time other than to use “Yom”. Now, in Modern Hebrew, you’ve got “yom” and “olam” but in ancient Hebrew, “olam” could only be used to mean “once upon a time” or “a long time ago” it could never be used to describe a generic long period of time. So why didn’t Moses use any other words? Because he had no other words at his disposal, which is kind of hard for us modern English speakers to imagine since we have numerous words to describe long periods of time. The Hebrew language however, did not. It only had “yom”. It wasn’t a very large language. It only had about 3,000 words if you don’t count the names of places and people.
Moreover, there are clues within the text which seem to suggest that at least some of the days were longer than 24 hours. For example, it doesn’t seem physically possible for all of the events of the 6th creation day to take place within 24 hours. Richard Deem of GodandScience.org explained this very nicely in one of his articles on the subject. Richard Deem of GodandScience.org wrote:
“The text indicates that God planted a garden. This garden was not planted full-grown, since the text says that the trees were caused to sprout or grow (Hebrew tsamach). The amount of time allowed for the garden to grow is not stated, but would presumably take longer than 24-hours. After the garden had grown sufficiently, the man was placed into the garden to cultivate it. By this time, the trees were producing fruit so that Adam could eat. This process takes a period of time greater than 24 hours. Next, Adam was given the assignment of naming the birds, cattle and wild animals. The list includes only birds and mammals and does not mention fish or other lower life forms. Even so, it would require that Adam name at least 14,600 species (8,600 species of birds and 4,000 species of mammals). This would require Adam to name more than 10 species per minute (assuming he had the entire 24 hours). For those who believe in a young earth, it would require that Adam name not only all of the existing birds and mammals but all the ones in the fossil record also (since they would all have to be alive on day 6 – since no animal death occurred before the fall). This type of assignment would almost certainly double the number of animals Adam had to name. However, Adam did not have the entire 24 hours, since part of it was required for the planting and growing of the garden, Adam tending the garden, and God putting Adam to sleep to create Eve. Realistically, Adam would have to name at least 20 species per minute, including all the species found in the fossil record. Following this naming of the animals, no suitable helper was found for Adam. So, God put Adam to sleep, took at piece of Adam's side, and created Eve. Adam's response to Eve's creation is also telling. Upon seeing Eve for the first time, Adam says "at last." This is not exactly the response one would expect from a person who had waited for less than one day. So, we must conclude that the sixth day was most certainly longer than 24 hours.” --- Richard Deem, "The Literal Interpretation Of The Genesis One Creation Account"
I can’t treat the biblical reasons for the day-age view in full in this article, and that’s not the point of this particular article anyway. To further delve into the reasons I’m an Old Earth Creationist from scripture, check out these two blog posts:
It upsets me when young earth creationists charge people like me with compromising what The Bible teaches when we hold a view that is consistent with modern science. I value God’s Word more than any other book I’ve ever read. It guided me to salvation several years ago, and has been guiding me in my walk with Christ ever since. It is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). I build my life upon what it says (Matthew 7:24-27). I would never try to twist what it says simply to suit my fancy or to make it more palatable to someone who can’t bring themselves to accept what it says. I think the Old Earth Creationist position, and namely the day age position, is more plausible based on what The Bible says. Science just happens to back up this view.
2: Old Earth Creationism Makes God Out To Be A Liar
One of the Bible verses these angry, hostile Christians like to quote in debates over the universe’s age is Romans 3:4, which says “Let God be true and every man a liar.” Apparently, if you hold that the universe is billions of years old and that it began in a big bang than you must be implying that God is a liar. I’m not exactly sure how this is. Perhaps it stems from a presupposition that The Bible absolutely teaches that all of creation was finished in 144 hours and the genealogies calculate to mankind being a maximum of 10,000 years old. If that were really the case then to say otherwise would be to imply that God was not being truthful when he inspired the words of The Bible, when He told Moses to write these things down. However, as I briefly argued above, there are good reasons to believe from not only from science but also from the biblical text that the creation Yoms of The Bible are long time periods. So, we’re not implying that God told Moses to write down lies. We believe The Bible is true from cover to cover. We just disagree when it comes to matters of interpreting what The Bible says. There’s a difference between accepting what The Bible says and accepting a particular interpretation of what The Bible says. For example, if we met a man who had an inability to lie and he said to us “It’s raining cats and dogs”. We could both accept that what this man says is absolutely true. We both accept what he says as true. However, what does this man mean by “It’s raining cats and dogs”? Does he mean that canines and felines are literally dropping out of the sky or merely using that as a metaphor to mean that “it’s raining really, really hard”? If you took the literal view and I took the metaphorical view, it would be illegitimate for you to point the finger at me and accuse me of not taking what the man said seriously. The issue is not whether we believe what the man said, the clue is in figuring out what the man means.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying Genesis 1-11 is metaphorical, although I do take a few words and phrases here and there to be metaphorical (e.g “There was evening and there was morning”). As I said above, I think the mythical view of Genesis is an exegetical absurdity. Rather, the point of this analogy is to point out that Old Earth Creationists are NOT saying that what God said in Genesis 1 is false. Our interpretation of the Hebrew word “Yom” is different from yours. That’s all. It’s a matter of interpretation.
Ironically, I find often times that it’s the young earth creationists that make God out to be a liar, for they often times resort to an ad-hoc explanation to explain away the overwhelming scientific evidence for the age of the universe by saying that God created the entire universe with an appearance of age. The universe looks like it’s billions of years old, but in reality, it’s really only 6,000 years old according to them. This explanation, besides making any potention young earth creation model unverifiable and unfalsifiable, makes God out to be a liar.
Numbers 23:39, Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 say that it's impossible for God to lie. Lying is a sin and sin goes against God's nature. The Heavens are declaring themselves to be billions of years old. How could they possibly be of God if they're declaring untruths about how old they are?
And yes, God created Adam and Eve as adults, that's true, but did He created the with acne scars from teenage years they never had? Did God create Adam with a bag of photos from a vacation he never took? Did Adam have sword wounds from battles he had never fought? There's a difference between being created in an advanced state and being created with an appearance of having endured through past events. The universe and Earth have such signs of having endured through billions of years worth of events. The planet Earth has canyons that looks like they've been eroding for last few million years (and in case you're trying to appeal to Noah's flood to explain the Grand Canyon, let me point out that there are similar canyons on Mars). The bag of photos from the vacation Adam never took could be compared to the photographs of the universe's development that astronomers take, since it takes time for the light from the stars and planets to reach their telescopes they can actually see what a star looked like millions of years ago since it took millions of years for the light to reach their telescope. Even if God did create the universe in an advanced state, we wouldn't expect to see deep canyons from erosion that never occurred.
3: You Weren’t There! How Do You Know!?
Young Earth leaders like Ken Ham and Kent Hovind like to ask their Old Earth proponents if they were there when God created the Earth. Apparently, in order to know anything about the past, you must have been there to have witnessed it for yourself. If this logic was correct though, detectives would be out of a job. The detectives trying to find out who committed the crime were not there to witness the crime for themselves. Instead they use forensic principles to try and find a plausible explanation for what happened and who did it. As for scientists, they discover what happened in the past by means of the principle of uniformity. Ironically, young earth creationists appeal to the principle of uniformity to support their argument that DNA was designed by a Creator, as I myself do as well, but they disregard this principle when it coughs up results they don’t like. I find that a little…convenient.
But what’s worse for this view is that it could undermine epistemological warrant for the crucial tenet of the entire Christian faith. If we can’t know anything about the past because “we weren’t there”. Then how can we know for sure whether Jesus rose from the dead, or whether a man named Jesus even existed at all? After all, we weren’t there? Do you really want to go down this road?
4: No One Reading Genesis Would Come To This Conclusion Apart From Learning Secular Science.
I watched a debate between Hugh Ross and Kent Hovind on the question of the length of the creation days. One of the things that Hovind said over and over and over and over, was that if you took The Bible and gave it to some random person on the street, told them to read Genesis 1 and then tell you how long the days of creation were, that he would very likely tell you that they were 24 hours long. After all, that is the common sense definition of the word “day” right? Even though in Hebrew, the word for “day” has multiple, literal definitions (see above).
The presupposition behind this argument seems to be that a plain reading of the text is necessarily the right one. However, this seems fallacious. He seemed to be saying that your FIRST interpretation of a scriptural passage HAS to be the correct one. But what would Kent say if someone came to him and told him that he thinks that John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 prove that Baptism is required for salvation. If you’re not baptized, you’re not saved. Now, I don’t know where Kent stands on the issue of baptism, but many of my young earth brothers and sisters believe (as I do as well) that we are not saved by works, we’re saved by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9), baptism is a work, so therefore, it must not be required for salvation. A surface reading of both of these verses do seem to affirm baptismal regeneration. If our first interpretation was the correct one then many a person would be justified in believing that baptism was required for salvation.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." – Acts 2:38
If you handed this verse out to anyone on the street, would they think baptism was required for salvation? Probably. Kent Hovind’s logic drives us into the works based doctrine virtually every protestant rejects. Examples like this could be multiplied of texts in which “the plain literal meaning” isn’t correct and which young earthers themselves would reject.