Five biblical reasons I am not a young-Earth creationist

What do the YEC’s here think? @r_speir, @J.E.S, @stcordova

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I was never a YEC. What that page presents is about how I understood Genesis while growing up. And it makes far more sense than the YEC interpretation of Genesis. But YEC is a cult, and cults seem relatively resistant to evidence and common sense.

Until we have thought of everything, we have only thought a lot of nothing. I thought YEC was dead and gone, but apparently, there is more to consider. See my post here

There have been some ongoing conversations elsewhere around Dr. Todd Wood’s The Quest: Exploring Creation’s Hardest Problems. I’ve been wrestling personally with this topic for the past several decades. I have recently decided, based especially upon this book and subsequent conversations with YECs, that one of the main issues that allow one to follow the YEC thought is that adherents to a young earth philosophy are not affected in the way that most of us are by cognitive dissonance.

To say that YEC “is a cult” is not correct, and these words are inflammatory. No Baptist, for instance, wants to hear that they are in a cult. It simply isn’t true. However, there is a common vein that seems to run squarely through both arenas, and that is that adherents in both realms do not seem to be affected by cognitive dissonance as most are.

Wood, in The Quest (p. 8) says:

If you listen to my critics. I’m supposed to suffer from something called “cognitive dissonance,” which according to Wikipedia… [Wikipedia definition]… Because I can (and do) articulate and explain evolution like an actual evolutionist, creationists wonder how ( can “believe” evolution and still be a creationist. For the same reason, evolutionists can’t understand why I would still believe such “nonsense” about God and creation.

Clearly, the topic is not the age of the earth, per se, it is evolution. But inherent in Wood’s belief is an earth that was created, literally, as described in the first few chapters of Genesis. So, then, he is told that he should be experiencing cognitive dissonance and yet does not. Most of us in his position would. We simply do not understand how it is that one can have intimate knowledge of physical details that point to a billions-year-old planet, and yet believe–at the same time—that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old instead.

This, I believe, is the crux of the issue. We (on one side) cannot see how those (on the other side) can operate without resolving that cognitive dissonance. Those (on the other side) do not understand what is the big deal, because they don’t experience the cognitive dissonance at all.

I have chatted a bit with @J.E.S about this, but I would love to hear what other YECs say. This is in no way a condemnation, but rather it is an observation. I’m trying to understand what is the makeup of this wall of separation that lies between the two camps and strongly suspect that this is it.

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Thanks for sharing this, @swamidass!

I started writing a reply, but, as I neared the end, I thought that my response would probably be served better in blog post form. One blog post deserves another, I suppose. :slight_smile: Here is a link to my thoughts regarding GeoChristian’s article. (Unfortunately, my attempts to construct a onebox link are not working :slight_smile: ).

Enjoy!

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You said: “In the end, it is my contention that old earth and theistic evolutionary interpretations of Genesis are essentially driven by scientific concerns, not theological ones.” And that is a nice exposure of motivation in GeoChristian’s article. He really has to be driven by scientific arguments, not theological, as he claims. (By the way, I am not YEC, but I wish I was. Thanks for sharing.)

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They are both means to truth, and they do not ultimately conflict. Truth wins, whether it be scientific or theological, and one can correct the other.

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Thanks @J.E.S I’m going to invite the author here to engage with you.

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@J.E.S. wrote a thoughtful and gracious response (at ce-debate dot org) to my “Five biblical reasons” article, and I appreciate that. Here is my response to J.E.S., which I think will make sense even without seeing his critiques. Of course you can go to ce-debate to read his critiques.


I thank you too for your graciousness in your response to my article, “Five biblical reasons I am not a young-Earth creationist.” I was directed here by Joshua Swamidass.

  1. Genre – I am glad you were only mildly confused. My point is that if one gets the genre wrong, it is possible that the interpretation will be at least partially wrong as well. If we read poetry as if it is narrative, or if we read wisdom literature as if it is law, we will misunderstand the meaning of the passage. Many YECs insist that the only way to read Genesis 1 is as historical narrative, and that it must therefore be read “literally,” whatever that means. The structure and vocabulary of Genesis 1, however, is distinct from standard Hebrew narrative passages. Few YECs are willing to acknowledge this. I do not claim that Genesis 1 is poetry, nor do I claim that Genesis 1 is non-historical. What I do say is that if we call it “historical narrative,” we will misinterpret the passage, possibly over-reading the intent of the author.

  2. Day – Interpreters throughout church history (well before Lyell or Darwin) called into question whether or not “yom” (day) must be read literally, so I’m not outside of historical understandings of the text when I question the 24-hour day interpretation. The six days of creation stand as the foundation for the Sabbath (Ex 20:11) whether the days are literal 24-hour days, or God’s work days which are analogous to, but not identical to, our days. This non-literal understanding is strengthened by the fact that the creation week in Genesis 1 sets the pattern for not only our seven-day week, but for the sabbatical year, and year of Jubilee as well. It is clear that the days of Genesis 1 do not absolutely have to be literal in order to set a pattern for human work/rest cycles.

  3. Animal death – My primary point is that the Bible nowhere teaches the YEC doctrine that there was no animal death before Adam’s sin. Because of this, one cannot use animal death as an argument that Earth cannot be millions of years old.

  4. Genealogies – My point is that even if the genealogies and chronology of the Old Testament point back to Adam living 6-10 thousand years ago, this is relevant only to when Adam lived, not directly to how old the Earth is. If the days of Genesis 1 are not literal, or if the days are referring to the preparation of the land (eretz) for Adam, or if Genesis 1:1 is not part of day 1, then Earth could have been created at any time before Adam lived.

  5. New Testament – Jesus believed in a real creation, a real Adam and Eve, a real Noah, and a real flood. So do I. That is about all one can say from verses such as Mark 10:6. It would be silly for me to claim that Jesus endorsed old-Earth creationism in this passage, because he clearly doesn’t. My point is that he said nothing here, nor does any other passage in the New Testament, about the age of the Earth.

My views, I hope, are not “driven by scientific concerns.” I seek to be faithful to the Scriptures. I view this as parallel to the Copernican Revolution of the 1500s and 1600s. We now understand “the earth does not move” passages, such as Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, and Ps 104:5 to be non-literal, but the “plain” reading of these passages was perceived to be “the earth does not move.” Science forced scholars to re-examine these passages, which is not at all the same as saying that science drove interpretation. I think the same thing has happened with Genesis 1-11. Science has forced us to take a closer look at what the Bible really says, and doesn’t say, about the age of the Earth. For the five reasons I have briefly outlined, I think we are justified to believe that the Bible does not require a young Earth.

Grace and peace to you, my brothers and sisters.

Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian dot com.

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these are very old and common complaints about how genesis is not right or read right.
The context speaks to how words are used. There is no reasson to think any audience would not understand genesis as it seems to spell things out. Finally these must not be the main reasons but instead a submission to man’s ability to figure out ancient events.
I think geology stuff is also a reason and more confidence in man then the bible and context.
The world was made perfect on creation week. Would you make death? No! its ugly. All biology , with living spirit, could not die. creation was ruined by man.

There were plants for creatures to eat in the garden of eden. Well, plants need soil to grow and what is soil? Among other things, dead plant and animal matter.

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@KNelstead, thanks for your response, but I think the point @J.E.S is making – and it’s a good one – is that there really are no biblical reasons not to be a young earth creationist. From a purely scriptural standpoint (with no outside interference from scientific investigation), nothing in genre, the Hebrew “yom”, animal death, genealogies, or Jesus words could ever possibly lead one toward a belief in an old planet. So if transparency is what you are after, then you have mislabeled your paper. You have not truly given “biblical” reasons why you are not a YEC. In truth, you have allowed your science background to color your view of the scriptures. That is all @J.E.S is saying, and he is actually correct.

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Maybe why an old earth interpretation is compatible with scripture? The title may be too narrow but the content is spot on.

Similarly, this also is too narrow. There are plenty of indications of an ancient creation. There are also many that indicate a young one.

The are no Biblical reasons to be a young earth creationist: that is the crux of @KNelstead’s article.

I agree with the argument that the Bible does not directly compel us to disavow YEC. At the same time, the Bible does give us liberty to conduct scientific investigations with technology that did not exist 3000 years ago, and to follow that evidence wherever it may lead us. That is the flow of Kevin’s argument, even though the title of his article is perhaps a bit inartful.

My $.02,
Chris Falter

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Sorry for the late reply, but I liked the essay and reasoning, like David Montgomery’s works, I have no problem sharing that viewpoint with students even though I obviously disagree.

The way I read the article (and I could be misreading) is that the author thinks a genealogy of about 10,000 years from Adam to us in the present day is valid. In that genealogy is Noah. So what of Noah’s flood.

I’ve suggested a pedagogical model (no necessarily the truth) is Young Life, Old Universe. If one admits Noah’s flood, the possibility of the fossil record being young must be dealt with.

Additionally, does the author think Methuselah and Adam lived over 900 years? If so, what accounts for the shorter lifespans if not genetic entropy/deterioration. This would be suggestive of evolution that is DE-evolution after a miraculous special creation.

Easily enough dealt with: the fossil record is not young, and no single event can possibly account for it. Perhaps a local flood could be accommodated. But you cannot defend young life in any way other than by ignoring almost all the data in favor of a few anomalies, few if any of them real.

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The thrust of my argument is that I do not find arguments that the Bible requires a young Earth to be compelling. Genre does not require us to believe Earth is young, the meaning of day does not require us to believe Earth is young, animal death does not require us to believe Earth is young, genealogies do not require us to believe Earth is young, and the New Testament does not require us to believe Earth is young. My conclusion is not that Earth must be old, but that it does not have to be young.

I agree with you that nothing in these five areas will lead one necessarily toward a belief in an old planet. But I am not trying to demonstrate that the Bible requires an old Earth; only that the Bible does not require a young Earth. If the Bible does not require a young Earth, then we are free to follow the evidence where it leads either way. I am convinced that the geologic evidence points to an old Earth.

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I would not say “there are no Biblical reasons to be a young earth creationist,” but that the Bible, while it allows for a young Earth, does not require a young Earth.

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Greetings, @KNelstead! Welcome to Peaceful Science, and thank you for your thoughtful and and gracious response to my response! I appreciate hearing your ideas! Here is my response:

1. Genre

I think I can agree that mistakes about genre can indeed cloud Scriptural interpretation (as a Lutheran, I think Evangelicals and Revelation is a good example of this, but that might be a bit off-topic :slight_smile: ). Anyhow, I am very glad that you acknowledge that Genesis 1 is not poetry and recognize that it is historical (at least, to some degree). I (personally) would describe Genesis 1 as a historical narrative that is permeated by theological truth. It is describing historical events, but the perspective is, of course, theological. I will take issue if a YEC tries to read scientific principles and knowledge out of Genesis, but I’m probably not going to disagree with anyone who says that Genesis is “historical narrative.” In the end, I still don’t think that confusion about the genre of Genesis 1 is a valid reason to reject young earth theology. Even so, I would be happy to hear more about your perspective on the genre of the book of Genesis!

2. Day

I am aware of the Sabbatical year etc., but Exodus 20:11 (and another verse in Exodus that escapes me at the moment) most clearly links the length of the days of Genesis 1 to the length of normal days. To explain further, these verses in Exodus are much more than analogous in the sense that the Old Testament believers who followed them were literally imitating the timeline of God’s creative work. Genesis is what defines of this time frame, not something that is defined by it. Ultimately, if we look at the passages, the relationship between the weekly structure and the Creation week is far closer to identical than analogous. Also, even if the concept of a Sabbatical cycle is applied to longer periods of time, the idea that the days of the creation week that inspired the Sabbatical cycle are actually metaphorical representations for longer periods of time still does not follow. I will still maintain that, even if there may be some grounds for thinking otherwise, the Scriptures clearly point to the idea that the days of Genesis 1 are normal days. Furthermore, I will also say that the idea that these days are actually relatively unspecified lengths of time has no scriptural support whatsoever.

3. Animal Death Before The Fall

I will say that the Scriptures say much less about this issue than they do about the length of the days in Genesis 1. My main concerns remain with the issue of human death before the fall.

4. Genealogies

Thank you for sharing these additional insights about your position!

5. The New Testament

I think you are correct that the NT does not explicitly state the age of the earth. However, this is not a valid “biblical” reason to reject young earth theology. The (comparative) silence of the NT cannot possibly lead a reader to conclude that the Earth is, in fact, several billion years old. In fact, its references to creation as described in the OT lend even more credibility to the Genesis timeline.

In the end, it is hard for me to escape the conclusion that your views of Scripture are driven by scientific concerns. The Copernican revolution did not force scholars to reinterpret any Biblical history, and the verses you cited are from the Psalms (which are poetry, by genre. Not to disparage scripture or poetry, but the Psalms are clearly not an astronomical textbook). It appears to me that your scientific views have driven you to re-examine (to use your word, although I think that its meaning is very similar to “reinterpret”) what the Scriptures say about Creation, replacing the Biblical history and/or timeline with something very different. Ultimately, these 5 reasons might help those who affirm an old earth to feel justified in rejecting young earth theology, but they are certainly not valid “Biblical” reasons for rejecting young earth theology in the first place. I still maintain that the reasons people have for rejecting YEC are fundamentally scientific, not Biblical (and I also think that @r_speir is correct in his analysis).

Mr. Nelstead, thank you for taking the time to engage in this dialogue with me. As always, I am interested in hearing more of your thoughts and ideas!

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