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Debate On The Age Of The Earth

The following is a debate Paul McDorman, the editor of CRSEF's newsletter World By Design, had with a gentleman he met on an Internet bulletin board. This gentleman (whose name is Tim) had posted a response to a Christian who was arguing the case for a recent creation.

Several atheists and agnostics were posting their vitriolic responses as well, but Tim appeared and offered a rebuttal that was more cordialthan the others. It was at this point that Paul McDorman personally contacted Tim and there followed about three months correspondence by e-mail.

Tim has agreed to publishing his letters in our newsletter. We feel that his responses are useful from the standpoint that he represents a good many people in churches today who do not believe in the literalness of Creation and the Flood. Although editing may take place, the original sense of the correspondences however will not be changed. The following is Tim's original response to the young-earth creationist that was made on the bulletin board.

Hi, I am a Christian and a member of the Methodist Church. I am also a practicing engineer, licensed in three states. I am also well grounded in basic physics (three years into a degree program when I changed my mind and became an electrical engineer instead.)

If your style of Biblical interpretation makes you take the flood literally, then shouldn't you also believe in a flat and stationary earth? (Dan. 4:10-11, Mat. 4:8, I Chron. 16:30, Ps 93:1,...). Does the flood story make the whole Bible less credible? It does if you are using a strict literal interpretation of the Scripture. Davis Young is a working geologist who also is an Evangelical Christian. He has personal doubts about some aspects of evolution, but he makes a devastating case against "Flood Geology." He writes (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 163):

"The maintenance of modern creationism and Flood geology not only is useless apologetically with unbelieving scientists, it is harmful. Although many who have no scientific training have been swayed by creationist arguments, the unbelieving scientist will reason that a Christianity that believes in such nonsense must be a religion not worthy of his interest....Modern creationism in this sense is apologetically and evangelistically ineffective. It could even be a hindrance to the gospel.

"Another possible danger is that in presenting the gospel to the lost and in defending God's truth we ourselves will seem to be false. It is time for Christian people to recognize that the defense of this modern, young-Earth, Flood-geology creationism is simply not truthful. It is simply not in accord with the facts that God has given. Creationism must be abandoned by Christians before [more] harm is done...."

I won't even try to claim that I've researched all the different young-earth arguments, but I have looked into a few of them. The ones that I have looked at closely either use unsubstantiated claims, an erroneous interpretation of the data, or make logically invalid assumptions to support their argument. I tend to agree with Young. By dogmatic persistence in proclaiming the young-earth creationist propaganda, you are driving the truly educated thinking person away from the gospels.

Go our and live in such a manner that people want to become Christians because they see the fruits of the spirit in your life. Proclaim the Good News by your actions not your words. And when you find a group of people who won't pay attention to your message, "...shake off the dust of your sandals against them..." That was the instruction given by Jesus. When someone refuses the message, you should go somewhere else and find a more receptive audience.


Dear Tim,
I noticed with interest your posting. You said that you are a Christian and that you believe the Bible is less credible if one uses a "...strict literal interpretation of the Scripture" when reading about the Flood. My question is, why not go further and say that Jesus was not born of a virgin; that He is not the Son of God; that man is in no need of a Savior; that the dead are not raised; miracles don't happen, etc., etc.?

All of these Bible teachings could be taken figuratively to accommodate "intelligent people who know better." In fact, these Bible doctrines have been interpreted figuratively. It's called Higher Criticism and is the cause of the demise in Church membership ever since Darwin gave people reason to get out from under God.

Davis Young is just part of that movement that seeks to accommodate the Bible so he will look better to his peers. He is not interpreting science in the light of the Bible; but the Bible in the light of science. This shows where his heart is.

As far as I am aware, Biblical scholars are in agreement that the writers of the Bible intended to communicate to their readers that the earth is young and that God created it ex nihilo. If anyone wants to interpret otherwise, it is because of scientific reasons - which brings me back to my first paragraph: why believe in anything supernatural?

Regards,
Paul McDorman


Paul,
Whether or not you and I believe in a young earth is irrelevant. My point is that the Great Commandment of Jesus was to make disciples of the whole world, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we try to argue a young earth to people who are looking at evidence that the world is billions of years old, we are turning them off to the real "Good News."

Live as much like Jesus as you possibly can. Convince people by the example of your life and behavior that there really is something desirable about this God and Christianity thing. When they become convinced of that, you won't have to spend your effort in futile argument over whether the universe is 10,000 years or 10,000,000,000 years old.

God, thru me, has led some people to Jesus. People who respected my scientific and objective engineering first, came to desire the peace that I had in my life from my religion, and eventually accepted Jesus themselves. When they would try to argue creation vs. evolution, old vs. new earth, etc., my response was always this:

"I don't know why God made the universe the way it is. From a pure objective scientific viewpoint, I agree that the evidence seems to support old earth and evolutionary development theory. I am not an expert in geology, archeology, etc. so I can't argue this case with you. What I do know is that the universe was created and that God was the agency responsible for that creation."

I then move the talk to the Gospels, to the life of Jesus, to the message of the New Testament.

Sincerely,
Tim


Dear Tim,
Thank you for your response on the matter of the age of the earth. I would like to continue our discussion so that we can come to a better understanding of each others' positions. I would like to think that I have an open mind to carefully examine all sides of an issue, but I know that it is easier said than done.

You say that belief in a young earth is irrelevant and that the Gospel is what we should be emphasizing. I see your point in that "how" or "when" God created doesn't matter that much. I would agree with you if God hadn't spoken on the matter. But He has spoken. And since people today are adamant in saying that parts of the Bible are wrong, then I feel compelled to defend God's word.

If God is who he says he is, then it doesn't matter what some scientists are saying today about their studied beliefs on the history of the universe. If they agree with the Bible, that's great! But if they disagree, then they need to do some more research and come back later after they have discovered their mistakes.

I don't know how you stand on biblical inerrancy, or what you think the Bible teaches about origins. But if you only choose to believe some of the things in the Bible, then it would seem that a person who chooses not to believe is just as justified as you are whether it is six-day creation, or whether it is Christ's deity.

If you believe the Bible doesn't teach that the earth is young, or that everything was created in six twenty-four hour days, or that a flood covered the whole earth, then you are going against the most obvious meaning of the Bible, and the learned understanding of every biblical scholar that I know of. If, on the other hand, you believe that either God or the "inspired" writers erred, then no person can say that their particular understanding of what God is saying is any better than anyone else's. This is true not only for Genesis, but for the New Testament as well.

The same commandment of Jesus that tells us to make disciples of the whole world, also tells us to obey everything he says. In John 17:17, Jesus says that God's word is truth. Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 that not one jot or tittle would disappear from the Law until it was fulfilled. Knowing the respect that Jesus showed for each word of his father, how can I separate out what doesn't sound like truth just because it doesn't jive with science or my own understanding? This was the big fault of most of Jesus' disciples, you may remember.

Science says that people don't walk on water, control the weather, or rise from the dead. If you are consistent, then you should deny these things as well, it would seem. If science says that the earth was formed over a period of billions of years, but the scriptures say it was created in six risings and settings of the sun, whom should you believe? Why would a Christian believe John 20 but not Genesis 1? The whole Bible, from the serpent in the Garden of Eden, to the serpent in Revelation, tells how people believed the lies of Satan rather than the truth of God.

If I want to rely on examples of a good life and good behavior to convince me to follow somebody, then some Tibetan monks could fill the bill as well as some Christians. There are even "good" atheists out there that I have known over the years that have lived exemplary lives that could put a Christian to shame. But Christianity has always relied both on the fruits of the lives of spirit filled Christians, and the truth and historicity of God's Word. One without the other is hollow.

If I had become encouraged to become a Christian because I saw the good life that somebody was living, but found out later that they had some serious reservations or even disbelief about parts of the Bible, I would wonder at the inconsistency of how one could love the Messenger, but reject the message.

I believe that the majority of the scientific evidence supports the idea of a young earth, the creation of life, and a massive flood – just like the Bible says. I and others are trying to show people how science is coming into agreement with the Bible, and they are excited about that. Many Christians have found a stronger faith, and many have become Christians because they now know that God's word can be trusted from start to finish. If that offends some people, I am sorry, but the words of Christ does offend some people.

I am also sorry for what must sound like a "preachy" message. Sometimes I go on and on. Hope to hear from you.
For Christ,
Paul


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