sometimes those who most revere the Bible actually fail to understand it.
It is the weakness of many fundamentalists and highly conservative evangelicals.
It is worshipped as the Word of God but not properly studied
sometimes those who most revere the Bible actually fail to understand it.
It is the weakness of many fundamentalists and highly conservative evangelicals.
It is worshipped as the Word of God but not properly studied
A basic Christian belief is that God is the Creator of all that is. It’s there in the first chapter of the Bible, and those churches which use creeds both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds start by affirming God as creator.
There is frequently conflict among Christians over Creation, which comes out most strongly over the Theory of Evolution. Despite the popular view this is a major issue, apart from the Scopes Trial of 1925, there was little controversy until the 1960s when Young Earth Creationism came to the fore, first in the U.S.A. and then throughout the world. It was scarcely known in Britain before 1968. At the risk of over-simplifying Creationism has split the ever-growing evangelicals down the middle and is almost the default theological position for Evangelicals throughout the world.
In Britain theological colleges have not stressed the teaching of Young Earth Creationism, but some of the more evangelical ones are strongly sympathetic (including one Anglican college) and tend to default to YEC. But now one college has nailed its colours to the mast. Many will see the newly founded and minute Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Newcastle as irrelevant. Being a watcher of all things evangelical and American I would disagree. It is an offshoot of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from South Carolina, which is highly influential among conservative America presbyterians and is strongly creationist. The Newcastle seminary is to serve English Presbyterians, a tiny group with similarities to some of the fissiparious Scottish Presbyterian churches which may have Free in their name!! I can’t follow the realtionship between them, but they are not the same as the main Kirk. I also note how creationism has infiltrated into those churches. You can read their statement on creation here;
It doesn’t explicitly mention Creationism but its motive is clear, which is too teach only a theology which supports a 6 day 24 hour creation, as is expressed here;.
Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.
This is what Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has been appealing for over many years.
Were this confined just to a minute college in Newcastle I would not be moved to comment, but this is a widespread attitude among evangelicals and has spread to mainstream denominations including the Church of England, Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Not to mention the many in Northern Ireland!
So, first, I will consider the importance of the doctrine of creation to Christians (with the implication that this needs to be taught and preached in all churches) and, secondly, I will consider the WPTS statement on creation and where I consider it to be wrong.
There is no question on the importance of Creation, but there is great diversity on how Creation should be understood. For most christians the belief that God created out of nothing is vital, though some do question it. For most it is summed up by William Temple’s quasi-equations in his classic book Nature, Man and God
God – Creation = God
Creation – God = 0
Or we may rhetorically ask the question;
Why is there something, rather than nothing.
For this discussion I will take God as Creator as read as it is more about how Christians actually understand creation, and especially in relation to modern thought. Or I should ask whether one can consider Creation in a vacuum of theology alone and make no reference to modern (or ancient) thought, thus producing a consistent belief which relates only to the bible.
Important as it is, I will not consider the Christian’s responsibility to the environment or Creation Care as it is often called. That is because of lack of space. Here the doctrine of creation moves to a vital ethical question as we need to learn how to treat creation properly and consider pressing issues of pollution, species loss, habitat loss, climate change etc. We need to get our doctrine of creation more or less right so we can deal with environmental issues. That includes knowing the age and history of the planet and the inter-relationship of living creatures. I am not a fan of either the Cornwall alliance or Friends of the Earth!! Here is a brief summary of a Christian’s attitude to the care of creation.
By insisting on creation in a mere week the WPTS simply rejects all of cosmology , geology and biology, although they avoid mentioning it , except for the odd aside “Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.” Rejecting so much science puts a stumbling block before people, Christian or not, who are quite liable to walk away and reject the Gospel.
It is clear that they have no grasp of the development of science over the 3 thousand years or the ancient adage “science is thinking God’s thoughts after him” . There is no awareness that the Bible reflects the thought forms of when that section was written. Thus Gen 1 and Isaiah 40 indicate a flat earth as they were written before the Greeks worked out the earth’s sphericity in about 500BC. Paul uses a scientifically wrong analogy on seeds in 1 Cor 15 vs 35. His argument is very clear today though if we are gardeners we’ll chuckle at his wrong biology. Both Leviticus and Deuteronomy regard bats as birds. Wise readers of the Bible simply accept that the writers are using contemporary understandings, which have been superceeded. No big deal. Then of course Darwin was clueless about genes and genetics!
There needs to be an awareness that the Bible is not scientific nor anti-scientific but pre-scientific. Hence we don’t accept its “science” to be correct as with the examples given above. The whole principle of accommodation of scripture is simply ignored, despite the fact that one of the finest expositions of accommodation is by John Calvin both in the Institutes and his commentary of Genesis.
He who would learn astrology[i.e astronomy] and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.
All considering the doctrine of creation, whether believer or atheist, should memorise that bit of Calvin.
Now for some history.
If traditional dates for the writing of biblical books is correct most of the Old Testament predates any science, as with a flat earth. Who cares that in the magnificent Isaiah 40, verse 22 speaks of a flat earth.
The historical relation of science and Christianity can be muddled by those trying to claim the church opposed every new finding of science. Briefly they need to consider Augustine
and then the scientists of the Middle ages who were mostly priests. There is much written on this and on the whole it was a positive and constructive interplay of ideas. Books by Hannan, Grant andLindberg are very useful here, as is the recent work on Bishop Robert Grosseteste (d1253) expounded by Tom Mcleish and others.
WPTS should be so pleased that Protestants were far more supporting of Copernicanism than Catholics and under Cromwell clergy astronomers were supported like John Wilkins who married Cromwell’s sister, made master of trinity Cambridge, helped to found the Royal Society and became Bishop of Chester, succeeding Pearson, who accepted 4004 BC as the date of creation!
I think it would be fair to say the Westminster Divines both supported copernicanism and the foundation of the Royal Society. Before long in the 1680s some Fellows eg Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray were beginning to suggest Ussher rather underestimated the date of creation and soon many more did.
By the end of the 18th century most educated Christian in Britain and elsewhere accepted those dreaded “millions of years” or else just hundreds of thousands as with de Luc. The Westminster Confession supporting Scots were in the forefront here, though in the early 19th century Anglican clergy were very active geologically. What is often overlooked is that by 1859, when Darwin published most clergy accepted deep geological time. (I cannot find one Anglican priest or minister of the Kirk who followed ~Ussher’s 4004BC date.)
As WPTS is presbyterian we need to note that in Scotland nearly all the clergy from the various Presbyterian Churches including the Free Presbyterians totally accepted geological time with relish. Notable were John Fleming , Thomas Chalmers and the wonderful Hugh Miller. They did not see a problem with the Westminster Confession as in chap 4 section 1
In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 1 to create the world out of nothing in order to reveal the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.2 He made everything in the world, visible and invisible, in the space of six days, and it was very good.
So I cannot see why WPTS and their fellow Presbyterians are so worried.
A major weakness in this statement is that it seems to see Scripture as timeless and not written according to the culture at the time of writing. As a result the statement is an echo chamber in a locked room with no windows. It may seem strong and coherent, but it does not relate to the world either today, human and non-human or the past. It ends up as irrelevant.
It makes no explicit reference to science except referring vaguely to a “secular cosmology” as something we should reject. And so students will be encourage to reject so much of modern science and fall prey to Young Earth Creationism.
Now for my comments on the Statement
(Statement in quotation form and my comments in standard form)
We the faculty of Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary wish to acknowledge publicly our view on creation so that the churches and individuals supporting the Seminary may know what to expect from classroom instruction and faculty writing. In so doing, we note the following as preliminaries:
- the issue of creation has long been considered a fundamental Christian belief, one that distinguishes Christianity from other religions;
- this particular doctrine has been subject to prolonged attack since the mid-19th century, but continues to be critical for orthodoxy;
- although the history of belief on this subject is clear, some fine and notable theologians from our communions have held differing views on this subject; and
- that as a Seminary we are obligated not to teach contrary to the Westminster Standards. The Westminster Standards may be changed by the church courts, but, in our view, the seminaries ought not to be teaching contrary to those Standards, so that when there are changes they will occur as a result of the church’s mature deliberation and not in a de facto manner.
Thus, we offer our view on the subject of creation as a school that serves a number of Reformed denominations, especially the EPCEW, PCA and the OPC.
Note EPCEW is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales which has 30 churches. PCA and OPC are from the USA. On the surface they and this statement may seem insignificant but the issues raised and stance taken is significant in Britain
I hear they are in contact with Scottish Wee Frees, and many of their views are shared by the FIEC, Reformed Baptists and other evangelical groups. (Not to mention some Anglicans – say 5% of clergy and a retired Bishop)
- We believe that God’s Word is not only inerrant, but that it is also clear to the learned and unlearned alike; thus, we affirm that when God reveals his mind–on creation or any other matter–he is quite capable of making his thoughts known in ordinary language that does not require extraordinary hermeneutical maneuvers for interpretation.
Inerrancy and geology/evolution was not a problem to the Princeton theologians BB Warfield and the Hodges! Inerrancy takes many forms and has long seen to be compatible with geological time and even evolution.
Inerrancy does not imply literalism of Genesis, despite this being a common misconception
I have to say that many parts of the bible are not clear and especially the Old Testament – even St Peter agrees with me!
See above about accommodation and Calvin’s attitudes!
The language and imagery of the bible is very variable and is open to misinterpretation .
- Accordingly, we believe that when God revealed his creation as ex nihilo and by the power of his word, and when he surrounded the six days of creation with such phrases as “the first day . . . the nth day” and “evening” and “morning”–all phrases which would have been understood in their normal sense by Hebrews in the second millennium BC–that God himself intended to convey that the work of his creation spanned six ordinary days, followed by a seventh and non-continuous day which also spanned 24 hours like the other six days.
Yes creatio ex nihilo is fundamental. But it is difficult to see what creating by “the power of his word ” actually means. Ultimately God creating is a mystery and we cannot get beyond physical explanations to the creative power of God behind what we can see..
“Power of his word” is emotive and explains little. It is simply an affirmation of god’s power.
I have no issue with the days of Genesis being 24 hours but we need to consider what the chapter is telling is. If we insist that creation must have taken no more than 24 hours then from chap1 vs 6-8 we must also insist the earth is flat with a firmament above us. You cannot have one without the other.
Calvin waxes strong on accommodation here.
I will leave the seventh day……………..
- We believe that an accurate study of OT texts does not support the gap theory, the framework hypothesis, the analogical theory, or the day-age view. Indeed, we find the OT creation texts to be interpreted as normal days, and no passage demands that Genesis 1-2 be re-engineered to yield other interpretations. The long history of rabbinical commentary, the very dating of time by the Hebrew calendar, and orthodox Jewish thought so understands these texts to embrace only days of ordinary length.
Perhaps this is so as all attempts to tie Genesis into scientific findings fail at some point. However most made sense in many ways.
Gap Theory was a recasting of the old Chaos-restitution interpretation which was dominant from 1600 to the early 19th century and had roots in the early church – and was an odd rewrite of chaos restitution going back to early church when ideas of chaos from Heisiod were used to show how genesis has a universal application.
The Framework theory derived from Meredith Kline and allows more “flexibility”
The Day Age goes back centuries and became dominant in the 19th century but always suffered from an inability to harmonise days withe geological eras.
One may say that all were good tries but ultimately didn’t work
Far better is to see that Genesis is more a literary representation and not historical in any sense, except that God created in the past!!
- The NT church and Scriptures offered no revisions of this view, and nowhere do those texts themselves advocate framework or day-age views. We certainly believe that if the wording of Genesis 1-2 required clarification or modification away from the normal meaning of the Hebrew terms, God would so indicate in the text itself, as well as in NT treatments of Genesis 1-2.
The NT only gives various references to a few verses and says nothing on insisting on a literal view.
- The earliest post-canonical commentaries either advocated a 24-hour view of the days (e.g., Basil, Ambrose) or followed Augustine in a somewhat platonic scheme. Augustine’s view, however, was that creation occurred instantaneously, and he nowhere enunciated a day-age view or a framework hypothesis.
Yet almost all rejected the Flat Earth views of the Old Testament – due to overwhelming evidence.
There was no evidence for geological time!
- Until the Protestant Reformation, only two views were propagated: (1) the Augustinian view (followed by Anselm and John Colet) and (2) the literal 24-hour view (espoused by Aquinas, Lombard, and others).
see previous comment
- The magisterial Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Beza) adopted a uniform view, that of 24 hours, and overtly repudiated the Augustinian view.
During the 16th century with the recovery of studying old literature – Renaissance – commentators from all churches tended to read the bible more literally than allegorically, so the 6/24 hr view was paramount.
However there was questioning, especially over astronomy.
Back to Calvin on accommodation, which bore fruit in later centuries.
- Prior to the Westminster Assembly, the leading Puritans (Ainsworth, Ames, Perkins) and others repudiated the Augustinian view and taught a sequential, normal day view.
Without any geological evidence for deep time or even a little bit more time that was inevitable.
- The Westminster Assembly divines either felt no need to comment on the length of days–so clearly was it established–or if they commented, they uniformly (either explicitly or implicitly) adopted the 24 hour view. With 60-80 divines normally attending sessions, at least 20 of the divines who did comment in other published writings indicate that they only understood the creation days to be 24-hour days (or ordinary days), and none have been found who espoused a contrary view. Specifically, there were no divines who wrote advocating a day-age view or a framework view. We continue to esteem them not only as confessional authors but also as faithful exegetes. We deny that certain scientific theories are so certain as to compel us to reinterpret Scripture on this matter.
In a sense only relevant to Presbyterians but the questions raised by geology from 1660s affected all churches, though many never got their knickers in a twist over it.
BUT, the evidence for an older earth was unearthed by many who were Christian. It was not a godless attack on Christianity.
- Following the Westminster Assembly, the testimony of the American Reformed tradition (e.g., J. Edwards) followed the tradition of Ussher/Perkins/Ames/The Westminster Divines on this question. No debate about this subject arises until after 1800, as the winds of various European views began to circulate.
This is too closely focussed on the Presbyterian tradition with the Westminster Catechism. Edwards wrote little on science after the 1720s and made no comment on geological time. Further even his radical contemporary Benjamin Franklin accepted a young earth in mid 18th century. (This almanack was written by Franklin.)
In the wider church i.e other Protestant, Anglicans and Catholics, the topic of Genesis and time was frequently discussed from the 1660s with little controversey or sense that geology was undermining the bible
For more details see Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850
- By the mid-nineteenth century, certain leading Presbyterians (C. Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and later Shedd and Warfield) began to conform their exegesis to the ascendant science of the day. We believe that this was a strategic and hermeneutical mistake, as well as a departure from the meaning of terms in the Westminster Standards.
This ignores the fact that most educated Christians throughout Europe and America had accepted geology as this rather anglocentric article shows;
The geological column was essentially worked out in the early 19th century by geologists such as Rev Adam Sedgwick (seen here) who was a major worker on the Cambrian to Devonian, a mere 180 million years worth of strata
The presbyterians cited followed on from geologists like Rev E Hitchcock and British counterparts. In his Systematic Theology Hodge gives a careful discussion of genesis and geology and was helped by the geologist James Dana. Later in his What is Darwinism he looked to Asa Gray a Christian botanist and populariser of Darwin in the USA.
Mention ought to be made of Scottish and Irish presbyterians which are discussed in Livingstone’s Darwin’s Forgotten defenders.
- Leading southern Presbyterians (such as Thornwell, Dabney and Girardeau) however, simultaneously resisted efforts to broaden the church on this point, as is documented in the Woodrow trial and decisions.
These were almost alone in their rejection of geology and evolution and were almost alone in their support of slavery. So much for evolution supporting racism!
- Early in the twentieth century, numerous evangelicals – and some seminaries – became overly concessive to a secular cosmology, departing from the historic view expressed in the Westminster standards on this subject.
This is a very loaded statement.I presume a “secular cosmology” is simply the whole scientific picture from cosmology , geology and biology over 13.4 billion years. It is only secular as it is not overtly Christian, though many of the scientists behind it were Christian themselves. N.B. People were “departing” from the Westminster standards on this with in 25 years
- Some of us, at earlier times, were willing – due to love of the brethren and respect for esteemed teachers – to declare that the meaning of confessional language on this question was vague. We are no longer able in good conscience to do so. Both the normal meaning of the confessional phrases and the original intent as verified by other writings of the divines is now abundantly clear, with no evidence to the contrary.
It was not so much that the language from another era was vague, but that all the evidence pointed to an earth and universe billions of years old. Maybe WPTS should realise that the Westminster Divines writing nearly 400 years ago were simply wrong. It was only shortly after William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood.
- Even the secular confidence in earlier cosmologies is declining in some areas.
This is such a vague statement. What and who do they mean? There are always some who reject contemporary cosmologies as Fred Hoyle objected to the Big Bang (put forward by a Christian – Georges le Maitre) before his death. He dubbed it Big Bang to ridicule it. And then some question evolution, and a tiny handful the age of the earth
(I dig his sunglasses)
This statement sounds good and may mislead those with no science.
- Therefore, we declare our view shares the exegesis of the Westminster divines that led them to affirm that God created all things “in the space of six days” by the word of his power. We also believe that this clear meaning of confessional language should be taught in our churches and pulpits, and that departures from it should be properly safeguarded.
The Westminster Confession was written by 60-80 clergy in one decade nearly 400 years ago. Why ignore all since who have considered the science.
For me, I prefer to follow the myriads of clergy in the last 400 years, who have understood science and the way it develops.
- Accordingly, we reject the following contemporary notions:
- that John 5:17 teaches a continuing seventh day of creation;
- that violent death entered the cosmos before the fall;
- that ordinary providence was the only way that God governed and sustained the creation during the six days of creation;
- that extraordinary literary sensitivities must be ascribed to pre-1800 audiences; and
- that Scripture is unclear in its use of “evening and morning” attached to the days of creation.
The great James Ussher – a great scholar and theologian
We admit that some Christians have been too lax on this subject, and others have been too narrow. Hence, we hope to enunciate in this statement a moderate, historic, and biblical position. Even should other fine men differ with us on this subject, we hereby announce our intent to remain faithful to the teaching of the Westminster Standards and other Reformed confessions of faith on this subject.
To God alone be glory.
I agree that too often Christians have not been concerned been concerned about the relation of science to theology and focussed to much on a personal relationship to Jesus.
But to insist on a literal Genesis is the opposite of moderate and biblical. It is false and creates a ginormous stumbling block for so many Christians and seekers. To do this you have adopt the whole of Young earth Creationism founded by Morris and Whitcomb, which rejects science by misrepresenting it as we see on websites like Answers in Genesis or Creation ministries International.
which have excellent material on Christianity and science.
To conclude I will quote the Lord Protector , Oliver Cromwell (who wrote to the general assembly of the Scottish Kirk four years after Westminster
in this format
But those six days of creation are now at loggerheads
The following blog post was originally published on February 17, 2015. —ed. Most of us are familiar with politicians who obfuscate simple questions with complex political answers. Who can forget …
Source: Blog Post –
The following blog post was originally published on February 17, 2015. —ed.
Most of us are familiar with politicians who obfuscate simple questions with complex political answers. Who can forget Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Unfortunately, obfuscation exists in the realm of theology as well. God may not be “a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), but there are scores of biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors who insert plenty of it into the first few chapters of Genesis.
I wonder who?
Evangelicalism abounds with theologians who don’t know what the meaning of the word “day” is. The Hebrew word for day, yom, appears more than two thousand times in the Old Testament and would attract virtually no debate were it not for six specific appearances in Genesis 1. But those six days of creation are now at loggerheads
“Are now at loggerheads”? He ignores the fact that there was no unanimity of the days before 1660, when effectively the first geological research began, which is not NOW but 360 years ago.
Soon after that some suspected that earth was older than Ussher claimed – as did John Ray and others in the 1680s. I can take you to the exact site below Snowdon in north Wales, where his friend Edward Lhwyd cam to the conclusion that the earth was somewhat older. More in the 18th century realised the earth was ancient and despite the claims of Mortenson and others, many of these early geologists were Christians. As a result few educated people, Christian or not, doubted an ancient earth by 1800, and saw no conflict with their faith. It is very misleading to imply geological time is a new issue and only “now at loggerheads”.
This kids readers into thinking it is only a recent issue, whereas belief in an old earth was the dominant view from 1800, and also the dominant view in the Fundamentals of 1910.
with modern scientific dating methods.
This is so vague. Geological dating methods have been developing with Steno’s Principle of superposition in the 1660s, relative age dating by fossils in about 1800, radiometric age dating from 1907. so they are as modern as Gallileo! This is not the place either to mention all or give a history of their development.
Many of the dating methods used by geologists today were used by geologists 200 years ago. In fact the essentials of geological study in the fields makes considerable use of methods used by geologists 200 years ago. that makes them hardly modern.
Rather than stand firm on the biblical account,
This begs many questions. Yes, we have the biblical account – here Gen 1 to 11 – but how should it be understood and interpreted? Interpretation has shown great variety for 2000 years. Consider this on the period from 1600 to 1850. Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850
Just considering biblical grounds there is little consensus, except that from 1600 most allowed more time than 144 hours.
The question is whether Genesis One tells us of God the creator, written in terms a person would understand 3000 years ago or is a detailed account of creation
church leaders acquiesce to unprovable theories
Unprovable theories may sound impressive to someone unfamiliar with geology, but not to a geologist, who will know how these “theories” have been thrashed out over time. The whole principle of geological succession with its fossils and periods – Cambrian, Ordovician etc, were worked out before 1850 and have been demonstrated as proven, with only minor adjustments since.
OK in the sixties Plate Tectonics was “unproven”, but after rigorous testing was “proven”. Studying geology at Oxford in the 60s, we were presented with Plate Tectonics and some of the professors were producing cutting-edge papers. It was exciting, but not yet considered proven as it was in a few years.
and confuse the clear and consistent biblical teaching on origins.
Beyond the fact of God being creator, many details in Genesis are not clear, as is shown by the diversity of opinion before geologists came along.
A History of Skepticism
A French naturalist of the 1700s, Comte de Buffon, scoffed at the six days of creation and the straightforward biblical genealogies that dated the earth around six thousand years old
Here Buettel is scoffing at and mocking Buffon. Buffon was an incredibly able naturalist who wrote prolifically. In his Histoire Naturelle he discussed the work of earlier writers with great care and respect. Having read most of his volumes (some in French) I did not find one example of scoffing. Yes, he questioned his predecessors and was critical of them, but he was respectful to them and to God.
In 1778 in his Epoques he revised his age of the upwards to 2 million years and allotted about a dozen pages to a careful interpretation of Genesis One. Reading that taxed my limited French, but his discussion of the text of Genesis was of a very high standard. His interpretation was similar to several orthodox protestant and Catholic scholars e,g, Father Joseph Needham
Soon after Ussher wrote with his 4004BC date in 1656, various Christians were questioning his views – and not from a position of scepticism or doubt.
. He said it had to be much older—about seventy-five thousand years old.
This he claimed from the time involved in cooling the earth from a molten state, scaling up from a small globe a few feet in diameter to a globe the size of the earth.
For his time it was a good try, but was soon rejected and replaced by better ideas.
Since that day,
scientific dating results have followed the same trajectory as the American debt ceiling. By 1862 it was 100 million years;
This is misleading to the point of duplicity.
It was difficult to actually assign an age to the earth or to strata and scientists differed wildly in their estimates.
Before 1862 many thought is was far more than 100 million with the Rev Samuel Haughton suggesting 1,500 million just to the base of the Cambrian, which would give the age of the earth as nearer 10 billion. The 100 million years came from Lod Kelvin and was soon overthrown by the discovery of radioactivity in the 1890s.
by 1913, 1.6 billion years
In about 1907 Boltwood argued from the presence of radioactive Uranium compounds in rocks that the rocks were hundreds of millions of years old, and by 1913 Arthur Holmes argued that this meant the earth had to be in the order of 1.6 billion. As it was a new technique many procedures needed fine tuning. Up to 1946 the base of the Cambrian came out as between 500 and 600 million and the age of the earth somewhere up to 2.5 billion. This was based on relatively few rocks being dated.
Today the estimate sits at 4.5 billion, but it will surely change again as soon as someone comes up with a better, more convincing guess.
It was not a case of coming out with bigger dates , but serious and careful scientific research.
In 1946 Holmes revised his age to 4.6 billion and in 1955 Claire Patterson independently came up with 4.55 billion. Since then estimates have scarcely changed by more than 10 million or so. The arguments are rigorous and easily found by googling. To call them guesses is simply pathetic and says a lot about Buettel and MacArthur.
That is cheapskate mocking and scoffing.
In 1946 there were few dates to work from but now there are thousands if not more.
The truth is, science can’t offer us one, comprehensive answer for how we got here.
The truth is Buettel resorts to scoffing and ridicule to convince of his views.
Today we have a clear picture of the age and development of the earth, but there are still many things we do not understand.
There are lots of acceptable theories—except, of course, the plain reading of the Genesis account.
The Mythical Middle Ground
Regardless of historical science’s inability to get its story straight,
This is based on the YEC false distinction of historical versus empirical/experimental science.
Buettel is not willing to admit that scientists today have a consistent story for the evolution of the universe earth and life and apart from the handful of so-called creation scientists no one rejects it. Yes , they question it and at times make minor adjustments.
its various conjectures are given unquestioned authority
This is just nonsense. Scientists question as a matter of principle.
and exert enormous academic and ideological pressure.
Trivial compared to fundamentalist churches like Grace. It is abhorent that self-styled Christians should make such wild accusations.
And in the face of that pressure, many theologians and biblical scholars attempt to harmonize creation and evolution in hopes of maintaining both their academic credibility and their orthodoxy.
Perhaps some do, but the vast majority seek to understand the truths of Christianity with the truths of science out of sincerity not personal or academic credibility.
Popular author and theologian Tim Keller is a good example. Keller uses a false dichotomy to justify his attempt to harmonize evolutionary theory with the biblical text, saying that we shouldn’t have to “choose between an anti-science religion or an anti-religious science.” 
Back to an attack which is not quite in the spirit of I Corinthians 13
However, it must be said if the earth is more than 20/30 thousand years old then we do have to look at Genesis One as a 6/24 day will not work.
It’s worth remembering that true empirical science is measurable, testable, repeatable, and observable.
Here we go again! Yes, you cannot repeat events of 500 million years ago but you can measure them, test them and observe them. from there you can make predictions of what you find elsewhere.
A good example is the way Neil Shubin et al discovered Tiktaalik – an intermediate between fish and amphibian. He worked out where it should be in the fossil record and thus went to strata of that age in Arctic Canada and lo! it was there.
Therefore evolutionary theories require at least as much blind faith as the Genesis account, if not more
He’s on a roll here! However he uses the words “evolutionary theories” to lump together many aspects of science; geology, biology cosmology.
. And yet the wonky religions of Big Bang Cosmology and Darwinian Evolution
The Big Bang was so atheistic that it was first put forward by Fr le Maitre a Belgian priest and scientist. That is usually forgotten
have done an amazing job of frightening theologians with their façade of pseudo-scientific evidence.
An amazing statement
Theologians who refuse to compromise and cave to that façade are not “anti-science.” They are against bad science.
Really, so far Buettel has not made one accurate statement about science
If a scientific theory conflicts with God’s inerrant Word, it is the theory that requires revision; not Scripture.
Nope, you need to check your biblical interpretation as well and look to the wisdom of those in the past. That includes all the Christian (& non-Christian ) geologists and biologists over the last 350 years or more.
True biblical scholarship seeks to arrive at exegetical conclusions in conformity with the biblical text, not impose humanistic conclusions
On a roll again! Who says all this science is humanistic?
upon the text, thus changing its meaning. Those who insist on mixing oil with water combine pseudo-science with pseudo-exegesis and come up with convoluted solutions that neither scientists nor scholars can agree on.
Again an unpleasant comment indicating a lack of familiarity with the New Testament .
Celebrated theologian N.T. Wright actually claims that he sees “emerging hominids” when he reads the opening chapters of Genesis:
Genesis one, two, and three is wonderful picture language, but I do think there was a primal pair in a world of emerging hominids, that’s the way I read that. … the way that I see it is that God called one pair of hominids and said “OK, this place is a bit chaotic, you and I together, we’re going to have a project. We’re going to plant this garden and we’re going to go out from here and this is how it’s going to be.” 
N.T. Wright is a proud supporter of BioLogos, an organization Phil Johnson has aptly renamed “Evangelicals and Atheists Together.”
BioLogos is an organization with the mission of inviting “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” That’s like being on a mission to draw a round square. They’re trying to make evolution compatible with the Bible when it’s not even compatible with science.
Phil Johnson points out that BioLogos is evangelical syncretism taken to a whole other level, labelling them an “evangelical trojan horse”:
In every conflict that pits contemporary “scientific” skepticism against the historic faith of the church, BioLogos has defended the skeptical point of view.
BioLogos’s contributors consistently give preference to modern ideology over biblical revelation. Although the BioLogos PR machine relentlessly portrays the organization as equally committed to science and the Scriptures (and there’s a lot of talk about “bridge-building” and reconciliation), the drift of the organization is decidedly just one way. That should be obvious to anyone who ignores the organization’s own carefully-crafted PR and simply pays attention to what the BioLogos staff and contributors actually blog about.
Tim Keller, while remaining ambiguous as to his own views, is a willing spokesman for BioLogos. On their website, Keller professes his openness to Derek Kidner’s theory that God forming man from the dust of the ground could be a description of evolution:
“The intelligent beings of a remote past, whose bodily and cultural remains give them the clear status of ‘modern man’ to the anthropologist, may yet have been decisively below the plane of life which was established in the creation of Adam… Nothing requires that the creature into which God breathed human life should not have been of a species prepared in every way for humanity.”
So in this model there was a place in the evolution of human beings when God took one out of the population of tool-makers and endowed him with ‘the image of God.’ This would have lifted him up to a whole new ‘plane of life.’
Renowned Hebrew scholar Bruce Waltke believes the church must accept evolution’s terms of surrender
Buettel simply cannot avoid writing like this.
to preserve its credibility:
I think that if the data is overwhelming in favor, in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world. . . . And to deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death if we stopped loving God with all of our minds and thinking about it, I think it’s our spiritual death. It’s also our spiritual death in witness to the world that we’re not credible, that we are bigoted, we have a blind faith and this is what we’re accused of. . . . And I think it is essential to us or we’ll end up like some small sect somewhere that retained a certain dress or a certain language. And they end up so . . . marginalized, totally marginalized, and I think that would be a great tragedy for the church, for us to become marginalized in that way.
The doctrine of inerrancy becomes useless when men like Wright, Keller, and Waltke let atheists weigh in on what parts of the Bible are acceptable to believe. And while they don’t explicitly deny Scripture, their reinterpretation relegates it to a meaningless text. It is true that not all scholars who take such positions call themselves evangelicals, but they wield great authority in evangelical circles, and their capitulation is spreading like a disease.
. This makes the false assumption that these scientists are atheists.
Many are devout Christians, but Buettel won’t respect Biologos etc
Clarity vs. Confusion
Genesis 1 could not be a more straightforward biblical narrative describing God’s creation week, as John MacArthur explains:
“The simple, rather obvious fact is that no one would ever think the timeframe for creation was anything other than a normal week of seven days from reading the Bible and allowing it to interpret itself. The Fourth Commandment makes no sense whatsoever apart from an understanding that the days of God’s creative work parallel a normal human work week.
This statement can be tested, by looking at interpretations of Genesis one before 1660 (beginnings of geology)
Conclusions varied from an instantaneous creation – not even 6 days
6 24 hr days
That it was longer.
So it is not an obvious fact.
The reference to the Fourth Commandment is unconvincing.
If the Lord wanted to teach us that creation took place in six literal days, how could He have stated it more plainly than Genesis does? The length of the days is defined by periods of day and night that are governed after day four by the sun and moon. The week itself defines the pattern of human labor and rest. The days are marked by the passage of morning and evening. How could these not signify the chronological progression of God’s creative work? 
How do you put over Creation to people?
You have to put it terms of their culture, which is what we have in Genesis
There are only two ways to deny a six-day creation: ignore the text or reject the text.
Or to understand what it meant when wrttien and what it means to us today
Scholars ignore the actual text by blinding themselves to the genre, grammar, and layout in order to insert their own. Skeptics simply reject the text as erroneous. Either way, the result is the same—a clear text becomes a confused text.
Why It Matters
Some people like to dismiss this debate as a secondary issue, not directly related to the gospel. But it is clearly an issue that goes to the authority of Scripture. And furthermore, as MacArthur rightly points out, it has massive repercussions for the gospel:
If Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world makes no sense. Moreover, if we didn’t fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ’s position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam’s position as the head of the fallen race: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18–19). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life–giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13–14; Jude 14).
So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1–3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.
There is a more pivotal passage of scripture – or rather four.
The four gospel accounts of our lord’s death and resurrection
Our faith is in Jesus Christ not Adam.
The opening chapters of Genesis are not up for debate, nor are they negotiable. The academic credibility of our faith is meaningless if we’re so quick to sacrifice the meaning of Scripture at the altar of public opinion. Better to be counted a fool for the sake of God’s Word than to be embraced for our willingness to compromise it.
But they need to be understood and explained to people
A good account bringing in Gilgamesh
My worry is that Creationists would ignore that . They need to see that Genesis was written in c1000BC in terms that were understoood THEN and is thus not science of today.
“Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren” Saint Augustine of Hippo, Commentary on Genesis, ca. 400 AD
How do you discuss evolution and Earth science with biblical creationists, in such a way as to lead them to question their beliefs, rather than reaffirming their commitment to them? This is the central problem for the book that I am now at last writing, and I would greatly value comments.
If we want to engage biblical literalists in meaningful discussion, we need to use arguments that make sense from the literalists’ point of view. As Lakatos pointed out, scientists will not abandon a position, despite anomalies, until a more satisfactory one is offered. Why should the creationist be any different? It is not enough to point to the scientific evidence. It is not even enough to point out that Noah’s Flood…
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In late 1978 evangelical theologians met in Chicago to discuss the inerrancy or not of the bible. Inerrancy was a hot topic in the 1970s as Harold Lindsell pushed it so far as to have SIX denials of Jesus by Peter to retain Inerrancy. Others were questioning it.
It was more of an American issue as British evangelicals were less concerned about it. In Britain it is the most conservative evangelical who insist on it.
What follows is my largely historical discussion in my book Evangelicals and Science.
For myself I was encouraged to believe it but by 1978 had come to reject inerrancy.
This issue is still worth considering as it lies beneath so much evangelical understanding of the bible and especially science and the bible,perhaps less so in Britain.
Most evangelicals today hold that the Bible is Inerrant. This means that
the Bible is absolute truth and does not err in its statements. It is easy
to conclude that evangelicals, who believe in biblical inerrancy, equate
it with literalism and thus YEC. Though this is often the case, there are
many exceptions. Evangelicals who espouse YEC adopt both literalism
and inerrancy and this is often written into credal statements of evangelical
churches and colleges, as well as YEC groups like AIG and ICR. However
to leave it at that would be misleading.
It is a matter of debate whether inerrancy has been the main protestant
doctrine of the Bible since the Reformation or not. In 1979, at the height of
the inerrancy debate centered on the writings of Harold Lindsell, Rogers
and McKim (Rogers and McKim, 1979) argued that inerrancy was introduced
by the Haldane brothers in 1828 and developed by the Princeton
theologians Hodge and Warfield after 1860. Calvin along with most Reformers
and Doddridge, Thomas Scott and others in the eighteenth century
allowed some error in the Bible,without questioning its absolute authority.
The classic nineteenth-century expression of inerrancy is in Hodge’s Systematic
Theology of 1870 (Hodge, 1870) and Warfield’s (1851–1921) many
writings (Warfield, 1951) on the authority of scripture. Hodge likens the errors
in the Bible to tiny specks of sandstone in the marble of the Parthenon
(Hodge, 1870, vol. 1, p. 170). Both theologians accepted geological ages and
Warfield reckoned himself a Darwinian. Thus in its classic formulation, Inerrancy
embraced a nonliteral interpretation of Genesis. Biblical inerrancy
became a central belief among the early twentieth-century American fundamentalists,
often with an acceptance of geological time.
With the growth of the “New Evangelicals” after 1950, some, like E. J. Carnell and others
from Fuller seminary, began to question inerrancy. D. P. Fuller put forward
the case for a limited inerrancy, in which the Bible is not inerrant on
matters of history and science (Marsden, 1987). This came to a head in the
1970s with Lindsell’s books, notably The Battle for the Bible (Lindsell, 1976),
followed in 1978 by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy which met
in Chicago in October 1978.
The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was signed by nearly 300 noted
evangelical scholars, including James Boice, Norman L. Geisler, Carl F. H.
Henry, Harold Lindsell, John W Montgomery, J. I. Packer, and Francis
Schaeffer. Most of these accepted geological ages and Packer accepted
Evolution (with reservations).
Article 12 of the Chicago Statement refers to earth history:
We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood,
fraud, or deceit.
We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy is limited to spiritual, religious, or
redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science.We
further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may be properly used
to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and flood.
In 1982 the council met again to discuss the hermeneutics of the Bible and
produce a second report—the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics.
This contained twenty-five articles and the twenty-second dealt with the
early chapters of Genesis.
WE AFFIRM that Genesis 1–11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.
WE DENY that the teachings of Genesis 1–11 are mythical and that scientific
hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to
overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation.
Since the historicity and the scientific accuracy of the early chapters of the Bible
have come under severe attack it is important to apply the “literal” hermeneutic
espoused (Article XV) to this question. The result was a recognition of the factual
nature of the account of the creation of the universe, all living things, the special
creation of man, the Fall, and the Flood. These accounts are all factual, that is, they
are about space-time events which actually happened as reported in the book of
Genesis (see Article XIV).
The article left open the question of the age of the earth on which there is no unanimity
among evangelicals and which was beyond the purview of this conference.
There was, however, complete agreement on denying that Genesis is mythological
or unhistorical. Likewise, the use of the term “creation” was meant to exclude the
belief in macro-evolution, whether of the atheistic or theistic varieties.
This affirmed the factuality of Genesis and denied that it could be either
mythical or that “scientific hypotheses” could “overthrow what Scripture
teaches about creation.” The article seems to point to a literal Genesis, but
Norman Geisler made it clear in his commentary that “The article left open
the question of the age of the earth on which there is no unanimity among
evangelicals” but “the use of the term ‘creation’ was to exclude macroevolution.”
In the volume Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible produced
for the Council, Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen claimed that Progressive
Creation was the best combination of “the biblical and scientific particulars,”
thus giving semi-official support to the refusal to espouse YEC.5
However responding to Bradley and Olsen, Henry Morris called progressive
creation an “old time-worn, compromising hermeneutical system”
and refused to sign the declaration.
Thus on early Genesis the 1982 Council failed to resolve anything, as
evolution was stated to be contrary to inerrancy but old-earth ideas were
not excluded. This, in itself, marked a considerable hardening of the definition
of inerrancy from that of Warfield a century earlier and also James
Packer, who wrote a classic defense of inerrancy in the 1950s. Though
the statement was equivocal, it undermined those who accepted evolution
and gave YECs confidence. Since then, if not before, YECs have insisted
that the only right view of the Bible is inerrancy and inerrancy implies
YEC. This is a powerful debating tactic and gives immediate advantage to
the YEC, who can then charge any “Old Earther” as “Liberal”
In the United States, the majority of evangelicals hold to inerrancy today,
Which makes the total acceptance of geology and evolution extremely
difficult.6 Where the Chicago Statements are regarded as authoritative,
evolution is out. There are some evangelicals who hold to both evolution
and inerrancy but that goes against the general opinion. For many
evangelicals, to accept evolution is to reject inerrancy and thus to have a
weakened belief in the Bible. This outlook is increasingly being accepted
throughout the world, including Britain.
Definitions of inerrancy vary considerably. At the popular level inerrancy
is assumed to imply literalism and a young earth. Thus scientific
evangelicals may reject inerrancy for scientific reasons, being oblivious of
more nuanced treatments. Among those who have gone through Evangelical
seminaries, there is a considerable range of opinion but most will
recognize the literary nature of the Bible. Even so, seminary professors
may disturb students’ notions of inerrancy by pointing out that there are
many grammatical errors in the Greek of Paul’s letters. After all, if the
Bible is inerrant, the grammar must be also!7
Today Inerrancy is held in a variety of forms. Some evangelicals continue
in the tradition of Hodge and Warfield, which recognizes the variety
of literary forms in the Bible and accept evolution. These include both theologians
like Jim Packer and John Stott and scientists like Oliver Barclay
and Denis Alexander.
This is not by shared by many YECs who argue that
acceptance of an old earth is “theological compromise” as it destroys inerrancy.
As the correct hermeneutic of the Bible is to read in it a literal way
This means that Flood must be universal and that Creation took place in six
However as no one can deny that the earth is spherical, then
all references in the Bible to the shape of the earth must be inerrant. Thus
every biblical passage in the Old Testament, which can possibly be taken
to imply a flat earth, must be taken to support the earth’s sphericity, or else
inerrancy would be denied. Thus the natural meaning of passages like Genesis
1 vs 6–8, Exodus 20 vs 4, and Isaiah 40 vs 22 is ignored (see below) and
taken to support sphericity contrary to the usage of Hebrew words.
This is the logical conclusion of attempting to extend inerrancy to “scientific”
matters and not recognizing that the Biblical writers were limited to the
“scientific” understanding of their day and in the words of Calvin “Moses
wrote in a popular style” for “the unlearned and rude as of the learned.”
Because of these types of questions, some evangelicals avoid the use
of inerrancy and prefer to speak of the supreme authority of Scripture.
Others simply reject inerrancy altogether and happily affirm that the Bible
though authoritative contains minor errors. That in turn elicits opposition
from those who adopt the extremer forms of inerrancy and so the
internecine conflict between evangelicals continues. Because of the voices
for inerrancy, especially in America, the large number of evangelicals who
either reject it are often not heard. Howard Marshall, professor emeritus
of theology at the University of Aberdeen, discussed inerrancy at length
and rejected it as unhelpful as it tends to make people expect the Bible to
be “literally” true. (Marshall 1982, p. 49ff) Gerald Bray, a British scholar at
Beeson divinity school in Birmingham, Alabama, has similar reservations
(Bray, 1996, pp. 539–563). It is also true to say that most evangelicals in
Britain reject or avoid inerrancy. Risking oversimplification evangelicals
can be divided into three groups:
of scripture. This includes a large minority of evangelical scholars, who would
not be found in the most conservative schools.
This would include most evangelical scholars in more conservative schools.
accuracy of the Bible. This is the stance supported by colleges affiliated to TRACS
and includes many “popular” evangelicals.
The most strident defenders of Inerrancy come from the third group,
who as Noll says often have “lush but eccentric interpretations” (Noll,
1994). Some will be discussed in the chapter on Young Earth Creationism.
They are probably the largest group in the United States. It is important
to realize the differences among evangelicals to understand the “biblical”
reasons evangelicals have for adopting particular attitudes to science.
The whole subject of inerrancy may seem to a side-show on evangelicals
and science, but it is crucial in the understanding of controversies over
evolution, issues of medical ethics (like stem cell research) and the nature
of what it is to be human and whether a body–soul dichotomy is tenable. It
is surely no accident that the earliest attempts at ID from Olsen and Bradley
came shortly after their attempts to harmonize the Chicago Statement,
which tentatively allowed an old earth but not evolution.
This raises the main issue whether the earth is ancient and whether we are evolved.
All the evidence points to both!