Why I Am an Old Earth Creationist

Dinosaur with a saddle on it. One of the more interesting things you’ll find at the Creation Museum.

Since the delicious Ham on Nye debate over Ham’s model of creation (Young Earth Creationism) the topic has been discussed quite frequently and that’s great.

I have a friend, fellow church planter, metal guru, and zombie aficionado who just so happens to write one of the better blogs out there on apologetics and theology who took his turn discussing why he is an OEC or Old Earth Creationist.

With his permission, I am sharing with you his blog from yesterday. I can’t recommend enough checking out his site (Pastor Matt blog) for strong and easily digestible discussions on all things faith and theology.

Here’s his take:

Every week I receive a number of questions from my blog’s readers and I try to answer at least one per week.  One of the consistent lines of inquiry (as well as of personal attacks!) is my support of Old Earth Creationism (OEC).  I fielded a few questions from a person this week  that had a bit of a hostile tone but was still essentially fair.  The questions went something like this: (1) “How can you call yourself an evangelical who believes in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and be an Old Earth Creationist when it appears to me (and most Christians) that Genesis 1 is to be read literally and the genealogies point to a young earth?” (2) “Aren’t you just capitulating to the culture by adopting a OEC position?”

This is a great question and hopefully I won’t evoke even more ire from my Young Earth Creationist readers!

First of all, I believe that most of Genesis 1 is a Psalm or hymn celebrating God as creator.  So, while it affirms God created everything out of nothing, it was not meant to be read literally.  Why do I think it is a Psalm?

To begin with, Genesis 1 contains a parallelism, which is evidence that the inspired author was up to something other than just reporting “the facts and nothing but the facts.”  Genesis 1 is structured as follows:

Day 1 light————————–Day 4 sun, moon & stars

Day 2 sea & sky——————–Day 5 fish & birds

Day 3 dry land & vegetation—–Day 6 animals & people

Then there is the problem of harmonizing Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.  Genesis 2:5-7 reads, “5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (NASB).

Yet, in Genesis 1:9-13 we read, “9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.”  Notice the problem of reading Genesis 1-2 literally?

Justin Taylor wrote a compelling post about this back in 2007.  He argues Genesis 1 is anthropomorphic and analogical. An anthropomorphism is the “[a]ssignment of human attributes to nonhuman things.” (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Baker Academic 2001 edition)).  Following the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an analogy is “a comparison of two things based on their being alike in some way.”  Here, God is similar to humans in that He works and Moses poetically outlined His work as following the typical six-day Jewish work week.

This is not a “new, modern view.”  Taylor writes, “Variations of this view were held by Augustine, W.G.T. Shedd, Herman Bavinck (perhaps the greatest systematic theologian), and Franz Delitzsch (perhaps the great Christian Hebraist). It was also the most common view among the late 19th century and early 20th century conservative Dutch theologians. The most articulate and prominent contemporary defender of this view—whose arguments I have followed most closely—is C. Jack Collins, OT chair and professor of OT at Covenant Seminary and the OT chair of the ESV translation.”

When all of the Biblical evidence is carefully examined, it appears clear to me that Genesis 1 is a beautiful Psalm of praise to God as the workman who alone created our entire universe.  It definitely affirms Him as creator but is not to be read literally anymore than Psalm 29 which declares that the “oak trees dance” (Psalm 29:9).

It is true that I take the scientific evidence seriously.  I think geological evidence is clear that the world is roughly 4.5 billion years old and that dinosaurs did not live at (or anywhere near) the same time as humans.  Young Earth Creationists (who I respect and consider brothers and sisters in Christ) often argue that eventually we will find evidence that humans and dinosaurs existed together but most geologists (including Christian geologists) seriously doubt that.  Also, it is disturbing that this is the same argument Darwinists use when we challenge them on the fact that the fossil evidence does not support their argument.

The YEC position (got nothin’ but love for ya’) also raises questions about God’s honesty.  Even YEC supporters like theologian Wayne Grudem admit that the apparent old age of the earth and the fossil record do raise troubling questions.  The apparent contradiction has given ammo to skeptics who mockingly ask, “Did the devil put dinosaur bones here?” There is also the problem of events like the ice age to consider.

BUT, the scientific evidence is not THE most compelling piece of evidence for me.  It is the fact that the applicable part of the Bible itself appears to be poetic and that this harmonizes nicely with the Bible.

Moreover, there are also questions like, “When did Satan rebel and fall from heaven?” After all, Genesis 1 declares that God made the “heavens and the earth” and found it “good.”  I can’t see how this would apply if Satan had been created and rebelled.  Thus, there has to be a gap between Genesis 1 and 2.

For all those reasons (and more such as the elegant “Gap Theory” best outlined by John Sailhamer), I believe Genesis 1 is poetic and that the earth is old even if the genealogies in the Old Testament are complete.  I hope that answers the questions.


2 thoughts on “Why I Am an Old Earth Creationist

  1. Eric Bryant says:

    Very nice synopsis of the issues surrounding this question. Thanks for posting it. I’m still doing my own thinking on this and it’s nice to have help.

  2. dpatrickcollins says:

    Good article. However, it fails to address the thornier issues of proposing an old earth to Christian doctrine. The first is that this implies the God of Life who declared creation good allowed for millions of years of death. This is a rather serious concession for any sober-minded believer, I would think, especially in light of the doctrine of death and its relationship to sin. I have heard some gloss-over explanations that do not seem terribly compelling. It would be interesting to have a post on this topic.

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