Monday, October 03, 2011
"You do not believe the Bible"! "You are calling Jesus a liar"! "You could not have much faith in the Word of God if you believe that"! "That is nothing but the presumptions of secularists"! Just about every empty argument that can be made has been leveled at one or other persons who have examined the physical evidence around us and concluded that the earth must be considerably greater than a mere six thousand years. While young in the faith I took my young earth creationist teachers at their word and agreed with them about such things however as I have aged and explored the faith and scriptures, that is no longer a proposition I can hold to. Perhaps "pragmatic creationist" is a preferred nomenclature for that seems to address the incorporation of physical evidence with the faith one has in the creation account of Genesis. This of course demands a reconciliation of what we deem physical evidence with that of faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The former we can measure and observe. The latter we accept as truth from the LORD who has changed us from those who cannot fathom what is beyond the physical sense to those who trust their entire being in hope and what is not seen. Can this evidence be reconciled with the substance of faith? Unless the evidence is wrong or merely a great deception through God's handiwork, it must be and if creation is to be believed and hence the Bible itself, one must fit rationally and neatly with the other.
Could or would God work His hand in the construction of an elaborate deception intended to cause men to handle evidence that clearly indicates an age of the earth that rather than being a mere six thousand years old is instead, millions or billions of years in age? If this would somehow fit into an end picture of God's plan for creation, the thought can be entertained but for the intentional deception. The coal miner in West Virginia whose mechanical shovel just unturned a seam of coal littered with fossils of plants long known to be extinct has uncovered physical evidence of a very old earth. It is not evidence that stands on its own but when included among the varying layers of stratified coal, shale and sandstone formations above this particular seam, it conclusively eliminates a certain cause e.g. a global flood. The extensive reach of fossil fuel and petrochemical deposits testifies to the sheer volume of organic material needed to produce such large quantities of fossilized carbon. Something other than a singular global event must have occurred to produce stratified layers of rock formations and fossil fuels. The math does not work and the physical evidence is there for us to see. Did the hand of God place the fossil fern in the seam and was that meant to deceive? I have a difficult time believing that would be the case and I have yet to read a convincing argument to explain the physical evidence fitting a day one creation account.
Old earth creationism (OEC) has been an acceptable theological premise at least since being included in the notes to the Scofield Reference Bible in the 1940s. Not limited to dispensationist minded believers, the Gap theory associated with OEC gained acceptance among fundamentalists, Baptists and non-denominational believers of varying persuasions. In that sense, the viewpoint should be considered within the pale of orthodoxy and certainly not heterodoxy given that there is no damage to the orthodoxy of the person and work of Jesus Christ e.g soteriology, birth, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. While Young Earth Creationists (YEC) might disagree with that assessment and they are entitled to their opinion, problems do not seem to arise until creationism is challenged and the core truths of scripture cross a threshold of unbelief. While there are other streams of thought concerning OEC, the Gap theory sometimes referred to as "Ruin-Restoration" maintains belief in the creation account while making a purposeful distinction between Gen 1:2-3. Those of us accepting of this theory find no conflict with an old age of a previously ruined world and the restoration through the creation account provided at the beginning of the Bible. God did everything he stated in chapter one and restored this world in the six literal days mentioned. That is the Gap theory and it is reconciled with the abundant physical evidence all around us. There is no need to assume the impossible volume of organic fossil fuel through the global flood (something most GAP theorists also believe to be literally true). There is no need to imagine how Noah had a pair of T-Rex dinosaurs loaded onto the Ark. One fellow recently suggested that eggs were rolled onto the Ark rather than violently carnivorous adults. I am not sure how that works nor do I have any idea if T-Rex actually existed in the manner it is depicted in scientific "folklore". There is so much we truly do not know. However, we can be comfortable theorizing that there is a gap between a ruined world and a newly restored world that does not conflict with the creation account of Genesis and at the same time is wholly consistent with hard, physical evidence that cannot be reconciled with a 6,000 year age.
The argument of whether these matters are orthodox or heterodox really comes down to a question of essential doctrine. Is the rejection of Ruin-Restoration theory an essential position in the church? I do not believe so. Does orthodoxy hinge on the singular creation of all that has ever existed in eternity? I think it is silly to make such broad and sweeping generalizations . Instead, pragmatic creationism allows believers to incorporate the witness of the creation around us without conflict into the text of scripture itself. I do not have to consider the evidence to have been a heavenly trick played on "science" nor do I have any need or desire to reject creationism as some of our "theistic evolutionists" are forced to do. Both reconcile neatly into my understanding and acceptance of scripture.