Another fundamentalist for an old Earth

A commenter on this blog recently implied that I am just a “so called Christian” because I accept an old Earth and evolution.

On a young-Earth blog that I have been commenting on, those who accept an old age for the Earth (including myself) have been accused of “listening to the serpent.”

I try to counter with Biblical arguments for an old Earth, and by pointing to conservative Biblical scholars and Christian leaders who either advocate an old Earth, or who at least acknowledge that the concept of an old Earth is at least Biblically possible.

Another Christian leader I’d like to add to the list is R.A. Torrey, the editor of The Fundamentals, the series published from 1910-1915 that gave us the term “fundamentalist.” Torrey stated that it was possible

“to believe thoroughly in the infallibility of the Bible and still be an evolutionist of a certain type.”

Maybe Torrey wasn’t really a Christian. Or perhaps he was just listening to the serpent.

Or maybe the Bible doesn’t really say that the Earth is only 6000 years old or that there are limits on how much species can change.

Grace and Peace

Quote from Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 262.

10 thoughts on “Another fundamentalist for an old Earth

  1. Kenny

    To GC’s critics:

    You know you’re in trouble when your start judging people’s relationship with Christ, not on their view of the Gospel, not on on their view on Jesus, but on their views on the age of the Earth.

    I suspect those same people probably think you’re only a ‘so-called Christian’ because you don’t read KJV either. :)

    I don’t consider myself a fundamentalist (though, I suspect some others would), but an evangelical. And because of that, I would say I’m in agreement with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy which states, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”

    Which I take to mean that we can recognize different literary styles/or genres within the Bible (eg Poetry, epistles, letters, gospels, historic narratives, etc). And many Evangelicals do not believe that Gen 1-2 are historic narrative — so they affirm that as true, but not literal.

    There are even some prominent people within Evangelicalism that affirm common descent within the theory of evolution (I don’t agree with them) — like Francis Collins and Denis Lamoreaux.


  2. Heck, I’m not in general agreement with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and I’m a Christian.

    Inerrancy’s been a hot topic for Protestants (which still make up a minority of Christians in the world) for like, what, 150 years at most?

    I wish Evangelicals would spend more time wrestling with the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Dual-Nature of Christ – dogma which springs out of our worship of the Triune God – rather than inerrancy. As far as I can tell it’s caused a whole lot of trouble for a doctrine that wasn’t codified until the 1800’s, and even then only by Protestant Evangelicals.


  3. geochristian

    The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy made it clear that one does not have to believe in inerrancy to be a Christian. I agree that the doctrine of the Trinity is often neglected in Evangelical churches, to greater harm than anything that could come out of the evolution or inerrancy debates.

    The reason that the concept of inerrancy wasn’t codified until the 19th/20th centuries is that previous generations of Christians did not have to face the same challenges to Biblical authority that we have been confronted with in the past 200 years.


  4. Not at all, sorry if it sounded like I was coming after you – I’ve just been smacked by people who have replaced the Nicene Creed with the Chicago Statement in the past and felt compelled to point out that also wasn’t a criteria for salvation to anyone who wanted to read it that way.

    Baggage got in the way there on my part, sorry…


  5. geochristian – we can discuss this somewhere else so as not to hijack the thread any more than I inadvertently have already (for which I apologize).

    I just have trouble with the “didn’t have to face the same challenges” train of thought because a sizable portion of the Christian body didn’t follow the same route – it seems that Protestants were really the only ones who were seriously troubled by scholarship over the last 150 years. Of course, in the RC side of things they had to wrestle with Galileo and may have gotten over their reactions by that point…


  6. Kenny

    Maybe a new post would be a good idea.

    “it seems that Protestants were really the only ones who were seriously troubled by scholarship over the last 150 years.”

    I don’t think so. The mainline Protestants were the ones who typically agreed with the higher criticism and some of the most liberal ML churches have pretty much abandoned everything from the historic Christian faith.

    I don’t read much from the RCC, but I do have an apologetics book written by a RC and he seems much more in line with Protestant evangelicalism than he does with the liberal theology that came out of the higher criticism of the last 150 years.

    I doubt the Pope would agree with the Jesus Seminar, for instance.


  7. geochristian


    I appreciate your comments, and I in no way felt you were “coming after me” or that this post has been hijacked. Your comments have fit in perfectly well with “fundamentalism.”

    I would say that the challenges of the 19th/20th century were new for Christianity, but you are correct that different Christian groups responded to the challenges in different ways. The Roman Catholics, for instance, responded differently than Evangelical Protestants did, because RCs and Evangelicals have different views of Biblical authority and interpretation. Part of our identity as Evangelicals is to minimize tradition and allegorical interpretation. This has had its downside, such as a de-emphasis on the creeds or a disconnectedness from the 2000-year history of the church, but it has also had big pluses, such as a clarification or recovery of the Gospel (at least that is my perspective on the matter).

    I agree with Kenny that the theologically liberal Protestants have in many cases completely abandoned the Christian faith. They have neither Scripture nor tradition to hold them in place.


  8. wezlo

    Thank you for your kind words geochristian – I really thought I’d crossed line and I’m glad you didn’t think so (I hate it when people do that on my blog – or even tweets, which is worse – so I was kinda bummed).

    I would contend, though that Protestants in both fundamentalist and modernist camps were responding to the same crisis of faith because they shared a similar (if not the same) presupposition, “If [evolution,new-geology,source criticism] is true, than the historic Christian faith can’t really be ‘true.'”

    Catholic and Orthodox, who do have a different view of Scripture, just seemed to shrug off source criticism and said, “Yah, and?” I think that was a healthier response, actually.

    Just for the record, I agree that the Pope wouldn’t buy into the Jesus Seminar’s stuff – but most Bible scholars kinda scoff at them as publicity hacks. We also shouldn’t assume that “critical Bible Scholar” equals “liberal.” Peter Enns is about as conservative as they come, for example.


  9. Kenny Johnson

    Yes, but ‘being conservative’ generally means you reject a lot of the critical scholarship. Enns doesn’t agree with a lot of the conclusions made by the critics.

    Enns is probably closer to some of the Evangelicals he’s critical of than he is to say, someone like Ehrman.


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