The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Book Review: Beyond Creation Science (part 1)

BeyondCreationScienceTwo popular topics among Evangelical Christians for the past several decades have been origins—especially young-Earth creationism—and dispensational end-times eschatology (eschatology is the doctrine of the last things, including the return of Christ and the final judgment). Young-earth creationism has certainly been the prevailing dogma in Evangelical Christian education and in many churches and Christian colleges. Go to a Christian home school convention or book fair, and books presenting any kind of old-Earth perspective will be difficult or impossible to find. At the popular level, books on the end times, such as Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind series, have been mega best sellers. Many look at these two viewpoints as grounded in Scripture, and as firm evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. Other Christians look at them as questionable, harmful, or at times downright goofy.

The premise of Beyond Creation Science (subtitle: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation) by Timothy Martin and Jeffrey Vaughn is that Evangelical Christians are wrong about both ends of the Bible. They do an excellent job of laying out a Biblical case against young-Earth creationism, with its 6000-year old Earth and global flood. People who only read materials from the young-Earth organizations, such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, are generally quite unaware that there is a vast amount of conservative, Evangelical Biblical scholarship that shows that the Bible requires neither a young-Earth nor a global flood, and Martin and Vaughn do a good job of presenting this case.

I’ll give my thoughts on Martin and Vaughn’s full preterist eschatology in part 2 of this book review.

I have many positive things to say about the authors’ Biblical analysis of young-Earth creationism. They point out that modern geology, with its view of billions of years of Earth history, was not devised as an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Few Christians voiced opposition to an ancient Earth while the concept was being developed in the 1700s and 1800s, and many of the most eminent geologists of that time were themselves Christians.

The authors of Beyond Creation Science tackle the “three pillars” of young-Earth creationism:

  • A 6000-year old Earth
  • A global flood
  • No animal death before the fall

For the sake of brevity, I won’t look at each of these, but will focus on the strong Biblical case they make for the flood being local, rather being global.

Those who only read material from the young-Earth organizations think that a global flood is a given in Scriptures, not being aware that there are a multitude of Biblical arguments for a local flood somewhere in the area around Mesopotamia. The authors believe Noah’s flood was restricted to the descendants of Seth, rather than killing all of humanity. Not all old-Earth creationists would agree with this position; Hugh Ross for example teaches that the flood was geographically limited but humanly universal. Martin and Vaughn write:

If the subject of the account is planet Earth, then does this text [Gen 8:13-14] not teach that the oceans dried up at the end of the flood? Did the entire globe become dry? The plain statement of the text makes much more sense if it refers to a particular local place or “the land” where Noah lived.

If we use our imaginations to visualize the events of a global flood, many logical problems would come to mind. These are some of the most obvious:

  1. If the Genesis flood created the geologic column and radically reshaped the topography of the earth, why do we still have the same rivers in Mesopotamia that Genesis references? The Tigris and Euphrates have been known by those names since millennia before Christ. Would not a global flood, which lays down thousands of feet of strata around the world, obliterate those rivers we see referenced earlier in Genesis?
  2. Why would the ark land in the same part of the world after drifting on a worldwide ocean for many months? Noah appeared to find his world familiar after he landed. He certainly knew how to grow grapes after the flood. A local flood explains why the ark landed in the same part of the world Noah originally lived, i.e., somewhere in the Middle East.
  3. How could one flood event sort out unique fossils to specific layers of strata? A worldwide flood which created the fossil record all at once would leave a chaotic mix of fossils throughout the entire geological column. Outside of a few geological “hotspots,” geologists find specific fossils in each layer of strata. Would one chaotic flood event place fossils neatly in order?
  4. How could Noah fit all the species of animals from around the world into such a limited ark? Realize that he would also have to take the specific foods unique to each animal in amounts that would have to last the entire voyage. The hay required to feed one pair of elephants would have filled the entire ark. Noah would also have to take water for after the rain stopped, at least. He could not use the waters of the flood for drinking because it would be contaminated and briny. Consider what the water would be like with all of the violent churning/eroding action and death flood geologists maintain took place during the flood. [I’m not sure the authors are correct on the hay and elephants statement. And having adequate drinking water would have been a problem only after it stopped raining.]
  5. If the fossil record is a result of the flood, then it means that the number of animals alive in Noah’s day were vastly more than today. Noah was commanded to take a pair of every animal on board, which means a pair of all the animals documented in the fossil record (which are now extinct) on top of all the animals we are familiar with today! They would need food water for these as well, dinosaurs and all.
  6. This logically means that most of the species of animals that God originally created and Noah put on the ark went extinct after the flood. There is a tremendous amount of life documented in the fossil record which is not alive today. More than 95% of the animals that have lived on earth are now extinct. Why would God order Noah to preserve all the animals by bringing them on to the ark and then cause their extinction shortly after the flood? For example, did Noah take dinosaurs (whether eggs or mature) onto the ark only to have them all go extinct? If so, then the explicit reason given for the ark was almost a complete failure. Only a tiny percentage of the animals really survived. No wonder Noah took up drinking!

As others have done, Martin and Vaughn point out that if one translates the Hebrew word erets as “land” rather than “earth” in Genesis, the flood account takes on a completely different feel. For example, Genesis 7:17 would read

“For forty days the flood kept coming on the land, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the land. The waters rose and increased greatly on the land, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”

This translation is every bit as legitimate as translating erets as “earth,” and presents the flood as a local, rather than global event.

The authors focus on Biblical rather than scientific arguments for an old Earth and local flood, but when they discuss geological concepts they get their facts right, something that is not done even by some other advocates of an old Earth.

I’m not as impressed by their eschatology, which I’ll take a look at in part 2.

The book’s website is: Beyond Creation Science. One of the authors graciously sent me a copy of the book for review.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Part two of my book review is a critique of the authors’ position on eschatology known as full preterism, which is a deviation from what the church has always taught regarding the return of Christ.

November 6, 2009 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Future, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. Did the book interact at all with Woodmorappe’s book (Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study) about the Ark and his ideas of the number of creatures, types of food, amounts of food, etc?

    From his book, YEC organizations promote 8000 kinds on the Ark, including dinosaurs. Woodmorappe also proffered 1000 kinds, but this number hasn’t been promoted nearly as much.

    Ditto with the amounts of food, and water. I haven’t read Woodmorappe’s book, but have read enough things that reference it I feel like I know it. The arguments have some major problems, but from the little bits you’ve mentioned, it seems like Martin and Vaughn might be unaware of or ignoring them altogether. (I’m getting that from their statements about how there would be ridiculously far too many animals to fit on the Ark.)

    How well do you think their book deals with the relatively reputable parts of YEC-ism?

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | November 7, 2009

  2. WebMonk:

    No, the authors do not specifically address anything written by Woodmorappe. Other YECs have done the same sort of analysis, where they go from millions of species to thousands of kinds. They do this to reduce the number of animals on the ark, which has led to a requirement for super-rapid hyperevolution after the flood to end up with the present diversity of life.

    For the most part, the book sticks to the mainstream YECs, rather than going after the YEC fringe.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | November 7, 2009

  3. Do they deal at all with Genesis 9:11 and the covenant with Noah to never again flood the earth (or land)? One argument against interpreting the flood as local is that there have been many disastrous local floods in recorded history.

    Like

    Comment by Eric from Cowtown | November 7, 2009

  4. I don’t think millions of species is a possibility. We only get millions of species if we start including plants, sponges, mollusks, nematodes, etc. The 8000 species is a guesstimate based on the non-aquatic vertebrates. (limiting it to non-aquatic vertebrates is a pretty solid limitation IMHO)

    However, the insects might bump it up to the hundreds of thousands. I’ve never heard/read any serious discussion of insects on the Ark – they seem to be considered small enough to ignore for space/food considerations, even if they would be extremely numerous.

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | November 9, 2009

  5. I think we have to recognize that extreme Biblical literalism is a very new phenomenon. In medieval times, allegorical interpretations of Scripture were all the rage. Most Christians historically recognized several ways to read and interpret the bible. One might even say that Biblical literalism is a response to and rejection of scientific Evolution.

    Like

    Comment by ruidh | November 9, 2009

  6. Geo Christian,

    Thank-you for the review.

    Web Monk, Chris,

    Our purpose was not to debunk YECism but to present a new view of Genesis 1-11, or rather an old view that was never developed and was long forgotten.

    Tangling with YECism is required though, and will be for some time to come. We have mostly avoided science and tried to deal carefully with what the Bible says.

    Most authors on the subject assume that science is the subject of Genesis. We think that has not been proven. Until it is proven, science should not be called upon to witness for or against the Bible. The Bible vs. Science debates you see elsewhere can properly be over-ruled by the objection that the people making those arguments are improperly “leading the witness.”

    We address the hyper-evolution required by all segments of the global flood crowd. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which version you pick or how many animals they have ofn the ark, they all have the same fundamental insurmountable concerns.

    The food and space concerns for insects might not be a problem on the ark, but the issues we discuss for the global-flood required hyper-evolution of penguins, polar bears, and a variety of specialized mammals and birds, are multiplied a million fold when insects and plants are considered.

    We have addressed Gen. 9:1 and God’s promise to never flood the “earth” again. We demonstrated that God has kept that promise in the context in which he made it. That is, the flood was primarily a covenantal judgment, against the covenantal people.

    Cain was driven from the “face of the earth” and was no longer part of the covenant people. The same for Seth’s other brothers. As Josephus recognized, it was Seth’s covenantal line that had become corrupted and was to be judged. That judgment was the one and only covenantal judgment by water in all of Scripture.

    Look carefully through Scripture and see how often judgments against a people are called floods. Not a flood of water, but by God’s reckoning, a flood nonetheless.

    Ultimately, our modern way of thinking drives us quickly to either a universal context or an individual context. The Biblical context is always with respect to a covenant. This was a common way of thinking for all peoples from the earliest writings until about the Augustine and remains common in much of Asia and with “primitive” tribal peoples. This is very different from what we are used to and I am still not completely comfortable with it.

    Blessings,
    JL Vaughn
    Coauthor Beyond Creation Science

    Like

    Comment by JL Vaughn | November 10, 2009

  7. Wow, very nice that you have taken the time to comment!

    I checked out Amazon and CBD and it’s not for sale there. Where would it be available? I was hoping to find a used copy, but if it hasn’t been released yet, that might not work out very well! :-D

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | November 11, 2009

  8. WebMonk,

    Thank-you.

    The book is available from our website and from a few bookstores. The book has been out since early 2008.

    It took several attempts to get on Amazon and for them to place an order with us. They have our book but never placed it on the web for sale. They don’t know what happened.

    We’ve not tried CBD. The other Christian book store chains will not touch books that suggest or give evidence that “end-times” prophecies are fulfilled. It is a key component to our demonstration that the flood was a local/regional event.

    Specifically, the Olivet Discourse compares the then coming destruction of Jerusalem to Genesis Flood and uses essentially the same language. If the Matthew 24-25 judgment is a global (local) event, then the flood must have been a global (local) event.

    We don’t know yet if this is GeoChristian’s problem (I believe the logic is sound) or if when we get to comparing the Fall and the Creation to the remainder of the “end-times” prophecies, does GeoChristian think we went to far? Does GeoChristian’s problem start in Chapter one (which you can read on my website, click my highlighted name at bottom) or does it start with Chapter 11? That will be telling.

    Either way, it is difficult for us moderns to read Matthew 24-25 as fulfilled, because we are unfamiliar with the ancient language and culture and because we are unfamiliar with the history of the era.

    For those who accept that the Olivet Discourse has been fulfilled, it is still difficult to go further, or to even find the line at which you can’t go further. We have conscientiously forced ourselves to go all the way and we believe the result works. Genesis 1 is a document by a literate people establishing their covenant with the living God of the universe. The “end-times” prophecies deal with the end of that covenant and the establishment of God’s new covenant with his new people, the remnant of the old people with the gentiles grafted in.

    Blessings.

    Like

    Comment by JL Vaughn | November 11, 2009

  9. I just posted part two of my review of Beyond Creation Science, where I address the difficulties I see with full preterism:
    https://geochristian.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/book-review-beyond-creation-science-part-2/

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | November 17, 2009


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