Book Review: Beyond Creation Science (part 1)
Two 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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.|