The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Bozeman creation conference – Does Genesis Really Matter?

AN OLD-EARTH CHRISTIAN AT A YOUNG-EARTH CONFERENCE

This is the second in a series of articles about a young-Earth creationism (YEC) conference held in Bozeman, Montana in April, 2016.

1. Bozeman creation conference preview and expectations

2. This article – Does Genesis Really Matter? – Yes Genesis does matter, whether a Christian believes in a young Earth or an old Earth.

3. What you haven’t been told about radioisotope dating – I will tell you what YECs haven’t told you about radioisotope dating.

4. Coming in the future – Ice ages, seafloor sediments, dinosaur bones, and more.

As I was paging through the brochure for this year’s young-Earth creationism conference—there is a large YEC conference like this in Bozeman every other year—I was struck once again by the educational background of the main speakers, all of whom will speak on geological issues:

  • An M.S. in Biotechnology
  • A PhD in Physics
  • An M.S. in Atmospheric Science.

Where is the geologist?

If I used this question as an argument against a point they were making, I would be making an ad hominem argument, and I will avoid that. I certainly wander outside of my areas of expertise from time to time (I will write about Hebrew grammar in a bit). But it is certainly interesting that so few Christian geologists are convinced by young-Earth arguments.

Talk #1 – Does Genesis Really Matter? – Brian Thomas, Institute for Creation Research

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of The GeoChristian that I found things to agree with in Mr. Thomas’s presentation. Genesis lays a foundation for a number of doctrines that run throughout the Bible, such as sin, redemption, and marriage. These doctrines have their beginnings in the book of beginnings, find their highest fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and are fully realized in Christ in the closing chapters of Revelation. As I have said in my Creation Creeds, I believe in a real Adam, in a real garden, committing a real sin, with real consequences.

So, yes, Genesis matters. What Mr. Thomas failed to demonstrate is that accepting a young Earth is necessary in order for Genesis to matter.

Mr. Thomas began by pointing to the decline of Christianity in our culture. Despite our many churches and institutions, the nation is become less Christian over time. Two-thirds of our Christian youth leave the church when they become adults (I would say that part of the problem is YEC). He then set up a choice: are we going to listen to God’s Word, or man’s word? Of course, I believe we should listen to God’s Word, but I am not convinced that YEC is the best way to understand God’s Word, and that a false dichotomy was once again set up: we have to choose between YEC and old-Earth evolutionism. To his credit, Thomas did say that one does not have to be a YEC in order to be a Christian. I hope that sunk in with the audience.

Mr. Thomas went on to attempt to poke holes in various old-Earth interpretations of Genesis 1, such as the gap interpretation and day-age interpretation. Some of his points were valid, but not all. I will pick two of his anti-old-Earth arguments

Mr. Thomas (who acknowledged he doesn’t read Hebrew) said that both Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 1:3 begin with a waw disjunctive, which is a Hebrew grammatical construction that carries the story along, and is often translated in English as “and.”

2 and the earth was without form and void…

3 and God said, “Let there be light.”

I will start by being nitpicky (though I don’t read Hebrew either): verse 2 starts with a waw disjunctive, but verse 3 starts with a waw consecutive, and some have said this distinction is quite important in understanding the relationships between these verses. In any case, Thomas’s point was that this story all flows as one event after another, a point that not all Hebrew scholars agree with. But even if the story were connected by one waw disjunctive after another, that would not require events follow one another immediately. In English, I could say, “My ancestors emigrated from Norway in the 1880s, and my grandparents moved to Montana, and I was born in Billings, and I went to college in Bozeman.” The word “and” would be the waw disjunctive, and nothing in this sentence requires that the events must have occurred immediately one after the other; only that they occurred, probably in the order stated. In reality, these events in my family history were spread out over a century.

Mr. Thomas then stated that any time “day” is associated with a number in the Old Testament, the day is an ordinary 24-hour day. I have heard that this is a YEC rule of grammar, not necessarily a fixed Hebrew rule of grammar. Genesis 1 has a rather unique layout in Hebrew literature, and YECs do not always take this into account when reading the chapter. From many YEC presentations, there are only two Old Testament genres: historical narrative and poetry. In this, the YECs greatly oversimplify the issue. What is the genre, or type, of literature is Genesis 1? It is a narrative, but it is not a “historical narrative” such as what is found in much of the rest of Genesis. There are no true parallels of the structure of Genesis 1 in the Old Testament; indeed in all of ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature. Yes, the days are numbered. But certainly some of these days are unlike any other: days with unique creation events, days without the sun, days that suggest lengthy processes. These distinctives must be taken into account. In any case, the Hebrew word yom (day) is used in a non-24-hour-day way elsewhere in the passage, such as 1:5 and 2:4. There are a number of other reasons to question that these were literal days, as developed in the analogical days interpretation.

Does accepting an old Earth undermine any Biblical doctrines? Mr Thomas, like many YECs, said that if there was death before sin, the gospel is undermined. I would say that this YEC statement is not firmly based in Scripture. There is no passage in Scripture that ties animal death to Adam’s sin. Neither Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8, or 1 Corinthians 15—the passages that discuss Adam’s sin—say anything whatsoever about animal death. If the Scriptures don’t tie animal death to Adam’s sin, we should not insist that there is a connection.

Mr. Thomas touched on some scientific issues in his presentation. I will address only one: the geologic time scale. He stated that the geologic time scale is based on circular reasoning: fossils date the rocks and rocks date the fossils. This is a common YEC argument, and it is wrong.

The geologic time scale (or geologic column) is a product of inductive reasoning, not circular reasoning. Geologists have observed that, based on fossils, rock layers always occur in a certain order, which geologists have labeled as Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, etc. The layers always occur in this same order in undeformed (not folded or faulted) rocks. It is never Jurassic-Ordovician-Permian-Cambrian or some other order. Never. There are even some sedimentary basins, such as the Williston Basin of western North Dakota, that contain rock layers of every Period from Cambrian through Quaternary, in proper order. Even in areas subjected to severe folding and faulting, this “law of fossil succession” holds true once the deformation is unraveled. There is no circular reasoning here.

I could say much more, and I have spent more time on our differences than on our common ground. But as old-Earth and young-Earth Christians, our common ground is much greater, and much more important.

  • The universe was created from nothing by the triune God of the Bible.
  • The universe belongs to God and displays his glory.
  • Humans are created in the image of God and therefore have great worth.
  • Humans are place in a position of responsibility over the Earth, and yet are embedded in Earth’s ecology.
  • Humans are sinful, which has broken our relationship with God, with each other, and with the creation.
  • Jesus Christ is the savior, the redeemer, and the king over the creation.

Grace and Peace

 

 

April 1, 2016 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for your email.  I don’t have much time now to address some thoughts on the things you discussed, but wanted to mention that I think your question “Where is the geologist?” is a valid one. One could also add, “Where is the biologist?” and “Where is the paleontologist?” (although the latter could be a combo of the first two). The point is, I think you are a little hard on yourself in describing the argument as essentially an ad hominem one, which often involves personal slurs, slights, or unfair innuendo. In contrast, I think the expertise and education of a researcher is often relevant, although good work can be done with out formal or advanced credentials (if extensive independent work is done). In short, I believe it does say a lot that not only are young earth creationists a small minority among scientists (even Christian ones), but that they represent an even smaller minority (far less than 1%) of biologists, geologists, and paleontologists – those who deal mist directly and regularly with the relevant evidence.  I think that is a good way to frame the argument, and that it’s a fair one.  To make a similar analogy, it is similar to noting that among those who accept astrology, very few are scientists, and even fewer are astronomers or cosmologists.    

    On a related issue, I also think it’s fair to bring to light the dubious credential claims of some vocal YECs like Baugh, Patton, and Hovind.  It’s bad enough that they have promoted many sensational, unfounded claims about scientific evidence; it makes things worse to do so under the cloak of misrepresented or dubious credentials.  Sadly, this has occurred at a number of past creation conferences (some of which I attended), although I do not know if this is the case with any of the speakers at the Bozeman conference you mentioned.  I can say that it is much rarer for a mainstream scientific conference to include speakers with misrepresented or exaggerated credentials.  As I said, one does not need an advanced degree to do good scientific work, but promoting dubious credentials is another matter, and in my book should never be tolerated.    

    For the record, I only have a BA in biology, but my refutations of the Paluxy “man tracks”, and my conclusions on CE controversy in general (I accept evolution and an old earth) are based on extensive research, both in and out of the field. 

    Thank you, Glen Kuban

    From: The GeoChristian To: ————— Sent: Saturday, April 2, 2016 2:20 AM Subject: [New post] Bozeman creation conference – Does Genesis Really Matter? #yiv2924026859 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2924026859 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2924026859 a.yiv2924026859primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2924026859 a.yiv2924026859primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2924026859 a.yiv2924026859primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2924026859 a.yiv2924026859primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2924026859 WordPress.com | geochristian posted: “AN OLD-EARTH CHRISTIAN AT A YOUNG-EARTH CONFERENCEThis is the second in a series of articles about a young-Earth creationism (YEC) conference held in Bozeman, Montana in April, 2016.1. Bozeman creation conference preview and expectations2. This a” | |

    Like

    Comment by Glen K | April 5, 2016

  2. Glen — Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that it is valid to point out that there are few YEC geologists, and even fewer YEC paleontologists. It is also valid to point out reasons why there are so few YEC geologists and paleontologists. Right now I am working on my critique of the second talk at the YEC conference I recently attended, and I won’t say, “Jake Hebert is just a Physics Phd so he is wrong.” Now I do believe that Hebert made some incorrect statements about geology, and that this is because he doesn’t have a sufficient background in geology. When those incorrect statements show up in his writings, it indicates that the YEC geologists are not doing a very good job of peer editing.

    Some of the fringe YECs use dubious credentials, such as “Dr” Kent Hovind (whose dissertation is available online at Wikileaks of all places). I haven’t seen that with the speakers from the Big Three (AiG, ICR, CMI). I never hear of Ken Ham referred to in AiG literature as “Dr. Ham,” even though he has an honorary doctorate, so AiG and Ken Ham are playing by the customary rules. The speakers at the Bozeman conference I just attended all have real degrees; the only one with a doctorate is Jake Hebert.

    P.S. I didn’t send you an email; you must have somehow subscribed to a WordPress feed for this blog. I’m not sure how that works.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | April 5, 2016

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Did you ever manage to finish the third post in this series — the one about what they’re saying about radiometric dating?

    The way they’re presenting the findings of the RATE project has absolutely horrified me. The technical report comes about as close as you’ll possibly get to an admission of failure to establish a scientific basis for a young earth. They’re having to appeal to patterns of accelerated nuclear decay that are so absurd that I find it very difficult to believe I’m reading Christian apologetics and not an atheist parody, and even then they admit that this theory is untenable. Yet at the same time, the popular, non-technical version is presenting it as a done deal, signed, sealed and delivered, that the earth is young. That’s blatant, flat-out lying.

    Like

    Comment by James | April 26, 2016

  4. James — I’ve been swamped at work, so there hasn’t been much time for writing on The GeoChristian. Your summary is good: RATE was an admission that radiometric dating works most of the time, and the average YEC follower has no idea that this is the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by geochristian | April 26, 2016

  5. Thanks Kevin. I won’t trouble you about this — hope work becomes less stressful and more relaxed. I just have one question though — did they say anything about the unresolved problems with accelerated nuclear decay — the heat problem and the radiation problem? I can’t help getting the impression that these more, er, embarrassing conclusions of RATE tend to be swept under the carpet.

    Like

    Comment by James | April 28, 2016

  6. An opposing point of view: http://www.gotquestions.org/geologic-timescale.html

    Like

    Comment by Joe Knepley | May 1, 2016

  7. Joe,

    Thanks for the link. However, it has a mistake in the first paragraph (metamorphic rocks were not once semi-molten), and goes downhill from there.

    The common assertion that the geologic column is based on circular reasoning is itself faulty. The geologic column is based on inductive reasoning, in which a vast number of observations are summarized by a concept. Inductive reasoning works well for you in your day-to-day life, and it works well in many fields of science. Paleontologists have observed that fossils occur in a specific order in undeformed strata. These fossil types are categorized in groups: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, etc. There is no place in the world where these strata occur in a different order, such as Jurassic-Ordovician-Eocene-Silurian. This is true in undeformed rocks, and it is also true in deformed (folded and/or faulted) rocks once the deformation is unraveled.

    Young-Earth creationists implicitly acknowledge the validity of the concept of the geologic column when they try to explain the order of fossils with hypotheses such as pre-flood ecological zonation, hydraulic sorting, floating islands, and vegetation mats. These ideas, however do not work, either individually or when combined.

    The discrepancies noted in the article you linked to are not convincing. Every single instance of out-of-order footprints proposed by YECs in the past has proven to be inconclusive, false, or forged, so if some prints look like horse hoof prints in Mesozoic rocks, they are likely to be from something else, especially being that there are no horse fossils found in Mesozoic rocks.

    If YECs want to disprove the concept of the geologic column, then they need to find fossils of elephants in the Ordovician, or humans in the Silurian. After all, if a single worldwide flood created the fossil record, one would expect some degree of chaos. Instead, one finds order, which is summarized by the geologic column: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian…

    Please note that this is in no way a threat to Biblical Christianity. The Bible does not say that Noah’s flood created the rock record, so if the flood did not form the layers, that does not mean that the Bible is false.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | May 2, 2016


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: