Many highly-regarded, Bible-believing scholars, pastors, and other Christian leaders see no incompatibility between the teachings of the Bible and acceptance of an ancient Earth. In the past, I have highlighted J. Gresham Machen, Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, and others. The scholars I just mentioned all adhere (or adhered, many of them are deceased) to a high view of Scripture, including inerrancy. It would be very difficult to make a case that they accept the Biblical possibility of an old Earth because of conformity to the world rather conformity to the teachings of Scripture.
Yet another old-Earth Christian scholar is Michael Horton, professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary California, editor of Modern Reformation magazine, and host of the White Horse Inn radio program. In the second chapter of Horton’s book Putting Amazing Back Into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Bible, Horton writes about the Biblical doctrine of creation and humans being created in the image of God. The chapter begins with the proper starting point for the Good News about redemption in Christ:
“Whenever we take up the subject of redemption, [Genesis 1:31] is where we need to begin, at the beginning, with creation. Very often, however, a gospel presentation starts with the fall—the origin of human sin and the need for redemption. But creation is the proper starting point for any consideration of human identity and its recovery through the gospel.”
A couple paragraphs later, Horton continues,
“It is only when we more fully appreciate the majesty of humanity as God’s creation that we can adequately weigh the horror of the fall.”
The Christian doctrines of creation and sin are foundational for understanding the good news (gospel) about Jesus. Humans are made in the image of God, so were created to be good in every way, but humans are also universally marred by sin which is an integral part of who each one of us is. In Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, Michael Horton is able to distinguish between what is essential in regards to the doctrine of creation (image of God, fall into sin) and what is not essential (age of the Earth). He writes,
Modern science has promised more than it can deliver. That accounts for much of the cynicism postmoderns seem to have toward the answers to their ultimate questions. To be sure, science is better equipped to answer some questions than any other field. For instance, it is science and not theology that will tell us the age of the earth. The Bible does not provide that kind of information, nor does it care to. There are a lot of important and reasonable questions the Bible does not try to answer. If it did, there would be a lot of unemployed geologists.
While science will lead the way toward the discovery of when we got here and will help us find the reasons for how we got here (beyond the revelation we already have in the inspired text of Genesis 1–3), there is a question to which of those other questions ultimately lead, a question, nevertheless, which science will never be able to answer any more than theology will be able to determine the age of the earth. That question is, “Why are we here?”
Many YEC leaders speak out of both sides of their mouths regarding the gospel and the age of the Earth. On their better days, YEC leaders acknowledge that one does not have to believe in a young Earth in order to be a Christian. But then they write a steady stream of articles accusing old-Earth Christians of compromise and even spiritual adultery. I am thankful for writers like Michael Horton who, unlike many of my YEC brothers and sisters in Christ, are able to stick to what is essential in the gospel message.
Grace and Peace
6 thoughts on “Another old-Earth Christian scholar – Michael Horton”
Please help me understand how special creationism works…are you philosophically opposed to evolutionary creationism (see Biologos) no matter where the evidence leads?
Donna — Thanks for your comment. “Special creationism” is a phrase often used by young-Earth creationists, and I am not a young-Earth creationist. Nor do I believe that the text of Genesis 1 requires that each “kind” be created by a special act of God rather than by a process that occurs over a period of time. On the contrary, Genesis 1:24 implies (but does not require) a natural process being involved for the creation of life: “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.'” (see also Gen 1:11). I do not think Genesis 1 really says anything one way or another about biological evolution for the plant and animal world, or about limits on the amount of biological change within “kinds.”
Scientifically, I am skeptical about current origins of life models. Theologically, I believe in a real Adam sometime in the Neolithic who was the representative of all of humanity.
I am being interviewed this week by a BioLogos staff member regarding my new middle school Earth Science textbook. Look for it soon on BioLogos.org.
How do you reconcile the fact that Jesus spoke of literal Adam? Old earth creationism is the biggest fallicy to come about since evolution.
As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin
A question to Michael Horton or any old earth creationist, did death enter the earth before Adam and Eave sinned?
If Dinosaurs died before mankind was created, this stands in contradiction to the fall of creation, death entered through sin, mankind brought sin into creation.
I do not believe you can be a Christian and Deny young earth creation, it’s like claiming to be a Christian and deny the Trinity, which both contradict the scriptures for what makes logic to sinful mankind philosophy and pseudoscience.
Joseph — Thanks for commenting on GeoChristian.com.
The Bible teaches that human death is tied to Adam’s sin, but it nowhere teaches that animal death is the result of Adam’s sin. The relevant passages are in Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, and 1Cor 15. Go back and re-read these passages, and you will find no connection between human sin and animal death.
Denying the young-Earth interpretation of Genesis is nothing at all like denying the doctrine of the Trinity. As an old-Earth Christian, I believe in a real creation from nothing by the triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam, in a real garden of Eden, in a real first sin, and in Jesus Christ as the only savior and redeemer of all creation.
When you say that one cannot be a real Christian if one denies young-Earth creationism, you are saying that Charles Spurgeon, J.I. Packer, John Piper, Michael Horton, Francis Schaeffer, B.B. Warfield, and many other great teachers and preachers who love Jesus and love the Bible are not real Christians. Do you really want to do this?