The web site for the young-Earth documentary Is Genesis History? has posted a video following three young-Earth creationist (YEC) students from Wheaton College as they tour the Ark Encounter replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky (see How did Theistic Evolution Bring 3 Wheaton College Students to the Ark?). These students had formed a YEC group on the Wheaton campus, and were concerned about the widespread teaching of old-Earth creationism and theistic evolution by professors at the college.
I was once very much like these three students touring the Ark Encounter. For my first couple years as a geology undergraduate student at Montana State University, I fervently (though mostly privately) held to young-Earth creationism, and was even a student member of the Creation Research Society. I was eager to get my Master’s degree in geology so that I could be a full member of the CRS. I would read the CRS Quarterly, which back then was the premier YEC scientific journal, though at times I would roll my eyes at some of the things that were printed in its pages. But I was confident that, with time, the many problems with YEC geology would be solved, and even dreamed that I would be the one to solve them.
The more I learned about geology, however, the more I became aware of the serious deficiencies of YEC flood geology and age-of-the-Earth arguments. I was encouraged, however, that there were several articles in the CRSQ which pointed out some of the same “problems to be solved” that I saw. Little did I know that the author of these articles, Glenn Morton, would soon have a deep crisis of faith because of what he perceived to be serious flaws in YEC geological science. Glenn did go through some dark years in his faith after this, and was on the verge of becoming an atheist, but eventually did not fall away from the faith. Many others in his shoes have not been so fortunate.
I also experienced the grace of God, and did not question my faith as I increasingly saw problems with YEC geology. My faith was getting deeper roots in things like the resurrection of Christ. I am thankful that in about my Junior year of college, I came across several books by Christian authors, such as Francis Schaeffer and Pattle Pun, that questioned the YEC paradigm and provided alternative interpretations of Genesis. These authors held to biblical inerrancy, and did not question YEC just for scientific reasons, but for biblical and theological reasons.
I’m sure these three students love Jesus, and they would not be at Wheaton if they were not brilliant. This article from Is Genesis History? tells of a cordial meeting of the young-Earth students with old-Earth professors, and mentions that “Most of the students did not have the critical knowledge to dig deep into the subjects.” This certainly cuts both ways. In the eyes of Is Genesis History? these students didn’t know what questions to ask their old-Earth professors. Unfortunately, it seems these students may not know what critical questions to ask of young-Earth creationism either.
Here are some issues brought up in the video that the students need to explore:
- What is the genre of Genesis 1? In the writings of Steven Boyd, interviewed in Is Genesis History? the options are often given as “poetry” and “historical narrative.” Those are not the only options. Genesis 1 is certainly not poetry in the sense that Psalms, Proverbs, or much of the Prophets are poetry, but it is also not written like standard Hebrew historical narrative passages either. If we get the genre of a passage wrong–and “historical narrative” is probably not correct–then our interpretation of a passage will likely be wrong as well.
- The movie shows horse kinds, giraffe kinds, and mentions dinosaur kinds (which was probably a slip even by YEC definitions of kinds). What does Genesis 1 mean by “kind?” What does it mean for organisms to reproduce “after their kinds?” Does any of what Genesis says about kinds place a limit on variation over time within populations of organisms?
- One of the students mentioned death before the fall. Does the Bible teach that animals were created to be mortal? Does it teach that animal death is the result of Adam’s sin. The answer to these questions is that the Bible is silent on these topics.
- What is meant by “good” in Genesis 1? Does it mean perfect in every way, as YECs claim? Or does it have another meaning, such as fulfilling God’s good purposes?
I really liked these students. They were smart, articulate, and love Jesus. My hope and prayer is that these three students would remain strong in their faith, whether they remain as YECs, or someday adopt a different interpretation of Genesis. I do appreciate their attitude towards their old-Earth professors and fellow students, recognizing that the age of the Earth is not a salvation issue. My concern is that YEC materials such as Is Genesis History? contain a great amount of really bad science that eventually backfires and destroys the faith of many. Will these three students be able to stand firm in their faith in Christ once they realize that Mt. St. Helens is not a good model for most of what we see in the rock record, that the layers of the Grand Canyon and other places contain many features that cannot be explained by catastrophism, or that the model of post-flood hyper-evolution presented at Ark Encounter cannot explain the present diversity and distribution of life on Earth?
Once again, bad science (based on debatable interpretations of the Bible) is bad apologetics that drives people away from the gospel.
Grace and Peace
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One thought on “Three Young-Earth Students”
“I was thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that if the earth were not young and the flood not global, then the Bible was false. I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the heart of the problem and the reason our youth leave in droves when they hit college. So. Incredibly. Sad… and completely unnecessary.