Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist Part 1 — Igneous Rocks

This is the first in a planned six-part series of Six Geological Reasons Why I am Not a Young-Earth Creationist. I am a Christian who holds to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, and who also has a master’s degree in geology. I have previously given my biblical and theological reasons why I believe the Bible does not require a young Earth. This present series will have six parts:

  1. Igneous rocks
  2. Sedimentary rocks
  3. Metamorphic rocks
  4. The fossil record
  5. Ice ages
  6. Radiometric dating

Each of these broad geological arguments against young-Earth creationism can be summarized as: Too many events, too little time.

Introduction

Since the 1700s, most scientists, Christian or otherwise, who have studied the Earth have concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that Earth is many millions of years old. The evidence for an ancient Earth has come from many subdisciplines of geology, including the study of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks; fossils, and surficial layers formed by processes such as glaciation. Radioactivity was not discovered until well after widespread acceptance that Earth is many millions of years old, and radiometric dating has confirmed what other evidence already pointed to.

Modern young-Earth creationists (YECs), on the other hand, claim that geological evidence can be re-interpreted to allow for—or even require—a young Earth. Often these YEC understandings of Earth history focus on single events that can happen relatively quickly, such as the deposition of a single layer of sediment or crystallization of a single lava flow. They say that if certain individual geological events can happen quickly, then it didn’t have to take millions of years to form the entire geologic column. Often YECs ignore the context of these single events and underestimate the complexity and necessary timelines of all the features that surround that individual rock unit. The truth of the matter is that Earth’s crust presents a record that has too many events to fit the abbreviated YEC time scale, which posits that most features in Earth’s crust formed in the short one-year timeframe of Noah’s flood.

From my perspective as a Christian who accepts the truthfulness and authority of the Bible, scriptural arguments allowing for an old Earth are of utmost importance. I was once a YEC myself and did not switch to being an old-Earth Christian until I became convinced that the Bible does not require us to believe in a young Earth or a global flood. As you read this article, please remember that the Bible does not tell us how igneous rock bodies came to exist in Earth’s crust. YECs insist that most of these rocks were formed during Noah’s flood, but that is merely an unjustifiable extrapolation from Scripture rather than being something that the Bible itself teaches.

Intrusive (Plutonic) Igneous Rocks

Yosemite_20_bg_090404
Half Dome, Sierra Nevada Batholith, Yosemite National Park

Igneous rocks are formed by the cooling and crystallization of molten rock. Intrusive igneous rocks are those that crystallize underground, sometimes at great depth beneath Earth’s surface. Extrusive igneous rocks, on the other hand, are those that crystallize on Earth’s surface by volcanic processes. Molten rock on Earth’s surface is called lava, while molten rock beneath Earth’s surface is called magma.

When magma crystallizes into solid rock beneath Earth’s surface, it forms masses of course-grained igneous rock such as granite, granodiorite, and gabbro. The largest of these masses are called batholiths, which may cover tens of thousands of square kilometers on Earth’s surface when exposed by erosion, and which may have volumes in some cases of over one million cubic kilometers. An example of a large batholith is the Sierra Nevada Batholith in California, which forms the core of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Batholiths a few kilometers deep in the crust are surrounded by hot rocks, are insulated from Earth’s surface by overlying rocks, and therefore crystallize and cool slowly, typically taking many thousands of years to crystallize.

Large batholiths are composite features, made up of dozens, or even hundreds, of smaller bodies (plutons), each of which represents a separate intrusion of magma from deeper in Earth’s crust. There is abundant field evidence that earlier plutons in batholiths substantially or completely crystallized before subsequent plutons were intruded. If each individual pluton takes thousands of years to crystallize, and a large batholith is made up of many plutons, there is no credible way to squeeze the formation of a batholith into the few weeks required by the YEC timeframe without invoking a miracle, which YEC flood geologists are hesitant to do.

Extrusive (Volcanic) Igneous Rocks

1200px-Palouse_Falls_in_Eastern_Washington
Layers of the Columbia River Basalt Group, Palouse Falls, Washington

Extrusive igneous rocks are formed when lava is extruded onto Earth’s surface by volcanic processes. When most people think of volcanoes, they picture stratovolcanoes such as Mt Fuji in Japan, Mt Vesuvius in Italy, or the Cascade Range volcanoes such as Mt Rainier in the United States. There are larger volcanoes (shield volcanoes) on Earth, such as Mauna Loa on Hawaii, and there are smaller volcanoes, such as the single-eruption cinder cones of Parícutin in Mexico or Sunset Crater in Arizona. Most large volcanoes on Earth are formed from dozens, or even hundreds, of individual eruptions. Furthermore, there is evidence for the passage of time between eruptions, with evidence for erosion, sedimentation, and soil formation between volcanic events. Earth’s crust contains records of numerous past volcanoes similar to today’s volcanoes. In the YEC scenario, many of these now-eroded volcanoes would have had to completely form and then completely erode within a few days or weeks during Noah’s flood. These volcanoes, like modern volcanoes, show evidence of a complex history, and the YEC flood scenario does not allow time for complex history.

An example of this ancient volcanism is the eroded cores of volcanoes in the Absaroka Volcanic Supergroup in northern Yellowstone National Park. The Absaroka volcanic rocks are completely unrelated to the more recent rocks of the Yellowstone Caldera. These stratovolcanoes are completely eroded down, but we can see everything from the now-solid magma chambers beneath the volcanoes, to dikes radiating out from volcanic centers, to the distal volcanic mudflow (lahar) beds dipping away from the volcanoes. These volcanic mudflow rocks now contain vast quantities of petrified wood. Trying to squeeze the formation then erosion of entire stratovolcanoes in the timespan of a few weeks during a global flood is not credible geologically, and not necessary biblically, which is silent on the topic ancient volcanoes.

Even more difficult, for our present purposes, are large igneous provinces (LIPs), which dwarf any volcanoes we see erupting on Earth today. An example of a LIP is the Columbia River Basalts (CRB) of the Pacific Northwest in the United States. The CRB consists of about 300 individual lava flows. Typical flows had volumes of a few hundred cubic kilometers, but the largest flows had volumes greater than 2000 cubic kilometers. The basaltic lava in the CRB was very fluid and spread out in extensive sheets covering thousands of square kilometers rather than piling up to form a cone like a stratovolcano. The result is a series of roughly-horizontal layers of basalt, stacked up to depths up to 1800 m (almost 6000 feet) in the central part of the CRBs. There are numerous lines of evidence that older flows completely crystallized before subsequent flows, and that time passed between eruptions. The dikes that fed later flows cut through the layers of earlier flows, indicating that the earlier flows were completely solidified by then. In addition, there are soil layers (paleosols) and fossil-bearing sediments between lava flows. The CRB could not have formed in just a few weeks while submerged beneath a global flood, nor could it have formed in just a few short years after the flood, as some YECs propose. The CRB is smaller than many other LIPs, such as the end-of-Permian Siberian Traps in Russia, or the end-of-Cretaceous Deccan Traps in India.

Context of Igneous Rocks

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The Berkeley Pit in Butte, MT, is an open pit copper mine in the Boulder Batholith. The toxic lake in the pit is now much deeper.

Igneous rock features such as batholiths, volcanoes, and LIPS exist within a broader geologic context, which includes events that occurred both before and after the crystallization of magma or lava. Batholiths, for example, intrude into previously-formed rocks. The batholith closest to my home is the Boulder Batholith, a relatively small batholith in western Montana, exposed over an area of about 5000 square kilometers. This Cretaceous-age batholith intruded into and altered previously-existing Mesozoic and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The batholith consists of 7-14 discrete plutons. The Boulder Batholith is overlain by the Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics, which are closely associated both by geochemistry and position to the underlying batholith. The Boulder Batholith most likely represents the magmatic roots of the volcanoes that formed the volcanic rocks making up the Elkhorn Mountains. The Boulder Batholith was exposed by erosion by at least early Cenozoic, or even late Cretaceous time, shedding sediments into the surrounding area.

This is the sequence of events regarding the Boulder Batholith that would have had to occur in the YEC flood geology scenario:

  1. Deposition and lithification of underlying Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, which include numerous formations of sandstone, shale, and limestone.
  2. Intrusion of the first pluton into overlying rocks. Cooling and crystallization of this pluton. In the YEC flood geology story, this would have been quite late in the flood year.
  3. Repeat #2 up to thirteen more times.
  4. At the same time as #2-3, emplacement of the overlying Elkhorn Volcanics.
  5. Erosion down into the Boulder Batholith and Elkhorn Volcanics. Debris from these is found in late Cretaceous and Paleocene rocks. This means that #2-4 all had to happen in a matter of weeks.

As just about always in YEC flood geology, there simply is not enough time for all of these events in such a short amount of time. It took time for the formation and lithification of pre-batholith sedimentary rocks. It took time for the emplacement, crystallization, and cooling of the individual plutons. It took time between intrusion of the plutons. It took time for the Elkhorn volcanoes to erupt. It took time for erosion to cut down into the batholith and volcanic rocks. I have actually simplified the picture; we could add mineralization, faulting, and other geological events. Added together, this all took a substantial amount of time, and that sort of time does not exist in YEC flood geology.

Conclusion

I often summarize my critique of YEC arguments for the age of the Earth and flood geology as “too many events, too little time.” The complexity and size of igneous rock bodies, whether extrusive or intrusive, illustrates this well. I could add a third element, and that is “too much heat.” The injection of all that magma into Earth’s upper crust in such a short time would have melted the surrounding rocks. There is too much heat involved in these igneous processes, and therefore too much cooling, to fit into the YEC story.

None of the problems I have listed here are a problem for the Bible itself. As I said, the creation and flood accounts in Genesis 1-9 do not go into details about the origin of igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rocks; or any geologic features of Earth’s crust. As a scientist, there is nothing in standard explanations for Earth history that set up obstacles to my Christian faith or confidence in the Bible.

Grace and Peace

©2020 Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com


Notes:

A printer-friendly PDF of this article may be downloaded here: Top six geological reasons I am not a young earth creationist.

For further reading on the topic of igneous rocks, I recommend a couple chapters from Young and Stearley, 2008, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth, IVP Academic, 510 p.

  • Chapter 11 – Of Time, Temperature and Turkeys: Clues from the Depths
  • Chapter 13 – Illumination from the Range of Light: The Sierra Nevada

Dr Andrew Snelling of the YEC organization Answers in Genesis has attempted to answer some of the old-Earth objections such as what I have outlined here. One of his articles is The Cooling of Thick Igneous Bodies on a Young Earth (Snelling and Woodmorappe, 2009). In this article, Snelling and Woodmorappe argue that the emplacement of one of the world’s largest batholiths, the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, could have occurred in as little as 350 years. They then argue that batholiths could crystallize and cool in just a few hundred more years. None of this matters. Whether emplacement, crystallization, and cooling of a batholith takes millions of years, hundreds of years, or just a few years, it does not fit into the YEC timeframe. In order to fit in a YEC flood geology scenario, all of this has to happen in a few weeks at most, as many batholiths have emplaced, crystallized, cooled, and then eroded within single periods of geologic history. Dr Snelling needs to come up with a mechanism that produces large batholiths or LIPS in days or weeks, and he is nowhere close to doing this.

Image sources:

Book review — Friend of Science, Friend of Faith

41Yck3NoXOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Davidson, Gregg, 2019, Friend of Science, Friend of Faith: Listening to God in His Works and Word, Kregel Academic, 297 p.

Gregg Davidson, a Christian, is Chair of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

Friend of Science, Friend of Faith opens with the story of Riley, a Christian college student working toward a degree in science. Riley had been raised under the teachings of young-Earth creationism, and thought she was well-prepared to face any challenge to her young-Earth, anti-evolutionary beliefs. The soundness of the reasoning she encountered in her science classes, however, put her faith into a crisis. She discovered that her young-Earth arguments did not stand up well compared to arguments in favor of an ancient Earth. In desperation, she talked to a campus ministry staff member, who, unfortunately, only pointed her back to young-Earth materials. If Earth is millions of years old, she was told once again, the Bible isn’t true. The story ends with Riley throwing her Bible in the trash can.

This type of story has tragically been repeated thousands of times in the lives of young people raised in Bible-believing churches. Christian Geology professor Gregg Davidson wrote Friend of Science, Friend of Faith to point Bible-believing Christians to an alternative way of looking at Earth history that is faithful to both science and the Bible. Davidson writes from a perspective that God has revealed himself truthfully in both Scripture and in God’s creation, and that conflicts between the two are man-made rather than real. Davidson advocates for both the inerrancy of Scripture and for the overall truthfulness of old-Earth geology and evolutionary theory. In doing so, he also argues against those on the old-Earth side who needlessly dismiss Genesis as a myth. Davidson advocates for a real Adam and Eve—without committing firmly to a single model of who they were in history—and a real, non-universal, Noah’s flood.

Davidson seeks to answer three questions in his book:

  1. Does the infallibility of Scripture rest on a literal interpretation of the verses in question?
  2. Does the science conflict with the intended message of Scripture?
  3. Is the science credible?

Very briefly, Davidson’s answers to these questions are:

  1. The inerrancy of the Bible does not depend on the “literal” young-Earth interpretation being correct. The Bible is inerrant; the young-Earth interpretation is not.
  2. God’s works in creation, understood through science, do not conflict with the explicit claims of God’s words in Scripture.
  3. Old-Earth, evolutionary science makes credible claims about God’s creation, and most claims by young-Earth creationists are not consistent with what we observe in God’s creation.

Of course, Davidson has much more to say in answer to each of these three questions.

Friend of Science, Friend of Faith gets a number of things right. First of all, the author has a high respect for the authority and truthfulness of the Bible. He makes a strong case against the “literal” young-Earth view, and for what is known as the framework interpretation. This argument is not based on “reading science into the Bible,” but on reading the Bible more carefully than young-Earth literalists do. Second, Davidson handles the science well. He clearly explains why so much of young-Earth geological and biological science is bad, and why standard old-Earth explanations are superior. Finally—and this is just as important as my other commendations—Davidson gets the tone right. He treats opponents with respect, and presents young-Earth biblical and scientific arguments with fairness.

In the end, Davidson returns to students like Riley, whose fragile faith was crushed, not by science, but by the false dichotomy of “if Earth is millions of years old, then the Bible is a lie.” Davidson has seen the opposite outcome, as he has guided similar students through their crisis of faith, into a renewed and deeper faith in Christ. This book will prove to be an excellent tool for equipping pastors, campus workers, scientists, and students to navigate through the complexities of science-faith issues.

Grace and Peace

©2019, Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com

I thank Kregel Academic for sending me a review copy of the book. I was under no obligation to review the book, or to give it a positive review.

Review – Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins

Bishop, R.C., Funck, L.L., Lewis, R.J., Moshier, S.O., and Walton, J.H, 2018, Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective, Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 659 p.

Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins is authored by five professors from Wheaton College. Wheaton is an Evangelical institution with rigorous admissions standards, and therefore has a smarter-than-usual student body. These professors have been jointly teaching a class on origins (SCI 311) at Wheaton for a number of years, giving students an overview of both biblical and scientific aspects of origins.

The book is divided into seven sections:

  1. Getting Started on the Journey – Four chapters on biblical interpretation and the interaction between science and Christian faith. These chapters lay a foundation for the rest of the book, and introduce themes which permeate many of the scientific concepts that follow, such as the functional integrity and ministerial action of the creation.
  2. Cosmic Origins – Six chapters covering Genesis 1, the big bang model and fine tuning in the universe. The unit ends with a chapter on “Biblical and Theological Perspectives on the Origins of the Universe” (units 3–6 end with a similar chapter).
  3. Origin and Geologic History of Earth – Eight chapters covering the origin of the solar system, catastrophism and uniformitarianism; the interpretation of the flood account in Genesis, geologic time, and Earth history.
  4. Origin of Life on Earth – Five chapters covering abiogenesis (the origin of life), as well as theological perspectives on the topic.
  5. Origin of Species and the Diversity of Life – Five chapters on biological evolution.
  6. Human Origins – Four chapters on biblical and evolutionary perspectives on the origin of humanity.
  7. Concluding Postscript – One chapter: “Biblical and Theological Perspectives on New Creation, Creation Care, and Science Education.”

This book is not written as an unbiased overview of all the Christian perspectives on origins. In other words, it is not like the Four Views on ________ books (some of which are excellent) that are already available at Christian bookstores. Instead, the book is written from a perspective that accepts big-bang cosmology, standard old-Earth geology, and biological evolution as scientifically-valid ways of understanding God’s creation. In terms of biblical interpretation, the book is written from a perspective that views the Bible as the inspired and authoritative Word of God, but which also places a strong interpretive emphasis on the worldviews present in the ancient world. If you have read any of John Walton’s Lost World books (Such as The Lost World of Genesis One), you will have an idea what to expect in the sections on biblical interpretation (though written more for a general audience than the Lost World books). The authors, therefore, fall within the broad credal orthodoxy of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The authors accept Adam and Eve as historical persons, as well as Noah’s flood as a historical event, but interprets these less literally than either young-Earth creationists, or old-Earth creationists such as Hugh Ross.

The chapters which examine what the Bible says about origins topics (e.g. Chapter 13, The Genesis Flood, and Chapter 29, Human Origins: Genesis 2–3) are excellent. In fact, the examination of why Noah’s flood does not, according to Genesis 6–9, have to be what we would picture as a global deluge, is one of the best I have read. This book will provide its readers with a solid foundation not only for understanding the biblical and theological side of origins topics, but will give them greater confidence in the Bible as the inerrant and authoritative Word of God.

The section on geology is the longest part of the book, and consists of the following chapters:

  • Chapter 11 – Origin of the Earth and Solar System
  • Chapter 12 – Historical Roots of Geology: Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism
  • Chapter 13 – The Genesis Flood
  • Chapter 14 – The Rock Cycle and Timescales of Geologic Processes
  • Chapter 15 – Rocks of Ages: Measuring Geologic Time
  • Chapter 16 – Plate Tectonics: A Theory for How the Earth Works
  • Chapter 17 – Reading Earth’s History in Rocks and Fossils
  • Chapter 18 – Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Earth History

In this unit, Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins does not cover the same breadth of material as a complete introductory textbook on physical or historical geology would, but what it does cover, it covers in some depth. For instance, Chapter 15 not only discusses radiometric dating in a general way, but introduces more advanced topics such as concordia and isochron dating that are not found in most introductory geology textbooks. Knowledge of these techniques provides readers with greater confidence that radiometric dating works, and usually works well.

Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins offers an excellent overview of the biblical and scientific issues surrounding the origins of the universe, Earth, life, biological diversity, and human beings. It is well-written and accessible to non-scientists as well as scientists. It will be a reference work that I go to often for science topics I’m a little weaker on, as well as for biblical and theological arguments regarding origins. I recommend the book for:

  • Educators in Christian schools. This book would be a great teacher’s supplement to my Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home.
  • Home-school parents.
  • Pastors and youth-group workers.
  • Anyone who is serious about Bible-science issues: young-Earth creationists (so they have a better understanding of the “other side”), old-Earth creationists, and evolutionary creationists
  • Christians in the sciences

Grace and Peace

Copyright © 2019 Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com

I thank IVP Academic for giving me a review copy of this book.

 

Book Review – Two young-Earth creationist books about Yellowstone expose how YECs cannot explain Yellowstone geology

Your Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: A Different Perspective, by John Hergenrather, Tom Vail, Mike Oard, and Dennis Bokovoy

The Geology of Yellowstone: A Biblical Guide, by Patrick Nurre

Young-Earth creationists (YECs) believe that the Bible requires that almost all features of Earth’s crust are the result of Noah’s Flood about 4300 years ago. These books are, in the words of Nurre, “an attempt to present the geology of Yellowstone from a Biblical perspective,”, as opposed to the standard geological timeframe in which the history of Yellowstone goes back a few billion years to the Archean Eon. This “biblical geology” effort is misguided, however, as the Bible does not say anything about processes such as igneous intrusion, volcanism, erosion, sedimentation, metamorphism, and glaciation. This results in a serious over-reading of the biblical text, leading to erroneous conclusions about the origin of geological features in places such as Yellowstone.

As a Christian, I believe that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth” (Genesis 1:1), and I believe Noah’s flood was a real, historical event, though I believe it was local, not global, in extent and effect. The biblical account of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-9) tells us nothing about how the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks of Earth’s crust came to be, especially in places as far from biblical lands as Yellowstone. There is, therefore, no need to come up with a “biblical” explanation for Yellowstone.

Your Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton by Hergenrather et al.

yourguidetoyellowstoneThis is a well-written, nicely-illustrated book. Of the four authors, Dennis Bokovoy has a MS degree in geology, which helps to ensure that the book at least uses geological terms correctly. Michael Oard is a prolific writer on a wide range of topics in the YEC movement. The other two authors are John Hergenrather and Tom Vail.

Much of the book consists of typical tourist guidebook information: what to see at Old Faithful, Mammoth, Canyon Village, and so forth. The overall premise of the book, however, is that the geologic features of Yellowstone can be better explained in a so-called biblical model, which actually goes far beyond anything the Bible says.

As in most YEC literature, the book presents the alternatives as either evolution over millions of years, or creation less than 10,000 years ago. Many who read this book, either Christian or non-Christian, will not be aware that these are not the only options. There are many highly-qualified theologians, pastors, and scientists who accept the Bible as inerrant and authoritative who reject the overly-literal young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

The book is fairly shallow in terms of its presentation of the case for a young-Earth interpretation of Yellowstone. It is admittedly written for a general audience, but it fails to develop a convincing case that the geologic features of Yellowstone are better explained by Noah’s flood, acting just a few thousand years ago.

The Geology of Yellowstone by Nurre

geology of yellowstoneThe biography at the back of the book states that Patrick Nurre “has been a rock hound since childhood.” I found one site that said he was “trained in secular geology,” but it seems he does not have a degree in geology.

Early in the book, Nurre states: “Secular geology claims that the universe is 15 billion years old and the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. If this is true, then the entire Bible is a lie!” [emphasis added]. This false dichotomy of “either young-Earth creationism is true or the Bible is false” has driven countless young people out of the church, and has set up an unfortunate barrier to faith for many scientifically-literate people. When people see the only options as young-Earth creationism or rejection of Christianity, many opt for a rejection of Christianity, especially in light of the steady stream of bad science that has come out of the young-Earth movement over the past century. I believe the Bible is inerrant and trustworthy, and that all truth is God’s truth, whether revealed in Scripture or in creation. An alternative way to look at Earth history, then, is that if there seems to be a conflict between science and the Bible, then either our interpretation of science is wrong, or our interpretation of the Bible is wrong. In this case, if Earth is old, it is not that “the entire Bible is a lie,” but that it could be that the young-Earth interpretation is what is at fault. Being that there are alternative interpretations of the opening chapters of Genesis held by Bible-believing Old Testament scholars, and that young-Earth geology does not work, I side with old-Earth biblical interpretations.

The errors in the book are numerous:

  • p. 19. Radioactive half-life is described as “the time it takes for ½ of a Carbon-14 atom to decay.” – There is no such thing as the decay of half of an atom.
  • p. 22. “The column in its entirety has not been found anywhere on the Earth.” – Complete geologic columns, containing rocks from all periods from the Cambrian through Quaternary, are found in a number of places on Earth, such as in the Williston Basin of northwestern North Dakota.
  • p. 23. In regards to uranium-lead dating methods: “We assume that the initial state of the rock started with a certain amount of uranium and no lead.” – I’m not sure that the author understands uranium-lead dating, as methods such as isochron dating and concordia methods, are based on the assumption that there was initial lead in the system.
  • p. 89. “Igneous Rocks – rocks geologists think were formed by fire or heat.” – This is a really bad definition of igneous rocks. They certainly were not formed by fire, which is the result of combustion reactions. Heat is also involved in the formation of metamorphic rocks, and even in the sub-metamorphic alteration of many sedimentary rocks at a few hundred degrees Celsius.
  • 94. “Obsidian is volcanic glass: pure quartz.” – Pure quartz has a composition of crystalline SiO2 and nothing else. Obsidian is not crystalline, so it is not quartz, and obsidian contains many other elements, such as iron, magnesium, aluminum, sodium, and potassium, which pure quartz does not contain. This mistake is repeated a number of times in the book.

I could list many more, but you get the idea. Even if I were still a YEC, I would not endorse this book.

Analysis

Both books give typical young-Earth creationist explanations for the rocks and other geologic features of Yellowstone. I will take a closer look at two of these, showing why it is not credible to squeeze the history of Yellowstone into the short time frame required by YECs.

Fossil Forests

The fossil forests of Yellowstone are found in the Eocene Absaroka Volcanic Supergroup, which covers an extensive area north, east, and southeast of Yellowstone National Park. These rocks were formed as the result of the eruptions of a series of large stratovolcanoes, similar to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range. Many of the rocks are interpreted to be volcanic mudflow deposits (lahars) rather than as lava flows.

The authors of both books point to the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens in Washington for an explanation for the petrified forests of the Absaroka Supergroup. Spirit Lake at Mt St Helens contains many thousands of trees that could eventually be incorporated into sedimentary rocks as a fossil forest. The young-Earth thinking is that if a single local catastrophe like Mt St Helens could create a local fossilized forest, then a much larger catastrophe (Noah’s flood) could create much larger fossilized forests such as found at Yellowstone.

It is valid to consider the deposits from contemporary volcanic eruptions, such as the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens, when seeking to interpret the formation of ancient rocks such as in the Absaroka Volcanic Supergroup. What we learn from modern eruptions is that volcanoes can produce lahars, which may contain logs and tree fragments, which will lead to layers of rock with petrified wood. It is legitimate, therefore, to conclude that the petrified forests of Yellowstone very well may have been formed in an analogous way.

The problems with the YEC interpretation of fossil forests at Yellowstone are numerous, and are not addressed in these two books:

  • How did a series of large stratovolcanoes form and then completely erode away in a matter of weeks, which is what would have been required in the most-common young-Earth catastrophism scenario?
  • All that remains of the stratovolcanoes themselves are igneous intrusions that represent the magma chambers. How did these magma chambers crystallize in a matter of days or weeks before they were exposed by floodwater erosion?
  • All of the sediments in these lahars (volcanic mudflow deposits) seem to be locally-derived, from the adjacent stratovolcanoes. If this happened during a global flood, why are there not non-local sediments mixed in with the local sediments?
  • Likewise, all of the trees seem to be part of an ecological package, ranging from subtropical species in the lowlands to colder-climate conifers higher up on the volcanic slopes. This makes perfect sense in the standard geological explanation, as lahars would originate at higher elevations and wash down to lower areas, creating a mixture of trees from different ecological zones. In the young-Earth scenario, however, there would be no time for trees to grow on the slopes of the ephemeral volcanoes, so there is no explanation of how these trees, and not some other mix of trees, ended up being preserved in the Absaroka volcanic rocks of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Caldera and Quaternary Glaciation

The Yellowstone Caldera is the result of the most recent “supervolcano” eruption at Yellowstone. The Yellowstone area has actually been the home to two supervolcano eruptions (volume > 1000 km3), several smaller caldera eruptions, and numerous smaller, though often still enormous, rhyolitic and basaltic lava flows. The present Yellowstone caldera is largely filled by these later flows. All of these eruptions occurred in what geologists refer to as the Quaternary period, which covers the past 2.6 million years of Earth history. YECs believe that this volcanism occurred at the end of Noah’s flood, or during a few centuries after the flood.

Both books refer often to the volcanism associated with the Yellowstone Caldera, without explaining how this is better explained by YEC, or acknowledging the numerous problems with trying to squeeze more than sixty distinct volcanic eruptions into a short period of time. There is abundant evidence for unconformities (erosional surfaces) between lava flows. This requires that lavas had time to completely cool between eruptions, something which takes time.

A fatal complication for the YEC explanations regarding Quaternary volcanism at Yellowstone is the evidence for alternation between volcanism and glaciation on the Yellowstone Plateau. Young-Earth creationists insist that there was only one ice age following Noah’s flood (though of course the Bible says nothing about when or how many ice ages occurred), yet at Yellowstone it is clear that a massive ice cap formed over the higher elevations more than once. For instance, volcanic ash from the final large caldera eruption (Lava Creek Tuff) is found on the Great Plains in Saskatchewan sandwiched between glacial deposits, which means there was glaciation both before and after this caldera eruption. Furthermore, a lobe of one of the final large rhyolite flows overlies glacial moraines near West Yellowstone, indicating that an ice cap had had time to form between emplacement of these later lava flows.

Here is what the Quaternary history of Yellowstone would have to look like in the young-Earth model:

  • Numerous smaller basalt or rhyolite lava flows, with time for erosion and deposition of sediments between at least some of the flows.
  • Supervolcano eruption – Huckleberry Ridge Tuff (2500 km3).
  • More smaller basalt and rhyolite flows, with time for erosion and sedimentation between flows.
  • Caldera eruption – Mesa Falls Tuff (280 km3, not large enough to be a supervolcano).
  • More smaller basalt and rhyolite flows, with erosion and sedimentation.
  • Formation of an ice cap over the Yellowstone Plateau.
  • Supervolcano eruption – Lava Creek Tuff (1000 km3).
  • More smaller basalt and rhyolite flows, with time for erosion and sedimentation between flows.
  • Formation of another ice cap over the Yellowstone Plateau.
  • At least one more massive rhyolite flow.
  • Formation of a final ice cap over the Yellowstone Plateau, and melting of that ice cap.

The whole thing can be summarized as “too many events, too little time.”

I would not recommend either of these books for use by Christians seeking to gain understanding of the geologic history of Yellowstone National Park. The Bible does not say anything about geologic events such as volcanism and glaciation, so YEC efforts to explain the geology of places such as Yellowstone is biblically unwarranted. Furthermore, YECs have been unsuccessful in explaining the complexity of geological features at places such as Yellowstone.

Copyright © 2019 Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com


Notes:

One can be a Bible-believing Christian and not hold to belief in a young Earth or global flood. A few of these alternative interpretations are presented in the Report of the Creation Study Committee of the inerrancy-affirming Presbyterian Church in America.

Yellowstone National Park — Another bad answer from Answers in Genesis

1280px-Grand_Prismatic_Spring_and_Midway_Geyser_Basin_from_above

This brief article on Yellowstone National Park from Answers in Genesis is exceptionally bad.

https://answersingenesis.org/creation-vacations/yellowstone-national-park/

Answers in Genesis — “The volcano that left the enormous crater at Yellowstone was far greater than anything we observe today. While modern craters measure barely 20 square miles (52 km2), the crater at Yellowstone covers about 1,500 square miles (3885 km2). You can still see the massive volcanic lava and ash beds at Specimen Ridge and other places north of the park.”

Response — The 3885 km2 caldera must refer to the 640,000 year-old Yellowstone Caldera, which produced the Lava Creek Tuff. This was the third of the three major Quaternary calderas formed at Yellowstone. The volcanic and volcaniclastic deposits at Specimen Ridge, however, are related to entirely different set of volcanoes, and have nothing to do with the Yellowstone Caldera eruptions. The rocks at Specimen ridge are part of the Eocene Absaroka Volcanic Supergroup, which was created by a series of stratovolcanoes similar to those in the Cascade Range.

Answers in Genesis — “The fact that molten rock remains hot near the earth’s surface is evidence that Yellowstone’s volcanic activity was recent—fewer than 4,500 years ago, according to the Bible´s timescale. So every one of the park’s 100,000 geysers, hot springs, and mud pots is a testimony to the recent Flood.”

Response — In other articles, Answers in Genesis admits that Yellowstone sits over a hot spot, so there is a very credible explanation for why rocks beneath Yellowstone are still hot even after hundreds of thousands of years. Heat is continually supplied from Earth’s mantle, which explains why magma exists at relatively shallow depths. The presence of heat in no way points to the young-Earth creationist timescale, and there is nothing in these volcanic rocks that points to the young-Earth creationist’s global flood.

Answers in Genesis — “If you look along the western shore of Jackson Lake, you can see the Teton Fault, which marks the boundary between where the mountains rose and the nearby land fell. The evidence indicates that most of the world’s mountain ranges rose very recently because their dazzling heights and ruggedness have not had time to erode away.”

Response — Here, Answers in Genesis seems to be assuming that Earth is a rather static world, rather than dynamic planet. If the Grand Tetons had been sitting there static for tens of millions of years, then the mountain range would now be leveled down to low hills at best. But if the Grand Tetons and other mountain ranges are actively rising (and there is abundant evidence that this is still the case) then there is no reason why they would not be majestic and rugged mountain ranges at present.

Answers in Genesis — “The fact that magma is still hot enough to drive the geysers indicates that the magma moved to this chamber very recently (at the end of the Flood, not millions of years ago).”

Response — Once again, Answers in Genesis is ignoring how Earth works. Heat from Earth’s mantle is continually supplied beneath Yellowstone, keeping the rocks hot enough to be partially molten. There is no reason to suppose that the magma moved into this chamber only 4500 years ago.

Answers in Genesis — “Notice that the stumps are stripped bare, without any signs of roots or soil.”

Response — The fact that petrified tree stumps are “stripped bare” is evidence that they were moved in debris flows (lahars), rather than being petrified in the place where they grew. There is abundant sedimentological evidence that these petrified trees are in localized debris flows. There are also tree stumps that do have roots, and some may be in their original positions.

Answers in Genesis — “If the Flood stripped the earth’s forests and then the trees floated on the ocean and jostled about, rubbing together before sinking, it could more easily cause many layers of stumps.”

Response — The evidence in the rocks is that these fossil forests were buried in local debris flows: gravelly muds with the consistency of liquid concrete that solidified to form conglomerates. The rocks containing these trees are all local volcanic rocks, derived from volcanoes which were a few tens of kilometers away at the most. If the trees were floating on an ocean, how did they get mixed in with the debris flows? Additionally, if the trees were floating on an ocean, why did they all deposit in one layer on top of another in the same place, rather than some being deposited in northwestern Wyoming, and some in central Nebraska, some in northern Idaho, and so forth? A global flood would have scattered the trees, not deposited them in layers one on top of another.

Answers in Genesis — “Scientists observed something similar to this happening at Spirit Lake after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980.”

Response — Young-Earth creationists love to point to Mt. St. Helens. Yes, the log deposits of Spirit lake at Mt. St. Helens can tell us some things about how petrified forests might be preserved in volcanic deposits, but that is about all they can tell us. The trees at Spirit Lake, however, will end up being preserved in a lake deposit, not in a debris flow deposit, and almost all of the Yellowstone petrified forests are found in coarse conglomerates, not in fine-grained lake deposits.

Answers in Genesis — [in a section on Grand Prismatic Spring] “What makes the dazzling colors at the park’s largest hot spring?”

Response — The picture in this section of the article is not Grand Prismatic Spring.

Answers in Genesis — [in a section on Old Faithful Geyser] “The fact that magma is still hot enough to drive the geysers indicates that the magma moved to this chamber very recently (at the end of the Flood, not millions of years ago)”

Response — The picture in this section of the article is not Old Faithful Geyser. I don’t think the author of this article is all that familiar with Yellowstone National Park. In addition, geologists do not say that the magma beneath Yellowstone National Park was intruded into Earth’s crust millions of years ago, as the most recent caldera eruption has been dated at 640,000 years, and the most recent large lava flow at Yellowstone (the Pitchstone Plateau flow) occurred about 75,000 years ago.

Answers in Genesis — “Look at those pretty colors in the pool, Daddy. But what´s that smoke? Is it hot?”
“Yes, honey. It´s very hot. In fact, springs like this are hot because super-hot, molten rocks, called magma, rose from deep in the earth during Noah´s Flood—just a few thousand years ago. The heat hasn´t had time to cool off.”

Response — Answers in Genesis managed to squeeze a lot of bad science in such a short article. For Daddy to give his child the Answers in Genesis explanation for the features in Yellowstone National Park could eventually lead to shipwrecking that child’s faith. If this child grows up and studies geology, he or she will discover that almost everything Answers in Genesis taught them about the Earth is wrong. If this bad science is coupled with the false dichotomy of “If young-Earth creationism isn’t true, then the Bible isn’t true and Jesus didn’t die for your sins,” they could easily throw out their Christianity along with their young-Earth guidebook to Yellowstone National Park.

My hope instead is that this child will grow up with foundations for their faith that are built on God’s Word, but not on the bad science of young-Earth creationism.

Grace and Peace

Copyright 2018, Kevin Nelstead, The GeoChristian


Notes:

I have barely touched the surface on what I could write about why Yellowstone National Park and young-Earth creationism do not go together. Of course, the Bible is not about Yellowstone National Park.

The photograph of the real Grand Prismatic Spring at the top of this article is from Wikipedia (author: Brocken Inaglory, Creative Commons)

Short Answer — Mt St Helens and young-Earth creationism

Here is my standard short answer to the young-Earth creationist claim that the deposits formed by the 1980s eruptions of Mt St Helens demonstrate that Noah’s flood could be responsible for the sedimentary rock record.


The deposits of Mt St Helens (MSH) demonstrate that volcanoes can do a lot of geologic work in a short amount of time. This comes as a surprise to no one. Any good volcanologist or sedimentologist will be able to recognize volcaniclastic rocks in the rock record. In fact these types of deposits are quite common in the rock record, and are thousands of meters thick in places. For instance, there are the deeply-eroded remains of a large Cretaceous stratovolcano (named the Sliderock Volcano) not too far from where I live in south-central Montana. This is recognized as a stratovolcano by having the remains of a magma chamber in the center, and then volcaniclastic rocks dipping away from that central vent area in all directions. The mountain was probably the size of the larger Cascade Range volcanoes, such as Shasta or Rainier. The YEC claim that this entire complex volcano formed and eroded in a few weeks towards the end of the flood is mind-boggling.

Most of the sedimentary rocks of the geologic record are actually quite unlike the volcaniclastic rocks of MSH.

  • Most sandstones and conglomerates are nothing like the deposits of MSH.
  • No shales are like the deposits of MSH.
  • No limestones are like the deposits of MSH.
  • No evaporites are like the deposits of MSH.

Conclusion: most of the rock record was formed in settings that were not at all like MSH.

As a Bible-believing Christian, I recognize that the flood account in Genesis says nothing about stratovolcanoes in Washington (MSH, part of the research topic for my M.S. in geology) or Montana (the Sliderock Volcano I referred to), so I do not have to try to squeeze such events into Scripture. The truthfulness of the Bible does not depend on YEC flood geology being correct.

Grace and Peace.

Six theological reasons why Christians do not have to embrace six-day young-Earth creationism

IGHA vocal set of Christians believes that the book of Genesis requires the age of the universe and Earth to be something like 6000 years. This belief is being reinforced by the release last year (2017) of the documentary Is Genesis History?, which was narrated by Del Tackett, and produced by Thomas Purifoy. The film is very well-made, and will undoubtedly be shown in numerous churches, youth groups, Christian schools, and home schools for years to come.

Thomas Purifoy recently published an article entitled Six Reasons Reformed Christians Should Embrace Six-Day Creation at Challies.com, the influential website of Reformed blogger Tim Challies. Purifoy concludes his article by saying that “6-day creation is the only longterm viable option for Reformed theology.” I also write from within the Reformed, and larger Reformation, community. There are many inerrancy-affirming, theologically-conservative, highly-qualified, Reformed scholars and pastors who disagree with Purifoy’s conclusion about young-Earth creationism being the only viable option for our theological community. I have drawn from the work of many of these pastors and scholars over the past four decades, and hope in this essay to show that one can be true to both the Word of God and to Reformation theology, and come to the conclusion that Earth may indeed be far older than 6000 years.

In his article, Thomas Purifoy gives six theological reasons for embracing young-Earth creationism. Four of the following section headings are identical in wording to those used by Purifoy in his article; two of the headings have been slightly modified. It should not be surprising that I, as an old-Earth Christian with deep roots in the Reformation, have almost identical statements as Thomas Purifoy regarding our theology of creation. This is because the age of the universe is a secondary matter, and Reformed young-Earth creationists and I have much more in common in regards to our theology than those points that divide us.

1. God’s goodness is indeed reflected in both the original and present creation

Thomas Purifoy had his heading worded a little differently for his first point in his Challies.com article – “God’s Goodness Must Be Reflected in the Original Creation.” I could have used the same wording, but I decided to expand the concept a bit.

In Genesis 1, God does indeed pronounce his creation to be “good,” and even “very good.” There is a bit of discussion among commentators about what exactly is meant by “good” in the opening passage of Genesis (1:1-2:3). Is this goodness the same as perfection, or is it a goodness of purpose? Young-Earth creationists often portray this goodness as meaning perfect in every way, without anything that we would consider to be a flaw. The pre-sin world is regularly depicted as being a gentle world, overflowing with abundance, and where the overall system is mature and complete, with no hint of anything in the least bit deadly or dangerous. The entire Earth is described in this young-Earth scenario as if the entire world were the garden of Eden. This perspective minimizes the fact that Genesis 2 portrays Eden as a limited sanctuary in Mesopotamia, with the world outside of the garden as a wild place in need of being subdued, or brought under the dominion of the newly-appointed viceregents over creation, Adam and Eve. This wildness implies lions and tigers and bears, not just bunnies and cuddly puppies (or domesticated, friendly Tyrannosaurus rexes). Perhaps the Earth of Genesis 1 wasn’t quite as tame as the young-Earth advocates believe it was. Like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, the creation was good, but not necessarily tame or safe.

There is a clue in Genesis 2 that helps us narrow down the meaning of the goodness spoken of in Genesis 1. In 2:18 we are told that there was something “not good” in the creation: that the man was alone. This certainly indicates that the goodness in Genesis 1 is not the same as moral goodness; it was not immoral or evil that Adam was alone. It may also mean that the goodness referred to is not the same as perfection. In other words, something can be good in God’s eyes even if it is not yet perfect. It seems then, that the goodness referred to in Genesis 1 is a goodness of purpose, not a moral goodness—though God is morally good—nor a goodness of perfection. God saw that the creation was very good for the plans he had in mind.

That this goodness in Genesis 1 means something other than what young-Earth creationists claim is amplified by what the rest of the Bible teaches about the goodness of creation. We see in Psalm 19:1-6 that the heavens still declare the glory of God. In Acts 17:17, God’s present goodness in creation is revealed in his providential provision of rain and crops. In Romans 1:19-20 the creation still fulfills one of its purposes in that it declares God’s attributes, so that people are without excuse when they deny him. Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:4, declares this ongoing goodness of creation even more explicitly: “For everything created by God is good.” None of these biblical claims would hold true if the creation didn’t still retain a significant amount of its goodness even after Adam’s fall into sin. If our world in its present state can be described by God as being good, then there is nothing to stop God from considering the pre-Adam world as being good and ready for his redemptive plan as well, even over a period of many millions of years.

2. Adam’s sin resulted in human spiritual and physical death

In the Challies.com article, this was stated as “Adam’s Sin Resulted in Universal Corruption and Death,” which goes well beyond what the Bible itself says about death in the natural world.

As an old-Earth Christian, I believe in a real Adam who committed a real sin which brought spiritual and physical death to the human race. The Bible nowhere states, however, that animal death is the result of human sin. The relevant passages (in Genesis 3:14-19, Romans 5:12-17, Romans 8:19-22, and 1 Corinthians 15:21-28;35-57) all make a connection between Adam’s sin and human death, but none of these passages tie animal death to Adam’s sin.

Because of this, we cannot say with theological certainty, as Purifoy does in his article, that the fossils in Earth’s crust are a testimony to God’s judgment on human sin. The fossil record is simply not a topic the Scriptures address. The Bible is silent on the topic of animal death before the fall, and does not even say that animals were created to be immortal. Instead we see in the Scriptures that carnivorous activity is a normal part of God’s good creation. In Job 38:39-41 and Psalm 104:21-22 (which is a re-telling of Genesis 1 in poetic form), God is the one who provides food for the predators, with no hint that this is evil or something less than good. We may cringe a bit when we see a cheetah take down a gazelle in a documentary, but there is no sign in the Bible that either God or the ancient Hebrews viewed predator-prey relationships as evil or as the consequence of Adam’s sin.

The “universal corruption and death” dogma is often stated as one of the prime biblical arguments for a young Earth, and yet this doctrine is neither “expressly set down in Scripture” nor may it be “by good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture” (Westminster Confession 1.6, slight grammatical rewording). Despite this, young-Earth creationists often hold this “no animal death before the fall” teaching forth as a litmus test of Christian orthodoxy.

3. The pattern of creation/fall/redemption culminates in the new creation

My wording of this third point is identical to how it was worded in Purifoy’s article.

The outworking of salvation history in the young-Earth perspective is:

creation/fall/redemption/consummation.

The outworking of salvation history in the old-Earth perspective is:

creation/fall/redemption/consummation.

The content and truthfulness of the gospel does not depend in any way on the age of the Earth. In his article, Purifoy suggests that the miracles of Jesus, and the future redemption of the creation, point both back to the original creation and forward to the upcoming new creation. There is no problem with this in itself. But then he states, “For the bookends of creation to match, they must be mirrors of each other. This is only possible with 6-day creation.” There are many connections between Genesis 1-2 and the final chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22, but I am not sure that Purifoy’s “mirroring” can be supported from Scripture. There are not only many parallels between Genesis and Revelation, but a number of contrasts as well. In Genesis, the world is immature; in Revelation, the world is mature. In Genesis, the world is pregnant with possibilities; in Revelation those possibilities have come to be. In Genesis, the couple is naked; in Revelation the multitude is clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Genesis has a garden; Revelation a city. It is not necessary for the New Jerusalem to be a mirror of the Garden of Eden (though there are important parallels), so there is no need to have matching bookends, and the declaration of “only possible with 6-day creation” falls apart.

4. Scripture must be used to interpret scripture

Again, my wording of this point is the same to how it is worded in Purifoy’s article. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself” (1.9).

The rule of letting Scripture interpret Scripture does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Earth is only 6000 years old. Even a straightforward comparison of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 should be enough to tell us that at least one of these texts is meant to be taken as something less than a completely literal passage. This should lead us to a further investigation of genre, which is a topic that is often oversimplified in young-Earth literature to “if it isn’t poetry, it must be historical narrative.” If we get the genre of a passage incorrect, then it is likely we will get the interpretation of the passage at least partly incorrect. Many scholars do not believe the genre is “historical narrative,” so it is quite possible that the young-Earth interpretation is incorrect as well.

I could write about letting Scripture interpret Scripture in regards to Genesis 1, but will focus instead on the flood account of Genesis 6-9. One of the reasons I believe Noah’s flood may have been local rather than global in extent is by using Scripture to interpret Scripture. In almost all cases where universal language is used in the Old Testament, the meaning is something other than the superficial, literalistic sense. In other words, “all the earth” usually means something less than “all the earth” in the Bible. To give just one example, we are told in 1 Kings 18:10 that, “As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord [Ahab] has not sent to seek you [Elijah].” No commentator will tell you that this passage must be taken literally to mean that Ahab sent people to all nations from the Aborigines to the Zulus to find Elijah. The literal words say “no nation or kingdom” without any sort of qualifier, but just about any reader, ancient or modern, will read this universal statement as meaning “no nation or kingdom in this area” rather than in the entire Earth. If non-universal language is the norm in the Old Testament—and it is—then we should be at least open to considering this to be the case in Genesis 6-9 as well.

5. Essential doctrines are related to history

Once again, as an old-Earth Christian, my wording of this header is the same as in the young-Earth article.

In the Bible, God often reveals himself not by giving us a list of doctrinal points, but by acting and speaking in history. In fact, Christianity is embedded in history in a way that perhaps no other major religion is. Creation and fall happened in real history. God’s covenant with Abraham, his giving of the law through Moses, and the kingship of David, are presented as real historical events, and are all part of salvation history. Most significantly, the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ all happened in history. If these events did not really happen, then Christianity is not true. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

Once again, as an old-Earth Christian, I believe that Genesis is history. Many Christian doctrines are tied to the historical events of Genesis. Not a single one of these doctrines, however, depends on Earth being 6000 years old. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a historical statement for us as Christians whether this happened in roughly 4000 B.C., or 13.8 billion years ago. The alphabet portion of the New England Primer began with “In Adam’s fall we sinned all.” This statement holds true whether Earth is 6000 years old or 4.6 billion years old.

6. Presuppositional thinking helps us understand the discipline of science

One final time, I have left the wording of this point intact from the article by the producer of Is Genesis History?

Presuppositional apologetics is based on the recognition that no one enters into an investigation with an empty mind, and that we all have prejudices that make us open to certain arguments, and closed to others. In other words, there are no neutral positions on any topic. As Christians, we carry certain assumptions about the nature of God’s Word and God’s world into investigations. We don’t take this approach because we have “blind faith,” but because the Holy Spirit has worked those convictions into our hearts and minds, and because we recognize that this approach seems reasonable in light of what we know about the world around us.

My basic presupposition as I approach the study of the relationship between the Bible and science is that all truth is God’s truth, whether it be truth revealed in God’s Word, or truth revealed in God’s world. If there seems to be a conflict between these two revelations, then either we do not correctly understand God’s Word, or we do not correctly understand God’s world (or maybe a bit of both). In the end, if we come to a point of complete understanding, there will be no conflict.

Sometimes young-Earth scholars express their presuppositional approach with a question such as, “Will you believe the infallible words of the Bible, or the fallible words of scientists?” This question assumes that there are some truths that are more true than other truths (as if one true thing can be truer than another true thing). It also makes the assumption that the young-Earth interpretation itself is infallible, when in reality our interpretations can be wrong. Fallible people misread God’s infallible Word, and fallible people misread God’s good creation. It is one thing to have a presupposition that the God of the universe has revealed himself in his inerrant Word; it is a mistake to start with the presupposition that one’s own interpretation, such as the young-Earth interpretation of Genesis 1, is also inerrant.

In closing

In his closing section, Thomas Purifoy quotes D. Martin Lloyd-Jones: “I have no gospel unless Genesis is history.” I can say, “Amen” to that.

A few years ago, I posted my “Creation Creed” here at GeoChristian.com:

As an old-Earth Christian,

I believe in a real creation from nothing by the triune God of the Bible,

And in a real Adam,

Who lived in a real garden,

And who committed a real first sin.

I believe that this sin had consequences:

spiritual and physical death for all of humanity.

I believe in Jesus Christ as our only savior,

And as the ruler and redeemer of all creation.

This creed is rooted in the historical events of Genesis.

I could say much more, of course, but have already written a far longer article than what I had hoped. This essay is not a comprehensive defense of any given old-Earth interpretation. Reformed Christians (as well as Christians from other traditions) who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture fall on both sides of the young-Earth/old-Earth debate. I hope that I have demonstrated that there are valid answers to the theological concerns that my young-Earth brothers and sisters in Christ have about the consequences of accepting an ancient creation.

Grace and Peace


Notes:

I have a great amount of respect for both Del Tackett (who also narrated The Truth Project series) and Thomas Purifoy. Thomas did a tremendous amount of research in preparation for producing Is Genesis History? He read weighty books from both sides of the debate (but it seems only got personal input from the young-Earth side; I could be wrong) I have had some correspondence with Thomas (Facebook messenger), and he has always been gracious and articulate. I just think he is wrong, and that young-Earth creationism is neither biblically necessary nor scientifically credible.

I am a member of a church in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a theologically-conservative Reformed denomination that affirms biblical inerrancy (Del Tackett, the narrator of Is Genesis History?, is an elder within the PCA). The PCA as a denomination takes no official stand on the age of the Earth, and has produced an excellent document outlining both young-Earth and old-Earth interpretations of Genesis that are acceptable within the denomination. This document is the Report of the Creation Study Committee. I highly recommend this report!

It is refreshing that Thomas Purifoy acknowledges, “I realize that intelligent and godly Reformed Christians hold to [old-Earth] models of Earth history.” In the past, the list of old-Earth Reformed scholars and pastors included B.B. Warfield, Charles Spurgeon, and Francis Schaeffer. In the present, this list includes Justin Taylor, Michael Horton, and John Piper.

I have written a number of (mostly) short articles about Biblical topics regarding creation in my GeoScriptures series (a series I hope to add to). I will highlight a few of these articles:

I have written a number of articles about the age of the Earth and the extent and work of Noah’s flood on my blog as well. Take a look at the Best of the GeoChristian page. Here are a few highlights:

The ESV Study Bible is written from a Reformed perspective, and I have written a four-part series about the study notes. The study notes on Genesis, creation, and the flood include both young-Earth and old-Earth interpretations. One of the links I share most often with my young-Earth friends is the one about dinosaurs (actually the lack thereof) in the book of Job.

Another excellent article is PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth, written by eight geologists who are members of churches in the Reformed and theologically-conservative Presbyterian Church in America. The geological evidence presented by young-Earth creationists, such as in Is Genesis History? has failed to convince most Christian geologists, even those who hold to a high view of Scripture. One would think that if the arguments are even slightly compelling, that Christian geologists would jump in large numbers to the young-Earth side. They don’t.

Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

The Facebook discussion for this article is here.

Copyright © 2018, Kevin Nelstead, GeoChristian.com