NT Wright on Young Earth/Old Earth at Asbury

As an evangelical and fundamentalist Christian since the age of 18, the issue of Old Testament chronology and the age of the earth has been an issue that has gnawed at my brain over the years. And as I’ve tried to address this issue by reading a number of varying viewpoints and literature, I have reached one certain conclusion. We can study the glorious book of Genesis and other works of the Old Testament the entirety of our lives and will continue learning new perspectives and takes on them until we meet our Savior. Ironically, God may have such a sense of humor that he is having his proverbial cake and eating it too. The Biblical timeline of 6,000 – 8,000 years does seem to rightfully correspond to the emergence of large-scale cities in Mesopotamia (beyond large village-size settlements seen elsewhere at earlier dates). Among the four rivers flowing out of the garden is the “Tigris” which in Hebrew has among its meanings “enforced government”. And so, these Jews supposedly writing the Torah in exile disagreed with the timeline of the Sumerian Kings List adhered to by the Babylonians and somehow managed to come very close to the timeline on the emergence of civilized governments. How ironic. And the Jewish exiles mockingly referring to the first city in the Bible (Irad – meaning “fugitive”), which sounds intriguingly like Eridu (long held by Babylonians and Sumerians as the first city). Both the Biblical timeline for Irad and archaeology for the emergence of Eridu are strikingly close. And yet, in spite of this, one has to wonder whether God truly intended for the lifetimes of the pre-flood patriarchs to be literal versus symbolic mockery of the Babylonian system (built on the Sumerian and Akkadian histories and cultures) which adhered to a chronology spanning more than 200,000 years (ironically close to the age of homosapiens). I say this because the entire concept of viewing the entirety of the Bible as a “chronology”, as opposed to chronological in part and metaphorical in other parts, seems to be an outgrowth of Hellenistic thinking. Even when the Septuagint was written, the chronology and ethnological timeline found in Septuagint and what is now our modern Bible was not quite enough to satisfy the Greeks who wanted and desired more – something akin to the works of Manetho and Berossus. So, in less than 100 years after the writing of the Septuagint, along comes Demetrius and his “Kings of Judea”. While the writings of Manetho, Berossus and Demetrius are lost to time, others would later attempt to replicate what had begun as a Hellenistic endeavor by what some scholars have now described as Greek and Roman “bootlicking" who desired to somehow legitimize the history of the Jews to the curiosity of their Greek and later Roman overlords. See Generally the writings of Bickerman, Dillery, Milikowsky and Momigliano for an introduction to Hellenism and Greek obsession with chronology and ethnology. Josephus would render a similar chronology and arguably was inspired by the writings of Demetrius. In the 1st Century CE, the Seder Olam would follow the work of Demetrius, arguably, and render a chronological history of the Jews back to creation. More than 1,500 years later, James Ussher would narrow things down to the exact date and time with his “The Annals of the World” in 1658, and as a result, for centuries, English Bibles would have dates in their margins showing the year in which an event took place – with creation occurring at 4004 BC. So how much of our obsession about a chronological reading of the Bible comes from Hellenistic influences? We don’t really know. Jesus did not speak to it. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls contained a copy of or fragments of Demetrius’ work (I gladly seek feedback on this even if wrong). If they were not concerned with his writings, and if Jesus did not seem to be overly concerned with his writings, are we perhaps overly concerning ourselves with the age of the world? Did Jews prior to the Greek and Maccabean era in Palestine really concern themselves with the age of the earth?


This implies that we should only care about knowledge the Jesus cared about. Jesus didn’t care/know about germ theory, but it’s been useful to humanity. I agree that making the Bible into a timeline for earth history is not very worthwhile. But just because you can’t get the age of the earth from the Bible doesn’t mean you can’t get the age of the earth from science. The Bible and the scientific method can be seen as complimentary sources of knowledge/truth.


(You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/771602090 @ 1:21:00)

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Good thoughts.

Sorry. I should have been more clear. No disagreement with your comments on the importance of science and a need to understand the age of the earth. My questions were aimed at the context of divinely inspired scriptures and whether we, as Christians, should be looking at the Old Testament as a chronological road map back to creation.


That is what I inferred as well. I didn’t think that you were speaking to scientific concerns but faith ones, not denying that we can get the age of the earth from science nor saying that we should only be concerned about the science Jesus was concerned about.

Of course he’s gracious. I missed the more complete answer the first time around, but I still wish he had been more straightforward. I also think he represents a British Protestant point of view, not necessarily a global Protestant POV. American evangelicals have been busy exporting YEC and other culture war topics through SBC missionaries for decades. As one prominent example, fundamentalist Vodie Baucham is presently Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Zambia.

Definitely interesting. I’m glad you brought it up.

Be careful about attaching an initial singularity to Jesus as the Logos.

Edit: TL/DR


You rather make Christy’s point.

One point that needs to be made concerns the dating of the layers in, for example, the Grand Canyon. These layers and the fossils found in them were identified in the 19th century at a time when there was no good method for dating these layers. Hence, there was no debate, the time frame could be “long” or 6000 years. Then, along comes my crowd with radioactivity and provides a method for dating. Suddenly, there were good data indicating a 4.5 billion-year age for the earth/solar system. That, coupled with modern studies where the age of “nearly all” meteorites show that same 4.5 billion-year age, ignited the debate about the 6000-year chronology in Genesis. Why is this largely an American debate? Because the best long-term example of the time profile of the earth is here in America…the Grand Canyon. See Carol Hill’s fantastic book about the Grand Canyon for details. My father used to say “paper will lie still and you can write anything on it”, to the debate goes on, but the data consistently show the 4.5 billion-year age for the earth and solar system.


It is an interesting phenomenon. I think most people in our congregation really do not reject an old earth, and marvel as we do at the ancient discoveries in geology, archeology and cosmology just as we do, yet suppress that and cling to a young creation in church settings. At least my experience is that they really don’t like discussing it as it causes cognitive dissonance, other that a few vocal individuals who are heavily vested in the argument. In some respects, they hold to a dual nature of reality. I can go along with some of the literalism in dating by just realizing what is literal to them is figurative and symbolic to me, and that is OK. And for the most part, they do not ask my opinion, because they do not want to hear it.


I don’t know if this is what you were referring to, but she is the senior editor:

    The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth
A gorgeous book, and of the eleven contributing authors, nine are Christians. (A digital version is not available, but my local public library bought it upon my request.)

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Also, there was no debate because geologists had figured out by the mid-to-late 1700s that features like Mount Etna or the extinct volcanoes in southern France took longer than 6000 years to form. The general consensus at that point was “Okay, there’s a bunch of earlier history than Genesis doesn’t bother with” and “Geology agrees with the Bible that history is finite and linear”.

a sort of works righteousness (complete with judgmental attitudes towards those not inclined to join them in their performance) to suppress their cognitive dissonance and “believe the plain truth of the Bible” as an act of will. I don’t think this disqualifies their faith in any way for God, but it certainly affects their credibility with non-believers and their own children that they are trying to raise in the faith.

So, Christy, we agree that God has no problem with those who come to Him in simple (uneducated or modernly uninformed) faith. My concern is, if modern science is a point of contention, it may be a stumbling block to their faith, Also, that contention reinforces non-believers’ disbelief as well as possibly undermining children’s faith as tested by our modern world. That is a significant problem I think we agree about, and I consistently avoid those arguments which usually go nowhere.

Now, since John 1: 1-3 specifically explains Creation, I think the biblical science lesson must begin there. I offered my science-based views on ex nihilocreation at the Initial Singularity and the de novo creations of Genesis, hoping for helpful forum feedback that would be useful in my manuscript.

SO, WHO, ON THE FORUM HAS AN ACCURATE SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION OF BIBLICAL CREATION? My ground rule is based on the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and since the Creator cannot lie, how can the Bible be true scientifically? I am testing my view here on the forum to see if is validated or discredited.

My scientific/biblical view is; In the beginning, the Creator (John 1: 1-3) delivered the Initial Singularity ex nihilo by His Word to originate the universe and time 13.8 billion years ago. Ten billion years later, the “let there be…” instructions in Genesis are His de novo creations beginning His work here on Earth. First, the universal electromagnetic field was expanded from the Initial Singularity. Then the Genesis creations were spoken as field excitations of Standard Model Elemental Particles to assemble according to His instructions. Scientifically, the Periodic Table of Elements list the building materials and Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is the method. I think the three billion coded nucleotides of our DNA is an excellent example of the Creator’s creative language that only He can speak with authority.

I am excited to hear thoughtful Forum comments regarding my view. I am confident that they will be helpful. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

9 posts were split to a new topic: Why do we think of the Bible as the Word of God

Can I have some clarification here? Is the quote in the box “elijah in autumn” the thing being discussed? That is, Wright’s response to a question by saying it is like asking him whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. In other words, “irrelevant question for me because ai am not American.” I think I was trying to find a website that published a whole lecture but wondered if that was not something I should be looking for.

Yes - or at least that was the subject of the opening post to this thread, even if we’ve had some posts since that have meandered along to other topics as well. But it was about N.T Wright’s response where he identified the old-earth/young-earth issue as being almost entirely a U.S. issue, and implied that the rest of the world had pretty much long ago moved on from that question already. Or something to that effect.

Thanks, Mervin. I was wondering. And I am aware that the YEC issue is largely borne out of some US cultural issues. Happy Thanksgiving!! (speaking of a US cultural issue) :(Tried to insert a turkey emoji here but does not seem to want to work).


Everyone whom I have ever met who has found modern science to be a stumbling block has found it a stumbling block because Christians have told them it had to be a stumbling block, not because their brains just simply couldn’t make sense of a world in which science was right about stuff and God was real.

I don’t know what that means. I have raised my children to love science and also to be Christians. They have not been primed to disbelief. Why? Because children aren’t argued into faith, they learn by example and testimony and through their own experiences with a God who loves children. What is hard for children is when parents tell them that trusting God’s word means they have to distrust science but they really want to trust both.

There simply is no such thing as a scientific explanation of a supernatural event.

You can discuss the theological implications of science, or how science might inform which Bible interpretations to rule out, but that is different. The biblical account is not trying to explain scientific realities, and science is not capable of describing God’s actions.

What you are doing is called biblical concordism and most people here don’t think it’s a proper way of approaching Bible interpretation. They prefer thinking in terms of divine accommodation and culturally contextualized hermeneutics.


Thanks again, Christy, for your feedback.

You said, “What is hard for children is when parents tell them that trusting God’s word means they have to distrust science, but they really want to trust both.”

"The flip-side of that situation is what I called a stumbling block for young people raised in a faith-based home when they are informed that scientific realities are not consistent with their biblical training. One of my grandsons was strongly informed that his faith-based training was obsolete at the University of North Carolina and that he would need to change to a scientific view to get it right. Unfortunately, the church is not preparing many of our youngsters to answer that challenge, and it has caused many young adults to walk away from their faith. I see that as a problem requiring a scientific explanation to biblical truth and I was looking to the BioLogos Forum to verbalize the answer.

I confess that my youngest grandson, who is a solid Christian, graduated from Asbury last year so that is what originally caught my attention to your post. I did not realize until I reviewed the entire string today that I was deviating from the YEC/Old Earth discussion by raising issues of biblical creation.

During this conversation I received two pieces of feedback from the Forum. First, “The Big Think” response was interesting, but only extrapolated expansion back to the Infinity of the Creator. All science goes there. Secondly, I appreciated Cale Maddy’s thoughtful reconciliation of the past 200,000 years of historical records. He summarized the conclusions I found in my studies, so I can close my participation with agreement and appreciation. Blessings, and have a Blessed Christmas!


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