The long-term viability of Old-Earth Creationism

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot since I saw @DennisVenema mention it somewhere on here.

YECs will just keep on trucking against the scientific consensus, coming up with their own scientific conclusions and arguments in opposition. They’ve been doing that up until now and the fact that their claims don’t stand up against the evidence (from both the bible and science) hasn’t put them off. If anything, it’s strengthened their zeal for their view.

But with OECs it’s a different story. They agree Genesis 1 shouldn’t be read literally, they accept the scientific consensus on the age of the earth; so far so good. But they stop when it comes to common ancestry even though (in my layman’s opinion) the data is equally as strong as for an ancient earth, if not in fact much stronger.

If they’re happy to accept that the earth is ancient, how long can they continue go against the scientific consensus and resist common ancestry, particularly on the genomics side of things which, again, in my layman’s opinion, is so clear and compelling?

Don’t get me wrong: I respect and profit from the work of many OECs, I just think that given they accept (to use Darrel Falk’s metaphor in Coming To Peace With Science) one of the core tenets of modern science (an ancient earth), how long can they not accept the other (common ancestry)?

Thoughts welcome :slight_smile:

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As a new convert and heretic accepting evolution, and former OEC (for the prior more than three and half decades), I’ve been wondering that myself. I would hope that my accounts* of experiences with God’s providence would sway some into accepting the identity that I have assumed for myself as an ‘evolutionary providentialist’.

     


*Here’s only one, and a compound one, a set, at that.

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That’s a good question. Just speaking for myself, even though I consider myself to have generally accepted EC, the age of the earth was a lot easier to accept from a theological point of view than common descent. For me OE mostly just came down to accepting that Genesis 1 is a bit poetic and therefore “day” could be a literary device and that it was easy to read too much into the text (and letting go of the whole “global flood” idea).

But I think common descent is a bigger hurdle because it hits right at the heart of what it means to be human and how we relate to God, which affects the rest of theology a lot more than the age of rocks does. With OE, it’s easier to say “well, ‘day’ is just a broader term than I thought,” but with common descent, there’s a whole lot more story and theology to unpack from the rest of Genesis – were Adam and Eve historical or archetypes? Were they created instantaneously or selected from a population of hominids? One way or another, we have to figure out what the “image of God” means, and that just involves a lot more untangling of different theological/philosophical ideas than simply measuring ages of things. Maybe that’s overly simplistic, but I do have more sympathy for that viewpoint than for YEC, though maybe I shouldn’t.

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I agree with everything you said there, Laura. I’ve only come to accept EC fully in the last few months and I’m still trying to put many of the pieces of the theological puzzle together. It’s hard and exhausting work for sure!

I suppose the big thing for me is that OECs want to take the scientific data/consensus seriously, and they do so for an ancient earth. But, as I said, in my opinion the evidence for common ancestry is equal to or stronger than for an ancient earth and yet OECs come up with some pretty dubious arguments to counter it. I’m thinking particularly of claims about Adam & Eve and Mitochondrial Eve & Y-Adam and arguments against pseduogenes/ERVs (which I’ve posted about here before!). It leavesme scratching my head and wondering how OEC will cope down the line.

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For a lot of Christians who grow up resistant to or skeptical of science, OEC is kind of the “gateway drug” to scientific consensus. Some former YECs stay there because of their theological commitments or because they get interested in other things and stop pursuing the science part because whatever questions and cognitive dissonance they had is taken care of. I think many people who end up there because they have become disillusioned with YEC distortions, eventually end up moving on because the process that brought them to OEC in the first place has sharpened their critical eye and they aren’t satisfied with special pleading. But it also seems that many Christians who have always been OEC are more content to hang out there indefinitely unless something specifically challenges them. Most lay people don’t encounter ERVs in their everyday conversations and are happy to believe that other smart people have figured all this stuff out already and they don’t need to look into it much since people they trust have said it all makes sense.

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Very true, Christy.

I agree, and this highlights the point I was trying to make: how long can the leaders and smart people of OEC go without not accepting common ancestry? It’s these people that I’m thinking about primarily in the question.

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Great question, im in a similar spot. Broafely trying to connect the scientific details of EC ( the how), compared to the Genesis narrative ( the why/who).
I really want to know ‘why’ God created life through evolution? Whats the narrative?
My rough scramble thoughts goes something like…

I see some similarity with evolution in the notion that God is both creative but also has a principle of developing maturity in us.

He’s an active, hands on, devoted God. His primary focus was to create humanity to be in companionship with him. He wants us to be amazed by Him, and delight in His creation - but gave us free will. The process of evolution could be viewed as refining and bringing all aspects of life into ‘shalom’, for us to be amazed.

Transformation of one creature into other species would be good fun? The fossil record, though limited, suggests we have had a huge amount of creatures. Most kids are amazed at dinosaurs, that sense of wonder and awe came from somewhere ( i muse that Jesus - the son enjoyed the dinosaus in a similar way, perhaps passing time while the earth’s environment cooled off etc ).

In the big picture of biology, there was a crazy amount of activity taking place.

Ive run out of time to ramble on, but i haven’t seen much content in this EC narrative type of thought. Are there other sources?

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We’ll have to wait until we get to heaven to find out the answer to that one :wink:

Have you checked out all the articles and things on the Biologos site? I’m not sure what sort of thing your after, but there’s all sorts of great stuff.

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There are many articles and sources on BioLogos that might fit the bill. Here’s how my answer begins:

I’m sketching out some more of that dialogue between Genesis and evolution right now. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for public consumption!

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OEC still has a long way to go in developing a reasonable explanation for the billions of years of evolution leading up to humanity and then the very slow 4 million years of development of homo sapiens. What purpose did this serve in a created world? How are these historical facts reflected in the biblical narrative?

The other difficulty is in recognizing the transition from animal to modern man - the development of culture, language, and reason - human spiritual characteristics. There are no genetic markers for reason! And then how does the Adam and Eve story fit into this timeline?

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Thanks Shawn.
One ‘hypothesis’ i have is that evolution was not only a developmental process, but perhaps it was a way of ‘managing’ life - to secure survival of the individual species, but also to enable their place (best fit) in the whole of creation - that was and is dynamic and moving.
In this context, i also wonder if Satan’s interference was an issue?

My take would suggest that it is because if it were other than evolution, there could be scientific “proof” of his existence, and I don’t think that is what he wants. The DI and ID proponents are not going to achieve what they want.

That is developed a bit here, and I refer to it in my ‘conversion story’, starting about here.

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That’s not so difficult, really. Was God short of time? :slightly_smiling_face: It adds significance to Psalm 8:4:

What is man, that you are mindful of him?[!]

(YECism also belittles the import of Psalm 8:4, not only because of the vastness of the size of the universe, but also because of the vastness of its antiquity.)

I like this, too – try it on for size :grin::

This does not address the purpose for this time, but it does provide the proper scale.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev 12:9)

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. (Rev 12:4)

The number of angels that were cast out of Heaven are in the billions of trillions. For the millions of years that the earth was a cooling ball of molten rock, did it not look like a “lake of fire?” (Rev 20:14-15) Isn’t it possible that God used these last 13.7 billion years mold these fallen souls into something worthy to become human?

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:40)

Wouldn’t it look like Hell being captive in a stone for billions of years, and wouldn’t you cry?

Food for thought and reason to be thankful today.

It does.

It took time for the universe to evolve and it took time for life to evolve.

I think if modern people could read (or hear) Hebrew the way ancient Hebrews did and see the plays on words (especially Adam and earth), it would be easier for them to accept a non-literal Adam.

Modern readers of the early chapters of Genesis can see two creation stories with different orders and methods of creation, making a reading of both the first two chapters as literal history impossible.

I wish the wordplay was more evident in translation. Jeremiah 1:11-12 is a good example. Footnotes help a lot. :slightly_smiling_face:

(My family loves wordplay… it’s the right price to pay for entertainment. :slightly_smiling_face:)

In the English language, we can also note the Adam/earth interplay if we imagine human/humus.

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From when I was a twelve year old christian (fifty years ago), I never gave the slightest consideration to a young earth. Astronomy and geology necessitated an old earth. Dinosaurs belonged to another world. I was perfectly comfortable with a sort of gap interpretation of Genesis, which was to me a natural reading of scripture and in keeping with literal interpretation.

At the same time, I was fervently anti-evolution until my late twenties. A pastor once asked me what I thought of evolution. I replied even though the fossil record was consistent with evolution, the purported mechanism, mutation, could not be a driver.

The shift to EC came after I had to deal with a re-alignment of my views on biblical interpretation, which was a lonely and painful time. I agree that genomics is compelling evidence of common ancestry, but molecular biology and population genetics is much more technical and demanding to pick up than the notions of plate tectonics and distant starlight.

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Good correlation. My English analogue for the Hebrew almond/watching is pecan/peekin’. :slightly_smiling_face:

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