Theological Issues with YEC


(Dave) #1

Hello Everyone,
I’ve been lurking on the forum for a long time now, and really appreciate the wealth of knowledge, and graceful attitudes that the vast majority of you emit. I’ve been on a long journey sorting out my beliefs of creation/origins and how science and my faith intersect.

I started out skeptical of evolution, and read books/internet articles regarding all of the holes in the evolutionary model (even hoping to find the winning argument against it), but after researching the other side of the argument (“Finding Darwin’s God” and “The Language of God” were huge aides in my search), I realized that evolution does not have to contradict my faith. I certainly believe that the age of the Earth is as old as science claims it to be, and there is no conflict in that regard with scripture, as scripture does not place any timeframe on the Earth.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “battle” with YEC is not a scientific one at all, but a theological one. I am no scientist (I’m a worship pastor and musician, who didn’t do very well in high school science/math), and many of the scientific arguments go over my head. The theological beliefs, however, that underpin all of the YEC scientific framework, is something more in my realm, and I’m wondering if anyone can point me to some good resources that deal with the errors in the YEC theology? Specifically with how they use biblical genealogies improperly to get an age of the Earth of 6,000 years old?

I’ve been having some discussion with a YEC follower and while I’ve tried to present some good scientific evidence against it (lent him “Finding Darwin’s God”, for example), he totally rejects it all, and clings to the “informed creationist” view (as he calls it) that is based on his interpretation on Genesis. I’ve read lots of good blog posts on Biologos regarding interpreting Genesis, but I’m wondering what else is out there to counter the YEC view of Genesis (note: I also have some of the books on the recommended book list, including "The Lost World of Genesis One and Four Views on the Historical Adam).

Thanks!
Dave


(Christy Hemphill) #2

Welcome. Glad you stepped out of the shadows!


#3

I applaud you for stepping out and doing the hard work of re-evaluating your beliefs. Science is no threat at all to religion.


#4

Hi Dave. Welcome to the Forum.

Beyond reading works like you’ve mentioned. I would advise doing lots of work studying the various approaches to hermeneutics. Not just studies in Genesis. I apologize if you’ve done serious theological study, btw.

And, depending on the theological stances of where you are in ministry I’d advise going real slow. Specially, if you are supporting a family and have further wishes for fruitful ministry.

Since you asked for resources I’d suggest checking out Regent College’s Downloadable graduate level courses
https://www.regentaudio.com

A course on Genesis by Dr. Iain Provan https://www.regentaudio.com/products/the-book-of-genesis Which I have listened to twice. It’s a first year grad level course. Dr Provan doesn’t expect people to have any original languages… There are courses on hermeneutics and lots more. This goes way deeper then just being able to deal with early earth creationism. In my view, it is opening up the historical study of the biblical texts.

I went through Regent many years ago and dip into Regent Audio courses from time to time.

Regards Larry Schmidt


#5

As a pastor at a YEC church, I have come to the same conclusion.

I think you need to stay within the Bible. The YEC you’re talking to sees the Bible as authoritative above scientific thought (and I agree with them, the Bible is above all), so if you showed him a fossil in person that contradicted the Bible, he’d believe the Bible and disbelieve his lying eyes. I don’t think that’s bad, I think that’s fantastic.

But even better is to say, “OK, the Bible is not wrong, but my interpretation of it may be wrong. Let me go back to the scripture and compare it with other scripture to give my interpretation closer scrutiny.”

In the case of the 6,000 year genealogy, he is getting that from the clear and concrete timetables found in the OT. In a nutshell, it seems on the surface that you can calculate, using the birth and death years in the genealogies, exactly when Adam was created. When you do the math, it comes out to 6,000 years. If you want to dig into the math, look at Ussher’s Chronology.

The main problem I would show him would be the Biblical timelines themselves. Scripture with scripture. If you examine them closely, you will see some weird anomalies.

The clearest is in Jesus’ genealogy in Matt. 1. Mt. 1:8 skips three kings, and says Joram begat Ozias, when literally Joram begat Ahaziah, who begat Joash, who begat Amaziah, who THEN BEGAT Ozias.

Further, when v. 17 tallies the number of generations between David and the carrying away into Babylon, it leaves these three kings out of the tally as well.

SO, we find a rule about Biblical genealogies:

  • If the child was in the line, he can legally be said to have been “begat” by someone who was actually his great great grandfather. So the word “begat” doesn’t have to mean “gave birth to” but rather “gave birth to someone who would eventually give birth to.”

There are other uniques rules we learn by studying this and the other biblical genealogies closely. But let’s just take this one for now.

Digression: BioLogos would approach that problem by quoting Hebrew culture at the time of the genealogy, or they’d inspect the Sumerian King List, and read those discoveries into the text. I think that’s dangerous, and NOT NECESSARY. I believe God gave us all we need to interpret the text right there within the text itself. And I’d be willing to bet your YEC friend believes that too, which is why I’d use my approach to that over BioLogos’ approach.

Armed with the Biblical rules on genealogies, you can look at the genealogy in Genesis 5 with new possibilities. Here’s a sampling from it:

Gen. 5:6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: 8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.

Looks very straightforward, right? How old was Seth when Enos was born? 105, right? That’s how Ussher has it, right there on the chart in the link above. So YES, that is ONE POSSIBILITY. But wait, there’s more!

Let’s apply Matthew 1’s rule for genealogies, and see if there are OTHER POSSIBILITIES:

  • “Begat” can mean “gave birth to someone who eventually brought forth Enos.” So Seth was 105 when he gave birth to some person, possibly not named in the genealogy, who, an undetermined number of generations down the line, eventually gave birth to Enos. After Seth begat this possibly unknown person, he lived 807 years and begat many other sons and daughters.

How many generations could be skipped in that “begat?” There is no biblical limit. In that one genealogy on Genesis, it’s completely possibly that there are NO generations skipped, and Adam lived 6,000 years ago. BUT, if we’re going to be scriptural, we have to allow that it’s JUST AS POSSIBLE that there are many, many generations skipped, and Adam actually lived 200,000 years ago, maybe much more, maybe much less.

The point is that, Biblically, it is flexible and cannot be determined like Ussher thought. The only way to nail it down is by bringing in OTHER biblical genealogies or narratives to compare it to.

Here’s an example of doing that: Moses is said to be the third generation from one of the 12 sons of Jacob. But then we read that Joshua is said to be 9 or possibly 10 generations removed from the sons of Jacob. Since we know from the Bible that Moses and Joshua were contemporaries, we can safely say that there were probably some skipped generations in Moses’ genealogical record.

That’s comparing scripture with scripture, and that is how I’d talk to your YEC friend.

PS - Thank God for giving us his Holy Bible! He has given us all we need right within its pages. 2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.


(James McKay) #6

I’ve personally come to the conclusion that the problem is pastoral as much as scientific or theological.

The problem is that the YEC organisations are encouraging Christians to take a very dogmatic and divisive stance on a subject that they are ill equipped to understand, much less defend. Many non-technical people have a lot of weird misconceptions about what science even is and how it works, and as a result, when they come across YEC teaching they get all excited about the prospect of scientific evidence for a young earth and, as I’ve said elsewhere, rush headlong into the debate with all guns blazing only to prove to everyone within earshot that they haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about.

There’s also a tendency to denounce anyone who questions the YEC hermeneutic as “compromisers” or even “faithless so-called Christians” or “speaking with the voice of the serpent.” Answers in Genesis even denounced the Alpha Course saying that it “undermines the entire authority of the Scriptures” because it acknowledges the diversity of opinion among Christians as to how we are to approach the subject.

This combination of cluelessness and extreme dogmatism causes serious problems for young Christians who learn more about science in the course of their education, are left with more questions than answers, and don’t know who to speak to in order to gain Biblical wisdom and understanding on the subject. They’re left with the impression of the Body of Christ as a hostile anti-intellectual environment that doesn’t support them and possibly even opposes them in their particular mission field of science.

This is a serious problem in the Church today. A 2011 Barna Research report revealed that one of the top three reasons why young people leave church is that many churches are perceived as being hostile to science, with many young Christians in the sciences “struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.”

I’m starting to think that any attempt to address YEC in the church needs to start by addressing this specific problem first and foremost.


#7

This is good insight. I’d add that the underlying problem is still theological, since the reason the pastors are so dogmatic is based on their firm theological beliefs. How can we expect pastors to say “I firmly believe this Bible doctrine, buuuuuuut… don’t be so firm to defend it against attacks (scientific or otherwise) because it might be wrong.”

That’s why I say the best approach to an actual solution is to show pastors and Christians how you can keep your exact theology and your hermeneutic without being young earth.


#8

I would say the problem is more that they are encouraging Christians to take a dogmatic stance that is not defensible with real science. No amount of equipping fixes that.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

@hipfan

In my opinion the starting point for this debate is wrong. Genesis is OT, but Christians are NT people. Our understanding of Genesis is based on John 1:1-3. Jesus is the LOGOS, the Rational Word of God. He is our focus and how God the Father works in and with Him which is our focus, not how many days it took for God to create the universe.

YEC have made their belief the basis of salvation, not faith in Jesus Christ. This is false Christianity.


(Chris Falter) #10

Hi Hipfan,

Thanks for joining the conversation! Having just downloaded a free MP3 from the Regent site, I would second Larry’s recommendation.

In the book category, I really, really like Paradigms in Pilgrimage, written by two brothers-in-law who were at one time militantly YEC. One became a geologist, the other became a pastor and writer. They know what it’s like to be inside the YEC mindset, and how you can come out of it. They are quite respectful of our YEC brethren, but they are uncompromising in laying out the evidence both geological and Biblical for evolutionary creationism.

EDIT: I typed up this post, then left it fallow for a while before saving it. In the meanwhile, @nobodyyouknow’s case for starting where your friend’s hermeneutical approach is worth considering. Which approach to take depends very much on your understanding of your friend, yourself, and the Holy Spirit’s leading. One size does not fit all.


(Jay Johnson) #11

Yes, and there is other research that indicates young people are leaving the church now in faster numbers than their Baby Boomer parents did. The current political climate, where evangelicals overwhelmingly supported a man despised by the younger generation, only adds to the disconnect…


(Dave) #12

Thanks everyone for the replies, it’s really helpful! @Chris_Falter thanks for the book recommendation, it seems right up my alley. @nobodyyouknow, thanks for that info, too, that is exactly the sort of help I’m looking for.

And I don’t have any theological training, yet, but it’s something that I’m looking into starting in the near future. That online audio course from Regent looks interesting!


(James McKay) #13

Precisely. But that’s not a point that non-scientific YECs can relate to. On the other hand, hopefully they can relate to the concept of something being way over the tops of their heads.

To reinforce the point, next time one of them tells you that evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, ask them if they know what a Carnot heat engine is.


(Chris Falter) #14

I am learning not to say, “I believe the Bible, buuuuuut…” Instead, I try to say, “I believe the Bible, and here’s what it tells me about God’s creation. He made it to have an order and predictability. (References supplied on demand.) He also made us in His image to have stewardship over the creation. We exercise that stewardship as we study the plants and animals, the rocks and the stars. In other words, God made us to be scientists as well as artists, people with earthly professions as well as worshipers. And that’s why we do well to pay attention to science.”


(Emily) #15

Exactly! Science is worth paying attention to in understanding God’s creation.


#16

Why? Why is your approach better? What EVIDENCE do you have that God always gave us “all we need” within the text? And if that is true, why did God give the Church spiritual gifts in the form of teachers?

Is the Biblical text “sufficient” on its own for teaching us the translation skills we need to interpret the Hebrew Bible? Your “theory” about the sufficiency of the text—in having everything we need for interpretation within the Biblical text–breaks down immediately!

@nobodyyouknow, I’m very interested in understanding your position. It sounds similar to what was traditional in my own church background. But I do indeed think cultural and historical context is vital. How is that “dangerous”? If the original audience knew that additional information, why shouldn’t it matter to me?


(George Brooks) #17

I think it’s time that Templeton make a few free will donations to Evolution-friendly evangelical groups of merit.

We can’t undo the structural cohesion that we encounter in the conventional Evangelical groups that promote YEC theology.

We need to trigger a modern wave of evangelistic fervor … one that brings Jesus to the masses… and lets science have its place in the Cosmic order! … and eventually the old-school Evangelical groups will be as popular as the Calvinist congregational halls of old New England.

Critics might say: "But there aren’t any Calvinist congregational halls in New England!"
My response? Exactly!!!

George Brooks
Tampa, Florida


#18

Templeton gave Trinity International University something like 4.3 million dollars to explore and develop and publish evolution-friendly theology. Were you referring to that donation?