One or two of you have suggested that I'd be helped in my quest to see if evolution can be reconciled with the Bible by focusing first on the age of the earth...and then, assuming I got comfortable with the OEC position, focus on the question of evolution. I've responded positively to the logic of this suggestion of an indirect approach, but have not seen clearly how to act on it. Since my direct approach hasn't been succeeding, however, let me now at least try to sketch out how I might proceed down this indirect path and identify the obstacles that have kept me from taking it. Maybe you can help me remove the obstacles.
As I understand it, the scientific community itself got to evolution after it got to an old earth. I say this both because the ancients believed in an eternal earth and the early geologists concluded from their rock studies that time, not Noah's Flood, accounted for what they saw. This provides a reasonable basis to focus first on the age of the earth and, after that, evolution. Moreover, as I understand it, it was The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris that launched the modern YEC movement - not a book on creation or evolution. So, here again, it seems deciding the age of the earth preceded deciding evolution. Therefore, I clearly see that there are good reasons for taking the indirect path. Now for the obstacles I need help removing.
My perception of the geological community today is that the vast majority thinks the earth is old while a small but vocal minority (YEC's) think it's young. Moreover, this vast majority does not think it's a debatable subject. They consider the small minority to be irrational on the subject. On top of this, the situation with astronomers - and I assume with any other field of scientific inquiry which focuses on the age of the earth or the age of the universe - is, it seems to me, identical. Therefore, the scientific community as a whole is rendering to me a clear and emphatic verdict on the subject, though not a unanimous one.
I know that for many of you a majority verdict - especially a majority as large as this one - is enough to settle the issue. Normally, it would be for me as well. That is, I do not require uninanimous verdicts from experts before I'm willing to trust what they say. However, the small but vocal minority appeals to Scripture as well as science in their dissent. I can't opine on their science, but I do read the Scriptures and I see merit in their arguments from Scripture. I am also aware that there are OEC's, who are among the vast majority of the scientific community declaring the earth to be old, who appeal to Scripture as well as science, present company included. I also see merit in their arguments from Scripture. I'll get to the relative merits in moment.
I am not willing or able to learn enough science to decide this matter on scientific terms; it is one of the many areas in life where I have to rely on the views of experts. I have to decide this matter based on the Bible. (I recognize that, at this point, some of you have to dismiss yourselves from the discussion because you just don't think this way on the subject. But I'm thinking that there are at least some of you for whom expert testimony, no matter how strong it is, cannot trump biblical truth, and if - and I know that it may seem like a huge "if" - the Bible does indeed say the earth is young, then it is young. It is to this group that the rest of my appeal applies.)
Point of clarification: In deciding this matter, I do not feel the need to decide between the earth being 4.543 billion years old or 6,000 years old. That's more precision than I need. I only need to decide whether it is billions of years old or thousands of years old. (Billions of years would allow for evolution's historical claims; thousands of years would not.)
My reading of the Bible leads me to believe that the earth is thousands, not billions, of years old. I am aware of many of the biblical arguments made by OEC's that the earth is old. I do not dismiss them out of hand. However, on the whole, I have felt that these biblical arguments are not as strong as the YEC biblical arguments or my own biblical arguments. I do see some weaknesses in the biblical arguments of YEC's, and the voices that proclaim those arguments can sometimes be strident and off-putting. (By the way, I have not found OEC's to be altogether saintly, but, generally speaking, I would say they are better behaved than YEC's.) Nevertheless, I feel that, again, on the whole, the biblical arguments for a young earth by the YEC's are more in line with my own reading of the Bible than are the biblical arguments for an old earth by the OEC's.
Therefore, according to this proposed indirect path to my original question, let me refine my original question now and ask, which OEC's provide the best biblical arguments for an old earth? Again, it won't help me to point to the best scientific arguments for an old earth. And it's worth emphasizing that I want to hear about the best OEC arguments for an old earth, not just any OEC arguments. I won't enumerate all the OEC arguments I have read, but know that I have read many of them. What then do I hope to learn from you? Two possibilities: compelling OEC arguments I have not heard before or OEC arguments I have heard before but to which I perhaps did not give sufficient heed.
Thank you for any thought you give to my request, even if it doesn't lead you to post a response.