Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Age of the Earth (Part I)

[This is the second in a 3-part series, "First Do No Harm," that began here. Part III will follow tomorrow]

I have dealt with this before and am seriously considering making it a personal policy to never do so again. I know all the arguments for the young earth (YE). I used to hold to them myself. It is a subject that causes more diversion of apologetic resources than it deserves because the fact is that, no matter who is right on this one, the consequences are trivial and irrelevant. So, instead of arguing the same old OE/YE argument, I simply aim to show that the OE view has legitimate Scriptural support while the YE alternatives are utterly unconvincing.

As I have pointed out before, one of the primary reasons offered by those who demand adherence to the YE view is that accepting of the old earth (OE) view somehow means one also accepts 'Evolution.' In the printed material my reader sent me, one of his papers began, "Creationist, Those who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old. We know that the evolutionist cannot use the rocks of the earth to prove how old the fossils are ..."

It goes on from there but the point is that he equates Evolution with OE -- even though these are completely different issues! One is a scientific theory meant to explain the diversity of species of life on the Earth, while the other is a simple question about how old the universe, solar system, and planet Earth are. The former is a biological question. The latter is a cosmological, astronomical and geological question. Why does the reader (and almost every YE proponent I have ever heard) insist on equating the two?

The problems with Evolution include (but are not limited to):
1. Inability to explain abiogenesis
2. Inability to explain diversity of species
3. Inability to explain consciousness
4. Inability to explain ethics
5. Inability to explain the Cambrian Explosion
6. Non-falsifiability
7. Used to explain everything we observe and therefore capable of explaining nothing
8. Inability to make predictions
None of these issues go away if you just give Evolution more time to work. In fact, none of these issues go away if you give Evolution an infinite amount of time to work. The dogmatic connection between OE and Evolution is therefore not only invalid, it is irrelevant.
As for Scriptural support for the OE view, I offer the following:

First, the Hebrew word for “day” used in Genesis 1 is yôm. This word can mean:
  1. sunrise to sunset (the daylight hours)
  2. sunset to sunset
  3. an unspecified length of time with a definite beginning and a definite end
Second, the word is used in each of these ways throughout Scripture so it is not correct to say that it always refers to a 24-hour period of time. For example:
  1. Genesis 2:4 (RSV, KJV, ESV, NASB) uses yôm to refer to the entire creation week (this is especially interesting, considering my critic demands that we only use the KJV)
  2. Psalm 90:4 uses yôm in comparison to both a 4-hour watch period, and a period of 1000 years ... in the same verse!
  3. Both Job and Zechariah (especially Zechariah 14:6) yôm is used to refer indefinitely long periods of time.
Each of these is admittedly unique, but then again so is the entire creation account. Within it we also find that the use of the phrase "there was evening and there was morning, the ___ day," is not standard in the Hebrew. This suggests a unique usage meant to describe a unique kind of day. Additionally, this phrase does not occur on the seventh day, suggesting that the seventh day may be ongoing.

Professor Dan Dyke of Cincinnati Christian University has also pointed out that the words for "evening" and "morning" have their roots in the Hebrew for "chaos" and "order," respectfully. This may reasonably suggest that the days are meant to describe God’s ordering of His creation in stages from the chaotic "formless and void" (tohu wabohu) state described in Genesis 1:2.

I bring these up to point out that YE proponents routinely insist that they are correct because they invoke the plain, literal meaning of the Scriptural text.

Well, so do I.

Every one of the definitions of yôm above is a literal translation that is perfectly legitimate in the context of the passages in question. Saying otherwise is just plain false. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to accept a different, but also "literal," version of the creation account that equally honors an inerrant view of Scripture.

The scientific issues surrounding the age of the earth will follow tomorrow ...

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