Friday, December 2, 2011

Becoming a Young-Earther After 12 Years

12 years. I've been an old-earth creationist for twelve years. More precisely, I've held what is often called a Day-Age View of creation. While refusing to believe in evolution, I have often scoffed at the idea of being a young earth creationist. And so, I have stood by Hugh Ross and his interpretation of Genesis since as long as I can remember.

This began ages ago. I was once an atheist. While I was in high school, I defaulted to atheism because I did not like my parents' religion, and frankly, I didn't like the idea of God and was embarrassed by the tongues-speaking, word-of-knowledge loving, 700 Club watching Christianity of my father. When I was 17, however, I had a change of heart. It was the Spirit of God changing me and making me into a new person, though I just thought it was my own great idea at the time. One of the tools God used was Hugh Ross' books The Fingerprint of God and The Creator and the Cosmos. These books not only affected the way I looked at the universe, but they opened me up to the truth that I was created by someone and that I could not live my life as a rebel against Him and expect to escape unscathed. I will never forget Hugh Ross, and I hope someday to meet him and thank him for his ministry at Reasons to Believe. I know that many young-earthers demonize his ministry, but he was used of God to change my life.

In becoming a Christian, I was never asked to put away my old presuppositions about the universe (especially the age of it). In fact, the beauty of Ross' approach to apologetics was that it met me where I was at and showed me that, in my view of the universe, I still had to acknowledge a creator. It disarmed me without my permission, yet never asked me to lay down my arms. For me, it was never a question of science vs. revelation. I always saw them as complementary.

Early on in my life, and even after coming to faith, I was exposed to the ministry of Kent Hovind. I remember bits and pieces, but what I do remember was embarassing. I saw a wild-eyed guy who, in my mind, took some facts that he learned from reading Stephen Hawking, put a Christian twist on them, and then spent most of his time arguing that old-earthers like me were wrong. He followed up his presentation by claiming that the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) was real, that there may still be dinosaurs alive today, and even showing slides of people and dinosaurs living side-by-side. I also remember a suggestion on his part that at one point men may have domesticated dinosaurs (complete with a slide of a man riding on a saddled triceratops).

Ludicrous. Just ludicrous. I was an intelligent, thoughtful, scientific person, and I knew a crackpot when I saw one. In truth, I remember little of Hovind's ministry. I only remember the crazy parts that I recalled here. The point of this is not that I want to defame a godly man like Kent Hovind. The point here is to explain that my old-earth views which I have held for a dozen years were a combination of unabandoned presuppositions and reaction against a brand of fundamentalism which I found ugly and embarrassing.

My exposure to young-earth ministries since meeting Hovind's has not faired much better. Earlier this year our church hosted a speaking engagement with Jonathan Sarfati which I found to be far less than compelling. Like most creationist ministries, Sarfati's ministry seemed to be more focused on showing old-earth Christians that they were wrong than with meeting evolutionists in battle. This is still my perception of most creationist-focused ministries.

In the last couple of years I decided to revisit my assumptions about the book of Genesis, and one thing which I came to believe was that the Day-Age view of Genesis which I held did not stand up to the reading I was giving to it. For one thing, my interpretation of Genesis required the creation of stars (including the sun) on day one, while on day four I merely understood God's "making" the sun to be a revealing of the sun through some sort of primordeal mist. To my mind, this did not do the text justice because pulling back a mist is not the same thing as "making" the sun.

I did not hold to any sort of de-chronologized reading of Genesis, and so generally the order of the events in the text began to bother me, from my old-earth perspective. Perhaps my project to make science and scripture comport could not stand up to the scrutiny. Within the last year I turned towards the Framework view of Genesis and for a time was pleasantly surprised that many of my problems seemed to disappear with the Framework view. After all, the Framework view is not about science. It does not claim to know how old the earth is because the Framework view of Scripture does not understand the Bible as even speaking to the age of the universe. I found the chiastic structure between day 2 and day 5 to be quite compelling. I found the dual triadic structure of days 1-3 (creation kingdoms) and days 4-6 (creation kings) to be very insightful. I found Meredith Kline's argument that Genesis 2:5-6 establishes that creation happened through normal providence to be devastatingly helpful. In the end, I was ready to hold and defend the Framework view. The only thing is, I realized that I could appreciate the chiastic structure of the days of creation without actually de-chronologizing Genesis. I also knew that there were ways of reading Gen. 2:5-6 from a young-earth perspective that seemed perfectly acceptable, exegetically speaking. To make it simple, I realized that I wasn't being dragged kicking and screaming by the text towards the Day-Age view or the Framework view. It was the Young-Earth view which I was being dragged kicking and screaming towards.

In a conversation with my pastor, he asked me a pointed question. Though I don't remember the exact wording, he asked me essentially whether there was something prideful or stubborn that was keeping me from accepting the plain reading of the text. Although I have never found the argument that the plain meaning of the text is the right meaning compelling (it isn't) his question cut through a lot of the issues and got to the state of my heart, which is what I needed. The truth is, I was resisting a young-earth reading of Genesis because I was too proud to be a part of the Kent Hovind crowd. I was so judgmental and proud all these years against Kent Hovind's weirdness that I kept myself from what I now believe is the most sensible and accurate reading of the words of Genesis.

I have come to believe, after all of these years, that God did, in fact, create in six literal 24-hour days. I resisted holding this view for negative, rather than positive reasons. I was sinning these many years by judging my fellow Christians who I deemed to be less sophisticated than me because they held to a literal, 24-hour view of creation, and I suppose this blog is as good a place as any for me to repent of my sinful attitude.

Let me add a postscript here and just say that I do not believe that day-agers or frameworkers hold to the views they do because of the reasons I did. I am not interested in imputing any motives to those with whom I used to agree on this issue. The truth is, we are all complex creatures, and if it took 12 years for God to root this single strand of pride out of my heart, I would not presume that the issue is the same with others.


  1. I was Framework for a little while. What brought me back to literal consecutive 24-hour days was realizing ch.1 and ch.2 were not necessarily contradictory (i.e., 2:5-7 can be explained in ways other than Kline's).

    Probably my number 1 peeve with young-earth literalists though, is that almost without fail they seem to assume that real scientists are idiots and that they themselves know more about science than the pros.

    I've been reading the book "Why Evolution is True" by atheist Jerry Coyne, and by golly, there are plenty of arguments. That's assuming he's presenting evidence and its implications honestly though, which I'm not in much of a position to judge. My take, basically, is that he is construing evidence on naturalistic pre-suppositions, there is far more data that we do not have than we do have, and that I don't have to have all the answers. I believe when all is said and done, there will be no discrepancy between the witness of nature and the witness of the word.

  2. It is great to see how God is working with you.
    Heb 4:12 and Rom 11:33-34

  3. "My exposure to young-earth ministries since meeting Hovind's has not faired much better. Earlier this year our church hosted a speaking engagement with Jonathan Sarfati which I found to be far less than compelling. Like most creationist ministries, Sarfati's ministry seemed to be more focused on showing old-earth Christians that they were wrong than with meeting evolutionists in battle. This is still my perception of most creationist-focused ministries."

    Adam, like you I am currently more interested in reading authors who deal with evolution than those who deal with old earth Chritians like Ross, even though I found Sarfati's REFUTING COMPROMISE, to be a very good book.

    Sarfati has put some good work in on the evolution battle though. REFUTING EVOLUTION and THE GREATEST HOAX ON EARTH: REFUTING DAWKINS ON EVOLUTION are both books worth of the time spent in them. I recently gave our niece, who wants to be a marine biologist, a copy of REFUTING EVOLUTION with the promise of more more to read (Behe and others) if she is interested, which she seems very much to be.

    I found James Jordan's CREATION IN 6 DAYS very helpful in dealing with Framework and Kline's idea that Gen 1 and 2 are contradictory. John Byl welcomes Jordan's book here (in the comments):

    I removed my tags and put the books in capitals because I couldn't find my open tag

    James Caldwell

  4. & Adam,

    Thanks for your hard work here at Bring the Books

    You are a machine :)

  5. I found your discussion of how you moved from one view --- old earth and evolutionary processes --- to new earth and Biblical creation --- most fascinating and I agree with your conclusion. I think most persons who choose to reject the Biblical account do so on the basis on pseudo-intellectual pride. They think that to believe something so simplistic, yet profound, that in the beginning, ex nihilo, God created the heavens and the earth is to be less than truly intellectual and sophisticated. And yet, Hebrews 11 tells us that even the ancients understood that creation had to be believed by faith, not by the knowledge base of mankind!
    I've been reading Ann Coulter's Godless: The Church of Liberalism and her two chapters on science and evolution, Ch. 6 and 7, are well worth considering in this context. There is plenty of evidence to refute the claims of evolutionists and old earth positions. The option that is truly left is young earth, divine creator as the only tenable explanation for all the beauty, complexity, marvel and glory that shines through the created order (Romans 1:18-20).

  6. One thing I appreciate about the young-earth view is its ability to explain the presence of death, suffering, and bloodshed in our world today. When my children see a dead animal, I can tell them, "This is not the way God created our world in the beginning. Death came along as a result of sin entering our world. When we see dead animals like this one, it is a reminder to us of what sin does: it brings death." If I believed the earth was billions of years old, I would have to say to my children, "Yes, I know it's upsetting to see this dead animal, but we have to understand that that's the way God made our world. When God called his creation 'very good,' already there was physical death present. That's just how God chose to create." For me, the world makes a lot more sense, knowing that death in all its forms is a result of sin.

  7. Thanks for sharing, I recently went the other way (more framework view) after many years of being a YEC. I found the text reads best when its not 6/24 and thought the text would make more sense to someone in the ANE.

  8. Andrew, how does a framework proponent like yourself deal with Exodus 20:9-11?

    9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.

    God essentially is telling us that the reason we should work six days and rest one day is because that's the pattern He set for us, in the creation week. God could have done it all in an instant, or He could have done it over billions of years. But He chose to create in six days and rest one, to show us the pattern for work.


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