Responding to Skeptics

Over at Premier Christianity, geologist and priest Michael Roberts provides 10 questions to ask a young earth creationist. Old earth creationists and evolutionists have been asking these same questions for decades, but it’s as if Roberts thinks he’s the first to come up with them. On the contrary, young earth creationists have answered these questions for as long as anyone has thought to ask them. I’ll link to a response by Creation Ministries International, and then provide my own, responding to what I think is Robert’s main contention.

At the heart of these ten questions is whether or not the Bible really addresses geology and the age of the earth, and if it really matters. Roberts (and other evolutionists) wants to convince us there’s a huge majority of educated people, including scientists, who believe in God, evolution, and an earth that’s 4.6 billion years old. In other words, he’s implying that most people don’t believe the Biblical account of creation should be taken literally, and neither should you.

It’s surprising how many people think this way, but it’s easily refuted. The number of people who believe the same thing is not proof that they’re right. 99 percent of the entire world population could be in agreement and still be wrong. Science is not up for a vote. Being in the majority may be comforting, but it’s not proof.

Further, Roberts would do well to realize that he’s in a precarious position. Does he realize that only 30 percent of all geologists believe in God? Therefore, does that prove God doesn’t exist? And why does he think the other 70 percent of scientists got it wrong? His position is not the majority position, so he must defend his position from both sides- young earth creationists and atheists.

Next, although Roberts thinks it’s folly to go against the “proven results of science”, he wants us to believe the age of the earth isn’t important to our faith because the Bible isn’t clear on the matter. What’s important, he says, is the Gospel message.

Firstly, if he really thought the age of the earth weren’t important, he wouldn’t have brought it up. But he does because he knows very well how important this topic is. But I’ll agree that the age of the earth isn’t the central issue in the Bible, and that the Gospel message is what’s most important. But those who dismiss the importance of what the Bible tells us about the age of the earth are missing the point. While no one needs to believe the earth is young (or old) in order to be a Christian, believing in an old earth undermines the Gospel message. If we believe the Gospel message is true, but the Bible’s claims about the physical world are wrong, then what does that tell us about the Gospel message? Doesn’t that bring the entire Bible into question? I think it does, and that’s why a correct understanding of the Bible’s claims is crucial. In fact, I’d suggest that the creation account is foundational to the Gospel message; not only does the creation account tell us why there’s sin, death, disease and suffering in the world, but why we need a savior.

Nonetheless, Roberts goal is to convince us that the Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the age of the earth, therefore the creation account shouldn’t be taken literally. To him, a literal interpretation would be in conflict with science. But I’d argue, as a young earth creationist, that there are no conflicts- if we follow the facts. But Roberts would rather have us change our interpretation of Genesis; I suggest we need to view the evidence within a Biblical worldview or framework.

We have two main options to consider. 1: The Biblical account of creation is literal, inferring a young earth, and that means the geological evidence, if interpreted correctly, will be consistent with a young earth. Or 2: the Biblical account of creation is not literal, and a secular interpretation of geology should dictate how we interpret Scripture.

How do we determine which is correct? I suggest we need to start with the text itself and examine it in context. Roberts, however, has it backwards; he’s starting with his secular worldview and imposing it upon the Biblical text; he’s not examining the text to understand its meaning.

So, what does the Bible tell us about the age of the earth? Well, the first eleven chapters of Genesis refer to a six-day creation, a global flood, and the scattering of nations (all of which are denied by secular science). The entire book of Genesis is written in historical narrative, meaning that the writer is telling us what happened in the past, and even Roberts concedes that to a point. In fact, there are few Christians who would deny anything after Genesis 11 because that’s when we get to Abraham and the nation of Israel; but why deny a literal reading of the first eleven chapters, and then completely change course? Isn’t the main reason why people deny a literal reading of the first 11 chapters of Genesis because they believe it has been disproven by science? No one is denying the factuality of the first 11 chapters based purely on context. Even Roberts, who points to the poetical language for help, admits poetry can be historical; yet uses the poetical writing to conclude it must not be historical, not because the text demands it, but because his worldview demands it.

Even most Old Testament scholars agree the author of Genesis intended to convey a literal, 24-hour day. Regius Professor of Hebrew, James Barr, said:

“Probably, so far as l know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience.”

If Roberts still doesn’t accept a literal interpretation of Genesis, he should consider all the other passages in the Bible affirming a young earth. Exodus 20:11 affirms that God made the heavens and earth in six days, and Jesus tells us in Mark 10:6 that God made men and women at the beginning of creation, which only makes sense if the earth were young. The description of the behemoth and leviathan sound like extinct dinosaurs and sea creatures. We also see that Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah and a global flood are mentioned throughout the New Testament, referring to them as real people and real events. Jesus is even listed in the lineage of both Adam and Noah. It seems to me, throughout the rest of the Bible, the creation account in Genesis was taken literally by the Israelites, the authors, and Jesus. And I find that compelling. Roberts must deny both context and evidence if he wants to maintain that the creation account isn’t literal.

And that leaves us with two more options: either the Bible is wrong, or our interpretation of the evidence is wrong. No doubt there are many people who reject the idea of reinterpreting geology; to them, such an idea is absurd. According to their belief system, secular science isn’t open to debate or interpretation. Roberts admits as much when he claims “radiometric dating has showed the earth is 4.6 billion years old,” and, “If the dates are wrong then so is all physics.” But he doesn’t realize how his worldview has shaped his thinking. Let’s consider dating techniques.

Do you know how many times, according to science, the predominant age of the earth has changed? Consider that in 1897 scientists used to believe the age of the earth was between 24 million and 400 million years old; in 1899 the earth was believed to be between 90 and 100 million years old; in 1905 scientists believed the earth was 500 million years old; and in 1907 scientists claimed the earth was 1.64 billion years old. In every case, scientists were wrong about the age of the earth because they interpreted the evidence wrongly. New discoveries changed everything. What should this tell us about science? I’d suggest it tells us that science is not infallible, and is open to interpretation. It’s not that physics is wrong… it’s his thinking that’s wrong.

Currently, some scientists believe the earth is about 4.6 billion years old based on radiometric dating, but do we know this for a fact, or could they be wrong? Is it possible the evidence is being misinterpreted, as it was in the past? Or are they not considering all the evidence? The truth is, radiometric dating has not proven the earth to be 4.6 billion years old (or whatever age it changes to next). And that’s one of Robert’s mistakes.

Most people don’t know a lot about radiometric dating and the unprovable assumptions behind it. In order to determine the earth is 4.6 billion years old, for example, one must retrieve the right specimen (like a meteorite), assume the starting amount of a particular isotope (Rubidium), assume no daughter isotope (Strontium) was present at the beginning, assume there’s no contamination, and assume the decay rate remained the same. All these assumptions must be accepted in order to arrive at a usable date. Yet most of these assumptions are unprovable. Further, whenever we date rocks of known age, like igneous rock from Mount St. Helens, we always obtain inflated dates, like 2.8 million years. But we know this isn’t true because the volcanic eruption occurred in 1980, and the event was observed. No one, however, observed the formation of the meteorites used to determine the age of the earth, so how do we know the dates are correct? Answer: we don’t. That’s why dating techniques are largely unreliable, and that explains why a young earth is compatible with the evidence.

It seems to me that Roberts, however, is unwilling to consider that it’s his worldview that needs altered. He’s accepting secular science as his authority for how to interpret the Bible rather than allowing the Bible to determine how he interprets geology.

Is it possible, he asks, for so many people of science to misinterpret the data? Yes, of course. This happens all the time and is part of the process; it’s what makes us human. Science is not something that happens independent of human reason.

If the Bible is correct that the earth is young (and I believe it is), then all the geological layers can be explained in light of a young earth. But if you do your science without Biblical influence, allowing naturalism to dictate your beliefs, then your conclusions will inevitably be incorrect.

Even if you disagree with me, I hope I’ve provided some worthwhile points to consider. Young earth creationists are not going against the “proven results of science”, as Roberts claims, but are interpreting the evidence against Biblical truth, and I believe that’s the correct way to do science.

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