Biblical Basis for an Old Earth
  • timh December 2011
    I think the key issue here is actually the pushing of a false dichotomy between being a scientist and being a Christian - basically the Dawkinsian "If a scientist says they're a Christian then they are clearly just pretending that they believe that stuff" from the other direction. All the science I've seen is agnostic in the strict sense about whether or not God exists. The rest is a mixture of metaphysics and spin. However I clearly can't know what I'm talking about given that I claim to be a Christian and a scientist (theoretical physicist who got bored and did geophysics instead....)
  • SimonSimon December 2011
    Hi Tim - welcome to the forum.

    Yes there is a sad "conspiracy theory" in some quarters that anyone with a formal education in science is trying to keep ID/creationism out of science. The argument goes that those of us who actually study these things can't see the wood for the trees. This criticism is actually one of the reasons why I am doing a degree in research ethics.
  • MrDunsapy December 2011
    Hi timh and Simon
    I find there is no conflict with the bible a science.

    Anyway , we can end this here.

  • AndyR February 2012

    It seems the sticking point is what importance you attach to the bible and to science.

    The old earthers seem to take science and interpret the bible by it.

    The young earthers take the bible and interpret science by it.

    Taking the bible as the given word of our Creator, surely it has to take precedence over anything Man (the created) has to say.

  • AnthonySmithAnthonySmith February 2012
    Hi Andy - welcome!

    Your summary is - sadly - not entirely unfair, but I'm convinced that we need openness in both areas if we're going to make progress on the issue. We need to allow for the possibility that our current scientific understanding might not be entirely correct, and that God may have said things in the Scriptures that can help us to realise that. And we need also to be open to the possibility that we might sometimes misunderstand the Bible, and that scientific investigation could alert us to that fact. But try the former and one group of people shout "Fundamentalism!" and try the latter and another group of people shout "Compromise!".

    I find the following image helpful, taken from a 2006 article by Leonard Brand, A Biblical Perspective on the Philosophy of Science (Origins, 59, p. 14).

  • SimonSimon February 2012
    Interesting diagram Anthony but do you think it is a bit too complicated? 

    I tend to go by the assumption that all knowledge can only be held provisionally - be it about science or God. Things we view as "true" tend to be backed up by good arguments and things we view as false are backed by bad arguments. Just because something is stated in the bible does not mean it is automatically part of a "good" argument. Likewise science is not always used to make "good" arguments.

    I view (certainly the death and resurrection) of Jesus as true because it's backed up by lots of evidence (good arguments). Likewise I view the origin of man through the process of evolution as true, because this is also backed up by lots of good evidence.

  • AndyR February 2012

    Anthony,whilst accepting the general principles of your argument, that one can shed light on the other, where there is contradiction which is the source of knowledge we trust.

    In the image you show it includes 'observation' & 'experiments', neither of which we can exercise re origins of the cosmos, origins of life, seeing evolution (i.e new information in a living entity, as opposed to adaptation or speciation) actually taking place


    you appear to follow an assumption, which implies that there is no ultimate authority.

    You accept Christ's death and resurrection which is part of the bible. The inference is then that you do not accept other parts of the bible as being true. Surely it is either all true, i.e . factual - tho' we may not fully understand it, or it is not. We can't pick and choose which parts we believe otherwise we finish with a God made up of the parts of scripture we like, not the God shown by all of His word.

    If early Genesis is wrong why did Christ die. Original sin couldn't have happened (as death was present before mankind) so there was no reason for atonement. And presumably you doubt the veracity of Christ when He said in Mark 10 v6 'But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female'

    Ref the 'good evidence' that evolution is true, I would dispute how good it really is. It all depends on one assumption, that it all began billions of years ago and all the evidence given is based on that assumption, and the new theories which keep appearing are to support that argument, even though the new theories are unsupported by definitive/experiential evidence e.g. dark energy. It's only promulgated because science has found that if the origins theory of the cosmos were true then something like 96% of the energy that would have been produced cannot be accounted for.

  • GavinM February 2012
    Dark energy (and dark matter to make up your 96%) has nothing to do with biological evolution. Both are scientific conclusions based on assessments of recent observations of galaxy dynamics across the universe. Big bang theory is separate to this and dark energy is judged on its own merits not as a prop to the big bang - which incidently is supported by many strands of independent evidence that all converge on the same conclusion.

    The early chapters of Genesis are not 'wrong' because they do not match up with a physical account of modern cosmology or evolution. They only appear to be in error when taken out of the original cultural context they were written in and when we overlook the timeless theological message they contain in preference to a very modern obsession with demanding scientific answers from everything. The Bible is true in an ultimate sense, but not all truth needs to be physically factual in the very 21st century sense of a precise set of facts describing an exact set of events that you seem to be implying as a gold standard. The truth of the Bible goes beyond simple factoids and records, speaking in deeper ways and meanings far beyond that.

    For example when the Bible speaks of God creating men and women in His own image I firmly subscribe to that, but I also firmly subscribe to the fact that for me my parents had a lot to do with it as well. If both were taken physically literally there would be an easy contradiction, but we know there isn't. Although it was my parents who birthed me I am equally a child of God in a theological sense. The two 'facts' or observations work together when understood properly and provide a greater reality than they would individually.

    Genesis has a lot to teach us about the nature of sin and humankind but I don't need it to be physically literally true to know that sin is very real and something we need redemption from. I can just look around me today to see that and to see the need for our Saviour.
  • AnthonySmithAnthonySmith February 2012
    Andy - I agree with much of what you say. In particular, I do think that the theistic evolution account does not sit comfortably with mainstream Christian views of Adam and Eve, original sin and the atonement (see recent writings by Peter Enns, for example). But it is a strong belief of mine that there is no conflict between the biblical data (rightly understood) and the data obtained through scientific enquiry (rightly understood). So any conflict is only an apparent conflict, caused by our limited and/or sinful minds.

    But I also think that the classic creationist approaches - which seem to have influenced you - are too simplistic, particularly the supposed strong dichotomy between operations science (which is supposedly more or less objective) and origins science (which is supposedly entirely subjective, impervious to observation and experiment, and based only on your initial assumptions about the history of the universe). In reality it's much more blurry. Of course, some areas of science are more firmly established than others, but it won't do to knock down what seems to be a powerful model with strong explanatory power, simply because it is based on "one assumption" and therefore that all of evolutionary biology can be ditched once that "one assumption" is rejected. Of course it might be wrong, but I don't think there are any short-cuts - the way to demonstrate that is to come up with a creationist model that has more explanatory power than the evolutionary model.
  • SimonSimon February 2012
    Gavin - as always I read your comments with admiration!

    Anthony - I'm guessing we'll never agree on the accuracy of penal substitution!

    Andy - you made a comment that I have heard time and again: 

    We can't pick and choose which parts we believe otherwise we finish with a God made up of the parts of scripture we like, not the God shown by all of His word.

    I can see entirely how this SEEMS like a very faithful and consistent thing to say, however things just do not work this way. EVERYONE approaches the bible wearing glasses that colour their interpretation based upon their upbringing, culture, philosophy etc. etc. As such we cannot talk about "what the bible really says". Instead we can only talk about "our interpretation of the bible". This is quite a humbling realisation because we are both fallen and fallible and thus will make mistakes in our interpretations. Interestingly, unlike Islam & the Koran, Christians do not only use the bible as their authority but also look to revelation (Holy Spirit) and church tradition to formulate our views. Good theology is made from combining all three. Augustine shows us how this works with Genesis:

    "It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation" (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19Ð20 [A.D. 408]).

  • AndyR February 2012

    Thanks for your comments all


    You are right, I am greatly influenced by the classic creationist approach. I also agree that the conflict between scripture and science is is often due to misunderstanding. However I believe in the current debate it is not about misunderstanding, but about the deliiberate misapplication of science to support a specific world view i.e atheism.  (More on this below)


    Thanks for the correction, I should have put 'dark energy/matter'

    I did not suggest it was related to biology, my point was that evolutionary dogma influences all this research as well. It relates to the 'Big Bang' theory as it is used in the ongoing argument to support the random act of spontaneous creation so Man can ignore God. Without evolution we would not need explanations of where things come from, tho' we no doubt be looking to see what else God had created. Our faith in God would allow us to trust him. The proof of dark matter/energy is still unproven in the strict sense, they still remain as hypotheses. To believe in their existence I would need to have faith in those who make the claims as the science is outside my abilities. I would rather have faith in God, believing him rather than fallible men.


    I could almost hear the sigh as you wrote  'heard time and again'

    Maybe you have heard it so often because it is true.

    If we use Tradition and the  Holy Spirit  as our truth sources we need to be careful. Tradition is man based and subject to abuse, Christ rebuked the Pharisees for following tradition.

    Following the Holy Spirit - 2 points a) the Holy Spirit is God therefore cannot contradict what the bible says when he gives us guidance nor lead us to do things contrary to the bible. Look at the excesses of the charismatic movement in the last 40 years which, allegedly, were all  'led by The Spirit'.  And which would you follow if the bible clashed with tradition which clashed with the leading of The Spirit which clashed with the bible.

    Ref Augustine:-

    Augustine cannot remotely be used in support of old-earth beliefs. Even though he
    allegorized the Days of Creation (and lots of other passages—he was no Hebrew
    scholar), he tried to compress the days into an
    instant, which is diametrically opposite to what long-agers claim!

    On CMI website<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    My questions originally were about who/what you trust as the ultimate truth and no one has answered that. As I said, do you believe bits or all of the bible and then, how can you add greater importance to one part over another. No one commented on Mark 10 v 6.

    None theological reason for being a creationist;

    As supporters of evolutionary theory you align yourselves with these sorts of views, and also with the strident atheistic views of people such as Dawkins and Meyer

    Beneath are 2 quotations.

    ‘Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight
    science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly
    and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary.
    Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the
    sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our
    sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.’


    G. Richard Bozarth,
    ‘The Meaning of Evolution’, American Atheist, p. 30. 20 September 1979.

    . Look at the
    following quote from atheist Richard Bozarth from the Sept 1979 issue of American

    ‘It becomes clear now that the whole justification of Jesus’ life and
    death is predicated on the existence of Adam and the forbidden fruit he and Eve
    ate. Without the original sin, who needs to be redeemed? Without Adam’s fall
    into a life of constant sin terminated by death, what purpose is there to
    Christianity? None. What all this means is that Christianity cannot lose the
    Genesis account of creation … Christianity is fighting for it’s very life.’

  • AndyR February 2012
    Apologies, at end of last comment I said 'Meyer', I meant P Z Myers.
  • SimonSimon February 2012
    Hi Andy,

    Sorry for taking a while to get back to you - I have a lot happening at the moment.

    I think that you are guilty of not taking the bible seriously enough. The bible is a collection of texts that have been gathered together through church tradition via leaders who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to recognise these texts as "..useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.." The remarkable thing about the bible is that it has communicated God's truth to people over thousands of both years and cultures. As such the bible is an amazing (traditional & Holy Spirit inspired) resource to discover God's actual truth explained in a myriad of ways using multiple types of literature. I've always thought this is summed up quite well with the phrase "we don't read the bible, the bible reads us".

    Now, one of the most remarkable revolutions of the last hundred years or so is the increasing introspection that was provided by the enlightenment, scientific revolution etc. As a result of this emphasis we live in an age that is (or at least tries to be) more aware of its context than other ages. This is really useful especially to us as Christians because it helps us both recognise and avoid some of the unthinking bigotry that has characterised many Christian generations in the past (I was watching a program about the crusades the other day - truly evil acts performed by people who really did not understand God's word). Part of this awareness of context has informed how we approach the textual analysis of the bible and led to resolutions of problems that have long perplexed sections of the church who have previously taken the biblical text more literally - for instance by understanding the type and context of literature we no longer need to worry about the countless contradictions, errors, inaccuracies etc. Likewise we no longer need to try and fit science to scripture - we now know that the message that the bible is trying to get across is different from the message of science, and that there need be no contradiction between the two.

    Of course there are still many who do not appreciate the bible for what it is and still hark back to medieval interpretations. These people are guilty of not taking the bible seriously enough, studying it hard enough or indeed recognising it for the revelation that it is.


    PS the argument that since atheists use evolution to disprove God therefore evolution is evil is a straw man. Just because a hammer can be used to kill someone does not make it intrinsically evil.

    PPS The discussion about the penal substitutionary view of the atonement (through one man sin entered the world etc.) and especially the last quote of your previous message deserves a new thread. Needless to say I think this "problem" is entirely overstated and represents people taking an analogy far further than it was ever meant to go (after all surely salvation is "one of the greatest mysteries"?).
  • AndyR March 2012
    Thank you for your reply.

    I found your statment that I don't take the bible seriously enough quite bemusing
    For the record, I consider the bible the inspired and inerrant word of God. If someone decides that what they 'know', believe, have evidence of, contradicts the bible, then I assume they are wrong - not the bible.
    I do not know any myths or fables in the bible. i do not know of any fact the bible gives that has been proven wrong. Ido know of people unwilling to believe parts because of their own views which are opposed to that shown in the bible.
    As previously said (and you haven't answered) at what point/how do you decide what is right, what is believable, what is myth and how can you trust any part of the bible if you can pick and choose which parts are true.

    My beliefs are based on the facts I have experienced (which to every sceptic would be classed as subjective) in my salvation and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ.
    My experience of his love and mercy don't allow me to doubt His word.

    The hammer argument I don't accept as it is inanimate. The evolutionary atheist is taking a chosen position and life view.

    Penal and substitutionary atonement is not open for discussion surely. If that isn't what Christ did my salvation is non-existent and his death pointless. Also goes against scripture - 'by one man sin entered, by one man........'
  • SimonSimon March 2012
    Hi again Andy.

    I think the crux of our disagreement is that we are approaching the bible at two very different levels. One of the marvels of the bible is that it is written in such a way that the really important message - that of creation and salvation - is very easy to understand. You only need a very simple interpretation to understand this simple truth. However as soon as you move beyond simple truths to more complex truths you need a correspondingly more complex approach to scripture. As an example the "simple" truth of Genesis is that God created everything. However as soon as you start asking questions about how he created you are moving into more complex territory and thus need a more complex or sophisticated approach to scripture (such as understanding early middle eastern conceptions of the universe in order to know what the "firmament", waters beneath and waters above mean) or understanding a bit about ancient Hebrew literature to see the way the Genesis text was constructed. If you insist on approaching the text from the very simplistic level you will make severe mistakes because you miss what is actually going on - hence my charge that young earth creationists do not take scripture seriously.

    Let me give another example:

    You wrote: As previously said (and you haven't answered) at what point/how do you decide what is right, what is believable, what is myth and how can you trust any part of the bible if you can pick and choose which parts are true.

    Here I think you are missing the point of what I am saying because you are not familiar enough with textual analysis. For instance you seem to be using the word "myth" as if it were synonymous with "fiction" or "falsehood". Although I acknowledge that this is how many people use the word, I am more familiar with its academic usage as being a traditional story that delineates (or explains) truth. I think this is a far more useful definition. In this sense I would say the whole bible is myth in that it's purpose is to explain truth using story's, similes etc. Indeed in this area I have been strongly influenced by Rene Girard and NT Wright who describe the bible as an unfolding story or developing revelation of God. Hence my insistence that the whole bible is actual truth NOT literal truth. There is nothing "picking and choosing" about this position at all.


    PS in our first side track about evolution you are changing terms in mid conversation. As I mentioned before I fully acknowledge that some people use evolution to justify their atheism, however this does not mean that agreeing with evolutionary theory leads to atheism. If this were so almost all of the most influential Christians alive today would have to be atheists. You may not like the situation, however the fact is that most Christian academics and intellectuals are quite happy with holding to evolutionary theory.

    PPS if you think "penal substitution is not open for discussion" I think you need to study theology more closely. Penal substitution is just one of about five ways for understanding how atonement might work.