Ken Ham, our president and founder, recently wrote a blog post regarding an article that appeared in the Assembly of God’s Enrichment Journal concerning the age of the earth. A reader commented on the post on Ken Ham’s Facebook page, and while the reader stated that he shares our view of Genesis, his comments present a good opportunity to clarify our views once again, since they are so often misunderstood or misrepresented.

[Note: the reader’s lengthy response was shortened and certain repetitive ideas were removed as was his statement of agreement with our views; cut sections are represented by ellipses.]

Truth is objective so there maybe only one correct view of many issues…The fact there are different views on Genesis does not mean the OEC are compromisers. I think there are serious Biblical issues but the question is one of [hermeneutics], NOT inerrancy. …

Why can’t YEC get this? OEC does not equal evolution! It is intellectually dishonest and a STRAW-MAN to say otherwise. …

To elevate this issue to the level of something like the doctrine of the Trinity is dangerous. …

[Ken wrote:] “I submit that this journal would probably never take the same approach with the Resurrection or Virgin Birth.”

The analogy fails. OEC does not argue against a “real” creation and whether God is creator. Just as some say Jesus died on Wednesday and not Friday should not be charged with believing Jesus never really existed and never really died and never really rose again on the third day and that they are just compromisers.

Hello and thank you for sharing your concerns about this article with us. Your comments provide us with a good opportunity to restate and clarify our views toward Christians who believe the earth is billions of years old.

Truth is objective so there maybe only one correct view of many issues. …

Truth is definitely objective, despite what self-contradicting postmodernists and “emergent church” leaders1 would have us believe. In their attempts to tell us that all truth is relative, they make an absolute truth claim, thus contradicting their own statement that all truth is relative.

Yes, there is only one correct view of the issues—the view that God has about any given issue. If He has revealed in His Word the correct view of a certain subject, then that is the correct view and anything contrary to it is false. Sometimes the biblical view of a topic is quite complex and a full understanding may lie beyond our grasp, but in most cases, the proper interpretation of a passage is not too difficult to discern, particularly those passages written in historical narrative like Genesis. Our goal when interpreting the text is to apprehend God’s intended meaning as He moved the human authors to write His Word.

The fact there are different views on Genesis does not mean the OEC are compromisers. I think there are serious Biblical issues but the question is one of [hermeneutics], NOT inerrancy. …

Calling someone a compromiser is not an issue we take lightly. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary states that compromise is “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things.” So if old-earth creationism (OEC) is a result of “blending qualities of two different things” then a person who holds to OEC is technically a compromiser. However, since this term often carries a pejorative sense, we should try to establish whether the person compromised unintentionally because he had not studied carefully the relevant biblical texts or the relevant scientific arguments against millions of years, or if he intentionally sought to find an intermediate idea because he was unwilling to take God at His Word.

If OEC offers a legitimate interpretation of the biblical texts concerning the age of the earth, then we would certainly be wrong in calling its adherents compromisers. However, if OEC was derived from a blending of the Bible with secular ideas, then those who hold to it are compromisers in this area. Please understand what this means—we are not saying that these people are compromised with all kinds of error or that they aren’t Christians. But we do believe the teaching of billions of years undermines the authority of Scripture and indirectly undermines the gospel because it directly contradicts the plain teaching of God’s Word.

Does the Bible teach a young earth or old earth, or is it ambiguous on this subject? Rather than “reinventing the wheel,” I would urge you to check out the first chapter of my book, Old-Earth Creationism on Trial, in which we summarize some of the many reasons why we believe Scripture is very clear about the age of the earth.

It is quite telling that these Christians did not “discover” old-earth teachings before the idea of millions of years became popular among many scientists in the early nineteenth century.2 Also, some old-earth proponents come right out and say that the old-earth ideas are not found in Genesis. For example, Pattle Pun of Wheaton College stated the following:

It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of Genesis, without regard to the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created the heavens and the earth in six solar days, that man was created on the sixth day, and that death and chaos entered the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and that all fossils were the result of the catastrophic deluge that spared only Noah’s family and the animals therewith. (emphasis added)3

Some newer views on Genesis have even stated that the text does not deal with the age of the earth at all. The leading promoter of the framework hypothesis stated that his goal was to “rebut the literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation week,” which would result in scientists being “left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins.”4 Why would Christians desire for someone to be “free of biblical constraints” when it comes to any issue?

Many other prominent Christian leaders have clearly revealed that the reason they do not accept the young-earth view is not because of what the Bible says but because they have “bowed the knee” to what the majority of scientists say.5

While this debate over an old earth or young earth certainly deals with hermeneutics, it is actually more foundational than that—it is a matter of authority. Dr. Pun’s statement above shows that the plain (straightforward) understanding of Genesis is the young-earth position. Yet because he allows “science” to override this clear teaching, Pun regards man’s regularly changing opinions about the past above the clear words of Scripture. All the old-earther has to do is provide clear examples in Scripture that can properly be interpreted to teach OEC, and that interpretation must not contradict other portions of Scripture. If they can achieve that, then we would agree that they derived their view from the Bible rather than using man’s fallible opinions of the past to reinterpret the straightforward reading of Scripture.

Why can’t YEC get this? OEC does not equal evolution! It is intellectually dishonest and a STRAW-MAN to say otherwise.

OEC does not necessarily equal biological evolution—but its proponents do accept what we call astronomical and geological “evolution.” So it really depends which evolution you are referring to—biological, geological, or astronomical. In the Introduction of Old-Earth Creationism on Trial, we included a section called “It’s Not about Darwin” explaining that the primary battle within the church on this subject is not about biological evolution.

I think you read too much into Ken’s statement from his blog post. He wrote, “And we must as God’s people stand against the compromise of reinterpreting Genesis to fit in evolution and millions of years, which undermines biblical authority.” We must take a stand against both biological evolution and millions of years (e.g., geological and astronomical evolution). Later in the same post, Ken showed a distinction between biological evolution and millions of years when he wrote, “We have written many articles about the consequences of fitting the belief of millions of years into the Bible.” In fact, his newly-released twenty-fifth anniversary edition of The Lie is subtitled Evolution/Millions of Years. The slash was deliberately chosen to represent the words “and” and “or” showing that a dangerous compromise is being made either with evolution and millions of years, or with just one of these false teachings.

I wonder if you read the article from the Enrichment Journal that Ken’s post was about. In that article Amos Yong wrote, “Within this camp [OEC], many believe only in microevolution (within species), but a few also accept macroevolution (across species).” So the article proposed that a form of theistic evolution is one of many allowable old-earth positions within the Assemblies of God denomination.

To elevate this issue to the level of something like the doctrine of the Trinity is dangerous. …

We don’t elevate the age of the earth issue to the same level as the Trinity; however, we do believe biblical authority is extremely important. After all, how do you know many of the truths about the triune Creator? Yes, the Bible teaches us that general revelation from the creation around us shows unmistakably that God exists and has certain attributes (e.g., Romans 1:18–20). But Scripture is where God reveals Himself more clearly and explains the message of salvation from sin made possible by Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Since evolution and millions of years are attacks on the authority of God’s Word, these ideas ultimately attack the gospel message by reducing to the level of mythology many of the chapters that explain why we need the gospel.

[Ken wrote] “I submit that this journal would probably never take the same approach with the Resurrection or Virgin Birth.”

The analogy fails. OEC does not argue against a “real” creation and whether God is creator. Just as some say Jesus died on Wednesday and not Friday should not be charged with believing Jesus never really existed and never really died and never really rose again on the third day and that they are just compromisers.

Actually, the analogy fits rather well. The point is that the Resurrection, Virgin Birth, and six-day creation are all miraculous events clearly taught in a straightforward manner in narrative portions of Scripture. The same secular scientists who developed and promoted the idea of millions of years of earth history also rejected the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. So many Christians reinterpret the plain words of the creation account to accommodate the secular idea of billions of years, but if they were consistent in their hermeneutic, then they also would reinterpret the Virgin Birth and Resurrection in some non-literal way because most scientists do not believe these two events really happened in history as Scripture describes. Praise God that these OEC Christians aren’t consistent in these areas.

Ken didn’t say the old-earthers do not believe in creation. Of course, OEC teaches a “real” creation, but their teaching violates sound hermeneutical principles (thereby misinterpreting Genesis) because they are allowing outside influences to override God’s Word. Adopting their position forces numerous contradictions into the text and undermines several biblical doctrines, including the doctrine of God and the doctrine of death.6

The debate over whether Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday does not depend on ideas from outside of Scripture, but on the proper way to understand some of the numerous statements about the timing of the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the Gospels. We have written an article explaining why we take a stand on some issues and not others. Now, if the debate was about Jesus being in the grave for “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40) or for three million years, then your analogy would fit quite well. After all, it would still be a “real” resurrection, but it would obviously contradict the words of Christ and numerous other biblical passages.

We agree with your sentiment that we don’t want to resort to misleading arguments, and we do not want to mistreat fellow believers in Christ. At the same time, we must be willing to take a firm yet loving stand on Scripture when it is assaulted, whether these attacks are launched from outside or inside the church (even by sincere Christians with no intentions of undermining Scripture).

Here is the bottom line. Christians have different views of eschatology, baptism, and spiritual gifts. But by and large, they are arguing from Scripture to support their particular positions. But the ultimate reason for most Christians who adopt an old-earth position is that they start with ideas outside of Scripture—they regard “the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science”—and try to accommodate them to the clear teaching of the Bible. In those cases, it is proper to call this compromise.

Sincerely,
Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.

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Footnotes

  1. The “emergent church” is a movement consisting of self-professed Christians whose thinking has been greatly influenced by postmodernism. Generally speaking, their preaching and writing is feelings based and intentionally vague since they largely reject concepts like absolute truth. The most recognizable emergent, Brian McLaren, wrote A Generous Orthodoxy, a book with a subtitle that perfectly illustrates the intentional vagueness of this movement: Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/comtemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN. While there can certainly be some shared beliefs among some of those who identify themselves by these respective labels, a person cannot be both Protestant and Catholic at the same time, nor can he be both liberal and conservative. This title demonstrates the typical disregard for logic and absolute truth endorsed by so many “emergents.” For more details on this movement, see Albert Mohler, “What Should We Think of the Emerging Church?” and John MacArthur, “What’s So Dangerous About the Emerging Church?Back
  2. Some old-earth creationists have argued that Augustine of Hippo was an old-earth creationist long before the nineteenth century. Those who make this claim are mistaken and fail to understand Augustine’s treatment of Genesis. I published a paper in the Answers Research Journal in 2011 in which I examined Augustine’s various commentaries and writings on Genesis 1. When one studies these writings, it is clear that Augustine should not be used to support the idea of an old earth, and it is just as clear that his interpretations were strongly influenced by some of the erroneous thinking of his day and by a faulty Latin translation of the Bible. For more information, see Tim Chaffey, “An Examination of Augustine’s Commentaries on Genesis One and Their Implications on a Modern Theological Controversy.” Back
  3. P.P.T. Pun, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 39:14, 1987. Back
  4. Meredith Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48:2 (Ipswich, MA: American Scientific Affiliation, 1996). Back
  5. Terry Mortenson, “Why Don’t Many Christian Leaders and Scholars Believe Genesis?Back
  6. See The “god” of an Old Earth, Two Histories of Death, and The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil. Back