False History of Creationism Is Full of Beans

by Dr. Jason Lisle on December 22, 2020
Featured in Answers in Depth
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Editor’s note: Dr. Jason Lisle of the Biblical Science Institute recently responded to some remarks made by Phil Vischer, who some may know as the creator of Veggie Tales, in regards to Answers in Genesis CEO and founder Ken Ham as well as young-earth creation in general and its supposed recent history. Dr. Lisle graciously has agreed to allow us to reprint his excellent response here.


Our critic this week is Phil Vischer, who is the creator of Veggie Tales. Phil apparently does not accept the history recorded in Genesis, and seems unaware of the science that confirms creation and the biblical timescale. He recently made some remarks on Twitter that are demonstrably false.

Phil: Interesting response from Ken Ham to our Evangelical History. It’s a little odd that a man who has spent his life persuading Christians to reject mainstream science is complaining that I said he rejects mainstream science.

Lisle: I have known Ken Ham for many years and have never heard him say or seen him write anything that is contrary to any fact that has been established by the scientific method. So, I challenge Phil to produce some evidence to back up his accusation. Namely, can Phil produce one scientific fact (something that is testable, observable, and repeatable in the present, and hence follows the scientific method) that Ken Ham denies or persuades others to deny?

Could it be that Phil has been fooled by the secular rhetoric into believing that evolution and/or deep time are somehow “scientific” ideas?

Could it be that Phil has been fooled by the secular rhetoric into believing that evolution and/or deep time are somehow “scientific” ideas? If so, then maybe he should spend a little more time learning from Ken Ham and AiG’s team of Ph.D. scientists about the differences between operational science and stories about the past.

Phil: My response to him was to point out the video was about the differences between Fundamentalism and Neo-Evangelicalism, and that his particular strain of scientific theory (YEC) was never adopted by Neo-Ev leaders or institutions. It is a truly Fundamentalist development.
The concept of a “young earth” (thousands, not billions of years old) has been held by believers for millennia.

Lisle: The biblical timescale is certainly not a Fundamentalist development, as anyone who has studied history knows. The concept of a “young earth” (thousands, not billions of years old) has been held by believers for millennia. For example, the fact that God created the universe in six days and rested one day (and that this is reflected in our 7-day week) was written by God’s own finger in stone at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 9:10), and this happened around 1500 B.C. Throughout church history the biblical timescale was embraced by the overwhelming majority of Christians.

What Phil means by “Neo-Evangelical leaders or institutions” not accepting a “particular strain of scientific theory” isn’t entirely clear to me. If we take the word “evangelical” in its classical sense of having a heavy emphasis on evangelism and the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ, then many evangelical leaders and institutions do indeed embrace the scientific evidence that confirms the literal history of Genesis. The scientific evidence for biblical creation and a global flood is absolutely overwhelming, such that there is no excuse for Christians to deny these Scriptural truths.

Phil: What’s even more interesting is that of the 90 essays defining Fundamentalist belief in the 1910s, zero of them proposed a young earth.

Lisle: That is false. “The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth” is a collection of 90 essays written between 1910 and 1915, and is by multiple authors with multiple views. Some of them (such as James Orr) argued against the literal history of Genesis and openly embraced deep time and/or theistic evolution. This is hardly surprising since deep time and evolution were very fashionable in academia at the time (as they are today).

Nonetheless, the majority of authors who addressed the issue affirmed and argued that Genesis is literal history and denied evolution, in contradiction to Orr’s view. A literal historical Genesis necessarily entails a young earth. However, the concept of deep time had become so entrenched in the church by 1910, that most scholars accepted it. Hence, many of those who defended a historical Genesis inconsistently also held to deep time, apparently unaware of the contradiction or the theological problem of death before sin. Most of the authors of The Fundamentals did not comment on the age of the earth; however, they argued strongly for the historicity of Genesis.

For example, in the first chapter of volume three, Dr. James M. Gray, who was Dean of Moody Bible Institute at the time, argued that “The inspiration of scripture includes the whole and every part of it.”1 That necessarily includes the history of Genesis. He states, “Furthermore, are not the historical books in some respects the most important in the Bible? Are they not the bases of its doctrine? Does not the doctrine of sin need for its starting point the record of the fall? Thus without going further, we may say, with Dr. DeWitt of Princeton, that it is impossible to secure the religious infallibility of the Bible—which is all the objector regards as necessary—if we exclude Bible history from the sphere of its inspiration. But if we include Bible history at all, we must include the whole of it, for who is competent to separate its parts?”2

William Caven agrees, “When Christ makes reference to Old Testament narratives and records, He accepts them as authentic, as historically true. He does not give or suggest in any case a mythical or allegorical interpretation. The accounts of the creation, of the flood, of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as many incidents and events of later occurrence, are taken as authentic.”3

Phillip Mauro states, “It is useless to pretend that Darwin’s theory might be true, and the Bible nevertheless entitled to respect. The Lord Jesus said to a learned man of His day, ‘If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?’ (John 3:12). If the Bible does not give us a truthful account of the events of the six days recorded in its first chapter, it is not to be trusted as to any of its statements.” [emphasis added]4

But surely none of these authors will explicitly confirm the biblical timescale of thousands of years, will they? Dr. George Bishop states, “’We open the first pages of the Bible,’ says Vallotton, ‘and we find there the recital of the creation of the world by the Word of God—of the fall of man, of his exile far from God, far from Paradise, and far from the tree of life. We open the last pages of the last of the 66 books dating 4,000 years later.’” [emphasis added].5 Yes, Bishop, (quoting Vallotton) refers to the timespan between Creation and the New Testament books (written ~2000 years ago in the first century A.D.) as 4000 years.

The reasons for rejecting the historicity of Genesis, or interpreting its days as symbolic, are due to outside influences and not a proper exegetical reading of the text. This is explained by Professor J.J. Reave, who states,

They give more credence to the guesses of some so-called scholar, a clay tablet, a heathen king’s boast, or a rude drawing in stone, than to the Scripture record. They feel instinctively that to accept the Bible statements would be the ruin of their hypothesis, and what they call their hard-won historical method. In this their instinct is true. The Bible and their hypothesis are irreconcilable. As their theory must not be interfered with, since it is identical with the truth itself, the Bible must stand aside in the interests of truth. For this reason they deny all historicity to Genesis 1-11, the stories of Creation, the Fall, the Flood, etc. No theory of naturalistic evolution can possibly admit the truth of these chapters.[emphasis added]6,7

More importantly, can the text of Scripture accommodate Darwinian evolution and/or deep time? The answer of course is no. None of the biblical authors treated the timescale of creation as anything other than six (literal) days, each comprised of one evening and one morning. This was unquestionably the dominant position of the church throughout its history.

Phil: RA Torrey, the editor of “The Fundamentals,” was a “day-age” proponent. (Each day in Gen 1 represented a long period of history.)

Lisle: James Orr, one of the contributors of The Fundamentals also held the day-age view. But his motivation for holding such a position is pure eisegesis—attempting to read the Bible in such a way as to accommodate elements of the secular origins story. Orr states, “But things, as in the case of astronomy, are now better understood, and few are disquieted in reading their Bibles because it is made certain that the world is immensely older than the 6,000 years which the older chronology gave it.”8 Notice that he refers to a 6000-year-old universe as the “older chronology.” This confirms that it is not some modern development. It was the standard position of believers for millennia.

More significantly, the day-age view has been thoroughly refuted, and we have other articles elaborating on this in detail. Briefly, the Hebrew word translated “day” in Genesis 1 is yom. Its literal meaning is “day.” In poetic sections of Scripture (which Genesis is not), the word can be used in a figurative sense when used as part of a phrase like “the day of the Lord.” But the context of Genesis 1 disallows such a use because it is historical narrative and the days are defined in terms of earth rotations, each bounded by one evening and one morning, and following a sequence, “second day, third day,” etc. To force the non-literal use of yom into this literal text is an error in hermeneutics called the unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field. Moreover, God explicitly tells us that the reason for our seven-day week is because God worked in six days and rested for one day (Exodus 20:8–11). This text uses the same words for “days” in our week as in the creation week, and in the plural form (yamim) which never refers to anything other than ordinary days.

There is a reason why every major English Bible translation translates each day of creation as day: that is what the word means!

There is a reason why every major English Bible translation translates each day of creation as day: that is what the word means! It has no other meaning in that context. If God had meant to say that He created in six ages, He would have said that. There are Hebrew words (e.g. olam, dor, ‘et) that would express that. But God used the word for day because that’s what He meant. The Lord does know how to use language.

Phil: YEC, as taught by Ham and others, was born out of interpretations of a “vision” one of the founders of Seventh Day Adventists claimed to have had, which was turned into a book called “A New Geology” by one of her followers in the 1920s.

Lisle: False. We’ve all heard the myth that Ellen G. White started a belief in a young earth, but anyone who has studied history knows that such an idea is absurd. That the Lord created heaven, earth, the sea and everything within them in six days was taught by Yahweh Himself, and was written by His own finger in stone (Exodus 20:11). The biblical timescale is affirmed by Jesus Christ in passages like Mark 10:6 where Christ states that God created human beings (male and female) from the beginning of creation, not billions of years later. Indeed, Adam and Eve were present on the first week of the universe.

Paul affirms in Romans 1:20 that people have seen evidence of God since creation, which would be impossible if human beings were not around for the first 13.8 billion years of time. Even Augustine (A.D. 354 – 430) stated, “Unbelievers are also deceived by false documents which ascribe to history many thousand years, although we can calculate from Sacred Scripture that not 6,000 years have passed since the creation of man.”9,10 Clearly, “young earth” is not a new idea.

Phil: That book inspired the book “The Genesis Flood” in the 1960s, which birthed the modern YEC movement. Ken Ham read “The Genesis Flood” back in Australia as a youth, and has been spreading it ever since.

Lisle: Unfortunately, Phil doesn’t know history. He refers to a book by George McCready Price that was published in 1923 entitled The New Geology. But there were “Scriptural geologists” going back a century earlier who believed in a young earth and rightly understood geology in light of the global flood, as documented in Dr. Terry Mortenson’s book The Great Turning Point, which is based on Mortenson’s doctoral dissertation. In reality, the Morris and Whitcomb book The Genesis Flood was based largely on Dr. Whitcomb’s doctoral dissertation, which hermeneutically demonstrated the literal nature of Genesis, including creation and the flood. The evidence and arguments found within The Genesis Flood are based on science and Scripture. The book is a masterpiece of Christian scholarship, and it’s a shame that Phil denigrates it rather than reading it.

Phil: It’s a surprisingly young movement.

Lisle: So, we have seen that Phil’s claim here is false. The understanding that the universe is thousands (not billions) of years of old has always been the majority position of the church until the mid-1700s, and is affirmed by Scripture itself, (e.g. Mark 10:9, Exodus 20:11).11 There is no hint in Scripture of deep time, nor any indication in the Scriptures that believers of the time ever held to any other view than a literal Genesis in which God created in six literal days as the basis for our work week.

Phil: Though there are old claims of a young earth (Bishop Usher, 17th century), the specifics of an alternate science called YEC is a recent, distinctly American phenomenon.

Lisle: Demonstrably false. First of all, biblical creationists (those of us who understand that Genesis is literal history and accept its timescale) largely embrace all of operational science—not “alternate science.” My Ph.D. is not in “alternate astrophysics.” It is in astrophysics. I do physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc. the same way as my secular colleagues. There is no “alternate science” here. The difference is in our view of history. I embrace the recorded history of the Bible, whereas secularists largely reject that history and substitute their own speculations about the past. Hence, we will disagree on how and when a fossil formed (its history), but we all agree on the fossil’s composition, mass, volume, density, etc.—its scientifically observable properties.

With regard to the specific scientific details that confirm recent creation (such as C-14 in fossils, which demonstrates that they cannot be millions of years old), many of these discoveries are indeed recent. But that is true of the vast majority of discoveries in science! No one was doing quantum mechanics or the physics of relativity two hundred years ago. No one knew about black holes, quasars, or pulsars a hundred years ago. These are recent discoveries. Is that a basis for rejecting them? Does it make them “alternate science?” Clearly not. Phil’s reasoning here makes absolutely no sense.

Phil: (Someday this will be the topic of another video that will make some people mad.)

Lisle: Actually, if Phil continues to promote false claims, I will be very happy to expose them. People can learn a lot by seeing the refutation of a critic’s errors. And it bolsters our confidence in God’s Word.

Phil: All Christians are Creationists, so in that sense Creationism is absolutely global.
Many Christians reject creation in favor of theistic evolution. This of course undermines the Gospel, because the Gospel is predicated on the fact that death is the penalty for man’s sin.

Lisle: I wish that were so. By the standard definition of creation (that God created the original organisms supernaturally, and that they reproduce after their kind), many Christians reject creation in favor of theistic evolution. This of course undermines the Gospel, because the Gospel is predicated on the fact that death is the penalty for man’s sin. However, in an evolutionist or old-earth view, death has always existed as a natural part of the world. In such a case, it is not an enemy that entered the world when Adam sinned. It could not be the result or penalty for sin if it already existed. In such a case, Christ’s death on the cross would be meaningless.

Phil: The specific batch of beliefs that make up YEC are by far most widely accepted in North America, plus other countries affected by American Christian media.

Lisle: That may be true, but if so then it’s also true of Christianity. The United States has been blessed with a Christian heritage. Christians are a small minority in most other nations. Is that a basis for rejecting Christianity? If not, then neither is it a basis for rejecting the literal history of Genesis.

I hope that these comments have been helpful. I realize how easy it is to become intimidated by secular scientists, and that there is temptation to read Scripture through the lens of secularist views on origins. But this is not honoring to the Lord. Let us encourage one another to have a higher view of Scripture, and to fear God rather than man. God really does understand how and when He created the universe. And we can trust His Word.

Footnotes

  1. Gray, J, The Fundamentals, Vol. 3, Chapter 1, p. 12
  2. Ibid, p. 12-13
  3. Caven, W., The Fundamentals, Vol. 4, Chapter 11, p. 50.
  4. Mauro, P., The Fundamentals, Vol 5, Chapter 1, p. 27.
  5. Bishop, G., The Fundamentals, Vol. 7, Chapter 3, p. 42.
  6. Reave, J.J., The Fundamentals, Vol. 3, Chapter 6, p. 105.
  7. Reave also states, “Falsehood will not do God’s will; only truth can do that. Is there nothing in the story of creation, of the fall, the flood, the call and promise to Abraham, the life of Jacob and Joseph and the great work of Moses? If all these things are not true to fact or to life, then God has been an arch-deceiver and acts on the Jesuit maxim, ‘The end justifies the means,’” p. 115–116.
  8. Orr, J, The Fundamentals, Vol. 4, Chapter 4, p. 100.
  9. Augustine. The City of God, translated by G. G. Walsh and G. Monahan (1952), Book 12, Chapter 11, p. 263. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press.
  10. Now will it do to assume that Augustine believed in millions/billions of years before man. He didn’t. He actually believed that all the days of creation actually happened in one day. But despite that error, he unquestionably believed in a young earth and universe.
  11. The shift away from biblical thinking in geology largely begins with James Hutton (1726-1797) who argued (contrary to his contemporaries) that the rock layers had not been the result of recent creation and a global flood, but rather formed by gradual deposition over vast ages.

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