Thursday, April 13, 2006

Catching up again: Clarence Menninga and Apparent Age

I am digging into the past almost twenty years for an article on the creationist doctrine of "apparent age" because it seems that no progress has been made since then. There are still creationists that subscribe to this position.

In 1988 Clarence Menninga (Calvin College, again!) wrote a piece called Creation, Time and "Apparent Age" in which he assesses this viewpoint. He lays it out thusly:

In the face of mounting evidence that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old, some Christians have tried to preserve the traditional notion of a recent creation of the universe by appealing to Scripture, with a highly literalistic understanding of the early chapters of Genesis, and a view of the genealogies found in the Bible as being fairly strictly continuous. Meanwhile, the conclusion that the universe is very old has become more and more firmly established on the basis of consistent and persuasive evidence from the study of our world carried on in several diverse fields of science. In an effort to preserve an interpretation of the Bible as telling us that the universe really is young and still recognize the existence of the scientific evidence of the age of the universe. some Christians have suggested what has become known as the "apparent age" view. That view holds that the universe was created recently with a built-in appearance of age, and so it looks old by whatever means of age measurement we apply to it, but in reality it is young.

Menninga lists several "objections" to the argument of apparent age. Probably the most important one, though, is the loss of confidence in God's covenant with His children. Others have complained that the argument from appearance of age puts God in the position of deceiver, a view i have sympathy with. Hugh Ross, in his book Fingerprint of God, points out that if the universe really is young but looks old, then it raises other problems. If the stars are recently created, the record of the light traveled from them to us is fabricated as well--God didn't just magically make the stars appear, but made it look as though the light took x-light years to reach us. This is deception of the highest order.

Alan Hayward takes a different tack. In Creation and Evolution, he suggests that, if the universe really does present the appearance of age, then what are we to make of all of this "evidence" that the recent earth creationists find? Does this evidence actually reflect places where God forgot to age things? God is then reduced from the omnipotent God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the bumbling, incompetent god of Time Bandits. You can hear Randall saying:

You see, to be quite frank, Kevin, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It was a bit of a botched job, you see. We only had seven days to make it.

Sort of takes the air out of things, doesn't it? Read the whole article.

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