Thursday, August 26, 2010

Albert Mohler on the Age of the Earth

A bit back, Albert Mohler posted a talk on the BioLogos site titled Why Does the Universe Look So Old? In it, he writes:
Well, we have limited options. Number one: Maybe the universe looks so old because it is so old. Option number two: Maybe the universe looks very old, but it is not actually so old as it looks. There could be perhaps a third option or any number of derivatives in which you simply say, “We can’t answer the question.” Or there would be some who would say, “The question isn’t important.” Now I’m going to suggest to you this morning that the question is extremely important and that it is one for which we must be ready to give an answer.
I can think of a large number of Christians who would disagree with this answer. There are many "day-agers" out there for which this is not an issue. In fact, this is only is a problem with the modern evangelical movement. He continues:
Coming at the midpoint of the 19th century, we need to be reminded that Darwin was not the first evolutionist. We need to be reminded that Darwin did not embark upon the Beagle having no preconceptions of what exactly he was looking for or having no theory of how life emerged in all of its diversity, fecundity, and specialization. Darwin left on his expedition to prove the theory of evolution.
Mohler presents no evidence to back this up. In fact, Darwin was aware of the evolutionary suppositions of both John Ray and Jean Baptiste Lamarck but was still committed to fixity of species when he went on board the Beagle. He wasn't committed to anything other than observation of the natural world. Mohler is wrong here. Continuing:
The inference and consensus of the church, through all of these centuries, that the earth and the universe, the cosmos as a whole, is very young, talking about a limitation of only several thousand years by the time you take the book of Genesis and especially its first eleven chapters, and you look at the creation account and you look at the genealogy and you add it all together you’re looking at no more than several thousand years. We’re talking about a disagreement that is not slight. The difference between several thousand years and 13.5 billion years is no small matter and I would argue it comes with huge theological consequences.
Not mentioned here is also that the church had the consensus that the earth was flat, and in the center of the universe, two positions that we now know to be completely false. By removing the age of the earth question from this context, he makes the early church writers out to be more educated than they, in fact, were.Even secular science had little understanding of the physical world until the last three hundred years. That tells us more about the state of science than the state of theology.

The crux of the article is that the current debate in science is being defined by intellectual "elites," both scientific and theological who have lost sight of what is actually in the Bible. He writes:
As we work backwards in terms of evangelical options, the idea that Genesis is merely literary has to be rejected out of hand as in direct contradiction to our understanding of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God. That option, for any credible and faithful evangelical Christian, must be taken off the table.
Here, he is using inerrant sensu stricto, meaning that it must be read word for word to be understood and that if we do not do that, we have ventured into apostasy. This is a very flat, monochromatic view of scripture. It allows for nothing of the beauty and poetry of the language or how it is similar to the narratives around the Near East and how it differed from them. It also, in my mind, critically and fatally fails to account for the considerable differences between the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. In the first account, the plants and animals are created before humans. In the second, humans are created first, then plants and animals. How are we to account for these differences, if we read the text literally?

Moher believes that if we accept modern science, when we look at the universe we don't see what is really there. We see what we want to (I am reminded of the dwarves in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle). It never occurs to Dr. Mohler that he might also be seeing what he wants to see in the scriptures.

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  1. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Exodus 20:11 (King James Version)

    "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
    um . . . i think i see God created in billions and billions of years?

  2. God met the Israelites where they were. There was no evidence known that the earth was older than that or that creation had not been done that way. Therefore, there was no reason to think otherwise. As Robert Schadewald wrote, there are over 70 references to the earth being flat in the Bible. Do you believe that the earth is flat?