Me and 4004 BC

 

I had more hair when I first arrived at the university and became involved in apologetics.

 

Several of my critics insist that I’m a young-earth creationist.

 

Tonight, in just a few hours, I’m going to emerge from the closet on that issue.

 

 

  • ClintonKing

    Who has a problem with young-earth creationists? I’d like to think of myself as one.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Within the LDS Church, there is nothing in Church doctrine that requires anyone to be, or not be, a “Young Earth Creationist”, to the extent that it means a belief that the earth was created in either six 24 hour days or six separate thousand year “days”. On the other hand, the YEC that is taught by many Evangelical pastors includes the assertion that the earth and the entire universe were created by God, at the same time, out of nothinig, “ex nihilo”, and that God the Creator exists outside of time and space as we know them.
    That belief is distinctly different from what Joseph Smith taught, including (a) the creation of this earth was only one among innumerable inhabited worlds that were created before and are still being created within the universe, (b) the description of creation in Genesis Chapter One concerns just our earth and its immediate environs, and not the entire universe, (c) the creation started with disorganized, already existing matter that was in chaos (a point made by Hebrew scholars), (d) God was assisted in the creation by the pre-mortal Jehovah, Jesus Christ, as well as Adam and other spiritual children of God who were later born into mortal bodies on the earth, and (e) the destiny of the earth is to be transformed into a Celestial sphere like the place where God dwells, where physically resurrected children of God will dwell eternally. These are NOT things that an Evangelical YEC supporter would agree with. A Mormon version of YEC in particular has to assert that, whatever the time period described in Genesis One, it was preceded by a significant period of time in which other worlds were created and inhabited, and the spirits of the future inhabitants of this earth were prepared for that experience.
    The question I come to when I consider these points is, why is developing the earth within a short period of time (6 days or 6,000 years) so important, since, after all, God is eternal and has no reason to be in a hurry? The creation of the earth is marvelous and an impressive testament to God’s power and intelligence, no matter how long it took. There is nothing in the Ten Commandments or the rest of the Old Testament, nor in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, that requires that the Creation be crammed into a short time period. Indeed, the insistence of most Evangelicals that God is outside of time (as described in the Nicene Creed) makes the question even more insistent. Why does an eternal, timeless God need to build the stage for the story of mankind and salvation in such a short time period? It makes him sound impetuous and impatient.
    There is some documentation that Joseph Smith once was heard by several members of the church to say that our earth was made up of several “globes” or “worlds” brought together. Joseph Fielding Smith speculated that some of the fossilized creatures we find could have lived on another world, and used as raw material for the construction of our own world. But that means rejecting the entire timetable of the ex nihilo creation at the outset, meaning that it has limited significance, so why bother trying to keep the rest of that hypothesis, which is so inconsistent with all of the science we know in so many fields of study?
    A few years ago, as astronomers were theorizing about how the planets in the solar system came together to form the planets, they used computer simulations to come to the conclusion that, prior to the existing limited number of large planets, the sun was orbited by a hundred or so small planets, which gradually collided and melded together into the planets we know today. They estimated that as many as ten smaller planets collided to form the earth. In fact, the last major collision involved a Mars-size planet that struck Earth 1.0 about 4.5 billion years ago, at a particular angle and speed such that lighter crustal material was spun off into orbit and coalesced into our unusually large moon. The moon has had a major role in making the surface of the earth hospitable to life.
    All of this cutting edge science sounds like a direct confirmation of the words of Joseph Smith 150 years ago, as if he were describing one of the CGI animations on the Science Channel.
    The broad outline of the creation of the earth in Genesis One remarkably reads like chapter headings for a modern science book about how the earth and its life came into being. Unlike the myths of so many pagan cultures, which personified natural forces, Genesis One describes the earth as an artifact of a vastly intelligent and powerful being, in which lawful processes were employed. I don’t see any conflict with the story of the development of the earth that modern science tells, especially at the level of detail given in Genesis.
    The age and size of the universe and of earth are determined through observations and our understanding of the speed of light and phenomena like radioactive decay, which we have used to create both nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. There is no reason to think that God cannot work on such vast scales of time and space.
    Darwinian evolution is a theory that assumes that living things can modify themselves through random processes of change. While that theory may be perfectly valid as a “could have been”, it cannot rule out direct intervention by an intelligent designer. After all, mankind is now reaching a point where we are starting to be able to manipulate genetic material and produce new organisms. Evolution does not prevent us from doing that, and it would not prevent God from doing it at any time over the course of the last 4 billion years. Besides, evolution offers no explanation for the creation of the first living cell out of previously non-living matter. Evolution depends on the existence of DNA that can be modified, but does not even apply when there is no DNA already. Evolution does not address the creation of life as such, and does not preclude occasional directed intervention (of the kind scientists are starting to perform). We do not have to insist that Darwinian evolution never happens (as Evangelical YEC advocates do).
    The modern understanding of cosmology and the history of the universe demonstrates that there are about a dozen numbers that control matter and energy. We have also figured out that, if any of these numbers were slightly larger or smaller, by as little as 10% to 1%, life could not exist. Yet there is nothing in physics that dictates these numbers should have the values they do. Somehow the dials have been set at the optimum values for life to develop and be sustained. Any reasonable person would be suspicious. How did we get to be so lucky? Our natural suspicion is that someone who likes us intervened in the process. Materialists really have no explanation for this, and they hate to admit that it looks like what an intelligent creator would do.
    In other words, the best evidence that our earth and our universe were created so that we could be here, comes from the cutting edge science of our day. Indeed, much of this has come to light only in the last two or three decades. The notion that Genesis One must be read simplistically prevents us from understanding and using the most powerful evidence for divine creation. That is why I do not accept YEC, because it rejects the gifts of understanding that God has given to us that affirm His teaching that He made us and our world.

    • ClintonKing

      That’s a really good exposition. Thanks for sharing.

    • wheelercreek

      very good explanation – but yes, still lots of doctrinal questions around the creation of man of course (and how to match that with the fossil & DNA record). Some day it will all be revealed.

    • Michael Hoggan

      Very well said.

      I would also like to point out, as others have before me, that the Book of Abraham mentions “waiting periods” in the creation.

      I didn’t know about smaller planets coming together to form the earth. I had just heard about comet and asteroid impacts. That’s very interesting.

  • http://nathanrichardson.com/ Nathan

    Of course, we should note that in Dan’s post, he brings up two related but distinct matters: How old the earth is (“young-earth creationist”), and how old mankind is (“4004 BC”). The answer to one does not necessarily dictate the answer to the other.

  • http://nathanrichardson.com/ Nathan

    So when does the other shoe drop? Can we read your comments anywhere?

    • DanielPeterson

      They’ll eventually be published. I’m not quite sure where or when yet.


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