The Language of God, Chapter 8
By B.J. Marshall
I can summarize this chapter by quoting Collins himself: “Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism [YEC] has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy” (p.177). He spends the bulk of this chapter providing reasons why YEC is horribly flawed, and then he concludes with a “plea to reason” that is anything but.
Sadly, I don’t think Collins does enough (anything, really) to debunk YEC other than saying it’s wrong. All he says is that, for YEC to be correct, we’d have to throw out all we’ve learned about chemistry, cosmology, geology, and biology. Assuming that his readership comprises theists who hold some Creationist views – and Collins calls himself a Creationist (p.171) given that God is behind it all – I would have thought that Collins would have worked harder to bring any YECs around. Here are two examples, which really wouldn’t have required much ink to explain:
- Collins mentions Henry Morris, author of The Genesis Flood, as asserting that the geologic strata were created in a few weeks by the Flood. But anyone conducting even a simple experiment using different soils and sediments can refute that claim.
- Collins mentions how others assert the lack of transitional fossils, but presents no actual evidence to the contrary.
Aside from asserting that YEC is incompatible with science, Collins makes two other arguments. His first is that there’s no reason to take the Bible literally. After all, does anyone take it literally when the Bible states that the right arm of God lifts up the nation of Israel (p.175)? (Of course, Collins then fails to provide some objective measure of how one should know which verses are literal and which ones aren’t.) His second is that, by alleging things that are contradictory to all scientific findings, YEC seems to fall back on a Trickster God.
Collins says that YEC does more to damage the faith, by demanding the believers assent to fundamentally flawed claims about the natural world. He states that children, brought up in YEC families and churches, will inevitably see the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and leave the faith. If only that were true!
Finally, his conclusion with the subheading “A Plea for Reason”:
As believers, you are right to hold fast to the concept of God as Creator; you are right to hold fast to the truths of the Bible; you are right to hold fast to the conclusion that science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence; and you are right to hold fast to the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted (p.178)
He continues by saying these battles between science and faith cannot be won by attaching one’s position to a flawed foundation. He quotes Benjamin Warfield to emphasize his point: “None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whithersoever it leads” (p.179).
The cognitive dissonance is almost too much. Collins encourages others to avoid attaching positions to a flawed foundation, yet at the same time he says one is right to accept the untestable and unverifiable “truths” of the Bible and that one is right to hold that God must be the answer to pressing questions of human existence because science can’t explain them (yet).
Other posts in this series: