We had an interesting discussion Tuesday centered on scripture, the reliability of scripture, and the foundation of our faith: Houston, We’ve Had a Problem. One of the key aspects of this conversation was how we view scripture as reliable in the face of the scientific evidence for an old earth and for evolution. Certainly I think we can defend the reliability of scripture, the reliability of the scientific evidence, and the Christian gospel. We don’t have to disregard any of these. This is where I stand, centered on Christ, moving forward.
As it happens, on Monday and Tuesday there was a related conversation on the BioLogos blog Science and the Sacred focused on how to respond to a recent speech by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of Southern – a prominent Southern Baptist Seminary. I didn’t mention the speech because I didn’t want to sidetrack our discussion, but I rather expect it was in the background of some of the comments.
Dr. Mohler takes a position quite different from the position I have put forward on this blog and quite different from the position taken at BioLogos. In his speech “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” Dr. Mohler argues “for the exegetical and theological necessity of affirming 24-hour calendar days.” Any old earth view – including Day-Age or Framework – is inadequate. If science appears to contradict the plain reading of scripture – scripture plays the trump card.
And when it comes to the exegetical issues I will tell you that I think the exegetical defense of a 24-hour calendar day is sufficient. In other words, the exegetical cost–the cost of the integrity and interpretation of scripture–to rendering the text in any other way, is just too high. But I want to suggest to you that the theological cost is actually far higher.
You can find a video of Dr. Mohler’s speech at the Ligonier Ministries 2010 National Conference here (It doesn’t play for me in firefox – but works fine in IE8). BioLogos has also posted a transcript of the speech if you would rather read it. You can find Darrel Falk’s response here and Karl Giberson’s here. (Added: Peter Enns’s response, just posted today, is here.)
Dr. Mohler’s theological reasons are rooted in his understanding of the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, consummation or new creation (which actually is not much different from mine). He calls to task Bruce Waltke, John Stott, JI Packer, Bernard Ramm, and several more – laying down the gauntlet. He calls to task the evangelical elite, professors at Christian institutions. We are witnessing, he feels, a head-on collision between science and scripture, the Christian Gospel and evolution. Only one will remain standing at the end of the day. There is only one possible position:
Our only means of intellectual rescue, brothers and sisters, is the speaking God, who speaks to us in scripture, in special revelation. And it is the scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so. Otherwise we will face destruction of the entire gospel in intellectual terms.
This is an interesting speech – he lays out his positions and his reasons for them quite clearly. He suggests that the world looks old because God made it whole (a mature creation view); that it looks old because it bears testimony to the effects of sin – in its groaning.
At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question “why does the universe look so old?” I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.
I am not disturbed that Dr. Mohler feels that the YEC position is the preferable position. Nor am I disturbed that he argues for his position. We need to have this conversation. I am concerned that he dismisses the evangelical “elite” as compromised and compromising. I am concerned that he makes it a battle rather than a conversation. I am concerned that he sides with Jerry Coyne, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins on this and casts it as a fight to the death.
But lets consider it a bit deeper.
How would you respond to Dr. Mohler’s arguments?
More importantly how would you respond to a Christian struggling with these ideas? Someone who finds the discrepancies between what Dr. Mohler calls “the common sense natural reading” of Genesis and the evidence of science disturbing and is looking for a way forward? One who finds that this discrepancy undermines faith?
If you agree with Dr. Mohler – why?
And please – keep it civil and helpful.
If you are interested in a look at the strength of the evidence for an old earth from a Christian perspective, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley lays out the evidence in a readable form. This is a great place to start.
If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net