Al Mohler and the “Apparent Age” of the Cosmos

Al Mohler believes that God created the cosmos, including humanity, about 6000 years ago, but with “apparent age.”

That means that the cosmos only looks billions of years old because God created it to look old.

This is Mohler’s solution to why the earth looks so old when the Bible says it is so young.

“Apparent age” allows Mohler to accept the observations of science while rejecting the interpretation of those observations by scientists. The interpretation of those observations remains securely with Scripture itself, not with scientists or others who refuse to accept the Scripture’s “clear” teaching.

The strategic benefit is clear: Mohler can–in a sense–”accept” the scientific data while also remaining a biblical literalist. Science only studies what God appeared to have done, and scientists are free to have at it. Scripture, however, tells us, without fear of contradiction, what God actually did.

This kind of thinking may appear to be a tidy solution the problem, but in fact it creates many more.

The most pressing problem–not only here but at any point where Mohler discusses the science/faith issue–is that Mohler simply asserts that Genesis is prepared to tell us how old the earth is. That assertion is what puts him in the bind of having to “reconcile” Genesis and science in the first place.

But Mohler’s opinions about a literal reading of Genesis need to be articulated and defended, not simply asserted–which would require Mohler to interact patiently with those many Christians who have very good reasons for not reading the opening chapters of Genesis as a literal account of history.

That is a topic for another day. Here, even accepting Mohler’s literalism for the sake of discussion, “apparent age” loses its traction fairly quickly. We will look at one reason why today and two more in my next post.

“Apparent age” is an arbitrary claim that makes the “facts fit the theory.”

It is surely obvious that the theory of “apparent age” is generated to make the observations of science fit Mohler’s literal reading of Genesis. Unless one were precommitted to a literal reading of Genesis, one would never think of making this sort of claim.

Making facts fit theory is an unfortunately common, yet still unacceptable, method of establishing one’s point. It is particularly common in theological debates, where one assumes that one’s own theological pre-commitments are the sure and unassailable point of departure.

One’s theology is to be defended, never examined. Counterarguments are either molded to fit the theory or ignored altogether.

This is why true discussion–an exchange of ideas–is often unproductive in these instances. The issues at stake are bound up with ideological self-preservation.

If Mohler were to admit that the Bible can be read in a less than literal manner regarding Genesis—well—the dominoes would start unraveling down the slippery slope. This is not an option for Mohler.

When fear of losing one’s “all-encompassing narrative” is at stake, reasonable assessment of contrary evidence is an early casualty, which leaves us with “explanations” like “apparent age.”

Such explanations demonstrate that the theology driving them is a barrier to truth more than its guardian.

If an opponent of Mohler’s were to employ the same type of ad hoc explanation to establish a contrary point, I imagine Mohler would not find it convincing.

Many—might I say, most—Christian thinkers trained in these matters (science, biblical studies, theology, philosophy) are deeply invested in working through how Genesis is to be read not only in view of evolution, but of our growing understanding of how “origins stories” worked in the ancient Near Eastern world (a whole other topic).

I do not think it is wise for Mohler to cut oneself off from these potential conversation partners and retreat to an ad hoc explanation like “apparent age.”

It is even less wise for Mohler to counsel others that they must follow his lead.

  • Jeff

    I’m glad you’re addressing this and it’s interesting to see the ‘apparent age’ argument. I had heard before that “God created the earth with age” but that assertion is built upon or at least infers a God who deceives. For some this may not be a problem, but this seems to strike against the affirmation from St. Paul that God is not a god of confusion.

    My OT Seminary prof (Lawson Stone, Asbury) avoided the term ‘literal’ to describe the young earth, seven 24-hour, interpretation of Genesis 1 and instead opted to describe that view as ‘journalistic account.’ The term ‘literal’ has a potential variety of meanings and in my view. Furthermore, Dr. Stone suggested that the best reading of Genesis 1 is a ‘liturgical’ reading…built upon the rhythm of creation and of worshiping the God who brought the entire, beautiful cosmos into existence. That stands out to me as fitting to the purpose of Scripture much more than a scientific, journalistic reading.

    • peteenns

      I like “journalistic account” Jeff. I may start using it. I’ve been trying to use “literalistic” rather than “literal” because, as so many others have said, “literal” has been co-opted by fundamentalists.

  • Richard Wattenbarger

    Doesn’t Mohler’s claim about the earth’s “apparent age” require that God lie to us in the book of nature? In other words, Genesis tells us the “true story” of the earth’s origins, but God decided deliberately to mislead us by creating the earth to look older than it really is. Scripture and creation are therefore at odds.

    I’d be surprised to learn that there’s a coherent epistemology that gets around this.

    • peteenns

      Or God is “testing” us, Richard. I touch on this in my next post. I think you are right.

      • Richard Wattenbarger

        Oh, yeah, that’s right: God’s testing us to make sure were good gnostics/Platonists/Kantians/German Idealists/whatever. It all makes sense now.

  • http://www.discardedimage.com Brandon Withrow

    “If an opponent of Mohler’s were to employ the same type of ad hoc explanation to establish a contrary point, I imagine Mohler would not find it convincing.”

    This is just it, Christian beliefs like this are always given the exception that would not be given to any other religious system or opposing view. It makes this sort of position untouchable, like creating a comic-book super-hero with no vulnerabilities.

    What also perplexes me is when I see those holding to an “apparent age” view that are still looking for the occasional evidence of a young earth. If God created it to look old, and he’s God, would he really be so sloppy that he miss something in his cover-up? Why look at all?

    The entire position is the creationists equivalent of “zebra” thinking—taking the most-likely explanation and substituting it for something unlikely.

    • peteenns

      I think nailed it, Brandon.

  • Richard Wattenbarger

    “we’re.” massive punctuation fail.

  • http://modsynthesis.com modsynth

    I just saw the appearance of age argument raised again on Facebook last week when two people were discussing the classic question about Adam and Eve’s belly buttons. Yes, the Omphalos Hypothesis is still alive and well, even in spite of the clever parody Last Thursdayism which states that the world was made last Thursday. Creating a false history hardly squares with the Christian view of God. It’s not only the appearance of age that Mohler’s suggesting, it’s the appearance of lifeforms that never lived, stars that never existed, eruptions that didn’t actually erupt, and other unreasonably deceptive pieces of evidence. It’s unfortunate that you had to write this article, but it’s right on and necessary – especially since Mohler is teaching this and creating the appearance that any other view is a heretical leap to the dark side.

    • peteenns

      Good points, antonino. The absurdity of the logic carries us un many odd directions. I am only dealing with three, but your points are spot on.

    • Lynette Cowper

      Don’t forget, if God is capable of deceiving us by creating a complex false history for the Earth, we have no reason to believe anything in scripture happened either, including the fall of Adam and Eve, and the conception, birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ. If God is a liar, all of scripture becomes suspect. Perhaps we aren’t sinful after all. Maybe God planted those memories that we lied, hurt someone, etc., and planted a false sacrifice to ‘save’ us from this false guilt. Perhaps Darwin never existed! Perhaps we’re all discussing something that never happened at all, that God planted in our memories as a mass delusion.

      Either God is truth and does not ever deceive us, or we cannot trust anything He has revealed about Himself (or even the truth of our own personal histories and memories). There cannot be a false appearance of age without surrendering the truth claims of Christianity entirely.

  • steve

    Science says a man who has been beaten and flogged and nailed to a cross and had his heart pierced by a spear and then laid in a tomb for three days under up to 100lbs of burial clothes can’t come back to life…

    Where should we draw the line on God’s ability to control the nature he created vs. our ability to understand the awesome power he possesses?

    Personally, I don’t think Genesis 1 must be understood as a scientific text, but it does make some clear statements that when taken away, have grave implications on the validity of scripture. And Mohler is right about Adam. If he isn’t a literal person, the gospel falls apart.

    I used to err on the side of science in God vs. science issues, but after a lot of careful consideration, here’s where I’ve landed: science is built on a foundation of laws, theories and assumptions based on sinful, fallen man’s observations of the creator God’s world. Christianity is built on the foundation of God revealing to his people the things we NEED to know and understand to worship Him.

    Based on that, I certainly think science is important and interesting, but when it contradicts scripture or leads to implications that call the validity of scripture into question we must accept that our observations may be flawed and that there are thigs we just cannot understand.

    • peteenns

      Steve, you’re certainly welcome to that opinion. But, on the resurrection, that came up in another comment somewhere, and it does not convince me. There is hard evidence to deal with re: evolution, not re: resurrection.

      • http://www.thinkhardthinkwell.com Benj

        Pete, there is very strong evidence that people don’t rise from the dead–pretty much everyone who’s ever lived–and yet Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

        • peteenns

          Correct-a-mundo, Benj. My point, though, is that there is physical evidence for evolution–the people I know who work in this area say it is overwhelming. The argument you are suggesting re: the resurrection is an argument from analogy (a la Ernst Troetlsch). I am not trying to offer a cheap apology for miracles, but miracles are not open to to the same kind of verification as is something that leaves physical, observable data.

          • http://modsynthesis.com modsynth

            Pete’s right on. Miracles are by definition against the natural order and are unrepeatable. However, we can investigate the aftermath of a miracle. The disciples did just that when they ran to see the tomb. They investigated using their physical senses. Even though resurrection is scientifically possible, the tomb was empty – confirmed by their observations (sounds kinda scientific, doesn’t it?) Now imagine if God created a crucified corpse that looked just like Jesus to lay in His place. That’s pretty much what people are suggesting when they say that there can be false history and divinely-planted false evidence for evolution and an old earth age. The miracles of the Bible are signs for people to see – not covert acts covered up and made to look like something else. Science can test natural phenomena and make predictions, and it can even examine a miracle’s effects. If someone is healed of cancer, the cancer should no longer be detectable by scientists. If Jesus rose, and I believe he did, the tomb would be empty. Science doesn’t need to explain how this happened since it’s cause was supernatural, but the effect is found in our physical world, and science remains the best way to examine the physical.

          • peteenns

            Yes, the aftermath, but that “evidence” is of a different nature than “wow, like at that red shift, ” or “my those mountains look like they are layered,” or “the human genome is virtually identical to that of primates.”

    • JenG

      Hmmm…. You may not enjoy much that you read on this blog then ; )

      I feel strongly that a truly “literal” – or, as people probably actually mean to say, “serious” – reading of the Bible allows the text to be what it is, not what we demand of it. In my humble but informed opinion, if we are as serious about the Bible as we think, we will allow the text to first live and be interpreted in the time and place it was written and to the people it was originally written for BEFORE deciding – in light of Christ and his life, death and resurrection, the creedal tradition and a “critical realist” epistemology – how to apply it to our own lives and worldview.

      Although surface level readings of the text where we appear to be “taking the Bible at it’s word” seem to be the highest view of Scripture we can imagine and defend, it turns out in fact to be a low view of Scripture. How? In that we march up to God to and say “My fallen, modern-influenced human heart and mind insist that a good God would create an accurate and complete owners manual for my life and the universe and so that must be what this book in my hand is. Make it work, Lord!” rather than humbly accepting the text he has given us and trying to look more deeply in to what was really being said by our many ancient brothers and sisters before us about God and how he interacts with his creation. This has been very challenging for me to accept as I am throughly modern in my upbringing and absolutely love “right answers”.

      Pete has a great book coming out on how we can re-imagine some of our thinking about the Gospel in light of the absence of an actual person of Adam. I look forward to it as I admit I don’t know quite what to think about that either! http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Adam-Bible-Doesnt-Origins/dp/158743315X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318518660&sr=8-1

      I hope you accept this reply in the spirit it was intended – open conversation between Christ-followers, seeking to understand with more clarity and think rightly on the things of God. All the best!

      • peteenns

        Thanks for plugging my book book on my own blog, JenG. People are going to get right suspicious. ;-)

  • Don Johnson

    The “apparent” argument was the same one used on the solar system of Copernicus. To get around the “too literalistic” interpretation of some Scripture texts, the scientists would need to claim in their works that the solar system model merely simplified the mathematics but the reality was as (literalistically interpreted) Scripture stated. So they would have a preface stating the known “truth” to be true (the earth stood still, etc.) and then use hypotheticals to discuss what they wanted and then return at the end with a suffix that again stated the known “truth”; all this to avoid the censors. Eventually the censors saw thru this game.

    Apparent age is also a snake that eats its own tail as it allows too much, in the limit it destroys everything in the past. How do we know that the cosmos did not come into existence this last second, including our false memories of living before. The truth is that we do not know, but that is not the way to act, because we believe God is not trying to deceive us in what we find in the material world.

  • Don Johnson

    In other words, the apparent age argument is just another form of (partial) solipsism, how does Mohler know that anything besides himself actually exists? Once you invent an unfalsifiable cocoon, you are safe from any claims to the contrary if that is what you want. And it is clear to me that that is very much what Mohler wants. Since I believe in freedom, I think he is free to think that for himself and free to teach it and to find as many adherants as he can. What I object to is his claim that his way is the ONLY faithful way, as that infringes on my freedom to think differently from him.

    • peteenns

      Don, you and I seem to be tracking together here. Good points I did not address.

  • C. Ehrlich

    I suspect that many of these criticisms beg the question against Mohler’s position. Don Johnson’s cocoon metaphor is apt, as are his observation that this is what Mohler wants. To persuade evangelicals not to enter that cocoon, we might want to address their seemingly justifiable motivations for doing so. Otherwise, we’re preaching to the choir.

    • peteenns

      Another way of putting it is that they are afraid of losing something should they change their position, and knowing that fear and addressing it is necessary. I agree. Too often–almost “normally” in evangelicalism and fundamentalism–fear drives theology more than we sometimes see.

  • JenG

    I think part of what bothers me most about this idea is that people holding this understanding of scripture and science are willing to accept that God would go to EXTREME lengths to deceive humanity in their observations of creation and then reveal the special secret truth about how he actually created in the preservation of two somewhat contrasting monotheistic adaptations of ancient myth accounts passed down through the Israelite history to get the message sent to us modern readers to correct our silly ideas we found in countless science research efforts to uncover truth about the natural world. I cannot accept that God would take such pains to make the world appear old and in effect spit in the face of the apparent logic of nature with a holy “Surprise! Fooled ya!” in the Bible. Doesn’t anyone else find that terribly disturbing?

    I find Gordon Glover’s video on this “appearance of age” topic very helpful: http://www.youtube.com/user/glovergj#p/u/21/pyEOdnckKCQ

    • peteenns

      Gordon is a great source, Jen, was exposing problematic thinking. And as for your comment, I certainly agree as do many others. Thanks for the link, too.

  • http://ochuk.com Adam Omelianchuk

    Interesting post. It’s not too far off to say that Mohler buys into the anti-realist distinction between “accepting” certain judgments about the earth’s age but not “believing” them. Bas van Fraasen would be proud! I guess that’s a legitimate move to make, but it does have its own unique set of consequences to deal with.

    The curious thing about this sort of move is, that besides being ad hoc, it “saves appearances” by making the created world something that is “errant.” That is, on its own, it misleads us in how old it is. Thus, God’s handiwork in one domain misleads us (creation), but not in another (Scripture). I have never been sure how (what amounts to) asserting errancy in the book of the world is supposed to bolster the inerrancy of the book of the word.

    • peteenns

      I think a lot of people have those same concerns, Adam.

    • Don Johnson

      I really like that errancy question. Can I steal it? :)

  • stephen

    I don’t agree with this deception idea people seem to have regarding the notion that the earth looks older than it is.

    When I look at geology and Genesis it seems apparent to me that God created the earth in such a way that we can recognize predictable processes and not live in a world of total chaos and mystery regarding nature.

    Did God create the earth to just look old, create it and give it a long time to progress or use natural processes at an accelerated rate? I don’t know. I don’t know how one could know.

    The problem is when we see these natural processes and conclude that we no longer need a notion of God. This is based on an assumption that man created religion, which we must reject for the gospel to be true. But when self-professing Christians begin to elevate man-centered science above God-breathed scripture we’re getting into some dangerous territory.

    It seems that God created mechanisms to shape and form and sustain the earth, probably not to deceive us, but as a blessing to help is predict and understand how things will happen. We just, in our prideful human way, take it too far sometimes.

    • peteenns

      I appreciate your point, Stephen, but just to be clear, are you saying that these “mechanisms” only tell us of the future, not the past?

  • Bryan
    • peteenns

      I don’t think so, Bryan, but I would not know. I am not with BioLogos any longer.

  • James

    Hi Dr. Enns,

    I stumbled across your blog and this article caught my attentions. I’m not terribly familiar with your work so please forgive me if you’ve received some of these questions before. Obviously, this is a very complicated, very important issue (just to show my hand, I do hold to a literal, created Adam, but I don’t think the Bible necessarily lends itself to a specific age.) I was hoping to get your feedback on a couple points of this article as I’m still working through a lot of these issues myself.

    The crux of the issue for me is this: this seems to be more of an issue of what philosophical assumptions are at work rather than merely a case of biblical literalists trying to make their point at the expense of the facts. It seems to me that once science addresses the issue of origins, it’s no longer in the realm of empirical science, but becomes an inherently philosophical issue. I think it is inaccurate to imply that the facts in essence need no interpretation and speak for themselves and Dr. Mohler is simply making the facts fit his theory so he can maintain his worldview. I freely grant that the “God just did it that way” argument seems like an easy out, but I think we should keep in mind that evolutionary theory sees the facts through a certain lens as well. Its analysis of the facts rest on certain assumptions, assumptions that are grounded in Naturalism. What makes those assumptions any more legitimate than Dr. Mohler’s?

    Thank you for your time.

    • peteenns

      Great set of questions, James, that I can’t answer in detail here (but I know it comes up at BioLogos a lot). My response would be that evolution is not grounded in naturalism (by which you mean atheism, I assume). When astronomers calculate the age of the universe, they are not exposing their naturalistic precommitments, but they are measuring, observing, collocating, etc. No question interpretive questions arise at every point, but still…. The same goes for geological studies that began in the 18th century and biological studies that began in the 19th. The world certainly appears to be very, very, old, and life certainly seems to have evolved. In my opinion, naturalism does not guide these assessments, although any “ism” can be introduced as part of an interpretive grid to explain why things are the way they are.

      • James

        Thank you for your response Dr. Enn.

        I guess the reason I believe that there are implicit naturalistic assumptions made in evolutionary biology is that many of the mechanistic devices used in Historical/forensic science seem to orginate out of such thinking. Many were ideas put into play by scientist and thinkers who, at the very least, wanted explain the world and its history in strictly naturalistic terms with no other explanation other than natural phenomena. Historically, much of modern scienctif thought was the fruit of humanism.

        Take, for example, geology. One of the reasons the earth “seems” old is because modern geology rest on the principle of Uniformitarianism, which rest on philosophical assumptions that aren’t provable. Any naturalist would say that while these philosophical presuppositions aren’t empirically provable, there are rational and coherent deductions that can be made that are consistent with current observations, and, most importantly, make a completely natural explanation of the physical world possible. I think it’s the last part of that thought that I take issue with. Why should be we bow to philosophical assertions that aren’t necessary for our worldview? Why let them keep the status quo?

        In short: if modern historical science, in its principals and assumptions, allowed for an active, creative God instead of assuming His absence, wouldn’t that radically change things?

        I hope that doesn’t sound argumentative. Just thoughts I have. Thank you so much for the feedback.

    • Kevin

      To make this point slightly more specific: The question at hand seems to be epistemic in nature (that is, a question of “how do you know what you know?”), in the sense that there appears to be a wide presupposition here that the scientific method trumps any other epistemic tool – in other words, if scientists repeatedly observe the same result under the same conditions, we assume that what the observe is the way things work and have always worked in the universe. In turn, we generally see any other epistemic claim as being trumped by claims warranted by these sorts of observations. I think Mohler’s issue isn’t asserting this “apparent age” claim per se; the issue is that Mohler (I would think, based on his statements) doesn’t actually agree with the presuppositions of science, but seems to want to accept as evidence the observations of science (Dr. Enns, you made this point above), so he doesn’t take the argument into the realm of epistemology, and as a result, he and his more epistemically modernist interlocutors talk past each other and neither can ever pursuade the other.

      Related excursus: So, I have an epistemic question that’s been rattling around my head for a while, I think it’s relevant to the question at hand, and the readers of this blog (not to mention you, Dr. Enns) seem both knowledgeable and civil, so maybe you can tell me if I’m off base here. By the way, I mean this as a genuine question, not a piece of argumentation: the scientific method holds that repeated observation is the key to knowledge, essentially, the more often we see the same behavior repeated under the same circumstances, the greater epistemic confidence we have that the object of study always behaves thusly. However, doesn’t the notion of a miracle (anything from a non-medical healing to Creation) imply precisely that a force (e.g., God) from outside the physical universe acts on the physical universe in a manner that is, at least potentially, both (1) unique, and thus unable to be subject to the scientific requirement of repetition, and (2) unobservable? So what I’m seeing is, science says, “We’ll accept a proposition as true of the universe if and only if we observe it repeatedly” and then – voila! – only finds things that happen repeatedly – i.e., it presupposes no interference from a conscious, willful Being who can affect natural phenomena by supernatural means, like the typical Abrahamic notion of God.

      All of this, of course, does nothing to prove Young-Earth Creationism. But, at least to my mind, the problem lies just as much in the assumption that everyone should accept scientific (and more generally, modernist) epistemology uncritically, as it does in those who would put forth arguments based on other epistemologies (e.g., Mohler). Dr. Enns, you refer to Dr. Mohler’s “theological pre-commitments” as his “sure and unassailable point of departure” – this seems accurate! But, aren’t you seeing certain truth-claims as sure and unassailable points of departure, too? You note, “Mohler simply asserts that Genesis is prepared to tell us how old the earth is … But Mohler’s opinions about a literal reading of Genesis need to be articulated and defended, not simply asserted.” I agree! But aren’t you asserting that science is prepared to tell us how old the earth is, without defending that view? At bottom, both science and Mohler’s reading of Genesis are making truth-claims about facts that we can’t observe directly, based on interpretations of later evidence. Mohler chooses to accept a literal reading of Genesis as fact first and then interpret science in light of it; modernists accept science as fact and then interpret Genesis in light of it.

      So Mohler has a pre-modern epistemic construct. So what? Epistemologies of any variety are matters of faith and/or opinion, and while modernism has held pride of place for the last few hundred years, that’s a blip on the radar screen of human history (how big of a blip, of course, depends on which epistemology you hold!), and the world is already moving past modernist epistemologies in some ways (not that I agree with all these ways, or think they’re even all rational). I, for one, am happy to stand up as a pre-modern, to uncritically accept literal readings of the Bible as true and interpret everything else (including science – even including my own direct observations!) in light of them, and to suggest that I can do so (and hopefully have just done so) in a way that may fundamentally disagree with the conclusions of epistemic modernists, but is, I humbly submit, both reasoned and rational.

      Thanks to all for the civil and charitable tone most of the posts I’ve seen here convey!

      • Laura Robertson

        You must be a huge fan of Descartes.

        • Kevin

          Not sure I’m following, Laura. Did you mean perhaps that my mode of argumentation was similar to that of Descartes? Or perhaps facetiously, in that, since Descartes was an influential empiricist & rationalist, that we wouldn’t have much common ground?

          Anyway, I’m still interested in constructive critiques!

          • David Sulcer

            It took me a while to read this and grab it without being slowed down by the “epistemic” word or words (lol), however I think Kevin is on to something here.

          • Kevin

            Thanks for the encouragement, David!

      • Jacco

        Hi Kevin,

        It doesn’t look like anyone responded with any constructive critiques to your question (after one and half years), so I’ll take a stab. Hopefully you’re still listening…

        You say Mohler may have an issue with the presuppositions of science. But aren’t the presuppositions of modern science largely due to a theistic view of the world – that the universe is intelligible (because its Creator is intelligent), and this intelligibility is discoverable by humans (who happen to be made in the image of God, hence intelligent)?

        I don’t think science says that only propositions that are based on repeatedly observable events are true. A mathematical theorem only needs to be proved once for it to be true?! Astronomers hold to propositions about when comets will next pass through our solar system, even though the comet in question was only observed once. But I think in the end you’re not even talking about presuppositions – you’re really talking about methodology/process. Yes, repeated observations are a great way to ascertain the validity or otherwise of a particular proposition, but that is not the only valid scientific method available.

        The question for you is – do you think scientific reasoning is a reliable method for ascertaining the truth or otherwise of particular propositions? Perhaps you think it is not reliable for anything that has occurred in the past? But if scientific reasoning can’t be applied to the past, what about common sense reasoning? Perhaps the past really was created 5 minutes ago?

        Finally, Paul writes in Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made”. For me that is warning against excessive skepticism, and perhaps it is indeed the case that (as an example) what geologists have discovered about the age of the earth really has “been clearly perceived”, and can (should!) be a reason to stand in awe of God’s awesome power.

  • JenG

    When and why did you leave BioLogos? That was news to me!

  • Curt

    If Mohler really believes this apparent age idea, then he should renounce the false science of ICR & AIG. If God created the earth with apparent age down to the details like the distribution of radioactive nuclei and ash layers buried deep in the polar ice cores, then the young earth ‘science’ of these groups is in error.

    Also, what does he say about the “apparent history” contained within the earth’s strata? If he accepts the age of the earth as a valid scientific conclusion (even though it is only apparent) then the apparent history of evolution should also be accepted. The scientific community is making the correct conclusion based on the apparent history we have in the earth’s rocks.

    What about the genetic evidence for evolution? Is this due to only “apparent common ancestry”?

    • http://modsynthesis.com modsynth

      Right. Mohler really doesn’t get into creation science any deeper than you just read. He simply says there must be an answer because any other alternative is too theologically damaging. To his credit, he mostly stays in his lane as a theologian, denomination representative, and culture warrior rather than showing a picture of Cambodian carvings that looks a little like a stegosaurus or other YEC techniques.

  • Aslan Cheng

    Al Mohler believes “apparent age” support his argument like Richard Dawkin believes “meme” support his argument. But both doesn’t have any evidence support them.

  • David Sulcer

    Here is my take on the whole creation account. What think ye, Pete? I realize that you see the Creation account as myth but this is my way of being able to not make the account a scientifically centered narrative while holding to the integrity of the historical reliability of the narrative.

    Boiler plates for reading Genesis 1-11: 1) It tells an historical reality; 2) It affirms the unity of humanity (i.e. all sin in Adam, therefore all can be saved through the second Adam). That all have been made in the image and likeness of God. 3) It tells the story from an ancient writer not from a “scientific theorizing”, modern writer. 4) It focuses on significant events more than mechanistic processes. 5) Perhaps language is used to describe real events in the language of a later period than the events themselves. 6) Death is the result of sinful disobedience in the primal human family. 7) The “Fall” was both historical and moral and occurred at the start of human existence.

  • http://www.averagebuddhist.com Barbara

    Kevin,
    For me, I see a difference between things that have been observed repeatedly (“proven”), versus things that have not been observed (“unproven”). To be proven would be to say, in our observation something appears to be reliably true. To be unproven, implies that a possibility is present, but we don’t know. Perhaps then “disproven” might mean something that is incompatible with what is proven. I put all of these word in quotes because I am aware of the semantic difficulties that can arise with labeling. So, in that sense, something being “unproven” like God or miracles doesn’t preclude their existence. It just means there isn’t sufficient evidence one way or the other. But something like “apparent age” has been scientifically “disproven”. In desperately clinging to that concept then, these folks seem to be denying themselves the possibility of learning more about what God truly is and truly does. After all, if one continues to attribute things to God that aren’t true, how can you really see the truth?

  • Phil Taylor

    Hi Peter,

    I am nearly sure that if you spoke to an AIG or ICR scientist they would not say the universe is created with ‘apparent age’.

    If you say ‘looks old’ about the earth, they would simply reply with ‘no, it looks just they way I would expect’.

    If you say ‘proven to be old’ then they would begin to examine your scientific methods and point out the assumptions inherent in them.

    I think you are chasing a red herring with Dr M. and the ‘apparent age’. I am sure that AIG’s magazine has already said that apparent age is a bad argument and one they don’t use.

    Keep up the good work nonetheless.

    Phil.

    • peteenns

      Hi Phil. Yes, I am aware that Mohler differs from AIG and ICR. He is offering another paradigm. AIG an ICR are another type of conversation altogether.

  • http://www.joshsieders.com Josh

    I think Kevin makes a strong point. Your impatience for Mohler’s “point of departure” that guides his interpretations seems quite unfair in light of the fact that you are doing the same thing. We all have to start with a premise or principle that we believe, that exists outside of our observations.

    Last I checked, evolution was also a theory. Facts are raw, meaningless data that have been interpreted. I believe that the “overwhelming evidence” COULD support a different theory that is compatible with the Bible. It seems “apparent age” is not holding up to scrutiny, but I don’t believe a reading of Genesis without an historical Adam is either. Can’t you see that your science friends will naturally interpret the data through their worldview, just as Mohler does through his?

    We’re fooling ourselves if we think we discovered evolution by observation, and didn’t begin with a premise that we can figure things out – that we don’t necessarily need God or his word as the primary source of wisdom and understanding.

    I’ve struggled with this topic for a while and continue to struggle. There are observations that need to be addressed – absolutely. I don’t know that Mohler is wise to offer scientific explanations when that is not his expertise, but I applaud his stance on Biblical inerrancy and his efforts to TRY to find an answer that upholds the gospel story. I’m definitely interested in reading your book Peter!

    Like Kevin, I believe I can be rational – indeed, must be rational – and choose to trust Genesis as it is written. I will do this until such time as there is a plausible theory that upholds Scripture first.

    In response to some of the readers’ comments:

    The argument that God wouldn’t deceive us is double-edged. If you stand on the evolution side of this divide you might claim that God deceives us if he made the earth mature-looking, when it’s actually pretty young. On the other hand, if he made it through evolution, over millions of years, did he not deceive all of Christianity from when it was written until the last 3-400 years by telling them he did it in 6 days? No matter how you slice this, God either deceived mankind for thousands of years, or he’s deceiving us now that we’re so wise.

    I submit that when we put ourselves in God’s place and judge what is right and fair about what we know, and how it’s revealed, we step across the line between creator and created. As a chronic questionner, I don’t mean we can’t learn, discover and probe the edges of our understanding. But sometimes, I have to be still and know that He is God.

  • Pingback: The Intellectual Dishonesty of “Believing it, Defending it, Proclaiming it” @AiG | Unsettled Christianity

  • Pingback: Evolution and the Tree of Life | Mike Morrell

  • David Elkins

    I know I’m late to the party but I’m really enjoying your blog (even though I’m supposed to be writing a a sermon right now).

    I just had to comment on this phrase you made: “the dominoes would start unraveling down the slippery slope.” That, sir, is the most sublime mixture of metaphors I’ve ever digested. I feel like I need to have that little gem paired with a wine. Any suggestions?

    • peteenns

      Whiskey works better for that :-)


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