Al Mohler’s Theory of “Apparent Age”: Two More Problems

In my last post we looked at one problem with Mohler’s theory that the cosmos was created to look billions of years old but is really only about 6000 years old (“apparent age”):

It is an arbitrary solution that makes the facts fit the theory.

Today we will look at two more problems.

The world shows evidence of age and evolutionary development

The world does not just show evidence of age. It also shows evidence of millions upon millions upon millions of years of evolution, judging by the wealth of evidence at hand (e.g., fossils, geological records, human genome).

Mohler needs to account not only for why the cosmos looks old, but why the cosmos–including the earth and life on it–looks like it evolved.

Mohler does not need to accept evolution to do this–just as he doesn’t need to accept an actually old earth. He could simply advance another ad hoc theory, that God created the universe, the earth, and all life as if they evolved: God created with “apparent evolutionary process.”

I am not sure how else Mohler could address this problem, other than simply rejecting the sciences, as does Ken Ham.

This raises the question, “How many ad hoc theories would one need to advance in order to preserve biblical literalism?” At what point do the ad hoc explanations begin to seem more like a stubborn defense rather than a true explanation of things?

It also raises some serious questions about God. Why would God do such a thing? Why would he load the cosmos with all this evidence and then expect his intelligent creatures, made in his image, to stop short of drawing some conclusions from that evidence?

I think this is a very serious issue. Mohler’s theory of “apparent age” gives us a God who makes the world look one way, but then expects us to hold all that at bay in favor of a literalistic reading of Genesis that, according to Mohler, God requires of us.

Is God—like a touchy tyrant—testing our allegiance to see if we will hold fast to his word? I think the Christian God is better than that.

Mohler is arbitrary in what portions of Scripture he reads “plainly”

As we’ve seen, Mohler rejects evolution and the age of the earth because his literal reading of the Bible demands it.

But Mohler cannot simply stop there. He must follow his own logic with respect to other biblical statements about the physical world that don’t line up with modern science. After all, if the Bible must be given the last word, then it must be given the last word consistently.

The biblical writers thought the earth was a flat disk. To follow Mohler’s logic, we must conclude that the world only looks round, since Scripture has the final word on the matter. Hence, God created the earth with “apparent roundness.”

Likewise, the Bible speaks of the sky overhead as a dome. Therefore, it can only appear that we have broken free of our atmosphere and orbited the earth, landed on the moon, and are moving further to the outer limits of our solar system daily. God created the cosmos with “apparent outer space.”

The Bible speaks of the earth as the stable, motionless, center of the cosmos. Therefore, it can only appear that the earth rotates on it axis, thus giving us day and night, or that the earth revolves around the sun, along with the other planets, on its yearly course. God created the solar system with “apparently heliocentricity.”

I know this may look like I am being unfair to Mohler. I do not mean to be. I am confident that Mohler does not believe that the earth is flat and stationary, or that there is no outer space. I am fairly certain he would read these examples as ancient ways of looking at the world–and he would be correct.

The question, though, is why Mohler places Genesis 1 on the “must read literally” side of the line and not on the “this is ancient idiom” side (as he does a flat, stationary, domed earth).

Mohler seems to feel free to decide what should and should not be read literally–the very accusation he levels at others. Of course, every reader of the Bible sooner or later makes these kinds of decisions. No one actually thinks God is a rock or a fortress, for example.

If Mohler were consistent, a literal reading of Genesis 1 would be as intolerable to him as a literal reading of those places where the Bible speaks of a flat, stationary earth with a dome overhead.

Mohler speaks of “apparent age” with calm assurance. But it is a explanation that creates many more problems than it tries to solve. Those problems are rooted in Mohler’s unexamined precommitment that Christians have no choice but to read Genesis literally.

They do have a choice, and Christians have been making it for a very, very long time.

 

  • Don Johnson

    I think that the ideas of the flat earth and such were NOT seen as idioms in the ANE, rather they were seen as the REALITY, which was based on (ancient) appearances. Today we seen them as idioms, but that is because we KNOW that the earth is a globe, etc. That is, Hebrew eretz was land, the land you could see or the land around Jerusalem or the land of David, etc. A portion of the globe DOES look flat if the portion is small enough. The sky DOES look like a dome, and since it is blue it does appear to perhaps be holding water.

    • peteenns

      Don, you’re right. I used the wrong word. I meant to say that these things are “ancient expressions” of reality as they understood it. I may go back and adjust the wording.

      • Don Johnson

        Just trying to help.

        It is very easy today to read much of the Bible’s “science” as idioms in order to make it function in our modern science/cosmology. But I see this as a fundamentally flawed method, but that it is flawed is very counterintuitive, since it can work for over 90% of the words and only gets sticky in a few places.

  • steve

    Scriptural citations regarding the flat, stationary domed earth would be greatly appreciated.

    • Mario

      Steve:
      Look at my suggestions and Dr Enn’s comments.

  • http://eisdoxan.wordpress.com Jason

    Don’t Mohler and many other young-earth advocates read Genesis 1 the way they do because of what follows after, namely the family records? I know a friend of mine argues this, but we’ve not discussed it in particulars, so I’m not exactly sure how he formulated the whole thing.

    • peteenns

      That may be, Jason, but in my experience the genealogies are brought in along with Genesis to support a larger issue they are after: guarding against the slippery slope, especially as they perceive it effects the Gospel–namely Paul’s view of Adam. That is the heart of the issue, as I see it. Also, literal interpretation allows them to continue looking to the Bible as an “owner’s manual” of sorts for the Christian life.

      • Leigh Copeland

        “Also, literal interpretation allows them to continue looking to the Bible as an “owner’s manual” of sorts for the Christian life.” What’s wrong with that?

        • peteenns

          It sells the Bible short.

  • greg huguley

    I’m guessing that Mohler is “building a hedge” around his real concern–which is the literal Adam and his connection to the “new Adam” in Christ. I don’t think his way is the right answer, but many share the theological and gospel concern about the “old and new Adam.” I’d be interested in your thoughts on that issue… (I”m ordering your book ;-)

    • peteenns

      It’s in the book. Too much for a comment. You are right about the hedge. I think that is 90% of the issue. The point, though, is that a bazillion Christians have made peace with it, and Mohler should join the conversation.

  • KHall

    IMO, you lost your argument when you stated “[the world] also shows evidence of millions upon millions upon millions of years of evolution, judging by the wealth of evidence at hand (e.g., fossils, geological records, human genome).” Following the debate for many years, it’s clear that evolutionary scientists have been trying to gloss over the LACK of evidence for (macro) evolution for quite some time.
    Regarding the topic at hand (and me not being any sort of biblical scholar), it seems that there’s a gap in time between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, where much of the physical world was created in 1:1 and then some unspecified time later the creation narrative picks up with a reorganization of the physical world and the creation of living things. This would allow for a very old physical world prior to the actual creation of life.

    • peteenns

      It’s not “clear.”

      • Roland

        Actually, as a retired engineer with Science degree from a major secular university (math, physics, chemistry), I agree in part that the macro evolutionary process as held by most of the popular literature (Dawkins, Hawkings, Gould et al) have not proved their main point – namely speciation change by random environmental factors alone. The math and the science leaves too much to conclude that all humanoids developed from a single cell precursor. Most of the literature simply postulates “life” forms developed from “random” carbon interactions with other basic chemical elements. Even a single “organic” cell originating by chance reactions of inorganic chemistry is not only unproven but matematically impossible outside of a well trained chemist and sophisticated lab equipment.

        It is one thing to take fossil records, well settled anthropolgical facts, and biological changes within the research of human development and demonstrate micro-evolutionary process. (Some well regarded secular scientists even object to the term “evolution” here prefering other terms specific to the order of the study.) But it is quite another to conclude from micro-evolution the larger issue of macro development as held by the broad theory extant in most textbooks explaining “evolution.”

        In short, macro speciation is a problem and as such is “not clear” when considered on the first principles of chemical process and mathematical impossibilities. But that is not to dismiss the micro-speciation of what we often mis-state as evolution per se.

        • peteenns

          Roland, I’ve heard elsewhere evolution is “mathematically impossible.” This is part of Hugh Ross’s position, as I recall. I’ve also heard it from several others. It has never been explained to me what that mathematical problem is. So, tell me what that problem is. Does it have to do with time? Also, how do you handle the genomic evidence that seems to make the very opposite point you are making here?

          • Roland

            The best place to see a detailed scientific and mathematical analysis of the impossibility of chance formation is found in the non-theistic book “A Case Against Accident and Self Organization”, H Dean Overman, Rowman and Littlefield, 1997. Here is a well documented but detailed treatise on the math of chance formation by a respected scholar who is both a scientist and a lawyer, thus the use of “A Case Against…” As to the genome data I find no compelling piece in the scientific literature making the case for absolute or even compelling evidence for the science and development of single cell to human genetic complexity. The genome project shows great data among various life forms and even many close relationships but nothing to conclude that the boundry conditions of speciation is overcome by accidental environmental influences regardless of any time factor. Somewhere I read but not at my fingertips as I write this, that a banana has the closest “fingerprint” to the humanoid. We have reached no conclusion regarding the definitive structure of human development from single cells if such is truly the case.

            Nevertheless, even without raising silly banana-human arguments, Overman’s book drives a nail in the coffin of chance macro speciation. I suppose I must ask here what science literature can be cited that proves (or at least is compeling) for single cell to complex biosystems?

            As an aside the evangelicals who argue for a young earth age do themselves and broad Christianity a disservice on two fronts. They do so to discredit “evolution” by removing the time required by evolutionary theory, in the face of the overwhelming data on the long age of the cosmos, and only discredit their own ability to reasonable science-Biblical interplay. But secondly, this book demonstrates that any length of time, even a near eternity, still cannot bridge the possibility of chance formation.

          • peteenns

            Roland, I’ve only overheard these sorts of conversations, but one geneticist once tried to explain to me (and I obviously didn’t get it) that what evolutionary biologists mean by “chance” is not what it means in other circles. He even went so far as to say that “chance” has nothing to do with evolution. I hope I remember him correctly. And yes, from what I understand, the genomic evidence does not establish life from a single-celled organism, but it does appear to be a rather strong confirmation of common descent with primates–which is the heart of the Adam issue.

  • http://eisdoxan.wordpress.com Jason

    Does Mohler do this? Perhaps it will help me to understand the connection they see between a young earth and the family records.

  • Mario

    “Scriptural citations regarding the flat, stationary domed earth would be greatly appreciated.”

    I would suggest looking at Genesis 7:11 and 7:19:
    “In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened…the waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered”

    • peteenns

      Of course, we have Genesis 1:6-8. And before someone sends me a link to Answers in Genesis, I know the counterarguments. If you want to read something quick, Google Paul Seely. I also have an essay somewhere on the BioLogos site.

      • Mario

        Indeed. May I also get your opinion on Gen 7:20 “the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep”

        What exactly did the writers meant by “cubit”?

        • Andrew Vogel

          Mario, John Walton discusses that in his NIVAC commentary on Genesis. I’d suggest taking a look at his suggestions.

          • peteenns

            Remind me what Walton says there, Andrew.

        • http://resurrectingraleigh.wordpress.com/ David

          As to the “cubit” question, it’s been asked before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so9o3_daDZw

          • peteenns

            :-)

  • Jason

    These are great comments, Dr. Enns! A student of the Old Testament myself, your writings have helped me tremendously! You mention in your previous post

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

    Can you explain that further? Thanks!

    • peteenns

      Jason, I was caricaturing Mohler’s view.

  • Carl Sanders

    Pete, your point about the literal interpretation of other texts reminds me of A Geocentricity Primer/The Geocentric Bible 3 (Gerardus Bouw and Gordon Bane) acquired several years ago because it looked like so much fun!) which argues for a non-Copernican universe based on some of those texts you refer to. Here’s a sample paragraph:

    “There is no scientific proof for or against either heliocentrism or geocentricity. There is no evidence that compels us to believe that the earth is spinning daily, nor orbiting the sun yearly.”

    One other interesting note: At the end, there’s a critique of ICR (Institute for Creation Research) because though they are young earth they aren’t consistent in following the literal teaching of the Bible. Which I guess raises the issue of inconsistency.

    • peteenns

      That could be an interesting battle :-)

  • Don Johnson

    http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/1_beyond_handout_a.pdf has a pic of the ancient 3 tied universe with Bible verses.

    • peteenns

      Denis is an important conversation partner in all of this.

  • C. Ehrlich

    One criticism, as I understand it, is that Mohler’s reading of the Bible–like everyone else’s–actually is to some extent informed and guided by extra-biblical sources of knowledge, and, in particular, by empirical/scientific evidences about the physical world. Every Bible believer engages in a sort of balancing act. Every Bible believer seeks to re-interpret the Bible in a way that will accommodate at least some scientific discoveries. It’s just that certain evangelicals are prone to deny this–thanks in part to the support of Dr. Mohler.

    I’ve known highly intelligent people who, on particular issues, are highly unreasonable. Sometimes this is a propensity, even a character trait. I suspect that religion often rewards this sort of thing.

    • peteenns

      I think this is fear of losing one’s meta-narrative that makes people make arguments they would never think to make in other areas.

      • C. Ehrlich

        That’s charitable.

  • Stephen Ranney

    One thing I appreciate about Al Mohler and similar types is they are straightforward about what they think. The evangelical church where we went for a long time was always very vague about these issues, and basically didn’t talk about them. People who thought evolution was valid would whisper in the halls about it but it was never mentioned, becuse creationism was being piped in through the air conditioning.

    It seems like by hearing Mohler’s views clearly articulated, a certain number of people would start to say, ‘Hmmm’ – it worked for me anyway.

    • peteenns

      Well put, Stephen.

  • stephen

    I generally agree that Genesis 1 does not need to be interpreted 100% literally. I wish I did. People I know who completely agree with Dr. Mohler’s understanding have a much easier time when it comes to reconciling what to accept and disregard in natural scientists’ conclusions.

    But here’s the question I have: Where do we draw the line between testing the world by scripture and testing scripture by the world?

    Personally, I think Dr. Mohler takes a far too fundamentalist, conservative approach to seeing this line, while Dr. Enns takes a far too naturalist, liberal view.

    A couple examples:

    Did God create the earth old looking? If so, why? To trick us? To test us? Or, is the earth really, really old?

    Obviously, the earth looks old. I’m sure there are people out there who would debate that, but I doubt there are many. So, as Christians, what do we do with that? Do we assume all natural earth science is correct even when it refutes the Bible? Do we assume the simplest literal understanding of the Bible is true and disregard science?

    To me, whether it merely looks old or is old seems like an irrelevant topic of discussion, and especially of dissension amongst believers. It’s what we do with the knowledge those observations give us that’s important. God created a world that runs in generally predictable, cyclical processes. We can see that the tectonic plates move and that mountain building is the result or their collisions. We can see that water erodes the earth. We can see that sea level is not constant. We know that tides will happen. We know that glaciers move and what kind of formations they leave behind. We know why earthquakes happen… the list could go on and on.

    God gave us a predictable world, rather than a chaotic one. If we truly believe in the sovereignty of God, we can assume that he could have made a world that didn’t make sense. One in which gravity wasn’t constant. One in which earthquakes just happened randomly in the middle of land masses. One in which rivers flowed up hill… etc.

    So, old earth or young earth that looks old? Who cares? If we believe God is who the Bible says he is, he can do either.

    But I think we have to be careful how far we take it (and, full disclosure here, I fall into the category that says genealogies point to Adam being a literal person and that without a historical Adam, the Gospel is pointless and untrue, but please keep reading anyway… if you still are).

    Did God create all of the animals we see on earth today just as they are today, or did a long series of evolutionary changes make them all from single-celled organisms? A couple things: 1) The Bible doesn’t describe mechanisms God used in creation. 2) We can witness changes within animals (think of dog breeds as an easy example). 3) Fossilized remains imply that evolution has happened. 4) The Bible says God created things distinctly and separately.

    It’s easy to look at those points and assume that science must be right so the Bible must be wrong, or the Bible must be right so science must be wrong. But it seems to me that the most reasonable explanation is that God created some genetically dense animals that changed through natural selection over time into slightly different animals but that interpretations of data that specifically refute the Bible must be understood as incorrect assumptions or misunderstood data.

    Evolution didn’t come in a pretty box with a nice tight little bow. It was hypothesized, scrutinized and only accepted after evidence was found based on the desire to prove the theory correct. It’s not that science proving naturalistic theories is totally objective and science proving theologically consistent theories is subjective, they’re both subjective because we’re prone to presume one or the other…

    But in the end, what it comes down to is: which is your highest authority? Scripture or science? And while on much of what he has to say I disagree with Dr. Mohler, on this is stand firmly with him: I choose God.

    • peteenns

      Another solution, in a very different direction, is don’t expect the Bible to answer questions it was not designed to answer. What is the real problem by saying, “Ancient writers of the Bible wrote like ancient people, and God was fine with that”?

  • gets

    Steve, science is objective. Ancient literature is not.

    Evidence of evolution isn’t based on somebody wanting it to be true. The facts are what they are and the more people learn, the more evidence there is for evolution and other scientific facts as opposed to a miraculous creation by a deity.

    On the other hand, the only evidence for the creation story is that people want it to be true. There is no other independent evidence. It was written by an unknown author thousands of years after it allegedly happened. There are no witnesses and no physical proof.

  • richard williams

    quote:
    So, old earth or young earth that looks old? Who cares? If we believe God is who the Bible says he is, he can do either.

    i think this is one root of the issue. who cares? i care what the world is really like, what is true about the physical world i find myself within. i care about the truth and am willing to change my mind when i understand the evidence is against what i currently think right. i am painfully aware that i am often wrong, both about the world and how i interpret Scripture.

    to the question-who cares? i do.

  • Anna

    @ Stephen….As one who does not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, I can assure you that the gospel has not become pointless or a lie.

    One has to ask himself… “If Adam and Eve’s first son was Cain and their second son was Abel, why, when God sent Cain away after he killed Abel, was Cain afraid that he would be murdered by those who found him? Who would he run into? I know people have tried to reason around that question by talking about how the first people were really long-lived, but these explanations sound desperate. There are plenty of similar absurd problems that one falls into when he wants to view all of scriptures as a factual works. Stories can very well be truthful and not factual.

    There are stories that help us understand something that is otherwise impossible for us to understand…our relationship with our creator. We are all Adam and Eve (and most of us are also Cain) and Christ is still the “New Adam”, “the culmination of all creation.” If you think about it, this fits in very nicely with evolution.

    Last thought, the Pharisees were always getting themselves into trouble because they took the scriptures literally. They were so concerned with the letter of the law, that many of them completely missed the mark and didn’t recognize the Truth when He was right before them. You have to admit, Christ Himself turned passages from the scriptures on their heads. As scripture isn’t God, you can believe that an idea is probably correct and reasonable even if it appears to contradict an account in scripture, and still choose God.

    I appreciate the author for taking on this topic. I agree with his earlier post stating that the either-God-and-scripture-or-science dilemma is a false one.

  • AHH

    Good point that Mohler’s position requires more than “apparent age”. It also requires what one might call “appearent history”.

    Some who take this line point to God creating Adam as a mature adult, and then talk about God bringing into being a fully formed mature creation. The problem, as you note, is that the creation is not just “fully formed”, but it gives overwhelming evidence of a very long history, not only in biology but also geology and astronomy.
    So it is NOT really parallel to God creating Adam a mature adult. It is more like God creating Adam as a mature adult with memories and photos of his nonexistent parents, scars from accidents in a childhood that never existed, and his intestines full of digested food that he never ate.

  • http://www.darenredekopp.com/ Daren Redekopp

    Seems to me that the apparent age theory ultimately undermines confidence in God, since it puts forward a Creator who leaves behind misleading evidence. If I am, as Paul says, to discover the attributes of my Creator by means of His creation, then I would expect that creation to speak in a consistent language.

  • Sapphire

    Much ink and even blood was spilled over the question of whether or not Adam had a navel. If he was created fully mature then he would never have been a baby and would not have needed an umbilical cord and would not have an umbilical scar.
    So did God create Adam and Eve with navels? If so it would be an example of apparent history as outlined above by AHH.
    Taking the question to its ultimate conclusion, as many atheists are wont to do, if the universe appears old and appears to have a history because God made it that way, how can we trust God at all?
    The world, with us in it, could have been formed a microsecond ago and all these posts, our memories and even the Bible could have been formed along with it.
    According to Mohler, then, we have to trust the Bible that everything after the events of Genesis 1 happened in real time and space (whatever they may be) but anything that appears to have taken place billions of years ago only appears that way because the universe was created mature and fully formed. The Bible becomes an arbitrary authority, a logical fallacy that creationists and presuppositionists are fond of attributing to others but never confessing to themselves.

  • rjs

    Nice piece Pete. The appearance of age argument is troublesome because it does not simply require rings in trees so to speak. As I said when interacting with this speech by Dr. Mohler: We are not talking about Adam with a navel or trees with rings. We are talking about light from the explosions of supernovae that never existed. We are talking about fossils of animals that never existed, remnants of civilizations that were never there. We are talking about scars and wounds and remains of events that never occurred. This isn’t Adam with a navel – a closer analogy would be Adam created as an 18 year old with a limp from where he broke his leg when six, a scar from the time he smashed his thumb with a rock, a misshapen toenail from the time it was stepped on by a horse, and weak bones from a deficit of vitamin D. It isn’t a tree with rings – but a tree reflecting droughts that never happened, holes formed by insects that never existed, bent over by storms and winds that never blew and pecked by woodpeckers whose remains are found – but never actually lived.

    If this “history” is the result of sin – creation groaning – then an appearance of age YEC position suggest the sin of Adam is written backward in virtual time rather than real time. How does this solve Dr. Mohler’s quandary? How can we hold an Appearance of Age view without concluding that God created the world with a deceiving appearance and gave us scripture so that we would know the truth? This has profound theological implication – and, I suggest, leads to a view of the nature of God inconsistent with the nature of God revealed in scripture.

    • peteenns

      I think you drive a nail here through apparent age, RJS.

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    I can’t wait to read Albert Mohler’s response to your two excellent blogs on apparent age and the spot-on comments by your readers, if indeed he does respond.

    John MacArthur, another apparent age adherent, also needs to read your blogs and the comments.

    • peteenns

      I’m not expecting a response, Paul. Maybe on blog where one cannot interact. Maybe an “open letter” as he did with Giberson.

  • factfinder

    I am as far away from being a Bible literalist as it is possible to be, but your presentation of “evidence” for the evolutionary development argument is dead wrong.

    Yes, there is ample evidence of microevolution within a species but there is zero evidence of macroevolution resulting in the emergence of humans or any other complex organism. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that macroevolution is not necessary for the formation of complex organs.

    Humans as a product of macroevolutionary development is as much a result of your wishful thinking given your “scientific” bias as Mohler’s “apparent age” cosmogony is the result of his wishful thinking given his bias for scriptural literalism.

    You mistakenly cited fossil evidence. Lee Strobel has pointed out in the Case For Faith, ” What the fossil evidence does show is that in rocks dated back some five hundred and seventy million years, there is a sudden appearance of nearly all the animal phyla, and they appear fully formed.”

    Darwin himself said, in Origin of Species, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, then my theory would absolutely break down.” Taking up that challenge Behe in his Darwin’s Black Box revealed that recent biochemical discoveries have found many examples of this very kind of “irreducible complexity”.

    Be as ruthless with your own pet theories as you are with Mohler’s.

    • peteenns

      Lee Strobel is not a scientist, “factfinder.”

  • dafrese

    Pete,

    “Apparent roundness” – LOL!!!

    @factfinder – Lee Strobel!!? You’re quoting Lee Strobel about fossil evidence!!????

  • http://www.knowinginpart.wordpress.com Thomas

    For me, the most convincing reason for not reading Genesis 1 literally was the creation of the “expanse” between the waters above and below. I had always understood those verses to refer to the atmosphere (the expanse) and clouds (the waters above). (Actually, I had never really been sure just how to interpret those verses, but this seemed to be the best reading.) However, if a reader who interprets the passage in this way is to be truly literal, then he must understand that, according to the creation account, the sun, moon, and stars were placed in this expanse UNDER the clouds. This just doesn’t work. The only thing I can find that makes sense is to read the passage by keeping in mind an ancient understanding of the cosmos.

    As far as the apparent age idea, this only works if the adherent is content to look at things generally. As soon as one begins to examine it in the light of counter arguments from the scientific community, it seems awfully shaky. For me, the most convincing argument (as referred to above) is star light. If the universe is 10,000 light years away (i.e., all stars except the sun) tells a false story when it shows births, absorptions, explosions, etc.).

    • peteenns

      Thomas, the dome (Hebrew raqia) is also a solid structure to keep the waters of chaos above from harming the earth–these are the waters God separated from the earth in order to make the earth habitable. Those waters of chaos were unleashed back on the earth in the flood story.

      • http://www.knowinginpart.wordpress.com Thomas

        Yes, and it makes so much more sense out of Genesis 1 than the very unhelpful “expanse.”

  • barlow

    Could you point me to where you provide an alternative account that does the same theological work that the federal headship of an historical Adam provides to traditional Reformed theology?

    • peteenns

      The issue is whether the theological work of traditional reformed theology is what needs to be done.

      • barlow

        Ah, so are we guilty of anything other than our actual sins?

        • peteenns

          Barlow, I’ve cycled around this block many, MANY, times. I know where these types of discussions over Reformed theology go. This is not the place to spin the wheels further, other to to suggest that the fact that evolution causes some theological problems does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have a theological problems, and we best get to work thinking them through rather than simply defending familiar paradigms.

          • barlow

            Well, I won’t bother you further, since this is afield of where you want the discussion, but I smell a huge theodicy problem on the horizon.

          • http://everythoughtcaptive.pcpc.org Patrick Lafferty

            If I may press Sir Barlow’s question further, who, in your humble opinion, has made the best preliminary articulation of that synthesis you hint at?

  • DRT

    Why don’t people bring up the snake in these arguments? Isn’t that a clear signal of the genre?

    • peteenns

      I certainly think that’s the case, esp. if we look at potent symbolism of snakes in the ancient world. My sense, though, is that a talking snake is not a problem for those who take the rest of Genesis 1-3 as literal history. It’s actually the least of the challenges.

  • Simon

    Hi Peter,

    I really enjoyed your post. I’ve been thinking about this issue even more since I read John Lennox new book: Seven days that divide the world. I found several similar arguments to yours relating to the Earth’s cosmology of the original readers. I agree it creates a significant problem for Mohler, who must use science to determine that it is “metaphorical” to harmonise the text. Indeed I needed to ask myself why I don’t believe in a fixed earth, when scripture teaches such (1 Chron. 16:30; Ps 93:1; Ps 104:5; 1 Sam 2:8). And 500 years ago this issue seemed to divide true Christians and those who are not; at least that is what the “true” Christians claimed. Much like this debate.

    One thing that Lennox knocked me over with was the four(!) different ways “Yom” was used in Genesis 1-2:4. It seems to me to be a beautiful argument against forcing someone to read “literally” this part of scripture—simply because it is impossible! Would you like to comment on this argument?

    I write from Australia, where it is interesting that there is far less heat in the discussions on Genesis 1-11!

    Cheers
    Simon

  • peteenns

    Patrick (above),

    A lot of people are working on various syntheses. Keith Miller in 2003 edited a volume “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” with many fine essays in it. A more decidedly philosophical approach is by Conor Cunnigham’s recent “Darwin’s Pious Idea.” There is also Denis Lamoureux, trained scientist and biblicist, who has written two books on this, “Evolutionary Creation” and the more popular “I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution.” There is a lot is variety in these books.

    Evolution does introduce theological tensions that would not have been as prominent otherwise (theodicy being a commonly discussed one). What I resist is the suggestion (which I am not hearing from you) that the potential for theological problems negates the discussion. I here this regularly, and I feel it is wrongheaded.

    • http://everythoughtcaptive.pcpc.org Patrick Lafferty

      i have Connor’s book here on my desk, and even in the most cursory of scans of the chapters devoted primarily to the theological dimensions, I see, yes, a broad departure from some hallowed (and I don’t say that wryly) categories. what to make of his assessment, I do not know yet. But thanks for the short list.

      • peteenns

        I DEFINITELY agree, Patrick, that the question of what to make of his or any other assessment is open. The way I try to look at it is it to ask which “model” best explains the various data before us. The models that leave the fewest loose ends are the ones most worthy of serious consideration–but all models leave some loose ends. Moving toward viable models is a group effort that takes some patience, I think.

  • Craig Higgins

    Another excellent book–which, while very introductory, does a great job of exploring the various options (and from a Reformed perspective)–is Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, by Deborah & Loren Haarsma, published by Faith Alive Christian Resources (Grand Rapids). The Haarsmas both teach in the physics and astronomy department at Calvin College. Be sure to get the new, revised edition.

    • peteenns

      It sure is Craig, especially for people taking a first step. They danced a bit around the Adam issue, though the aim of the book is gentle persuasion for fundamentalists (as I recall), and so too much too soon is counterproductive.

  • Roland

    In your reply to my using the word “chance” that scietific evolutionists do not use that term as commonly understood. But in fact it is difficult to see how the word can be used (and it is used along with “random,” “unsystematic”, and “accidental”) by the vast majority of academicians in any other way from their writen materials. I think here we have a real distinction without a difference. More importantly is that Overman addresses this issue in “A Case Against Accident and Self Organization.” In fact that is the very essence of why the book was written; it demonstrates that the use of scientific “self organization” as a substitute for “chance” has no scientific merit or mathematical possibility. This from a scientist not a theologian.

    As to the “primates” versus “single cell” being not relevantto the Mohler issue I think there is one point that does enter inbto the conversation. The development of the primates is based on “self organized” (random ) biological changes due to environmental causation. That may be true but is it settled science or still an hypothesiss based largely on extrapolated data? Here I remain sceptical but certainly refrain being in the young earth-Mohler-apparent age camp nonsense. Too many scientists like too many theologians argue their ideas as settled fact/dogma.

  • Ryan

    You say, “The Bible speaks of the earth as the stable, motionless, center of the cosmos.” Can you please point to where in the Bible you found this?

  • Jonathan

    I don’t really know who either of you guys are and what your other core beliefs are in this arena but when you said, “The world does not just show evidence of age. It also shows evidence of millions upon millions upon millions of years of evolution, judging by the wealth of evidence at hand (e.g., fossils, geological records, human genome).” that really made me cringe. In the process of refuting a fellow christian who is using poor logic you have reinforced some very unscientific, anti-creation talking points. What wealth of evidence? Email me if you want some references to the contrary.

    • peteenns

      Jonathan, read the rest of the posts and comments in the series.

  • Pingback: Thinking Through the Theological Problems with Theistic Evolution « For Christ and His Kingdom

  • http://christianlandmark.com Bart

    I have thought about the theology of Gosse’s apparent age proposition and I address some of the objections in this video sermon:
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hWVsex0wSfM
    Let me know what you think.
    Bart

  • Pingback: A practical appendix to the ‘appearance of age’ question | Age of Rocks


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