How Does Old Earth Thinking Affect One's View of Scripture's Reliability?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
It has become fashionable among Christian intellectuals to discredit the Scriptural teaching of recent creation. Many who remain orthodox and evangelical in every other way, feel that to maintain a scholarly standing in academia, they must adopt the Big Bang, old universe, old Earth, and hundreds of millions of years of life's history before man. While this may seem somewhat innocuous, great danger is inherent, and a warning must be sounded.
This particular compromise didn't just appear; it's been around at least since the early 1800s when old-Earth ideas were floated by James Hutton and Charles Lyell. Many theologians, under the mistaken impression that scientists had proved it, rushed to incorporate an old Earth into Scripture, hoping to maintain credibility with secular scientists.
The first Biblical compromise to appear during this period was the hopelessly unscientific "gap theory," but this gained no respect from secular scientists. Theistic evolution, the Day-Age theory, progressive creation, and the framework hypothesis followed, and these dominate evangelical scholarship today.
Over the years, advocates maintained these positions primarily by ignoring the plain sense of Scripture. The early chapters of Genesis which were allegorized, are loosely correlated with evolution and old ages. But passages were seldom scrutinized in detail. While this attitude continues among most Christian "scholars" today, a much more disturbing trend has arisen among those scientifically minded Christians who attempt to popularize this message to the Christian public.
As inexcusable as it is to ignore Scripture, what can we say of distorting it to make it say something it clearly does not? For instance, Dr. Hugh Ross, a Christian astronomer who has gained a wide hearing among evangelicals, claims that Big Bang and old-Earth ideas come from a "plain and literal" interpretation of Scripture. I challenge anyone to find any "plain" teaching in Scripture which supports these ideas. Nor can unequivical support for these ideas be found in science. Much straightforward scientific evidence supports special creation, a young Earth, and global Flood. Why haven't evangelical theologians soundly denounced such views, which necessarily undermine cardinal doctrines such as the nature of God, the wages of sin, and the atonement of Christ?
Unfortunately, many others have now begun to judge Scripture's accuracy by its agreement with current scientific dogma, and then to distort Scripture until the two seem to agree. In doing so, scientific opinions of some scientists are elevated to a level they don't deserve, and Scripture suffers.
If such a method of interpreting Scripture is followed throughout, other doctrines will fall also. After all, miracles are "scientifically" impossible. Scientists know that virgins don't give birth, men don't walk on water, and bodies don't rise from the dead. One may gain scientific credibility among the secularists by twisting Scripture to fit science, but it would be better to honor God by believing His word.
*Dr. John Morris is President of ICR.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1998. How Does Old Earth Thinking Affect One's View of Scripture's Reliability?. Acts & Facts. 27 (8).