LONGVIEW, Texas—“I know many, many young earth creationists who are now atheists,” declared Glen Morton to the crowd of students.
A petroleum geologist from Houston who subscribes to the theory of theistic evolution, Mr. Morton was invited to participate in a debate recently on the campus of LeTourneau University to address the issues of the origins of life and the age of the earth.
Also invited was Dr. Henry M. Morris III, a theologian and popular speaker on young earth creation who serves as Executive Vice President of the Institute for Creation Research, the leading scientific institute in the field. He is author of the book After Eden, among others, and teaches that the Genesis account of creation is literally true and that the earth is thousands, not billions of years old.
The overflow audience listened to a 20-minute presentation of each view along with two ten-minute exchanges between the participants. Questions from the audience rounded out the evening.
Interpreting Scripture with Science
Mr. Morton’s presentation consisted primarily of photographs of rocks and geologic formations that he believed proved his claims that the earth was not thousands of years old, that God did not create the earth and mankind in six days as stated in Genesis, and that God did not judge the world at the time of Noah by flooding the entire earth. Morton’s attempts at defining biblical Hebrew words by simply “looking in the dictionary” demonstrated an unfortunate lack of concern for sound hermeneutical principles. Lexical study is merely one component of interpretation.
Throughout the evening, Mr. Morton made it clear that he believed Christianity to be an observational religion. What he observes in the natural world (i.e. science) determines how he interprets the passages in the Bible that deal with the natural world.
Some would call this placing science over Scripture.
Working in a field no doubt dominated by evolutionists, Morton has spent many years traversing the globe in search of petroleum reserves. He stated that his study of geology eventually led him to conclude that there must be a different interpretation to what most Christians read in the Genesis account—an interpretation that fits within the parameters of modern science.
“I would ask someone why on earth would we choose to go with the interpretation that makes...God’s Word false,” Morton said of the literal interpretation of the creation account.
How should Christians deal with an apparent, observable contradiction to what God has revealed in Scripture?
The Issue of Authority
“When there is a choice between what God says and what modern science says, I’ll choose God’s Word every time,” commented Dr. Morris.
Morris went to great lengths during his presentation to lay out the issue of biblical authority, emphasizing that Scripture must be approached with a humble recognition that an omnipotent and holy Creator cannot and will not, by nature, confuse or deceive those to whom He is writing. It is not enough to claim that the human writers of the Bible did the best they could in describing issues they had not seen, as Mr. Morton suggested.
The issue of interpretation was brought up again by a guest in the audience who prefaced his question by telling the students that they should not be afraid of where science might take them. Of his own admission, he came to reject the literal, young earth creation account in Genesis “after four or five years of looking at the data.” He claimed to have become a “time agnostic,” which he explained meant that he knew the earth was not thousands of years old, but rather millions or billions; he didn’t know and he didn’t care.
Asking that his name not be made public, he explained in an interview after the debate that he had driven up from Houston because he thought this was an important event. Further discussion revealed that he had been previously hired by Morton to work in the petroleum industry.
His question to Dr. Morris: “Do you believe that you can be a committed biblicist and come up with an old age view as [Morton] has done?”
“It’s kind of like asking: Can you be a Christian and an adulterer,” responded Dr. Morris after some thought.
A shocking response? Not really.
Can Christians fall into the sin of adultery? Of course. They haven’t lost their salvation, but they may have lost their way.
And this was Morris’ point regarding the authority of the Bible. Christians who become more enamored by the “discoveries” of science will eventually relegate biblical authors to the level of scientific ignorance and elevate scientific authors to the level of absolute authority. God, as the superintending Author, is conveniently left out.
A larger issue, however, is the purpose for which God revealed the Scriptures. The Bible states that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Did God fashion the accounts of creation, Noah’s flood, and other significant events recorded in Scripture in such a way that only a scientist many millennia later could figure them out?
Did He simply inspire the ideas of Scripture and let human writers fill in the details according to their own understanding (or lack thereof)?
Or did God intend for His Word to be readily understandable to those made in His image. To princes or slaves. To kings or shepherd boys. To theologians or fishermen.
The fundamental issue, Dr. Morris explained, is the matter of authority.
The Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is a good reminder to Christians wondering how to interpret modern observations with the biblical text:
"Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Cor. 1:25-29, NASB)