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Preview of MR's May/June Issue

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mrmj10cover1The blog fury over Dr. Bruce Waltke's recent resignation from Reformed Theological Seminary is well-timed for the May/June 2010 issue of Modern Reformation.

All this year, we're focusing on "Recovering Scripture" and in the May/June issue, the topic at hand is "canon formation." But before you start reading about the Canon of Scripture, we think you'll be interested in our Ad Extra department (where we feature articles slightly off topic). In this issue, we're publishing an article by a number of Reformed scientists who take up the issues of the earth's age and Scripture's trustworthiness.

Here are the first few paragraphs from their article, titled, "PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth."

How old is the earth?  Does an honest reading of the opening chapters of Genesis confine creation to six days a few thousand years ago, or does it allow for an origin of much greater antiquity?  These questions are hardly new.  Scientific assertions suggesting an alternate interpretation of the length of creation began more than 200 years ago, well before the days of Charles Darwin.  With a debate more than two centuries in the making, one might reasonably expect that Reformed scholars long ago resolved the issue. In fact, the much-sought resolution has proven elusive.  In 1998, the PCA commissioned a Creation Study Committee (CSC), made up of both Bible scholars and natural scientists, to consider the relevant Scriptures in light of the various existing interpretations and scientific evidence.  The report, submitted after two years of investigation, did not recommend a definitive answer, but did at least conclude that it is possible to believe both in an ancient earth and the inerrancy of Scripture. The statement below is extracted from the concluding pages of the 2000 Report of the Creation Study Committee.

Clearly there are committed, Reformed believers who are scientists that are on either side of the issue regarding the age of the cosmos.  Just as in the days following the Reformation, when the church could not decide between the geocentric and heliocentric views of the solar system, so today there is not unanimity regarding the age question.  Ultimately, the heliocentric view won out over the geocentric view because of a vast preponderance of facts favoring it based on increasingly sophisticated observations through ever improving telescopes used by thousands of astronomers over hundreds of years.  Likewise, in the present controversy, a large number of observations over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor.

The geocentric/heliocentric debate refers to a controversy starting some 500 years ago between two conflicting views of nature.  The geocentric position held that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth.  In contrast, the heliocentric position held that the earth and planets revolved around the sun.  Several passages of Scripture appeared to support the geocentric view, and heliocentrism was considered by many to be a direct challenge to the authority of God's Word.  Others recognized more than one possible interpretation of the Scriptures in question, and scientific evidence eventually persuaded them that the sun was indeed the center of our solar system.

In this context, it is important to recognize that science did not prevail over Scripture.  Scripture was and remains true.  Scientific evidence only served as a God-given aid in selecting the more accurate of two plausible, Bible-honoring interpretations.  The CSC report suggests we are at a similar crossroads concerning the age of the earth, but without sufficient evidence to tip the scales one way or the other.

The CSC commendably included several scientists, though none were geologists.  So what would a geologist add to the discussion?  As practicing geologists committed to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, in keeping with Reformed tradition, the eight authors of this article maintain that the "large number of observations over a long period of time" mentioned in the CSC report have already been made, and the data are sufficient to unequivocally answer the question.  We also understand, however, the inherent difficulty that people have in assessing a vast body of scientific literature filled with terms and jargon that often require years of schooling in very specific fields to comprehend.  Such difficulties have landed even well read and godly individuals such as Martin Luther on the wrong side of these debates.  Luther addressed the heliocentric theories of Copernicus in his day as being little more than the pursuit of vanity since Scripture clearly speaks of the sun moving and not the earth.

In this article, we wish to provide our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ with a few general observations, some clarification on a common misconception about our science, and two specific examples that speak convincingly that God's earthly creation has been around for a very long time.

To read the rest of this article in Modern Reformation, be sure to call 800-890-7556 and one of our customer service representatives can process your subscription or you can subscribe online.
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  • Thanks so much for posting this. I look forward to seeing more on this topic. I assume from this teaser that you're advocating for an ancient earth, which is great as far it goes. But will the much more controversial issue of evolution be dealt with directly? Because that's really the center of the conflict. By the way, if you want links to Evangelical Christian Evolutionists, just check out my blog and look on the upper right side bar. Waltke is right even if he regrets putting it this way, the church must address the issue of evolution straightaway or else it risks becoming cultic and irrelevant. The sooner the evangelical church in America deals with this, the better off she will be.

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  • What is the link between the first words about the Waltke issue (denying the historicity of Adam) and the rest of this article about the age of the earth ? Does the latter lead to the first ?

    Is Waltke consistent, but others, accepting old earth but still holding to a historical Adam, inconsistent ?

    The article also seems to say that we must listen to certain (evolutionary) views about the age of the earth (old age) more than the other view (young age). On what grounds ?

    And, why not also listen to that growing body of theologians and evolusionist proclaiming that Adam was not historical ? Where will MR draw the line, and how do you determine who to listen to, democracy: if the most theologians/scientists deny it, then it is correct ? (contra Ex.23:1-3)

    And, why then do we only believe the evidence of certain theologians and certain scientists on certain issues, and not on other issues such as the resurrection. Why do we not listen also to the 'overwhelming' evidence of liberal theologians and scientists who 'confirm' that people cannot be raised from the dead, it is unscientific. Yes, "a large number of observations over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor", and has confirmed that people are not raised from the dead. So, maybe the Gospels are trying to teach us something else than that Christ bodily and physically and historically raised from the dead, contra 1 Cor.15 ?

    Where do we draw the line what to accept from modern science and what not ?

    You write: "Likewise, in the present controversy, a large number of observations over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor."

    In the present controversy, over a long period of time (and still continuing), it becomes more clear that there are many theologians and scientist who reject (or compromise) the tradional view of Genesis 1 and especially the length of the days, who are also now starting to deny the historical Adam and the historicity of Gen.1-3.

    Meanwhile, I do not know of any theologian or scientist (past or present) that holds to the traditional view of Genesis and the length of days and a young earth, that in any sense deny the historicity of Genesis 1-3 or Adam. Indeed, they hold even more firmly to the faith once delivered (Jud.3)

    Prov.4:23 indeed.

    Once again, how do you decide what theologians/scientists to believe on a certain issue, and who not to listen to (The 'creationist' theologians and scientist has the same degrees and academic pedigree, why are some biased against them and prefer the atheistic and theistic evolutionist theories more ?)

    In Noah's time the the majority, and it was a great majority, could see no 'evidence' for a coming world wide flood, but Noah was right according to Special Revelation. Once again Hebr.11:1-7.

    It all boils down to, not the 'large number of observations' and how many telescopes and scientists using it, but through what lenses (pressupositions) both the theologians and scientists read both Scripture and nature, both special and natural revelation.

    So, if it is so called 'modern reformed' to read Genesis and the rest of Scripture through the lenses of of modern (evolutionary) science; and 'fundamentalistic' to read nature/general revelation through the lenses of Scripture (Calvin, Luther, etc !), then I prefer to be a 'fundamentalist' in the biblical orthodox reformed historical sense of the word.

    John 3:12 12 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

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  • Guest - Reg Schofield

    One can have a open and honest discussion concerning the age of the earth but a line must be drawn in the sand over the historicity of Adam. With all the clear references that state Adam was a real historic figure by Moses,Paul and Jesus , I will hold to that truth then the ever changing theories of science.

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  • Guest - Marc Thomas

    Good for you Slabbert

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  • Some months ago, on JLTV, a Professor/Scientist,

    Answered the old earth new earth question once and forever.

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  • Guest - Sean

    "Young-earth advocates counter that Creation had to have the appearance of age, without deception, because Adam, mature forests, and even flowing rivers would all of necessity have the appearance of age. This confuses maturity with history. A miraculously created tree might well appear mature, but apparent age arguments suggest that if Adam cut down several of these trees, he may have found 50 growth rings with matching patterns of variable growth and burn marks at rings 21 and 43. These data represent not just maturity or age but history--a history that never actually occurred."

    There is another possibility ... supernatural.
    God could have caused history to occur prior to Adam and at a pace more rapid than "normal". Let's not put God in a box just because we can't figure out exactly how He did it. He is, after all ... God. Let's not limit God only to things we, with our by definition limited intellectual capacity, can conceive of.

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  • Guest - David Jowett

    Caution Christians!!! Do not be swayed by those who have surrendered in the fight for the Word of God over the consensus of the scientists.

    Three points here:

    1. I don't think many realize that is not just Genesis 1&2 that are in question here. If we try to harmonize an old earth and the rest of the current scientific consensus on the history of the earth, human anthropology etc., we will have to deny the fall, the flood, the tower of babel, the geneologies of Genesis 5&11 and many other details of the book of Genesis. The framework, day-age and analogical views are not new interpretations of scripture, they are denials of scripture. Whatever happened to the analogy of faith and the perspicuity of the scriptures?

    It is no surprise that the authors (at least two of them to my knowledge) deny a worldwide deluge as well. Why? Because it is impossible to believe in an old earth and also incorporate the biblical flood for many geological/anthropological reasons. There is a simple arguement why the earth cannot be old. The scriptures say it is young. A backup to this is that the scriptures also say there was a flood that destroyed every air-breathing terrestrial creature on the planet and covered every mountain. If your theory of earth history denies this then you need to re-evaluate your position and determine where you made an incorrect inference from the evidence.

    2. The authors have not come to grips with their bondage to the uniformitarian mindset. Uniformitarianism is incompatible with the scriptures but is presupposed in geology. The key presupposition to correctly interpreting all of geological history is to understand the ramifications of these three events: creation ex-nihilo in six days, the fall and its after-effects, and the Noachic deluge and its after-effects.

    3. The authors have made a glaring error in their scientific arguement for the second geological example. I I am waiting to see if anybody notices while I prepare an offical response.

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