The Great Divide, Jr. Or, where I stand on the OEC/YEC debate
(NOTE: I am very willing to listen to both sides of this debate, and welcome most commenters. I am not a scientist, and allow room for error in this blog “essay.” Pick holes in it, if you’d like; I will respond as carefully and thoroughly as time and brain-power allows. However, if there is what I judge to be unkindness shown to myself or to any other commenter, or if a commenter is obviously posting a contentious knee-jerk statement on the topic w/o actually reading this blog post, or for any other reason solely based upon my judgement — since this is my blog – I will delete the comment.)
I have been an unwilling participant, for the most part, on the debate between Old-Earth Creationists (OEC) and Young-Earth Creationists (YEC). But, a recent post of mine stirred up some controversy about this issue, and I thought I’d post how I arrived where I am now on the topic.
Just for the record, both “camps” believe in God as the Creator of the universe. The central dispute is how long ago that happened. OECs tend to side with much of the scientific world which places the beginnings of the universe around 14 billion years ago, give or take a few billion years. YECs believe that God created the world in 6 literal days, and that happened about 6,000 years ago.
Also for the record, the premier website/think tank for OECs is Reasons to Believe, www.reasons.org, spearheaded by Hugh Ross. The two most influential organizations (that I know of) espousing YEC are Answers in Genesis, www.answersingenesis.org, headed by Ken Ham, and Institute for Creation Research, led by John Morris.
Also for the record, I DO NOT believe this issue is central to Christianity; I’m not dogmatic about my when-did-creation-take-place beliefs. Too often, this dispute has been one of those topics that pits Christian against Christian, and just for that reason, I have long avoided it because I have seen it get nasty-ugly. I don’t think mean-spirited debate among Christians is right and Godly; it is anguishingly sad to me to reflect upon and witness the rifts that have been caused, in the history of Christianity, from arguing over issues that are not central to Christian doctrine. I do believe that discussion and research and questioning is very Godly; God’s not afraid of our questions, and I think He’s very encouraging to the sincerely humble, searching heart. The contentious heart, though, He’s not so fond of. It is my deep desire to be humble, and not contentious, both in this post, and IRL. If I couch my position in uncertainty, it’s not because I don’t believe; it’s because I’m allowing myself room for all-too-frequent error.
Up until very recently, I have been in limbo on the topic. It has taken me five years of teaching my kids, and studying both viewpoints, but I think I’ve now picked my side of the fence.
When I decided upon Sonlight as a homeschooling curriculum, one of the things that so attracted me is that they were Christian, but not dogmatic about certain points — like OEC vs. YEC — that are not, in my view, doctrinal. In their science curric, Sonlight tends towards a YEC viewpoint, but they also include some books from companies like Usborne, which are not Christian, and which are evolutionary. Sonlight definitely has a pro-creation theology, but seems to me to be rather ambivalent towards the YEC/OEC debate. That was perfect for me, as I hadn’t really decided, nor did I think it was truly all that important to decide, one way or another.
I mention the above because I want it to be clear that I have not rushed towards any judgement. It’s not like I just said, “Well, darn it! We’re Christians! We must believe that the earth was created in six literal days, 6,000 years ago, and we’re NOT going to study any opposing viewpoint!!”
And, though I believe that all things must submit to the truth of God, I have no desire to bend our studies to something that I believe is scientifically inaccurate yet doctrinally correct. I believe that scientific accuracy and correct doctrine go hand-in-hand. God – Yahweh, the God of the Christian Bible — has ALL truth. Some of HIS truth has been discovered by scientists, some by theologians, some by historians, some by mathematicians, some by regular blokes with no PhDs, and so on.
That’s my underlying question: Where is the truth in this?
Science, for the most part, tries to ascertain the truth. But, for some things, the truth can be discovered, and is labelled as fact. For other things, though many try their best, the truth simply cannot be discovered, but only logically supposed, and is called theory.
What I see as dangerous is the evolutionary model, the theory of evolution, being presented as Truth and Fact. Most “secular” scientists present it this way. Most science classes in schools present it this way. Many OECs present it this way. Additionally, I have heard and seen OECs say, “Well, if you don’t believe in evolution, you’re obviously stupid.” Or, “You’re obviously throwing the scientific model out the window in favor of your religion.”
IOW, it’s presented as YEC = nonintellectual.
BUT… something that I find to be equally disturbing is that many YECs present themselves as having the stronger faith, the more “pure” Christianity, and imply (or overtly state!) that to have anything other than a YEC viewpoint is to undermine Christianity. (This because of the idea that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and once a link is shown to be faulty, it throws the strength of the whole chain into question.)
IOW, it’s presented as OEC = nonChristian.
I believe neither of those extremes are true. There are thousands of powerfully intelligent scientists who espouse a YEC viewpoint. And, there are thousands of folks who are truly Christian who also believe that the earth was created billions of years ago — my Uncle Steve and my own mother among them!!
In a personal e-mail, a friend recently stated:
I do not believe that God has asked me to profess a belief that the Earth was created in 6 days about 6,000 years ago. I do believe that he wants me to understand that the Earth is his creation and that it was good and that man was given dominion over it and that man sinned and was expelled from the garden to a life of toil and separation and that only by grace can we be received into His kingdom.
Clearly, one can be a Christian and an OEC.
Recently visiting the Grand Canyon, seeing again its immense breadth, depth and length (not ot mention its awesome beauty), and its many strata of rock led me to seriously question the ability of it to be created in a short period of time.
Up until recently, my support for a young earth has fallen on these tenuously held “evidences”:
- I have fallen back onto something my friend Shellie pointed out to me: God is able to create something new that has the appearance of age. (Witness, for example, Jesus turning water into wine.)
- Also — and this is a little harder to explain — it seems to me that God isn’t tricksy. I mean, if he says that “there was evening, and there was morning — the first day,” well then, by golly, that sounds like a whole literal 24-hour day to me! In Scripture, God does leave many things vague, inviting us to search them out. But, in my experience and observation, God isn’t trying to trick anyone with Scripture; He’s not trying to mess with us. KWIM?
- Also, I think about kids (and adults) and truthtelling vs. being deceptive: If one tells the truth, one never needs to worry about creating a lie, nor a lie to cover up the first one, nor a series of lies to cover up the first two, and on. The account of creation is pretty straightforward; however, it requires that initial leap of faith and belief in an all-powerful God that some are loathe to do. The theory of evolution has required, since its inception, increasingly difficult theories, increasingly lengthy periods of time, increasingly convoluted explanations to cover up the holes that new discoveries tear into the theory. To me… well, that just seems like that in itself hints that the theory is false. Usually, if a theory is true, the evidence that shows up after the fact continues to support it, not continues to refute it.
However, those “evidences” are not really fodder for any kind of debate — just something that soothed my own thoughts well enough (mostly) on the matter.
Upon visiting the Canyon, and attending an interesting talk on geology given by a Park Ranger, I found myself hard-pressed to come up with any solid, supporting evidence for a young earth off the top of my head. IOW, in spite of my beliefs, I was rather uneducated about the matter. I have read books, encyclopedia entries, websites, forum conversations, e-mails, blog posts, etc. on both sides of the subject, but nothing has really stuck. I decided that, if I was going to believe in a young earth, there had to be better reasons than the ones I bulleted above, and they’d better be memorable. At that point, I went into the park bookstore and bought myself a copy of Grand Canyon: A Different View, compiled (and partly written) by Tom Vail.
It is a beautiful book. I always appreciate when books are artfully laid out, and thoughtfully presented. More than that, though, I found it to be a relatively concise and convincing series of essays on both the evidences for a young earth, and against an old earth.
Among the ideas that are (to me) most convincing:
- The contradictory evidence presented by the various long half-life radioactive isotope dating methods. If they’re all effective, all the various methods’ results should, by and large, agree with each other. They don’t.
- The fact that carbon-14-containing fossils are embedded in supposedly millions-of-years-old rock. Acknowledged by both sides is the fact that carbon 14 lasts — at a maximum — 70,000 years. So, how could a <70,000 yo fossil be embedded in a millions-yo-rock?
- “The presence of cross-beds in the sandstone, and even limestone, layers seen in the Grand Canyon is strong testimony for high energy water transport of these sediments. Studies of sandstones exposed in the Grand Canyon reveal cross-beds produced by high velocity water currents that generated sand waves tens of meters in height.” –John Baumgardner, PhD Geophysics and Space Physics. (IOW, evidence within the stone shows a large-scale, global flood, which formed the rocks quickly.)
- “Despite the awesome chasm that separates [the Kaibab and Abert squirrels], traits of these two populations grade evenly into one another, proving their separation could not have been long. Thus, those squirrels act as ’biological clocks’ telling us the Canyon formed rapidly and recently…” –Gary Parker, EdD Biology.
- The evidence that some rock formations — such as those comprised of travertine — can form very quickly… cascading dams of rock formed over “hundreds of years, not millions…” –Tom Vail
- Most convincing to me were the pics of folds in the strata, notably the Tapeats Sandstone. Think about it: When there’s an earthquake, what happens to rock? It breaks. It cracks. It doesn’t fold. Folding of the rock layer can only happen when the layers are soft, as in — sedimentary layers recently deposited by a global flood. (Thanks to this photographer for the pic.)
So. I am now officially a young-earther. However, I allow for the fact that as neither I – nor anyone else besides the God of creation — was present at the time of creation, I could certainly be in error. But, as I see it, the facts present themselves on the side of a young earth.
Thus, while I believe it is necessary to study all sides of a dispute, sometimes it becomes prudent to actually pick a side. Sometimes it’s in the best interest of students to make the bold move of a decision, and no longer be satisfied with vagueness. So… that’s the reason that I would like — at least for this coming school year — to find a geology curriculum that aligns itself with a YEC worldview. My nearly 10yo son is enthralled with mineral identification, and the study of rocks and other earth sciences. I would like to give him at least one year of foundational study, so that when he’s presented in the future — as will surely happen — with evolutionary ideas that are contrary to our (my) beliefs, he’ll know how to respond. If he does eventually end up siding with OECs or others that espouse a billions-of-years-old earth, at least I’ve done my best to educate him fully — not just encouraged him to say, “Baaaa” and join the herd that believes that the theory of evolution is unquestionable.
Posted on June 7, 2007, in Arizona, Books I'm Reading, Christian Living, Christianity, God/Christianity/Church, Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Loving Nature!, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.