Old Earth Vs. Young Earth

Matt Walsh seeks to defend old earth creationism in his November 16, A.D. 2018 Soundcloud audio blog, Ep. 145 – Responding To Ken Ham’s Distortions And Misinformation *

As the title informs us, Walsh there delves into interaction between himself and Ken Ham of the organization Answers in Genesis, a well known advocate for young earth creationism. Although occasioned by listening to Walsh’s audio blog episode, this text blog episode will criticize old earth creationism in a more general way, using Walsh’s as a source of focal points.

Early on in his monologue, Walsh introduces a subject with which Christians of good will on all sides of the ongoing old earth/young earth discussion are familiar. That would be how to understand the duration of creation days one through three in light of (take the pun as you will) the creation of the sun on the fourth day, according to Genesis chapter one.

According to Walsh days of ordinary length exist solely because of the relationship of the sun and the earth. Therefore he claims that we cannot know what the nature or duration of a “day” would be, if that day occurred before the existence of the sun.

Hold that thought while we jump ahead in Walsh’s discourse to where he struggles with a theological difficulty, namely the divine toleration of death for eons before the Fall of man. He admits that he cannot conceive how God would allow “millions of years” of death, including extinction, to exist before Adam’s sin. (Apparently Walsh also embraces evolution.)

Walsh’s argument indicates that he considers plants as well animals to be capable of death. This young earth creationist as well as others do not regard plants, and possibly other organisms such as bacteria, as living beings in the way that humans and animals are. We classify plants as organic; capable of both growth and decay but not alive. We note that God gave vegetation to our first parents and to animals for food before the fall, but eating flesh was not divinely sanctioned for mankind until centuries later after the Noahic flood.

Upon its completion God pronounced His creation very good. So we infer that the first occurrence of death was when God Himself used the skins of animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, replacing the tawdry fig leaf gear they had cobbled together. Herein we have the Bible’s earliest foreshadowing of the necessity of the shedding of blood for the covering of sin and a graphic display of a foundational reality echoing throughout holy writ: donning garments weaved from foliage and all other man-made religion is useless superstition!

Let us get back to Walsh’s theological struggle. He wonders how the God of the Bible could permit millions of years of death, predation, and extinction in a universe into which sin had not yet entered. What is his resolution?

“Just because I can’t wrap my head around that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

What! Is that an appeal to our limited powers of conceptualization? OK, consider this. After God created the heavens and the formless earth, He called light into existence and divided it from the darkness, establishing day and night. What problem is there in believing that almighty God, the Creator of time itself, determined that a day would be a certain length before the sun existed?

Or why murmur if the record reveals that He later created the sun and the other luminaries to make them for signs and seasons, and for days and years…and to be for lights in the firmament to give light on the earth? Why stumble if Scripture states that He ordained the sun and moon to “rule over” an already existing period of time called day and night, evening and morning? Why doubt that the light spoken into existence on day one, whatever it might have been, was the sun’s predecessor?

In other words Mr. Walsh, you are correct. At present we can’t conceive how the cycle of evening and morning, the day of ordinary length (i.e. twenty-four hours; the hour is a man made unit of time) could obtain without the sun. But our inability does not require that the first three evenings and mornings were of a duration differing from all subsequent evening and mornings!

“Just because I can’t wrap my head around that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

Why, when we are dealing with that extraordinary, never to be repeated first week of the universe’s existence…why, when almighty power is working prodigiously, must the ordinary duration of the first three days be denied because an astronomical relationship did not exist until day four?

Why is it that scientifically minded, Bible believing Christians do not impugn the virgin birth which defies biological rationality? Answer: “Just because we can’t wrap our heads around that cornerstone Gospel truth doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

Without providing textual warrant, Mr. Walsh also declares the teaching of Romans 5 to be that death came into the world only for human beings as the result of sin’s entry. To shoot down this canard we need but move ahead in this Holy Spirit inspired letter to chapter 8. There, Paul teaches that the whole creation was subjected to futility as a result of human sin. He writes that the creation is now in the bondage of corruption awaiting the revelation of the sons of God, when it will be delivered.

Thus the apostle gives us an enlarged, new covenant understanding of what was revealed with adumbration in the old covenant per Genesis 3: a curse on man and on woman, on that member of the animal kingdom behind which was our malevolent adversary, the father of lies for whom the lake of fire has been prepared, and on the ground itself, now doomed to bring forth not only fruit and crops but thorns and thistles.

But the divine second Adam has nullified all curses. At the consummation, every trace of the consequences of sin in the entire cosmos will have vanished. Bible believing Christians cherish the hope which comes from the declaration that He will make all things new. According to His promise, Bible believing Christians are looking for that new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells – when death, sorrow, and pain will be no more forever. Thanks be to God!

Yet in this present time both “old earthers” and “young earthers” face the grim reality of death, corruption, savagery, and diverse sorrows even in the lower creation. The old earther scratches his head and wonders why God permitted that state of affairs to go on for millions of years even before sin came into the world. The young earther is given the reason (so dreadful and sobering) why it has existed for a relatively short few thousand years. Which position has the greater theological difficulty?

Walsh places a great deal of emphasis on the authority of what in our age is virtually personified, set upon a pedestal, and named Science. He puts great trust in the sheepskin credentials of those professionally involved with it; persons revered essentially as priests by the masses of today’s secular western culture. Are they and Walsh exalting human wisdom above the authority of Scripture? Whose science is to be trusted, and by what standard do we measure its trustworthiness?

Consciously or not, scientists worthy of the vocation according to its original sense fallibly follow God’s infallible and orderly mind, displayed in His faithful, perpetual care for His entire creation (a.k.a. providence). They observe, hypothesize, and theorize. If they also are faithful and sincere, they ever aim at objectivity over funding, tenure, and recognition. Their work is ever subject to correction by more rigorous observations, more creative hypotheses, and superior theories.

At one point in his blog, Walsh alludes to Ham’s assertion that there are mountains of evidence for young earth creationism, but dismisses the assertion with “Where is that evidence?…let’s move on.” The evidence is there, and many credentialed, faithful, objective scientists worthy of the vocation have marshaled it.

The Achilles’ heel of old earth creationism is its lack of any positive exegetical footing. Where in Scripture do we go to find even a hint of these pre-Adamic millions of years? How does a Christian parent or a pastor or a teacher explain to one of Christ’s tender lambs that Genesis 1 is really not saying what it seems to be saying so clearly? What chapter and verse mentions or even alludes to the existence of “deep time?” Can old earth creationists who deny Darwinism do so consistently?

Can you hear the mantras? Science says…most scientists believe…studies have shown…all reputable experts agree…trust me, I’m wearing a lab coat with a pocket protector.

A verse in a non-metaphorical, plain narrative, genealogical passage (Genesis 5:5) tells us that Adam lived 930 years. Was the sixth creation day on which Adam was formed from the dust a day of ordinary length? If not, exactly when did Adam’s first year of a life lasting 339,450 days begin? When was the first 24 hour day? Why was the duration of the eighth day of the world dramatically briefer? Where does God tell us that He made that change in the duration of days? He was careful to tell us about one day in history that was not of ordinary length:

“And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:14)

Like others who have studied the word of God, Walsh correctly observes that the word day in Scripture does not always mean a twenty four hour period. In Genesis 1 itself the word refers both to the illuminated portion of a twenty four period, as well as to an entire twenty four hour period!

Context is king when it comes to rightly dividing the word of truth. And that brings us to a portion of Scripture written under the Spirit’s inspiration by the same human author (Moses) at the same time and to the same immediate audience, the Israelites who had made their exodus from Egypt.

The fourth commandment, recorded originally with finger of God and preserved for us at Exodus 20:11, appeals to the Genesis record to give it force with hearts that love His law. The Old Testament Hebrew word for day is transliterated YOM. The plural form of that word is transliterated YAMMIM, and that form is used in this verse where we read that in six days God created the world and all it contains. Again, context is king. Let the old earther search as he will, no context in all of the Old Testament can be found in which that plural form YAMMIM refers to anything but literal days of ordinary length. The gauntlet is thrown down…

But it is intended as a charitable gauntlet. Granted, true Christians can hold erroneous positions on creation and on other doctrines. Unless one who claims to be a Christian consciously and deliberately denies cardinal truths such as the deity of Christ, or the Trinity, or that justification before God is only by His grace in Christ, we dare not judge that person as outside the fellowship of the redeemed. We do maintain that they are in error. Why is that?

Many of those aforementioned tender lambs belonging to the Good Shepherd have been poorly taught! Let all under shepherds beware and consider the holy Bible’s diverse warnings to those responsible under Him for feeding His sheep!

Just as Christ’s kingdom inexorably advances despite setbacks and temporary defeats, so it is with the church’s growing body of theology. Her ecumenical confessions reflect an increase of depth, clarity, and purity from Nicea to Westminster et. al.

Although in ancient Christianity we might find an occasional speculation about instantaneous creation (i.e. that it took place in far less than six days of ordinary length!), the position articulated in the Westminster Confession (“in the space of six days”) has been normative from antiquity.

On the other hand, the old earth view is quite innovative within the church catholic. Again, the old earth position does not originate with exegesis, but appears to exist only to accommodate ideas derived from fallible human reasoning.

The Lord Jesus in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 – 7), affirming that He did not come to abolish the law, declared that whoever would break the least of God’s commandments would be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Surely then we rightly infer that teaching incorrectly about “the least of God’s doctrines” also would make one least in the kingdom of heaven. Are any of God’s commandments less than holy, righteous, and wise? Is any of God’s testimony about His creation trivial…secondary…of little importance? May it never be!

“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99)

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. … If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11; 14,15)

* https://soundcloud.com/mattwalshshow/ep145

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