Young Earth/Old Earth
At today’s Christian faculty lunch, the topic of Science and Faith came up, particularly in the context of Genesis and the old earth/young earth debate.
My friend and colleague Sarah Salviander has started a ministry called Six Day Science, which I’ve written about before, and in spite of the appearance of the name, she is an old earth creationist. I asked her how things with that ministry were going and she was a little frustrated with the complete lack of response to email introductions she’d sent out to local pastors. We as a group sympathized, and shared that many pastors, not trained in science, tend to automatically take the young earth position. Furthermore, since many young earth creationists believe that is the only inerrant interpretation of Genesis, anyone holding a different view has a doctrinally weak view of Scripture. Consequently, many pastors try to insulate their congregations from those who hold different views, especially if that church has a school affiliated with it. This really helped her understand the dynamic involved.
Another member of the fellowship, who happens to be a congenial young earther, related that some folks on our mailing list are uncomfortable coming to our gatherings explicitly because many of the scientists and engineers in the group tend to be either old earthers or theistic evolutionists.
This floored me. As I wrote previously, I call myself a “Pan-Creationist”—it all panned out and here we are. I’m not being flippant, I wasn’t there to see it happen. I see the Creation passages in Scripture to be rich in possible interpretations, and don’t trust my own wisdom to pick the right one, so I listen to data and their interpretation from all camps, and challenge each to see which is the most robust on each issue. Thus, I tend to lean towards old earth creationism—briefly put, Genesis describes six phases of Creation. I’m not wedded to that view, but it makes the most sense to me of both the Bible and evidence from nature. Since God is the author of both, I expect them to agree. Where they don’t, then we are misinterpreting one or both.
Therefore, I don’t see why there has to be such acrimony within the Church on the topic. In fact, I think the diversity of scholarly opinion on this subject is healthy and refreshing. It means that people are wrestling with it and trying to understand a relatively simple text in terms of a complex and rapidly changing set of data and even more rapidly changing understandings of that data. I wish there was more openness in the secular scientific community on many issues, not just Origins. Proverbs says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Thus, it grieves me when Christians shun other Christians because of what I feel are very interesting but otherwise relatively unimportant interpretations of Scripture. I know. That statement just ratified everyone’s fears about me. But think about it. Genesis didn’t die on the cross, Jesus did. We agree on that, so let’s start there. It is possible to have a high view of Scripture and still have variations in interpretation.
Let’s follow Joan Rivers’ advice and “talk amongst ourselves.” But, let’s do it as Solomon advised, “A gentle word turns away wrath.”