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Young Earth Creationists often argue that denying a young age for the Earth amounts to adopting the naturalist/materialist perspective prevalent in secular science. They suggest that this denial disregards a straightforward reading of Genesis, which they argue is the most natural interpretation of the text, thus denying the reliability of God's Word and essentially portraying God as untruthful. However, since God cannot lie, proponents of YEC maintain that it logically follows that God cannot be deceptive in Genesis, leading to the conclusion that the Earth must indeed be young, that is, if we concede that a plain reading of Genesis is arguably the most natural and rational way of approaching the text.

In response, how do Christians who hold differing views on the age of the Earth address this argument?


The following article, published on Answers in Genesis, should serve as a good illustration of what I'm talking about:

“Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar.”

“Many Christians believe in evolution because they figure the vast majority of scientists can't be wrong, or that they wouldn't lie -- I was one of those.”

I just read your article online, “A Young Earth—It’s Not the Issue!”. The thrust of Ham’s argument in this article reflects my own experience with the evolution/creation debate. Many Christians believe in evolution because they figure the vast majority of scientists can’t be wrong, or that they wouldn’t lie -- I was one of those. This forced me to conclude that the creation account in the bible was symbolic, which then led me to question many other passages -- the collapse of the walls of Jericho,the parting of the Red Sea, and whether Lazarus was really dead. “is this real? or merely symbolic? If it’s only symbolic, what does it mean?”

Many christians have rejected a former belief in evolution by the efforts of creation science organizations which expose the scientific flaws in evolutionary theory. They come to question the science of evolution, then declare a belief in the word.

My path was different. I was firmly persuaded of the scientific evidence. The problem was that what I believed contradicted the plaintext of bible, and I had to choose one or the other. For me, the decision to believe the word came first, and the validation of the word by scientific evidence came later.

In light of the irreconcilable conflict between evolution and the word, I decided simply to accept the Genesis creation account as true, and review all I had previously believed about evolution in that light. In other words, I had to reject what I believed, accept what I had firmly rejected, and reframe and restructure my understanding of the word and of science.

Why? What prompted me to do this? Consider the vast amounts of information in the world -- from encyclopedias to construction diagrams to the Internet -- and now consider just how little, how very few words are contained in the bible. And yet, in this extremely concise record of the history of God’s interaction with his people, one of the things he chose to tell us was how he made the world. He must have considered it very important. And here I was, rejecting that account as untrue because I believed men rather that God. The same people who deny the creation account on scientific grounds also deny the resurrection of Christ, and yet I had chosen to believe that.

So I simply rejected the word of men, without waiting for supposedly logical or scientific reasons to do so. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” [Romans 3:4]

It was extremely unsettling, but over several weeks, through prayer, research, and faith that God would lead me, I found my faith affirmed. Moreover, accepting God’s word as being factually correct has opened doors for my faith that I had never known were there.

Can God save Christians who reject his account of the creation? I’m sure he can. But they deny themselves the riches of fully trusting God, and knowing their faith pleases him, as did Abraham’s.

And most critically, those Christians overlook the harm done to the next generation of Christians who are taught not to take God’s word too seriously. It’s tragic, and they should know better.

– Manuel Edwards, USA


See also: Why do Old-Earth Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists reject (purported) scientific evidences for a young Earth?

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    It's clear throughout the Bible that God created this planet, and everything else.  According to e.g. Romans 1:20, we can learn something about God by looking at His creation.  And everything we learn about it, countless different pieces of evidence across many disciplines and approaches, suggest that it's very old (far older than YECs believe).  If it's not so old, then God would have had to have deliberately faked all that evidence to lead us astray.  Would that not make God a liar??
    – gidds
    Commented May 2 at 15:13
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    FWIW: As a young earth creationist I do not believe that old earth creationists are calling God a liar. Unfortunately, both sides are amassing mounds of evidence in support of their views and very few are willing to engage the "other side" in serious, respectful dialog...hence the name calling that this reduces to. While I believe the OEC view to be wrong, with potentially serious consequences, holding the OEC view in no way precludes salvation. In short, don't take the bait and reduce people to a single label.
    – tnknepp
    Commented May 2 at 16:05
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    @tnknepp “…in no way precludes salvation.”  Thank you for reminding us that we are, after all, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that it's OK to disagree about some things.  We should always treat each other respectfully, however wrong we may thing the others are, and always remember the more important things that we agree about!
    – gidds
    Commented May 3 at 7:55
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    The argument that "any interpretation that one disagrees with makes God seem to be a liar:" cuts both ways. One may as well ask .eg "How do Christians who ACCEPT Young Earth Creationism respond to the "God is not a liar" argument?" ie if another party argues that their interpretation is what God intended then the YEC claims are specious and make God appear to be a liar. That is, the argument devolves to one about (simply) whose interpretation is correct. Commented May 3 at 14:40
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    Bishop John Wilkins (1614–1672) discusses this at considerable length in his work The Discovery of a New World. The second half of this book is about the (then-controversial) idea that the Earth might be another planet. Wilkins treats in great detail the Biblical evidence for and against this question, and in the end concludes: “From all these scriptures it is clearly manifest that it is a frequent custom of the Holy Ghost to speak of natural things, rather according to their appearance and common opinion, than the truth itself.”
    – MJD
    Commented May 3 at 17:08

4 Answers 4

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To put it simply, Old Earth proponents do not believe "God is a liar" but that YEC proponents have misunderstood the Bible.

YEC insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis (they call it "the plain meaning" but it amounts to the same thing). Their claim is that this is the only possible interpretation of Genesis. Most importantly, they say, the word for "days" must refer to a period of 24 hours, even though the word is used for different periods of time elsewhere in the Bible.

Other Christians dispute that, and say that the early Chapters of Genesis were not intended to be literal historical descriptions of the creation, but had another purpose. Even very early church theologians, for example, advanced the idea that early Genesis was a telling of heavenly events (that were in their essence incomprehensible to man) in a form that mere mortals could understand something of. This was, of course, long before there was any scientific evidence to indicate that the Earth was old. Many other proposals have been advanced through the ages. There is no universal agreement as to what the extent of the non-literality of early Genesis is. A popular approach says that the word for "days" might stand for a long period of time. The word is used in that sense elsewhere in the Bible. However that is far from the only view.

To deny the possibility of a non- literal intention for Genesis is hubris. We know that God in Jesus told non- literal stories to illustrate various truths. Nobody calls Jesus "a liar" just because the events of the Good Samaritan did not actually happen. The point of the story is not its historicity. A different kind of truth is being conveyed, that does not depend on whether the story is historically accurate.

Jesus reprimands his disciples for taking his words too literally in Matthew 16:5-12, where he talks about "the yeast of the Pharisees". His disciples think he means literal yeast, and Jesus has to explain that he does not.

The incorrectness of the Young Earth theory is therefore not to be laid at the feet of a "lying" God, but at presumptious and fallible Man, that has used his own reason to draw a conclusion and then insisted that this conclusion be accepted as the very word of God, denying the possibility of his own error.

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    It's notable that the very earliest Christian text to comment on the days of creation (Epistle of Barnabas) does not take a YEC perspective. Commented May 2 at 3:50
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    An even better example from Christ's teaching is where he tells the guy "whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again" and the guy responds as if it's literal water he's being offered. We're supposed to see this as the guy being naive and overly-literal. The idea of people saying "oh yes, he should have known it was a metaphor" and then themselves not seeing all the other metaphors in the Bible boggles the mind.
    – Graham
    Commented May 2 at 7:07
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    @Graham I like that one, but I also added a better (in my opinion) one. Commented May 2 at 12:59
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    @curiousdannii You've said that before, and I've read the AiG statements on the matter, and been unable to find any difference between their views of Genesis and "literalist" views of Genesis. But that's an argument for elsewhere. Please take it to chat if you want to argue. You know this site well enough to know that comments is not the place for arguing with an answer you personally disagree with. The question asked "How do Old Earth Creationists respond..." and this answer tells you how they respond. You don't have to agree with them. Commented May 2 at 14:27
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    Getting off topic folks. Please take it to chat. Commented May 2 at 23:42
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Added: A number of people seem to be misunderstanding this answer.
I am NOT defending any of the interpretations of Genesis - YEC or other. So, asking me for examples or to justify one or other position is irrelevant.

Rather, I am rather addressing the actual question that was asked - and saying that the "How do XXX justify YYY" applies to anyone who holds a position that another disagrees with, if the other considers such a position to be 'God dishonouring'.

i.e. A considering B's position to be God dishonouring in a given area can apply both ways.

____________________________

The argument that "any interpretation that one disagrees with makes God seem to be a liar:" cuts both ways. One may as well ask .eg

  • "How do Christians who ACCEPT Young Earth Creationism respond to the "God is not a liar" argument?"

ie if another party argues that their interpretation is what God intended then the YEC claims then seem specious and seem to make God appear to be a liar.

That is, the argument devolves to one about (simply) whose interpretation is correct.

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    This is incorrect. The argument is based on what meaning of the text is most readily perceived, which can be determined with fair accuracy. In particular, there is strong (but not perfect) agreement that Genesis 1-11 is meant to be plain history up until "science" started insisting otherwise in the 1800s, and even where there are exceptions (e.g. Origen), there are indications that those individuals' reading was influenced by external factors.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 3 at 16:04
  • @Matthew I'm not meaning to argue any point of view - just trying to answer the actual question. || You, by saying "which can be determined with fair accuracy" are simply 'doubling down on the suggested YEC position. What the passage "means" is at the heart of the discussion. You are thus arguing that the non-YECs are dishonest and presenting God as a liar as a result of their dishonesty. || The suggestion re "external factors" may be correct, or not - I really do not know BUT each of us almost without exception and almost always operates under the influence of "external factors". Commented May 4 at 7:30
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    @DarkMalthorp You do not seem to be disagreeing with me :-). I use "seem" within the context presented. I was saying that a mirror image argument exists. I don;t uderstand you to be disagreeing wit that. It you are then clarificatio is very welcome. Commented May 4 at 7:33
  • @RussellMcMahon Oh, yes. I'm sorry, I misinterpreted your answer. Commented May 4 at 12:19
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    @Matthew We are stuck in infinite regress, so far. Whether God said X and what X means are related but the interrelationship is not certain. I agree that "taking everything at face value" is the easiest path, & the most intuitive and (probably) the one Occam would support. & it may well be the correct one. BUT this is not certain. You demand certainty for a preferred position. Only when you can say NOT that xxx have said this for yyy years and ... BUT rather "It is absolutely certain that ...." can your position be properly justified. Being right and being certain do not always correlate. Commented May 10 at 3:21
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proponents of YEC maintain that it logically follows that God cannot be deceptive in Genesis, leading to the conclusion that the Earth must indeed be young,

It might lead to that conclusion, but that doesn't mean that it is the only possible conclusion.

The current state of the Earth (geography, biology, etc.) could be young, while the Earth itself could be billions of years old.

The Bible not only allows this possibility, it suggests that it is so.

Genesis 1:1 says that God created the universe.
Genesis 1:2 describes the world in a state that is different from the one it was created in.
There could be billions of years between the first two verses.

Genesis 1:2 And the earth was[became, Hebrew "hayah"] without form [Hebrew "tohu"], and void;
Isaiah 45:18 … God himself that formed the earth … he created [Hebrew "bara'"] it not in vain [Hebrew "tohu"] …"

For details, see my answer to Is there a specific meaning in KJV Genesis 1:1-5 on hoTw it is presented in the Biblehub? - Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange.

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    As I've said elsewhere, the gap hypothesis is utter nonsense. You have... a ball of water. Never mind this completely contradicts the entire Materialist timeline, so you're arguing for an interpretation that's absurd to start... what do you do with this ball of water? There's still no life, or land, or light for billions of years. All you're doing is taken two interpretations that aren't compatible and mashing them together into something that's even worse.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 1 at 21:45
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    "The current state of the Earth (geography, biology, etc.) could be young, while the Earth itself could be billions of years old." - But why would someone conclude this? If someone is willing to ignore the vast swathes of evidence against "old" geography, biology etc., why is the stuff about Earth being billions of years old any more convincing?
    – Guy G
    Commented May 2 at 11:02
  • @GuyG It's possible that this may answer your question: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/101322/61679
    – Mark
    Commented May 2 at 11:26
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Most importantly, creation is the first one of two pages of the Bible, which is about 1000-2000 page long. I find a little surprising, that it is such an important question. I think, the application of some apostolic letters to the today, or some more cryptic late old testament books, is much more important.

I think that is already a mistake, that it is the focal thing.

(heavily private, baseless speculation)

It would be an unfortunate egoism to think, that the world is not much more complex as we would understand it. We all know, some thousands years ago, the humanity understood much lesser from the Universe, things are clearly improving. It would be an unthinkable egoism to think, we are the first generations understanding everything.

For example, multiple time dimensions could exist. On one time-axis, there is the Bible and on the other, there is the geological time scale. We, with our partial knowledge and finite mind, have some view to both, but no human could see the past, or pasts, as they have happened. I can not see essential contradiction. At least, not one what could not be bridged over by discoveries, developments happened in the late centuries.

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    It is not egoism to believe that God revealed Truths. It is an artifact of Materialist thinking to assert that ancient people were less intelligent or that "[all] things are clearly improving". Creation is running down, and has been since the Fall. In any case, this isn't really answering the Question.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 3 at 21:25
  • Two dimensional time! Now that is an intriguing idea. I agree with you about rampant oversimplification in the modern debates on Creation. I also agree with Matthew that ancient people were by no means less intelligent than modern, and that God revealing truths is of a fundamentally different quality from scientific discovery. Commented May 4 at 2:04

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