What do I think of the argument presented here for YEC? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I am going through the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution and the YEC position is the first one. This one is done by John Mark Reynolds and Paul Nelson. Readers of this blog know I move somewhere between OEC and evolutionary creationism. For this part, I am only commenting on the chapter of Nelson and Reynolds (N&R from now on). I might say something on the responses to their essay and their response to the responses. Time will tell.
So let’s start with the positives.
I do appreciate that there doesn’t seem to be dogmatism on the part of N&R. They do condemn any name-calling on any side of the debate, even on their own. They also do admit that there are problems with their viewpoint that need further exploration and they emphasize scientific exploration.
I also definitely agree with them that science should be open. Too many times, naturalistic assumptions that are simply bad philosophy can impede research. Whatever happened, it must not be XYZ after all, because that could lead to theistic claims. This was something that happened when science started to conclude that the universe had a beginning.
That having been said, there were a number of problems in their essay that in some ways left me surprised. Let’s go over them.
For one thing, I was surprised with how little argument there was on the main subject matter. It’s only towards the end of a long essay that they start making an argument for their position. Unfortunately, their argument was simply going with what they called a plain reading and nothing about the scientific arguments that they could use and no interaction that I recall with the contrary position.
Now my problem with a plain reading is, plain to who? Why assume that the question that a 21st century American brings to the text is the one that the text itself is addressing? It could be that the author was writing to address scientific questions, but that needs to be argued and not assumed.
If anything, I would be extra cautious about reading the Bible as a scientific text since the people it was written to did not think in those terms. These were not people who were going out and doing experiments, not because they would necessarily oppose that, but more because they were often just trying to survive. Science really got going when we had developed enough agricultural means that we didn’t have to work as long for food.
Many times when a text has been read scientifically, it has led to embarrassment since the text was never meant to be that way. Let’s consider how the text tells us to love the Lord with all our hearts. Now we could say “This makes no sense. The heart is not an organ of love, but it is one of pumping the blood throughout the body and keeping it functioning.” Yes. We know that today, but even still, we often use that expression. There needs to be a reason given as to why one should think the text is speaking scientifically.
Second, the writers seem to have a problem with secondary means. Psalm 139 tells me I was knit together in my mother’s womb. However, everyone would also know that was a nine-month process. God can be behind something and it be a process as well.
Third, there were too many false assumptions on the part of N&R. When they spoke about theistic evolutionists, they often said that they cannot allow an act of God in any way into their system. Unfortunately, I know a number of TE’s who would have no problem with that. TE’s who are Christian do hold to miracles after all, such as the resurrection of Jesus.
When I saw a statement like that on their part, I wound up getting dismissive. If you are presenting a case and claiming your opponents believe or know X, you’d better make sure they do. I’ve had a number of atheists tell me that I know XYZ, when I know no such thing.
I also thought they were too dismissive of ideas such as God sustaining the universe. It was presented as if to say “What does this even mean?” and then it was not really discussed. For me, God’s sustaining of the universe is something incredible that shows how active He is in the universe. Elihu told Job that if God removed His breath, all life would perish.
God’s sustaining the universe means right now, everything you and I do depends on Him. It means that the universe doesn’t exist on its own, which is something that I think is a problem for materialism. Existence is treated as if it’s a brute fact. Yes. The universe exists. How? It just does. What does it mean to exist? Why do you ask such stupid questions?
By giving up this ground, I fear N&R have conceded too much to atheism with this position. Very few people today seem to have a doctrine of existence. Atheists often want to ask if God exists without first asking what it means to exist.
Finally, N&R gave the sound of one hand clapping. I get that they do not agree with other positions, but they needed to seriously interact with them. I did not see this take place.
The next chapter will be on Old-Earth creationism.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)