October 15, 2008

Wrestling with the Age of the Earth

[DISCLAIMER: many of the alternate positions described here have been reduced fo the sake of treatment. Please do not take my simplification of others' views and a complete description, nor as something which applies to all that espouse such a view.]

Unbeknowest to many, but beknowest to Creationists, within Creationism there are very clearly two parties: Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Now, personally, I'm really neither. I'm more of an I Don't Really Care How Old The Earth Is Creationist (IDRCHOTEIC). I don't use the acronym much.

The primary reason why I am so strongly against Darwinism is that I believe that it undermines the gospel. According to the Word, Jesus Christ came down in the form of a man, died for the propitiation of humanities sin, resurrected on the Third Day, and one day is coming back to judge the quick and the dead. He did this because God wanted to save us from the effects of sin: death. However, because in Darwinism humanity came about through thousands of years of survival, death preexisted humanity, and sin. So death cannot be a result of sin, and Christ died in vain.

Thus, my issue is a theological one, not so much a Scriptural one, though I take Scripture very seriously, believing it to be the infallible revelation of God to humanity, and the highest standard for our understanding of God, ourselves, and existence. I will believe whatever I see Scripture as truly teaching. However, I will be passionate based on the issue's theological significance. I just cannot be passionate about about David using a sling to kill Goliath instead of a sword. When it comes to the age of the earth, though it be an interesting inquiry, it is theologically irrelevant. God is still God no matter how long He took to do what He did. What I am sure of is that God did not bring us into existence through evolution, but that evolution and natural selection are a result of the Fall.

But my environment disallows me from being indifferent. I must look into it. For YEC, the age of the Earth is strictly a Scriptural issue. Science is used to validate what the Scriptures say. I respect this. If what they say about Scripture is true, then I must side with them. However, I don't find the Scripture to be as clear about the issue as I would like. A lack of clarity does not mean that I must reject YEC. I must determine whether the Scripture says that the Earth is young, or whether it does not specify the age of the Earth at all.

UNTENABLE POSITIONS

Error or Myth

If we consider that Science says that the Earth is old, and Scripture says that the Earth is young, and then conclude that therefore Scripture is incorrect, I must disagree. I accept Scripture as always correct as an a priori.

"Well," one may ask, "what if Genesis one just isn't written in scientific language? After all, what Scripture says is meant to have spiritual meaning, and doesn't really comment on science." I disagree. The dialectic between the physical and the spiritual is a false one. Though, I admit, there is a spiritual side to things and a physical side, these do not, and cannot, oppose each other. They are both aspects of reality, and to say that one can contradict the other is to say that either the spiritual is false (Materialism) or the physical side is false (Gnosticism). Both of these go against the Christian worldview. Scripture talks about reality, and, though it doesn't use the same level of precision that we may demand today, it is far more accurate than any other text today. If Scripture says something about science, and means it as an description as to the way things physically are, we must take that as authoritative as anything else Scripture says.

Let us consider Genesis. The book is a historical book; it is describing what happened. Well shall we consider the first chapter to merely be a poetic introduction into the book? Not really, if we look at the construction of the book. It is structured as a genealogy. That's right, it does not simply contain genealogical sections, but it is a genealogy by structure. At different moments in the genealogy, the author (who I believe to be Moses) tells the life story of one of the members of this line, since this story is to have lasting consequence. One thing that is extraordinarily relevant is that God is part of this genealogy:

When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man." -Genesis 5:1b

If we recognize that God is part of this genealogy, then we must see chapter one as God's story: the story of the first (and most important) member of the genealogy. Now, to some degree, the entire Bible is God's story, as is the entire book of Genesis. But what I mean by that here, is it is the little story focusing on God, as an aspect of the book's structure. Therefore, we must consider Genesis one to be a history, for the book understands itself to be history.

Scientific Eschewal

Well, then there is the opposite approach. If we consider that Science says that the Earth is old, and Scripture says that the Earth is young, and then conclude that Science must be incorrect, then we deny the human ability to understand and postulate. This then brings into question the entire right of humanity to say anything about anything. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, scientia being the Latin word for knowledge. I believe that God intends for us to pursue knowledge and understanding, and we cannot use our theological position to impede honest scientific inquiry. (Nor should Darwinists)

Traditionally, Christianity has always believed there to be two revelations: Specific Revelation (i.e. Scripture) and General Revelation (i.e. Nature). The names mean that the Scriptures are specifically given to the Church, but Nature is given to all. But both are given to humanity to understand God. Thus, I see science as the hermeneutic of General revelation.

Where Science and Theology differ I see as a misinterpretation of either nature or the Scriptures. Where the misinterpretation is must be sought out, and never assumed to be on one side or the other.

Day/Age Theory

The Day/Age Theory is very popular within OEC, so I decided to comment on it, though I won't comment on all OEC interpretations. The Day/Age Theory comes in two forms. One is the idea the the Hebrew word yom or day, can also mean age in some cases. Quite frankly, this is untrue. Yom means day. There do exist certain Hebrew colloquialisms which use the word day to refer to a time period, such as "in the day of" or "in the days of", but that's different than saying that yom can actually mean age.

The form, which I would call as the reasonable form, states that yom is used metaphorically to mean age, much like in the colloquialisms above. Though this is certainly more palatable than the above form, and more Hebraicly aware, I would still say that it is false. First of all, none of the common colloquialisms are used, which doesn't negate the possibility of metaphor, but disallows it to be insisted upon. Secondly, there is the whole issue of "and it was evening and it was morning," which is used before the naming of each day, designating that it is talking about a 24 hour period. Still, one may say, it is metaphor, with the movement from chaos to order. Still, with the consideration of day one though, with the creation of the day and the night, the text is clearly tying yom to the literal concept of day. This doesn't disprove the metaphoric version of the theory, but it leaves it stretched enough to feel forced.

POSITIONS I'M CONSIDERING

Old Earth

The order that I list these is not grounded importance, or personal leanings, but merely the ease of presenting the material.

When I look at the Hebrew there are two main questions that pop up. One is what is a raqia, often translated as firmament. There are only two ancient sources that use this word, Genesis one and Ezekiel 1:22. However, in both instances, there is little to give us the meaning of the word, it being used as a description, rather than the thing described. There exists nothing outside of the Bible. "Firmament" comes from the LXX. However, you will find that neither of Age of the Earth positions really deals with this question, so let's just lay it aside.

The other one involves two words that are very prominent is Scripture: erets and shamayim. Erets means land, also possessing a large breath of meaning, similar to the English word. It can mean the ground, or dirt; it can mean a stretch of land, it can the territory belonging to a nation; it can refer to the nation itself using metonymy; it can refer to the concept of land, as opposed to water or sky; and it can refer to the whole Earth. Shamayim means the heavens, and can also mean sky, much in the same way we use the world heavens.

The problem comes in the expectation that within a small passage of work, a word usually means the same thing through out, unless specified. To do otherwise either derives from some kind of rhetorical significance, such as a pun, or simply confuses the reader.

Now, Genesis 1:1 reads, in the Hebrew:
Bareshith bara elohim eth ha-shamayim veth ha-arets
or:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The problem lies in the words erets and shamayim being used elsewhere in the text. In verses 8, 14-15, and 20, shamayim clearly means sky, not the Heaven. Additionally in verses 9-10 and 24, erets clearly means land. If we assume that they always mean the same thing through the text, Genesis 1:1 should read, in the beginning God created the sky and the land.

There is another important factor in the text, namely verse two. It reads

Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness
was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

It seems to me, that verse 1:1 could be a prologue, defining what is about to be described, and that the actual planet existed beforehand. If this is the case, then, Genesis one is not describing creation ex nihilo (though I would definitely say that God created everything out of nothing which is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture), but is instead describing the forming of the earth which before hand was covered in water. Also, that this reforming took 6 literal days.

There is one big problem to this theory, and that is day four. In day four, God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars. I don't think that one could argue that the earth existed before the rest of the cosmos in an OEC way of understanding that. I heard one OEC claim that the day four is describing the clearing away of clouds, but I'm not really buying that. I don't see how that is supported by the language in the text

Young Earth

Unlike OEC, which consists of many different interpretations of Genesis one, YEC is much more monolithic. Though there exists a few different creation models, their similarities are much stronger than their differences. It assumes that Genesis one is creation ex nihilio, though I have yet to see a YEC defend that assumption. Each day is considered a literal day, and Genesis 1:1 is considered God's initial act of creation which occurs before day 1, and more specifically moments before day one.

This takes ample use of the English translations, being the most natural reading of them. I possess two main issues with it. One, I don't believe it is the most natural reading of the Hebrew. It feels overly dependant on the English translations, and since I consider the original language to possess the actual inspiration, I find this questionable. A second thing is that I have not been satisfied with most understandings of what the firmament is. Personally, I believe it to refer to the atmosphere, but even that is a difficult reading of it.

Conclusion

I'm not really saying that one is better than the other. I'm just saying that I'm currently debating the issue within myself. However, I also believe it to be a silly controversy, since the matter is theologically irrelevant. YEC's that are passionate about it are so because they are defending Scripture's integrity. Personally, I see Scripture's integrity as a matter of faith, and it is up to us to abide by it, but up to God to ultimately defend it. OEC's are passionate because they believe admitting to an old Earth is rhetorically necessary to defeat Darwinism. Though I agree with them that it is rhetorically beneficial and that ultimately it is not that important to the Christian perspective, I'm not willing to compromise on something just because it isn't important to me. Where is stand must be based on whether or not it is true, not whether or not it is useful.

30 comments:

Pizza Man said...

Interesting post.

What matters to me is that there was a physical person named Adam. Romans 5:12-21 makes a whole lot more sense that way. Sin came though one man (Adam), life came through one man (Jesus).

What do you think about a "young man theory" that doesn't care about the age of the earth? That's kind of where I fall. :)

Jc_Freak: said...

I've never heard of that theory. Is that at all simular to the OEC theory I proposed?

When it comes right down to it, I believe there were no humans until 6,000 years ago on day 6, Adam was a historical figure who did what Genesis 2-3 says that he did, and I do believe that the 6 days of creation were 6 literal days where God did something.

bethyada said...

I assumed by your title you were living in Ireland, but are you in the US?

There are so many things to say but I will try and restrict myself.

I think you need to think this out further. Let's say that the world is millions of years old, but that the first man was created about 6000 years ago and is not an evolved ape. What of all the other animals? they have died prior to man and their death is not secondary to the Fall. If you have them dying post Fall then the dating scheme messed up, but we only argued for millions of years because of the dating scheme. Ie. the ancient dates also imply death because the fossils are connected to the rocks. And we have thorns (result of Fall) prior to the Fall by radiodating.

I also think you need to look at "science" in more detail. Much of natural revelation can be investigated by science, but then science is expanded to cover much more than natural revelation. History is not science, though it can be investigated by historical science. However historical science is not empirical science and the 2 must not be thought of as equivalent.

You can do all the research you want to establish my date of birth, but the (reliable) testimony of my mother trumps all theories, because she was there. Dating theories (whatever they are) should be calibrated by reliable history, and they often are. Except the history is frequently Egyptian or Babylonian rather than Hebrew. When dates are "wrong" the theory is frequently adjusted, not necessarily the history.

Here is my post on the nature of science: Types of science

By the way, natural selection is not necessarily part of the Fall, it is probably part of design. Though mutation may be part of the fall.

bethyada said...

I am not certain that I follow your problem with YEC and Genesis 1:1. I will address some of it but could you elaborate as to your issues, I don't fully follow.

It doesn't matter if land and sky is less encompassing than earth and heavens (though both are likely, many words have several meanings). The reason is that it is a merism, it is combining 2 "opposites" to form a whole.

Land and sky
Heavens and earth
Good and evil

It means everything even if the individual words are limited in scope.

Jc_Freak: said...

Thanks bethyada for responding. It's always great to hear from you.

I assumed by your title you were living in Ireland, but are you in the US?

Yes, I am an Irish American. Sorry for the confusion. I'm just very proud of my heritage.

I think you need to think this out further. Let's say that the world is millions of years old, but that the first man was created about 6000 years ago and is not an evolved ape. What of all the other animals? they have died prior to man and their death is not secondary to the Fall. If you have them dying post Fall then the dating scheme messed up, but we only argued for millions of years because of the dating scheme. Ie. the ancient dates also imply death because the fossils are connected to the rocks. And we have thorns (result of Fall) prior to the Fall by radiodating.

Well, this is a current struggle that I am having. I haven't reached a conclusion. I'm interested in other people's ideas and critique's. That's why I put this up here.

However, I would say that I believe the animals did not exist before the 6 days of creation. We do not only argue millions of years because of that dating scheme. There are geological and astronomical phenomena that also are factored in. Quite frankly, that is the same for all OEC perspectives.

Besides, the dating of fossils can never be an argument for dating something to be millions of years old anyway, since all carbon-14 in a specimen will decay after 50,000 years (radioactive material decomposes by percentage, not by quantity). Therefore, if there are datable isotopes, they were introduced to the fossil through the fossilization process, making any dating inaccurate.

I also think you need to look at "science" in more detail. Much of natural revelation can be investigated by science, but then science is expanded to cover much more than natural revelation. History is not science, though it can be investigated by historical science. However, historical science is not empirical science and the 2 must not be thought of as equivalent.

Actually, history is a science. Often in the vernacular 'science' is used as shorthand for the natural sciences, but the word 'science' technically belongs to any methodological and systematic investigation into reality. BTW, though I must read your post later, I will get to it. It sounds interesting, especially giving the meteorological knowledge you've exhibited on your site.

I have looked into the science of this issue quite a bit, but I still know more about Scripture, since that is my expertise. As I said, I believe the two should line up, but I can give more care to the thing that I know better. That doesn't mean that I am ignoring the science, I just didn't have room to refer to everything.

Besides, for the most part, the natural sciences support an old earth. I have found most young earth models to be scientifically poor. This is why if I find Scripture to be ambiguous on the topic, I would probably fold and be OEC. However, I cannot do that until I am sure that Scripture is ambiguous. If I believe that Scripture is meaning to teach a "young earth" perspective, then I must keep the issue in tension, and assess new data as it comes out.

You can do all the research you want to establish my date of birth, but the (reliable) testimony of my mother trumps all theories, because she was there. Dating theories (whatever they are) should be calibrated by reliable history, and they often are. Except the history is frequently Egyptian or Babylonian rather than Hebrew. When dates are "wrong" the theory is frequently adjusted, not necessarily the history.

I don't follow what you are arguing here. It seems here that you are agreeing with me, yet above you were disagreeing. I believe I'm misunderstanding something.

By the way, natural selection is not necessarily part of the Fall, it is probably part of design. Though mutation may be part of the fall.

By natural selection, I meant the concept of survival of the fittest. I believe that speciation is part of design, but death is not.

It doesn't matter if land and sky is less encompassing than earth and heavens (though both are likely, many words have several meanings). The reason is that it is a merism, it is combining 2 "opposites" to form a whole.

Land and sky
Heavens and earth
Good and evil

It means everything even if the individual words are limited in scope.


Oh, I absolutely understand merism. It is a very common Hebraic literary device. When Jonah testified that worshipped the God who made the sky and the land, he meant the God that made everything. My argument is what is within that scope in this context.

If we consider Genesis 1:1 to be a prologue, setting forth what is about to occur (i.e. the creation of the sky and the land), than verse 2 would be considered the setting of the stage of the action. There, the idea that the land was formless and void and completely covered in water is the setting of all the action that is to follow. Then we enter into the 6 days which are events which occur chronologically, converting the world described in verse 2 into the world that we know today. Therefore, hashamayim vehaerts here is a merism for all that is created in the 6 days which follow.

My argument is a counter to the YEC interpretation of the text. The YEC interpretation depends on erts mean the planet earth in verses 1 and 2, but meaning the physical land in the rest of the chapter. The same with shamayim. The difference is seeing Genesis 1:1 as a prologue, while YEC see it as an initiatory event chronologically before the six days. Indeed, many OEC interpretations view it the same way. If I am right, and Genesis 1:1 is intended to be a prologue, then there is no need to insist the Genesis 1 is saying that the physical earth is only 6,000 years old, which is the debate.

However, as I said, the science that suggests an old earth is based both on geological and astronomical evidence. This would only explain the geological, and even then, only some of it. The astronomical would still be an issue given day 4, which I mentioned in the post. So even if I am right, it still doesn't solve the dilemma that I find myself in, but it is an observation I must follow and see where it leads. I must let Scripture guide my thoughts, not have my thoughts guide Scripture.

Pizza Man said...

Good stuff guys.

I enjoy speculating on these different theories, but am not real set on any one view. This is really a secondary issue for me.

In my opinion it is a mistake to insist that the OT genealogies are also to be read as chronologies. Their intent was to focus was on important ancestors / descendants in the context of a passage. They were not necessarily written with the purpose of documenting the age of the earth. Viewing them as chronologies creates unnecessary problems. If we take genealogies as the literal passing of time, then Noah was alive until Abraham was 50. That doesn't seem to fit very well.

This was the view of Francis Schaeffer. In "Genesis in Space and Time" he pointed out that different passages give different genealogical accounts, sometimes skipping multiple generations (for example 1 Chr 6:3-14 and Ezra 7:1-5). If chronology was the intent, then skipping or adding generations is a problem. However, if the intent was to focus on important people, then there is no need to argue about the reliability of these differing accounts.

Schaeffer argues that "A is the father of B" can also be interpreted as "A is the ancestor of B" (so B isn't necessarily the first generation son of A, he could be a multiple generation descendant). If this is true, it could be that between Adam and Abraham there were generations that were not accounted for in the genealogies. Practically, this would allow for an older earth.

All this to say I personally think the earth is older than 6K years. How old? I don't know. I would guess it's closer to 6K than 2 billion (or whatever number the secular scientists throw around). But it could certainly be a 100K years old, and I don't see this as causing any issues for a literal reading of scripture.

What is important, however, is that there was a real guy named Adam. Maybe he lived 6,000 years ago, or maybe longer back than that.

TrueHope said...

One thing I'm not sure of is whether dating methods can accurately take the Flood into account. I believe the Flood wiped out all dinosaurs except those in the Ark, and those in the Ark died out soon afterwards, because they couldn't adapt to the change in climate.

IMO the fossil fuels we use today were generated by the Flood as well.

Jc_Freak: said...

To Pizza Man,

That is a good point. Throughout the OT, and with Matthew and Luke, there doesn't seem to be a sense of exactness with the geneologies, focusing on important persons as opposed to each person.

However, I'm not sure if that applies to Genesis. There are two reasons. First, geneology is the structure of Genesis as opposed to an element within the book. Though this doesn't make your interpretation impossible, it does demonstrate that Genesis is different than other geneologies.

The second thing is that the rhetoric of Genesis is different. It doesn't just say that Seth was the son of Adam, but it lists the age that Adam was when Seth was born, and how long Adam lived after Seth was born, relating the son's birth to an actual time in the father's life. This makes your interpretation difficult. Though the generations between Joseph and Moses is a bit iffy.

Jc_Freak: said...

Truehope:

How would the flood effect radioactive decay? Do you have an idea in mind? Or is it just that radioactivity has not been studied under such conditions?

bethyada said...

jc_freak We do not only argue millions of years because of that dating scheme. There are geological and astronomical phenomena that also are factored in.

Can I ask what you are getting at here? The geological phenomena are related to radiodating.

The YEC cosmological stuff has issues, but the problems of an ancient universe are much bigger than the problems of a young one.

Besides, the dating of fossils can never be an argument for dating something to be millions of years old anyway, since all carbon-14 in a specimen will decay after 50,000 years (radioactive material decomposes by percentage, not by quantity). Therefore, if there are datable isotopes, they were introduced to the fossil through the fossilization process, making any dating inaccurate.

Fossils are radiodated by the rock surrounding them, not their substance. Because the fossil is assumed ancient the fossil is not usually dated, however if carbon dating is done on a fossil, often times there is measurable c-14 implying the fossil is not old.

Besides, for the most part, the natural sciences support an old earth. I have found most young earth models to be scientifically poor.

This is why I think you need to read this area a bit further, old earth is the reigning paradigm, so science is interpreted such. Plenty of data suggest a young earth.

I agree with your comments about Scripture, while I came to YEC belief via the science, I now find the theological arguments more persuasive. Do you have an amazon account, there is a book about this I could get you. Email me or leave a note on the test blog.

cheers

bethyada said...

Concerning the genealogies, to see them as such misses what they are. Strict genealogies may miss persons, eg. 1 Chronicles, Matthew. But Genesis 5 and 11 are often referred to as chronogenealogies because they are much more than a genealogy. They are more in line with the data in Kings which specify when kings reigned at what age and how long the other king had been reigning at coronation.

The Genesis data is tight. Even if you argue for missing heirs (very questionable) the age of birth, death and total age all add up. The author specifies that this is the time frame.

Jc_Freak: said...

Can I ask what you are getting at here? The geological phenomena are related to radiodating.

The YEC cosmological stuff has issues, but the problems of an ancient universe are much bigger than the problems of a young one.


Well, I'm aware that there are a lot of missing pieces in my scientific understanding here. Additionally, most the scientific research I did in this subject is about 3-4 years old. My last study was looking into radiometric dating, which I wasn't able to complete due to seminary. However, I have forgotten far more than I remember.

The two things that irk me the most is radiometric dating and the ice layer dating in Antiartica. As to the latter, the former explanation that I heard, that is comparing it to Greenland, I now know to be inaccurate. My frustration for radiometric dating is I could never find any YEC critiquing the actual method; usually it was a vague sense of distrust or pointing at particular instances of inaccuracy.

If you have resources on either topic, I would love to look at them.

Fossils are radiodated by the rock surrounding them, not their substance. Because the fossil is assumed ancient the fossil is not usually dated, however if carbon dating is done on a fossil, often times there is measurable c-14 implying the fossil is not old.

I knew about c-14 being found in fossils. That's always a fun thing to point out to Darwinists. I didn't know they examined thing based off of the surrounding stone. That seems illogical to me.

This is why I think you need to read this area a bit further, old earth is the reigning paradigm, so science is interpreted such. Plenty of data suggest a young earth.

I agree with your comments about Scripture, while I came to YEC belief via the science, I now find the theological arguments more persuasive. Do you have an amazon account, there is a book about this I could get you. Email me or leave a note on the test blog.


Excellent link. Can't wait to go through it and really digest the material. Unfortunately I don't have an amazon account, but I would still be interested in the book. I could probably get my hands on it with just the name.

Anonymous said...

Hi jc_freak, the book I was referring to was Refuting Compromise. I really enjoyed it. I am not certain you will appreciate the tone. Sarfati pulls no punches when dealing with what he considers error. He is not mean, just straight up. Anyway, it deals with several issues, but specifically with theological ones. The link takes you to the introduction so you can see what the book covers. He also has 2 of his evolution books free online if you want to assess his style.

bethyada

Pizza Man said...

Here's Schaeffer's argument against using Genesis as a chronology. I enjoy his work (even though he was Reformed).

Genealology and Chronology

The Generations of Shem

You guys could certainly be right though - maybe Genesis is meant to keep track of time. It's not something I lose a lot of sleep over either way. :)

Jc_Freak: said...

pizza man. Thank you for the links. Though I continue to disagree, I do thank you for you continued candor. I'm rather enjoying this conversation, I would like to agree that this is a side issue, and not one to get emotional about. The important thing is Christ. To the links you gave:

Looking at your first link, I see some flaws. It gives a couple of different reasons. The first one it says that sequence of names and chronology isn't always a straight line, and then quotes Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This is a rather dishonest reference since does not use the same construction as the rest of the geneology. Note the difference between the rhetoric of 5:28-31 and the snipet in 32. Admittedly, this means that we have a little gap, not knowing the exact age of Noah when Shem is born. But that's hardly tantamount to discrediting the full rhetoric of the book.

The second reason he gave is the same reason that you gave earlier, but it doesn't consider the rhetorical differences between Genesis and other geneological passages. Genesis doesn't just say who begot who, but when each was begotten. It quotes years, in detail. The same cannot be said the the other geneologies he mentions. It would be like saying the Batman the Dark Knight Strikes Again is making simular messages as an Archie comic because they happen to be the same medium.

His third reason doesn't strike me as a reason at all. I don't understand why it would be illogical for Shem to outlive Abraham. It seems to me that it is just disbelief in the lifespans that Genesis proposes. This doesn't seem to be a discrepancy with the nature of the geneologies, but a refusal to believe that humans used to live longer than they do today. This isn't an issue a logic, but an issue of what one is willing to consider.

Looking at the second link, which I see is the same book, I still find his arguments dishonest. Again, when people point to the unique construction of the particular text, he says how it isn't true in Matthew, a passage that doesn't use the very construction being referenced! He then does something which I think is really terrible, no offense to you. He rewrites the Matthew text using the Genesis rhetoric, and then says that the rhetoric doesn't matter because the names are still skipped. I don't even know how he thought that works as an argument.

Again, an analogy. Imagine if someone was trying to argue that the 9/11 didn't happen. In defense of the existance 9/11, I quote a historical newspaper telling the events. To counter, he then rewrites the story of Cinderella using the same format, and then argues that this doesn't prove that Cinderella existed, so therefore the article that I reference can't be used to support9/11 happening.

I can't tell you what form of logical fallacy this is because the silliness of it really blows my mind.

Kevin, I would like to emphasize that these are not comments about you, since I have the utmost respect for you. Shaeffer is a commentator that I have heard of often, though I have never read him before. But I cannot contemplate how these arguments are convincing. They don't seem to actually engage with the text at all, and merely references other texts that have nothing to do with this one. The unique form of the text, as well as the kinds of details provided shows that the author believed he was talking about direct father/son relationships with no generations between. Shaeffer never directly interacts with the form, and only once indirectly by imposing on another text that had a different kind of purpose and content. I am really shocked by the kinds of arguments he uses. If you see something I am missing, please point it out.

Pizza Man said...

Hi JC_Freak,

Thanks for taking the time to read the Schaeffer links, and for interacting with his arguments. I appreciate too your irenic spirit. You are an excellent writer. I enjoy your blog and appreciate your contributions to SEA.

BTW, who is this Batman you refer to? ;)

You make some excellent points. It’s possible, even likely, that Genesis ought to be interpreted chronologically. My motivation for arguing otherwise is to reconcile science and scripture if it is possible here. I don’t see the exact age of man as a theological concern.

Regarding Schaeffer, here is the background of his argument: He was a conservative Christian who affirmed Biblical inerrancy (for example he would certainly affirm the life spans given in Genesis). He was summarizing the conclusions of earlier Christians who had made these points (WH Green and BB Warfield – late 1800s, dealing with the new theories of Darwin and the liberal trends in their denomination). He’s is not arguing that “abridgment” is the only interpretation of Genesis 5 and 11, but that abridgment occurs frequently elsewhere in scripture, and should therefore not be ruled out as a possibility in Genesis.

Our main disagreement I think is this: The Genesis genealogies state ages when each son was begotten. In your view this precludes the possibility that the lists could have been abridged.

In my view this is not necessarily the case. Despite the form of the genealogies, we don’t know for certain that the intent of the author was to present a chronology.

The word “father” in Genesis can reasonably be interpreted as “ancestor”. In fact, the NIV footnotes list this as an alternate interpretation. Given this possibility, we cannot assume a chronology in Genesis.

Let’s take Genesis 5:6-8 as an example (NIV)
When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.


Now, let’s use the alternate interpretation “ancestor”.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the ancestor of Enosh. And after he became the ancestor of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.

Using the term “ancestor” changes the conclusion that this passage must be interpreted chronologically, does it not? Granted, specific years are listed in the form, but there are other factors to be considered.

We know for fact that other genealogies in scripture have been abridged (including some in Exodus and Numbers, written by Moses the author of Genesis). We know that elsewhere in scripture the “Father / Son” form is used, but the “son” was not a first generation descendant of the father. We know that the terms “father” and “begat” can be legitimately be interpreted as “ancestor”. And we don’t know that the author of Genesis intend for the genealogies to be used as chronologies (despite the form).

Given these facts, and given that there is no other outside corroboration of the early s accounts, it is reasonable to consider the **possibility** that these accounts have been abridged.

By the way, I really enjoy this discussion. I’m not in the least offended by anything we have discussed, and hope that you haven’t been either. If we must agree to disagree that is completely fine. :)

Jc_Freak: said...

Ok, let us look at your example here:

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the ancestor of Enosh. And after he became the ancestor of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.

Now the first line there "When Seth had lived 105 years, he bacome the ancestor of Enosh". To me, that line means that Enosh was born when Seth was 105 years old. Now if you use the material as chronology, whether Seth was Enosh's father or grandfather doesn't really matter. What matters was that 105 years passed between the time where Seth was born and Enosh was born. That is how you run the numbers. If that is the case, then I don't see how the abridging theory actually accomplishes anything.

THe only possible way it could is if "Now when Seth was 105 he became the ancestor of Enosh" would mean something other than Seth being 105 when Enosh was born. If that is the case, what would that line mean?

Pizza Man said...

I'm interpreting it like this:

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the forefather of Enosh.

Or the form Schaeffer used:

When Seth had lived 105 years he became the father of someone who led to Enosh.

Does that make sense? Again, I'm not saying it *must* be interpreted this way, but only that it's a viable alternative.

Jc_Freak: said...

Well, if that is the case, then why say it like that? It seems like a rather odd construction. The birth of Enosh is tied to the life of Seth, by being in the middle of his biography. And what is the point of mentioning the 105 years? Wouldn't it make more sense to say that Seth lived so long, and then that he was the forefather of Enosh, as a lead in to the Enosh biography?

Pizza Man said...

I don't know why the particular form was used in Genesis 5. Perhaps the author wanted to give a little glimpse into individual lives at that time, or to show how old different people were when they started to have children, or to show how much longer life was during the pre-flood era.

As you pointed out earlier, the generations between Jacob and Moses do not add up to the time that we know that Israel was in Egypt. Specifically, we come up with something less than 400 years using the genealogies. But we know from elsewhere that Israel was in Egypt for more than 400 years.

It is reasonable to consider the possibility that if Moses abridged the genealogies in Exodus, he might have done so in Genesis as well.

Jc_Freak: said...

But the geneologies in Exodus don't have the ages in them. It just has names. The only number we get is 400, which I am fine with considering that to be a round number.

I personally, and you can disagree if you want, cannot justify reading the main geneologies throughout the book of Gensis as not meaning direct father-son accounts. That is the natural reading of the text, and even the bridging theory, with this particular rhetoric, does not seem possible to me.

I believe we are at an impasse here. Fortunately, this is not a faith breaking issue, and I still love you as a brother in the Lord and a fellow defender of Christ and Scripture.

Pizza Man said...

For what it's worth, the genealogies of Moses in Exodus 6 do have years. Maybe I'll do a post on it some time. At any rate I agree, no more sense in beating a dead horse. Thanks for the discussion. :)

bethyada said...

Beating a dead horse? not by a long way yet :)

The point pizza_man is that you are seeing Genesis 5 predominantly as a genealogy and comparing to others where there are absent names. But 5 and 11 are strongly chronologies.

Read the period of the Kings. Although it is difficult to sort out the exact years because the structure is not as clear as Genesis, the issue is similar.

In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. (1 Kings 16)

It is the same type of construction.

I doubt that there are gaps in Genesis 5, but even if there are, jc_freak is right, the connecting dates hold. Enosh was 90 when Kenan was born whether Kenan was his son, grandson or great-grandson.

The problem with the solution along the lines of "Enosh was 90 when he had a son, that son had descendants who had descendants over many years until Kenan was born," is that, 1. it is not a natural reading and 2. it is bizarre to intend that but write as per Genesis knowing that everyone who reads it will misunderstand what is written.

Even with that interpretation it is difficult to extend it more than about 10000 years, there are only about 18 hypothetical gaps.

There are other reasons to argue against this gap interpretation. Some relationships are known for certain. We know by other passages that Adam was the direct father to Shem, we know Noah was the direct father to Shem. We know that Terah was the direct father to Abram.

Also, Jude states Enoch was the 7th from Adam which doesn't allow any gaps.

bethyada said...

Also, you are correct about Exodus being less than 400 years according to the ages. While the chronology is not given exactly, the ages do limit the time. Balancing all the passages, the 430 years is from Abram coming into Canaan. The Israelites were only in Egypt ~200 years. See How long were the Hebrews in Egypt?

And there is no problem about Shem and Eber living at the time of Abram contrary to Schaeffer's comments.

Jc_Freak: said...

Also, fun fact, if you treat Genesis 5 as a chronology, Methusalah and Lamech die the same year. In fact, they die the same year as the flood. Interesting...

bethyada said...

Yes, Methuselah dies in the year of the Flood, (but not Lamech at least in the Masoretic text type).

Jc_Freak: said...

Actually, it is recorded that he dies one year before the flood, but that is so close that it might simply be a matter of how the counted the years.

Pizza Man said...

I'd really like to argue more, but I'm going to refrain. :) God bless you guys.

cawoodm said...

This is a huge and complex topic which I have researched and with which I have wrestled for some years. Basically it is clear to me that it is empirically untenable that the earth is only several thousand years old. You basically have to close your eyes to science or listen only to pseudo-science to believe that.

It's clear that Genesis is not an eye witness account (whose eyes?), it's also clear that it's not purely literal (the Sun is created AFTER 2 mornings - which sunrise?).

Can the days be literal days? Not if Adam named all animals in one "day".

Is the "death" coming from the fall physical or spiritual? Obviously spiritual since physical death MUST have happened on day 6 when elephants inadvertently stepped on ants and bacteria with short life cycles worked in our digestive systems.

Did lions magically evolve from herbivores into carnivores after the fall and switch from straw to meat. Hyper evolution anyone?

We need to move on from Sunday School theology and integrate theology and reality.

Evolution, if true, is the greatest miracle the world has ever seen. Christians need to read Behe's "The Edge of Evolution" and understand how great God's creation really is and stop thinking of Him as a magician.

Jc_Freak: said...

cawoodm, thank you for your comments, I appreciate your thoughts emmensely. You make a lot of good points in your brief response, so I am sorry if I do not comment on them all.

I agree that the empirical evidence backing up an old earth is superior, at least so far. The link that bethyada provided makes some good points. I still find, though, that the Young Earth perspective's evidence is more circomstancial than that of Old Earth (though it has a lot of circumstancial evidence. Eventually it does add up.)

I disagree, though, that it is untenable. Science is never as reliabel as we may think it is. I view science as the hermeneutic of general revelation, and like specific revelation, it is open to multiple interpretations. There are enough questions to leave the topic open for discussion. An old earth is not proven, though it is currently more likely IMO, given science.

I agree that Genesis is not an eyewitness account. I don't see how that matters though, because I believe the data to be accurate regardless. Most of Genesis is the recording of a oral tradition (and I do believe Moses to have been the recorder, though I dont believe it to be the relevent). However, I also believe this oral tradition to be accurate, and to be grounded in a history of interacting with God.

Personally, I find the day-age theory untenable. I would consider the entire chapter poetry before I consider that theory. Additionally, I think evolution itself is missing the mark in several aspects. THere is not sufficient evidence to give it the level of support that it enjoys. Additionally, I believe that it seriouslly undermines the gospel.

This is evident in the NT view of death. Part of the restoration promised is the resurrection of the dead. Not only did Jesus defeat death in the resurrection, be we are promised to share in the same kind of resurrection. There isn't a strong dialectic between spiritual and physical in the Bible. Rather, one is a reflection of the other, and physical death is seen as a symptom of spiritual death. Therefore, that means the physical death is also a result of the fall, not an intregal part of God's creation, let alone part of God's creative activity.