Tim Challies recently spoke at a conference at the Creation Museum. He admits from the start that he’s always been a “six-day creationist” and that the earth is “probably less than ten thousand years old.” So in light of his speaking engagement he decided it was time to think through “why” he believed what he believed. He concludes with three primary reasons:
1. THE BIBLE TEACHES IT. Despite all of the debate around the word “day” in the creation account, it can really have only one meaning: day.
2. THE WRITERS BELIEVED IT. Challies believes that the other biblical writers believed in a creation week of six twenty-four hour periods.
3. SCIENCE CONFIRMS IT. Without offering examples, Challies says that the evidence for an old creation is very shaky and not as compelling as evidence supporting a young creation.
While I sympathize with Challies arguments because they were my arguments for about twenty years, I also see in them everything wrong with his position.
First, let’s illustrate what I mean before I offer up what I think is the root of the issue.
Challies is right that day means day. It does not mean age or era in the context of Genesis one. The Bible does not teach “old earth” creationism. But that’s about as far as I’ll go with Challies. To preclude that because “day means day” we should read it as a literal day is like saying that the earth is literally standing on pillars. The Bible teaches: “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world” (1 Sam. 2:8). The word “pillars” means “pillars.” I’d also caution any reader against the notion that because a word is found in the Bible, that the Bible must teach it. There are almost 800,000 words in the Bible. To pluck them out at random and then say “The Bible teaches it” is just crazy.
I’m also cautious about the claim that I have to believe everything the Bible writers believed. The ancient cosmology held that the earth stood on pillars. They had no concept of gravity and no idea that the sun held the earth in its orbit. The writer of 1 Samuel actually believed that the earth stood on pillars. There’s no indication anywhere in scripture that the Bible writers shared our cosmology. If we have to believe that, then we’re in trouble. Even still, the Bible writers seem to affirm a six-day creation. But the question is, did they affirm a material six-day creation or a functional six-day creation. The latter is most likely the case. The description of a creation week had more to do with theology than cosmology. It told them something about God and his creation. They were more interested in what the Bible actually teaches in Genesis one: a polemic written for a new nation of God against the worldviews of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Canaanites. In fact, one of the greatest deficiencies of the Young Earth arguments is the claim that “The Bible Teaches” a six-day creation while never talking about what Genesis one is actually all about.
Finally, the view that “science confirms it” is certainly not the case. Last year when Richard Fangrad (president of Creation Ministry International) came to my church he said plainly that if you believe the Bible teaches a young earth, then you will interpret science to “fit” that view. In other words, a young earth interpretation of the Bible is the agenda by which one must make science work. But John Morris (president of the Creation Museum and son of the famed Henry Morris) once remarked that to the best of his knowledge, no scientist has ever been convinced in a young earth based on science alone. What a confession from a leading young earth creationist! Basically, an honest look at science does not “confirm” a young earth interpretation of the Bible.
It seems clear to me, based on Challies “reasons” that he has not thought through this issue. My best guess is that he’s read apologists and Christians who are not experts in Old Testament biblical studies. And, if I could venture one more judgment, the root reason why he believes what he does about a six-day creation is found in one of his opening remarks:
“I have always believed this.”
And there you have it.