3 Reasons “Why I Am a Six-Day Creationist” ~ Challies

Derek Ouellette —  October 12, 2013

i-07d6d26ff633e0ef50d9ee1415d4b163-cremusTim 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.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://www.challies.com Tim Challies

    Thanks for the reasoned response, Derek. Obviously I disagree with your conclusions (and, therefore, with the logic that leads to them) but I do appreciate that you interacted with them in a measured way. This is a difficult issue to engage on because it is so difficult to understand how people on the other side of it can possibly believe what they believe. What seems so obvious to one person seems absurd to another (not unlike the discussion of, say, infant or adult baptism).

    My article was intended to state what I believe without working on the proof. I hope to write more about this in the future and perhaps we can talk more then…

    • http://covenantoflove.net/ Derek Ouellette

      I appreciate you coming by and reading, Tim. Can’t wait to see what you have to say more fully. Looking forward to that conversation.

  • http://www.craigladams.com/ Craig L. Adams

    Excellent reply, Derek. I think you stated it very well.

    • http://covenantoflove.net/ Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Craig.

  • Matthew Yoder

    Derek – I agree with Tim, well reasoned and thought out.

    In light of the fact that I just heard today that my current denomination is “adrift” because there are some who do not hold to literal six days of Creation, it is nice that we all can have a dialogue on this issue.

  • Sam

    Well said! I’ve always been a YE creationist as well, though I’ve used similar(ish) arguments, I’ve never read a critique quite like yours. I still hold to YE creationism but if you’re interested in OE creationism I highly recommend Dr. Francis Collins’ The Language of God. One of my responses to the idea that Gen 1-2 is allegorical is the basic exegetical method rule, IF something is an allegory or parable, it will generally NOT contain specific names. Like when Jesus says, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country…” or Nathan’s message to David, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor…” Taking this lead, if it were an allegory, why are Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Seth, etc NAMED? That is the strongest argument I’ve ever heard for a literal translation of Gen 1-2.

    • http://covenantoflove.net/ Derek Ouellette

      For the record, I’m not an old earth’er either. :)

      I would cling to your word “generally.” What is the purpose of the allegory of Genesis 1-11? Can you imagine telling the story from creation to Abraham without including names (the names are VERY important to the storyline which is designed to give Israel identity connected them to Abraham who is connected to Adam)? So the PURPOSE of the allegory matters in thinking about why names are used. And in ANE cultures allegories (or “myths) of this type often contained names. And why can’t an allegory contain historical characters? I don’t think allegory and history need to be at odds (though untangling which is which can be tricky). Revelation 13 is an allegory but it also deals with historical characters and events. And Jesus tells a parable of a rich man and “Lazarus”. It doesn’t seem wise footing to hang an entire argument on the idea that names are said to not be used in allegories. But that’s me. Thanks for the comment.

  • Joel Enoch Wood

    It’s interesting you would draw a literal/functional line on “day” in Genesis 1, but not on the use of “pillars” in 1 Sam. I don’t believe it’s fair to say with certainty what the writer of 1 Samuel actually believed, when, in a poetic portion of Scripture, Hannah seems to be saying the Lord upholds the earth, the function of a pillar, to hold something up. I’m fairly certain that’s a run-on sentence.

    At the same time, I’m glad to have Challies write some more on this. Would you brothers consider simul-posting the conversation to get a wider readership/conversation?

    Thanks & blessings.

  • Mr. Christer

    Awesome blog and post (I just found you tonight). I’ve come to your conclusions in recent studies but you state them much more eloquently. Thanks.