In 1984, Wendy’s began one of the most popular advertisement campaigns of all time. Featuring three older women in search of a hamburger, every one of the commercials featured the tag line “Where’s the beef?” These commercials were an instant sensation and the question “Where’s the beef?” became ubiquitous. It was used on talk shows, in political speeches and around the water cooler. I thought of this tag line as I considered an issue of vital importance to the church.
Before I explain, I must repent of a sin. When I first became a Christian, I did not have a proper respect for God’s Word and I thought everyone who believed in the young earth interpretation of the Bible was an ignorant bumpus. It was as obvious to me that the earth was billions of years old as it was that unguided evolution was hopelessly inadequate to create life on earth and I had no respect for anyone who disagreed with my assessment.
Now that I have a clearer view of the level of deception that goes on in this world, I have repented of this attitude. In a world where President Obama can pay homage to the fictional contributions of Muslims to our Constitutional form of government and proclaim Islam to be a religion of peace despite clear historical evidence, human authority is not to be trusted. In a world of such deception, deciding that only the Word of God is truthful is a perfectly rational position. For this reason, I must ask forgiveness of those who choose to believe the earth is young because they believe the Bible says so. Given my experience over the last 20 years, I cannot fault someone for making this choice no matter how much I disagree with it. Human authority is so fallible and corruptible that I cannot deny the possibility that the entire scientific establishment is lying about everything that they say concerning the age of the earth.
But while scientific assertions concerning the obvious truth of Darwin’s theory may greatly diminish the credibility of the scientific establishment, they do not eliminate it entirely. Scientists can be refreshingly candid concerning the weaknesses of various aspects of their theory and this fact demonstrates some level of intellectual integrity. From disagreements over the origin of life, to disagreements over the interpretation of fossils, to disagreements over the explanation of sex, scientists cast doubt on virtually every aspect of their cherished theory. Yet for all this disagreement in so many different areas, there is no disagreement at all over the old age of the earth. Why is this?
I agree with Dr. Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe that the scientific unanimity on the issue of the age of the earth is the result of the fact that the earth is billions of years old. (see my post “Jesus Christ the One and Only“) While the Word of God should clearly be trusted over every other authority, we must also be careful to interpret it correctly. If we do not, we run the risk of making the Word of God a lie and hindering the spread of the gospel. Consider the following verses:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him., (Hebrews 11:6)
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)
For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,(1 Peter 1 5:9)
In these verses, there is a stark contrast between living by faith and living by sight. Jesus praises the Father for hiding the truth about God from the ‘wise and learned”. Peter does not tell us to defend the certainty of the word of God, but the hope that is in our hearts. Hebrews tells us that it is impossible to please God without the faith to believe that He exists. In the context of these verses and the many other verses that stress the importance of faith, let us ask an important question. If there was a scientific experiment that would conclusively prove that God exists, what would we expect the results of that experiment to be?
I asked this question of a young Christian recently and she gave me exactly the answer that I was looking for. “In order for faith to be possible, the results of any such experiment would have to be inconclusive.” This is exactly correct and it has enormous implications in terms of how we interpret the Bible. When we do historical and archaeological studies, should we expect to find an ark of gopher wood resting on Mount Ararat? Should we expect to find a Tree of Life guarded by a cherubim and a flaming sword? Should we expect to find that the earth was created in seven 24 hour days roughly 5000 years ago? Would it be possible to walk by faith and not by sight in the midst of such evidence? Would it be possible to please God?
In previous essays, I have argued that young earth creationism results from the fundamentally erroneous and blasphemous error of thinking that God’s created son Adam was good like God’s only begotten son Jesus. (See Bad Theology Part 1 ) Though this is the more serious error, it is not the only theological error made by those who believe in the young earth position. It is also Biblically naive to believe that if the Bible were true, we should expect to be walking amidst conclusive evidence of its veracity. If God created the universe over billions of years, then human beings must believe in his existence and benevolence despite the evidence of death and suffering that predate the fall. This requires faith. If,on the other hand, God created the universe over the course of a week 5000 years ago and scientists are lying about the evidence to the contrary, then all we have to do is look at the physical evidence for ourselves. Where is the faith in that?
Note that for a discussion on the importance of faith, see my post “The Importance of Faith“.