Apologetics 8: The Great Creationist Debate
Examining the pro’s and con’s of the three major evangelical positions on creationism.
Weighing critically the competing views of Ken Ham/Kent Hovind, Hugh Ross, and William Lane Craig/C.S. Lewis.
This course was taught live at Wellspring School of Discipleship, at the Quebec House of Prayer (QHOP), October 28, 2016.
Click here to download the syllabus.
Click here to download the class hand-outs (with blanks to fill in).
Click here, or scroll down to read the teacher’s notes.
PLEASE DOWNLOAD MY CHART here which lays out the options, and is my main contribution to this discussion.
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- SECTION ONE: Where we Agree!
My big thesis is:
- There is a wide variety of opinions, including YEC, OEC, and TE
- These are all valid modern Christian positions
– Ken Ham (kind of) agrees with me!
Where we agree (against Liberalism)
– See chart, 1-10
Where we disagree (the five main positions)
– See chart, 11-15
You can be saved while believing in YEC, OEC & TE
“We are not saying that if you believe in evolution that you can’t be a Christian, not at all. Because the Bible says that by grace you are saved. You don’t save yourself. It is by confessing the Lord Jesus and that he was rose from the dead that you are saved.” – Ken Ham (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/ken_ham.html)
1) Is a real danger, and a potent anti-Christian intellectual force
2) We will be talking more about Liberalism in coming lectures
3) What is Liberalism? (see Chart, 24, 15, 10, 9)
4) It is not true that all positions other than YEC are Liberal
It is also not true that turning from YEC is a “slippery slope” towards Liberalism
…unless one leaves YEC without being aware of the many other options.
For this reason, YEC should thank me, twice!
- A) Thank you for giving our kids a middle option!
B) Thank you for giving us a second option, to use in evangelism!
…these positions do represent a middle-ground between YEC and Liberalism, which is both Biblical, and scientific
…But first, what is YEC?
- SECTION TWO: Young Earth Creationism
A Short History
– The most important name in the current creationism debate is Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
With his publishing of “The Origin of Species” (1859), Darwin
Proposed an alternative to the traditional understanding of creation
Drove a wedge between science and religion on the question of origins, which remains to this day
– The church almost immediately began formulating responses to Darwin
Some sought to re-interpret the Bible, in light of the new science
(We will examine this shortly)
Some sought to re-interpret the new science in light of the Bible
(To this we now turn)
Formation of the Contemporary YEC Model
The Canopy Theory (Chart, 26)
– First formulated by Isaac Newton Vail (1840-1874), a Quaker and school-teacher, who wrote, “The Waters Above the Firmament” 1874
– Based on Gen. 1:7, 7:11
– Sought to solve the problem of a global flood, without sufficient water in the atmosphere (current atmospheric water content could suffice for inches, not feet, of water if it suddenly precipitated globally)
– This theory has been through countless revisions: some are now abandoning it, while others hold to it more firmly than ever
– In some iterations of this theory, the global canopy helps to explain why people before the Flood lived so long: perhaps the Canopy was shielding them from harmful radiation
Subterranean Water Stores Theory
– Based on Gen. 7:10-11
– Holds that great stores of water deep in the earth were suddenly released
– Holds that the waters then either went back to their previous place, or pushed down ocean floors (thus pushing up mountains) to their current place
– The recent discovery of layers of water deep in the earth serves to bolster this theory
Near-Miss Meteoric Events (Chart, 28)
– Meteorites passing close to the earth are a frequent feature of YEC models
– There are many ways that such a meteorite may have caused a flood:
“Pulling” the water in a global tidal-wave around the earth, in a short-lived, catastrophic orbit
Disrupting the hypothetical Canopy
Causing earth-quakes, and a rapid melting of the last ice-age
Causing a sudden release of subterranean water stores
The Genesis Flood (Chart, 21, 30)
– Was “global,” in the modern sense, of covering the entire globe
– Wiped out all land animals, except those spared by the Ark
– Caused most of the fossils and sedimentary layers we see today
Dinosaurs (Chart, 31)
– Really walked with people
– Really entered into the Ark (in pairs, the “babies” of each species)
– Died out quickly after the flood, perhaps due to changed atmospheric conditions
– Lived with humans long enough to account for the stories of “Dragons” and “Thunder-Lizards” common in most ancient mythologies
– The Biblical “Leviathan” and “Behemoth” refer to these human-dinosaur interactions
– Perhaps an as-yet undiscovered “fire-breathing dinosaur” will explain why Leviathan, and many ancient myths speak of “fire-breathing” creatures
The Omphalos (Navel) Argument (Chart, 18)
– Published by Philip Henry Gosse, in 1857
– Gosse argued that
- a) God had created Adam “fully formed” (including having a navel) b) God had similarly created the world with an “appearance of age”
- c) This explains any fossils and any other appearance of age
- d) This theory is still very much in circulation
- e) This theory is used especially to explain how starlight could have reached us from distant stars
Critical Evaluation of the Theory
- A thoroughly “Modern” theory
YEC will sometimes try to claim that their view is taught “exclusively from the Bible”: this is sometimes used as support for YEC against other positions, which seem to “compromise” by trying to reconcile with modern science
As this brief survey shows:
- a) YEC is, commendably, very interested in reconciling the Bible to science
- b) These ideas (canopy, meteorites, deep stores, fossils, etc.) were unheard of before modern science invented them, and YEC applied them to this question
- c) In this way, YEC too grows and evolves, in response to new scientific information…
Growth & Reformation
– Such growth is good!
All Christians do it
It is different from evolution
It gives us both better science AND better theology
Otherwise, we literally would be stuck in the Dark Ages
- Often called “Pseudo-science”
Respond that “real scientists” often YEC
Along with the “Amphalos” argument, possible to fully embrace science
I think we can agree:
- a) YEC seems anti-science to those outside
- b) YEC may be difficult for new Christians/seekers to grasp
(For this reason, glad to have other options..)
- c) Want to re-emphasize: YEC is a real theory!
I have nothing against it, if you know it well enough to defend it!!
Segway…and so let’s look at some of the other options…
III. SECTION THREE: OLD EARTH OPTIONS
- Ancient precedent for an Old Earth
…one may think right away, “If we are only looking at these because we are pushed by Darwin, are these really valid options? Or are they ad hoc?”
…however, readers may be interested to know that Christians have read Genesis 1-3, and concluded that this was referring to a long period of time hundreds of years before Darwin ever came on the scene!
“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.” Origen, (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, p. 365)
“We answered to the best of our ability this objection to God’s « commanding this first, second, and third thing to be created, » when we quoted the words, « He said, and it was done; He commanded, and all things stood fast; » remarking that the immediate Creator, and, as it were, very Maker of the world was the Word, the Son of God; while the Father of the Word, by commanding His own Son–the Word–to create the world, is primarily Creator. And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone, and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world, and quoted the words: « These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. » (Against Celus 6:60 [AD 248])
As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years, as the seven spirits and seven angels which stand and go in and out before the face of God, and the seven-branched lamp in the tabernacle of witness, and the seven golden candlesticks in the Apocalypse, and the seven columns in Solomon upon which Wisdom built her house l so here also the number seven of the brethren, embracing, in the quantity of their number, the seven churches, as likewise in the first book of Kings we read that the barren hath borne seven (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatises 11:11 [A.D. 250]) Online Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0507.htm
But simultaneously with time the world was made, if in the world’s creation change and motion were created, as seems evident from the order of the first six or seven days. For in these days the morning and evening are counted, until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say! (Augustine, City of God 11:6 [AD 419])
…we need to ask the question, “What caused serious and important Bible scholars centuries before Darwin to think the earth was old, simply on Biblical arguments alone?”
- Biblical Warrant for an Old Earth
- Days before the Sun
The Sun is created on day four. This creates at least two problems:
- A) Where was the light coming from before the sun was created?
- B) How were days measured without the sun?
Of course, YEC will have answers to this, including:
Jesus/God was the light, before the Sun, as He will be at the end of time (Rev. 22:5) – notice that in this passage, there are no days or nights
The sun emerged from the cloud cover on day four. – But notice that’s not what the text “literally” says!
- Divine Time
– No humans were around before the creation of Adam/Eve: thus, the creation event happened in “divine time”
– For God, “A day is like a thousand years” (
– The “Day of the Lord” is a non-literal day
– The seventh day does not end
- The “yom” Wars (Chart, 65-84)
- Biblical Options for an Old Earth
1) The Gap Theory
By the highly popular, conservative Scofield Study Bible
Taught there were a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 & 1:2, which explained the existence of dinosaurs, fossils, etc.
Now, largely abandoned
2) The “Creative Day” theory
That God created on literal days, but separated by thousands of years
Now largely abandoned
– The Presbeterian Church offers the following options:
1) The Calendar-Day Interpreation
2) The Day-Age Interpretation
That the days refer to long ages of time
That the days aught not to be taken literally
Still very much a viable theory
3) The Framework Interpretation
“Along with several other scholars, I hold to a nonliteral interpretation of the days of Genesis called “the framework interpretation.” It is called that because the days of creation are viewed as a literary framework. The framework interpretation is the view that Moses presents God as a worker who goes about His creative work in six days and rests on the seventh day, and that this picture functions as a literary framework in which the creative acts of God are narrated in a nonsequential or topical order. The days of creation are presented as ordinary solar days, complete with mornings and evenings, but taken as a whole, the picture of God working for six days and resting on the seventh is anthropomorphic. The narrative of God’s creative activity within the six days corresponds to events that occurred in space and time, but the seven-day week is a literary device for organizing that historical narrative, and so that aspect of the narrative (the framework of the seven days) is not to be taken literally. Though the days are a literary framework, the events of creation narrated within the framework are real historical events. The days are like picture frames. The snapshots within each frame are historical, but the frames provide a literary structure for narrating the creation history in a topical (i.e., nonsequential) order.” Lee Irons, PhD., “The Framework interpreation of the days of Creation, http://www.equip.org/article/the-framework-interpretation-of-the-days-of-creation/
4) The Analogical Days Interpretation
“The analogical-day theory maintains that the days in Gen- esis 1 are God’s workdays, which are analogous to the workdays of human beings, as indicated in Exodus 20:9–11:
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath . . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
“The theory claims that this analogy between God’s work and human work does not imply identity in the length of the days. God’s workdays are analogous to human workdays, but they need not be exactly the same length as the human days, when measured by modern technical means.” – Vern S. Poythress, Christian Answers to Hard Questions, http://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2013ChristianInterpretationsOfGenesis1.pdf
5) The “Cosmic Temple” Interpretation
A very recent idea by John Walton that Genesis 1 does not refer to a literal creation event, but only God symbolically setting up His reign over Creation (He had created at an earlier time, or in 1:1)
This is like God entering into a new office, shuffling around the desk, chairs, papers and pictures and declaring, “This is my office. It is very good!” The idea is that what happened in Genesis 1 was entirely symbolic in nature: nothing physical would have been detected on earth.
3) The Metaphorical/Symbolic Reading
– God “talked down” to us in Genesis 1-3
– God’s actual processes would have been incomprehensible/inexpressible in ancient times: even today we are sturuggling to understand!
God used “phenomenological language” to express His work
– In this view, Genesis 1 is mostly symbolic
– A major problem is that Genesis 1 & 2 don’t separate well. One is pushed to either a more liberal interpretation, or else to a more conservative one.
For these reasons, I find a “Day-Age” interpretation is more useful
- SECTION FOUR: Old Earth Positions
- Theistic Evolution2
– God Created Everything, using evolution
- Any tension with Darwin/new science
- How can evolution display God’s glory?
- Theology: how can Adam…
- a) Be the federal head of the human race
- b) Be truly “Made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27): be truly “human,” and not “animal”?
- c) Have actions which affect the entire human race
- d) How can death come before the fall?
…if he is basically just a “sanctified ape,” one hominid in a long line of hominids?
- Theistic Evolution 1
Definition: God created everything using natural processes, including evolution, but did not use evolution to create humans. Humans are special creations
- a) Man is truly made in the image of God, and not an animal
- b) Man can have actions which affect the entire human race
- c) Man’s sin caused man’s death
Creates New Tension:
- If God used evolution for animals, why not humans?
Science: there seems to be good evidence that humans are special, made different than animals
Bible: The bible seems to indicate that humans are specially created, in a different sense than animals (Gen. 2:9, 10, 19)
- How did death/suffering exist before the fall?
- Old Earth Creationism
Definition: The earth is old, but God specially created all biological life. Macro-evolution is not true.
- Any resistance to the idea of God using evolution
- (along with TE1) Resolves tension of death before the fall (chart, 43-63)
- Why would God create an old earth, if He didn’t use evolution? (108-
- How could creation be “very good” with death/suffering? (ch. 99-106)