I’m Not Surprised, But I’m Not Sure What It Means

One of the many results of a poll taken at 200 conservative Christian colleges and universities.  It indicates that the science faculty in those institutions are more likely to be young-earth creationists than their fellow religion faculty.  (click for credit)

One of the many results of a poll taken at 200 conservative Christian colleges and universities. It indicates that the science faculty in those institutions are more likely to be young-earth creationists than their fellow religion faculty. (click for credit)

In 2011, Answers in Genesis published a book entitled Already Compromised. It was based on the results of an interesting poll. The pollsters (America’s Research Group and Britt Beemer) attempted to contact four faculty/staff members (the university president, the academic dean, the head of the science department, and the head of the religion department) at 200 different Christian colleges and universities. Of those potentially 800 people, they ended up being able to interview 312. They asked a wide variety of questions, focusing on how those individuals interpreted different aspects of the Bible. The results are presented in the book, along with ample commentary.

The conclusion of the book is that many Christian colleges and universities have “compromised” their theology, subordinating the teachings of the Bible to the scientific consensus. In other words, they have decided that they must force their interpretation of the Bible to “fit” the scientific consensus, which includes flagellate-to-philosopher evolution and a billions-of-years-old earth.

Now please understand that I do not agree with the conclusion of the book. I don’t think that those who believe the earth is ancient or that God has created through evolution are necessarily “compromising” their theology. Non-literal interpretations of various parts of the book of Genesis can be traced all the way back to (and before) the beginning of Christendom, and there are literal interpretations of Genesis that result in conclusions other than young-earth creationism. Thus, the whole idea that people who disagree with me when it comes to natural history are “compromised” is absurd.

Despite the fact that I disagree with the book’s conclusions, I am interested in the results of its poll, especially the one highlighted in the graphic above. According to the poll’s results on this issue, the heads of the science department in these 200 Christian colleges and universities are nearly four times more likely to be young-earth creationists than the heads of the religion department!

Is that surprising to you? It isn’t surprising to me. In fact, it is consistent with my general experience. Among the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am well acquainted, those who are educated in science are more likely to be young-earth creationists, and those who are not educated in science are more likely to be theistic evolutionists. Of course, my general experiences are not representative of Christianity as a whole, so it’s interesting to see the results of this poll.

Of course, this poll isn’t really representative of Christianity as a whole, either. Of those who were interviewed, 223 were from schools that belonged to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), which tends to attract conservative evangelical institutions. The remaining 89 were from institutions that are associated with a particular denomination. In the end, then, I would say that this poll might be representative of conservative American Christianity, but not Christianity as a whole.

In addition, the sample size is rather small. Assuming the poll’s 312 participants were evenly spread out among the four positions targeted, each pie graph shown above represents results from only 78 people. That produces a statistical error of more than 11%. However, even with an error of 11%, the results are striking. Even if both pie graphs are off by a wide margin, their results still indicate that science faculty at conservative Christian institutions of higher learning are more likely to be young-earth creationists than the corresponding religion faculty.

What can explain these striking results? I think one factor is related to a person’s willingness to question the scientific consensus. Those who are well educated in the sciences understand that the scientific consensus is not always right. As a result, they are probably more willing to question it. Also, scientists have training in analyzing data, so they are more likely to actually look at the evidence presented by those who believe in an ancient earth or flagellate-to-philosopher evolution and examine it critically. Those whose expertise lies in other areas (such as language, history, or theology) are less likely to do such things, so they are more likely to believe the scientific consensus.

I suspect that there are other factors as well, but I am not sure what they are. I would love to conclude that the poll results tell us that young-earth creationism is the more scientifically-correct view when it comes to origins, but they obviously don’t tell us that. Science is not based on consensus. It is based on analyzing the data thoroughly and coming to the most reasonable conclusion you can based on those data. Even if only a tiny minority of scientists at conservative Christian colleges and universities were young-earth creationists, I would still consider it the most scientifically-correct view when it comes to origins, because I think the data speak very clearly on the matter.

I am interested in what you think. Do you have an explanation for why the poll ended up with such striking results?

45 Comments

  1. David H says:

    Dr. Wile, I think you nailed it. Most of the general population, including religion instructors, feel like they can’t argue with the “scientific consensus” regarding evolution or global warning. They feel like doing so would only make them look foolish. So they go along with whatever the media says the scientific consensus says they should believe. Much like when riding on a commercial air flight, we just hope the pilots do their job right and get us to our destination, without going up to the cockpit and checking on them. In fact, it would be against airline regulations to do so, and probably against Federal aviation regulations as well. People would try to stop you from even talking to the pilots, and might prevent you by force. In the same manner, if you try to question the “consensus” on evolution or global warning, people get almost violent with you, and insist you have no right to think for yourself. It’s a sad, sad attitude, but I think that’s how most people feel.

    1. David H says:

      Just to clarify, and position my comments relative to the other comments here – I think that many people are suspending their critical thinking on “scientific” matters, and then using theistic evolution as a way to reconcile the scientific “consensus” with their religious beliefs. I think they are sincere in thinking they have reconciled the two, and I don’t condemn or fault their intentions. I think we would all do well to assume the best intentions in others.

  2. Tom Shipley says:

    Dr. Wile, let me say first of all that I appreciate your work greatly.

    I believe the title of the AIG book, “Already Compromised,” says it all, and is bulls-eye perfect in its conclusion. I may not have an answer for you regarding the precise breakdowns of the per centages represented in the graph, but I do have some other pertinent observations.

    Old earth Christians (and theistic evolutionists) ARE compromising their theology and they ARE subordinating their theology to scientific “consensus,” which “consensus” may not even be the real consensus. I am convinced that the lust for some degree of acceptance and “respectability” from their academic colleagues (the “pride of life” to use the Bible’s terminology—1 John 2:16) is at the root of most of this compromise. But, of course, exactly what the “consensus” on evolution and the age of the earth/universe is, is of necessity shrouded in darkness anyway in an environment where repudiating the party line CAN RESULT IN BEING TERMINATED FROM YOUR JOB like Mark Armitage, David Coppedge, Jerry Bergman, Caroline Crocker, Guillermo Gonzalez, Richard von Sternberg, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc……ad infinitum, or being subjected to vicious campaigns of vilification and personal character assassination like Richard Milton, Michael Egnor, Robert Marks II, Pamela Winnick, etc., etc., etc., etc. etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., ….ad infinitum. (Your readers would do well to Google each of these names and investigate their stories.)

    Did it ever occur to you that the position on the age of the earth and/or evolution proclaimed by many of those Christians may not even be what they ACTUALLY believe? Maybe many of them simply want to keep their employment options open outside of Christian academia? Being stigmatized as a young-earther or a traditional creationist is guaranteed to shut many, many doors. In any event, what the REAL consensus is in academia is utterly unknowable given that the atmosphere in academia is utterly poisoned regarding these subjects. The current “consensus” is maintained by fear and intimidation and persecution.

    On theology, I submit that Genesis 1-3 is meant to be taken as straightforward historical narrative (as opposed to metaphorical poetry, or heavy symbolism such as in the book of Revelation), that this is patently manifest, and understanding it as such leaves no RATIONAL room for a “gap” theory or a “day-age” theory. Since there is an issue of ultimate authority involved here, I am inclined to believe that old earthers and theistic evolutionists, subordinating their theology to the authority of (mostly) secular atheists, have fallen into a form of idolatry.

    God bless you and your work.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I will have to disagree with you, Tom. I am sure there are some Christians who subordinate their theology to the scientific consensus, and as a result are old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists. At the same time, there are also Christians who subordinate their theology to the opinions of leaders who they respect/admire and as a result are young-earth creationists.

      As I stated in the original post, there are literal interpretations of Genesis that don’t result in a young-earth view, and the allegorical interpretation of Genesis has a rich history prior to and including the beginning of Christianity. I agree with you that Genesis is meant to be taken as history, but I disagree that this is “this is patently manifest.” If it were, I would not expect the allegorical approach to appear in both ancient Judaism and early Christianity, at least not to the extent that it did.

      Idolatry can be found in all camps on the origins issue. I am sure there are some old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists who idolize science and hold their views as a result of that idolatry. However, I am equally certain that there are young-earth creationists who idolize specific individuals and are young-earth creationists because of that idolatry. The fact is that many old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists take the Bible as their ultimate authority; they just interpret it different from you and me.

      1. Scott Weckerly says:

        Dr, Jay: You said “As I stated in the original post, there are literal interpretations of Genesis that don’t result in a young-earth view, and the allegorical interpretation of Genesis has a rich history prior to and including the beginning of Christianity.” Could you please do an article documenting this “rich history prior to and including”?? I have seen claims on both side of this, but have seen very little documentation from either side, which is quite frustrating. I have failed to find any substantial documentation for either side on my own so far. Thanks for all you do!

        1. Jay Wile says:

          I have written a couple of things about this. For example, Clement of Alexandria said that the days weren’t about time at all. Instead, they were a way of ordering the created things in terms of their importance to God. This was actually a Jewish interpretation, which was discussed by Jewish theologian Philo Judaeus. Origen also said that the days of Genesis couldn’t be days, because you can’t have a day without a sun. In that same post, I also discuss the writings of Dr. James Hannam, who says that by the time of William of Conches (mid-to-late 1100s), an allegorical interpretation of Genesis was widespread in the Church.

      2. Tom Shipley says:

        Thanks for the response, Jay. I know this is a blogging site and not a doctoral thesis you’re doing here, but it would be helpful if you could be specific as to at least one compelling line of reasoning (compelling being the operative word) in support of a literal understanding of Genesis which leads to an old earth understanding. As a Sola Scriptura kind of guy, I am not very impressed with a “rich history of this” or “rich history of that” line of argumentation. Satan has a “rich history” of subverting the Word of God, so I would EXPECT both pre-Christian and early Christian departures from sound doctrine. No surprise there. Yes, there is inherent idolatry of the sort you mention. No doubt about that either. One can be right for the wrong reasons. In any event, what do you regard as the strongest case for an old earth based upon a literal-historical-narrative understanding of Genesis 1-3?

        1. Jay Wile says:

          I would say that this website has a good discussion of a literal interpretation that leads to an old earth. I don’t agree with it, but he is using a literal interpretation and ending up with an old earth. Here is another example. Once again, I don’t agree, but the point is that both of these articles interpret Genesis literally and come up with an old earth.

          I guess I would add one more thing. You say, “As a Sola Scriptura kind of guy, I am not very impressed with a ‘rich history of this’ or ‘rich history of that’ line of argumentation.” The history of Scriptural interpretation is very important to me specifically because I am a Sola Scriptura guy. Since only Scripture matters, it is important to get rid of cultural influences. We read Scripture through the lens of our culture. Thus, if we only analyze the theology that exists today, we are not relying solely on Scripture. We are relying on Scripture plus our cultural influences. One way to attempt to remove those cultural influences and rely only on Scripture is to analyze how other cultures read Scripture so that we can recognize cultural influences and remove them. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to see how Christians throughout history have read Scripture and see what interpretations exist among all those cultures.

      3. Tom Shipley says:

        Hi, Jay:
        This past week, I checked out the websites you mentioned regarding literal readings of Genesis which purportedly lead to an old earth conclusion and studied their arguments. For brevity, I will respond to them in separate posts. First, Rodney Whitefield.

        Whitefield’s case for an old earth is built for all practical purposes entirely on RETRANSLATING the biblical text to suit his doctrine. Red flags should immediately raise in the minds of every Bible-believing Christian.

        As a nearly 40 year veteran of searching out virtually every dispute on practically every subject of any importance relating to biblical theology, my observation is this:
        the POLEMICAL tactic of purporting to have a “BETTER TRANSLATION” of the biblical text than most of the Bibles in circulation is the last resort of every Scripture twister who does not have a valid LOGICAL argument to make based upon common sense considerations such as (preeminently) CONTEXT, literary type, and logical consistency with Scripture as a whole. Polemical attempts to sway an interpretation of biblical passages based upon “I have a better translation than you do” are simply exegetical deck-stacking and represent the attempt to DEFINE away the problems of the preferred doctrine. Don’t like what the Bible says about this or that? No problem. Make it say something else! I would characterize such attempts as linguistic ventriloquism.

        I have made the point many, many times over the years to fellow Christians that LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS IS SUBJECT TO THE LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS and almost never resolves any doctrinal disputes. This is obvious from the fact that the linguistic scholars of biblical Hebrew and Greek argue amongst THEMSELVES endlessly, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, over every conceivable point of biblical doctrine with no resolution. I would like to ask: whatever happened to “the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture?” Remember that? Whitefield notes himself regarding the linguistic scholars he cites (Scofield, etc.) as support for his position:

        “Understanding the grammar and meaning of those 23 words resolves long-standing disputes about the Bible’s statement about the age of planet Earth and the age of the universe… These scholars held BOTH long time (day-age) and 24-hour views of the six creative times…”

        In other words, for all their linguistic expertise and scholarship, differences of opinion persisted among the scholars of biblical Hebrew after all of their exhaustive analysis of the biblical text.

        There is a substantive textual reason for such polemical impasse: the linguistic scholars are trying to accomplish an inherently impossible task. Most of the “problems” of Scripture boil down to some form of LOGICAL or CONTEXTUAL issue. When “exegetes” construct towers of labyrinthine linguistic constructs to sway doctrinal disputes, they are claiming to be the higher initiates into their brand of Gnosticism, and you can lay money down on the proposition that you are being hoodwinked.

        My response to Whitefield is: is that the best you’ve got?

        1. Jay Wile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Tom. I will have to disagree with pretty much all of it. First and foremost, I do not see any indication that Whitehead is retranslating the Biblical text to suit his doctrine. What I see is that he is attempting to translate it so that he can understand what it is saying. I am a Bible-believing Christian, and I don’t see any red flags. I see an honest attempt to understand the literal meaning of the text.

          Second, Whitehead never claims to have a “better translation.” He is simply trying to see what the text does say and what it doesn’t say. There is nothing polemic about what he is doing. He is also not trying to define away any problems. He is simply trying to understand the text in terms of the language in which it was written. That’s a reasonable thing to do.

          Third, I am rather surprised that you have such a dim view of linguistic analysis. After all, in an earlier comment, you said you are a “Sola Scriptura kind of guy.” I, too, am such a guy, and that’s why linguistic analysis is so important to me. I want to know what the Bible says, so that I can rely on it alone. Well, the Bible wasn’t written in English. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. If I want to know what it says, then, I must engage in linguistic analysis. Indeed, if you are are reading an English version of the Bible, you are relying on linguistic analysis – the linguistic analysis upon which the translation you are reading is based. Far from having diminishing returns, then, linguist analysis allows us to understand what the text actually says.

          Fourth, you claim that because very knowledgeable translators held to different interpretations of the creation event, that must mean their exhaustive analysis of the Biblical text yielded nothing. I disagree. The fact that many experts in the original language can look at the text and come to different conclusions about what it means tells us something very important: the age of the earth is simply not spelled out in the Bible. Thus, depending on your hermeneutic, you can believe in either an old earth or a young earth and still be fully faithful to the Scriptures.

          You ask, “whatever happened to “the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture?” Nothing. Remember what that means. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:

          All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all. Yet, those things that are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or another, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

          Since the age of the earth has no bearing on salvation, there is no reason to expect it to be clearly spelled out in Scripture.

          I am not sure what you mean by, “the linguistic scholars are trying to accomplish an inherently impossible task.” If you are saying it is impossible to interpret Scripture literally and come up with an old earth, that is clearly false. Whitehead has done so, and you have not been able to refute it.

        2. Lawrence Dol says:

          I, with humility, would submit my own work for consideration: think.dolhub.com/apologetics/

          Though, I must comment that my article entitled “Biblical Creation” is in great need of a total overhaul due to advances I’ve made since it was written, as a result of teaching the material. I can now present a far stronger case for this specific topic.

      4. Tom Shipley says:

        Thanks for the response, Jay.

        Jay, first let me protest strongly that I never said, nor did I mean to imply, that I have a dim view of linguistic analysis. Quite the contrary. If it were not for linguistics there would be no Bible in languages other than Hebrew or Greek. Thank God for linguistics and linguistic analysis. What I actually *did* say, however, is that linguistic analysis is subject to the law of DIMINISHING RETURNS. This is patently manifest in the inability of conservative Evangelical linguistic scholars to come to agreement regarding the proper understanding of countless passages. After Scripture is translated accurately (the windfall), there are still issues of correct understanding just as there are in everyday ordinary speech (the diminishing returns). The precise sense and signification of much of Scripture (as with everyday speech) is made plain, as I said in the previous post, preeminently by *CONTEXT* and by basic logic and by reference to Scripture as a whole—a point I will get to in a separate post regarding Jonathan McLatchie. I think this is a perfectly Sola Scriptura approach and in no way contradictory to it. So, I think all of my points in the previous post remain valid.

        Regarding a proper hermeneutic, I would assert that if the hermeneutic is faulty then we are not being faithful to Scripture, irrespective of the subjective intention.

        Whitehead, like so many other commentators, is, for all intents and purposes, making his case based on a retranslation of the text. That is the whole essence of his case. He is saying that all of the major translations MIStranslated Genesis 1 and give a wrong sense in English. Remove that aspect of his thesis and there’s not much else left. For me, that’s a red flag.

        Regarding your point about removing cultural influences to see Scripture in its own light, there is nothing that I disagree with there.

        Hope this clarifies my point.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Tom. I am sorry that I misunderstood you. Thank you for clarifying your position. I must, however, disagree with your clarified position. As I told you previously, the fact that Evangelical linguistic scholars cannot agree on many passages doesn’t indicate diminishing returns of linguistic analysis. It simply indicates that not all passages of Scripture are 100% clear. Not only is this consistent with all orthodox views of Scripture (including the Westminster Confession I quoted earlier), it is to be expected. The Bible is the revelation of God (who is infinite) to us (who are finite). It is expected that we finite people cannot fully grasp the Infinite’s revelation. As the perspicuity of Scripture tells us, when passages aren’t clear, that just indicates they aren’t necessary for salvation. Thus, none of the points in your previous post are valid in any way.

          I agree that a faulty hermeneutic results in not being faithful to Scripture. However, I see nothing faulty about the hermeneutic employed by many old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists.

          Once again, Whitehead is definitely not retranslating the text. Nowhere does he say that the major translations mistranslated Genesis 1. He just recognizes (as everyone should) that translation from Hebrew to English is difficult, and a thorough understanding of the Hebrew helps us understand the meaning. Thus, he is just using his knowledge of Hebrew to amplify what the English translations say. There is no red flag here. In fact, he is doing what any responsible theologian should do.

          You did clarify your point, and as I have shown, it is quite incorrect.

  3. J M Fleener says:

    Sadly those who are lecturers in religion departments are rarely trained in science. In addition they would have been trained by those who were rarely trained in science.

    It would be very fascinating to see the “religion department” stats broken down further. For, at least 20 years, Old Testament departments in major seminaries around the world have been shifting towards a view that the Old Testament must be read through the lends of Ancient Near Eastern Literature. In other words the OT is not that much different (some would go so far as to say not different at all) than other ANE documents.

    Therefore we don’t go to the Bible, or at least not the OT for these lecturers, to find God’s Word about the material universe. At best, we find what God has to say about the functions and purposes he has given to an already existing universe. So the Bible, like all other ANE literature cannot comment on our modern questions of origins or age of the universe and we should stop asking it to answer those questions.

    As a result the Bible is now quite compatible with any “scientific” explanation of the universe and since these same lecturers are poorly equipped to consider the science and they feel the same pressure as anyone else in the academy and wider culture they adopt the consensus view by default.

    Obviously there is always more going on but I have seen this scenario more and more over the past 20 years.

    If someone would have told me 20 years ago that in 20 years there would still be debates within “Evangelical Circles” regarding the age of the Earth and mechanisms of creation I would have said, “Of course, that discussion won’t end until Jesus returns.”

    If someone would have told me 20 years ago that in less than 20 years there will be a growing number (if not even now the default position) of those who call themselves “Evangelicals” (some even calling themselves “Conservative Evangelicals”) who will openly question the historicity of Adam and Eve I would have said, “No way, that’ll never happen”.

    Yet, that is where we are today, to a large part due to the state of OT departments in Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries around the world.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Joe Fleener

  4. Lawrence Dol says:

    I suspect that one of the factors is selection bias due to the fact that in many evangelical churches YEC is not permitted to be questioned and those of us who do disagree are branded heretics and compromisers. Much like dissenters from evolution in secular circles.

    Another might be questionnaire bias by presenting the false dichotomy of YEC or evolution.

    Lastly might there be pressure to conform in these schools? I’ve been reaching out to local churches for a seminar I am holding on the subject, and one pastor’s response was essentially, “Our church has made young creation an essential tenet of what we believe.” He won’t let his congregation even consider anything else. Sadly.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I don’t think it could be selection bias, Lawrence. If the college or university requires its scientists to be young-earth creationists, it would surely require its theologians to be young-earth creationists as well. Thus, you wouldn’t expect such a huge difference in departments. Also, I don’t think it’s questionnaire bias, since both groups were asked the same questions. Finally, I don’t think the conformist idea works, either, since there would be pressure on all faculty to conform.

      1. Lawrence Dol says:

        Those are all fair points, Jay. Which leaves the question open and the difference fascinating.

    2. Lawrence Dol says:

      Perhaps, then, it has more to do with philosophical differences than science.

    3. Scott says:

      If the earth is billions of years old, with the attendant scenarios that accompany such a proposition, our God doesn’t exist. Period. His character and nature are such that He could never create via the scenarios involved.

      You will have to eventually devolve into heresy to keep an old earth belief and remain logically consistent. Such heresy is evidenced often on the BioLogos website. At least those folk are following the logical and inevitable conclusions of an old earth belief mixed with theistic evolution.

      It really doesn’t matter how many interpretations of Genesis have existed over the ages. Either God has effectively and clearly communicated truth in the opening chapters of Genesis, or He hasn’t, and is at least complicit in creating the strife and confusion that exist now in the Body of Christ over this issue. But no, He communicated extremely clearly, and went to pains to do so.

      Theological problems abound for those who immerse themselves in a belief that billions of years have elapsed since the beginning.

      1. Jay Wile says:

        I will have to disagree with you, Scott. My faith in God is not dependent on a specific interpretation of Scripture. Since God is all-powerful, He could create by many, many scenarios, including old-earth creation and theistic evolution. I don’t think He did, but I would never presume to limit God’s power by saying He couldn’t.

        The Biologos website is definitely not an example of people following the logical conclusion of old-earth belief. I would say the Reasons to Believe website is a better example of people following the old-earth view to its logical conclusion.

        It does matter how many interpretations of Genesis have existed over the ages, because we have a lot to learn from Christians throughout history. Early Christians, for example, were much closer to the actual languages in which the Bible was written, so their insights into what the Scriptures say are valuable. In addition, we all look at the Bible through our own cultural lens. By seeing how others from various cultures view Scripture, we gain insight. God’s truths are timeless, so we can learn from Christians of the past!

        There are some excellent theologians who hold to an old earth, and I have read many of them. They do not have theological problems. Their theology is different from mine, but it is not problematic.

        1. Lawrence Dol says:

          Thanks for this Jay. You said what I was going to, but with incredible grace and poise. Well done.

        2. Bruce Rennie says:

          Well said Jay. For Scott, one example in Genesis that can be puzzling is that Chapter 1 of Genesis is an apparently different creation story to what is presented in Chapter 2. There are various ways to resolve the apparent discrepancy. The best way to do so is to actually ask God himself and be willing to let Him show you the answer. Just remember that the answer may be very specific to you and you alone.

          I have asked Him various questions over the decades and He has always responded. Sometimes with an answer I can actually understand, sometimes with an answer I don’t understand (in some cases taking years before understanding comes, in other cases I still have no clue), sometimes with a simple “just trust me, you don’t need to know”.

          God has stated that His thoughts are far above ours, so simple things for Him are far beyond our understanding. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to understand. No. He encourages us to. But we should not be making doctrine on what He has not said. Young earth/Old earth is a area in which He has not been clear. He allows us to investigate and to form our views but they are not applicable to Salvation. Jesus is.

          Jay and I have different views about some subjects that we have communicated on. Our differences have NO bearing on whether we are brothers in Christ. Our differing views do not and should affect our discipleship to Jesus Christ. Our differing views are no more important than our specific views about cheese or beer.

          What we, as individuals, should be looking at is whether the views we have glorify God or denigrate God. I am more for the young earth model because the old earth model has so many holes in it (facts that don’t fit). I am a creationist not an evolutionist because the facts support a non-evolutionary model. You can be different, but do our views praise God or despise God?

          I was an theistic evolutionist in the 70’s and 80’s but changed my mind after seeing the results of experiments done during that time. The evidence presented strongly indicated that the model of evolution being propagated was a model that opposed the evidence presented.

          It was repeatedly affirmed in my undergraduate engineering days that every model, every theory (engineering and science) has its limits and if used in circumstances outside the specific constraints would give erroneous results. It is an unfortunate thing that scientific consensus has become dogma in many areas. Anomalies in results are ignored, particularly if they present something that goes against the consensus.

          The topics that Jay presents can raise interesting question, of which there can be varying opinions. But in terms of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we should be looking at making that deeper.

        3. SCOTT BRADSHAW says:

          Thanks for the reply Jay.
          Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God Jay. If you read the Word and don’t apprehend the truth of it, what kind of faith do you have? Not faith in the truth, but faith in some kind of lie, heresy or error. It’s just wrapped in a veneer that appears as the Word. Notice the apostles combating errors based on the Word. These errors were corrosive to the faith.

          I disagree God could have used many scenarios. His unlimited genius and wisdom and His perfect character dictate He will create in a way that agree with that wisdom and genius. Anything less is to engage to some degree in foolishness or error. God our Father set a perfect course for our rescue and salvation. Jesus in the Garden asked for another way if it was the Father’s will. There wasn’t another way because He set a perfect course from the beginning.

          Is He capable of mistakes? Of foolishness? Of evil?

          And of course it’s never about what He could have done, but what He said He did. And the attendant scenarios that accompany billions of years and theistic evolution are utterly opposed to His character and nature.

          You want to speak of what we can learn from earlier Christians? Try Paul. In 1 Cor 11:8 he, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, destroys any notion of theistic evolution, and verifies, clarifies, and supports the account of Adam and Eve’s creation as literal history as written. Either that, or the scripture is nonsense.

          I can’t understand how you can believe 2 people with different theologies can be okay with God. Either one or the other or both are in error at some point. There are severe repercussions just for knowing God and His true character that come with billions of years. http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/01/15/evolution-is-most-certainly-a-matter-of-belief-and-so-is-christianity/

          Al Mohler who is a respected theologian says, yeah, your going to have major theological problems. I agree.

        4. Jay Wile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Scott. I most certainly agree that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Many old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists read the Word of God and end up believing in millions of years and evolution. Many of them think they are combating the errors of young-earth creationists. The point is that the Scripture simply isn’t clear on the age of the earth or the specific method by which God created. As a result, different people can read the Scriptures, put full faith into them, and come to different conclusions on the subject of origins.

          You are free to disagree with me that God could have used many scenarios to create. However, I disagree with you. I think His unlimited genius and wisdom and perfect character would allow him to choose many methods by which to create, and there is simply no way that I can dictate what He would have done. You are correct that He set a perfect course for our rescue and salvation, and He could have done that no matter how He created.

          No, God is not capable of mistakes or foolishness. However, He is clearly capable of creating in many, many different ways. And no, billions of years and theistic evolution are not opposed to His character.

          I don’t know of any theistic evolutionist or old-earth creationist who would have any problems with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:8. Thus, this verse doesn’t do anything to “destroy” theistic evolution. It discusses why woman was created. It doesn’t discuss the specific method by which man and woman are created. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 11:12, some theistic evolutionists would say that we have a picture of theistic evolution, because Paul specifically says that the details are not important. Instead, all things originate from God.

          I can’t understand how you believe that two people having different theologies automatically means that one of them must be in some sort of trouble with God. As the Westminster Confession tells us:

          All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all. Yet, those things that are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or another, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

          Since all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all, it stands to reason that two people who both submit to the authority of Scripture can come to different conclusions when it comes to some of the things discussed in Scripture. Of course, only one of them (or neither of them) is correct, but the very nature of Scripture means that there will be disagreements among Bible-believing Christians when it comes to some issues.

          I agree that Al Mohler is a respected theologian. However, many respected theologians would disagree with him. This list includes Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and Edward J. Young. Indeed, if you were to survey conservative Evangelical theologians, I suspect that the majority would not be young earthers. Now, of course, being in the majority doesn’t mean they are right. I don’t think they are. Nevertheless, it is hard to convince me that there are major theological problems with old-earth creationism and theistic evolution when many (if not most) conservative Evangelical theologians hold one of those views!

  5. Joseph Swanson says:

    Interesting post Dr. Wile! I have observed at the secular university that nonscience professors seem more apt to voluntarily mention and support evolution than science professors.

    1. SCOTT BRADSHAW says:

      Adam did not come from woman. Therefore, he never gestated in the womb of any female. Woman came from man. Therefore, she never had a mother and never gestated in the womb of any female. Theistic evolution is dead with 1 Cor 11:8. Why deny what this verse is clearly saying. It verifies, clarifies, and supports the Genesis account of their creation as literal history as written. It certainly doesn’t support theistic evolution in the slightest.

      We need to beware making a hash of scripture so we may be comfortable accommodating different views.

      If you’re willing to believe God creates via death with suffering, disease and predation in the mix, as well as throwing in oh, what, 4 mass extinction events all before man arrives on the scene, I would have to firmly, but gently, admonish you for not believing the scriptures. How else could you say theistic evolution isn’t opposed to His character. Jay, I’d have to say you really haven’t fully thought out and considered these things.

      Genesis 6:11-13 The Earth was corrupt through violence. But God created it this way according to you. Notice, He even specifically says all flesh referring even to the animals.
      http://biblehub.com/isaiah/11-9.htm To be filled with the knowledge of God is to shun violence. Even the animals do shun violence again after God makes even a partial restoration.

      Theistic evolution creates through violence and death. It is diametrically opposed to God’s character. Instead of just rebutting me here somehow, how about asking God in prayer about this, and keeping at it until He answers you. I will pray He does so quickly.

      1. Jay Wile says:

        I am sorry, Scott, but you couldn’t be more incorrect. Of course Adam didn’t come from woman, and I don’t know any theistic evolutionist who suggests that he did. According to the theistic evolutionists I have read, man didn’t come into existence until God gave His image. Thus, according to theistic evolutionists (like C.S. Lewis, for example), God used evolution to produce the physical form of man, but man himself did not exist until God gave him the Imago Dei. As a result, according to these theistic evolutionists, Adam did not come from the womb of a woman. He came from the womb of a creature that did not have the image of God and was therefore not human. In fact, according to the theistic evolutionists I have read, Adam wasn’t Adam until God gave him the Imago Dei, so Adam didn’t really come from any creature. The physical form of Adam came from some nonhuman creature, but Adam didn’t exist until God gave Adam His image.

        I agree that we need to avoid making a hash of Scripture, which is why we must recognize that Scripture is not clear about the method by which God created. Trying to insist that Scripture says something that it clearly does not is the best way to make a hash of Scripture.

        I say that theistic evolution is not opposed to God’s character because it is not, and I say that specifically because I believe the Scriptures. The Scriptures indicate that God accepts the suffering and death of animals when it suits His purpose. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have commanded His people to sacrifice them. Thus, if you believe the Scriptures, you have to conclude that God will use the suffering and death of animals in order to accomplish His goals. If he used it for the atonement rituals of His people, He could have used it to create as well.

        Yes, the earth was corrupted as a result of the Fall of Man. However, that doesn’t indicate animal death was introduced at that time. As I have pointed out before, a clear and honest examination of the Scriptures tells us only that plants died before the Fall and people did not. They do not tell us anything about animal death before the Fall. Also, please note that Isaiah 11 is clearly talking about what will happen in the future. It does not tell us about the original creation.

        I find it very strange that you think I haven’t thought and prayed about this. It’s as if you think you have some special revelation from God and anyone who disagrees with you on this issue is not as close to God as you are. That’s a very dangerous line of thinking, and I would gently admonish you to avoid it. The fact is that I have asked God about this, and I continue to ask Him. I continue to study the Scriptures while asking Him, and this is the conclusion that I continue to have, despite the fact that I am a young-earth creationist. It is also the conclusion that a lot of people who diligently search the Scriptures and ask God to teach them have come to.

        Now please note that I am not advocating for the theistic evolution position. I think it is incorrect for many reasons. However, I am saying that is is completely false to claim that theistic evolution cannot be consistent with Scripture.

      2. Lawrence Dol says:

        I’d just like to point out that very little of this has any bearing whatsoever on the old-earth creation position, which is one of special creation by divine fiat.

        We (broadly speaking; it’s a spectrum) hold that God created man and woman specifically and specially, just as described in Gen 2.

        You would benefit from reading up on the positions you oppose, using the best defenders of the position, so that you understand the positions correctly. Currently you are simply defeating a strawman. While that will make you feel good about yourself, it’s of little relevance to those of us, your brethren, who hold a different view.

    2. SCOTT BRADSHAW says:

      Adam did not come from woman. Therefore, he never gestated in the womb of any female. Woman came from man. Therefore, she never had a mother and never gestated in the womb of any female. Theistic evolution is dead with 1 Cor 11:8. Why deny what this verse is clearly saying. It verifies, clarifies, and supports the Genesis account of their creation as literal history as written. It certainly doesn’t support theistic evolution in the slightest.

      We need to beware making a hash of scripture so we may be comfortable accommodating different views.

      If you’re willing to believe God creates via death with suffering, disease and predation in the mix, as well as throwing in oh, what, 4 mass extinction events all before man arrives on the scene, I would have to firmly, but gently, admonish you for not believing the scriptures. How else could you say theistic evolution isn’t opposed to His character. Jay, I’d have to say you really haven’t fully thought out and considered these things.

      Genesis 6:11-13 The Earth was corrupt through violence. But God may have created it this way according to you. Notice, He even specifically says all flesh referring even to the animals.
      http://biblehub.com/isaiah/11-9.htm To be filled with the knowledge of God is to shun violence. Even the animals shun violence again after God makes even a partial restoration.

      Theistic evolution creates through violence and death. It is diametrically opposed to God’s character and is no different from the atheists evolution accept deceived Christians have sprinkled God over it to sanctify it.

      1. Jay Wile says:

        Scott, this comment is essentially a repeat of your previous comment. I would refer you to my reply to that comment so that you can learn why you are incorrect. I would also suggest that you listen to Lawrence’s admonishment. If you are going to argue against theistic evolution, you should at least learn what real theistic evolutionists believe. That way, you won’t use incorrect arguments (such as the one you base on 1 Cor 11:8) that can be easily refuted.

        1. SCOTT BRADSHAW says:

          Sorry Jay. Don’t know how I double posted.

  6. I’m not a scientist, but I spent a few years as a physics major before switching to Bible. I’ve also studied some philosophy and understand to a degree the philosophical and theological foundations according to a Christian worldview behind the scientific method, including the epistemological limitations. I’ve always been baffled by many otherwise rock-solid theologians’ elevation of general revelation beyond what’s warranted in this matter both in light of those limitations and the theological cautions given in the Bible.

  7. Jake says:

    It’s a lot easier to change one’s theology – especially now, when there’s so much pressure to do so – than to change one’s beliefs about scientific data. Especially for a scientist.

  8. Voltaire says:

    People who study theology at tertiary level learn the ancient languages, history, linguistic analysis and ‘deep reading’ of biblical texts. Scientists lack in this area, which is why they often remain at a surface reading of the Bible.

    Here is an interesting article by a once staunch YEC who studied biology so that he could continue to propound his views on YEC. Afterwards, he changed to Ministry and found he could no longer hold onto the YEC view:
    http://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/tales-of-a-recovering-answer-addict-from-young-earth-apologist-to-evolutionary-creationist/

      1. Voltaire says:

        Thanks, but I think my point was missed. Mario’s story shows that there is far more than science involved in interpreting the Bible.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          I didn’t miss your point, Voltaire. I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to Mario Russo’s story.

    1. Physteach says:

      That’s an interesting thought, Voltaire.
      It’s been a while since I read it, but I seem to recall the opposite effect when I read Henry F. Schaefer’s book, Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence. Again, it’s been a while and the book is not at my fingertips, so I don’t remember all the details, but I seem to recall that Schaefer, the scientist, went the way of Old Earth, while his wife, who had the degree in humanities, and read the scriptures with a background in ancient languages took a young earth view.
      So at a minimum, we cannot conclude that it is automatic to believe in an old earth based on a knowledge of the languages.
      In fact, my perception is that your logic brings us back to the time of the Middle Ages. Only experts, the priests, need interpret scripture. If so, toss the perspicuity of scripture in the trash can.
      Furthermore, while your point could be quite valid, it is equally possible that Russo, schooled under the religion departments as described above, received his training in the echo chamber of the religion departments where there was little or no alternative to the 78% who believed in the old earth. So it is equally possible that Russo is merely demonstrating the logical cause and affect of his training.
      Last, if scientists see a reason to believe in Genesis as read in a straightforward manner, and I think Dr. Wile has presented more than a little of that evidence in this blog, might it not be time for the Old Testament Professors to reconsider whether their interpretations are correct?

  9. Lawrence Dol says:

    Here’s another thought. Perhaps those who study the texts beyond the English translations are more apt to realize that the Hebrew text doesn’t demand a young-earth interpretation, and so are more willing to adjust their views on the text.

  10. David H says:

    Interesting comments, all. I just want to put one more caution out there — be careful about putting people into boxes! I am a Christian who believes in the creation of Adam and Eve but not in 24-hour days of creation according to our current time measurement. So that makes me neither a theistic evolutionist nor a young earth creationist. It’s actually a very liberating position to be in — I can follow the evidence wherever it leads. I find no evidence that supports Darwinistic evolution as a mechanism of creation, but lots of evidence of design. If you all can provide physical evidence of the “young earth” interpretation of the Bible, I’m willing to consider it. I’m already convinced (by the evidence) that the amount of time between the dinosaurs and now is on the order of thousands of years, not millions of years. But I don’t feel constrained that the days of creation had to be equal length. I don’t feel constrained that they each couldn’t have been one thousand years or more of our time. The Bible doesn’t say how long Adam and Eve remained in the garden of Eden before they took the forbidden fruit and were driven out. But since they couldn’t die during that period, in principle that could have been a long time by our measurement.

    Time exists for us, but all is as one day with God. I think what God wants most for us to get out of the Bible are His commandments and promises to us, which are eternal in nature.

    1. Lawrence Dol says:

      As an old-earth creationist, I am in the same position. And it is liberating indeed. I do wish that more Christians would be aware of the spectrum of belief on origins and not constantly enter into this false dichotomy of YEC vs. evolution.

  11. I would say in my experience, those trained in the sciences tend to be Creationists, not necessarily Young Earth Creationists. In fact I’m shocked the results say many are YECs!

    I identify as Young Earth Creationist (with a minor qualification), but I would say the distant starlight problem and the long and intermediate radiometric isotope problems are still quite serious. I studied General Relativity and Cosmology in grad school. I don’t find the Big Bang believable. I’m not saying the data we have in hand proves a young universe, it is ambiguous on many points from a data standpoint. So I am surprised so many scientists identify with the Young Earth view. I have to wonder how many are physicists in that poll? I only know a handful of physicists personally (Russell Humphreys, John Hartnett, Ron Samec, Don DeYoung, Danny Faulkner, Eugene Chaffin, Jason Lisle a few others) who are YECs, and I don’t know how many of them (except for Humphreys and Hartnett) who are versant in General Relativity.

    Creation and the recency of the fossil record are well attested to by the facts, not the least of which is the Faint Young Sun paradox and the clocks in fossils (C14, amino acid racemization, DNA half life). But these facts are not extensible to the distant starlight problem, which is still very serious. It doesn’t explain the origin of long term radio isotopes and the absence of intermediate term radio isotopes.

    I’ve been shown the door by several Intervarsity Christian Fellowship organizations for criticizing Darwin. I once gave a talk at the Longwood IV Chapter and I mentioned in passing Darwinian evolution continues to be falsified by scientific evidence and thus we can believe in God who works miracles and can raise the dead.

    To my horror, I was sternly warned after the talk never to criticize Darwin again. This is the attitude of a lot of campus Christian organizations from the leadership even down to many of the members, and no doubt the indifference extends into conservative churches as well, especially to the clergy who are usually trained in counseling or church building rather than science and critical thinking.

    “I suspect that there are other factors as well, but I am not sure what they are. ” It is my sad experience a lot of professing Christians aren’t interested in facts and critical thinking unless it’s part of their professional discipline (like science and engineering). They are more interested in the feel good experiences of church services and activities and the social bonding and avoiding difficult hard questions about the Bible. Unfortunately, to some extent, certain church leaders prefer parishioners who don’t exercise critical thinking because they are easier to manipulate for donations and volunteer service. Like watching a great fictional drama, church has been something of an escapist experience for some, sometimes without a lot of regard whether some of the churches claims are ultimately real — it makes them feel good, therefore it’s true enough for their purposes.

    An interesting survey of believers might be put forward with these questions:

    Why do you believe there is a God? Why do you believe the Bible is God’s word?

    1. Bruce Rennie says:

      Salvador,

      Your last two questions are interesting. As far as your questions relating to radio isotopes and starlight. Consider an artist who presents you with a painting or cook with a superb desert. Do you ask them for all the processes that they undertook for their creation, or do you enjoy it? Likewise with God and His creation, knowing our limited ability, He is fully entitled to show us the vast extent of His creation without Him having to comply with any rules/laws etc that we expect/find to be in play after the event.

      I have heard many use these findings to say that the universe has to be old and etc etc etc, otherwise God is a liar. They forget that the act of creation does not have to follow any of our expectations or scientific theories. Each story in the bible where food is created for few/many people from very little (both OT and NT) always amazes me at the unimaginable power and might that God has.

      As I was sharing at lunch today with friend, if you totally convert a human body into energy in a minute fraction of a second then the entire planet will be wrecked. Yet in the feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 men (let’s not forget all the women and children as well) and the amount of matter created just for event is probably in the tonnes. Think about that for a some time and recognize that God does not have to do anything according to our ways, ever.

      I have personally seen the mortally injured healed and broken bones repaired in seconds. I, myself, have been the recipient of a healing that literally freaked out the Chief Registrar, Chief Radiologist and attending Emergency Department doctor. They could not believe the x-rays and what was worse for the ED doctor was my response to him telling what had been found. He couldn’t get away fast enough. Under normal circumstances, I should be a quadriplegic but I am just getting slow in my latter years with a bit of arthritis.

      All these things are called miracles. They have no scientific explanation and they never will. They are interventions in the natural course of events.

      God is God and He has no requirement to abide by our rules only by His own.

  12. Bruce Rennie says:

    Looking at some of the opinions expressed above, I’ll reiterate my own comment again.

    God is God and He has no requirement to abide by our rules/beliefs/reasonings, He abides by His ways only.

    Due to a young couple in our fellowship, I have now been introduced into the world of extreme premature births. This young couple now have a daughter who was born at 25 weeks. The mother was informed that she had to hold of the birth until the baby reached 25 weeks for her best survival. Even though the mother was in full labour, she did so in the grace of God.

    I have received a great privilege to be called this little girl’s Pa, though I have no physical relationship to her at all. I got to see her for the first time last night and I stand in awe of our God for His mercies and the miracles He has brought to my spiritual son and daughter and granddaughter.

    In Australia, we do not have the expertise to even help any child under the age of 25 weeks. Yet, I met another couple last night whose son was 13 weeks and 3 days born naturally. He was born in a hospital that had no maternity facilities for prems. Now the parents are not believers and yet the father recognises that his son is a living miracle. From the fact that a specialist pediatrician was visiting the hospital at the time of the birth, the medical transport team was able to travel to the hospital with no impediments, the transport to the specialist hospital went without hitch and the baby was still alive 17 days later (last night) all show the father that miracles are real. The parents were told to expect the death of their son within hours as he wouldn’t be able to survive.

    We had had the opportunity to pray with the father and to pray for the son. My wife was given opportunity as a Pastor to prayer over each of the children in the ward.

    When it comes to God’s creative power and how He manifests it, it is completely up to Him. I have seen Him solve the same the problem in so many different ways and all based on His understanding and knowledge of what is required. We have to live by the laws of the universe, But He made the universe and can do what He pleases, how He pleases, when He please without ever having to abide by our views of what should happen.

    So though I believe the universe is young, whether it is or not, makes no difference to me in terms of who my God is. He is good, He is pure, He is Holy and He loves each of us to depth that none of us can understand.

    I use an analogy of creating a beautiful functional strong Damascus steel knife. It is pounded incredibly, it heated and molded, quenched and shaped in what we would call massively destructive ways. Yet what comes out is a uniquely formed tool that is beautiful, strong, sharp and functional.

    Too often we forget that we are very limited in our knowledge, our wisdom and our understanding. Thankfully, God is not. As the history of science demonstrates again and again, our understanding of the universe around us does not move forward in an ever increasing line. We get sidetracked and go backwards and get lost for long periods of time before starting moving forward again.

    It is our relationship with God and His Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit that matter, not our understanding of the specific underpinnings of the universe around us. However, we can take what understanding we do get to have a greater appreciation of the incredible creator God who loves us.

    1. Lawrence Dol says:

      Well said. For my part, though I believe the universe is old, whether it is or not, makes no difference to me in terms of who my God is. He is good, He is pure, He is Holy and He loves each of us to depth that none of us can understand.

      Would that all who engage the debate had such a gracious attitude as you and Dr Wile.