Here’s Another College That Gets It

Six years ago, I wrote an article about Anderson University, where I am an adjunct professor. While the university clings strongly to the essentials of the Christian faith, it does not force its faculty to conform to one interpretation of Scripture. As a result, students are exposed to many different views that exist within Christendom.

In addition, rather than just trying to proselytize for their own view, the faculty are committed to making sure students understand the different ways Christians interpret the world through the lens of Scripture. This is best exemplified by an example. One of the science professors is an old-earth creationist, but he regularly invites me into his classes either to give a young-earth view of the science the students are learning or to engage in a friendly debate with him on the issue of the earth’s age. I especially like the latter, since students see that two people can engage in serious disagreements and still be good friends.

Just before Christmas, someone I respect and admire sent me an article that I wanted to share with my readers. It gives you another example of a Christian College (in this case, a seminary and Bible College) that gets it. To fully appreciate the article, however, you need to know the history behind it.

Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham engaged in a dialogue with Dr. Richard G. Howe, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Like me, both Ken Ham and Dr. Howe are young-earth creationists, but they strongly disagree about the importance of young-earth creationism. Like me, Dr. Howe says it is a valid interpretation of Scripture, but it is not the only interpretation that someone who takes the Bible at its word can have. Ken Ham says that those who take the Bible at its word must be young-earth creationists. Ken Ham wrote about the experience, and Southern Evangelical Seminary replied. This prompted a reply from Ken Ham, which then led to the article that my friend sent me.

If you have the time, you can listen to the original dialogue and then read the back-and-forth articles. I think both sides do a good job of stating their cases. I personally think that Southern Evangelical Seminary is correct, so not surprisingly, I find their arguments to be stronger. Nevertheless, I have a lot of respect for Ken Ham and his ministry, as I have made clear in other articles (see here, here, here, and here.) Of course, I have also had run-ins with him about those things on which we disagree (see here, here and here).

The reason I wanted to share the last article in this exchange is because it quotes some of Southern Evangelical Seminary’s young-earth-creationist professors at the end. If nothing else, I strongly recommend that you scroll down to “Faculty Statements (not a full list)” to read some very thoughtful views on young-earth creationism. In my opinion, the second one is the best, and it comes from Dr. Floyd Elmore, who is a young-earth creationist. He discusses the fact that the age of the earth depends on interpretation. It is not plainly spelled out in Scripture. He ends with this advice:

We should all take a breath and have a reality check about our assumptions as we approach these passages in Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15. We should not read into them what in fact is not stated plainly.

I would say that Dr. Elmore’s excellent advice should be used when approaching any passage of Scripture.

19 Comments

  1. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

    Interesting discussion. It would have been interesting to hear from Dr. Howe about some of the ways Old-Earth Creationists interpret Genesis (such as fiat days and spacetime), but one thing I appreciated about Dr. Howe is that he recommended investigating both old and young earth materials.

    The other thing I appreciated about Dr. Howe was that he emphasized the need for Christians (OEC and YEC) to be unified and open to discussions instead of ostracized because of different interpretations of scripture.

    One thing that I found ironic, though, was that the moderator said at the beginning that “This discussion is NOT about the age of the earth, it’s about apologetics,” but it pretty much turned into a discussion about the age of the earth.

    One thing I was wondering about was the accuracy of Ken Ham’s statement, that “Deists and Atheists popularized the idea of millions of years in the 18th century.” Is that true, or is that statement an oversimplification?

    And btw, Happy New Year!

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Ham’s statement is definitely an oversimplification. For example, in 1785, the Reverend James Douglas read “A Dissertation on the Antiquity of the Earth” at the Royal Society. He was a devout Christian but argued that geology indicates the earth is old. John Michell (1724 – 1793) was an English clergyman and geologist, but he argued that most geological strata took a half a million years or more to form. Many of the geologists who pushed for an old-earth interpretation of geology were deists, and their motivation was to avoid the worldwide Flood. However, to say that it was popularized by “deists and atheists” just isn’t correct. There were orthodox Christians in there as well.

  2. joshua says:

    Thanks for linking through that entire exchange. As a Christian who is not committed to a particular view of origins, this illustrates nicely why I generally avoid AIG but subscribe to your blog (and Todd Wood’s) to keep a healthy YEC perspective in my inputs – and as such you are able to sometimes constructively challenge my biases, or balance out my other reading materials, in ways that AIG is not.

    A couple of minor comments:

    – I haven’t watch the “dialogue” but I do wish the SES folks had at least responded in the exchange to Ham’s charge about animal death before the Fall; it seems that for many this is actually the bigger theological issue than the days of Genesis, and I have been encouraged by the different perspectives I have read on that topic.

    – I did appreciate the SES mention of geocentrism at the end, though I wish they would have made it a bigger point. The whole time I was reading Ham’s insistences on the authority of Scripture and its plain meaning, I kept thinking how this is exactly what the geocentrists say about an unmoving Earth, and how AIG’s response to them about simply disagreeing on something open to *interpretation* is exactly how the OEC’s respond to AIG on the earth’s age. I think some people genuinely have a hard time understanding that what may *seem* plain to them, with all their cultural background and upbringing, may be different from what *genuinely seems plain* to someone else. And I also don’t think it takes away from the authority of the Bible to recognize that some parts of it are, shall we say, less “plain” than other parts…

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Here is my response to animal death before the fall. I assume that SES has a similar view, since they know basic Greek.

    2. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

      But Ken Ham’s assertion was not just that those who believe in an old earth believe that there was animal death before the fall, he accused OEC’s of believing in DISEASES in animals before the fall (because, for example, aminals with tumors have been found in the fossil record), which is a different issue. I agree that it’s plausible for animals to have possibly died before the fall (because plants definitely did) but I don’t agree that animals OR plants could have had diseases before the fall, and I don’t think any other biblical creationist (young or old earth) agrees with that either.
      How does an OEC, who thinks that the rock layers represent millions of years but also believes that diseases didn’t come about until after the fall, reconcile finding a diseased animal (or animals) in a rock layer with his/her biblical beliefs?

      1. Jay Wile says:

        The old-earth creationist view I hear the most is that the Garden of Eden was a special place. There was no disease or suffering there, but there were disease and suffering in the rest of the world. Here is how old-earth creationist Kevin Nelstead puts it:

        Genesis 2 describes the garden as being at a specific location on Earth, identified as being in the Ancient Near East by the four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates. Genesis never describes the entire Earth as being the Garden of Eden. Instead, the garden seems to be a protected place (with Adam and Eve having a role in its protection), with the rest of the Earth being a wild place in need of subduing.

  3. Paul says:

    I agree that an interpretation and what really happened are not the same. Somethings did happen though, for example, “a day”. What happened in those days and how it affected our perception of the world is very intriguing. What happened on the atomic level? I don’t know. Did animals decay before Adam and Eve “died”? Were animals running around and dying long before Adam popped out of the sand? Seems strange. God usually says what he means, or at least what we can understand from reading the Bible.

  4. Doug Lindauer says:

    Jay, you’re definitely a middle-of-the-road person and we know what happens to people who try to go down the middle of the road. They get run over. This is my main criticism of you. Yes I find it useful to read your blogs because you do have many good ones but your defense of people such as Peter Enns boggles the mind. You think that issues such as the age of the earth and evolution are legitimate things over which “good” Christian scholars can disagree? In the words of that eminent philosopher, Al Borland, I don’t think so Jay.

    The arguments presented by AIG are overwhelmingly sound and should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to their validity and the invalid arguments of the “yom can mean anything” crowd. (I may be exaggerating on the “anything” but it gets the point across.) I also have to roll my eyes and shake my head at some of the idiotic defenses that are offered by the OEC crowd, not the least of which are the local flood arguments. I could go on and elaborate but this is a comment, not a treatise. How you can credit these people with being honestly wrong leaves me aghast. I demand more out of people who hold the vaunted degree of Doctor of Philosophy so I’m sorry but I can’t excuse them. Judging whether these people are truly born again Christians is above my paygrade but as far as their teaching goes, they’re acting like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    You write some good things Jay, but trying to be the “nice guy”, the tolerant guy, and occupying the double yellow line in the middle of the road doesn’t work. It’s good to be a mediator between two valid points of view. It’s not good if one of the viewpoints is completely invalid! And that’s the case here.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      While I always try to be a “nice guy” (as my mother taught me), Doug, that’s not why I take the position I take here. Neither is it because I am trying to be a “mediator” or a “tolerant guy.” I am simply being an honest guy. The fact is that even though I agree with AiG’s interpretation of Scripture, their arguments do not convince me that it is the only orthodox interpretation of Scripture. In the same way, while I disagree with the old-earthers and the theistic evolutionists, I cannot fully refute their arguments. As a result, I have to admit that there is a possibility that they are right and I am wrong.

      You say that you don’t think “good” Christians can disagree about the details of creation. So was Clement of Alexandria not a good Christian? He didn’t think the days of Genesis were ANY length of time. He thought they were an ordering device to indicate importance. What about Dr. C.S. Lewis? He was a theistic evolutionist. Was he not a good Christian? What about Dr. Norm Geisler, the founder of SES? He was an old-earth creationist. Was he not a good Christian? Based on everything I know, all three of them were better Christians than me, and they all disagree with me on the interpretation of Genesis.

      You say that you “demand more out of people who hold the vaunted degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” In fact, if I weren’t a Ph.D., I probably wouldn’t have this view. Part of my training as a Ph.D. scientist was to give ALL views a fair hearing and compare those views to the data. If they could be thoroughly refuted based on the data, they could be ignored. However, if they could not be thoroughly refuted based on the data, they had to be accepted as a possible explanation. I personally have been shown on two occasions that my sincere belief about a physical phenomenon was wrong. Other views that I really thought were wrong turned out to be the proper interpretation of the data. This has led to a bit of “epistemic humility” on my part. I am thankful that my scientific training led me to that. As a result, I also expect more of Ph.D.’s. Specifically, I expect them to have epistemic humility.

      1. Paul says:

        It is refreshing to weigh various perspectives without laying my finger to one side. I was taught by Ham and Morris and Gish about literal days, and lend my weight on reading the Bible plainly. I tend to believe that what happened at an atomic level on those days was phenomenal. (I’d like to read what you think about geneologies and the age of Adam sometime, as if the creation of man, or sin, really happened within that time – of course you believe so. Others?) So with [the former] in mind, I read this article: http://creation.mobi/a/11754 – It went far over my head but I could tell it also goes against the grain of a YEC. Still, CMI published it objectively. Soon after I read this article; and I think, what if we lived in another time not so distant perhaps when “scientific” evidence and its presentation overwhelmingly seem to point away from the Bible and Christ. How “good” of a Christian would I be then? So weighing both sides does matter. It also occurs to me that my interpretation of scripture and understanding of everything must be handed over to Christ. He seems to be a YEC, but I could be wrong.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          I am not sure why you think that article goes against the grain of a YEC. Basically, the author is saying that the absolute dates from radiometric dating aren’t correct, but the relative dates could be. If that’s the case, it would be possible to determine which sediments were laid down before the Flood, during the Flood, and after the Flood. I think that would be a difficult task, since there is so much scatter in the data. Nevertheless, I don’t see the article as going against the YEC view.

          As far as the genealogies go, I think they are probably complete and probably give a good chronology, although there may be some gaps, as is common in Jewish genealogies (compare Matthew 1:8 to II Kings 8:25; 11:2, 14:1,21 and 2 Chronicles 26:1). There are some theistic evolutionists and old-earth creationists who believe the same. They just believe that Adam didn’t come about for billions of years, so those genealogies start after billions of years of evolution or billions of years of progressive creation. There are others who say there is evidence that they are not complete, because they weren’t meant to be complete. Certainly, it is common for Jewish genealogies to only hit the “highlights,” skipping what are considered unimportant generations. This article discusses that in more depth. I disagree with a lot of it, of course, but you said you were interested in what the non-YECS say about the genealogies, so that’s why I am linking it.

  5. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

    I’ve mainly discussed the video, now onto the article:

    Like Josh I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Howe and SES’s references to Galileo and geocentrism.

    One part of the article I found intriguing was the correlation made between geocentrism, the age of the earth, and open theism, and how these are all ideas based on certain interpretations of scripture. Concerning open theism, Gregory Boyd is quoted:

    “Since exegesis should always drive our philosophy, instead of the other way around…my defense of the (open theism) view shall be almost exclusively along exegetical lines…While there are certainly passages that depict God predetermining and foreknowing some aspects of the future, there are at least as many passages depicting God as facing a future partly comprised of possibilities”

    And,

    “For Kingdom people, therefore, the Bible should be embraced as our God-breathed authority. Everything pertaining to faith and life must be rooted in this collection of writings.”
    (Both quotes by Greg Boyd)

    The SES article then concludes:
    ‘No doubt, Mr. Ham would stand with SES in maintaining that Boyd’s interpretation of God not knowing the future free acts of humans falls beyond the pale of orthodox Christian teaching. Yet, Boyd appeals only to his interpretation of the text of the Bible he agrees is authoritative. On what grounds can Mr. Ham support such a disagreement over interpretation? He cannot merely appeal to other passages of Scripture detailing God’s foreknowledge. Boyd acknowledges those passages. It is ONLY by using a proper hermeneutic that takes into account our outside knowledge of reality and the nature of God that one can effectively adjudicate between these interpretations.’ (emphasis mine)

  6. cdevoclast says:

    You might be interested in listing this blog on your “Links To Invrestigate”

    The blog is dedicated to falsify Darwin’s common ancestor perspective which is one of the primary arguments used to deny that special creation was the actual source of animal development —a main weapon of satan.

  7. Bruce Rennie says:

    Good evening to you Jay, and of you who are here on your cold winter’s night.

    I find it interesting that you write this, as in the last couple of weeks, I have had discussions with a couple of people on how much information is in God’s Word. By that I mean, how much we understand and can accurately relate to other sections.

    My analogy at the time was to say that our understanding and knowledge of the bible can be likened to a large (very large) whiteboard on which we place our understanding and knowledge. In many cases, there are gaps between various bits and pieces.

    As humans, we tend to not like gaps and so we tend to fill in those gaps with our interpretations of what they should be like. In doing so, different people will come up with different ideas, concepts, etc to fill those gaps.

    At some subsequent time, we may find that God reveals more information in those gaps (by expanding our understanding) and we then find that the human resolution of those gaps is wrong or inadequate or incomplete or wrong.

    It is fine to discuss these areas, no question, but we shouldn’t get caught up in making our understanding dogma. In my own personal life, the Lord has demonstrated that He will provide the appropriate understanding when He determines that it is time for it.

    Sometimes we are just not ready for His revelation about a subject and we can be not ready for all sorts of reasons.

    Whether you are old earth or young earth is not a matter for salvation. What is important is our individual relationship with the Creator of the universe. In the time I have written the above, we have been out to visit a brother (the father of one of our congregation) who the local hospital was telling the family that he would probably die during the night.

    We spent time with him in prayer and in hymns (his favourite). he shared with us that he feels he still has more to do but if the Lord decides that it is his time, he is ready. At the end of our time with him, after prayer and song, he was looking like he had been lifted up by the Lord.

    All these other things can in some ways be given the flick, if they take our attention of the One who is our Saviour and Life.

    Let us keep focus on Him above all else. Let not any of these discussions get in the way of our relationship with God and with one another.

    1. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

      Thank you for sharing your heart, Bruce; God be with you and your family

      1. Bruce Rennie says:

        Thank you Alaska.

  8. Deb says:

    Hi jay, I’ve not commented here before but would like to say that coming from a multicultural, multilingual, multidenominational background, I really appreciate your ‘epistemic humility’.

    Just to add to the mix, I’d like to point out that there are some who think that gen 1 isn’t even about how the world began:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2014/06/genesis-1-in-ancient-perspective/

    I’m not saying I necessarily agree with all of it, but it does give food for thought. The world wide church would probably be in a much better state if we all admitted that God is much much bigger and more complex than we will ever understand.

    Personally, I think science is misguided in thinking that we, the creation, can ever understand just how it is that we came to be. Nonetheless, it’s fun to figure out as much as we can!

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