Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Spirit and Mind" -> The Age Of The Earth

As a marketing professional, I try and understand what makes a product interesting or worth buying. It is interesting that the Apostle Paul also recognized that Christianity should not be bound up with more overhead than was required for salvation. For instance, there were some in the early church that were "laying down the law" in terms of how the Bible was to be interpreted. They insisted on a narrow and formal reading of the Old Testament, which place an excessive burden on the new Christians.

Against this narrow view, Paul rebelled. He called out and said that the scriptures needed to be applied carefully. A narrow view was called legalism. On the core of the Bible, there could be no debate. However, the side issues were not to be used as judgments. Paul realized that such narrow reading of the scriptures were turning people away from Christ.

In today's world, some brothers in the Christian faith that wish to force a view of scripture that makes Christianity to be a religion that goes against common knowledge and science. Like the legalistic Christian in a previous age, they have a very narrow view of the scripture that goes well beyond what was written in the scriptures. In this post, I desire that we realize, for a moment, that some views are bound up in history interpretation and not in true exegesis of the scripture.

We, as Christians, need to be committed 100% to the truth. We need to have confidence that the facts will bring to light our faith. One of the things that bothers me the most is the ill conceived idea of "blind faith."

The idea that the scripture needs to be understood in light of science is called concordism. To some this is a bad word, meaning that you don't believe in an inerrant Bible. However, we all embrace concordism when we realize that the sun does not revolve around the world.

Nowhere, absolutely nowhere in the Bible does the term "blind faith" ever appear. To the opposite, we are blamed because we need very little faith, and yet we cannot even bring this to bear. If we look around us, all of nature screams the glory of God, how this nature and design must have a creator, and how we must seek him. All knowledge melds together to give us an understanding of how God works.

This means that Christians, and it is not hard to prove that historical Christianity was the basis of forward scientific thought, should be the ones that are the scientists of the world. Yet, today, we find that many Christians believe that science is fundamentally attacking the Christian faith.

What I want to appeal to is those that consider that the Bible speaks of a young earth. Young earth creationists believe the following:

a. The earth is 5 to 6 thousand years old (maybe 10 to 12)
b. The world was created in 6 literal days
c. God created the world to look old

The last one is the one that really grabs me. This is a subtle context, since young earth creationists are not forced in all things to make this claim. Instead, whenever possible, they try and say that the obvious old age of the earth is actually the results of Noah's flood. Therefore, the Grand Canyon was made in a little over a year during the time of the flood.

However, there is one place that they cannot do these types of mental gymnastics. This is the speed of light.

So think about this. The universe is roughly 15 billion light years long. A nice question to an astrophysicists here was "what is the furthest star that we can see?"

The answer is about 3 billion light years away.

So the light that we are seeing today started from this star 3 billion years ago. If the universe was created 10 thousand years ago, then this light would have never reached us.

Let me try and repeat this because it bears repeating:

*Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. This is a universal constant.

*We have great big telescopes that allow us to observe far away stars and even galaxies.

*When we see light from these far away places, we can estimate that the light must have started traveling toward us millions or billions of years ago.

This is simply fact. And unlike many other areas of dispute by young earth creationists, this fact is impossible to dispute. (I mean you could dispute anything if you wanted: if you are alive or somebody's dream, but at some point you need to accept that you are real.) The fact that light is coming toward us from a great distance that would signify that it must of started millions or billions of years ago is not worth arguing.

So how do young earth creationist deal with this. Two popular ideas:

1. They state that the speed of light has changed. And while there has been a couple valid thoughts along a minor twist of the speed of light just after the big bang, the amount of speed change simply could not account for a star that is 3 billion light years away having the light arrive in short order. So most do not say this. This is not widely held.

2. God made the stars with light already in transit to earth. In the same way, he made trees with multiple tree rings. Adam had a belly button. God made the earth with fossils in the cliffs (if not placed there during the flood.)

This makes God out to be less than he is. Young earth creationist would actually have us believe that God is a God of distressed furniture.

What do I mean "distressed furniture?"

If you don't have the money to buy a real antique you can fake it. What you do is take a nice piece of furniture and you scratch it with nails, you pound it with chains, and perhaps burn it a little. You want something that looks old and valuable, so you make artificial marks to make it look old.

In the similar way, God's "distressed" mark to make our universe to look old is to say that God created stars billions of light years away and placed photons in transit from this light source, although this couldn't have naturally happened.

The young earth creationists has sought to invalidate scripture while thinking that they are preserving in inerrancy.

Let me explain this a bit further. The Bible neatly and clearly speaks that God separated the universal matter. It clearly speaks that God created life ex nihilo (out of nothing). It clearly speaks that God created the earth in seven days. Yet if you look through scripture you will find time and time again that the scriptures will use terms like day, week, and month to represent longer periods. How much more clear can you get then the following?

2 Peter 3:8
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

So now that the young age creationist have ignore the caveats of scripture, they further tell us to close our minds. We are to ignore what God tells us through nature.

Let's look at Romans 1:

20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Here we are told. God's nature can be seen by what is around us. To be blunt about this, to say that the earth is young is to say the following:

1. God made the universe in six days
2. You cannot figure out what God has done by looking at the universe around us since he'll "slip in" a couple of things to mislead us on the actual age.

In a very minor way, the young earth creationist have committed the same sin as the Pharisees. I certainly don't think that they mean to do this, and I don't think it is with a vindictive spirit. However, Jesus told the Pharisees that their sin was placing traditions in a higher place than the word of God. By stating that the earth is very young contrary to all logical thought is to make our religion out to be one of "check you brain at the door because you don't need it."

To the contrary, Christians should be the first to think. The first in science. The first to embrace logic. The first to understand that God does not hide behind distressed furniture.

Rather than focusing on the advent of the age of the earth, we should focus on how man was formed. The age of the earth is a minor point, easily harmonized with scripture.

The formation of man by evolution is not easily harmonized, and this is where we should spend our time.

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