>The current issue of Modern Reformation looks great (not sure which I get more excited about – my bimonthly Modern Reformation or my biweekly Rolling Stone). The main theme of this issue is the formation of the Christian canon and includes articles on the relationship between covenant and canon, the apocrypha, the trustworthiness of the canon, and the gnostic gospels.
In addition, the article “PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth,” written by a group of Christian geologists, is very interesting. Let me give you a preview:
“The statement below is extracted from the concluding pages of the 2000 Report of the Creation Study Committee.
Clearly there are committed, Reformed believers who are scientists that are on either side of the issue regarding the age of the cosmos. Just as in the days following the Reformation, when the church could not decide between the geocentric and heliocentric views of the solar system, so today there is not unanimity regarding the age question. Ultimately, the heliocentric view won out over the geocentric view because of a vast preponderance of facts favoring it based on increasingly sophisticated observations through ever improving telescopes used by thousands of astronomers over hundreds of years. Likewise, in the present controversy, a large number of observations over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor.
The geocentric/heliocentric debate refers to a controversy starting some 500 years ago between two conflicting views of nature. The geocentric position held that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. In contrast, the heliocentric position held that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. Several passages of Scripture appeared to support the geocentric view, and heliocentrism was considered by many to be a direct challenge to the authority of God’s Word. Others recognized more than one possible interpretation of the Scrip-tures in question, and scientific evidence eventually persuaded them that the sun was indeed the center of our solar system.
In this context, it is important to recognize that science did not prevail over Scripture. Scripture was and remains true. Scientific evidence only served as a God-given aid in selecting the more accurate of two plausible, Bible-honoring interpretations. The CSC report suggests we are at a similar crossroads concerning the age of the earth, but without sufficient evidence to tip the scales one way or the other.
The CSC commendably included several scientists, though none were geologists. So what would a geologist add to the discussion? As practicing geologists committed to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, in keeping with Reformed tradition, the eight authors of this article maintain that the “large number of observations over a long period of time” mentioned in the CSC report have already been made, and the data are sufficient to unequivocally answer the question. We also understand, however, the inherent difficulty that people have in assessing a vast body of scientific literature filled with terms and jargon that often require years of schooling in very specific fields to comprehend. Such difficulties have landed even well-read and godly individuals such as Martin Luther on the wrong side of these debates. Luther addressed the heliocentric theories of Copernicus in his day as being little more than the pursuit of vanity since Scripture clearly speaks of the sun moving and not the earth.
In this article, we wish to provide our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ with a few general observations, some clarification of a common misconception about our science, and two specific examples that speak convincingly that God’s earthly creation has been around for a very long time.”
The authors, all eight of them, belief in the inspiration of Scripture and it’s inerrancy. And, they also believe the earth is billions of years old. To some, that might not seem possible. The authors respond, “[we do] not regard the scientific evidence [for a very old earth] as challenging the veracity of Scripture, but only as challenging one aspect of the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. The central message of God’s authorship of creation was and remains undisputed by evidence of great age. It was not a commitment to naturalism that convinced Christian geologists of the antiquity of the earth, but rather a belief that the history of nature recorded in the earth’s rocks should be consistent with the unchanging, truthful nature of its Author. In their estimation, the rock record in outcrop after outcrop in all parts of the world clearly told a story extending far beyond a few thousand years.” The bulk of the article is a marshaling of geological evidence for an old earth, using two studies to make the case: Lake Suigetsu in Japan and plate tectonics of the Atlantic Ocean.
While maintaining an irenic tone in the article, the authors maintain that where one falls on the debate does have some significance. They conclude,
“If the PCA recognizes that mature believers fall on either side of the age of the earth debate, does it ultimately make a difference which side you fall on? We suggest it does matter for two important reasons.
The first is a greater appreciation of God’s handiwork. If creation conforms to God’s trustworthiness and looks old because it is old, we are free to marvel at each new discovery that further reveals the incredible complexity and grandeur of his creativity. If the earth is old and we insist it is young, every new discovery can be met only with distrust and disdain–disdain of his creation!
The second reason is of perhaps greater importance. If the earth is old and Christians insist it is young, we risk becoming a tragic obstacle to faith for those both inside and outside the church. Non-Christians who logically understand geology conclude that the path to Christ requires belief in an intentionally deceptive god and choose to place their faith elsewhere. Covenant children who are raised with the impression that a young earth is integral to Christianity have their faith needlessly undermined when they are later confronted with the overwhelming evidence of the earth’s antiquity, and many leave the faith. It is our prayer that no Christian would be such an obstacle!”