Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grudem's Old Earth Inconsistency

Currently, it seems to be a widespread belief among Christians that evolution is an essential issue, whereas the age of the earth is not. Yet the two issues are much more closely related than is often realized.

Consider, for example, Dr. Wayne Grudem's useful summary of what's wrong with evolution  (the Forward of the book Should Christians Embrace Evolution? [2009]), which has been cited in a popular recent blog.
 
In his Forward Grudem writes, "What is at stake? A lot..." . He then lists the following eight reasons (my numbering):
(a) the truthfulness of the three foundational chapters for the entire Bible (Genesis 1 – 3),
(b) belief in the unity of the human race,
(c) belief in the ontological uniqueness of human beings among all God’s creatures,
(d) belief in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God,
(e) belief in the parallel between condemnation through representation by Adam and salvation through representation by Christ,
(f) belief in the goodness of God’s original creation,
(g) belief that suffering and death today are the result of sin and not part of God’s original creation, and
(h) belief that natural disasters today are the result of the fall and not part of God’s original creation.
Dr. Grudem concludes, "belief in evolution erodes the foundations."

In his Systematic Theology (1994) Dr. Grudem defended an Old Earth position, taking a day-age view of the creation days. A main consideration was his belief that scientific evidence is overwhelming for an old earth, but not for evolution (p.279). Grudem argued, "both 'young earth' and 'old earth' are valid opinions for Christians who believe the Bible today."


Clearly, Grudem's acceptance of "scientific evidence" for an old earth entails also his acceptance of secular dates of fossils. But such fossil dates--if true--indicate that natural disasters, suffering, and death existed long before Adam's fall. In that case, Adam's fall had no physical consequences for plants, animals or the earth. This, according to Grudem, is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Hence Grudem is inconsistent. Note that this is a problem for all Old Earth views, even if evolution has not occurred.

Also, Dr. Grudem's "scientific evidence" rules out Grudem's own day-age view since the order of events given by secular science differs from that of Genesis 1. For example, Genesis has fruit trees first, then birds, then land animals; mainstream science has exactly the reverse; Genesis has the earth before the Sun and stars, mainstream science has stars and Sun before the earth, etc. See my blog The Cost of an Old Earth: Is it worth it?

There are further problems regarding Adam. Mainstream science places domesticated cattle, cultivated plants and metal-working all after 10,000 BC. This places Adam and his sons--who were farmers (Gen.4)-- after 10,000 BC. But mainstream science asserts that Australian aborigines have existed separately since 40,000 BC. If so, they cannot be ancestors of Adam, nor were they affected by Noah's flood. Also, there is a close similarity between human fossils dated 10,000 and 200,000 years ago. All this seems to entail that Adam had human ancestors and that not all humans derive from Adam.

Finally, I noted above that Dr. Grudem believes that scientific evidence is overwhelming for an old earth, but not for evolution. Since Grudem is neither a geologist nor a biologist, how can he tell? If mainstream science is right about the age of things, why should it not also be right about the evolutionary origin of things? If we should listen to the overwhelming majority of geologists, why should we not similarly listen to the overwhelming majority of biologists? Where do we draw the epistemic line? (See my post on Presbyterian Appeasement).

In sum, many of Dr. Grudem's grounds against evolution apply also against his own Old Earth position. The erosion of the foundations that Dr. Grudem notes is due primarily to his own uncritical acceptance of mainstream science dates.
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12 comments:

  1. John,
    Thanks for drawing this connection. It is the millions and millions of years associated with 'all' old earth positions that is really the crux of the issue. Few Christians seem to grasp this, yet the secularists see it very clearly and heap their contempt most vehemently on the biblical timeline.

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  2. Hi Steve

    Thanks for your comment. It is not just the millions of years that are a problem. Many Christians also do not seem to realize that adopting mainstream geology--with its chronology-- undermines the plausibility of a biblical Adam.

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  3. ...Dr. Grudem believes that scientific evidence is overwhelming for an old earth, but not for evolution. Since Grudem is neither a geologist nor a biologist, how can he tell? If mainstream science is right about the age of things, why should it not also be right about the evolutionary origin of things?

    I've always wondered this myself. And it's not just something we hear from Grudem. This is a common line from OEC who are not theistic evolutionists. The RTB repeats it, as does Greg Koukl and others.

    But any evolutionary biologist would just laugh at them. According to them, the evidence for Darwinism is just as strong as for an old earth.

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  4. Hi John,
    Yes, I guess that's what I meant by the millions and millions of years. It's association with mainstream geology and it's chronology.

    Ross' RTB is the only OEC view I'm aware of, that is not evolutionary, (all others are either explicitly, implicitly, or de facto-ly evolutionary) yet he and those who adopt his views, fail to see the connection to death, disease, suffering, plagues, droughts, natural disasters and mass extinctions all happening as evidenced in the fossil record, before Adam even came on the scene, and sinned.

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  5. Our church uses Grudem's ST as a text for training leaders, so I get to discuss his inconsistencies with those men when we do the sections on creation. His inconsistency is glaring, as mentioned above.

    I would suggest, however, that Ross' views are very evolutionary. He does reject biological evolution, but he fully embraces cosmological and geological evolution in step with the naturalists/empiricists. Evolution is a three-stranded cord and should be treated as such. To do otherwise is internally inconsistent (accepting some interpretations, yet rejecting others) and biblically inconsistent.
    A chapter in an upcoming book I am involved in will seek to draw out this idea more clearly.

    Also, if you could be praying for Brother Grudem this week in particular, his mind may be changed to be more in line with Scripture.

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  6. I believe that the evidence for Darwinian evolution is so weak that you can grant trillions of years and still refute Darwinism. Thus, I don't find it a foregone conclusion that you can't deny the "evidence" for Darwinism if you accept the "evidence" for an old Earth.

    For the record, my view fits closest to the framework hypothesis, although I prefer to call it a typological view. Ultimately, I don't view Genesis 1 as necessitating literal 24 hour days, yet I also find the modern "scientific" claims to the age of the Earth and the universe to be ludicrously under-supported and, in fact, violators of current scientific dogma.

    Just for starters, it's been proven in physics that time is meaningless without taking into account motion (relativity), yet every "age of the Earth" that is given is stated as if there is such a thing as an objective, standard time. What does it mean to say the Earth if 4.5 billion years, as is claimed these days? How old is the Earth from the perspective of the first photon that came into being moving at the speed of light?

    And most importantly (in my mind) is the philosophical question: what does the passage of time mean when there are no subjects able to experience time? When someone claims the universe is 14 billion years old, is he not claiming, "If a subject were to have existed to experience the passage of time, and were that subject to have some objective, definitional standard by which to judge time, then the amount of time that passed from the Big Bang to present would have been 14 billion years"? In that light, the claim seems to involve too much baggage. But there is no subject who experienced that passage of time; there is no objective standard by which we can claim "this is what time really is".

    Ultimately, physics wants to avoid privileged viewpoints. Ptolemy was rejected, and in the process the Earth was rejected as the privileged viewpoint of the universe. Einstein got rid of the privileged notion that any one of us can have a privileged viewpoint of spacetime. Yet geologists throw all that out and assert the same privileged view of the Earth that Ptolemy had, in asserting that the universe objectively *IS* such-and-so years old, despite the fact that they claim the universe existed for nearly 10 billion years before that privileged viewpoint was even formed!

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  7. Hi Roger,
    Yes, forgetful me. I should have remembered from my online class with you several years back now. I was thinking of the TBN show last month with Ham, Ross, and others where Ross states that his view is 'not' evolutionary; forgetting however the three-stranded cord to include astronomical and geological evolution. By the way, is AIG going to have a transcription of Pastor Don Landis' speech to the AIG personnel concerning that TBN show soon? It was a powerful and effective refutation.

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  8. Roger,
    I just reread your request for prayer for Dr. Grudem, especially 'this week'. Praise God if it's true what I think you're saying. I have earnestly been praying, but will double my efforts. Glory to God in heaven!

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  9. Hi John,
    Second paragraph from top, Grudem's forward is in the book 'Should Christians Embrace Evolution', not 'Should Christians Embrace Christianity' I think, right?

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  10. Hi Steve

    Yes, indeed! Thanks. I've made the correction.

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  11. Roger,
    You need to get Terry to think about inviting John next year :)

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  12. Is there any way we can read or get links to read using Facebook?

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