Dr. Jason Lisle cracked my young earth foundation

Young earth alternatives to the big bang

I started writing my sci-fi novel in 2009 believing that the earth is young. I never doubted the dimensions in the description of the universe I got from Alex Filippenko in his Introduction to Astronomy, but Jason Lisle’s DVD–Distant Starlight: Not a Problem for a Young Universe–had given me the impression that most astrophysicists just ignore any evidence that doesn’t fit a big bang scenario.  Three years ago when I listened to Dr. Lisle talking about Gravitational Time Dilation (GTD), Speed of Light Decay (CDK), and Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC), I  believed that he offered legitimate alternatives to Big Bang Cosmology.

Although I know much more about outer space now than I did the first time I heard Dr. Lisle, I’m still not prepared to critique the science of an astrophysicist.  (You can find that here, here, and here if you are interested.)  And besides, Dr. Lisle’s science is not what cracked the foundation of my young earth view.

After weeks of using the resources of Reasons To Believe, I again watched Distant Starlight: Not a Problem for a Young Universe.  I immediately realized that Dr. Lisle does not  present Old Earth Creationism honestly because he never examines the scripture that supports it.  After listening to podcasts and reading books and articles from RTB, this omission seemed glaring to me because, in contrast, all Reason To Believe scholars take every opportunity to openly engage the arguments, discuss the evidence, and examine the biblical interpretation of YEC.  As a result, I have actually learned more about the history and development of Young Earth Creationism through RTB than through YEC resources.

In Distant Starlight, Dr.Lisle builds a case against evolution and a godless big bang theory, but he dismisses out of hand any alternative biblical interpretation.  He talks extensively about the science (that many of us will never understand completely), but he takes no time to evaluate the case for an old earth made directly from the word of God (that every believer can understand with the light of God’s Spirit).

Dr. Lisle states “The big bang cannot be harmonized with the Bible.  It doesn’t work.  They are mutually incompatible.  You can’t make them mix.”  Thanks to Reasons To Believe, I know that statement is simply false.  I don’t understand all the scientific data, but I have no problem understanding RTB’s literal interpretation of the creation account that can harmonize the big bang with the Bible.  I see how it does work. I see how the two are completely compatible.  I see how the big bang and the Bible can be made to mix quite easily.

Does that prove that the big bang is true?  No, it doesn’t.  But God calls us to test all things and hold fast to the good (1Thessalonians 5:21), and He promises to generously give us wisdom whenever we ask (James 1:5,6).   Like the Bereans, those of us who love the Lord and want to obey all He says are obligated to search His word and allow the Spirit to lead us in all truth rather than to blindly accept the teaching of men.

It was not science that first caused me to doubt the Young Earth position.  It was the failure of Young Earth leaders like Jason Lisle and Ken Ham to honestly discuss the scriptural case for an Old Earth.  I still wonder why people who love the Lord, honor His word, and trust His Spirit refuse to encourage all creationists to search the scriptures together regardless of what they believe about the age of the earth.

Because I know the Lord blesses us whenever we seek Him in His word, that’s what I’m inviting you to do with me in Grammas’ Guide to the Universe.

Discovering Reasons To Believe

How the latest scientific discoveries reveal God

I’m not sure exactly when I first heard Hugh Ross explain his old earth view in a radio interview, but I vividly remember his humble attitude, his gentle appeal for unity in the body of Christ, and his powerful testimony of meeting God as he studied the heavens. After I listened to him describe the glorious dimensions of the universe,  I couldn’t think that God had allowed light to paint a deceptive portrait of the age of stars and galaxies for us.  I just couldn’t believe that God would make a very young universe appear to be very old.  So I invented a very faulty origins position that made me comfortable with the speed of light.

From the time I heard Dr. Ross’s testimony until I studied creation in 2009, I lived in a doctrinal limbo, content to believe that even if the universe might be very old, the earth could still be just a few thousand years old.  Somewhere during that period, I actually bought the book Dr. Ross talked about in the interview.  But the issue wasn’t pressing, and the second edition of The Creator and the Cosmos sat on my bookshelf unread for over fifteen years.

It wasn’t until March of 2011 when I started listening addictively to I Didn’t Know That and Straight Thinking that I realized how I had completely misjudged RTB’s position on evolution, which I had assumed was a necessary component of Old Earth Creationism. Since it was immediately evident that RTB holds a high view of scripture and rejects evolution, I listened intently to everything the scholars had to say in the podcasts.  I was far from ready to abandon the young earth view I had held for so long, but I added two more books by Hugh Ross to my collection.  This time I read both within a week.

The Genesis Question is a careful integration of biblical study with scientific discovery.  A Matter of Days provides an extensive examination of the age of the earth controversy.  I recommend both books to anyone interested in an exhaustive study of creation.  The Genesis Question has an appendix that lists 53 scientific discoveries that support a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.  A Matter of Days has an appendix that lists every creation passage in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  (Two lists of creation scriptures can be found here and here on the RTB website, so you can easily pursue a creation study without buying either book. You will also find hundreds of publications and podcasts that explain scientific discoveries that support the Bible).

After reading those two books I acknowledged that the old earth position held by Reasons To Believe was thoroughly biblical, but I did not forsake my long-held belief.  Instead, I reviewed materials from Vision Forum and Answers in Genesis, hoping to find a convincing rebuttal of the RTB position. It’s rather ironic that the first serious crack in my young earth foundation came as I listened to Dr. Jason Lisle explain why distant starlight is not a problem for YEC. But that’s the next leg of my journey out of the Young Earth Creationism camp and the subject of my next post.

Who is responsible for what we believe?

Listening to all sides in a debate

Prior to my own study of creation, I held two false assumptions about all Christians who accept data from the natural world and conclude that the universe is nearly fourteen billion years old.

  • First I assumed that they all reject the authority of scripture.
  • Second I assumed that all Old Earth Creationists accept evolution.

When I realized my mistake, I was tempted to blame the leadership of the Young Earth community for painting the entire Old Earth community with a single broad brush of heresy.  I wanted to hold Henry Morris, John Whitcomb, and Ken Ham responsible for my ignorance.  By God’s grace, I soon acknowledged that I was totally responsible for blindly accepting the teaching of men without taking time to confirm it through prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Since I started serious Bible study in the 70s, I have carefully investigated a number of doctrines that divide the church including eternal security, eschatology, spiritual gifts, baptism, divorce and remarriage, participation in war, the role of women, the extent of the atonement, free will, and predestination.  In each case, I looked at the issue from all perspectives, examined every position from an advocate’s viewpoint, and studied scripture in context before I reached my own conclusion.

When it came to the age of the earth, I abandoned my normal process for discovering truth and uncritically accepted Young Earth Creationism.  It is true that I did not have the same pressing burden to understand creation that drove me to study the other issues. That burden did not come until January of 2009 when I sat down to write a novel that required some knowledge of the dimensions of outer space. However, in the thirty years between 1979 and 2009 I did not withhold judgment on the doctrine of creation until I studied it.  I swallowed YEC hook, line, and sinker! But what is far worse, I condemned OEC without a fair hearing.

Fortunately, we serve a gracious and forgiving God. When I was at last ready to look at the issue honestly, I found the Truth waiting patiently to lead me to an understanding of the very beginning of energy, matter, and space-time.  During two years of cancer treatment in Texas, I listened to Great Courses from the Teaching Company on astronomy, black holes, chaos theory, genetics, anthropology, and geology.  I gained a better understanding of the scientific method as I examined evidence that led the scientific community to the conclusion that the universe is very old.  Most mornings I walked around the little lake in front of my sisters’ apartment listening to Bible CDs, and God alone knows how many times I read Genesis 1 and 2 during those months in Lubbock.

In March of 2011, I wrote an article to enter in a contest at my first writer’s workshop. My topic was the controversy in the church over the age of the earth.  At that point I was still leaning toward YEC, but I could see, simply from my personal study of God’s word, that the days of Genesis could reasonably be interpreted as periods of time much longer than twenty-four hours. I went to the Reasons To Believe website just to verify a statement I made in my article about their position on the authority of scripture.  I will always consider my discovery of RTB online an act of Providence.  The podcasts (Science News Flash, I Didn’t Know That, and Straight Thinking) came like manna from heaven to a soul hungry for truth.  But that’s the story for my next post.

Seeking truth seekers

Beverly Wheeler

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Before I proceed with a discussion about the age of the earth controversy in the church, I want to describe my target audience. Although I welcome everyone to read this blog, I am writing specifically to people who share a common set of values with me.

  • I believe that we can know the truth and that the truth will set us free.
  • I purpose to follow truth wherever it leads and accept truth wherever I find it.
  • I want anything false in my thinking to be exposed and corrected.
  • I think that honest, courteous discussion can be a path toward truth.

Those four values might fit into any worldview, and anyone who shares them may find it worthwhile to read Grammas’ Guide.  However, I begin this discussion on a foundation of two solid convictions forged in a sixty-year journey toward truth:

  • Jesus Christ is the Creator and Savior of mankind.
  • The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is truth in its entirety.

In the future, I will probably discuss the reasons for my absolute belief in these two premises. However, in Grammas’ Guide, I always write with assurance that Jesus is Lord and His word is true.

Now you can decide whether or not you want to follow or join this discussion.

Does the age of the earth really matter to Christians?

How old is our planet?

I have come to a turn in the road of my life that expands my vision far beyond the homes that we tend for ourselves to the home that God created and sustains for all humanity. Fortunately the title “Grammas’ Guide to the Universe” is broad enough to cover a shift from houses and gardens in the here and now to the very beginning of all matter, energy, and space-time.

What enlarged my focus?  It actually started in January 2009.  At that time I entered a quasi-serious study of science to better understand the impossible logistics of deep space travel for my novel about an unfallen planet.

To make a very long story extremely short—in the process I picked up my tent and moved from the Young Earth Creationism camp to the portion of the Old Earth Creationism camp staked out by the ministry of Reasons to Believe.  In discussing my change in perspective with friends and family, I have been repeatedly asked, “What difference does it make what anyone believes about the age of the earth?”  That’s the question I want to answer in the following series of posts.

All the Young Earth Creationists I know personally are obviously saved, clearly love the Lord, and definitely honor God’s word.  My ultimate goal is not to convince them that they are wrong or even to fully present the case that caused me to become OEC. Instead, I want to open a discussion of a needless controversy that divides members in the body of Christ.

As part of that discussion, I will share some things I have learned over the past four years because it’s a delight to see the heavens continuously reveal the glory of God through the amazing instruments that probe outer space. But more than anything, I want to encourage everyone who loves and honors the Lord to call a “cease-fire” in the battle over the age of the earth. Then Christians can work together in the unity of our faith for the glory of God in every field of science.

Since people are more likely to read short posts, I’ll end this one now with a list of five points I plan to cover in Grammas’ Guide.

  1. All Old Earth positions are NOT created equal!
  2. The words of the Bible and our interpretations of the words of the Bible can be two very different things.
  3. God speaks truthfully to sinful man through both His word and His world.
  4. The Big Bang is not at all analogous to an explosion in a junkyard producing a Boeing 747.
  5. Young Earth Creationism (by definition) can never be subjected to the scientific method.

I pray that my Young Earth brothers and sisters will see that even if we continue to disagree about the age of the earth, we are still one in both our love for the Lord and in our respect for His word.