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.

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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.