A Dialogue with an OEC

by Dr. Frank DeRemer on December 29, 2006
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Dr. DeRemer gave us permission to post an email exchange he had with an anonymous person (“Mr. C”) who, while a Christian, is an old-earth creationist (OEC).

Editor’s note: this web article by guest author Dr. Frank DeRemer is a follow-up to an article he wrote for AiG’s website on May 24 this year (see “When I Hear . . .”). Dr. DeRemer holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been a friend of the AiG ministry since its inception 12 years ago. He gave us permission to post an email exchange he had with an anonymous person (“Mr. C”) who, while a Christian, is an old-earth creationist (OEC). The exchange was only mildly edited by AiG.

At the end of the article, you will read a few observations about Mr. C’s arguments by Michael J. Oard, an adjunct AiG speaker and frequent contributing writer to our ministry.

Dr. DeRemer,

I just read your article on AiG’s home page “When I hear …” and I have a few comments and questions.

Let me preface my note by making it clear that I am a Christian raised as a Baptist (have been a Baptist for over 35 years) and firmly believe in creation. I am an apologist, and as such, I care what Christians think, teach, and promote.

We likely have much in common. I speculate that I share most (if not all) your criticisms of evolution. For example, I do not believe in large scale creature altering macro style evolution, although I do not deny simple variation within a species (like dog breeds) and recognize some limited speciation (defined as reproductive isolation) takes place.

Believe it or not, as I understand the traditional young earth creationist position, I believe in far less evolution than they do. For example, I do not believe (as say AiG does) that the Panda shares a common ancestor with all bears. [Mr. C references “The Canyon and the Panda”, Creation, 23:2.]

Let me also point out that I have friends, relatives, and brothers and sisters in Christ who are young earth creationists. Even notable ones such as Astronomer Dr. Danny R. Faulkner. I also have multiple friends that home school their children. I point all this out so you don’t dismiss me as some crazed atheist out to bash Christianity.

In case you have not guessed by now, I am an old earth creationist. And I am far from being alone as an old earth Baptist … there are numerous notable Baptists that are old earth creationists. For example, are you aware of John H. Sailhamer’s interpretations and views? He is Senior Professor of OT at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and also teaches Biblical Hebrew there—a truly gifted and respected Christian. John Ankerburg is a former Baptist minister and old earther. Others include: Chuck Colson, Millard Erickson, Ken Mathews, Bernard Ramm, etc. For a more complete list, please see “Notable Christians Open To An Old Earth Interpretation.” [Formerly available at http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/notable_leaders/index.shtml.]

Back to my point … what I am VERY concerned with, are the tactics of young earth creationists. If you are opposed to neo-Darwinism like I am, and want to see its grip on our institutions of learning break free or at least loosen—they are having the opposite effect. These tactics are in fact doing grave harm to the efforts to get ID or even information critical of evolution into the public school system.

How? By promoting such easily refuted ideas regarding the age of the earth and universes at large. Scientists use the word “creationist” to “paint” the ID position. They would love nothing more than to paint the ID movement as a young earth movement. They can then claim (falsely) that ID seeks to ignore science and replace it with a specific fundamentalist faith.

ID has the tough job of refuting evolutionary ideas while attempting to keep religion out of it. They have to … if they take a biblical stance, it will be shot down as religion. ID has the “wedge” strategy [Mr. C cites Wedge strategy - Wikipedia here] for good reason.

Meanwhile, leading young earth groups (like AiG) even openly criticize the ID movement … for example:

But such “compromise positions,” as Looy (VP at AiG) calls them, are not limited to versions of the gap theory, which allows for any amount of time to be inserted between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The most recent attack on Genesis, one that to AiG’s dismay is accepted and promoted by evangelicals, is Intelligent Design.

Source: Article - Christianity Today, Week of April 24

What I have come to discover, is that many YECs hold their beliefs somewhat tentatively, or at the least, the honest ones will admit they have a lot explaining to do. For example, Dr. Faulkner has shared with me that there is MUCH that cannot be explained in a young earth scenario, particularly in his field of expertise. In fact, he has further told me that he is even open intellectually to an old earth—but holds out for biblical reasons.

You seem much more brazen in your writing … I hope you don’t go as far as AiG does.

For example, do you agree in calling Christians who believe in an old earth "spiritual fornicators?” as you can see here:

Now what has all this to do with millions and billions of years? I believe Satan has used the same trick on the church today, as many Christian leaders have committed a form of ‘spiritual fornication’ in compromising with the world and thus have undermined the authority of the Word of the living God. How?

Read the following representative quotes from respected Christian leaders and look for the common element!

Source: Millions of Years and the 'Doctrine of Balaam'

You state in your paper that “One of the strongest arguments for a young age of the earth is the amount of salt found in the oceans.” If this is the best proof, IMHO, you have a lot of explaining to do.

For example, here is a little tidbit that refutes YEC timelines that concerns only the Bible and simple common sense:

YECs deny the geologic strata and the timeline it bears witness too. They say it is almost entirely made up of flood deposits. This for example would (allegedly) explain away the Grand Canyon.

But, if this is true, why are there multiple layers overlaying one another that each contain their own foot prints? And likewise, why do multiple layers display clear erosion—testifying that they spent a great deal of time at the surface.

Moreover, the problems with the strata are by no means limited to things like the Grand Canyon, there is another GLARING problem within the young earth paradigm. It has to do with the Ark’s resting place at the end of the flood. You see, most Christians (and especially young earth ones) believe that the Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat.

The problem is that Mt. Ararat is a volcanic mountain that cross-cuts many, many sedimentary rock layers that the young earth paradigm demands to have been laid down during the Flood. And the layers were indeed cut—there is undeniable proof of these layers being thrust through by the volcanic mountain. The layers are not simply deposited around the mountain, nor could they have been deposited on the steep slopes of an existing mountain. How can layers that are bent more and more until they are breached be explained in any other way that a volcano breaking through pre-existing layers? So, very straight forward cross-cutting relationships and other geologic phenomena tell us that the mountain must obviously be younger than the youngest rock through which it cuts through. We can, therefore, state with confidence that belief in the Ark coming to rest on Mt. Ararat is fundamentally incompatible with a belief in a young earth.

Why? Because Mt. Ararat within a young earth paradigm, did not yet exist when the Ark came to rest! Now, I know some of you may be saying, “Well, maybe it came to rest on another mountain, I heard the bible says the Ark came to rest on the ‘mountains of Ararat[’].” My answer is that ANY mountain significant enough for the Ark to have come to rest on basically has the same problem. Mountains either cut through or deform many pre-existing strata.

How do you explain the “sorting” of fossils? They are not divided by hydrodynamic sorting (heavier or less buoyant objects at the bottom.) In fact, species of virtually identical hydrodynamic characteristics are separated by many millions of years of sedimentation. Furthermore, the largest dinosaurs to exist are found at the very same level as the smallest to exist—and all of the dinosaurs are found far below all more recent species of animals regardless of any identifiable criteria! And if this were not enough—how do you explain the co-location of different parts of species like plants? Their pollen and trunks are almost invariably found at the same layer. How could a flood sort the pollen, trunk, and even leaves of plants so that they would always end up coexisting within the same layer of the geologic column? It is also particularly damaging that metallic man-made artifacts are not found at the very bottom. These obviously would not all have been carried to high ground by people frantically running from a flood, they certainly didn’t run to high ground or otherwise struggle to tread water on their own, and would fall through water quicker than any organism—or more plausibly… simply stay put at the bottom. Contrary to any young earth scenario—these metallic objects are at the very top of the geologic column above virtually all fossils!

This is but one example, I have many many more. And I have yet to see an alleged YEC claim that does not easily become a powerful testimony to OEC once investigated and properly understood.

For another example, have you heard the most recent RATE findings? In RATE II (a YEC project BTW) they make some astonishing admissions. After first attempting to deny radioactive decay, they now freely admit that much radiometric decay has taken place—billions of years worth if the rate of decay is constant! They further admit that if you merely accelerate the decay rate, you generate WAY too much heat and radiation (~pages 761-765). They also take special note that meteorites have radioactive signatures of age, despite the fact that they weren’t even in Noah’s flood.

I look forward to your response,
Mr. C

Dear Mr. C:

Thank you for your letter responding to my prior letter to another OEC (old-earth creationist) in “When I Hear . . .”, and your comments and questions.

You list your credentials as having “been a Baptist for over 35 years,” as firmly believing in creation, as “an apologist,” and as caring “what Christians think, teach, and promote.” That description is valid for me too, except that I have been a Baptist for 56 years minus a decade drifting away from the Lord then finding my way back and sampling other denominations for several years.

We likely have much in common. I speculate that I share most (if not all) your criticisms of evolution. For example, I do not believe in large-scale creature-altering macro style evolution, although I do not deny simple variation within a species (like dog breeds) and recognize some limited speciation (defined as reproductive isolation) takes place.

I agree. With all that in common, however, we have rather different approaches to the issue of creation. In your letter there is a list of scientific challenges to the YEC (young-earth creationist) position and not a single argument from Scripture. It appears to me that you value the interpretations of scientific data by the current scientific establishment over proper interpretation of Scripture.

As for me, I follow Martin Luther (oops, not a Baptist): “Sola Scriptura!” That is, my approach is first and foremost to determine what Scripture says by consistently applying accepted rules of hermeneutics to the creation account and related passages of Scripture. That establishes for me the framework of God’s own story of what he did over what period of time and (indirectly) how long ago. Then I put on those “glasses,” as it were, and view and interpret the scientific data.

I believe that God designed language and installed it in man. Indeed, He spoke to man right after creating him, and man understood. Hence, I believe God is the Great Communicator. He knows what he did; He was the only eyewitness, and He knows how to tell the story so even children can understand it. Okay, not all the details and implications, which are infinitely deep, but certainly the general gist.

In other words, I try to interpret the scientific data in light of the Scriptures. In contrast, your approach, judging from your letter, seems to be to first accept much current scientific dogma, for which you apparently have great respect, and then to look for a way to interpret Scripture to fit. That begs the questions: where in the Scriptures do you see even a hint of millions/billions of years, and how do you override the strong indicators of both context and content that Genesis 1–11 are of the literary genre called narrative history?

Perhaps you have found satisfactory answers to those questions, but I have never been able to do so. That said, I will proceed to some of your questions and comments.

I do not believe (as say AiG does) that the Panda shares a common ancestor with all bears.

Fine. The interpretation of the data we currently have may not be conclusive. I am not an expert in this area, nor an apologist for AiG, but I know that there are valid differences of interpretations when we have incomplete data and are not omniscient—and we are fallible, all of us.

No, I certainly “don’t dismiss [you] as some crazed atheist out to bash Christianity.” The question in my mind is about your priorities in regard to Scripture and “science.” Yes, I deduced that you are an OEC, and yes, I know that many impressive Christian leaders are OECs. However, consider this: among Christians—laypeople, pastors, seminary professors, theologians, etc.—there are at least 10 models proposed and promoted as the author’s intended meaning of Genesis 1. For simplicity let’s pretend that there are approximately an equal number of Christians for each model—the exact number is not the point. Now, choose any two of those models. They disagree with each other in material ways. Hence, no two can both be true. Hence, at most one is true, just as among many religions that differ materially one, at most, can be true. That means 90% or more (again, the exact percentage is not the point) are flat wrong! We might all be!

Thus I am not impressed by a list of Christian leaders who are OECs. I can also form an impressive list of current and past Christians who are YECs. Truth is not determined by majority vote (even a majority vote of Christian leaders). By the way, Sailhamer’s interpretation has been thoroughly refuted by James B. Jordan.

It was interesting to hear your “main point”: your concern that YECs are “doing grave harm to the efforts to get ID or even information critical of evolution into the public school system … by promoting such easily refuted ideas regarding the age of the earth and universes at large.” Back to my point above, yes, wearing the “glasses” of materialism that put the opinion of the science establishment above the plain meaning of Genesis 1–11, it seems easy to accept millions/billions of years and foolish to disagree.

No argument about the facts

However, the point of my prior letter, to which you responded, was that, with biblical “glasses” on, YECs (including myself) see youth where the establishment sees old age. In either case, the data are the same; it is the interpretations that differ. It is too bad that OECs wear the same “glasses” as evolutionists when it comes to interpreting age-related data. And it is too bad OECs don’t concentrate on the many Christians who believe in (theistic) evolution—I think they are a real problem, not YECs.

Please understand that from the YEC point of view, it is the OECs who are “doing grave harm to the efforts” of YECs to get Christians first, and then the world, to see that God’s Word is true. It is clear that evolutionists are so desperate to exclude any other viewpoint that they would “paint,” as you say, the ID movement as religious even in the absence of YECism in the marketplace of ideas.

Indeed, it appears to me to be a lost cause to try “to get ID or even information critical of evolution into the [government] school system” in any direct sense. Rather, we are (for now) still free to disseminate the truth in churches. If we teach Christians both how to interpret the Bible (first) and also how to interpret scientific data through the “glasses” that God gave us (second), then Christians can overturn the dogma in government schools from the grass roots. That is, Christian students, teachers, and administrators can bring in the truth that is elided from the textbooks.

OECs have joined forces unwittingly with the critics and would-be destroyers of God’s Word.

But OECs have been standing in the way for the past 200 years or so by positing one model of re-interpretation of Genesis 1–11 after another. Each is ill-founded and easily refuted scripturally. OECs have joined forces unwittingly with the critics and would-be destroyers of God’s Word. That is the “grave harm” (as you put it) that is being done. And it is much greater harm than what evolutionists will do, namely “claim[ing] (falsely) that ID seeks to ignore science and replace it with a specific fundamentalist faith.”

Yes, I agree that, “ID has the tough job of refuting evolutionary ideas while attempting to keep religion out of it.” But even in the absence of YECs and ID enthusiasts taking “a biblical stance, it [ID] will be shot down as religion.” That is because (1) evolutionists cannot abide any competition and (2) ID looks and smells too much like a religious belief to a mind steeped in materialism. Thus, it would get shot down as religion without YECs. Even evolutionists know what the Bible says about creation!

Furthermore, as Christians we are called to take a biblical stance! And it is God’s responsibility to take care of the consequences and produce the fruit. Our job is to be faithful.

You quote: “Looy (VP at AiG)” as saying, “… The most recent attack on Genesis, one that to AiG’s dismay is accepted and promoted by evangelicals, is Intelligent Design.” I think I understand your dismay. To me personally, I welcome the scientific formalization and examples of such concepts as “irreducible complexity” as part of the reasoning that leads to the deduction that there was indeed an Intelligent Designer. In fact, Dr. Duane Gish, formerly vice president of ICR, has been getting that point across for decades via his “Bombardier Beetle” illustration. And it is wonderful that that “wedge” can lead to the obvious question: “Who is that Designer?”

The rub, however, that I believe Looy was trying to articulate is that OEC evangelicals are jumping on the ID bandwagon and also uncritically accepting the accompanying millions/billions of years that many IDers accept and some even require. It is the long ages that are counter to what the Bible clearly teaches.

I agree with you that “honest [YECs] will admit they have a lot explaining to do.” All scientists do. OECs do. Evolutionists do. What do any of us know about how to kick-start a universe? We are lacking in data and in intellect! However, it is still a great scientific pursuit. The big difference on the matter is that YECs accept a framework defined by God, and try to understand within those parameters. We have faith that whatever we discover will fit God’s account of what He did, how long it took, and when He did it.

Hence, yes, “MUCH … cannot be explained in a young earth [or old-earth or evolutionary] scenario.” But my faith is that the more we find out, the better it will fit the young-earth scenario. I suppose that is what you see as “brazen in [my] writing.” Yes, I am brazen in believing God and believing that He knows how to communicate.

You desire to know, having asked twice now,1 whether I agree that, “many Christian leaders [OECs] have committed a form of ‘spiritual fornication’ in compromising with the world and thus have undermined the authority of the Word of the living God.” I think I would say simply that we are called to “rightly divide” the Word of God, and I have yet to see an OEC model of Genesis 1–11 that could be regarded as “rightly dividing” that portion of Scripture. If it were me and I was ignoring the text to allow for a claimed compatibility with the ideas of materialists, or torturing the text to fit them, I would, upon being called on it and shown what I had been doing, repent.

The problem, in part, is that many are so caught up in their own ministries that they will not make time for seriously discussing the Genesis 1–11 foundation and making sure we all collectively have it right. Instead, disengaged discussions must be had in the form of writing books and articles on the issue without ever seeing or talking to those who disagree. What kind of Christian community is that? Where is the love among Christians that we are to demonstrate to the world even during such division? It is a sad state of affairs and likely an abomination to God.

Now, about your specific challenges where you think we YECs have lots of explaining to do, I have already agreed that there is much to explain no matter which position one takes. I just see the YEC position as having no need to explain away Scripture and about the same amount of scientific explaining to do qualitatively as do OECism and evolution. And since I put the Coach and His Word first, for me that puts the YEC position far ahead of the other two, which seem to be “playing for the fans” instead.

I simply do not have the space here,2 and in some cases the knowledge, to address all your specific challenges. Some are still challenges to me intellectually, but I think I understand many in both a scriptural and scientific way. I don’t intend to insult you, but some of your challenges show a poor understanding of the YEC position. So, some of your “problems” are not problems at all and actually serve to support the YEC position when properly understood.3 Furthermore, if you really are a truth-seeker, you can find some good YEC answers at www.AnswersInGenesis.org, www.icr.org or other good websites, but it will take some digging.

Yes, I too am “open intellectually to an old earth.” When you can show me that Scripture affirmatively teaches millions/billions of years, I will reconsider my position. But I can show you that the Bible affirmatively teaches a six-day creation only thousands of years ago. If the Bible teaches that and millions/billions of years, then we have an apparent contradiction to figure out. But I don’t see any teaching of millions/billions of years in Scripture, and will thus hold faithfully to God’s clear description of what He did and when.

Mostly, I want to encourage you to put the proper interpretation of Scripture first, then work out scientific interpretations in light of God’s account of the past.

May God bless you as you seek His truth.

Frank DeRemer

Further rebuttals

Michael J. Oard gives this response to some of the technical issues raised in Mr. C’s letter:

I can tell that Mr. C does not know much about geology and has essentially relied on the speculations of others over what the Bible says. Just because he can rattle off names of those who have compromised does not mean that these compromises and the world’s speculations on origins are correct.

In relation to salt in the ocean, we have many strong arguments (John Reed and I are outlining a book on this very topic) for the Flood. The salts in the ocean is one of them, which is explained quite well by an old ICC paper by Austin and Humphreys that has not been refuted, as far as I know.

Without giving any evidence against the salt argument, Mr. C jumps to the geologic strata, in particular in the Grand Canyon. Here is where he does not understand what YECs believe. None of us deny the strata. He mixes up data and interpretation—a very common problem of critics. The strata is the data, which we accept, and the timelines are interpretations based on preconceived assumptions about the past.

I did not understand what he meant by footprints in multiple layers. There are footprints here and there in the strata, sometimes vertically superimposed. This is a subject that I deal with in relationship to dinosaur tracks in the book that John Reed and I have edited, called Rock Solid Answers: Responses to Popular Questions to Biblical Geology. You can have footprints early in the Flood. Besides, Grand Canyon has footprints only in the Coconino sandstone, as far as I know.

Then he goes into “clear erosion” between the layers of strata. Actually, this is one of the strongest arguments against the uniformitarian timescale. You can erode all of North America to sea level in 10 million years at the current rate of erosion, but because of complicating factors, such as man causing more erosion and that erosion slows down as the mountains wear away, it probably would take up to 50 million years. The point is that there should be deep, filled-in canyons in the strata of Grand Canyon if all that time is correct, since the horizontal strata represent a supposed 300 million years, with much time missing between some layers. Yet we see very little erosion between Grand Canyon layers, which is also typical of other layers over the earth. Practically all the erosion occurs after all the strata are deposited. That is why we have Grand Canyon. We saw some of the minor erosion during our float trip [Editor’s note: Dr. DeRemer joined Mike Oard on an AiG Grand Canyon raft trip in 2005] mainly between the Muav and Redwall, which is the Temple Butte Formation (very patchy in Grand Canyon).

Informed YECs know that Mount Ararat is volcanic. There are actually two mountains, Greater and Lesser Ararat, which may be why the Bible says “mountains of Ararat.” Regardless, we had lots of volcanism in the Flood. It is estimated that a fair percentage of the strata of the earth is directly derived from volcanism. So, why can’t we have a volcanic mountain at day 150 of the Flood for the Ark to ground on? Mr. C presumes a certain time period for volcanoes—that they are late Flood or post-Flood—and indeed, I am sure many are. I doubt Mr. C knows much about relationships with the sedimentary layers. Besides, these sedimentary layers could have been laid down early in the Flood, despite what name or age the uniformitarians give it. I find evidence in the western United States that much Cenozoic strata—considered the most recent era by uniformitarians—was laid down before day 150 of the Flood. So, unless he amplifies this “problem” more, it cannot be addressed any further due to a lack of information.

As far as the “sorting” of fossils, yes, we have a lot of work left to fully explain the existing distribution of fossils. But just because we do not have a complete, immediate answer for this one does not mean the Flood did not do it. The problem is there is a huge amount of information to digest on this topic, and besides, no one really knows what the true fossil distribution is. Many fossil distributions that are vertical on paper are really horizontal on earth and are simply pigeon-holed into slots according to preconceived uniformitarian assumptions. Mr. C references hydrodynamic sorting, but there were many mechanisms that created the fossil record, and hydrodynamic sorting is just one of them (and probably a minor one). Why doesn’t he mention all the gaps in the fossil record, the problem of living fossils, anomalous fossils, out-of-order fossils, the extreme complexity of the trilobite eye, the Cambrian explosion, and other such arguments against uniformitarian interpretations of the fossil record?

Regarding RATE, once again he is mixing up data with interpretation. YECs have always believed in radioactive decay; it is the interpretations that we challenge, and it is clear that there are many assumptions behind and problems with the dating methods. Of all aspects of the issue of how old the earth is, there is probably more propaganda about dating methods than any other. The point of RATE was to try to find out about why these flawed dating methods gave millions and billions of years. I believe we now know and have very strong evidence that indeed there was accelerated decay sometime in the earth’s past. Humphreys’ helium diffusion through zircons is very strong experimental support for this. I would like to see Mr. C first learn about it and then attempt to refute it. He is correct about the heat problem—but only if part of the accelerated decay was during the Flood. As I said in my RATE review, I think that it probably all occurred at creation and therefore, during the miracle of creation, God could have easily dealt with the heat and radiation, and besides, there would have been no biology to affect. As far as meteorites, they were probably part of the original creation and therefore show evidence of accelerated radioactive decay. They were obviously not formed by the Flood (of course, meteorites would have bombarded the earth during the Flood, but we are not talking about these, since these meteorites would have been destroyed).

I know Dr. Danny R. Faulkner fairly well. He likely has the same position as me in regard to the earth sciences, in that there is much that has not yet been explained, mainly because no one yet has tackled that problem and/or there is not yet enough information to give a reasonable answer. That does not mean that “much cannot be explained within YEC.”

There are a number of books that purport to refute the YEC position, but usually I find that these books erect straw men and do not even understand the YEC arguments enough to refute them.

Mr. C really has too superficial an understanding of geology (and probably of YEC positions in general) for me to make any more detailed statement of refutation. I hope he will think and dig into these ideas further, instead of accepting so much secular science by faith.


  1. This refers to a previous email exchange.
  2. For a more in-depth response, see Mike Oard’s comments, below.
  3. This is the same Mr. C who wrote to Dr. Georgia Purdom of our staff, just as she was coming on board in 2005. But it was not a “welcome letter.”

    Dr. Purdom,

    I just read AiG’s piece on you joining their staff “A First in Creation Research!” article, and I have some observations to share.

    Let me start off by clarifying that I … reject evolution.

    … You seem a sincere and intellectually honest person from reading the article, as such, I feel compelled to write you and would be interested in your responses to my comments/questions. It is sad for me to see a person of your caliber joining the staff of AiG.

    Mr. C. then presented his arguments for an old earth and how AiG has been intellectually dishonest. We share this excerpt to show the deep feelings he has against the AiG ministry—so deep that he tried to unsettle a new staff member just as she was settling into her position.


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