Backdrop of a Grand Canyon Raft Trip

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What should the Christian believe about the age of the earth and the origin of life? WORLD magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky explores the issue against the backdrop of a Grand Canyon raft trip.*

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In June we covered Olasky’s thoughts on whether Christians should embrace evolution to help further evangelism. “For such a time as this we must learn to trust God to change hearts without our having to back away from the Bible,” Olasky concluded. Now, having joined creationists for a raft trip through the Grand Canyon, Olasky in this week's cover story of WORLD examines the origins controversy in more detail. “This article will look at some young-earth creationist thinking as compared with conventional theories,” he writes, “and suggest how Christian colleges should react.

Joining him on the rafting trip were individuals from Answers in Genesis, including geologist Andrew Snelling and science/geology historian Terry Mortenson. But why even give the young-earthers a chance to defend their view? Olasky answers (convincingly, in our admittedly biased opinion) by quoting secular geologist Wayne Ranney:

“[R]ivers like the Colorado actually deepen their channels only during relatively large and intermitted large-scale floods, when huge amounts of large, rocky debris are in motion. . . . Most canyons are carved only during relatively rare flood events. . . . Imagine the view from the rim at the moment when a lava dam catastrophically failed and a tremendous outburst flood roared through the Grand Canyon with rubble-filled water 600 feet deep.”

But why even give the young-earthers a chance to defend their view?

Ranney clearly “sees the limits of uniformitarian explanations,” Olasky writes. Of course, the same can be said of the creationists on the trip with Olasky, whose teachings on the trip (condensed by Olasky) form a quick summary of much of the young-earth creation arguments for a young earth:

Christians “should not excommunicate young-earthers.”

  • “Fossilization normally occurs when subjects are buried catastrophically . . . .”
  • “We discussed the ‘unconformities,’ contact points between different layers of rock: If one was put down millions of years after another, why are there no signs of physical or chemical erosion between the layers?”
  • “[N]on-literal interpretations of Genesis mythologize the first three chapters . . . Jesus and the New Testament writers cited the first 11 chapters of Genesis 107 times . . . .”
  • “[R]ocks do not normally bend . . . but [Snelling] pointed out rock layers that were bent without fracturing, indicating their rapid deposit and folding while still wet and pliable . . . .”
  • “[W]hen there’s a conflict between what the Bible clearly states and what a contemporary scientific theory stipulates, we go with the Bible. The Bible clearly states that God created everything according to its kind, and specially created Adam and Eve.”
  • “Untested assumptions lie behind all knowledge claims. This is particularly true about historical science, which is different from operational science. Scientists can observe laboratory experiments, but the only eyewitness to creation was God.”

Olasky is a fair judge, pointing out that young-earthers still don’t have a comprehensive understanding of radiometric dating (though neither do old-earthers; see last week’s News to Note), and that old-earthers point to their own evidences of the Grand Canyon’s antiquity. (He also promises a follow-up article presenting the old-earth view.) But he concludes that Christians “need investigation, not arbitrary exclusion of what is scientifically unfashionable,” and that Christians “should not excommunicate young-earthers” but instead “encourage debate among all those who see the Bible as God’s Word but have differences in interpretation.”

Surprise, surprise: we agree.

*You, too, can participate in the adventure of a Grand Canyon raft trip along with Bible-believing speakers and scientists from Answers in Genesis , Canyon Ministries, and other ministry friends. Visit Grand Canyon 2011 for details about these popular trips.

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