The God of an Old Earth

by Troy Lacey and Dr. Tim Chaffey
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Christians who believe in an old earth must hold to an inconsistent hermeneutic of interpretation. Troy Lacey and Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explain.

On his blog in 2010, Ken Ham writes, “old earthers and young earthers can agree in regard to the message of salvation, as this blogger and I do.” He also states, “…I do not say, and have never said, that a person has to believe in a young earth to be a Christian. Salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ, not what one believes about the age of the earth. I have stated this clearly many times over the years. But sadly, I still read those who falsely claim we at AiG tie salvation to the age of the earth.”

Yet in his ’07 article “Couldn’t God Have Used Evolution” Mr Ham writes, “the god of an old earth destroys the gospel.” And also, “the god of an old earth cannot therefore be the God of the bible who is able to save us from sin and death.”

No wonder people make the claim that you tie salvation to YE. Please explain. I believe you should remove one of these two articles. You cannot say both remain credible.

I’m a YE Pastor but my Sr. Pastor recoils at your vitriolic speech.

– T. B.

Hi, T. B., thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis.

In these comments Ken is discussing two different things, so there is no contradiction. One can say both things and remain credible. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) that John Doe is saved and believes salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. I can call him a brother in Christ because we are both claiming salvation through Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection. However, let’s also assume that John Doe is a theistic evolutionist and believes that mankind was not created but evolved. Although he is still a Christian, his belief is inconsistent, and I would have to reject certain aspects in his view of God.

Why? Because the God revealed in Scripture created a perfect world, a world with no death, suffering, or disease. Yet to believe that He used evolution is to deny what God says He did in creating everything in six normal-length days. It also denies that He created a perfect universe, perfect world, and a perfect first man and woman (who was made from the man).

Genesis 1:31 states that everything God made was “very good.” Since 1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death the “last enemy” that will be destroyed, how could we possibly think that God called death very good? Why did Jesus (who is the same yesterday, today, and forever according to Hebrews 13:8) heal the sick and raise the dead if sicknesses and death are very good?

If God used evolution, then it logically follows that death and disease were His doing rather than ours, and Jesus would have been sent to cover God’s mistakes.

If God used evolution, then it logically follows that death and disease were His doing rather than ours, and Jesus would have been sent to cover God’s mistakes. That is, if the Lord gave the first spark of energy and life to the universe, and then let it run amok, He would have sent His Son to atone for His own mistakes. This is not an accurate description of the God of the Bible.

The statements from Ken that you cited are not contradictory; they just require the proper context. While old-earth creationists may believe the gospel, they unwittingly ascribe false attributes to God and thus essentially attack God’s character. Most old-earth creationists either do not recognize this truth or have chosen to ignore the dichotomy their belief creates. Also, theistic evolutionists generally accept the big bang theory, which creates additional problems.

Many have confused the issue here by claiming that we say old-earth Christians are not really saved. In another recent feedback email, we were accused of being mean-spirited when we point out the dangers inherent in old-earth teachings and when we attempt to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, we have repeatedly stated that we do not question the faith of old-earth creationists, and that many of them have done great things for the Lord.

Our criticism of these brothers and sisters in Christ relates to how they handle Genesis 1–11 and some related passages. We believe they are allowing the ever-changing opinions of man override the clear teaching of Scripture in this area, and this sets a very dangerous precedent for other areas of Scripture—including the gospel itself. For example, the majority of scientists believe in billions of years, so we are pressured to find some way to make Genesis accommodate such a belief. But the majority of scientists also reject Christ’s Virgin Birth and Resurrection. To be consistent, should old-earthers call for the reinterpretation of these teachings? Praise God that they do not, but they are being inconsistent in their hermeneutic (interpretation).

In some ways, the Christian who believes in billions of years is like some of the kings of Judah, such as Asa and his son Jehoshaphat. Here is what Scripture has to say about these men.

Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David. And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made … but the high places were not removed. Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the Lord all his days. (1 Kings 15:11–14)

Jehoshaphat the son of Asa … walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for the people offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 22:41–43)

Both of these men were said to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. However, they both failed in one area—they did not remove the “high places.” These were sites on hills and mountains where some of the people worshiped false gods (2 Kings 17:11–16) and others attempted to worship the true God in a wrong manner (2 Kings 17:32; 2 Chronicles 33:17). Even godly men and women can be in serious error. The Apostle Peter seriously compromised the gospel message though his actions by siding with the Judaizers—those who tried to add circumcision and works of the law to the gospel. Paul had to confront Peter face-to-face in the presence of other believers to correct this serious error (Galatians 2:11–16).

Sadly, too many people in the church today look at Paul’s actions as unloving and harsh, yet what Paul did was necessary for the sake of the gospel. Furthermore, it was actually a very loving action. Paul demonstrated a deep love for the truth of God’s Word, as well as a love for his brother Peter. His actions also displayed a love for the church, since he cared enough about God’s people to not allow them to be led astray.

Consider the final words of the book of James. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20). Of course, this must be handled with gentleness and respect. Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Our goal in pointing out the error of old-earth creationism is driven by a love for Christ’s church. We do not want to see them led into a serious error, and we desire to see our brothers and sisters remove the “high places” of old-earth beliefs. Still, we realize we are sinful and fallible. If our actions are ever motivated by our own pride instead of love for God and for fellow believers, then we would be in the wrong. If such a case arises, we hope someone would love us enough to respectfully point out these faults.

Think about this carefully—if we don’t correct fellow believers who are in error, then we don’t truly love them. No sane parents would fail to correct their own child who runs dangerously into the street, because they love the child and don’t want harm to come to him or her. Similarly, we do not want to see our brothers and sisters led astray by worldly teachings that have done so much to undermine people’s trust in Scripture.

What we are saying to old-earth Christians is that they need to cling to the biblical view of God and jettison the faulty views of God demanded by their old-earth views. They need to accept biblical authority and all that comes with it, including the Father who loved us so much He sent His Son to die for our sins—not His own carelessness or ineptitude.

Consider the following well-known verses and pay close attention to how all of them state that Jesus died for our sins—not for mistakes made by God during creation:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

If we fail to recognize the significance of the biblical teaching that Adam’s sin caused death, and that the last Adam, Jesus Christ, gave His life for sinners, then we miss key elements of the gospel, which is encapsulated in the following passage:

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:14–19)

For a more detailed (and painfully graphic) example of this type of theology, please see this article.

We hope this has been helpful.

Troy Lacey and Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.


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