Recently, I had the opportunity to speak in a leading seminary in a conservative denomination. My experience was both enlightening and encouraging.
I was invited by one of the professors (one of the few at this seminary who are young-earth creationists—YEC) to speak for an hour to a Ph.D. colloquium. My subject was where the idea of millions of years came from (more in-depth information on this subject). In the class were nine Ph.D. students, most or all of whom appeared to be YEC but were quite uninformed about this issue and about AiG. Three professors (all from the theology department) attended: the one who invited me to speak, the head of the theology department (whom I knew), and one other I didn’t previously know.
Before class, one student told me that he had been educated in a Christian grade school, a Christian high school, a Christian college and a Christian seminary (all conservative/evangelical) and never had his teachers taught him anything about how to think about the creation-evolution issue. He said he tends toward the young-earth view (i.e. Genesis means what it plainly says), but this Ph.D. colloquium was the first time he had seriously studied the issue. Sadly, this kind of Christian education is all too common in the church.
He was taking notes during my lecture and asked for the whereabouts of scholarly work on the meaning of yom (day) in Gen. 1, and the length of the creation days. I recommended the following articles: The Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach, אחד as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5 and A Defense of Literal Days in the Creation Week.
I lectured for 60 minutes and then went over the class period to answer questions for another 45 minutes. One student asked what happened to the dinosaurs. Another wanted to know what the importance of Noah’s Flood was to our understanding of the geological record. Another asked about AiG’s positions on the ID movement (see AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement).
Another student asked what I thought the strongest arguments for an old-earth view of Genesis 1 were.
I discussed—and refuted briefly—three arguments:
Gen. 2:4 proves that yom (day) isn’t meant to be literal in Genesis 1.
You can’t have literal days before the sun was created on Day 4.
Too much happened on the sixth day to be accomplished in only 24 hours.
In answering the last one, I pointed the men to our detailed critique of this objection in our response to Dr. J.P. Moreland. I was told after class that points 1 and 3 were exactly the arguments against YEC raised by one of their professors in the previous week’s class.
Another student asked why I thought this issue was so important. I mentioned three things:
the character of God is assaulted by incorporating millions of years into our theology (see The “god” of an Old Earth);
the idea of millions of years contradicts the Bible’s teaching on when sin and death occurred (see Two Histories of Death); and
most importantly, the authority of Scripture is undermined by the theories and opinions of sinful men (see Theistic Evolution: What Difference Does It Make?).
I had also shown that these points had been made by the scriptural geologists some 200 years ago.
A Korean student in this seminary class is the director of a ministry to Korean university students studying in America. He said that he grew up as a YEC, but really had not studied the issue. He was forced to think about this more, and his YEC views were weakened when he went to another conservative American seminary for his Masters of Divinity.
During my three days at the seminary, I was somewhat surprised to learn that neither the founding document of the seminary nor its denominational statement of faith has any statement on creation, other than saying that God is the maker, sustainer and ruler of creation. No wonder most of the denomination’s theological teachers are OEC (old-earth creationists) and don’t think the age of the earth really matters any way.
I also had supper with the other full-time theology professor, who had missed the colloquium due to a schedule conflict. I was delighted to find out that he is a YEC because he thinks the Bible clearly teaches it, though he was not well-informed on the scientific evidence in defense of the biblical teaching. I recommended a number of books and web articles. His kids are in a Christian school where there is no teaching on creation, so I also recommended some resources for them. We had a great discussion for several hours.
On Friday I had a very good one-hour meeting with the head of the theology department, who was in the colloquium on Wednesday. He holds to the ‘indefinite days’ view (i.e. the days were long or short, no-one knows how long, but definitely not 24 hours). But he admitted several times that I may be right about the age of the earth and he may come to my side in heaven or sooner. But he strongly disagreed that the age of the earth debate is really about the authority of Scripture, insisting instead that it is only an issue of the interpretation of Scripture. We had a good discussion about that.
The head of the theology department said that he believes Noah’s Flood was global, but obviously had not thought deeply enough about its implications regarding the age of the earth or about the issue of death before the fall. I caught his attention with two points I made on these matters.
It is logically impossible to believe in a global flood and millions of years because the evolutionists claim the geological record is evidence of the latter.
First, it is logically impossible to believe in a global flood and millions of years because the evolutionists claim the geological record is evidence of the latter. He didn’t see the logic of this right away, so I explained that if the rocks and fossils are evidence of millions of years and there is no evidence of the global Flood in the geological record (as the evolutionary geologists claim), then the Flood never happened in real history.
In other words, a year-long global catastrophic Flood (as Genesis clearly describes), which leaves no sedimentary, erosional and fossil evidence, would be a myth. Conversely, if the rock record is largely the evidence for the Flood, then there is no real geological evidence for millions of years (regarding radiometric dating methods that are claimed as proof of millions of years see Q&A: Radiometric Dating and RATE group reveals exciting breakthroughs!). As I explained this, it was obvious that this logical contradiction was a new idea to him that he would have to ponder.
Second, I pointed out to him that cancer and other diseases (exactly like those in living creatures today)—as well as thorns and thistles—are in rock layers that the evolutionists claim are hundreds of millions of years old. If those dates are correct, however, then those things were in the world before people were, and thus the Curse in Genesis 3 had no impact on the creation at all.
This too was new information to him, and he said he would consider it further. As I left, he sincerely thanked me for stopping by. So I hope I will have an opportunity for further discussions with him.
Pray with us that the Lord will open more doors like this one in other seminaries for YECs to share the truth of God’s Word and the real science that confirms it. The compromise in the seminaries is so widespread, and sadly the ignorance of most of our seminary professors on this subject is great. We’ve got to get the truth to them in a way that they can understand and receive.