On the appearance of age

13 Oct

Pete Enns (formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary) has begun a series of blog posts aimed squarely at the young earth creationism advocated by Al Mohler

My aim is not to cross swords with Mohler, put him in his place, go after him, score points, misrepresent, or any of the other types of tactics that tend to be employed when people disagree on the internet.

Those tactics are both tedious and sub-Christian, and I continue to be amazed at how easily theological watchdogs fail to watch their own theologies by their belligerent denunciations and mockeries of those who don’t interpret the Bible the way they do, thinking the Gospel is at stake at every turn.

Having said that, let me state clearly that I believe Mohler is dead wrong at virtually every turn in how he approaches the difficult subject of biblical Christianity and evolution. I also believe he is free to think as he choses and live with the consequences, and I am not writing to convince him otherwise.

I am writing, rather, for the sake of those who are living with the consequences of what Mohler says they must believe–those who feel trapped in Mohler’s either/or rhetoric, that to question a literal interpretation of Scripture concerning creation puts one on the path to apostasy.

In his most recent post, Enns targets the creationist claim that, while the earth is only 6,000 years old (or thereabouts), it appears to be much older. In Enns’s evaluation, this allows YECs to “accept the observations of science while rejecting the interpretation of those observations by scientists.” Enns offers two complaints about the claim of apparent age, neither of which are impressive.

The second claim is this:

“Apparent age” is an arbitrary claim that makes the “facts fit the theory.”

It is surely obvious that the theory of “apparent age” is generated to make the observations of science fit Mohler’s literal reading of Genesis. Unless one were precommitted to a literal reading of Genesis, one would never think of making this sort of claim.

Enns’s claim here is dubious for two reasons.

  1. As a claim (it is hardly an argument), it is simplicity itself to turn the same argument back on Enns. Thus: “It is surely obvious that the theory of ‘theistic evolution (of whatever sort)’ is generated to make the text of Scripture fit Enns’s understanding of the observations of science. Unless one were precommitted to the infallibility of scientific claims, one would never think of advocating this understanding of the text of Genesis.” Both Enns’s claim and my inversion of same are irrelevant as to the truth of the appearance of age claim. It may well be the case that Enns’s motives for holding his position are skewed, or that Mohler’s evidentiary basis for holding his position is invalid; even if true, these statements have no impact on whether Enns’s or Mohler’s positions are true.
  2. My advocacy of appearance of age in creation is decidedly more a priori than it is a posteriori; that is to say, I would be an advocate of the notion of the appearance of age with or without consultation of scientific evidence. Everything that God created in the Garden appeared to be x numbers of years old; creation was mature. The principle of appearance of age is thus embraced without reference to scientific evidence; the extent of the appearance of age can be informed by scientific experimentation. Thus, Enns’s notion that Mohler (or other advocates of YEC and AoA) is driven to advocate appearance of age merely as a convenient way to account for the scientific data is mistaken.

Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Apologetics


2 responses to “On the appearance of age

  1. Scott Aniol (@ScottAniol)

    October 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Well done.

  2. C A Watson

    October 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I start with the question – why even look at the world? What does the text reveal? If the text reveals that the earth is “x” age, then the earth is “x” age. Only when an interpreter comes to the text having preconceived “scientific” notions of the age of the earth does he reinterpret the text.