Why I Am an Old Earth Creationist
Part One: General Revelation
By Erik Bennett, June 29, 2016
It has been a long time since I last posted at Faith to Tread, and I wanted to give an explanation for my absence. I have been going through a very difficult time personally, and it has been a challenge to write in the last few months because my mind has been preoccupied with all the details and stress surrounding my resignation from my church. I want to get back to writing regular posts for this blog, but before I do, I feel I need to spend some time explaining why I resigned.
The reason I stepped down is I no longer believe young earth creationism. After much study, research, and prayer, I changed my view to old earth creationism. The old earth creationist view is incompatible with the doctrinal position of the church where I pastored, so I resigned. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the reasons I changed my view from young earth creationism to old earth creationism.
My intent in sharing about old earth creationism is simply to give my family and friends a better idea of what I believe. I do not desire to criticize those who hold the young earth position but simply to show how my view has changed from what I previously believed. I honestly love young earth creationists, and I recognize that both young and old earth creationists together make up the body of Christ. We are spiritual family, and we share the same goal, i.e. to reach the world for Jesus Christ. The question of the age of the earth/universe often divides the body of Christ, but we need not allow it to do so. I hope my posts don’t add fuel to the fire that rages over this issue, but I hope instead that those who disagree with me will understand that the fellowship of the body of Christ is more important than our disagreements over issues such as this.
The Witness of General Revelation
The witness of general revelation led me to question the young earth view I once held. The Bible describes general revelation as a true and reliable witness of God. Psalm 19:1-6 invites us to look to the heavens because they declare the glory of God, and Romans 1:19-20 tell us that God and His attributes are clearly discernable through what He has created. While I previously believed in principle that general revelation is a true witness of God, I only accepted its testimony if it supported my young earth interpretation.
I now believe general revelation is best viewed as a complementary witness that has the potential to fill in the gaps left by special revelation and at times give guidance in weighing the evidence of differing interpretations of Scripture. Our understanding of general revelation is never complete (much like our understanding of special revelation), but over time the abundance of evidence can give us a confidence in its accuracy (i.e. the earth is not flat, the sun does not revolve around the earth, etc.). Below is a diagram of how I view the complementary nature of general revelation and special revelation:
My belief that general revelation is a true witness of God propelled me to reconsider my view about the age of the earth. Eventually I become convinced that the old earth view is the best explanation of age of the earth/universe in light of both general and special revelation.
General Revelation and the Age of the Universe
I believe general revelation reveals that the universe is old (est. 13.8 billion years old). I once explained away the apparent age of the universe by believing that God created a mature universe 6,000-10,000 years ago, but I have come to believe this is inadequate to explain what we see in the universe. What we observe in the universe is more than just the appearance of age but of significant and prolonged activity. As we look into the heavens, we observe the formation, development, and expansion of galaxies. When we peer into the cosmos, we can detect stars forming and stars dying. Further, we observe galaxies, stars, and cosmic events (like supernova) that are millions and sometimes billions of light years away. If general revelation is a true witness of God and what He has done, then all the activity, development, and cosmic events we observe in the universe must have actually occurred and they all reveal the glory of God.
While young earth creationists have developed various theories to try to explain what we observe in the universe,2 I find these theories inadequate and unconvincing in light of what we observe and the weight of evidence that confirms all the universe is very old (such as red shift, cosmic background radiation, etc.). A few years ago Hugh Ross (an old earth creationist with Reasons to Believe) and Danny Faulkner (a young earth creationist with Answers in Genesis) presented arguments for their views to a panel of Christians trained in astronomical research. The panel put out a statement of their evaluation of the evidence presented, and they concluded that the evidence overwhelming supports an old universe.3 I highly recommend reading the statement, as it closely represents how I view the evidence for an old universe. To read the complete statement click here.
General Revelation and the Age of the Earth
I also believe general revelation points to an old earth (est. 4.5 billion years old). Like in the case of the age of the universe, what we see on the earth is not just the appearance of age but of prolonged activity and development. There are many forms of evidence for an old earth found in diverse scientific disciplines (geology, biology, paleontology, chemistry, geomorphology, etc.), but for me there were two areas of general revelation that caused me, in the beginning of my transition to old earth creationism, to question my young earth view.
First, there is evidence of large scale, prolonged volcanic activity that devastated the earth in the past. Second, there is evidence of many impact craters, the largest ones being so destructively powerful that they are considered extinction level events. At one point in my life, I believed almost all of the volcanic activity and impacts that caused the craters occurred during the flood.4 As I learned more about the nature of the volcanic activity and impact craters, I began to doubt the timeline proposed by young earth creationists.
After studying and reviewing these examples and many other points of evidence provided in general revelation, I began to realize the only way for me to accommodate all the evidence into a young earth model was for me to either press the evidence so that it conforms to a young earth view of Genesis 1-2 or ignore it all together. I came to the conclusion that instead of listening to the voice of general revelation, I was treating general revelation as a hostile witness; questioning it, doubting it, and discarding it whenever it did not agree with my view.
General Revelation and The Authority of Scripture
If general revelation is a true witness of God and His works and I see it as revealing an old universe and an old earth, then I was confronted with a dilemma. I had been taught my whole life that to question the young earth view is to question the authority of Scripture.5 However, after spending much time in the Word and reading the works of many Bible teachers, theologians, and Bible scholars who hold an old earth view, I came to realize that questioning an interpretation of Scripture is not the same as questioning Scripture’s authority.
I want all who read this post to know that I still believe in the authority of Scripture, and I affirm the essentials of the faith. I simply no longer hold the young earth view because I do not believe it adequately accounts for the witness of general revelation. As I moved away from the young earth view, I started reexamining old earth arguments. I had been exposed to the old earth view many times in my theological training, but I simply discarded it without much thought. When I looked again at the old earth view with an open mind, I became convinced of its merit as the best explanation of the age of the earth/universe in light of both general and special revelation.
Accepting general revelation as a true and reliable witness was the starting point in my journey to believing old earth creationism. In my next post, I will describe the role special revelation played in solidifying my belief in an old earth. As I conclude this post, I want to reaffirm my desire to promote unity in the body of Christ. If you disagree with me, please understand that this post is not an attack against you. I count young earth creationists as my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I acknowledge my responsibility to show humility (1 Cor. 8:1-3), to serve (1 Cor. 12), and to love (1 Cor. 13) my brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our disagreements on this issue.