How Old is Planet Earth, Anyway?

[Welcome to Written by…, the blog for New Leaf Publishing Group best-selling authors and staff. Today we’re interviewing Tim Chaffey, associate pastor, founder of www.MidwestApologetics.org and author of Old-Earth Creationism On Trial.]

Written by…: Tim, where did the concept for Old-Earth Creationism on Trial originate?

Tim Chaffey: I started hearing several pastors and other Christian leaders saying things like “this issue of the age of the earth really doesn’t matter. There are good arguments on both sides so we really don’t take a stand on it.” Of course, I disagreed with them, but there were really two things that bothered me.

First, by claiming to not take a stand on the issue, they really were taking a stand. Their stand was that one of the most controversial issues in the Church, and one of the points where the world is attacking the Church the most, just isn’t important enough to talk about or be informed about.

Second, I wanted to know some of the “good arguments” from the old-earth perspective. I had been studying this issue for a long time and had not heard a strong biblical argument from an old-earth creationist.

I decided to begin studying what numerous leading theologians had written and was amazed at how weak many of their arguments were in this area. So I began writing a research paper with the goal of critiquing every “biblical” argument used by old-earth creationists. It ended up being around 45 pages. I posted it on a website that debates theology to gauge the reaction and was shocked at the number of angry and condescending attacks that came my way from people that claimed to be Christians. This period of debate led me to a few more arguments and helped me refine my own critiques.

One day while I was driving, I began thinking about a similar paper discussing the extent of the Genesis flood. I knew this issue was just as important as the age of the earth, so I got to work right away on that. At the same time, I began to re-write the first paper in book form so that it would be more readable.

The project was put on hold for a while when I was diagnosed and hospitalized with leukemia. A couple of months after getting out of the hospital, I met Bodie Hodge from Answers in Genesis and told him about the project. He looked it over and put me in touch with Dr. [Jason] Lisle and we decided to move forward with the project. He greatly enhanced my sections, wrote two chapters and wrote or re-wrote a couple of the appendices.

WB: What part of the motivation to write Old-Earth Creationism on Trial came from your own experience as a pastor? What part came from your being a teacher?

TC: It’s difficult to separate the two for me. As a pastor, I have a strong burden to see the Church live in obedience to God. As far as this issue is concerned, that means that we will trust Him in every area of our lives and in every area of His Word, including the first eleven chapters of Genesis. So much of the book was written to demonstrate to believers that, biblically speaking, there is only one viable way to understand those chapters. If we try to add the billions of years, we will create numerous theological problems and, in a sense, are setting ourselves above God by telling Him what He did rather than allowing Him to reveal that to us.

From a teacher’s perspective, I really want students to have answers to the attacks made upon God’s Word. God has given me a strong desire to defend His Word, and this is the area that is attacked the most – especially from within the Church. This book defends God’s Word in a unique way in that it shows the failures and weaknesses of all the arguments made against the traditional view of Genesis. This leaves the reader with one option – God made the world in six, normal-length days, just like He said He did.

WB: You write on the back cover of the book, “conflicting views on the age of the earth also remain a pivotal issue within the Church.” Why should today’s Christians care whether God created the earth in six days or billions of years as long as they acknowledge it was, in fact, God who created the earth and not a “big bang?”

TC: There are several reasons I could give in response to this question, but I will focus on just two of them. First, we need to understand that God is capable of revealing His Word to us in a way that we can understand it.

When God reveals that He made everything in six days, then we should trust what He has told us, rather than trying to twist the clear meaning of the words in Genesis 1. If God is not capable of clearly presenting His Word to us, then any belief or interpretations that we hold are suspect. The text of Genesis unambiguously reveals that God made everything in six days.

The only reason a person would ever doubt that this is what it says is if they have already accepted a view contrary to that. So this really comes down to whether or not we can trust what God has revealed, which, of course, goes right to the heart of whether or not God is the God of truth.

Second, the goal of the whole creation vs. evolution debate is not to get people to believe in “a” creator, but in “the” Creator. The picture of God that is painted by the old-earth creationist is a God who believes that death, suffering, and bloodshed are “very good.” He is a God who created the sun before the earth, rather than the other way around as Genesis states. He is a God who gives man dominion over everything He has made in the world, and yet 99% of those things were already extinct before Adam was created.

If you attempt to squeeze the billions of years into Genesis 1, then you necessarily place death, suffering, and diseases before Adam’s sin. Yet the Bible states that those things are a result of Adam’s sin. You cannot have it both ways. Only young-earth creationism paints a biblically accurate picture of God. [Please notice – I did not say all young-earth creationists hold a biblically accurate view of God.]

WB: Is the age of earth really all that important to our salvation? If so, why?

TC: I hear this question often, and I like to answer it with a “yes” and “no.” I’ll start with the “no.” Can a person who believes in billions of years be a Christian? Yes. A person who believes in billions of years can also trust that Jesus atoned for mankind’s sins on the cross and rose again the third day. They can place their faith and trust in Him alone for salvation. Because of this, so many Christians will claim that it doesn’t really matter.

The problem is that this is very short-sighted. I have seen this far too often with teenagers with whom I have worked. They are told by their parents or pastors that the age of the earth really doesn’t matter, but as long as they trust in Jesus, then they’re fine. Who cares if the world is repeatedly attacking the authority and inerrance of Scripture in Genesis? Who cares if God got it wrong in Genesis? Just trust in Jesus. This attitude has wrought so much damage in the Church.

Essentially, we are telling people that they can pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe. We are saying that you can trust God in the crucifixion and resurrection passages, but you can’t really trust Him in the creation passages. For that, we need to look to the “real authority” – science. They don’t realize that true operational science cannot deal with the age of the earth question. They don’t understand the number of unwarranted assumptions and the naturalistic bias of most scientists and how that shapes their conclusions.

What this boils down to is this: Out of one side of the mouth we say, “trust Jesus,” but out of the other side we say, “trust fallible men and women who constantly change their views, who don’t know everything, who weren’t there, and oftentimes, resent the God of Scripture.” Christians who do this sort of thing are undermining the very foundation of the Christian faith.

Jesus taught that Adam and Eve were created “at the beginning” (Mark 10:16, Matthew 19:4-5). This is only possible from a young-earth perspective. If Jesus was wrong about this, then he was a liar. As a result, He would have needed to die for His own sin(s) and could not be our Savior. This is just one of the serious consequences of denying the clear teachings of Genesis 1.

WB: Why is the issue of death before sin a problem for old-earth creationists?

TC: This is perhaps the greatest problem with old-earth creationsim. If the earth is truly billions of years old, then the fossil record is evidence of the death and suffering of millions of creatures long before man ever arrived. Remember, that after God made Adam and Eve, He looked at everything He had made and said it was “very good.” This would mean that God thinks death is very good. We also find evidence of suffering and cancer in the fossil record. God must think those things are “very good,” as well.

There is no way around this for the old-earth creationist. Every harmonistic view (Gap Theory, Day-Age, Progressive Creation, Framework Hypothesis, etc.) places death before sin. Yet the Bible makes it very clear that death and suffering came as a result of Adam’s sin. Only the young-earth position is consistent with the Bible’s teachings on this.

If death, disease, and suffering were around prior to Adam’s sin, then sin had little to no impact on the world. When God told Adam that if he ate the fruit, he would die, Adam could have responded by saying, “Big deal, I’m going to die anyway – everything else does.” This truly undermines the message of the cross, because Jesus came to redeem us from our sin and its effects. Yet, from the old-earth position. its effects were already here before the cause.

Old-earth creationists try to dodge this point by claiming that plants died before Adam’s sin. This dodge doesn’t work because plants are not alive in the same sense that people and animals are. They aren’t considered “nephesh” creatures. Leviticus 17:11 says that the life of the flesh is in the blood. Plants don’t have blood, so they are not alive in the same sense. Also, plants were given for food for both animals and people (Genesis 1:29-30). That’s one of the reasons God made them. This is another strong argument to show that neither people nor animals died before sin.

WB: Where within the Church can Christians learn more about old-earth vs. young-earth creation?

TC: There are several ministries dedicated to dealing with this issue from a biblical perspective. Perhaps the two most-respected are Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research. Of course, Master Books has done a fantastic job of publishing some of the best resources in this field. I would strongly recommend checking out their websites and purchasing and reading some of the resources found there.

My ministry, Midwest Apologetics, also deals with this issue, but does not have the amount of resources as these major groups.

WB: What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? How do their views of the Bible impact Christians’ faith?

TC: Exegesis refers to “reading out of” the text and is what all Christians should strive to perform when studying the Bible. We want to discover what the text actually states. Those who do this are getting their ideas from the text itself and allowing it to speak for itself.

Eisegesis occurs when a person imports their own thoughts and ideas into the text. In other words, they make it say what they want it to say. Admittedly, because we are fallen creatures, it is difficult to avoid doing this at times. Nevertheless, we must make every attempt to “read out of” God’s Word what He put there rather than “read into it” our own ideas.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not we are going to allow God to tell us what He did and what He expects from us, or whether we are going to place our own thoughts and opinions above Scripture. Old-earth creationists are often guilty of committing eisegesis because they attempt to squeeze billions of years in Genesis 1. They try to make it teach what it does not teach. We should always strive to conform our thinking to the Word of God rather than conforming the Word of God to our thinking.

These two concepts have a strong impact on the faith of Christians. Those who strive for exegesis approach the Bible with humility and place their trust in God to reveal truth to them. They accept the plain teaching of Scripture, which should translate to acting upon that information by living godly lives. Those who perform eisegesis do not have a strong enough respect for God’s Word and are essentially placing their own views on the same level – or higher than – the words of Scripture. This will often have severe consequences in the way that they live out their faith.

WB: How do you balance time for writing with your many other responsibilities?

TC: This is diffucult at times because there are so many things that I could be doing and want to be doing. I have had to make sure that I keep my priorities straight. This means that my relationship with God and with my family take precedence over my ministry work, writing, schoolwork, and hobbies. I have had to cut out certain activities that I would like to do, such as playing basketball, to accomplish things that I believe have more eternal value.

Thankfully, I can function pretty well on limited sleep. I like to stay up late and get up early. It is during these times that I am able to get a lot of writing done because the house is quiet. Nevertheless, my writing has to take a back seat when it comes to my Christian walk, ministry duties, and family time.

WB: How would you state the key concept of Old-Earth Creationism on Trial in 25 words or less?

TC: The Bible unambiguously teaches a young earth and any position that denies this creates serious theological problems and undermines the authority of Scripture.

WB: If you could ask Jesus one single question about His creation of the world, what would it be?

TC: This is probably the toughest question on this questionnaire. I guess my first question would be, “Could I have a DVD set that shows all 144 hours of those six days of creation?” (I would even go out and buy a Blu-Ray player and HD television for that.)

I don’t think that is what you were looking for, so I’ll try another. My answer is indirectly related to creation. I would want to know how the first impure thought arose in Satan’s mind. I know that pride played a part in his fall, but I would like to know how he could even start to have a sinful or prideful thought when all that existed, including Satan himself, was perfect.

WB: You noted in your online biography you’re working on other writing projects. Would you care to tell us a little about those?

TC: Sure. I have written a yet-to-be-published book, which is tentatively titled God and Cancer, which focuses on providing hope and answers for those who are suffering or know someone who is or has suffered from cancer and other diseases. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia and was in a fight for my life. Through the amazing skill of my doctors and nurses, and by God’s grace, I am alive to help others who struggle with these types of issues. The second half of the book provides a strong defense for the existence of the biblical God. Rather than arguing against His existence, cancer and other forms of suffering actually support the biblical account of God’s creation in Genesis 1.

I have also started working an a youth fiction trilogy with a friend. There are so many great resources for young-earth creationists for little kids and for adults, but not much for junior and senior high school students. Having worked with these age groups for many years, I have a burden to help them understand and trust God’s Word from the very beginning. This trilogy is basically a good portion of The New Answers Books tucked into an adventure-packed, humorous, fun, and engaging story. We have hired a professional Manga artist to illustrate the novels in that popular form of Japanese artwork (see www.midwestapologetics.org/truthpics.htm for examples of these illustrations). The rough drafts of the first two books are done. I’m hoping to wrap up the third one around Thanksgiving.

I have also considered re-writing a lengthy critique of the Framework Hypothesis into book form. The original paper is available on my website. This work would provide a great deal of insight into why so many Christian readers claim that Genesis 1 just does not really matter – as long as one believes God created and that man is made in His image.

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