I continue to be surprised at the number of conservative, evangelical theologians who view the earth as having existed for billions of years. Why do they believe what contradicts a clear reading of the opening chapters of Genesis? Many years ago I read A. W. Tozer’s comment that the great danger for evangelical academicians was the desire to achieve credibility in the eyes of the secular academic world. My suspicion is that desire accounts for some measure of the acceptance of evolutionary ages.
There is also something else going on, doubtlessly, and I speak from personal experience. There was a time when I was open to the earth’s being billions of years old, with the caveat being that Adam and Eve were specially created as the parents of humans, perhaps ten to fifteen thousand years ago. The more I studied the exegetical evidence from the Scriptures, however, the more untenable I found the belief that the earth is billions of years old. Likewise, the more I examined the evidence provided by supporters of an old earth view of origins and supporters of a young earth view of origins, the more certain I became that science supported the young earth view.
So what is this other reason that many conservative theologians, those who claim the Bible is the inerrant word of God, accept an old earth creationist view? I suspect that they do so because people they trust endorse such a view. That is where I was. Theologians whom I trusted often held to an old earth creationist view. Such theologians may have picked up an argument or two to give support for holding such a view, but now I really wonder how deeply they have examined the evidence. They are involved with other matters, other theological pursuits that they deem more important than the age of the earth. Origins is not their focus, so they leave the thinking to those whom they trust.
A recent article on the website of Creation Ministries International by Dr. Russell Humphreys put this issue into focus for me. In “Why Most Scientists Believe the Earth Is Old,” Dr. Humphreys makes the case that few scientists really study the origin of the earth and the universe. Their interests lie elsewhere, so they simply really upon the beliefs of those scientists whom they trust who lay claim to expertise in the area of origins.
Dr. Humphreys writes, “The majority of scientists—the evolutionists—rely on a minority of the relevant data. Yet a minority of scientists—the creationists—use the majority of the relevant data. Adding to the irony is the public’s wrong impression that it is the other way around. Therefore, many ask: ‘If the evidence is so strongly for a young earth, why do most scientists believe otherwise?’ The answer is simple: Most scientists believe the earth is old because they believe most other scientists believe the earth is old!”
Scientists are often portrayed as disinterested seekers of truth. If the evidence were to reveal that the earth is young, as in a few thousand years, then that is what they would teach. On the other hand, if the evidence were to reveal that the earth is old, as in billions of years, then that is what they would teach. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The implications for a young earth are too great for scientists who refuse to acknowledge God as creator. Necessarily, billions of years are required, in their mind, to get from their claim of a big bang to where we are today. One holds to evolution because of one’s belief system, not because of the evidence.
Theologians who realize that God is creator and the Word of God is inerrant need to recognize that a belief in evolutionary ages, even while maintaining that God interacted with evolution to specially create Adam and Eve, is essentially denying the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Accommodating evolution in order to gain the respect of a secular culture or because other trusted theologians possess such a belief compromises the Scriptures and denies God the glory that is his alone.