IS A 4.6-BILLION YEAR-OLD EARTH COMPATIBLE WITH BIBLICAL INERRANCY? A Response to Norman Geisler

IS A 4.6-BILLION YEAR-OLD EARTH COMPATIBLE WITH BIBLICAL INERRANCY? A Response to Norman Geisler

© 2015, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.


NOTE: This article is a companion to our article “THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER AND THE EVANGELICAL BETRAYAL OF THE BIBLE: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible,” in which we look at, inter alia, Dr. Norman Geisler’s argument that seeing the resurrection of the OT saints in Matthew 27:52-53 as non-historical is incompatible with Biblical inerrancy.


Introduction

According to the Bible, the earth and all life originally on it were created by God in a span of six 24-hour days about six thousand years ago.[1]  According to the theory of evolution, the earth was formed by random natural processes some 4.6 billion years ago, after which life developed through other random natural processes which gave rise to an original ancestor from which all subsequent life forms developed.  Clearly, these two views are incompatible.

That, however, has not stopped many professing evangelicals, who have been induced to believe that the theory of evolution is a scientific fact, from trying to yoke Biblical creation to this theory, creating various forms of “theistic evolution.”  Others, realizing that the theory of evolution and the testimony of the Bible are mutually exclusive, reject Darwinism but still try to reconcile the Biblical testimony with “old earth belief,” i.e., that the earth is 4.6 billion years old.  They insist such old earth belief is compatible with what the Bible says, and therefore one can hold to it and still hold to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

Is this true?  We shall examine this question carefully, using the arguments for old earth belief advanced by the well known Christian author and apologist Dr. Norman Geisler.  Geisler is certainly a committed defender of Biblical inerrancy.[2]  He rejects the theory of evolution, but he does believe in an “old earth,[3] which is a necessary but not sufficient requisite for Darwinism, and in the Big Bang Theory.[4]

Not surprisingly, Geisler has been criticized by young-earth creationists for his stances in these matters, and he has posted a defence of his views on his website.[5]  In the following analysis, Geisler’s views and statements are drawn from this posted defence, and quotations are from this defence unless otherwise noted.  The crux of the matter for our discussion is whether the belief that the Earth is billions of years old is compatible with Biblical inerrancy.

A Response to Norman Geisler’s “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?”

Geisler begins by asserting that

In order to establish the Young Earth view one must demonstrated that there are (1) no time gaps in the biblical record and that (2) the ‘days’ of Genesis are six successive 24 hour days of creation.[6]

Geisler is completely wrong here.  The plain meaning of any statement is its default meaning, and those who want to follow that plain meaning do not have to “demonstrate” that there is no loophole that allows for another possible interpretation.

On the contrary, those who want to argue for an interpretation other than the plain meaning have the burden of proof, so it is Geisler who must demonstrate that (a) there are time gaps in the Biblical record, and (b) that the ‘days’ of Genesis are not six successive 24-hour periods, and this he must do simply to prove that his alternate view is even viable, and therefore consistent with a belief in Biblical inerrancy.[7]

Geisler then asserts that

There could have been a gap of long periods of time before Genesis 1:1 … [or] Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 … [or] between the six literal 24-hour days.

He maintains that he is not championing any of these views, but simply demonstrating that old earth belief is compatible “in principle with belief in inerrancy and a literal interpretation of Genesis.”  However, simply asserting that such gaps are possible and therefore belief in an Old Earth is not incompatible with inerrancy is meaningless.  Inerrancy is not an abstract concept; it applies to the actual words of Scripture.  The question is whether any of Geisler’s proposed gaps are compatible with what Scripture actually says i.e., does the actual wording of Scripture allow for such gaps. If not, then belief in an old earth is not compatible with inerrancy.  So his attempt to pronounce old earth belief compatible with inerrancy “in principle” is premature at best.[8]

Next, Geisler appeals to gaps in various genealogies recorded in the Bible. He points out that according to Matthew 1:8, “Joram begot Uzziah,” but the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 3:11-14) records three additional generations between these two men.  Furthermore, the Cainan listed in Luke 3:35-36 is not found in the genealogy in Genesis 11:20-24.  On this basis, Geisler insists that

with demonstrable gaps in the genealogies, the ‘Closed-Chronology’ view needed to support the strict Young Earth view is not there.  This would mean that a Young Earth view of creation around 4000 B.C. would not be feasible.  And once more gaps are admitted, then when does it cease to be a Young Earth views?”[9]

Geisler is completely missing the point.  There are indeed gaps in some genealogies, but the age of the earth is not simply based on genealogies per se but on chronogenealogies i.e. genealogies that include time specifications.  dThis is what we find in Genesis 5 and 11.  For example:

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died. Enosh lived ninety years, and begot Cainan. After he begot Cainan, Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died. Cainan lived seventy years, and begot Mahalalel. (Genesis 5:6-12)

As we see, these chronogenealogies give us actual numbers of years between the births of each person listed in the genealogy, and so we can calculate absolute lengths of time.  Gaps are irrelevant in such chronogenealogies.  This can be seen in the very example Geisler adduces. Luke 3:35-36, listing the genealogy in reverse order, reads “the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech …” (Luke 3:35-36).  The corresponding section in Genesis 11:10-15 (not 11:20-24) reads:

This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters.[10]

In this passage, Cainan is omitted and Arphaxad is said to have “begotten” Salah.  We can tell, however, from Luke 3:35-36 that Salah was actually Arphaxad’s grandson, not his son;[11] Arphaxad’s son, who was Salah’s father, was Cainan.  Nevertheless, since Arphaxad’s age at the birth of Salah is stated, the absence of Cainan in no way prevents us from constructing a precise timeline.[12]

Now, belief in inerrancy does indeed require that we accept these numbers; as Hardy and Carter rightly say,

There are some specific dates given in the Bible that are not up for debate.  When a biblical author says a person was X years old when something happened, if we do not take that as a historical statement we quickly get to the point where words have no meaning.[13]

No doubt an inerrantist like Geisler will not argue this point. And there are enough such numbers in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 that we can calculate the number of years from the creation of Adam to Abraham.

From Abraham onward, there are a number of temporal specifications that then allow us to calculate the time from Abraham to the Israelite monarchy (Genesis 21:5, 25:26, 47:28, 15:13; Exodus 12:40; 1 Kings 6:1), and from then on there is specific temporal data about the age of the kings when they accede to the throne and when they die;

The books of Kings and Chronicles contain an unbroken chain of timespans from the Exodus to the Babylonian Captivity.[14]

By the time the monarchy ends with the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, we have reached the time at which there are links with known world history that allow for precise dating.

In sum, while there is some room for uncertainty,[15] the time from the creation of Adam until 2014 is a maximum possible 7,679 years.[16]  Since this number is based on explicit statements in the Bible, inerrancy requires that we accept it.

Geisler’s appeal, then, to putative gaps in the genealogies in the Bible is a non-starter.  If he wishes to argue that the Earth is billions of years old, he must insert all this extra time between the creation of the world and the creation of Adam.  And this cannot be done.

First, according to the Bible, God created the world in six days, as outlined in Genesis 1 and stated in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17.  The Hebrew word translated “word” is יֹום (“yōm”; plural = “yammim” יָמִים).  The basic meaning of this word is a 24-hour day, and it is also used to represent the period of light within a 24-hour day.  It is sometimes used in the plural to refer to an indefinite period of time (e.g., “the latter days” in Hosea 3:5), but in these cases the word itself retains the base meaning of 24-hour days in the passages.  It is occasionally used in the singular to refer to an indefinite period of time (e.g., “the day of the Lord”, which occurs in Malachi 4:5 and in 26 other places in the OT), but it is not possible to know in these cases that a 24-hour day is not what is meant, and in any case every such indefinite “day” in context refers to a short period of time; there is not even one example when an extremely long period of time is clearly indicated.

Now, even if יֹום could mean something other than a 24-hour day (or the daylight portion thereof), the issue is what does it mean in relation to the days of creation in Genesis 1, and the fact is that there are four clear indicators in the Bible that these days are 24-hour days:

  • יֹום is ordinally numbered (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).  There are 359 other occurrences in the OT in which days are thus numbered, and they are always 24-hour days.

  • יֹום is demarcated by “evening and morning” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).  There are 38 other occurrences in the OT in which יֹום is demarcated by “evening and morning,” and in every such case they are always 24-hour days.  Furthermore, eras of millions or billions of years are not demarcated by “evening and morning.”

  • יֹום is described as a period of light and a period of darkness (Genesis 1:5), which is the case with a 24-hour day but not with an era of a billion years or so.

  • Exodus 20:11a specifies that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (See also Exodus 31:17).  Here the plural word for “day”, יָמִים, is used.  The plural form occurs elsewhere in the OT 845 times, and in every case the reference is to 24-hour days.[17]

Clearly, then, proper exegesis requires that the days in Genesis 1 be seen as 24-hour days.  Geisler, however, claims that there is “evidence that the ‘days’ of Genesis are not 6 successive 24 hour days, called the Day-Age View (see Ross, Hugh. Creation and Time and Stoner, Don. A New Look at an Old Earth).[18]  He adduces eight points, each of which we will now consider:

First, Geisler argues that even in the creation account, יֹום can refer to something other than a 24-hour, viz. the 12-hour period of light mentioned in Genesis 1:5.  This is irrelevant, however. A day means a 24-hour day and can also be used for the daylight hours – because God defined it that way:

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

Unless Geisler can find another verse that reads, “God called the billion-year era Day,” his case is not helped.  The fact that God defines “day” in two ways does not mean that Geisler can add any other definition he wants.

Second, Geisler argues for a third meaning of יֹום, asserting that it is equated to “all six days of creation” in Genesis 2:4.  Actually, though, it is not at all clear that “day” in this passage “is used of all six days of creation.”  It refers to the creation “of the heavens and the earth,” which is Genesis 1 is said to have been done on the first day, which is one day, not six.

According to Brown-Driver-Briggs (B-D-B), the industry standard Hebrew lexicon, the Hebrew word translated as “generations” in Genesis 2:4 is תֹולְדֹות (toledōt), which means “generations, esp. in genealogies = account of a man and his descendants.”[19]  It occurs thirty-nine times in the OT, and in thirty-eight of those occurrences it refers to a man’s descendants.  Only in Genesis 2:4 is it in reference to something else, and according to B-D-B, here it means metaphorically the “account of heaven and earth and that which proceeded from them.”[20]  This dovetails nicely with what we have already seen, viz. that “day” in this passage (“in the day that the LORD God made them”) refers only to the first day, when the heavens and the earth were created, and then the תֹולְדֹות in the rest of Genesis 1 tell the account of “that which proceeded from them” in the subsequent days of creation. So Geisler’s attempt to create a new meaning for יֹום from Genesis 2:4 is a failure.[21]

Third, Geisler appeals to the fact that God “rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2b) and says that “according to Hebrews 4:4-11, God is still restingthe seventh day of creation rest is still going on some 6000 plus years later (even by a Young Earth chronology).  This is a remarkably ill-conceived argument.[22]  First, Hebrews 4:4-11 does not say that God is “still resting”!  Second, even if it, the fact that God “rested” on the seventh day tells us what He did on the seventh day; it does not mean that as long as He is still resting, it is still the seventh day!  (“When he was ten years old, he lived in New York City.”  If he is still living in New York City, does that mean he is still ten years old?)

Furthermore, does Geisler not understand what Genesis 2:2 means by “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done”?  It means He ceased His work of creation (it’s right there in Hebrews 4:10).  So if He ceased on the seventh day, then that necessarily continues onward into all other days of history, until and unless He specifically takes it upon Himself to resume His work of creation.  So to suggest that “the seventh day of creation rest is still going on some 6000 plus years later” is not even remotely correct.

Fourth, Geisler rightly recognizes that the ways in which יֹום is described in Genesis 1 are the most powerful arguments for taking them as 24-hour days, but he suggests that there are viable alternative ways in which these descriptors can be understood.  First, he asserts that

numbered series with the word day (as in Genesis 1) do not always refer to 24 hour days, as Hosea 6:1-2 shows.

Nonsense; ordinal number of days occurs 359 other times in the OT, and in every case it is in reference to a 24-hour day.  Geisler’s one adduced countervailing example is nothing of the sort.  Hosea 6:1-2 reads,

Come, and let us return to the Lord;

For He has torn, but He will heal us;

He has stricken, but He will bind us up.

After two days He will revive us;

On the third day He will raise us up,

That we may live in His sight.

It should be abundantly clear that there is nothing in the context of this passage that requires “day” here to be taken as anything other than a 24-hour day!  That is, how does Geisler know that God will not revive the people in two 24-hour days and raise them up on the third 24-hour day? The idea, then, that this one passage could overturn the import of the other 359 is risible.

Geisler then appeals to the “prophetic days” of Daniel 8:14 to argue that even “evening and morning” may refer to a time period longer than 24 hours.  This time Geisler is wrong in three separate ways.  Consider Daniel 8:13b-14:

“How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”

First, we note that this is a vision (see 8:1, 2, 13), and so elements are indeed symbolic, but that is not the case with Genesis, which is an historical narrative.

Second, we again have to ask whether there is anything in the context that would suggest that something other than 24-hour days is in view, and here too the answer is no.  The prophecy foretells that the sanctuary and host will be “trampled underfoot” for 2,300 days, or a bit less than six years and four months; is there any reason to think that this period of time during which the sanctuary and the host will be “trampled underfoot” cannot be an actual six years and nearly four months?  If not, then there is no basis for Geisler’s claim that “evening and morning” can refer to a period longer than 24 hours.

Third, and this is blatantly obvious, Daniel 8:14 cannot be used to determine the meaning of יֹום since that word does not even appear in this verse.  The term in Daniel 8:14 that is translated “days” in most English Bibles is עֶרֶב בֹּקֶר, which literally means “evening morning.”

Geisler then suggests that

the comparison with the work week in Exodus 20:11 need not be a minute-for-minute but a unit-for-unit comparison.

Once again, he is off the mark. Days could be used in a unit-for-unit comparison, as in Ezekiel 4:4-6,[23] but that is irrelevant for our discussion, because what Exodus 20:11a (and 31:17) have is the categorical statement of the historical fact that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and it is that historical fact that is subsequently used as a basis for comparison with the work week.

And, again, in this passage “day” is in the plural, יָמִים, and, as we have shown, this plural is found 845 times elsewhere in the OT, and it always refers to a 24-hour day.  Geisler doesn’t even try to offer a countervailing example that could show that it is even possible to see יָמִים as referring to something other than a 24-hour day.  Without that, his case collapses.[24]

Fifth, Geisler attempts to deal with the problem that an old earth (i.e., billions of years before Adam and Eve)[25] would necessarily mean that there was death in creation before Adam’s sin,[26] which seems to contradict Romans 5:12.  He contends that Adam’s sin resulted only in human death; the Bible, he says, “only asserts that ‘death passed upon all men’ because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12, emphasis added), not on all plants[27] and animals, though the whole creation was subject to ‘bondage to corruption’ (Rom. 8:21).

Now, Geisler is correct that Romans 5:12 specifies that “death passed upon all men” but there is more in the passage than just that point, and Geisler seems to have overlooked it.  Here is Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ δι᾽ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν ἐφ᾽ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον

As can be seen, Romans 5:12 doesn’t only tell us that death spread to all men, but that death (θάνατος, the noun form; the verb form ἀποθνῄσκω is found in 5:15b “For if by the one man’s offense many died …”) entered the world through Adam’s sin – which necessarily means that there could not have been θάνατος of any sort in the world before Adam’s sin, because it is θάνατος that entered the world as a result of sin and subsequently spread to all men.  If, then, θάνατος/ἀποθνῄσκω is ever applied to animals, then Romans 5:12 does indeed teach that there could not have been animal (i.e. נפשׁ חיה) death before Adam’s sin.  And the Bible does indeed talk about animal death as ἀποθνῄσκω (Revelation 8:9, 16:3).[28]

There is further corroborating evidence in the fact that animals were created as herbivores (Genesis 1:30),[29] which means there was no carnivory prior to Adam’s fall.  Yet the fossil record shows the remains of animals eating each other and being eaten – which means that this record must have been laid down after Adam’s fall,[30] not before, and cannot be used as evidence of long ages prior to Adam’s time.

Sixth, Geisler avers

there are alternatives to a Young Earth View, most of which are not incompatible in principle with a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.

He begins by adducing Hermon Ridderbos’ model in which Genesis 1 is simply a “Literary Framework” for describing God’s creation, rather than being literal, and Bernard Ramm’s Revelatory Days model, which posits that the six days refers not to the period of creation but to the period during which God revealed the details of creation to the writer of Genesis.

It should be obvious, though, that for this argument to be valid, Geisler would have to show that Ridderbos’ and Ramm’s model are, in fact, compatible in principle with inerrancy.  They are not.  Regarding the first, it is essentially the same as Licona’s view of Matthew 27:52-53, viz., that the Bible is asserting something happened that didn’t happen as a literary device.  It is not immediately clear why Geisler rightly rejects such an approach from Licona but accepts it as “not incompatible in principle with a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture” in the case of the days of Genesis 1.

Regarding the latter, the Bible can and does specify when God is giving revelations to one of his Bible writers (e.g. Revelation 1:1-2),[31] and that is not what is seen in Genesis 1.  What is given here is a straightforward narrative, and historical-grammatical exegesis requires that it be taken as such.[32]

Geisler, therefore, has failed to show that “there are alternatives to a Young Earth View, most of which are not incompatiable in principle with a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.[33]  What he has shown instead is that scholars like Ridderbos and Ramm who have been misled into believing that there is incontrovertible scientific evidence that the earth is billions of years old can be quite imaginative in their attempts to reimagine Genesis to make it fit this mistaken belief.  Their imaginative efforts, however, are not compatible with inerrancy, inasmuch as they deny what Scripture clearly affirms.

Finally, Geisler offers the “Apparent Age View” which contends that the earth is actually young, but it appears to be old.  Strangely, Geisler seems to have overlooked the fact that this is not an “alternative” to a young earth view; it is a young-earth view, as it is accepts that the earth is actually young and does not try to meld Genesis with billions of years.  This is in fact the correct view,[34] except that the universe per se does not look old; it is only if uniformitarian assumptions and presuppositions are accepted that it appears to be old.

Geisler sums up this section by asserting that

If there is evidence for Gaps in Genesis and longer period of time involved in the six day of Genesis, then the Young Earth view fails to convincingly support its two pillars.  At a minimum it leaves room for reasonable doubt.

On the contrary, we have seen that there is no evidence for “longer period of time in the six days of Genesis”; the only legitimate way (that is, the only way consistent with the grammatical-historical method of exegesis) to understand what is written in Genesis 1 is creation in six 24-hour days.  The issue of possible gaps in the genealogies is an irrelevancy inasmuch as the time data in the chronogenealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, along with the other time indicators we discussed, show that the earth is a maximum of 7,680 years old.  There is no room for any “reasonable doubt” about either of these.

Next, Geisler turns his attention to motivation, asking “why is it that many still cling to the Young Earth view with such tenacity.  He suggests that for some it is the assumption that an omnipotent God would not take billions of years to make the earth, and for others it is the fear that admitting that the earth is billions of years old may open the door for the theory of evolution, a fear that Geisler considers “unnecessary.

Geisler’s suppositions about motivation in this matter, however, are both needless and incorrect, since the actual motivation is not a mystery.  Young Earth creationists hold to their view “with such tenacity” because it is what the Bible teaches and, as we have seen, it is the only view that is consistent with what the Bible teaches on this topic and, therefore, the only view that accords with inerrancy.

On the other hand, old earth belief is cognitively dissonant with belief in inerrancy, so it is of greater moment to ask why old earth believers cling to the Old Earth view with such tenacity.  It is difficult not to conclude that it is not because of anything they saw in the Bible.  If it were, one would expect that at least one of the millions of Christians throughout the centuries before the late 19th would have noticed it and suggested that the earth was very old, but that never happened.  Now, if old earth belief is not motivated by anything in the Bible, then it can only be motivated by something outside the Bible.  It seems most likely, then, that old earth belief is motivated by the erroneous belief that there is incontrovertible scientific proof that the Earth is billions of years old, and this then overrules the plain meaning of Scripture.  Meanwhile, Geisler’s conclusion to this section, that “there is no air-tight case for a Young Earth from a biblical point of view … inerrancy does not necessitate a belief in a Young Earth,” is not even remotely true.

Geisler now turns his attention to “The Historical Status of the Young Earth Theory,endeavouring to show that

Historically, the Young Earth View has never garnered an important, let alone a crucial role in the history of the Church.  It was known to the early Church Fathers (see St. Augustine, City of God 11.6), but it was never made an essential doctrine, let alone given a special status.

First of all, Young Earth creationism was never given a creedal status in the early Church.  It does not appear in any early creeds or in any other widely accepted creed in the history of Christendom.

This, frankly, is embarrassing.  The early church never focused attention on the young age of the earth because everyone believed it without question.[35]  The claim that the earth may be much older than 6,000 years wasn’t proposed until the late 18th century,[36] so there was no conceivable reason it would have occurred to anyone to accord young-earth belief doctrinal standard before that time.  So naturally it was never included in any creed, every one of which was designed to clarify orthodox beliefs that had been challenged by heretics, not to state beliefs that no one even dreamed of challenging.

By the way, we could also point out that the belief that the resurrection of the OT saints in Matthew 27:52-53 refers to an actual historical event alsodoes not appear in any early creeds or in any other widely accepted creed in the history of Christendom.[37]  That, however, doesn’t stop Geisler from vehemently – and correctly – insisting that Matthew 27:52-53 does indeed describe an event that really happened, because to deny it is to scuttle inerrancy; in the same way, old earth belief also scuttles inerrancy.

Geisler then points out that the early 20th-century fundamentalists did not see young earth belief as an important doctrine.  It was not one of the doctrines included or defended in their important book series The Fundamentals, he says:

In fact, not a single article in this landmark set defends the Young Earth Creationism view.  Indeed, all the articles on science and Scripture were written by scholars favorable to an Old Earth view.

He is also quick to tell us that famous fundamentalists such as B.B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, and J. Gresham Machen neither “accepted” nor “embraced” young earth belief.

Now, Geisler is certainly correct about this; the day/age theory and the gap theory

almost universally characterized the creationist testimony of the period.  While anti-evolutionism was strong among the fundamentalists, almost none of their leaders questioned Lyellian uniformitarianism and the geological-age system … creation was not even listed as one of the five ‘fundamentals’ of the faith.  Several of the Fundamental booklets were actually written by men who were theistic evolutionists.[38]

Of course, Geisler is overlooking the elephant in the room here; the fundamentalists lost the battle.  They came out losers in the so-called “fundamentalist/modernist” controversy.  One can well surmise that this was inevitable; you cannot defend inerrancy partially.  If old earth belief, which is clearly incompatible with inerrancy, as we have seen, is not opposed, then the battle for inerrancy will be lost every time, as it was then.

Next, Geisler appeals to the fact that

the founders and framers of the contemporary inerrancy movement (ICBI) of the 1970 and 80s explicitly rejected the Young Earth view as being essential to belief in inerrancy.  They discussed it and voted against making it a part of what they believed inerrancy entailed.

Yes, indeed they did, and the battle for inerrancy continues to be lost as Geisler notes to his dismay and documents so well; it is unfortunate that he cannot connect the dots here.  “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9); as long as old earth belief is accepted, inerrancy will continue to be discarded by more and more people.

Geisler then challenges,

If the Young Earth view is true, then so be it.  Let the biblical and scientific evidence be mustered to demonstrate it.

This is an unexpected statement coming from one who believes in sola scriptura.  On any matter upon which the Bible touches, it is God’s word that is the sole arbiter, not science (or, more properly, the pronouncements of scientists), and especially not “science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20 KJV).  Nevertheless, the biblical and scientific evidence has been mustered to demonstrate it; all Geisler has to do is study the thousands of articles produced by the Creation Research Society, Answers in Genesis, and Creation Ministries International.

Next, Geisler warns against making young earth belief a “tacit test for orthodoxy, because, he says, this will “undermine the faith of many who so closely tie it to orthodoxy that they will have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, should they ever become convinced the earth is Old.[39]  This argument is problematic, to say the least.  Defence of young earth belief is a subset of the defence of the doctrine of inerrancy,[40] just as is Geisler’s defence of the historicity of the resurrection of the OT saints in Matthew 27:52-53.

By the reasoning Geisler is using here, we should not defend the doctrine of inerrancy at all, lest we “undermine the faith” of those who tie inerrancy to orthodoxy and then fall away if they ever become convinced that there are errors in the Bible. Yet we have no Biblical warrant for not teaching what the Bible says because we fear its effect on people.  There are plenty of putative errors in the Bible (and actual ones, if one uses a Bible based on the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort text, as Geisler does) yet Geisler does not shy away from teaching inerrancy, apparently not worried that some may “have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, should they ever become convinced” that there are errors in the Bible.[41]  Furthermore, it seems that people are not losing their faith because of Christians who defend young earth belief, but because of those who compromise with old-earth belief.[42]

Geisler goes on to suggest that “even if the Young Earth view were true,[43] it would not be important enough to include in a creed, pointing to “The Apostles’ Creed which declares of creation only that ‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth’ (emphasis added) and nothing about how long ago it happened.

It is difficult to take this seriously.  If a creed includes only salvific beliefs, it will be quite short, and it will not include inerrancy.[44]  If it is meant to include salvific beliefs and other important beliefs, who decides what is important enough?  The Apostle’s Creed includes the name, Pontius Pilate, of the Roman governor who condemned Jesus; is his name important enough to be included in a creed?  Is it more important than the age of the earth?

Too, it is difficult to understand why Geisler would use the Apostle’s Creed as the standard of orthodoxy, which it was never intended to be.  Inter alia, the Apostle’s Creed does not include the Trinity; it mentions the Holy Spirit but not who or what the Holy Spirit is, so that one who believes the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force could affirm this creed; and it says nothing about salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so that it is not inconsistent with the Roman Catholic heresy of salvation by works.  This creed, therefore, omits actual salvific beliefs, so its omission of the age of earth means nothing.[45]

Furthermore, it is the duty of the Christian leader to teach correctly all that God says in the Bible, not only those things that are “essential to the Gospel”; this is the basis of Paul’s self-acquittal,

“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27).

We must therefore faithfully teach the doctrine of the young earth, regardless of whether Geisler considers it important or not.

Geisler finishes his paper with “Some Concluding Comments,which he begins by reaffirming that young earth belief is neither a salvific belief nor a fundamental of the faith nor a test for orthodoxy.  As we have seen, these claims are irrelevant to the debate about whether this belief is true and whether it needs to be taught.

He then asserts that young earth belief “is not a test of Christian fellowship … [nor] an issue over which the body of Christ should divide.”  Now, obviously a perfect understanding of doctrine is not necessary for Christian fellowship.  However, if one persists in teaching an idea that undermines inerrancy even after he has been shown that it is erroneous, it may in fact be appropriate to apply the provisions of Romans 16:17 – especially in light of how many people are falling from the faith because they have come to believe that the Bible is not inerrant.[46]  It is ironic, then, that Geisler should suggest that young earth belief “is not a hill on which we should die,” when in fact the doctrine of inerrancy is already dying, due in part to the fact that so many church leaders have abandoned the “hill” of young earth belief.

Geisler then proffers a standard trope of old earth believers, saying that

the fact of creation is more important than the time of creation.

This is an obvious false dichotomy, inasmuch as the Bible teaches both.  So if one cannot trust what it says on the time of creation, why should one trust what it says on the fact of creation?

Next, Geisler suggests that we should focus on “more important doctrines … like the inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Christ.”  This is simply another false dichotomy.  The deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Christ are salvific beliefs and so of course are more important. But we are required to teach and accept “the whole counsel of God,” not only the “more important doctrines.”  And it is ironic that Geisler should mention “the inerrancy of the Bible” as one of those “more important doctrines on which we should focus,” because the attempt to defend inerrancy while accepting old earth belief is a mug’s game.

Geisler’s closing appeal to Rupertus Meldenius’ famous dictum, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things charity,” combined with his claim that the age of the earth is not an essential, is wrongheaded.  Pace Meldenius, as we have already seen the Bible does not give us the option to aim for unity only in “essentials”; we must teach the truth about “the whole counsel of God.”  And that does include the young age of the earth.

An Analysis of Norman Geisler’s “A Response to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis on Does Inerrancy Require Believe in a Young Earth?”

Norman Geisler posted his article “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?” on the online site Christian Post on February 12, 2014.  Two days later, Answers in Genesis (AIG) president Ken Ham posted a response on the AIG website, entitled “The Ultimate Motivation of This Prominent Theologian?[47]  Ham’s points are outlined briefly below:

  • Geisler appeals to both Biblical evidence and scientific claims in his discussion of the age of the earth in his Systematic Theology

  • Geisler has been influenced by the view of the majority of scientists regarding the age of the earth

  • It is this belief that science has proven that the earth is old that motivates Geisler to read old age belief into the Bible.

  • Geisler “never starts with beliefs from secular scientists and takes them to the Bible to interpret” any other issue, which means that “Dr. Geisler and many other Christian scholars have one hermeneutical principle for Genesis chapters 1–11 (eisigesis [sic]) and a different one for the rest of Scripture (exegesis).”

  • Geisler is incorrect to suggest that young earth creationists are motivated by their beliefs about what God “should” have done, rather than considering what God says He did

  • Young earth belief was not included in the creeds because the church fathers, including Augustine, all believed in the young earth.  This did not change until the 19th century, when “Christians made the geologists their final authority of the subject.”

  • Geisler is wrong to appeal to gaps in NT genealogies while ignoring the time data in the OT chronogenealogies

  • The ordinal numbering of יֹום, combined with the use of “evening and morning,” always indicates a 24-hour day elsewhere in the Bible and so should be taken thus here.  Geisler’s appeal to Daniel 8:14 fails because the mornings and evenings in that passage are 24-hour days.

  • Contra Geisler’s claim, the fact that God rested on the seventh day does not mean that the seventh day is still ongoing

  • Geisler ignores the fact that the fossil record shows evidence of thorns and carnivory, which could not have existed before the fall (Genesis 1:29-31, 3:17-18)[48]

  • Geisler’s approach leads to doubt about other things in the Bible and “can (and does) put many people on a slippery slide of unbelief towards the Word of God,” leading to a loss of Biblical authority

Subsequently, Geisler posted a response to Ham’s critique on his website.[49]  We will now examine Geisler’s response to Ham, to see whether he is able to defend his views in the face of Ham’s arguments.[50]  What we will see is, frankly, unsettling.

Geisler now states outright that he holds to the old earth belief,[51] but he points out that his article was not a defence of this belief; what he was doing was arguing that belief in inerrancy and historical-grammatical exegesis do not require that one necessarily believe in a young earth.  AIG, he says, did not address this and thus “avoided answering the central point of my article.”  Geisler is correct here, inasmuch as Ham never mentioned inerrancy in his article.  (This shortcoming has certainly been remedied in my article.)  At best, by arguing that old earth belief is not what the Bible teaches and that teaching this undermines Biblical authority, he is indirectly implying that old earth belief is not consistent with inerrancy, and he certainly could have said it more plainly.

It is when Geisler turns his attention to “Several of [Ham’s] points [that] call for comment” that things become problematic.  He begins by complaining that Ham suggests that Geisler holds to old earth belief due to “the desire to accommodate the evolutionary view of long time periods” and asks “why should I want to do that when I don’t believe in Evolution and would be happy if the Young Earth view was true.[52]  Yet Ham never accused Geisler of holding to an “evolutionary view” of old earth belief, but only of old earth belief simpliciter, and contended that it is Geisler’s conviction that there is scientific evidence that indicates the earth is billions of years that motivates him to read this view into Genesis.

Now, it is a fact that for 1,800 years no Christian thought of the earth as old, although they read the Bible carefully, which makes it quite clear that there is nothing in the wording of Genesis or any other part of the Bible that would induce an exegete to imagine that the earth is old.  It is also a fact that it was not until geologists began to insist there was scientific evidence that the earth is old that Christians began to change their view about the age of the earth.  It is hard not to conclude that Ham is correct to say that old earth belief was motivated by belief in what science supposedly shows, and not by what the Bible actually says.

It gets worse.  Geisler asserts that

Indeed, one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time (St. Augustine), who lived a millennium and a half before Darwin, did not hold to a young earth.

On the contrary, Augustine did indeed hold to a young earth, as has been thoroughly documented, as Ham pointed out in his article, providing a link to an article that unmistakeably demonstrates this fact copiously from Augustine’s own writings.[53]  If Geisler did not bother to check this article, then he has been careless; a man who avers that “My motivation is to know the truth, and to find the truth I must examine the evidence” needs to examine this evidence provided and then he needs to cease asserting that Augustine “did not hold to a young earth.[54]

Geisler then accuses Ham of committing a logical fallacy, viz. the “slippery slope,” by stating that the old earth view “‘unlocks the door’ that opens doubt about the rest of the Word of God.  They add, such doubt can (and does) put many people ‘on a slippery slide of unbelief toward the Word of God.’”  Then Geisler has the chutzpah to say that

If anything, the opposite is true. For unnecessarily tying inerrancy to a Young Earth view can easily lead some to give up the Christian Faith.

So it’s a “logical fallacy” when Ham talks about possible consequences, but okay when Geisler does the very same thingAnd, as we have seen, it is old earth belief that causes Christians to question their faith and sometimes abandon it, not young earth belief.

Next, Geisler objects to Ham’s charge that old earth believers use a different hermeneutical principle when analyzing Genesis 1-11 from the one they use for the rest of Scripture.  He counters by appealing to the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy,[55] who were committed to Biblical inerrancy and to the historical-grammatical method of exegesis and who affirmed the historicity of Genesis 1-11, yet took no specific stand on the age of the earth.  To suggest, therefore, that old earth belief is not consistent with historical-grammatical exegesis, so that “leaders and defenders of inerrancy for last the hundred plus years … were all inconsistent with their own principles, and only Young Earthers are consistent with their principles” is not only “unlikely” but “lacks both humility and verifiability.

Once again, Geisler is wrong.  Historical-grammatical exegesis is not a popularity contest, such that the majority is necessarily right.  The very ICBI statement to which Geisler appeals, as quoted by Geisler himself, states that

we affirm the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal sense.  The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense.

Given than no Bible reader for 1,800 years ever read Genesis and concluded that it teaches the earth is much older than 7,680 years – let alone billions of years old – it is plain that young earth belief is the “normal sense” of Scripture.  So, yes, those “leaders and defenders of inerrancy” who held to old earth belief were indeed inconsistent with their own principles on this issue, and there can be little doubt that this inconsistency was due to the influence of the claims of science.  This is not “unlikely” but an actual fact.  Nor is it lacking humility to tell the truth about God’s word.

By the way, no one is suggesting that “only Young Earthers are consistent with their principles.”  In fact, many young earth believers may be inconsistent with historical-grammatical exegesis on other issues, such as the role of women in church leadership.  What is true is that only young earth belief is consistent with historical-grammatical exegesis in regard to what the Bible says about the age of the earth.

Geisler next appeals to general revelation,[56] contending that

AIG downplays (and virtually denies) the validity of general revelation as a legitimate source of truth.

On the contrary, he says,

general revelation is so “clearly perceived” that non-Christians are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

He asserts that “general revelation, properly understood, teaches the creation of the world, of every type of animals, and of human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27),” and can even correct misunderstandings of the Bible, such as the idea that the earth has four corners, per Revelation 7:1, and that the sun moves about the earth.  On this basis, he argues that

the issue is not whether general revelation can be a source of truth … The issue is which interpretation of the Bible and of general revelation is correct.

Geisler is wrong on every point here.  In fact, all he shows is that he radically misunderstands the concept of general revelation.  He cites Romans 1:20 but apparently doesn’t understand it.  Romans 1:19-20 reads,

… because what may be known about God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

Creation shows that there is a God and that He has eternal power, and that is all that “may be known about God” by general revelation.  It should be enough to induce people to seek this God (Acts 17:27), though what they do instead is to suppress this knowledge of God that they do have (Romans 1:18).

Why Geisler imagines that general revelation can tell us when God created the world is not clear, but this idea is wildly wrong.  He seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that anything we can detect empirically with our senses constitutes “general revelation.”  No; general revelation is specifically about “what may be known about God,” not about such mundane facts as that water is wet.[57]

The errors continue.  Geisler maintains that what he mistakenly calls general revelation can correct Biblical misinterpretations, such as the earth having four corners and the sun moving around the earth.  Actually, neither of these are errors.  The Hebrew word translated “corner” in the OT, כָּנָף (kanaph), has the basic meaning of wing or extremity, and the earth (or “land”; the word אֶרֶץ (eretz) can mean either) certainly has extremities.  And there are only two mentions of “corners of the earth” in the NT, and both are in Revelation, which is a vision, not an historical narrative (1:9-20, 9:17) and so is filled with images that are not meant to be taken literally![58]  And if Geisler were familiar with Newtonian frames of reference, he would know that an observer can select any locale he wishes as his fixed frame of reference, so that any motion could be described in relation to that.  So if the earth is the chosen frame of reference, then indeed the sun does move around it. It is only if we choose a cosmic frame of reference that the earth moves about the sun.

It is important for Geisler to realize this, because otherwise “general revelation” would not be correcting a Biblical “misinterpretations,” but uncovering Biblical errors!  If the Bible taught that the earth has four corners in the literal English sense of “corner,” that would be an actual error.  In the same way, the Bible says “Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth … Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh … Enosh lived ninety years, and begot Cainan” and so on in Genesis 5 and 11, and these numbers can be added together with explicitly stated chronological numbers elsewhere in Scripture to give us the time period, a maximum of 7,680 years from Adam’s creation until now.  If this number is wrong, then the Bible has errors in, not “misinterpretations,” and inerrancy is disproved.

There is one more huge misapprehension of general revelation under which Geisler seems to be labouring.  He claims that this is not a matter of “a conflict between God’s special revelation in the Bible and His general revelation in nature.”  It is not, he says,

the Word of God versus fallible man’s ideas outside of God’s Word … The real issue is whose interpretation of God’s written revelation and His general revelation is correct.

He reiterates,

the conflict is not between the Infallible Word of God and the fallible words of human beings.  Rather, the argument is between opposed fallible interpretations of God’s infallible revelation.

And this is where Geisler has gone completely off the rails, for he has completely overlooked the significance of the fact that special revelation and general revelation are qualitatively different; special revelation is propositional and general revelation is not.

Now, propositional information comes in the form of direct statements, and even fallible people – yes, even benighted unbelievers – are perfectly capable of understanding it.  One does not have to be a Christian to know exactly what, “Bring me a hamburger, please” means.  The propositional statements of Scripture are clear (Habakkuk 2:2a) and can be understood precisely by Christians (2 Corinthians 1:13).[59]

General revelation, on the other hand, does not come in the form of propositional statements; no rock is inscribed, “Made in 4,560,000,000 BC,” which automatically makes it less reliable than special revelation.  The age of the rock is supposedly determined indirectly by radiometric dating, a process that involves numerous untestable assumptions, some of which are demonstrably wrong.[60]  It is here that “fallible man’s ideas outside of God’s Word” come into play, so that, contra Geisler’s claim, this is indeed a matter of a conflict “between the Infallible Word of God and the fallible words of human beings.”  Geisler believes he is putting his faith in what general revelation shows, when in fact he is putting his faith in untestable assumptions proclaimed by fallible men, without which general revelation tells us nothing about the age of the earth.[61]  Add to this the fact that when the reliability of this theoretical method of radiometric dating is checked by using it to date rocks of known age, and the results are often – or always – wrong by many orders of magnitude,[62]  Geisler’s faith must be seen as blind faith.

The conclusion here is clear; contra Geisler, the argument is most certainly notbetween opposed fallible interpretations of God’s infallible revelation, as if special revelation and general revelation were both “God’s infallible revelation” on a par regarding their comprehensibility.  The clear propositional statements of Scripture always rule over general revelation,[63] and they certainly rule over faulty and untestable assumptions of fallible men.  And the propositional statements of Scripture make it clear that the earth is young, no more than 7,680 years old.

Next, Geisler claims that

To date, Young Earthers and AIG have not demonstrated any logical connection between inerrancy and the age of the earth.

That is exactly what we have herein done, however.

After this, Geisler argues that believing in an old earth is not the same as denying the historicity of the resurrection of the OT saints in Matthew 27:52-53, as Mike Licona did.  He insists that “the two issues are not the same.”  Why?  Because, he says, “these NT scholars are not using God’s general revelation in nature to override the historicity of the biblical text.  Rather, they are employing extra-biblical data from Hebrew or Greco-Roman sources to ‘dehistoricize’ sections of the Gospels.

Yet this is a distinction without a difference.  As we have seen, general revelation says nothing about the age of the earth; it is the claims of scientism[64] – and demonstrably bogus claims, at that – that teach that the earth is old.  Contra Geisler, “employing extra-biblical data from Hebrew or Greco-Roman sources to ‘dehistoricize’ sections of the Gospels” is exactly the same issue as “employing extra-biblical data” from scientistic sources to contradict what the Bible says about the age of the earth.”

Ironically, Geisler here appeals to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics, citing the statement

“We deny that extra-biblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ibid., Article XXI) [sic]”[65]

While that is well and good, the commentary on Article XXI, written by Norman Geisler, states that

What is denied is that we should accept scientific views that contradict Scripture or that they should be given an authority above Scripture.

As we have now seen, the supposed “scientific view” that the earth is 4.6 billion years old definitely, as we have seen, is one of those views that “contradict Scripture” and according to Article XXI should not be accepted.[66]

Next, Geisler rehashes his arguments for the possibility of taking יֹום as some period of time longer than 24 hours in the creation account.  Since we have already debunked his arguments, it is not necessary to do so again.  However, it is troubling to note that Geisler says that

AIG overlooked or misconstrues some arguments against its view.  For example, they ignore that the word day (yom) is used of more than a twenty four hour period of time right in the Genesis creation account when it refers to all six days of creation as “in the day (yom) in which the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

Yet Ham did explicitly answer such claims.[67]  Geisler goes on to say that “AIG also misinterprets Hebrews 4:9-10 which affirms God is still resting in His ‘Sabbath rest’ from creation (Heb. 4:4-9) thousands of years later,” although Ham explicitly debunked this argument, too.[68]  It is difficult to see how Geisler could have been so careless in reading Ham’s response that he accuses him of ignoring arguments that he in fact explicitly answered.

The only argument Geisler raises now that he did not in his original article is that

the word ‘day’ is used in the Bible of longer periods of time, as in ‘the day of the Lord’ (e.g., Joel 2:1; 2 Peter 3:10).

Geisler does not explain how he knows that these days are, in fact, longer than 24-hour days; there is nothing in the context of either verse that necessarily means that the day in view need be longer than a regular day.  However, even if such expressions could refer to longer periods of time, it is irrelevant; we think these days may not be regular days only because of the prepositional genitive phrases to which they are linked: “day of the Lord,” “of wrath,” “of judgment,” etc.  There is no such thing in the creation account.

Further, Geisler accuses AIG of eisegesis for insisting that Romans 5:12 includes animal death and not only human death.  We have already shown why it does, in fact, include the death of נפשׁ חיה animals.

Geisler also objects to AIG’s assertion that when God called His created world “good,” that excludes death.  According to Geisler, “‘good’ (Heb. tob) is not a moral term as used here or in most places in the OT,” which is babble; טוֹב is frequently contrasted with רַע (“evil” e.g. Genesis 2:9, 2:17, 3:2, 3:22) as a “moral term.”  Elsewhere it means “good, pleasant, agreeable,” and there is no reason to think that death is good, pleasant, or agreeable to God (see e.g. Isaiah 11:6-9, esp. v. 9).  It is quite a shock to read Geisler aver that it is not “an evil that higher forms of life can live off lower forms—otherwise we would have to stop eating!”  Did this theologian actually miss the clear fact that before the fall “higher forms of life” did not live off of “lower forms,” but that all animals ate only plants (which are not נפשׁ חיה), as stated unmistakably in Genesis 1:29-30?  Did he also miss the fact that we were given permission to eat animals only at some considerable time after creation (Genesis 9:3), so that it is now not evil to eat meat?

Next, Geisler disappointingly returns to arguing that there are gaps in the genealogies in the Bible.  As we have pointed out, it is the time data in the chronogenealogies and other specific time indicators that give us the date of creation, so that gaps in the genealogies are irrelevant as far as the matter of the age of the earth is concerned.  Admittedly Ken Ham did not make this as clear as he could have in his article, but he did point out that Geisler “appeals to New Testament abbreviated genealogies that contain no chronological information to argue for gaps in the detailed genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 in the Old Testament, which are loaded with chronological information!”  Let us hope that now Geisler will understand the significance of this.

Geisler finishes off by reiterating his claims that young earth belief is not a fundamental of the Christian faith or a requirement for fellowship, that it was not included in any creed, nor was it defended by the “modern founders of Fundamentalism and the inerrancy movements.”  We have already seen why these arguments are utterly pointless.  He insists again that “it is a matter of the conflict of opinion about God’s written Word (the Bible) with opinions about His general revelation,” which we have also shown is nonsense, for the God’s word is written in propositions and understandable, whereas general revelation is not propositional but depends on fallible assumptions.  Finally, he repeats the threat that insisting on young earth belief may cause some to abandon the faith, though in fact it is the very opposite that obtains.

In sum, then, it is clear that the Bible teaches creation in six 24-hour days a maximum of 7,680 years ago, as evidenced by the fact that no Christian ever thought otherwise until the claims of secular geologists in the late 18th century.  Accordingly, it is not credible that old earth believers have not been influenced by the claims of “science falsely so called,” either directly, or indirectly so that they themselves do not even realize it.

Geisler’s arguments that the Bible can accord with old earth belief have been carefully weighed in the balance and found wanting; indeed, the carelessness of some aspects of his arguments is troubling.  Inasmuch, then, that it has been shown that old earth belief is not compatible with the testimony of the Bible itself, this belief does indeed strike at inerrancy; to wit, we must conclude that old earth belief is not compatible with a belief in inerrancy.  To attempt to hold both is inconsistent.

We close by noting that Geisler, in his response to Ham, wrote that

while AIG noted a list of arguments we gave for an Old Earth, it failed to point out that I also believe that “none of these [arguments] is foolproof, and all of them may be wrong” (Systematic Theology, in One Volume, ibid., p. 1534).

Now that it has been shown that all of them are indeed wrong, we look forward to seeing Geisler embrace young earth creationism.


Endnotes

[1] Specifically, at some point between 5,837 and 7,680 years ago. See Hardy, Chris and Robert Carter. “The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth.” Journal of Creation 28:2 (2014), pp. 89-96

[2] See, for example, Geisler, Norman L. and William C. Roach. Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.

[3] Young and old are relative terms. In this discussion, “young earth” indicates that the earth is in the order of thousands of years old, whereas “old earth” indicates that the earth is in the order of billions of years old.

[4] ibid., pp. 230-231; Geisler and Tunnicliffe, op. cit., pp. 50-51; Geisler, Norman L. Creation and the Courts: Eighty Years of Conflict in the Classroom and the Courtroom. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007, p. 257 (cited in Henry, Jonathan F. “Christian apologists should abandon the big bang.” Journal of Creation 23:3 (2009), p. 103).

[5] Geisler, Norman L. “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?” Posted at http://normangeisler.com/does-believing-in-inerrancy-require-one-to-believe-in-young-earth-creationism/

[6] This quote, and all subsequent quotes until otherwise indicated, are from Geisler, “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?”

[7] If a customer says, “I want a cheeseburger,” the waiter does not have to demonstrate that “cheeseburger” cannot refer to some other food, nor does he have to demonstrate that it is not possible that the customer actually means that he wants it next week; he simply brings the customer a cheeseburger.  That is how communication works.  If the fry cook, say, wants to argue with the waiter that in reality the customer wants a ham sandwich and/or he wants it next week, not now, contra the plain meaning of the customer’s words, the burden of proof is on fry cook to demonstrate this, not on the waiter to prove that the fry cook’s alternate suggestions are impossible.

[8] Geisler does not subsequently return to this sort of argument, and it is just as well.  Inasmuch as Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created “the heavens and the earth” “in the beginning,” there is no possibility of a long period of time (or any period of time, for that matter) before Genesis 1:1.  The Hebrew grammar does not allow for such gaps – it teaches six consecutive 24-hour days (See Sarfati, Jonathan. “Theologian: Genesis means what it says!” Creation 32:3 (July 2010), pp. 16-19) – and that fact that Jesus explicitly said that Adam and Eve were created at the “beginning” (Mark 10:6) disallows any large periods of time prior to their creation.

[9] Actually, Cainan is included in the Genesis 11 genealogy in the Septuagint, though he is missing from the Masoretic text.  (For the relative value of these texts, see Tors, John. “On the Merits of the Septuagint: A Response to Floyd Nolen Jones’ The Chronology of the Old Testament” at https://truthinmydays.com/on-the-merits-of-the-septuagint-a-response-to-floyd-nolen-jones-the-chronology-of-the-old-testament/.

[10] The spelling differences are due to the fact that the OT quotes feature English transliterations of Hebrew and the NT quotes feature English transliterations of Greek transliterations of Hebrew.

[11] In Hebrew, one “begets” every descendant in his subsequent line, not just the one in the immediate next generation (see, e.g., Isaiah 39:5-7).

[12] Since Arphaxad is said to have been thirty-five years old when he begot Salah, he must have been very young (16-18 years old) when he begot Cainan, who in turn must have been very young (16-18 years old) when he begot Salah. This is, of course, possible. However, the Septuagint text is probably the correct one here.

[13] Hardy, Chris and Robert Carter. “The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth.” Journal of Creation 28:2 (2014), p. 89

[14] ibid., p. 93

[15] e.g. If a man was X years old when he begot his son, was that X years and one day or X years and 359 days?  That sort of thing can add up.  Should we use the numbers in the Septuagint or those in the Masoretic text?  For a discussion of the uncertainties, see Hardy and Carter, ibid., pp. 89-96.

[16] Hardy and Carter, ibid., p. 95.  The minimum possible is 5,836 years.

[17] Morris, John D. The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth – Past, Present, and Future. Revised and Expanded. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2007, p. 28.

[18] Why Geisler would rely for this on the analysis of two men who have no apparent knowledge of Hebrew is not clear.

[19] Brown, Francis et al. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979, p. 410

[20] ibid.

[21] Even if Geisler rejects this and insists that יֹום in Genesis 2:4 must refer to all six days, that still would yield only a God-defined meaning that refers to a short period of time; Geisler would remain unable to show even one example in which יֹום is used for a very long period of time, which is what he needs to do.  And, yes, Hebrew is able to express the concept of very long time periods.

[22] Even so, this is a standard trope for old-earth believers.

[23] It should be noted, of course, that in Ezekiel 4:4-6 God explicitly states that it is a “unit-for-unit” comparison, one day for one year, and that יֹום in this passage still refers to a 24-hour day.

[24] Here, Geisler appeals again to Hebrews 4:4-11, arguing that Day 7 is longer than 24 hours.  We have already laid that argument to rest.

[25] Appealing to gaps in genealogies, which list descendants after Adam, does not aid the old earth believer in this case, for this argument responds to a problem occasioned by positing long eras before Adam’s time.

[26] The fossil record, which supposedly predates Adam and is one of the key reasons old earth believers believe that the earth is billions of years old, is a record of death, including violence and disease and, contra Genesis 1:29-30, carnivory.

[27] Actually, “death” does not apply to plants, as explained in the following: “We have long pointed out that biblical ‘death’ can only apply to those things that were alive in the first place!  As far as the Bible is concerned, plants are not ‘alive’. In the Old Testament, vertebrate animals are described by the Hebrew phrase nephesh chayyāh (נפשׁ חיה), translated as ‘living creature’, or in the case of man, ‘living soul’ (2:7).  But it’s notable that plants are never described this way. And they don’t die but ‘wither’ (Psalm 37:2).  Instead, plants are God’s self-replicating solar-powered food factories, which also act as solar energy concentrators.” (Sarfati, Jonathan. “R.C. Sproul Jr. blunders on plant death.” Posted at http://creation.com/r-c-sproul-jr-plant-death.)

[28] Revelation 16:3 is particularly interesting: “Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.”  Here “living creature” is “ψυχὴ ζῶσα” which corresponds precisely to the Hebrew נפשׁ חיה.

[29] And they will revert to herbivory during the Millennium (See Isaiah 11:1-10 esp. vv. 6-9).

[30] Most, though not all, was laid down during the worldwide catastrophic flood in Noah’s time.

[31] See also, inter alia, Jeremiah 24:1, Daniel 7:1, and Ezekiel 1:1.

[32] See, for example, Sarfati, Jonathan. “Hebrew professor: Genesis teaches six solar days!” Creation 36:1 (January 2014), pp. 48-51.  My own Hebrew professor at seminary did not believe in YEC, but he was very clear that there is no other legitimate way to understand the Hebrew of Genesis 1 as teaching anything other than six consecutive 24-hour days of creation.

[33] Gerald Schroeder’s view, also proffered by Geisler, inasmuch as it holds that “measured by our time, the creation of the universe is billions of years old,” is also incompatible with what Genesis 1 clearly teaches and is also therefore incompatible with inerrancy.  The Bible was written for our understanding and is meant to be plain (Romans 15:4; Habakkuk 2:2a; 2 Corinthians 1:13), so the issue is what do we understand by יֹום in light of how the Bible uses it.  It does not refer to some secret time of God that we do not know.  More importantly, and definitively, God is atemporal, so there is no such thing as time being different to Him than to us.  (2 Peter 3:8 indicates that God is not bound by time as we are, not that time is different to Him.)

[34] DeYoung, Don B. “Mature creation and seeing distant starlight.” Journal of Creation 24:3 (2010), pp. 54-59

[35] Batten, Don. “Old-earth or young-earth belief: Which belief is the recent aberration?” Creation 24:1 (December 2001), pp. 24-27

[36] Walker, Tas. “The man who made the wedge: James Hutton and the overthrow of biblical authority.” Tech.J 18:2 (2004), pp. 55-57

[37] And for the same reason; no one ever questioned this.

[38] Morris, Henry M. History of Modern Creationism. 2nd Edition. Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1993, pp. 65, 67-68

[39] It is not clear what Geisler means by “orthodoxy.”  If he is referring to salvific beliefs (i.e, necessary to be a saved/to be a Christian), it should be noted that no young earth believer considers this doctrine to be salvific.

[40] This is because inerrancy requires that what the Bible affirms as a fact be an actual fact, and, as we have seen, the numerical data in the Bible affirms that the Earth is a maximum of 7,680 years old.

[41] This, according to his own testimony, is what happened to former evangelical Dr. Bart Ehrman.  See Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Harper San Francisco, 2005, pp. 6-14

[42] Bates, Gary. “Harmonizing science and Scripture?” ‘Sophisticated’, well-meaning, but uninformed Christians can actually harm the cause.” CMI Newsletter (October 2014). Posted at http://creation.com/harmonizing-science-scripture

[43] We note that Geisler’s use of the subjunctive here indicates that he believes that “the Young Earth view” is not, in fact, true.  However, it is possible that he has simply been careless with his grammar.

[44] Unless Geisler can show where the Bible says that one must believe in inerrancy to be saved.

[45] We remind Geisler that when this creed was composed it was not in anyone’s wildest dreams to imagine an earth older than about 6,000 years, and so there was no need to mention “how long ago it happened” in the creed.

[46] Ham, Ken and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard. Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009.

[47] Ham, Ken. “The Ultimate Motivation of This Prominent Theologian?” Posted at https://answersingenesis.org/creationism/old-earth/the-ultimate-motivation-of-this-prominent-theologian/

[48] It is not clear that Ham is correct that thorns didn’t exist before the fall of man.  Genesis 3:17-18 refers to the difficulty Man will now have in growing crops (e.g. contending with weeds), not that thorns are a new invention at this point.

[49] Geisler, Norman L. “A Response to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis on Does Inerrancy Require a Belief in a Young Earth?” Posted at http://normangeisler.com/a-response-to-ken-ham-and-answers-in-genesis-on-does-inerrancy-require-believe-in-a-young-earth/

[50] We will only consider those statements that are germane to the debate.  For example, Geisler complains about Ham attributing certain motives to him regarding why he holds to old earth belief – but Geisler himself did the same thing regarding why young earth believers hold to their view.  We will not waste time on things such as this, which are not relevant to the debate.

[51] “I personally respect the Young Earth view and once held it myself … I hope and pray that the Young Earth view is true (because it would be a good argument against evolution).  Unfortunately, however, I believe the weight of biblical and scientific evidence does not favor it.”

[52] But if an old earth does not help evolution, as Geisler goes on to insist, then this defence is meaningless.

[53] Mortenson, Dr. Terry and A. Peter Galling. “Augustine on the Days of Creation: A look at an alleged old-earth ally.” Posted on January 18, 2012, at https://answersingenesis.org/days-of-creation/augustine-on-the-days-of-creation/

[54] His contention that Augustine was “one of the greatest Christians thinkers of all time” is passing strange, given that Augustine, who has rightly been called “the first Roman Catholic,” believed in such heresies as the necessity of sacraments for salvation and baptismal regeneration.

[55] The ICBI was a group of evangelicals, who produced a statement on Biblical inerrancy in 1978 that was signed by nearly 300 scholars.  They issued a statement on hermeneutics in 1982 and one on Biblical application in 1986, and then disbanded in 1988. (See “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition,” posted at http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago1.html for details.)

[56] That which is perceived in the natural world by our senses, as opposed to special revelation i.e. the propositional statements of Scripture.

[57] Where Geisler got the idea that natural revelation can teach that human beings are made “in the image of God” is exceedingly difficult to understand.

[58] How, for example, did John see “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth”?  Perhaps they were standing on a two-dimensional representation of the earth (i.e. a map), which does have actual corners.

[59] In spiritual matters, of course, there is an inability to understand Jesus’ teachings by those who do not want to understand them because of their implications (Matthew 13:13-15).

[60] These include the assumption that radioactive decay rates have always been constant at their current values, which involves extrapolating fifty or a hundred years’ of empirical data back to billions of years, a scientifically questionable process; the assumption that the sample has been “closed” throughout the entire time period in question (i.e. no “mother” or “daughter” product has been added or removed by means other than radioactive decay) – which is ridiculous; and that the initial amounts of both “mother” and “daughter” product can be known.  There is no way to test these assumptions, so Geisler is not, in fact, putting his faith in what general revelation says, but in untestable assumptions made by fallible men.

[61] For details about the problems with radiometric dating, see Woodmorappe, John. The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods: Why Million/Billion Year Dates are Not Credible. Institute for Creation Research, 1999.  See also many articles on the topic at creation.com.

[62] See, e.g., Walker, Tas. “Radioactive dating methods: Ways they make conflicting results tell the same story.” Creation 32:4 (October 2010), pp. 30-31

[63] General revelation tells us there is a God, but not which God; Muslims also point to the fact of creation as proof for Allah.

[64] Inter alia, scientism insists that the claims of empirical science stand in judgment over all other claims, including those made in the Bible.

[65] This is actually from Article XX.

[66] Geisler’s repeated appeal to the ICBI statements as if they are somehow the final word on all matters of inerrancy is troubling.  We believe in “Sola Scriptura,” not “Scriptura et ICBI.”  The ICBI statements are good, but far from perfect.  For example, the commentary to Article XX includes the following: “Although only the Bible is the normative and infallible rule for doctrine and practice, nevertheless what one learns from sources outside Scripture can occasion a reexamination and reinterpretation of Scripture.  For example, some have taught the world to be square because the Bible refers to “the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:12).  But scientific knowledge of the spherical nature of the globe leads to a correction of this faulty interpretation.”

As we have pointed out, however, the Hebrew word here, כָּנָף, actually means “wing” or “extremity,” and only by derivation “corner,” so the Bible was correct all along and did not require the correction of a “faulty interpretation” of this passage (and these are weasel words, for if כָּנָף actually meant “corner,” as these writers seem to believe, then this would not have been a “faulty interpretation” but an error in the Bible itself.  Did not even one of the almost 300 signatories so much as bother to look at the Hebrew before signing off on this nonsense?

[67] “Dr. Geisler uses instances where the Hebrew word for day (yôm) in context does not mean an ordinary day to argue against taking the days of creation as ordinary days (when in the context of Genesis 1 each of the six days clearly means an ordinary day, evidenced by the fact that yôm is modified by a number and the words evening and morning; further, in every other use of yôm in those contexts means a literal day).”

[68] “Because the book of Hebrews states that God is resting, Dr. Geisler uses this passage to argue that the seventh day of the Creation Week is still ongoing!  However, God rested from His work of creation (Genesis 2:1-3).  So now He is currently resting from that particular work.  Hebrews does not say the seventh day continues to the present, but that God’s rest (cessation of His creation work) continues till now.”

Comments: 3

  1. Yes, the 4.6 billion year old Earth is consistent with with God’s word

    • John Tors says:

      Mr. Wolgemuth, thank you for your comment on this article.

      However, it should be noted that a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth can be consistent with God’s word only if the Bible either does not specify facts that address this issue at all or if the facts it does specify do not lead to a conclusion that rules out a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth. Our article provided a detailed analysis and exegesis of the Biblical testimony on this matter and concluded that the Earth was indeed created by God in six days of twenty-four hours each, and that the world cannot be older than a maximum of 7,683 years, according to the facts specified in the Bible. Therefore, a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth is most certainly not consistent with God’s word.

      You are certainly free to challenge this, of course, but you would need to do so by showing explicitly how the exegetical analysis we have presented is in error, and how proper exegesis of the Biblical texts can show that a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth is consistent with God’s word. Should you do so, we would be very happy to examine your case fairly. But a simple declaration of this supposed consistency is not adequate to overturn our conclusions.

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