Why Bother Being a YEC? Part 1: Aged Days and Some Significant Gaps
Last week I explained what it means to be a YEC and how you can be a YEC without giving up science. However a larger question remains; why would anyone bother becoming a YEC at all? It certainly would be easier not to be one. Young Earth Creationism carries a lot of social stigma along with it, even among Christians. Also, though it is very possible to be a YEC and believe in science it is certainly not the easiest position to take. Why not just accept what most scientists say about the age of the Earth and evolution? Plenty of famous and productive Christians have without compromising their faith. So why bother?
In the last two posts on this subject I have been trying to speak to everyone, from Christians, to atheists, to Buddhists, to agnostics. However when it comes to answering this question I’m afraid what I have to say will likely only be relevant to Christians. As far as I can tell there is no particularly good reason for an atheist to become a YEC other than the fact that I believe it is true. Because the creation of this world (whichever way it happened) was an event in the unobserved past I can’t exactly perform some experiment or find some evidence that would definitively prove to you that the Earth is only thousands of years old, just as you could not definitively prove the opposite to me. Members of a few other religions might have theological reasons to believe in a young Earth, but the arguments I am about to make have no relevance to their own beliefs. I can’t even make a case for why a Muslim or a Jew should be a YEC, even though we share the same scriptures when it comes to creation. That’s because my primary arguments have to do with Jesus himself. If you are not a Christian then perhaps you will find these next two posts entertaining. If you are a Christian then I hope that you will consider my words and decide for yourselves whether they have merit.
For Christians the idea of all life evolving from a single life form and the Earth being billions of years old (for the sake of saving space, I’m just going to refer to this idea as Evolutionary Theory, though as I said in my last post YECs believe in evolution also) contains a problem within it. That problem is that Genesis claims that the Earth is only thousands of years old and that all life was created in an advanced state over a period of six days. There are three general approaches to solving this problem. The first is to reject Evolutionary Theory as being false and to believe that the Genesis account is true; this is the Young Earth Creationist approach. The second is to reject Genesis as being an accurate account of history and to accept Evolutionary Theory as being true; the only difference is that you believe that God started Evolution on its course, and has been watching over and guiding its progress. We’ll call this approach Theistic Evolution. The third approach is a mixture of the previous two–namely attempting to interpret Genesis in such a way that it is still a true account of creation but also does not disagree with Evolution Theory. We’ll call this approach Compromise. Let’s take closer look at it.
The Compromise approach takes on many names and is fairly popular in Christian circles. At its most basic and un-reflected upon form it’s just a general idea that the Bible is true but Evolution is true as well, and they’re sure it all works out somehow. If it comes up in conversation you’ll likely hear phrases such as “God works in mysterious ways”, “Who are we to say how it happened? God can do anything.”, and “I can’t wait until we get to Heaven and can ask God how it happened.” Still it would be extremely unfair to paint everyone who holds the Compromise approach in this same light. Some have really thought about it, and have come up with some solutions to the apparent inconsistency between Genesis and Evolutionary Theory. One solution is the Day Age Theory which states that each “day” of creation was actually a period of millions and millions of years. Each creation day is just a period of time in which God, through evolution, created higher and higher forms of life. Others hold to the Gap Theory which says that there are large gaps of millions or billions of years between certain parts of the creation account. Where those gaps are depends on whether you believe in Pre-time Gap, Ruin-Reconstruction Gap, Modified Gap, Soft Gap, or Late Gap. I’m not going to go into all of them here, but you can look them up if you’re interested. Historically the most popular Gap Theory has been Ruin-Reconstruction. This theory puts a gap of billions of years between the first two verses of Genesis, which I will quote here. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” The idea is that the first verse depicts God creating all the heavens and the Earth. Then life, under God’s watchful eye, evolved on Earth. Billions and billions of years past while life developed, and the different geological epochs played themselves out on the Earth. Life evolved through the invertebrates, the dinosaurs, the first mammals, and finally to the pre-humans apes. Then Satan rebelled against God, there was war in heaven, and all life was wiped out in a terrible catastrophe. After that verse two happens, and the rest of Genesis follows it. God recreates everything in six days and history goes on.
So those are the Compromise positions in a nutshell. Unfortunately they both have some big problems.
Let’s look at Day Age Theory first. As a reminder, Day Age believers say that each day of creation was actually a period of millions of years. That would be fine and dandy except that the theory still fails to bring Genesis and Evolutionary Theory into harmony. The problem is the order of creation. Genesis says that Earth was created before the sun or the stars, the oceans before the land, fruit trees before animals, marine mammals before land mammals, and birds before land reptiles. Evolutionary theory states that the stars and sun were created before the Earth, land before the oceans, animals before fruit trees, land mammals before marine mammals, and land reptiles before birds. So even if each day really represented a period of millions of years in which the life forms created evolved they would still be all out of order and unable to mesh with Evolutionary theory. Some Day Age proponents have tried to fix this by claiming that the “days” overlapped in time. Unfortunately in order to have the “days” get anywhere close to matching Evolutionary theory you have to stretch them or condense them in ridiculously arbitrary ways; for example, Day Five (in which all oceanic life is created) would have to stretch from Day Two through day Six and Day Three would extend from Day Two to Day Five. And what do you do about the stars, which aren’t supposed to be created until Day Four and Evolutionary Theory would place as being older than the Earth, which is created on Day 1? It’s at this point that you start to ask yourself why you’re bothering with this at all. You might as well just give up and join the Theistic Evolutionists and say that Genesis is not a true account of creation, or join the YECs and say that Evolutionary Theory is incorrect. Continuing to try to make the two systems work together by rejiggering the numbers will never work in any meaningful way.
So what about Gap theory? Well, quite frankly, I think the problems with it are self-explanatory. Namely that there is absolutely nothing in scripture that would lead someone to the conclusion that the vast majority of Earth’s history occurred between verses 1 and 2. Nowhere is there any indication that this is so. If you can put such a large gap there then you can just as easily put them anywhere. Why stop at Evolutionary theory? We could make Christianity compatible with so many world religions using gaps! Why we could say that all the stuff recorded in the Hindu holy texts occurred between the first and second verses of Job, and then shove some Greek mythology into Leviticus while we’re at it. It’s entirely arbitrary. Beyond that it suffers from the same problem of Day Age Theory; namely, the problem of the sun and stars being created on Day Four of creation, a creation that supposedly happened after billions of years of life on Earth. Why did God wait so long to create the sun and stars, if that’s the case? Did the Earth just float through a black void for 4 billion plus years? Was it warmed and lit by some mysterious unknown force? Or did the sun and stars exist and just get wiped out completely with everything else? How big was this catastrophe anyway?
Maybe if you work hard you can find a way to make these Compromise theories work, by why bother? Why not just join the Theistic Evolutionists or the YECs? I mean from the secular point of view you aren’t winning any points. Who is really impressed by these theories anyway? Scientists who hold to Evolutionary Theory and Theistic Evolutionists are going to find your position as ridiculous as they find the YECs, and vice versa. By trying to make such completely opposing views of Earth’s origins conform to each other they end up failing to be true to Genesis or Evolutionary Theory.
So it comes down to the other two approaches. Either Theistic Evolution is correct, and Genesis is not meant to be a true account of history, or the Young Earth Creationists are correct and Evolutionary Theory is wrong. I’ll talk about that on Wednesday, and get to the crux of why I bother with being a YEC.