CMDA's The Point

Does Acceptance of “Deep Time” or Evolution Imperil Christian Belief?

February 15, 2024
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by Steven Willing, MD

A Range of Possible Viewpoints

Is there any connection between a person’s acceptance of mainstream scientific theories on origins and the strength of their Christian faith?

 

Indeed, numerous relationships are possible.

 

  1. According to some young-earth creation advocates, any acceptance of standard time scales for the age of the earth and universe, and any acceptance of macroevolution, sows doubt in the reliability of Scripture and leads to deconversion and apostasy. Conversely, faith is bolstered by strict adherence to the young-earth paradigm.
  2. Some theistic evolutionists see the mainstream scientific position less as an explanation of how things happened than as a description of how God created. They hold a high view of Scripture and perceive God as taking an active role in the creative process. Evidence of a designer is seen in the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin and complexity of life. They see no conflict between “secular” science and faith.
  3. Other theistic evolutionists take a more deistic position. For them, evolution sufficiently explains the existence of life in all its forms, but God set the whole process in motion in an initial creative event. Evidence of a designer is seen in the universe, but life requires no additional explanation. They feel no tension between science and faith, but squaring the complete evolutionary paradigm with historic Christian theology requires a certain amount of intellectual contortion, for many in this camp reject the existence of a literal Adam and Eve.
  4. Progressive creationists accept mainstream time scales but are generally more skeptical toward macroevolution, attributing the saltatory nature of the fossil record to more or less discrete creative events. Some tension exists between faith and “secular” science regarding the scope of evolution. Some who hold this view argue that the findings of modern science actually strengthen biblical reliability.

 

Position 1 sees an irreconcilable conflict between mainstream science and Scripture and counters with a small coterie of young-earth embracing scientists who argue that science, rightly interpreted, supports their position. They view the acceptance of any part of the mainstream position as a compromise of eternal truth.

 

Progressive creationists and evolutionary creationists see no conflict between Christian faith and science in matters of cosmology or geology. Progressive creationists and some theistic evolutionists take issue with mainstream secular thought pertaining to life’s evolution. All of the latter three groups might counter that a young-earth view of creation could, in fact, imperil faith as opposed to protecting it.

 

Millions of words have been exhausted arguing the pros and cons of the various positions from both a scientific and a biblical perspective. In this short undertaking, I’d like to focus on the more salient question: what, if any, impact does one’s position on origins have on their perseverance in the Christian faith?

 

Numerous surveys have been conducted over the last 15 years with the potential to elucidate any connection. The young-earth organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) sponsored a survey in 2009 and published its results in Already Gone. Other groups have looked more closely at the phenomenon of falling away or dropping out of the church, including the Barna Group and the recent collaborative undertaking The Great Dechurching by Davis, Graham and Burge.

 

At least three hypotheses explaining the connection between enduring faith and science should be considered.

 

  1. Hypothesis 1: Because the book of Genesis authoritatively teaches a young earth and universe, the earth and universe must, therefore,be young, and any acceptance of mainstream positions undermines trust in Scripture and is harmful to faith.
  2. Hypothesis 2: The book of Genesis and the book of nature can be interpreted in several consistent ways without undermining biblical authority. Some are compatible with the mainstream scientific position. There is little, if any, connection between one’s view of origins and one’s Christian faith and practice.
  3. Hypothesis 3: Scientific evidence for so-called “deep time”—i.e., billions of years—is irrefutable. If the Bible authoritatively states the earth is young, then it must be in error. Teaching young people the young-earth position potentially undermines scriptural authority and is harmful to faith.

 

Hypotheses 1 and 3 are contradictory. The former suggests that accepting geological time scales imperils faith, while the latter suggests that not accepting geological time scales imperils faith. So which is it?

“Already Gone:” Answers in Genesis

According to Ken Ham and AiG, Hypothesis 1 is supported by data.

 

“This compromise also causes a generational loss of biblical authority. Loss of authority is a major reason many young people doubt the Bible and ultimately walk away from the church. This slide was documented in research published in my book Already Gone in 2009, which showed clearly why and when the church is losing about two-thirds of the next generation.

“‘Millions of years’ flies directly in the face of the history God’s Word clearly reveals. Ultimately, belief in millions of years attacks the character of God.”

 

The AiG study was conducted by Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group. They interviewed a sample of 1,000 people between 20 and 30 years old who 1) grew up in conservative and evangelical churches and 2) attended church every or nearly every week when young but now attend seldom or never. [America’s Research Group has not updated its website since 2010, and its phone numbers are no longer in service. Britt Beemer passed away in 2022].

 

Whenever Ham invokes the survey, the phrasing remains consistent. Indeed, their survey found that numerous young people raised in the church began to doubt the Bible and eventually drifted away. However, this is predicted by Hypothesis 1 and also by Hypothesis 3. Is there anything in Ham’s survey that would shed light on the matter?

 

It gets rather interesting when Sunday school attendance is taken into account. In Ham’s words:

 

“Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.”

 

Compared to the 39 percent of respondents who did not go to Sunday school, regular attenders were more likely to doubt the Bible, reject Christian sexual ethics and view the church as hypocritical. They were also much more likely to dismiss the tenets of young-earth creationism and doubt the Bible because of the perceived conflict with science.

What were they being taught in Sunday school that could make it so detrimental?

 

  • 94 percent were taught that the Bible is true and accurate.
  • Only 10 percent were taught that Christians could believe in evolution.
  • More than 80 percent were taught that God created everything in six 24-hour days.

 

On the other hand, non-attenders were more likely to retain young-earth tenets as young adults, but they still dropped out of church.

 

This data leaves several open questions. We don’t know how the subjects compared to religiously active young Christians. We don’t know what the subjects actually believed when they were still active. This study is only a snapshot in time, but Ham’s evidence implies that when the young-earth view is strongly pegged to biblical authority and vice-versa, it engenders doubt in the Bible and all it teaches. This was evidenced in the appendix. When asked, “Has secular science dating the earth 6 billion years [sic] caused you to doubt the Bible?” a plurality of 46 percent answered, “Yes.” As for the 42 percent who answered, “No,” it could be either because they still believed in a young earth or because they never believed in it and saw no conflict. Those results included both Sunday school attenders and nonattenders.

 

The subjects were also asked what most caused them to question the Bible. A plurality of 33 percent responded, “Nothing.” However, the most common reason, given by 25 percent of respondents, was, “Earth not less than 10,000 years old.” This is almost double the rate for the second most common response (“too many rules,” 12.8 percent).

 

Taking everything into account, evidence from the most preeminent young-earth ministry implies that early indoctrination in the young-earth position is detrimental to a person’s faith. Ham’s interpretation is they were taught the belief, but they were not taught to defend it. His solution is to double down on teaching and defending that position, but it’s hard to see that being helpful when it has been rejected by numerous Christian leaders.

Barna Research

Multiple surveys were conducted by the Barna Group in the late 2000s and early 2010s, examining the beliefs of unbelievers and young people who had left the church.

 

Their first book, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity–and Why It Matters, was focused more on how outsiders perceived the church. The second, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church–and Rethinking Faith, examined the beliefs of young people who had been raised in the church but were no longer active.

 

The Barna studies did not closely examine their subjects’ nuanced positions on the age of the earth or what they had been taught while younger. As with the AiG study, the surveys were snapshots of a moment in time and could not determine whether, how, why or when their beliefs had changed.

 

Nonetheless, the Barna studies did reveal that perceived conflicts between science and Christianity are a significant issue for both never-churched and de-churched young people. In the initial study, out of 1,296 18- to 29-year-olds with a Christian background, one quarter (25 percent) considered Christianity as antiscience. Almost a third (29 percent) thought churches were out of step with the scientific world. Just under a fifth (18 percent) thought Christianity was anti-intellectual. In Chapter 7, the authors describe at length the sense of alienation and isolation experienced by scientifically oriented individuals in the church, with numerous case examples. The atmosphere had more effect than the issue, with the authors advising:

 

“Young-earth creationists may want to rethink accusations of apostasy when they talk with (or about) old-earth creationists or those who hold to theistic evolution. Likewise, Christians who believe evolution is God’s chosen mechanism for creation must be cautious of intellectual condescension toward their sisters and brothers who believe differently.”

 

In a much more recent survey from December 2022 to January 2023, the Barna Group asked people what caused them to doubt Christian beliefs. Among pastors, “science” ranked 10th out of 14 named causes. Among non-practicing Christians, “science” was in a four-way tie for sixth place. Science is a factor, but it ranks far below issues like hypocrisy, human suffering and conflict.

Pew Research

How do most white Evangelicals and Black Protestants reconcile science and Scripture? If deep time and evolution were destructive of faith, then one should anticipate fairly low acceptance rates of human evolution among these two groups. Skepticism toward human evolution is shared by both young-earth and old-earth creationists. Yet, public surveys indicate a substantial majority of conservative Christians support human evolution when given the option of it being God-directed.

 

In 2019, Pew Research found that when given a three-way choice between 1. “Humans have always existed in their present form,” 2. “Humans evolved; God had a role,” and 3. “Humans evolved; God had no role,” 62 percent of white Evangelical Protestants and 72 percent of Black Protestants preferred evolution. One potential flaw in the survey, as worded, was that option 1 included “since the beginning of time,” leaving no good response for old-earth creationists who are skeptical of human evolution. Hence, the 38 percent of white Evangelicals and 27 percent of Black Protestants who answered, “Humans have always existed in their present form,” sets an upper limit on the percentage who could possibly be young-earth creationists, but it could be significantly lower. Clearly, for large majorities, acceptance of mainstream scientific positions is perfectly compatible with an active profession of faith, not the faith-destroying compromise denounced by some young-earth advocates.

The Great Dechurching (2023)

This large survey published in 2023 focused specifically on people of all ages who had once been active in churches but no longer were. The study was conducted by Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University, with discussion and analysis by Jim Davis and Michael Graham of Orlando Grace Church. In phase two of the study, they surveyed 4,099 individuals across all religious traditions. In phase three, they specifically focused on 2,043 American adults who had dechurched from evangelical churches.

 

This study differed from the preceding surveys in that the average age was substantially older since it was not intended as a study of youth. In response to the statement, “Technology and science have caused me to question my religious beliefs,” very few answered in the affirmative. The authors perceived it as insignificant compared to the other factors that emerged, according to personal communication I received.

 

A striking finding of these surveys was that highly educated persons were more likely to remain religiously engaged. If secular science education was negatively impacting faith, it certainly is not showing up in these large and recent surveys. Perhaps it was more of an issue 15 years ago, and since then, there has been a settling out to the point it no longer matters. Or perhaps it never mattered. Either is possible.

Additional Sources

It is an objective of numerous Christian scientist-educators to promote the acceptance of biological evolution. In a study from 2020, investigators with Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego) prospectively studied a group of 124 students in biology or theology taught by tenured professors who supported an approach emphasizing the compatibility of evolution with the Christian faith. Upon course completion, there was a significant increase in evolution acceptance among both biology and theology students, with no decrease at all in religiosity.

 

Anecdotal Evidence

While not rising to the level of statistical significance, there are abundant anecdotal cases of individuals raised in a young-earth milieu who go on to abandon their faith when they are persuaded that the generally accepted historical timeline is correct. On their own terms, such anecdotes do not allow differentiation between hypotheses 1 and 3. Both propose a similar sequence of events:

 

  1. Phase 1: They were raised to believe the Bible and that it teaches the earth is young and evolution is unbiblical.
  2. Phase 2: They are later convinced that evolution is correct or the universe and earth are ancient.
  3. Phase 3: They conclude that the Bible is unreliable and the church is untrustworthy.

 

One can certainly object that the truth matters, that the crucial issue is whether the earth really is 6,000 or 4.59 billion years old. This concern is certainly valid but can be (and is) argued ad infinitum. I’m not going to touch it here. We can, however, examine the outcomes and draw some inferences as to how one’s belief impacts their future faith.

 

In the course I teach at Regent University, one assignment requires MDiv candidates to interview someone in the STEMM fields who identifies as an unbeliever or skeptic. The following excerpt from one of the interviews is representative of many:

 

“In late adolescence, Dr. Miller [not her real name] found herself excelling in science and math in school. She was placed in college preparatory classes and began competing in (and winning) science competitions. During this time, she started asking questions in Sunday school and teen Bible study about gender roles, the age of the earth, the creation story in Genesis and the laws of the physical world. Dr. Miller related that she was repeatedly ejected from those classes because of her questions. Each time she was removed, she was made to speak with the Senior Pastor, who told her to stop questioning the Bible.

“She feels she cannot reconcile with the church as long as those who question historical or scientific accounts, especially younger people, are censured or removed from service in the church.”

 

Sadly, this is an all-too-common experience.

Conclusions

We began with three possible hypotheses defining the relationship between faith and views of creation.

 

For hypothesis 1—that acceptance of “deep time” or evolution imperils faith—there is at least anecdotal evidence that this indeed happens. Some feel forced to choose between Scripture and mainstream science and choose science. However, this finding begs the question of why the conflict exists. Does it arise from a faulty interpretation of science—or a faulty interpretation of Scripture?

 

Hypothesis 2—there is no conflict between faith and science—seems to describe the vast majority of persons. In most surveys, only a relatively small minority attribute their doubt or skepticism to conflict over origins. Very, very few name it as the primary cause. (Only AiGs Already Gone survey found a stronger effect.)

 

Our third hypothesis was that a conflict between faith and science would be mostly limited to those inculcated in the young-earth interpretation and that young-earth-oriented teaching might be the cause, rather than the cure, for doubt and loss of faith. While none of the studies cited above directly addressed that question, the data does seem to lean in this direction. Pastors, parents and teachers should be cautious in anchoring Scriptural authority to a view of cosmogony and geology that is easily and inevitably challenged.

Steven Willing, MD

About Steven Willing, MD

Dr. Steven Willing received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia, and then he completed an internship in pediatrics from the University of Virginia, a residency in diagnostic radiology at the Medical College of Georgia and a fellowship in neuroradiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Willing spent 20 years in academic medicine at the University of Louisville, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Indiana University, followed by 11 years in private practice. During his academic career, Dr. Willing published more than 50 papers in the areas of radiology, informatics and management, and he authored the Atlas of Neuroradiology. He currently practices pediatric neuroradiology at Childrens of Alabama, while serving as a consultant in radiology at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, a visiting scholar with Reasons to Believe and an Adjunct Professor of Divinity at Regent University. Dr. Willing is the author of Superbia: The Perils of Pride. The Power of Humility and The Top Ten Myths of the Sexual Revolution. His personal blog on science apologetics, “The Soggy Spaniel,” may be found at www.swilling.com.

21 Comments

  1. Avatar Walter C Boutwell on March 4, 2024 at 6:28 pm

    I cannot believe any discussion about the controversy between ONE MAN- MADE INTERPRETATION of Genesis and another is conducted without any mention about Dr. Hugh Ross and Reason’s to Believe.
    While using, uncritically, AIG’s data, the author presents a pallid argument for CONSENSUS between the witness of nature and that of scripture.
    Ham and Ross have met each other in debate…and Ham’ defense is self- contradictory and frequently accusatory.
    Balance seems to have been avoided.

    • Avatar Steven Willing on March 5, 2024 at 7:42 pm

      I’m not sure I follow. I am personally acquainted with Dr. Ross, have an affiliation with RTB, have articles posted to their website, spent 3 weeks at their HQ, and linked to RTBs website above.

      They just don’t happen to offer data on this particular question.

  2. Avatar Susan Fondy on March 4, 2024 at 9:47 pm

    So glad to see this blog post. The church’s strident insistence that YEC is the only acceptable belief system nearly cost me my faith until I found Biologos and amazing believers like Dr. Francis Collins, who seamlessly integrate science and faith. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t feel like I had to turn off my brain while reading the Bible. It also allowed me to deeply examine the world without fear of compromising my faith. I have found unparalleled joy in questioning and examining the world through a scientific lens, then giving glory to God for the insight.

  3. Avatar Scott Field on March 5, 2024 at 7:01 am

    I thank Dr. Willing for his thoughtful discussion. I am not familiar with Dr. Ross’ book. Some more details about his arguments would be helpful for me.
    Personally, I see science as an attempt to make sense of what we humans observe and I see Scripture as God’s direct communication to us about His ways and His will. What we observe in nature and what we read in Scripture both come from God and should not contradict each other.
    In my opinion, there is plenty of evidence that the heavens and the earth are MUCH older than 10,000 years. On the other hand, I also think that there is plenty of evidence that any life, whether a bacterium or a human, could not have come about by chance. In fact, all the conditions that make life possible could not have come about by chance. While I accept the very old universe view, I reject the idea that everything happened by evolution. I suspect more people turned from God and from the Church because of an evolutionary worldview (perceiving no need for God) than because of an “old world” view, which still goes with the concept of a beginning and creation from nothing.
    That brings me back to Scripture which says (literally) that God’s creation occurred in seven days. Jesus frequently taught with parables and used other symbolic language such as “bread of life”, “vine” and “branch”, “seed”, etc. I don’t have any problem with interpreting the creation account in Genesis as using words of time symbolically. The order of creation (formless earth preceding ordered earth with sea, land, and sky, then plants, then sea creatures, then land animals, and finally mankind) in Genesis still matches scientific observations.
    Scripture is not only consistent with science, it is consistent with itself, Old and New Testaments. Prophecy has been and is being fulfilled. God’s creation, love, and redemption are clearly communicated. Thanks be to God.

    • Avatar Steve on March 5, 2024 at 11:56 pm

      Hi Scott-
      I agree with you that nature and Scripture both come from God and do not contradict each other, but it is inevitable that some of our *observations* and *interpretations* about nature and Scripture will be flawed.
      To resolve the resulting contradictions, we must let the clear Scriptures guide us and not give priority to “science falsely so called”.
      One curious disagreement between Genesis 1 and evolutionists in the order of creation you mentioned is that land and plants were created on Day 3, while Sun, Moon, and stars were created on Day 4. Certainly the naturalists scoff at that chronology. We don’t “impress” any unbelievers by trying to finagle evolutionary time-scales into the Genesis history, but we do sink deeper into the slippery habit of eisegesis.
      Scripture is a wonderfully “internally consistent” record of history, including its prophecies, as you note so beautifully. Thanks be to God!

  4. Avatar Nicole Hayes on March 5, 2024 at 11:25 am

    Thank you for writing this deep-thinking blog post, Dr. Willing, on an issue that has caused some who are nominal in faith to think that the Bible as inaccurate (not so)–and some who have studied the Bible well who are afraid to be challenged by a question that may not fit a neat answer. I see science (when done ethically) as a “peek behind the curtain” into the glorious and intelligent work of God and yet allowing some things to remain beyond our human comprehension, because God is just that awesome!!

  5. Avatar Paul Boone on March 5, 2024 at 9:51 pm

    Well, count me as one who does not find your article very convincing, and who believes in a young earth. I am glad you acknowledge that the hugely disparate ages of the earth is a valid question. I have not bothered to read Ken Ham’s book, Already Gone, and nor have I read much from Reasons to Believe. What I have studied is the Scripture, and the plain evidence there is an earth less than ten thousand years old. The consequences of what one believes as they work themselves out in whatever social, political, educational, or cultural circumstances in which one finds oneself are, in one sense, irrelevant. What is relevant is what is true. The metanarrative from Genesis to the Gospels to Revelation, as it is plainly written, seems true!

  6. Avatar Steve on March 5, 2024 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Dr. Willing-
    This is an interesting contemplation on survey statistics, but the part near the end of your essay really is central to the topic:

    >>One can certainly object that the truth matters, that the crucial issue is whether the earth really is 6,000 or 4.59 billion years old. This concern is certainly valid but can be (and is) argued ad infinitum. I’m not going to touch it here. We can, however, examine the outcomes and draw some inferences as to how one’s belief impacts their future faith.<<

    The Scriptures are full of examples of God's people accommodating to the false religious beliefs of the surrounding cultures. The Scriptures also mention often the topic of our foolishness in favoring teachers who "say what their itching ears want to hear". So if we are honest with ourselves, we must at least acknowledge our human tendency to err toward what is popular and socially acceptable rather than what is true (if stigmatized). This is an undeniably important factor in the conclusions of Christians regarding Scripture and science, especially those of us who are trained by and surrounded by smug intellectuals. Applied science and technology have accomplished much good in our world, but "Scientism" is an idolatry of a religious nature that has permeated throughout our culture, our churches, and our colleges/seminaries.

    Why was Semmelweis' hypothesis about hygiene initially so rejected by "mainstream scientists"? Why is it not widely understood by science-minded Christian that Lyell's uniformitarian geology was based upon his a priori antipathy toward the Genesis Flood account (and has proven incorrect to match modern data)? Why is it not known by cosmology aficionados that Hawking and Hubble admit their Big Bang theories are premised upon unprovable presuppositions about the earth and its position in the universe?

    We can understand that evolutionary scientists make many conclusions based on their religious convictions and derivative assumptions, not based on the data themselves. Those scientists then use "Science" as an authority to preach these religious/non-scientific conclusions as empirically validated. We must teach our fellow Christians to use the Scripture to "judge" the authority of scientific theories and pontifications, instead of using fallible scientific theories to judge the authority of Scripture.

    It is certainly true in our culture that "recent creation" is a stumbling block against Biblical faith. Survey implications notwithstanding, it will do no good for the Kingdom of God for our churches to augment their numbers with Darwin-disciples, among various other religious syncretisms. We can humbly acknowledge when there are data we don't fully comprehend, but let us remain courageous to affirm Scripture as the reliable word of the Creator God above the opinions of mortal men. "Let God be true, and every human being a liar."
    "For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens."

  7. Avatar mick vanden bosch, md on March 6, 2024 at 9:46 am

    I appreciate addressing this topic and mostly the fact that no hard answer was offered, just ideas and reflections. There are so many variables relating to education (schooling), Sunday Schooling, personal faith upbringing (parental beliefs and the teaching thereof as opposed to or in addition to personal study) and then exposure to expressly anti-Christian or anti-Biblical sources that make deductions quite impossible. Thanks for the invitation to think about and discuss this important topic. The greatest fear that Ken Ham has, as I see it, is evidenced in the quote at the end of the blog post from the interview of a skeptic that ties creation, evolution and gender roles together. Obviously her church failed her, which is why we need to know how to answer the questions, sometimes with “I don’t know”, not “Don’t ask those questions.”

  8. Avatar James H. Sandin, M,D. on March 7, 2024 at 10:03 pm

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” You either believe it, and the narrative that follows, or you don’t. Both positions require faith, wittingly or otherwise. It boils down to faith in God or faith in man. If there is something in Scripture that I do not understand or cannot reconcile with current scientific teaching, where does the deficiency lie? “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”

  9. Avatar John W. Gehman, MD, MDiv on March 8, 2024 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for addressing a relevant and important topic. One of the most important and often disregarded considerations on this issue is Jesus’s take on Adam and Eve and the origin of sin. Jesus treated Adam and Eve as literal people. Both the Old and New Testaments see Adam and Eve as real people. The origin of sin is directly attributed to their actions.

    Deep time and evolution in ANY form make Adam and Eve mythical figures. IF they were just mythical figures, scripture is no more reliable than other ancient documents. As such, Jesus’s credibility is gone. Jesus and other NT writers clearly regarded Adam and Eve as literal people. With deep time, the origin of sin is lost as well as the credibility of all of scripture. Science and theology (based on supernatural revelation) are irreversibly interwoven.

    • Avatar Steven Willing on March 11, 2024 at 10:59 am

      Thank you for reading the article, Dr. Gehman.

      You are, of course, welcome to argue your case, but not to misrepresent the beliefs of others who do not share your opinion.

      The overwhelming majority of global Christians accept both an ancient universe and a literal Adam and Eve, and have zero problem in harmonizing the two positions.

      See, for example:

      -Rana, Fazale, and Hugh Ross. Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Second expanded edition. 10-year Update., RTB Press, 2015.

      -Collins, C. John. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care. Crossway, 2011.

      -Swamidass, S. Joshua. The Genealogical Adam & Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry. IVP Academic, 2019.

      Also, the Creation Study Comittee Report accepted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 1999:

      -Creation Study Committee Report (1999). https://www.pcahistory.org/pca/digest/studies/creation/report.html. Accessed 11 Mar. 2024.

  10. Avatar John W. Gehman, MD, MDiv on March 17, 2024 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for your response Steven. I appreciate that.

    I wasn’t aware I was speaking for anyone other than myself. Why the accusation?

    My comments represent a view of scripture that recognizes a supernatural revelation. My view of deep time is skeptical. In my life time alone, deep time has gone from millions of years to billions of years to accommodate the complexity we encounter in life and the universe. Both can’t be right. It’s either one or the other.

    A naturalistic explanation for the origin of life is utterly bankrupt. Evolution requiring that everything evolved from nothing is simply not science.

    Remember it was Darwin;s theory of evolution and Nietzsche’s atheistic philosophy that led Hitler to WW2 and the goal of a super human race.

    My position remains, you cannot have evolution in any form and a literal Adam and Eve. You can have one, but by definition, not both.

  11. Avatar Antoni anouf on March 18, 2024 at 7:14 pm

    I can expect non educated Christians to hold to a YEC position; They don’t know any better.
    I am disappointed however that medical professionals give it any credibility.
    Save yourself some time and follow the scientific data *as well as* the Bible. Visit reasons.org
    Sorry if this post sounds condescending but it’s time for some tough love.

    • Avatar Steve Willing on March 19, 2024 at 11:15 am

      I was there, once. Carried that torch from my teens to age 30. Their arguments can be quite persuasive, so long as you don’t dig too deep.

  12. Avatar Steve Willing on March 19, 2024 at 11:11 am

    Dr. Gehman,

    Thank you again for your interest in this topic.

    Since you asked, “why the accusation?,” I wish to refer back to your claim, “Deep time and evolution in ANY form make Adam and Eve mythical figures.” That is untrue for nearly all Christians who accept the reality of deep time, with very few exceptions. Hence, it misrepresents their position. I pointed you to several references explaining the (obvious) consistency of deep time and a literal, historical Adam.

    I am curious where and when you were ever taught the universe was merely “millions of years.” Prior to the mid-20th century there was no means of dating the earth scientifically. Radioactivity was not discovered until 1896. In 1956, Clair Patterson deduced the age of the earth to be 4.55 billion years old, based on radioisotope decay. Sixty-eight years later, the number is still 4.55 billion years. It hasn’t budged.

    Most Christian thinkers, scientists, theologians, and apologists of the last 150 years have rejected the “young earth” interpretation because of its incompatibility with modern science. (Feel free to check the link in the original article, showing the long list of luminaries who have been denounced as “compromisers” or worse by Ken Ham and his team). In 1984, the International Congress on Biblical Inerrancy issued The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics. Article XX stated:

    “We affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere, and that the Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature, history, or anything else. We further affirm that in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations.”

    There’s more. They rejected an explicit endorsement of the young-earth interpretation. Because of that, Henry Morris was the only member of the Council who refused to sign the Chicago Statement.

    As for evolution, if it is true you cannot have evolution “in any form and a literal Adam and Eve,” then you can’t have a literal Adam and Eve. (I dispute your assertion.) The current young-earth interpretations invoke an extreme version of hyperevolution to account for massive speciation after their particular model of a recent worldwide flood. This has been extensively documented by Christian biologist Joel Duff at the University of Akron.

    Suggesting that Darwin was “wrong” or “bad” because he was invoked by Hitler is a logical fallacy known as the “appeal to consequences.”

  13. Avatar David Snoke on March 20, 2024 at 12:11 pm

    Many YEC people I have known over the years have said that even if it didn’t convince them, they found it a fair argument.

  14. Avatar John W. Gehman, MD, MDiv on March 28, 2024 at 7:48 am

    Greetings Steven,,

    Thanks again for responding. I hope that for anyone interested or concerned about the issues of creation, evolution, and deep time; the primary goal is not an advancement of a personal position; rather a singular pursuit of truth and where it leads. As you know, truth stands alone and is not survey dependent. Alexander Solzhenitsyn quoted the old proverb “One word of truth outweighs the whole world”.

    Perhaps Hitler’s own words will carry some weight on the influence of Darwin and Nietzsche on the development of WWII. On Oct 10, 1941, he wrote, “Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies the incessant struggle by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to it logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.” (see Simmons, Richard III, Reflections on the Existence of God, p24). The language is clearly Darwinian and a frontal assault on Christianity. It is antithetical to a Biblical worldview which prioritizes love and support for the weak. Hitler gassed their psychiatric patients, attempted to annihilate the Jews, and wreaked death and destruction on a big part of the world. Did the “law of selection” have any influence on the genesis of WW2? Sure it did.
    In the laws of logic, the law of non-contradiction states that something cannot be both itself and not itself in the same sense. This is the reason that the possibility of Adam and Eve being literal people does not exist IF evolution and deep time are true. Acknowledging the OT and NT as a Divine revelation and as inspired truth means accepting the text as written and as intended for their original audience. There is no question that the Genesis account specifies a concrete, highly time defined, seven day supernatural creation involving a literal , not mythical Adam and Eve. (see In Defense of the Historical Adam, Dr Terry Mortenson, AIG). There no question throughout the entire OT and NT that they were literal people, with genealogies complete from Adam to Christ. There are multiple NT references to Adam and Eve, Jesus included. If scripture is accepted as true and reliable, Adam and Eve were literal people. This is then true and a fact. It does not need surveys or research to support it.
    Theories of evolution in any form require deep time. That I believe is a accepted fact in secular and academic circles with gradual changes and natural selection over millions to billions of years.
    The law of non-contradiction clearly indicates that the possibility of a literal, divinely created Adam and Eve in a specified seven day period cannot be true if evolution and deep time are the means of them coming into existence. Logically, one or the other is possible, but not both. Logically they are mutually exclusive. How can any other conclusion be reached? To assert both is to violate the premises of special creation or evolution or both A million surveys on what people believe cannot change that. Accepting evolution leaves an eviscerated Word of God and a Christ without credibility.

    I invite your response to the evolutionary explanations for the origin of life and the issue of the whole universe evolving from nothing, by a totally random, non-directed process.. A chain of logic is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Why push for an evolutionary process and deep time when these links don’t even exist on a scientific basis? Can any scientific examples of either be cited anywhere?
    Trusting for steps in the direction of truth,

    John Gehman, MD, MDiv

    • Avatar Steve Willing on April 2, 2024 at 11:12 am

      Greetings again, John.

      I am well aware, and have been for some time, that there exists a large number of highly committed, zealous young earth creationists who will adamantly defend that position and will argue forever, despite all the evidence. That is exactly why I did not express any position in the above article. I’m happy to debate online or in public with an audience that might benefit, but I know better than to engage in endless argument with someone deeply committed to a particular viewpoint.

      You have not addressed any of the evidence I gave you. There is no contradiction between a literal Adam and geological timescales and I pointed you to several references that demonstrate the harmony. Just declaring that there’s a contradiction doesn’t make it so.

      I am quite familiar with the work of the famously verbose Dr. Mortenson. He never addresses the scientific shortcomings of young earth creationism, and stakes his entire case not on God’s word, but his “infallible” interpretation.

      Evolutionary explanations for the origin of life? Not my thing. God created life.

      Whole universe evolving my random, non-directed process? You didn’t get that from me. The true story is an amazing story of God’s creative work over billions of years to establish a little island in a vast universe where human life could flourish.

      Evidence for deep time? Try the entire fields of astronomy, geology, cosmology, anthropology, archaeology, and physics.

      I fear you’ve imbibed too much of AiG polemics. They live in a world of false dichotomies and establish themselves as supreme and infallible interpreters of Holy Scripture – only to sabotage its credibility in the end, as the above article clearly shows.

  15. Avatar John W. Gehman, MD, MDiv on April 14, 2024 at 4:22 pm

    Greetings Steven,
    Thanks for responding again. The topic of deep time vs a young earth is, as you note in the article, a very significant issue.
    I would like to discuss some aspects of the philosophy of research that apply to this issue. In the medical field, research happens with an audience of about 7 million subjects. This audience is very present. Research offers reproducibility with statistical tools to assess the validity of the results. Huge amounts of money and large numbers of researchers contribute to research efforts. Many advances have occurred over the decades due to the research. Nonetheless, there have been numerous wrong conclusions even with an audience that is right in front of us to study. Some of those wrong conclusions were totally innocent. Some were due to covert bias. Some were due to asking the wrong questions. Some were do to overt bias with full intentions of designing outcomes favorable to the researchers interests. For secular research in cosmology, it is my understanding that there has been lots of bias! There has been not only overt bias, but unconditional exclusion of any consideration of a Divine or supernatural perspective. (See Ben Stein’s documentary “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed”). In all of my secular academic training, if my memory is correct, I have never heard a Divine or supernatural factor mentioned other than as a joke. John G West in “What is Theistic Evolution?” refers to a 2003 Cornell survey indicating that 87% of leading evolutionists deny the existence of God. This rises some real questions about the validity of deep time research.
    1. Any research on deep time by definition does not have a testable, reproducible process to analyze in the present; it has to look at the present universe and make retrospective assumptions that are extrapolated based on the incredibly brief period of time that we live in. Vernon R Cupps writes, “I’m working on radioisotope dating, because the primary argument secularists use to support their deep time paradigm is that radioisotope dating supports their hypothesis. But radioisotope dating depends on a lot of very tenuous assumptions. It appears that both pressure and electrical fields can greatly change the rate of decay. They assume that the rock is a closed system, no heating or cooling, which is absurd.” Cupps, Vernon R, “Rethinking Radiometric Dating” p132, 2019. (Cupps is a nuclear physicist.)
    Assumptions are not science, sorry. Somewhere the “science” transitions to speculation.
    Age estimates of the earth do vary. You mentioned 4.5 billion years and no change. Boolootian/Stiles College Zoology 1976 p618 state, “The earth is approximately 7 billion years old”.

    2. Overt bias and unconditional exclusion of a Divine/supernatural factor in cosmology research is obviously going to influence the outcome of the research. If there is no intellectual honesty, research is not trustworthy. It still happens. Consider a current news announcement about bias in research:
    “The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Cassava Sciences involving whether the biotech company manipulated research results for its experimental Alzheimer’s drug, two people familiar with the inquiry said.”
    So, the question is, can research in cosmology be trusted if there is not only overt bias, but even unconditional exclusion of any Divine influence in the research?. That coupled with willingness to make assumptions that cannot be proven is a recipe for disaster. The answer, I believe, is that it cannot be trusted.

    Related to the issue of young adults leaving their faith, may I point out that there are many more secular, atheistic evolutionists in today’s world than theistic evolutionists? None of them would support a theistic role in deep time and evolution. So, if deep time is the altar on which the faith of young adults is being sacrificed, the conflict would still not be over, even if deep time is accepted. The next altar would be the very existence of God. The vast majority of secular scientists would still attack young adults who hold faith in God. How would their faith hold up to this attack?
    I was deeply disappointed to read that Collins, a theistic evolutionist, allegedly had a direct role in the cover up of the Covid origins. What does that mean? Was he being intellectually honest?
    In one response you mentioned the so called “logical fallacy known as the “appeal to consequences”. I am not sure I believe that is a valid fallacy. It seems to me, some consequences are causally related to the proposed factors and some are not. However, having mentioned it, would your Third hypothesis listed below not be an example of that fallacy of an appeal to consequences?

    “Our third hypothesis was that a conflict between faith and science would be mostly limited to those inculcated in the young-earth interpretation and that young-earth-oriented teaching might be the cause, rather than the cure, for doubt and loss of faith.”

    Back to a literal Adam and Eve. After nearly 50 journeys through the Old and New Testaments over as many years, there is no question in my mind, that deep time and evolution simply cannot be shoehorned into the scriptural accounts. If and when they are, reason and logic are undisputably sacrificed. Francis Schaeffer, I believe saw this coming when he wrote his book, “Escape from Reason”
    There has to be a better answer.
    I appreciate the opportunity to comment.
    Trusting for better understandings,
    John

  16. Avatar John W. Gehman, MD, MDiv on April 18, 2024 at 2:34 pm

    Addendum: since we live in an era of AI, it might be interesting to see AI’s take on a literal Adam and Eve vs evolution. The response is listed below:

    “Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creationism):
    View: Theistic evolutionists embrace both the scientific understanding of evolution and the belief in God’s creative role. They see evolution as the mechanism through which God brought about life on Earth.
    Adam and Eve: According to this view, Adam and Eve are symbolic or archetypal figures rather than literal individuals. They represent the emergence of consciousness, moral awareness, and the capacity for relationship with God.
    Divine Intervention: Theistic evolutionists believe that God guided the evolutionary process, culminating in the emergence of humans with spiritual awareness.”

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