I’ve been around science since I was in diapers. My mother read to me from the Time-Life Nature and Science series before I was in kindergarten. I used to wake up early and skip school to watch the Mercury and Gemini space launches. And I’ve been aware of the church vs. evolution dispute since elementary school.
I have the good fortune that my father subscribed to magazines put out by the Creation Research Society and others arguing for Scientific Creationism (young earth creationism believed to be provable by science). I’ve been immersed in the theory as long as can remember!
But my father also enjoyed the writing of John Clayton, who taught Christian evidences based on an old-earth viewpoint. It was confusing but exciting to read so much material about science and the Bible.
By the time I enrolled at David Lipscomb College, I’d become an ardent Scientific Creationist. I knew the Second Law of Thermodynamics argument. I knew the holes in evolutionary theory. And I looked forward to enrolling in Batsell Barrett Baxter’s class on Christian evidences.
Baxter wrote I Believe Because …, which was the first serious work on Christian evidences in the Churches of Christ. I’d owned a copy since high school, and I finally enrolled in his course. He spoke of additional studies he’d done and the science he was still learning as he delved more deeply into the study. And then he mentioned his objection to young-earth creationism, which he considered unworthy of serious consideration.
I was shocked! I mean, the great Batsell Barrett Baxter, the voice of the Herald of Truth, the very personification of the 1970s Church of Christ, announced that he believed the earth to be billions of years old! And so (you’ll not be surprised to learn), I raised my hand and challenged him on it.
And Br. Baxter very calmly, very patiently explained how he’d ridden down the walls of the Grand Canyon on a donkey, seen the fossils and the geologic layers. He said there’s no way the Grand Canyon was only 6,000 years old! He’d seen it with his own eyes.
Well, I’m a stubborn guy, and I wasn’t convinced. But my mind was opened. If the great Batsell Barrett Baxter could endorse old-earth creationism, then I could at least consider it and not be a heretic!
As an adult, I’ve taught Christian Evidences in Sunday school class more times than I can count. I’ve read LOTS of books. And the first few times I taught it, I taught young earth creationism.
But over time, I became convinced that it’s just not true. And here’s why —
* First, the more I studied the work of Henry Morris (one of the founders of the Scientific Creationism), I concluded many of his arguments are just plain intellectually dishonest. I’m not an expert in all types of science, but when he got areas where I truly know my stuff (mathematics, physics), he was just dead wrong.
* Second, his evidence didn’t add up to his conclusions. The “scientific” evidence he cited didn’t consistently line up with an age for the earth of 6,000 years. Rather, there were huge variations in the claimed age of the earth. If science proves a recently created earth, then why doesn’t the evidence say the same thing? Rather, Morris seemed content to disprove prevailing scientific orthodoxy, but disproving evolution or the Big Bang or whatever is a far cry from proving a young earth of 6,000 years.
* Third, scientific orthodoxy was rapidly moving toward a Big Bang, teaching creation out of nothing, light before stars, and time as a part of the creation. I mean, cosmology was beginning to support the Christian position in every way — other than the age of the earth.
* Fourth, many young-earth creationists argued that God made the earth to look old. Fine. It’s a theory that may well be true and that cannot be disproved scientifically. But if that’s what God did, why are the same people saying science proves a young earth? I mean, if God made the earth to look artificially old, why wouldn’t the science support what God did? Why feel the need to prove scientifically that the earth is young while simultaneously arguing that God himself made it look old? Why would God make it look old but leave some evidence of recent creation? If God wanted the earth to look old, with fossils that are millions of years old, wouldn’t he have done it perfectly?
* Fifth, as I learned more and more about my Bible, I learned that God taught us that we could learn about him from what he created. Therefore, I couldn’t see how he could have created a fictitious history. In looking at the stars and the molecules, I should find the real God. I mean, if God is who we believe him to be, science should be a very Godly enterprise. Just as you can learn a lot about me by reading my writings, we should be able to find God’s name written all over the universe. Science is therefore the study of God.
* Sixth, I couldn’t shake this image of Baxter’s donkey ride down the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to Dinosaur National Monument. I’ve dug fossils out of limestone cliffs myself where I grew up. I have friends who were taught that Satan planted those fossils to tempt God-fearers to deny God. But I think God planted those fossils there to teach us about God.
* Seventh, I just hate people trying to impose false dichotomies on my thinking. I mean, many an atheist argues that we must accept either evolution or God, an old earth or the Resurrection. They say we can’t believe both. Well, what else would an atheist argue?
But then the preachers started arguing the same thing. Either come to church, believe in Jesus, and go to heaven or else believe in the Big Bang and evolution and be damned.
The young-earth creationists actually quote atheists saying this as authority for their claim!!
I began with John Clayton’s book Evidences of God. Clayton is a member of the Churches of Christ and a geologist who teaches an old-earth creation.
Clayton refutes the notion that the fossils in my hometown buried in limestone are a product of the Flood. Clayton explains that limestone does not come about from a flood but from a very different process.
Well, I took chemistry in college, and I know that calcium carbonate is formed the way Clayton explains, not the way the young-earth creationists claim. Hmm …
And because of my love for physics, astronomy, and cosmology, I’ve kept up with science. And as the evidence came in, the atheists were unhappy. They didn’t like the ever-increasing evidence of a Big Bang, because they thought it gave too much comfort to the Christians!
But the Christian community was just as unhappy as the atheists! We didn’t like the Big Bang either.
As a result, many Christians found themselves, once again, in league with the atheists, with both sides being unhappy with the science!
But then things began to change. A new group of Christian scientists came to forefront, arguing for “intelligent design.” The Intelligent Design theorists accepted an ancient universe and found evidence for God in the fine tuning of the universe, in the statistical impossibility of life forming spontaneously, and in molecular biology.
Meanwhile, Hugh Ross, an astronomer, began a series of books showing the consistency of modern cosmology with scripture and Christianity.
More recently, Francis Collins, who headed the human genome project, wrote The Language of God, defending Intelligent Design from a biological perspective, showing how evolution does not contradict a belief in God and his scriptures.
And so, I find myself on the side of both God and the astronomers, scripture and the biologists. Obviously, there are scientists who argue against faith in God, just as there are Christians who argue against faith in science. But science is God’s self-revelation. The more we know of it, the better we see God himself.
I can go out in to the country and be amazed at the beauty of the stars and feel drawn toward God. If I pull out a telescope and see the moons of Jupiter, like Galileo, I feel that much more amazed and that much closer to the Creator. And if I use the Hubble telescope to see stars from over 10 billion years ago, created only shortly after the Big Bang, my sense of amazement only grows — and I feel all the closer to the Maker of it all. I mean, just imagine being able to see the Creation as it happened! It’s a great privilege given only to those alive today.
My grandparents never got to see what I’ve been privileged to see. I hope my grandchildren see things beyond even what I’ve seen. And I desperately hope that they realize that what they are seeing is the hand of God — and that no one is telling them that you can’t believe both in God and an ancient universe. After all, I’ve seen pictures of stars being made!