Saturday, May 8, 2010

PCA Geologists About the Age of the Earth

Modern Reformation is a bimonthly magazine connected with White Horse Inn, and has URC minister Rev. Michael Horton as editor-in-chief and a number of regular contributors who are ministers and professors from the URC. In addition, as their web page states, “The editors make an intentional effort to include voices from across the Reformational spectrum in Modern Reformation’s pages.”

The May/June 2010 issue of Modern Reformation contains an article (vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 6-8) by eight PCA geologists on the age of the earth. (One of the eight is Davis A. Young, a Christian geologist who is well known among us.) The authors introduce their article by stating that they wish to provide their brothers and sisters in Christ with a few general observations, some clarification of a common misconception about geology, and “two specific examples that speak convincingly that God’s earthly creation has been around for a very long time.”

Having described evidence for an old earth, the authors deal with the response of some young-earth advocates who explain the geological evidence by stating that “Creation had to have the appearance of age, without deception, because Adam, mature forests, and even flowing rivers would all of necessity have the appearance of age.” The geologists respond: “This confuses maturity with history. A miraculously created tree might well appear mature, but apparent age arguments suggest that if Adam cut down several of these trees, he may have found 50 growth rings with matching patterns of variable growth and burn marks at rings 21 and 43. These data represent not just maturity or age but history—a history that never actually occurred. This is not the Creator described in Romans 1. We may not always have a complete understanding of the history revealed in the earth’s layers, but Reformed theology should insist it is a real history.”

The report concludes as follows:

“If the PCA recognizes that mature believers fall on either side of the age of the earth debate, does it ultimately make a difference which side you fall on? We suggest it does matter for two important reasons.

“The first is a greater appreciation of God’s handiwork. If creation conforms to God’s trustworthiness and looks old because it is old, we are free to marvel at each new discovery that further reveals the incredible complexity and grandeur of his creativity. If the earth is old and we insist it is young, every new discovery can be met only with distrust and disdain—disdain of his creation!

“The second reason is of perhaps greater importance. If the earth is old and Christians insist it is young, we risk becoming a tragic obstacle to faith for those both inside and outside the church. Non-Christians who logically understand geology conclude that the path to Christ requires belief in an intentionally deceptive god and choose to place their faith elsewhere. Covenant children who are raised with the impression that a young earth is integral to Christianity have their faith needlessly undermined when they are later confronted with the overwhelming evidence of the earth’s antiquity, and many leave the faith. It is our prayer that no Christian would be such an obstacle!”

The article can be found here, and is also listed in our “Collected Papers.”

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