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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James Boice – “Views if Creation: Progressive Creationism” – Genesis 1:1-2

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 9

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

In the past four messages (the past four weeks) we looked at four competing views of creation: atheistic evolution, tehistic evolution, the gap theory, and six-day creationism. Each has been well presented and well defended by able advocates; but each has problems, as we have seen. As a result, in recent years a fifth approach to the creation process has appeared: progressive creationism. Briefly stated, it says that God created the world directly and deliberately, that is, without leaving anything to “chance,” but that he did it over long periods of time that correspond roughly to the geological ages. Moreover, this creation is still going on. Progressive creationism attempts to show how current scientific theories of the origins of the universe and the formation of the earth match the revelation in Genesis.

This approach is not entirely new. For example, some elements of the progressive creationists’ description of the early formation of the earth sound much like things the gap theorists were saying earlier in this century. Parts of the theory would be affirmed by evolutionists.

One book that takes this position is Genesis One & the Origin of the Earth by Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann. Newman, who holds a doctorate in astrophysics from Cornell University, is professor of New Testament at the Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Eckelmann has been an associate with the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell University but is now pastor of a church in Ithaca, New York. A second book that espouses progressive creationism is Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution by Davis A. Young, son of the well-known Westminster Theological Seminary professor of Old Testament, Edward J. Young. Important to each of their views is the idea that the creative days of Genesis launch creative periods in the sense that the work begun on the earlier days continues to unfold in some form during the later days. The progressive creationists want to make possible the appearance of some new forms of vegetation in late geological periods even though the Genesis account places the creation of plants and trees on day three—to give just one example.

This view is held by many Christians who are in scientific fields, even though they have not published books on their position. It is held by quite a few biblical scholars and theologians.

A Possible Interpretation

Since even scientists are unsure precisely how the earth may have formed, it is an exercise in speculation to suggest an early history of the earth and universe. Nevertheless, since an outline of that history is given in the first chapter of Genesis, it is not out of place to look at it in terms of current geological theory, which is essentially what the progressive creationists have done. The result is something like the following (composite) picture of development.

Initial creation. The first verse of Genesis tells us that “God created the heavens and the earth.” It does not tell us how God created the heavens or the earth, nor when. So it is permissible to view this statement in terms of the prevailing “big bang” theory. That is, the universe had a definite beginning on the order of 15 to 20 billion years ago. At that point all the matter in the universe was together, but it began moving outward by sudden rapid expansion. Scientists estimate that nearly all elements would have been formed by the end of the first half hour. As matter expanded, galaxies, solar systems, and satellite bodies were formed. In this early period the earth would have been quite hot. Most of the water would have been in the atmosphere. Consequently, there would have been a heavy cloud layer that would have shrouded the earth in impenetrable darkness. As the earth cooled some of the cloud cover would have condensed and would have fallen as rain, thus forming oceans. Progressive creationists feel that this state of things is well reflected in Genesis 1:2, which says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

The first day. After the first verse of Genesis the focal point of the creation narrative is the earth. Therefore, the statement of God in verse 3 (“let there be light”) refers to the appearance of light on earth. This would mean that the clouds covering the earth had now thinned enough for the light of the sun, which had been shining all along, to penetrate to the earth’s surface. As the earth rotated there would be periods of night and day, although the sun and other heavenly bodies would not themselves be visible. This is called the first day of creation because it was the first significant event in the preparation of the earth for habitation.

The second day. On this day the cooling process continued with a further thinning of the clouds and a separation between them and the waters that now lay on the earth. These verses (vv. 6–8) speak of the firmament (correctly translated “an expanse” in the New International Version), the waters under the firmament, and the waters above the firmament. What is distinct about this day is neither the existence of the cloud cover nor the existence of the waters that covered the earth; these existed before. The new element is the appearance of the firmament or atmosphere, what we call the sky. This separated the two waters that before were close together. Interestingly, current scientific thought also views the development of the atmosphere and oceans as a fairly recent event in earth’s history (See P. Brancazio and A.G.W. Cameron, The Origin and Evolution of Atmospheres and Ocenas. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1964. Cited by D.A. Young, Creation and the Flood, 124.

The third day. This day marks the separation of the great land masses from the oceans and the appearance of vegetation on the land. Presumably the land appeared as the result of volcanic eruptions and the buckling of the earth’s crust. Psalm 104:6–9 describes this appearance: “You covered it [the earth] with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.” These verses suggest that the land appeared gradually as it was drained of its covering.

Mention of the plants, particularly “seed-bearing plants and trees,” creates some problems with the science of paleobotany. So far as we know, only very simple plants existed early—namely, seaweed, algae, and bacteria—and these are associated with the oceans rather than the land. More complex plants appeared later. The seed-bearing plants mentioned in Genesis are found first in the Devonian period (about 400 million years ago). The first trees appear in the Pennsylvania period (i.e., about 320 million years ago). Again, the Genesis account seems to say that plants appeared before animals, but the fossil record shows that these appeared simultaneously. What can be done with these difficulties? It may be impossible at this stage to give a definitive answer, but two things may be noted. First, the creative acts compressed into Genesis 1:11 did not necessarily take place all at one time. They could have taken place over a fairly long period in which grasses could have come first, followed by herbs, followed by fruit trees. Second, most of the geological record is derived from marine rocks. Therefore, it does not necessarily give an accurate picture of what may or may not have existed on land. One does not really expect to find fossils of large land plants in such beds. As time goes on there may well be additional light on this particular period of the earth’s development.

The fourth day. Light had been reaching earth since the first day of creation; it was through this influence that the vegetation created on day three was enabled to appear and prosper. But now the skies cleared sufficiently for the heavenly bodies to become visible. It is not said that these were created on the fourth day; they were created in the initial creative work of God referred to in Genesis 1:1. But now they begin to function as regulators of the day and night, “as signs to mark seasons and day and years” (Gen. 1:14).

The fifth day. On the fifth day God began to create living creatures. The word “create” (baraʾ) is used here for the first time since verse 1, probably indicating a de novo act of God, unrelated to what had been done previously. Earlier God is said to have “separated,” “made,” and “formed” various things. The land itself is said to have “produced” vegetation. Not so with the birds and sea creatures! These were created by God and now began to fill the earth that had been prepared to receive them.

On this day too we have problems with the fossil record, as Young and others recognize. But these are not overwhelming. Young writes, “The fact that many marine invertebrate animals such as corals and trilobites appear in the fossil record prior to land plants implies a contradiction between Genesis and geology. We must, however, keep in mind the incompleteness of the plant record and our lack of knowledge as to the exact limits of the categories described in verses 20–22. It is important to point out that the major groups in view here, that is, birds, most fish, swimming reptiles such as crocodiles or the extinct mosasaurs, flying reptiles like pterodactyls, seals and whales, do appear later in the fossil record than most land plants. As a generality such is the case. Birds first appear in the Jurassic period, fish are well-developed from Ordovician onwards but proliferate in the Tertiary, complex marine and aerial reptiles are Mesozoic, and large swimming mammals are Tertiary” (D.A. Young, Creation and the Flood, 130).

Young, as most other progressive creationists, allows for some overlap of the creative days.

The sixth day. One of the best arguments for the days of Genesis 1 being periods of long duration is the amount of creative activity recorded as having taken place on day six. God created land animals, divided into three general categories: livestock (that is, animals capable of being domesticated), creatures that move along the ground (the reference is to animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks, and may include reptiles), and wild animals (that is, those that could not be domesticated). Many categories of each are involved because each is said to reproduce according to “their kinds” (plural). On this day God also created man, last but at the peak of the created order. Since God is said to have created each of these three categories of animals and man independently and after certain specific kinds, the possibility of general evolution seems to be discounted. Still there is no reason to rule out some kinds of development within species (microevolution), such as the alleged development of the horse. The language of the verses suggests a pause between the making of animals and the creation of man, and there may have been other pauses also.

The progressive creationists’ view of God’s creation is tentative, for not all scientific evidence is in and even the narrative of Genesis may not be understood as well as we shall understand it some day. But in general terms this is what the progressive viewpoint holds. Its adherents regard it as a reasonable harmony between the Genesis record and the facts of geology and other scientific disciplines.

What are the Problems?

Some of the problems with this view have already been suggested. The most obvious are the apparent discrepancies between the fossil record and the order in which plants, fish, and land animals are said to have been created in Genesis. This is serious. On the other hand, it is not of such weight as to immediately disqualify the theory. Science assumes that life first appeared in the oceans or other watery places, but it does not know this and it is possible that life may have appeared on land before it appeared in the water. Moreover, if one discounts the earliest forms of life, such as algae, bacteria, and seaweed, which mean a great deal to botanists but are probably not in view in Genesis at all, the order of the appearance of life in Genesis and in the fossil record is quite similar.

Second, there is the linguistic problem of taking the days of Genesis as long periods, which the six-day creationists regard as impossible. This has already been discussed in presenting the creationists’ view. Here we may simply note that there are at least two sides to the argument. On the surface it would be natural to take the word “day” in Genesis 1 as referring to a literal twenty-four-hour day. But even this is not without question, for the account clearly indicates that God did not establish the sun and other heavenly bodies for the regulating of “seasons and days and years” until day four. Augustine noted this fifteen hundred years ago, and so have others. James Orr wrote, “It is at least as difficult to suppose that only ordinary days of twenty-four hours are intended, in view of the writer’s express statement that such days did not commence till the fourth stage of creation, as to believe that they are symbols” (Orr, Christian View, 421). There are other places even in Moses’ writings where “day” clearly means “period” (cf. Gen. 2:4; Ps. 90:4).

The third and, in my judgment, most serious objection to the progressive creation theory is that it introduces death into the world before the fall (or even the creation) of Adam. If death was the punishment for sin, as the Bible seems to indicate, and if this punishment was imposed upon the whole world (including the animals) as the result of Adam’s sin, then there could not have been death in the world before Adam, and the fossil record must be post-Adamic, as the flood geologists state. Morris puts it tersely: “The day-age theory … accepts as real the existence of death before sin, in direct contradiction to the biblical teaching that death is a divine judgment on man’s dominion because of man’s sin (Rom. 5:12). Thus it assumes that suffering and death comprise an integral part of God’s work of creating and preparing the world for man; and this in effect pictures God as a sadistic ogre, not as the biblical God of grace and love” (Morris, The Genesis Record, 54).

The objection is serious, but these points must be considered:

1. The actual curse of God as the result of man’s sin, recorded in Genesis 3, says nothing about the animals. It is a curse on four things only: the man, the woman, the serpent, and the ground for the man’s sake. Nowhere is it said that the earth or universe underwent a drastic transformation, nor even that the serpent, though an animal, was to die in punishment for its part in the temptation. Its curse was only to crawl on its belly and thus be cursed “above all the livestock and all the wild animals” (Gen. 3:14).

2. The curse on Adam and Eve did not involve physical death only, though that was horrible enough in that they were created for communion with God who is eternal; it involved spiritual death. But this does not really pertain to the animal realm in that animals do not have God-consciousness in the first place. It is conceivable that animals could be created to enjoy a normal life span and then to die without this having any of the judgmental qualities death has for man.

3. The texts often cited from the New Testament in support of the view that death came to the animal world as a result of man’s sin do not prove the point. Romans 8:19–21 does not contrast the present imperfection of the world with a more glorious past state but with the future state when it shall be delivered from its “bondage to decay” along with the final redemption of God’s children. Similarly, Romans 5:12, though it speaks of the introduction of death into the world through Adam’s sin, does not necessarily speak of the infliction of this penalty on any creature other than man.

4. It is hard to imagine a world of living things in which death does not occur in some form, if only because living things live by eating other living things. Even assuming that the carnivores were herbivores before Adam’s fall, these still had to eat plants that thereby died. Did birds not eat insects? Did fish not eat other fish? We can imagine that the birds all ate berries; but even if the fish ate plankton, the plankton died.

In view of these points, progressive creationists would argue that death did indeed exist in the world before Adam—otherwise, how would he know what the threat of death meant (“You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”)? But it did not have the horror for animals that it had for Adam and has for us today. Young writes, “The most that can be said with certainty about the effect of the fall on geological phenomena is that it introduced death and suffering into the human race for the first time. … It cannot be proved from the Scripture that the curse resulted in anything other than pain, sorrow, agonizing labor, and death for man and degradation for the serpent. Ideas about structural changes in the animals, death among animals, and drastic transformations in the laws of nature such as the laws of thermodynamics must from a Scriptural perspective forever remain pure speculations” (D.A. Young, Creation and the Flood, 168).

A Framework

We have come to an end of our examination of the various main views of creation, and it may seem that nearly everything is undecided. For many it may be; nearly anyone—anyone who can see the difficulties, whatever view he or she holds—will face problems. Still it is not true that everything is undecided. We have not settled everything, but we have established a framework in which our thinking about creation may go forward.

First, we have dismissed atheistic evolution and have come close to dismissing theistic evolution as well. This means that the world of man and things did not come about by chance happenings over long periods of evolutionary history but as a result of God’s direct creative activity.

Second, we have suggested that any view that makes the earth a relatively new thing (on the order of twelve thousand to twenty thousand years old) flies in the face of too much varied and independent evidence to be tenable. Some would dispute this, of course. But in my judgment the earth and universe are indeed billions of years old.

Third, we have shown the possibility of God’s having formed the earth and its life in a series of creative days representing long periods. In view of the apparent age of the earth, this is not only possible—it is probable. Nothing is to be gained by insisting that God had to create all things in six literal twenty-four-hour days.

This does not mean, however, that everything said by evolutionists about the many millions of years in which the earth and its life are supposed to have formed is factual. The periods involved may be considerably shorter than current evolution and geologic theory suggest, since the main reason for insisting on such interminable ages is to give the amount of time supposed to be necessary for life to emerge through chance occurrences. In particular, there is no need to argue for the great antiquity of man. Man may be relatively recent, though how recent is unclear. (The fossil evidence for man’s antiquity will be considered when the creation of man himself is discussed in Part 11 in this Series on Genesis.)

Finally, we can make these “spiritual” applications. We have discussed the theory of evolution in which everything we know is supposed to have evolved by mere chance. We have rejected evolution. But there is a sense in which those who know God are enabled to evolve increasingly into that image of what he would have us to be, and we rejoice in that. Again, we have discussed the gap theory. We have seen that there may be gaps in what is told us in the historical sections of Genesis; there may be gaps in our knowledge. But there are no gaps in the wisdom, knowledge, or love of God, and in this we rejoice. We have discussed the twenty-four-hour-day theory. We have seen evidence for and against that option. But whether the days of Genesis are twenty-four hours long or much longer, all time is God’s time and is used by him. Our days are also God’s days. Last, we considered progressive creationism. It may be close to the true picture. But we need to remember that there is never any true or lasting progress that is not God’s doing and that where God works there is always progress. Let us ask him to make progress with us as we strive to grow in the knowledge of his will and ways.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 9 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James Montgomery Boice on Genesis 1:1-2 “VIEWS OF CREATIONISM: SIX-DAY CREATIONISM”

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 8

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

In recent years the gap theory of creation, so popuplar with the early fundamentalists, has been replaced by a school of thought known as six-day creationism or flood geology. This theory views the Genesis account as involving six literal days, posits a relatively young earth (maximum age twelve thousand years), and explains the fossil record as having been formed by the great flood in Genesis 6 conceived as having been universal and of immensely destructive proportions. This theory is biblical, but it does not base its interpretation of Genesis on unusual schemes of thought, as the gap theorists do. True, its geology may be unusual (perhaps even forced, as some would claim). But because it is biblical, as well as scientific, creationism deserves the most serious consideration by Christian people.

Two organizations have been effective in advancing the creationists’ viewpoint: the Creation Research Society of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Institute for Creation Research of San Diego, California. The first of these was founded in 1963 with Dr. Walter E. Lammerts as its first president. It has a current membership of five hundred scientists, who have the right to vote, and sixteen hundred nonscientists, who do not have the right to vote. The society issues a quarterly journal and in 1970 published a school textbook entitled Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity. It has produced several other volumes. As indicated by the name, the members of the Creation Research Society engage largely in research relating to creation matters.

The second organization has been more active and is therefore better known. It is a division of Christian Heritage College, also of San Diego, and has as its leaders Dr. Duane T. Gish, who serves on the board of directors of the Christian Research Society, and Dr. Henry M. Morris, the institute’s director. This organization sponsors frequent debates on evolution. The results of these debates, sometimes attended by many thousands of people, are printed, along with other items and articles in support of scientific creationism, in a monthly newsletter known as Acts & Facts. In the last ten years the institute has published more than thirty books on creationism, most of them written by Gish and Morris, though the best-known work, The Genesis Flood, was coauthored by Morris and Dr. John C. Whitcomb, former professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana.

These organizations have offered a powerful challenge to prevailing evolutionary theory and have carried their challenge into the public sphere as evidenced by the California biology textbook controversy, which began in November 1969, and other recent court cases.

The Creationists’ Message

The message of the creationists, whether in debate or in their publications, is that evolution is impossible and that the facts (as we know them) best fit the creationist model.

Here is a lengthy but valuable summation of the creationists’ position from the Whitcomb and Morris volume: “Although there may be considerable latitude of opinion about details, the Biblical record does provide a basic outline of earth history, within which all the scientific data ought to be interpreted. It describes an initial Creation, accomplished by processes which no longer are in operation and which, therefore, cannot possibly be understood in terms of present physical or biological mechanisms. It describes the entrance into this initial Creation of the supervening principle of decay and deterioration: the ‘curse’ pronounced by God on the ‘whole creation,’ resulting from the sin and rebellion of man, the intended master of the terrestrial economy, against his Creator.

“The record of the great Flood plainly asserts that it was so universal and cataclysmic in its cause, scope, and results that it also marked a profound hiatus in terrestrial history. Thus the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood constitute the truly basic facts, to which all the other details of early historical data must be referred…It seems most reasonable to attribute the formations of the crystalline basement rocks, and perhaps some of the Pre-Cambrian non-fossiliferous sedimentaries, to the Creation period, enough later substantially modified by the tectonic upheavals of the Deluge period. The fossil-bearing strata were apparently laid down in large measure during the Flood, with the apparent sequences attributed not to evolution but rather to hydrodynamic selectivity, ecologic habitats, and differential mobility and strength of the various creatures.”

So far as evolution is concerned, Whitcomb and Morris write that “evolution is the great ‘escape mechanism’ of modern man. This is the pervasive philosophic principle by which man either consciously or sub-consciously seeks intellectual justification for escape from personal responsibility to his Creator and escape from the ‘way of the Cross’ as the necessary and sufficient means of his personal redemption. … The decision between alternative theories does not therefore depend only on the scientific data but is ultimately a moral and emotional decision. … We therefore urge the reader to face up to the fact that the actual data of geology can be interpreted in such a way as to harmonize quite effectively with a literal interpretation of the Biblical records and then also to recognize the spiritual implications and consequences of this fact” (John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Geneisis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Applications. Philadelphia: P&R, 1961, 327-30).

A Detailed Message

There are several points in this summary that ought to guide us in an evaluation of the theory. First, there is a concern for biblical teaching. More than this, creationists want to make biblical teaching determinative. This is the point at which the summary begins, for it seeks to make an initial creation, the fall, and the flood the three great points around which everything else is to be interpreted.

We have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationists is strong. They take the creation account of Genesis as literally as possible, arguing that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) must refer to an actual twenty-four-hour day unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. They do not deny that yom can refer to an indefinite period, in which case it might be more properly translated “age,” but they consider this usage to be relatively rare. Moreover, even where it does mean an indefinite period, this can hardly be stretched to include the billions of years that uniformitarian geology would assign to periods represented by the “days” of Genesis. Besides, in Genesis 1 the days are each said to have an evening and a morning. Whitcomb and Morris say, “Since God’s revealed Word describes this Creation as taking place in six ‘days’ and since there apparently is no contextual basis for understanding these days in any sort of symbolic sense, it is an act of both faith and reason to accept them, literally, as real days (Ibid, 228).”

The perspicuity of Scripture has bearing here. True, not all Scripture is equally clear, but the creationist would argue that it is very clear at this point. “Suppose the creation did take place in six twenty-four-hour days,” he might say. “How could God possibly tell us that more clearly or directly than by the language we have in Genesis?”

Second, the summary shows the weaknesses and perhaps even the ultimate failure of evolution, the “great escape mechanism” of modern man. Where does evolution fail? In addition to its failure to provide adequate supporting data from the fossil record, which I have already alluded to, Whitcomb and Morris lay particular stress on the problem evolution has with the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics is energy conservation. It says that energy is neither created nor lost. It is simply changed from one form to another. The second law states that in spite of this conservation the energy available for useful work does decrease so that the universe can properly be said to be “running down.” To give just one illustration, the energy of the sun is not being destroyed by the combustion going on on its surface—the energy latent in the sun’s matter is being converted to heat—but the heat largely dissipates into space and becomes useless.

A consequence of this second law is that in any closed system order tends to move in the direction of disorder or disarrangement. Take the example that Robert Kofahl and Kelly Segraves give in their book, The Creation Explanation. They ask us to imagine an orderly pile of ping-pong balls resting at the head of a flight of stairs. For the sake of the illustration they also ask us to imagine that the balls are perfectly resilient so that they are capable of bouncing forever without losing their original energy. Imagine that someone jars the balls so that the pile collapses and the balls begin to roll down over the first step and then bounce on down to the bottom of the stairs and so on around the room. What will happen? The balls will continue bouncing but in increasing disorder. They will not bounce back up into their original position and assemble themselves on the upper step, even though they continue bouncing for billions of years. There is a mathematical possibility of that happening, but it is a practical impossibility, which is to say: It does not happen. Yet evolution would have us believe that the complex order of the universe has come about from just such random happenings (Robert E. Kofahl and Kelly L. Segraves, The Creation Explanation: A Scientific Alternative to Evolution. Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1975, 33-35).

Whitcomb and Morris conclude, “The plain facts of the situation, therefore, are that evolution has been simply assumed as the universal principle of change in nature, despite the fact that there is no experimental evidence supporting it and despite the still more amazing fact that universal experience and experimentation have demonstrated this universal principle of change to be its very opposite: namely, that of deterioration” (Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood, 227).

But if the earth is young (only twelve thousand years or so) and if it is the result of God’s special acts of creation taking place within the short period of only six literal twenty-four-hour days, where did the various strata of the earth’s crust come from? Even more important, where did the various fossil-bearing strata come from? Didn’t these require long periods of time, hundreds of thousands if not billions of years in time, for their formation? The creationists’ answer is that although the strata may have been laid down in various epochs—at the time of the initial creation (by fiat), during the work of the six literal days, or in our own relatively modern period—the significant, fossil-bearing strata are largely the result of the flood.

The idea here is that a flood of worldwide proportions would be immensely destructive. It would require huge amounts of water pushed up from beneath and precipitated from above, presumably by the condensation of a vapor or cloud cover, with cataclysmic effects on the earth’s crust. The amount of water necessary to cover the earth would carry virtually all soil with it into the oceans by erosion, where it would pile up in strata. Various creatures would be buried in those strata, the simpler and smaller on the bottom, the larger and more vigorous on top—hence, the appearance of various ages in which life developed from simpler to more complex forms. After the flood new land masses would have emerged, and some of these newly formed strata would have been exposed.

Creationists believe that their views are reinforced by additional considerations:

1. Present-day conditions are forming very few potential fossil deposits, and most of these are unusual. Nothing comparable to the known fossil beds of ancient times is being formed today, which makes us think that some past catastrophe was necessary to produce them.

2. The facts of geology do not support the view of essentially harmonious strata with the older levels on the bottom and the most recent on the top. There is a tendency in this direction, but the facts reflect a far more unruly situation. A universal flood accounts for these facts more adequately than the theory of lengthy geological ages and slow evolutionary development.

3. The existence of huge fossil deposits containing thousands of large, complex species, such as the mammoth deposits in Siberia, is best explained either by the flood or by the abnormal weather conditions that must have followed it.

After presenting this and other evidence, Kofahl and Segraves conclude, “The foregoing features of the fossil and geological records all seem to be in agreement more with the catastrophic than with the uniformitatrion concept of geological processes of the past. Thus, in this respect, fossils corroborate the structural data given previously and lend themselves readily to the framework of biblical catastrophism.”

How Old is the Earth?

In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists’ view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists. We conclude by listing the most important.

Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and an even older universe. Some of the conclusions from this data, as well as some of the data itself, were presented in earlier chapters. There is astronomical data. One line of astronomical data concerns the speed of light. Light travels in a vacuum at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, 1) if the speed of light is constant, and 2) the light we observe coming from the stars actually comes from those stars, and 3) if our distance measurements for these stars are substantially accurate, then the universe is at least as old as the light-travel-time coming to us from the most distant objects. The most distant objects we are able to observe are quasars. The travel time for light coming from these objects is more than 10 billion years. Therefore, the age of the universe by this mode of reckoning is at least more than that. A second line of data is based on the apparent expansion of the universe. All parts of the universe are retreating from us and from one another at enormous speeds, the most distant observable galaxies at speeds in excess of 100 million miles per hour. by working backward from their present position and speed to the initial “big bang,” the origin of the universe can be set at between 15 and 20 billion years ago. A third line of astronomical data concerns the nature and normal life of stars. Stars are of various ages, having been formed over the whole history of the universe from 15 to 20 billion years ago until today. Our own Milky Way galaxy is about as old as the universe. Our sun is considerably younger, about 5 to 10 billion years old.

The point of combining this data is that, although it is related in some ways, it is based on different approaches to the problem of age and on different assumptions. Yet it gives a roughly consistent picture. According to these methods, the universe would be about 15 to 20 billion years old, the sun about 5 to 10 billion years old, and our solar system about 5 billion years old.

Second, there is the evidence of radioactive methods of dating earth (or moon) rocks. This method is based on the observation that certain kinds of unstable or radioactive elements decay from an unstable to a stable form at measurable rates. By measuring the amount of the original element and the amount of the derivative or “daughter” element in any given sample, an approximate age of the sample may be given. This is an admittedly uncertain method. Many criticisms have been given. But valid or not, the data it gives points to an earth that is about 4.55 billion years old, which is in line with the astrological evidence. Even allowing for large percentages of error, this is still a long way from an earth that is only a few thousand years old.

Third, there is the evidence of nonradiometric dating. Types of data available in this category are: carbonate deposits, sediments, deposits of evaporites, the development of coral reefs, seafloor spreading, and other matters. These all suggest an earth older than that allowed by the creationist model.

We must say, as we summarize this first problem with the creationist view, that the creationists have given answers to each of these lines of evidence for an old earth and an even older universe. They have spoken of a lack of uniformity of scientific laws in past ages; of a universe created “in motion,” as it were, with light already in progress from a distant point; of radioactive dating methods as unreliable, sometimes giving wildly conflicting data, and so on. But when everything is considered, it seems to many persons (myself included) that the creationists are running against too many lines of more or less independent evidence against their case on behalf of a young earth. Therefore, whatever else may be true about their viewpoint, it is hard to believe that the creation of the earth and universe was recent.

Remaining Problems

A second problem, which bothers most geologists and some other people as well, is the use of the flood to explain the various strata of the earth’s outer crust, particularly those that contain fossils. Let us assume that the flood was universal and immensely destructive. Let us also assume that the flood carried most of the earth’s soil and millions of dead or soon-to-be drowned organisms before it. Let us even assume that the simpler and less mobile organisms were buried first (and are therefore found in the lower layers of sedimentary rocks) and that the larger and more mobile creatures survived longer but were eventually overcome and buried in higher layers of rock. Assuming all of that—and some of it is questionable—how is it that plants, which are not mobile, show the same general distribution from the less complex to the more complex forms, or that fish (which the Bible does not say were killed and need not have been) are nevertheless included in the same general fossil distribution?

L. Duane Thuman raises these questions and asks, “How did the plants survive such a destructive flood and become re-established so quickly that the dove could bring back an olive leaf? A worldwide flood which buried both plants and animals under sediment sometimes thousands of feet deep makes this highly improbable.”

A third and final problem, which we have not discussed up to now but that is very important to the creationists’ view of Genesis 1, is the appearance of age. Since the universe is extremely complex, it gives the impression of having gotten to its present form through changes taking place over a long period of time. For example, a tree possessing hundreds of rings in its trunk gives the impression of its having reached that form by growing taller and thicker bit by bit over a period of many years. But according to the creationists, everything we see (including the original tree) was brought into being within six literal days. Therefore, it was either brought to a mature state extremely quickly, within minutes or hours, or else was created to look as if it had gone through a long and complex history. To Adam, newly created, the Garden of Eden may have seemed to have been around for years, but in reality it had been created for him in a mature form or was quickly brought to a mature form only three days previously. In the same way, say the creationists, the universe does indeed appear to have had a beginning 15 to 20 billion years ago, but it was created in motion and is actually only 10 or 15 thousand years old. The same approach can be applied to the age of rocks, coral reefs, and other apparent evidence for an older earth or universe.

At this point it is possible to ridicule the six-day creationism theory. Some have! But this should not be done too quickly, particularly not by those who believe in the createdness of Adam. How old was Adam when he was created? There is no need to think of him as a baby. From whom would he have come? Presumably he was created fully grown. But if that is so, then it is not impossible to think that God might have created the rest of the universe “fully grown” also, according to the same pattern.

“But that would mean that God is deceiving us,” object some, “and God cannot do that and be good.” Whitcomb and Morris hit this objection head-on, claiming that God cannot be accused of deceit inasmuch as he has given a revelation in the Bible of how things have actually been created. “If God reveals how and when he created the universe and its inhabitants, then to charge God with falsehood in creating ‘apparent age’ is preposterous in the extreme—even blasphemous. It is not God who has lied, but rather man who has called him a liar, through rejection of his revelation of Creation as given in Genesis and verified by the Lord Jesus Christ!”

It is a shrewd point—yet not entirely convincing. Although God may have had to create Adam as a mature individual, and presumably did so, there is no reason to think on that basis that he therefore also needed to do so in other areas. Why would God make the tree look old rather than merely giving it time to grow old? What was the hurry? Or again, even if God did create the magnificent universe we know just thousands of years ago, why make it look as if it is much older? Why make the quasars look 10 billion years old? We cannot even see them. What possible point would such a creation have?

None of this is to suggest that God could not have done things in this fashion if he chose to do so. Nor is it to say that the creationists have not made a very good case for their position. But there are problems and questions, and it is because of these that the quest for an explanation by believing scientists goes on.

What About Science?

There is one last point. The possibility of doing science in our day or any other day is undergirded by the assumption of certain laws of nature, operating in the past and continuing to operate on into the future. But according to the creationists, those laws were not operating or else were entirely different during the period of creation itself, and therefore any scientific investigation of creation is both impossible and illegitimate. Is that what our knowledge of God’s ways leads us to expect? Are we given minds that can reason, only to be told that at the point of creation the data they perceive and the basis on which they would reason are an illusion? If so, it is the end of science, at least in this area, and it may be the end of other thinking also.

If the earth and the universe look old when they actually are not, why should any of our observations be trusted? True, the Bible tells us much, and it can be trusted. But the Bible does not tell us everything. It does not even tell me that I exist. Perhaps I do not. Perhaps appearances in this area too are deceiving. Taken to its extreme, the idea of “apparent age” (or “apparent” anything) leads to skepticism, and we are not to be skeptics. We are to know and know we know—by the Word of God and by that limited but nevertheless extensive and extremely wonderful revelation of God in nature, perceived and understood by reason.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE AGE OF THE EARTH CLICK ON THIS LINK:  http://creation.com/how-old-is-the-earth

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 8 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 

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