HOW OLD? Age of Earth debated among SBC scholars
Oct 20, 2010
WITNESS Correspondent

FORT WORTH (FBW)—The age of the earth has generated discussion recently among several Southern Baptist scholars.

It began with a 2009 book by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor William Dembski but includes a broader dialogue about evolution and the boundaries of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Dembski’s book, The End of Christianity (B&H Academic), argued that the universe is billions of years old—rather than thousands, as young-earth creations contend—and that God brought death, decay and natural disasters to earth long before Adam and Eve sinned. That natural evil, he said, was a retroactive punishment for their disobedience. In a similar manner to God’s application of the effects of Christ’s death to humans who lived prior to it, He also applied the Fall to a creation that existed prior to it, according to Dembski.

“The young earth-solution to reconciling the order of creation with natural history makes good exegetical and theological sense,” wrote Dembski, who holds Ph.D. degrees in both philosophy and mathematics and is a leading proponent of the Intelligent Design movement. “Indeed, the overwhelming consensus of theologians up through the Reformation held to this view. I myself would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it.”

He went on to argue that “there never was a chronological moment when the world we inhabit was without natural evil (or a disposition toward it; it is, for instance, not apparent how, at the moment of the Big Bang, the universe could have exhibited natural evil).” Dembski, research professor of philosophy at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, speculated that the Garden of Eden could have been merely a pocket of unfallen creation amid a world already afflicted by natural evil.

He also argued that Noah’s flood likely was limited to the Middle East rather than being global in scope. However, he later retracted that claim in a statement released by Southwestern.

Dembski declined an interview request by Florida Baptist Witness, saying by email that he has already expressed his opinions through his writings. But he emphasized that he is not an evolutionist and has a forthcoming book countering theistic evolution.


In response to The End of Christianity, Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote a review in which he critiqued Dembski for allegedly letting scientific commitments to trump the most natural reading of the Bible. The review appeared in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Vol. 13.4, 2009), Southern Seminary’s official theological journal.

“One thing that’s not driving [Dembski’s interpretation of Genesis] is just a straightforward exegesis of the text,” Nettles told the Witness. “And he admits that if the text were to stand as it is, then the traditional view would be there. And he also is committed to a tremendously old earth. So these things, one theological idea and one scientific idea, drive his interpretation.”

ronqueen (10/22/2010)
It is sad that a professor (Dr. Dembski, PH.D.) who teachs at a prestigious [Conservative] Southern Baptist Seminary (responsible for the teaching and mentoring of so many present and future pastors and teachers) would even entertain the old earth concept. I applaud Dr. Molher who so succinctly brings this to the point... The entire inerrancy of Scripture. "Mohler worries that most Christians who hold to an old earth are not thinking through all the logical implications of their position." Also thankyou Dr. Wise........... “Believing in a young creation is in no way a requirement for salvation,” Wise told the Witness in an email. “I do believe, however, that it is impossible to consistently believe in both an old earth and inerrant Scripture.” I believe Dr. Dembski should stay with mathmatics and leave Theology alone......... My prayer is that the new young minds attending seminary now, (our leaders for tomorrow) would not be confused by this type of discussions but would dig deep into the facts without the prejudice of social agendas.......Thankyou.......RQ
markriser1 (12/8/2010)
Why would it be "sad" to consider the old earth concept. The old earth view is a valid interpretation of Scripture. The Reasons To Believe ( Testable Creation Model upholds Biblical inerrancy and does not allow for universal common descent (evolution). Despite what Dr. Mohler and Dr. Wise seem to believe, it is possible to believe in an old earth, and to consider the logical implications of that position, and to believe in inerrancy.
BillofTexas (7/3/2014)
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior as a youth at Portland Avenue Baptist Church. As a child, I did not understand about the issues of inerrancy or any other issue that seem to divide the Christian family. I have degrees in Physics and Mathematics and had a long professional career. I have always thought deeply about my faith and my love of science and mathematics. In John 18:37 Christ is testifying to Pilate and says “I came into the world to testify to the truth.” I feel that we have a moral obligation to always seek the truth, even when it is unpopular or professionally risky. When I read or listen to proponents of “Young Earth” it reminds me of speculations regarding Nostradamus. I find the evidence overwhelming that the universe is very old, probably 13.7 billion years old. Every night we can look into the heavens through our galaxy, The Milky Way is 100,000 light years wide and 1,000 light years thick. Yet the young earth proponents would have us believe the earth and universe was created around 4,000 B.C. How can we see light from a star 30,000 light years away if our universe is around 6,000 years old? Our Milky Way is one galaxy in a hundred million galaxies. Recently, I was visiting a church where the speaker was claiming that dinosaurs were all vegetarians and passengers on Noah’s ark. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) wrote “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” I don’t think this fits the strict definition of biblical inerrancy. I agree with biblical scholars who are open to factual discrepancies, but not to theological discrepancies. For example, the order of events found in the Synoptic Gospels is not always in agreement. In another example, the Gospel of John places the arrest and crucifixion of Christ on the day before the Passover, while the Synoptic Gospels place it on the first day of the Passover. Having the view that scripture is doctrinally inerrant, but not necessarily inerrant in some details opens the door to reaching people who think like me, but who were not fortunate enough to hear the gospel until adulthood. - Bill Poage, Midlothian, TX

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