Worldviews, Logic, and Earth’s Age: Part 2
The necessary conflict between two worldviews
by John K. Reed and Shaun Doyle
Despite claims of contemporary Christian scholars, history demonstrates that an old earth has been detrimental to the church over the past few centuries. Until the 18th century, the church was practically unanimous in accepting young-earth history. The concept of prehistory grounded in geology originated among Enlightenment deists and atheists and not from within the church. The church’s capitulation to deep time has led to theological novelty, often to the point of affecting essential Christian doctrine. As such, the old-earth paradigm has weakened both the church and the culture in the West. Galileo and geocentrism are falsely presented as arguments for a superior authority for science, and by extension an old earth, but geocentrism and deep time are vastly different issues. The conflict between the old-earth paradigm and Christianity is inevitable because the old-earth paradigm is intrinsically rooted in naturalism.
Many Christian academics and theologians since the late 18th century have embraced an old earth, claiming that it is compatible with Christianity.1Even many conservative Christian scholars have embraced this idea.2 They think deep time and Christianity must be reconciled at all costs. The result is almost scripted; scientists put forward the latest version of the old-earth paradigm using ‘scientific evidence’,3,4,5 and theologians meekly fall into line, changing Genesis to accommodate it.6,7,8
But the old-earth paradigm involves much more than a quantitative age. It was a dramatic departure from the doctrine of creation, as can be seen in its origin with an aggressive secular intelligentsia, who used ‘science’ to mask their unbelief.9 This occurred sooner and faster than many realize. Prior to 1800:
“[Christian naturalist Jean André] De Luc [(1727–1817)] was well aware that to mention Genesis at all in a ‘philosophical’ or scientific work was to invite a kneejerk reaction from many other savants. Far from expressing a view that was triumphantly dominant in his culture (as often portrayed by modern historical myth making), de Luc as a self-consciously Christian philosopher regarded himself as one of an embattled minority, indeed as part of a minority within a minority.”10
In the centuries following the Newtonian revolution, Christian theologians did not subject science to a thorough theological analysis, and, more importantly, they allowed their enemies to define ‘science’ so as to obfuscate its true dependence on the truth of Scripture.11 As a result, theologians no longer fought secularism; they simply argued over how far to retreat. Those who opposed Darwin still accepted Lyell, not recognizing their fundamental interdependence. This pattern continues—creationists argue for orthodoxy; other Christians affirm an old earth. Despite the gains of creationism, most professional theologians reject it, impeding lasting and significant reform in the church.If an old earth is consistent with Christian doctrine, it would have been taught during the Church’s first 1,800 years.
We believe that the old-earth paradigm is wrong, and that a new line of argument is warranted for the sake of Christians who feel constrained to accept it by ‘scientific evidence’ they do not understand. We have previously shown that the Christian case for an old earth is severely weakened by virtue of its compatibility with naturalism and its incompatibility with Christianity as worldviews.12 History supplements this logical argument and shows how it has increasingly damaged the integrity of the church’s witness over the past few centuries. If the old earth is intrinsic to naturalism, fundamental loyalties require all Christians to abandon it…
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image credit: Original artwork using unknown source icons