Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Age of the Universe...

So, some of my EFCA brethren listened to Al Mohler and Jack Collins debate today in Deerfield, IL, on the age of the universe.

Here are my 2 cents...

Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?
By Matt Proctor

                I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I also believe that Jesus affirmed every person and event in the Old Testament as being historical events. So with Jesus I believe in a massive worldwide flood in the days of a historical Noah (Matthew 24:37-38). Likewise, with Jesus I believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament (cf. Luke 24:44 where Jesus affirms the Torah as coming from Moses).[1] With Jesus I believe Jonah spent 3 days in a gigantic sea creature/fish (Matthew 12:40, τοῦ κήτους). I believe God placed two human persons, Adam and Eve, in a garden on this earth in real time and space. I also believe in God’s creative work occurring in six literal days.[2]    
I believe all of these things, and yet, I am a convinced agnostic regarding the age of the universe. Here are my 3 reasons:
#1: Gaps in the genealogical record: Overly simplistic Biblical mathematics (gymnastics?) does not work with the Bible. Any amateur Bible student notes the differences of genealogies in the life of Jesus Christ and the different genealogies of David and other Israelite kings. Only studying the intent behind each genealogy can help a student ascertain the purpose of each record. Additionally, if a name is left out on one list and included in another, it makes sense that there are some names not mentioned at all.[3] These gaps allow for decades or hundreds or (tens/hundreds of?) thousands of years between one significant historical person to the next (the lists in Genesis 4-5 documenting technological advances, growing moral decay, and population expansion of the earliest dwellers on the earth, indicate a lengthy series of events). As such, our universe is certainly older than adding numbers in the Bible to get to ~6,000 years.
#2: The weakness of scientific theories: To my Christian brothers and sisters who are quick to adopt a dating of the universe from Stephen Hawking or other “scientific authorities,” let us not forget many of these people refuse to submit to the authority of the Triune God. They build their theories on one human authority after another (often culminating in their own). The Bible presents a fully functional creation in six days. Many of the scientists behind Intelligent Design are quick to point out that the foundational principles of life are irreducibly complex and the position of the earth and other galactic properties are perfectly (divinely) calibrated for life. Why would God dance around for billions of years without organic life or image bearers present, when He is a God of life, personality, and love (especially when He has it in his power to bring forth such things quickly)?
I fear that many “old earth creationists” hold their old earth theories more out of fear of being discredited in the scientific academy than out of rigorous scientific research or Biblical exegesis (this goes even for the heroic and brilliant Princetonians of the 19th century, of whom I am unworthy to tie their shoes). Jesus’ affirmation of the Torah (and particularly his own consistent literal hermeneutic of the Torah) prevents me from interpreting six days any other way than six days. In the beginning, there was Adam, so says Jesus (Matthew 19:4). It goes against logic to refer to Adam ‘at the beginning’ (the Greek word ἀρχή  used in the LXX in Genesis 1:1) if Adam is billions of years after the beginning (I think he would be at the end of history, not the beginning if that were the case). Christians should allow Scripture to be the foundation and starting point of ongoing scientific research. No scientific theory can arrive at true knowledge if the knowledge of and from God is not its first principles.
#3: Human weakness and the call to love: We are all under the admonition in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (NIV). First and foremost, this passage tells us that truth is primarily a clarion call to worship and obey the LORD. Whether we have special revelation or general revelation, all such knowledge should lead to gratitude and humility before the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Any truth claim that does not do this should be suspect.
Second, certain things are unknowable. Moses did not put a Captain Kirk-esque time stamp on the origins of the universe. We also do not know the nature of God’s special creation. Clearly, the amount of power, force, and energy necessary to produce something out of nothing will be hard to categorize or recalculate in scientific models. Such scientific endeavors are like using thimbles to measure the volume of the Pacific Ocean. I believe philosophers and scientists (Christian believer or not) do their research honestly, and as such, we should listen to their discoveries with the respect image-bearers deserve. Yes, sin blinds many (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4-5) and rebellion hardens others (cf. Romans 1:18ff), but this means they are victims, not enemies. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, philosopher or scientist, but against demonic principalities that prolong unbelief (Ephesians 6:12). Such principalities and strongholds will only come down through a proclamation of the Gospel. Then eyes will be opened; then they will see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In the end, the exact age of the universe will continue to be as controversial as any other thing that can only be known in part. Therefore, the call to love becomes all the more important for Christians as we engage with the world and one another (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). Victory rests in weakness, frailty, service, sacrifice and love, not in winning arguments about a definite date that seems as elusive as Jesus before crowds seeking to make him king of their preconceived notions of Messiahship.

[1] Elsewhere Jesus quotes the Pentateuch and consistently attributes its content to Moses--Matthew 19:7, referring to Genesis; Mark 10:5, quoting Deuteronomy; Mark 12:26, citing Exodus; John 7:23, referencing Leviticus; in John 3 Jesus confirms the accounting of the bronze snake in Numbers.
[2] Otherwise Moses’ understanding of days can switch between Genesis 1 and Exodus 20, and we could not read the rest of Genesis, or any other Biblical literature, without constantly asking, “So does he mean day or age, 24 hours or 2.4 billion years?”
[3] It is unlikely that an ancient person wrote their genealogies expecting to deal with theories of evolution in a secular age thousands of years in the future.

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