Terry Mortenson on the Problem of Millions of Years

Here on Veracity, we have highlighted the work of Terry Mortenson, a speaker for the popular Young Earth Creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis. He spoke in Williamsburg several years ago on topics related to creation.

A lot of people, particularly atheists, ridicule Young Earth Creationists as being idiotic and stupid. I find this to be most uncharitable. Though I was not able to meet Terry Mortenson personally during his time in Williamsburg, I nevertheless found him to be quite charming, likable, and very articulate.

Terry Mortenson believes that modern science, even as practiced by Old Earth and Evolutionary Creationists, is built on inherently anti-biblical assumptions. Therefore, Christians should reject the concept of “millions of years” because it threatens to undermine the Bible. Science, as generally practiced today, can not be relied upon to give us true, genuine knowledge of the world that reflects God’s glory. In other words, God’s creation is NOT the 67th book of the Bible.

I would assume that Dr. Mortensen would take issue with how I understand the teaching of Psalm 19. My questions for Terry Mortenesen are not based on science, per se. That is a very involved discussion that would require me cracking open those dusty textbooks from my days in college. My concern is about the Bible. How would he read passages like Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Here, the Apostle Paul, is talking about pagans who have no access to  God’s Law as set forth in Holy Scripture (he addresses the Jews who have God’s Law in Romans 2).  Paul’s main message is that the pagans have looked at the evidence for God in creation and then rejected God, worshipping creatures instead of the Creator. A lot of atheists and other skeptics probably fit in this category rather well today. But as I have highlighted above, Paul seems convinced that what can be known of God as Creator can be seen in the things that have been made. Not only that, but this knowledge from the created order has been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world. Paul makes no mention of the pagans having a Bible to give them knowledge of God as Creator. Rather, it would appear that Paul assumes that general knowledge of God can be truly known by people because He has made it plain to them. If I take this literally, it would imply that there is a Christian basis for doing science simply by observing nature, expecting that as a different source of information, it essentially will not and cannot conflict with what we read in Sacred Scripture.

How does this square with Terry Mortenson’s view that you must first look to the first few chapters of Genesis to establish the basis for building science? Dr. Mortensen is quite correct that it is easy for scientists to misinterpret the scientific data that God leaves us in Creation. Good point!

However, those who hold to more of an “Old Earth” perspective contend that it is possible for people to misinterpret the Bible, as well, thereby creating an apparent conflict between modern science and Christian faith that need not exist. According to this perspective that accepts the general narrative of modern science, misinterpreting the Bible can actually create an unnecessary barrier to having faith in God.

Every “Old Earth” scientist I know who loves Jesus is persuaded that “millions of years” is correct, not because they are uncritically consuming “anti-biblical” assumptions. They accept “millions of years” because, in their observations, the evidence God has placed there demands it. If convincing evidence could be demonstrated to overthrow “millions of years,” they would accept a “young earth” in a heartbeat.

So, is Dr. Mortenson correct? Tell me what you think in the comments section below after you view this short video.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

18 responses to “Terry Mortenson on the Problem of Millions of Years

  • Rob

    If there is anything I can assert with any expectancy of certainty, it is that the more I consider the “how” or even the “why” of Creation in light of the thought-proving dutiful scholarship presented within this blog/resource, the more unqualified I feel to weight in.

    Having said that, as I have searched the Scriptures to the best of my abilities, looked at rigorous scientific findings, and even whats I have experienced my own senses, I have never wrestled with the question of “Who.”

    I too believe that God’s creation exists to create a first path for us to seek and find Him.

    For example, one example that really tripped me up regarding the Young Earth philosophy, as a young man, as I looked through my telescope at our own Moon , were the numerous craters on the moon. A vast majority of them are so large, that their impact would have certainly been seen and recorded throughout in even ancient times during our history, right? but not… they weren’t. Wouldn’t it take millions of years to create our current “swiss cheese” lunar typography?

    Not so fast…

    Now, it appears, that NASA has concluded hundreds of meteor and impact strikes to our moon within the last decade.

    I guess I say all of this to simply state that while I still struggle between the various philosophies of “how” old the earth is and whether or not the Bible is a scientific textbook or the word of God that focuses on man’s eternal salvation beyond nature is still being debated.

    Regardless, I don’t see any way we can get around the mathematical precision and the absolute beauty of the design of creation without pointing to a magnificent designer and for now, that’s more than this Christian needs, but I think God honors the effort made here and elsewhere in the scientific and Christian communities to link what we see and know in creation’s universal and magnificent entirety to the deliberate design of a benevolent God.

    Thank you!

    -Rob

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Rob, I think you get at the central nerve in this debate. On the one hand, if we take a too rigid view on the “how” of creation, it can trip us up later in life when we run into things that do not fit our interpretive grid. On the other hand, we can be surprised at how incredibly God displays the power and truth of His Word in unexpected ways. The key is to be open and listening to Him!

      Thank you for sharing. Clarke

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  • John Paine

    Irrational Christianity and Islam have fideism in common. I am thankful that there are interpretations of Scripture that are quite reasonable and that Christianity, when approached with an open and critical mind, proves to be objective truth. This blog is called ‘Veracity’ for several reasons–we should value truth as we investigate Scripture. Terry Mortenson, friendly and articulate as he may be, is promoting dogma that just won’t hunt. I find no ‘anti-biblical’ bias in pure science. I do find a great deal of anti-scientific bias in young earth creationism. Tragically, the incredulity that Answers In Genesis publishes is at cross purposes with the Gospel. They turn away critical thinkers and turn off many with their campaigns against modern scientific reasoning and Christians who hold opposing views on creationism.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      John, I would personally add Mormonism to that list of traditions that lean towards fideism. My concern is that if the “extra-scriptural” evidence for Islam and Mormonism — and I use that term “scriptural” loosely with respect to these different approaches to written revelation — is not allowable in the discussion, then it is very difficult to find any fault in these alternative faith claims.

      If someone believes the Book of Mormon or the Koran to be the very “Word of God,” and I can not make any appeal outside of those texts to consider whether or not those claims can be verified, on what basis do I have to say that these alternative faith claims can be rejected? Neither the Christian Bible, nor the various Mormon scriptures, nor the Koran can all be the Word of God at the same time. There needs to be some way to judge and test these various claims, but without evidence outside of the text we have absolutely nothing to work with.

      Fideism may be noble in the defense of the Bible, but it appears to be devastating when doing Christian apologetics.

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  • Fred Nice

    Very interesting….I typically appreciate more humble opinions especially on matters which cant be proven. His approach stifles debate instead of encouraging dialogue. Since this isn’t a salvation issue I’m not sure why he wants to shut down discussion instead of welcoming it. I’m just as much in awe of the God of the Bible whether he created the earth in 6 literal days or millions of years. ( I’m probably your least scientific reader)

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Thanks, Fred, for your contribution here. I do not see much value in shutting down discussion either — hence, the reason why I think we should discuss it!!

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  • Bob N.

    As a long-time supporter, I appreciate the work of Dr. Mortenson and AiG. I have taught my children the biblical truths presented in their excellent resources. They are a minority in calling the church to stand uncompromisingly on the authority of God’s Word, beginning with the foundation of our faith, the book of Genesis. Why is it that those who do not believe that the historical narrative of Genesis is literal are disturbed by a minority calling for a defense of truth? Evolution and millions of years are taught as fact in the public schools, and some Christian schools. There are very few natural history museums that are based on a 6-day creation model. Why is there even a debate if the scientific community is overwhelmingly populated with those who reject a “young earth”? Is the church striving to be relevant instead of boldly taking God at His word, risking being considered Neanderthals (no pun intended)? The burden of proof is on those who claim that “science” provides the answers to historical questions of origins that were not witnessed by any member of the human race. We who are not scientists are forced to believe what we are told, since we cannot disprove it scientifically, or embrace a plain reading of the text, which requires faith in the Author.

    It is not a “salvation issue”, but it is more than a discernment issue, since this is part of the foundation of our faith. As with any other difficult part of Scripture, the question to be asked is: “What Is at stake if we’re wrong?”.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Bob, thank you so much for your comments here on Veracity!

      May I ask you a question? John Paine recently told me that roughly 50% of evangelical pastors favor a Young Earth view of creation as opposed to some Old Earth view. If that statistic is correct, then it would seem that Dr. Mortenson and Answers in Genesis are hardly in the “minority” view as you state.

      A lot of my friends are homeschoolers. At a recent Christian homeschooling convention here in Virginia, Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis was given the podium to deliver a plenary address. To my knowledge, there was no comparable presence of an Old Earth view at this convention, which I thought was quite remarkable.

      So, I am trying to wrap my head around the idea that Young Earth Creationism is a “minority” view in the church. Can you cite any evidence to support your statement? I would like to learn more about this.

      And thanks again for your input. This is the type of dialogue we are hoping to stimulate here on Veracity. Clarke

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  • Bob N.

    Clarke,

    To clarify my point, a “minority” refers to the sum of those who stand for the authority of God’s Word, taking the position that the foundation of the Christian faith is grounded in a careful consideration of Genesis as literal history, inerrant in the original text and fully inspired by God, as is all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). I do not have raw data, but a small amount of daily reading on the topic reveals that the scientific community in particular is guided mostly by those who reject a “young earth”. I did not refer to the church, evangelical or otherwise, per se, but my limited experience in the debate seems to suggest that most church leaders are reluctant to take a stand, as evidenced by the lack of clear teaching on Genesis, possibly preferring instead to allow those with backgrounds in modern science within the congregation to influence the discussion.

    Other parts of Scripture that are critical to the foundation of the church have been historically taught as literal history and widely accepted (even in some liberal churches) such as the house of Israel, the prophets, the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus, the early church, etc. Why is God’s creation of the entire universe and everything in it, including His most important creation, man and woman, in 6 days, and a global flood as recorded in Genesis not vigorously defended, but openly challenged by those who claim to be His? Why is so much energy put into debating whether “And there was evening and there was morning” means 1 day as we typically understand it? I suspect that it is possibly because relevance and cultural acceptance take precedence over biblical authority.

    The future of the church, in the western world especially, will be determined by those who come behind us. What are we teaching them about the foundation of our faith? Are we viewing God’s Word through the lens of science (a relative term, since its derived meaning is “knowledge”) or is God’s Word our starting point for critical thinking skills to look at the evidence? Individual interpretation of difficult biblical passages will yield as many interpretations as there are interpreters. There must be church leadership willing to boldly take a stand on biblical authority and teach truth or the exodus from the church by young people will only increase. It stands at about 60-70% today.

    As a father, I desperately seek to be taught God’s Word in a fellowship because I know that the next generation is continually being taught something in our modern, information-saturated world, most notably that God’s Word cannot be trusted to give us answers to the questions about origins, and therefore, why we even exist. I do not believe that the historical narrative in the Scriptures can be considered disputable matters among Christians, because the Author of Scripture does not lie. The burden of proof is on us, not God. As I asked before, what is at stake if we are wrong?

    Thanks for the opportunity to present what God has placed on my heart.

    Bob

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  • David the Older

    Bob N.’s thoughts are interesting and bring this question to mind.
    More than 300 prominent members of the Evangelical hierarchy signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement, so it seems to me—but I could be wrong, is what Brother Bob N. has in mind when he writes about being committed to the authority and full inspiration (God breathedness) of the Bible. I looked up the names of the signatories. It is apparent that many, if not the majority of signers, either hold to an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1 or allow for an old-earth interpretation of Genesis. There is no more significant conformation of this fact (that the document allows for an old-earth view) than the missing signature of Henry Morris, a quintessential youth-earth, flood geology champion. (See Veracity post by Brother Clarke of March 15, 2015.) So, my question is this: Is Brother Bob N.’s concern about Evangelical integrity centered/focused on hermeneutics (the science and art, or rules, of biblical interpretation) or is it centered/focused on authority-inerrancy-inspiration a la the Chicago Statement? It seems to me that it is centered/focused on hermeneutics, that is, conceptual frameworks of interpretation of text. For example, no one to my knowledge (and of course my knowledge is limited to say the least) takes everything in our Holy Scriptures literally. Both Genesis 7:11 and 8:2 speak of the “windows of heaven” in the context of Noah and the Flood. I don’t think anyone takes the “windows” to be anything but a metaphor that clarifies and intensifies the reality of the rain that descended. So, is it authority or hermeneutics that is the primary problem/issue in Bob N.’s post? It seems to me that given the enormous diversity of Christian churches and theological frameworks the problem/issue is one of hermeneutics. Could someone help me with regard to my concern here? And then there is the question of the interrelation of that which is truth and that which is literal. That is, what is the mechanism(s) by which truth that is in the mind of infinite and perfect God is communicated to the mind of finite and imperfect man such that this man makes serious progress in being conformed to the image of Christ as Paul puts its? Blessings, D. the O.

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    • Bob N.

      David,

      I appreciate your comments and helpful input. I will not pretend to be smarter than I actually am. I am not a Bible scholar, nor do I have even an undergraduate degree. I believe God only requires faithfulness, as the apostles exemplified, and a diligent effort to seek His face will yield great blessings as His truth is revealed.

      I am unfamiliar with the Chicago Statement you referred to, but I may have a vague recollection of that sort of undertaking in past reading. I find that very interesting and discouraging, but it serves to somewhat prove my point, which basically is that most church leaders are reluctant to take a high view of Scripture, and instead allow secularists (who dominate the modern science field) to have the final say on origins, because of the fear of being tagged a legalist or fundamentalist, or anti-science. This undermines biblical authority and takes man’s word over God’s Word. It really is a matter of defining one’s starting point. If God’s Word is absolute truth, then the scientific and historical evidence of which we have a written record by the only One who was there, must be defined by that same truth, because God cannot lie. The issue of authority is probably more risky than hermeneutics, since the latter seems to me to be the stuff of theology studies, and authority requires one to essentially draw a line in the sand and defend faith (and the foundation of our faith found in Genesis) with critical thinking and Scriptural knowledge, like the apostles who boldly and fearlessly defended the Gospel, based on the EVIDENCE of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection in spite of the lack of formal religious training among some of them. As we do this, we will see that the scientific evidence of origins does indeed confirm what is recorded in Scripture.

      To defend biblical authority requires great sacrifice and risks reputation, ridicule, and in many parts of the world, personal safety. But we are called to humbly be His witnesses not only to an unbelieving world, but to those who have been misinformed in the church. I believe Answers in Genesis is doing just that. The church in the western world may soon discover the cost of biblical compromise. How much are the following generations worth? 2/3 are leaving the church today. How about tomorrow? They are leaving because the secular world is providing answers, not the church.

      May we all make serious progress toward bearing His likeness.

      Bob

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  • John Paine

    From David the Older…

    Brothers John and Clarke of Veracity,

    “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1 KJV.) The observations below are related to the “young earth” controversy that was the subject of Brother Terry Mortenson’s (TM) video.

    The average life expectancy of men and women aged 65 in the U.S. is 84 and 87, respectively. (Data from SSA.) Why such longevity? The answer is because of knowledge of the material world given to us by the community of natural scientists. Chief among the sciences is physics in its intimate partnership with mathematics. The physics community, with its offspring of electrical, computer, mechanical, etc. engineering disciplines, has given humans a wide array of powerful diagnostic imaging techniques including X-ray, ultrasound, nuclear magnetic resonance (MRI), positron emission (PET), molecular, etc. The cruciality of such diagnostic techniques to health and longevity is obvious. Further, physics and its engineering offspring have also given us an astonishing array of labor-saving, life-saving, and life-facilitating devices that we value and depend on in everyday existence: automobiles, aircraft, HVAC, nuclear reactors, nuclear radiation cancer therapies, computers, smart phones, military weaponry for defense, and on and on. It appears that TM and all other young earth folk affirm and use the benefits derived from the knowledge base of physicists and associated scientists and engineers. With regard to all these benefits, no one (that I am aware of) is challenging the integrity and goodwill of the men and women of the physics and engineering communities who brought these benefits to us.

    Many of the above “benefits” are derived from the area of nuclear physics—these include: nuclear power stations (e.g., Surry, VA), radiation therapies, PET, MRI, and radioisotopic molecular imaging techniques (e.g., Tc-99/Th-201 nuclear stress testing), radiotracers elucidating biochemical pathways, smoke alarms, food preservation, sterilization, and more. We are grateful to the physics community for their efficacious efforts. But in one area of physics, the age of the earth, TM suggests that the physics community, which includes hundreds of conservative, orthodox Christians, is seriously in error in their reading and interpretation of the “text of nature;” that is, physicists are in error with regard to the empirical/observational physical data from a variety of sources being consistent with an earth that is more than 10,000 years old. Not only is the overwhelming majority of scientists within the physics community seriously wrong is this area of dating, TM says further that they are motivated by “trying to explain the world without God so they won’t have to be morally accountable to him,” and that the conclusions of physicists who disagree with him are “fallible opinions of sinful men called scientists who don’t know everything, who makes mistakes …” I have spent 52 years as a research and teaching life-long Evangelical scientist in a broad community of physical scientists. From all my experience, TM’s characterization of scientists who disagree with him is, at best, a serious (and puzzling) distortion of the motivation and integrity of all the physical scientists with whom I have been associated—at the worst TM’s characterization is needlessly and erroneously defamatory.

    All young earth folks avail themselves of the large array of life and health benefits (listed above) that come from nuclear physics, and by doing so they affirm the enormous truth and value that flows from the worldwide physics community. Yet in a single area of nuclear physics (radiometric dating/radioactive isotopic dating) TM concludes, “… radiometric dating methods … [are] based on anti-biblical assumptions …,” and therefore without validity and efficacy. Presumably, we are to assume that the Nobel Committee and the physical science community were completely deluded or were charlatans in awarding the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Willard F. Libby of the University of California for his work in radiocarbon (C-14) dating—and for the last 55 years the community of physical scientists have continued steadfastly in delusion or charlatanism. How is it that the immense body of knowledge in nuclear science is affirmed and used regularly for personal and communal good by young earth adherents except for this one area? For me, there is a puzzling disconnect here.

    TM has a superior mind with graduate degrees in divinity and history of science. With these impressive credentials and his commitment to orthodox Christianity, I cannot understand how he can disparage so many honorable men and women, a good fraction of whom are Evangelical Christians and devout Catholics, within physical science community with the comments in his video that have been cited. It is true that historic, orthodox Christians believe that men and women, including myself for sure, in a post-lapsarian world are “fallible” and “sinful” and “don’t know everything”—but, considering Romans 3:23 (all have sinned), does this not also apply to TM and others in his organization? Is there no possibility whatsoever that within the long established biblical principle of “general revelation” (a la Psalm 19 for example) and within long established biblical principle of “common grace” (Psalm 145:9, Matt. 5:45, Acts 14:17, Nahum 1:3 for example) that physicists and other physical scientists, whether Christian or not, interpreting the “text of nature/God’s material creation,” have got it right with regard to an “old earth?”

    Personally, I have no interest in the age of the earth and universe—I could care less for I am not a materialist with regard to matters of ultimate, eternal concern. My passion is for the “Rock of Ages;” I have no interest in the “age of rocks.” Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh [the material, the rocks] profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” For me, the age of the material earth/universe has nothing to do with fulfilling the paramount biblical imperative to be “conformed to the image of Christ” a la Rom. 8:29.

    Finally, at the web site http://www.oocities.org/vr_junkie/NotableOldEarthCreatinists.htm one can find a list of 100 notable Evangelicals who are open to an old earth interpretation of Holy Scriptures. This list includes many of the most prominent Evangelicals of the 20th century including, for example, Billy Graham, James Orr, Carl F. H. Henry, Norman Geisler, Francis Schaeffer, C. I. Scofield, Bernard Ramm, James Dobson, J. Gresham Machen, B. B. Warfield, Charles Colson, Walter Kaiser, E. J. Young, Pat Robertson, etc.

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  • Lyn

    Going back to your original post, you quoted the following verse from Romans 1: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    You go on say, “But as I have highlighted above, Paul seems convinced that what can be known of God as Creator can be seen in the things that have been made. Not only that, but this knowledge from the created order has been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world. Paul makes no mention of the pagans having a Bible to give them knowledge of God as Creator. Rather, it would appear that Paul assumes that general knowledge of God can be truly known by people because He has made it plain to them. If I take this literally, it would imply that there is a Christian basis for doing science simply by observing nature, expecting that as a different source of information, it essentially will not and cannot conflict with what we read in Sacred Scripture.”

    Am I reading this – and your interpretation of Psalm 19 – correctly? Do you seriously believe that the only way that the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim His handiwork is if we believe that the earth was created in millions of years? That all of the evidence that YEC have discovered to support the view of a young earth denies God’s glory? You are misusing Psalm 19 and Romans 1. Neither of these passages can be used to support OEC or to undermine a literal 6 day creation.

    Those verses state that God reveals his eternal power and divine nature through his creation. God makes it clear that we cannot deny that He exists because we can know there is a Creator just by looking at the creation. But you’ve made a surprising – and illogical jump – here if I’m understanding you correctly. You assume that since God reveals Himself through creation, then whatever scientific conclusions man comes to by observing nature will be accurate. If that were true, every scientist who makes observations about nature would come to the same conclusions. I would assume that you reject Darwin’s theory of Evolution since in essence, it is a theory that completely rejects God. Yet Darwin made his assumptions based on “doing science simply by observing nature”. What I think you really believe is that all of the scientific evidence that you happen to interpret as correct is true and points to a Creator, but any other models that you reject are untrue and go against the and Psalm 19 and Romans 1 passages.

    It’s interesting that you use the Romans 1 passage, because as you know, that passage goes on to say in verses 24-27 that: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

    It seems to me that the Bible is very clear that in God’s eyes, homosexuality is wrong. However, I recently stumbled upon a Huffington Post article in which the author contends that since it is true that homosexuals are born that way – that is their natural condition – (which is now being touted as a scientific fact according to my Google search) that therefore, this passage can only be speaking to heterosexuals who were not born with a pre-disposition to be attracted to the same sex. For homosexuals, same-sex attraction is natural, therefore the passage is not referring to them.

    So if I agree with you that science “essentially will not and cannot conflict with what we read in Sacred Scripture” then I need to agree with this author’s conclusions also because he is basing his conclusions on scientific observations that say that same-sex marriage is natural and therefore the Bible does not condemn it.

    This is why those of us rigid Young Earth Creationists are concerned that you are not handling the Word of God correctly. You are starting with the assumption that the conclusions that men have come to are correct (at least the ones that you have chosen to believe), and then you are trying to make Scripture agree with those assumptions, just like the author of the Huffington Post article did on the topic of homosexuality. My concern is that you are teaching the next generation to handle the Word of God the in same way. When they are convinced by our culture that something is correct based on “scientific proof” they will believe it is OK to change things up a bit so that Scripture will affirm what they believe.

    This is not a scientific matter. It is a worldview matter – a matter of how we view the world and who we trust. Do we trust that man’s wisdom is correct, so therefore we have to figure out a way to explain scripture in light of the accepted scientific theories of our day, or will we take God at His word? Those who start with scripture, like Ken Ham and others from organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research, have not had to add things to the Scriptures to make them fit. They have piles of research that has caused them to come to the conclusion that you can take the Genesis account literally. And they too agree that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

    Those who do not take the Bible literally, however, believe that science speaks with more authority about our beginnings than does Scripture, and therefore they will always think the answers that Ken Ham and others like him have given are laughable because they are coming at the information from a different worldview, starting with the scientific facts that they believe are correct and then going to Scripture. In the same way, those of us who look through a literal interpretation lens will continue to be dumbfounded that you and others from the Old Earth Creation camp feel justified in believing that we can take some facts from the anti-God evolution model and make them fit with scripture even though that will then cause us to have to explain away all sorts of issues like death before the fall and a global flood.

    I do know that this is not a salvation issue; however, I do want to “Do (my) best to present (myself) to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (II Tim 2:15) I would rather stand before God and be wrong because I took His word literally, then to stand before Him and find out that I was wrong because I added things to His word based on man’s wisdom, especially in light of I Cor. 1:20 which says, “Where is the wise man? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

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  • Thoughts on ‘Literality’ | Veracity

    […] comment from David the Older, as part of a running dialog following Clarke’s recent post Terry Mortenson on the Problem of Millions of Years. Due to its length and substance, I decided to publish it as a post in the hope that it will […]

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  • Mike Gantt

    Clarke,

    Now that you’ve had a year to reflect on Mortenson’s video, what you wrote about it, and the responses you received to what you wrote, what do you think? That is, what do you think of Mortenson’s arguments today – are they compelling? If not, what are their weaknesses?

    For my part, I have studied the views of Hugh Ross on this subject and found Mortenson’s arguments more compelling than his.

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    • Clarke Morledge

      Hi, Mike. Thank you for stopping by Veracity.

      I have thought quite a bit about Mortenson’s arguments over the past year. I briefly met him when he gave a presentation at the College of William and Mary several years ago. He is really a nice guy, and I know that he has a love for Jesus, and a concern for the integrity of God’s Word. I am very glad for this.

      That being said, I am still troubled by his views on the deficiencies of natural revelation. If I am understanding him correctly, Mortenson believes that special revelation, as found in Scripture, trumps anything given to us by natural revelation. Essentially, he does not find natural revelation to be inherently trustworthy. In my reading of the Apostle Paul, this sentiment conflicts with Romans 1:20:

      For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)

      I note that Paul states, as a writer of authoritative Scripture; i.e. special revelation, that God’s attributes are clearly made known “in the things that have been made.” There is no indication that special revelation is required to somehow correct misinformation from natural revelation. Natural, fallen man can easily claim that since he does not accept special revelation, that he has no need for God, and therefore, no need to repent and get right with such a Creator. This would give such a natural, fallen man an “excuse,” and Paul is quite explicit to say that “they are without excuse.

      As I see it, both special revelation and natural revelation function as independent witnesses giving testimony to God. The Old Testament requires, that for severe crimes, at least two witnesses must testify to a breach of God’s Law before someone can be punished. Also, in the New Testament, there were multiple witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus, not just one.

      If I understand Mortenson, he is distrusting the independent witness of natural revelation in favor of effectively one single witness in special revelation. He appears to be unnecessarily dogmatic here. He is surely correct to say that natural revelation alone does not bring someone to God. We need special revelation as well. But it greatly concerns me that he is marginalizing the character of natural revelation as an independent witness, thereby giving natural, unrepentant man an excuse, something that Paul does not allow.

      I am open to accepting the idea that natural revelation, in terms of what modern science teaches regarding the age of the earth, has been misinterpreted. So, I am more than willing to concede the possibility that the Young Earth Creation narrative is indeed correct, if a more correct interpretation of the scientific data can be demonstrated scientifically. But I am troubled by any theology that tends towards discrediting the independent witness of natural revelation, in an attempt to preserve a particular interpretation of special revelation, that could be flawed.

      If we are to have the exegetical humility to say that modern science has misunderstood natural revelation, as the folks at Answers in Genesis claim, we should also be open to the same exegetical humility when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. Perhaps, the traditional interpretation of the Young Earth view needs to be re-evaluated. The point here is that the testimonies of general and special revelation together should arrive at the same conclusion. Since both witness are ultimately from God, they are both inherently trustworthy and non-deceptive.

      I would be curious to know why you find Hugh Ross’ views to be less compelling than Mortenson’s.

      Blessings to you.

      Clarke

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    • Mike Gantt

      Clarke,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

      Per your request, I will tell you why I find Ross’ view less compelling than Mortenson’s. However, let me first say that I would prefer Ross’ argument to be superior to Mortenson’s. And I would prefer this for the same reason that I would prefer Francis Collins’ (theistic evolution) argument to be superior to Ross’. That is, the less we have to convince people of to win them to Christ, the better. Of course, we can always eschew discussing this controversial stuff when witnessing, but there’s always the chance that one of these issues will pop up apart from any prompting on our part, and if we could tell the person “We Christians agree wholeheartedly with the scientific consensus on _________,” it would simply our discussions immensely. But so much for my wishes; they really don’t matter.

      I find Ross’ view weaker than Mortenson’s in general terms regarding revelation, and in specific terms regarding “the millions of years.”

      In general terms, Ross’ “Nature is the 67th book of the Bible” (Or “God has given us two books: Scripture and Science”) is true and logically compelling…but only to a point. Thus the problem is that his view promises more than it can ultimately deliver. You are right that in Rom 1, Paul supports the validity of general revelation, but in 1 Cor 1:21 he demonstrates its limitations and the commensurate surpassing value of “the foolishness” of special revelation. Stated another way, Scripture as a source of revelation can stand without science, but science without Scripture cannot stand. More simply, general revelation (science) can get you to God but not to Jesus. Therefore, I can agree with Ross when he says that Scripture and Science are both God’s books, but part company when he seems to suggest their equality. Science is indeed a voice for God, but it speaks with less volume and less clarity than the Scripture. Sometimes far less.

      Moreover, I think Herb doubles his distance from Paul when he, not having acknowledged the limitations of general revelation vis-a-vis special revelation, behaviorally ascribes even more clarity and reliability to science. I use the word “behaviorally,” because “rhetorically he never departs from complete allegiance to the Scriptures. However, when it comes to origins of the universe and of earth, it is clear that he is reading his Bible in the light of his science. To a point, I can understand this. After all, there is consensus in the field of science about the age of the universe (13.XB years) and the earth (4.XB years), and Christendom is greatly divided on this point – with many Christians siding with science. If you’re seeking a consensus, starting from the majority position is the most pragmatic approach. But after listening to Herb for a while, I begin to wince because I have to infer that he views science as too unified to be wrong, and given that the evidence he has seen convinces him personally to a similar degree, he just has to find a way to accommodate the biblical text to what he is already thoroughly convinced is true. This is how the mere possibility that “days” in Ex 20:11 might be >24 hours is enough to satisfy him without examining the context to see whether this interpretation will actually stand sustained scrutiny (see my comments on Ex 20:11 in the paragraph below). Obviously, Herb is not a sloppy thinker or a lazy scholar, so the only way he would leave this exegetical task half-done as he has is because he is convinced that the case is made elsewhere and therefore all that is necessary in Ex 20:11 is to establish the mere possibility of a meaning consistent with his view. This is but one example of his wanting to be more faithful to the biblical text than his scientific convictions will allow him to be. Thus his behavior can’t keep up with his rhetoric when it comes to the authority of Scripture on the subject of cosmic origins.

      In specific terms, I have closely examined Herb’s argument that Ex 20:8-11 does not require creation to have taken place in six calendar days, hoping that it would be a good one. However, I’ve been greatly disappointed. He makes the point in the eighth chapter of his signature book “A Matter of Days” that the Hebrew word “yom” does not have to mean a 24-hour day and the context must be examined to determine the actual length intended. I completely agree with him on this. The “day” of the Lord would be a perfect example of a longer than 24-hour day that is an equally legitimate interpretation of “day.” However, after saying that this opens the door for the days of creation to be “ages” in this passage, he never demonstrates how the context requires it or even supports this interpretation. He thinks it’s enough to establish the possibility. This is exegetically inadequate.

      Though Mortenson’s video gives seven reasons for accepting six days instead of millions of years, I have focused on Ex 20:11 because, of the seven, it seems to focus most directly on the key question. If Ross could defeat him here, it might be worth examining Mortenson’s other six arguments to see how they compare. Even so, I think Mortenson either beats him or ties him on all six, but this reply has already been long enough so I’ll stop here.

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  • Clarke Morledge

    Mike, Thank you for your interaction on this. I appreciate your thoughtfulness as well.

    If there was a greater degree of consensus on the scientific issues it would make things a lot easier. It is difficult enough simply presenting the Gospel to people. In my experience, piling on the dispute concerning science within the church is a distraction from the primary task of evangelism.

    I prefer to remain less dogmatic on these issues, instead of insisting absolutely on a particular view. What is clear in the text concerns the reality of being created by God, and our need for a relationship with that Creator, even though such a relationship has been radically disrupted by sin. When it comes to the question of “how” God created, that does not seem as clear to me.

    Clarke

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