John M. Frame – The Age of the Earth

This text is from John M. Frame’s Systematic Theology p. 199-202:

My exegetical position at the moment is that the earth is young, rather than old. I argued above that the creation narrative suggests a week of ordinary days, and that there is no compelling evidence against that interpretation. That week begins a series of genealogies: Adam, Seth, and their descendants (Gen. 5) leading to Noah, and the descendants of Noah’s sons (Gen 10) leading to Abraham. These genealogies may well be incomplete. Certainly that is true of the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1). But I doubt that there are enough gaps or omissions in these genealogies to allow for millions of years of human existence.
I think the only way, then, that one could biblically argue for an old earth, billions of years old, given a creation week of normal days, is to posit a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:3. Some theologians have argued that the text permits a long period of time there, though of course it is impossible to prove from the text the existence of such a period. The trouble is that during such a period the heavens and earth would have existed (1:1), but there would have been no light (1:3) or heavenly bodies (1:14-19). But most scientists would deny that such a situation ever existed. Therefore, the gap theory, whatever its exegetical merits, creates more problems with science than it solves.
A young-earth view implies the proposition that God created the world with an appearance of age. The Genesis 1 narrative certainly indicates that God created Adam and Eve, for example, as adults. They would have appeared to be, say, twenty years old, when they were actually fresh from the Creator’s hand. Some have said that creation with apparent age amounts to God’s deceiving us, but that is certainly not the case in any general way. Normally, when we see adult human beings we can estimate their age by certain physical characteristics. The adult creation of Adam and Eve implies only that these estimates are not always true. It shows us (as I argued in connection with miracle) that the world is only generally uniform, not absolutely so. God does not tell us in natural revelation that every mature person has existed more than ten years. So he cannot be charged with lying to us when he miraculously produces an exception to this general rule.

Some have argued that God would be “lying” to us if he made stars that appear to be billions of years old, but whose origin was actually only ten thousand years ago. Yet God has never told us that the methods that scientists use to calculate the age of stars are absolutely and universally valid. It is not as if the stars were a book that literally tells us of their age. Rather, they are data by which scientists believe they can learn the age of bodies in many cases. Reading that data requires not only the data itself, but a whole body of scientific theory and methods by which to interpret that data. What scientists may learn from Genesis is that these methods do not work for objects specially created. So scientists may need to read Genesis in order to refine their methods to a higher level of precision. Of course, it is a general principle that science may not claim that its theories are without exceptions, unless it claims at the same time divine omniscience.
Anyone who admits to any special creation at all must grant in general the reality of apparent age. Assume that God simply made a bunch of rocks out of nothing and left them floating in space to generate the rest of the universe: even in this case, were a geologist to look at those rocks ten minutes after the creation, he would certainly conclude that they were many years old.
Or what if God made the world by a “big bang”, by the explosion of a “singularity”? Many scientists today think that we cannot get behind the big bang, since the big bang is the beginning of time and space as we know them. But the tendency of science is to ask “why?” and that question is not easily restrained. So some today are asking, and certainly more in the future will ask, where the big bang came from, how it came about. To them, even the elementary particles present at the big bang have an ancestry. Such scientists will pursue evidences in those particles (like the rings of the trees in Eden) that suggest a prior existence. Thus, even those particles, to those scientists, will appear “old”. My point is simply that any view of origins at all implies apparent age. If there is no origin, the things at that origin will appear to be older than the origin.
There are problems with the apparent-age view. One concerns astronomical events such as supernovas. Judging from the time it takes visual evidence of a supernova to reach the earth, most scientists would judge that these events happened long before what young-earthers regard as the time of creation. Why would God make it appear as if a great event took place when, indeed, that event could not have happened in the time available since creation? Here, though, we must remind ourselves that all apparent age involves this problem. Any newly created being, whether star, plant, animal, or human being, if created mature, will contain data that in other cases would suggest events prior to its creation. If Adam and Eve were created mature, their bodies would suggest that they had been born of normal parents by sexual reproduction. Their bodies would suggest (on the presupposition of the absolute uniformity of physical laws and processes) that events had taken place that in fact never happened. Why the apparent supernovas? From God’s point of view, just another twinkle in the light stream for the benefit of mankind.
If that is not a sufficient answer, we should simply accept as a general principle that God creates beings in a way that is consistent with their subsequent role in the historical process. If Adam had a navel, that navel suggested an event that did not occur. But it also made him a normal human being, in full historical community with his descendants. Similarly, the starlight that God originally created would contain the same twinkles, the same interruptions and fluctuations, that would later be caused by supernovas and other astral events.
I find the type of explanation given above satisfactory as an answer to most problems of apparent age. One problem I find more difficult to deal with is the existence of fossils that seem to antedate by millions of years any young-earth date for creation. If God at the creation planted fossilized skeletons in rock strata, skeletons of organisms that never lived, why would he have done so except to frustrate geologists and biologists?
James B. Jordan has made some observations worth considering in this respect:
“But what about dead stuff? Did the soil [during the original creation week-JF] have decaying organic matter in it? Well, if it was real soil, the kind that plants can grow in, it must have had. Yet the decaying matter in that original soil was simply put there by God. Soil is a living thing, and it lives through decaying matter. When Adam dug into the ground, he found pieces of dead vegetation.
This brings us to the question of “fossils” and “fossil fuels,” like oil and coal. Mature creationists have no problem that God created birds and fish and animals and plants as living things, but we often quail at the thought that God also created “dead” birds and fish and animals and plants in the ground. But as we have just seen, there is every reason to believe that God created decaying organic matter in the soil. If this point is granted, and I don’t see how it can be gainsaid, then in principle there is no problem with God’s having put fossils in the ground as well. Such fossils are, in principle, no more deceptive on God’s part than anything else created with the appearance of age.”

Jordan’s comments are bound to be controversial in some circles, but I think they deserve a thoughtful hearing. Other Christians believe the fossils can be completely accounted for by the dynamics of a worldwide flood (I highlight this because this is what I (not John M. Frame) believe). But I must exit the discussion here, to leave it in the hands of scientists operating with biblical presuppositions.

Evolution
   I reject the theory of evolution on the following grounds:
1. In Genesis 2:7, it is a special act of God (inbreathing) that made Adam a “living creature” (nephes chayah). God did not take an already-existing living creature and make him specifically human, as in theistic evolution. Rather, he took dust and gave it life. Adam came to life by the same divine action by which he became man. The description of the creation of woman in Genesis 2:21-22 is even more obviously a supernatural divine act.
2. The frequent repetition of “according to their kinds” and “according to its kind” in Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25 indicates that there are divinely imposed limitations on what can result from reproduction. I do not know how broadly these “kinds” should be construed, or how they relate to modern biological classifications such as family, genus, and species. But whatever a kind is, these passages evidently imply that plants and animals of one kind do not produce plants or animals of another. But that is what must happen if the theory of evolution is to be true.
3. Although I am not well equipped to judge scientific evidence, I will simply add that as a layman I am not convinced by the evidence presented to me for evolution. Doubtless there has been what is sometimes called microevolution: variations in the distribution of genetic possibilities within a species, due to natural selection. So in some environments those of a different color, as color proves in different ways to be an aid to survival and reproduction. But this amounts to variation within species of already-existing genetic possibilities, rather than a process that produces a new species, that is, a new set of genetic possibilities. Nor does it come anywhere near to providing the existence of a process that could derive all present living forms from a single cell. Evidence for macroevolution, the derivation of all living organisms from the simplest by natural selection and mutation, seems to me to be sketchy at best.
4. Further, I agree with Phillip Johnson that the real persuasive power of the theory of evolution is not based on evidence, but rather on its being the only viable naturalistic alternative to theism. Of course, that consideration carries no weight with me, nor should it influence any other Christian to view the theory favorably. Indeed, it should make us very open to criticism of the theory.
I agree with Jonson and many others that the theory of evolution has brought great harm to society, leading it to deny the biblical view of human nature as the very image of God, the awful nature and consequences of sin, and our need for the redemption of Christ. I am encouraged that opponents of Darwinism in academic circles have recently been given a far better hearing than would have been possible fifty years ago. More than any other single figure, Johnson has led this new assault on evolutionary dogma, with careful argumentation and gentle prodding of the establishment rather than with stridency and dubious hypotheses. We are all greatly in his debt.

 

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