May

04

2012

Justin Taylor|10:45 am CT

Science, Scripture, and the Age of the Universe

Wisdom from R. C. Sproul:

You can watch the full 1 hour and 15 minute discussion here, with Michael Horton, Stephen Meyer, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Del Tackett  joining R.C. Sproul to answer questions about the Christian mind, science, old and new earth, and more.

For those interested in these questions, especially from a Reformed perspective, I would recommend reading the PCA Study Committee Report on Creation (2000), where a number of PCA elders from various persuasions on these issues studied and debated these issues in order to produce this report. It is worth reading simply for the definitions, and also for the way in which they seek to describe the strengths of, and objections to, the various orthodox positions.

Here is a flavor regarding how they are able to agree on the essentials despite significant differences:

We have found a profound unity among ourselves on the issues of vital importance to our Reformed testimony. We believe that the Scriptures, and hence Genesis 1-3, are the inerrant word of God. We affirm that Genesis 1-3 is a coherent account from the hand of Moses. We believe that history, not myth, is the proper category for describing these chapters; and furthermore that their history is true. In these chapters we find the record of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth ex nihilo; of the special creation of Adam and Eve as actual human beings, the parents of all humanity (hence they are not the products of evolution from lower forms of life). We further find the account of an historical fall, that brought all humanity into an estate of sin and misery, and of God’s sure promise of a Redeemer. Because the Bible is the word of the Creator and Governor of all there is, it is right for us to find it speaking authoritatively to matters studied by historical and scientific research. We also believe that acceptance of, say, non-geocentric astronomy is consistent with full submission to Biblical authority. We recognize that a naturalistic worldview and true Christian faith are impossible to reconcile, and gladly take our stand with Biblical supernaturalism.

The Committee has been unable to come to unanimity over the nature and duration of the creation days. Nevertheless, our goal has been to enhance the unity, integrity, faithfulness and proclamation of the Church. Therefore we are presenting a unanimous report with the understanding that the members hold to different exegetical viewpoints. As to the rest we are at one. It is our hope and prayer that the Church at large can join us in a principled, Biblical recognition of both the unity and diversity we have regarding this doctrine, and that all are seeking properly to understand biblical revelation. It is our earnest desire not to see our beloved church divide over this issue.

11 Comments

  1. I actually thought Del Tackett had the most insightful comments on the issue and I agreed wholeheartedly with what R.C. Sproul Jr. said. This debate did not exist until the advent of Darwinianism and ever since it has put the Church on the defensive so we have had to come up with new ways of interpreting the text of Genesis. Why? Because we are so concerned to put no stumbling block before the unbelieving world and appear to be anti-intellectual fools. If what Del said is true about the Fall and its effect upon the natural world then we cannot possibly look to science for answers about the age of the universe. We could only look to special revelation. Very perceptive.

    • Scott,

      Help me out. Admittedly, I haven’t watched the full version, but how is your post (which I’m guessing is based on what Del said) compatible with Sproul’s comments?

      Sproul said that the Bible doesn’t give an age for the earth. He then said that we should expect natural revelation to inform specific parts of our biblical exegesis (using the example of the Copernican Revolution). This seems to be directly opposed to your comment that we can only look to special revelation regarding the age of the earth/universe.

      Your thoughts would be appreciated…

      • Chris Taylor

        Scott,

        RC seemed to argue that both God’s Special as well has his Natural revelations are infallible, and that the only fallible elements involved are the interpreters (the theologian and scientist respectively). If I understood Del correctly, Del astutely observed that creation has been subjected to futility, and is therefore no longer an infallible guide.

        Specifically, Del pointed to the second law of thermo-dynamics as a possible result of the curse. Living, as we do, on this side of the great chasm introduced by The Fall, we simply don’t have the luxury of peering back through history unencumbered. Therefore, we should not place Natural revelation on the same level as Special revelation. The scientific endeavor is subordinate to the theological one, if for no other reason than its subject is inferior.

        I think Del is on to something here.

      • I said Sproul “junior” not “senior.” His son spoke at the end of the discussion.

        • Chris Taylor

          Scott, sorry for the confusion, I meant to address JK, who does appear to be interacting with Sr.

  2. Chris Taylor

    Facinating dialogue between Del and RC. Del was right to point out that The Fall is just as important in the conversation as Creation.

    Dr. Sproul, do you really think that The Fall is a given? I know you don’t and so this was dishonest. If you ask the scholar if he is a sinner, he may say yes, but by saying yes he really only means that he exists, or was created. If Creation is worth discussing, The Fall is more so.

    Dr. Horton, why say you are an old-earther on exegetical grounds, when you really mean that you don’t find anything in Scripture that contradicts old-earth theory. Exegesis (pulling out that which is there) and ??? (not finding that which is not there), must be two very different things.

    Del, I was with you until you questioned the speed of light before The Fall. But I like where you’re going.

    Justin, thanks for bringing this to our attention. Good stuff.

    • I didn’t understand Del Tackett to be actually questioning the speed of light before the Fall, but that even it (as with other things) could have been different. In other words, we just don’t know. How things existed prior to the Fall are only evident by special revelation. There are many things which we take for granted now that may not have been the basis of reality then.

      I know that there are some that raise the point about food digestion being required by the Second Law, but it is not the position of young earth advocates that the Second Law was completely non-existent. Rather, entropy itself may have been limited by God until the Fall, allowing for some entropy to exist which would facilitate food digestion, etc., but disallow the total concept of absolute heat death. Simply stated, things were obviously different before the Fall than what we experience today; therefore, we should be mindful of those potential differences when interpreting the evidence from natural revelation.

      There is one thing that I have often noted in the differences between young and old earth advocates. Old earth advocates also typically deny the reality of a global flood in the days of Noah. Not only do they deny the possibility of a young earth, but they also limit the Deluge to being merely a local flood rather than global. Although this wasn’t addressed during the discussion, it would have been interesting to compare the differences in ideas among the speakers.

  3. [...] From Justin Taylor, Science, Scripture, and the Age of the Universe. Nice video clip from R.C. Sproul at top, especially in light of the recent post here on the [...]

  4. I was greatly disappointed by R. C.’s remarks. Natural science has NOTHING to say about the origin and structure of the universe, since it can observe neither. Only if God gives us special revelation on these matters can we be sure.

    Happily, he has.

    He tells us the cosmos is geocentric. R.C. shows himself both ignorant of science and unfaithful to Scripture when he allows non-christian scientists to determine the true sense of biblical teaching on cosmic structure for the Church.

    Calvin and Luther were both right about geocentricity–as were many other Reformed greats–but Copernicus was wrong. http://galileowaswrong.blogspot.com/

    RC and his colleagues would do well to study the modern revival of cosmic geocentrism that began back in the 50′s, with the work of Walter Van de Kamp (a faitfhully Reformed Christian), and that continues today among a number of accomplished evangelical and Catholic scholars.

    See, for example, the work of Philip Stott, available at: http://reformation.edu/scripture-science-stott/geo/index.htm.

    As for the age of the universe, God tells us it is “young”–some 6000 years old. On this question, the biblical creationists have turned over every exegetical stone, and shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bible specifically, repeatedly, and consistently teaches a literal six day creation.

    For the health of the Church and the glory of God, I urge all Christian leaders to stand true to Scripture, and to stand in solidarity the fine men of science who are faithfully defending it.

  5. I was disappointed that Tackett wasn’t given a chance to fully make his point. Meyer, an Old Earther interrupted him twice and then RC Sr. (who appears to be an Old Earther) took even more time from him! It was kind of rude after what Meyer said about working together. Thankfully, RC Jr. got a word in.

  6. Justin,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m confused regarding R.C. Sproul (sr.) on the issue. I thought he “changed his mind” and took a position for young-earth as recorded here:

    http://creation.com/famous-evangelical-apologist-changes-his-mind-rc-sproul

    In this interview it appears Sproul changed his mind again on the issue of a young-earth?

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